Amazing European Destinations To Visit For A Culturally Rich Holiday

It’s so important to visit destinations that offer so much to do and see for the whole family. You are in a different country, so it’s a great chance to find out more about how other people live. You want to enjoy a culturally rich holiday that will help you to understand different beliefs and traditions that others have. It’s an excellent way to educate your children about other countries in the world. Here are some amazing European destinations to visit for a culturally rich holiday.

Germany

One amazing destination to visit for a culturally rich holiday is Germany. It’s an amazing place full of cities which are brimming with culture and history. A lot of people head to the capital of Berlin. It has over 170 museums for you to visit, so that you can learn more about their history. There are festivals on throughout the year with plenty to see for the kids including Berlin Art Week and the Festival of Lights. A lot of people head to the site of the Berlin Wall or to the Reichstag. Other culturally rich areas in Germany to visit include Nuremberg, which boasts a beautiful castle. Munich is also a popular choice to visit with plenty to see including the Marienplatz and the Munich Residenz.

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Greece

An additional destination to visit for a culturally rich holiday is beautiful Greece. The country has the most archeological museums in the world. Athens is one of the top places that people head to. There are many ancient monuments which you can look around which will teach you more about the country’s history. A lot of people head to the Acropolis museum to find out more. There are also several art museums which are also worth a visit. You should visit the Athens Festival which occurs every year. I talked previously in my blog about other great things to do in Athens. There are also many other great culturally rich places to visit in Greece such as Argolis. You can find beautiful resorts to stay in such as Amanzoe Greece, so you are in the heart of all the amazing areas.

France

Another amazing destination to visit for a culturally rich holiday is France. The capital is the place to go if you want to learn more about the exciting county. You will find amazing art in the Louvre including the famous Mona Lisa piece. You will find many breathtaking sights including the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame cathedral. The kids will love seeing these iconic monuments As well as these, you can also enjoy the array of different festivals and concerts in the capital. Also, in France, you will find the Cannes festival which arrives every year. It is brimming with life and often has the best films on of that year. Other culturally rich areas include Nice’s medieval old town, which is one of the best preserved in the world. Here are some other medieval towns across Europe you should visit.

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Any of the above European destinations will offer you a fantastic holiday which will be unforgettable. Remember to take some time to relax on your trip, after you have seen all these beautiful sights!

Guest Post – The Most Popular Cities in Germany

With its wide choice of historic locations, Germany is ideal for a holiday abroad. German cities offer something for everyone and have become a popular destination for weekends away. But which one is best for you?

Berlin

The country’s capital has always been lively, attracting free thinkers to alternative lifestyles and artistic communities. It’s still a hub for the arts where you can wander from established outlets to taking in highly-regarded street graffiti.

Since re-unification, the Berlin Wall Memorial and Checkpoint Charlie have joined traditional favourites like the Brandenburg Gate on the tourist trail. Take a bus tour to understand the layout of what was East Berlin and spend some time at the Holocaust Memorial.

Munich

Head to Bavaria for Germany’s second city, a mixture of the modern and traditional. You can spot the latter by the lederhosen and beer halls – try the Augustiner Bräustuben situated inside a brewery, and mark your calendar for Oktoberfest.

Explore by bike and stop off at Residenzmuseum, home to Bavaria’s rulers for 400 years or relax in Englischer Garten, one of Europe’s biggest parks. Leave time to take in some of Munich’s world-class art galleries and museums, and its 15th century religious pulse the Frauenkirche.

Hamburg

The country’s second-largest city and its wealthiest also boasts its biggest port. A shuttle service transports visitors between maritime cultural attractions such as the Internationales Maritimes Museum, while a bus tour travels alongside the Elbe.

Sample cuisine from a wide variety of cultures and listen to live music in the place which once showcased the Beatles. Northern Germany’s biggest Protestant baroque church St Michaelis, or Der Michel as it’s known, is a landmark that’s easy to spot and worth a visit.

Frankfurt

The business and commerce centre that is Frankfurt am Main houses the European Central Bank and one of the world’s biggest stock exchanges, an 1843 neoclassical building. With excellent museums, parks and restaurants, a substantial student population and lively night life, backed by an efficient transport system, this is a pleasant place for a break.

Stroll through the parkland beside the River Main or rest in the Römerberg, Frankfurt’s old square and the scene of Christmas Markets. The poet Goethe grew up here and his birthplace has been reconstructed at Goethe-Haus, while art-lovers shouldn’t miss Museum für Moderne Kunst which displays modern art from the 1960s onwards.

Cologne

Twin cathedral towers dominate the skyline of the country’s most popular tourist destination, with medieval churches jostling with Roman remains balanced by a post-modern district. Take a cruise to fully appreciate the beauty of the Rhine before repairing to the community-run Biergarten Rathenauplatz, set out under some impressive old trees.

Climb the 509 steps of the Kölner Dom, Germany’s largest cathedral but pause at the 24-tonne Peter Bell, the world’s biggest free-swinging working bell. Chocoholics can reward themselves at the Schokoladenmuseum, where tours include history, processes and a sample from a chocolate fountain.

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Dresden

Once known as the Florence of the north, the Saxon capital inspired artists such as Canaletto to record its delights. Many iconic structures were levelled in bombing raids during World War II but much has been rebuilt – the celebrated Frauenkirche is a symbol of the city’s rebirth. Today Dresden is a vibrant city where visitors can embrace its thriving arts and cultural life, whether it’s a gallery, the museums of the Zwinger or something more local such as the Kunsthofpassage. Visitors will find locations to suit all tastes and pockets in Germany, but if you’re on a budget check out couporando.co.uk for money-saving vouchers!

Picture: © Neuschwanstein (matmatson /flickr, CC BY 2.0)

2 Hours in Mainz, Germany

MAINZ, GERMANY: Mainz, a delightful German town situated at the confluence of River Rhine and River Main. This is the home of famous publisher Johannes Gutenberg who introduced printing to Europe and the town where one of the Europe’s oldest and largest music publishing house, Schott Music, is located. Old Town of Mainz is a little cozy place to hang out or get together with someone over a meal.

Mainz Cathedral looming over its Old Town in Mainz, Germany

Mainz Cathedral looming over its Old Town in Mainz, Germany

Most of the historic sites are in Old Town and have information boards near them; but they were all written in German, nothing in English. There is a paid parking lot very close to Mainz Dome and the Old Town.

Square in front of Mainz Dome in Old Town of Mainz, Germany

Square in front of Mainz Dome in Old Town of Mainz, Germany

TIME of TRAVEL: We were driving from Belgium to Stuttgart, Germany on the 2nd week of June 2014 to one of our friend’s house for one last time before leaving Belgium for good. We chose Mainz as our dinner-venue and to spend couple hours before reaching Stuttgart. It was already around 6pm when we reached Mainz and we stayed mainly in the Old Town.

EATING and SHOPPING: Old Town has plenty of options for drinks or meal from McDonald’s to decent local or international kitchens (like “Konoba” a Croatian bar/restaurant). We had dinner at “Maredo” right opposite of Mainz Theatre in Gutenbergerplatz. They had many options for soup, salad bar, steak, and scrumptious choices for desserts.

My dessert - mango mousse ice-cream in a restaurant "Maredo" in Mainz, Germany

My dessert – mango mousse ice-cream in a restaurant “Maredo” in Mainz, Germany

It was already too late to find any store open when we arrived Mainz but Old Town has lots of fashion and other stores all around it. We couldn’t find a single souvenir shop, may be they were on the other streets or further down.

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: City center of Mainz is pretty compact and all the attractions are within walking distance. Here are only few things we could see in Mainz:

1) ALTSTADT or OLD TOWN: As I mentioned before, we mainly stayed in Altstadt of Mainz. This is the place to be on any lazy afternoon or for strolling after dinner or just for some coffee time. It’s lined with some very artistic and gorgeous buildings opposite of Mainz Dome. We sat down in front of a fountain while our girls were soaking their feet and playing in the water. All the stores were closed when we arrived, but I can imagine this place during day time when everything is open and locals are going on with their lives…a fantastic place to be a part of that atmosphere.

Attractive buildings in Altstadt or Old Town of Mainz, Germany

Attractive buildings in Altstadt or Old Town of Mainz, Germany

2) MAINZ DOME (CATHEDRAL of ST. MARTIN and ST. STEPHEN): The magnificent steeples of Mainz Dome dominate whole Altstadt and can be seen from any corner. Construction of this Romanesque cathedral started in 975 AD (yep, it’s that old), but its current look is from the 11th to 13th centuries. This is one of Germany’s oldest cathedral and a historic landmark of Mainz. It was closed by the time we were there, but still could enjoy its spectacular exterior from every side. Square in front of the cathedral “Markt”, and on the side are really beautiful. There is a miniature version of the dome in Markt.

Standing in front of Mainz Dome in Mainz, Germany

Standing in front of Mainz Dome in Mainz, Germany

3) GUTENBERGERPLATZ and MAINZ THEATER: Mainz Theater and opposite of it the statue of Johannes Gutenberg are the highlights of this square. Johannes Gutenberg was a well-known inventor who introduced printing in Europe. His invention of movable type printing is regarded as the most important event of modern printing and publishing. There is also “Gutenberg Museum” in Mainz for those who are interested.

Mainz Theater in Mainz, Germany

Mainz Theater in Mainz, Germany

Gutenbergerplatz is surrounded by many cafes, restaurants, and old buildings. Bunch of young people gathered around in front of the theater and were chatting away and laughing. We didn’t go further down the street and stopped here to come back to our car after finishing the dinner. What a short but lovely trip that was!

A day in Hannover, Germany

HANNOVER, GERMANY: Hannover was one of the hardest hit cities during WWII. The city was left with only few historic landmarks after the war. It’s not a typical European city with pretty centuries-old buildings. Hannover has an energetic and thriving city center. The city is very modern and a good place for shopping or spend a day.

Main train station or Hauptabahnof of Hannover, Germany
Main train station or Hauptabahnof of Hannover, Germany
      

If you like to get to know Hannover on your own, there is a Red Thread – your personal tour guide. It’s a 4,200 meter long line on the sidewalk by the City of Hannover and leads you to the architectural, historical, and entertaining attractions. Accompanying literature and map can be obtained from the Tourist Information Hannover. We followed this Red Thread to discover Hannover…it was simple and doable on foot. It touches all the main spots of this city.

TIME of TRAVEL: So, after about 12 days of our winter road trip during Christmas holiday in 2013 comes to an end with a visit to Hannover, Germany. We drove from Brussels to Fussen, to Innsbruck, then Salzburg, to Prague, to Dresden, then Leipzig, and then finally to Hannover. It was cold here which was ok but then it started to drizzle towards the end of the day. At least it wasn’t snowing…

Christmas decoration in Kropcke, the heart of Hannover, Germany
Christmas decoration in Kropcke, the heart of Hannover, Germany
         

OUR HOTEL: This hotel we stayed in Hannover, Novotel, was a little far from the city center. We walked at least 20 minutes to get to the heart of Hannover. The walking was nice because we went through some local shops, passed few streets, and saw other parts of the city. Novotel is a popular hotel chain in Europe (not sure about other continents). They didn’t have breakfast but had free Wi-Fi. The best part was that there was an awesome Italian restaurant only a block away from our hotel where we had dinner twice.

EATING and SHOPPING: Kropcke and its surrounding areas are probably the best place to have meal in Hannover. It’s a crowded place with tons of choices to eat. You can get from street food to luxurious and fancy restaurants all in this pedestrian zone.

Again whole city center of Hannover is a marvelous place for shopping with many including some upscale brand stores and local boutique stores. Take a stroll through the elegant street of Georgestrasse, the top shopping destination for fine clothes and accessories.

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We had a whole day to spend in Hannover. Other than the following places, Hannover’s main train station, Hauptbahnof is something to take a look at. It was built in 1879 and is known as Germany’s finest station. But wait, it’s not just any other train stations, it’s an outstanding shopping arcade too with lots of restaurants and snack-bars. We were there to take a short-ride back to our hotel from the city center at night…and it looked gorgeous with all the Christmas lighting.

Hannover also has lots of museums, like Hannover State Museum, Historic Museum, as well as many modern architecture to please your eyes.

1) KROPCKE: This is the historic city center and a meeting point for both young and old. This large pedestrian area in the heart of Hannover is a major shopping spot. You won’t have hard time choosing a restaurant here because there are tons of them.

2) OLD TOWN or ALSTADT: This is a delightful area with numerous half-timbered houses and romantic spots.

Some half-timbered houses in the old town of Hannover, Germany
Some half-timbered houses in the old town of Hannover, Germany
            

3) MARKET CHURCH: Built in 1359, this is a splendid example of German Brick Gothic style. It is an old building with simple altar and simple decorations. The organ looked newer compared to the other items in the church.

4) LEINE CASTLE: We passed by this old castle in the middle of the city. Don’t really know much of the history behind it. River Leine cuts thru the city here in front of this castle. It was in our Red Thread guide, but didn’t go inside.

Leine Castle and its surrounding in Hannover, Germany
Leine Castle and its surrounding in Hannover, Germany
              

5) MUSEUM AUGUST KESTNER: The museum is named after August Kestner (1777 – 1853) who collected a considerable number of Egyptian and Greco-Roman craftwork as well as other art objects. His nephew inherited the collection with the proviso that it has to be presented to his native City of Hannover.

August Kestner Museum in Hannover, Germany
August Kestner Museum in Hannover, Germany
          

This is an interesting and one of a kind museum. Don’t miss collections from Egypt, as well as exhibits from the classical antiquity, history of design, and Coin Cabinet. Loved its antique and contemporary collections of artistic objects.

There is a cafeteria and a shop inside the museum. It has three levels and took us about little more than an hour to look around. It’s located beside New Town Hall of Hannover. Visitors can enter free on every Friday.

6) NEW CITY HALL: This is one attractive building in this city from the early 1900s. With a striking domed tower, this is a magnificent edifice dating from the Wilhelminian period. Inside the city hall is as beautiful as its front façade. We only stayed there for few minutes. Other than the building itself, something to see here is the different phases and faces of Hannover throughout its history. Miniature model city depictions show Hannover in the middle age, before and after WWII, and present time (1689, 1939, 1945, and 2000). You can see how Hannover got its present look…it’s fascinating.

Hannover's New City Hall
Hannover’s New City Hall
         

We didn’t take any tour here, although it’s available. There is no fee just to go in and check out its interior. You can visit its dome for a panoramic view with a little fee.

7) AEGIDIEN CHURCH: This is a 14th century church which was destroyed in WWII. They didn’t reconstruct this church and kept it as a memorial to the victims of war. There is a Hiroshima Peace Bell near where the old altar used to be. Only the skeleton of this church still stands to remind us all the damages a war can do.

Ruins of Aegidien Church in Hannover, Germany
Ruins of Aegidien Church in Hannover, Germany
        

8) HANNOVER OPERA: This is another fantastic architecture of Hannover. It was built in 1852 and was ranked by the opera guide published in London as one of the ten best in the world.

Hannover Opera House in Germany
Hannover Opera House in Germany
         

Bach’s Birthplace – Leipzig, Germany

LEIPZIG, GERMANY: Leipzig is one of the largest cities of Saxony in Germany. Honestly, I wasn’t that excited about coming here, especially after visiting cities like Salzburg and Prague in this trip. Yes, of course, the city is ultra-modern and its city center is an energetic and vibrant place to hang out. But when my husband told me that Leipzig is the city where classical music composer Bach was born, my enthusiasm came back right away. We saw Beethoven’s birthplace in Bonn, Germany few months ago and Mozart’s birthplace few years ago (also again in this trip in Salzburg, Austria). Visiting Bach’s birthplace was almost like an obligation to me.

Walking around the city center of Leipzig in Germany
Walking around the city center of Leipzig in Germany
                 

So, yes, Leipzig is the city of famous composer Johann Sebastian Bach. He was born here and spent 27 years of his life writing many of his most well-known music in this city. Bach’s main places of activity, St. Thomas Church and St. Nicholas Church are still standing in the main city center. Bach Museum holds Bach Festival each year in Leipzig, may be a good time for the Bach fans to visit this city.

Other than that Leipzig has Germany’s 2nd oldest university, The University of Leipzig, which was founded in 1409. The city also boasts for being the home of St. Nicholas Church (see below) which was the starting point of peaceful demonstrations against the communist regime which led to German Reunification.

TIME of TRAVEL: After visiting Fussen (Germany), Innsbruck, Salzburg (Austria), Prague (Czech Republic), Dresden (Germany) during our Christmas road trip in 2013 we arrived in Leipzig, Germany. Weather was fantastic, not freezing cold which I was scared about traveling to Germany in December.

OUR HOTEL: Our hotel in Leipzig was Novotel. It’s a well reputed hotel in Europe. We stayed in Novotel at different times in different cities. It was a fantastic location right across the main train station of Leipzig (Hauptabahnof) and only 5 minutes of walk from the city center. Hotel didn’t have free breakfast but had complementary Wi-Fi in the room. Bottom line is the location was good, especially with the kids. We could just walk across the street to the train station for many option of meal and breakfast.

EATING and SHOPPING: We did couple of our meals in Leipzig train station or Hauptabahnof. Station had some good pastries shops, fast foods, Pizza Hut, local chains, and other good places to eat. On New Year’s day we had dinner in old town in an Indian restaurant called India Gate. Leipzig old town/city center has at least five Indian restaurants here and there…we had to try at least one from there. India Gate was very nice place and the food was good too.

In old town, Grimmaische Strasse is a pedestrian street where tons and tons of stores are located. You can find brand name, local shops, boutique stores, and etc. on this street. Even if you don’t do any shopping it’s nice to just walk around and look thru to do some window-shopping. Another place of shopping would be the main train station, Hauptabahnof. It is a station alright, but looked more like a gorgeous shopping mall to me. Something special to buy from Leipzig is Bach’s CDs and other souvenirs related to him. I bought a Bach CD from Bach Museum.

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We spent about a day and half in Leipzig. We could have done it in a day but Bach Museum was closed on the New Year’s Eve, so we had to wait ‘til the next day to visit it, after all it would be a crime to leave Leipzig without visiting his museum.

The city center or old town of Leipzig has a modern look with some old buildings standing shoulder to shoulder with many new architectures. These historical buildings were mostly constructed by the merchants in the old days. Old town is not that big and we covered it on foot.

1)  ST. NICHOLAS CHURCH or NIKOLAIKIRCHE: As I mentioned above, St. Nicholas Church was the starting point of a peaceful demonstrations against the communist regime which led to German Reunification in 1989. It is that historic church also where Johann Sebastian Bach performed regularly during his lifetime. Nikolaikirche is the largest church in Leipzig with the biggest organ in whole of Saxony. But other than all these historical stats, this is an elegant looking church. From outside, you may not think so, but inside is sophisticatedly decorated and looks more contemporary than other German churches…a must-see place in Leipzig.

St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig, Germany
St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig, Germany
         

The church is located on the pedestrian zone of old town on Nikolaistrasse.

2) BATTLE of the NATIONS MONUMENT or VOLKERSCHLACHTDENKMAL: Built in 1813, this is the biggest monument in Europe. It commemorates the great Battle of Leipzig of the Napoleonic Wars where Napoleon was defeated at the cost of 100,000 lives. You can’t leave Leipzig without visiting this.

Battle of the Nations Monument in Leipzig, Germany - the biggest monument in Europe
Battle of the Nations Monument in Leipzig, Germany – the biggest monument in Europe
                 

Since we went there on the January 1st, everything was closed. We only walked around the monument and went up the stairs just to look around from outside. When open, tourists can visit its upper observation platform, the dome, different galleries, hall of fame, and crypt. There are many steps to climb but if you can go all the way to top a fantastic view awaits as a reward.

We took tram #15 from Hauptabahnof (Leipzig’s main train station) to go there. After 8/9 stations, we got off at Meusdorf. There is a ticket to enter the museum and go inside the monument.

3) AUGUSTUSPLATZ: This is more like a modern shopping district in city center. You can see a nice blend of old and new buildings here. We came here both during day and at night and it’s a lively square to hang out anytime of the day.

4) MARKT: This is a big square on Grimmaische Strasse where old town hall still stands. The old town hall houses some shops now. Christmas lightings looked fantastic at night.

Leipzig's old Town Hall in Markt
Leipzig’s old Town Hall in Markt
            

5) BACH MUSEUM: Few steps further from Markt is Bach Museum. The building of Bach Museum once used to be the residence of Bose family in St. Thomas Square. They were affluent merchants of Leipzig back then and very close friends of the Bachs. Bach family lived in St. Thomas School which stood right across from the museum until it was demolished in 1902. Bach was from a renowned music family and for 27 years this square was Bach’s immediate environment. This is where he composed many of his most significant works. The museum gives a detailed account of the life, childhood, career as a musician, stories, and works of Johann Sebastian Bach. The permanent exhibition conveys a vivid impression of his music and displays original Bach manuscripts.

Bach's statue inside Bach's Museum in Leipzig, Germany
Bach’s statue inside Bach’s Museum in Leipzig, Germany
              

Bach appreciated no other musical instrument as he did the organ; he was an organ expert. Among the most interesting exhibits is the organ console from the St. John’s Church is the last relic of a Bach organ in Leipzig. Bach himself played it in the year 1743. Visit a double bass that was part of his orchestra and an iron chest – the only surviving piece of furniture from Bach’s household. A special highlight of the museum is the treasure chamber in which original Bach manuscripts are on display.

There are few listening booths in the museum to immerse yourself in Bach’s music. Every single one of his compositions can be called up from the media stations. Get acquainted with Baroque musical instruments and their specific timbres in his museum.

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am – 6pm. Ticket is 8 euros per adult, children under 16 are free. It includes audio guide. It’s not permissible to take any photos inside.

6) ST. THOMAS CHURCH or THOMASKIRCHE: Opposite of Bach Museum is St. Thomas Church in St. Thomas Square. From 1723 until his death in 1750, Johann Sebastian Bach was the highest ranking musician in Leipzig as Director and cantor at St. Thomas. As part of his official duties, Bach was responsible for the musical education of the boys at St. Thomas School and for the music in services at the two main churches – St. Thomas and St. Nicholas – as well as the New Church (later called St. Matthew) and St. Peter’s Church. He used to perform here every other Sunday with his choir and orchestra. With his second wife, Bach lived in the old St. Thomas School on the churchyard and went to this church for confession and to receive Holy Communion. A life-size statue of Bach in front of the church stands to commemorate his time in this church.

Statue of Johann Sebastian Bach in front of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany
Statue of Johann Sebastian Bach in front of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany
              

St. Thomas is a simple church but highlight of it is that it houses the tomb of Bach. His remains are buried under a bronze epitaph near the altar. On 28th July 1750, Bach dies in Leipzig. He was originally buried in the hospital cemetery of St. John’s Church. In 1949 the mortal remains of Johann Sebastian Bach were transferred to this church from the ruins of the St. John’s Church which was destroyed during WWII. In 1950 Bach’s grave was erected in the chancel to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the death of St. Thomas’ greatest choirmaster. When we went there a group of musicians were practicing some music composed by Bach for a concert that night.

Bach's grave inside St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany
Bach’s grave inside St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany
         

The interior of St. Thomas Church as it existed in Bach’s times has been removed almost entirely. Currently, the church has a splendid cross ribbed vaulted ceiling. The organ here is known as Bach Organ and has an impressive acoustics. One of the windows on the southern side of Gothic triple-nave basilica is called Bach Window. Built in 1895, it is a part of the five memorial windows of this church.

The church is located opposite to Bach Museum in St. Thomas Square and there is no fee to enter the church. Buying tickets ahead of time is recommended if you are interested in any of the concerts that the church holds every now and then.

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