Category : Netherlands
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.
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.
Known as one of the Netherlands’ oldest cities and the home of the PSV Eindhoven football team, Eindhoven is an up-and-coming holiday destination. Its growing nightlife scene, wealth of historical buildings, and close proximity to the cities of Antwerp and Amsterdam make it a fantastic place to spend a few days. If you are planning a trip to Eindhoven, be sure to include the following tourist attractions:
Founded in 1936 by cigar manufacturer Henri van Abbe, the Van Abbemuseum is one of the most popular museums in Eindhoven. It is known as much for its eye-catching architecture (the work of renowned architect Abel Cahen) as for the art collection it houses. The building can be found right on the east bank of the River Dommel, and it manages to incorporate the natural landscape in surprising ways. Open-air terraces, covered bridges, winding flights of stairs and strategically placed windows allow visitors to see the city while also marveling at some truly spectacular works of art. Especially impressive is the collection of 20th-century paintings (Picasso and Chagall are well represented) located within the labyrinthine space.
Eindhoven’s Philips Stadion, or Philips Stadium, is the home of the aforementioned PSV football club. As such, it is one of the most popular attractions in the city—especially so among its many football fans. While it is around a hundred years old, the stadium appears to be quite modern. It can seat about 35,000 spectators—and it does whenever there is a big game. If you would like to attend while in Eindhoven, be sure to purchase your tickets well in advance. You may also book a guided tour of the premises; however, like tickets on game day, reservations may be hard to come by.
Evoluon Conference Centre
An integral and famous part of Eindhoven’s urban landscape, the Evoluon Conference Centre is difficult to miss. The strangely futuristic building (many agree that it resembles a flying saucer) provides an intriguing contrast to the city’s historical sites. Interestingly enough, it is not a new addition to Eindhoven; the conference centre was actually built in 1966, to be the home of the Museum of Science and Technology (hence the innovative design.) The concrete “saucer” is made of concrete, and it measures almost 80 metres (260 feet) in diameter.
Muziekcentrum Frits Philips
Another major attraction named after the Philips family (yes, as in electronics and lighting) in Eindhoven is the Muziekcentrum Frits Philips. Nearly as popular as the football stadium, this gigantic venue is actually two separate concert halls. The larger of the two is the Eindhoven Airport Hall, which can seat about 1,250 people. The smaller and more intimate Rabobank Hall holds crowds of under 400. Over any given year, the entire Muziekcentrum Frits Philips welcomes approximately 150,000 people to its concerts and events. From classical orchestras to world-famous rock and pop groups on tour, the calendar is always varied. What’s more, the acoustics are supposedly among the best in Europe.
If you are visiting Eindhoven with children, you cannot pass up the opportunity to check out Genneper Park. The massive park can be found close to the vibrant city centre; however, parts of it feel much farther away from civilization. The beautiful scenery can be explored by bike or on foot; you will find a wonderful network of pathways and cycling trails. Also on the grounds are a number of popular and unique tourist attractions, including the De Tongelreep Swimming Paradise (home to indoor wave pools, water slides, rapids and whirlpools) and the Historical Openluchtmuseum. The latter, Eindhoven’s iconic Open-Air Museum, shows visitors how the Netherlands looked over a period of 2,000 years. Tourists can tour replicas of dwellings and tools from the Iron Age onwards. The Medieval exhibit, where you can sip authentic mead in an old market square, is especially charming.
Recommended hotels in Eindhoven: the Sandton Hotel Eindhoven, the Park Plaza Eindhoven
When I sat down to write about the strangest museums in Europe, I quickly saw that there were far too many for just one article. I will try to control myself and limit it to only two. But I can’t promise there won’t be a third at some point in the future. Ready. Set. Go!
Museum of the Holy Souls in Purgatory, Rome, Italy
If you thought that standing in line for the Uffizi Museum in August was the closest you could get to hell in Italy, you haven’t been to the Museum of the Holy Souls in Purgatory. This is the best place in Rome… well anywhere really to see scorched handprints on pages of ancient bibles, tables and clothing which are purported to be the desperate attempts of those in Purgatory to escape their tortures. The museum is located in an eerie room off the Chiesa del Sacro Cuore del Suffragio Church right on the banks of the Tiber River. The collection was started by a priest who saw a figure in the midst of a fire that destroyed the altar in the church long ago, which he took to be a soul trapped in Purgatory. From there, he started collecting information and artifacts on similar appearances around the world. When you’ve had enough of Purgatory and you’re ready to move on to Paradise, there are many Rome hotels willing to accommodate you.
Torture Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
While Rome offers the torments of the next world, Amsterdam’s Torture Museum reminds us that there’s always been plenty enough hell right here on earth. The museum’s gruesome displays include a rusty guillotine, stretching tables, a chair of nails and screws designed to crush your fingers, your head and any other body part. Darkened rooms convey the appropriate atmosphere, which is also complimented by many old paintings showing how each was used to inflict the maximum in pain. Though it’s easy to laugh at these things that happened so long ago, the museum also leaves you with the sobering message that torture is still used in many parts of the world, begging the question, have things really changed that much? You can ponder the answer from the comfort of your Amsterdam hotel room, where your chair will most likely not have nails in it.
British Lawnmower Museum
Moving from the maudlin to the mundane, we come to the British Lawnmower Museum. Located just 20 miles north of Liverpool in the Merseyside town of Southport, this place is truly paradise for anyone who is really into lawnmowers. Even if lawnmowers aren’t your thing, you will be impressed by the love and care and Herculean effort put in by ex-racing champion Brian Radam in creating the museum. Here you’ll find mowers that belonged to royalty such as Prince Charles and the late Lady Diana, the most expensive mowers in the world, a 2-inch functional lawnmower and many, many other mower-related artifacts. You’ll also learn the history of the lawnmower itself, which was invented by Edwin Beard Budding in 1830 as a device to trim the knap off of cloth. If you want to take a mower home with you, the museum’s “gift shop” is the attached Discount Garden Machinery Warehouse which offers 200 new lawnmowers for sale. From there you can ride your mower to the nearest Southport hotel.
Pencil Museum, Keswick, England
If a lawnmower museum isn’t mundane enough for you, then head south to the beautiful Lake District where you’ll find the Pencil Museum. Nestled in the village of Keswick in the heart of beautiful Cumbria, the Pencil Museum provides a rainy day alternative to all the area’s wonderful hiking. Where else are you going to be able to see the world’s longest colour pencil? Have you ever wondered how they get that lead into the pencil in the first place? You’ll find out at the Pencil Museum! There’s also a James Bond style World War II pencil and range of gifts marking the museum’s 30th anniversary. The Pencil Museum is family-friendly too, offering a Kids Art Studio where the little ones can put their new-found appreciation of pencils to work. You can also choose between a family ticket and a family season pass. Just make sure none of the kids draws on the walls of your Keswick hotel room.
Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Before hitting the Pencil Museum, you might want to increase your creativity with a visit to the Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum, This institution is located, of course, in Amsterdam and has been part of the city’s pantheon of museums since 1987. Nearly a million visitors have passed through its front door since them. In addition to relating information about cannabis’s principal use, the Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum also educates guests about all the other things hemp has been used for over the centuries, including medical, religious and cultural uses. The museum also focuses on how hemp can be used for agricultural and industrial purposes, displaying clothing accessories and cosmetic products made from hemp fiber in their gift shop. Highlights include a live cannabis garden in various stages of growth, pipe and roach clip collections and an 1836 Dutch Bible made of hemp. Don’t miss David Teniers the Younger’s 1660 painting, Hemp-Smoking Peasants in a Smoke House.
Though the true origin of Art Deco is open to interpretation, as is the true definition of an architectural style that includes so many different styles under its umbrella, we all know it when we see it. And though we associate Art Deco with the gleaming skyscrapers of Manhattan (the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building) and the Day-Glo hotels of Miami (the Astor and the Berkeley), the style originated in Europe. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the Old Country still boasts many breathtaking examples of this architecture style we all love so much. Here are five notable examples.
Palais de Tokyo, Paris France
For our first Art Deco treasure we go to the city where it all started; Paris, host of the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, where we find the Palais de Tokyo. Built for the 1937 International Exhibition of Arts and Technology as the Palais des Musées d’art modern, this extraordinary building is now home to a museum, as well as a studio and laboratory space for resident artists and curators. The Palais de Tokyo also boasts a wonderful location, set right between the River Seine and the Avenue de New York and just across the river from the Eiffel Tower. With such a central Paris location, it’s no surprise that there are so many excellent hotels surrounding it.
Guildhall, Swansea, United Kingdom
It’s hard to miss the towering Guildhall. But one would expect the building that served as the City Hall, City Hall, Brangwyn Hall and the County Law Courts for Swansea to be built to attract attention. Built between 1930 and 1934, the Guildhall was quite controversial, as it was certainly a departure for civic architecture of the times. But the building has become one of Swansea’s most iconic symbols. Clad in white Portland stone, the Guildhall boasts a distinctive clock tower. If you look closely, you’ll see the sculpted the prow of a Viking boat, representing Sweyn Forkbeard and the rest of the city’s Viking founders. Many of the nearby hotels provide excellent views of the Guildhall.
Tuschinski Theatre, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
With its iconic Graumann’s Chinese Theatre and Radio City Music Hall, the USA is home to the greatest Art Deco movie palaces in the world. And then there’s Amsterdam’s Tuschinski Theatre. Built in 1921 by theatre owner Abraham Icek Tuschinski, this hauntingly beautiful theatre transforms you to another world. Designed for live entertainment as well as movies, the Tuschinski still has its Wurlitzer-Strunk organ, a rarity even among the rarity of surviving movie palaces. Designed by Hijman Louis de Jong, the theatre also retains its original stage. Tuschinski also had four movie palaces built in Rotterdam between 1911 and 1928 but all were destroyed in that city’s World War II bombing. In fact, Tuschinski, being Jewish, also did not survive the war, meeting his end in Auschwitz. But a visit to his masterpiece proves that his name will live on. Located in Amsterdam’s centre, the Tuschinski is close to many hotels.
Bucharest Telephone Palace, Bucharest, Romania
This imposing piece of Art Deco architecture, known locally as the Palatul Telefoanelor, was finished in 1934. In the throes of the Depression, the building was funded by the American Morgan Bank, which was rewarded with a 20-year monopoly on the Romanian telephone industry. A resilient building, the Telephone Palace survived not only the earthquakes of 1940, 1977, 1986 and 1990, but also the Allied bombings of 1944. Designed by Edmond Van Saanen Algi, the building has lasted longer than the Morgan deal, as the post-World War II Communist government nationalized the telephone industry. After years of neglect, a €1 million renovation was undertaken, which was completed in 2005, returning this wonderful Art Deco gem to its original grandeur in the largest architectural reconstruction project ever undertaken in Romania. To see the results, you might want to check out one of the nearby Bucharest hotels.
National Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Koekelberg, Belgium
In a continent full of Gothic, Romanesque and Baroque Churches, the Art Deco National Basilica of the Sacred Heart (French: Basilique Nationale du Sacré-Cœur, Dutch: Nationale Basiliek van het Heilig-Hart) is truly unique. And truly beautiful. When construction began in 1905 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Belgium’s independence, there was no such thing as Art Deco, and a more traditional look was intended. But with two World Wars interrupting construction, the final stone was not laid until 1969, and by then architect Albert Van Huffel 1930s plan was adopted. Gazing up at the two thin towers and 89 metre-high green copper dome is a memorable experience, and the Basilica has become an integral part of the city skyline, allowing you to view the hilltop from many a Brussels hotel room.
Anyone who had to struggle through Physics, Chemistry and Biology classes in school might not put spending time in a science museum at the top of their list. But with the amazing array of science museums throughout Europe, you’d be missing out by skipping them. From sci-fi futuristic architecture in Valencia’s Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències to the arcane-bordering-on-macabre ancient cabinets in Leiden’s Museum Boerhaave, there’s a wide range of science museums, covering a wide range of interests. Here are some of the most interesting.
Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, Valencia, Spain
Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences is located in the dry riverbed of the River Turia, whose recent de-watering has given Valencia the opportunity to create a vast network of modern buildings and parks. The already classic museum, designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela, has been thrilling visitors with its exterior and interior since opening in 1998. Actually made up of many buildings, the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències features the 13,000 square metre eye-shaped L’Hemisfèric (featuring an Imax Cinema, Planetarium and Laserium), the 40,000 square metre El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe (an interactive museum resembling the skeleton of a whale) and L’Umbracle (a landscaped walk with lush gardens and an outdoor art gallery with work by Miquel from Navarre and Yoko Ono). There’s also L’Oceanogràfic, El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia and El Puente de l’Assut de l’Or, huge bridge spanning the former river. Nearby hotels provide excellent views of the complex.
Cité de l’espace, Toulouse, France
Going from the future to the world of outer space, we go to Toulouse and its famous Cité de l’espace. More of a theme park, the City of Space features many full-scale models, ranging from Ariane 5 to the Mir space station, to a collection of Soyuz modules. You can look to the stars in two planetariums, one with 140 seats and the other with 280, and the control room for the Ariane 5 lets you experience the thrill of a rocket launch. The Terradome presents the history of space in an exciting way, and there’s an IMAX screen showing Space Station 3D, which was filmed on board the International Space Station. There’s much more to see in this three and a half hectare park featuring 2,000 square metres of exhibition space, and there are plenty of great Toulouse hotels that put you close to the museum.
Science Museum, London, United Kingdom
From space to history, London’s Science Museum is part of the famous Museum Row, set in South Kensington, close to Hyde Park. Part of the National Museum of Science and Industry, the museum was founded in 1857 and features a mind-boggling 300,000 exhibits, enough to last the whole day. If you don’t have the whole day, you might want to skip ahead to such historically important exhibits as Stephenson’s Rocket, Puffing Billy (the oldest surviving steam locomotive), the first jet engine and a reconstruction of Francis Crick and James Watson’s model of DNA. You can also see the first prototype of the 10,000-year Clock of the Long Now, along with such modern interactive features as the IMAX 3D Cinema, which seems to be a staple of most science museums. If you’re traveling with kids, you might want to take advantage of ”Science Night,” an all-night extravaganza where up to 380 children, accompanied by adults, are invited to spend the night sleeping in the museum galleries amongst the exhibits. Otherwise you’ll have to settle for all the excellent, though less interesting, hotels in the area.
Museum Boerhaave, Leiden, the Netherlands
To delve back further into history, step right up folks, into the Museum Boerhaave. Though this natural history museum only dates back to 1907, the collection in the Museum Boerhaave stretches all the way back to the 1500s, when the Netherlands began several centuries as one of the planet’s leaders in the sciences. In addition to the world’s oldest herbarium, the Museum Boerhaave boasts Willem Blaeu’s giant 17th century quadrant, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek’s microscopes and the planetarium and telescope of the iconic Christiaan Huygens. You can step back to the 18th century in the cabinets of professors ‘s Gravesande and Van Musschenbroek, and there are also physiotherapeutic devices and the papier-mâché anatomical models from the 19th century. And don’t miss the Theatrum Anatomicum, a reproduction a 1596 anatomical theatre where corpses were dissected. If that’s not creepy enough for you, look up to the wall to see three ancient paintings, one of which shows a Prussian peasant from whom a 10 inch sword, swallowed in a drinking bout, has surgically been removed. Leiden also features many great hotels, both inside and outside the canals of the Old City.
Nikola Tesla Museum, Belgrade, Serbia
The scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla has developed quite the loyal following, and the Nikola Tesla Museum, set in the heart of Belgrade pays homage to the man and his work. Here in this 1927 villa, you’ll find over 160,000 original documents, over 2,000 books and journals and, more interestingly, over 1,200 historical technical exhibits. In 2006, in honor of Tesla’s 150th birthday, the museum started an exhibition called “Tesla’s everyday life” which features a collection of textiles and other objects that he used in his everyday life. There are also over 1,500 photos, over 1,000 drawings and plans and many models of Tesla’s inventions. The museum’s archive was inscribed on UNESCO’s 2003 Memory of the World Programme Register for its role in the history of electrification of the world. Due to its central location, the museum is surrounded by many of the best of the city’s hotels.
You’re in Amsterdam. You have an extra day to kill. Would you like to visit the city that’s home to the oldest university in the Netherlands? The city that was the hometown of the Rembrandt? Or the city that boasts the largest Old City after Amsterdam? If the answer is all of the above, then you’ll be wanting to visit Leiden. Set just over 40 kilometres south of Amsterdam and just under 30 from Den Haag, Leiden’s ties to the history of the country are just as strong as either of these more well-known cities. The University was founded in 1575 by none other than William, Prince of Orange and was attended by Queens Juliana and Beatrix and crown-prince Willem-Alexander, and along the city’s extensive canal system can be found some of the best museums, most beautiful parks and best restaurants in the Netherlands.
Though this natural history museum only dates back to 1907, the collection in the Museum Boerhaave stretches all the way back to the 1500s, when the Netherlands began several centuries as one of the planet’s leaders in the sciences. In addition to the world’s oldest herbarium, the Museum Boerhaave boasts Willem Blaeu’s giant 17th century quadrant, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek’s microscopes and the planetarium and telescope of the iconic Christiaan Huygens. You can step back to the 18th century in the cabinets of professors ‘s Gravesande and Van Musschenbroek, and there are also physiotherapeutic devices and the papier-mâché anatomical models from the 19th century. And don’t miss the Theatrum Anatomicum, a reproduction of the lecture theatres where anatomical lessons were held, as portrayed in the paintings of the Dutch Masters.
Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal
Set overlooking the waters of the Oude Singel Canal, De Lakenhal offers a wonderful collection of Dutch art and other historical artifacts from the history of Leiden in the grand Clothmaker’s Hall dating from the year 1640. A museum since 1874, De Lakenhal features the work of 16th century Leiden artists, from Cornelis Engebrechtsz to Lucas van Leyden and from Gerard Dou and David Bailly to such masters as Jan Steen and the young Rembrandt himself. You can also take a look at the museum’s collections of Leiden silver, engraved glass, pewter and tiles. But the exhibits that make this an experience unique to Leiden are the loom, scissors and other relics from the time that this was one of the most important buildings in the city – the place with the famous Leiden cloth was inspected and where the Governors and Syndics of the cloth industry held their meetings.
Molen de Valk
With all the windmills you’ve been seeing from the outside, isn’t it time you actually got to go up inside one? The Molen de Valk (The Falcon|) has been overlooking the Old City’s outer canal since 1743 and once overlooked the city walls, long since disappeared. Starting life as a flour windmill, the Molen de Valk is now a museum. As interesting as the museum exhibits are, the real draw is that you get to explore all seven levels of the windmill, and stepping out onto the balcony up top is a thrilling experience. In an Old City lacking new high-rises, the Molen de Valk still offers one of the best views of the city. Conveniently located, the Molen de Valk is also not far from the railway station. Though this is the last original windmill of the dozens that once circled the city, you can also visit a rebuilt windmill, the original of which belonged to Rembrandt’s father.
Founded in 1590 as part of the university, the Hortus Botanicus is the oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands. Set just off the exclusive and historical Rapenburg Canal, the garden also boasts one of the most picturesque spots in the city, its presence making the surrounding neighborhood even more picturesque. The large collection in this green oasis set behind Leiden University’s Academy Building comes from South-east and East Asia, Southern Europe and South Africa. Here you’ll find over ten thousand botanical species and dozens of different kinds of birds. There’s also a reconstruction of the medicinal herb garden that was here in 1594, as well as a Winter Garden, a Fern Garden, a Rosarium, a Japanese Garden, a Nut Field and many greenhouses. Some of the many past luminaries associated with the garden include Boerhaave, Linnaeus and Einstein, and, history and science aside, the Hortus Botanicus is just one of the nicest places in the Netherlands to take a stroll.
The Old City
Speaking of strolling, this is the best thing you can do in Leiden. If you stop at a print store and look at a 16th century map of the city, you’ll see that little has changed. A stroll down the Haarlemmerstraat and Breestraat take you through what are still the main shopping streets. And though the Reformation left the massive 16th century Pieterskerk, once the place of worship for the Pilgrims before they went to the USA, and the 14th century Hooglandsekerk without their stained glass windows and interior ornamentation, they are still standing. Unlike many smaller Dutch cities, you could truly get lost among Leiden’s canals. But don’t worry. Just keep walking and you’ll eventually find your way to some familiar site. Be sure to have one meal on the water in the centre of the city where the old and new Rijn Rivers come together at Annie’s Verjaardag. You’ll never forget the view. And be sure to climb up to the Burcht van Leiden, the circular fort that marks the spot where the city began so many centuries and so many canals ago. Though Leiden is close to both Amsterdam and Den Haag, there are many great hotels in town that allow you to see the city at your leisure.
The second largest city in the Netherlands and the largest port in Europe, Rotterdam is often a gateway to other parts of the continent. However, do not just quickly pass through to another destination! Spend some time discovering the rich history and maritime of Rotterdam, and you will surely be pleasantly surprised. The vibrant city has a lot to offer visitors—there are fascinating World War II monuments, historical windmills, beautiful beaches, and fantastic hotels in Rotterdam (try the NH Atlanta Rotterdam or the Hilton Rotterdam.) There are also these five must-see tourist attractions:
1. The Delfshaven
Once the actual seaport for the old city of Delft, the Delfshaven district now acts as an open-air museum. Take a leisurely stroll along the quaint, shop and house-lined streets to see what Holland was like in the 1600’s. Famous photo ops include Piet Heynstraat, a street named for the venerable Fleet Admiral Piet Heijn, and the working mill of Korenmolen de Distilleerketel. A particular point of historical interest is that in 1620, the Delfshaven was the departure point for Pilgrims bound for America. They left the port on the Speedwell, and were eventually transferred to the Mayflower. The district’s old church (the Pelgrimskerk, or “Pilgrim Fathers Church”) is still a great place to visit.
2. The Arboretrum Trompenburg
If you feel the need to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, head to Rotterdam’s Arboretrum Trompenburg. The beautiful botanical garden covers 17 acres (7 hectares) of manicured parkland dating all the way back to the early 19th century. Various trees and shrubs, some imported from far-off lands, mingle to create a serene and romantic atmosphere. As the seasons change, so do the attractions within the Arboretrum Trompenburg. The garden’s springtime bulbs are especially lovely.
3. Blijdorp Zoo
Also simply referred to as “Rotterdam Zoo,” Blijdorp is one of the oldest zoos in Europe. The sprawling compound dates back more than 150 years, and is to this day one of Rotterdam’s premier attractions. It is especially popular among those visiting with children; however, guests of all ages are sure to have a wonderful time. Highlights include the exotic animal exhibits—check out the African giraffes and elephants!—and Blijdorp’s famous Oceanarium. The underwater shark tunnel, giant turtles and child-friendly penguin feeding demonstrations are major draws.
The Oceanarium at the Blijdorp Zoo
4. The Euromast
An imposing tower stretching 185 metres (607 foot) high, the Euromast is an iconic part of Rotterdam’s urban skyline. It has been a major focal point since 1960, when the tower was completed. Adventurous visitors should not merely marvel at the tower from the ground; instead, board the exhilarating space-ride simulator that will transport you to the very top of the Euromast! Once there, you will be greeted by breathtaking views of Rotterdam—and by the tantalizing menus of the Panorama Restaurant. As one of the city’s most famous attractions, the Euromast is always very easy to find. It stands within Heuvel Park, near the famous Museumpark.
5. Railz Miniworld
Don’t have time to see the entire city of Rotterdam? Then do the next best thing—head to the Railz Miniworld! The unique attraction is actually a miniature replica of Rotterdam, built around the city’s main freight and passenger railway tracks. You can witness the action in the fashionable harbour district, and even see the time pass from day to night (the cycle runs over a course of 24 minutes, instead of 24 hours—thus recreating even an entire day in miniature!) Obviously an unmissable site for anyone who has played with model trains, the Railz Miniworld is the largest covered model harbour in Europe. It covers 500 square metres, and has more than 100 model trains traveling around 2km of tracks. There are also fully automatic model cars giving life to this tiny city.
Rotterdam in Miniature
The names Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Anne Frank are synonymous with Amsterdam, so it’s no surprise that some of the world’s best museums are located here. In addition to a walk along the beautiful canals and a peek into the seamy Red Light District, time spent in the museums of Amsterdam will reveal much about this exciting Dutch city. But don’t stop at these five. Between the Rembrandthuis, the Amsterdams Historisch Museum the Hermitage Amsterdam and the Joods Historisch Museum, there are enough museums to last your whole visit.
Our first three museums, Amsterdam’s most important and most popular, are located on the Museumplein (Museum Square), created in the 19th century on the site of the World Exposition. This is where you’ll find the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum, as well as Bols Cocktail & Genever Experience, Coster Diamonds and the Concertgebouw
Inside the walls of this 1885 P.J.H. Cuypers’s Gothic Revival building is the largest collection of classical Dutch art on the planet. Here at the Rijksmuseum you can travel back to a time when the world’s greatest painters came from the Netherlands. There’s also Delftware and dollhouses to complete your journey back in time. A painfully short list of highlights: The Night Watch, The Sampling Officials, The Jewish Bride and The Anatomical Lesson of Dr. Deyman by Rembrandt. The Milkmaid, The Love Letter, Woman in Blue Reading a Letter and The Little Street by Vermeer. Portrait of a Young Couple, The Company of Reynier Real, The Jolly Drinker and Portrait of Lucas De Clercq by Hals. And last but not least, The Feast of Saint Nicholas, The Drunken Pair, The Toilet and other scenes of revelry by Jan Steen. As the Rijksmuseum and the Museumplein are in such a central Amsterdam location, there are plenty of hotels nearby.
Van Gogh Museum
The first thing that strikes you about the Van Gogh Museum is that it’s housed in a most modern building, designed by architect Gerrit Rietveld. But once you start gazing upon the work inside, you’ll forget all about the building. This is the largest collection of Van Gogh’s work in the world, and you’ll be surprised when you see how many of the paintings you’re already familiar with. You’ll also be surprised at how completely reproductions and prints fail to convey the power of the originals. Here you’ll follow the artist’s life, from his time in the Netherlands (The Potato Eaters) to his time in the south of France (Bedroom in Arles and Sunflowers) and to his last days in Auvers (Wheatfield with Crows). The museum also features many of his sketches, as well as work by his contemporaries in the Impressionist and post-Impressionist movements like Monet and Gauguin.
Van Gogh makes the perfect transition from the Old Masters to the modern art found in the 1874 Stedelijk Museum, which rounds out the Museumplein. Its vast collection of modern and contemporary art includes 90,000 objects of art in many different formats. The classic facade of the building gives no indication that the museum has been collecting thought-provoking cutting edge art since 1909. Her you’ll find The Beanery by Edward Kienholz, along with the work of Malevich, Bauhaus and De Stijl. The Stedelijk’s collection rivals the more famous collections of the Centre Pompidou and MoMA, and the museum also focuses on education.
Anne Frank House
Leaving the Museumplein and the world of art, we enter a whole different world – a small world hidden in an attic behind a moveable bookcase. The world of Anne Frank. Set blocks away from the other museums, overlooking the quiet Prinsengracht Canal is the Anne Frank House. This is where Anne, a young Jewish girl fleeing from Nazi Germany, hid with her family and several others until their discovery and murder in a concentration camp. The museum now serves as to highlight all forms of persecution and discrimination. After being saved from the wrecking ball in 1955, the museum opened in 1960, after many readers of Anne’s diary starting arriving to be shown around the house by the tenants. After a 1999 renovation, the museum was reopened by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, and now the house is visited by over a million guests per year. There are many great hotels near the museum as well.
Hearkening back to a time with the Netherlands possessed colonies all around the world, the Tropenmuseum (Museum of the Tropics) is an anthropological museum that has been exhibiting objects from the colonies and other tropical cultures since 1864. One of Amsterdam’s largest museums the Tropenmuseum boasts 175,000 pieces, 155,000 photographs and 10,000 drawings, paintings, and documents. Collections come from Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia & North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. There’s also a theatrical collection featuring 5,500 musical instruments and many masks and puppets. And you won’t want to miss the mind-boggling collection of 21,000 textile artifacts, mostly from Indonesia. Stepping outside the door, you return to modern Amsterdam and the many modern hotels found near the museum.
If you thought going to a museum was all about impressionists, cubists, Roman sculptures and old furniture, think again. Since the 1980s a whole new crop of erotic museums and sex museums have been popping up (so to speak) all over Europe, from frozen Saint Petersburg to sizzling Barcelona and every place in between. Each museum is different, boasting its own specialty and each one is quite entertaining.
Erotic Museum, Amsterdam
The granddaddy of Europe’s sex museums, Amsterdam’s Erotic Museum has been open since the 80s. Set in an old warehouse, the Erotic Museum is quiet appropriately situated in the heart of the city’s iconic Red Light District, a sex museum in its own right. Beyond the 17th century façade, whose ancient screed “God is mijn Burgh” (God is my Castle) ironically overlooks the entrance, are five floors of eroticism. In addition to a wax model of a working girl, a constantly playing x-rated version of Snow White and a collection of vintage erotic photos, the museum features many non-erotic exhibits, like its collection of John Lennon lithographs. Though you may not choose to spend the night in the Red Light District, there are many nice Amsterdam hotels surprisingly close.
Musée de l’érotisme, Paris
From the city of sex we go to the city of love. Even the name, Musée de l’érotisme, evokes romance. Open since 1997, Paris’s entry into the sex museum sweepstakes features the erotic art collection of antique dealer Alain Plumey and French teacher Jo Khalifa. Set in the city’s Pigalle District, the museum has a wide-reaching collection that is as classy as its Dutch counterpart is kitschy. Ancient religious art of India, Japan and Africa rub shoulders with contemporary art with an erotic focus over five floors of exhibitions. One floor is devoted to maisons closes, the legal brothels of the 19th and early twentieth centuries, and a collection of pornographic shorts that were exhibited in these brothels, called Polisson et galipettes is also screened. The Pigalle District boasts many hotels, romantic and otherwise, as does the rest of the city.
Beate Uhse Erotik-Museum, Berlin
The sex museum goes high-tech in Berlin’s Beate Uhse Erotik-Museum, a slick, modern museum featuring interactive exhibits, 3D projections, games and more than 30 LED screens. Here you can see over 5,000 items from around the world, from Indian and Asian erotic miniatures to 2,000 year-old Peruvian drinking vessels to African fertility masks. Don’t miss the carved Balinese phalli, and don’t miss the museum shop and the life-sized dioramas depicting sadism, masochism, fetishism and more. If nothing else you’ll walk away remembering the Japanese shunga art, featuring its oversized genitalia and the Chinese Wedding Tiles are also worth a look. Sex education was never so beautiful. And of course, Berlin has a long list of accommodation choices.
Sex Machines Museum, Prague
The name of this 2002 museum says it all. Located right in Old Town Square, among all the medieval buildings, there are some items in the Sex Machines Museum that are, appropriately, quite medieval. The only museum in the world solely dedicated to sex machines, the museum features toys and sexual aids going all the way back to the 1500s in its 200 item collection. Body harnesses and copulation tables are on display, as well as “coercive” chairs designed for absolute domination. You won’t soon forget the Asian “Magic Box” palanquin with its sliding peepholes or the throne chairs their strategically-placed holes designed for oral pleasure. Other items include chastity belts from the 1580s, whose clawed teeth must have been quite effective, as well as the comparably mild shoes worn by Greek prostitutes, which have the sentence “follow my steps” engraved on the soles so that they could leave an imprint on the ground. Set in the centre of the city, the museum is just steps away from many Prague hotels.
The Icelandic Phallological Museum, Húsavík
Though not strictly a sex museum, Húsavík’s Icelandic Phallological Museum has the largest collection of penises gathered anywhere in the world. Don’t worry. They’re not human. In fact, the 272 specimens come from the wide and wild world of the animal kingdom. Exhibits range from the tiniest insect to the largest whale, with all sorts of horses, lizards, cats, dogs and more. There are penises under glass, penises mounted on the walls like trophies and penises floating in formaldehyde It really must be seen to be believed, and the proprietor, Sigurður Hjartarson, a former teacher of history, encourages photographs and discussion. He’s very proud of the collection he’s amassed over the years, and love the museum or hate it, you’ll always remember it. After the museum, you can head to the bay for a whale-watching tour, and then it’s on to one of Húsavík’s charming hotels.