Tucked away in a corner of the Max Euwe Plaza is a fascinating free museum, unique in the chess world, with a vast archive where you can play a game with the hosts while drinking coffee. Dr Euwe was Holland’s greatest player and a member of the Dutch Resistance. A recently donated chess board unearthed in a German attic depicts the white pieces as a strong heavily armed World War Two German army while the weaker black pieces are armed with mere hand grenades. Carved into the frame of the board are the names in chronological order of the conquered nations. Interestingly, the last name to be engraved is England. A short tram journey away is the ‘flea market’ in the old Jewish quarter which is not far from the Verzetsmuseum (Dutch Resistance Museum) where a chess set, handmade secretly in a safe house, is on display but this time the pieces show a different view of the war. The white pieces wear the soft caps of the Dutch Resistance, the black pieces the helmets of the invading army. The chilled October air on the canals serves to heighten the poignancy of these two museums.
Max Euweplein 30a, 1017 MB Amsterdam
+31 20 6257017
Plantage Kerklaan 61-A, 1018 CX Amsterdam, Netherlands
+31 20 620 2535
Google map: bit.ly/VUAA4X
The Asamkirche is a small and highly ornate church, alongside the original home of the two brothers who designed it, in Sendlingerstrasse, in the old centre of Munich. It was built initially as a private church between 1733 and 1746 by the Asam brothers who were obliged (quite rightly) by the church authorities to open it for public worship.
It's a short walk from Marienplatz, in the old city centre, and is an essential item on any visit to Munich. The interior of the church is an extreme example of late Baroque (or Rococo?) design, with curly columns, statues and carvings climbing up the walls and attempting to gain a foothold on the ceiling; painted decorations of all kinds and inscriptions. The high altar offers the climax to the entire extravaganza.
The church was carefully restored between 1975 and 1982. It is unique.
I attended a two-hour organ recital there on my first visit to Munich a few years ago. The pews naturally face forward, towards the altar; the organ however is at the back of the church. As a result of facing the altar for two hours I was obliged to study every detail of it. I think I can still draw the entire thing from memory.
Sendlinger Straße 32, 80331 München, Germany
Google map: bit.ly/PkW1M6
The Alte Pinakothek is one of three world class museum/galleries in close proximity to one another in Munich. The collections here range from the Middle Ages to the end of the Eighteenth century (later work is to be found in the other two museums). The range of work is extensive and includes wonderful examples of paintings by the Old German masters of the Renaissance, such as Cranach and Durer, and Italian and Netherlandish artists of the same period. Each succeeding century is represented by terrific examples from Western European art. For the record, other World art is shown in museums and galleries elsewhere in the city. The Alte Pinakothek is a very large building and is beautifully designed but don't try to do it all in a morning. You'll have very sore feet and a tired back! Decide to tackle one period of art and maybe go back for more on another occasion. One more thing, wear soft-soled shoes! Everyone else seems to, and if you don't you'll clack around the place on the ceramic tile floors.
The Jersey Shore is a great place to visit from nearby New York - you can get there in under an hour on the ferry. Forget the gambling hub of Atlantic City, and what you've seen on reality TV shows, the Shore is also the home of the drive-in movie and the knickerbocker glory. Explore the lovely small towns scattered along the coast, from Wildwood in the south, with its two-mile boardwalk, 50's 'Doo-Wop' architecture and sweeping beaches, to Long Beach Island with romantically named towns such as Ship Bottom and Loveladies. My favourite place is Asbury Park. You don't have to be a Bruce Springsteen fan to enjoy the boardwalk, clam bars, pinball museum and jazz clubs, but if you are, then there's the extra attraction of hoping Bruce might turn up and play an impromptu gig at one of the town's rock venues such as the Stone Pony.
This is your last chance to see Helsinki, the 2012 World Design Capital, before the snow arrives. Explore the fascinating Design District (www.designdistrict.fi), including the Design Museum’s new ‘The Home – A space and a state of mind’ exhibition (www.designmuseum.fi). Visit Kiasma, the museum of contemporary art (www.kiasma.fi), to see Kaija Papu’s life-size knitted police car. Rest your legs in Alvar Aalto’s Finlandia Hall cafe or spend a quiet moment in the stunning wooden award-winning Kamppi Chapel of Silence. If you fancy seeing some older Finnish architecture while enjoying the trees in their autumn colours, the Seurasaari open-air museum (www.visithelsinki.fi/en/see-and-experience/sights-and-attractions/seurasaari-open-air-museum) is the perfect place to spend a bright autumn afternoon. For evening entertainment, take advantage of the Finnish National Opera’s low prices (as little as 14 euros) and enjoy The Magic Flute, Don Carlos or Tosca (www.opera.fi).
Cooperstown is a picture perfect small town in upstate New York. A world away from Manhattan but only a couple of hours by car. Cooperstown is home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame - you don't have to be a baseball fan to enjoy the displays. The main street is like something from a Norman Rockwell painting, especially in the fall (autumn) with the leaves turning orange, red and gold and pumpkins in front of the clapboard houses. Other nearby attractions include Glimmerlgass, with its summer music festival, and the Fenimore Art Museum, for American folk and decorative art.
The Burrell, Kelvingrove, Mackintosh, lots more free galleries/museums, amazing architecture, sensational shopping, vibrant culture and cafes and a suburban transport network that takes you to the shores of Loch Lomond and the slopes of the Arrochar Alps - where else but Glasgow?
An absolute must see when coming to Jerusalem. The Hall of Names is particularly moving as you can see where pages of around three million names are stored around walls and the gaps for the many millions whose names of the victims we as yet do not know.
The Children's memorial commemorating the 1.5 million children who perished is haunting. This underground memorial has one solitary candle but with the use of hundreds of mirrors creates the effect of hundreds of candles throughout the building.
Additionally the Cattle Car memorial featuring an original German cattle cart used to transport Jews catches the eye as it is on a railway track suspended in the air.
One thing I would say is that despite having a map the outdoor area can be confusing to navigate and we frequently got lost.
P.O.B. 3477, Jerusalem 91034 Israel
Get the tram from Jaffa Road to the end of the line. A free shuttle bus will pick you up every 15 mins from a stop across from the tram stop.
Google map: bit.ly/TdtFyK
This museum is probably one of the smallest you will see as it has only one room containing 17th century paintings of Madrid and two large wooden models showing how Madrid would have looked in the 17th century (you will have to use your imagination and geographical knowledge to recognise buildings such as the royal palace and the cathedral as they are not indicated on the models). A video screen taking you on imaginary walks through 17th century Madrid is interesting as it shows you which buildings of 17th century Madrid still exist today and which ones have disappeared over the centuries as Madrid has got ever bigger. Entry is free .
calle Fuencarral, 78
Nearest metro station: Tribunal
Google map: bit.ly/UCsTlX
The Spanish have their own version of the tooth fairy albeit in mouse form and he is known to Spanish children as Ratóncito Pérez. Hidden away in a tiny shopping centre in central Madrid is a cute tiny golden statue of this famous Ratóncito Pérez. Upstairs on the first floor of the shopping centre is a small museum dedicated to the history behind this mouse.
One hour west of Berlin, in the old eastern state of Brandenburg, lies Brandenburg an der Havel. With lakes, greenery and a walkable town centre, this historic small town has lots to offer outdoorsy visitors. The town's theatre, the Brandenburger Theater, offers shows ranging from musical performances to readings to straight theatre. Most of the town's sights can be reached by foot but a tram line runs down the small alleys and back streets, sometimes with terrifying proximity to shopfronts and doorways. Also worth a stop is the wine shop, Belmondo, in which you can buy a bottle to take home or (and?) stop to enjoy a glass of something local, all the while enjoying the sights of the old market square.
Everybody takes a trip to Postdam from Berlin, so why not do something different and spend a day in Dresden?
The capital of Saxony is only two hours away by train and it is rich with cultural and artistic history. The city was known as the Jewel Box, because of its baroque and rococo city centre. It was heavily bombed during WWII but it has been rebuilt and it looks amazing again.
Since the German reunification in 1990, Dresden has regained importance as one of the cultural, educational, political and economic centres of Germany.
If you are a fan of Karl Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse No. 5" don't miss the Karl Vonnegut Tour which runs daily. So it goes.
Direct Trains leave Berlin Hauptbahnhof every two hours (connection travel is also available). Dresden station is only 10-15 minutes away from the city centre on foot.
The Karl Vonnegut Tour runs daily at 11:00 am from Theaterplatz - King Johann, Dresden. www.kurtvonnegut-tour.com/
+49 (0) 172 78 15 007
Google map: bit.ly/QtAEql
This street really reveals the hidden cafes and restaurants favoured by Madrileños such as La Brocense which is on this street.
Do not miss the 16th century pharmacy on the corner of calle Lope de Vega and calle León. On the outside of the pharmacy there are azulejo tiles and inside at the back of the shop as you go into it is an old till from when the pharmacy originally opened. On calle Lope de Vega itself there is also the convento San Ildefonso (which can be easily missed as it does not stand out from the buildings around it) where Miguel Cervantes is buried (the convent is not open to the public but a plaque on the outside of the building telling us that Cervantes is buried here is what you need to look for). Do not be fooled into thinking that this street is where Lope de Vega lived. The house where he actually lived is preserved as a museum and can be found on the next street on the right called calle Cervantes. Calle Lope de Vega is also a short cut to the Prado museum from Antón Martín metro station. If you follow calle Lope de Vega to is end it will bring you onto the paseo de Prado and the Prado museum is in front of you across the boulevard.
Nearest metro station: Antón Martín
Exit Antón Martín metro station and turn left onto calle Atocha. Cross calle Atocha and take the next street on your right. This is calle León. Go up calle León
and take the third street on the right which is calle Lope de Vega (you will see the pharmacy on your right hand side on the corner of calle Lope de Vega)
Calle de Lope de Vega, 30, 28014 Madrid, Spain
+34 914 29 00 99
Google map: bit.ly/UCdgcY
This atmospheric town house is the former home of Spain's foremost "Golden Age" playwright - Lope de Vega who lived here for 25 years. A 17th-century gem with delightful gardens at the back, it's well worth the visit. Entry is free.
Calle de Cervantes 11, 28014, Madrid
+34 914 29 92 16
Nearest metro station: Antón Martín
Google map: bit.ly/SjC5bB
Two hours out of Berlin, taking the train from Hauptbanhof, is the city of Dessau, home to the Bauhaus School in the years between the decline of the Weimar republic and the rise of Nazi Germany. A testament to changing times and attitudes, the buildings represent a style of building established many years later. Turn right out of Dessau station and the main school buildings are five minutes’ walk away. Here you can stop for a tour and find out more about the work that inspired architects and designers for years to come, as well as grab a beer and something to eat in the basement restaurant; but there is much more with the masters’ houses a few minutes away and then a stylish restaurant on the banks of the Elbe a further ten minutes walk. All over the city are examples of the work of members of the school, with also the delight of taking one of the city’s trams to see the southern suburbs. The city is a must for the architectural history enthusiast as well as the social historian.
Deassau Station has a regular service direct from Berlin Hauptbanhof.
Google map: bit.ly/Sp9oLu
Even with the wealth of architecture to see in Berlin, it's good to get out of the city and visit a small town in former East Germany that was so influential in development of craft, art and design.
Dessau was the home of the Bauhaus from 1926 to 1932, with such 'masters' as Kandinsky and Klee, and designers like Josef & Anni Albers. There are numerous groundbreaking white concrete-faced buildings around town, but the highlight is Gropius' Bauhaus building, with its stylish balconies and wealth of workshops inside.
From Berlin, trains are only 90 minutes from Hauptbahnhof, costing around £35 return. Once in Dessau, all of the buildings are free to visit, and there are frequent guided tours in English and German.
You will get to see the Masters' Houses decorated just as when they lived in them, and a short tram ride away is an entire estate of 1930s workers housing, some of which you can visit or even stay in!
Yes, it's a tourist trap and every guide book recommends a visit, but the Hofbrauhaus in Munich's old district is wonderful. It is indeed unmissable because the atmosphere is great and the beer is even better. It has room for hundreds of people in a vast set of chambers originally built in 1896. The food is good and served promptly but bear in mind that the beer, Hofbrau naturally, comes in quantities of a litre or more - there are no half measures!
One's fellow drinkers are good humoured, ready to talk and have a good time, and there's even a traditional Bavarian 'oompah' band which strikes up every five minutes or so, but curiously fails to play a complete set. Perhaps the players need regular topping-up with Hofbrau and that interrupts their performance.
This house is where Miguel Cervantes was born. The rooms are beautifully preserved in their original condition with some information given about their use. Entry is free but remember not to take photos in any of the rooms of the house. Photos can only be taken in the open courtyard of the house.
Calle Mayor 48, 28801, Alcalá de Henares, Madrid Spain
+34 918 89 96 54
Google map: bit.ly/PCSEgl
This is an amazing site. I didn't know about it until I took a tour to the Sahara but it is a truly magnificent building. You really do feel that you have been transported back to Roman times.
While Leipzig is a city destination in itself, if you have some extra time in Berlin it also makes for a good day trip from the capital. Just over an hour on the train will bring you to one of the former DDR's major cities. It's recently restored pedestrianised old centre has a coffee culture vibe and lots of historic sights to see. From the church Johan Sebastian Bach used to be a choirmaster at 'Thomaskirche,' to the fascinating Stasi Museum 'Runden Ecke', and the 'Nikolaikirche' which used to be the meeting point for the peaceful protests of 1989, that eventually brought down the GDR government, a day here will fly by.
Send your feedback or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org