Category : Amsterdam
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.
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.
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.
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.
Believe it or not, even the world’s greatest artists once had homes, just like you and me. Okay, so some of their homes were a little nicer than ours. But since artists often find fame after their deaths, some are downright dreadful. Either way, many of the houses and buildings that artists once called home are now museums and seeing where and how an artist lived is a great way to find insight into their work.
Rembrandt van Rijn
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Little is known about the life of the most masterful of the Old Masters, and Amsterdam’s Museum het Rembrandthuis yields little in the way of biography. What is known is that this was the artist’s home between 1639 and 1658, a period when he created hundreds of paintings. What the museum lacks in historical detail it makes up for in its collection of art. Though you won’t find any Rembrandt paintings, you will find a great collection of his sketches which has been painstakingly gathered by the museum over the years. There are paintings by some of the artists who influenced Rembrandt, like his teacher Pieter Lastman, as well as some works by Rembrandt’s own star student, Ferdinand Bol, all of which help put Rembrandt’s work in context. There is, however, some history on the way, as the cesspool in the courtyard is undergoing an extensive excavation, revealing many historical secrets of the house. To easily visit the museum, there are plenty of Amsterdam hotels in the area.
Vincent van Gogh
Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France and Auvers-sur-Oise, France
The first house that comes to mind when you think of Van Gogh is the yellow house in Arles. Sadly, the yellow house there now is a reproduction, as the original was destroyed by fire during World War II. Luckily we still have several other Van Gogh residences still intact. In fact, Saint-Rémy’s 12th century Monastery Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, the sanitarium where Van Gogh had himself committed from May 1889 until May 1890, is minutes away from Arles. A tour of the place allows you to gaze out the window and see the fields where he painted “The Reaper” and the cypress trees where he painted “The Starry Night.” If you’d like to stay a little longer and check out the town’s Roman ruins, there are plenty of Saint-Rémy hotels. Forty-three kilometres north of Paris is Auvers, where, after finishing over 70 more paintings, including the masterpiece “Wheat Field with Crows,” Van Gogh took his own life. You can see the attic room where Vincent died at the Auberge Ravoux, and if you don’t want to make the trip back to Paris, you can stay at the Hôtel Château De Mery in nearby Méry-sur-Oise
Nine years before Van Gogh was busy dying, Picasso was busy being born in what is now known as the Casa Natal Picasso. Now home to a museum and to the headquarters of the Picasso Foundation, the 1861 building has been a historical monument since 1983. A monument to the life and work of Picasso, the Casa Natal Picasso displays artifacts from his early life, along with many works by the artist and his father, Jose Ruiz Blasco. There’s a library and Research Centre with lots of material on Picasso, as well as a treasure trove of his prints and ceramics and graphic art. The museum is also home to the work of over 200 contemporary artists, including Miró, Christo, Bacon, Ernst, Dokoupil, Guinovart and Moore. Contemporary Málaga are also well-represented. Evan with all of this art, the museum should not be confused with the Picasso Museum, which is located elsewhere in the city. If you’re looking for accommodation near the museum and close to the magnificent Málaga Cathedral, the Hotel del Pintor is just two blocks away.
Though Salvador Dalíspent much of his life traveling, the house now hosting the Casa Museu Salvador Dalí was his prime residence from 1930 until his wife’s death in 1982. This is where he lived and worked, and just a glance at the rocky Catalan landscape and blue Mediterranean waters attest to that, as they look like they come straight out of one of his paintings. Remaining as he left it in 1982, the house is more of an accurate reflection of the artist than many of the other artist homes, and you can still sense Dalí’s creative spirit throughout. The abstract painting on the door is not exactly Dalí’s. Legend has it that after local fishermen painted their boats, they were invited to clean their brushes on it. Seeing Dalí’s studio as he left it is a treat, as is the phallic-shaped swimming pool and his famous collection of mustaches. The charming fishing village of Cadaqués is also a treat, and instead of rushing back to Barcelona, you might consider a stay in one of its hotels.
Originally the Hôtel Biron, the great sculptor used this grand Parisian building as his residence after 1908. It’s hard to imagine the Musée Rodin as anything but a museum, as its open spaces and oversized windows make it a natural for this purpose. But perhaps that’s why Rodin liked it. Most of his significant creations are here, including the Kiss, the Gates of Hell and of course, the Thinker. Many can be seen in the natural setting of the surrounding parkland, which is also where you’ll find a lake and a restaurant. Check out the room dedicated to his student Camille Claudel. Check out the Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh paintings which came from his personal collection. On a sad note; after Rodin donated the sculptures, paintings and house to the French government, he fell on hard times. With no place to live, he asked to be able to stay in a single room in his former house. He was refused, and he ended up freezing to death in the cold Paris winter while his sculptures stayed warm inside. The Hôtel du Palais Bourbon offers a nice warm room just a half block from the museum.
Posted in Amsterdam, Cologne, Dublin, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, London, Netherlands, Rome, The UK on 04. Jan, 2011
Although it would be nice to travel for leisure all of the time, sometimes there is work to be done. Luckily, in Europe, it is easy to enjoy the best of both worlds. Forgo the ordinary lecture halls and boring conference rooms in favor of one of these one-of-a-kind conference centres. Each beautifully fuses the state-of-the-art technology you need with the Old World romance and charm of ancient Europe.
Beurs van Berlage – Amsterdam
Dating back to 1903, this stunning structure was originally home to a stock exchange. Today, the magnificent Italian Renaissance-style compound (created after the concept of the “palazzo pubblico”) houses impressive halls and rooms for special events. It is an important monument in the city centre, and it enjoys a very convenient location. Beurs van Berlage is a 3-minute walk from Central Station and is a stone’s throw from the best hotels in Amsterdam.
Central Hall Westminster – London
London knows no shortage of conference halls. However, the Central Hall Westminster—easily identified by its historic Edwardian façade—may be the most beautiful. The building overlooks world-famous Westminster Abbey and beneath its domed ceiling, you will find ample and versatile space for meetings and celebrations. Most notably, the hall hosted the Inaugural General Assembly of the United Nations in 1946. The building itself dates back to 1912 and it is surrounded by some of the finest London hotels.
London's Central Hall Westminster
Dublin Castle – Dublin
True to its name, Dublin Castle is an impressive and regal event venue. Each of its five distinctly different sections has its own architectural character and style. Together, the units comprise one of the most interesting and beautiful conference centres in Europe. It was originally built to host Ireland’s Presidencies of the European Union, and it still remains a popular choice for meetings and celebrations. Along with elegant atmosphere and modern technology, Dublin Castle boasts a great location near many hotels in Dublin.
Complesso Monumentale Santo Spirito in Saxia – Rome
The Complesso Monumentale Santo Spirito in Saxia manages to seamlessly blend 15th-century architecture with modern facilities. The spacious complex consists of two large halls with incredible frescoes, two cloisters, four meeting rooms and various break-out paces. These options are perfectly positioned in the heart of the Eternal City, surrounded by its most famous piazzas and palaces. Of course, there are many fantastic Rome hotels nearby. Popular choices include the Hotel Villa Pinciana and the Grand Hotel De La Minerve.
Kongress Palais Kassel – Kassel
Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and historical conference centres in Europe, the Kongress Palais Kassel hosts events large and small. Its Old World elegance, forward-thinking innovation and efficient, friendly staff make it an excellent choice. What’s more, the centre’s location in the heart of Germany (near the InterCity train station in Bad Wilhelmshöhe) place it conveniently close to many fantastic hotels in Kassel and beyond. Lastly, the Kongress Palais Kassel has a coveted Green Globe Certificate—so you can rest assured that your event will be eco-friendly as well.
the main entryway to the Kongress Palais Kassel
Gürzenich Köln – Cologne
Widely known as the city for media and communications, Cologne is a popular place to hold business events. It is always on the cutting-edge of technology; however, the city retains its historic and romantic charm. An excellent example of this fusion of old and new is the Gürzenich Köln in the vibrant city centre. Its Gothic façade dates back to 1447. Meanwhile, contemporary upgrades may be found throughout. From concerts and cabarets to exhibitions and lectures, this dynamic venue has hosted it all. Nearby hotels in Cologne include the Cologne Marriott Hotel and the Barcelo Cologne City Center.
HOFBURG Vienna – Vienna
An amazingly large and glamorous venue, the HOFBURG Vienna is actually housed within the former imperial palace. It stands in the heart of the historical centre (minutes from many wonderful hotels in Vienna) and covers over 17,000 square metres in functional workspace. Although they have been updated to offer the latest technology, the grand halls and staterooms of the palace have not lost their original charm. The result is a whimsical yet efficient atmosphere sure to enhance any celebration or conference.
Centre Culturel de Rencontre Abbaye de Neumünster – Luxembourg
Neumünster Abbey has led an interesting life. It was originally built to be a place for reflection; however, it was soon after transformed into a prison. Today, the site is home to the historic yet state-of-the- art Centre Cultural de Rencontre Abbaye de Neumünster. As part of the Modal Heritage Site by UNESCO, it is an important feature of Luxembourg’s urban landscape. Book a room at one of the many hotels in Luxembourg (like the Hotel Carlton or Hotel Parc Bellevue) to ensure convenience.
the famous Centre Culturel de Rencontre Abbaye de Neumünster
Le Palais Beaumont – Pau
Belle Epoque architecture meets top-of-the-line technology at Le Palais Beaumont in Pau. The sprawling compound dates back to 1899, and it was restored as a conference venue in 1999. The historical complex comprises high-tech conference facilities, two gourmet restaurants and even a casino. There are a total of 22 meeting halls surrounded by acres of pleasant countryside. An hour away, you will find Biarritz and the Spanish border. Closer to home, many hotels in Pau await to accommodate your stay.
Pieterskerk Leiden – Leiden
Set within the historical city centre of Leiden, the Pieterskerk Leiden perfectly blends into the urban landscape. The beautiful Gothic church dates back to 1121, making it one of the oldest conference venues around. Today the structure plays host to parties, receptions, exhibitions and other events with ease and style. Gatherings of up to 1,200 guests ma be accommodated; however, the large conference centre still manages to retain an intimate atmosphere. A recent renovation (completed in 2009) left the Pieterskerk Leiden even better than ever before. One thing that remained unchanged, however, is its great location near the best attractions and hotels in Leiden. Consider the De Doelen or the Golden Tulip Leiden Centre.
Many airports have finally figured out that passengers with long layovers and passengers who arrive early for their flights not only have time on their hands, but they also have money in their wallets. As a result, many airport shopping centres now rival their city counterparts, featuring name brands at discount prices and many other services as well. Lucky you. Here are a few of the best European airports for shopping.
London Heathrow Airport
So you Finished that London trip, and you didn’t have time to make it to Harrods for that gift for Aunt Lucy. No worries. Just stop by the Harrods at Heathrow. And the Liberty. And Hermes, Prada and Versace. These are only a few reasons that Heathrow Airport was given the 2010 Skytrax World Airport Best Airport Shopping Award. If all that shopping has given you a crick in your neck, you can get a massage from the At Be Relax Spa, in Satellite Terminal 5B or relax in one of the YOTEL’s cabins, with their en suite bathrooms, free Internet access, and “techno wall” entertainment system. If you’re here for a layover, the Heathrow Express can have you inside Westminster Abbey inside an hour! And as you might expect, there are plenty of great hotels near Heathrow as well.
Munich International Airport
While Heathrow Airport 2010’s Best Shopping Award, Munich International Airport won the Skytrax World Airport Award for best airport in Europe in 2010 and was ranked number 4 in the world after the famous Singapore, Seoul, and Hong Kong airports. In addition to 150 shops, the airport is also popular with locals for the free concerts. Relaxation comes in the form of massages at the gate and “napcabs,” soundproofed mini-rooms designed for your snoozing pleasure. The airport also offers a cinema, and for those wanting some activity after a long flight, there’s soccer, beach volleyball, min-golf and even winter ice skating. And it’s no surprise that the city known for its Oktoberfest celebration would be the first to offer the world its first airport brewery, which is located at the Hofbräuhaus. If you find you’ve spent too much time at the Hofbräuhaus, the Kempinski Hotel Airport München offers a five-star location to spend the night, right at the airport, between Terminals 1 and 2. There are also plenty of other hotels near the airport.
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
The airport that Heathrow beat out for the Best Airport Shopping Award offers some amenities that cannot be found in any other airport in the world. In fact, much of the circle of life is represented here in the only airport that offers both a wedding chapel and a mortuary. The airport also offers the largest complex for duty-free shopping, with fifty shops and boutiques offering over 120,000 products at famously low prices. And then there’s Schiphol Plaza. Located before customs, this immense shopping venue caters to non-travelers as well. There’s also a library featuring 1,200 books in 29 languages, along with music from Dutch composers. Being a city of art and culture, Amsterdam has opened a branch of its iconic Rijksmuseum, offering a small overview of classical and contemporary art right at the airport. If you’d like to see more, then both Amsterdam and Den Haag are short train rides away, offering the chance to see the world’s greatest art during your layover. And don’t forget about all the nearby hotels.
Rome Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino Airport
Though the northern Italian city of Milan is regarded as the fashion capital of Italy, if not Europe, Fiumicino Rome Airport’s Shopping Gallery is famous for being the largest airport shopping center in Europe dedicated to luxury goods. The Shopping Gallery offers a whopping 140 stores featuring the biggest names in fashion, from Aeronautica Militare to Zoccai. High end products are offered at low end prices at such stores as Roma Travel Shop, Fabriano, Venchi, Tendenze, Riva, Dolce & Gabbana, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bulgari, Burberry, Prada… you get the picture. If you can’t wait to get home to try on your booty, you can always check into a nearby Fiumicino Airport hotel. The Hilton Garden Inn Rome Airport is actually located right in the airport.
Saving the biggest airport for last, Frankfurt Airport is continental Europe’s largest airport and one of the busiest, having moved 50,932,840 passengers in 2009. Also immense is its shopping, which is spread out over 20,000 square metres. Shops are open from 5:00 AM until 10:00 PM every day and range from supermarkets and delicatessens to classy clothes boutiques and photo shops. Hairdressers, textile cleaners and alteration tailors can also be found, and there’s even a sex shop where one can buy goods of an adult nature. Also in the adult category is the Airport Casino, where passengers can try their luck at Roulette, Black Jack and many slot machines. Player’s Island offers more slot machines, BigCash Club, Internet terminals, computer games and much more, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If all that activity has you too tired to head into town, there are many airport hotels that are much closer.