Category : Paris
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
A major staple of European and other diets around the world, bread is oftentimes the unsung hero of the food world. Hearty, comforting, versatile—there are many reasons to love bread. However, not many seem to know much about the substance—its history, symbolism, or ethnological meaning. Learn a bit about bread, and you may in turn learn a bit about the people it feeds. Here are only a few of Europe’s greatest bread museums:
The European Bread Museum – Varnavas, Greece
There are a few of these European Bread Museums throughout Europe; however, this is undoubtedly one of the more interesting. Focused on documenting the cultural journey of bread over the centuries, this museum has all types of exhibits. Most notably, it houses more than 520 species (many decorated) from different parts of Greece and 22 foreign countries. Embroidered designs depict the region of origin and the purpose for the bread’s creation, such as a wedding or major religious festival. Crosses, flowers, branches and wreaths are particularly common within this interactive historical museum. The European Bread Museum is located within a renovated mansion in Varnavas, and it supposedly attracts 40,000 visitors each year.
The Bread Museum – St Petersburg, Russia
In 2007, Moscow was declared the Bread Capital of the World. However, it is in St. Petersburg that you will find Russia’s only bread museum. Founded in 1988 as part of the Bread Production Trust, the museum celebrates the starchy staple as a symbol of mankind’s harmonious relationship with nature. Archaeological and written artifacts have been kept intact to showcase the long journey of bread in Europe. There are special sections devoted to World War II, the siege of Leningrad and other devastating historical events; in the darkest of times, bread became vital as a source of nourishment (both literally and figuratively.) Visitors to The Bread Museum can see a small-scale urban bakery, see examples of baker’s art, and tour unique cultural exhibits.
Museum of Bread – Pecinic, Serbia
The origins of the Serbian Museum of Bread are actually quite unusual: The site was first founded in 1995 as a place of research and organization for the painter Jeremija. The topic of religious bread has been a great source of inspiration for him for more than 30 years, and so the museum gradually took form out of necessity and joy. Today it serves to gather, preserve and present objects that were once used in the bread-making process in Serbia. Many artifacts are still functioning, and this interactive aspect is part of the fun. Jeremija’s paintings and articles, recipe collections and exhibits of ethnographic objects and religious breads altogether comprise a total of 2,000 items. You can also find a working bread stove, a belfry dedicated to Saint Nicholas, and a souvenir shop on the property.
Bread Museum – Seia, Portugal
As the only bread museum on the Iberian Peninsula, this landmark incorporates local culture and history. Visitors to the Bread Museum in Seia can learn the traditional techniques involved, see artistic examples, and even make (and taste, of course!) their own bread. Large-scale machines, ranging from antique to modern-day, and handheld items comprise the exhibits. The museum also houses an informative library, a restaurant, and a gift shop filled with household products and souvenirs. There is also a child-friendly section with animated displays and hands-on exhibits. All in all, it is a great place in which to spend an afternoon.
Musée Français du Pain – Paris, France
No tour of Europe’s bread museums would be complete without a trip to France! Of course, the originator of French bread has its own unique attractions. Nestled within a courtyard next to a working mill, you will find the fascinating Musée Français du Pain. Varied historic memorabilia will take you on a journey over the centuries, showing the transitions and advancements made within the bread-making world. Artifacts of note include the world’s oldest surviving communion wafers (from the 17th century!) and seven discus-shaped loaves from a 4,400-year-old Egyptian crypt. The Musée Français du Pain also has grains of wheat from Masada in Israel, antique waffle irons, bread-related letters and correspondence between historic figures, and a collection of “breads of the world.”
To find hotels in St. Petersburg, Paris and other European cities, be sure to check out Eurobookings.com!
Trick or treat.
Though Halloween may be a strictly American holiday, the USA has nothing on Europe when it comes to the scary stuff. Europe is, after all, the continent where vampires, werewolves and witches first showed their evil faces. Dracula is from Transylvania, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are all from England, and let’s not even get started on the Brothers Grimm. And now even the American-style Halloween of costumes and parties and haunted houses is catching on in Europe. So here are some creepy European cities to spend your Halloween.
With its many ancient dark buildings and its crooked cobbled streets, Edinburgh provides the perfect atmosphere for Gothic horror. Edinburgh, like so many other cities, is also steeped in tales of bloody murder and torture, and you don’t have to wait until Halloween to experience it. Your first choice is to visit Edinburgh Castle, which is itself the site of centuries of drama. Your second choice is to let the guides at Auld Reekie Tours show you around. Here you’ll hear many horrible stories about the city’s dark doings of the past, like the famous story of local menial workers turned grave robbers turned murderers Burke and Hare. They also offer a special Halloween Ghost Hunt. If you want to explore Edinburgh’s dark underbelly, you can pay a visit to the the city’s famous Dungeons, covering 500 years of Edinburgh’s gory history on 11 actor led shows and two scary rides.
The City of Lights also has a dark side, and there are three chilling ways to experience it. The Paris Ghost Tour is a walking tour and pub crawl covering the satanic conspiracies of the 17th-19th centuries, the true Sweeney Todd of Paris and the Vampire of Paris, a real life serial killer and cannibal. You won’t need a tour guide to visit Père Lachaise Cemetery. Just buy yourself a map at the entrance and you can see the final resting places of such historical figures as Frederic Chopin, Oscar Wilde and of course the Lizard King himself, Jim Morrison. Unfortunately, there are still six feet of dirt between you and all these famous bones. But if you want to remove that barrier, just head to the famous Paris Catacombs, where you can come face to skull with over six million Parisians from centuries past. Here beneath the city in a maze of old tunnels left over from an ancient quarry, you’ll find chamber after chamber of bones arranged in the most artistic ways.
Prague, Czech Republic
Considered by some to be the most haunted city in Europe, Prague is home to the Golem and to the 15th century Old Jewish Cemetery, whose lack of space has led to centuries of bodies being buried atop other bodies until this tangled, crowded mass of graves is now covering up to 12 layers of the deceased. But Prague’s main Halloween attraction actually lies outside the city limits in the nearby town of Sedlec in the world-famous Sedlec Ossuary. A small Roman Catholic chapel, located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints, the ossuary traces its origins back to the 14th century when the Black Death when thousands of people were buried here. When the church was built in the middle of the cemetery, the lower chapel was piled high with the bones that had to be removed, and in 1870, František Rint, a woodcarver, was employed by the Schwarzenberg family to put the bone heaps into order. The macabre result includes four enormous bell-shaped mounds of bones in the corners of the chapel, an enormous chandelier of bones hanging from the center of the nave and garlands of skulls draping the vault. Don’t miss the Schwarzenberg coat-of-arms, and the signature of Rint, which are also both made of bones.
While the Sicilian capital of Palermo doesn’t actually boast any real-life zombies, it does boast the Capuchin Catacombs (Catacombe dei Cappuccini). Here you’ll have the closest to a zombie experience as is possible as you walk past centuries-old monks and other Palermo citizens who have all been mummified and await your visit, standing up and in their Sunday best! The bodies were dehydrated, sometimes washed with vinegar and sometimes embalmed. Originally reserved for the monks, the catacombs became a very fashionable place to spend eternity, and families would fight for the best spots to be seen by future generations. In their wills, local luminaries would ask to be preserved in favorite outfits and even to have their clothes changed at regular intervals. There are thousands of mummies in different states of decay, stretching back over 500 years.
If you’d like your Halloween experience to be a little less authentic, Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens Amuseument Park is closer to the US model, presenting Halloween chills and thrills similar to Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios. Surrounded by thousands of pumpkins, hay bales, spiders and scarecrows, you’re invited to experience such attractions as the Witches Circus, Thriller Mini-Disco and a daily Halloween parade. The action takes place between October 14 and 23. That’s when the park’s playful witches are waiting for you at The Old Mill in the Halloween Village, where they brew magic potions and sing witchy songs. Kids of all ages can carve their own jack-o-lanterns and thrill to the sight of Denmark’s largest pumpkin. This is also the site of the Danish Pumpkin Championship.
Whether you’re strolling along London’s West End, Paris’s Champs-Élysées, New York’s Times Square or the star-covered sidewalks of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, we all love to happen upon a celebrity sighting. But celebrity sightings are so rare, even if you’re taking a tour of the stars’ homes. In fact, there’s only one foolproof way to ensure having a celebrity sighting, and that’s to go to a celebrity cemetery. Here are some of the most celebrity-filled final resting places in the world.
Located in north London, the Grade I-listed Highgate Cemetery is also on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. Opened in 1839 as one of the “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries to ring the city, Highgate contains many beautiful old buildings, elaborately carved Victorian mausoleums and some stunning landscaping using trees, shrubbery and wild flowers. Of course, that’s not why we’re here. We’ve come today to see stars, and there are plenty to see, from celebrities from the distant past like the wife and parents of Charles Dickens to those of the present, like Sex Pistols manager and co-creator Malcolm McLaren. Though the cemetery is mostly known for its oversized bust of Karl Marx, you’ll also find “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” author Douglas Adams, iconic actor Sir Ralph Richardson, iconic director Carl Mayer and Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian exile who so famously met his end at the hands of Russian agents several years ago. In Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, Lucy Westenra is buried in Highgate Cemetery, where she awakes to prey on young children. If you don’t mind being so close to vampires, there are plenty of great London hotels where you can spend the night.
Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
Visiting the grave of Jim Morrison and leaving the Doors singer gifts has become almost as popular a Paris activity as climbing to the top of Notre Dame Cathedral. But the Lizard King is only one of many famous citizens of the world buried in France’s premier celebrity cemetery. The Cimetière du Père-Lachaise in the 20th arrondissement is reputed to be the world’s most-visited cemetery and features not just one but three World War I memorials. Other musicians found here include the Polish-born Frédéric Chopin, whose heart is entombed in within a pillar at the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw. Punk rocker Stiv Bators reportedly has his ashes sprinkled on Morrison’s grave. Here you’ll also find writers like Honoré de Balzac, artists from Eugène Delacroix to Gustave Doré, actors from Sarah Bernhardt to Yves Montand and of course the world’s most famous mime, Marcel Marceau. Another unique grave belongs to Oscar Wilde, whose visitors are known to kiss the grave while wearing lipstick. Two-star Hotel Paris Gambetta offers economical accommodation in a classic building, right next to the cemetery and its Metro stop.
Green-wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
Crossing the Atlantic, we land in New York City’s borough of Brooklyn, where we find the beautiful Green-Wood Cemetery. Founded in 1838 as a rural cemetery, it now boasts an impressive gate and a chapel that was designed in 1911 by Beaux-Arts masters Warren and Wetmore, who also designed Manhattan’s iconic Grand Central Station. The cemetery has been quite popular among mobsters, including Albert “The Mad Hatter” Anastasia of Murder, Inc. and Crazy Joey Gallo. Laura Keene, the star of the play Lincoln was watching during his assassination is buried here, as is Samuel F. B. Morse, inventor of the Morse Code. Though Theodore Roosevelt rests elsewhere, his first wife Alice, mother Martha and uncle Robert are all here, as are Horace Greeley, founder of the New York tribune and graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. There’s plenty more to see in Brooklyn and plenty of Brooklyn hotels from which to see it.
Hollywood Forever, Los Angeles
And now we come to the Mecca of celebrity cemeteries, the top of the heap, the Pantheon: The 1899 Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Once called Hollywood Memorial Park, this place is so Hollywood that its south side borders Paramount Studios. A lively place, it hosts outdoor movie screenings during the summer during which thousands of young hipsters sip wine and dine on cheese while watching movies projected on the wall of Rudolph Valentino’s mausoleum. As beautiful as a movie set, the cemetery has its own lake with a bridge going out to an island. Nearly anyone who was anyone in Hollywood can be found here, from directors John Huston and Cecil B. DeMille, to stars Douglas Fairbanks (who has his own reflecting pool) and Tyrone Power, to rockers Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone, to Columbia studio head Harry Cohn. Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and a thousand other Warner Brothers cartoon characters has a fitting epitaph; “That’s All, Folks.” A celebrity in his own right, Bugsy Siegel is also buried here. Hollywood historian Karie Bible leads cemetery tours, and if you want to experience a little bit of old Hollywood in your accommodation, consider a stay at the Hollywood Historic Hotel, set in a classic building right down the street from Paramount Studios.
Westwood Village Memorial Park
As you gaze up at the modern office buildings rising up all around the intersection of Wilshire and Westwood Boulevards, it’s hard to imagine any cemetery in the area, let alone anything green. Yet tucked away in a tiny lot surrounded by high-rises is the Westwood Village Memorial Park, which packs more star power into a smaller space than anyplace else on the planet. This place is tiny, and most of the dearly departed are in the walls as opposed to being under the ground. In this tiny oasis of peace and quiet in busy Westwood, you’ll find Donna Reed, Dean Martin, Natalie Wood, Roy Orbison, Carroll O’Connor, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Don Knotts, Eddie Albert, Peggy Lee, Mel Torme, George C. Scott, Burt Lancaster, Eve Arden, Carl Wilson, Eva Gabor and Truman Capote. But that’s not what brings visitors to the cemetery. Westwood Village Memorial Park’s number one attraction is that actress who was born as Norma Jean Baker and ended up becoming Marilyn Monroe. Just feet from the cemetery, one of those modern buildings is the Crescent at Legacy Hotel.
For one week a year, each of the world’s fashion capitals are filled with fancy parties, beautiful people and full runways, both at the airport and in multiple venues around the city. Welcome to Fashion Week, where top designers unveil their new product lines and give people a sneak peak at what everyone will be wearing in six months. This is where industry decides what’s “in” and what’s “out” for the season. Fashion Week takes place twice a year, and 2011’s second Fashion Week is in the Fall, from September to October, which is just around the corner. We’ll be covering the four fashion capitals of the world: New York City, London, Milan, and Paris, and we’ll throw in Los Angeles for good measure.
New York has been leading the charge ever since they held the first Fashion Week back in 1943, at the height of World War II. In fact, it was the war which was responsible for Fashion Week’s creation, as it was meant to distract consumers from the fact that those working in the fashion trade were unable to travel to France, making New York the de facto fashion capital for the US. New York’s Fashion Week is also known by the name of its major sponsor, which alternates between Olympus and Mercedes-Benz, with the car company taking its turn in 2011. High-powered media moguls and Hollywood movie stars are in abundance, along with the other 100,000 attendees. Local fashion fans who can’t make the festivities can watch over 150 hours of coverage on local TV channel 25, and of course for out of town visitors, there are hundreds of great New York hotels from which to choose.
The day New York’s Fashion week ends, London’s begins, so you’ll have to catch a quick flight to make both. Organised by the British Fashion Council for the London Development Agency with help from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, London Fashion Week has many organisers, and Mercedes-Benz is also quite present here. London launched its first Fashion Week in 1984, and it presents itself to funders as a trade event attended by over 5,000 press and buyers, with an estimated £40m to £100m trading hands. Foremost among the many Fashion Week venues is Somerset House in central London, where a large marquee in the central courtyard hosts a series of catwalk shows by top designers and fashion houses. Many other venues are also used, so chances are your London Hotel will be close to some events. Spring 2010 also saw London hosting the first Fashion Week to be broadcast live on the Internet.
Established in 1958, Milan’s Fashion Week is put on by the non-profit Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (National Chamber for Italian Fashion), which promotes the development of Italian Fashion. Here you’ll find Gucci, Armani, D&G, Prada and many other top international designers offering a peek into the future. The major fashion shows for women include Milan SS Women Ready to Wear and Milano Moda Donna. Though you need an invitation to see the catwalk shows, the rest of the city is booming with fashion tourists and there are glamorous parties everywhere throughout the week. One great place to admire the theatrical shop windows, and watch fashionistas and beautiful locals posing as you enjoy cappuccino and biscotti is on the pedestrianised Via Della Spiga. Be sure to book your Milan hotel early, as they can fill up fast.
September 29-October 6
It’s no surprise that Paris, the fashion capital of the world hosts one of the four most important Fashion Weeks in the world. This is the granddaddy of fashion, the city to which everyone looks. Fashion has been a prime cultural export of France since the seventeenth century, and the city of Paris was the inventor of modern haute couture in the 1860s.The city is now headquarters to premier fashion houses Balenciaga, Céline, Chanel, Chloe, Dior, Givenchy, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Hermès, Lanvin,Rochas, Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent. And Paris’s Fashion Week never fails to impress. Even the venue, the Carrousel du Louvre is beautiful. The dates of Paris’s Fashion Week are always determined by the French Fashion Federation, and Paris is always sure to be the anchor of Fashion Month, always coming at the end. There are many excellent Paris hotels available as well.
But wait! There’s more! Though not one of the Big Four, Los Angeles, home to the world’s largest film and television industry, is also a player in the fashion world, making its Fashion Week more than just an epilogue to Fashion Month. More low-key than its more famous namesakes, this Fall’s Fashion Week has been timed to coincide with LA Market Week, which takes place in apparel showrooms and trade shows at the intersection of 9th Street and Los Angeles Street in downtown LA’s Garment District. One of the more interesting venues is the Sunset Gower Studios, site of the very first movie studio in Hollywood. Some highlights: Simply Stylist, an event for celebrity and editorial stylists; Concept Fashion Week, a downtown indie production, The Green Initiative Humanitarian Fashion Show and The Nightclubbers, an independent fashion/music/art experience at the Avalon dance club. Again, no matter what part of town your hotel is located, you’re sure to be near a Fashion Week event.
The Mona Lisa. The Starry Night. Michelangelo’s David. These are some of the works of art you can find in Europe’s top museums. Places like the Louvre, the Uffizi and the British Museum are on everybody’s itinerary the first time they travel around Europe. But what about the 101st visit? Just as it’s full of a wide variety of people, ranging from the eccentric to the downright strange, Europe also boasts a wide variety of museums filling the same range. Here are some of the strangest.
The Icelandic Phallological Museum, Husavik, Iceland
For those of you who don’t know right away what the word “phallological” means, here are two hints: It describes something men have got and ladies haven’t; something that is necessary for the continuation of every species on the planet. That’s right. Tiny Husavik, Iceland, one of the northernmost cities in Europe is home to the largest penis museum on the planet. Speaking of largest, the Icelandic Phallological Museum offers several samples from whales, as well as horses, cows, dogs, wolves and every animal you can imagine, right down to the lowliest interest. Not surprisingly, the one species they’re missing is man. But according to the proprietor, who has spent decades amassing his collection, he has had quite a number of customers offer to leave him a “gift” after they kick the bucket. Husavik is also home to whale-watching and also boasts a few cosy accommodations.
Currywurst Museum, Berlin, Germany
Is it in bad taste to go from a penis museum to a sausage museum? It might be, except for the fact that currywurst tastes so darned good! Welcome to the museum that honors Berlin’s greatest culinary passion. The ketchup-red Currywurst Museum gives you the opportunity to get behind a sausage stand and see what it’s like to spread joy to your fellow human being. Here you can learn all about the currywurst’s illustrious history, as well as what goes into it. Whatever you think of the exhibits, the Currywurst Museum is probably the best smelling museum in the world, with the currywurst sizzling, just waiting to be covered in a sauce of tomato, curry powder, spices and Worcestershire sauce. If you have any doubt of the importance of currywurst to the locals, just consider the museum’s location, right next to the prime tourist attraction of Checkpoint Charlie. The museum is also near many great Berlin hotels.
Elvisly Yours, London
London and Memphis are about as far apart in just about every way you can imagine. Well, expect one. They both have museums celebrating the King of Rock and Roll. And while Elvis never actually lived in Elvisly Yours, as he did in Graceland, this kitschy museum certainly has its heart in the right place. Here you’ll find just about every kind of Elvis memorabilia you can imagine. Elvis jewelry, Elvis sunglasses, Elvis T-shirts, Elvis art posters, Elvis clocks, watches, calendars, magazines and stamps. And of course the Elvis music never stops. But if you’re a US citizen, I have some bad news for you. Because Elvis Presley Enterprises has a government-protected monopoly on Elvis products, the museum is not allowed to sell you any souvenirs. So before you hit the check-out, be sure to brush up on your British accent. While you won’t find a Heartbreak Hotel anywhere nearby, there are still hundreds of London hotels from which to choose.
Catacombes de Paris, Paris, France
If you want to rub shoulders with Parisians from the 18th century and beyond, there are over six million waiting to meet you just below Denfert-Rochereau. Welcome to the Catacombes de Paris. Where else will you find room after endless room of bones piled up and artfully displayed in every configuration you can imagine? Just 286 steps down a narrow spiral staircase you’ll be greeted by a sign stating “Arrête! C’est ici l’empire de la mort.” (“Stop! This is the empire of death.”). The sign doesn’t do much to keep tourists out, and the catacombs, which were stocked after Paris’s cemeteries passed their capacity in 1810, were also used as a hiding place for the French Resistance during World War II. Only a tiny portion of the 300 kilometres of catacombs (that’s 11,000 square metres) are open to the public. But that’s plenty enough to get the feel of the place. The entrance is just opposite the Denfert-Rochereau metro station, and if you don’t mind sleeping atop all those old Parisians, the Hotel du Lion is the closest hotel.
Museum of Witchcraft, Bocastle, England
Known more for as a destination for innocent beach holidays and communing with nature in the picturesque countryside, Cornwall also has a darker side. This can be explored in the Museum of Witchcraft. Located in the charming town of Boscastle for the last fifty years, this is the world’s largest collection of witchcraft related artifacts and paraphernalia. The founder of the museum, Cecil Williamson, is nearly as interesting as the museum itself. A dabbler in the occult, Williamson was also an undercover agent in the MI6 during World War II who collected information on the occult interests of leading Nazi military personnel. The museum offers exhibits on everything from devil worship and Satanism to the persecution of witches, along with
old-fashioned dipping chairs and a library of over 3,000 books on witchcraft and the occult. And don’t miss the Richel Collection, one of the world’s best collections of ritual/sex magic artifacts that has been in the museum’s collection since 2000. Just be sure when you check into your Boscastle hotel that you avoid black cats and that you don’t go under any ladders.
One of the most popular activities in Europe is visiting Cathedrals. But did you know that Europe also boasts a large collection of amazing Mosques and that many of them are open to the public, just as the Cathedrals are? Most are found in Spain, where the Moors ruled for centuries and in south-eastern Europe, which was Ottoman Turkish territory. But with the recent influx of Muslims into Europe, there are Mosques being built everywhere from Berlin, Germany to Reykjavik, Iceland. Here are a few worth visiting:
Ali Pasha’s Mosque, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Listed by Lonely Planet as one of the most top ten cities to visit in 2010, Sarajevo is so famous for its mix of Islam, Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Judaism that it has often been called the “Jerusalem of Europe.” Standing out among many amazing Churches, Synagogues and Mosques is Ali Pasha’s Mosque, which was constructed during the rule of the Ottoman Turks in 1561 by Hadim Ali-pasha, the former Ottoman governor of the Budapest administrative district and the Bosnia Pashaluk. Built in the classical Istanbul architectural style, the Mosque features a large dome to cover the central prayer area and three smaller domes to cover the cloister. Unfortunately, the Mosque was heavily damaged by Serbian forces during the war in the 1990s – much like the rest of the city – but it was lovingly restored in 2004 and 2005, which led to its inclusion on the list of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Banya Bashi Mosque, Sofia, Bulgaria
Completed just 15 years later in 1576, the Banya Bashi Mosque gets its name (“Many Baths”) from the natural thermal spas that it was built over. It is possibly the only Mosque in the world that boasts steam rising from vents in the ground just outside the walls. You’ll be impressed by the size of the dome and the beauty of the minaret as it rises to the sky. You’ll be impressed by the beauty of the tile work. This is also an active Mosque, used by the nearly 9,000 Muslims living in the city, so you can only go inside when there are not services being performed. In a city once boasting over 70 Mosques, the Banya Bashi is actually Sofia’s only active Mosque. It was closed under Communist rule and opened and restored after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
La Mezquita, Córdoba, Spain
Moving from the Ottomans to the Moors, we now go to one of the most impressive places of worship on the planet, the famous Mezquita of Córdoba. A Cathedral since the Reconquista in 1236 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this was once the second largest Mosque in the world, and its forest of 856 columns is a sight you will never forget. The use of this spot as a religious site predates the Mosque. Before construction started in 784 (and additions that spanned the next 200 years) it was the Visigoth St. Vincent’s Basilica. At some point before that it was a Jewish Synagogue and before that a Roman Temple. Unfortunately the conquering Christians destroyed the centre of the Mosque and replaced it with a chapel, which is actually quite lovely, but also quite misplaced. Still the remaining columns, made of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite and some coming from Córdoba’s Roman buildings, create a magical atmosphere not replicated anywhere else in the world.
The Grande Mosquée de Paris
Located in the romantic 5th arrondissement, the Grande Mosquée de Paris is the largest mosque in France and the third largest in Europe. Unlike the Mosques in Sarajevo, Córdoba and Sofia, this is a 20th century affair, built after World War I as a sign of France’s gratitude to the the help of the Muslims in the French colonies, 100,000 of whom died fighting against Germany. Its rich history also encompasses World War II, when it served as a secret refuge for those persecuted by the occupying Germans, providing fake Muslim birth certificates for Jewish children. Built in the Mudéjar style, full of mosaics, wood carvings and wrought iron from Morocco, the Mosque’s gorgeous interiors could are reminiscent of the Alhambra in Granada. The Mosque is an active place of worship for North Africans living in Paris, and tours are given of the building, its central courtyard, and its Moorish garden. The marble Turkish baths are also quite popular, as is the couscous and sweet mint tea at the Muslim Restaurant de la Mosquée de Paris.
The Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque, Gibraltar
Officially inaugurated in 1997, the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque, also known as the King Fahd bin Abdulaziz al-Saud Mosque perfectly represents the history of the Muslim presence in Europe. The southernmost Mosque on the continent, the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim was built to accommodate the new Muslim population in a location just a few metres from the Roman Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Europe, which itself started out as a Mosque until the Muslims were expelled from the continent in the 15th century. Boasting a school, a library and a lecture hall, the Mosque also boasts fantastic views of the mountains of Morocco from its perch at Europa Point. It’s one of the largest Mosques in a non-Muslim country and an underwater cistern right next to it dates back to the age of the Moors, cementing the relationship between past and present.
Seeing these cultural treasures is made easier when you stay in a local hotel, and there are many hotels from which to choose, whether you’re in Sarajevo, Sofia, Córdoba, Paris or Gibraltar.
The Pompidou Centre, the Orsay, the world-famous Louvre—Paris is home to some of the world’s most remarkable art museums. But where do you go once you’ve already seen the “Mona Lisa” and Degas’ masterpieces? Well, you might be surprised to discover how many interesting museums the city actually has! Book a room at one of the finest hotels in Paris (consider the Emeraude Lodge du Centre or the Hilton Arc De Triomphe Paris) and set off to tour one of these unique collections:
Musée de la Magie
Perfect for the young or the young-at-heart, Georges Proust’s Museum of Magic is sure to spark curiosity and imagination. Its collections are housed in ancient vaulted chambers, built of stone beneath the ground of the trendy Marais district. Interactive illusions, magic-themed antiques, various magical devices and more are waiting for you at the end of a descending staircase. Start the tour in the Musée de la Magie’s small theatre, which features a 20-minute live magic show. Also be sure to check out the optical illusion machines, and the weird devices used by fraudulent fortune-tellers to conjure up “ghosts” during their rituals.
the interior of the Musée de la Magie
Musée des Egouts de Paris
An urban sewer system may not be on your list of must-see tourist attractions. However, rarely is one so important that it has its own museum! The Musée des Egouts de Paris (Museum of the Sewers of Paris) is located near the Quai d’Orsay, beneath the Pont de l’Alma. A far cry from the glitz and glamour of Paris, the underground museum shows a very different side of the city. A guided tour will take you approximately 500 metres, through tunnels that once functioned as sewage canals. They have been transformed to contain interesting exhibits on everything from the water cycle to the history of Paris’ sewers.
Just as the Musée des Egouts de Paris shows us the hidden mechanical workings of the French capital, the Musée Fragonard sheds some light on our own human infrastructure. The legacy of Honoré Fragonard (an anatomy professor during the 1760’s, and a cousin of the famous painter’s) houses major collections of anatomical “pieces” that portray the various systems that make up the living body. One of the museum’s main highlights is its third room, in which you will 21 of Fragonard’s famous models (ie. preserved skinned cadavers.) Throughout his lifetime, he supposedly made 700; these are the ones that remain. The Musée Fragonard also contains other unique artifacts—many of which are not suitable for the faint of heart or stomach!
one of the tamer displays at the Musée Fragonard
Musée de la Publicité
Are you a fan of those vintage advertising posters by Toulouse-Lautrec? If so, you should not miss Paris’ Musée de la Publicité! Although the museum, which chonicles the history of advertising in France, incorporates multiple mediums, it mainly focuses on print. The gallery houses an impressive collection of posters by Toulouse-Lautrec and his contemporaries. There are about 40,000 French and foreign period posters from the 18th century to 1949, and then 45,000 more from that year to today. Donated by various ad agencies and graphic designers, the posters sell everything from travel to liquor to cabaret. There are also film, TV and radio commercials on display in this unique museum that incorporates avant-garde video technology into its architecture.
Once the private home of art patron Marie-Laurie, Viscountess de Noailles (1920-1970), this extravagant mansion has led an interesting life. It used to draw the likes of Dali, Cocteau and Man Ray to incredible parties on the Place des États-Unis. Since then, it has been transformed into the Musée Baccarat, a museum entirely dedicated to all things opulent and eye-catching. The décor is the work of cutting-edge designer Philippe Starck, and it features a stunning array of unique details. Note the crystal chandelier sunk in an aquarium of water, precious antiques like Tsar Nicholas II’s candelabra and crystal glassware once used by Pope John Paul II, and the “talking” Baccarat vases. If you can swing it, finish the tour with a meal at the in-house Baccarat Cristal Room—one of the finest (and most expensive!) restaurants in Paris.
the Musée Baccarat
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.
Many of Europe’s most prized works of art—its brilliant paintings, ancient tapestries, awe-inspiring sculptures—are kept indoors. However, the grounds surrounding the best museums and landmarks of Europe can be equally incredible. With springtime just around the corner, it is the perfect time to explore the most beautiful gardens in Europe. Here are favorites:
Royal Botanic Gardens – Kew, London
Covering over 300 acres in the heart of London, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew can easily fill a whole day. It is home to over 38,000 species of flora and fauna—some of which are completely extinct in the wild! A few of the magnificent garden’s major highlights are the Queens Garden (located directly behind Kew Palace, and designed in the 1960’s) and the Aquatic Garden (supposedly inspired by the sunken Garden at Hampton Court Palace.) The ten-story Pagoda and the Aroid House (a humid facility that houses an array of tropical plants) are also worth a visit.
Recommended hotels in London: Saint Georges Hotel, Best Western Premier Shaftesbury Piccadilly
the Aquatic Garden at the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew
Royal Botanic Gardens – Edinburgh
Actually comprised of both indoor and outdoor spaces, the Royal Botanic Gardens spreads out over 70 acres. The fascinating rock garden is a major draw, as is the beautiful Scottish-Heath garden. The colorful Queen Mother’s garden showcases plants from all around the world, and the Chinese hillside is especially extensive. Tropical flowers and indigenous European species mingle throughout Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Meanwhile, lovely glass houses (including the popular Victoria glass house) welcome you indoors to marvel at other unique exhibits.
Recommended hotels in Edinburgh: Barcelo Edinburgh Carlton, Apex International Hotel
Generalife – Granada
The elegant Generalife compound is often said to have been the summer palace of the Sultans. However, the charming villa overlooking the Alhambra was actually built as a hunting lodge and country retreat. Spanish aristocrats once occupied the upper floor of the 19th-century buildings, and sought refuge in the shade of surrounding trees. Today, the extensive gardens of the Generalife provide the same tranquility and beauty to visitors. Fountains and flourishing flora fill the romantic Generalife courtyard and enhance adjacent panoramic patios. The colorful gardens and accompanying views make this one of the most picturesque places in Spain.
Recommended hotels in Granada: Saray Hotel, Melia Granada
the Generalife villa
Nymphenburg Palace Gardens – Munich
Impeccably manicured and perfectly maintained, the park adjacent to Nymphenburg Palace is truly fit for a king. The grounds of the Nymphenburg Palace Gardens, originally Italienesque, were beautifully transformed and expanded in the 17th century. They still retain all of their Old World glamour and opulence. Imposing statues of the Greek Gods oversee verdant lawns and large, crystal-clear ponds. Meanwhile, diverse flowerbeds and roaming birds add flair. This is an ideal spot in which to enjoy a picnic with your family or friends after taking a tour of the palace’s interior.
Recommended hotels in Munich: Hotel Polo, Four Points By Sheraton Munich Central
Monet’s Garden – Giverny
A far cry from the manicured lawns surrounding Europe’s palaces, Monet’s Garden is known for its wildly rustic atmosphere. The untamed hedges and overgrown flowerbeds create a lush, romantic atmosphere that art-lovers will immediately connect to Monet’s messy brush strokes. The colorful gardens that surround Claude Monet’s mansion are truly indicative of his paintings and personality. Take a leisurely stroll around the fragrant homestead to follow in the master’s footsteps. Located in Giverny, about 50 miles from Paris, Monet’s Garden is a wonderful place to spend a quiet afternoon.
Recommended hotels in Paris: Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel, Emeraude Lodge du Centre
Claude Monet's greatest inspiration