At night, Rome’s young intellectuals fill the city’s Centri Sociali, or social centres. These clubs and bars, many of which show films, host DJs and run dance or theatrical performances, began life as squats in run-down public buildings. Today there are ten or so in Rome, located in old schools, factories and warehouses. Brancaleone, on Via Levanna, is a particularly well-run one, with a cinema, café, shop selling organic goods and a variety of musical offerings. Go on Friday for the electronic vibe, Roman-style, or on Saturday for house.
Via Levanna 11, Montesacro, Rome www.brancaleone.it
A secret walled garden beside the river in Chelsea. The second oldest botanic garden in the UK, it was founded by the Society of Apothecaries in 1673 and has been growing plants with medicinal uses ever since.
It's sheltered, sunny and dry enough to grow plants from the Canary Islands, Madeira and South Africa - and is a great place to escape from the fast pace of city living for an hour or two.
Note, it's only open to the public on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons
This large mosque, completed in 2001, is a fabulous, stunning building. Non-Muslim visitors are allowed in between 8am-11am on any day except Friday and certain religious holidays. The earlier you go the better; it deserves to be savoured over a few hours. You'll feel slightly nervous standing under the chandelier in the men's prayer hall as it is huge!
All the taxi drivers will know
This museum houses the only remaining, intact 17th-century ship in the world. Commissioned in 1625 as a warship, the Vasa sunk on its maiden voyage. After the wreck was salvaged in 1961 the lower rig, masts, stays and shrouds were rebuilt. So you now see the whole, ornately carved, vessel looking just as it would have when it set out to defend Sweden's Baltic empire all those years ago.
The Vasa Museum
SE-102 52 Stockholm
A romantic, fairytale castle just outside Cardiff. Rebuilt from a medieval ruin, its gothic interior is crammed with ornate murals, lavish gilding and elaborate wood carvings.
If you like this over-the-top style, you might also want to visit Cardiff Castle in the centre of the city. Both were designed by William Burges.
On the A470 at Tongwynlais, about five miles north-west of Cardiff.
The Temperate House is the largest of the glasshouses at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; in fact it's the largest, extant Victorian glasshouse in the world. Despite this fact, many visitors never reach it because it's a fair way from the main gate and it's hidden from view until you're almost upon it.
This is a shame because the Temperate House contains some fabulous specimens, including the world's rarest plant - a cycad called Encephalartos woodii - and the world's largest indoor plant, the 52-foot high Chilean Wine Palm.
A quirky museum detailing the 400-year-old history of tea and coffee, from the British persepective. It's quaint rather than hi-tech but you won't find many places that serve up a better cuppa.
Near London Bridge. www.bramahmuseum.co.uk/tea/index.htm
A remnant of the Great North Wood that used to extend from Deptford to Selhurst, this is a great place for a sunday afternoon stroll. There were once large Victorian villas in the area, so along with oak, beech and cedar trees, you'll find bamboo and rhododendrons. Cox's Walk is an avenue of oaks that is fabulous in autumn. London Wildlife Trust manages the wood and runs various guided walks such as bat watches and dawn chorus patrols.
South-east London between Dulwich Village and East Dulwich
London Wildlife Trust - Email email@example.com
This maritime-themed boutique hotel is chic, has fabulously comfortable beds and is suitcase-dragging distance from the railway station. It also has its own ice bar, where you can don yeti-style fur coats and slurp back vodka from ice glasses. The restaurant serves up a mean rhubarb pie, too.
Nordic Sea Hotel Stockholm
Created by Swedish artist Mikael Genberg, the Utter Inn is half art installation, half hotel. Essentially, it's a watertight box - just big enough to house two single beds - suspended beneath a small floating platform on Lake Malaren, off of Västerås, near Stockholm. Atop the platform is what looks like a garden shed housing a cooker, curtained off toilet and the hatch through which you enter the bedroom.
You pay around £50 for a night's stay, which includes lifts to and from the Utter Inn in Mikael's boat, a take-away dinner and picnic breakfast. We spent a great evening watching the sunset and drinking wine, entertained by a variety of passing boats, kayaks and seabirds.
In the bedroom, windows look out into the murky waters of the lake, so you can watch what perch and pike are getting up to beneath the surface. There's an inflatable kayak onboard the platform, so if you go stir crazy you can always try to paddle your way back to civilization. Mind you, when I tried, it seemed to have sprung a leak - I had barely gone 20 metres before I started sinking...
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