Category : Belgium
Though the true origin of Art Deco is open to interpretation, as is the true definition of an architectural style that includes so many different styles under its umbrella, we all know it when we see it. And though we associate Art Deco with the gleaming skyscrapers of Manhattan (the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building) and the Day-Glo hotels of Miami (the Astor and the Berkeley), the style originated in Europe. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the Old Country still boasts many breathtaking examples of this architecture style we all love so much. Here are five notable examples.
Palais de Tokyo, Paris France
For our first Art Deco treasure we go to the city where it all started; Paris, host of the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, where we find the Palais de Tokyo. Built for the 1937 International Exhibition of Arts and Technology as the Palais des Musées d’art modern, this extraordinary building is now home to a museum, as well as a studio and laboratory space for resident artists and curators. The Palais de Tokyo also boasts a wonderful location, set right between the River Seine and the Avenue de New York and just across the river from the Eiffel Tower. With such a central Paris location, it’s no surprise that there are so many excellent hotels surrounding it.
Guildhall, Swansea, United Kingdom
It’s hard to miss the towering Guildhall. But one would expect the building that served as the City Hall, City Hall, Brangwyn Hall and the County Law Courts for Swansea to be built to attract attention. Built between 1930 and 1934, the Guildhall was quite controversial, as it was certainly a departure for civic architecture of the times. But the building has become one of Swansea’s most iconic symbols. Clad in white Portland stone, the Guildhall boasts a distinctive clock tower. If you look closely, you’ll see the sculpted the prow of a Viking boat, representing Sweyn Forkbeard and the rest of the city’s Viking founders. Many of the nearby hotels provide excellent views of the Guildhall.
Tuschinski Theatre, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
With its iconic Graumann’s Chinese Theatre and Radio City Music Hall, the USA is home to the greatest Art Deco movie palaces in the world. And then there’s Amsterdam’s Tuschinski Theatre. Built in 1921 by theatre owner Abraham Icek Tuschinski, this hauntingly beautiful theatre transforms you to another world. Designed for live entertainment as well as movies, the Tuschinski still has its Wurlitzer-Strunk organ, a rarity even among the rarity of surviving movie palaces. Designed by Hijman Louis de Jong, the theatre also retains its original stage. Tuschinski also had four movie palaces built in Rotterdam between 1911 and 1928 but all were destroyed in that city’s World War II bombing. In fact, Tuschinski, being Jewish, also did not survive the war, meeting his end in Auschwitz. But a visit to his masterpiece proves that his name will live on. Located in Amsterdam’s centre, the Tuschinski is close to many hotels.
Bucharest Telephone Palace, Bucharest, Romania
This imposing piece of Art Deco architecture, known locally as the Palatul Telefoanelor, was finished in 1934. In the throes of the Depression, the building was funded by the American Morgan Bank, which was rewarded with a 20-year monopoly on the Romanian telephone industry. A resilient building, the Telephone Palace survived not only the earthquakes of 1940, 1977, 1986 and 1990, but also the Allied bombings of 1944. Designed by Edmond Van Saanen Algi, the building has lasted longer than the Morgan deal, as the post-World War II Communist government nationalized the telephone industry. After years of neglect, a €1 million renovation was undertaken, which was completed in 2005, returning this wonderful Art Deco gem to its original grandeur in the largest architectural reconstruction project ever undertaken in Romania. To see the results, you might want to check out one of the nearby Bucharest hotels.
National Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Koekelberg, Belgium
In a continent full of Gothic, Romanesque and Baroque Churches, the Art Deco National Basilica of the Sacred Heart (French: Basilique Nationale du Sacré-Cœur, Dutch: Nationale Basiliek van het Heilig-Hart) is truly unique. And truly beautiful. When construction began in 1905 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Belgium’s independence, there was no such thing as Art Deco, and a more traditional look was intended. But with two World Wars interrupting construction, the final stone was not laid until 1969, and by then architect Albert Van Huffel 1930s plan was adopted. Gazing up at the two thin towers and 89 metre-high green copper dome is a memorable experience, and the Basilica has become an integral part of the city skyline, allowing you to view the hilltop from many a Brussels hotel room.
Summer’s here and the time is right for dancing all over Europe. Though Southern California’s Coachella Festival gets all the headlines, the truth is that Europe is full of dozens of music festivals featuring thousands of bands, from the Gulf of Bothnia to the Mediterranean and from the Atlantic to the Adriatic. All music is covered, from heavy metal to jazz and from rap to local folk music, very often at the same festivals. Here’s a list of five of the best music festivals coming up in the summer of 2011.
Roskilde Festival, Denmark
June 30-July 3, Warm-up June 26-29
The Roskilde Festival was created in 1971 by two high school students and it has growing ever since. As the festival is a non-profit organization supporting the development of music and culture, you know your ticket money is going to a good place. Originally a haven for hippies, the musical styles have branched out and its wide range of musical styles can be seen in a sampling of the 2011 line-up. Acts will include MIA, PJ Harvey, Iron Maiden, Killing Joke, Kings of Leon, Big Boi, Bright Eyes, Ice Age, Yemen Blues and hundreds more. In 2007 the festival boasted 80,000 guests who watched 180 bands and enjoyed the work of 3,000 artists. Like most festivals, Roskilde provides the opportunity to camp. But if you’d like to crash in a bed with four walls and a ceiling around you, there are plenty of Roskilde hotels to accommodate you. Though you should be sure to book early.
Oxegen Festival, Ireland
Somewhat newer is the Oxegen Festival, which has become Ireland’s largest, with a 2008 daily attendance of 90,000. Though its previous incarnation, “Witnness” was sponsored by Guinness, the festival is now put on by Heineken. Known as the greenest festival in Europe, Oxegen is a 100% carbon neutral event and takes place at the Punchestown Racecourse in County Kildare, just 32 kilometres from Dublin. As always, 2011 will feature some big names among the 100+ acts, including Foo Fighters, Coldplay, Black-Eyed Peas, Arctic Monkeys, the Strokes, the Script, deadmaus, the National, Weezer, Pendulum, Plan B, Primal Scream and Bright Eyes. If you want to sleep in the open with 80,000 other attendees, there’s camping available. The nearest hotels are just a few kilometres in the town of Naas, and after three nights of camping, a night spent in a Dublin hotel can serve as a nice transition back to civilization.
Benicàssim Festival, Spain
July 14-July 17
What do you get when you mix rock music the blue waters and golden sands of Spain’s Mediterranean coast? The Benicàssim Festival! Known locally as the Festival Internacional de Benicàssim, this four-day party is set in the beachside holiday town of Benicàssim, which is an hour from Valencia in one direction and two hours from Barcelona in the other. Though the festival focuses mostly on pop, rock and electronica music, many other arts are represented as well, from theatre to short film to visual arts and fashion. The 2011 line-up includes The Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, Primal Scream, Arcade Fire, Portishead, Jack Beats, The Juan MacLean, Logo, Lori Meyers and The Marzipan Man. Camping is offered here as well, but if you’d like to mix festival-style fun with beach resort luxury, then check out one of the many resort hotels in Benicàssim and in Castellon de la Plana, 16 kilometres away.
Sziget Festival, Budapest
The Isle of Wight Festival isn’t the only one held on an island. Of course what makes the Sziget Festival unique is that the island is right in the middle of the Danube, right in the middle of the Hungarian capital of Budapest. This is the biggest party in Europe, features a whopping 1,000+ bands and artists, performing on 55 different stages. The variety of music is also mind-boggling, allowing you to choose (and with all those stage, choose you must) between pop, rock, metal, hip hop, dance, world music and more. There’s also much non-performance fun to be had, from bungee-jumping to movies to belly dancing and Hungarian lessons to karaoke to swimming and football. Oh, and then there’s the music, which this year will include Amy Winehouse, Deftones, Flogging Molly, Good Charlotte, Judas Priest, Kasabian, Pulp, Smashmouth, The Chemical Brothers… and hundred more. Though camping out on the island is a unique experience, you might want to pencil in one night in a Budapest hotel, many of which offer the unique experience of visiting one of the city’s famed thermal baths.
With fall approaching, the Pukkelpop Festival, one of the season’s last, is getting in full swing. Though the line-up has not yet been announced (you can jot down your requests on the festival website), 2010 featured Placebo, Iron Maiden, Queens of the Stone Age, Snow Patrol, Blink 182, Limp Bizkit, The Flaming Lips, Bad Religion, The Black Motorcycle Club, Fake Blood and 200 more. The festival boasts eight stages, including the unforgettable Chateau Crapule. It’s held in a large enclosure of fields and forests close to the city of Hasselt in a tiny village of Kiewit, whose population increases exponentially once a year when the Pukkelpop crowd of 180,000 descends upon it. If you want to skip the camping or are looking for some post-festival decompression, hotel rooms are available in Hasselt and 40 minutes away in the medieval Dutch river city of Maastricht.
Like any major European city worth its salt, Brussels has a great collection of interesting museums. There are, of course, the requisite art and history museums—those that beautifully depict the story of Brussels’ life thus far. However, any avid museumgoer can understandably tire of seeing the same collections over and over. Luckily, in Brussels, it is easy to cure this boredom! Here are five of the city’s most unusual—and therefore exciting—museums:
Probably the most famous Belgian artist of all time, Magritte was a prolific painter whose legacy lives on today. Even those not familiar with surrealist art may have heard his name—and even those who have not heard his name may recognize some of his most iconic images: the suited man wearing a bowler hat whose face is covered with a green apple, for example, or the wooden pipe with the words “ceci n’est pas une pipe” (“this is not a pipe”) inscribed beneath. The Magritte Museum celebrates these and other visual witticisms. Since first opening its doors in June of 2009, the new addition to Brussels’ collection of museums is quickly becoming one of its most popular.
the exterior of the Magritte Museum
Belgian Comic Strip Center
The country that brought you the colorful adventures of Tintin has always had a soft spot for comics. And if you are young or simply young at heart, you may share Belgium’s love of the whimsical art form. At the Belgian Comic Strip Center in Brussels, you can learn everything there is to know about the history of classic comics. Light, easy-to-follow exhibits promise fun for the whole family. Meanwhile, the building itself is worth examining: Designed by the famous Art Nouveau master Victor Horta, the Belgian Comic Strip Center’s home is a local landmark and architectural monument.
The Musical Instrument Museum
Easily identified by its striking Art Nouveau façade, this Brussels museum is as famous for its architecture as it is for its exhibits. Throughout the building, you will find fascinating displays that celebrate the history of music from around the world. Ancient and modern instruments have been carefully organized and labeled with their names, countries of origin, and dates. Upon entering the Musical Instrument Museum, you will be provided with a set of infrared-controlled headphones. Stand next to a particular instrument, and you will hear its music played on the headphones. The beautiful museum is also home to a concert hall and a panoramic rooftop restaurant.
inside the Musical Instrument Museum
Musée Bruxellois de la Gueuze
Belgian beer is undoubtedly one of the country’s greatest exports, and a major reason to visit the city of Brussels. Instead of merely sampling the hearty, frothy brew in a pub, why not take a tour of a working brewery? The Musée Bruxellois de la Gueuze serves dual purposes as a beer museum and the headquarters of Cantillon, the last label to make their beer in the traditional Brussels style (fermented not by the addition of yeast, but by leaving the liquid open to the skies and nature’s whims.) The resulting beer is called a “lambic” (or a “gueuze” when aged) and the price of your museum tour includes a glass.
Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat
What would a visit to Belgium be without chocolate? Instead of finding out, head to the Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat near the Grand Place! Housed within the historic Valk mansion that was once a brewery, this Brussels museum is truly a local landmark. The exhibits within the historic walls pay homage to the country’s sweetest pastime: the making—and consuming—of all things chocolate. Informative displays teach visitors about the history of chocolate (beginning with the first cultivation of cocoa beans by the Aztecs) while a master chocolatier handcrafts mouthwatering masterpieces right before your eyes. After witnessing such a splendid, sugary display, you will probably be hungry. Luckily, the Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat has a gift shop wherein you may purchase what you are craving.
chocolate clothing at the Musée du Cacao et du Chocolate
Recommended hotels in Brussels: the NH Grand Place Arenberg, the Sofitel Brussels Le Louise
Posted in Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The UK on 15. Feb, 2011
Perhaps you are looking to commune with nature, or distance yourself from the crowds. Or perhaps you are just on a very strict budget. Either way, camping is a wonderful alternative to staying in traditional hostels or hotels in Europe—providing you know where, how and when to do it!
There are many benefits to choosing a tent over a hotel bed. For one, you are able to enjoy more peace and privacy than is available in shared hostel accommodations—without sacrificing location or convenience! Despite what you may think, it is actually easy to find a campsite near the tourist attractions of most major European cities. Overall, camping in Europe is much easier than camping in North America. In Europe, campsites are not relegated to National Parks and remote areas. Instead, they lie within the city limits of many popular destinations: Prague, Vienna, Amsterdam, Venice, etc.
Pricing can be a bit confusing for first-time campers, and prices can vary by city or campsite. However, most campgrounds charge a set price for each tent, each person and each vehicle that enters the site—so be sure to do the math before handing over your credit card! Also be sure to ask about the particular campground’s tent policy, as not all sites allow them (some in Europe are RV-only.)
Of course, a campground will be much more rustic and minimalist in terms of amenities (compared to a hotel.) However, you may be surprised by what European campsites do have to offer. For one, most campgrounds in Europe feature a restaurant somewhere on the premises; this is a great perk for those traveling lightly, relying on local foods instead of cooking for themselves. If you are planning to cook, please keep in mind that most campsites in Europe do not offer picnic tables.
Another perk that you might not expect is Internet access—readily available on many European campgrounds! This may come in the form of an onsite Internet café, or Wi-Fi for campers with laptops. Be sure to bring the appropriate plugs to charge your laptop; European RV’s require a specific plug. However, you will generally find free plugs in the public restrooms as well.
Of course, if you tire of weathering the “great outdoors” and are in need of something a bit more comfortable, you may always find great hotels in Europe at EuroBookings.com!
Though New Orleans may boast about their non-stop partying on Mardi Gras, and every Carioca’s chest swells at the mention of Rio de Janeiro’s all-night Carnival Parade, the truth is that Europe is also full of amazing Carnival celebrations. Celebrating the period of fun, feasting and merrymaking just before Lent’s 40 days of abstinence, it’s no wonder Carnival is such a raucous affair. If you’re lucky enough to be anywhere near any of the following cities (and many others) around March 8th, you are in for a treat.
Carnevale di Venezia, February 26-March 8
The largest Carnival celebration in Europe, the Carnevale di Venezia has been going strong since it first started back in the 15th century – with a slight break when Mussolini banned the festival’s iconic masks. The ban long over, Venice’s Carnival celebration is a feast for all the senses, with endless concerts, copious amounts of food and costumed ball after costumed ball after costumed ball. The highlight of the festival and of the city’s annual social calendar is the Gran Ballo delle Maschere (Grand Masked Ball) which takes place in different venues each year. The slightest of sampling of events would include “Hot Chocolate in Costume” at the Cafè Lavena, “Diner dansant” at the exclusive Hotel Danieli and “Carnival Dream,” held at the Dandolo Palace Hotel and costing only 450,00 €. Oh, that’s the other thing. Many of the events can be quite expensive. But even if you’re on a budget, there’s plenty to see, do, listen to and eat. Just be sure to book your Venice hotel well ahead of time, as St. Mark’s Square alone is known to burst at the seams with 150,000 people!
Rijeka Carnival, March 5-8
With Rio and Venice the undisputed giants in the Carnival world, there are several cities vying for the number three spot. You may be surprised to learn that the strongest contender is the Rijeka Carnival in the Croatian city of Rijeka. Over 20,000 participants and more than 6, 00,000 visitors make this the ultimate celebration. Starting with the Rijeka Carnival Queen Pageant and culminating with the spectacular masked parade, the Rijeka’s Carnival offers concerts, exhibitions, shows, masquerades and parties. There’s even a Children’s Carnival Parade just for the little ones. Rijeka also offers many less traditional events, like the masked Pariz-Bakar auto rally, a parody to the world famous Paris-Dakar race, and the Croatia Carnival Snowboard Session which utilizes an artificial slope in the middle of the city. As in Venice, you’ll want to make your Rijeka reservations early.
Carnaval de Binche, March 5-8
If snowboarding and an auto race strike you as odd non-traditional Carnival behavior, the Carnaval de Binche in Binche Belgium proves that some traditions can be even odder. For example, when was the last time you were pelted by oranges by a group of men in green costume? That’s exactly what happens in Binche, where young men and boys hurls oranges into the crowd as the older men dance while dressed in a variety of fantastic costumes and green-eyed masks. Though the festivities in this town of 32,000 people are dwarfed in size by the more famous Carnival celebrations, you can’t say they lack originality. The orange tossing and much of the rest of the events take place around the historical town hall, and of course there many opportunities to sample traditional food and watch traditional entertainment. If you’re not able to find a hotel room in town, you might consider staying in the larger cities of La Louvière, 8.5 kilometres to the north or Charleroi, 21 kilometres to the east.
Kölner Karneval, March 3-March 9
Another contender for the number three spot is the Kölner Karneval, or Cologne Carnival, which has been celebrated in this cathedral city since 1341. With over a million and half visitors, the Kölner Karneval rivals Bavaria’s famed Oktoberfest in size and in fun. The Rose Parade alone attracts over a million spectators, and if you want to buck tradition, you can catch the Stunksitzung, a leftist comedy show which pokes fun at the official carnival Sitzungen (stage shows) and politics. As in most Carnival’s Cologne’s features colourful floats in huge parades with the singing of old Karneval songs and costumed figures throwing candy and flowers into the crowd. Be sure to find yourself a costume, or you’ll be the only one I the crowd without one. But be sure not to wear your favorite tie on Weiberfastnacht (Women’s Carnival Day), because that’s the day when women are allowed to cut the tie off any man they can reach. The plus side is that they can also kiss any man they want. Though there are a wide variety of Cologne hotels, you may never see the inside of your room, as the bars have no closing time during Carnival, making it an all-night party.
Carnevale di Viareggio, February 20 and 27, March 6, 8 and 13
Set on the Tuscan coast and attended by over a million people, the Carnevale di Viareggio offers a magical atmosphere created by the wonderful floats in its parades. Set on the waterfront, the massive floats, many taller than the surrounding buildings, present larger than life characters, whose arms and legs are animated by a crew of artists hidden inside. Each float is created by a local artist, and each takes a year to complete. Which explains why the parade is repeated not only on Shrove Tuesday, but on the three Sundays before and the Sunday following. The other draw of the Viareggio Carnevale is all the amazing food to be had. Many restaurants actually feature special carnival menus. Look for the Carnevale pastries called frittelle di riso and cenci. The day is started and ended with three blasts from a cannon. But the end is only the beginning, as sunset brings a multitude of the most fantastic costumes and sublime smells from the traditional local seafood kitchens dotting the harbour and the central market. Don’t expect to sleep much if your hotel is in these areas.
When planning a visit to Europe, it is easy to become focused on a few major highlights: the cuisine, the nightlife, the art, etc. However, each European country also boasts vast acres of incredible natural scenery—within its protected parks in particular.
While the phrase “national park” is most often associated with the United States, European countries are filled with them as well. Throughout Europe, you will find a breathtaking array of natural parks and nature reserves. And while they may be covered in a layer of ice and snow right now, come spring and summer, they will be magically transformed into a verdant paradise.
In particular, Holland and its neighbors (the “Benelux countries”) are home to 20 such national parks. Together, they are known as the National Parks of the Benelux. In a region famous for its manicured gardens and a fascination with flowers, it should come as no surprise that there are awe-inspiring parks here. Friesland, Gelderland, Utrecht, Seeland and the Northern Brabant feature countless acres of impressive wilderness. From lush woodlands and moors to sparse, sandy terrain, the landscapes here are incredibly varied.
The largest park in Holland is the Haute Veluwe Natural Park. Here you may wander about heather-filled moors, romantic dunes and forests home to many species of birds, wild sheep, boar and deer. Another beautiful destination is the Haute Fagnes Nature Park in Belgium; it is filled with lovely fenlands, rolling hills and peat bogs. These elements provide an amazing backdrop to castles like Annevoie Freyr and Hex, the Royal Palace in Laeken, and the National Botanic Garden (home to more than 10,000 plant species!)
If you love to hike or camp, you should also consider paying a visit to the Upper Sûre Natural Park that connects Belgium and Luxembourg. The two countries share this magnificent wonderland in the Luxembourg Ardennes—and for good reason. The destination offers a varied landscape and themed excursions based on local legends.
For more information on Europe’s protected areas, check out the Europarc Federation or the PAN Parks network. And to book the best hotels in the Netherlands, look no further than Eurobookings.com!
While the 2008 black comedy crime film may not have done much to promote Bruges tourism, it also did not hurt the local tourist industry. The vibrant Belgian city, centered around the cobblestone streets of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is filled with fascinating things to see and do. Start at the main plaza—the bustling Grote Markt—and venture out on foot or bike to discover the many landmarks that fill ancient Bruges. Here are only five of the best tourist attractions:
Belfry of Bruges
Without a doubt, the Belfry of Bruges is one of the city’s most famous landmarks. It was built back in the 13th century and it is now featured on the World Heritage List. The belfry towers over 80 metres (262 feet) high and the views from the top are absolutely stunning. Not for the faint of heart, the climb is 366 steps; however, those who endure it will undoubtedly find the trek worth it. Along the way, you will pass the barred treasury and the 47 bells of the 18th-century carillon. They are still regularly played by the onsite bell ringer.
the Belfry of Bruges
Sint Salvator Cathedral
This beautiful church is so well known that it is often simply called the “Cathedral of Bruges.” Although its architecture is mainly from the 12th century, its origins supposedly date all the way back to the 10th century. In the 1840’s, however, the tower of Sint Salvator Cathedral was damaged by a fire and subsequently rebuilt. During the process, the height of the tower was increased so that it became taller than the city’s Church of Our Lady. Soon after, the church was elevated to “cathedral status.” It has remained an important tourist attraction since.
Built over 40 years starting in 1376, the Stadhuis is the oldest—and most beautiful—town hall in Belgium. Its Gothic stone exterior makes it an architectural landmark, and many come to see the statues of noblemen from around Flanders. The interior of the Stadhuis is equally incredible, and there are a number of rooms open to the public. The Gotische Zaal (Gothic Hall) on the first floor is one of the most popular attractions. It is filled with original works of art, and the adjacent exhibition hall houses a fine collection of antique maps.
Church of Our Lady
Another of Bruges’ prized attractions is the “Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk,” or the Church of Our Lady. The magnificent building was first built in the 13th century; however, many additions have been made since that time. Over the following centuries, the church has been expanded and enhanced. Its brick spire towers 122 metres (400 feet) and when it was completed, it was the tallest structure in the city. Throughout the interior of the Church of Our Lady, you will find original works of art and religious artifacts. Of particular note is the sculpture of the Madonna and Child, crafted by Michelangelo in the early 16th century.
One of Bruges’ more unusual tourist attractions, the Béguinage is a must-see for anyone who loves history. The cluster of buildings was originally used in the 13th century to house a community for Roman Catholic women. Over the centuries, Bruges residents who opposed violence and war sought refuge at the Béguinage—and they often brought with them money to help maintain the compound. To this day, the historical dwellings surround a charming courtyard and are protected from the streets of Bruges by an ancient wall.
Recommended hotels in Bruges: Best Western Hotel Acacia, Crowne Plaza Hotel Brugge
It is easy to overlook the small, landlocked country of Luxembourg. However, there are many reasons to include this charming destination in your tour of Western Europe. Situated right on the cultural divide between the Romance and Germanic nations, Luxembourg features a unique fusion of customs and traditions. There are many fantastic hotels in Luxembourg City, the country’s capital. Try the opulent Hilton Luxembourg or the more accessible Campanile Hotel Luxembourg-Aéroport. Either makes a great home base from which to tour these popular attractions.
Chateau of the Counts of Luxembourg
Dating all the way back to the year 963, this incredible castle has since been drastically transformed. The original structure was severely damaged by a horrific fire in 1459. The scorched ruins were later incorporated into a new system of fortifications at the Bock, the jutting promontory on which the castle stands. In 1993, an archaeological excavation uncovered several elements of the original architecture. Tour the Chateau of the Counts of Luxembourg today, and you can trace the history of the castle—and of the city itself.
One of Luxembourg’s most famous features is undoubtedly its intimidating military legacy. While most elements are obviously off-limits to tourists, visitors can explore one of the capital’s most impressive wartime inventions: The Casements, an underground network of defensive passageways that originally stretched 23 kilometers long and reached down as far as 40 meters below ground. Today, 17km of the casements are still in good condition—and they have been open to the public since 1933.
Grand Ducal Palace
A perfect example of Spanish Renaissance architecture, the Grand Ducal Palace was built between 1572 and 1574. After years as the Prefecture and seat of the government, the palace was beautifully converted in 1890. Today, it serves as the official seat of the Grand Duke, who famously broadcasts a message from the Yellow Room each year on Christmas Eve. Throughout the year, you can also watch the renowned Luxembourg military perform ceremonial duties on the grounds. From July 15th to September 2nd, parts of the interior are open to the public.
the famous Grand Ducal Palace
Market at Place Guillaume
Take a break from the somber fortresses and battlegrounds of Luxembourg, and spend an afternoon embracing the more festive side of local culture! Every Wednesday and Saturday, the Market at Place Guillaume comes alive in a burst of color and sound. Inviting market stalls spill over with fresh fruits and vegetables, beautiful flowers, handmade crafts and other things to buy. Take your time, shopping—and bargaining!—just like Luxembourg’s locals.
Probably the most important religious site in Luxembourg, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is a must-see tourist attraction. The magnificent Gothic structure was built between 1613 and 1621, and it houses the royal family vault among other things. The sacred sarcophagus of John the Blind and the treasury are also located here. What’s more, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is the site of the annual Octave of Our Lady of Luxembourg. The annual event takes place right after Easter, and is known to draw thousands of pilgrims from around the world.
the interior of Luxembourg's Notre-Dame
Posted in Barcelona, Belgium, Brussels, Dublin, France, Frankfurt, Germany, Ireland, Italy, London, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Paris, Spain, The UK on 23. Sep, 2010
If you thought that high-end outlet malls were only to be found in the USA, then think again. Less than an hour from nine European cities are the nine shopping venues belonging to Chic Outlet Shopping, known collectively as “The Villages.” Each one is a destination in itself, an open-air shopping Mecca hosting between 50 and 140 European luxury brand outlet boutiques, from Abro to Zoo York. The shops range from European to international, with each also featuring shops representative of the host country. Each is easy to reach from its host city via a shuttle. The store directories and shuttle information can be found on the website for each village.
LONDON (Bicester Village)
Bicester Village offers over 130 outlet stores, all set in the village of Bicester in the heart of the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside. The Village has its own Italian and French restaurants, and also provides the perfect excuse to explore all the attractions of Oxfordshire. London itself is only 60 minutes away, and the shops at the village provide you with up to 60% discounts on the recommended retail price. You can either make Bicester Village a daytrip from your London hotel or stay closer to the action in a Bicester hotel.
DUBLIN (Kildare Village)
Just an hour from Dublin, in the heart of County Kildare you’ll find many horse farms and horse-racing venues. You’ll also find Kildare Village, home to more than 55 luxury boutiques. Kildare Village specializes in providing you with a broad selection of the collections of the previous season in famous international names in both fashion and homeware. Discounts here also reach up to 60% of the retailers’ recommended price. The charming village of Kildare offers one hotel, and nearby villages like Newbridge offer other accommodations. Or you can always stay in the vibrant capital city of Dublin itself.
PARIS (La Vallée Village)
It should come as no surprise that the fashion capital of the planet for the last several centuries would play host to a luxury outlet mall. La Vallée Village is just 35 minutes from the City of Light. And if you need something to calm the kids down while you shop, you can promise them a trip to Disneyland Paris, which is just five minutes away in the neighboring city of Marne-la-Vallée. In the meantime, you can lose yourself among the 90 luxury outlet boutiques where you’ll find low prices on Paris’s finest. There are many Paris hotels, as well as closer hotels in the town of Bailly-Romainvilliers, which plays host to La Vallée Village, and neighboring towns like Magny-le-Hongre and Serris.
MADRID (Las Rozas Village)
Set right between the Spanish capital Madrid and the amazing El Escorial, the residence and final resting place of many Spanish kings and queens, Las Rozas Village offers up to 60% reductions in over 100 luxury outlet boutique shops. Many Spanish brands are represented, along with international stores. The Village is located in the Madrid suburb of Las Rozas de Madrid, which boasts some fine hotels. But if you’d rather enjoy the excitement of the capital city that never sleeps, many Madrid hotels are only 30 minutes away.
BARCELONA (La Roca Village)
Located in the heart of Catalonia, La Roca Village provides not only international designer brand outlet boutiques and not only their Spanish counterparts, but also the unique opportunity to buy from authentic Catalan designer shops. The stores at La Roca Village offer discounts of up to 60%, and the location is also excellent. Only 40 minutes from Barcelona’s vibrant city centre, La Roca Village puts you on the road to the beautiful Costa Brava, so you’d better be sure to buy a swim suit while you’re there. La Roca Village is located in the town of Granollers, which offers a selection of hotels. Or maybe you’d rather spend the night in a hotel or apartment in Barcelona itself.
MILAN (Fidenza Village)
Residents of Milan might take exception to the designation of Paris as the fashion capital of the world. And after a day in Fidenza Village, you might end up agreeing with them. While the shops of Milan itself are notoriously expensive, Fidenza Village offer up to 70% reductions in more than 100 luxury outlet boutiques. The world’s leading Italian and international fashion brands are available, and Fidenza Village is an hour away from both Milan and the exciting university city of Bologna. Milan offers a wide range of hotels that are convenient to the Village shuttle. Or you can stay in the Hotel Astoria or Hotel Fidenza in the town of Fidenza itself.
BRUSSELS (Maasmechelen Village)
Though known more for its chocolates and its beautifully preserved medieval core than for its fashion, the city of Brussels is just an hour’s drive (or shuttle ride) from the 95 luxury outlet boutiques of Maasmechelen Village. Here you can save from 30% to 60% off the recommended retail price on the previous season’s collections from leading Belgian and international names in fashion, homeware and home décor. Set at the beautiful green intersection of Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, Maasmechelen Village can be combined with many international daytrips. You can use the B&B Basil in Maasmechelen as your homebase, or stay in one of the many luxurious Brussels hotels nearby.
FRANKFURT (Wertheim Village)
One of the business capitals of Europe now offers the opportunity to shop like crazy with the 110 luxury outlets of Wertheim Village 50 minutes away. Like some of the other Chic Outlet Shopping venues, Wertheim Village offers up to 60% off on the previous season’s collections, and like the other venues, you can get access to both international and German companies. Wertheim Village is also located right at the gateway to the famous Romantic Road, making it a convenient stop on your way out of Frankfurt or on your way back in. Wertheim hotels make a great Romantic Road homebase, while Frankfurt hotels put you in the middle of the action.
MUNICH (Ingolstadt Village)
And last but certainly not least are the 100 boutiques found at Ingolstadt Village, which is located just 50 minutes north of all the beer gardens, churches and Bavarian charm of the city of Munich. This lively city also has a thriving cultural scene with more art galleries and theatres than any other city in Germany. The easiest way to enjoy the 60% discounts at Ingolstadt Village is to stay at an Ingolstadt hotel, though the shuttle from central Munich makes it possible to stay in a hotel in Munich.
One of the most difficult parts of World War I was that the in over four years of fighting front line never moved very far. What’s bad for the soldier is great for the sightseer, as most World War I battlefields are in the same area, straddling the border of France and Belgium.
Flanders for example saw fighting throughout the war, from October 1914 until November 1918. Ypres makes an excellent homebase for exploring Flanders. In fact, the town itself has some sites that are interesting to see before setting out to the battlefield. A great place to start is at the In Flanders Field Museum, which is set in the ancient Cloth Hall building. Ypres, itself a battlefield, was devastated during the war, and to see how well the town rebuilt while retaining its original character, you have only to visit the Cathedral of St. Martin and St. Nicholas. The St. George Memorial Church also makes an interesting stop. It was built after the war to give English pilgrims visiting their fallen loved ones in the many new cemeteries surrounding the town would have a British Church in which to mourn and pray. A plaque inside commemorates ‘One Million Dead’ of the British Empire. Ypres offers many hotel choices that make great starting points for the city and the battlefields surrounding it.
Between July and November 1916, more than one and a half million soldiers fell in the infamous Battle of the Somme, making it one of history’s bloodiest battles. Set in northern France’s now-tranquil Picardy Region, the area has not changed much in the last century. Of the several villages populating the area, the most accessible to the Somme battlefields is the town of Albert, which offers several restaurants and several hotels. From Albert, it’s easy to get away from the major roads and onto the country lanes to get the feeling of what the area was like when the war came. Be sure to visit Delville Wood, also known as “Devil’s Wood.” The impressive South African Memorial at the Delville Wood Cemetery marks the spot of a particularly ferocious battle that the South Africans participated in. Near the village of Thiepval is the Ulster Tower, a serene replica of Helen’s Tower in County Down, Ireland, where men of the 36th Division trained.
Not far from the Somme battlefields are the cemeteries and monuments marking the Battle of Verdun, which was fought between the Germans and the French from February to December 1916. Though the French were eventually victorious, the lost many more men than the Germans, and the 40 million artillery shells exchanged scarred the land with craters that can still be seen today. In the heart of the Verdun battlefield is a sight that you will never forget, known as the Ossuary. Inside the base of this towering monument are the bones of 130,000 men recovered from the battlefield, which can be viewed through small windows. On the slope below the Ossuary are the graves of another 15,000 French soldiers. Nearby are reminders that this was a worldwide conflict; the Memorial to Muslim soldiers and the Memorial to Israelites. Also near the Ossuary is the famous Trench of Bayonets, which has been preserved by along low concrete structure covering the site. There’s a lot to take in, and the best way to not rush is to spend the night in a Verdun hotel.
The French village of Cambrai was “lucky” enough to host two battles, one in 1917 and the other right before the end of the war in October 1918. The latter battle was notable for the use of a new machine of war; the tank. Unlike the much larger cemeteries and memorials of Verdun and the Somme, visiting Cambrai’s battlefields is a much more intimate experience. Cambrai is surrounded by many small villages, and the military cemeteries are often smaller, containing graves in their hundreds and sometimes even in their tens. Five Points Cemetery, the Rocquigny-Equancourt Road British Cemetery, the Grand Ravine Cemetery and the Flesquieres Hill British Cemetery are a few of them. Also of note is the Cambrai Memorial to the Missing, which is just outside the small village of Louverval. Cambrai hotels are also petite affairs and nice places to stay after reflecting on the surrounding sites.
Part of the larger Battle of Arras, the 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge was the Canada’s shining moment in the war, and the Vimy Ridge Memorial the Canadians built after the war is truly an awesome sight. Carved from a single piece of stone, set on the highest point of the ridge the Canadians took and opened in 1936, the memorial can be seen from miles away. Heading away from the monument to Beaumont Hamel and Sanctuary Wood, you can see some of the original trenches. The Grange Tunnel offers tours of the underground network of tunnels that riddled this area of the Western Front, and may cause you to wonder how many miles of northeastern France have similar tunnels beneath them. Vimy Ridge is located just north of the town of Arras, which offers several hotel options.