While England may not be known worldwide for its culinary prowess, the nation does seem to dominate a certain mealtime: afternoon tea. No trip to London would be complete without an authentic teatime, complete with dainty finger sandwiches, scones and clotted cream, and prettily painted pots of piping-hot tea. And here are five of the best places in the city to do it:
Head Chef Eric Chavot put the Capital Hotel on the culinary map, earning its signature restaurant Michelin stars. Afternoon Tea, at £25.00 or £37.50 with a glass of Champagne, is the perfect way to enjoy the restaurant’s atmosphere and cuisine without committing to an entire dinner. Tea per person includes a choice of beverages, delicate sandwiches, homemade scones served with preserves and cream, and other delicious pastries. The ambience is posh and cozy, complete with a burning fire and precious antique furnishings.
The English Tea Room
Aptly named and hailed as one of the city’s best afternoon teas, the English Tea Room at the Brown’s Hotel is a London institution. The décor is as sophisticated as it gets: Wood paneling, multiple fireplaces, Jacobean ceilings, Paul Smith lighting, original works of art and even a baby grand piano set a refined and relaxing scene. There are 17 different types of tea available, including the Brown’s own blend. The price per person for the Traditional Afternoon Tea is £39.50 per person; there is also a Champagne Afternoon Tea for £49.50, and a Rosé Champagne Afternoon Tea for £52.50. Yes, the prices are steep—but you get what you pay for.
The Reading Room
Art Deco elegance is enhanced by rich leather columns, lavish banquettes, large mirrors, suede walls and two glamorous cut-marble fireplaces at The Reading Room inside Claridge’s. Consistently voted one of the best in London, the teatime menu features nearly 40 different types of tea from around the world. Freshly baked scones and pastries are also included in Afternoon Tea (£38 per person), Champagne Afternoon Tea (£49) and Rosé Champagne Afternoon Tea (£62.) There is also a gluten-free tea set available upon request.
Located within the world-famous Harrods department store, Ladurée brings Parisian chic to London’s Knightsbridge district. The beautiful décor is outshined only by the works of art on display in the pastry cases of the store’s pâtisserie: meringues, chocolates truffles, millefeuilles—and, of course, the brand’s signature macarons. These treats are served all day, but the most popular times to dine here are at breakfast and teatime. Unlike other venues around London, Ladurée allows you to hand-select exactly which delicate indulgences you would like to pair with your cup of tea (and everything is priced à la carte.)
the famous Ladurée Macarons
The Orangery’s location alone sets it apart—the tearoom is housed within a greenhouse designed by Sir John Vanbrugh, in the majestic shadow of Kensington Palace. The atmosphere is appropriately regal, made more so by huge ceilings and expensive works of art. Light lunches like fresh salads and sandwiches are served, but the main draw is really the afternoon tea. Pair your cup with an assortment of finger sandwiches and pastries for about £15, or pay a bit more for the Enchanted Palace Tea (this includes a decadent chocolate granache tartlet and raspberry shortbread, along with scones and sandwiches) or the Royal Champagne Tea. Please keep in mind that reservations may be made in advance—and they are strongly recommended.
Other recommended hotels in London: the Radisson Edwardian Grafton Hotel, The Rembrandt
Posted in Italy on 24. Feb, 2012
One of the points in the Adriatic Sea closest to Central and Western Europe, Kvarner offers a mild climate and close proximity to a number of countries. It became a popular tourist destination during the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the 19th century; however, the small archipelago nestled between the Croatian mainland and the Istrian Peninsula has managed to remain relatively unmarred by international tourism. Empty beaches, secluded coves and miniature fishing villages are waiting to be discovered on Kvarner’s islands and along the mainland coast.
A beautiful town lining the Gulf of Kvarner, Opatija lies in the shadow of Mount Ucka (one of Croatia’s magnificent nature parks.) It is one of the country’s most popular tourist resorts, and it has the many attractions and hotels to prove it; in fact, its historic Hotel Kvarner was the first-ever built on the Adriatic Sea. (The luxurious Hotel Mozart is also among the best hotels in Opatija.) While in Opatija, be sure to check out the Museum of Croatian Tourism and the 12km-long Lungomare promenade. The panoramic walking trail that connects Opatija to Ucka via Veprinac is also worth the trek.
A large island in the Adriatic Sea, Cres can be found in the northern part of the Kvarner bay. Its coast, which spans a total of 66 kilometres, features incredible coves, pretty pebbled beaches, and craggy rock formations. Inland, you will find incredibly lush vegetation; Cres is actually home to 1,100 plant species, 939 of which are indigenous! The island is also known for its freshwater lake of Vransko Jezero (whose surface is above sea-level and its deepest part reaches 74 metres) and an especially large dolphin population.
Originally part of the island of Cres, Losinj became its own landmass after the Osor channel was dug (although, technically, they are still joined by a bridge.) It is one of the smaller islands in the archipelago, but—oddly enough—home to one of the largest towns in the Croatian Islands: Mali Losinj. Losinj’s evergreen vegetation and mild climate make it an idyllic holiday destination, and it remains popular among European travelers. Its coastline features numerous bays with villages nestled into them, as well as an historic port.
Another of Kvarner’s largest islands, Krk is also easy to get to: It is connected to the mainland of Croatia by a well-traveled bridge, and it even has its own airport. Ferries regularly travel to Krk as well. Once there, you will find many things to see and do: There are caves and artifacts dating back to Neolithic times, intricately adorned cathedrals and monuments, and natural wonders like the limestone-rich Baska Cove. There are also many great hotels on Krk, like the Depadance Lovorka and the Valamar Koralj Hotel.
Located south of the Istria in the Kvarner Bay, Susak Island is one of the archipelago’s smallest. It is unique for its limestone bedrock, its lack of high peaks, and its position as one of the furthermost islands from the Croatian mainland. Susak has managed to hold onto many original traditions, such as ancient folk costumes and archaic dialect. Visit for the rich history, or for the Susak wines—widely considered to be among the best in Croatia.
The Mediterranean island of Pag is actually part of the North Dalmatian group. It is rich in agriculture, known for its wines, fruit, olive oil—and, of course, the famous Pag cheese. Other important exports include salt and lace; it would be a shame to visit the island without picking up a souvenir or two. While here, you may also enjoy amazing sandy beaches and a thriving nightlife scene. Most landmarks are positioned close to the island’s two bays, Caska and Novalja.
Home to an ancient town by the same name and other historical hubs, Rab is a bustling island filled with commerce and culture. It is best reached by ferry; in the peak tourist season, this can be accomplished up to 20 times a day. Traditional Croatian architecture, a variety of cafés and bars, and an impressive number of unique art galleries and museums are waiting to greet you once you’ve reached Rab’s rocky shores.
Acting as an entryway to the rest of the Kvarner Gulf, Rijeka is a major port on the Croatian mainland. It stands at a crossroads of land and sea, creating a natural stopping point along your journey. While in Rijeka, take time to see the gulf town’s local attractions—like, for example, the Rijeka Natural History Museum. The town is obviously dedicated to increasing its tourist appeal, adding new festivals and attractions every year.
Ireland may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think “Riviera;” however, Dún Laoghaire is waiting to change your perspective. It lines the pristine waters of Dublin Bay, just a short journey from the main city and County Wicklow. Easy to reach by bus or car, the Riviera is the ideal destination for a day trip. Filled with colorful markets and historical sites, the charming towns of Dún Laoghaire provide many things to see and do.
A leisurely drive will take you through bright-green countryside, bordered by a broad expanse of sparkling blue. The landscape is dotted with old villas and gardens, while the placid waters are flecked with the white sails of boats. See the best view of Dublin Bay from Dalkey, or venture to one of the region’s most famous cultural sites. The number of golf courses here is quite impressive, and the area is also known for its busy open-air markets. Water sports, including scuba diving, fishing and sailing, are quite popular—and then, there are these fascinating historical sites:
Dalkey Castle & Heritage Centre
The aforementioned town of Dalkey is brimming with Tudor-style charm and lore. Its focal point is, however, undoubtedly Dalkey Castle. The fortified townhouse-turned-castle from the 15th century is open to the public, and it remains one of the most popular landmarks on the Riviera. Climb the battlements to enjoy spectacular views of the sea and mountains, and do not miss the chance to tour the 10th-century graveyard and church of St. Begnet’s. There are also guided walks and “Living History” reenactments, interesting models of Dalkey Quarry and the railways, and a gift shop on the premises.
James Joyce Tower & Museum
One of a series of old Martello towers originally built to withstand an invasion by Napoleon, the James Joyce Tower serves another purpose today: It houses a museum devoted to the life and works of one of Ireland’s greatest writers, James Joyce. While the location may at first seem strange, it is actually quite appropriate—the tower is the setting for the first chapter of Joyce’s legendary masterpiece, Ulysses. Admire the panoramic view from the gun platform, and examine the impressive collection of letters, photographs, first and rare book editions, and even personal possessions.
The National Maritime Museum
Built in 1837, the historic Mariners’ Church has been re-purposed as the National Maritime Museum. Its beautiful stained glass windows now filter light onto popular exhibits, rather than church pews. Among the most interesting are the museum’s 38-metre-long officers’ barge, captured during the failed French invasion of 1796; the Baily Optic, a working light from a lighthouse in Howth; the Great Eastern, which was the largest ship in the world when it was built in 1857; the Naval Display; and the Kerlogue, an Irish merchant vessel from World War II.
Although it is currently closed for renovations, the National Maritime Museum will soon be re-opened.
Recommended hotels in Dún Laoghaire: the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel, the Kingston Hotel
Posted in Italy on 18. Feb, 2012
Sure, Iceland is a place rich in culture and history – but probably not any more so than any other European country. Where the nation has much of the rest of the world beat is in its natural landscape: From spectacular glaciers and partially frozen islands to the thrilling bubbles and gurgles of still-active volcanoes, the country’s terrain is stunning in its diverse – and almost apocalyptic – beauty. There are an overwhelming number of must-see natural wonders in Iceland; to get you started, we present five:
Lake Myvatn Conservation Area
Declared a protected conservation area in 1974, the Lake Myvatn region has since become one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions. It is certainly one of the most geologically active parts of the country, home to volcanic craters and sulfuric mud flats. Newborn lava fields flow through craggy fields of black rock, while forests around a crystal-clear blue lake teem with wild birdlife. The vast parkland is filled with incredible sights, but one is especially breathtaking: the Waterfall of the Gods; at an impressive 163 meters, it is one of the most powerful in Europe.
The Westmann Islands (Vestmannaeyjar)
As surprising and beautifully out-of-place as a desert oasis, the Vestmannaeyjar is a unique paradise in a frozen world. Back in November of 1963, a new volcano broke through the sea’s surface to become the world’s youngest island: Surtsey. By the following summer, flies and butterflies had taken up residence; seals, gulls and other migrating birds followed. Today, Surtsey continues to enchant visitors with its newness – the fact that the island is still in its infancy is unmistakable. Take a tour of Surtsey and the rest of the Westmann Islands to enjoy a truly unforgettable experience.
Snaefellsnes Peninsula and the Snaefellsjokull Glacier
On a clear day, the soaring glacier of Snaefellsjokull is visible from the city streets of Reykjavik – an impressive feat, considering the fact that it is 60 miles away. The glacier is famous for, among other things, its mention in Jules Verne’s iconic book, Journey to the Center of the Earth. It and the adjacent Snaefellsnes peninsula make a wonderful destination for a day trip from the bustling city. The peninsula is dotted with quaint fishing villages and farms, as well as waterfalls, lava caves, and popular hot springs.
Head 50km east of the city centre of Reykjavik, and you may come across one of the most important sites in Iceland: Thingvellir, a place as historic as it is beautiful. It is here that the country’s parliament, the Althing, first med in AD930 to resolve conflicts and create laws that would be followed for more than 300 years to come. Visitors can still step foot on the very same cliff that the Althing once gathered on, gazing out across the lovely landscape of Thingvellir National Park. While there, you may enjoy hiking along panoramic trails or fishing in Lake Thingvallavtn, the largest natural lake in Iceland.
The Blue Lagoon
One of the most photographed natural wonders in Iceland (and perhaps the entire world), the Blue Lagoon rightly earns its name: Over many years, blue-green algae and white Silica mud have formed a natural sediment at the bottom of the lagoon, giving it its strangely opaque aquamarine color. The lagoon is actually man-made; however, the delightfully warm temperature of the water – about 40 degrees Celsius year-round – is thanks to Mother Nature herself. The waters are said to have special curative powers, especially for psoriasis and other skin ailments. However, most bathers simply come for the relaxing experience.
Recommended hotels in Reykjavik: the CenterHotel Plaza, the Hotel Fron
Posted in Italy on 11. Feb, 2012
A constellation of Greek islands in the southern Aegean Sea, the Cyclades have an identity all their own. The archipelago, located south of Athens and north of Crete, is best known for containing Santorini and Mykonos; however, there are in fact 2,200 islands, islets and rocks (33 of which are inhabited) within the Cyclades. Here are a few of the island chain’s hidden gems:
The namesake of the iconic Venus de Milo, this volcanic island is surely beautiful enough for Aphrodite herself. Its unique landscape is characterized by colourful rock formations and fascinating caves (including the one at the stunning bay of Kleftiko) and is home to a total of 74 beaches. Milos is located halfway between Athens and Crete, and it is close to Sifnos, Santorini and Folegandros. Its capital city of Plaka, perched 200 metres above sea level, is therefore a great stopping point on any tour of the Cyclades. While there, be sure to visit the town’s historic castle.
Covering only 32 square metres in the southern Cyclades, Folegandros is one of the smaller islands. It is home to about 700 residents, and it maintains a relatively untouched atmosphere. Its pristine coastline and protected culture are what make it such a special places to visit. Folegandros is home to three villages: Chora, Karavostasis, and Ano Meria. They are all connected to one another by a paved road. The crumbling walls of a medieval castle, quaint houses built into rocky seaside cliffs, and splendid terraces all let you admire the island’s stunning views.
The easternmost island of the Greek Cyclades, Amorgos is close to Naxos and Ios. Along with being the site of a famous scene in Luc Besson’s film “The Big Blue,” the island is known for its historic monastery: Hozoviotissa, wedged into a stunning precipice 300 metres from the sea, is a perfect example of Cycladic architecture—at once rustic and strikingly elegant. Incredible beaches, crystal-clear coves, ancient windmills and whitewashed houses can be found throughout the island’s remote villages. There is also a great number of hotels near Amorgos, like the Finikas Hotel and the Summerland Holiday’s Resort.
Ermoupolis Village is the capital of Syros—as well as the entire Cyclades island chain. Named after Hermes, the God of Trade, the village has been developed into a hub of commerce and culture. It combines French, Greek and other European influences; this can be seen in the town’s amazing architecture. Be sure to see the magnificent Miaouli Square, the Bavarian-style Town Hall, and the fascinating Archaeological Museum. The Apollo Theatre on Vardaki Square and the Cultural Centre of Hermoupolis are also worth visiting. Sure, Ermoupolis is more urban than the other destinations on this list—but it is also a must-see destination for anyone looking to gain further insight into the Cyclades Islands’ heritage.
Sifnos is the Greek island of Apollo, located between Paros, Serifos and Milos. Its landscape is especially mountainous and verdant, dotted with lush olive groves and colourful gardens. On the western side of Sifnos, you will find the village of Kamares. Nestled at the base of two hills, the narrow stone-paved streets are lined with traditional whitewashed houses and Greek tavernas. Kamares has one of the longest sandy beaches on the island, while the adjacent villages of Apollonia (the island’s capital) and Artemona feature the highest concentration of cultural and historical sites (do not miss a trip to the Folklore Museum.) Lastly, the cliff-top village of Kastro is the one to see for ancient medieval ruins: Built atop the former capital of Sifnos, the village still shows evidence of its origins in the crumbling walls of a Venetian fortress, narrow streets, mansions and loggias, and churches from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Recommended hotels in Sifnos: the Windmill Bella Vista, the Kamaroti Suites Hotel
Posted in Italy on 10. Feb, 2012
In 1962, once the news broke of their tempestuous love affair, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor fled the set of Cleopatra (which they were filming in Rome at the time) to seek solace from the paparazzi and other prying eyes. They drove up the coast and wound up in Monte Argentario, an idyllic retreat that to this day remains surprisingly untouched by modern tourism.
The stunning natural beauty and carefree atmosphere of Monte Argentario have been carefully guarded by the Romans over the years. Its secret nature is aided by its out-of-the-way location, jutting into the Tyrrhenian Sea from the coast of the southern part of Maremma, in Tuscany. On a map, Monte Argentario looks like an island—and, historically, it was. However, over the centuries, sand accumulated into two strips that today connect the faux island to the mainland and also enclose the protected lagoon of Orbetello. (There is also a third, central strip that is partially man-made.) Once there, you will find historic landmarks from the sixteenth century as well as incredible beaches and rugged wildlife.
There are two main towns in Monte Argentario. One is Porto Santo Stefano, home to the ancient Fortezza Spagnola (Spanish Fort.) The 16th-century landmark has been renovated to house the unusual Museum of the Masters of the Axe, as well as a “Submerged Memories” exhibit of archaeological finds from the sea. There is also an aquarium, and a lovely seaside promenade. For an especially fun afternoon, rent a boat or take a ferry through the islands of the Tuscan archipelago, stopping on Giglio and Giannutri.
The second of the two port towns on the “island” is Porto Ercole, considered by many to be the more picturesque. It certainly has the most interesting Castelle (the series of ancient look-out towers that stud Monte Argentario’s craggy coastline.) The fortresses of La Rocca, Filippo, Santa Carolina and Stella add intrigue to the otherwise peaceful landscape, reminding of more turbulent times.
Today, centuries after the land was fought over by Italy and Spain, Monte Argentario is a place associated with pleasure: cuisine, relaxation, and casual maritime charm. While there, be sure to visit the Tombolo della Feniglia nature reserve; it is an incredible wildlife habitat with beaches along the lagoon. Also adjacent to the lagoon is Orbetelleo, built between the mainland and Monte Argentario. You can catch a bus from the train station in Orbetello Scalo to the quaint pedestrian street home to numerous shops, bars and restaurants.
Recommended hotels in Monte Argentario include the Baia d’Argento, La Caletta, and the Bi-Hotel in Porto Ercole.
It’s not just a European thing, of course—most major cities around the world feature small, self-contained ethnic communities within their urban confines. These subsects act as miniature versions of the city their residents hail from, bringing a proverbial “piece of home” to a new frontier. For locals, the communities are nostalgic and familiar; for tourists, they offer fascinating insight into a specific aspect of a cosmopolitan city’s culture. They also offer an oft-welcome departure from the traditional flavors, scents and sounds found in other neighborhoods. Here are five of Europe’s most charming ethnic enclaves, each a distinct country-within-a-country:
There are actually several Chinatowns (or, in French, quartiers chinois) in Paris, but the largest and most well known is located in the 13th arrondissement. The area actually represents multiple Asian communities, from the Avenue de Choisy to the Porte d’Ivry. It is home to nearly 50,000 Chinese, Vietnamese and Laotian nationals, as well as immigrants from French Polynesia, French Guiana, and New Caledonia. This means that the culinary and retail offerings are incredibly diverse; while the neighborhood may not be an obvious tourist destination, it is definitely worth visiting for its handful of famous landmarks (La Bibliothèque Nationale de France is here, as is the quaint district of La Butte aux Cailles) and fantastic Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants.
Recommended hotels in Paris: the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel, the Champs Elysees Mac Mahon
Little Venice, Mykonos
Mykonos’ Little Venice (Aleukantras) is easily identified by its rows of brightly painted colors; the intense hues are an obvious departure from the whitewashed façades typically found around Greece. The picturesque neighborhood, located just to the east of the harbor, stretches from Aleukantras’ beach to the old district of Castle. It is widely considered to be the island’s most romantic neighborhood—fitting, considering what its namesake city is most famous for. Little Venice offers spectacular sunset views, a high concentration of art galleries and workshops, and plenty of delicious Italian cuisine.
The Japantown of Düsseldorf, Germany is the largest in Europe; while this may at first be a surprising distinction, it actually makes sense—the European headquarters of many Japanese corporations are located in Düsseldorf, and so the city has become a prime destination for Tokyo’s traveling businessmen. With them, the visitors have brought many customs—and many restaurants. The authentic Japanese pubs and sushi bars are concentrated around Immermastr. This is also where you will find many travel agencies, appliances and other business designed specifically to cater to the expat community. As a tourist in Japantown, you may be most interested in the local grocery stores, bakeries, and ramen shops.
Recommended hotels in Düsseldorf: the Holiday Inn Düsseldorf Königsallee, the NH Düsseldorf City-Center
Little India, London
Southall is literally and figuratively one of the most colorful parts of London. It is where you will find the city’s largest population of Indian and Pakistani expats—you will find women in vibrant saris, strolling past pavement food stalls selling fragrant samosas and Indian sweets, and brightly hued fabrics draped across shop windows. Traditional bhangra music wafts from homes and businesses, added to illusion that you are not in London anymore. The best time to visit the Southall area is definitely during Diwali, the Festival of Lights; however, Little India has a lot to offer year-round. Be sure to pay a visit to the Sri Guru Singh Gurdwara, the largest Sikh temple outside of India.
Little Karachi, Oslo
One of the most up-and-coming ethnic communities in Europe is Oslo’s Little Pakistan, or Little Karachi (or, technically, Grønland.) Quickly growing into a fashionable neighborhood, this part of the Norwegian capital brims with culture and activity. It is home to a number of shops, bars, and restaurants that celebrate the flavors and traditions of Pakistan as well as other parts of the globe. There are also beautiful mosques here, and a recently completed opera house that has contributed to the area’s growing popularity. Today, Little Karachi is a trendy place for Oslo’s younger residents to live, work, and play.
Recommended hotels in Oslo: the Thon Hotel Astoria; the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, Oslo
Yes, there is still snow on European ground—and, most likely, there will be for several months. But that’s no reason to delay planning your next summer getaway, is it? A great way to experience a country’s culture and summer weather is a good, old-fashioned music festival. Here are ten of the best, in no particular order:
1. The Festival Internacional de Benicàssim (Spain)
Chances are, you have not heard of the Spanish town of Benicàssim—unless, of course, you are a serious music lover. The picturesque port positioned between Barcelona and Valencia plays host to a renowned music festival each July. Alternative rock bands and electronic artists dominate the lineup, and live music can be heard from 5pm straight through ‘til morning. Detox between music-filled nights on the nearby beach.
2. Roskilde European Music Festival (Denmark)
This is one of the biggest, most popular music festivals in Europe; not only that, it lets participants party for a great cause! Originally founded by two students and a promoter back in 1971, the festival has since been taken over by the Roskilde Foundation. The non-profit event combines live music, organic food, experimental art and design, and 24-hour parties to promote music and culture in the area.
3. Open’er Festival (Poland)
Poland’s biggest music festival welcomes lovers of all genres, from hip hop to electronic pop. The gigantic event is held in an airfield in Gdynia, an otherwise peaceful city on the country’s northern coast. Along with various concerts (bands play from 4pm to 2pm; DJ’s continue until 5am) on seven stages, there is a “festival town” where you can buy merchandise, see live theatre and films, and even participate in organized sports.
4. INmusic Festival (Croatia)
Since its first incarnation in 2005, Croatia’s largest open-air festival has grown exponentially. It is held over two days every June on a tiny island in Lake Jarun, and its wonderful location allows it to combine live music with beach activities. The festival draws some pretty impressive names (Franz Ferdinand, Cypress Hill, Prodigy, etc) and it was named one of Europe’s best in 2008 by The Times.
5. Exit (Serbia)
A fantastic summer tradition held in the Petrovaradin Fortress of Novi Sad, Exit is unlike any other music festival around. The ancient site is an interesting venue for the music, which is always on the cutting-edge. Past headliners include Lily Allen, the White Strips, and Arctic Monkeys. Exit has become so huge in recent years that it has even spawned its own record label. Listeners can download MP3 singles and albums for free from the official website.
6. Pinkpop Festival (Netherlands)
Named after the fact that it is held each Pentecost weekend, the annual Pinkpop Festival is one of the oldest in the world. It was founded in 1970 in Landgraaf, and it has featured everyone from The Killers to the Counting Crows. The three-day event always coincides with Pinkster (the Dutch name for the holiday) and is held over three days.
7. Rock am Ring and Rock in Park (Germany)
Actually two sister events, the Rock am Ring and Rock in Park together comprise one of the largest music festivals in the world. They are held at the Nürburgring racetrack and on a football stadium in Nuremberg, respectively, over a weekend in June. They typically feature nearly identical lineups—and they are typically sold-out events (which should come as no surprise, given Germany’s famous love of rock and roll.)
8. Sziget Festival (Hungary)
Unlike many of the other music festivals on this list, Sziget is actually held in a major city—Budapest, Hungary’s capital. Add that to the fact that the festivities last an entire week, and you have a truly impressive event. By the seventh day, festival-goers have had the opportunity to see a whopping 1,000 artists in action! These artists have included Amy Winehouse, the Gorillaz, and Iron Maiden. And the Sziget Festival is not just about music—it also includes, cinema, shopping and outdoor sports in the heart of the old city.
9. The Isle of Wight Festival (UK)
One of the world’s most historic and celebrated music festivals, this one began in 1968. The Isle of Wight Festival’s lineup has since featured Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Who, Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam. Still not impressed? It manages to draw over 600,000 people to Seaclose Park, near Newport. You can choose to camp or stay at a nearby hotel. There are plenty of options to choose from—visit Eurobookings.com to make your reservations today!
10. Pukkelpop (Belgium)
Missed the many festivals held in June and July? Well, if you can make it to the Hasselt area by the end of August, you can still catch one of Europe’s great summertime events! Pukkelpop draws over 180,000 music-lovers to the quaint village of Kiewit, surrounded by thick woodlands and scenic fields. The 2010 festival marked its 25th anniversary, and the celebration is still going strong.
Posted in Italy on 14. Jan, 2012
Known for its skiing and shopping above all else, the tiny mountain country of Andorra has a bit more to offer—its historic buildings and vibrant commercial hubs provide an interest contrast against a truly spectacular backdrop of snowcapped mountain peaks. The unique tourist destination, wedged snugly between Spain and France, really comes alive during the winter. However, its world-class resorts and spectacular hiking trails offer attractions year-round.
Andorra la Vella
The capital city of Andorra, Andorra la Vella is definitely where the action is. It is nestled at the junction of two major mountain streams, and it draws crowds of tourists to its impressive shopping centres. In fact, the city of Andorra la Vella boasts over 2,000 shops—which means that there is one for every 40 permanent residents of this fashionable city. Be sure to take some time out from the hustle and bustle; ancient landmarks like the 12th-century church and Casa de la Vall provide respite from the traffic and noise.
Another popular destination is Caldea, where you can take advantage of Andorra’s crystal-clear water and fresh mountain air—without even having to move a muscle! Caldea is the largest spa centre in Southern Europe, offering everything from high-pressure indoor and outdoor Jacuzzi tubs to pampering massage, facial and body treatments. There is even a water bar, and an evening light and music show held underwater. Shops, cafés, bars and even a renowned gourmet restaurant are also located within this 25,000-square-metre compound, built at an altitude of 1,100 metres.
Off the Beaten Path
Ready to escape the excess and modernity of Andorra la Vella and Caldea? Why not check out one of Andorra’s lesser-known mountain towns? Escaldes-Engordany is a charming spa town, located adjacent to the capital. Its easy access by roadway and public transportation makes it a wonderful choice for a relaxing day trip. While there, be sure to admire the stunning examples of Romanesque architecture that border the therapeutic hot springs. Also known for its architecture is Encamp, situated between Andorra la Vella and the French border. It is filled with delightful stone houses and medieval churches. El Serrat is an incredible hamlet about 18km from Escaldes-Engordany, just off the main road. Venture out, and you will be rewarded with breathtaking views.
No matter which Pyrenean town you choose as your home base in Andorra, you will not be able to ignore the country’s awe-inspiring natural beauty. To best experience it, you would do well to enjoy a leisurely hike—vast rivers, gurgling mountain streams and rewarding, challenging trails await. The Camí Ral d’Ordino in the parish of Cortinada and the Camí de les Pardines in Encamp offer great adventure to avid and novice hikers. Meanwhile, the amazing Madriu Valley (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is not to be missed for its beautiful glaciers and varied landscape. Of course, in winter, skiing is the country’s main draw—check out the famous centres of Soldeu, Pas de la Casa-Grau Roig, Ordino-Arcalis, and Arinal-Pal. The resort of La Rabassa is also great for cross-country skiing.
Find excellent hotels in Andorra—including the Acta Art Hotel in Andorra la Vella, and the Hotel Himalaia Soldeu—at Eurobookings.com.
Travel + Leisure Magazine recently published their picks for the Hottest Travel Destinations of 2012—and three destinations on that list are in our favorite part of the world! Forget about Paris or Rome; these are the European travel destinations to keep an eye on in the coming year:
One of the oldest cities in Portugal, Guimarães is actually called the “birthplace of Portuguese nationality.” It has long been known for its rich heritage; however, until recently, the city was often left off the hip traveler’s itinerary. Today, Guimarães is experiencing somewhat of a cultural renaissance—in fact, it was named (jointly with Maribor) the European Capital of Culture for 2012. A younger population is bringing a livelier atmosphere, transforming the ancient urban landscape into one that is sure to become trendier in the upcoming year.
Guimarães has a number of interesting museums and cultural centres, including the Vila Flor Cultural Center and the Center for Arts & Architecture Affairs. The Primitive Modern Arts Museum, the Art Laboratory and the Martins Sarmento Society are also worth visiting for their contributions to the music, theater, film and art scenes of Guimarães. As far as cuisine, the city has something for everyone—if you like seafood, then you must try the city’s favorite dish (bacalhau or salt cod.) Other things to do in Guimarães include the six-mile Citânia de Briteiros hike, which cuts through the fascinating ruins of an old Iron Age settlement, and a visit to the city’s oldest (and still most popular) square, the Largo da Oliveira.
Recommended hotels in Guimarães: the Pousada de Guimaraes – Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, the Toural
Greece has proven that no matter the state of its economy, the country’s tourist industry will continue to thrive. This is because in terms of natural beauty and rich history, there are few places in the world that can compare. A far cry from the major city of Athens or the tourist-ridden beaches of Santorini, the sleepy region of Messenia is now becoming the up-and-coming travel destination. The westernmost portion of the Peloponnese peninsula, Messenia is filled with beautiful valleys, majestic sand dunes and intriguing Byzantine churches. Incredible beaches line the Ionian Sea—beaches that, until recently, have been unknown to most of the world’s travelers.
Costa Navarino, a new resort complex on 2,500 picturesque acres, is single-handedly putting Messenia on the global map. The once-hidden stretch of Grecian coastline is now poised to become Europe’s newest Riviera. World-class hotel chains, including Starwood and Banyan Tree, have chosen Costa Navarino as their newest home—and their hotels are waiting to introduce you to the distinct style and hospitality of Messenia. Consider the Pharae Palace Hotel, the Elite City Resort, or another of the great hotels in Kalamata (the capital of Messenia) for your next getaway.
A vibrant hub of commerce and culture, the big German city of Hamburg is not exactly hidden. However, while it has always attracted its share of visitors, those numbers are about to drastically increase for one reason: HafenCity. The brand-new development is currently being constructed on the docklands of Hamburg. With its completion—which is not scheduled to be until 2025, unfortunately—the city’s skyline will be forever altered.
The 388-acre project-in-progress is already drawing spectators, especially for the obvious modernity it brings to the historic city. So far, the crown jewel of the innovative, eye-catching architectural complex is Herzog & de Meuron’s Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall (where performances are set to start in 2014.) The concert hall resembles a large ship passing through fog; the visual effect is created with the help of treated glass—and perhaps a touch of magic. Surrounding this is the up-and-coming quarter of Am Sandtorkai/Dalmannkai, comprised of 19th-century brick warehouses and newer buildings.
Although HafenCity is still in its earlier stages, it is already changing the way people view Hamburg. See it for yourself—Hamburg hotels like the Radisson Blu Hotel, Hamburg and the Side are available right now at Eurobookings.com.