Posts Tagged ‘city guides’
Budapest, Hungary—take two. My train rolled into this magical city, known locally as “Budapesht,” for the second time in 15 years. The Hungarian capital, divided by the Danube river into the districts of Buda and Pest, was as picturesque as I remembered it from decades ago, although the city itself had undergone major changes since my initial visit. Back then, I remembered a quality of darkness—both in spirit and physical appearance. Buildings were stained black. The city was a bit rough around the edges—a little bit seedy you could say—and there was a certain heaviness of spirit in the air. It was also winter, with fleeting hours of daylight and a frigid bite in the air. The impression was very much one of recovery from the aftermath of soviet occupation.
Step Back in Time in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is pure storybook Germany. This city is a maze of winding cobblestone streets filled with crooked half-timbered buildings that look like they’ve been plucked right out of a fairytale. Encircled by old town walls made of stone, the city still retains its distinct medieval feel. There are old clock towers, fancy wrought iron signs, and flower pots spilling with blooms.
The Romantic Road
Although Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a small town, it’s far from off the tourist radar. This is due in part to its strategic location along the Romantische Straße, or “Romantic Road,” a title created by travel agents to describe the 220 mile stretch of highway between Würzburg and Füssen in southern Germany, which is filled with quintessential German towns and castles. Formerly a trade route in medieval times, the Romantic Road now serves as a principal tourist artery though Southern Germany.
Slow Down and Taste the Wine in Bacharach: Germany’s Rhine Valley Hideaway
Germany produces some of the best white wines in the world. The Middle Rhine Valley is a storybook paradise of crumbling castles and vineyards clinging to cliffs peppered with small towns. The best way to see the Rhine Valley is either by train, boat, or bike—all routes that hug the river for spectacular views. Out of the small towns that line the Middle Rhine Valley, Bacharach is our top pick for an overnight stay.
With the city taking its name from Bacchus, the God of wine, Bacharach has long been a trading center for wine. During the Middle Ages the rocky bottleneck in the Rhine River near Bacharach wasn’t navigable to big ships, so wine had to be transported on small boats to be loaded onto big ships in Bacharach’s harbor. Needless to say, the town prospered. These days big ships pass right by Bacharach without stopping, but it’s the tourist boats that now flood this quiet town. Outside tourist season, Bacharach is peaceful and sleepy, the perfect place to wander among half-timbered leaning buildings.
When people plan a trip to Germany, most head for Berlin. Hightail it to Munich. Fly into Frankfurt. Head for picturesque Heidelberg. All good options…but Germany is also brimming with small towns that are perfect for slowing down, soaking up the history of a place, discovering lesser visited art treasures, and simply enjoying the finer things in life—by which I mean food and wine, of course. The following series of articles will highlight 3 dynamic cities to add to your next Germany travel itinerary.
Delve into Art in the Franconian Wine City of Würzburg
Würzburg is known for great wine and great art. Located in Franconian wine country, Würzburg is filled with wine bars and a skyline dominated by rolling vineyards. Here wine lovers will find everything from vineyard hikes to wine festivals and plenty of wineries and cellars to visit for wine tastings.
Europe is filled with castles, but none quite invoke the fairytale romance we all imagine as children than the spellbinding castles of Bavaria. Two castles stand out among all the world’s top castles: Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle.
Castle #1: Hohenschwangau Castle
Hohenschwangau is perched above Swan Lake, and was the childhood home of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The castle was built by his father, King Maximilian II of Bavaria, and is all original, decorated with scenes from medieval legends and poetry, the walls reading like giant storybooks. Translating roughly to “castle of the village of the swan,” this beautiful castle should be visited first before you set your eyes on nearby Neuschwanstein Castle, which is even more impressive.
Bavaria is my absolute favorite part of Germany. It’s iconic, friendly, flowing with great beer, and filled with incredible fairytale castles. A week in Bavaria will give you enough time to explore the dynamic city of Munich, then head south to one of Germany’s most picturesque regions for some castle hopping.
Munich City Guide
Munich is a beautiful city, filled with history and culture. Although Munich is quite a big city with a population close to 1.5 million, it still manages to retain a bit of a small town vibe. The city brims with festive beer halls, some of the country’s best shopping, and feels like the friendliest place in Germany. It’s got imperial palaces, crown jewels, modern art, and grand pedestrian boulevards. Munich is a true cultural powerhouse, with enough sights to easily fill a few days.
Würzburg is known for great wine and great art. Located in Franconian wine country, this mid-size German city in northern Bavaria is home to one of the most comprehensive and intriguing collections of Concrete Art in the world, housed at the Museum Kulturspeicher.
London is filled with an overwhelming array of hotels. When planning a visit, where do you even begin to look? Foodies visiting the English capital will want to take note of the following hotels, which combine comfort, luxury, and show-stopping style with some of the city’s finest gourmet cuisine.
The Moselle Valley, or “D’Musel” as it is affectionately known as in Luxembourg, is one of Europe’s most celebrated wine regions. It’s also a great jumping off point for a multi-country wine tour since the Moselle Valley spans 3 countries: Luxembourg, Germany, and France. Within Luxembourg, the Moselle Valley makes up the heart of the country’s wine industry. Connoisseurs of white wines will find bliss in the string of tiny towns that make up the Moselle Valley, where small family vineyards specialize in whites like Crémant, Riesling, Auxerrois, and Pinot Gris.
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a microcosm of European culture. Wedged in a small space between Belgium, France, and Germany, Luxembourg has an international feel to it. Home to 150 different nationalities, the country is trilingual, with Luxembourgish, French, and German all serving as official languages. It’s also one of the world’s leading banking headquarters, and it’s home to many branches of the EU as well, contributing to the country’s multinational flavor. Best of all, Luxembourg is clean, modern, and brimming with history and culture.
The heartbeat and capital of the country is Luxembourg City, located in the southern center of the country with all other cities radiating outwards from there, usually within just a 30 minute drive of the capital. In fact, the entire country measures just under 1,000 square miles—roughly 35 miles wide by 50 miles tall—making it one of the smallest countries in Europe, as well as the world. It’s easy to get here by train, with Paris only a couple of hours away, but the best way to get around Luxembourg itself is by car, due to the short distances. Combining a visit to cosmopolitan Luxembourg City with a stopover in one of the country’s outlying regions is a great way to get to know the country. For that perfect mix of city and country, our top choice is the sleepy Moselle Valley wine region near the German and French borders.