The new year is still very young for my taste, and I am still feeling this motivation to dream of everything I want to do. Since I live in the city one would think that spending weekends in other cities would be exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, I love the tranquility of nature, especially on my favourite beach in the Netherlands. But seeing a different city, smelling a different air and experiencing a different culture is just so exciting!
A city is a melting pot of cultures, languages, different kinds of architectures and kinds of people. It enables you to get to know a country in just a few days! And since we already booked a trip to Paris in April (yay!) and I am going to see Budapest in autumn, I wanted to focus a little more on the kinds of cities you don’t think about at first. Take Great Britain, for example. London comes to your mind at first of course. But what about Brighton? Liverpool? Canterbury? Bristol? I could go on for hours! So here’s to the exciting 2nds!
Marseille – one of France’s oldest cities (okay, the oldest city) and I believe one of the most beautiful. Although you could ask me, I’d say every city in France is beautiful. It has been founded over 2600 years ago by the Phoenicians. Marseille is as well the second biggest city after Paris, and that makes it perfect to discover at least once. It has about 900.000 inhabitants in over 11 quarters, and most of them kept their authentic rural charm. There is even a national park at the gates of the city, offering you the possibilities to enjoy small bays. They are called ‘Calanques’.
Because of its strategic position at the Mediterranean Sea, Marseille has always been popular with immigrants, rendering it especially multicultural. So if you’re looking for an experience involving various possibilities to shop, historical sites, and colourful French-African surroundings, you’re in the right place. Visit the oldest quarter, ‘Le Panier’, the République quarter with stylish boutiques and Haussmannian buildings, and the Joliette area, centred on Marseille’s famous striped Cathédrale de la Major.
Must Sees for me: Vieux Port (old harbour), Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, Calanques National Park, Château d’If
The city of Bologna is located at the foot of the Apennines, at the heart of Northern Italy. It has one of the most beautiful and best-preserved historic districts of Europe. Towers from the Middle Ages go hand in hand with about 40 kilometers of arcades, embellishing the spacious city centre.
Discover a mixture of pedestrian zones, graffiti-embellished piazzas , churches and palaces all in one city. Bologna is actually a city of two sides. It hosts the world’s oldest university, and at the same time seems to be a hi-tech place located in the super-rich Po valley. Find regal theatres and the nation’s finest restaurants and trattorias there. So it’s really a clash of intellectuals/students, and the upper class. That’s really really exciting! And if you should be interested in motorsports, Bologna and its surroundings is the perfect place for you. There are several museums and partly even factories of Ducati, Maserati, Lamborghini and Ferrari.
Must Sees for me: Le Due Torri, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Abbazia di Santo Stefano, Palazzo Comunale, the arcades
When thinking about travelling to Portugal you usually think about beautiful Lisbon. But everyone knows Lisbon! A real insider’s tip is the city of Porto, a fascinating and truly vivid city, giving the country its name. It’s slowly becoming a popular tourist destination in Western Europe, so go there before it gets too crowded! Porto is a historical and diverse place, hosting a labyrinth of narrow streets of the Ribeira quarter and the vast squares of the Avenida dos Aliados. It’s obvious that the region around Porto is famous for the manufacturing of port wine. Thus it’s stored in massive cellars along the banks of the Duoro river and is responsible for making Porto what it is today.
Furthermore there are wonderful visual pleasures in the form of small blue- white faience tiles called ‘Azulejos’ decorating numerous buildings. Enjoy the view from the Ponte de Dom Luís I, a structure reminding you of the grand Eiffel Tower in Paris. And beyond the historic part of the city, Porto offers a modern view in form of contemporary architecture. The Museu de Arte Contemporânea and the iconic Casa da Música steer the city into the 21st century. Public art is everywhere here!
Must Sees for me: Ponte de Dom Luís I, Museu da Misericórdia do Porto, Jardim do Palácio de Cristal
Ah, Bristol. A city combining for me the rough charm of the British countryside and architecture with the cordiality of British people. It’s awesome! Bristol is located on the hills of South West England. It was once a center for heavy industry, but over the last few decades has reinvented itself and has sort of become a city of culture and creativity. This is why you find two sides clashing, historical sites and buildings come together with an alternative and offbeat character. Community-run charming cafes, music venues and a huge choice of bars make it one of the most culturally vibrant cities in the South of England. In addition to that it’s a living canvas, hosting a variety of art collectives and being the home of famous street artist, Banksy. Just walk around the streets and I guarantee you that you’ll find at least one of his artworks!
Must Sees for me: Clifton Suspension Bridge, SS Great Britain, M Shed, Banksy Art
To be honest, Tallinn hasn’t been on my radar until recently. Which is a real shame, because the east of Europe is quite a gem for you and me to discover. And if you think that a former Soviet region should be grey and boring, you might quickly change your mind when you see this city. Located at the Finnish gulf, Tallinn convinces with a vibrant mixture of modern and medieval times.
Find ancient churches alongside glass skyscrapers, add some baroque palaces, medieval battlements, shiny shopping malls and rundown wooden houses and cafes on sunlit squares and you have Tallinn. And don’t forget some Soviet remnants to complete the mix. But don’t worry that it won’t work together, it does! Despite the boom of 21st-century development, the city stays loyal to the fairy-tale charms of its two-tiered Old Town – which is one of Europe’s most charming walled cities. So you will find at least three kinds of architectures in this city, old Europe, Soviet brutalist and modern Europe.
By the way, ‘Tallinn’ means ‘Danish city’ because mostly Scandinavians settled down in this place. Later on it became a Hanseatic city called ‘Reval’, benefitting from the trade of merchants. Today you can not only spend a day at the beach, but enjoy first-rate restaurants, stylish hotels and fun nights at ‘Europe’s Party Capital’ (according to the New York Times).
Must Sees for me: Toompea Hill, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, City Wall, Viru Gate