Category Archives: City Break

48 Hours in Nantes

French city breaks don’t just mean Paris, you know. For your next European getaway, think France, or more importantly, think Nantes. A laidback mix of old and new, the modern and the majestic, this all-too-often overlooked French city has finally found its pulse in recent years and a weekend in Nantes is all you need to uncover its charms.

Like all your favourite European cities, Nantes has historic tourist attractions to satisfy the hungry sightseer, as well as modern attractions to woo the most cynical tourist. Here are my tips for what to see and do in 48 hours in Nantes:

Continue reading 48 Hours in Nantes

Advertisements

Ramping up the romance factor in fair Verona

Few cities have romantic legend in the bag as much as Verona. Sure, Paris is still the capital of Lurve with a capital L and New York is the home of cinematic lovefests from An Affair to Remember to Sleepless in Seattle, but Verona has Romeo & Juliet and no rom-com can trump that.

As well as being the stomping ground for Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, Verona is actually a beautiful, lesser-spotted Italian city that’s well worth a visit, whether you snoozed through Romeo & Juliet at school or not.

Here’s my tips for what to see and do in Verona, with a little sprinkle of romance along the way:

Continue reading Ramping up the romance factor in fair Verona

Carnaby calling: Where music meets fashion

Few places are as synonymous with Swinging Sixties London as Carnaby Street. Hear Carnaby and you’ll likely get a vision of Mods, mini-skirts and a golden era of British music, carefully entwined with era-defining fashion.

Flash forward to the Carnaby Street of 2014 and it’s as buzzing as ever. Even though the streets aren’t thronged with rival Mod vs Rocker gangs, music and fashion still infuse this corner of London with an irresistible rock ‘n roll spirit. Despite being a street away from Regent Street and a stroll from the bustle of Oxford Street, these days Carnaby feels like a hidden gem tucked away in London’s side streets. Of course, this sounds ridiculous because London is so well-trodden but when you walk around Carnaby, the streets, shops, boutiques and eateries have a quirky stamp of individuality (without being horribly hipster-ish).

Continue reading Carnaby calling: Where music meets fashion

A cheapskate’s guide to Geneva

Geneva’s got quite the reputation. Not for its scenic beauty, views of Mont Blanc or its chocolate and watch-making finesse but as the kind of destination where you need to rob a bank to holiday there. We’ve all heard horror stories painting Switzerland as a rip-off destination. When I told a work mate I was off to Geneva she warned me “it’s €12 for a coffee there”. (Slight exaggeration – it’s 4.50 Swiss Francs for a small one at the airport) Yes, Geneva is expensive but I’m here to tell you there are ways to visit on a city break without selling an organ on Ebay. Don’t believe me? Read on.

Continue reading A cheapskate’s guide to Geneva

Chicago Checklist: 5 Windy City must-dos

After a whirlwind trip to New York, I boarded an American Airlines flight to Chicago and, I’m not gonna lie, I almost cried and threw a strop. I wasn’t lifted up by the AA crew and physically buckled into my seat but…pretty close. I’m ashamed to admit this but after the bright lights of New York, I was ready for Chicago to be a thundering anti-climax. I knew I’d like it but I moronically didn’t expect to love it.

This feeling started to change when we started our descent across Lake Michigan (which looks more like an ocean expanse than a lake), met our driver called Paddy Murphy (“I’m Irish too!”) and, as the city started to unfold through the car windows, Chicago slowly but surely won me over. Walking the streets on our first night in the city, we passed stylish sets of friends drinking and dining outside under glittering skyscrapers with the slow lilt of music in the background. Chicago dances to its own beat and let me tell you, it’s infectious.

Without mentioning the cheaper-than-NYC shopping or the drool-worthy food, here’s my 5 things to do in Chicago that’ll guarantee this city gets right under your skin and becomes your go-to US destination:

Continue reading Chicago Checklist: 5 Windy City must-dos

And the award for coolest city goes to….Copenhagen

If I was a city, I’d want to be Copenhagen. If only I was cool enough. Ok so anyone who’s ever been to IKEA, played with LEGO or donned gear from COS knows that Scandinavians have effortless cool nailed. But what surprised me the most about Copenhagen was how unpretentious it all was. Achingly stylish but not a pose-off in sight. In terms of touristy things to do, Copenhagen ticks all the usual city break boxes (attractions, historic sites, a buzzing food scene and fun ways to sightsee) but most of all, it’s got bags of charm.

Let’s start with the locals…If one thing sold Copenhagen to me, it’s the locals. Copenhagen natives have been repeatedly voted among the happiest on earth and as a result the city exudes a laidback and open-minded vibe that’s infectious from the moment you arrive. The locals are friendly, painfully stylish and – yeah, I know I sound like a 14 year old Bieber fan here – easy on the eye. So easy on the eye you’ll have low self-esteem leaving.

Sightseeing fixes…The good news for lazy bones like me is that Copenhagen is a lot smaller than you would expect and a few strolls around Stroget, the main shopping area and the world’s longest pedestrian street, is enough for you to find your bearings. If you don’t fancy hot footing it around the city’s streets, there are three fun ways to sightsee in Copenhagen; a canal tour, kayaking through the city’s canals and hopping on a bike.

Let’s start with the easiest. The canal tour is a chilled out way to see the city from the comfort of your boat (unless it’s raining). Pass the Queen’s palace, Amalienborg Palace, with its spectacular globe and fountains, and get a view of the famous Little Mermaid from the water. We also glided by the stunning royal yacht. Fancy.

Kayaking…I won’t lie – I was dreading kayaking but – shock horror! – it turned out to be my favourite thing from the trip. Kayaking costs around €40 for an hour and a half and don’t worry, you don’t need to be a watersports pro to hit Copenhagen’s canals. You can pick a double or single kayak (depending on how badly you need moral support) and then it’s all about splashing your way into the open waters and canals of Copenhagen, dodging cruisers full of tourists (who are probably cursing at you in a foreign language) and following your kayak instructor who makes it look (wait, it’s that word again) COOL. My advice? Just keep your eye on the prize – the Carlsberg at the end (yes, a pint really is included in the experience). Surprisingly good fun.

Christiania calling….Around 50% of the city’s natives commute by bike and cycling is the easiest way to cross town to visit the third most popular tourist attraction in Copenhagen, Christiania. Set up in the Seventies by squatting hippies, Christiania is a modern version of hippie life. 900 people live in this self-governed, self-sufficient area and, although it’s not exactly Woodstock, it’s worth seeing in the flesh. From here, cycle to the grand Christiansborg Palace, the first palace in the city, and check out the original ruins downstairs. Take a short spin over to the old city centre to grab a coffee and see an original 1880s telephone booth, gilded with black and gold and in top nick, among the classic Scandinavian architecture.

The tourist checklist….In the city, there are some tourist attractions you can’t fly home without visiting. The Round Tower peers over Copenhagen’s bustling streets and the story behind it is a bit Grimm Brothers. Apparently the tower was built for Christian IV, a king who legend has it was so fat he built the Tower with no steps up to its peak, only a flat path so his horses could carry him up. It also houses Europe’s oldest functioning observatory and is worth a visit for the panoramic views over the city’s rooftops alone.

Another must-visit attraction is just a short stroll from the Round Tower. In Kongens, the king’s gardens, you’ll find the Rosenborg Castle which houses artefacts from 400 years of Danish royal history. If you’re into royalty, riches and history, this is the real deal. This castle houses a large collection of royal belongings such as rich tapestries, oil portraits and jewellery but the real gem is the long hall on the top floor which has spectacularly gilded thrones on display in a superbly decorated room fit only for a king.

Finally, the Nyhavn harbour is a postcard-perfect stretch of canal with all types of boats docked there. The walkway is lined with bars and restaurants and the multi-coloured Danish buildings make it one of the prettiest places to grab a beer and people watch.

Disneyland for grown-ups…If you need more persuading, an evening at Copenhagen’s most magical place is guaranteed to make you fall in love with the Danish capital. Dating back to 1843, Tivoli is the second oldest amusement park in the world and is said to have inspired Walt Disney to create Disneyland. Tivoli welcomes approx. 4 million visitors a year and Christmas markets and live music events set up camp here throughout the year. Tivoli has bars, restaurants, old style sweet shops, souvenir shops and thrilling rollercoasters so it’s a perfect night time escape for all ages. Grab dinner at Madklubben restaurant, where three course dinners cost just 200KR and there’s a whole host of local beers to sample. With its old world charm and perpetual festive spirit, Tivoli is Disneyland with soul. MAGICAL.

Eat…As the city which brought us Noma, one of the world’s most famous food experiences, it’s no surprise that Copenhagen is a foodie’s delight. To get your finger on the pulse of Copenhagen’s cuisine, a visit to the Meatpacking district is in order. Unlike in NYC where this district is a meatpacking area in name only, here it is still a food packing zone but the resourceful Danes have revamped this area into a vibrant district with hipsterish bars and top-notch restaurants. Head for Fiskebaren restaurant which is not only a fun nightspot but it serves delish dishes made up of local produce.  You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to see why it has been awarded Bib Gourmand status from Michelin. Plus the dessert is so good it’ll make you weep. Across the road, the quirky Nose 2 Tail restaurant is an ode to new Nordic cuisine and eco-friendly culinary delights.

Cocktails… Award-winner Ruby has the best cocktails in town. Fact. With its old speakeasy feel and cosy house party vibe, Ruby is not only the perfect place to end a night, it’s a bar I want to live in. If there’s a Danish Don Draper, this is where you’ll find him.

Pics, pics, pics…click to see more from my trip:

Now for the important stuff…

Getting there: Scandinavian Airlines fly direct from Dublin to Copenhagen, twice daily, from as little as €85 one way, including free 23kg baggage, free online check-in and a 25% child discount. Visit www.flysas.ie to book.

Money saver: get a Copenhagen card for free admission to 60 attractions and free public transport. www.copenhagencard.com

For more information, go to www.visitcopenhagen.com or www.visitdenmark.com or download the mobile App “VisitCopenhagen” from Appstore or Android market for free.

10 things to do in Bath

“Everyone should visit Bath at least once” says our tour guide. This is my second time here and already I’m thinking ‘I want to come back’. Whether you’re a Jane Austen buff, a fan of masonic architecture, a foodie who’s heard about the Great Bath Feast or someone who’s in love with the charms of southwest England,  or none of the above, Bath is one place I can’t imagine everyone falling a bit in love with. Put simply, this is the kind of place I want to live in, when I’m settling down with Johnny Depp, of course.

You can check out my gallery of Bath snaps at the bottom or if you’re heading to Bath (and you really, really should), here are ten things you can’t leave without seeing/doing:

Continue reading 10 things to do in Bath