Wanderlust for Beautiful Europe

This week’s Wanderlust series celebrates the beauty of the European city. Every city in Europe has its own unique characteristics, rich and beautiful architecture, amazing culture and unparalleled history, particularly the bustling capitals. At House of Coco we believe in regular weekend retreats, to recuperate, de-stress and enrich our lives, so why not treat yourself this spring and jet off to one of these gorgeous European cities. If you think that you deserve a longer break, which you probably do, why not InterRail thorugh these cities and more of Europe’s gems with the help of our InterRail Guide?!

Stockholm

The Scandinavian way of life resonates through the capital of Sweden and most populous city in the Nordic region, in its modern buzz, tranquil waterways and Scandi-chic architecture, making it a perennially popular city. The city is spread across 14 islands on the coast in the southeast of Sweden at the mouth of Lake Mälaren, by the Stockholm archipelago and the Baltic sea. The wind can be biting but it’s worth braving if you want to see the entirety of Stockholm’s collective from duck’s eye view; rent a kayak alone or go as part of a group and experience tourist attractions such as City Hall, but don’t miss more local hangouts, like the newly built beach walk, Hornsbergs strand, on the north-west side of Kungsholmen.

If you’d prefer to see the city by foot, allow yourself to wander through the winding cobbled streets and follow your curiosity down one of the little alleyways branching off from from the Västerlånggatan in Stockholm’s Gamla Stan (Old Town) There you’ll witness café culture like you’d never imagined, and there are rows of independent Swedish retailers where you can stock up on fur, cheese, tea and chocolate. For an alternative Sunday afternoon, visit the Hornstulls street market and browse through vintage clothes, antiques and furniture as well as food and flower stalls, or head to Fotografiska, the centre for contemporary photography in Stockholm, and browse their exquisite exhibitions. We were lucky enough to see a David LaChapelle exhibition on our visit, and swooned over it for an entire afternoon!

Winding streets in Stockholm Gamla Stan

Winding streets in Stockholm Gamla Stan

Florence

     Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. Cradle of the Renaissance era and of tourist masses that gather here to feast on world-class art, Florence is enchanting, seductive and ever busy. Majestic, historic, full of quirky shops and quality crafts, and within arms reach of the vine-covered hills of Chianti, it’s one of Europe’s most sophisticated long weekend destinations. Travel by foot or bike around this handsome city, but try to relax and enjoy your surroundings, don’t rush to satisy your checklist impulse. Sure, Michelangelo’s David,  Galleria dell’Accademia, the outstanding Botticellis, Da Vincis and Caravaggios in the Uffizi, and photogenic panoramic views from Piazzale Michaelangelo are all essential but not within the first 24 hours. Take time out from the tourist attraction race and stroll around the laid-back Oltrarno quarter lined with artisans’ workshops, sip a rich Italian coffee while marvelling at the Basilica of Sante Croce – and be sure to pay regular visits to the the trattorias, gelaterias and wine bars that make life here so dolce; these are essential cultural visits.

Italy

Image courtesy of National Geographic

Before planning your trip you should check out the schedule of Florence’s world-class classical music and opera venue, the Teatro del Maggio Musicale, but if you’re a sucker for chance, wander through Piazza della Signoria at anytime during the day, particularly summer evenings, and you might be lucky enough to stumble upon an alfresco opera, orchestra or acoustic session in the  Loggia dei Lanzi which is effectively an open-air sculpture gallery of antique and Renaissance art including the Medici lions. We stayed at Camping Micahelangelo, on the hillside of Viale Michaelangelo , where you can cosy up in 2 person wooden lodges and appreciate the outstanding view of the city beneath you.

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@Pinterest

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@Pinterest

Dublin

The Irish capital is crowded with traces of a tempestuous past, and yet the city’s inhabitants wear the weight of this history relatively lightly. Come here for Georgian architectural elegance, a thriving pub culture, a wonderful arts, culture and Literature scene, and an attractive seaside location. Dublin is a cosmopolitan hub overflowing with excellent restaurants, world-class theaters, and prestigious universities, yet it has managed to hold on to it’s traditional values in the mouth of its modernistation. This is all too evident in the storied old pubs dotted around the city, where you’ll  meet welcoming, affable locals in their natural habitat who really give Dublin it’s rich, companionable character.

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Image Courtesy of Matt Robinson

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Trinity College Dublin. @NationalGeographic

Dublin’s quaint, Georgian streets are easily accesible by foot, but arm yourself with an umbrella to fight against the Irish weather. Some may call it a cliché, but visiting the Guinness Storehouse is a must!  It’s the smoothest pint of black that you’ll ever taste, and there’s a real sense of community within the black gates. After you’ve loosened up in the factory, stroll down to Temple Bar on the south bank of the Liffy, where the real craic happens. You’ll hear it before you see it, as the little pubs nestled within the entertwined cobbled streets of  Temple Bar have their doors open with the welcoming tune of traditional Irish music dancing onto the streets. Bookworms should research the Literature tour available in this  Unesco City of Literature. There’s also a Literary Pub Crawl for those who need a little tipple to get their creative juices flowing.

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Image courtesy of Guinness Storehouse

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Oscar Wilde Statue, Merrion Square. @CaoilfhionnRose

 

Edinburgh

The setting is wonderfully enchanting: perched on a collection of extinct volcanoes and rocky crags, with the sheltered shoreline of the Firth of Forth to the north, and a castle rising high in centre stage of the city. From the history-soaked medieval tenements, vennels, wynds and dungeons of the Old Town to the overwhelming elegance of the Georgian New Town, Edinburgh deserves its reputation as one of the most beautiful, regal and compelling cities in the world. There are amazing views, hidden courtyards, secret gardens and stunning architectural details to be discovered almost everywhere you look, so it’s best to discover Edinburgh on foot.

 

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@CaoilfhionnRose

Ramsay Gardens, Edinburgh

Ramsay Gardens, Edinburgh

Taking a bus tour from Princes Street around the city is an informative way of finding out about Edinburgh’s rich history and culture. We were very suprised to learn that Sean Connery once posed as a Life Model at the Edinburgh School of Art!  Your bus tour ticket also offers discounts to other city toursit attractions such as Edinburgh Castle and Camera Obscura. Because Due to Edinburgh’s compact structure, it is not just the city centre that is easy to explore. Leith or the ‘villages’ of Stockbridge, Morningside, Duddingston and Cramond, each with its own distinctive personality and attractions, are a stone’s throw away from the city centre. For a relaxed Sunday afternoon, visit and taste all of the delights available at Stockbridge Market. There are surprising country walks in the city too, on Arthur’s Seat, along the Water of Leith or Union Canal, and in the Blackford and Braid Hills. If you fancy chilling in the Spring sun, walk to The Meadows via the gorgeous University of Edinburgh grounds and picnic with the students.

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Canal Boat Café on the Union Canal, Edinburgh. @CaoilfhionnRose

The city has become the destination for many Festival’s, perhaps due to its accessibility, countless venues and welcoming nature. One such Festival reigns over them all, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which takes place in July and August every year. The arts and theatre festival welcomes acts from all over the globe, and thousands of visitors who help to double the city’s population over the Fringe weeks. With a festival in almost every month of the year, it really is always a good time to come to Edinburgh.  

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Image courtesy of EdFringe

 

Prague

Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic,  the fourteenth-largest city in the European Union and it is also the historical capital of Bohemia. This magical city of bridges, church domes, gold-tipped towers and trippy clocks has been reflected in the surface of the swan-filled Vltava River for centuries. The Old Town Square is an exquisite showcase of cathedrals, clock towers and fountains, lined with locals selling traditional Czech food and goods from wooden stalls, and horsedrawn carriages for that extra step back in time. Prague’s maze of cobbled side streets, hillside vineyards and secret courtyards is a wonderland for the aimless vagabond, always beckoning you to explore a little further.

Prague Old Town Square. Image Courtesy of Visit Prague.com

Prague Old Town Square. Image Courtesy of VisitPrague.com

Just a few blocks away from the Old Town Square you can stumble upon ancient chapels, chic cafes and old-fashioned bars and better yet, there’s hardly a tourist in sight. Prague’s art galleries may not have the prestige or allure of the Louvre, but Bohemian art offers much to admire, from the glowing Gothic altarpieces in the Convent of St Agnes, to the magnificent collection of 20th-century surrealists, cubists and constructivists in the Veletržní Palác. Wander away from the centre of town and cross the tourist packed, yet still magnificent, Charles Bridge and make your way towards Prague Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most important cultural institution in the Czech Republic. If you’re lucky enough you might catch the ceremonial Changing of the Guard!

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Image courtesy of Lonely Planet

Prague is ideal for any sort of getaway, whether romantic or a trip with friends, its got something for everyone! It’s renowned for its exquisite ale and a wonderfully relaxed drinking, as well as its clever wit and honest weirdness. What we found most magically absurd was the clocktower in the Old Town Square and the fountain outside the Franz Kafka museum, two bronze sculptures in the form of two men pee into a Czech Republic-shaped enclosure. To describe Prague as ‘quirky’ would be an understatement.

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Image courtesy of Lonely Planet

Wander around the vineyards and castle grounds by day, and return to the Old Town square at dusk where you can enjoy a Kürtőskalács (chimney cake) from one of the food vendors in the square, before attending an orchestra concert in the St. Nicolas Church, or unleash your inner bohemian at Absinthe-Time Bar.

 

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Caoilfhionn Rose

Caoilfhionn is a freelance travel writer who enjoys slow travel and avoiding landmarks in favour of diving into a destination's culture. Instagram: @CaoilfhionnRose

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