Berlin has long stood out as one of the coolest cities in Europe, with its Instagram-friendly outside spaces, artisan coffee shops and varied food scene making it something of a hipster paradise. But it also offers an impressive element of luxury, with a variety of stylish boutique hotels providing a new way to experience the city. It’s an ideal destination for a long weekend or mini-break, with five London airports – Heathrow, Gatwick, Southend, Luton and Stansted – offering flights to one of Berlin’s two major airports, Tegel and Schönefeld. A quick bus or taxi ride from either takes you into the city, which is a fascinating blend of architecture and culture, shopping and food. If you’re seeking a central and accommodating hotel as your base during the visit, consider Hotel Zoo. Where is it? You’ll find Hotel Zoo on Kurfürstendamm, one of Berlin’s most famous and bustling avenues and a short walk from the … [Read more...] about Hotel Zoo Berlin: A whimsical and luxurious spot in uber-cool Berlin
Coolest cities in europe
Budapest Why go Hungary’s capital sparkles in winter and likes to party, so it’s a great place to see in the new year. There’s festive cheer on tap, with fairylight-strewn streets, chestnut sellers and ice-skating in City Park (the largest rink in Europe), to a backdrop of Vajdahunyad Castle. The Christmas markets on Vorosmarty Square and at the Basilica run until 1 January, with concerts, folk dancing and stalls selling mulled wine or pálinka (fruit brandy) and traditional chimney cake (cinnamon and sugar-coated dough). New Year’s Eve (Szilveszter) is celebrated with fireworks over the Danube, and it’s worth booking one of the many river cruises with dinner and DJs. Fisherman’s Bastion at Buda Castle offers a near-perfect panorama over the city (free and open 24/7, but likely to be crowded). Historic thermal baths offer respite from the winter cold (and help for hangovers). Some, like Széchenyi Baths, host hedonistic spa parties – on … [Read more...] about New Year’s Eve: 10 last-minute city breaks in Europe
Set the moodOften, though not always, covered in Yuletide snow, Krakow’s Christmas market runs from the last week of November until December 26. Set in the heart of the city’s vast historic square, Rynek Glowny, a multitude of wooden stalls sells everything from Christmas decorations, gifts and sweets to hot dishes and mulled wine. Factor in the entertaining children ensembles and carol-singing locals and you can’t go wrong. What to eat Polish cuisine is under-rated. Try kotlet schabowy (breaded pork), pierogi (dumplings) or bigos (a traditional meat stew) at Christmas markets and Krakow’s top restaurants: Pod Nosem (kanonicza22.com), Kogel Mogel (kogel-mogel.pl/en) and Mavericks (mavericksrestaurant.pl). Draught beer “selections” can be dull, so craft beer lovers should get along to the House of Beer (houseofbeerkrakow.com). Where to wander The medieval Wawel Castle comes close, but Krakow doesn’t really have an iconic trophy site. Slowly … [Read more...] about Cool Krakow: Is this Europe’s best Christmas market city?
Five women, dressed in white leotards and tight swim hats, are dancing on stage at the Kongresshalle. Well, perhaps dancing is the wrong verb. Rather, they’re staring emptily into the middle distance, gyrating their legs and arms together in what is probably best described as synchronised pilates moves. An hour later at a fashion show, lithe young Germans prance down a runway, some with their eyes covered with a band of colour – black, white, red – to a utilitarian tune peppered with screams that sounds like it’s stolen from the Bodyguard opening music. One model looks like she’s wearing a mangled shower curtain, another is sporting peacock feathers on her head, and yet another is holding what looks like a huge chocolate digestive biscuit at a 45 degree angle. It’s weird, but that’s the appeal. I’m in Leipzig, eastern Germany, for the Designers’ Open weekend, an annual exhibition that attracts creatives from across … [Read more...] about Why Leipzig is Europe’s coolest city for design
Tables and chairs from cafes and bars that surround the scruffy but buzzing concrete market area, spill onto the pavements. Almost all of them are occupied by tourists, including groups of lairy 'nurses' and 'convicts', who look determined to drink the city dry as they shout their way from one drinking hole to the next. Krakow, the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland, plays host to an astonishing 10 million visitors a year - and most of them head for the city's Main Square or the rejuvenated Jewish quarter, Kazimierz. But these busy old streets were not always a place of such merriment. Krakow's Jewish community thrived here for more than 500 years and, by the beginning of the Second World War, had swelled to some 68,000 people, about a quarter of the city's population. Amid diabolical scenes of brutality and deprivation, that number nose-dived almost immediately after the Nazis swept into town, in September, 1939. Some 52,000 Jews were forcibly deported, suffering … [Read more...] about Krakow: Could this be the coolest city in Europe right now?