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We've taken a look at the European places we know Kiwis love to go - and picked apart their personalities so you know what to expect.
1. London is… colour
Forget the grey skies and industrial brick walls still stained with smog, London is arguably the most colourful city in Europe. From big red buses to lively London characters, hail an infamous black cab and if your mouth’s not ajar by Euston, we guarantee it will by the time Tower Bridge lifts her gang plank.
Firstly, find your way around the city with a rotation on the London Eye, there’s no better way to scope out the sheer enormity of London.
London’s major art galleries and museums all offer free admission. The National Gallery boasts a huge collection of stunners, including work by Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, Michelangelo, and Vincent van Gogh’s esteemed ‘Sunflowers’.
It pays to dart into a dank London pub down an otherwise derelict side-street, for that is where the laughter bellows. To get you started on your British bar odyssey, first try Ladies & Gentlemen, a Kentish Town bar found in a former underground toilet, or Cahoots, which is hidden in an abandoned tube station, sitting inside a restored carriage and metres below Soho. Such fun!
HOT TIP: Dazzled by hydrangeas? The Chelsea Flower Show is world-famous for good reason, it's outstanding. With exceptional designs and impressive horticulture, in 2019, Kate Middleton, AKA the Duchess of Cambridge, is getting out her green fingers and co-designing a garden.
Instant inspiration! Click Here for a guide to London's best FREE museums.
2. Ireland is.... wild
Don’t worry, Ireland is as rugged and as deliciously age-worn as you’d hope. Between the lush green land and an accent that’ll seduce you within seconds, it’s a guaranteed magical time.
Don’t just go for Dublin. This is a country you want to explore. Less than an hour's drive from Dublin city, you can visit Ardgillan Castle and park, with 194 acres of woodland, gardens, wildlife and views of the Mourne Mountains and the Irish Sea. Then make a stop at Voya Seaweed Spa, nestled along the beach in the little seaside town of Strandhill. If you’re in County Sligo, it’s a must-do for any bath junkie. They haul fresh seaweed from the ocean, add essential oils, and fill a private bath; all you have to do is relax.
Ring of Kerry is the more famous drive in Ireland, but Dingle beaches on the Dingle Peninsula are second to none in Ireland. Quiet seaside Dingletown has a number of fantastic little places for lunch, or later, a pint and bit of traditional music.
Of course, with music, comes a traditional Irish jig. The Tig Choili in Galway is well known for having some of the best traditional sessions in County Galway. While you might initially feel like you’ve fallen into a tourist trap, once the locals show up, you’ll know you found a gem. Sessions every night.
Onto Ashford Castle. The former residence of the Guinness family. Yep, when they weren’t crafting vats of the black stuff, they could be found here, relaxing. With both medieval and Victorian heritage, Ashford is now a five-star luxury hotel.
HOT TIP: Don’t tell the Scots but back in the day, Ireland supplied over 90% of the world’s whiskeys. Being distilled three times as opposed to two, means that Irish whiskey has a notably smoother finish over the more famed drops from Scotland.
….That faint thud noise was the sound of a Scotsman keeling over.
3. Switzerland is... surprising
Switzerland's got more charisma (and Christmas pumpernickel) to compete with the best of Europe, and yet it’s still relatively undiscovered. A charming standalone nation of traditional Europe (no thank you EU), it's a mecca of charming townships, modern-thinking cities and countryside.
In Switzerland you can also take the train to the highest station in Europe. Jungfraujoch sits at an altitude of 3454 metres and is better known as the ‘Top of Europe.’ After a staggeringly pretty journey by cogwheel train you will arrive in a fresh air wonderland, with stunning views across The Aletsch glacier: Europe’s largest.
For days when you need a bish, bash and wallop in your life, The Museum Tinguely in Basel documents the life works of Jean Tinguely, one of Switzerland’s most revered artists. During his life, Tinguely specialised in sculptural machines and kinetic art; great honking pieces of moving mechanical sculpture which he put together by any means possible, whether that meant stringing bicycle wheels to musical instruments, or scrap metal to porcelain dolls.
And then there’s Basel itself. Sitting on the Rhine in northwest Switzerland, it boasts one of the most scenic settings in Europe. Move over Geneva, this is one of the best preserved (and arguably the prettiest) nuggets of traditional Europe, with narrow cobblestone streets and crooked townhouses. Best explored by foot, the shopping streets are closed to car traffic, allowing for easy exploration.
4. Germany is… romantic
So much so, they even have their own Romantic Road. The perfect scenic route for a self-drive holiday.
For followers of all things beautiful and Bavarian, and it helps if you’re a beer lover too, Germany’s Romantic Road, albeit well-travelled, is still one of the most rewarding self-drive itineraries in Europe. Stretching from Würzburg to Füssen with 350 kilometres of road in between.
The starting point is Würzburg. With a focal hilltop castle and a storybook town crammed with gingerbread houses, it’s Grimm Brothers meets traditional Bavarian prettiness. Spend a full day and at least one night here before journeying to Neuschwanstein. Nestled in the foothills of the Alps, you may not recognise Neuschwanstein by name but you’ll definitely recognise its castle; famed for inspiring the iconic Disney castle, their silhouettes are almost identical.
Weaving your way through the lush back roads of Tauber Valley, you’ll arrive in Rothenburg, and one of the many walled cities along the Romantic Road. Rothenburg is particularly impressive come nightfall, when the lanes are deserted but remain aglow with dimly lit streetlights.
In Nördlingen, take the 2.7km leisurely stroll along the historic walls. As a town located in the crater of a meteorite impact and with panoramic views from the St George‘s bell tower, it’s full of impressive Kodak moments. From here travel to Munich - spending as much or as little time in the beer-famed city as you like - and finish up in Füssen, where the route (but not the romance) officially ends.
5. Milan is... a masterpiece
Bet you thought it would pretty difficult to view one of the world’s most important art masterpieces? And yet Santa Maria delle grazie; a church and Dominican convent in Milan is home to Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, which sits rather modestly on the wall of the convent’s refectory.
Yes we know. Such an unassuming location for a Da Vinci masterpiece - that masterpiece. The only catch is that you will have to book in advance. Due to temperature regulations, only 25 people are allowed in the refectory at a time but it’s well worth the advance payment.
From Milan, you should explore Lake Maggiore because you’re just 90 minutes from this Italian beauty. An enormous stretch of Sapphire blue, the true showstoppers are the Borromean Islands, which you can discover while staying at either (or both) of the lake’s two main towns, Stresa and Verbania.
6. Athens is... history
It’s Athens. Where do you even start? Of course there are the must-dos: The ancient citadel of Acropolis perched above the city, and the iconic fluted columns of the Parthenon still standing in (almost) all their glory. There’s also the Panathenaic Stadium (or Panathinaiko) which is an ancient arena constructed in 1896 for the first modern Olympics, and built entirely from marble. In terms of archaeological prowess, this is a city that certainly gives Rome a run for its money.
Maybe start with a thimble of the potent potion, ouzo at Ouzeri Lesvos Restaurant (well, when in Rome...'s rival city). Not many people know about this gorgeous Athens hangout, but once found, this little gem delights. Do it like a true Athenian and combine the ouzo with beautiful Greek tapas.
Other lesser-known Athens’ highlights include the tiny neighbourhood of Anafiotika. More Greek island than Greek city, the sleepy narrow streets are flanked by white stone churches and leafy lemon trees. For panoramic vistas of Athens in its entirety, climb Vrahakia and stop at the top of Aeropagus Hill; there’s no better place to soak up sweeping views of Acropolis.
You might want to bring your marmite as breakfast isn’t a big meal for the Greeks. They prefer to down rocket-fuel coffee and snack later on. Unless your accommodation is a resort/western environment then the breakfast might not be quite what you expect - all the better to fill up later in the day with plentiful Greek delicacies - olives, moussaka, feta, fish and of course, more ouzo.
2019 is YOUR year to Europe. Find yourself a Da Vinci masterpiece, or stay in Ireland's Ashford Castle and live like Guinness royalty. We can make it all happen. Simply Click Here for the latest UK and Europe deals.
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