Walking through the underground cistern in the half-light listening to the sounds of dripping water mingle with the strains of classical music is an eerie but magical experience.
Reputedly the orginal cistern was built by Constantine the Great with the curent one enlarged and rebuilt by Justinian in 532. It is an amazing feat of engineering seeing the columns (approx. 336) stretch away in front of you and above towards the arched roof.
Don't miss the Weeping Column and the Medussa Head column bases (thought to mark a shrine to water nymphs).
There is also a small coffee shop in the cistern.
13 Yerebatan Caddesi, Sultanahmet
Tram stop Sultanahmet
0212 522 12 59
A small, "independent" cinema just up the road from the larger and more obvious Odeon and Filmhouse. It has an old-fashioned entrance, with the films and times chalked up on a blackboard on the way in. Shows a mix of independent, art-house and cultish mainstream films, with midnight specials and Sunday double-bill matinees. Friendly young staff (apparently there's a waiting list to work there), old-fashioned foyet snack shop, and a small bar/cafe in the back. A really nice cinema experience.
Home Street (top end of Lothian Road).
0131 228 4141
Served by buses: 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 23, 27, 37 to Tollcross
or the 23, 27 to Lauriston Place.
The fact that this is the largest bookstore in Europe, providing a huge range of author events throughout the year, is only one element of its appeal. The cafe on the fifth floor, complete with stunning views to the south, is the perfect place to pass a couple of quiet hours flicking through the bestsellers.
203-206 Piccadilly; Nearest tube: Piccadilly
If you’re a foodie, find the ultimate deli: Valvonna and Crolla. This is for the serious gourmet. Squeeze past each other in the narrow tiled aisles and avoid the hanging salamis and hams overhead. Sample the succulent fat-laden mortadella. Be tempted by the transparent shavings of prosciutto freshly cut. Indulge your baser instincts in the creamy soft blue St Agur that slowly melts on the tongue to the gentle persuasion of Graham’s Vintage Port. And for a present to bring home? An estate bottled olive oil from Umbria? Some bulbs of roasted garlic from the Languedoc? And as for wine...
When the finest Italian food shop in the country only sells one fresh sausage, you know it's going to be good. Valvona & Crolla's Fonteluna doesn't disappoint. This is a solid, semi-cured sausage flavoured with chilli and fennel. As it is semi-cured it can be eaten raw as a salami or cooked. It can be cooked by either frying or grilling. As it is a dry sausage it really needs a wet sauce - I like it diced in a tomato sauce, thinly sliced and used as a pizza topping or with peppers.
It's not cheap at £4.95 for 265g but this is concentrated, strong tasting sausage with no water or cheap filler. Highly recommended! It would be a hard soul that would not come out of here the richer in taste and the poorer in pocket. Worth visiting on a Sunday morning, especially for their imported Indian peppercorns, or just to sit and have tea in their restaurant while the world muses and peruses. Blue Mountain coffee or green tea? Jalapenos peppers or habaneros?
Valvona & Crolla: 19 Elm Row, Edinburgh EH7 4AA
VinCaffè: 11 Multrees Walk, Edinburgh EH1 3DQ;
Film theatre and venue for video art installations. Dramatic modern building among the warehouses of the Ropewalks area. American Independent and Continental films with bar and cafe. Excellent independent cinema and good stop off for coffee or quiet beer.
Great healthy cafe in the Northern Quarter - lovely decor and good quality wholesome vegetarian wholefood served by friendly gentle people. Good value - two people can eat for under £15. I think it's closed Mondays.
Manchester Buddhist Centre
16-20 Turner Street
Manchester M4 1DZ
t 0161 834 9232
f 0870 134 7356
A huge selection of bottled lager, great, unintrusive music and more table football than you could ever reasonably need. This is a refreshing, fun change from the usual London bars.
43 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell,EC1R 4QL; Nearest tube: Farringdon or Angel; Bus: 19 or 38 from the West End; www.cafekick.co.uk
The shops, street performers and cafes are always a treat for the eye, and within a few hundred yards there's also the newly refurbished Royal Opera House with its stunning glass facade, the lightweight but fun theatre museum and the peace and quiet of St Paul's church.
Tube: Covent Garden
Upmarket greengrocers and, more importantly, cafe/restaurant. Some simple and some not-so-simple fare, prepared with the freshest ingredients; and the puddings! They look like they've been designed by an architect and are a meal in themselves. Shared tables and friendly staff mean that this is a place to meet people, eat well and go away with a little treat for later (they do takeaways too).
The Depot, 100 North Road.
tel: 01273 692 894;
One of the cafes on Acland Street, St Kilda. This street is renowned for its Jewish coffee shops serving Eastern European-style cakes, where treats of every colour fill the shop windows.
Acland Street is in St Kilda. You can't miss it once you get there
Take a window seat in the cafeteria of the Circulo de Bellas Artes, the huge cultural centre at the beginning of Calle Alcalá. Look down at the passers-by and traffic madness at one of the city's busiest spots. You'll be charged once at the door and then again for your drink.
Calle Alcalá, 42; Tel: 91 360 54 00; Metro: Banco de Espana; Admission: €1;
This place covers a range of organic, veggie and vegan foods; with many of the courses being experimental and *always* worth it. You can pick something random and it will amaze you. Excellent friendly service, this place is always busy and once you've been there you'll understand.
St Marks Rd, Easton, Bristol
Bratislava's Old Town centre is completely pedestrianised and has wall-to-wall bars, restaurants, cafes and clubs.
It has a much more relaxed, easy-going and friendly ambience than many other European capitals and, because there are no cars, you can try all the superb Slovak beers, wines and fiery spirits, tottering from one bar to another without fear of being mown down by a Skoda in a hurry.
Highly recommended for gourmets and bon-viveurs everywhere.
Bratislava Old Town
Tram 13 from the main railway station
Bus 61 from Bratislava's M R Stefanik airport.
Only 64km from Vienna
It's an easygoing exploration of the architectural sights of Manchester city centre. Will also take you past some very nice bars, restaurants and shops.
Be spontaneous if you can and pick a sunny day, start at about 11am. Manchester doesn't get much more rain than most of the Southern English cities (and certainly less than Wales, Scotland and South West England) so there should be plenty of opportunities!
Start at Sackville Street and explore that area first. There are some magnificent buildings and if you are new to the city you will find yourself confused - it often reminds me of continental European cities (particularly northern Europe) with its mix of rich Victorian and gothic styles. Walk through Canal Street (Gay Village) as well, not far from Sackville Street and make your way towards Oxford Road.
Take a look at the magnificent Palace Hotel and have a drink at the Cornerhouse bar (on the first floor) which also gives a good view of the surrounding hustle and bustle. Then head towards the Central Library (the round pantheon-like building next to the Town Hall) and have a good look at the surroundings. You will be stunned by the variety of styles and ages of the architecture. Explore the various side streets around there and the Town Hall.
Then head to Cross Street and walk down towards Victoria Station from the top of Cross Street (where it crosses Princess Street/John Dalton Street). You will go past the various shops and bars. But when you first get to Cross Street, have a coffee at Caffe Nero near the start: to me it feels like Milan in Manchester!
Once you get to the end of Cross Street you are at the heart of the city centre main shops: Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, all that is in that area. Have a look at Urbis and Victoria Station, which you can spot from the area behind Selfridges (it has a big screen across a shopping centre called the Triangle). If you are hungry by then, try a late lunch at Wagamama (outside the Printworks, across the road from Urbis). From there walk past Harvey Nichols which is by the Manchester Cathedral and head towards St Anne's Square to take in the continuing varied architecture. You have a medieval looking church (St Anne's I think) in the middle of a Victorian architecture shopping centre.
Just before the church is the Royal Exchange Theatre in the middle of the square to the left. Go in and have a look. When you are inside the main building and look up at the very tall ceiling, you will be stunned! I won't spoil the surprise though. Anyway, go up to King Street past the Church, explore the boutiques and then take a right and head to Deansgate (a few yards’ walk) and then turn left and head towards the new Beetham Tower skyscraper.
Once you get there, there is a nice restaurant called Dimitri's that does Spanish and Greek Food. If it's summer sit outside at the back. It's lovely. And then finally finish your architectural walking tour by transporting yourself thousands of years back to Roman times at the Roman ruins and remains of the old wall just off Liverpool Road (which is where the Museum of Science and Industry is). From Deansgate, if you are tired of walking, you can get the number 2 free bus that takes you back to just outside the Cornerhouse - not far from where you started at 11 am!
From outside the Dean Gallery looks like what it used to be: a hospital. Not the orphan hospital it actually was, but more a retreat for Victorian gents with gout, set as it is in opulent grounds. But it’s all about the beauty on the inside. Surrealist art (including works by Dali and Man Ray), a recreation of Sir Eduardo Paolozzi’s haphazard studio, a shop packed with fascinating books, and a buzzing café in which locals and visitors share their love of art over steaming cups, all combine to make it an unusually vibrant gallery experience.
Not quite so lively is the Dean Cemetery, located at the side of the gallery. But it’s still wonderful to stroll through the trees and read the names of forgotten scholars and captains of industry on mossy mausoleums and gravestones.
Old and new melted into one another. Dali might have liked it.
The Dean Gallery it located directly opposite the National Gallery of Modern Art, Belford Road, Lothian. Number 13 Bus from Georges Street; entry is free; www.natgalscot.ac.uk
Amazing sourdough bread that you can buy to take away or toast there and then in the huge Dualit toasters on tables outside the little venue. Lots of fantastic loaves, cakes and sausage rolls. Yum.
Cinema housed in former industrial premises with 3 screens showing the best in independent and foreign film. The programme is persistently strong and it plays host to a number of film festivals throughout the year, including the widely praised Brief Encounters short film festival. If film isn't your thing then the Watershed has a superb Cafe/Bar and free wireless connection for laptop boffins.
The best of Soho - quaint but hip at the same time. The chipped crockery, the fading walls, the coolness that comes from being stylish without really trying - effortless. Exquisite cakes served up by the delicious Michelle, a true character who remembers her regulars and makes you feel part of the London scene no matter how long you've been away.
28 Greek Street, Soho
Beautful Art Deco building which hosts nightly classical concerts. Best bit is the cafe on the ground floor (on the left as you go in): everything a MittelEuropean coffee house should be. Ideal for killing an hour or so.
Namesti Republiky, Old Town
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