The 10 best places to unwind in Vienna

120With striking, stop-and-gawp architecture, steamy stress-repressing saunas and a near certified statute for sipping the hours away in a coffee house, grandiose Vienna is a city that exudes calm. These 10 serenity-assured spots are where the Viennese go to massage out the knots, but be warned: life may never feel as relaxed again.

Hide among the sunflowers of the Volksgarten Pavillion

Open April to September, the Volkspavillion (volksgarten-pavillon.at) summer gazebo hides between the Hofburg Palace and the perfumed royal rose gardens, dishing out tasty steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick) and a sense of restorative calm. Luscious greenery, chestnut trees and quaint 1950s table lamps are a world away from the tourist crowds within Volksgarten, while the views of the Hofburg Palace are only hampered by the sunflowers that climb the entryway fence. Come sundown, DJs emerge for some ‘let-your-hair-down’ relaxation.

Live like royalty in Lainzer Tiergarten

In the oak-filled woodland of Lainzer Tiergarten, you’ll find snuffling wild boars, giant-horned goats, mischievous squirrels and serene deer freely roaming the grassy meadows and mossy forest floors. The gardens’ walking trails and wide open heaths are framed with fragrant cherry trees and the humming drill of woodpeckers in the warmer months. Come winter, cross-country skiing and near-silent restorative treks across snow-encrusted trails are possible. Hidden within the former hunting ground is Princess Sisi’s Hermesvilla, a marble mini-palace famously gifted to her by Franz Joseph I in 1881. Stop in for a queenly coffee and cake on the terrace.

Detox at Therme Wien Oberlaa

A modern bathing complex built upon Roman-era thermal springs, Therme Wien Oberlaa is a wide, unwinding wonderland of Jacuzzis, soothing Finnish saunas, trickling grotto pools and more spa treatments than you can throw a mud pack at. Silent zones are dotted with sun loungers, bold blue whirlpools and complimentary books, and you’re just as likely to find an aromatic steam room as you are an unashamed local strolling around starkers.

Seek out the sun loungers at Steinhofgründe

Topped by Otto Wagner’s glimmering art-nouveau church, Steinhofgründe is the most underrated of Vienna’s city parks. Sauntering along its pebbled paths, past wild raspberry and blackberry bushes, you’re just as likely to come across kite-flying adults as you are children clambering over huge forest playgrounds built entirely from natural materials. Old oaks and ageing apple trees create calming arbours, complete with wooden picnic tables. For the best views over the city, seek out the hand-carved sun loungers and allow the countryside to work its unwinding magic.

Get all arty at Yppenplatz

Swan through the fruit stacks and traders’ calls of Brunnenmarkt and you’ll soon stumble across Yppenplatz, a multicultural hubbub of alluring cafes, cutting-edge restaurants and endless people-watching spots. Perch on the wooden communal tables at Rasouli and you’ll see studded punks, slick-haired young professionals and playful families gathering beneath the square’s maple tree. Then wind down in Brunnenpassage, an art social room where locals come together to create creative projects. Expect everything from Persian dance classes to documentary cinema nights.

Unwind with a wine at Cafe Cobenzl

Atop Am Cobenzl hill in the 19th district, Cafe Coblenzl (cobenzl.at/schloss) perches over flourishing vineyards and steep, well-worn hiking trails. With an outdoor terrace overrun by ivy and an interior jammed with grandma’s fussy knick-knacks and flowery upholstery, this relaxed 1950s throwback is the place to come for no fuss Viennese food and panoramic city views. Pair both with a crisp, fresh white wine.

Cool off at Badeschiff Wien

Settle into a canvas deckchair or flump into a plump daybed at Badeschiff Wien, a floating bar and pool on the shore of the Danube that’s drenched in panoramic views. If it’s warm enough, take your bathers, because Badeschiff (literally: swimming pool boat) allows patrons to take a dip for just €5. With soothing electro-acoustic tunes and freshly mixed drinks, do as the locals do and let the hours just drift slowly by.

Picnic on the grass at Augarten

Wide avenues lined with chestnut, ash and maple trees usher you into Augarten, which has been cunningly designed to lead wanderers to the tranquil manicured flower gardens that make up the heart of this former hunting lodge. Laze on the lush grass with a picnic and a book, using the shadow of the concrete, anti-aircraft flak towers to cool you off in summer. Follow the mellow sound of live music and you’ll find Bunkerei, the perfect re-fuelling station for slow coffees and chilled beers.

Let your hair down at WerkzeugH

WerkzeugH (werkzeugh.at) is a former hardware store turned grungy bar that gives off a relaxed, this-could-be-your-living-room vibe. Popular with students, the pre-loved sofas and outdoor terrace lure in the crowds, while the quirky touches – a terrarium full of cicadas, tents hanging from the roof – have people kicking back for far longer than they initially intend. Cosy into a couch for an easy-going evening where, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch one of their famous ‘free food’ nights where meals are on the house.

Catch a film at the Gartenbaukino

Is there anything more pacifying than settling into a plush wide theatre seat for a good movie? With golden pillars, red leather seats and genuine ‘60s pop tiling, intimate Gartenbaukino is the ideal place to catch up on a classic. Originally built in 1920, and then given a facelift in 1960, seek out its tucked away bar which is all kitschy film posters and cinephile books. Then, when the opening credits roll, you will have reached peak indoor relaxation in Vienna.

A weekend for food lovers in Amsterdam

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The city has worked hard in recent years to shake off its potatoes and pancakes reputation, and to unleash its inner chowhound.

Cue the Michelin-starred Dutch tapas, Bloody Mary brunches and organic microbrews, all served with a dose of Amsterdam ingenuity and conviviality. Loosen the belt for an indulgent 48 hours in the Netherlands’ capital.

Saturday

Breakfast

Brunch is quite the thing ‘to do’, and the trendy neighbourhood of De Pijp is the place to do it. Take your pick: try vivacious Bakers & Roasters for banana nutbread French toast and spicy Bloody Marys; cool, blond-wood Scandinavian Embassy for salmon on Danish rye bread and excellent cold-brewed coffee; or art deco CT Coffee & Coconuts for buckwheat porridge and juices such as the Sweetie (a sweet potato, apple, pear and ginger combo).

Mid-morning

Stroll over to gaze and graze at the Albert Cupymarkt, also in De Pijp. Vendors from Indonesia, Suriname, Morocco and other countries hawk electronics, clothing and spices in the half-mile-long street bazaar, but you’re here for the Dutch snack stalls. First thing to munch: a classic herring sandwich. The standard comes with a fleshy piece of fish on a fluffy white roll, topped with pickles and chopped onions. Several purveyors sell them. Next, follow your nose to the cinnamon-scented stroopwafel maker. Resistance is futile when it comes this traditional treat of two cookie-esque waffles held together by thick caramel syrup.

Lunch

Make the pilgrimage to Ron Gastrobar, a 20-minute walk from the Museum Quarter. Chef Ron Blaauw is a hero to local food lovers and no wonder – the Netherlands native serves Michelin-starred cuisine at modest prices (no dish costs more than €15), and in a comfy space with no minimum order restrictions. It’s a great spot to sample contemporary twists on vintage Dutch recipes, say smoked eel drizzled with sweet wine sauce or potatoes with shrimp and lobster gravy.

Afternoon break

Join the Amsterdammers hobnobbing at De Hallen, where a cinema, bike-recycling store, fashion boutiques and design shops pack a revamped, century-old tram depot. The most popular (and aromatic) facet is the food hall where more than 20 vendors waft fare from oysters to chocolate tarts to gourmet croquettes, along with beer and wine. Stake out a sturdy wooden table and nibble the afternoon away, especially if the weather blusters.

Early evening

Amsterdam is no exception when it comes to the microbrewery trend. Brouwerij Troost and Brouwerij De Prael both brew a wide range of suds to quaff in their hip tasting rooms. But it’s hard to beat Brouwerij ‘t IJ, where fresh beer flows beneath a massive windmill in the Plantage district. Hopheads salivate over the Struis (barley wine) and Columbus (dark ale). They’re both a head-walloping 9% alcohol, so order some cheeses, sausages and other bar snacks to take the edge off.

Dinner

Time to try Indonesian food. The Netherlands’ former colony knows how to spice up a meal. Plunge in with a rijsttafel – or ‘rice table’ – which brings a dozen or so tiny dishes such as braised beef, chicken satay and stewed eggs to the table. It’s served with white rice and meant to be shared. Dèsa, in De Pijp, wins praise, but remember this wherever you go: pedis (pronounced ‘p-dis’) means hot, and Indonesian cooks know how to stoke hellfire intensity.

Sunday

Breakfast

Gartine is a lovely little cafe that hides on a quiet street amid the centre’s hubbub. Simple dishes – yogurt with blueberries and lavender syrup, and pancakes with smoked salmon and crème fraîche – arrive on mismatched china under the antique chandelier. Or head to Letting for a classic breakfast of wentelteefjes (the local version of French toast) and orange juice in the cafe-strewn Western Canals neighbourhood.

Mid-morning

Spend an hour or so browsing Haarlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk, two streets running just west of the central train station that are loaded with gastronome favourites. Walking from the east you’ll encounter Vinnies Deli for superbly inventive sandwiches (and furniture), Petit Gâteau for tempting mini-tarts, and Two for Joy coffee roasters for the city’s best espresso.

Lunch

Bistro Bij Ons not only looks retro, it cooks retro. Settle in at the cosy dark tables and check out the homey knick-knacks before tucking into traditional Dutch stamppot (potatoes mashed with another vegetable and served with smoked sausage and bacon) and pan-fried mussels with curry. If your Dutch grandma were making your lunch, the experience would be much like this.

Afternoon break

Devote the afternoon to the most famous of local foods: cheese. Pop into De Kaaskamer, a Western Canals shop whose name translates to ‘cheese room’, and learn to distinguish your Gouda (rich and creamy) from Edam (slightly drier) by sampling the wares. To really become an expert, sign up nearby for the Reypenaer Cheese Tasting class where you can try six varieties while guides explain the differences in look, smell and taste.

Early evening

You can’t leave town without sipping a jenever (Dutch gin). The city centre holds several age-old tasting houses where the malty elixir arrives in a tulip-shaped shot glass filled to the brim. Tradition dictates that you bend over the bar, with your hands behind your back, and take a deep sip. Try it at Wynand Fockink, which also runs distillery tours, or Proeflokaal de Ooievaar.

Dinner

Still craving Dutch food? Greetje puts a mod, organic spin on conventional fish and meat dishes, and it finishes with awesome desserts (looking at you, apple-topped bread pudding). Intrepid types can seek out Hotel de Goudfazant, a punk, industrial, French-influenced restaurant set in an enormous garage in the hip-happening Noord district.

Europe’s Most-Visited Tourist Attractions

117Woody Allen, like so many Americans, finally succumbed to Europe’s charms, directing tributes to London, Barcelona, Paris, and now, To Rome with Love.

But maybe Allen should have looked elsewhere—Europe’s most-visited attraction won’t be found among those storied cities. It’s in Istanbul, where 15 million people swarm the Grand Bazaar annually.

“The bazaar is an adventure and an experience, not only with the products but with the people—shopkeepers interact with you, and that’s exciting,” says Ceylan Zere, director of Context Travel’s Istanbul office. “It’s a place where you can still see bits and pieces of historic Istanbul.”

More travelers than ever are seeking out Turkey’s East-meets-West history, making it the seventh-ranked country for international arrivals, with 27 million in 2010 and more than 30 million in 2011, according to the World Tourism Organization. (Six of the 10 most-visited countries are European.) It helps that the dollar has strengthened against the Turkish lira—and against the euro—and that an increase in flights to Istanbul has brought down airfares and made it an easy stopover on the way to Africa or Asia.

The most-visited attractions are naturally concentrated in major European hubs, yet a few sights were compelling enough to lure travelers beyond those capital-city limits, notably Cologne Cathedral in Germany and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, tied with 6 million visitors each.

France and Italy claim the largest number of attractions among the top 25, and they reflect the spectrum of travelers’ interests. While Disneyland Park, not far from Paris, certainly wasn’t on a stop on the traditional Grand Tour, 13.6 million annual visitors now make a vacation out of it.

Blockbuster events are also an influence, and London has been working overtime to prepare for a surge in 2012 around the Olympics and Queen’s Jubilee. Tate Modern, already Europe’s most popular modern art museum, is unveiling its first phase of expansion, one of many cool new London attractions altering the skyline.

That’s part of the allure of these much-loved European destinations—that while their essential character may be comfortingly the same, there’s room for change and new discoveries, too. As Zere put it about the Grand Bazaar: “I always give my clients directions, but I also like them to get lost because that’s the fun part of it.”

Consider this list of Europe’s most-visited tourist attractions your starting point, and let the fun begin.

The Methodology: We defined tourist attractions as cultural, historical, and sacred sights, natural landmarks, and officially designated public spaces. We gathered the most recent data supplied by the attractions themselves or from government agencies, industry reports, and reputable media outlets. Venues that don’t sell tickets gave us estimates as best they could, and there was typically no distinction made between domestic and international tourists.

Explore 5 Best Hiking Trails in Europe

116Hiking is not just a grand way to spend time with friends and family or to stay healthy, but it is an amazing way to see those places which aren’t easily reachable any other way. If you were to drive in a car and admire the scenery, your outlook would be different than if you were to walk. Travelling on foot definitely lets you take in those sights and sounds which get missed otherwise.

Thrilling heights, overwhelming scenery, exigent landscapes—the world’s best hiking trails have something for everyone. And there’s no improved collection of trails than those that wend their approach through Europe, tracing practically every type of topography imaginable, from the fjords of Scandinavia to the peaks of the Alps. While many trails on the Continent are praiseworthy, this list contains only the most iconic, impressive, and attractive hikes. None of these routes are essentially easy to undertake, but the challenge is part of the fun.

Hiking is famous all over Europe. For people who love adventure, it may seem that the world is too small for them to surmount. Hiking is one of the most loved activities that a lot of people take pleasure in. Some people trek to lose weight. For others, it is their favourite pastime. For no matter why you engage in hiking, it may be favourable for you to know where to find some of the best hiking places in the world. There are many places that are adventure packed and from these places you would certainly appreciate the natural beauty of the world.

Hiking is not only one of the stress busters; it is also a great way to meet other people as well. The place where you want to hike depends on your budget and preference. If you have enough money to travel to other countries and try some of the great hiking sites then you may choose a place as per your preference.  There are people who do not only focus on the activity while hiking but pay attention to the details around. For them, it is a worthwhile experience that comes after a long journey.

If you are a specialized climber or a fervent hiker, here are ten spots to consider. Some may not be as challenging as others, but all of them give the same breathtaking view.

5 Best Hiking Trails in Europe:

1 | AMALFI COASTAL TRAIL, ITALY

Far above the ground on the ridge-line about the steep cliffs multiple trails run the length of the peninsula. Weaving through the spectacular Dolomites mountain range, Alta Via 1 is like a “greatest hits”. Enjoy the nature tour.

2 | PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK, CROATIA

With 16 lakes in order in a cascading waterfall, it’s no surprise that this park has become world-famous. The colours of the lakes change constantly from vibrant blues to deep green; based on the minerals and organisms in the water. Dozens of trails run all through the park.

3 | CAMINO DE SANTIAGO PILGRIMAGE, SPAIN

Running the length of northern Spain, this trail winds its way through villages and gently sloping Spanish countryside. There are numerous guest houses and roadside wine stands in the route. El Camino del Rey is Spain’s most well-known long-distance hiking trail. There are quite a lot of starting points, but the last point is always Santiago de Compostela. This is a cathedral in northern Spain supposed to hold the remains of St. James. The most picturesque route, dubbed The French Way, begins in France, at the river town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port situated five miles from the Spanish boundary, and crosses through the forceful Pyrenees into the hilly Galician countryside. With sufficient accommodations, villages, and restaurants, hikers don’t need to carry much more than a daypack.

4 | JUNGFRAU, SWITZERLAND

Snowy peaks and bright green paddock, the Bernese Overland is packed with the whole lot from day hikes to multi-week adventures.  The trails pass through the vibrant green foothills of the Swiss Alps, encompassing the desolate granite peaks of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. Look forward to seeing waterfalls, wildflower meadows, and glacier-carved mountains. Hikers base out of one of the region’s relaxing alpine villages, like Mürren and Grindelwald. Enjoy your multi-day expeditions!

5 | PREIKESTOLEN, NORWAY

The immensely admired site is a Scandinavian. The two-hour hike is a puff of air compared to the dizzying 2,000 foot drop from the plateau at the top. It’s not the length of this hike that makes it epic, or even the terrain. It’s the seclusion—and the fact that you’re walking to the northernmost point of mainland Europe. North Cape (Nordkapp) is mistakenly attributed that honor, but there’s a remote, rocky trail to the west that goes 5.6 miles further to Cape Knivskjellodden, the actual northernmost point. Bring camping gear and plan to spend the night at Knivskjellodden to maximize your time at this iconic destination. Then walk back the next morning.

Besides there are Berchtesgaden National Park, Germany, Alsace Wine Route, France and many more. Explore 230 kilometers of hiking trails or ride a mountain bike and enjoy the Berchtesgaden National Park. It doesn’t require any exhausting hiking. The landscape is largely characterized by large areas of rocks and detritus, alpine pastures and wooded areas covered with dwarf pines and alders.

 Keen on exploring the beauty of Europe? Experience the attractiveness of beaches and caves, sunrise and sunsets, hidden coves as well as anomalous shaped cliffs.

How to plan your trekking?

  • Choose your starting point
  • Choose the direction you will trek
  • Keep a book and map to plan each day
  • Inform refuges prior of any dietary preferences
  • Reserve or not to reserve refuges

If you are a practised hiker, then these hiking trails should be on your list. Not only the tallest point on the continent attracts, but there are fairly easy mountains to scale. The excellent news is that on most of the hiking trails, you will not require any special equipment for the hike. You should, however, be careful about the altitude sickness that many people face can and which may even cause death. The most amazing part about a hike is that it takes you to reach the summit and as you walk; you come across the loveliness of different climatic zones such as grasslands, moderate forests and even glacial valleys.

Europe is diverse and rich in history, culture, outdoor activities and dazzling landscapes. Adventure opportunities can be found all through the continent. Today more and more people, particularly in Europe, are adopting hiking and trekking as a chief outdoor event.

The standard route undoubtedly has many variations, decide the one depending on your fitness level and sightseeing interests.

While a lot of sports activities and games need a special kit or training to get started, the hiking is comparatively much simpler and more useful than any other exercise. Anyone can put on a pair of shoes along with few essential gears and start moving into the woods for a little fresh air. This is what is called hiking. The surroundings, user-friendliness and diverse nature of hiking trails make this heart-healthy leisure; attractive for people of all ages, fitness levels and earnings. Furthermore, apart from few points, hiking and trekking don’t require any special proficiency and skills.

Hiking or trekking maintains our body in good working condition as walking is really a good exercise. It enhances physical as well as mental health. The list of benefits from hiking and trekking is endless. Hiking is basically walking that is measured to be one of the ideal forms of exercise for your body. You can get an opening to spend some quality time together with the Mother Nature. It provides a mental health remedy as well.

Maybe you enjoy the excitement of great heights, perhaps it’s the stunning views or even the challenge of an arduous hike; whatever is the cause for your love of walking, Europe offers unbelievable opportunities to enjoy the fresh air and a change of scenery. Mountain lodges help you to prolong your stay.

Wherever you choose to hike, you would definitely make a ton of memories and meet tons of other travellers, hikers, and interesting locals along the routes. Hill-walking is a great way to get out into the “real” sensation of a country during your vacation, rather than sternly sightseeing in cities. Travel to see the world; explore and enjoy. Do it! Enjoy most of it!

9 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Europe

115Europe is one of the most beautiful continents in the world. It is also one of the most interesting and favorite travel destination in the world because of its diversity in culture, nature and picturesque beauty. If you take a look at the interesting facts about Europe, you will note that right from skiing destinations to beaches, you will find just everything in Europe. So, which are the best holiday spots in Europe? Here are 9 amazing places you should visit in Eastern Europe.

Manarola, Italy

Manarola, Italy is one of the famed Cinque Terre towns, filled with an array of vibrant rainbow-colored homes carved right into an impenetrable wall of stone along the Mediterranean coast. This charming fishing town is famous for its fabulous wine, particularly Sciacchetra, and the paintings of Antonio Discovolors, an artist who fell in love with Manarola and devoted much of his later works to the region. There are no cars here, no traffic lights, no screeching of tires, and no blasting horns. You can drive to Manarola, but you’ll have to park just outside the town and then take a shuttle bus or walk in on foot.

Toruń, Poland

Situated in Northern Poland, this is one of the countries’ most charming towns (indeed, there are many of them). If you’re looking to get off the beaten path in Poland and away from popular Warsaw and Krakow, this would be a good place to start.

Dubrovnik in Croatia

This site is also referred by some other fancy terms as the Great Wall of China but in Europe. It is a Must place in Europe to visit and in return gauge the experience yourself.

Seven Rila Lakes, Bulgaria

Ask any Bulgarian, and they’ll tell you the Seven Rila Lakes is not to be missed. These seven glacial pools are rugged and majestic, sitting 8,200-feet above sea level in the country’s remote northwest. A day’s trek around this meandering region, and you’ll understand the meaning of living free.

Colmar, France

Situated in Alsace, Colmar is a unique blend of French and Germany architecture, culture and spirit. It’s as colourful in real life as it looks to be in the photos and is one of France’s true hidden gems.

Hallstatt, Austria

The lakeside town of Hallstatt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has even been dubbed the prettiest lakeside village in the entire world. Whether you visit at summer or winter time, you are sure to fall in love with what will always be one of Europe’s most charming small towns.

Bibury, England

This would indeed have to be the most photographed street in Bibury, England. This small town is filled with old world charm and could very well be the most charming town in England!

Pucisca, Croatia

Croatia has well and truly opened itself up to tourism in recent years so it may not be as much a secret as it once was, however a visit to the Dalmation coast once in your life is an absolute must. It’s little gems like Pucisca that explain why!

Venice

Many people don’t love Venice, but we think it is because they have never stayed there long enough. We would watch cruise lines and bus tours come in for a day and zip right back out before they had a chance to really explore Venice. We spent six days total in Venice and loved getting lost in its back alleys, taking boat trips through the canals and enjoying quiet drinks on a bistro terrace.