Category : Germany
It’s not just a European thing, of course—most major cities around the world feature small, self-contained ethnic communities within their urban confines. These subsects act as miniature versions of the city their residents hail from, bringing a proverbial “piece of home” to a new frontier. For locals, the communities are nostalgic and familiar; for tourists, they offer fascinating insight into a specific aspect of a cosmopolitan city’s culture. They also offer an oft-welcome departure from the traditional flavors, scents and sounds found in other neighborhoods. Here are five of Europe’s most charming ethnic enclaves, each a distinct country-within-a-country:
There are actually several Chinatowns (or, in French, quartiers chinois) in Paris, but the largest and most well known is located in the 13th arrondissement. The area actually represents multiple Asian communities, from the Avenue de Choisy to the Porte d’Ivry. It is home to nearly 50,000 Chinese, Vietnamese and Laotian nationals, as well as immigrants from French Polynesia, French Guiana, and New Caledonia. This means that the culinary and retail offerings are incredibly diverse; while the neighborhood may not be an obvious tourist destination, it is definitely worth visiting for its handful of famous landmarks (La Bibliothèque Nationale de France is here, as is the quaint district of La Butte aux Cailles) and fantastic Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants.
Recommended hotels in Paris: the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel, the Champs Elysees Mac Mahon
Little Venice, Mykonos
Mykonos’ Little Venice (Aleukantras) is easily identified by its rows of brightly painted colors; the intense hues are an obvious departure from the whitewashed façades typically found around Greece. The picturesque neighborhood, located just to the east of the harbor, stretches from Aleukantras’ beach to the old district of Castle. It is widely considered to be the island’s most romantic neighborhood—fitting, considering what its namesake city is most famous for. Little Venice offers spectacular sunset views, a high concentration of art galleries and workshops, and plenty of delicious Italian cuisine.
The Japantown of Düsseldorf, Germany is the largest in Europe; while this may at first be a surprising distinction, it actually makes sense—the European headquarters of many Japanese corporations are located in Düsseldorf, and so the city has become a prime destination for Tokyo’s traveling businessmen. With them, the visitors have brought many customs—and many restaurants. The authentic Japanese pubs and sushi bars are concentrated around Immermastr. This is also where you will find many travel agencies, appliances and other business designed specifically to cater to the expat community. As a tourist in Japantown, you may be most interested in the local grocery stores, bakeries, and ramen shops.
Recommended hotels in Düsseldorf: the Holiday Inn Düsseldorf Königsallee, the NH Düsseldorf City-Center
Little India, London
Southall is literally and figuratively one of the most colorful parts of London. It is where you will find the city’s largest population of Indian and Pakistani expats—you will find women in vibrant saris, strolling past pavement food stalls selling fragrant samosas and Indian sweets, and brightly hued fabrics draped across shop windows. Traditional bhangra music wafts from homes and businesses, added to illusion that you are not in London anymore. The best time to visit the Southall area is definitely during Diwali, the Festival of Lights; however, Little India has a lot to offer year-round. Be sure to pay a visit to the Sri Guru Singh Gurdwara, the largest Sikh temple outside of India.
Little Karachi, Oslo
One of the most up-and-coming ethnic communities in Europe is Oslo’s Little Pakistan, or Little Karachi (or, technically, Grønland.) Quickly growing into a fashionable neighborhood, this part of the Norwegian capital brims with culture and activity. It is home to a number of shops, bars, and restaurants that celebrate the flavors and traditions of Pakistan as well as other parts of the globe. There are also beautiful mosques here, and a recently completed opera house that has contributed to the area’s growing popularity. Today, Little Karachi is a trendy place for Oslo’s younger residents to live, work, and play.
Recommended hotels in Oslo: the Thon Hotel Astoria; the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, Oslo
Yes, there is still snow on European ground—and, most likely, there will be for several months. But that’s no reason to delay planning your next summer getaway, is it? A great way to experience a country’s culture and summer weather is a good, old-fashioned music festival. Here are ten of the best, in no particular order:
1. The Festival Internacional de Benicàssim (Spain)
Chances are, you have not heard of the Spanish town of Benicàssim—unless, of course, you are a serious music lover. The picturesque port positioned between Barcelona and Valencia plays host to a renowned music festival each July. Alternative rock bands and electronic artists dominate the lineup, and live music can be heard from 5pm straight through ‘til morning. Detox between music-filled nights on the nearby beach.
2. Roskilde European Music Festival (Denmark)
This is one of the biggest, most popular music festivals in Europe; not only that, it lets participants party for a great cause! Originally founded by two students and a promoter back in 1971, the festival has since been taken over by the Roskilde Foundation. The non-profit event combines live music, organic food, experimental art and design, and 24-hour parties to promote music and culture in the area.
3. Open’er Festival (Poland)
Poland’s biggest music festival welcomes lovers of all genres, from hip hop to electronic pop. The gigantic event is held in an airfield in Gdynia, an otherwise peaceful city on the country’s northern coast. Along with various concerts (bands play from 4pm to 2pm; DJ’s continue until 5am) on seven stages, there is a “festival town” where you can buy merchandise, see live theatre and films, and even participate in organized sports.
4. INmusic Festival (Croatia)
Since its first incarnation in 2005, Croatia’s largest open-air festival has grown exponentially. It is held over two days every June on a tiny island in Lake Jarun, and its wonderful location allows it to combine live music with beach activities. The festival draws some pretty impressive names (Franz Ferdinand, Cypress Hill, Prodigy, etc) and it was named one of Europe’s best in 2008 by The Times.
5. Exit (Serbia)
A fantastic summer tradition held in the Petrovaradin Fortress of Novi Sad, Exit is unlike any other music festival around. The ancient site is an interesting venue for the music, which is always on the cutting-edge. Past headliners include Lily Allen, the White Strips, and Arctic Monkeys. Exit has become so huge in recent years that it has even spawned its own record label. Listeners can download MP3 singles and albums for free from the official website.
6. Pinkpop Festival (Netherlands)
Named after the fact that it is held each Pentecost weekend, the annual Pinkpop Festival is one of the oldest in the world. It was founded in 1970 in Landgraaf, and it has featured everyone from The Killers to the Counting Crows. The three-day event always coincides with Pinkster (the Dutch name for the holiday) and is held over three days.
7. Rock am Ring and Rock in Park (Germany)
Actually two sister events, the Rock am Ring and Rock in Park together comprise one of the largest music festivals in the world. They are held at the Nürburgring racetrack and on a football stadium in Nuremberg, respectively, over a weekend in June. They typically feature nearly identical lineups—and they are typically sold-out events (which should come as no surprise, given Germany’s famous love of rock and roll.)
8. Sziget Festival (Hungary)
Unlike many of the other music festivals on this list, Sziget is actually held in a major city—Budapest, Hungary’s capital. Add that to the fact that the festivities last an entire week, and you have a truly impressive event. By the seventh day, festival-goers have had the opportunity to see a whopping 1,000 artists in action! These artists have included Amy Winehouse, the Gorillaz, and Iron Maiden. And the Sziget Festival is not just about music—it also includes, cinema, shopping and outdoor sports in the heart of the old city.
9. The Isle of Wight Festival (UK)
One of the world’s most historic and celebrated music festivals, this one began in 1968. The Isle of Wight Festival’s lineup has since featured Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Who, Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam. Still not impressed? It manages to draw over 600,000 people to Seaclose Park, near Newport. You can choose to camp or stay at a nearby hotel. There are plenty of options to choose from—visit Eurobookings.com to make your reservations today!
10. Pukkelpop (Belgium)
Missed the many festivals held in June and July? Well, if you can make it to the Hasselt area by the end of August, you can still catch one of Europe’s great summertime events! Pukkelpop draws over 180,000 music-lovers to the quaint village of Kiewit, surrounded by thick woodlands and scenic fields. The 2010 festival marked its 25th anniversary, and the celebration is still going strong.
Travel + Leisure Magazine recently published their picks for the Hottest Travel Destinations of 2012—and three destinations on that list are in our favorite part of the world! Forget about Paris or Rome; these are the European travel destinations to keep an eye on in the coming year:
One of the oldest cities in Portugal, Guimarães is actually called the “birthplace of Portuguese nationality.” It has long been known for its rich heritage; however, until recently, the city was often left off the hip traveler’s itinerary. Today, Guimarães is experiencing somewhat of a cultural renaissance—in fact, it was named (jointly with Maribor) the European Capital of Culture for 2012. A younger population is bringing a livelier atmosphere, transforming the ancient urban landscape into one that is sure to become trendier in the upcoming year.
Guimarães has a number of interesting museums and cultural centres, including the Vila Flor Cultural Center and the Center for Arts & Architecture Affairs. The Primitive Modern Arts Museum, the Art Laboratory and the Martins Sarmento Society are also worth visiting for their contributions to the music, theater, film and art scenes of Guimarães. As far as cuisine, the city has something for everyone—if you like seafood, then you must try the city’s favorite dish (bacalhau or salt cod.) Other things to do in Guimarães include the six-mile Citânia de Briteiros hike, which cuts through the fascinating ruins of an old Iron Age settlement, and a visit to the city’s oldest (and still most popular) square, the Largo da Oliveira.
Recommended hotels in Guimarães: the Pousada de Guimaraes – Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, the Toural
Greece has proven that no matter the state of its economy, the country’s tourist industry will continue to thrive. This is because in terms of natural beauty and rich history, there are few places in the world that can compare. A far cry from the major city of Athens or the tourist-ridden beaches of Santorini, the sleepy region of Messenia is now becoming the up-and-coming travel destination. The westernmost portion of the Peloponnese peninsula, Messenia is filled with beautiful valleys, majestic sand dunes and intriguing Byzantine churches. Incredible beaches line the Ionian Sea—beaches that, until recently, have been unknown to most of the world’s travelers.
Costa Navarino, a new resort complex on 2,500 picturesque acres, is single-handedly putting Messenia on the global map. The once-hidden stretch of Grecian coastline is now poised to become Europe’s newest Riviera. World-class hotel chains, including Starwood and Banyan Tree, have chosen Costa Navarino as their newest home—and their hotels are waiting to introduce you to the distinct style and hospitality of Messenia. Consider the Pharae Palace Hotel, the Elite City Resort, or another of the great hotels in Kalamata (the capital of Messenia) for your next getaway.
A vibrant hub of commerce and culture, the big German city of Hamburg is not exactly hidden. However, while it has always attracted its share of visitors, those numbers are about to drastically increase for one reason: HafenCity. The brand-new development is currently being constructed on the docklands of Hamburg. With its completion—which is not scheduled to be until 2025, unfortunately—the city’s skyline will be forever altered.
The 388-acre project-in-progress is already drawing spectators, especially for the obvious modernity it brings to the historic city. So far, the crown jewel of the innovative, eye-catching architectural complex is Herzog & de Meuron’s Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall (where performances are set to start in 2014.) The concert hall resembles a large ship passing through fog; the visual effect is created with the help of treated glass—and perhaps a touch of magic. Surrounding this is the up-and-coming quarter of Am Sandtorkai/Dalmannkai, comprised of 19th-century brick warehouses and newer buildings.
Although HafenCity is still in its earlier stages, it is already changing the way people view Hamburg. See it for yourself—Hamburg hotels like the Radisson Blu Hotel, Hamburg and the Side are available right now at Eurobookings.com.
The westernmost city in Germany, Aachen is blessed with rich green surroundings and cursed with the rains (the most in the country) that make it so green. The unique combination of a large student population from RWTH Aachen University and the fact that it used to be a favorite residence of Charlemagne means that Aachen is at once a very old and very young city. Behind the surviving city gate you’ll find everything from Spanish tapas to South American salsa. Some Aachen firsts: In 1959, Aachen’s Scotch Club was the Germany’s first discothèque and local DJ Klaus Quirini (DJ Heinrich) was the first DJ. Here are some things to see and do in Aachen:
I. See Aachen Cathedral
Though eclipsed in popularity by Cathedrals found in Rouen, Canterbury and nearby Cologne, the fact is that Aachen Cathedral is one of the most historically important in all of Europe. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is where 12 German kings and queens were crowned between 936 and 1531. But even more importantly, this is the final resting place of Charlemagne himself, who was buried here in grand fashion back in the year 814. Not nearly as grand as other Cathedrals that were built later, this is still a gem, with its 14th century Gothic choir, known as the Aachen Glasshouse, and its classical pillars, bronze railings and gold ornamentation. In Medieval times, the Cathedral rivaled Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela as a major pilgrimage site, and the Heiligtumsfahrt (Aachen Pilgrimage) which started in 1349 still takes place! Located in the town centre, the Cathedral is near the impressive medieval town hall, which still boasts the mayor’s office.
II. Go Shopping
The students make Aachen quite a vibrant place, and that feeling extends to Aachen shopping. On the streets between the Cathedral and the old town walls you’ll find a vast array of hip and trendy shops, restaurants and bars, both in streets with cars and pedestrian-only walkways. On the Adalbertstraße, the biggest shopping district, you’ll find some of the best shops and cafes in a pedestrian zone. More touristy are the shops of Krämerstraße and Market, while the Großkölnstraße is the second big pedestrian zone, featuring clothing and more. For boutique shopping you can hit Jakobstraße and for shopping by day and partying by night, Aachen’s Party Mall, the Pontstraße, features many fun bars and clubs where you can drink and dance the night away.
III. Have Dessert
If you thought you knew gingerbread, the bakeries of Aachen look forward to re-educating you. The city is home to a special kind of dessert heaven known as “Printen,” which is a gingerbread-like confection that has been taken the form of engraved pictures for over a thousand years. Now you can get the stuff in all different sizes and shapes, covered in chocolate and marzipan or filled with almonds. Though some of the spices you might recognize are cinnamon, aniseed, clove, cardamom, coriander, allspice and ginger, though the exact mixture is a secret. To sample some for yourself just feet from the Cathedral, you can go to Nobis Printen where they’ve been making the stuff since 1858.
If chocolate is your addiction, then you’re about to be very happy, because one of Aachen’s biggest factories actually makes the stuff, and visiting the Lindt Outlet Store is about as close as you’ll ever get to visiting Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Here you’ll find an entire supermarket’s worth of chocolates of every variety. Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, chocolate drink mixes, chocolate shaped like animals, chocolate flavored with liqueurs, chocolate covering things, chocolate stuffed inside of things… and the best thing about it is that with the rock-bottom prices, your only limitations buying the stuff is figuring out how much you can fit into your suitcase on the flight home. We suggest throwing out some of your other luggage.
IV. Go Outside the City
Just a ten minute drive from the city is the spot where Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium come together; a spot called Dreiländereck. Like the Four Corners in the USA where Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico come together, much has been made of this spot where you can literally straddle three nations. The small monument marking the spot makes a great photo op, and for even better photo ops, you can climb to the top of the nearby observation tower which rises far above the surrounding forests.
Aachen is also close to where Germany’s last big push of World War II, the Battle of the Bulge was fought. Which brings us to a destination much more somber – the World War II Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial. 16 kilometers from the city on the Belgian side of the border, this cemetery is the final resting place for the 7,992 American casualties of the battle, and the monument with the names of 450 Americans whose remains were never found is quite moving. There’s also a museum and a chapel.
Aachen offers a great variety of hotels, from the opulent five-star Pullman Aachen Quellenhof to the modern Aquis Grana City Hotel, which is located right across from the Town Hall. If you’re more comfortable with the reliability of a chain hotel, the three-star Mercure Hotel Aachen am Dom is also in the city centre, and if you want a hotel convenient for getting in and out of town, then two blocks from the main train station is the Ibis Aachen Marschiertor (Aix-la-Chapelle) Hotel. Of course there are also many other Aachen hotels from which to choose.
One of the biggest tourist attractions in Europe is its vast collection of Cathedrals. Towering over every major city and quite a few of the minor ones, they bring visitors face-to-face with the greatest architectural and artistic achievements in history. But if you limit yourself to the Cathedrals, you’re missing out, because Europe boasts many amazing Synagogues as well. Though sometimes harder to seek out and sometimes harder to visit due to security concerns, visiting Europe’s Synagogues provides an equally historical and equally impressive experience. Here are five of the most notable.
The Great Synagogue in Dohány Street, Budapest, Hungary
The largest Jewish Temple in Europe, the Great Synagogue in Dohány Street was built between 1854 and 1859 to accommodate the 30,000 Jews on the Pest side of the Danube. Its soaring Moorish walls leading up to its great twin domes is truly spectacular, as is its sheer size, as it was built to accommodate just under 3,000 worshippers. One of Europe’s more accessible Synagogues, the Dohány Street Synagogue complex offers visitors the chance to visit the Temple itself, the Jewish Museum, the 1931 Heroes’ Temple, which was built in honor of Budapest’s Jewish World War I soldiers, the Raul Wallenberg Holocaust Memorial and the Jewish Cemetery, the final resting place of 2,000 of Budapest’s Holocaust victims. Adding to the history of the site, the birthplace of Theodor Herzl, the pioneer of Zionism, used to occupy the space now taken by the Jewish Museum. There are many hotels in Budapest that can put you close to the Synagogue.
The Jubilee Synagogue in Jerusalem Street, Prague, Czech Republic
The largest Synagogue in Prague, the Jubilee Synagogue is also one of the most architecturally interesting buildings in the city. Built in 1906, the building reflects a unique mix of the Art Nouveau style so popular at the time and a Moorish look so popular in Synagogues. The Mudéjar red-and-white stone facade is particularly beautiful, and inside the Moorish elements are overlaid with brilliantly painted Art nouveau patterning. Its name was meant to honor Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I, who in 1906 was celebrating the 50th anniversary (Jubilee) of his reign over the Austro-Hungarian Empire of which Prague was part. Prayer services are held here on Friday nights and Saturday mornings, and the Synagogue is open to the public from April until October. Set close to Prague’s central Wenceslas Square, there are many nearby hotels.
The Neue Synagoge, Berlin, Germany
All over Europe following the destruction of World War II, major buildings that had been destroyed have been rebuilt and restored to their original state. One such success story is Berlin’s Neue Synagoge. Built between 1859 and 1864 and designed by Eduard Knoblauch, the Temple was consecrated on Rosh HaShana 1866 with Otto von Bismarck in attendance. This beautiful Moorish style building could accommodate 3,000 of Berlin’s 20,000 Jews. Though the building was set on fire and the Torah scrolls desecrated during 1938’s Kristallnacht, the Synagogue was saved from total destruction by police officer Otto Bellgardt. Unfortunately the bombing raids that followed in 1943 and 1944 largely destroyed the remaining Synagogue, and it wasn’t until the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 that rebuilding began. As beautiful as the exterior of the Synagogue is, the main sanctuary was never restored, and the small congregation that returned to the building in 1995 meets in what used to be the women’s wardrobe room. The surrounding Spandauer Vorstadt neighbourhood has become quite trendy the past few years, and there are many hotels to be found in the vicinity and in the rest of the city.
Córdoba Synagogue, Córdoba, Spain
If seeing all these neo-Moorish Synagogues makes you want to see the real thing, then head to Córdoba. During the rule of the Moors, Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in a multi-cultural society. Echoes of this time can still be seen in the Jewish Quarter of Córdoba and especially in the Córdoba Synagogue. Built in the Moorish Mudéjar style, this 14th century gem consists of a courtyard, a prayer room and a women’s gallery up above, reflecting the separation of the sexes required by synagogues of the time. The prayer room is impressive when seen through the gallery’s three ornate decorative arches. After the Jews were expelled by Isabela and Ferdinand in 1492, the building served as a hospital, a chapel and a school before becoming a national monument in 1885. Work in 1929 and 1977-1985 (to celebrate the 850th birthday of Córdoba resident Maimomodes) has brought it to its present state of restoration, and it’s the only synagogue in Andalusia to survive the expulsion and inquisition of the Jews. One of the nicer hotels in the area is the Hospederia Del Churrasco.
The Portuguese Synagogue, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
The Jewish Community of Amsterdam is unique among northern and western European countries, because its background is Sephardic rather than Ashkenazy, meaning that while most European Jews trace their lineage back to the Roman dispersal of Palestine in 66 AD, the Sephardic Jews came into Europe through the Islamic countries of North Africa and Spain. A large number of Jews fleeing the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal ended up fleeing to Amsterdam. Thus we have the Portuguese Synagogue. Dating back to the year 1675, the Synagogue, known as the Esnoga, is quite plain from the outside. This was a common trait for Synagogues, as they did not want to attract the attention of their Christian neighbors who were not always friendly. But inside is where you’ll find the goodies, as the interior is truly beautiful. One unusual features is that the floor inside is covered with fine sand, which is an old Dutch tradition, to absorb dust, moisture and dirt from shoes and to muffle the noise. Located in the centre of the city, the Synagogue also has a variety of hotels nearby.
Europe is known more for the horizontal nature of its cities; cities full of ancient architectural treasures that rise tens of metres and not hundreds. To a large degree it’s out of respect for such monuments as the Paris Opera House, Westminster Abbey and the Kremlin that American-style skylines have not emerged to smother their classical beauty. But within the last several decades, there has been a building boom in Europe, resulting in buildings that are not only cutting edge in design… but are very tall. Here are a few of the tallest.
City of Capitals Moscow, Moscow, Russia
More than any other city, Moscow has been leading the charge and now lays claim not only to five of the top ten tallest buildings on the continent, but also to the top three on the list. The tallest of these is the City of Capitols Moscow. Completed in 2010, this shining structure rises 310.6 metres from the street below. This makes it an imposing sight, especially in light of the fact that its neighboring City of Capitals St. Petersburg is only 44.7 metres shorter. Luckily for us, this is one of those skyscrapers offering lots of access to the public, as the upper half of the building offer a 10,800 square metre entertainment complex, including shops, restaurants, movie theatres, presentation halls and a huge 2,480 square metre fitness centre. There’s also 101,440 square metres of large apartments and 80,000 square metres of office space. If you want to sleep with a view of the towers, the two-star Moscow Apartments are right across the river.
Sapphire of Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey
After Moscow, the number four spot goes to the Sapphire of Istanbul, which weighs in at a height of 238 metres. Of course, some skyscraper enthusiasts like to count the spire, which makes the height 261 metres. Rising 54 floors above ground level, the Sapphire offers lots of shopping, as well as once-impossible views of the Bosphorus. An especially nice way to enjoy your view is while floating in the swimming pool located 33.5 metres up the building. Or how about a game of golf at 163 metres? But what makes the Sapphire unique are the building’s gardens that are found every three floors and the recreation areas that can be found every 10 stories. Since the main purpose of the building is residential, the designers have gone to great lengths to make it livable. The Sapphire is Turkey’s first green building, having two special glass shells which can take the outside air naturally by holes located at every 3 floors. If you want to sleep close to the Sapphire, the five-star Avantgarde Hotel Istanbul makes an excellent choice.
Commerzbank Tower, Frankfurt, Germany
Second only to Moscow in the number of skyscrapers, the financial centre of Frankfurt-am-Main boasts two of the top ten tallest buildings in Europe. The tallest is Commerzbank Tower, which passed up the Messeturm upon its 1997 completion. It’s actually difficult to stand out from the competition in the modern skyline that has earned the city the nickname of “Mainhattan.” But at 259 metres and boasting a unique modern design, Commerzbank Tower does just that. Especially when you throw in the signal light on top which increases the height to 300.1 metres. It’s no surprise that the two tallest buildings in Frankfurt are office buildings, thus lacking the creature comforts of the Sapphire. But in addition to its 121,000 square metres of office space, this 56-story building also offers beautiful winter gardens, and the natural lighting and air circulation give it a light breezy feeling. If you want a break from the modern buildings in the Frankfurt skyline, just a block from the Commerzbank Tower is the more classic structure housing the five-star luxury Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof Hotel.
Cuatro Torres, Madrid, Spain
Though Madrid’s entry into the top ten is technically the 250 metre-high Torre Caja Madrid, it wouldn’t make sense not to include the building’s three partners, Torre de Cristal, Torre Sacyr Vallehermosothe and Torre Espacio. All built between 2007 and 2009, these four modern wonders make up the Cuatro Torres. Their proximity and their similar heights (Torre de Cristal is only 89 centimetres shorter than Torre Caja Madrid) make the four buildings part of a greater whole. A brand-new landmark for the grand old capital of Madrid, the towers, set on the north end of the city, are hard to miss, whether you’re landing at nearby Barajas Airport or hiking up the Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains outside the city. Located in a business and entertainment district, there are many shops, restaurants and hotels in the surrounding area. But you can’t get much closer than the five star Eurostars Madrid Tower Hotel, as it is actually located on the 30th floor of Torre Sacyr Vallehermosothe.
1 Canada Square, London, England
If 1 Canada Square looks familiar, it’s because you’ve probably seen it in a movie. Like its American cousins the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building, 1 Canada Square has become a cinematic icon, appearing in 28 Weeks Later, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Bourne Supremacy, Johnny English and the James Bond movie, The World Is Not Enough. Located at the lively Canary Wharf it’s the oldest entry in the top 10, having been completed in 1991, and its 50 stories are spread over 235 metres. But if you want to see it as the UK’s tallest building, you’d better see it fast, as the soon-to-be-completed Shard London Bridge will surpass it upon its 2012 completion. But no matter where it ranks, you’ll be able to enjoy its distinctive pyramid roof which boasts a flashing aircraft warning light, a rarity for buildings in the UK. If you want to stay in a hotel that puts you close to the building and to all the shops, restaurants and nightlife of Canary Wharf, consider the five-star Four Seasons London Canary Wharf.
Along the rushing river of the same name, the picturesque Moselle Path cuts through a spectacular landscape. It begins in Wasserbillig and winds through historic villages and breathtaking villages until it finally ends in Schengen. The entire path measures about 32 miles, and there are many places to stop along the way. Do not miss these popular attractions along the Moselle Path:
Aquarium Sàrl – Wasserbillig
Right at the confluence of the River Sure and the River Moselle, this unique aquarium contains 90,000 litres of water. In it, you will find all of the different species known to inhabit the Moselle. The aquarium itself is located in a pretty park near the mouth of the Sure. From here, you may hop a ferry to Germany—or keep following the Moselle Path into another town.
The small town of Grevenmacher along the Moselle is home to two unusual museums: One is dedicated to the history of printing, and one celebrates the work of Jean Deudoune (founder of a business of playing card makers that thrived for over 130 years.) The Printing Museum tells the story of printing in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg through audio-visual displays and traditional exhibits. The Museum of Playing Cards has artifacts dating back to 1754; there are cards, tools, and even a film. Both museums are worthwhile tourist attractions in the Moselle area.
While in Grevenmacher, be sure to check out its many historical sites as well. A 26-metre-tall watchtower overlooks the parish church, while winding alleyways connect all corners of the fortified town. The Place du Marche is characterized by a charming bronze statue of an itinerant blind minstrel with his dog.
the Caves Bernard-Massard, Grevenmacher
Other must-see attractions in Grevenmacher include its exotic Butterfly Garden, the M.S. Princesse Marie-Astrid, and the famous wine cellars of the Caves Bernard-Massard.
Ancient Rosport is worth a stop for one reason: its 14th-century church. The Girsterklaus features an incredible shrine to the Virgin Mary and a tower that was built quite some years later. Its interior is known for the beautiful paintings of twelve saints that adorn the vaulted ceilings of the transept. Pilgrimages historically take place on the first Sunday after August 15th.
The church is actually located about two miles south of Rosport, a popular tourist resort along the Lower Sure. Lovely walking trails meander through vineyards and orchards, along the river and over hills overlooking the German villages of Wintersdorf and Wintersdorferberg. The Hoelt is a popular summit accessed by two different trails.
An historical waterfront town filled with interesting sites, Echternach is definitely worth a stop. Among its most visited landmarks are the Roman Villa and Interpretation Centre (a sprawling compound of over 70 rooms, many of which were constructed over five periods between the 1st and 5th centuries) and the beautiful Baroque-style Benedictine Abbey. The Church of St Peter and St Paul, the Museum of Prehistory, the picturesque shores of Echternach Lake, the medieval Abbey Museum, the fascinating Basilica of St Willibrord (built around AD 700) and parts of La Petite Suisse (a delightful region of forests, valleys, streams and carved sandstone perfect for hiking and climbing) can also be found here.
Echternach, the oldest city in Luxembourg
Echternach hosts the International Music Festival each year, and it also beasts its own unique Place du Marche (home to the late-Gothic Old Town Hall and the Denzalt, among other attractions.) To best experience all that the town has to offer, follow the Cultural Walk that passes the most important buildings and museums. It starts at the local tourist office, which is conveniently close to many of the best hotels in Echternach (including the Bel Air and the Hotel Ritschlay, which is located close by.)
Most of Europe’s most popular tourist attractions are on dry land. However, that does not mean that we should forget the wonders of the sea. Here are the five best aquariums in Europe that allow you to discover the mysterious depths of the Pacific, Atlantic and other oceans without getting your feet wet.
1. Oceanário de Lisboa – Lisbon, Portugal
The Oceanário de Lisboa is not just one of the best in Europe. It is, in fact, the largest aquarium as well. Its central reservoir is a 1,000-square-metre tank with four gigantic acrylic windows to peer through. Four smaller containers surrounding the main exhibit also contain inhabitants of the Pacific, Atlantic, Arctic and Antarctic waters. There are more than 8 thousand sea creatures and 500 species of plants for visitors to marvel at. On the first floor of the oceanarium, there are an additional 25 thematic aquariums. Major highlights include two spider crabs, two sea otters, Tropical Indian coral reefs, and a rare sunfish.
the Oceanário de Lisboa's prized sunfish
2. l’Oceanogràfic – Valencia, Spain
The largest open-air aquarium in Europe is actually located in Valencia, Spain. It is l’Oceanogràfic, within the state-of-the-art City of Arts and Sciences. The futuristic compound features more than 110 thousand square metres of aquatic exhibits—and even the architecture was inspired by water! The main building was designed by Felix Candela to resemble water lilies. L’Oceanogràfic is home to 4,5000 fish and marine animals from the ecosystem of the Mediterranean Sea, the Arctic and Antarctic, and even tropical seas.
3. The AquaDom – Berlin, Germany
Housed within the 5-star Radisson Blu Hotel Berlin, AquaDom may not be the largest in Europe—but it is certainly one of the most impressive. Rising up from the floor of the hotel’s atrium, the eye-catching cylinder towers more than 25 metres. With a diameter of 11 metres, the tank holds nearly a million litres of water. Within it are over 2,600 species of fish. However, what makes the AquaDom so incredible is the fact that there is a transparent two-story elevator inside of it! Up to 30 tourists can travel at once right through the water, from the ground floor of the hotel to the upper observation platform.
4. Deep Sea World – Fife, UK
One of the most popular tourist attractions in the Scottish village of North Queensferry is the Deep Sea World aquarium. It is perhaps most famous for its collection of large sand tiger sharks (also known as ragged toothed sharks or grey nurse sharks) and other species. Another premier attraction is the 112-metre-long transparent acrylic underwater viewing tunnel, which is one of the longest of its kind in the world. The tunnel runs through a tank that contains 1,000,000 gallons of seawater pumped in from the River Forth. Because of the water’s low temperature, most of the animals on display are from around Britain. However, the aquarium also has rock pools containing exotic fish and a new seal enclosure among other attractions.
5. Sea Life London Aquarium – London, UK
Right on the ground floor of County Hall on the South Bank of the River Thames, you will find the largest collection of aquatic species in London. Sea Life attracts about a million visitors each year, and it is easy to see why it remains so popular. Along with the requisite displays of fish and mammals, the aquarium is also home to eight gentoo penguins that were transferred from the Edinburgh Zoo earlier this year. Other unique attractions include the underwater Shark Walk tunnel and an exhibit of three robotic fish. Additionally, the centre offers classes and is involved in multiple breeding programs (including seahorses, jellyfish, butterfly goodeids, and the Cuban crocodile.)
Back in the 19th century, the Grimm Brothers traveled around a particular region in Germany, collecting local fairytales and folklore. The stories they amassed became one of the most famous collections in history: The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The collection includes such beloved tales as “Sleeping Beauty” and “Red Riding Hood,” and the entire thing has been translated into 140 languages. What some loyal readers don’t know, however, is that it is possible to follow in the footsteps of Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm—by traveling the German Fairy-Tale Road (or the Deutsche Märchen Straße.) The fascinating route will take you 600km, from Hanau (near Frankfurt) in the State of Hesse through the Werra district and north to Bremen. Be sure to stop along the way to see these highlights:
The Grimm Brothers Statue – Hanau
An obvious starting point, the city of Hanau was the birthplace of the Grimm Brothers. Erected in 1896 in the Neustadt marketplace, the national monument is a must-see attraction. Visit Hanau from May to July, and you may also witness a local tradition: a wonderful festival held each year in the amphitheatre of Schloss Philippsruhe, created to keep the magic of the fairytales alive.
Steinau an der Straße
This quaint town dates all the way back to the 8th century, and it still maintains an antique atmosphere. Steinau is where the Grimm brothers spent much of their childhood, and the house—“Die Alte Kellerei,” on Brückentor—that was the family’s home from 1796 to 1805 remains standing today as a museum. Half-timbered like many others in the area, the house is a charming reminder of the past.
Take a leisurely tour of the picturesque Schwalm Region, and you may just see why it is the setting for one of the Grimm Brothers’ most famous fairytales—“Little Red Riding Hood.” Thick forests blanket the banks of the Schwalm River and, amid the darkly beautiful hiking trails, you will find the museum of Ziegenhain. There you can see the traditional costumes of the region; who knows—some may have belonged to Little Red Riding Hood herself!
The Brothers Grimm worked at the University of Göttingen, and they definitely left their mark on the city. The romantic Old Town revolves around a central square wherein you may spy the statue of the Little Goose Girl. Visitors are encouraged to kiss the statue for good luck—and some say it is the most kissed statue in the world.
Imposing towers characterize the medieval landscape of Trendelburg. There are quite a few and, according to local legend, one of them once imprisoned the fair Rapunzel. It was here in Trendelburg that she let down her long blond hair so that the prince could climb up it and rescue her.
Walt Disney may have built Sleeping Beauty Castle at his theme park, but this 650-year-old German masterpiece is the real thing. Surrounded by a lovely park filled with tall ferns and oak trees, the castle now serves as a romantic hotel. It is sure to be a wonderful place to sleep—Sleeping Beauty slept here for 100 years before the prince woke her with a kiss, after all!
The Brothers Grimm Museum – Kassel
Housed within the historical Palais Bellevue is one of the Fairy-Tale Road’s most important landmarks: the Brothers Grimm Museum. Exhibits contain well-preserved furniture and other artifacts, items that point to the brothers’ scientific and political activities, and countless editions and translations of the fairytales—including the original handwritten book!
Hamlin is where the folk tale of the Pied Piper lives on. The original setting for the fairytale, the quaint town still honors its claim to fame. Visitors may visit the rat catcher’s house, purchase rodent-shaped cookies from local bakeries, and see the Glockenspiel at the Hochzeitshaus (Wedding House) that reenacts the legend of the man who skillfully lured the town’s children away.
The final stop on the German Fairy-Tale Road, Bremen is home to the Bremen town musicians (the clever animals who outsmarted the thieves.) A statue of them can be found in the central town square. There are many great hotels in Bremen. We recommend the Park Hotel Bremen and the Swissotel Bremen.
Founded as a monastery in the 9th century, the German city of Essen has grown to a surprising size. In fact, it is the largest city in the Ruhr Region—and, as such, it features a wide array of things to see and do. Beautifully landscaped parks and forested acres surround fascinating tourist attractions. Meanwhile, the culinary scene in Essen (which literally means “to eat” in German) is unparalleled. Book a room at one of the finest hotels in Essen (we recommend the Sheraton Essen Hotel and the Welcome Hotel Essen) during December, and you may attend the city’s famous International Christmas Fair. Meanwhile, these popular attractions are also at your disposal:
The first city in the Ruhr Region to have a theatre, Essen actually offers a variety of cultural sites now. Among them, the historic Grillo Theatre is still one of the most popular. Built back in 1887, the iconic building has been preserved as best as possible; however, it had to be completely rebuilt after World War II. In 1950, the first performance after the war took place—and the theatre has been running steadily ever since. The architecture of the Grillo Theatre reflects its tumultuous past: The oldest parts of the building are the neoclassical façade, the imposing dome, and the wide stairs. Other parts showcase a modern 1950’s aesthetic. Opera, ballet and dramatic performances fill the theatre’s calendar.
Dating all the way back to the 10th century, the Luciuskirche is one of the oldest buildings in Essen—and one of its most beautiful. Construction on the Church of St. Lucius began in the year 995, making the Romanesque-style structure the oldest parish church in Northern Europe. Frescoes from the 11th century still remain intact, and the architecture has not changed much over the years. Visit Luciuskirche, and you will feel transported back in time. Afterwards, head to the impressive Werden Abbey Basilica; located right next door, it is also a very popular tourist attraction in Essen.
Grugapark, or Gruga Park, is located just to the south of Essen’s city centre. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful parts of the city, and a great place in which to rest and seek respite from the urban hustle and bustle. Locals and tourists alike enjoy Gruga Park, filled as it is with lush wooded areas and lovely walkways. All types of outdoor activities are popular here. Also on the premises are the famous Botanical Gardens, a handful of playgrounds for children, and other delightful distractions. Please note that the park is only open from April to September.
Like many other landmarks throughout historic Essen, Villa Hügel started off as something else. It was originally built to be the private resident of Alfred Krupp; today, the unique museum tells the story of the Krupp family’s lineage. Tour the elegant grounds to marvel at the main mansion, known for its impressive Classical architecture, and the other components of Villa Hügel. A guest mansion, a spectacular garden, a full forest and even private lakes are located on the property. Exhibits of antique artifacts, temporary art collections from around the country, and outdoor concerts ensure that there is always a reason to visit the beautiful villa.
Built by Edmund Körner in 1913, this former Jewish synagogue was the only free-standing synagogue to survive World War II. No longer used primarily as a place of worship, the Alte Synagogue (“Old Synagogue”) is today in a state of transition: Eventually, it will be the House of Jewish Culture; right now, however, it remains a memorial and meeting place. Plans to turn the entire building into a museum are underway. There will soon be five exhibition spaces, each used to depict a different aspect of traditional Jewish life. Educational installations, antique artifacts and preserved documents promise to be informative and fascinating. The Alte Synagogue also hosts significant Jewish festivals and cultural activities for children. It is quickly becoming an integral part of Essen’s cultural landscape.