LOS ANGELES, April 15, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Luxury cruise innovator Crystal Cruises is expanding its roster of active, immersive experiences ashore with 16 bicycle Crystal Adventures in 2014.  Throughout Northern and Western Europe and the Mediterranean, travelers can enjoy some of the world’s most striking architecture, charming villages, spectacular seaside views and historically profound sites, often best – and sometimes only – accessed on bicycle.  Offered with May-September voyages aboard Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, the half- and full-day excursions combine fitness with new, intimate perspectives on favorite destinations such as:

  • Malta – A 12.5-mile route travels through countryside only accessible by bicycle and along the western coastline toward the highest point in Malta, the Dingli Cliffs – dramatically sheering straight down to the Mediterranean Sea and providing spectacular panoramic views.
  • Tallinn – Guests will seemingly cycle back in time as they ride to the Baroque palace and summer home of Peter the Great, and around the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the city’s Old Town, complete with ancient walls, cobblestone lanes and 16th century architecture – including a pharmacy that has been in business since 1422.
  • Copenhagen – In one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities, guests can truly experience the sites as the locals do, including a winding, five-mile ride through a forest en route to a 500-year-old amusement park (the world’s oldest), Bakken, where they’ll have time to play and explore.
  • Bordeaux/Bassens – Along a nine-mile combination of flat and hilly roads in the quaint village of Saint-Emilion – whose entire wine “jurisdiction” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – where guests will enjoy views of beautiful chateaus and expansive vineyards of such premier estates as Chateau Angelus, Figeac and Cheval Blanc. 
  • Barcelona – An invigorating five-mile ride through the city’s bustling streets affords the opportunity to admire the profoundly impressive architecture of the cathedrals and other icons, while also enjoying performances from street artists that liven up the La Rambla boulevard.
  • Guernsey/St. Peter Port – Along a six-mile stunning coastal path, travelers can marvel equally at L’Ancresse and Pembroke beaches and the Le Dehus Dolmen, home to Neolithic-era tombs that resemble a miniature Stonehenge.

With Crystal’s 2014 European voyages, bicycle adventures are also offered in Valencia and Mallorca, Spain; Corfu, Greece; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Helsinki, Finland; Holyhead, Wales; Kotor, Montenegro; Skagen, Denmark; St. Tropez, France; and St. Petersburg, Russia. 

“Many guests have become increasingly interested in more athletic pursuits that allow them to enjoy a destination in a more up close and personal way,” says John Stoll, vice president of land programs.  “The bicycle excursions not only foster personal connections with the scenery and surrounding cultures, but also with each other.  Each cycling group builds a special camaraderie as they share these experiences.” 

With all the details of the bicycle Crystal Adventures arranged by Crystal’s staff and expert partners ashore, including helmets, bottled water, refreshments in most locales and terrain-appropriate bikes, prices for bicycling excursions in Europe range from $89 to $249 per person. 

In 2014, the line’s luxurious ships will sail 23 European voyages of 7 to 14 days, with shorter “Crystal Getaways” and extended combination cruises also available.  Until April 30, 2014, all-inclusive “Book Now” cruise fares for the line’s European sailings start at $1,730 per person.

Crystal’s passion for creating exclusive, eye-opening luxury shore-side experiences are cornerstones of its Crystal Adventures program, earning the line top ratings for two decades.  Bicycle trips are also offered in North America this fall, from Halifax and Bar Harbor to Key West and Cabo San Lucas.

Stoll adds, “For many, it is a lifelong dream to cycle through Europe’s most beautiful landscapes – a dream one wouldn’t necessarily expect to fulfill while on a cruise.”

For more information and Crystal reservations, contact a travel agent, call 888-799-4625, or visit www.crystalcruises.com.

CONTACT: Mimi Weisband or Susan Wichmann, 310-203-4305, mediarelations@crystalcruises.com.

VISIT: Crystal’s Media Center and engage with us at www.facebook.com/crystalcruises, www.twitter.com/crystalcruises, and www.youtube.com/crystalcruises.

Photo – http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140415/73279

SOURCE Crystal Cruises

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PRODUCTION design sketch for the film

Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” recreates what appears to be Eastern Europe between the two world wars and is easily set to be the director’s most visually appealing work to date.

Ralph Fiennes plays a concierge named Gustave H who works at a famous European hotel and has been framed for murder after a priceless Renaissance painting housed in the hotel had gone missing. He teams up with the lobby boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), to prove his innocence.

Anderson set his tale in a fictional spa town in the imaginary country of alpine Zubrowka, for which he created not only a complete visual aesthetic but also a cohesive 20th-century history mirroring Eastern Europe, complete with a fascist takeover in the 1930s and a Communist period after that, but also a more distant past in the vein of the belle epoque.

The extensive planning of the film began with finding just the right location for the Grand Budapest.

The search started with Anderson perusing the archives of the US Library of Congress, which holds a large collection of photocrom images from the era of classic European travel.  But after scouting some of the resorts in the photos, and discovering most to be torn down or too extensively renovated, Anderson chose to shoot in no hotel at all.


DIRECTOR Wes Anderson

Instead, he discovered an unexpected kind of back lot: a vast, turn-of-the-century department store smack at the intersection of Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic, in the Unesco World Heritage town of Görlitz.

It turned out Görlitz had far more to offer than just the department store, including architectural influences from the Gothic and Baroque to the almost-modern curves of Art Nouveau.

Anderson and his production designer Adam Stockhausen ultimately decided to create the hotel exterior as a beautifully elaborate miniature in the workshops at Babelsberg. It was also there that they built and filmed much of the cable-car and ski-chase sequences, building miniature models in the workshop and then moving them outdoors to be shot under natural light—often pushing a camera on wheels through real miniature trees—allowing a greater feeling of naturalism than you’d normally achieve with a model.

“First, there were endless amounts of research into what hotels looked like in the time period, and then the details that really spoke to us began to bubble up to the surface, and we’d say, ‘That stairway’s incredible, that elevator door’s incredible’ or ‘that concierge desk is incredible,’” Stockhausen said. “And as those pieces started to gel into a shape, pretty soon we could say, ‘OK, this is starting to feel like our hotel.’

“Wes [Anderson] likes to shoot in complex camera moves, so the physical space really had to line up. We ended up building the 1960s version of the hotel first, and then we shot backwards, peeling away layers to expose the earlier period hotel within.”

Many of the film’s key props were made by local artists and artisans in Görlitz, including the Courtesans au chocolat, made by local baker Anemone Müller-Grossman, Monsieur Gustave’s signature pinky ring, and the porcelain pendant that Agatha (played by Saoirse Ronan) wears.

The design of the film emerged from the collaboration between Anderson and Stockhausen. The latter, who had also worked on “The Darjeeling Limited,” “Moonrise Kingdom” and recently Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave,” knew this film would be a creative experience unlike any other.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” will be shown exclusively at Ayala Malls cinemas nationwide starting April 19 (Black Saturday).

“GRAND Budapest,” starring Ralph Fiennes, is set in a spa town in Eastern Europe between the two world wars. For the imaginary hotel during the classic era of European travel, director Wes Anderson chose a vast, turn-of-the-century department store smack at the intersection of Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic, in the Unesco World Heritage town of Görlitz.

Article source: http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/157051/unesco-world-heritage-german-town-utilized-in-wes-andersons-grand-budapest

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Inspired by the idea of traveling some not-so-well known destinations thanks to a recent trip to Fernando do Noronha in Brazil, TPG asked Madrid-based European correspondent Lori Zaino for some of her recommendations for some lesser known, emerging European travel spots.

One of the best things about living in Europe is having access to so many great places, most of which are only a 2-3 hour flight away from Madrid, where I am based. In the six years I’ve been living aboard, I have been lucky enough to visit some of the most well known European destinations, and also some that aren’t quite as popular. I watched Dubrovnik and Porto emerge as a hot new destination spots a few years ago, and here are my picks for some emerging vacation spots in 2014.

Flickr / Alison Quine

Chania Harbor, Crete

Chania, Crete, Greece

When you think of the Greek Islands, Mykonos comes to mind for its endless summer parties or Santorini for its picturesque sunsets and romantic hilltops. Crete is a gorgeous Greek island that is completely overlooked in my opinion, and also has plenty of idyllic beaches, sunsets and partying if that’s what you are looking for. The island is the largest of all the Greek islands and is separated into four regions, Heraklion, Rethymno, Chania, and Lasithi.

Arrival: There are actually two airports on the island, one is Heraklion and the other in Chania. Several low cost airlines such as Easy Jet, Germanwings, Volotea, Vueling, and Wizz Air operate summer seasonal flights to Heraklion. Aegean, Condor, Alitalia, and Air Berlin also fly there from select European spots. Seasonal flights begin on April 1, 2014 on Ryanair to Chania from Bergamo, Billund, Bologna, Bournemouth,Bremen, Bristol, Charleroi, Dublin, East Midlands, Eindhoven, Glasgow-Prestwick, Hahn, Katowice, Leeds/Bradford, London-Stansted, Marseille, Memmingen, Moss/Rygge, Pisa, Rome-Ciampino, Stockholm-Skavsta, Treviso, Vilnius, Warsaw-Modlin, Weeze, Wrocław. Aegean, Finnair, Easyjet, and more also fly to Chania airport. From the US, connect on Aegean from Athens, or first stop in one of many European cities and get a low cost flight over to either airport.

Accommodation: I recommend staying in Almyrida in the Chania region, where I stayed in a no frills apartment called Ansi Apartments. Just 100 steps away from the beach, Georgio and his wife welcomed us into their apartment building with traditional Greek Pasteries and a bottle of wine. The sunset views from our balcony were breathtaking and the apartment was clean and basic. I was intrigued at the fact you could rent two beach chairs and an umbrella, that also come with a large bottle of water, for just 5 euros (less than $7) on the unspoiled, uncrowded beach. This is definitely not Miami at $20 a chair!

I suggest ordering fresh seafood at Lagos Taverna and make sure to enjoy your free shot of ouzo afterwards. For 20 days, I didn’t see a single other American tourist, though I have a feeling that may change now that I have spilled the beans!

Chania is my favorite of all the regions, for having some of the most beautiful beaches and small clifftop towns, and for having a mixture of authentic local flavor and tourism. Chania is actually a small city within the region (25 minute drive from Almyrida), and its winding streets and ivy trellised colored apartment buildings is reminscent of Trastevere in Rome or Verona, Italy. Located right on the water, the city boosts a Venetian lighthouse, historical old town, and countless terraces and outdoor hot spots where you can watch the sunset, dine, and drink the night away. The small and winding streets lined with shops and bed and breakfasts are romantic and charming (a few of my personal favorites are the Fatma Boutique Hotel, the Evgenia, and the Palazzo Duca). A short drive from Chania in either direction, you can find any style of beach your heart desires, small and untouched, busy and bustling, rocky areas perfect for diving and more. Great spots are Elafonnisi, Kissamos beach to watch the sunset, or tiny seaside village Loutro.

Tips and Tricks: Car rental is pretty crucial if you want to explore Crete, especially if you want to visit other regions or big tourist attractions like Knosses Palace or hike the Samaria Gorge. Beware, as few speak English here, make sure to zone in a couple key Greek phrases during your travel. There is also total disorder at the Heraklion airport, so I highly recommend getting to the airport 3 hours in advance during high tourist season. We arrive a little over two hours and had to run to catch our flight, security is a total mess.

Flickr / Weli’mi’nakwan

Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius is a surprisingly charming city that is becoming more up-and-coming by the minute. Its picturesque old town is a UNESCO Heritage Site with tons of Jewish cultural sites to explore, and was also selected as the European Capital of Culture in 2009.

Arrival: The Vilnius Aiport is located just a few miles outside the city center. It is mainly serviced by low cost airlines such as Wizzair and Ryanair and also has flights from LOT, Aeroflot, Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa, and Finnair. The cheapest and easiest way to arrival from the U.S. is to fly direct to Frankfurt and continue on to Vilnius, or you have the option of going to Warsaw or Brussels nonstop and then routing to Vilnius. Another option is to fly on SAS and connect through Stockholm from Newark. From many other cities like London and Barcelona you can fly low cost nonstop.

Accommodation: The Stikliai hotel is a wonderful local and authentic hotel. It was once a glass-making factory — the name Stikliai means glass makers in Lithuanian. The owners, Anya and Alexandr are always on site and very welcoming and the hotel is a very charming experience. The onsite restaurant has one Michelin star and the Stikliai Tavern has incredible draniki or “potato pancakes.”

Throughout the old city center, there are several beautiful churches, plus a cathedral and the castle to visit. Wandering around is a lot of fun, as there are so many little shops and cafes and of course, lots of beautiful and historic architecture to stare at. The rather creepy Gruto garden is an outdoor exhibit consisting of 86 statues by 46 different sculptors, is organized into spheres. Each of the statues features a Soviet or socialist activist, many of them ethnic Lithuanians. The exhibit is haunting and intriguing, giving visitors a look into Soviet culture.

If you are a beer lover, Vilnius is one of the best cities to be in! This is little known, but Vilnius is known for its locally brewed beers within the Baltic region. Bambalyne is a great cellar beer bar and shop where you can get many different varieties of local beer. Vilinus has everything it takes to be a popular European travel destination … time will tell!

Tips and Tricks: Beware of taxi drivers overcharging, this commonly occurs here. A bike tour is also a great way to get to know the city, so rent one yourself or sign up for a tour.

Michela Simoncini / Flickr

Alghero, Sardinia

Alghero, Sardinia, Italy

Sardinia is usually overlooked in favor of its well-known sister island, Sicily, which gets most of the attention. However, this Mediterranean gem is well worth a visit. The walled city of Alghero is located on the northwest cost of Italy and it’s a charming, sleepy, medieval beach town.

Alghero is unique because it was actually once an outpost of the Catalan kingdom, therefore the Alghero dialect is a mix of Sardinian Italian with Catalan and Spanish mixed in. Alghero is and has been a hot destination for Italians living on the mainland, especially from Rome, as it’s quite close.

Arrival: Alitalia flies there from Rome and Milan, and Ryanair from several destinations around Europe. When I was searching for flights from Madrid, I found Ryanair for 100 euros roundtrip nonstop approximately 2 hours, or Alitalia for 400 euros, with a layover in Rome, entire trip approximately six hours. Obviously, I chose the Ryanair! The city is abuzz with excitement as Ryanair has been expanding, connecting Alghero nonstop with more and more several cities in Europe, therefore increasing tourism. However, if you are flying from the USA, you could fly on Alitalia to Rome or Milan and connect over to Alghero. Wizzair also flies to Alghero from Romania.The Alghero airport is only a 20 minute bus or taxi ride to the historical city center.

Accommodation: I found a perfect apartment on my favorite apartment search website, which I have been using for the past six years before Airbnb even existed, called Owners Direct. I love this site because it doesn’t charge any extra fees to rent. The fees are actually paid by those advertising their properties, which I prefer. Not only is it fee-free for me, but I think the renters are more serious as they have to pay to advertise their property. Luigi’s studio, in the “centro storico” number IT1432 was perfect, though the medieval walls were so thick I had trouble getting a phone and WiFi signal inside, actually a common problem in most areas of ancient city.

Recently, it’s seen a growth in tourism from visitors around Europe and Russia, and even for Americans. The old city is hilly with cobblestone lined streets overlooking a large port-boating and fishing is a huge industry for Alghero. There is a lot of dried algae on the beaches, hence the name “Alghero.” I spent six weeks roaming this town last summer, taking Italian classes at Pintadera (which I highly recommend if you would like to learn Italian) and exploring the Algherese community, trying to interact as much as possible with locals. Not to be missed is the trendy “Le Bombarde” beach. Filled with scantily clad young 20-40 somethings, this stunning beach is well known among locals for those wanting to suntan, meet with friends and try their luck at windsurfing.

Another hotspot is Stintino, about an hour drive from Alghero, which is one of the top beaches in all of Italy. Try some pizza at Bella Napoli in the Piazza Civica, or for even more authentic Italian fare, make sure to visit an agriturismo. “Agriculture tourism” or Agriturismo consists of small farms located inland that offer a fixed menu dinner, usually from about 20-40 euros, and most of the food they serve is locally grown on the farm. Some also offer accommodation as well.

Tips and Tricks: Most of the time I spent there, I used a bike to get around to and from the city beach, and for a longer ride out to Le Bombarde beach. I rented a scooter for a few days to explore the caves of Neptunes Grotto and Capo Caccia, and a car to visit Stintino, but a car rental is not absolutely necessary. Really, depending on your cup of tea (eg relaxing beach vacation, medieval city, yachting adventure) all of Sardinia is up-and-coming, so make sure to add it to your list of places to see.

Flickr / Corinne Cavallo

Krakow, Poland

Krakow, Poland

Everyone is saying how Krakow is the new Prague. Cheap and relatively unknown, Krakow has that cool Eastern European vibe that Prague had many years ago and Budapest is still grasping for. Why the comparison? Prague is heavily touristy and slowly becoming more expensive, and Krakow is still rather untouched, in spite of its medieval roots. The delicious restaurants here are cheap, there are tons of museums and historical sights, and the city is considered Poland’s art, theater and culture capital.

As the second largest city in Poland, Krakow dates back to the 7th century and is rich in history, especially Jewish history. The historic city center is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Arrival: Getting there is easy — John Paul II International Airport Kraków-Balice is located approximately 15 km from the city of Krakow. From the U.S., you can fly nonstop to Warsaw and connect on to Krakow, and from other European cities, you can fly via Ryanair, Easy Jet, Alitalia, Air Berlin, Lufthansa, Vueling, and more. Ryanair flies direct from Madrid, so it was a no-brainer for me.

Accommodation: There are a variety of different hotel choices here, from budget hostels for backpackers to uber luxury digs, but as it’s a big city, if you have Starwood points, you can stay at the Sheraton Krakow for just under 10,000 Starpoints per night. If you are looking for something more boutique with a local feel, try the Hotel Stary.

Of course you have to begin with the Market Square and wander around Krakow’s city center and then the old Jewish quarter called Kazimierz. For a more local feel, I rented a bike and rode around the Planty Park, which a two and half mile stretch of greenery that was once the wall around the city. The wall was torn down in the 19th century and replaced by a small moat, grass, and trees and hooks around the Old Town. There are museums and monuments all throughout the city but I most enjoyed simply wandering the streets and getting lost in the historical center, and the castle is a beautiful spot as well. For a cup of coffee and traditional polish pastry, try Vanilla, and for a hearty Polish meal at a great price in a trendy atmosphere, try Bombonierka in the Jewish quarter.

Some day trips include visiting the Wieliczka salt mine or the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum. With both options you can go on your own by bus or train, or get a guided tour.

Tips and Tricks: Make sure to validate your train or bus tickets. You will get a fine if they catch you! Also be aware that the tap water is not always drinkable, so make sure to confirm with your hotel whether or not it is safe, or just stick with bottled water during the trip if you are concerned.

Flickr / michael.manz

Formentera, Spain

Formentera, Spain

The tranquil sister island located next to Ibiza, this place has always been calm and underdeveloped compared to the other three Balearic Islands in Spain: Mallorca, Menorca and Ibzia. Perhaps it’s because you can only arrive by boat, as there is no airport on the island. Formentera was virtually unknown until the 1970′s and now it’s a haven for Spanish vacationers who want some serious relaxation. It’s a huge leap from the German tourism of Mallorca or crazy partying in Ibiza, and is slowly growing each year.

An increase in boats from the mainland recently (from Denia) has also helped to increase tourism, and people are starting to rave about this beautiful beach destination.

Accommodation: For a more resort feel, try the Formentera Insotel Playa, and for a more boutique feel, the Hotel Entre Pinos. Another option is to rent a villa or apartment.

Arrival: From the US, your best bet is to fly into Barcelona and then either fly or boat over to Ibiza. It can easily be combined with a trip to Barcelona or a visit to the other Balnearic islands. A speedboat or ferry over to Formentera from Ibiza is only 30 minutes, short enough for a day trip if you don’t fancy staying overnight or would rather be partying in Ibiza.

There isn’t much to do here but beach. The island itself is only about 12 miles long. Rent a bike and spend your days here relaxing. Playa Illetes is the most popular beach here, and has been compared to the Caribbean, as it has white sand and soft blue water. For watersports, try Playa Es Pujols, which is also the biggest resort area of the island. Find fresh and delicious seafood at Es Moli de Sal. I find that this town is extremely “Spanish” in the sense the locals and tourists alike really just love to relax and enjoy. It has a much more authentic feel than any of the other Balearic islands.

Tips and Tricks: Remember that just as many smaller towns do in Spain, most shops are closed during “siesta” time, usually around 1 or 2 pm to 4 or 5 pm. If you desperately need to get the post office/pharmacy/grocery store, keep that in mind. Many places are also closed on Sundays.

Flickr / Jos Dielis

Engelberg, Switzerland

Engelberg, Switzerland

Most skiers have never even heard of this small ski town just an hour and a half south of Zurich, hidden deep in a valley of about 3,500 inhabitants. The great thing about Engelberg is that it’s pretty much guaranteed snow cover, and for some reason it’s fairly unknown and therefore continues to be well priced. Engelberg also has the first revolving gondola—the 1993 Rotair—that takes adventurous skiers all the way to the top of Titlis, which is a 3,020-meter (10,000 feet) peak. The mountain top even offers a bar (you may need something to calm those nerves before you tackle this!).

Arrival: Getting here is much easier than a lot of other ski destinations, as it’s located a short drive from Zurich, and most other ski resorts are located much further away along the border of France or Austria (again, befuddling why no one seems to have discovered this place yet!). You can fly to Zurich from several US destinations and then take a bus, train or rent a car to get you 50 miles to Engelberg.

I think I have discovered the problem — that the town is really not built for skiing. A two-minute shuttle bus ride or fifteen minute hike on foot to the main lift station seems less than convenient. However, when you consider the 10,000-foot glacier that lies ahead, it seems more valid. Beware … major growth is coming soon. There is a plan to form a lift link with the Meiringen ski region to the west would put Engelberg up there with the big guns, making a large international impact. So head here soon before it Engelberg gets too cool and too expensive.

Accommodation: Stay at the Ski Lodge Engelberg. This resort was opened up by two Swedish ski bums who loved the charm of the tiny village. This cozy lodge features a restaurant and they even offer transfer services to the Basel or Zurich airports.

The village operates the lift all year round, so this can also be a great destination for hiking and other warm weather activities. Also worth a visit is the Engelberg Abbey, a Benedictine monastery founded in 1120. The Alpenclub is also a nice hotel and even better a delicious restaurant. Same goes for the restaurant and hotel S pannort.

The town is slowly growing and isn’t the same nightlife scene you might find in one of the bigger, more well known ski resorts, but it has its own charm … and judging by their plans, it may not stay small much longer!

Gilad Rom / Flickr

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana, pronounced Lublanschna (if you practice about 20 times, you might get it) is the capital of Slovenia. Slovenia is a small country sandwiched between Italy, Croatia, Hungary and Switzerland. The country was a part of Communist Yugoslavia until 1991, and entered the European Union in 2004. This city has also been compared to Prague for it’s immense cultural offerings, cool bar scene and quirky details (like the shoes hanging from telephone wires all over the city — apparently students toss them up when school lets out!). The architect who build Prague’s famous castle, Jože Plečnik , is actually from Ljubljana and is a responsible for creating much of the old city’s unique architecture, including the Triple  Bridge. However, in contrast to crowded Prague, for some reason this city has remained relatively un-touristy, and rather authentic, perhaps overshadowed by its glamorous neighbors like Croatia, Italy, and Austria. Slovenia also remains the cheapest country that holds a range of the Alps.

Arrival: Jože Pučnik Airport, also known as Brnik Airport (LJU) is located 17 miles north of Ljubljana. Unfortunately you cannot fly direct from the US. However, Adria Air is a member of Star Alliance so you can get to several other cities like Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London or Paris on a partner airline and then continue on via Adria Air to Ljubljana. You can also get there nonstop from several cities in Europe on Easy Jet and Wizz Air.

Accommodation: If you want some local flavor, stay at the Vander Urbani Resort, a local boutique hotel located smack in the pedestrian center of Ljubljana. The hotel is sleek and urban, while still holding onto some of that Eastern European charm. This hotel is also a Visa Signature, so if you’d like those extra benefits, book through them.

The first thing you should do upon arrival in Ljubljana is take a free walking tour. This is a great and cheap way to get to the know the city from a local viewpoint. Usually these tours are led by students with a bright outlook and positive attitude, and I have always have a great time doing these types of tours. Plus, they are free! Tip as you wish.

The city center is small and you can get around by foot or renting a bike. The city’s bike rental program offers special rentals for just 1 euro ($1.38) for an entire week, but you can only use for 60 minutes at a time or you will be charged more. You can book and pre-pay this on your credit card here.

Another cool resource is the Ljubljana card. If purchased online for either 24, 48 or 72 hours  it costs just 20-30 euros ($27-$42), and you have access to all the museums and tourist attractions in the city at no charge, get free WiFi around the city, free bus rides, a free boat tour along the Ljubljanica River and more.

The city features some beautiful squares, a unique castle, and even Roman ruins. Art Nouveau was big here in the 19th and 20th centuries so there are many beautiful, colorful buildings to see. Pass through the Tivioli park or visit a variety of different museums with history about Slovenia or art. There is also an opera house to check out where you can still see opera in the evenings. The city has a lot of quirky, cool things like small antique shops, vintage boutiques, used book stores and more. Even the bar scene is a little different. For example, Pr’Skelet Bar is a dungeon bar with decorated with skeletons where you can get one of a kind cocktails. For eats, try the intimate bistro Marley Me, or if you prefer dining with a view, visit the restaurant Strelec on top of the castle with top chef Igor Jagodic. Spajza restaurant has a beautiful outdoor courtyard.

Do you know any great destinations that are a little off the beaten path or haven’t been “discovered” yet? Have you already visited any of the aforementioned destinations? If so, share in the comments section below!

This post originally appeared at The Points Guy. Copyright 2014.

7 Moves Smart Travelers Never Make

Article source: http://www.businessinsider.com/7-amazing-european-destinations-that-probably-arent-on-your-radar-2014-4

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By Irene S. Levine, Next Avenue Contributor

Taking a vacation to improve one’s physical, emotional and/or spiritual well-being is an old concept — the Bible mentions the Dead Sea’s therapeutic waters and 18th century elites felt the lure of Europe’s healing mineral baths, for instance.

Today, the words “wellness” and “vacation” are spoken in the same breath with unprecedented frequency. Over the past decade, this type of vacation has become incredibly diverse and democratized.

While spas were once the epicenter of wellness tourism, the industry has mushroomed to include healthy hotels, holistic cruises, hiking and backpacking trips, weight loss clinics, creative and spiritual retreats, weight-loss programs, medical tourism and more.

(MORE: 6 Travel Tips for Midlife Adventurers)

study presented at the first Global Wellness Tourism Congress in October 2013 estimates this type of travel is now a half-trillion dollar market, accounting for 14% of all tourism revenues.

Why Boomers Are Wild For Wellness

It’s not surprising that boomers are captivated by the concept of wellness. With longer lifespans, a greater emphasis on health and fitness and the accelerated pace of life precipitated by the technological revolution, boomers are more apt to seek out vacations that allow them to unplug, de-stress and recharge. They don’t want to return home feeling sluggish and weighing five pounds more than when they left.

“The market is more health-conscious,” says Bob Diener, former president of Hotels.com and now president of Getaroom.com, a website specializing in hotel deals. Diener estimates that 18 percent of his visitors, most of them boomers, are interested in wellness travel.

“Vacations concentrating on wellness are compelling because everyday commitments create obstacles for people to do what they would like to do for their health,” says Dave Aidekman, founder of The Trip Tribe, a website connecting like-minded group travelers.

Boomers want meaningful experiences, whether that means adventure, exercise, self-improvement or service. “Wellness travel can include voluntourism [volunteer travel], slow travel and many other existing tourism products that provide meaning,” says Camille Hoheb, a wellness travel expert and founder of Wellness Tourism Worldwide.

(MORE: Why Cruising Is the Perfect Multigenerational Vacation)

What Wellness Vacations Look Like

Wellness vacations take many different forms, from rustic to luxury. Here are some examples:

Spiritual Retreats

  • The Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, N.C. offers lodging, meditation facilities, a holistic spa and hiking trails to promote “personal transformation and service to humanity.”
  • Located on 21,000 acres in north central New Mexico, Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center is set amidst the red rocks that once inspired painter Georgia O’Keeffe. With more than 200 workshops ranging from paleontology to memoir writing, guests can also hike, kayak, walk a labyrinth designed as a “path to the center of the soul” or simply relax.
  • The Silent Stay Retreat Hermitage in Vacaville, Calif. is an outgrowth of a similar program in Assisi, Italy run by the same owners. Guests are encouraged to meditate, remain silent and reconnect with themselves and nature.

Exercise and Fitness Vacations

  • To promote fitness and weight loss, Fitpacking is a slow-travel program that brings people to national parks and forests for one- or two-week guided backpacking adventures.
  • The goals of Mountain Trek, a boutique fitness retreat, are weight loss and improved overall health. At two locations in British Columbia and Baja California, small groups of guests participate in backcountry hikes and other activities (e.g. healthy eating, detox, yoga and stress management) designed to promote lifestyle changes.

Destination Spa and Wellness Resorts

  • Rancho La Puerta is located in Baja California, a half-hour from San Diego. At this 3,000-acre property, the first fitness resort and spa in North America, guests take part in fitness activities, outdoor recreation, cooking classes, personal training sessions and health and beauty treatments.
  • The mission-style Omni La Costa Resort Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., once a playground for celebrities and athletes, now offers a weight-loss and fitness boot camp, spa with treatments to decrease anxiety and uplift mood and a “reflexology path.” The resort also houses the Chopra Center for Wellbeing that helps groups incorporate wellness into their workplace and personal lives.
  • Often called a luxury camp for adults, Canyon Ranch has offered “life-enhancement” programs for more than 35 years. At properties in Tucson, Ariz.; Lenox, Mass.; and Miami Beach, Fla., guests participate in activities ranging from ballet-barre workouts to cardio-boxing, pick-up basketball games and courses in “great sex.”
  • Mindfulness — living in the present moment, conscious of the unique intersection of mind, body and spirit — is the core of the philosophy of Miraval Resort Spa (located in Tucson with another property soon to open in New Jersey). The goals of a stay include healthy lifestyle changes, self-discovery and transformation.

Wellness Tours

  • Pravassa is one of a growing number of companies offering wellness tours. Two such tours are planned to New Mexico and Thailand in fall 2014, both centered around physical activity, spiritual connection, stress reduction, food education and cultural involvement.
  • Amazon-Andes Sky runs meditation and yoga retreats in Ecuador. For example, during one retreat, guests can go horseback riding, visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site, learn about medicinal uses of local plants and “explore their inner landscapes” through instructional and guided meditation.

More Healthy Choices

Historically, individual hotels and resorts, like The Breakers Palm Beach in Florida and The Greenbrier in West Virginia were known for their world-class spas. But many more hotel brands are joining the wellness wave.

Marketing Ploy or More?

Article source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2014/04/09/boomers-feed-growing-wellness-vacation-industry/

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Why you should visit this European gem now.
Source: ThinkStock

WE’RE constantly looking for the next great destination … something underrated and under-the-radar, a place that will satisfy nature lovers, culture buffs and urban explorers, and, of course, a place that is breathtakingly beautiful.

Not long ago, we fell in love with Norway. Now, we draw your attention to a country that’s a quick flight from good old Norway … Welcome to Latvia.

Once upon a time, Latvia’s image was mostly coloured by its complex history during its Soviet Union days. Latvia regained its independence when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.

Since then, the country has worked to recreate its image … and it’s definitely worked.

You’ve probably never considered Latvia a destination. And that’s totally fine. But after hearing these 18 reasons, we think you’ll be convinced.

1. Riga is totally awesome. It’s so awesome that it was named the European Capital of Culture for 2014.

Riga is known for its architecture, multicultural heritage, and many museums. Riga’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Source: ThinkStock

2. Half of Latvia is made up of natural ecosystems that have gone largely untouched. HALF.

Much of Latvia’s wilderness is reminiscent of nearby Scandinavian countries.

There are beaches, parks and forests, all of which are rife with wildlife and are perfect for exploring.

Latvia’s low population density has helped retain the natural environment and make it the perfect spot for eco-tourism and ethical travel.

Latvia’s natural ecosystems.
Source: ThinkStock

3. Latvia’s four national parks are really beautiful.

Gauja National Park draws the most visitors. It’s located in the Gauja River Valley and features more than 500 cultural and historical monuments.

Latvia’s national parks.
Source: ThinkStock

4. Sigulda Castle ruins are the perfect historical destination

The town of Sigulda is full of both historical and natural wonders, but these castles are definitely its gem.

Sigulda Castle.
Source: ThinkStock

5. Jūrmala’s ice blue Baltic waters are some of the most beautiful you will ever see

The resort town is made up of a series of beaches stretched along a peninsula. The town offers thermal waters, pine forests, white quartz sand beaches and a quaint little village.

Jurmala. Picture: Dierken.
Source: Flickr

6. Latvia is home to Ventas Rumba, Europe’s widest waterfall. It looks magical.

Though it’s not very tall, the waterfall is 816 feet wide.

Ventas Rumba waterfall.
Source: ThinkStock

7. The Aglona Basilica is absolutely stunning.

The basilica has stood since 1780, houses paintings and sculptures, and is a unique work of art itself.

Aglona Basilica. Picture: Dainis Matisons.
Source: Flickr

8. Cape Kolka is the “meeting place of two seas.”

It’s desolate, dramatic and super pretty. The most northerly part of the Cape sits at the divide of the Gulf of Riga and the Baltic Sea.

The cape is a summer hotspot for swimmers and surfers, and is known as a viewing spot of migratory birds in spring.

Cape Kolka. Picture: Mar10os.
Source: Flickr

9. Turaida Museum Reserve boasts over 100 acres of grounds, archaeological sites, architectural gems and historical monuments.

Turaida translates to “God’s garden.” You can see why.

10. Rundāle Palace looks like it’s straight out of a fairytale.

The palace was once the summer residence for Ernst Johann Biron, Duke of Courland. Today, the baroque palace welcomes guests to tour its rooms, check out exhibitions at its museum and explore its lush gardens.

Rundale Palace. Picture: Ikreis.
Source: Flickr

11. Gutmans Cave is the highest cave in Latvia, the largest grotto in the Baltics and features inscriptions that date to the 17th century.

Everyone loves a cave, right?

Gutmanis Cave. Picture: Bernt Rostad.
Source: Flickr

12. The layout of Cēsis Old Town has been preserved since the Middle Ages.

The romantic town features medieval ruins and cobbled streets. The Cēsis Museum of History and Art is one of the oldest museums in Latvia.

Ceris Old Town. Picture: Kyle Taylor. Dream It. Do It.
Source: Flickr

13. With a beautiful “Blue Flag” beach and a quaint village, Liepāja is the ideal retreat.

When you tire of the beach, explore the Northern Fort labyrinths by torchlight, hang out at one of the city’s music clubs or go on a creepy tour of the Karosta Prison.

Liepaja beach. Picture: Ignat. Gorazd.
Source: Flickr

14. An entire national park was established just because this gorgeous lake exists.

Rāzna National Park was created to protect Lake Rāzna and its surrounding region. The park offers breathtaking landscapes and a look at the Latgale Region of Latvia.

Lake Razna. Picture: www.latvia.travel.
Source: Flickr

15. Jūrkalne seashore bluffs are the perfect spot to reconnect with nature.

The beaches have gone largely untouched by humans, making them totally authentic and beautiful. See if you can spot blue cows from nearby farms, go paragliding or just take in the scenery.

Source: ThinkStock

16. You can visit a Cold War-era radio telescope. It’s called Irbene and it’s really cool.

Irbene Radio Astronomy Center is the world’s eighth largest radio telescope.

During the Soviet Era it was called “The Starlet” and was used to spy on Western adversaries. Now it’s used by astronomers for scientific purposes.

Irbene telescope. Picture: Kalmalukko.
Source: Flickr

17. Latvia’s Song and Dance Festival is epic.

The weeklong festival began in 1873 and is held every five years. It features thousands of singers and dancers from all over Latvia.

It’s a major celebration of Latvian culture and spirit. The last one was held in 2013, so if you wanna catch the next one you’ll have to wait a few years.

Latvia’s song and dance festival. Picture: Dainis Matisons.
Source: Flickr

18. Latvia has it all.

With it’s unparalleled untouched natural landscape, lively cities and rich culture, Latvia has something for everyone.

From Riga’s restaurants to the many seaside towns calling you to explore, you’ll want to head to Latvia as soon as possible.

Article source: http://www.news.com.au/travel/world-travel/reasons-latvia-is-europes-best-kept-secret/story-e6frfqbr-1226876426890

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Continue the swooning at the Design Museum, which switches between “want one!”-inducing art nouveau glassware and period rooms that take in design trends throughout the ages. It’s a one-stop shop for understanding the major differences between rococo, classicism and more.

See designmuseum.be.

Stunning Innsbruck. Photo: Getty Images

The Museum Dr Guislain, inside a swoony old monastery complex, goes into the unexpectedly gripping history of psychiatry. It’s equal parts gory – trepanned skulls to straitjackets – and terrifyingly barmy. You’d not want to be in the hands of the doctor who thought everything was determined by the shape of your face.

See museumdrguislain.be.

Getting there: Etihad flies to Brussels from Sydney and Melbourne via Abu Dhabi. See etihad.com or phone 1300 532 215. Trains from Brussels Airport to Ghent take less than one hour.

Don’t miss: the Pfund Molkerai dairy shop in Dresden.

See belgianrail.be.

Staying there: The waterside Marriott Ghent has king rooms with rollaway beds for kids for from €109 ($164).

See marriottghent.com. The arty Grand Hotel Reylof has doubles from €125.

The Piazza Maggiore in Bologna. Photo: Getty Images

See sandton.eu/gent.

More information: visitgent.be.


Join the queue: one of the many bike parking stations in Amsterdam. Photo: Penny Bradfield

There are few more astonishing examples of Roman ingenuity than Segovia’s enormous – and hugely photogenic aqueduct. Stretching 894 metres across the city, with 163 arches and not a single drop of mortar to hold it together, the 2000-year-old behemoth doesn’t half provoke an inferiority complex.

At the other end of Segovia’s narrow warren of lanes is the Alcazar, a Disney-esque castle with tremendous views out over the surrounding plains. It’s just as lavish inside – especially the portrait-lined Hall of Kings.

See alcazardesegovia.com.

Sunset in Dresden, on the Elbe river. Photo: Getty Images

But eating is what Segovia does best – particular when it comes to pork. The cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig) here is famed throughout Spain. Try it at obsessive specialist Casa Duque. See restauranteduque.es.

Getting there: Flying via Bangkok, Thai Airways has one-stop flights to Madrid from Sydney and Melbourne. See thaiairways.com.au, 1300 651 960. High speed trains connect Madrid and Segovia. See renfe.com.

Staying there: The Sercotel Infanta Isabel has a babysitting service and family rooms for from €77. See hotelinfantaisabel.com. La Casa Mudejar revels in its 15th century heritage looks and small spa, with doubles from €85.

Under the radar: the rebuilt magnificence of Dresden. Photo: Alamy

See lacasamudejar.com.

More information: turismodesegovia.com.


Cesky Krumlov is built scenically around a loop in the Vltava River, and on a sunny day there’s no better way to enjoy the water than on a raft gently gliding downstream and bobbling over the odd light rapid. Malecek rents out rafts for the lazy float-a-thon and smuggling a bottle of bubbly on board is not unheard of.

See boat-rental.malecek.cz.

The whole town is painted with Renaissance flair, but the castle gets the most lavish treatment. Gorgeous from the outside, the OTT rooms and one-of-a-kind rococo theatre inside take it to another level.

See zamek-ceskykrumlov.eu.

The Czech Republic is beer heaven and the historic Eggenberg brewery is one of the best small operations in the country. The brewery tours, of course, include a hearty tasting session.

See eggenberg.cz.

Getting there: Emirates flies from Sydney and Melbourne to Prague via Dubai. See emirates.com or phone 1300 303 777. CK Shuttle offers transfers from Prague airport to Cesky Krumlov. See ckshuttle.cz.

Staying there: Junior suites sleeping four at the centrally located Bellevue cost from 3650 koruna.

See bellevuehotelkrumlov.cz. The Ruze has full-on 16th century atmospherics shtick, with doubles from €171. See janhotels.cz.

More information: ckrumlov.info.


Other Italian cities have stunning set-piece buildings, but as a combined whole, Bologna is surely the most beautiful city in the country. Thirty eight kilometres of porticos, handsome red-brick palaces and churches and a series of dreamy squares make just walking around an intense pleasure.

It’s also home to the oldest university in Europe (and arguably in the world, depending on definitions). The mediaeval twin towers – the Torre degli Asinelli and Torre Garisenda – are the highlights of the campus, while the Palazzo Poggi is the hub. Inside are a 300-year-old observatory and a gory anatomical museum.

See museopalazzopoggi.unibo.it.

Bologna is also home to Italy’s richest food, which can be rounded off with high-quality gelato. And should you wish to make it yourself, the Gelato Museum offers have-a-go workshops as well as 14,000 years of cold treat history.

See gelatomuseum.com.

Getting there: Air China offers one-stop flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Milan via Shanghai. See airchina.com.au or phone 1800 860 999. Trains from Milan to Bologna take just over an hour.

See trenitalia.com.

Staying there: Coolly minimalist and centrally located, the Metropolitan has rooms that sleep four for €159. See hotelmetropolitan.com. The Grand Hotel Majestic veers more towards opulence, with doubles from €260. See grandhotelmajestic.duetorrihotels.com.

More information: bolognawelcome.com.


For the sweet-toothed, Birmingham should be a pilgrimage site – it’s where the Cadbury chocolate empire was born. Tours of the gigantic Cadbury World complex stuff in plenty of tastings among the history, family backstory and production line gawping sessions. See cadburyworld.co.uk.

The Lord of the Rings books were also born in Birmingham. Author J.R.R. Tolkien grew up there, with the area around Sarehole Mill and Moseley Bog providing the inspiration for Hobbiton and the Shire. Maps pointing out the key Tolkien sites make a great self-guided tour. See bmag.org.uk/sarehole-mill/Tolkien.

Want your precious? Well, the Jewellery Quarter is where about 40 per cent of Britain’s jewellery is made, and is ripe for bargains on gold and silver. The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter allows you to watch craftsmen at work.

See bmag.org.uk/museum-of-the-jewellery-quarter.

Getting there: Emirates flies to Birmingham via Dubai from Sydney and Melbourne.

Staying there: Away2stay’s canal-moored houseboat is a quirky alternative, costing £160 ($290) for a family of four. See away2stay.co.uk. The pop art-inspired apartments at Staying Cool have fabulous city views for from £100. See stayingcool.com.

More information: visitbirmingham.com.


Few cities have a better collection of eye-popping modern architecture. Highlights include Piet Blom’s skewiff cube-shaped apartments at the Overblaak Development, the Swan-esque Erasmus Bridge and Renzo Piano’s KPN Telecom HQ. Rotterdam ByCycle runs two-wheeled architecture tours.

See rotterdambycycle.nl.

Some of the skyline is best seen from the water, and Spido runs cruises that also take in the gigantic port area. Shipping containers suddenly get kinda sexy when you see the scale of the operation. See spido.nl.

The works by the Flemish and Venetian masters in the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen ensure it’s one of the greatest art collections in the world. Van Eyck, Hieronymus Bosch, Titian and Rembrandt contribute to the culture fix. See boijmans.nl.

Getting there: Malaysia Airlines flies from Sydney and Melbourne to Amsterdam, changing planes in Kuala Lumpur.

See malaysiaairlines.com. Trains from Amsterdam Airport to Rotterdam take less than an hour. See ns.nl.

Staying there: The Hotel New York in a former shipping line HQ offers art nouveau splendour for €151. See hotelnewyork.nl. MyCityLofts offers kitchen-equipped apartments sleeping four, from €106. See mycitylofts.com.

More information: rotterdam.info.


Innsbruck’s greatest quality is how close it is to the Alps. A cable car from the city centre will take you all the way up to the Hafelekar station, and a short walk from there leads to the 2334-metre Hafelekarspitze peak.

See Nordkette.com.

The cable car stations have been designed by star architect Zaha Hadid, and she’s also responsible for the Bergisel ski jump. The photo exhibition on winter sports history at the bottom is great, but the views from the top are something special. It’s worth noting that the first thing jumpers see as they prepare to set off is a graveyard at the end of the slope. See bergisel.com.

Lovers of ridiculously opulent palaces will dig the Hofburg – a baroque masterpiece of stucco and gilding overload. The neighbouring Hofkirche features Emperor Maximilian’s absurdly pompous tomb, lined by 28 gigantic bronze statues. See hofburg-innsbruck.at.

Getting there: Fly to Munich in Germany from Sydney or Melbourne via with Singapore Airlines. See singaporeair.com or phone 13 10 11. From Munich, a train to Innsbruck takes less than two hours. See bahn.de.

Staying there: Spacious quad rooms at the Weisses Rossl cost from €140. See roessl.at. The Grand Hotel Europa hits that sweet spot between classic romance and modernity, with doubles from €156. See grandhoteleuropa.at.

More information: innsbruck.info.


For the French – who know a thing or two about food – Lyon is regarded as the country’s premier gourmet city. Localers offers tasting tours that take in some of the city’s most interesting restaurants, but also speciality cheese, chocolate and winemakers. See localers.com.

The Croix-Rousse area is famous for its silk-weavers and many of the small workshops can be visited. The Atelier de Passementerie and Atelier de Tissage, where you can watch the vintage looms in action then see the modern operation respectively, can be lumped together in a joint ticket. See soierie-vivante.asso.fr.

The old city is jam-packed with gorgeous mediaeval and Renaissance buildings, but if picking just one, dip inside the 16th century mansion hosting the Musees Gadagne. The museums cover an odd mix of local history and puppetry.

See gadagne.musees.lyon.fr.

Getting there: From Sydney and Melbourne, Emirates flies via Dubai to Lyon.

Staying there: Kids stay free and have play areas at the Novotel Lyon la Part Dieu, where rooms cost from €99. See novotel.com. The dazzlingly white, minimalist College Hotel is the hip couples option, with rooms from €130. See college-hotel.com.

More information: lyon-france.com.


Before World War II, Dresden was regarded as arguably the most beautiful baroque city on Earth. Carpet bombing changed that, but the meticulous rebuilding of the key buildings is arguably more astonishing than the initial construction. The awe-provoking Frauenkirche, finally rebuilt in 2005, is the most potent symbol of rebirth. See frauenkirche-dresden.de.

The Zwinger complex is the other great baroque treasure, and contains the Porzellansammlung, the world’s largest porcelain collection. It’s a pretty spectacular nod to Dresden’s historic role as Europe’s key porcelain-making centre. See skd.museum.

For a more contemporary edge, Nightwalk Dresden runs walking tours around the best murals and stencil art of the city’s burgeoning street art scene.

See nightwalk-dresden.de.

Getting there: Virgin Australia offers flights to Berlin from Sydney and Melbourne via Abu Dhabi, using codeshares with Etihad and Air Berlin. See virginaustralia.com or phone 13 67 89. Trains from Berlin to Dresden take just over two hours. See bahn.de.

Staying there: Two bedroom apartments, kitted out with washing machines, are available through Aparthotels Frauenkirche for from €130. See aparthotels-frauenkirche.de. In the old town and stacked with original art works, the Art’otel has doubles from €80. See artotels.com.

More information: dresden.de.


The Sao Francisco church is 14th-century Gothic on the outside, 18th-century Rococo bling inside. But it’s the catacombs, containing thousands of human bones, that make the experience truly freaky. See ordemsaofrancisco.pt.

For art lovers, the Museu de Arte Contemporanea has developed a reputation as being one of the best spots for contemporary art in the world.

The less culturally inclined will be just as happy frolicking in the grand park surrounding it. See serralves.pt.

Theoretically a separate town, but realistically a suburb just over the bridge, Vila Nova de Gaia is where Portugal’s main port wine producers trade their wares. About 30 offer tastings, but the terrace at Graham’s has the best views and Calem goes into depth about the production process and historical background. See grahams-port.com and calem.pt.

Getting there: Emirates flies from Sydney and Melbourne to Lisbon via Dubai. Trains from Lisbon to Porto take two hours and 45 minutes. See cp.pt.

Staying there: The townhouse-style Eurostars das Artes has babysitting services and two connecting rooms for from €94. See eurostarsdasartes.com. The five-star Infante Sagres is all about the spa. Doubles from €120. See hotelinfantesagres.pt.

More information: portoturismo.pt


Based in Britain, our writer David Whitley says the continent’s charms truly only unveil themselves once you start delving beyond the obvious.

Meet the A-team

You’ll probably pass through one of Europe’s classic capitals on the way to the sibling cities so why not tackle them from a different perspective.


Laced with cycle paths and as flat as a pancake, Amsterdam is ideal for exploring on two wheels. Orange Bike offers rentals and tours, which focus on topics such as snack food and architecture.

See orange-bike.nl.


Few tours are as edgy as Alternative Berlin’s twilight tour. It dips into Berlin’s subcultures, including the street art scene, but also visits a computer hacking lair and squat bars. The freakiest bit is exploring an abandoned tower block by torchlight.

See alternativeberlin.com.


The European Quarter is where Brussels’ tedious political bureaucracy goes down – but it has plenty of architecture and parkland to enjoy. Pick up a self-guided walking tour leaflet at the tourist office and check out the Royal Museums of Art and History and Museum of Natural Sciences.

See visitbrussels.be.


Crossing that bridge between a bus tour and self-driving, Lisbon’s fleet of little yellow GoCars come with tour routes programmed into the GPS system. There’s also commentary which rattles off facts, figures and stories as you drive through the city.

See gocartours.com.


The Regents Canal is a much underrated thoroughfare through London, passing grungy Camden, Regents Park and London Zoo. London Kayak Tours takes paddlers along the canal to see the city from a duck’s eye view.

See londonkayaktours.co.uk.


Tapas-crawling around Madrid is very much the city’s must-do activity, but the experts at Adventurous Appetites will steer you towards spots you might not otherwise discover. The emphasis is on sampling regional cuisines from across Spain – whether that’s Asturian cheese and cider or Galician octopus.

See adventurousappetites.com.


Give in to those sweet-toothed cravings for Paris by Mouth’s chocolate and pastry tasting tour. It visits top chocolatiers, sinks teeth into creamy pastries and encourages guests to pick the city’s best macaron maker after extensive sampling.

See parisbymouth.com.


The Czech capital’s communist history is brought to life in a Soviet-era tour. It finishes inside a nuclear bunker complex, which is now part-museum, part-bar and part-nightclub.

See prague-communism-tour.com.


Engineering was as much behind the success of ancient Rome as culture and conquest. Understanding Rome runs tours that look at how the Eternal City was put together, taking in the Appian Way – the key arterial road – plus major baths and aqueducts.

See understandingrome.com.


The Austrian capital is a classical music fan’s paradise, and the tourist board has created a series of downloadable walking maps taking in key sites. Mozart, Haydn, Strauss and Beethoven all have their own trails.

See wien.info.

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Silk Road with Edmund Capon

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Article source: http://www.smh.com.au/travel/the-other-euro-stars-20140403-3602f.html

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Widely-supported initiative

“It is thanks to the huge diversity of the Belgian art of brewery and its omnipresence in day-to-day life and joyous occasions, that we can acknowledge that it is part of our identity. Therefore it belongs to the cultural heritage of Belgium”, Sven Gatz, president of the Belgian Brewers federation, told Het Nieuwsblad.


“You can see examples of our beer culture all throughout Belgium, as every province has breweries, organizations, museums, training, events, parties, restaurants and pubs that contribute to the vibrant and creative beer landscape.”


Unesco will decide next year whether Belgian beer culture gets its place on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which already contains Belgian traditions like the city giants, the Procession of the Holy Blood in Bruges and the carnivals in Binche and Aalst.

Article source: http://www.retaildetail.eu/en/eur-europe/eur-general/item/15930-brewers-want-belgian-beer-culture-to-become-unesco-world-heritage

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