Vienna is a historical gem of Europe, spoiling it’s locals and tourists alike with an infinite amount of must-visit spots. Everyone can find his or her perfect piece of the Austrian capital no matter what kind of affinities or preferences you have. It’s rich culture, stunning historical and modern architecture, delightful food and incredible coffeehouses will satisfy all categories of people, from easy-going students to snobbish bankers.
I would probably be the main competitor of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” trilogy if I would try to mention all beautiful sights and places in Vienna. Furthermore the city is constantly growing creating a harmonious composition of ancient and modern times. Nevertheless there is no need to write about everything, in my opinion you should discover Austria’s largest city by yourself. Anyway here is my list of significant places to visit in the city, that I once called home for over three years.
Shopping in the center of Vienna
The city centre of Vienna is stunning and full of surprises. It is pedestrian friendly, easy to overview because of it’s compact size and also full with historical treasures. The main monument of the Old Town is St. Stephan’s Cathedral, in which Mozart was married in 1782. The oldest parts of that impressive building dates back to the 13th century. It presents an ensemble of different eras like Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Take your time and definitely visit the iconic St. Stephan’s Cathedral.
Other than admiring historical gems of the city while strolling through the beautiful streets you can also discover amazing boutiques. Shopping is a pleasure in Vienna: From well-known until exclusive brands, in local shops you will find everything what your shopaholic heart could only wish for and your wallet would be afraid of!
Best of Vienna: Sacher Torte & Opera Hous
After walking through the Kärntner Strasse, the time has come to taste the legendary Sacher Torte, traditional chocolate cake with apricot jam. The most famous place to try this sweet desire is in the Sacher Hotel. It will undoubtedly be a memorable experience, pleasant for the eyes and delightful for all your other senses.
As you may know, Vienna is the world’s music capital. Numerous famous composers have lived in and been inspired by Austria’s capital. That’s why it’s a must to observe the Vienna State Opera from outside and inside. If you have an opportunity to see one of the performances, don’t hesitate and cultivate yourself! Constructed in 1869 till present time, it has survived through great European political changes and remains as a proud symbol of Vienna’s impressive history.
Schönbrunn Palace, Sisi’s modest summer house
Schönbrunn Palace, built in the 1740s and remodeled throughout the times, it is one of the main attractions in Vienna. The Baroque palace is famous for it’s magnitude, impressive interior and stunning garden. It used to be the summer residence of the eccentric Queen Elisabeth also known as Sisi and her husband Franz Joseph. The majority of the world admired the wild Bavarian girl Sissi but not many know that she was an egoistical person, who loved beautiful women and lead her son to commit suicide. She had passion for traveling which she proved in her anchor shaped tattoo on her shoulder. Additionally she had often asked her attendants to tie her to a fixed chair on the main deck of the ship during heavy storms. She was also obsessed with her appearance and suffered of anorexia, but she was proud of her 50cm waist. A unique person this Queen!
Schönbrunn palace is definitely an ideal getaway from the busy city. Take your time and explore the various green gardens and the lookout on the opposite side of the main palace. Have a sit on one of the benches and enjoy the spectacular view of the palace and garden.
Best places to eat and have a coffee in Vienna
Vienna’s culture is also famous for its coffeehouses and wineries. A Typical Viennese coffeehouse is “where time and space is consumed, but only coffee is found on the bill.” You will easily find people sitting for hours alone with a cup of coffee or a glass of delicious wine reading a book, writing or chatting with friends. There are plenty of charming coffee places in Vienna but here are some of my favourites. Wienerin, the rustic and chic ambiance in the heart of the city seduces it’s guests with traditional Viennese culinary served in an exclusive way with savory wines.
Hipsters love Cafe Liebling, famous for it’s minimalistic furniture design and sumptuous breakfasts. Located close to the U-Bahn Station Neubaugasse it’s easy to miss this place if you’ve never heard about it’s existence. That makes it even more interesting, doesn’t it?
Another simple coffee house but with a great attitude is Cafe Europa, hiding on the streets of Zollergasse. It’s a cozy place with cool lounge music, which is also an ideal hideaway on rainy days, when you can curl up in one of the window seats and watch the rain drops racing on the window glass. The food is a great treat and prices are more than acceptable. A great spot to try a Viennese coffee melange!
Must visit in Vienna: Naschmarkt
All curious foodies should visit this market, A crucial hot spot since the 16th century, and stroll through the fresh fruits and vegetables from around the world, meat, seafood, exotic herbs, cheese and baked goods. If you walk through the market, which is stone’s throw away from the center of the city, once you won’t be hungry anymore, because from every side you will be seduced by little tasters. The amazing fact about Naschmarkt is it’s very multi-cultural and you can savour any kind of ethnic meal that your foodie soul could wish for!
Best place to relax in Vienna: Museumsquartier
The abbreviation MQ stays for MuseumsQuartier, a lively and creative urban courtyard surrounded by historic building from the 18th century and contemporary museums like Leopold Museum, MUMOK and Kunsthalle Wien. This great outdoor area offers restaurants, cafes and little shops. This place never sleeps, the cultural activities and events, performances entertain it’s visitors throughout the year. From young to old, everyone loves to hang out in this area and enjoy the relaxing, artistic vibes. My advice; have an opulent breakfast at Leopold cafe, you will be impressed!
How to get to Hundertwasser museum in Vienna?
Hundertwasser is an iconic Austrian artist and architect of 20th century, known for his affection for intense, radiant colours. If you want to see something surrealistic and breathtaking then you doubtlessly need to visit Hundertwasser Village and explore the surroundings. You will be surprised by how different it is from the rest of Vienna: the playful and rich colours and the shapeless forms protesting against rationalism in architecture. You can admire Hundertwasser’s rebellious art at the metro station Spittelau, where he designed the waste incinerator and power station. My advice is to visit Kunst Haus Wien, which is further from the city center, however the architectonic highlight of the European gem.
Best bars and restaurants in Vienna
Vienna is an incredible city to experience world class culinary and gourmet restaurants. It’s famous for it’s traditional Austrian kitchen and sophisticated international fusion. Both are food contrasts to be treasured in the capital of Austria. A classic of Viennese fancy kitchen and highlight for visiting Vienna is Plachutta Wollzeile. It offers a friendly service, phenomenal dishes and undoubtedly a memorable experience.
Another bar-restaurant-miracle of Vienna is the gorgeous Graben30 in the heart of the city. The mesmerizing interior design of a modern and old-fashioned artistic style with a touch of industrial-urban is the place to be. It’s a fantastic place to have breakfast, dinner or experience a fancy way of clubbing. Furthermore Instagram-Junkies will be spoiled with opportunities to take outstanding pictures.
One more hidden jewel with a panoramic view of the magnificent Stephansdom is Onyx Bar, located on the 6th floor of the Haas House. This small but chic bar offers an exquisite cocktail menu and delicious cakes. Politicians, celebrities and just beautiful smartly dressed people are the main guests of this charming place. Don’t miss it!
Moin! This is how you greet people in Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city and biggest port. It’s famous for not being shy, but rough and tough. No wonder the whole city is covered with an industrial and sailor spirit: the strict, minimalistic architectural design, the smelly fish market and a never-ending nightlife on the streets of the red-light district, the Reeperbahn. The city offers plenty of vibrant and diverse neighborhoods, huge green parks and windy, cold weather. Oh, yes, the weather, you could complain about this constantly in the Northern Pearl!
For people who have a passion for harbors, fresh air and the sound of screaming seagulls, Hamburg is an ideal destination. The metropolis is surrounded on all sides by a vast amount of water. In the city you will discover numerous canals, streams and bridges. A little known fact is that Hamburg has more bridges inside the city than Amsterdam and Venice combined! Another fact is that everyone loves Hamburg, I’ve lived there for ages and I’ve never met someone who wouldn’t like this harsh and cool metropolis of Germany. I think the reason how they overhyped the city is the excellent marketing: on every corner you will see “Hamburg“, “typical Hamburg” inducing a sense of patriotism amongst the locals.
Let me show you around my ex-hometown and introduce you to my favorite places, which are full with epic memories. But first of all I will warn you, the public transport an taxis are insanely expensive in Hamburg, my advice take a wild ride on a city bike! Good for your health and even better for your pocket.
Start your day with visiting Hamburg’s city center
Everything in Hamburg starts with visiting the main square in the city center, the beautiful historic Rathausmarkt. You will be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the Neo-Renaissance town hall, located in the heart of the city next to the Inner Alster lake. The inner city is by the way divided into two lakes, Inner and Outer Alster. It’s also a perfect place for shopping: From luxury shops on Neuer Wall and in Alsterhaus until well-known brands, you will find almost everything that your fashionable heart desires. In between you can have some food from the buffet in Alsterhaus or a coffee in Alex. Both places are pretty busy and may seem very touristic, but they have an ideal central location with an amazing spot overlooking the Inner Alster.
Tip: You want to know how Hamburg tastes? Try a classic of the city, Franzbrötchen. This cinnamon bun will make your day!
Alster is the pride of Hamburg hence, it is a must to have a tranquil walk around the artificial lake. During the winter, it is possible to make a walk across the lake to the other bank and even enjoy ice skating without getting wet. In the sunny days you can rent a paddle boat or canoe to go out on an Alster journey. It’s an amazing opportunity to admire the landscape and magnificent architecture from the water.
To escape the chaotic city and immerse into a romantic and maritime atmosphere, you can have a walk along the Outer Alster. On the way you will observe sumptuous magnificent buildings, which only rich people can afford. You will also discover a couple of beach cafès hiding in the endless greenery, where you can sip on a fancy glass with wine. My beloved one is Cafè Prüsse, which offers an amazing view of the sailboats and has a delicious menu with great prices. Finish your pleasant walk in the Alsterpark. It’s an excellent location to open a bottle of wine and watch the colorful sunset.
Insider: Hidden classic bar Le Lion’s Bar de Paris, one of the stand out cocktail bars in Germany. You can’t see it from the outside, you need to ring the bell and wait until you will be allowed to enter the chamber. The sophisticated ambience, tiny room and dimmed lights will make you feel like a part of the special secret group.
Planten un Blomen, time for a break in the famous park!
Hamburg, a green waterside metropolis is not only known for it’s highest standard of living, but also for it’s green-friendly attitude. It is impressively full with forests, parks and other green urban areas in comparison to most cities of similar size. One of the cherished places in the center of the city are the huge park fountains, lawns and floral displays, Planten un Blomen. Anyone who wants to have a romantic walk, a moment of relaxation or just to catch up with friends should visit this gorgeous green recreation in Dammtor. It also offers a beautiful water light show with music till the end of the day. You can admire the dancing colored fountains for half an hour every night at 10 p.m. from May to September for free.
Afterwards you can visit the legendary Zwick Bar in Pöseldorf. It’s an authentic Rock’n Roll pub, where two worlds are clashing with each other to create a perfect match. The pub is in a fancy area with magnificent architecture, that’s why you will meat plenty of rich prigs. But don’t judge the place immediately, Hamburg is full of rich supercilious oafs anyway. But in Zwick you will also see Harley Davidson people or other suspicious creatures. Sounds bizarre but believe me you will be infatuated with the shady atmosphere, great rock music, chatty people and of course simple pub drinks!
Tip: If you still think the pub was not enough for you and your feet are craving for a dance floor, then visit the small and cozy Club Du Nord, just a stone’s throw away of the Milchstraße.
Sternschanze, Hamburg’s cool contrast
Hamburgs hip and trendy Sternschanze exudes unique charming vibes. It’s casualness and coolness is an extreme contrast to the conservative rich areas. Hamburg is the healthiest city in Germany, full with rich people. That’s why this district seems to be like from a different planet with it’s unusual streets.
In the 80s Schanze, the short version of Sternschanze, was dilapidated a problematic area with old buildings, where workers and foreigners could get cheap apartments. Nowadays it’s a cultivated vivid place, where you can stroll through hipster shops, cafès, restaurants with an alternative international kitchen or you can just observe interesting cool people. One of the cute cafés with delicious food is Kostbar. It’s an ideal place to start your day with an energizing tasty breakfast or just to have a lunch with one of the international cousin dishes. Another hotspot is Altes Mädchen, which translates to “Old Girl”. It’s a very popular eatery centered on Germany’s emerging craft beer industry.
Tip: Every sailor should have a tattoo, the traditionally favored anchor or personal ink statement on the skin. If you are spontaneous and rebellious, then visit the tattoo salon Wild Cat. They will help you to decor your skin!
The creative atmosphere changes in the evening, when all kinds of people from young to old, from fancy to alternative gather in the bars and streets of Sternschanze. It transforms into an outgoing, laughing and chatty little world, where you can escape from all troubles and end up with a good party night.
If you are in a chilling mood, then Sofa Bar would be glad to have you as a guest. It’s a Schanze’s classic hangout bar furnished with huge vintage sofas. For tourists the location may seem shabby and drinks too simple, but it’s all about the buzzing atmosphere and easy-going visitors.
Tip: Try Hamburg’s original beer, Astra, with a unique and flavorful character!
Katze, which means “Cat” in German, is another cool and vibrant bar in the heart of the Sternschanze. It’s old, dirty but with an amazing easy-going atmosphere. You can enjoy your beer or wine inside. I would suggest to go outside, especially during the summer evenings. There you can get to know new people and have an amusing chat with locals.
If a couple of drinks were not enough for you and you feel like you need to present your dancing skills to the audience, then visit the cool underground club “Kleiner Donner“. Be careful to show up on time, because after 12p.m. it’s so full, so you won’t be able to get inside anymore.
What is Hamburg famous for: Red lights of Reeperbahn
The iconic party and red light district, which has the rhythm of an owl: sleeping during the day and hunting during the night. You will be positively surprised by the magnitude of the area and the vivid, loud atmosphere. Reeperbahn is a place where since the 1960s polite behavior doesn’t exist and sins have a strong attitude. It used to be the sailor’s red-light district but nowadays it turned into a party neighborhood with bars, clubs, theaters and high-class restaurants.
The most famous side street of Reeperbahn is “Große Freiheit”, which translates as “Great Freedom”. It’s a very touristic spot filled with bars, clubs and sexy dancing girls (ok, how sexy they are, is a question of perspective). Many clubs, like “Kaiserkelle, were embossed from Rock’n’Roll. Famous bands like “The Beatles” who started their musical path of success here. I would love to tell you, where you could dance the night away, but first of all plenty of clubs changed their owners, names and music style.
Tip: Try the typical Kiez-Drink “Mexikaner”. It’s a mix of cheap Vodka, Tabasco, Sangria and tomato juice in one shot. This popular one you will find in “Villa Kunterbunt” for a delicious 50 cents.
While walking through the neon streets surrounded by drunk people, trashy drag queens, flirty prostitutes and numerous clubs and sex shops, you may reach “Hamburger Berg”. It’s an area filled with bars, pubs and especially beloved by students, because clubs don’t require you to pay for the entrance.
Another famous and very touristic place is “Hans-Albers-Platz”, which is again full with numerous bars and pubs. It’s named after the actor, whose statue you can find in the middle of the square. The bars are also full with people, so you can’t move but still it’s possible to enjoy your cheap drink and rock, heavy metal or just chart music. And if you are in a hunting mood, be careful what kind of girl you are talking to, the street is occupied by prostitutes.
If you think you should be treated in an exclusive way and you would like to cherish the picturesque view of the city from the top of a skyscraper, then you should doubtlessly visit “Skyline Bar 20up” or “Clouds“. To be sure to enjoy excellent quality and service, book a table in advance.
After a big night out, it’s time to visit Hamburg’s Fishmarket on the Große Elbstraße. Just a little walk away, on Sunday morning you will meet the sunrise with other half sleepy, fully drunk visitors, screaming hawkers and stalls filled with fresh food. Buy some coffee, bread with fish and experience the special atmosphere of the iconic market.
Biggest project of Hamburg, HafenCity
Another pride and amazing landmark of Hamburg’s city center, Hafencity. It’s a district located on the Elbe river with old port warehouses replaced with extremely expensive new residential areas. The area is presenting a full spectrum of modern and futuristic urban architecture with perfectly implemented cafés and restaurants. During the summer you can enjoy the sounds on the terrace and watch container ships passing by.
Hafencity is the largest development project in Europe and it’s still not very favored by the locals nor by tourists. It’s an ideal place for companies’ office. A little walk through the urban jungle and you will reach Elbe Philharmonic Hall.
Every metropolis has this building, it costs a huge amount of money but is never finished. Hamburg has that one too, Elbe Philharmonic Hall. The building that stirs up different feelings, some say it’s magnificent others think it’s grotesque. So again it depends on your personal perspective.
Finish your walk with exploring the streets of “Speicherstadt”, the old version of the harbour with it’s neo-Gothic architecture and Hamburg’s beloved red bricks. Absorb Hamburg’s maritime spirit and maybe visit “Miniature Wunderland“, which will present you with a mini version of the world!
And again, I couldn’t mention all of the beautiful places in Hamburg, which are worth your treasured time! I gave my best to introduce you to some of the great spots, where you will get to know the rough and tough culture of Hamburg. The gigantic metroplis is also Germany’s singles city. No wonder it’s too distractive and extremely tempting with all the entertaining spots, red- and neon-light districts and easy-going free attitude. My last advice would be to visit The Boilerman Bar in the fancy Eppendorf district. It’s a very small cozy whisky bar, where you can try various amazing cocktails, have a chat with the barman and for a change smoke IN the bar! Prost, Hamburch!
Paris, a magnificent city, which is the second largest French speaking metropolis in the world, it’s famous all over the world for plenty of reasons: delicious long baguettes, crunchy croissants, breathtaking architecture and the musical language of love. You are probably surprised, but Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is in first place. Nevertheless growing from a small village, Paris today is an influential and tremendous metropolis with diverse areas.
Paris offers numerous possibilities to entertain yourself, from historical museums filled with artworks and sculptures, beautiful theaters and 9,057 of different open terraces, where you can savor incredibly delicious food and great wine. And if you are in love with bread, then Paris will be an epitome for you: There are 1,784 bakeries in Paris. Apropos love: It’s amazing to walk around and see lovely couples kissing and looking deeply in each other’s eyes, without being ashamed of showing their sensitive sides. The French language and behavior resembles love doves cuddling under the roof. It means Paris is an ideal place to fall in love in the city and with the city.
But before you get lost in this French urban jungles, overwhelmed by the choice of sights, let me guide you through the hidden parts of the huge historical metropolis. Let us be a tiny bit different and observe not the typical touristic places. Just one reminder, don’t forget to charge you camera, to capture the beauty of the magnificent city. My advice, take a power bank with you. I’m using Lumsing® 16000mAh, which is great. It charges your phone within 30 minutes and you can use the battery 8-10 times until you need to plug it in again.
Regarding Paris´magnitude you might be using the public transport. It’s very simple to orientate yourself in the city, because there are plans and signs everywhere, showing you the way. If you stay just for a weekend you might get 10 tickets for 14, 10€. If you want to buy a single trip ticket, it would cost you 1,90€. If you are planing to stay for longer, it might be worth to get a rechargeable week card, which works from Monday until Sunday and costs 5€. For 25€ you will be able to use every public transport up to 18 times. You can buy these cards at any counter, just don’t forget to bring a photo of yourself in a passport size.
The perfect start in Le Petit Château d’Eau
There is small charming French café close to the Republique metro station, where you can have a terrific start of your day. Surrounded only by locals, in a hidden street of Paris, away from the chaotic big city, the wonderful Le Petit Château d’Eau will provide you with a typical French breakfast: delicious croissants with various sorts of cheese and an awakening coffee. The little oasis is owned and delegated by the family since 5 years, which gives it a cozy feeling, as if you would visit your friends. Furthermore the delicious food and typical French design of the café will let you immerse into the traditional French culture and have an excellent beginning of your lovely trip. You can also visit Le Petit Château d’Eau in the evening and have a drink with the chatty patrons.
Happy hour in Etienne Marcel
After an amazing waking up procedure in Le Petit Chateau you can visit another marvelous area, which is just a 15 minutes walk away and it’s next to metro station Etienne Marcel. This district is popular with it’s numerous cafés, open terraces and restaurants. It’s a great spot to have a break after the never-ending sightseeing and get some inner fuel. Additionally it’s a place to be in the evening, when every location seduces French habitants and curious tourists with it’s happy hour.
Just a stone’s throw away you will discover the well-known Centre Georges Pompidou, a vast public library, the largest museum for modern art in Europe and also a centre for music and acoustic research. You might not fall in love with the complex building on the first sight, but don’t judge this book by it’s cover. It may still seem to be under construction, which is not true apparently. Nevertheless Centre Pompidou has a smart soul: The architectonical statement and radical design was born by known architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers in the 1970´s. They decided to focus on the beauty of the functional elements of the structure, that’s why the building is classified as Structural Expressionism. The main idea of the Centre Pompidou is being flexible and able to be reconfigured to suit new conditions. To achieve this, they turned the construction inside-out to maximize the internal magnitude. On the west facade of the complex you will see color-coded ducts: blue is the climate control, yellow is electric wires, green is plumbing and red fulfills the role of communication. The pipes, tubes, escalators and ducts create the illusion that it is a machine. The terminator carcass gives a possibility to realize emptiness, amazing light structure and a flexible interior by using temporary walls and partitions. The result is a genius building for the exhibitions from the architectural point of view, from the esthetic side it’s ambiguous though. Nevertheless it’s one of the Paris’s most visited attractions.
Every first Sunday of the month the entrance to the vibrant arts exhibitions of Centre Pompidou are for free. If you missed that opportunity then you can also visit the hyper-industrial restaurant, Georges, with magnificent panoramic views of Paris. You can access the restaurant by a free elevator.
The secret spot in Paris
Continue exploring the city center, you will have a chance to see exposing Louvre and majestic gothic Cathedral Notre Dam de Paris. After acknowledging the historical masterpieces you may want a break in a hidden spot, located on the Square du Vert-Galant, just follow the stairs, leading you under the bridge. It may sound suspicious, but it’s a beloved spot by locals to observe the scenic view of the river and Louvre. Just don’t forget to take a drink, so you will have the optimal justification to stay longer. Afterwards you can visit the Eiffel Tower, which starts sparkling between 8 – 9 p.m. A memorable show!
Interesting fact about Monmartre
Another splendid and must-see place in the heart of Paris is charming Montmartre. It’s hill is the highest point of the city, which reaches 130 meters and is proudly topped by the landmark, Church of Sacré-Coeur. The basilica was built between 1875 and 1914 and it’s name means “Sacred Heart”. It’s a reference to Jesus’ heart. The word Montmartre itself means “Mountain of the Martyr” and comes from the brutal martyrdom of Saint Denis, the bishop of Paris in 250 AD. Saint Denis was a missionary who was sent to spread Catholicism in the city of Paris. Unfortunately not everyone liked it and one of the local pagan priests sentenced him to death. According to the legend Saint Denis was decapitated on the famous hill, but even then , he stood up, picked up his head and walked another 10 kilometers preaching a sermon. So over time when you see sculptures, paintings or watch the movie “Sleepy Hollow”, you will know from where the inspiration came.
Climb the stairs and as an award you will see the picturesque view of the metropolis. Montmartre has long been known as a home of various Bohemian artists, like Picasso, Matisse and Dali. The area inspired and provided ideas for the incredible masterpieces for such great painters like Van Gogh and Utrillo. Nowadays you can find numerous painters on a square Place du Tetre, which is located just a few steps away from basilica Sacré-Coeur.
Filming location of the movie Amelie in Paris
As an authentic fan of the movie “The fabulous destiny of Amélie Poulain”, you should know that the majority of the scenes were filmed in the neighborhood of Montmartre, in Paris. We’ve already started with the amazing hill, so now it’s time to visit “Cafe des Deux Moulains”, which is very close to the Cathedral Sacré-Coeur. You can soak in one of the movie scenes and imagine that you could meet Amelie here personally. The location has almost an exact environment that is familiar to us from the movie. The only missing piece, is the tobacco shop. Definitely enter the restroom and not only for being part of iconic Georgette’s and Jesophe’s love scene, but also to admire the film’s artifacts displayed behind the glass, one of them is the legendary travel gnome. Despite the fact, that the café played a significant role in the movie, it’s not overfilled with tourists. We could easy and quickly find a good place to sit down and immerse into the fabulous world of Amelie.
I want to share another great treasure with the cyber universe, which is on the way out of Montmartre and is doubtlessly worth to mention. It’s a crazy ice cream shop, Glaces Glazed, with naughty but delightful flavors. The names of the sweets will make you giggle, but the mix of ingredients will make you curious. I really liked “Porn Cop”, a combination of pop corn and caramel. It already sounds divine! We even got delicious waffles for free.
What is so special about Philharmonie de Paris
Since a couple of years every big city is willing to spend a huge amount of money on futuristic buildings of Philharmonics. Paris is not different, in 2015 this vast space ship, designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel, was presented to the public. The cost of constructions were expected to be just 170 million Euros, after having an enlightenment that it was not enough, the costs were multiplied 3-4 times. France self-proclaimed it’s innovative cultural center as unique in the world. But if you think about the invested money then it doesn’t make sense to spend the same insanely high amount into a twin building.
The gigantic building is seen from far away and it’s walls resemble fish skin covered with silver scales. As almost every futuristic building nowadays it makes you think about a space ship: the metallic glow and curved shape could be an inspiration for the next Star Wars movie. The new music complex entertains it’s visitors with concerts and various exhibitions. It’s also possible to climb to the the top of the roof of the Philharmonic and enjoy the view of the city.
Explore St. Germain with Mon Beau Paris!
We had an amazing opportunity to have a tour with Mon Beau Paris through one of the most significant neighborhoods of Paris, rich with important moments of French history, Saint Germain. To make our 2,5 hours walking tour not only informative but also entertaining and memorable, we got polaroid cameras with 10 snapshots. Few know, that the district was the very beginning of the city of Paris, the way we know the metropolis nowadays. After plenty of revolutions, massacres, beheaded kings, it became an upscale district combined with vivid youthful energy, filled with interesting streets, which are covered by art from known street artists. During the tour you will see the café which was the pioneer in serving coffee not only for the spoiled nobles, the spot where the cruel guillotine had it’s premier and many other intriguing insiders, which you would never read anywhere else, because you just basically don’t have time for that.
In addition you would never guess what you can discover in the parking spots of St. Germain. Last but not least there is a sculpture in the garden of the famous church of St. Germain des Prés from the world-known artist, Picasso, but there is no sign, so everyone just passes by. As you can see there are numerous secrets hidden in the streets of Paris and to immerse in it’s history and to refresh your knowledge, it is necessary to have a guide. My advice, join one of Mon Beau Paris tours for an affordable price and enjoy a toury time!
And again, it’s impossible to describe all the amazing sides of Paris. The city has just too much to offer, you need to write a book about it. And while you are writing, there are new incredible places growing in the streets of the expressive metropolis. Visit Paris for a week, see the beautiful cemetery Pére Lachaise, with the tombs of famous people like Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf. Observe the splendid magnitude of the opera hiding a huge artificial lake under it’s facades. And now start planing your trip and bon voyage!
If you are thinking to visit an unusual place with a cultural scene of magical medieval times, low prices and friendly locals, then it’s time to go to the capital of Estonia, Tallinn. The charming small city, with the population of 440.000 people, offers everything what a traveler’s soul could only wish: delicious traditional dishes, historical settings and the comfort of a modern world. The pearl in the north of Europe is famous for Finnish people, it’s cheap booze and mysterious for the rest of the world.
Tallinn is not only an amazing combination of ancient and contemporary times, it’s also an ideal destination for a weekend. The city possesses different aspects to be proud of, for example it’s the oldest capital city of Northern Europe. It used to carry the name Revel, but after Estonia became independent in 1918 the new name Tallinn was established.
The official language in Tallinn is Estonian, nevertheless the majority also speaks Russian, because Russian citizens are the largest minority group of the Estonian population. The fascinating country joined the European Union in 2004 and adopted the Euro, which is a great news for travelers, but not the best aspect from an economical point of view. But we will leave politics to politicians and start our two days itinerary to the Baltic pearl!
The top things to see in Tallinn: Old Town
Tallinn is a small and compact city, it takes only 15 minutes to get to the city center from the airport. The taxis are very cheap, 15-20 minutes drive costs only 5€. Moreover on your ride to the main attractions you can observe the picturesque view from the seaside road. Tallinn’s coastline lies on the Baltic sea and the Gulf of Finland, so you can spoil your lungs with fresh air and your body with a surfboard on the waves. The position of the country automatically influences the weather. Tourists prefer to visit the city during April or May, when the sun starts to show it’s chocolate sides. We’ve been there in September and we could enjoy excellent weather, sunny and refreshing at the same time!
When you enter the historical cobblestone path of Tallinn’s Old Town, be prepared to immerse into a fairytale. Medieval architecture, an overwhelming fortress, impressive ancient cathedrals, cute little souvenir shops and appealing eateries that will leave you speechless. The Old Town has a perfect size, so you don’t need a map to explore the surroundings and furthermore one day is totally enough to discover all the marvelous sights of UNESCO’s World Heritage, Old Town. It’s also split into two parts: the lower town, All linn, and the upper town, Toompea.
Visit Raekoja Plats in Tallinn
While exploring the Old Town , you won’t wanna miss the little charming square in the pulsing heart of Lower Town. Since the 13th century the square gathered people for diverse attractions like medieval festivals and magical markets. It’s surrounded by various restaurants and one of the must visit places is III Draakon, old-fashioned tavern tucked into the corner of Town Hall. It feels like a time-machine brought you into Estonian’s golden age: detailed decor and ambience, authentic medieval atmosphere and cuisine. The rigorous waitress in a time accurate dress will serve you with delightful pies, delicious deer-soup and real Estonian beer. Don’t forget to taste the brine pickles in the barrel, it’s free! You won’t expect it, but the prices vary between 1-3€.
Next to the Raekoja Plats you can find the oldest pharmacy in Europe. Make sure to explore the indoors of the Town Hall pharmacy, because it doesn’t sell only modern pharmaceuticals, but also mementos of times past. There is also a museum where you can find the most famous of herbs and their history.
Sightseeing of Tallinn’s Old Town St. Catherine’s Monastery
In the one of the prettiest half-hidden little walkways of the Old Town, you can discover what’s left of St. Catherine’s Church and various ancient tombstones. During the late Middle Ages it used to be the largest ecclesiastical building in Tallinn, but in 1524, during the Reformation, the monastery was destroyed. Now only fragments remain of the original parts. You will be surprised what you can find inside: a black unspectacular screen, but if you look at it from different angles, which are marked, then you will discover five different religious symbols, which resemble to the star constellations.
St. Olav’s Church tower and observation platform, Estonia
Another one of Tallinn’s mesmerizing landmarks is St. Olaf’s Church. It was built in the 12th century and after several rebuildings, it reached the total height of 123,7 m. The medieval structure might not impress you from the inside, but it gives you an opportunity to climb the tower for 2€ and to enjoy the best viewing platform. The only challenge is to climb the 258 steps of the very narrow spiral staircase. My advice: do it in the beginning of the day, when you still have power and energy. Smokers will probably overthink again if they need to quit.
Nice walk up to Toompea Hill
Toompea is the upper side of Tallinn’s Old Town. In the old days the nobility lived here, nowadays it’s the seat of the Estonian administration with terrific viewpoints and an enormous Russian Orthodox Church, which was built in the period of the time when Estonia was part of the Russian Empire. If you are in love with photography and you permanently crave for likes on Instagram, then Toompea is an utopian place to capture a couple of stunning pictures.
Hipster area Telliskivi Creative City
On the other side of Upper Town, just behind the Central station is an old industrial area transformed into an innovative and creative part of the city, Telliskivi. There are plenty of cool shops, interesting restaurants and cafes. The surrounding walls are covered in colorful graffitis, ping pong tables and art installations are scattered throughout the place. This district has everything to please not only hipsters but all kinds of visitors.
Telliskivi is a great non-touristic district, where you can peacefully enjoy your hipster drink or tasty food for “big-smile” prices. It’s a pretty new area, so every time new establishments are surprising their visitors with awesome cafes, bars and restaurants. One of them is F-Hoone, which has been here for a long time offering delightful dishes and entertaining young spirits on the weekends with dance parties. The refurbished industrial warehouse with a minimal, funky décor and unique menu has a magnetic effect on the trendy audience. The food is high quality and you should doubtlessly try the mutton dumplings in creamy mushroom sauce. For beer drinkers I would suggest the real Estonian beer Pohjala. Locals would tell you not to drink Saku, it’s not the best Estonian beer. You can compare it to Heineken, just clever marketing.
Visit Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour on trip to Tallinn
Tallinn is a tiny city with a small population but it has numerous attractions and historical sights to offer. Old City Harbour is one of them,it is the biggest passenger harbour in the Baltic region. If you are interested in continuing traveling to further Nordic destination, then you will have a fantastic opportunity to take a cheap ferry to Helsinki, Stockholm or St. Petersburg. You can already get tickets for 6-10€.
You should absolutely visit the exciting maritime museum Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour. The tickets are pricy, for adults 15€, for students 7€, but it’s worth it! The enormous building originally constructed as a hangar for seaplanes in the era of Peter the Great. In the museum you will learn about the history of the boats. The main jewel of the exhibition is the enormous submarine Lembit contracted in 1936. A 30-people-crew used to dive with Lembit during war times. Nowadays you can climb inside of the submarine to inspect how the sailors were living for days or even months in this cramped space. It’s definitely a breathtaking experience!
The museum has also a yellow lovely submarine, which simulates going under the water. Additionally you can use flight simulators, operate miniature ships in a big pool and take pictures in sailing costumes. It doesn’t matter if you are grown up or a child, you will enjoy visiting the Lennusadam museum!
Sightseeing in Tallinn: Kadriorg Park
How about to get some delicious Estonian ice cream and to go for walk to beautiful Kadriorg Park. It’s a romantic, majestic and cozy inner-city area with fountains, streams and beautiful flowers and trees. In the 18th century the Russian emperor Peter the Great built a fabulous summer palace for his beloved Catherine the Great, so she can have a rest after her hard-working days. For himself he built one in Petergof, Russia by the way. Nowadays you can visit this architectonical oasis and admire the pompous beauty of the inside.
On the way to the seaside you can observe the splendid memorial “Russalka“, Russian for Mermaid.The statue on the podest depicts an angel. It commemorates the loss of the Russian ship “Russalka”, which sank in the end of the 19th century, all 177 sailors perished.
Must see in Tallinn: Bridgettine Convent
One more of Tallinn’s fascinating historic sites: Bridgettine Convent or better to say the remaining towering gable and walls of the main hall of it. The monastery was built in the 15th century but the forces of Ivan the Terrible ( if you know Russian history ) destroyed the holy building in 1577. Since then we can only observe the beautiful ensemble of ruins, facades and graveyard. Nowadays it’s a museum, that you can visit for 2€ and walk through the tremendous mystical ruins and cellars. It’s a very adventurous experience, who knows maybe you will face a ghost.
Where to eat in Tallinn
Tallinn is a place to see and to fall in love with. It’s unique medieval beauty and its combination of Russian and Nordic culture is admirable. And if you will get hungry on your way from one museum to another, then check Hesburger, the best Nordic Fast Food Chain with delightful burgers! Yum!
London, a very chaotic and crowdy city with a population of 8,7 Million is definitely full of energy. It’s a place where you can meet numerous different cultures, who are happily living together and share their affinity for that stressful and loud city. For sure London has plenty of nice things to offer, long time I couldn’t understand though, why so many people feel a need to move and to live there? The prices for the rent are incredibly high, the streets and public transport are full with the mixed crowd of locals and tourists and it’s magnitude is so tremendous, that you always need between 30-40 minutes to get from A to B or sometimes even 1-2 hours.
My last trip to London changed my opinion about that magnificent city. I’ve seen many beautiful places, met interesting and friendly english people and probably felt the real vibes of London. In my eyes London has plenty of optical similarities with Australian cities like Melbourne for example. This is when I realized why English people feel so comfortable in Down Under: it feels like home but the weather is even better!
Welcome to London!
We arrived at Victoria Station, enormous and busy but beautiful station at the heart of the city. It’s so huge so you can find everything there: national rail, underground, shopping mall, restaurants and loads of people running somewhere like a group of ants. It’s easy to orientate yourself, you can find descriptive signs all around and furthermore the train station staff is very helpful and kind. Getting a ticket was easy but not so fast though, because we arrived at rush hour, when the station was completely full with people. Important to mention, it’s more efficient to get Oyster card directly from the machine, if you stay longer then just 2 days. You need to pay 5 Pounds deposit for it, but when you bring the card back, your money will be returned.
Our lovely hostel was located in Bayswater, the ideal base from which to explore the surroundings of central London. It’s a culturally diverse area of West London with terrific traditional english architecture. We stayed at Dean Court Hostel, which is 1 minute away from the Bayswater Underground and 100 meters from Hyde Park. Moreover there are various restaurants and supermarkets where you can get diverse food. We had a private cozy room for two people with a terrace and a nice view. London is obviously one of the most expensive places to stay, Dean Court Hostel is well priced for a good located accommodation and included breakfast. However it’s a hostel with shared toilets and shower. Verdict: great place with friendly staff, definitely place to stay!
Explore Portobello Road Market
After walking around in Bayswater and enjoying it’s magnificent architecture, you may want to visit the world’s largest antiques market, Portobello Road. It’s an infinite road with over 1.000 of dealers on the both sides of the road selling various kinds of antiques and collectibles. The roots of the exciting market go back to the 19th century. Since that time it surprises locals and tourists from all over the
world with it’s designer boutiques, street food and cute cafés. If you have passion for vintage and curious for something different than H&M or Zara, then you should doubtlessly visit the never ending market.
Magnificent London’s city center
London is full of vibrant spaces and magnificent architecture. One of them is famous Trafalgar Square, a place full with history of it’s heritage site, fabulous statues and fountains in the middle of the city. The imposing square attracts thousands of visitors every day, so you can see an unstoppable float of the english red buses on the crossroads of London’s traffic. Interesting fact: Trafalgar Square used to be a home for thousands of flying rats, pigeons. Tourists loved to feed them, so the population of pigeons was growing and the square was almost conquered by them. 2003, London Mayor Ken Livingstone declared war on pigeons and illegalize feeding them. Furthermore the hawk was employed to terrify the little grey pigeons. So nowadays it’s a pigeon free area and it’s possible to hold concerts and public events on the square.
There is always a possibility to escape from the chaos of the vivid city in the tremendous green oasis in London. One of them is the royal St. James’s Park, which lays in the City of Westminster close to Trafalgar Square. It’s a perfect place to hang out with your friends, have a romantic walk through the oldest park or just sink in for the moment into the tranquil world of nature. During the summer St. James Park spoils it’s visitors not only with 23 hectares of green amazing surface but also with various events, a contemporary British restaurant, four refreshment kiosks and fountains with drinkable water. As every other park in London St. James Park is filled with comfy deck chairs. The only negative aspect you should pay for that treat.
SOHO never sleeps
Another terrific and never quiet area in London is Soho. It’s popular for it’s history, architecture, various bars and restaurants and fun-loving atmosphere. It’s absolutely entertaining to explore the surroundings of this vivid district. There, close to Piccadilly Circus station, you can also find the restaurant and take away of the famous english chef Jamie Oliver. We were also tempted by the famous name and reasonable prices to order double cheeseburger £6 and beef Hot-Dog £5. The decoration of that place and the concept of 50s’ is definitely impressive, food was not extraordinary though. Burger was good, but I found the best burger in the world in another place in London. Unfortunately I didn’t like Hot-Dog at all: the dominant taste of chili sauce reminded me of chili con carne, additionally the sausage had a very smoky taste and the bread was too dry.
Walking through Coventry Street you will discover M&M’s World, delicious chocolatery Godiva, where you can also enjoy chocolate ice cream with raspberry topping in the summer days. It’s definitely a place where your eyes will be permanently entertained and your wallet will get emptier.
The Lion King Musical: Welcome to the jungle!
Dreams come true: as many other children of the 90s’ I grew up with Disney and my favorite cartoon was always The Lion King. I’ve heard a lot about the musical and it’s imposing visuals and costumes and I wanted to see it with my own eyes. To cut a long story short: the musical was breath taking and I recommend everyone too see it! The most thrilling moment of the show was the very beginning, the opening song and gathering of different animals like elephant, gazelles and giraffes parading through the audience onto the stage. You can feel the magic from the beginning with the start of the epic song “Circle of Life” until the end, when curtains close the podium. The dialogs and most of the songs are completely like in the cartoon with some amusing extras and modern day jokes. There are some songs written specifically for the live show.
The Lion King musical already exists since a very long time and still the theatre is always full with visitors. That’s why I would suggest you to buy tickets 2-4 weeks in advance to get good seats for a lower price.
Hackney, hipsters dream destination
London’s city center is undoubtedly very attractive with it’s tremendous shopping areas, diverse dining options, imposing history and never-ending entertainment. You should make sure though to discover London’s neighborhoods, places where you will find only locals, real English people. One of them is the Hackney district in the East of London. Hackney is a heaven for hipsters and trendy people. But it hasn’t been always like that: Hackney used to be run down area dominated with crime, drugs and gang warfare. But brave young hipsters, just as we know them, could distribute junkies and criminal gangs by opening coffee shops and a weekly market, Broadway Market. It’s an ideal place to discover original clothing, arts, to try authentic street food or just sit down in one of the pubs, cafés, enjoy delicious ice coffee and watch various interesting people passing by.
The Hackney area is also popular for it’s huge and always busy park, London Fields. The park is full of smoke and people from all over London, because the other local parks don’t allow to have barbecues or to stay up the whole night. It has an amazing atmosphere and you can see people running, doing free group exercise classes, playing petanque or just relaxing and enjoying the day. Facilities also include the iconic pub, The Pub on the Park. The pub has pretty simple decoration with outdoor decking areas and splendid vibes. It’s an ideal place to have a drink with your friends and to fancy the delightful burger. Speaking of burgers, The Pub on the Park serves the best burger that I’ve ever tried in my life! The price is reasonable:11₤ for cheeseburger with baked slices of potatoes. Don’t miss it!
London from sunset til dawn
Party scene in London is exciting and without exception memorable. You can always find great clubs and pubs with happy hours, cheap entry fees, live music and fascinating sometimes weird ambiance. One of the awesome party neigbourhoods in London is Camden, famous for it’s local markets and vibrant nightlife. It’s an artistic and creative area, where you can hunt for treasures in the markets and taste the food from around the globe during the day. In the evening you can listen to live music in one of the pubs and afterwards dance the night away in the club. Many famous English artists like Dylan Thomas and Amy Winehouse made Camden their home. There you can also find a life size memorial bronze statue of Amy located in Stables Market.
Camden is full with architectonic wonders, the whole neighborhood resembles a museum, so you can’t stop admiring a bit trashy, a bit crazy but for sure stunning buildings. During the late evening young people doing promotion for the clubs giving away the cards with discounts. If you have no idea where to go for late night fun, you should definitely try out Camden Proud. It’s a big area divided into two music options, House and RnB, and the sizable outdoor bar, which is perfect for a drink, smoke and chat with your company. The club used to be a horse hospital and around 6 old stables are still intact. You can also book one of the stables, which is equipped with a pole or swimming pool, and have your individual party. English people love it though when it’s crowdy and loud so they always invite everyone into their V.I.P. areas.
Verdict: the Camden neighbourhood is an amazing place to enjoy your time and Camden Proud is a great option to dance the night away. And don’t worry about coming back home, Uber is available in London. The cheap alternative for a Taxi, just don’t forget to download the Application.
Brussels is the capital not only of Belgium but also of the European Union. In my opinion almost all capitals don’t show the real lifestyle of the country, as for example small Ghent or tiny Bruges. Brussels is Belgium’s main economic and educational spot, what let to define it as a cosmopolitan city full of contrasts. Nevertheless it attracts tourists with it’s historical monuments and various world-class museums. Interesting to mention is that the city is bilingual, all signs and the name of the streets are written in French and Dutch. The majority speaks French though, so they don’t even understand Dutch. Curious and sad at the same time, the country is divided into two parts, so many of it’s citizens can’t communicate with each other. But let’s talk about beautiful parts of Brussels because there are plenty of them!
Must see in Brussels
The main touristic spot is the city’s main plaza Grand Place and it’s right in the heart of Brussels’ Old Town. The square is full with magnificent architecture in barock style. Moreover it’s considered as one of the most beautiful places in the world. No wonder, the square is surrounded by outstanding buildings decorated with rich gold ornates and gables. The most recongizible architectural masterpiece is the Town Hall, built in the 15th century. The architecture of the beautiful Grand Place reflects the diverse culture and society of Belgium, presenting the influences of different artistic styles. Here you also have a possibility to visit various museums, the prices for the tickets are mostly around 7-9€. If you need a map of the city, don’t buy it in the Info Hall, just go to the little chocolate museum and take one for free.
You’ve probably heard a lot about the famous urinating little boy of Brussels: “Manneken Pis”. I did it too. My expectations to see the symbol of the rebellious spirit of the City of Brussels were not so high, because what other country would actually use a pissing little boy as a symbol of the city? Moreover my hope to understand the meaning of Belgium’s most famous statue were immediately gone when I saw the microscopic bronze sculpture: 61cm.
Must try in Brussels: Beer and waffles
Next to the marvelous “monument” is a street full of delicious Belgian waffles. The tempting aroma will lead you to the right direction, where you can find a huge variety of these sugary baked goods from 1 to 10 Euros. The price doesn’t play a main role, all Belgian waffles taste delightful. It’s like Belgian chocolate, the taste will never disappoint you. You can get waffles either hot or cold and even with different toppings like fruits, chocolate, caramel, nuts and more and more of other exquisite extras.
Belgium is famous all over the world for it’s tremendous beer culture. Since the Middle Ages Belgian folk take it’s reputation so seriously, they even designed customized shapes of the glasses for each beer to enhance most of the flavor. Belgians brew with love and passion numerous variety of beer tastes and in 2002 the world discovered Westvleteren, the best beer in the whole world. It’s a very exclusive beer, made by monks. They brew only enough to support themselves, they don’t see it as a business. Probably that’s why it tastes so good. Nevertheless if you have affinity for beers, you should definitely visit Delirium Café in Brussels. It’s popular for having over 3.000 different brands of beer from over 60 countries. This unbelievable record found it’s place even in The Guinness Book of Records. The bar with the pink elephant symbol seems to be unimposing from the outside, but inside you can get lost: The bar splits into three gigantic levels. Even if you don’t like beer, it’s interesting to go there. I’m not much of a beer drinker and I could still enjoy one of the Belgian beverages, namely a grapefruit beer. It’s always about learning a new culture and be a part of it for a moment.
Must visit in Brussels before you leave
Brussels is hiding a diverse amount of historical treasures, I could write an infinite number of pages describing it’s breathtaking beauty. I will introduce you to a few, that left impression on me. The Mont des Artes is an architecturally imposing complex of monuments with a wide gorgeous garden. From there you can enjoy a great view on the Grand Place and the historic City of Brussels. Close to this magical garden you can find the influential achievements of the great Belgian architect Victor Horta. His unique design now regarded as iconic examples of the Art Nouveau style. Horta’s architectural masterpieces with borrowed motifs from nature are even featured on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. You can also visit the Horta museum, which remains a magnificent scene of a fairytale.
I’ve spent only one day in Brussels, that showed me both of it’s sides: a rough, grey city and a marvelous historical pearl. To enjoy the city to it’s fullest you would need at least a weekend for it. The best decision is to combine it with a trip to Belgium, so you can see most of the Belgian culture and it’s meaningful sights.
Have you ever heard about Antwerp? No? Don’t worry, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, we are learning something new every single day! Nevertheless Antwerp has a plenty of things to be proud of. No wonder it’s also one of the commonly visited cities in Belgium. It’s also the second largest city in the Kingdom of waffles, but don’t expect to land in a metropolis: Antwerp is a compact, but cozy city. In one weekend you will see most of it and you will be astonished what treasures it keeps.
Antwerp by the way means “throw the hand” and it’s name comes from an interesting Belgian myth. Once upon a time a giant Antigoon was terrifying the city. A young brave man Brabo defeated the villain by cutting his hand off and throwing it into the river. The imposing statue which captures the moment of glory is standing proudly in front of the Town Hall at the Grote Markt square.
It’s better to come to Antwerp by train and not only because of the costs but also because you will arrive in one of the most beautiful train station worldwide. I promise you, you will be magnified by the extraordinary architecture of the 19th century.
All I see is diamonds!
Another curious fact about Antwerp is that it’s “The World’s Capital of Diamonds” and it has a decent district with diamond dealers, merchants and brokers, who are by the way mostly Jewish. Since a long time diamond trading is ruled by jewish people. After all if you found the love of your life and you feel that your relationship is going to another level, don’t hesitate to go to the city of diamonds. Undoubtedly you will find the perfect ring and she won’t even think to say “no” to you! We all know, diamonds are a girl’s best friends! My advice before you walk around, go to Diamond Land and get closer information about the gems there, but be aware, the prices outside of that store are lower, much lower.
You were probably asking yourself why Antwerp is a city of diamonds? What is so special about it that is almost 80% of all diamonds all over the world are shipped to Belgium? So, here is the answer: Antwerp just got lucky! It has second biggest harbor in Europe and furthermore the position of the port is ideal: it’s in the heart of Europe. Since 15th century all trading including the diamond trading were happening here. Therefore you need to see the Antwerp’s harbor with your own eyes. There you will find various cafés, restaurants and even a museum. If you need to get some energy, my recommendation is Pelican Rouge: great coffee, amazing service and friendly prices, definitely cheaper than at Starbucks. And please do me a favor, don’t go to Starbucks. After the coffein energy boost time to visit the MAS museum: tremendous modern architecture of red brick decorated with little hands. Honestly I’m not fascinated by that building, my personal opinion is it doesn’t fit to the lovely historic harbor of Antwerp. Although inside of the museum you can discover different exhibitions on 9 levels. On the top of the MAS you can experience the panoramic view of the city, which is breathtaking.
The modest Antwerp is additionally famous for being an international fashion capital. The fashion department at The Royal Academy of Fine Arts laid down the foundation for many talented and creative designers. Belgium is very quiet about communicating the achievements of it’s artists though. At the shopping street Meir you can find numerous amounts of stores and whatever your personal taste or style is, in this city you can always shop till you drop. If you are not interesting in spending money on the designer clothes, you can learn something about fashion: visit MoMu, the museum of fashion.
The medieval city impresses with it’s beautiful architecture and splendid art. Great artists like Rubens, who is famous for his affinity for voluptuous nudes, and other renowned painters include Weyden and Van Eyck were born in this inspiring city. A typical touristic place is Rubens House, built in 17th century architectural style containing a modest collection of his work. Worth to see it. My advice, if you don’t want to waste all your money on museums, then visit Antwerp in the last week of the month. On the last Wednesday all museum are gratis, so you will have more money too enjoy Belgian beer. Before I will tell you where you can enjoy your cold drink with locals, here is one more important monument of Antwerp: seven-aisled gothic Cathedral of our Lady. The background story of that cathedral is very dramatic: it took over two centuries to build the magnificent monument and some tragic accidents happened during the constructions. It was damaged a couple of times through the fire and different wars, so a high amount of artistic treasures were destroyed. Only by the end of the 19th century the church was finally completely restored. Nowadays the cathedral possesses some meaningful masterpieces of Rubens.
Beer of Antwerp – Belgian pride
After gathering historical knowledge time to get to know Belgian beer culture. Moreover the best way to consume some delicious gold drink at the places where you can find only locals. One of them is charming Zeezicht: it’s located a bit further from the city center in Zurenborg area on the square surrounded by splendid old buildings. Pay attention to the name of the streets, they are definitely amusing. Close to the cafe you can also discover a long serpentine of colorful graffitis. It’s perfect location for a new profile picture!
These are three beers of Antwerp, that you definitely need to try:
- De Koninck 5,2%, it’s Antwerp in the bottle! It has been launched in 1913 and has quite bitter taste with complex and delicious aroma of toffee, chestnut and caramel.
- Duvel 6,8%, special golden blond beer. It’s smooth and refreshing transparent beer with the citrus notes.
- Kriek 4-6%, cherry cooling beer, perfect for girls.
Another attractive and currently hipster area of Antwerp is the South, Zuid. In that young and vivid district you will be always entertained: numerous markets, exhibitions and delightful cafés and restaurants. Great place to visit and to enjoy good weather and fascinating view of the stone monument with the God of the sea, Neptune on the top of it, is Marnix Square. Go there to the bar Neptune, it’s very cozy pub with a friendly and sociable young service. In the evening the square is crowded with sympathetic and chatty people, occasionally you can even meet Belgian celebrities. Last but not least it’s an amazing spot to get to know new people and have nice conversations.
At one of the Sunday mornings I decided spontaneously to spoil my soul and to go visit one of the four largest cities in Belgium: Ghent! Because Sundays are made for relaxation and taking a breather. It’s also a day when you should take it slow and end up doing something you enjoy the most, something for your soul.
I’ve heard a lot about this city, how beautiful and impressive the medieval architecture is and that many people in Belgium move to Ghent to study. But I didn’t expect to see something so breathtaking as the cathedrals and castles of Ghent! I was overwhelmed how two contrasting times like modern – time of smart phones and medieval – time of witches and brave knights ( or just Game of Thrones time ) can be presented in peaceful harmony.
On the one hand it felt like I’m a princess walking through the gorgeous historical streets, while the horse carriages are passing by. On the other hand, when you go in one of the alleys, it feels like you are back into the modern world, with good dressed people sipping their lattes in one of the charming cafés.
We were traveling by train and arrived on the railway station “Gent Sint-Pieters”. The station is not directly in the center, so from there we took a tram direction “Korenmarkt”. The tram 1 or 22 stopped just in front of the main entrance of the station and it took only 5-6 minutes to get to our destination. The breathtaking part when you arrive in the centre city of Ghent is the architectural attraction: It doesn’t matter where you turn your head, you will be surrounded by majestic buildings of medieval times. One of them is the high gothic Cathedral of St. Bavo. It was built between 13th and 16th centuries and has famous unique artworks of Rubens “The Conversion of St. Baaf” and Van Eyck brothers “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”. One of the panels of the Van Eyck’s paintings was stolen in 1934 though, so it was replaced by a reproduction. The curious travelers should definitely enter the the cathedral, because underneath the main church are numerous tombs and treasures.
It’s important to mention that Ghent’s historical city central is car-free and very pedestrian-friendly. Ideal to explore the surroundings by feet. But first take a closer look at the city center, there are so many splendid buildings to admire! One of them is The Belfry: 91-meter-high tower, the symbol of the city’s independence. Town Hall ( Stadhuis ) is another magnificent architectural masterpiece, that contains a variety of architectonic styles.
The city is full of canal arteries and attractive bridges, where you can take variety of amazing pictures. One of the main bridges will lead to the The Old Market (Groentenmarkt). That place is full of life and joy, on every side you can discover variant restaurants, cafés, on the river you can see boats and kayaks. In that delightful area is a great place to have lunch and enjoy energizing drink: “Three monkeys” . It’s a relative new café and all the waiters are very young, but welcoming and sociable. The most important thing is that the food is divine! We ordered the tuna burger and for a small amount of money it was served with a descent portion of chips, salad with tuna steak on top, lemon mayo and a juicy burger! We felt like being in a gastronomic paradise. You can read more about that place in my other blog.
This is by the way also an interesting fact about Ghent: the city boasts with the full architectural load of history, but a modern influx of young people makes it hip and vivid. Maybe this is also a reason why the streets are not crowded by many visitors as any other touristic places in Belgium, seems like the country of waffles and beer wants to keep it’s vivacious city in a secret.
After charging the battery and being ready for the forthcoming positive impressions, time to explore the hidden streets of a Belgian’s pearl Ghent. If you pay attention to the little alleys, you may discover a narrow graffiti street (Werregarenstraat, 9000 Gent). My advice, prepare your camera, because the serpentine of colorful graffitis seem to have no end! The end of that street will bring you to the shopping area, where you can decide if you would like to spoil yourself and make your wallet a bit thinner. Be careful, for shopaholics Ghent can be a dangerous oasis: various shops with the stylish closing.
Another important place to see in Ghent is Castle of the Counts – Gravensteen. The pompous and imposing fortress stands in the city centre and provides the whole city with the shattering medieval charm. The castle was built in the late 12th century and was used during all this time for several purposes: a mint, a prison and even a cotton plant. Nowadays it’s open to visitors as a museum, showing different torture methods that were once used at that castle. If you’re keen to visit this breathtaking monument then keep in mind the opening hours: daily from 09.00 to 17.00.
Ghent is also famous with the rich amount of cute little parks, but no wonder it’s a student city and as we all know, students favorite places to catch up and to relax are parks. Whenever you will go, you will come across little green grass islands, where a group of people are enjoying the sun. One of the places that I discovered was Appelbrugparkje. Very intimate, small and an appealing location. And another famous thing in general in Belgium is beer. Not only the taste of the beer plays a significant role but also the place and atmosphere of the surroundings. That’s why follow my recommendation and visit “Het Waterhuis aan de Bierkant”, this literarily translates to the “Water house on the beer side”. The location of that place is ideal: next to the canal, under the sun and not far from the imposing fortress.
By the end of the day you will be infatuated with that unexpectedly culturally rich city Ghent. There are so many things to discover and see. One day is definitely not enough, to get to know all charming facades and corners, buildings and museums, parks and cafés of that unique Belgian beauty. I will absolutely go there soon again and narrate about my new sighting!
“It’s a fairytale town, isn’t it? How’s a fairytale town not somebody’s fucking thing? How can all those canals and bridges and cobbled streets and those churches, all that beautiful fucking fairytale stuff, how can that not be somebody’s fucking thing, eh?”- from the movie "In Bruges"
Bruges is a little romantic city, that will capture your heart! It’s the perfect place to escape reality and spend one day in a fairy tale. Follow the cobblestone streets and they will lead you to the different historical treasures of Bruges. The friendly atmosphere, smell of waffles and chocolate, fascinating architecture, cute bridges and swans on the canals are all attributes for a perfect peaceful day. My first impression of the city was that it’s a very clean and green city, this is very important for me.
Bruges is a tiny town, it’s compact size allows you to wander around with no fear of getting lost. All roads run into the heart of the town to the Grote Markt. You can recognize it by the striking building of the Middle Ages, the Belfry and the uncountable amount of tourists. Every year over 4 million visitors pass through this area to admire Bruges’ symbol for freedom and wealth. It was built in the 13th-15th centuries and suffered through some tragedies like fire. Must do is to climb the 366 steps of spiral staircases to the top to enjoy the breathtaking panoramic view of the Old Town.
On the left side of the Belfry is the Neo-Gothic Provincial Palace of the 20th century. It includes a Beer museum and the Historium, where you can walk through authentic backdrops, with film and music. There you can also find Tourist Information, which is opened daily from 10am till 5pm.
I have great news for the sweet tooth: There is a small alley on the side of the Beer museum with delightful chocolate and waffel shops! There you can enjoy a typical Belgian waffle or heavenly tasty pralines. There is also a cool shop “Waffle on sticks for €4”. It looks very photogenic but doesn’t taste as nice as real big waffels.
If you follow the chocolate and waffle street you will reach the birthplace of Bruges, Castle Square. It used to be the administrative, juridical and religious centre of the town. On the right side you will discover Bruges’ oldest building, Basilica of the Holy Blood built in the 12th century. Legend tells that Count Diederick of Alsace brought Jesus Christ’s Holy Blood to the church.
Behind the Castle Square you will be amazed by the coziness and appeal of the Huidenvettersplein. There you can also choose one of the places to eat or have a coffee. It doesn’t matter where you will go, because food in the touristic areas is pretty similar and the prices too. But my advice is to enjoy your coffee in one of the restaurants next to the canal, so you can breathe in the fresh air and watch the little boats passing by with the smiling people.
Bruges is not only the perfect place for the lovebirds. If you have an affinity for photography, you should definitely visit this charming city. It doesn’t matter where you go in Bruges, you will always find an ideal spot to take a stunning picture. One of the most famous photographed spots in Bruges is Rozenhoedkaai though. Even if you are not familiar with photography, make a pause for a moment and enjoy the beautiful scenery. There you also have the possibility to jump onto one of the boats and explore the city from a fresh perspective: sitting in the boat, listening to the tour guide and getting to know this wonderful city. It’s a perfect decision if you are a bit tired after your journey before or maybe after your hard working week. The prices are also acceptable, around 8€ and the length of the tour is about 4 km.
Another possibility to get to know the city in a comfortable way is by horse drawn carriage tours. And it’s not only during the day but also in the evening, when the stars begin to sparkle in the sky and again you can cherish that moment with your beloved one.
If you would like to experience something totally different, something that will give you a thrill then you should visit two exhibitions in Bruges. One of them is in Musea Brugge, it has an interesting exhibition about witches. Bruges is one of the most authentic locations to discover the world of witches. The reason for it is, that the city had a big influence in medieval times, known as the time of witchcraft. Another museum will introduce you cruel instruments, which were developed to torture human beings. In the Torture Museum you can see different devices that were used in particular centuries. The museum is also located in one of the oldest Europeans prisons and it’s name is “De Oude Steen”.
I’m sure as a traveler you are not only hungry for knowledge but also for real tasty food. Don’t worry after the many museums you can enjoy delicious meals, but before you need to turn into one of the Rolling Stones’ band members. You were probably asking yourself already, why the title of that column says that Rolling Stones will be jealous? So now it’s time to share my secret! Belgium is very popular for it’s delightful chocolate, so it’s a paradise for choco-addicts. This country is filled with plenty of chocolate stores, but one of them is not like any other. It’s crazy, it’s rebellious and it offers unexpected and unique flavors. They call the owner a rock star of the chocolate world, he calls himself “Shock-a-latier”. The audacious chocolate maker Dominique Persoone’s opened his first shop in 1992, “Chocolate Line”. Mr. Persoone can currently boast with 50 chocolatiers and a crazy invention made special for the Rolling Stones: sniffing chocolate powder. The mix of a ground dust of pure cocoa, ginger and mint catapults in your nostrils with a special device, to give you unbelievable fireworks of the flavors.
Even rock stars need a moment to relax, so it’s time to get some good food and to digest all the impressions that were gathered during the day. Next to the crazy chocolate place is an adorable bio café called “Le pain quotidien”. From the outside it looks like one of the common bakeries, but when you enter the café, you will be overwhelmed by the size of this hidden place. The warm atmosphere, inviting feeling and pleasant smell make you feel like home. In the back of this location you will find a cozy terrace, where you can get away from the noise of the streets, enjoy your delicious drink and intimate conversations with your beloved. In the menu you can find delicious healthy food for a relatively low prices if you compare it everywhere else in Bruges. Don’t hesitate to try one of the cakes, they are undescribably great!
By the end of the day have a pleasant walk down the Lake of Love in “Minnewaterpark” and cherish the moment of togetherness. Therefore you can enjoy the view from one of the charming bridges or watch the sunset from a bench in the park. There is also a little secret about that place, a local legend telling that you will experience eternal love with your partner if you walk over the lake bridge. Even if you are sure you have found a love of your life, why not try it just to guarantee a bright future.
If you have an opportunity to visit lovely Bruges, don’t think twice. Go there for one day and you will no doubt fall in love with that endlessly fascinating city!
The dining possibilities in Bruges are constantly changing because it follows new trends but still keeps it’s traditions. There are some nice places that are beloved by locals and that I would definitely suggest to visit:
Everyone knows the cult Patisserie Academie in Bruges. It’s an amazing place where you can enjoy extraordinary sweet and savory creations made by incredible chef-patisserie Tom van Loock.
If you prefer savory meals with a lot of meat and live music from time to time then you doubtlessly need to visit Lokkediz. The restaurant opens at 6pm except Tuesday and Wednesday. I would suggest to reserve the table because this place is always full!
Fancy for a drink? Hungry for a lovely meal? Then enjoy all of it at the Bruges’ beloved De Republiek. Nevertheless don’t expect to get traditional Belgian beef stew because that one you can get from your grandmother at home!