Category : Dublin
Ireland may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think “Riviera;” however, Dún Laoghaire is waiting to change your perspective. It lines the pristine waters of Dublin Bay, just a short journey from the main city and County Wicklow. Easy to reach by bus or car, the Riviera is the ideal destination for a day trip. Filled with colorful markets and historical sites, the charming towns of Dún Laoghaire provide many things to see and do.
A leisurely drive will take you through bright-green countryside, bordered by a broad expanse of sparkling blue. The landscape is dotted with old villas and gardens, while the placid waters are flecked with the white sails of boats. See the best view of Dublin Bay from Dalkey, or venture to one of the region’s most famous cultural sites. The number of golf courses here is quite impressive, and the area is also known for its busy open-air markets. Water sports, including scuba diving, fishing and sailing, are quite popular—and then, there are these fascinating historical sites:
Dalkey Castle & Heritage Centre
The aforementioned town of Dalkey is brimming with Tudor-style charm and lore. Its focal point is, however, undoubtedly Dalkey Castle. The fortified townhouse-turned-castle from the 15th century is open to the public, and it remains one of the most popular landmarks on the Riviera. Climb the battlements to enjoy spectacular views of the sea and mountains, and do not miss the chance to tour the 10th-century graveyard and church of St. Begnet’s. There are also guided walks and “Living History” reenactments, interesting models of Dalkey Quarry and the railways, and a gift shop on the premises.
James Joyce Tower & Museum
One of a series of old Martello towers originally built to withstand an invasion by Napoleon, the James Joyce Tower serves another purpose today: It houses a museum devoted to the life and works of one of Ireland’s greatest writers, James Joyce. While the location may at first seem strange, it is actually quite appropriate—the tower is the setting for the first chapter of Joyce’s legendary masterpiece, Ulysses. Admire the panoramic view from the gun platform, and examine the impressive collection of letters, photographs, first and rare book editions, and even personal possessions.
The National Maritime Museum
Built in 1837, the historic Mariners’ Church has been re-purposed as the National Maritime Museum. Its beautiful stained glass windows now filter light onto popular exhibits, rather than church pews. Among the most interesting are the museum’s 38-metre-long officers’ barge, captured during the failed French invasion of 1796; the Baily Optic, a working light from a lighthouse in Howth; the Great Eastern, which was the largest ship in the world when it was built in 1857; the Naval Display; and the Kerlogue, an Irish merchant vessel from World War II.
Although it is currently closed for renovations, the National Maritime Museum will soon be re-opened.
Recommended hotels in Dún Laoghaire: the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel, the Kingston Hotel
When I started researching “Europe’s Best Hostels, Part I,” I found so many amazing hostels that I was unable to choose the best five. Narrowing it down to 10 was a little easier, but there are many other hostels that didn’t make the list which you can find for yourself on eurobookings.com. In the meantime, here are five more hostels worth visiting.
Hostel Villa Saint Exupéry Gardens, Nice
Ah, the French Riviera. Not the place to go on a budget, right? Wrong! The beach is free. So is wandering through the crooked alleyways of the old city and climbing to the top of Mount Boron. And when it’s time to bed down for the night, you’ll find that the Hostel Villa Saint Exupéry has been voted the Number One Hostel in France and has been the Author’s Choice in Lonely Planet and Top Ten Worldwide 5 times in 5 years! Set in a former monastery, this friendly accommodation starts you with a complimentary all-you-can-eat breakfast. You can gaze at the beautiful stained stained-glass windows of the chapel as you sip your €1 drink in what is now the hostel’s bar, and you can enjoy complimentary 24-hour internet access on 12 computers, along with complimentary wireless Internet access everywhere. You can also enjoy homemade pizza and Provencal cuisine in the glass atrium kitchen. The Hostel Villa Saint Exupéry even has a second location on the beach.
Sunflower Beach Hostel, Rimini
Would you rather spend your time in Rimini partying? Or chilling out on its famous beaches? Known as the “Best Party Hostel on the Beach,” the Sunflower Beach Backpacker Hostel makes it easy to do both. Just 200 metres from the surf and sand, this Adriatic residence is also right in the centre of all the restaurants, pubs, cafés and night clubs, and the historic city centre with its landmarks, train and bus station are only a short bus ride away. This allows you to explore both the vibrant city and its surrounding medieval towns. Here you can enjoy private bathrooms, a 24-front desk and showers, a big communal kitchen, a free continental buffet breakfast, free Internet, both wired and wireless, a pool table, ping pong, a 24-hour bar… and of course the big funky parties which put the Sunflower on the map! Pizza parties, pasta parties and beach parties are what you get, along with a TV Room with a MAXI Screen, satellite and sports programming and DVDs. The hostel even offers language classes in both Italian and English.
Avalon House, Dublin
How many hostels can claim George Bernard Shaw as a past resident? I’m guessing one. The Avalon House occupies a classic 19th century school building that boasted the playwright as a student. Now famous for its friendly international staff and its warm and homely atmosphere, the Avalon House puts you within easy walking distance of Temple Bar, Grafton St, the beautiful park at St Stephens Green, Dublin Castle, Trinity College and the National Museum and Gallery. Your day begins with a complimentary continental breakfast and continues with such amenities as bicycle rental (and storage), a games room, Internet access, ticket sales for all major tours and bus services and a complimentary hostel booking service for that sad day that you’re ready to move on. There’s also a fully equipped kitchen and a reception desk that never closes.
AthenStyle Hostel, Athens
The AthenStyle Hostel is perfectly located for you to make the most of modern and historical Athens. With the ancient Monastiraki at your doorstop and the traditional tavernas, sophisticated chill out bars and lively clubs of Psyrri right around the corner, you won’t have to go far to see either. The hostel itself is a blend of old and new, as it opened in June 2008 in a recently renovated historical building. The eclectic atmosphere is due to the fact that the rooms and apartments were decorated by a variety of artists from around the globe. And that view of the Acropolis from the rooftop bar is something you’ll never forget. While the Parthenon and museums are nearby, AthenStyle introduces you to a whole other side of Athens by working in cooperation with the Athens Art & Culture Association to give you the scoop on all the music, art, street culture, events and exhibitions going on in the city.
Seven Hostel SantAgnello
If you thought you had to stay in a five-star luxury hotel to enjoy breathtaking views of the Bay Naples, think again. The Seven Hostel SantAgnello provides the same views while leaving you with money to enjoy the city. Set in a gorgeous building from the 19th century, the sophisticated surroundings and light and airy atmosphere are not what you would associate with a hostel. Yet here it is. In the daytime, excursions can be booked through the hostel to nearby Pompeii, Capri and Herculaneum. Then as the sun dips into the Mediterranean, you can take advantage of the panoramic views from the terrace bar. Or take in the love music at the café bar. Both places provide a friendly and fun atmosphere to meet your fellow travelers. If you’d like the privacy of a hotel at the prices of a hostel, the top floor is set aside for double bedrooms. A partial list of services: 24-hour reception, wireless Internet, CD and DVD burning facilities, a games room, a common room, a solarium with loungers, air conditioning. You get the picture.
Whiskey and Coke. Whiskey Sour. Whiskey Old Fashioned. Though these are all words that go great together, nothing goes as great together as the words, “Whiskey and Ireland.” The Emerald Isle is where whiskey was invented and it still boasts the best whiskey pubs and bars, the finest whiskey shops, the most historic whiskey distilleries and many top class hotels and golf courses, where whiskey is an important component. Ireland’s Whiskey Trail includes dozens of such places. It’s not just for people interested in whiskey – it is also for anyone who wants to enjoy some of the very best traditional Irish pubs in the country, who is looking to buy that special bottle of Irish whiskey or who’s interested in the history and culture of Ireland.
The Temple Bar
47 Temple Bar, Dublin
+353 (0)1 672 5287
Ireland’s most famous city is home to Ireland’s most famous Irish pub; the Temple Bar. This is the prototype of every Irish pub on the planet, which explains why people who have never been here feel like they have. The pub was established in 1840, when it distilled its own whiskey, and is still going strong 170 years later. Over 410 different bottles of Irish, Scotch and Bourbons make the Temple Bar home to the country’s largest selection of whiskey. Live traditional Irish music is also on hand, and it’s no surprise that the Temple Bar Pub was voted Irish Music Pub of the Year from 2002 to 2007. And then there’s the food. In addition to the great sandwiches served throughout the day, the Temple Bar is famous for their Dublin Bay Oysters and Guinness. If you want to take a little bit of the place home with you (including a bottle of the brown stuff), there’s a souvenir shop right next door. And if you want to stay in a hotel that’s close to the pub and the rest of the Temple Bar neighborhood, try the three-star Temple Bar Hotel.
Kilbeggan Distillery and Locke’s Museum
Lower Main Street, Kilbeggan,
+353 (0) 57 933 2134
Opened in 1757 by the McManus family and closed in 1954, this historical gem’s fires were rekindled on March 19, 2007, 54 years to the day of its closing. Nowhere else in Ireland can you experience such a link to the world of whiskey in centuries past than at the Kilbeggan Distillery. Located in the wee town of Kilbeggan, 90 kilometres west of Dublin, the distillery is open to visitors all year round and is the oldest continually licensed distillery in the world. Daily guided tours with multi-lingual guides and self-guided tours show you many artifacts, from the 19th century water wheel (which is still in use) to the steam engine. This is the only distillery in Ireland where you can still see coopers at work repairing casks. To celebrate its 250th birthday, an ancient pot still last used in the 19th century was painstakingly refurbished and fired up and is now believed to be the oldest operational pot still in the world. If you’d like to linger in the Irish countryside rather than return to Dublin, a few kilometres to the south is the four-star Tullamore Court Hotel.
Freeney’s Pub, Off-Licence and Tackle Shop
19 High Street, Galway
+353 (0)91 562 609
Located in the pedestrian area of Galway’s High Street, there’s nothing pretentious about Freeney’s Pub, Off-Licence and Tackle Shop. Where else can you get fishing bait at one end of the store and a shot of whiskey at the other? A grocery store for local fisherman until 1976, Freeney’s Pub is famous today for its pub window with its extensive display of different Irish whiskeys as it is for being the best fishing shop in Galway. Here you’ll find 50 different Irish whiskeys, and if you’re lucky enough to stop by when Tony Freeney himself is there, he’ll probably recommend you start with a Greenspot Irish Whiskey, followed by a Powers 12 YO or a peated Connemara Single Malt. The roaring coal fire to the back of the pub is the perfect place to hunker down with a Jameson Irish Coffee, and speaking of hunkering down, there are many great Galway hotels.
The Creamery Bar & Restaurant Bunratty
Bunratty Fair Green, Bunratty,
+353 (0)61 364114
History pours from the Creamery Bar & Restaurant Bunratty, just as heavily as the whiskey and the great food. Just a 15 minute drive from Shannon Airport, this place has been accommodating travelers since it was a stop for the Bianconi coach service in the 1800’s. It became a creamery in 1927, and you can still see the old creamery’s original steam generator and pipes, as well as many old local photographs on the walls. The Creamery Bar is where you’ll find over 25 different whiskeys, as well as an excellent pint of Guinness served in your own commemorative pint glass which can be taken home. History is available in liquid form as well, with whiskey distilled when the place was still a creamery (1976). The owners also have a cask of Bushmills Millennium Malt in 2000 that they reserve for customers they think will truly appreciate this exceptional 25 year old Single Malt. The Creamery is located directly across from Bunratty Castle Folk Park, giving you a great after-meal stroll, and there are also some great Bunratty hotels nearby.
Castlemartyr Hotel & Golf Resort
Co. Cork, Castlemartyr
If you’d prefer to enjoy your whiskey surrounded by unspoiled rolling countryside of Castlemartyr in East Cork and the luxury of a five-star hotel, then welcome to the Castlemartyr Hotel & Golf Resort. This 18th century classic Manor House lies adjacent to the ruins of a castle dating from 1210 and once owned by Maurice Fitzgerald, who landed in Ireland with Henry II and was one of the founders of the Knights’ Templar. Sir Walter Raleigh was another owner of the estate. Of course, if history isn’t your thing, you can just sit back and enjoy the tranquility of the 220 acre estate. The Knights’ Bar, in the heart of the Manor was originally an 18th century ballroom. Beneath its magnificent rococo ceiling is one of Ireland’s very best whiskey collections, with a full range of whiskeys produced in Midleton and rarities like the Willie Nappier, a 44 year old whiskey from the old Tullamore Distillery and Ireland’s oldest bottled whiskey. In addition to golf, the estate grounds offer clay pigeon shooting, archery, croquet, hiking and boating on the tranquil swan-filled lake. All this just 25 kilometres from Cork Airport.
What do William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce and Bram Stoker all have in common? Yes, these are all names of famous writers. However, what really connects these legendary figures is their connection to—and deep love of—the city of Dublin. In 2010, Dublin was officially declared a UNESCO City of Literature. Surely, no one who has ever visited the Irish capital was surprised. Dublin has never hidden its literary legacy; there are statues of Oscar Wilde and Patrick Kavanagh in the city centre, and a museum entirely dedicated to the works of James Joyce. If you would like to explore the literary side of Dublin, definitely check out the following attractions.
The Dublin Writers Museum
Obviously, the Dublin Writers Museum is a prominent literary landmark in the city. It is located on the north side of the Liffey, just past the end of O’Connell Street. Throughout the museum, you will find fascinating exhibits honoring the city’s most renowned writers—as well as many who were lesser known. Along with permanent displays, the Dublin Writers Museum routinely hosts special events and celebrations. Writers workshops, speaker series and unique events like the Trim Swift Festival (which focuses on satirical works from Ireland) and the Lismore Festival of Travel Writing fill the annual calendar. After touring the museum, be sure to check out The Children of Lir statue nearby.
The Yeats Exhibit at the National Library of Ireland
Close to Leinster House and the National Museum of Ireland, the National Library of Ireland is easy to find in the city centre. While a tour of a library may not sound exciting at first, you must keep in mind that this is Dublin, the UNESCO 2010 City of Literature! Locals and tourists alike are welcome to tour the library. To enter the reading room, you must first apply for a reader’s ticket. However, a ticket is not needed to see the landmark library’s most popular attraction: its impressive interactive exhibit dedicated entirely to William Butler Yeats. Afterwards, check out the bookstore or refuel at the library’s signature café.
The Bookstores along Dawson Street
Literary Dublin is, of course, home to many great bookstores. One of the most famous is The Winding Stair, near the Four Courts. However, the highest concentration of fantastic bookstores can be found south of the river, along Dawson Street and its neighbors. The museum district’s offerings tend to change with the times, and bookstores are constantly opening and closing. One that has managed to remain successful over the passing years is Hodges Figgis; there you will find a wonderful collection of books on Irish history, Irish authors, and the Irish language. It’s definitely a great place in which to pick up a souvenir.
The Book of Kells
No trip to Dublin would be complete without a visit to the Book of Kells. One of the city’s more unusual tourist attractions, this actual book is also one of the most visited. The illuminated manuscript of the four gospels was originally started by 8th-century monks on the island of Iona in Scotland. It was eventually finished by monks at the monastery in Kells (hence the name) in County Meath, stolen by Vikings, buried in a bog, restored to Kells, and then finally taken to Dublin. Today, it is on display at Trinity College, which has been the book’s home since the 1660’s. Only two pages at a time can be seen—and lines tend to be long, so get there early.
Pubs With Literary History
What better way to unwind after a day of sightseeing in Dublin than by enjoying a beer or two in a traditional Irish pub? Continue your immersion in the city’s literary history by patronizing one of many world-famous pubs. McDaid’s on Henry Street and Davy Byrne’s on Duke Street are both known for their literary significance. There is also Toner’s on Lower Baggott Street, which was supposedly the only pub that Yeats ever visited. To sample an array of bar scenes and brews in literary Dublin, take part in the city’s literary pub crawl tour. Trained actors will take you from a starting point in trendy Temple Bar to the favorite watering holes of many well-known authors. Plan your accommodations wisely, and you will not need to travel far to lay your head at the end of the fun- and alcohol-filled night. The pubs on tour are close to many great Dublin hotels. We recommend the Isaacs Hotel and the Temple Bar Hotel.
With Minnesota’s 390,000 square-metre Mall of America and the 570,000 square-metre West Edmonton Mall in Alberta Canada, not to mention such iconic malls as the Sherman Oaks Galleria, you would think that the world’s best malls would be found west of the Atlantic. But the Old Country still has some tricks up its sleeve, and whether you’re looking to find that one special bargain or you just want to shop till you drop, Europe boasts some awesome shopping venues. European malls not only provide you with the full spectrum of shopping and dining options, but many also boast some unusual attractions for the non-shopper. As we will see…
Madrid Xanadú, Arroyomolinos, Spain
A fine example of a mall offering more than shopping can be found 30 kilometres from the centre of Madrid in the countryside just outside of the town of Arroyomolinos. In addition to offering over 222 shops and restaurants and the 15-screen Cinesa Movie Theatre, Madrid Xanadú is also one of Spain’s most popular places to go skiing and snowboarding. How, you may ask? Simple. The mall plays host to Madrid SnowZone, a huge covered ski slope with artificial snow. The mall, which is anchored by Spain’s famous mega-store, El Corté Inglés, along with its Hipercor at El Corté Inglés, was built in 2002 with the SnowZone opening in 2006. Most Madrid hotels will be able to help you find easy transportation to the mall.
Dundrum Town Centre, Dublin, Ireland
Though its 80,000 square metres makes it smaller than the Mall of America, Dundrum Town Centre is Ireland’s biggest mall, featuring over 160 tenants. These include Tesco Ireland, Marks and Spencer, House of Fraser, Next, Karen Millen, Harvey Nichols, GAP, Timberland and Penney’s, as well as its own petrol station at the shopping centre. A full list of tenants is available on the shopping centre’s website. Dundrum Town Centre’s claim to fame indirectly derives from its origin as a Pye television factory. It may be the only mall that has its own TV and radio stations. Dundrum South FM 93.9 is a local community-based radio station for South Dublin, which predates the mall by nine years, and the TV station, Dundrum Television is operated by RTE. Students from local schools get involved in the action, gaining valuable media experience. Dundrum Town Centre may also be one of the only malls to be blessed upon opening by the local clergy. Fifteen minutes from the heart of the Irish capital, the mall can be easily reached from your Dublin hotel.
Il Vulcano Buono, Nola, Italy
Though Il Vulcano Buono offers a choice of 155 shops, along with some restaurants and bars, the shopping is not what makes this 2007 shopping mall unique. Can you guess looking at the photo? Set right near Mount Vesuvius, the unique design by architect Renzo Piano is meant to represent a volcano itself. Its gently grass-covered slope blends harmoniously with the surrounding environment as it pays homage to the area’s most prevalent natural feature. There’s also a multiplex theatre and a gallery here, and its 160-metre circular centre, which is modeled on the Naples Piazza del Plebiscito, is used for concerts and events. The open sky allows light to enter through the “rim” of the volcano, and there are also skylights fitted with solar double-pane glass. The entire establishment occupies an area of approximately 450,000 square metres. Your best accommodation bet is to stay in the charming town of Nola.
Gasometer City, Vienna, Austria
Another unique mall that is more than a mall is Gasometer City, a community that boasts a 3,000 person music hall, a movie theatre, a student dormitory, 800 apartments and a shopping mall. All within a series of four brick gas tanks dating from the 1890s. Used until 1984 to store gas and then natural gas, Gasometer City is one of the most creative re-use projects in the world. Completed in 2001, this is a city within a city, featuring offices as well as residences and shopping, providing residents with everything they need without every stepping outside. Many theses and dissertations in psychology, urban planning, journalism and architecture have been written about the place, and even if you’re not in the mood to shop, it’s still an interesting Vienna attraction and not far from most Vienna hotels.
Mall of Sofia, Sofia, Bulgaria
Though the Mall of Sofia located at the central intersection of Aleksandar Stamboliyski Boulevard and Opalchenska Street would not draw much attention if it was located in any western European or American city, it is an indication of just how far capitalism has come in formerly communist Eastern Europe. This modern glass and steel shopping centre opened its doors in 2006 and also boasts distinctive office space in its attached Sofia Tower. Four-stories tall and taking up 70,000 square metres, the mall and office complex offers up a lot of shopping. There are 130 stores, a supermarket, pharmacies, a beauty salon, an Internet café and DVD and video rentals. And to drive herald even further the arrival of the west, just look at some of the food options. McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut are all there, along with Cinema City, a 12-screen multiplex cinema featuring the first 3-D IMAX theatre in Southeastern Europe. Set prominently in the city centre, the mall can be easily reached from most Sofia hotels.
Nowhere is the Emerald Isle of Ireland more emerald than in its gardens. Though often overshadowed by England’s more famous gardens, Ireland has its share of them itself which come in all sizes, shapes and terrains. Visiting an Irish garden can be a way to experience history, a way to commune with nature and can provide a wonderful way to get away from it all for prices ranging from inexpensive to free. Here are five Irish gardens that truly stand out.
Kylemore Abbey, County Galway
Though Kylemore Abbey is known more the splendor of the Abbey itself, it also boasts one of the most beautiful walled gardens in Ireland. The six acre garden was created at the same time of the Abbey’s construction in 1867 by Mitchell Henry. The only Irish garden built in a bog, the Kylemore Abbey Gardens also provide wonderful panoramic views out over the water. In addition to its original Victorian plant species, the gardens, still tended by the Benedictine community, boast both herbs and vegetables that end up in the kitchen of the Abbey. Beyond the gardens, the 1,000 acre estate allows you to take many beautiful strolls along the shores of the Lakes of Pollacappul and Maladrolaun, as well as offering some great mountain biking. Otters and foxes can be spied, along with bats. The closest accommodation can be found in the charming village of Letterfrack, just five kilometres to the west and also overlooking the water.
Mount Usher, County Wicklow
Also overlooking water, this time the banks of the River Vartry, Mount Usher boasts plant life from around the planet, designed to provide a spectacular show all year round. Something’s always blooming at Mount Usher, and the crystal river waters are always there to add to the beauty. It will come as no surprise that the gardens were voted “The Most Romantic Garden to Visit in the Republic of Ireland” by the BBC’s Gardener’s World Magazine in 2010, among other accolades. Rusty-red Japanese Maple, a petite Wedding Cake Tree and Himalayan Magnolia are just several of the fascinating species you’ll see. And if viewing all this beauty has worked up an appetite, head to the Avoca Garden Café. When it’s time to look for nearby lodgings, you’ll find them in Wicklow.
Irish National Stud, County Kildare
Thought most visitors to the Irish National Stud are there for the horses, garden enthusiasts can use the horses as a romantic backdrop to some pretty spectacular gardens. Established in 1946, the Stud offers two separate gardens that are quite different in nature. First there are the 20 stops of the Zen-like Japanese Gardens. From the Tunnel of Ignorance to the Hill of Ambition, these lovely gardens feature 200 year-old bonsai trees and rocks from Mount Vesuvius. Then there’s the wilder St. Fiachra’s Garden, named for the patron saint of Irish gardeners and much less manicured. Here, beyond the underground stone entrance, you can explore four acres of a wild Irish landscape full of lakes and monastic beehive huts. While you’re there, be sure to stop in at the Horse Museum. For an extra treat, you can stay at the nearby Lord Edward Hotel in Kildare.
Garinish, County Cork
If you’d like your green surrounded by blue, Garinish Island is set out in Glengarriff Harbour, making it one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets. Created over 80 years ago by Edwardian garden designer Harold Peto, on this tiny island of 37 acres, Garinish’s gardens boasts a strangely subtropical micro-climate which allows plants from around the planet to survive and thrive. The self-guided tour takes you by some stunning rhododendrons and azaleas, and there’s also a cozy coffee shop. Also known by its Irish name, Ilnacullin (island of holly), the island belongs to the Office of Public Works and is open from March 1 to October 31. Though there are no accommodations on the island itself, you can find some nice hotels on shore in the town of Glengarriff.
Farmleigh, County Dublin
So say you’re stuck in Dublin with no time to explore outside the city. No problem. Just head to Farmleigh. Purchased from the Guinness family by the Irish Government for €29.2 million, this 1907 sunken walled Dutch-style garden is open to the public, allowing you to journey back to the age of Victoria and Edward. Strolling through the garden, you’ll see a traditional fountain lawn, an apple orchard, a small rose and lavender garden and more. There are also a few glasshouses, a potting shed, and an Arts and Crafts-style gardener’s house and pump house. When you’re through in the garden, you won’t have to go far for a meal, thanks to the Boathouse Café before heading on to tour the rest of the 78 acre grounds and the 19th century mansion in its centre. Returning to the urban surroundings of Dublin, there are plenty of hotels where you can spend the night.
Summer’s here and the time is right for dancing all over Europe. Though Southern California’s Coachella Festival gets all the headlines, the truth is that Europe is full of dozens of music festivals featuring thousands of bands, from the Gulf of Bothnia to the Mediterranean and from the Atlantic to the Adriatic. All music is covered, from heavy metal to jazz and from rap to local folk music, very often at the same festivals. Here’s a list of five of the best music festivals coming up in the summer of 2011.
Roskilde Festival, Denmark
June 30-July 3, Warm-up June 26-29
The Roskilde Festival was created in 1971 by two high school students and it has growing ever since. As the festival is a non-profit organization supporting the development of music and culture, you know your ticket money is going to a good place. Originally a haven for hippies, the musical styles have branched out and its wide range of musical styles can be seen in a sampling of the 2011 line-up. Acts will include MIA, PJ Harvey, Iron Maiden, Killing Joke, Kings of Leon, Big Boi, Bright Eyes, Ice Age, Yemen Blues and hundreds more. In 2007 the festival boasted 80,000 guests who watched 180 bands and enjoyed the work of 3,000 artists. Like most festivals, Roskilde provides the opportunity to camp. But if you’d like to crash in a bed with four walls and a ceiling around you, there are plenty of Roskilde hotels to accommodate you. Though you should be sure to book early.
Oxegen Festival, Ireland
Somewhat newer is the Oxegen Festival, which has become Ireland’s largest, with a 2008 daily attendance of 90,000. Though its previous incarnation, “Witnness” was sponsored by Guinness, the festival is now put on by Heineken. Known as the greenest festival in Europe, Oxegen is a 100% carbon neutral event and takes place at the Punchestown Racecourse in County Kildare, just 32 kilometres from Dublin. As always, 2011 will feature some big names among the 100+ acts, including Foo Fighters, Coldplay, Black-Eyed Peas, Arctic Monkeys, the Strokes, the Script, deadmaus, the National, Weezer, Pendulum, Plan B, Primal Scream and Bright Eyes. If you want to sleep in the open with 80,000 other attendees, there’s camping available. The nearest hotels are just a few kilometres in the town of Naas, and after three nights of camping, a night spent in a Dublin hotel can serve as a nice transition back to civilization.
Benicàssim Festival, Spain
July 14-July 17
What do you get when you mix rock music the blue waters and golden sands of Spain’s Mediterranean coast? The Benicàssim Festival! Known locally as the Festival Internacional de Benicàssim, this four-day party is set in the beachside holiday town of Benicàssim, which is an hour from Valencia in one direction and two hours from Barcelona in the other. Though the festival focuses mostly on pop, rock and electronica music, many other arts are represented as well, from theatre to short film to visual arts and fashion. The 2011 line-up includes The Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, Primal Scream, Arcade Fire, Portishead, Jack Beats, The Juan MacLean, Logo, Lori Meyers and The Marzipan Man. Camping is offered here as well, but if you’d like to mix festival-style fun with beach resort luxury, then check out one of the many resort hotels in Benicàssim and in Castellon de la Plana, 16 kilometres away.
Sziget Festival, Budapest
The Isle of Wight Festival isn’t the only one held on an island. Of course what makes the Sziget Festival unique is that the island is right in the middle of the Danube, right in the middle of the Hungarian capital of Budapest. This is the biggest party in Europe, features a whopping 1,000+ bands and artists, performing on 55 different stages. The variety of music is also mind-boggling, allowing you to choose (and with all those stage, choose you must) between pop, rock, metal, hip hop, dance, world music and more. There’s also much non-performance fun to be had, from bungee-jumping to movies to belly dancing and Hungarian lessons to karaoke to swimming and football. Oh, and then there’s the music, which this year will include Amy Winehouse, Deftones, Flogging Molly, Good Charlotte, Judas Priest, Kasabian, Pulp, Smashmouth, The Chemical Brothers… and hundred more. Though camping out on the island is a unique experience, you might want to pencil in one night in a Budapest hotel, many of which offer the unique experience of visiting one of the city’s famed thermal baths.
With fall approaching, the Pukkelpop Festival, one of the season’s last, is getting in full swing. Though the line-up has not yet been announced (you can jot down your requests on the festival website), 2010 featured Placebo, Iron Maiden, Queens of the Stone Age, Snow Patrol, Blink 182, Limp Bizkit, The Flaming Lips, Bad Religion, The Black Motorcycle Club, Fake Blood and 200 more. The festival boasts eight stages, including the unforgettable Chateau Crapule. It’s held in a large enclosure of fields and forests close to the city of Hasselt in a tiny village of Kiewit, whose population increases exponentially once a year when the Pukkelpop crowd of 180,000 descends upon it. If you want to skip the camping or are looking for some post-festival decompression, hotel rooms are available in Hasselt and 40 minutes away in the medieval Dutch river city of Maastricht.
If you want to inject a little bit of Africa, Asia and South American into your European journey, there are many excellent zoos that can help you do just that by bringing you face to face with the animals inhabiting all these places. From the newest to the oldest, from the largest to the smallest, zoos in Europe make a great way to spend the day for the whole family. And though they can certainly get lost in the overwhelming mix of medieval churches, ornate opera houses, massive museums and luxury resorts, chances are you’re never too far from a zoo.
Tiergarten Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria
Starting at the beginning, we must talk about the Tiergarten Schönbrunn. Starting life in 1752 as an imperial menagerie, this is the oldest zoo in the world. Located on the grounds of the magnificent baroque Schönbrunn Palace and itself boasting many classic architectural treasures, the Schönbrunn Zoo allows you to discover history and culture as you discover the animals. And the collection of animals is also quite impressive, from the orangutans and tigers, to pandas Yang Yang, Long Hui, and Fu Long, to all the slippery creatures in the Amazon Rainforest House. You can even walk beneath a simulation of the Amazon during a flood, for a perspective you couldn’t even get visiting the real thing. Among the museum’s newest additions is the 2004 polarium, which features animals of the Arctic.
Berlin Zoological Garden, Berlin, Germany
From oldest to biggest, the Berlin Zoo boasts 17,000 animals from 1,500 different species, making it the most comprehensive collection of species in the world. Open since 1844, the zoo covers 34 hectares of central Berlin’s Tiergarten, close to the world-famous Kurfürstendamm shopping district. Wildly popular among tourists, the zoo and its aquarium welcomed almost three million guests in 2010, making it the most popular zoo in Europe as well. The zoo is known for its entertaining animal feeding sessions and its celebrity animals like Knut, the polar bear, and Bao Bao, the Giant Panda. The zoo is also active in conservation, specializing in breeding for animals like black and Indian rhinoceroses and gaurs, as well as rare deer and pigs. The 1913 aquarium also features 9,000 animals spread among three floors, including a shark tank and an impressive 25,000 litre coral reef display.
Dublin Zoo, Dublin, Ireland
The largest zoo in Ireland is spread out over 24 hectares in Phoenix Park and dates back to 1831. Known also by its Gaelic name, Zú Bhaile Átha Cliath, the Dublin Zoo specializes in the conservation of endangered species, with its stated mission being to “work in partnership with zoos worldwide to make a significant contribution to the conservation of the endangered species on Earth”. The zoo is divided into sections such as World of Cats, World of Primates, Fringes of the Arctic, African Plains, Birds, Reptiles, Plants, City Farm and Endangered Species. The Kaziranga Forest Trail is worth special attention for its Asian elephants and its red pandas, and the City Farm is great for the kids, with its less exotic but cuter donkeys, guinea pigs and rabbits. Of special historical note, in 1919 the zoo celebrated the birth of a lion named Slats who grew up to roar at the beginning of hundreds of MGM movies as studio mascot Leo.
Zoo de La Palmyre, La Rochelle, France
A much newer zoo, the Zoo de La Palmyre opened in 1966 when the keeper of a traveling zoo decided to lay down roots in La Rochelle. Starting out with 80 animals, the zoo now features over 1,600 in a beautiful seaside location spread out over four square kilometres. The animals are divided into 130 species, and the most unique features is the immense polar bear basin, where you can see the bears above the water or below the water, with the help of the five centimeter thick window. The zoo is active in breeding in order to save endangered species and offers the unique opportunity to view many endangered species. Some, like the Scimitar Oryx from the Sahara Desert, are near extinction. Other endangered animals on display include the Orangutan of Borneo, whose population lost 30-50% in the last ten years, the Golden Lion Tamarin, the White Rhinoceros and the Indian Elephant.
Blackpool Zoo, Blackpool, United Kingdom
Providing a home to over 1,500 animals from around the globe, Blackpool Zoo has only been open since 1972. Also dedicated to animal conservation, the zoo has undergone a £10m refurbishment since 2003. This is a zoo that really caters to kids. In addition to the popular giraffes and sea lions, the zoo has opened the Dinosaur Safari, where you can follow a trail that passes 32 life-size dinosaurs. The penguins are also quite popular, and for a little bit of fun, you can take the Blackpool Zoo Miniature Railway. In 2006, the zoo opened an exhibit called Amazonia, which is a walk-through enclosure of South American animals and birds including 5 species of monkeys.
Vienna hotels near the Tiergarten Schönbrunn
La Rochelle hotels
Beer has been around longer than Rembrandt paintings, Roman urns and most of the other items which bring us to museums. So why not a beer museum? Why not indeed! It just so happens that the world in general and Europe in particular are full of museums honoring the sudsy stuff. Ranging from serious educational museums to venues that look like they cater to those who have already been sampling the wares, beer museums have finally found their way into the culture. Here are some of the best in Europe.
1. The Heineken Experience, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
There’s a lot of history behind the site of the Heineken Experience. This is where one of the world’s favorite beers was brewed from the 16th century until 1988, when Heineken moved its operations out of the city centre. Not surprisingly, this is one of the world’s largest beer museums – if not the largest – boasting 3,000 square metres of exhibition space. The 75 minute tour takes you through the entire brewing process while documenting the history of Heineken, ending up at the Brewhouse Bar each guests (of a certain age) is treated to several “samples” of the end product. Children are allowed on the tour but must be accompanied by There’s also a gift shop where you can buy all things Heineken-related. While the Heineken Experience is not a UNESCO World Heritage Site (yet!), it is a European Route of Industrial Heritage Site, one of just 66 in Europe. Located right near the centre of the city, there are plenty of Amsterdam hotels in the area.
2. The Guinness Storehouse, Dublin, Ireland
Another of the world’s most popular brews come from right here in the Irish capital. That’s where you’ll find St. James’s Gate Brewery, home of the Guinness Storehouse, which is also known as Guinness Hop Store. Not only is the museum the result of £30 million of effort…it’s also Ireland’s No. 1 international visitor attraction! The money was well-spent, as you’ll marvel at the seven-floor storehouse’s glass atrium that’s meant to resemble a pint of Guinness. Your visit starts on the first floor, where you’re introduced to our friends, water, barley, hops and yeast, as well as the our friend and the brewery’s founder, Arthur Guinness, who kicked things off 250 years ago. The tour ends on the seventh floor Gravity Bar, located in the head of the atrium’s bottle. The highest bar in Dublin, the Gravity Bar offers 360° views over Dublin and its surroundings, along with…you guessed it…your complimentary pint of Guinness. As you enjoy your pint, be sure to look down to see if you can see your Dublin Hotel.
3. Bier und Oktoberfestmuseum, Munich, Germany
The Bavarian capital of Munich may not brew an iconic beer like Dublin and Amsterdam, but its six breweries do produce 56 million bottles of beer annually. And it does have that little thing called Oktoberfest that has earned it the title of the Capital of Beer. Also home to the famous Hofbräuhaus, Munich is now the proud host of the Bier und Oktoberfestmuseum as well. Here you’ll learn more than you thought you’d ever know about the history of beer, from its migrations following ancient cultures, to its time in European monasteries, to the history of Munich itself, including the history of the Oktoberfest, which was established as the national festival for the wedding of King Luis and Princess Theresa. Like the other museums, the Bier und Oktoberfestmuseum offers beer as part of the package. But here they also make a big deal out of the food that goes along with the beer. In fact, the museum bar and restaurant offer 120 seats on two floors, making it a popular party venue for the locals. The museum also provides a view into the city’s past, as it’s housed in a building dating back to 1340, one of the oldest in the city. And of course, there are many fine Munich hotels in the area.
4. Stepan Razin Brewery, St. Petersburg, Russia
Though Russia is usually associated with liquor that comes from potatoes rather than barley and hops, the country likes a good brew as much as any other country. The Stepan Razin Brewery Museum invites you to discover the oldest brewery in Russia. Opened in 1995 to celebrate the brewery’s 200th anniversary, the museum covers the history of beer brewing in Russia, focusing on Stepan Razin. Known in Soviet times as the Kalinkinskiy Beer and Mead Co-operative, the brewery was originally opened with the approval of Czarina Catherine the Great and named for the famous 17th century Cossack pirate Stepan Razin. The museum’s displays are authentic, some going back over 300 years. Unlike the other, larger breweries on this list, the Stepan Razin Museum focuses on traditional home brewing rather than industrial brewing. And while Heineken and Guinness provide samples of Heineken and Guinness, here you get to taste a variety of different beers. Just be sure you can get back to your St. Petersburg hotel without having to drive when you’re done! Though the museum has no website, here’s the contact information.
Stepan Razin Beer Museum
11, Ulitsa Stepana Razina
St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
+7 (812) 251-0389
Open: Daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. Closed weekends.
5. Prague Beer Museum Pub
Okay, so the Prague Beer Museum Pub isn’t exactly a museum. No, it’s exactly a pub. But I had to get the home of Pilsner beer in here somehow, and what better way to celebrate beer than to experience it in its native habitat? The Prague Beer Museum Pub is known for providing a wide variety of beer, with an astounding 30 taps (the most in the city). To keep you from getting overwhelmed, the pub features an immense menu full of descriptions of all things foamy. From Indian Pales Ales to Blueberry and Raspberry Lagers to lovely Honey Wheat Beers, the pub specializes in unique beers brewed in small breweries throughout the Czech Republic. Like a museum, there’s plenty to look at, with photos of old breweries, beer memorabilia and posters with beer trivia. In fact, you might actually learn as much about beer here as in any of the actual museums. The Prague Beer Museum Pub is also set just a short stroll from the Old Town Square, so it’s easy to find a Prague hotel within easy stumbling range, perfect after your visit to the “museum.”
Posted in Amsterdam, Berlin, Dublin, France, Frankfurt, Germany, Ireland, London, Netherlands, Paris, The UK on 26. Jan, 2011
Anyone who has ever seen a painting by Johannes Vermeer understands what all the fuss is about. The beauty of his work and its photographic realism has never been matched, and reproductions in prints, books and posters come nowhere near doing it justice. Unfortunately only 36 known paintings have been positively attributed to the 17th century artist from Delft, the 37th, “Concert,” having been stolen from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.
What follows is a list of the 22 Vermeer paintings located in Europe (the other 14 are in the US), divided by city and museum. Of course like all other artists, Vermeer travels a lot. So a website by artist Jonathan Janson called the Flying Fox features a “Vermeer Tracker” which tells you where his paintings are at any given time.
The Milkmaid, The Little Secret, The Love Letter, Woman in Blue Reading a Letter
Jan Luijkenstraat 1
1071 CJ Amsterdam
A Lady Seated at a Virginal, A Lady Standing at a Virginal
The National Gallery
London WC2N 5DN
020 7747 2885
The Music Lesson
The Royal Collection, Buckingham Palace
13 Buckingham Palace Rd
Westminster, London SW1W 0
020 7766 7300
The Guitar Player
Hampstead NW3 7JR
020 8348 1286
The Girl with the Pearl Earring, View of Delft, Diana and her Companions
Korte Vijverberg 8
2513 AB The Hague
The Glass of Wine, Woman with a Pearl Necklace
Staatliche Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Gemäldegalerie
The Preocuress, A Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Gemäldegalerie
The Lacemaker, The Astronomer
Musée du Louvre
75058 Paris Cedex 01
01 40 20 57 60
Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid
National Gallery of Ireland
Merrion Square W
Dublin 2, Co. Dublin
01 661 5133
Christ in the House of Mary and Martha
National Gallery of Scotland
Edinburgh EH2 2EL
0131 624 6200
FRANKFURT AM MAIN
60596 Frankfurt am Main
The Art of Painting
The Girl with a Glass of Wine
Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum
Of course you’ll need a place to stay after your trip to the museum, so here are lists of hotels in Amsterdam, hotels in London, hotels in Berlin, hotels in The Hague, hotels in Dresden, hotels in Paris, hotels in Dublin, hotels in Edinburgh, hotels in Frankfurt am Main, hotels in Vienna and hotels in Brunswick.