When I first visted Vienna some twenty years ago I found it somewhat staid and dull. Perhaps I had been unduly influenced by what I had heard and read about the place. The well-travelled visitor regarded Berlin as THE place to go, not Vienna.
Whatever the case, on a recent visit I found Vienna to be lively, well supplied with a range of good bars and restaurants, hotels at various price levels, an excellent public transport system, and offering an enviable number of world-class museums and galleries. There appeared to be a good number of young people there, in contrast to the view expressed in some guide books that the city is dominated in numbers by the very old.
For example, the Natural History Museum has a special Darwin exhibition on at the moment, and the day I went it was full of enthusiastic young people of all ages, noisy, busy, keen. They were allowed to use cameras and phones and were photographing themselves among the exhibits, even handling the woolly mammoth (I don't think it was real). Some indeed were sliding down the marble staircase which in this building is as high as Beachy Head - I don't think that was allowed, but no-one appeared to be rushing to stop them! So, not so staid as the former reputation...
Vienna, capital of Austria. www.wien.info
The Vienna Card offers 72 hours travel on the city's transport network, including buses, trams, S and U-bahns. It also offers reduced rates on some commercial tour buses and trams, and reduced prices on entry to the city's many museums and galleries. A set of coupons comes with the Vienna Card booklet offering discounts on a range of shops, restaurants and bars. At 18.5 euros, (in 2009, up to March 2010) the Card is very good value for three whole days in Vienna. Don't forget to validate it by punching the card when you first get on the bus, tram or whatever. It is not valid until you do.
The Vienna Card (Wien-Karte) is available online before you travel. Or, when you get there, at your hotel or from Tourist Info, Albertinaplatz (Corner Maysedergasse), Vienna. www.wien.info
The House is a museum on three floors about the activities of the Hungarian Arrow (proto-Nazi) party in WWII and then the Communist Secret Police after then. It is a very well executed museum and utterly absorbing.
Andrassy ut 60, Vorosmarty utca tube
We had a spare couple of hours and though we'd check out the Museum of Erotic Art on the main Ramblas street. The museum charges 8 Euros and is on one floor. Some of the items can be considered interesting - phallic wooden carvings from Africa, illustrations from the Karma Sutra etc - but in general there is little or no interpretation and the museum is really dedicated to showing how male sexual tastes have changed over the centuries, rather than examining the enduring human need for erotic material. Don't bother!
In Barcelona there is the Casa Milà which is better known as La Pedrera; a building designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. The roof of this building was used in the 1975 Jack Nicholson film ‘The Passenger’. La Pedrera means ‘The Quarry’ and refers to the cliff like walls of the building.
Most people might only see the building from street level and admire its structure from there; however, the roof offers something very unique with its strange chimney designs and views over Barcelona, including a view of the Sagrada Familia. It costs around 10 euros to get in and that includes seeing the whole museum.
Carretera del Carmel 23
Wonderful private museum housed in a beautiful mansion. What's great about the Benaki is that it offers a brilliant overview of Greek history (not just classical) through its collection of artifacts, art works, costumes and furniture.
Koumbari 1 (cnr Vasilissis Sofias)
Nearest metro: Syntagma
We stayed at the 79-year-old Brock Hotel that is now a Crown Plaza Hotel but it retains all the charm that it had back in the day when Marilyn Monroe stayed there while making the murder mystery," Niagara" with Joseph Cotton released back in 1953. Marilyn's room was in a back corner of the hotel for her privacy, but the view from that room is now blocked by the casino so we stayed in a room exactly like it on the same floor on the frontside of the hotel facing the falls.
I think it is the only hotel in town where the windows open so we enjoyed the sound of the falls all night long and even from our in room jacuzzi.
Before our trip we watched "Niagara" several times and during our three days there, we visited each of the filming locations and made a real adventure out of it. Kinda romantic, don't you think? It was our 30th wedding anniversary and we have always travelled to England or Ireland or the Continent so this was a big change for us.
Don't miss the bell tower! Try it... you will like it.
The CaixaForum Madrid by architects Herzog and de Meuron, opened in 2008 and is located near the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums.
The converted former power station presents itself like a walk-in sculpture, with several exhibitions and events hosted concurrently. The building looks over the Paseo del Prado with a daringly beautiful planted wall and contrasting Cor-ten steel and brick facade.
My family and I went there after a visit to the botanical garden for a 'quick look' - we stayed three hours and hadn't even exhausted the impressive Richard Rogers architects exhibition (until 18 Oct 2009) with dozens of models. Even the younger kids were happy!
A cool cafe and bookshop rounds of this 'must visit' gem.
Paseo del Prado, 36
Tel.: 91 330 73 00
Atocha, línea 1
I'm kind of a bum when travelling: I like to do all the free things, because they're free. You should spend money on the plane ticket, and that is all. Also, free things are the things the locals do, and so give you more of a feel for the place.
Anyway, the Hugh Lane is awesome, and admission to the gallery is completely free. Some great modern art. It also, amusingly, houses the (reconstructed) studio of Francis Bacon, with all its contents in disarray.
Here's a list of other FREE things/places in Dublin to see:
A very important archaeological World Heritage site, set in a National park surrounded by Lake Butrint.
Originally a Neolithic settlement, later developed by the Greeks, Illyrians, Romans and Venetians. Comprising ruins of 6CBC fortifications, 3CBC Hellenistic amphitheatre, acropolis, 4CBC Temple of Asklepios, Roman Baths, 5C Byzantine Baptistry and mosaics, 6C Basilica, impressive Venetian tower and fortress.
A protected site with excellent museum housing original artefacts. Outdoor stalls selling local handicrafts.
Set in beautiful woodland, reached from the south via a small chain ferry. Access now possible by day tour from Corfu and northern Greek resorts. Local currency is the Lek but Euro is accepted. Prices somewhat lower than in Greece. A rare opportunity.
Southern Albania,opposite the Greek island of Corfu, close to the Greek border in Epirus and the mainland resort of Parga.
Cusworth Hall is an eighteenth century and grade 1 listed country house and museum with excellent informative exhibitions about the people who lived and worked in the house.
It is without doubt Doncaster's premiere beauty spot with loads of open space for picnics and walks allowing you to enjoy a wonderful view of Doncaster laid out before you
Cusworth Lane, Doncaster, DN5 7TU
Nearest train station is Bentley and the hall is well signposted on the A1(M) and in Doncaster itself
The Cantillon Brewery is the last of what were once plentiful Gueuze Breweries in Belgium. The family brewery makes Gueuze, a unique beer that depends entirely on windborn yeast to complete the beermaking process, introducing an element of luck that most brewmasters wouldn't dream of accepting. To use the wild yeast the brewery has a number of unique features that cannot be found in any other brewery.
The location is also ideal. Just a fifteen minute walk from Brussels' Grand Place, there is no problem with imbibing as much of this wonderful beer as you would like and then wondering how to get home. The metro public transport system makes this a wonderfully tasty and safe experience.
A langorous lesson in the intricacies of beer making first, becoming a faster paced ride through the history of Heineken advertising, with horses, a soaking, football fun and wonderfully enthusiastic staff to banter with. The best bit is the beer, a simple conclusion in the darkened bar to wind down later at journey's end. A rollicking few hours in Amsterdam!
On the very occasional rainy day in Yorkshire there can be no better way to while away a few hours than a visit to the Black Sheep Brewery in Masham. At the "Shepherded" tour you will learn about the traditional brewing process in the warm and barley scented environment sets one up nicely for a sample of the ales.
I would recommend the Golden Sheep or perhaps the special Monty Python's Holy Grail (tempered over burning witches!). Best of all are the Bistro and Baa..r; wonderful food, huge portions in a lovely setting with views out over the Dales (when it's not raining that is). Puns are definitely the order of the day here but don't feel sheepish - it's a visit ewe won't regret.
The surrounding village of Masham is also worth exploring; there's a village square, a great little grocery and sweetshop and, if you haven't had quite enough beer yet, it is also home to Theakston's brewery with a visitor centre.
Black Sheep Brewery, Wellgarth, Masham HG4 4EN tel:01765 689227
Visitor car park
Holidaying in the wettest part of Britain is always a risk, so if you're at a loss for something to do when the rain inevitably come down on the Lake District, why not try the Jennings Brewery tour at Cockermouth?
It's quite a large real ale brewery with plenty to see and a very good choice of beers in their bar afterwards. There's also a shop.
While each of these breweries might well give you a tour, each of them is so small you can see what’s going on while you taste their wares. The end of September is the Great American Beer Festival and the perfect excuse to wind through the autumnal mountains and deserts in search of a hearty brew.
The claim for Colorado’s first Microbrewery lies just north of Denver in the university town of Boulder. The Boulder Beer Company has its own huge range of beers with seasonal additions and everything from lemony wheat beers to deep dark porters. On the way up, you’ll pass Fort Collins where the large New Belgium Brewery lies and you’ll find these beers all over the country. You can tour this site to see just what care and attention goes into the production of these relatively small batches. Pick up an Onion to read on your travels and get into the vibe of this beer hunt.
Just west from Denver, in Golden, Miller has their Coors factory and a purpose built town to run the thing. The tour is free and gives you three half pints of beer to try at the end of your journey round one of the biggest breweries in the world. You’re here to see what NOT to do.
Heading down highway 70, you’ll hit Idaho Springs where the Tommyknockers brew their range of interesting beers. The food is just what you want from this backwoods hangout and the beer comes to take away in Growlers. While you’re here you can sample the waters in an amazing 60s throwback ‘spa’, and stroll the cowboy main street.
These being the Rockies, there’s a lot of thermal water about and Glenwood Springs, just the other side of a gorgeous canyon, about two hours from Idaho Springs, makes a great stop, the baths here are open air and lie right next to the Glenwood Canyon Brew Pub. As well as beer, you’ll also often find mead on the menu, just to give your hopped out palette a rest.
From here you can hop on a train to Utah, and another home of small time brewery, Salt Lake City. You can learn all about the LDS or explore the ring of ski resorts that tower over the flat of the city. If you want to return east, you could get on the train, or in the land of the freeway, you’d be advised to head south and into Mesa Verde, and Durango before snaking your way through Colorado Springs and back to Denver.
Established in 1868 this wonderful brewery on the west coast of New Zealand's South Island produces a wide variety of tasty beers, from "summer" to "black". The local population boycotted its main rival's beer a few years ago when the brewery was threatened with closure, saving it!
The best part of the tour is at the end when, after already tasting all the beers, the guide leaves you in the bar and says "do what you like for 10 minutes....." It's amazing how much can be drunk in such a short time!!
corner Turamaha & Herbert Streets, Greymouth, www.monteiths.com/nz (03)7684149
Moscow's oddest museum, in a hollowed-out apartment block. Miles away from artefacts in glass cases, the chaotic, agitprop presentation attempts to tell the story of the poet's life while simultaneously create the experience of walking around Mayakovkiy's head in full creative flow.
Simply the best beer in the world, and in Greymouth you get to visit the home of Monteiths.
This is a laid-back west coast brewery on the South Island in sleepy Greymouth. Have a tour, taste the superb collection of beers, hope to get 10 minutes of "back-turning" from the guide, a visit to the beer keg urinals, before heading off to find the nearest bar to continue supping and meet the locals.
Top tip is to try the Radler - a lager with a tasty zing of lemon/lime. Or the summer ale, or the...
The factory for the world famous beer is in Pilsen, Czech Republic and they do a fantastic tour - at the start of which they give you a glass and you fill it up so you have beer to take around the factory with you.
They take you and show you the old barrel cellars and the traditional brewing methods while you are drinking and from there onwards you can explore various other parts of the Factory campus which has a modern visitors centre where you can learn even more and wander round yourself after the guided tour. Good stuff. Lots of different language tours.
We then went for lunch at the great Pilsner restaurant - with a beer obviously - though you can choose to sit outside and eat, or just skip the eating bit and have a beer at the bar.
We stayed after that and had a game of giant chess (the pawns are beer bottles - of course) before getting a wee cheeky souveneir and heading back to the train station.
In Plzen, Czech Republic. We got a train from Prague central railway station - takes an hour or maybe two - and made a day trip of it. The lady at the station information didnt speak much English - but when we said "Pilsner" she knew exactly what we were after, gave us a map and directed us. Its a few minutes (5) walk from the station.
Send your feedback or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org