the magazine for travellers, explorers & daydreamers
LOOK BEYOND THE CAPITALS FOR CULTURAL GEMS
E U R O P E E D I T I O N / Issue # 16
All about art
there’s a style for everyone in italy
YOUR GUIDE TO THE COUNTRY’S REGIONAL COMMUNITIES
fascinating flavours in gourmet cities
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE
France / Ireland / Germany / Greece / AND LOADS MORE London / Moscow / Berlin
DEEPER, RICHER EXPERIENCES FOR LESS FLY FREE TO EUROPE*
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Experiencing the world with Trafalgar is now even easier and better value with savings of up to 28% on 2016 land prices PLUS exclusive air deals to get you to Europe for less. Confident that every little detail is taken care of, discover 109 itineraries and 8 different ways to travel at trafalgar.com #SimplyTrafalgar LOVE TO BE INSPIRED BY THE VALUE OF TRAVEL
*Flight offers are valid for bookings made until 15 Dec 2016 for travel on selected 2017 Europe & Britain summer tour departures, until sold out. Prices are per person and represent adult fares including any applicable taxes and surcharges. Airfares are valid for travel in economy class to Europe departing from SYD/MEL/ADL/PER/BNE for travel between 01 Mar 2017 and 30 Nov 2017. A non-refundable deposit of $600pp for air-and-land offer is
required within seven days of booking. Full payment of air-and-land offer must be received by 15 Dec 2016. Fly Free, Fly from $699 and Fly from $999 are not combinable with the Early Payment Discount. Offer does not apply to CostSaver, winter or indicatively priced departures, trips to Greece, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Special Group Itineraries. Offers may be withdrawn or amended at any time. Please contact Trafalgar for further details. TT4998
fe at ures
Exciting smaller cities
Look beyond the European capitals.
One country, many worlds Explore Spain’s unique communities.
The art lover’s Italy
Look for masterpieces, find heaven.
A week in Provence
Cruising southern French waterways.
World heritage wonders
Europe is packed with UNESCO sites.
Around the Emerald Isle Hit the road to explore Ireland.
Perfect days in Moscow, Berlin and more.
Discover Europe’s culinary capitals.
Find unexpected attractions in Germany.
Europe with kids
Family travel has never been more fun.
Take time to wander Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius.
The diverse islands of Greece.
THE EUROPE EDITION
10 at th e f ro nt
at th e bac k
05 Why Europe?
84 City scoop
89 Get social
What makes this continent so great? Find out more about great destinations on the continent: did you know that Greece has more than 6,000 islands?
All the latest travel news from across Europe. Explore the highlights on a bike, relax with a spa treatment, and discover destinations with foodie highlights.
Get in early
When is the best time in the year to book your flights? Our airfares expert has the answers and more tips for saving on your travel bookings.
Flight Centre Travel Experts reveal insider knowledge about their all-time favourite European destinations.
See our travellersâ€™ pics from all over Europe, posted using the #openmyworld hashtag.
90 The challenge
East or West? Rail or river? Flight Centre Travel Experts go head to head to create different holiday itineraries.
94 Travel clinic
Our Travel Experts give their top Europe tips, including the best beaches, savings on airfares and adventure travel.
Travel ideas FLIGHT CENTRE
HEAD OF CREATIVE AND CONTENT
WELCOME TO THE LATEST ISSUE OF TRAVEL IDEAS, WHERE WE UNCOVER THE ADVENTURES OF EUROPE Trying to choose a European itinerary can feel daunting – with so many countries in such close proximity, you’ll want to visit them all. In this Europe edition of Travel ideas, we provide a comparison of holiday destinations in The Challenge, which looks at Eastern Europe-versus-Western Europe and railversus-river itineraries (page 90). In case you’ve already visited many of Europe’s capitals, we’ve highlighted some similar cities that you’ll love to help you broaden your European experience in our regular Top 10 feature (page 10). You’ll also discover the contrasting regions of Spain, including Catalonia, Basque Country, Galicia and Andalusia (page 20). For a self-guided journey, follow our exploration of Ireland by road, complete with cosy pub sojourns (page 44); and, for a dose of culture, we’ve rounded up the best art experiences across Italy (page 28). Be sure to read our insider tips on getting the best Europe deals (page 9) as well as our 24-hour guides to Moscow, Amsterdam, Berlin and Prague (page 51). We’ve covered the best experiences in Europe for this edition to make your journey unforgettable. Greer Gardiner FL IG HT CENTR E TR AVEL E X PERT
Sam Aldenton HARDIE GRANT MEDIA
DEPUTY MANAGING DIRECTOR
Clare Brundle PUBLISHER
Alison Crocker MANAGING EDITOR
Mitch Brook EDITOR
Tatyana Leonov SUB-EDITOR
Janet Gomes PRINTER
Bluestar Web Travel ideas magazine is produced by Hardie Grant Media for Flight Centre. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information in this magazine, no responsibility can be accepted by the publisher for errors or omissions, and in particular no responsibility can be accepted for the quality of goods and services, including prices quoted or errors. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part, either electronically or conventionally, without the written permission from the publisher and Flight Centre is strictly prohibited. All images supplied, unless otherwise stated.Tour itineraries, dates and availability can change.Talk to a Flight Centre Travel Expert for the latest options.
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What makes Europe great? To begin this edition of Travel ideas, here are some interesting facts about Europe. With 740 million people from countless cultures, all packed into 44 countries that are together not that much larger than Australia, travellers can make exciting discoveries wherever they choose to go. 1
AUSTRALIANS LOVE TO
TRAVEL TO EUROPE. OF SURVEYED AUSTRALIAN
is the time Edinburgh Castle shoots a cannon each day, traditionally so that ships in the Firth of Forth estuary could set their clocks.
TRAVELLERS HEADING TO EUROPE ON HOLIDAY:
of the British Museum’s collection is on display at any one time. Its oldest artefact is a 2-million-year-old stone chopping tool.
30% GO TO THE UNITED KINGDOM
VISIT A RANGE OF OTHER COUNTRIES
GO TO GERMANY
is the year the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona was started. It will take longer than the pyramids to complete, no earlier than 2026.
travellers visit Disneyland Paris each year, making it the most-visited attraction in Europe.
GO TO FRANCE
is the number of heritage-listed buildings in Bamberg, Germany, including its town hall, which is built over the Regnitz River.
Front cover & contents photos: Getty Images. Front cover image of Costa Brava, Catalonia, in Spain. Illustration: Aleksandar Savic
6 18% 5%
GO TO SPAIN
is the year the Astronomical Clock was installed in Prague Old Town Square. It tracks time, the zodiac, the sun, the moon and more.
GO TO ITALY
is the number of islands in Greece’s maritime area, only 227 of which are inhabited.
There’s always something new to see in Europe:
Explore the catacombs below Paris, which hold the remains of more than six million people.
Wander an airport which has been converted into a public park at Berlin’s Tempelhof Field.
Visit a psychedelic fluorescent-light art gallery in Amsterdam at Electric Ladyland.
Play Cold War-era computer games at the Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines in Moscow.
NEWS & EVENTS
si t back a n d rea d up on t he l at e st a n d hottest new s from europ e
Get to know NICK WHITEHOUSE
the executive chef at the epping club’s new fine-dining restaurant rawsons brings a wealth of experience from fine restaurants around the world. I was born in England and grew up in Torbay, South Devon. Even as I child I had an urge to cook and often pictured myself with a food truck travelling across Europe. I realised I loved food when I first saw ‘that look’; it’s the look of pleasure and surprise when you cook for someone and surpass their expectations. I’ve cooked all around the world, including in London, France, Holland, the Maldives, Thailand, on a multi-millionaire’s luxury yacht, and at Michelin-starred restaurants, including the three-Michelin-star La Tante Claire under Pierre Koffman. I love my job because it allows me the flexibility to be experimental. Some of my favourite destinations in Europe include the south of France, San Sebastian in Spain and the beachfront in Torbay (South Devon), because they all represent relaxing food memories. Last time I went to Europe I visited Hawksmoor restaurant and Dinner by Heston. It’s amazing to see how top chefs are busting conservatism to create flavours that will blow you away. My next dream destination is always San Sebastian. Tucking into beautiful seafood pasta paired with a craft beer overlooking the ocean is my idea of heaven. Visit Rawsons at The Epping Club in Sydney to experience some of Nick Whitehouse’s signature dishes. See eppingclub.com.
Executive Chef Nick Whitehouse always wants to return to San Sebastian for its incredible food.
travel desk Take a cycle tour through Greece to see the houses of Santorini.
Record breakers Pizza lovers, rejoice! Naples is considered the birthplace of pizza but in 2016 it also became home to the world’s longest pizza, made by 100 chefs.The pizza stretched more than 1.85km long.
The world has gone crazy for cycling, and tour companies are adding bike trips to many itineraries. UTracks has a Greek Islands tour that takes in whitewashed houses and azure waters, both by ship and by bike. Intrepid has launched cycling tours around the world, including a Provence trip on which guests pedal through landscapes that inspired some of Vincent van Gogh’s greatest masterpieces. Cruise companies are joining the pedal party too. Every Scenic ship in Europe carries e-bikes; Uniworld’s Go Active program includes guided onshore bike jaunts and exclusive city bike tours; APT has launched a Cycling Series and advanced cyclists are fitted with their own carbon road bike (on some tours); and there are plenty of other options too. If you’re into biking, there’s a tour for you.
Words: Tatyana Leonov & Sheriden Rhodes. Photos: iStock
In Bath, England, you can relax in the same waters that fill ancient Roman baths. PAMPERING
Spa it up
Follow in the footsteps of the ancient Greeks by partaking of the world’s oldest spa treatment. In Europe, natural springs have been easing aches, pains and illnesses for millennia. In Bath, England, the city’s three springs were discovered by the Romans. Millions visit to take in its mix of Roman treasures and Georgian architecture and you too can bathe like the Romans. Visitors can take a soak in the mineral-rich hot springs of the incredible Thermae Bath Spa, which taps into the spring that feeds the historic Roman Baths museum. In Budapest, Hungary, many of its 16th- and 17th-century Turkish baths are still in operation, including the palace-like Szechenyi Baths in City Park. On Lake Neuchâtel, the Swiss market town of Yverdon-les-Bain’s thermal springs also lure travellers.
The world’s biggest waves – up to 33m high – can be found at Nazaré on the west coast of Portugal. Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara surfed record-breaking waves at Nazaré in 2011 and 2013, while Brazilian big-wave idol Carlos Burle later rode a wave believed to be even bigger.
Did you know Hungary has Central Europe’s largest lake? At almost 600sqkm, Lake Balaton is so immense it’s known as the Magyar Tenger (‘Hungarian Sea’). It’s a favourite getaway for Hungarians – and its southern shore is party central.
te! Slainheers!) (C
A wee dram? Scotland is the home of whisky – and also the world’s oldest whisky, believed to have been bottled by the Glenavon Distillery in Ballindalloch between 1851 and 1858. It sold at auction for £14,850 (A$25,890).
Scoresby Sund in Greenland is the longest fjord in the world.The large tree-like fjord has a main body that stretches about 110km, with smaller ‘branches’ extending even further.
Keen to get your blood pumping? Europe’s tallest and fastest roller coaster, Shambhala, is found in PortAventura World in Catalonia, Spain. Standing 76m high and able to reach speeds of up to 134km per hour, it’s one of Europe’s scariest rides.
savvy travellers who appreciate good food and wine are choosing holiday destinations that speak to the stomach
Although the slow food movement originated in Piedmont, some of the best Italian foods are produced in the southern region of Puglia (the heel of the boot that is Italy) thanks to abundant sunshine, fertile soil and a mostly flat landscape. More olive oil is produced in Puglia than in any other region in Italy, authentic food production techniques are stock standard and food is always enjoyed slowly. For a taster of this culinary paradise try Back-Roads Touring’s ‘Slow Food Tour of Puglia’ – just remember to pack your stretchy pants.
With gastronomic influences ranging from the ancient Romans to the Ottoman Empire, Balkan cuisine is a fascinating mix of Mediterranean and Eastern European flavours. In Macedonia, in particular, food is often prepared the same way it has been made for centuries. Organic is the norm, meats are free-range and even ‘fast food’ is homemade. Get ready to sample plenty of local delicacies on Intrepid’s ‘Real Food Adventure’ – Montenegro and Macedonia, like honey straight from beehives, home-smoked hams and fresh-pressed olive oils.
Irish food is renowned around the world for its heartiness and robust flavours. Meat and starch are used frequently, with dishes like sausages, potatoes and savoury puddings all making a regular appearance on the dinner table. The Irish stew is one of Ireland’s most celebrated dishes: mutton, potatoes, onions and water, although these days anything goes. On Trafalgar’s ‘Wonders of Britain and Ireland’ tour guests are able to try a traditional Irish stew at a historic familyrun cottage in the country as part of the Be My Guest experience.
On your two feet Europe offers some of the best walking terrain in the world so grab a map or book a tour and start marching. Utracks’ Mont Blanc Guided Walk is considered one of the world’s most spectacular alpine treks. Starting in the Chamonix Valley in France, the route takes you through Italy and Switzerland on a circuit around Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc. Hikers enjoy sweeping vistas of mountain peaks and glaciers. Walkers trek for about seven hours a day but, thankfully, carry only daypacks.
A step through time
Spain’s Camino de Santiago, or Way of St James, leads to Santiago de Compostela, a cathedral believed to hold the remains of St James. It takes about a month to trek the entire trail, or you can opt for a 111km stretch, dubbed the French Way, that crosses the Pyrenees into Galicia. Tackle it solo or Peregrine offers selfguided trips with accommodation, route notes and maps provided.
The Lycian Way Coastal Walk (508km), in Mediterranean Turkey, is not for the faint-hearted due to its length and terrain, but those who persevere are rewarded with vistas of mountains, castles, Roman ruins, and stunning coastline. Permit and free camping is available along the trail and hotels and pensions are located en route; UTracks offers selfguided itineraries, too.
Photos: iStock, Pino Valente, Utracks
Get in early
WHEN IT COMES TO BOOKING FLIGHTS TO EUROPE, THE EARLYBIRD DOESN’T JUST GET THE WORM; THEY GET THE MOST COMPETITIVE PRICES, TOO
Dreaming of a European getaway? Every spring, airlines release some of their best flight deals for the year ahead. In the world of travel this is known as earlybird season. Here, Flight Centre’s Chief Airfare Expert Jason Nooning gives you insider information on when, where and how to secure the best deal.
The benefits of booking earlybird airfares
“One of the major benefits of booking during the earlybird period, aside from the discounted price, is being able to fly on your selected dates and times as well as taking advantage of the value-add options airlines offer. Earlybird season is the time when airlines really compete and include offers like $1 stopovers in Singapore, discounted side trips or two-for-one nights in Abu Dhabi, by way of example. “The top 10 most popular European destinations on offer during earlybird season are Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Dublin, Frankfurt, Istanbul, London, Milan, Paris and Rome. There are many carriers serving Australia to get you to these cities. “Travellers can make significant savings on earlybird fares across business class and economy flights – but the best airfares and most popular routes sell out first so it’s essential to get in early.” Jason advises that while the rates released around September are already competitively priced, savvy travellers can save more by using the destination and airline route network to their advantage. “If you’re flexible with travel plans, you can save money by avoiding more expensive hubs like London and Paris for cities including Dublin, Milan, Athens and Istanbul. These cities are often the cheapest to fly into and, for the cost of another short flight or train fare, travellers can reduce the cost of their international flights while adding a bit more of Europe to their itinerary.”
Words: Tara Young
When is the best time to fly to Europe?
“Many people have the perception that the European summer is the only time to go but Europe is a year-round holiday destination,” says Jason. “Many countries offer diverse experiences and attractions dependent on the season. The magic of the Christmas markets and festive season traditions celebrated in Germany and across central Europe is only able to be experienced from late November into December, for example.”
“Summer (June to August) means finding cheap deals on flights, accommodation and tours is more difficult. If you’re flexible with dates, visit busy places early or late in the season to avoid the crowds. Locals tend to holiday around July and August but this shouldn’t affect your sightseeing. Some destinations are best visited in peak season, such as the UK and Scandinavia, when the weather is best.”
“The shoulder seasons (April to mid-June and September to October) also see an influx of tourists. It’s generally a less hectic season, but as temperatures cools in southern Europe, the weather becomes more comfortable for sightseeing so it can get busy. It’s recommended hikers planning on alpine trekking book flight tickets for autumn.”
“Tourist numbers taper off after October until March, as do the prices, with cheaper flights available. The weather may necessitate packing warm clothing, but travelling to Europe in the off season (November to March) can be a big saving. Note that in the middle of this period, airfare prices soar for the three weeks over the Christmas and New Year period.”
Earlybird tips & tricks There are plenty of deals if you’re setting your sights on Europe for 2017. If you’re planning to take advantage of the earlybird sales, Jason’s top five tips for snagging an earlybird bargain will help you get planning: Be flexible with travel plans: The best-value earlybird fares are for travel in the early part of the year, during the shoulder season before the summer rush of June, July and August. Book early: Competitive fares sell out quickly so get your flights locked in as soon as possible. Include a stopover: Flights to Europe offer a stopover – Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore are examples – so make the most of this feature by organising a side trip to get more travel for your dollar. Take out travel insurance: When you’re locking plans in far in advance, travel insurance will ensure you’re protected should you need to cancel or reschedule. Use Eurail to connect your itinerary: Fly into more affordable hubs and travel by train, using Europe’s comprehensive fast-rail system to maximise your budget.
T op t e n The merchants’ houses lining the fjord leading into Bergen are heritage-listed.
ten p o T
SMALLER CITIES EUROPE’S CAPITALS GET ALL THE ATTENTION BUT THESE LITTLE SIBLINGS ARE JUST AS REWARDING TO VISIT Words: Ute Junker
ALLURING SMA EX L LP EE RR I C EN I TCI E S
If you love… OSLO
The most laidback of the Scandinavian capitals, Oslo is known for its park-studded neighbourhoods, accessible forests and a lively cultural scene.
Then try… BERGEN
Bergen doesn’t just charm tourists; it knocks their socks off. Surrounded by seven fjords and seven wooded hills, this compact town punches well above its weight as a tourist attraction. Start in the old quarter of Bryggen, where the colourful merchants’ houses have scored a World Heritage listing. Feast on the day’s catch at the seafood market, then take yourself out to explore the spectacular surrounds. If you’re not feeling that energetic, take the funicular to the top of Mt Fløyen and walk back down. Bergen’s cultural scene is also dynamic. As the hometown of composer Edvard Grieg, Bergen has a packed calendar of concerts: the lunchtime concerts at Grieg’s home are a must. Also worth checking out are the city’s KODE art museums and acclaimed local restaurants such as Hanne På Høyden and Lysverkert.
T op t e n
If you love…
A hilltop castle, a Georgian New Town, a medieval Old Town, even an underground city – no wonder Edinburgh is considered one of the loveliest cities of the British Isles.
Then try… GLASGOW
Turin’s Caffe Torino is a popular choice with both travellers and locals.
If you love…
Madrid is famous for its trio of magnificent museums – the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the ThyssenBornemisza – but wandering its elegant squares and parks is just as much of a highlight.
You’ll find friendly locals and quirky cafés in Glasgow.
Where to start with this Catalonian gem? Few cities have been as blessed as Barcelona. Start by getting to grips with its cultural giants, Picasso, Miro and of course the mighty Gaudí, whose idiosyncratic buildings – from the Sagrada Familia to the Casa
Batllo – are among the city’s most distinctive landmarks. Mind you, they certainly have plenty of competition. From the grand boulevard of La Rambla to the ancient alleyways of the Barri Gotic, the elegant modernista architecture of Eixample and the winding streets of El Born, each of Barcelona’s neighbourhoods has its own distinct character. Arguably Barcelona’s greatest attraction, however, is its buzzing nightlife. From basement jazz joints to tapas bars, and late-night clubs to some of the world’s most acclaimed fine-dining destinations, Barcelona offers an excellent variation of delightful nights out for the openminded visitor.
Photos: Alamy, Getty Images, iStock
Goldilocks would love Glasgow. Not too big, not too small, the city is large enough to have a thriving cultural scene but small enough that you’ll never get lost. You might start your explorations in the chic Merchant City, where boutiques and bars now inhabit the homes once built by the city’s richest traders. Feel like some fresh air instead? Glasgow’s verdant green spaces include the lovely Kelvingrove Park, particularly seductive when the spring blossoms are in full bloom. Also worth checking out are Glasgow’s art scene – considered one of the most cutting-edge in the UK – and excellent museums. All Glasgow’s publicly owned museums offer free entry. Or you could hike up to the Necropolis, the Victorian memorial to the dead placed high on the hill behind Glasgow Cathedral. There’s something surprisingly romantic about this ornate cemetery with its overblown tributes to lost loved ones.
ALLURING SMALLER CITIES
If you love… ROME
La dolce vita is alive and well in the Eternal City, where every stroll takes you past fountain-studded piazzas, elegant palazzi, archaeological wonders and ancient masterpieces.
Then try… TURIN
04 Barcelona’s Park Güell is one of Gaudí’s most famous works.
Sitting in the shadow of the Alps, Turin may have a colder climate than Rome but it more than holds its own when it comes to cultural clout. The original capital of Italy when it was first unified was once the seat of the powerful House of Savoy, which left many of Turin’s elegant boulevards well supplied with monuments, such as the elegant Palace of Venaria and the Museo Egizio, the most important ancient Egypt collection outside Cairo. More recently, the Agnelli family, of Fiat car manufacturers fame, gifted the city the marvellous Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli. The gallery’s collection features an assortment of works by Matisse, Picasso and Renoir and is housed in the former Fiat factory. A visit to the rooftop racetrack is a must. Turin is also heaven for foodies. The area’s mistdraped forests and rolling hills produce not just the much-sought-after truffle but rich red wines such as barolo and nebbiolo. Turin’s grand cafes include some of the best in Europe; don’t miss the sumptuous Caffe Torino, and Baratti and Milano. Travel ideas
T op t e n
If you love… ZURICH
The city that defies Switzerland’s quiet and reserved reputation, Zurich is beautifully positioned by a lake and has an ancient city centre, a vibrant hipster district and gorgeous river baths.
Then try… BASEL
Its picturesque location, on a bend in the Rhine River, is just one of the reasons that
Basel is an allweather city which has a beautiful historical centre.
Basel natives love their home town. Wandering through the historic Old Town is a delight, from the rust-red Town Hall through the boutiques and galleries of the Spalenberg district, all the way up to the 600-year-old city gate. During the sun-drenched summers, join the locals cooling off with a dip in the river or enjoy an al fresco drink on the shore. Don’t be led astray by the balmy summer days, however; Basel is an all-weather city, thanks to world-class museums such as the
Fondation Beyeler and the Kunstmuseum Basel, where masterpieces by the likes of Picasso and Rothko, Monet and Van Gogh are displayed. Nearby, just over the German border, the Vitra Design Museum is a must for fans of architecture and design.
ALLURING SMALLER CITIES
If you love…
Long walks along the river, boulevards lined with historic buildings, lively cafes and superb museums... No wonder everyone loves Paris.
Then try… MARSEILLE
Marseille may lack picture-book vistas like the capital but its lively neighbourhoods still offer plenty of other delights. The bustling Vieux Port harbour of Marseille is a lovely place to go exploring, as is the boho
Le Panier district, with its alleys and sun-drenched squares. There are grand cathedrals, world-class museums such as MuCEM (the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations) and the city’s famous floating prison, the Chateau d’If. Marseille’s other attraction is its dining scene. Whether you’re after ocean-fresh seafood (including Marseille’s signature dish, bouillabaisse), a Michelinstarred feast or freshly grilled merguez (spicy North African sausage) amid the souk-like stalls of the Capucin district, it’s easy to sate your appetite.
The Vieux Port in Marseille is usually packed with boats.
If you love…
From Moorish castles and baroque monasteries to the elegant avenues of Baixa and the red-tiled roofs of the bustling Alfama district, Europe’s sunniest capital city is a delight to explore.
Photos: Alamy, iStock
Carmo Church, Porto, features the distinctive azulejo tiles of the city.
Porto looks terrific from above. Peer down from the terrace of the Sé do Porto (cathedral) or the Jardim do Morro (garden) and a beautiful cityscape unfolds, complete with extravagant churches, stately townhouses and streets that slope at vertiginous angles. Take yourself on a discovery tour; follow an alley or staircase and see where it leads you. You might find yourself in a quiet plaza or bustling market where everything from roast chestnuts to live roosters is for sale. The neighbourhoods of Miragaia, Ribeira and Massarelos are popular with visitors but make sure not to neglect the new parts of town. The contrast between contemporary buildings such as the minimalist Museu de Arte Contemporânea and the daring Casa da Música and the striking traditional azulejo tiles that appear everywhere is a key element of Porto’s boho beauty. Travel ideas
T op t e n
If you love…
Lively bars and cafes, pretty parks, an elegant Old Town and a generous serve of Soviet-style architecture: Warsaw is a peculiar yet beguiling destination.
Then try… KRAKOW
Kazimierz in Krakow is one of the city’s most atmospheric areas.
If you love…
From the ancient Parthenon high on its hill to the lively bars and boutiques in Plaka’s warren of winding streets, Athens’ vibrant mash-up of ancient and modern is a winning combination.
Thessaloniki is home to historic artefacts, like the Arch of Galerius.
In Thessaloniki, they don’t bother trying to compete with Athens; they figure they already have the capital beaten hands down. Certainly, history is on their side. While Athens spent centuries as a quiet
backwater, Salonika (as it was then known) was the second city of both the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, and it is so packed with monuments that it’s hard to know where you should start looking. Highlights include the stunning fourth-century Arch of Galerius, overlooking one of the city’s main shopping drags, and a wealth of gorgeous Byzantine churches, including the mighty Rotunda of St George. There are Ottoman markets and bathhouses and an ancient forum, but the city’s favourite landmark is the White Tower, which provides a spectacular outlook across the buzzing waterfront bars and restaurants.
Photos: Alamy, iStock
There is no other way to describe it – Poland’s former royal capital is simply enchanting. Townhouses with ornate, brightly coloured facades; cathedrals and castles: a stroll through Krakow’s Old Town feels like a walk through a fairytale. Start your explorations at the imposing hilltop castle, then make your way slowly to the monumental – and beautiful – main square. There is much to discover here, from the ornate St Mary’s Church to the gorgeous Renaissance Cloth Hall, but make the time to settle in at an outdoor cafe and watch life eddying around you. It pays to explore a bit further afield, too. One of the city’s most atmospheric quarters is the former Jewish district of Kazimierz. Its historic streets once provided dramatic backdrops for the film Schindler’s List; today they are home to some of the city’s liveliest bars and restaurants.
ALLURING SMALLER CITIES
If you love…
From its aptly named Grand Square to the funky boutiques of the Dansaert district, not to mention an exciting restaurant scene, buzzing Brussels is a feast for the senses.
Then try… ANTWERP
The rest of the world may have forgotten that Antwerp was once one of Europe’s most important cities but the locals certainly haven’t. How could they, with reminders on every corner, from elegant mansions to one of Europe’s most ornate railway stations? Art fans who come especially to visit the Rubens House find plenty of other enticing museums at hand, including the Rockox House, the Museum Mayer van den Bergh and the strikingly silhouetted Museum aan de Stroom. The city’s contemporary creative scene is just as vibrant. Talented local designers, including big names such as Ann Demeulemeester and Walter van Beirendonck, have won Antwerp recognition as one of the world’s fashion capitals. As you wander the city’s medieval centre, keep an eye out for their stylish boutiques. Also worth a visit are the city’s most talented chefs: top spots for a memorable meal include The Jane, Graanmarket 13 and Fiskebar.
Children climb up the Brabo Fountain in Antwerp’s Grote Markt, or Grand Square.
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Magnificent Europe 15 days from $6,495* pp, twin share Fly Free* AMSTERDAM NETHERLANDS
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*Conditions apply. Prices are per person (pp), AUD, twin share and include port charges. Prices are inclusive of Bonus Early Payment Discount. Prices are correct as at 12 August 2016, but may fluctuate due to changes in availability, surcharges, fees, taxes or exchange rates. Prices based on EUMCR15: of 15 days or more, you will save $300 per person. A non-refundable deposit of $1,000 per person is due within 7 days of booking. A second non-refundable deposit of $2,000 per person is due by 31 October 2016. Tour must be paid in full 10 months prior to departure date. This offer is combinable subject to availability of airline and booking class. Once class is sold out surcharges apply. Flights must be booked by APT. All airfare offers are in economy class with Singapore Airlines (W class) depending on routing (or another airline of APT’s choosing). Airfare offers are valid ex. MEL/SYD/BNE/
The Majestic Imperator Discover the luxury of imperial rail travel with a day trip aboard the decadent Majestic Imperator Train.
Princess Heideâ€™s Namedy Castle Visit royalty as Princess Heide von Hohenzollern welcomes you to her home, Namedy Castle.
Vienna City Palace Concert Be enchanted by a cocktail reception and a private orchestral performance at Viennaâ€™s City Palace.
11 November 2017 (Cat. E) departure. A first non-refundable deposit of $1,000 per person is due within 7 days of booking. A second non-refundable deposit of $2,000 per person is due by 31 October 2016. Final payment due 100 days prior to departure. EARLY PAYMENT DISCOUNT: On holidays with applicable airfare offer, Solo Traveller Offer and Travelling with Friends discount. ALL OFFERS: All offers are available until 30 November 2016, unless sold out prior. Limited suites/cabins/staterooms on set departures are available and are subject to availability. AIRFARE OFFERS: All offers are PER/ADL. FLY FREE: Offer includes return economy class flights to Europe, with air taxes up to $1,000 pp. Surcharges will apply if air taxes exceed this amount. Australian Pacific Touring Pty Ltd. ABN 44 004 684 619. ATAS accreditation #A10825. APT4739
ONE COUNTRY, MANY WORLDS
THE MAP OF EUROPE SHOWS SPAIN AS A SINGLE NATION YET IN REALITY IT’S A COLLECTION OF PROUDLY INDIVIDUAL COMMUNITIES Words: Ben Groundwater
Visit Spain for the culture and see flamenco dancers in all their passion and glory.
There was a realisation when I first arrived in the Basque Country that came as something of a surprise: no one was speaking Spanish. The same thing happened in Barcelona, too, when I listened closely. It happened in the province of Galicia, and even in Aragon. The locals weren’t speaking Spanish. They were speaking their own native tongues. They were speaking Basque, or Catalan, or Galician, or Aragonese. Here in Spain, it appeared that many people didn’t want to speak Spanish. It dawned on me then that this is not a single, homogenous country. It’s not a monoculture. Spain is in fact a series of close-knit mini-nations, a fascinating place of invisible boundaries that separate fiercely independent people.
There is no ‘Spanish culture’, I’ve come to realise. The country is a series of unique ways of life. There is no Spanish food – there’s Catalan food, and Valencian food, and Andalusian food, and Galician food. There’s no Spanish architecture, or Spanish music, or Spanish wine. Each region has versions of these cultural touchstones to call its own. While this might lead to some fractured politics, it also makes for an amazing tourism experience. To travel Spain isn’t simply to explore one country and one culture but to discover something new in every city. The only seam that runs through all of these mini-nations is a love of the good things, of family, of food, of leisure and life.
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Photos: Getty, iStock
The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is one of Spainâ€™s architectural treasures, designed by Frank Gehry.
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Bilbao is now considered an artistic haven, with public sculpture and temporary exhibitions among the effects.
Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum at sunset. Bilbao’s Museum of Fine Arts.
You can’t help but envy the Basques. Not only do they get to call northeastern Spain – one of the most beautiful parts of the world – their home but they also have some of the best food on the planet (learn more about this and foodie city San Sebastian on page 58). People of the Basque Country hold claim to the most unique language in Europe: Basque, or Euskara in its own phrasing, is not related to any other European language. Basque culture is traditional but also innovative. This is a region of artists and artisans, of architectural gems including the cube-like Kursaal Centre in San Sebastian.
The colourful streets of Casco Vieno, a district of Bilbao.
Bilbao is the main city of the Basque Country, and the people have a grounded attitude born of an industrial background. The city started to gain international attention with the addition of the Guggenheim Museum in 1997, also an architectural wonder, which contains modern works by artists such as Warhol, Rothko and Lipschitz, as well as impressive temporary exhibitions. Don’t miss: Guggenheim isn’t the only worthwhile museum in Bilbao. Check out the Museum of Fine Arts for a collection of work by Basque artists such as Ignacio Zuloaga and Eduardo Chillida among work by other masters.
The Estelada flag is a symbol for Catalonian independence.
Photos: Getty Images, iStock
Visitors flock to Costa Brava for its clear water and wide beaches.
The Sagrada Familia is one of Gaudí’s most celebrated works.
The first thing you notice is the flags: the bold red and yellow stripes with a blue triangle and a star. They fly from official flagpoles; they hang from balconies and windows. This is the Estelada – the flag of Catalan independence – and it flies freely in cities like Barcelona and Girona. The Catalans have their own language, their own style and their own governance – and they would very much like to have their own country. And beautiful country it is, with Mediterranean and alpine climates, stunning coastline such as the Costa Brava and wilderness including serene lake-dotted national parks in the north. For now, they’re part of Spain but retain their own spirit. You can see that spirit in the work of one of the Catalans’ favourite sons, Antoni Gaudí, including his architectural masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia. You can see it in the passion for Barcelona’s famous football team. You can see it in the work of award-winning chefs like Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame and the Roca brothers from the amazing El Celler de Can Roca. Most of all, however, you can see it on the streets of Barcelona, Girona and Tarragona, in the bars, the cafes, the markets and the malls. And you can’t help but be swept up.
Don’t miss: As impressive as La Sagrada Familia is from the outside, it’s essential to take a tour of the interior to fully appreciate Gaudí’s genius. Travel ideas
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Many visitors to Spain will be familiar with Galicia as the goal for pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago, a holy trail that leads to Santiago de Compostela in the region’s centre. That city may be the capital and cultural hub of Galicia but there’s much more to this semi-autonomous region, a place that boasts as much Celtic history as it does Roman or Latin.
Set in Spain’s far northwestern corner, Galicia is known for its rias – the rugged coastal inlets that frame much of the region’s 1,200km of Atlantic coastline. Dotted among these rias are lively cities such as A Coruña and Vigo, friendly places where the days are long and the nights are even longer, making them the perfect locations in which to relax, take things slowly and enjoy sampling the fresh seafood for which Galicia is famous throughout Spain. Don’t miss: As beautiful as Galicia’s coastal locations are, the true highlight of the region is Santiago de Compostela. This holy city is an absolute charmer, with its stonepaved streets, centuries-old churches and countless tapas bars and restaurants. Feast on fresh seafood in Galicia.
Galicia is dotted by beautiful views, such as this of Cape Ortegal.
Rua do Franco, in Santiago de Compostela.
Photos: Getty Images
e el lik e e f , Wow e in Gam you’r Thrones of
Seville’s grand cathedral courtyard.
Andalusia is the Spain you’ve been picturing: hot, sultry and passionate. It’s the swift movement of fingers on a flamenco guitar; it’s the artistry and violence of a matador; it’s the buzz of drinkers gathered in a city square. Andalusia is a place of deep traditions that hark back to the Romans and Visigoths and Moors. Each city has an identity of its own. In Seville, once a seat of power, the winding alleyways of the Old Town are lined with more bars and cafes than you think a place of this size could possibly support. Granada, a lively student town, still sits in the shadow of the Alhambra, the ancient Arabic fortress. Córdoba boasts a stunning central building that has served as both cathedral and mosque. And Málaga, one of the oldest cities in the world, basks in the southern sun. Whether you’re attending a flamenco performance, watching a bullfight, eating tapas or simply strolling centuries-old streets, it’s impossible not to feel at least a little of the passion that makes Andalusia great. Don’t miss: The Real Alcazar is a former royal palace in Seville that served as the location for the Dorne water gardens in Game of Thrones. It’s one of the world’s finest examples of Moorish architecture.
Real Alcazar Seville featured in Game of Thrones.
Valencia’s buildings are futuristic masterpieces.
Deliciou s pa ella to share
You should really eat paella only in Valencia.
While many regions in Spain are defined by their history, Valencia – or the Valencian Community – is very much a place that lives in the present. You only have to walk the streets of its eponymous main city to realise this is true: the buildings are works of modern art, from the futuristic Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (the City of Arts and Sciences) – a huge complex of bubble- and wave-shaped buildings designed by local architect Santiago Calatrava – to the former riverbed that has been converted into extensive parklands. Valencia the province is a one-time kingdom that still has its own language, though as it is also a modern-day hub for students and travellers, Spanish is widely spoken. One of the highlights of a visit to this region is sure to be the chance to sample that most famous of dishes, paella. This is Valencian to the core, to the point that there is really no other place in Spain where you should be eating it. Don’t miss: The beachfront area of Malvarrosa is the perfect place to try paella. Just remember, this is traditionally a lunchtime dish that’s eaten communally – as in, everyone grabs a spoon and attacks the pan together.
Leave city life behind with a journey into the heart of Aragon, a historic and beautiful Spanish region that lacks the metropolises of its neighbours but more than makes up for this with gorgeous medieval villages and mountain landscapes. Aragon nestles between Catalonia to the east and the Basque Country to the west, another one-time kingdom that could be straight out of Game of Thrones with its fortified citadels and weathered plains. As in so many parts of Spain, the Aragonese have their own language, their own traditional music and dances, their own festivals and their own cuisine. But while
there’s much to love about the people and their culture, the real appeal of Aragon is the chance to get outdoors and enjoy the scenery. The region is a hub for canyoning, rock-climbing, whitewater rafting and hiking. Those keen for something a little more sedate can, of course, soak up the laidback charm of the capital, Zaragoza. Don’t miss: Some of Spain’s finest wine is produced in Aragon, in areas such as Somontano and Carineña that are known for their reds (in particular, tempranillo and granacha).
Five Spanish cities to see right now Barcelona The Catalan capital is a cosmopolitan hub of students, travellers, artists, buskers and wanderers from all origins and walks of life. This is also the home of Antoni Gaudí’s most famous works, from La Sagrada Familia to the hilltop Park Güell. San Sebastian The jewel in the Basque Country crown is San Sebastian, a city with two beautiful beaches, some lovely architecture and great shopping, all of which are completely overshadowed by the food. San Sebastian’s tradition of great cuisine stretches from the fanciest restaurant to the cheapest bar. Granada There’s much to love about Granada, but in terms of pure enjoyment, go no further than a night out in the bustling Old Town, feasting on tapas and enjoying the sounds and sights of flamenco. There’s a tradition in Granada – buy a drink, receive a free plate of tapas – that adds to the convivial air. Santiago de Compostela One of Spain’s most underrated cities, Santiago de Compostela is the finish line for pilgrims hiking the Camino de Santiago who pay a visit to the main cathedral before relaxing in the city’s charming surrounds. The stonepaved streets and centuries-old buildings make it impossible not to fall under Santiago’s spell. Madrid The Spanish capital is surprisingly underappreciated as a tourist destination, despite boasting one of Europe’s best art galleries in the Museo del Prado, plus being the home of two of the continent’s most famous football teams and some of Spain’s best nightlife. Madrid is arty, friendly and fun.
The rugged landscape of Aragon easily charms visitors.
Visit your local Flight Centre to find out more about getting to and around these Spanish regions, and the latest deals. Go to flightcentre. com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.
The art lover’s
ITALY IS HOME TO CREATIVE MASTERPIECES THAT DRAW VISITORS IN THEIR MILLIONS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD Words: Gwen O’Toole
While it’s no secret that some of the world’s most renowned works of classical art originated in Italy – think Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticelli – there’s also an abundance of modern art, performance art, architecture and everything in between that’s certain to make lovers of all creative genres swoon. No matter what your preferred style, here’s where to find it.
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You can get lost in the museums of the Vatican. Santa Maria delle Grazie is a Milan church and convent containing ‘The Last Supper’ by Da Vinci. Renowned ‘The Last Supper’ itself. Man and God reach towards each other in a section of ‘The Creation of Man’, from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel fresco. Vatican City is also renowned for its impressive architectural feats, shown here in St Peter’s Basilica.
Photos © istock, Getty Photos: Getty Images, Image Brief
The classic artist If it’s the classics that take your fancy, you’re in luck, as Italy is packed with Renaissance artworks almost everywhere you look. You’ll find them in almost every basilica, historic villa, castle or museum you come across. Popular museums such as the Uffizi Gallery in Florence house some of the most famous masterpieces of Western art, including notable works ranging from Da Vinci and Botticelli to Michelangelo and Caravaggio. And no trip to Italy would be complete for any art lover without a stop in Vatican City to see classical sculptures, tapestries and even more Renaissance art (Italy was the birthplace of the
Renaissance, after all), along with the Sistine Chapel with its once-in-a-lifetime view of the ceiling adorned by Michelangelo. In the Vatican Museum, among an enormous collection of religious art, many visitors are surprised to find works by the like of Marc Chagall, Paul Gauguin, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and several other more modern artists. If visiting Milan, a stop at the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie is a must. There you can lay your eyes on Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’, unexpectedly larger than most assume and not displayed in a museum at all; it’s located in the monastery dining hall. Travel ideas
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For those keen on modern art, Venice is an ideal destination as it’s the home of the Art Biennale that takes place in odd-numbered years, bringing thousands to the city to enjoy some of the most influential and cutting-edge artists from around the world. If you aren’t in Venice during the Biennale, make sure to visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection along the Grand Canal, where you’ll find her private collection of works by prominent Italian futurists as well as pieces by Picasso, Duchamp, Kandinsky and more. There are also a few artworks by Guggenheim’s former husband, Max Ernst. While most people go to Florence for the Renaissance art, there’s still a rich culture of nurturing contemporary artists, and as such the city has several smaller but still-impressive galleries. The Gallery of Contemporary Art is located on the second level of Pitti Palace and is well worth a visit, and many of the museums, such as the Galleria dell’Accademia (where you’ll find Michelangelo’s sculpture of David) and the Palazzo Vecchio, have frequent contemporary art exhibitions. In Rome, MAXXI (the National Museum of 21st Century Arts) is a tribute to both modern arts and architecture over two separate spaces and has a healthy permanent collection of modern pieces. The building is a drawcard in its own right; designed by arguably the world’s greatest female architect, Dame Zaha Hadid, it is considered one of her most notable works.
T H I S PA G E , C L O C KW I S E FROM TOP
Rome’s MAXXI contains tributes to both modern arts and architecture. Michelangelo’s statue of David is one of his most famous works, in Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia. Be captivated by the modern artworks in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Rome’s MAXXI museum is itself a piece of art.
The history nerd History buffs will be in their element at Italy’s archaeological sites, marvelling at the mosaics and frescos that have survived not just the centuries but, in the case of Pompeii, natural disasters. Murals and frescos in Pompeii and Herculaneum date from 50–79AD and provide an interesting perspective on village life before the eruption of Mt Vesuvius, during which most of the city (including all its paintings) was destroyed. Don’t miss visiting the House of the Vettii in Pompeii for some remarkably restored murals and the mosaics among the ruins of Ercolano in Herculaneum. In northern Italy’s Piedmont region, the Castello della Manta houses
noteworthy frescos that are rare samples of Late Gothic painting in Italy. Painted anonymously, the artworks, which ornately fill the room, were created in about 1420 and portray the Nove Prodi (Nine Worthies) with their female counterparts. For a contemporary twist on historic murals that can be compared to modern-day street art, visit the murals in Sardinia’s Orgosolo. These are currently being investigated for their historical and anthropological significance following their emergence in the 1960s. Hundreds of these murals adorn buildings and natural landscapes, and if you’re travelling off the beaten path to Sardinia, they’re well worth a look.
Photos: Getty Images, iStock
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A restored fresco in Pompeii’s House of the Vettii. Pompeii was buried in volcanic ash in 79AD, and rediscovered almost 1,700 years later. Frescos in Piedmont’s Castello della Manta depict the Nine Worthies. Orgosolo in Sardinia is known for its contemporary street murals.
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The building buff No matter where in Italy you travel, the architecture of the buildings is hard to overlook. The arches, domes, piazzas, basilicas and castles make it hard to know where to begin. Luckily, you’ll find incredible buildings everywhere, particularly in Rome with its ancient ruins, the Colosseum and the Pantheon (which has gone on to inspire many government buildings worldwide, most notably the US Capitol Building in Washington DC).
Also in Rome, Trevi Fountain is a mustsee for fans of baroque architecture (or simply fans of beautiful landmarks). The iconic fountain has recently undergone a €2.2 million (A$3.27m) restoration sponsored by Italian fashion label Fendi and is now looking better than ever.
Tivoli’s Villa Adriana is another that’s worth exploring, with its exceptional buildings constructed for the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Additionally, the famous Tower of Pisa, Venice’s Doges Palace and a wealth of other buildings throughout the country offer examples of everything from classical to early medieval, Gothic, Renaissance and baroque architecture. Indeed, there’s something for every building buff.
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The culture vulture
Photos: Getty Images
More of a culture buff? Italy has an abundance of ornate theatres where you can experience the best in performance art – opera, dance and music – including the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, which is such a sight to behold that it’s worth booking a tour in advance. However, if you really want to experience the hall as it was intended to be used, attend an opera any time from January to July or in September to October, when opera season takes over the venue. Film buffs also flock to Venice for its International Film Festival, which is the oldest in the world and is held as part of the Venice Biennale. At this time local theatres fill with independent films and seasonal outdoor cinemas
On the ground Flight Centre offers a variety of art and cultural tours in Italy that will get you to these sites, including an ‘Italy at
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It’s said that if you toss a coin into Trevi Fountain in Rome, you’re sure to return. Learn about Italian cinema at Turin’s National Museum of Cinema. Teatro La Fenice in Venice hosts opera, but is worth a visit just for its own design. Teatro La Fenice on the Venetian canals.
pop up in the piazzas. Film aficionados take note: the National Museum of Cinema is also in Turin. Since its opening in 2008 the museum has hosted an enormous permanent collection and temporary touring exhibitions of film posters, vintage film equipment including precinematic viewing devices, vintage props from old Italian movies and much more to discover over five levels.
Love all types of art?
Visit Flight Centre to find out more about visiting Italy’s museum and theatres, and the latest deals on flights. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.
a Glance’ eight-day tour with Geckos Adventures visiting many of Rome’s famous landmarks (such as Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and Vatican City) during which you can experience all the historic and cultural sites as well as spend a few days in romantic
Venice and Florence with its wealth of art and the added bonus of coastal Cinque Terre. Alternatively, experience la dolce vita over 15 days with Trafalgar. Its ‘Best of Italy and Sicily’ tour will see you travel from north to south relishing
the highlights of Rome, Pisa, Florence, Venice, Pompeii and Naples, with a bit of sailing time before visiting Sicily for Taormina and Savoca (the village made famous by The Godfather) and soaking up the breathtaking views of the Amalfi Coast before returning to Rome.
A week in
Provence FROM FLAMINGOS TO FLOWERS, THE VIEW FROM THE WATER IS UNRIVALLED ON A RIVER CRUISE THROUGH THE SOUTH OF FRANCE Words: Julia Bound
Beautiful fields of lavender are instantly recognisable as Provenรงal landscapes.
Photos Â© istock, Getty
Provençal towns are a blend of pretty colours. Passengers aboard their barge cruise through Provence.
Explore the Pézenas market each Saturday.
Bread for sale at a market in Aix-en-Provence.
We’re promised lavender fields, paddocks of sunflowers and a flamboyance of pink flamingos: three colourful symbols that are as quintessentially Provençal as the medieval villages and market squares. We’re cruising along the canals and rivers of southeastern France, stopping to explore the off-the-beaten-tourist-trail attractions that are abundant here. The escorted cruise concept is relatively new for our host, a company better known for its guided walking and cycling tours. This year Back-Roads Touring began offering barge holidays in France: small groups cruising on CroisiEurope river vessels escorted by a guide. Our compact group of 12 travellers (half hailing from Down Under, the other half from the UK) begins our week-long
Provence river-and-road tour in the ancient town of Arles, where intact Roman architecture tells a fascinating story of the past. There we meet Erik, our guide, and Rachel, our driver. Boarding the ship, our home for the next week, we are introduced to the crew: our captain and co-captain, our cruise director, our room attendant, our server and, arguably the most important man on the ship, our chef. His mission – to singlehandedly prepare three delicious meals a day for hungry holidaymakers – is tackled with skill and enthusiasm as he serves up dishes that include octopus pie, pan-seared scallops and braised bull. This operator likes to bill its trips as ‘organised independence’: essentials like transport, meals, accommodation and
museum entry are taken care of so that we travellers can sit back, relax and do as much – or as little – as we please. For our group, ranging in age from 40 to 80 and with varying degrees of mobility and energy, this means that on one sunny day a couple of people decide to stay on board to enjoy the open-air jacuzzi. Others join the group outing to Pont du Gard – a spectacular Roman aqueduct – and are rewarded for tackling the steep climb to the summit with an unforgettable view of the UNESCO World Heritagelisted monument. One day we visit the village of Pézenas, where having free time means we go our separate ways to explore the Saturday market, wander art galleries or simply sit and enjoy a coffee in the July sun.
Pont du Gard is an ancient Roman aqueduct crossing the Gardon River.
Three more river cruises we love
Find bright pink flamingos wading in the Provence wetlands.
Photos: Back-Roads Touring, Getty Images
We go our separate ways to explore the Saturday market or wander the art galleries” The best river cruise companies provide authentic local experiences, with guides aiming to give guests an insight into the region they are visiting that they probably would not receive on their own. On our trip, we visit a farm to learn about the high-stakes business of breeding prize bulls and trek through an olive grove with a farmer who explains why the good oil is always worth the extra expense. At a museum dedicated to seafood we learn about ancient methods of farming oysters. And, as promised, we stop for photo opps by the side of a road where fields of sunflowers and lavender, as far as the eye can see, bathe the summer landscape in a painter’s palette of yellow, purple and green. Nearing the end of the cruise we almost lose hope of spotting pink flamingos – the
glamorous birds that nest in the wetlands of the windswept river deltas of Provence. Just in time, however, during a minivan tour ashore we spot a dozen or more of the elegant creatures, basking in the golden light of sunset. Rachel stops on cue and of course we all pile out, cameras at the ready.
Ask your Flight Centre Travel Expert about BackRoads tours and cruises. In 2017, Back-Roads Touring will offer three ‘On the Canals in France’ experiences, with itineraries covering Champagne, Burgundy and Provence. The Provence cruises will depart on April 21, July 14 and August 25, priced from $4,115 per person, twin/double share. Go to flightcentre.com. au or call 131 600 24 hours.
Uniworld: Soak up the best of central Europe on one of Uniworld’s Danube River cruises. From Germany to the Black Sea, the river runs through nine countries and countless adventures. Uniworld’s cuisine and wine pairings score rave reviews from returning guests. APT: Discover lush green landscapes, vibrant cities and world-famous Portuguese wines on one of APT’s Douro River cruises. Known for all-inclusive luxury and river ships that resemble five-star hotels on water, APT also offers many land tours pre- or post-cruise. Avalon: Stretch out and enjoy the view from one of Avalon Waterways’ spacious cabins. With beds that face the view and floorto-ceiling glass doors that open all the way, turning the entire cabin al fresco, Avalon is a top choice for itineraries including from Paris to Normandy’s landing beaches.
Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
An exquisitely preserved medieval town that will lure you into the past via cobbled streets, Český Krumlov is nestled around a horseshoe bend of the River Vltava. A spectacular 13thcentury castle stands guard over a town of some 300 protected historical buildings, dotted with boutique hotels and charming cafes. The Renaissance fairytale truly comes to life during the annual Five-Petalled Rose Festival, a three-day celebration of jousting tournaments, historical craft fairs and medieval banqueting.
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WORLD HERITAGE wonders entice
TAKE A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME AS YOU EXPLORE EUROPE’S MOST CAPTIVATING UNESCO-LISTED SITES
Photo: Getty Images
Words: Emma Lee
Photos: Getty Images, Image Brief
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Giant’s Causeway, Ireland
It’s easy to see why the Causeway’s 17th-century discoverers believed it was the handiwork of giants. Forty thousand basalt columns thrust out of the coastline with a uniform symmetry that seems impossible in the rugged landscape of Northern Ireland. The Giant’s Causeway is one of only 25 UNESCO World Heritage sites listed for both cultural and natural significance, and the astounding basalt towers are further enhanced by a backdrop of delightful Irish legend.
The Dolomites, Italy
If soaring peaks and alpine meadows are your cup of tea, then the Dolomites will be, too. Considered the world’s most stunning mountain landscape, the Dolomites region offers the joys of a seasonal resort set against heartbreakingly beautiful scenery. Eighteen peaks rise to more than 3,000m, their cliffs and slopes irresistible to rock climbers, skiers and strollers. Italian hospitality is at its best, with tantalising restaurants, traditional mountain chalets and wellness spas vying for attention.
Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood, Russia
An intriguing name and an origin literally steeped in the blood of Russia’s founding fathers are good indicators of what you can expect from this remarkable church. Built on the precise location where Emperor Alexander II succumbed to an 18th-century grenade, the Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood is part of the historically preserved UNESCO site that is St Petersburg’s historic centre. The church is a feast for the eyes, with its flamboyant domes and more than 7,500sqm of glorious mosaics that will overwhelm you with their detailed splendour. Travel ideas
The Alhambra, Spain
Surrender to daydreams of the Arabian Nights as you explore the enchanting grounds of the Alhambra. A tale of mingled Moorish and Christian heritage is conveyed through terraced gardens, intricate archways and delicate fountains. Allow at least three hours to wander the pink-hued complex while contemplating the influence of leaders dating back to 889AD. Breathtaking sunset views of the Alhambra from nearby Mirador de San Nicolas offer the perfect finale. Named literally ‘middle of the sky’, the Metéora pillars rise majestically from the lush Greek countryside. Early Christians considered the tower tops to be the perfect place from which to ponder the divine, and the six surviving monasteries were hauled up – one piece at a time – by monks with miraculous determination. There’s a strenuous climb to some of the monasteries but it’s well worth the exertion for the feeling once you reach the top.
Photos: Getty Images
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Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
As early as in 930AD Iceland’s leaders gathered amid the rugged beauty of Thingvellir to settle disputes in a public assembly, establishing it as the birthplace of the world’s oldest parliament. Thingvellir boasts many stunning nature hikes but don’t miss snorkelling in the Silfra Fissure, which offers incredible visibility and the opportunity to float between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
A walk through the gnarled trunks and emerald undergrowth of a laurisilva (laurel) forest feels like a journey into the world of a Tolkien novel. The island of Madeira is home to the world’s largest laurisilva woodland, an ecosystem that is slowly vanishing from the world. Madeira’s unique network of aqueducts provides opportune walking paths through the humid enclosure of the forest, and any trail you choose will be rich with an atmosphere of magic. Travel ideas
AROUND THE EMERALD ISLE FOLLOW THE ROAD THROUGH FAIRYTALE FORESTS, ROLLING HILLS AND DRAMATIC LANDSCAPES INTO THE HAPPY HEART OF IRELAND’S TOWNS AND CITIES ON A SELF-DRIVE ADVENTURE Words: Tara Young
Ireland’s County Clare is home to the dramatic Cliffs of Moher.
the ferries from Great Britain and Europe arrive, and picked up my car. I remember the feeling of anticipation that’s common before a new journey – a mix of excitement and freedom. Over the next week I would hit the roads and drive in a big loop, first south to Cork, then westwards to Dingle, Killarney and County Kerry and up the west coast to Burren, before crossing Ireland in the middle to head to Dublin. Cork – in the far southwest, about two hours’ drive from Rosslare – was my first stop but I had an beautiful introduction to the country en route, catching glimpses of the steely blue Celtic Sea over the region’s grassy hills. The locals refer to Cork as the ‘real capital of Ireland’, perhaps because it has ancient sites like St Fin Barre’s Cathedral (on a site used for Christian worship since the seventh century) and a growing cultural and surprisingly hipster cafe scene that’s incredibly rewarding after a few hours in the car. Walking around the city
Photo: Getty Images
It’s a rare travel experience that has you criss-crossing from one side of a country to the other, independently exploring the most amazing sights while meeting welcoming, generous and humorous people along the way. Ireland offers travellers just that if they take to the road: the opportunity to take in a lovely chunk of the island in a relatively short time, accompanied by lush countryside and infectious personalities. Distances between historical sites, misty forests, little coastal villages and bustling cities are short, allowing travellers to see a lot in minimal time. I chose to discover Ireland by car not so long ago and my recollections of the landscape and the jovial Irish people still bring a smile to my face. I could easily have spent several more weeks meandering along the rugged Atlantic coastline or lingering longer over pints with quirky locals in cosy pubs. I entered Ireland through the port of Rosslare in the southeast, where many of
Peaceful countryside surrounding the city of Cork.
of Cork with its lively blend of upmarket shopping areas, groovy bars and restaurants and historical sites (including Cork City Gaol and the English Market) was fascinating. It left me thinking this ‘real capital’ earned its name for being the ideal way to sample Irish history and culture. A quick drive outside the city limits brought me to Blarney Castle, a medieval fortification built by Irish hero Cormac McCarthy. I walked the ramparts and through the courtyard, rooms and gardens, ending up at the famous Blarney Stone. This stone is also called the ‘Stone of Eloquence’, and it’s said that if you kiss it (in an awkward, upside-down position, given its location on the rampart) you’ll be blessed with the gift of the gab. I kissed the stone but I’m still not sure if my storytelling has improved. I departed Cork ready for my next discovery and headed northwest to County Kerry, the home of impressive natural scenery including Ireland’s highest mountains. The main town in Kerry and the best place from which to explore the area is Killarney, located near the shore of picturesque Lough Leane. The
surrounding area is excellent for walks and reconnecting with nature. I made a beeline for Ross Castle, a short drive south of the town centre. This imposing 15th-century keep is typical of the strongholds of Irish chieftains built over the centuries and is in such great condition that is well worth spending some time here. From Killarney I went southwest to Killarney National Park, the oldest national park in Ireland. The forests of the park, with their dense dark foliage and bubbling streams, made me think of fairytale stories like Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood. There’s even an impressive manor house in the park, Muckross House, erstwhile abode of the Bourn family, who donated the house and its estate to Ireland and its people, forming the basis of the park itself. The well-travelled Ring of Kerry links many attractions, including Muckross House, Staigue Fort, scenic Rossbeigh beach and thatch-roofed Bog Village. It’s a popular coach-tour route but the narrow roads can be difficult for large vehicles to navigate. This is where self-driving is the perfect way to get to major attractions. I drove in the opposite
direction to the tour buses, going first to Kenmare, and so managed to avoid the delays they often cause. The seaside village of Dingle was next on my journey, and one of the highlights of the trip was driving out along Dingle Peninsula, which stretches into the Atlantic Ocean from Ireland’s southwest corner. The views along the road are stunning and I was rewarded with what became my favourite village at the end of the drive. For me, Dingle was the perfect example of a picturesque coastal Irish village, with squat, whitewashed cottages and cobblestone streets. Then, it was on northward through the bizarre scenery of Burren. The landscape of this region of County Clare verges on the alien, with its vast tracts of limestone, caves, fossils and soaring cliffs – I felt a little like I was on the surface of the moon. Driving along, I noticed the rock formations suddenly dropping away to the Atlantic Ocean in the form of the precipitous Cliffs of Moher. I had seen these cliffs as a backdrop to a number of films, including Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Princess Bride, but nothing had prepared me for the dramatic drop of up to 214m to the rocks and thrashing sea below. Further north from Burren I headed to the town of Galway, where I spent half a day. I wandered the cobblestone laneways past colourful houses and feasted in a cosy pub with a pint before hitting the road again. From the heart of the west I turned east, towards the city of Dublin. Ireland’s capital is ranked the third-best city to visit in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016 guide. Dublin’s cultural reputation is well deserved and I spent hours perusing the exhibitions at the National Gallery of Ireland. The gallery has
Photos: Ireland Tourism, Getty Images
Fairytale forest scenery in Killarney National Park.
Boats sit in the marina of Dingle.
Ross Castle, in County Kerry.
more than 2,500 paintings and 10,000 works, including pieces by Irish artists such as Frederic William Burton and John Lavery as well as international greats like Picasso, Van Gogh and Monet. I could have spent a whole day there. After all that culture I was in need of some retail therapy and headed directly to Grafton Street, a high-end retail centre within walking distance of the gallery. I checked out shops and listened to street performers before heading to the famous Trinity College. At Trinity’s library I caught a glimpse of the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript from the ninth century containing the four Gospels of the New Testament and intricate illustrations. I stayed in Dublin for a couple of days, soaking up everything I could. Dublin is a UNESCO City of Literature – writers including James Joyce, William Butler Yeats and Samuel Beckett originated here – which is celebrated at the city’s Writer’s Museum and at regular book festivals. The culinary and nightlife scenes are buzzing, too, so each day I settled in to a cosy pub and waited for the music to start.
Trinity College library is home to the Book of Kells.
Even if you’re a laid-back traveller, planning is recommended, so chat to an expert, study maps of Ireland and read up as much as you can so that you gain a sense of the history and geography of this great land as well as a general idea of which direction you want to take. The standard of driving in Ireland is generally good. People are polite – but hitting the open road in Ireland also requires a shift of your mindset, including making allowances for things like nontraditional rush hours and, especially in rural areas, tractor drivers and farmers with livestock trailers. I spent seven days exploring Ireland, a land of rolling green fields and stark coastlines. I loved being able to stop whenever I wanted to explore, taking the opportunity to savour a moment admiring a painting without time pressure, and being able to stick around to hear the punch-line of a joke from a new-made friend at the pub. Ireland still holds much for me to return to see, and when I do, to be sure, it will once again be by car.
FINDING YOUR WAY GALWAY
CLIFFS OF MOHER
DINGLE ROSS CASTLE
Hit the road
Visit your local Flight Centre for more advice and the latest deals on driving holidays and travelling to Ireland. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.
FROM SPAIN TO SCANDINAVIA: FOUR SELF-DRIVES YOU’LL FALL IN LOVE WITH
La dolce vita
Drive Italy’s breathtaking Amalfi Coast, which lies along the southern edge of the Sorrento Peninsula overlooking the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Begin in Salerno, a busy seaside port, and continue to Vietri sul Mare, a village celebrated for its ceramics and sweeping views of a dramatic coastline. Head slightly inland to Ravello, which is considered one of the most romantic and beautiful small towns in southern Italy. Perched on steep, terraced slopes, seemingly closer to the sky than the sea, the village provides unforgettable views over the azure coastal waters below. Circling back to the coast from Ravello, the road brings you to Amalfi. The town’s scenic seafront setting, many cafés and shops, and mild climate make it the perfect seaside resort.
Drive the clifftop paths along Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
D R I V I N G H O L I D AYS
Norway’s glaciers, fjords and proud Viking heritage provide a wonderful backdrop for a self-drive trip”
Norway’s fjord country is home to dramatic cliffs and beautiful lakes.
Hit the beach to take a break from driving in Monaco.
Photos: Getty Images, iStock, Image Brief
Land of the Midnight Sun
Norway’s mountains, glaciers, fjords and proud Viking heritage provide a wonderful backdrop for a self-drive trip. Start in Norway’s capital, Oslo, then head north to the ex-Olympic host village of Lillehammer, along the way taking in picturesque coastal hamlets. Continue north through Trøndelag in the geographic centre of Norway – an area rich in culture and history. Exploring the dramatic fjord region is also great by car; start in Bergen before seeing some of the country’s most spectacular heritagelisted fjords and waterfalls. In winter you may get to witness the magnificent Northern Lights; summer the time to catch the colours of the midnight sun.
Vive la France!
Each region of France presents a different experience, from the culture and activities to the cuisine. Driving is best for exploring the countryside and smaller towns and cities, such as Nice, Cannes and Monaco on the French Riviera. Or spend time in Lyon – less crowded than Paris but a major hub for French food and culture. Driving through the picturesque provinces of Burgundy and the Loire Valley allows you to stop and enjoy their wonderful vineyards. Otherwise, embrace your inner historian and spend time on the World War II landing beaches of Normandy or pick out a serene route through the lavender fields of Provence.
See the work of Gaudí in Barcelona.
Buenos dias, España
Spain is a vibrant country full of diverse rugged landscapes, interesting cities and generous people. It offers a unique link between Europe and Africa, which is reflected in its amazing food and wine. Be sure to include the capital, Madrid, on any self-drive itinerary, perhaps connecting to the historic city of Toledo. Spain’s self-drive highlights can include the lively beaches of the Costa del Sol, with a northward deviation to the sounds of flamenco in Seville. Alternatively, try linking Barcelona, with its architectural masterpieces, to the ex-Roman city of Tarragona. Otherwise, the north of Spain is a great place for driving, including the cities of Bilbao, San Sebastian and Pamplona. Travel ideas
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O N E D AY I N . . .
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Photos: Alamy, Getty Images, Jamie Martin, Robert Gilhooly, Sierra Resort
Moscow’s St Basil’s Cathedral; visitors can rent bikes near Amsterdam’s Vondelpark; Prague Castle is one of the biggest in Europe; the Soviet Star at Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie.
SOMETIMES YOU CAN’T TAKE THE TIME FOR A LEISURELY CITY STAY OVER MULTIPLE DAYS. HERE’S HOW TO HAVE ONE GREAT DAY IN...
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One of Moscow’s underground transport stops. Performers of the world-famous Bolshoi Ballet. Cycling is a popular way to get around in Amsterdam, both for locals and visitors. Scones at Café Pushkin. Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.
Words: Tatyana Leonov
8am Head to Cook’kareku for a quirky, but still delicious, take on breakfast and order one of the global-inspired choices. The Kamchatkan breakfast (scrambled eggs, salmon, crab, beetroot and sour cream) is a tasty choice.
11.30am Built in 1893, GUM is Moscow’s historic department store and is home to the city’s most expensive brands. Most tourists visit to simply admire the architecture and buy an ice cream. (Be prepared to line up in summer.)
4.30pm Catch the metro to
9.30am There are almost 900 churches in Moscow, of which the Church of All Saints in Kulishki is one of the most remarkable. The current building is from the 17th century, with the original dating back to the 14th century. Interestingly, in the ’50s and ’60s it housed KGB offices, but in 1991 ownership was returned to the Orthodox Church.
12.30pm Overlooking the Moskva River,
the Moscow Kremlin is a historic complex with everything from gold collections and armoury to religious icons and jewellery on display.
6pm Grab a cheeky cocktail at Mendeleev Bar. You’ll need to enter via the Chinese takeaway shop Lucky Noodles and head for a discrete black curtain to enter this chic space.
2pm At Cafe Pushkin you can try beautifully presented traditional Russian dishes like pelemeni and borsch in a space fitted out like a Russian aristocrat’s home circa 1825.
7pm The Bolshoi Ballet is one of the oldest ballet companies in the world and Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre is an attraction in its own right. Watching a performance here (be sure to book ahead) is a must-do.
3.30pm Some of Moscow’s metro stops
10pm Finish your Moscow experience at Varvary, the first Russian restaurant to make the World’s 50 Best Restaurants cut. Anatoly Komm’s inventive approach elevates traditional Russian cuisine to new heights.
10.30am Stroll around Red Square and soak up the atmosphere. St Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow’s pride and joy, is located here. Built under the rule of Tsar Ivan IV, it’s a stunning and colourful nine-dome marvel which today houses a museum.
are striking works of art so spend some time underground. Mayakovskaya is one of the most stunning, with 34 elaborate mosaics displayed on the ceiling.
Kropotkinskaya to visit the lavish Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the world’s tallest Russian Orthodox cathedral. Although the cathedral concept dates back to the early 19th century, it was completed only in 2000.
O N E D AY I N …
Words: Mitch Brook
8am Walk the canals to take in the pretty townhouses and bridges. The three major canals were built in the 1600s. If the weather gets cold enough in winter, Amsterdamers ice skate on the canals.
12.30pm Find a grocer or market
9.30am The Koffiehuis De Hoek is a popular cafe serving up omelettes, pancakes and quick service. The coffee is decent, too, so fuel up for a big day.
2pm The Rijksmuseum is packed full of Dutch art and artefacts. You’ll see art by masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer (however, the nearby Van Gogh Museum is better for that artist).
10.30am Head to the Anne Frank Museum, the house where the young Jewish diarist hid from the Nazis. You can see how the Franks lived, with artefacts from that time including Anne’s original diary. 11.30am Climb the tower of Westerkerk
3.30pm Catch a number 10 tram from the
nearby Spiegelgracht stop to Hoogte Kadijk (you can buy a one-hour ticket on-board) to visit Brouwerij ’t IJ, a brewery and bar inside a windmill. It has a range of its own beers and runs tours in English at 3.30pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
4.30pm Time for some Dutch snacks. Try
patatje oorlog (fries with mayonnaise, satay sauce and onion), poffertjes (mini pancakes
with butter and sugar) or broodje haring (a raw herring sandwich with onion).
6pm Rent a bike from MacBike in Waterlooplein or near Vondelpark, or Bike4U’s multiple locations, and ride along the canals as night falls and the water reflects the street lights. 7pm The Dutch were once a colonial force in Indonesia, which has brought many Southeast Asian people – and their cuisine – to Amsterdam. Try Javanese at Warung Spang Makandra. Often these restaurants have a tourist menu in English, otherwise ask your waiter or a local for a translation; they’ll likely reply in perfect English. 10pm Seek out the Dutch spirit jenever
in one of Amsterdam’s bars. It’s like the forefather of gin, made from juniper and a range of herbs. Try Café Slijterij Oosterling or De Drie Flesjes.
Photos: Getty Images, JNTO, Shaun Mittwollen, Alamy
church for a great view. Nearby is the Homomonument, a tribute to all persecuted gay and lesbian people. It was the first of its kind in the world – testament to Amsterdam’s progressive culture.
(Foodhallen is nearby) for picnic supplies before heading to Vondelpark. This sprawling green space in the city centre is popular for afternoon picnics in the sun.
Words: Roderick Eime
8am Grab your Berlin Welcome Card for attraction and transport discounts and take a walk along the riverside Landwehrkanal or Tiergarten (a central park). Finish up at funky Kurfürstenstraße for breakfast, where Einstein’s is a popular pick.
celebrity-spotting at Madame Tussauds, where local luminaries Angela Merkel, Karl Marx and Marlene Dietrich await. Move onward past Unter den Linden and you’re in the culture zone, with the German Historical Museum’s enthralling exhibitions.
9.30am If you have the time, the Berlin Zoo is billed as the most important animal collection in the world with 1,500 species, or else jump aboard the efficient UBahn and head to the German Museum of Technology for a taste of Deutsche hi-tech and history. Yep, that’s a DC-3 aeroplane on the roof.
12.30pm Start thinking about lunch as
10.30am You may need to shortcut through Tiergarten to get to Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag historic zone, but visiting early will set the scene for the day and give you an insight into the soul of Berlin and the momentous events that have gripped the city over the years.
2pm If you have a taste for the nostalgic, head to the nearby DDR Museum for a glimpse of pre-unified German life and wonder what it was like before the wall came down.
11.30am Keep walking east into what was
once bleak East Berlin, stopping for a little
you head across the Kupfergraben (canal), with the majestic Berliner Dom cathedral looming up ahead. Historic Alexanderplatz is a transport hub with plenty to choose from, including lunch with a view in the 368m-high TV Tower, built in 1969. Happy hour at Bar 203 starts at 2pm.
3.30pm You can’t leave Berlin without
paying a visit to Checkpoint Charlie, the former barricade between the East and West where you can recreate your own
Bridge of Spies climax. Grab a coffee in the once-forbidden zone.
4.30pm To complete the history lesson, get a feel for what the wall looked like. Head to the restored Nordbahnhof (station) where a section remains adjacent to the brand-new museum on Bernauer Street.
6pm Take a short stroll to the Natural History Museum (Naturkunde), where life-size dinosaur exhibits lurks. (Sorry, the story of the dinosaur egg hatching there is a myth.) 7pm If you’ve booked in advance, you’ll have your tux and sequins ready for a performance at the Staatsoper (opera) back at Unter den Linden. It’s an institution, held in the painstakingly restored 18th-century theatre. 10pm If you missed lunch at the TV Tower, head back for an evening cocktail, or perhaps take a twilight tour of the zoo.
Photo: Philip Koschel, Prague City Tourism,
O N E D AY I N …
Words: Mitch Brook
8am Start in Wenceslas Square. The long boulevard has been the site of important Czech political moments, including protests against the Soviet Union. Pick up breakfast from Studio Dva Café. 9.30am Head to the Old Town Square
and discover its old-world charm. If you must, check out the Astronomical Clock that was installed in 1410 for its on-thehour performance. Be warned that it’s been voted as one of the most disappointing experiences in Europe.
10.30am Walk towards the river for an
energy boost at TriCafé, a great little source of decent coffee and sweet treats.
11.30am To cross the Vltava River, you can either brace for the tourist crowds and tackle the Charles Bridge, or head a bit further north and cross Manusev Most – look south for a beautiful view of Prague over the river, including the 15th-century bridge and its Gothic tower. 12.30pm Head uphill to Prague Castle,
one of the largest in Europe, which includes St. Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, the Golden Lane of tiny houses (one of which was inhabited by Franz Kafka) and Dalibor Tower, which served as a prison for nearly 300 years. You’re sure to learn the meaning of the word ‘defenestration’ (to be
thrown from a window) before you depart – something that has happened more than once in Czech political history.
2pm It’s right nearby so check out the
Kafka Museum for a look into the life of one of the most celebrated Czech authors. Then, head back across the river to wander the Old Town at leisure. Reward yourself with meatloaf from Naše Maso: a blend of pork and beef that’s all flavour.
3.30pm Explore the Jewish Museum of
Prague, which holds important historical relics – especially from the destruction of the Prague ghetto, or Josefov, at the turn of the 19th century. Its artefacts were added to during World War II when the Nazis gathered Jewish items from all over Bohemia to be stored here.
4.30pm Seek out a pre-dinner beverage.
ceramics and mosaics and run by famous Prague chef Zdeněk Pohlreich.
7pm Prague’s Rudolfinum is home to the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Dvorak Hall, named for the Czech composer, hosts regular concerts. During the day you can often catch musicians performing a sample of the music that’s to come that evening. 10pm Finally, head underground: Prague has a cool selection of cellar bars. Try Nebe Kremencova for cocktails and music in a restored medieval-era cellar, or Kozicka Bar, consisting of a warren of rooms that gets busier and louder the later it gets.
Visit your local Flight Centre for more advice on short city visits and the latest deals. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.
Czechs are all about their beer – the Czech Republic is said to be the nation that consumes the most beer per capita in the world – and even invented the pilsner style of brewing with Pilsner Urquell in 1842. Try the Urquell but be sure to also taste the range of regional brews at the Prague Beer Museum (actually a pub), with 30 varieties on tap.
6pm For dinner, Café Imperial is as impressive as it sounds, with Art Nouveau
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Berlin’s cathedral, found in the central Mitte neighbourhood. Prague’s Café Imperial serves up impressive dishes that match its beautiful decoration. Prague’s Old Town Square is a historic beauty, with cobbled streets and a variety of architectural styles.
Fine fare in fair surrounds
LET YOUR STOMACH LEAD YOU TO DISCOVER THE FLAVOURS AND FAVOURS OF FOUR GREAT GOURMET CITIES Words: Mitch Brook
Paris and its cheese, bread and soups… Pizza, pasta, calzone in Rome… Meats, wurst, pretzels in Bavaria… These may be some of the first thoughts when travellers consider European food highlights. While these are worthy choices for any visitor, there is another group of cities that more than hold their own among the flashy stars of dining on the continent. They may be less frequently visited but they’re more than worth their
weight in Yorkshire puddings in terms of food and dining. Whether it be Lyon’s bouchons, where you can taste authentic regional cuisine; bitesized pintxos in the Basque Country city of San Sebastian; the contrast of London’s top-end restaurants, curry houses and Sunday roasts; or seeking out mortadella and ParmigianoReggiano in Bologna, Italy, these underappreciated foodie cities offer more than enough to slake the appetites of the hungriest travellers.
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Photos: San Sebastian Tourism, Getty Images, iStock, Gelto Museum
San Sebastian’s pintxos can be found in nearly every bar – and come in all flavours. Fresh French breads, found in boulangeries around Lyon. Street art of Lyon’s famous chef, Paul Bocuse, looks over the city. The food in San Sebastian ranges from Michelin-starred eateries to pintxos, served in bars. Bologna’s gelato museum more than satisfies visitors’ cravings. Bar crawls in San Sebastian are common, with people seeking out dinner and drinks. The English roast is an oldie but a goodie, often served with beef and Yorkshire pudding.
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Diners enjoy the balmy evenings of San Sebastian outside a bar; pintxos are the staple way to dine in this city’s bars; diners select their pintxos.
Come to San Sebastian hungry and the city is your oyster. Located in the Basque Country of northern Spain, it’s best known for its food, even though there’s plenty more to do here (beaches, architecture, history...). You’ll see it when you walk down the street and notice just how many small bars, eateries and restaurants crowd the avenues. There’s a unique style of eating in bars here, called pintxos. Tiny morsels of delicious food (each eatery has its own speciality) are arrayed on the bar. Eat them one by one – both hot and cold pintxos are available – and pay for what you’ve eaten at the end. There’s even a word for an evening’s journey from bar to bar feasting on pintxos: txikiteo. The pintxos are usually paired with txakoli, a light, sparkling wine which is a speciality of the Basque Country. Other specialities of the Basque people that visitors will see in restaurants include
salt-cod omelettes, giant T-bone steaks (or txuleta), hake fish in green sauce, spider crab and eel. And the Basque people are all about seasonality and fresh ingredients. W H E R E TO G E T I T:
High-end restaurant: San Sebastian has a lot of Michelin stars, ranking the restaurants here among the best in the world. Two highly rated restaurants are Arzak and Mugaritz, ranked seventh- and 21st-best restaurant in the world, respectively. Street food: A typical night out in San Sebastian will have you wandering between bars to seek out new flavours of pintxos. Examples include bread topped with tomatoes and olive oil. Culinary tradition: Ensure you eat plenty of seafood here, if only because it’s so fresh. Txulotxo has water views and an excellent range of dishes using ocean produce.
Photos: Getty Images, San Sebastian Tourism
Supping in San Sebastian
Lyonnaise for days
The lights and renown of France’s capital may be the main attraction for international visitors but within the country it’s another story when it comes to food. When in Lyon, you won’t be able to help noticing the name of one particular French chef based in this city in the southeast of the country: Paul Bocuse. Bocuse is lauded as one of France’s best-ever chefs and operates his restaurant l’Auberge du Pont de Collonges to the north of Lyon and four brasseries (l’Est, l’Ouest, Le Nord and Le Sud) in the city itself. He’s renowned for his ‘nouvelle cuisine’ approach – a fresher and lighter style than classical French. It’s said that it’s possible to spot Bocuse in Lyon’s famous indoor market, Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse (many food institutions use the chef’s name), where you can shop at stalls like Boulangerie Jocteur and Bellota Bellota delicatessen and know you’re getting the same quality as the renowned chef. A further Lyonnaise food institution is the wealth of bouchons that line the streets. You’ll find these restaurants only in Lyon, and the food served is traditional French and Lyonnaise, like Saucisson (sausage), andouillette (sausage made from pig intestines) and gâteau de volaille (chicken liver cake). While the fare tends to be richer and fattier, the emphasis here is on atmosphere, and you may even be able to strike up a connection with the owner of the establishment.
When in Lyon, you won’t be able to help noticing the name of one particular French chef: Paul Bocuse” W H E R E TO G E T I T:
High-end restaurant: Bocuse’s restaurant l’Auberge du Pont de Collonges has held three Michelin stars since 1965. It’s recommended to book online in advance. The foie gras and the truffle soup are especially celebrated. Street food: Lyon’s markets burst with fresh food – the city is located in a produce-rich region, after all. Try Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, which features 56 specialty provedores and restaurants stocking cheese, bread, wine, meats and more. Other markets include Marché Saint-Antoine (open every day except Monday) and Marché de la Croix Rousse (open Thursdays). Culinary tradition: Andouillette is a French speciality and is popular in Lyon – made from pigs’ intestines, it has a rich, nutty flavour. You can try andouillette in many of Lyon’s bouchons. Find an authentic bouchon at lesbouchonslyonnais.org.
THIS PAGE FROM LEFT: Bellotta Bellotta delicatessen in Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse; French saucisson, or sausage, at the market.
London is a city where cultures meet as millions dine out each evening at restaurants that take their influences from anywhere and everywhere around the world – and it’s a culinary scene of creativity and renown, from the dizzying heights of celebrity cuisine to grungy, relaxed, comforting meals. There’s a reason he’s imported for each season of MasterChef Australia – Heston Blumenthal is even more famous and celebrated in his home country. Blumenthal runs The Fat Duck, where you can expect all the culinary sorcery for which this chef is known (but expect to pay for it, with The Itinerary, or set menu, costing £255 – at least A$440 – per person). Don’t let that be alienating; at the other, no-lessrewarding end of the scale are ethnic eateries taking influence from the far reaches of the onceworld-dominating British Empire and hearty pub meals that are a hallmark of the British Isles. In particular, there is a strong Indian influence on the food scene in London, with chicken tikka (chicken roasted in a creamy, spicy sauce) having been taken on as somewhat of a national dish. Brick Lane near Shoreditch is the most famous place to go in search of this cuisine, being packed with curry houses offering korma, rogan josh and vindaloo paired with naan and lassi (a salty-sweet yoghurt drink).
W H E R E TO G E T I T:
High-end restaurant: Much more reasonably priced than The Fat Duck is Dinner By Heston in Knightsbridge, which is à la carte (but still inventive) in more laid-back surroundings. Street food: Head to Brick Lane and choose a curry house, or for something a little more upmarket try Gunpowder around the corner – a new eatery that takes a more inventive approach to Indian cuisine. Old Spitalfields Market is close by, too. Culinary tradition: Every pub should do a delicious Sunday roast with Yorkshire pudding (a bread-like side) – usually you’ll have a choice of meats, such as beef, pork or chicken. Higherend pubs may do lamb or duck. Try the Prince Bonaparte in Bayswater.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Food grilling at a restaurant in London’s Old Spitalfields Market; a Brick Lane cook makes aromatic curries; a friendly local waves from his delicatessen counter in Bologna; serving up icy treats at the Gelato Museum in Bologna; upmarket Indian near Brick Lane at Gunpowder.
Photos: Bologna Welcome, Getty Images, Gunpowder, Alamy
The London gamut
All in Bologna
It may be one of Italy’s lesser-known cities for tourists, but you’re certain to have heard of at least one culinary invention from Bologna: spaghetti Bolognese. While this dish may be simply considered ‘Italian’ in other countries, it originates from, and is a specialty, of the northern Emilia-Romagna region of which Bologna is the capital. The food here has even earned the city the moniker ‘la grassa’ (the fat one). Cured meats, cream, tomato and cheese are all central to Bolognese cuisine. In fact, another of the city’s food exports is mortadella, which was developed into the American version Bologna sausage, or ‘baloney’ (but don’t call it that here). Another Italian culinary hallmark is celebrated at the Gelato Museum, where you can learn all about the history of this chilly refreshment, book into a gelato lesson to make your own and, finally, eat gelato. Perhaps the food here is so celebrated (and delicious) because the Emilia-Romagna region is home to so many products that are central to Italian cuisine: Parmigiano-Reggiano (parmesan cheese), balsamic vinegar (from Modena), prosciutto (cured ham from Parma) and ragú (red, meat-based sauce). ‘Disneyland for foodies’: how does that sound? Eataly World, to open in 2017 from Italian provedore chain Eataly, has earned that nickname and promises to offer a culinary wonderland, including classrooms, restaurants, markets, stores and even demo fields and breeding farms. No wonder Bologna is praised within Italy as the country’s food capital.
WHERE TO GET IT:
High-end restaurant: Pappagallo, known throughout Italy, is situated in the centre of town and serves authentic Bolognese-style dishes. It’s located right near the city’s famous two-leaningtowers landmark. Street food: One of the best Italian food traditions is the aperitivo. It’s done all across Italy but is a tradition of Bologna so seek out this mini meal that takes place before dinner and is often accompanied by bitter drinks. Culinary tradition: Find a small osteria or trattoria for some authentic Italian, Bolognese style, but head away from the main tourist areas. Trattoria Serghei and Trattoria Anna Maria (both north of the centre), Osteria Marsalino (try the strawberry risotto) and Trattoria Battibecco are all great options Travel ideas
Germanyâ€™s BIGGEST SURPRISES THERE IS MORE TO THIS COUNTRY THAN BEER AND BRATWURST, AS THESE UNEXPECTED ATTRACTIONS REVEAL Words: Ute Junker
CLOCKWISE FROM OPPOSITE: Bamberg’s town hall perched over the river; a fresco on Bamberg’s town hall; the Floating Railway in Wuppertal; venison from Michelin-starred restaurant Schwarzwaldstube.
Photos: iStock, Getty Images, Traube Tonbach
01 Floating town hall, Bamberg
With more than 4,000 heritage-listed buildings, the Bavarian city of Bamberg – nestled in a river valley surrounded by seven hills – is one of Germany’s bestpreserved towns. However, the building that captures every visitor’s imagination is the New Town Hall. It’s not just the magnificent frescoes on its external walls that are eye-catching; just as remarkable is the building’s location in the middle of the Regnitz River. The story goes that Bamberg’s reigning prince-bishop was on poor terms with the citizens when the old town hall burned down in the 15th century. He turned down their request for a plot of land on which to build a new town hall so the bolshy citizens created an artificial island in the middle of the river, forming a piece of land that lay beyond the bishop’s control.
02 Gourmet paradise, Baiersbronn 03 Hanging railway, Wuppertal Tucked into a picturesque corner of the Black Forest, the sleepy district of Baiersbronn is the culinary world’s bestkept secret. With a population of just 15,000 people, this area is home to two restaurants recognised with three Michelin stars; that’s exactly the same number of three-star restaurants as London (population eight million). Impressively, chef Harald Wohlfahrt’s Schwarzwaldstube has maintained three stars for more than 20 years; Claus-Peter Lumpp’s Restaurant Bareiss has held the honour for almost a decade. Both restaurants share a dedication to local ingredients – think venison, chestnuts, mushrooms, berries – teamed with precision techniques and superb service. And Baiersbronn’s culinary riches don’t stop there: the two-star Schlossberg restaurant is also well worth a visit.
Here’s one for the trainspotters. The otherwise undistinguished town of Wuppertal, near Cologne, is home to the world’s oldest monorail. Known as the Schwebebahn, or Floating Railway, it has a unique construction, with the carriage suspended from a single rail. Astonishingly, the monorail has been running for 113 years. The very first passenger was Emperor Wilhelm II and the imperial carriage can still be hired for special occasions. However, taking a ride is as easy as buying a ticket: the monorail is still Wuppertal’s main form of public transport. It takes around an our to complete the full circuit, and some of the 20 stations are attractions in their own right, with magnificent Art Nouveau architecture.
A colourful building on the Street of Dreams, Bremen.
Expressionist architecture in Bremen.
The Frocked-up Skeletons occupy the Waldassen basilica.
04 Street of dreams, Bremen
In the heart of Bremen’s old town is a street unlike any other in Germany. The buildings lining the thoroughfare called Boettcherstrasse (Cooper’s Street) are extraordinary examples of Expressionist architecture that call to mind inspirations such as Barcelona’s Gaudí and 1920s film director Fritz Land. Each building sprouts fantastical features, like mosaics, patterned brickwork and blue-and-white glass bricks. The buildings were the project of a local businessman, Ludwig Roselius, who built them and also protected them from the Nazis, who were keen to destroy every bit of ‘morally degenerate’ Expressionist architecture they could find. Roselius’ clever idea? He persuaded the Nazis that the buildings could serve as a warning of just how dangerous Expressionism could be.
05 Frocked-up skeletons, Waldsassen
The towns of Upper Franconia are full of hidden gems but Waldsassen, close to the Czech border, is home to something unique. Inside the town’s ornate basilica are what are known as Holy Bodies – a collection of skeletons of early Christian martyrs. The story of these bodies, and how they were dug up from Rome’s catacombs and transported here, is fascinating. (One of them is reputedly the body of St Valentinus.) What’s not clear is who decided that these ancient skeletons should be dressed in magnificent 18th-century costumes and hung with ornate jewellery. It must be said that the skeletons – displayed in glass cases around the perimeter of the basilica – look pretty pleased with their final resting place.
Each building sprouts fantastical features, like mosaics, patterned brickwork and blue-and-white glass bricks”
06 Floating pool, Berlin
Photos: Getty Images
Berliners are known for their inventive streak, and the Badeschiff – or ‘swim ship’ – is just one example of the creative approach to life in Germany’s capital. During the sunny summers, the banks of Berlin’s Spree River are lined with sandy beach bars, but swimming in the river is not recommended. Thus, the locals created a pool that floats on the river, allowing members of the public to swim without taking any risks. The pool is actually a converted 30-metre barge linked to the shore by a wooden footbridge. When you have done your laps, you can have a game of beach volleyball, throw some sausages on the barbie or just soak up the city views.
07 World’s largest wine cask, Heidelberg
Heidelberg wins plenty of hearts with its lovely riverside setting, its ruined castle on a hill and its picturesque Old Town. One attraction many visitors miss, however, is a quirky wonder stored in the cellar of Heidelberg Castle: the world’s largest wine barrel. At seven metres high and 8.5 metres wide, the barrel is impressive. The story behind it is not bad, either. The barrel was built in 1751 by Prince Elector Karl Theodor to house the taxes paid by local wine growers – paid, clearly, in kind rather than in cash. It appears Karl Theodor had a heavy hand when it came to taxes: the barrel has a capacity of 220,000 litres.
Schleswig’s Landesmuseum is home to five ancient preserved bodies.
Find the other side of Germany
Visit your local Flight Centre to find out more about Germany and the latest deals on flights to Berlin. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.
Erfurt’s Krämerbrücke houses an entire neighbourhood, suspended above the river.
08 Bridge with a whole
Photos: Getty Images, Heidelberg Marketing
Charming medieval towns are a German specialty but the ancient town of Erfurt has something that sets it apart from the competition: a bridge that supports a whole neighbourhood. Adding buildings onto bridges was common during the Middle Ages but few examples have survived; the three-storey houses atop Erfurt’s Krämerbrücke, or Merchant’s Bridge, are a rare exception. What’s more, the buildings are still inhabited. The lower floors house artisanal shops while the upper floors are actual residences. The 700-year-old bridge is also one of the oldest structures in town, thanks to a fire that wiped out much of the rest of Erfurt back in the 15th century.
09 Bog bodies, Schleswig
Few international tourists make the trek to the town of Schleswig, north of Hamburg, but if they knew what was lurking in the local museum, more of them might head up there. The town’s Landesmuseum is home to five ancient bodies – and one head – found in local bogs. The bodies are up to 2,000 years old and at least some of them are believed to have been human sacrifices, including one that was strangled with a hazel branch. That’s not the only victim to have met a gruesome end. The so-called Dätgen Man was stabbed and decapitated before being placed in the bog, and the body was staked in place with its head placed some distance away. This suggests that locals feared the body might come back to life, making Dätgen Man perhaps the world’s oldest suspected zombie.
10 Room of shattered mirrors, Bayreuth
Music lovers flock to the Bavarian town of Bayreuth to visit the famous Festspielhaus designed by composer Richard Wagner. Long before, another cultural connoisseur dominated Bayreuth: the 18th-century margravine Wilhelmine, wife of Bayreuth’s ruler, who remade the city with extravagant projects including a palace, a theatre and elaborate gardens. Wilhelmine’s world disintegrated after her husband fell in love with her best friend. Her distress is reflected in the New Palace’s decor. She’d already ordered what was to be one of the showpieces of the palace: a ‘mirror room’ lined with glass – back then, an expensive luxury. She decided the room should go ahead, but she had every one of the mirrors smashed before she stuck them to her walls, a monument to her anguish. Travel ideas
Europe with kids
WHETHER ON LAND OR ON WATER OR SOARING INTO THE SKY, FAMILIES ARE SPOILT FOR CHOICE WHEN PLANNING FUN-FILLED AND EDUCATIONAL HOLIDAYS FOR ALL AGES Words: Tiana Templeman
The kids will love exploring Disneyland Paris, one of the most popular attractions in Europe.
F A M I LY T R AV E L
rollercoaster from the 1800s in Copenhagen; or channel your inner wizard at the London studio where the Harry Potter movies were filmed. If you want to see many countries in a short period of time, a river cruise with an itinerary that’s been designed especially for families could be just what you’re looking for. Exploring Europe is also educational, with historical wonders and enriching cultural activities to discover at every turn. But don’t tell the kids… They’ll be having so much fun, they’ll never know.
Photos: ©Disneyland Paris
Europe is the perfect destination for a family holiday. With so many countries to explore and a huge range of activities on offer, there is something to please every traveller, from toddlers to teens and their parents too. Even better, the countries are so close together that there’s no need to limit your family to visiting just one. Grab your passport and get ready to experience the magic of Disneyland Paris, an elegant theme park where the dining is as much fun as the rides; climb aboard a wooden
THIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE: Explore the crooked streets of Diagon Alley at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London; Potter film costumes on display; kids can get a taste of Quidditch.
Discover wizardry WARNER BROS, LONDON, UK
Zoom above the streets of London on a broomstick in the interactive green-screen room as part of the ‘Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter’, a fantastical tour that highlights the moviemaking magic of the Harry Potter films. It’s an easy 15-minute train trip from Euston Station to the studio where all eight movies were filmed. Here you’ll discover a wonderland of Potter memorabilia, from Hagrid’s motorcycle and Harry’s broomstick to a furry six-metre-wide Aragog suspended from the ceiling. Videos reveal how key scenes were filmed, including Quidditch matches, and how Ralph Fiennes played the villainous Voldemort without cutting off his actual nose. You don’t need to be potty about Potter to appreciate what’s on show here. When you
view the hundreds of props filling the Great Hall at Hogwarts, stroll down a cobblestone lane in Diagon Alley and see Number 4 Privet Drive and the Knight Bus up close, the creativity and attention to detail is astounding, even if you’ve never seen a Potter film. Everything is so realistic that it feels like Harry himself is about to walk around the corner, especially in the studio backlot which has a stall selling Butterbeer, a sweet caramel-toffee-flavoured concoction that’s probably best left to the kids (they’ll love it). Don’t forget to pick up a free Potter Passport for each child on arrival. These make for a great souvenir, with a treasure hunt and unique stamps to collect throughout the tour. Allow time to browse the gift shop at the end of your visit – even if you aren’t buying, it’s a magical place to look around.
Everything is so realistic that it feels like Harry Potter himself is about to walk around the corner”
F A M I LY T R AV E L
Whimsy for all
Photos: Tivoli Gardens, Harry Potter Studio Tour, London
Tivoli Gardens is one of the world’s oldest theme parks, a whimsical place filled with historic amusement rides, grand pavilions and carnival games and modern attractions that will take your breath away. The latest addition, Fatamorgana, is a world-first three-in-one ride that caters to youngsters, tweens and hardcore adrenaline junkies all at the same time. However, it is Rutschebanen, a wooden rollercoaster built in 1914 which still uses a real brake man on each train, that will likely capture your heart (and get it racing if you go for a ride). Youngsters love Tivoli during the day, when a Ferris wheel of hot air balloons carries them high above the streets with fabulous views of Copenhagen. There is a merry-go-round of Viking ships
(you are in Denmark, after all) and an interactive, flying carousel of magical dragons where kids can choose to rise up to four metres into the sky. There’s also The Fun House, a fun-fair classic for all ages with wonky staircases, treadmills, bridges and slides. Older kids (and their parents) will appreciate the grown-up afterdark atmosphere when Tivoli’s bars and restaurants come alive and daredevils take on The Demon, a triple-loop coaster that’s the wildest ride in the park. While there are plenty of rides and entertainment at Tivoli Gardens, it is the magical atmosphere which sees locals and visitors alike drawn to this unique attraction in the heart of Copenhagen. Tivoli Gardens offers something for everyone, from the very young to the young at heart, and proves you’re never too old to have fun.
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE LEFT: The Fatamorgana ride at Tivoli Gardens; fun for all ages; the Rutschebahnen; kids will find happiness at Tivoli Gardens.
THIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE: A Disney merry-go-round; kooky colour at Disney; famous performing Disney characters.
Dine with princesses DISNEYLAND PARIS, PARIS, FRANCE
It’s easy to fit some Disney magic into your family’s European holiday as Disneyland Paris is less than an hour from Paris by train or shuttle bus. It’s more compact than the US parks yet filled with many of Disney’s most famous rides and attractions plus several you will find only in Paris. Don’t miss Ratatouille, a 4D adventure that’s a big hit with visitors of all ages, and Crush’s Coaster, a one-of-a-kind rollercoaster with spinning carriages – both found no-where else. Just as at Disney in California, there are two different parks to explore. Disneyland Park is home to Adventureland; Frontierland; Main Street, U.S.A.; Fantasyland; and Discoveryland. Walt Disney Studios has unique attractions such as Ratatouille and Crush’s Coaster.
Both parks have lavish flowerbeds and elegant design touches that will have you reaching for your camera. Great photo opportunities are also available at the character dining venues, which are some of the most elegant you’ll find at any Disney park. Dine on classic French cuisine surrounded by princes and princesses at Auberge de Cendrillon, a fairytale castle in the heart of Fantasyland, or marvel at the world’s most amazing creations at the Inventions buffet. Performances such as the Frozen Singalong are conducted in French or English. Staff, too, are multilingual so there are no communication difficulties. Even better, a little wet weather won’t spoil your fun; Disneyland Paris is a surprisingly good option for rainy days as the majority of attractions are located either undercover or indoors.
Each of the performances, such as the Frozen Singalong, are conducted in French or English”
F A M I LY T R AV E L
Kids’ river cruise
Photos: Alamy, Getty Images, iStock, Uniworld
ALL OVER EUROPE
River cruises once catered to a mature clientele but dedicated family sailings have changed the industry. An all-inclusive river cruise is a great way to explore Europe, not least because parents will never hear those dreaded words “I’m bored”. On Uniworld’s multi-generational sailings there are two Family Hosts, one for Junior Cruisers (four to 11 years) and one for Young Cruisers (12 to 18 years), who co-ordinate activities every day for younger guests, and parents can accompany the kids if they like. On the ‘Gems of Northern Italy’ cruise, activities include city tours, gondola rides, cycling, pasta making and a visit to a glass-making factory. Every itinerary features visits from local children who give young cruisers an insight into their daily lives and the culture of each destination.
Families can take part in a range of interesting onboard activities together, including language lessons, a ship tour with the Captain, and arts and crafts workshops. On-shore excursions are specifically designed for all ages to enjoy – glassblowing and Venetian mask making, an exploration of Vienna on Segways and interactive spy games in Budapest are just a few examples. Even better, these excursions are included in the cost of the cruise. Families can dine together each night or kids can join their friends at a dining table reserved especially for young travellers, accompanied by an adult, or Family Host. A multi-generational river cruise offers the perfect mix of time spent together and apart and gives parents the opportunity to open their children’s eyes to the wonders of the world around them.
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE LEFT: Kids will make new friends and have plenty to occupy them; easily visit incredible desinations; parents can accompany kids on their shore excursions (or not!).
See the world with the kids
Visit your local Flight Centre to find out more about kids’ activities and the latest deals on flights and tickets to attractions. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.
T H E B A LT I C S TAT E S
AS A TRIO OF DESTINATIONS TO VISIT, TALLINN, RIGA AND VILNIUS MAKE FOR AN ASTOUNDING ADVENTURE INTO EASTERN EUROPE Words: Tatyana Leonov
I have a thing for perfectly poached eggs. The yolk needs to be runny but not so runny that the whole egg drenches whatever is below. The side dishes need to be decent, too; buttery mushrooms and oven-roasted tomatoes go down well and anything creative gets double points. Brunch has never been Europe’s forte but here I am in Tallinn with my husband at the chic café NOP (N is for neighbourhood, O is for organic and P is for practical), perusing a menu that is nothing short of impressive. I decide on poached eggs with quinoa, asparagus and caviar and 15 minutes later my meal arrives. Two perfectly poached eggs crowned with caviar sit atop a bed of quinoa, the asparagus politely positioned on the side. It tastes as good as it looks. As marvellous as my eggs are, though, there is much more to Estonia’s story than a tasty morning meal.
Photos: Evan Dickson, Latvia Travel
OPPOSITE, AND THIS PAGE: Tallinnâ€™s towering city walls; art nouveau architectural details in Riga.
T H E B A LT I C S TAT E S
C L O C KW I S E FROM TOP LEFT
Riga’s Old Town is a maze of twisting streets. Trying pig’s ears, a traditional Estonian dish, in a pub in Tallinn. Like in Riga, each Baltic capitals’ Old Town is heritage listed. Toompea Castle in Tallinn is now home to the Estonian Parliament. Kids play in the sunshine in Riga. A breakfast dish of eggs, tomato and bacon at NOP in Tallinn.
Photos: Evan Dickson, Getty Images, Latvia Travel, NOP, Tallinn Tourism
Tallinn’s Old Town contains a mix of architectural styles, gathered in winding cobbled streets.
Soon after World War II, Estonia was gripped by Soviet rule, finally regaining its independence on August 20, 1991. Estonia was the last of the Baltic states (the common name that refers to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) to do so, with Lithuania having led the way on March 11, 1990, and Latvia having followed soon after, on May 4, 1990. In recent times Tallinn has embraced both European and Scandinavian culture with open arms, thanks at least in part to the nation’s bond with across-thewater neighbour Finland and numerous innovative start-ups that have originated here, such as the software behind Skype and TransferWise (a peer-to-peer cash transfer app). Of course Tallinn’s Old Town is the tourist highlight but the new is getting plenty of airplay, too. Cafes like NOP are thriving, new Nordic-style cuisine at places like Restaurant Ö is attracting hip crowds, the arts and culture scene is flourishing (Tallinn was celebrated as a European Capital of Culture in 2011 by the European Union) and everyone wants in. It’s this intriguing mix of old and new that places Tallinn as a city to watch – or, better still, visit.
I’m exploring the Baltic state capitals – Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius – with my husband and my father, but we have somewhat different travel objectives. I seek out funky cafes in up-and-coming suburbs, my husband is on the lookout for the best photo opportunities and my dad favours spending his time meandering around old town centres chatting to the locals. As different as our travelling styles are, we quickly discover that these three pulsating cities really do have something to suit everyone. In Tallinn, while my husband and I brunch at NOP, my dad busies himself walking the perimeter of the Old Town. A chatty resident points him to a spot where he is able to see four of the city wall towers lined up and off he goes, keen to find that view. We meet up later at Town Hall Square for a leisurely amble around the Old Town, passing Toompea Castle (now home to Estonia’s parliament), the Cathedral of St Mary (Estonia’s main Lutheran cathedral) and the Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky (a lavish Russian Orthodox cathedral), before grabbing dinner at a traditional pub where we sample delicacies like pigs’ ears and fried rye bread doused in garlic sauce.
Riga, the largest of the three cities, is our next port of call, and its Old Town offers a different vibe to that of Tallinn. A patchwork of coiling streets, hidden-away nooks and pretty alcoves, it’s a charming city. We separate, engrossed by different paths. Cathedral Square, with the colossal Riga Cathedral as its centrepiece, is a logical meeting point. It’s one of the oldest religious sites in Latvia, the foundation stone having been laid in 1211; since then it has undergone numerous restorations and today’s edifice features a combination of Gothic, Romanesque, baroque and Art Nouveau styles. It’s Latvia’s main Lutheran church and organ fanatics flock in to admire and listen to the historic musical instrument. I end up meeting my husband and dad here just as an organ concert begins (20-minute concerts at lunchtime are common in summer). The Soviets, Poles, Germans and Swedes have all ruled Latvia at various times through history and they’ve all left a mark. We hire bikes for half a day and head to one of the oldest districts in Riga, the Moscow District, where early 20th-century Art Nouveau masterpieces sit among traditional 19th-century wooden homes. Travel ideas
We wander, lost in our own thoughts... We ogle the elaborate exterior of the Church of St Anne and peek into the Church of St Casimirâ€?
The Church of St Anne in Vilnius was built in the Gothic style.
Trakai is an exciting daytrip from Vilnius, a town located among picturesque scenery.
T H E B A LT I C S TAT E S
The nature trail
Lahemaa National Park, Estonia Lahemaa National Park is one of the largest national parks in Europe, located about an hour’s drive from Tallinn. A vastness of forests, beaches, bogs and lakes, it offers something for everyone, with plenty of hiking and cycling routes throughout. The national park is also one of Europe’s most important conservation areas and wildlife-watching is a popular pastime. Keep your eyes open to spot moose, bears, lynxes, boars and foxes.
Many of the once-glorious buildings are in varying states of decay and if we were to ask a local for sightseeing suggestions they probably wouldn’t recommend this part of town, but there’s a certain charm that comes with exploring areas that are a little less gentrified than tourist centres. We ride slowly past ancient churches and a former synagogue, admiring ‘real life’ in Riga. Continuing on our somewhat-unusual itinerary we cycle back to the Old Town through the Great Cemetery, a lush green space that today acts as both a public park and a graveyard. In the 1700s the cemetery was built on the outskirts of town but both the city and the cemetery grew significantly and today the two sit side by side. Unfortunately, during Soviet occupation many of the headstones were destroyed and the marble was taken away for use in other cities. Regrettably, this is not an unusual story. All three Baltic countries lost numerous artistic works and architectural pieces during World War II or while under Soviet control. Churches and synagogues, statues and crypts were destroyed or plundered for their materials. Many remain, however, at least in part, and
all three historic Old Towns are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage register. Vilnius is one of the largest surviving medieval towns in Europe and our last stop. In a city rich in architectural styles (including Gothic, Renaissance, baroque, neo-classical and Art Deco), a walk through Vilnius is a walk through time. The three of us wander around, lost in our own thoughts, admiring the eclectic assemblage of buildings. We ogle the elaborate exterior of the Church of St Anne; peek into the Church of St Casimir, Vilnius’ first and oldest baroque church; and continue to the Cathedral of St Stanislav and St Vladislav, the most important church in the country for Lithuanian Catholics. Locals claim it’s possible to see a church pinnacle from anywhere in the Old Town but the best way to really get a feel for the aggregate of churches is by looking down at the Old Town from Gediminas’ Tower, a remnant of the onceglorious Upper Castle. We join a cluster of people walking up the steep hill to the tower. The dappled afternoon light is hinting that it’s going to be a beautiful sunset so we quicken our pace, eager to enjoy every minute of our final night.
Sigulda, Latvia Sometimes referred to as the ‘Switzerland of Latvia’ (at least by the locals), Sigulda is a hilly land of castles and manor houses set in scenic national park terrain. Beckoning as a pleasant daytrip from Riga (about one hour’s drive), this mix of history and nature offers visitors a captivating and diverse mix of attractions to check out. For example, it’s easy to explore a castle in the morning, hike to a riverbank for lunch, then bobsleigh your way down Sigulda’s legendary bobsled track. Trakai, Lithuania Just 28km west of Vilnius, the well-preserved town of Trakai is idyllically situated among rolling hills, calm lakes and thick forests. Visitors descend to admire the wooden churches, visit the legendary Trakai Castle, experience Karaimes culture (Karaimes people have lived in Trakai since the 14th century) and simply soak up the natural surrounds.
See it for yourself
Visit your local Flight Centre for advice and the latest deals on travelling to the Baltic states. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.
DESIRED FOR THEIR SUN-KISSED SHORES AND LAIDBACK MEDITERRANEAN VIBES, THE GREEK ISLANDS OFFER FAR MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE Words: Tijana Jaksic
Boats bobbing on azure seas, whitewashed villages cascading down into pebbled coves, vine-covered hills petering out to historic ancient sites: the mere mention of the Greek islands is enough to evoke a scene almost as mythical as the legendary tales of gods and goddesses that infuse this sun-soaked paradise. Accompanying it all is the promise of clear, blue skies above. But not all islands are created equal and, with more than 200 inhabited landforms to choose from (there are actually more than 2,000 in the group), it can be hard to decide which one is right for you. Here are our top picks.
White houses with blue dome roofs are symbolic of Santorini.
Shipwreck Bay is one of the Greek Islands’ most frequented beaches.
For chilling out by the sea WE LOVE ZAKYNTHOS
The third-largest of the Ionian Islands is by far one of Greece’s most beautiful spots to lay out a beach towel amid unforgettable views. Zakynthos is world-famous for its sandy rim, although it also touts a verdant and unspoilt interior of fertile valleys and stunning flowers come springtime. Navagio (or Shipwreck) Beach is easily the most photographed beach of all the islands, distinctive for its perfect white sands, turquoise waters and the sheer limestone cliffs that trace its edges to form a dramatic scene accessible only by boat. The famed caverns of the Blue Caves are just another zippy boat ride from here. There are many more coves – only slightly less dramatic – along the sweep of shores nearby, plus a raft of more easily accessible golden shores running along the southern edge. Like the touristy frills? The beaches near Zakynthos Town offer ample facilities. Wherever you go, the crystalline waters for which Zakynthos is loved wash up – guaranteed.
The village of Oia on Santorini.
For picture-perfect panoramas
Photos: Getty Images, Image Brief, iStock
WE LOVE SANTORINI
There’s nothing better than a beautiful sunset on holidays, and if you’ve ever glimpsed a postcard from the Greek Islands, chances are it was Oia that was splashed across the front. It’s one of the most famous vistas in the world: those white cubist houses lining the clifftop, awash in orange hues as the sun dips below a watery horizon. Santorini is brimming with such clifftop vantage points so picture-perfect panoramas are in no short supply, ranging from the town of Fira to The Monastery of Prophet Elias perched on the island’s highest peak. But with its rugged volcanic landscape, cobbled paths zig-zagging the rock face and multi-coloured beaches – stretching from red and white to black – it’s not just height that adds visual drama. Be sure to take a short boat ride away from the island to gain a whole new perspective looking back at this grandiose geological marvel. Santorini is a crowdpleaser through and through. Travel ideas
GREEK ISLANDS Ancient Greek ruins are dotted around the island of Delos.
For history & culture WE LOVE DELOS
While no more than a dot on the map, Delos quickly makes up for any lack in size with significant historical punch. The birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, according to mythology, it was considered one of the most sacred sites in ancient Greece and today the entire island holds UNESCO World Heritage status. On an easy daytrip from nearby Mykonos or Paros you can see for yourself some of the most extensive remains from the golden Hellenistic period of classical Greece and even earlier, as Delos served as a holy sanctuary for a millennium before that. Wander through the ancient theatre and take in the incredible mosaics and statues still standing for a fascinating glimpse back in time.
Sip sundowners by the Mediterranean Sea on Mykonos.
For stylish hotels & bars WE LOVE MYKONOS
If your idea of a beach break involves cocktails by the pool, pristine accommodation and a spot of spa pampering within a short walk of the sea, look no further than Mykonos. This island, famous for its windmills, has the widest range of luxury beachfront hotels and boutique properties sure to keep you more than comfortable when not busy sightseeing. Indulge in the 5-star luxury of Kouros Hotel & Suites, complete with onsite pool, spa and restaurant Andronikos Hotel is ready to welcome travellers to the islands.
and a central location flaunting a sea view. For an uber-modern luxurious slant, Andronikos Hotel draws acclaim for its suave and stylish decor, superior service, wonderful atmosphere and hilltop location. A lucky handful of Mykonos properties even have their own private patch of sand lined with sunloungers. The nightlife is equally generous in Mykonos – the island is famous for its party ways – but be warned: chances are you’ll be outnumbered by a young crowd so pick your bar carefully.
Locally produced meats and olive oil and freshly caught seafood are easy to find…” Three ways to see the islands
LEFT AND BELOW: Traditional moussaka at Gavalianos Kafenes on Crete; fresh Cretan produce.
01. Do your own thing For those who like to travel independently, it is possible to navigate the Greek Islands on your own by ferry. While there is no multi-pass ticket system, there are point-to-point tickets available between many of the islands. In peak season, tickets are best reserved in advance. Travelling independently allows you to get off the beaten track, enjoy more flexibility and do it all at your own pace. 02. Take to the water Many travellers swear by cruising the Mediterranean, and the Greek islands are a staple of this itinerary. Various cruise lines (including APT) chart these waters year-round, offering passengers the chance to enjoy the atmosphere and facilities on board between days exploring the beaches and sights on shore excursions. Popular ports of call include Myknonos, Santorini, Crete, Patmos and Rhodes.
For supreme wining & dining
Photos: Andronikos Hotel, Getty Images, iStock
WE LOVE CRETE
In the food and wine stakes Crete stands out far above the rest. Thanks to its southerly location it has the longest growing season in the country. A resurgence in traditional Cretan cooking and organic farming methods has seen the island lead the way for an agritourism revolution. Local meats, olive oil and freshly caught seafood are easy to find, as is Cretan wine, a tradition dating back to the times of the Minoan civilisation. It’s also possible to discover handcrafted cheeses made with village-specific recipes and honey flavoured with mountain herbs. Then there are the specialty dishes, like dakos (rusks topped with tomato, olive oil and cheese),
hilofta (similar to short linguine), smoked pork and askordoulakous (mountain bulbs) gathered from the hillsides. While traditional tavernas dish up Cretan cuisine on a small scale, an influx of trendy upmarket restaurants has also emerged. Sit down to an award-winning menu of traditional Cretan flavours at Alekos or venture to the tiny mountain village of Pefki to dine at Pipera, considered one of the island’s best tavernas. In between, sample regional cooking on a working farm, chat with locals in local kafeneia (coffee houses) or simply take in the view while cycling among orchards on the fertile plateaus.
03. Just sit back and relax A number of operators offer tours incorporating a variety of travel modes around the Greek islands, including travel by ferry and flights and sometimes incorporating extra stops on mainland Greece. Trafalgar offers an excellent 10-day ‘Greek Islands Hopper’ itinerary taking in the best of Mykonos and Santorini, as does Globus, which includes some extra sightseeing time in Athens. Insight takes this route one step further, adding on a raft of mainland Greece highlights to make it an all-encompassing tour you’ll never forget.
Ready to explore Greece?
Visit your local Flight Centre for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to Greece. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.
our fli ght c e ntre trave l e xp e r ts giv e u s the i ns i d e w ord on some of the be st c i ties to visi t i n eur o p e
Why I love it...
Why I love it...
Why I love it...
Being one of the world’s oldest cities, London is the place for adventure.” Jessica Mathew, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Northland Shopping Centre, Vic
This is a city that feels like a village, with some of the friendliest people you’ll come across on your travels.” Michael Dalton, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Essendon, Vic
This city has a rich history and culture with a modern twist where the locals are lovely.” Jess Prior, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Mt Gravatt Plaza, Qld
Dine at Sketch Restaurant in Mayfair. The surrealist decor of this upscale establishment recalls Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory or a David Lynch film.
Get locally sourced fish and chips a stone’s throw from Temple Bar. No bookings, but a great atmosphere, and they have their own Irish pale ale and ice cream, too.
From the city cross the River Thames on the Millennium Bridge with a beautiful view of London. Then spend the day at the Tate Modern gallery, which is free to visit. AFTER DARK
The Breakfast Club
A restaurant specialising in – you guessed it – breakfast. Afterwards head on downstairs to the restaurant’s speakeasy, The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town. Remember to ask your waiter for the day’s password. DAY TRIP
About an hour from London, Bicester Village has 130 stores including high-end contemporary retailers such as Alexander McQueen, Jimmy Choo, Dior and Burberry. SECRET TIP
The Portobello Markets are London’s best; however, head there early to beat the weekend crowds.
and Chips Cafe
There are three bars in which to sample the goods. Try your hand at pouring the perfect pint at the Guinness Academy. AFTER DARK
The Cobblestone Pub
A traditional Irish pub in one of Dublin’s oldest neighbourhoods. It describes itself as “a drinking pub with a music problem” and that’s exactly what you’ll get. DAY TRIP
A short day trip from Dublin, and you’ll be in the beautiful Wicklow Mountains and the ancient monastic city of Glendalough (‘glen of the two lakes’). This is quintessential Ireland.
Old Stafford Stadium
From drinks in the library to lunch in the indoor garden, there’s something for everyone at this gorgeous hotel restaurant. Check out the interesting decor, like a feature tree in the dining room. PLAY
This is the home field of football team Manchester United. Take a stadium tour and visit the National Football Museum, too. AFTER DARK
Just a 15-minute stroll from the city centre you’ll find the 18th-century Marsh’s Library. With original oak bookcases and more than 25,000 rare and fascinating books it’s a real hidden gem.
The Northern Quarter
Known for its creative flair and contemporary urban restaurants and bars, this is the place to go in the evening. The Blue Pig, with its quirky boho style, is perfect for a night out. DAY TRIP
Imperial War Museum
Visit the Imperial War Museum to learn more about England’s modern conflicts or Manchester Arndale for a shopping fix.
Mr Coopers House & Garden
Find one of Manchester’s hidden bars. The Fitzgerald is tucked down a small side street in the Northern Quarter. This 1920s prohibition-themed bar serves up excellent cocktails and dance music.
Why I love it... Dubrovnik has great weather and lots to see and do. It makes a great base to explore the Balkans.” Alex Luck, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Aspley Village, Qld
Why I love it...
Why I love it...
“Soviet history merges with a bustling modern pulse to create a fantastic collision of new and old worlds.” Jordyn Camps, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Runaway Bay, Qld
It showcases a balance of old grandeur and modern Europe, with something new to experience around every corner.” Gina Windsor, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Greenslopes, Qld
Lokanda Peskarija at the Old Port provides delicious, excellent-value seafood and a laidback atmosphere, making it a great place for lunch.
Buza Bar is a small cafe bar on the edge of a cliff, hidden behind a small door in the city walls. As you’d imagine, there are amazing views over the sea. DAY TRIP
Lokrum Island is a small nature reserve teeming with exotic plants and wildlife, easily accessible on a short 15-minute ferry ride from the Old Town.
Treat yourself to a champagne buffet breakfast. Afterwards, relax at the hotel’s famous thermal spa and baths while you take in the stunning Art Nouveau architecture dating back to 1918. AFTER DARK
Step off the main thoroughfares, often packed with tourists, to explore the laneways. They contain the best off-the-beaten-track restaurants and most unique gift shops.
Fireworks are legal, so if you’re there for New Year’s, like I was, you’ll likely see locals setting them off. A great nightlife spot is the Jewish quarter on Kazinczy Street – perfect for people-watching and a pub crawl. DAY TRIP
Fisherman’s Bastion Lookout
Take a walk up Castle Hill for a great view of Parliament Building and the city.
Great Market Hall
I love the Great Market Hall for delicious food and selection of traditional babushka dolls that make a great souvenir. Be sure to try the rose-and-strawberry chocolate.
Ride the cable car to the top of Mt Srdj and drive a buggy across the countryside or relax and take in some spectacular panoramic views.
Check out one of the ‘ruin bars’ which have popped up, transforming derelict buildings into speakeasy-style bars. Szimpla Kert is a sure bet for a having a great time.
Traditional Austrian music
With a mix of touches from Hungarian, Polish, Jewish and Italian cuisine, Austrian food takes the best from each of its different influences. Be sure to try the famous Viennese apple strudel and gugelhupf cake. PLAY
Vienna is known for its aural history and having created some of the world’s most famous musicians, such as Beethoven and Mozart, so make sure you experience some of the traditional music, which can be heard pouring out of the city’s many cafes. AFTER DARK
Prater Ferris wheel
The view from the postmodern Ferris wheel at Prater is breathtaking, especially by night. DAY TRIP
Take a horse-and-buggy ride around the city; the drivers have a wealth of knowledge about the city’s history. The opera house, Schonbrunn Palace and Prater are must-dos. SECRET TIP
If Swarovski is a favourite, visit the outlet store in the city centre.
Why I love it...
Why I love it...
Why I love it...
The stunning Swiss Alps watch over the bustling city, where French-speaking locals go about their lives.” Jacinta Hatzipaulo, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Beaumont Street, NSW
If glitz and glamour under the Mediterranean sun sounds like your thing then you’ve come to the right place.” Sarah Gilford, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Narellan, NSW
One of the most culturally rich cities in the world, Milan is a metropolis of art, food, fashion and architecture.” Kiera Swan, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Woy Woy, NSW
At a restaurant, order the Malakoff – it’s a fried ball of cheesy goodness. PLAY
Geneva bike tours
There are plenty of bike tours in and around Geneva; however, I recommend a guided tour out of the city to see the vineyards of Switzerland’s wine producers. AFTER DARK
Le Chat Noir
Le Chat Noir is a great restaurant and jazz cocktail bar if you are looking for a few beverages with some tapas in the early evening. If you stay until the later evening they also have some great local DJs. DAY TRIP Gruyères
Geneva is surrounded by mountainside and lake district areas so taking a day trip out is easy. There is a medieval village called Gruyères which is beautifully preserved with historical buildings and castles. SECRET TIP
It can be worthwhile purchasing a one- or two-day Geneva pass because it can give you discounted – sometimes free – access to the museums and other sights.
Located beside the Grand Prix track with harbour views, don’t miss dining at Le Nautique. The fresh sea bass is a favourite.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
If you want a quick, delicious and affordable meal then be sure to check out La Creperie. It’s easy to reach on public transport.
Formula 1 Grand Prix
If you’re in town for May’s Grand Prix, it’s something you won’t forget. With milliondollar yachts on one side, a street packed with people on the other and the fastest cars F1 has to offer racing down the middle, this is certainly one for the sports lovers. AFTER DARK
Monte Carlo Casino
Whether you want to try your luck, have a drink or people-watch, the Monte Carlo Casino is the place. Opening hours vary but the dress code does not, so pack to play. DAY TRIP
Èze, French Riviera
Take a day tour of the French Riviera and explore the streets of Èze. See the high life at the Prince’s Palace or create a scent of your own at the Fragonard perfume factory. SECRET TIP
Walk over to Le Rocher. There’s a secret staircase that takes you to a rock beach – perfect for escaping summer crowds.
All the best designer brands can be found here. This historic glass-roofed shopping hotspot has been home to Prada’s flagship store since 1913. Other iconic brands, such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton are here, too. AFTER DARK
Martini Bar Dolce & Gabbana
An intimate atmosphere mixed with glamour can be had at Martini Bar Dolce & Gabbana. Try the Sicilian Martini. DAY TRIP
Duomo di Milano
This is the fifth-largest Christian church in the world. It has the most statues of any church worldwide and took thousands of workers, a new canal system and more than six centuries to complete. SECRET TIP
Take in the view from the rooftop of the Duomo di Milano. On a clear day, the view stretches beyond the city as far as the snow-capped Alps.
Why I love it... Oslo is a stunning city with so much to offer, from the home of the Nobel Peace Prize, to skifields only 30 minutes away.” Loredana Russo, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Fulham Gardens, SA
Why I love it...
Why I love it...
It’s one of the best cities in the world for travelling by bicycle. There are actually more bicycles than people.” Deryk Neighbour, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Met Centre, NSW
The old town is beautiful, with its warm-hued buildings, many cafes, restaurants, galleries and museums.” Christopher Eig, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Burnside, SA
This huge upscale converted warehouse food hall is home to more than 30 food stalls of Nordic delicacies. PLAY
Discover the Royal Palace before continuing on to City Hall, where the Nobel Peace Prize is presented every year. A short walk will lead you over to the Akershus Fortress, built in the 1290s on the scenic harbour cliffs. AFTER DARK
Here you can sit at a bar built of ice and take in the larger-than-life ice statues while drinking wine from a glass also made of ice. DAY TRIP
Go skiing just 30 minutes from the city, in the Hyttli area; you can catch the metro there for some of the best slopes in Europe. The Oslo Vinterpark is usually open from about November to April.
In Copenhagen you can dine at the best restaurant in the world, NOMA. You will need to get in early for a reservation, at least six weeks in advance. Bookings open on the sixth of each month so it pays to be quick. PLAY
Go to the second-oldest theme park in the world – it was opened in 1843 and is best known for its wooden rollercoaster built in 1914. This magical playland for young and old is full of history and culture. AFTER DARK Ruby
You must try to get to cocktail bar Ruby – a favourite for trendsetters and famous faces.
The Vigeland Museum is a crowd-pleaser, with its garden full of Gustav Vigeland’s oversized sculptures, and offers insight into one of Norway’s most prolific sculptors.
Take a full-day tour of the beautiful region of North Zealand. Travel with a guide and visit Kronborg Castle, which was the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
For the ultimate in Swedish shopping visit Östermalm, home to contemporary brands such as Acne Studios and BLK DNM. AFTER DARK
For a dose of culture, head to the Glyptoteket Museum, made up of Carl Jacobsen’s personal collection – free on Sundays. Stop for tea inside the beautiful garden cafe.
For a novel and quirky bar, check out Tweed Bar. It looks like a gentlemen’s smoking club with its leather chesterfield lounges, chequered chandeliers, gilded desk lamps and, yes, tweed wallpaper. DAY TRIP
One of Sweden’s most historic landmarks is the residence of the Swedish royal family. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, and its grounds are open to the public year round.
This is the place to try the traditional food Swedes call husmanskost. The nearby Östermalm Food Hall is great for a variety of food, from Baltic seafood to baked goods.
Vaxholm is the most popular island ferry stop in Stockholm’s archipelago, where you’ll find petite alleyways, ice cream kiosks and wooden houses in the Vaxholm citadel.
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Travel is all about sharing amazing experiences, stories and journeys. From majestic winter landscapes to stunning sun-drenched scenes, here are some of our favourite photos captured by you from all around the world. Share your travel photos with us on Instagram with the hashtag #openmyworld and spread the love of exploration.
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The CHALLENGE RAIL OR RIVER? EAST OR WEST? FOUR FLIGHT CENTRE TRAVEL EXPERTS GIVE YOU THE LOWDOWN ON THE BEST WAYS TO SEE EUROPE AND THE MUST-VISIT DESTINATIONS
Step back in time on a train journey
Add an element of romance to your European holiday with an epic rail journey. Rail links connect much of the European continent, crossing country borders, and travel by train is quick, convenient and relaxing.
You’ll just love the clickety-clack of the tracks. By day admire the scenery, from charming cities to magnificent mountains and rolling countryside. By night, retire to your sleeping car – the calming sound will lull you to sleep. Or have a nightcap in the bar car; you can’t drink and drive but you can certainly drink and sit on the train. For me, it’s all about the scenery, the old-school charm of the rail experience, all paired with incredible food and wine.
CARLA GRIFFITHS , TRAVEL EXPERT, FLIGHT CENTRE HOB ART, TASMANIA
The Venice Simplon Orient-Express is the first European rail journey that springs to mind. The classic two-day route is London-ParisVenice. The train is elegant, relaxed luxury. It’s beautiful, with impeccably restored Art Deco carriages. And the food – oh, my gosh, it’s amazing: champagne for breakfast, canapés in the afternoon, five-course dinners... And there’s a baby grand piano and pianist in the bar car. This extraordinary train also has longer itineraries that take in Budapest, Bucharest, Istanbul and Vienna so you can cover a lot of European ground.
The Golden Eagle Danube Express is another luxury train, also with its own pianist (and sometimes a harpist). The cuisine focuses on European specialities so you get the best of regional cuisine as you’re travelling along. Try the Balkan Odyssey journey from Venice to Budapest, passing through Trieste, Sarajevo and Belgrade. Golden Eagle also runs the Trans-Siberian Express from Moscow, which transports you across the seemingly endless Russian steppe and along the shore of Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake. There are some amazing scenic day trips on the Glacier Express in Switzerland that go up over the Alps. The seven-hour trip departs Zermatt and travels to either the town of Davos, which attracts world leaders to the annual World Economic Forum, or the chic holiday resort town of St Moritz, passing mountains, valleys and gorges with the help of 91 tunnels and 291 bridges. Alternatively, the Eurail network, which crisscrosses 28 countries, offers an easy and cheap way to explore Europe.
Hit the rails
To find out the best way to book your European rail holiday, head to your local Flight Centre. Chat to a Travel Expert about getting the best prices, and what route to take. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.
FROM FAR LEFT: Visit majestic Paris on a rail tour; relax with champagne on your train; rail connects Europe to fascinating destinations; cruise the Danube past scenic wonders; take a cycling excursion off-ship; cruise the Douro River.
Let your worries drift away
See the sights of Europe from the water, with an endless array of river cruises to carry you calmly right into the heart of a range of exciting European destinations.
River cruising has many attractions, including that you unpack only once, you wake up somewhere different every day and it’s generally all-inclusive so you have little extra to pay for as far as activities go. The vessels run the gamut, from modern luxury to European chic. You can be as busy or as relaxed as you like – if you don’t want to join an organised day tour, you can jump off in a town and do your own thing. There’s delicious food based on the region you’re travelling through as well.
SAMANTHA HARTLEY, TRAVEL EXPERT, FLIGHT CENTRE KENMORE, QUEENSLAND
Take your pick of Europe’s magnificent rivers: the Rhine, the Rhône, the Danube, the Seine. There’s also the Douro through Spain and Portugal, which is becoming increasingly popular. And there’s the Po River in Italy. In fact, there’s plenty of river cruising to be done all over Europe. The river route between Amsterdam and Budapest is one of the most popular routes in Europe, and all the cruise lines do it. You travel through the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Hungary along the Rhine and Danube
rivers, past wineries and castles. It’s all about the scenery and the food. In Italy, you could try a Po River cruise from Milan to Rome (which incorporates some land travel). That’s particularly interesting – you could see Florence and Rome, and many of the major museums and art galleries, such as the Uffizi in Florence. You can also do cruises that are tailored to a theme. Some cruise lines offer a wine series (wine gets a good run in Europe, as you can imagine). You can do a lot of cycling from certain river cruises, too, like riding through the Dutch countryside or biking beside the Moselle River in France. If you’re passionate about history, cruises that are themed around European battlefields are also possible, although some of these cruises do encompass a land component, as you might expect. Then there are river cruises on a Christmas theme – picture yourself in a festive town square, browsing the stalls of a Christmas market and sipping hot spiced wine before returning to your luxurious room on the ship. It’s a holiday you’ll never forget.
If you’re keen to get cruising through Europe, your local Flight Centre Travel Experts are the people to see. They can help you choose an itinerary and get the best deal on flights and cruises. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.
The CHALLENGE continues
Eastern Europe Old-world charm and value for money
Expect a warm welcome and stunning sights on a trip through Eastern Europe. Even though these countries may be less popular than their western neighbours, they’re no less exciting.
Why Eastern Europe?
The eastern countries of Europe have a different history to those of the west, many with Soviet influences, but are still modern and exciting. Eastern Europe wasn’t bombed as frequently as the west during the world wars so there are still many extremely old buildings. Plus, it’s great value for money. Eastern European hospitality and the locals’ excitement at meeting foreigners are amazing. As for the cuisine, expect authentic, uncomplicated, home-style food.
CHRISTOPHER EIG, TRAVEL EXPERT, FLIGHT CENTRE BURNSIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Poland sits on the Baltic Sea and is known for its medieval architecture, Jewish heritage and hearty cuisine. In the city of Krakow, 14th-century Wawel Castle rises above the medieval Old Town. Krakow’s cute bars are also popular with party people. Nearby is the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp memorial, which will touch your soul; or you could tour the Wieliczka Salt Mine with its mind-blowing sculptures. The Old City of Warsaw is wonderful to explore on foot. In the north, make time to visit Malbork Castle, while Zakapone in the south is popular with winter-sports-lovers. Sample Polish dishes such as bigos (meat stew) and pierogi (dumplings).
The Czech Republic is a small country with a beautiful river, the Vltava, flowing through its centre. The capital, Prague, was one of the first places travellers began to visit in Eastern Europe and is much loved for its old-world feel. The best thing to do in the city is visit Prague Castle overlooking the city, which dates from the ninth century. The surrounding countryside is also extremely beautiful. A lot of people like the cheap (and delicious) beer in the Czech Republic, too.
The architecture in Russia is magnificent, such as the train station in St Petersburg (Moskovsky), and tourists can see spectacular buildings that have been untouched for many years. In the capital, Moscow, visit the amazing Red Square, over which towers the Kremlin. The iconic Trans-Siberian railway links Moscow over the Ural Mountains to Vladivostok. River cruising is popular along the Volga and Svir rivers, or try a Baltic Sea cruise that stops in St Petersburg for a different view of the city.
If Eastern Europe has captured your imagination, Flight Centre’s Travel Experts can help you book your dream trip. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.
FROM FAR LEFT Explore Poland’s city of Krakow; the winding streets of Prague; a Russian soldier on duty at Moscow’s Kremlin; scenes like this in France inspired the artist Monet; intricate architectural details in Avignon, France; Barcelona’s most famous boulevard, La Rambla.
Western Europe Art, architecture and food
Western Europe feeds the artistic soul – whether it be with painting, architecture or the culinary arts. These countries are popular for a reason; they’re beloved, intriguing, inspiring and beautiful all at once.
Why Western Europe?
What I love about Western Europe is the culture, the architecture and the food; they are the three things I get most excited about. You will feel like you’re walking through living history, almost as if you have been transported into an ancient world. And architecturally, it’s spectacular.
SARAH TUCKERBOEHM, TRAVEL EXPERT, FLIGHT CENTRE RENMARK, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
The depth of history and art in France is astonishing. In the country’s north, the living masterpiece of Claude Monet’s gardens at Giverny inspired some of the Impressionist artist’s most famous paintings, in particular those of his water lilies. In the city of Avignon in the south, the Musée Calvet is worth a visit, with artworks ranging from paintings and sculptures to furniture and decorative arts. The Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) is another amazing attraction, as Avignon was the seat of the Papacy in the 1300s. For ancient history enthusiasts, the nearby city of Arles boasts the Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct. And, of course, Paris is very romantic. It’s wonderful to stroll through the streets and stop at little patisseries along your route.
Spain is different to any other part of Europe because its architecture has many influences and styles, including Gothic and Moorish, so visually it’s unique. The Catholic churches built in the 15th century are magnificent. In Barcelona, the main promenade of La Rambla is a hub of activity. Find a little café, sip sangria and watch the world go by – it’s a feast for your eyes – or visit a Spanish village to watch artisanal glass blowing. Turn a corner and you may find a flamenco demonstration in a little courtyard.
The food in Italy is fantastic. In Rome, find a little gelateria near the Trevi Fountain so you can feast on ice cream as you watch tourists throw coins into the water in the hope of ensuring their future return to the Italian capital. You might even witness a proposal. Don’t miss Vatican City – nothing will prepare you for the enormity of Michelangelo’s artwork in the Sistine Chapel. Marvel at the passion that must have moved the artist to create such beauty.
To explore these fascinating countries (and more!) visit your nearest Flight Centre for the best deals on tours and airfares. flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.
g ot a trave l qu e stion y ou need answ e r e d? f l ig h t centre tr ave l e xp e r ts show y ou th e way
I’ve visited Paris before. What are some of its hidden gems? The best way to see some of the lesser-known Parisian sights is to put on your walking shoes. In Paris everyone catches the Metro, but if you want to see more – particularly if you’ve been before – walking is the way to go. Walking along the street you will find little cafés, cabaret shows, churches and museums that catching the Metro could never expose you to. So grab a drink bottle, watch out for traffic and see Paris in a whole new way. As for something a little out of the way, the National Maritime Museum is part museum, part art gallery, with none of the lines nor crowds of the Louvre. The highlight of the museum is that it backs onto Trocadéro Gardens, which have one of the best views of the Paris skyline (after that from the Eiffel Tower itself). It is the perfect place to stop, buy an ice-cream and soak up the Parisian atmosphere.
JOSEPH DEAKIN, TRAVEL EXPERT, FLIGHT CENTRE OXLEY, QLD
I’m travelling with a group of friends from London to Rome. What’s the best way? You could fly or take a train but it would be much more interesting to follow in the footsteps of the Roman Legions returning from service in Britannia on the Roman Road. The Roman Road
Take the Roman Road from London to Rome.
is a very popular nine-day tour in Top Deck’s summer program. Top Deck is a tour provider offering trips for those aged between 18 and 39. With travel in a modern air-conditioned coach, the journey from London explores four countries, highlighting the glory of Paris, the formidable Swiss Alps, the glamorous French Riviera and the Renaissance beauty of Florence. It’s said that “all roads lead to Rome”, but this journey is one of the most interesting routes by far. LEA AHOKAVA, TRAVEL
EXPERT, FLIGHT CENTRE PACIFIC FAIR, QLD
Explore Paris on foot to find hidden highlights.
travel clinic Where is best for adventure travel in Europe? There’s an adventure in Europe for every traveller. In Italy’s north, explore the breathtaking Dolomites mountain range; it’s an impressive 90,000 hectares of nature near Venice. Spilling over the Pyrenees from France into Spain, the Camino de Santiago continues to attract thousands of Aussie hikers each year. Cycling through Europe is also fun, and popular in the Loire Valley and Burgundy in France, as well as the Tuscan and Dutch countrysides. If you prefer the water, nothing beats sailing in Greece or Croatia. Island-hopping, stunning seaside towns and epic nightlife is what everyone’s talking about. Tour companies offer a variety of sail options, but you should book early to secure your spot.
NICOLETTE SAVAS, TRAVEL EXPERT, FLIGHT CENTRE
O’CONNELL STREET, SA
Europe has plenty of adventure destinations.
Which airports are best to fly into to save money?
Experience the romance of Florence.
We’re travelling for our honeymoon. What are some romantic – and surprising – destinations in Europe? Florence is a city for lovers – it offers a laidback Italian attitude and has a stunning display of incredible Italian architecture. There are hundreds of restaurants that offer everything from traditional handmade cheeses and cured meats to gelaterias that will make your honeymoon much more delicious. The rolling hills of the Chianti region and its incredible world-class wineries are just a short Vespa ride away (no previous experience necessary). You can also use the opportunity to capture some amazing pictures of the city and its ancient walls that lead towards the tranquil countryside. Alternatively, Gozo is a hidden gem of the Maltese Island archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. Secluded bays and beaches, cheap eats and intimate modern resorts are homed in century-old buildings. It offers the perfect honeymoon experience and ticks all the boxes for an intimate escape. The Gozitan people have been farming this island for centuries so you can count on the restaurants in areas like Xlendi Bay and Marsalforn to deliver the freshest culinary experience, paired with the most romantic views of the Mediterranean.
NAT SACCO, TRAVEL EXPERT, FLIGHT CENTRE PICTON, NSW
We are so lucky: with so many great airlines flying to and from Australia there isn’t a city in Europe we can’t get to. The best way to save money on an amazing Europe trip is to fly into one city and then back home from another. This saves you time as well, as you don’t have to backtrack to the city where you started your trip. Organising your flights this way means you could fly into Amsterdam, make your way around Europe, and fly home from Paris. Another option would be to fly into Spain and then come home through beautiful Frankfurt, Germany. Taxes tend to be higher flying into London so why not choose Paris? Once there you can have a picnic under the Eiffel Tower and visit Disneyland before catching the Eurostar to London or the train over to Amsterdam for your return. The options are limitless.
ALYSHA MINES, TRAVEL EXPERT, FLIGHT CENTRE HENLEY SQUARE PAVILION, SA
Take the Eurostar.
travel clinic Madrid offers visitors varied experiences, like world-class museums and markets.
I have only one day in Madrid. What are the top sights that I shouldn’t miss?
What are the best beach destinations in Europe? The beaches of Europe have something to offer everyone. The French Riviera has many glamorous beach resorts where you can explore the coastline and even spot a celebrity if you’re lucky. Greece has the most blissful beaches for relaxing and eating, from iconic Santorini to hidden gems like Paleokastritsa on Corfu Island; spend your days exploring hidden coves and nights eating amazing local food while enjoying the sunset. Italy offers gems like Positano, Sardinia and the Cinque Terre. Soak up the amazing Italian culture and the country’s pristine waters. However, France, Italy and Greece are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to magical European beaches. Countries like Croatia, Malta and Spain also promise out-of-this-world beach experiences. If choosing just one country is a struggle then you will definitely want to try a Mediterranean cruise for a taste of several.
RACHEL STEELE, TRAVEL EXPERT,
FRANCESCA BEARD, TRAVEL EXPERT, FLIGHT CENTRE MET CENTRE, NSW
FLIGHT CENTRE RUNDLE MALL, SA
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If I had only one day in Madrid I’d definitely start in the heart of it all: the Plaza de la Paja (or ‘Straw Square’, as it’s better known). As the only Muslim quarter it’s filled with beautiful architecture and historical references. There’s a lovely garden south of the square named Jardín del Príncipe Anglona. Taking a leisurely walk around here is the perfect way to ease into the hustle and bustle of a day in Madrid. The museum district is practically compulsory; I’d recommend a private museum excursion to skip the queue, and it means you have your own personal guide. The Prado Museum is one of the most impressive museums in the world. I would finish the day with a late-night tapas crawl. Eating in Madrid happens late and that’s when the streets really come alive. There is an amazing tapas walking tour. I would definitely recommend La Gabinoteca.
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