Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Travel under the sea with Eurostar. Bucket List

If you’re coming to Europe for the first time, there are some unmissable experiences you can’t do anywhere else, that really should be on your European bucket list.

The ‘travel’ part of going away always seems like wasted time before you can actually start your vacation, so why not make ‘getting there’ part of the experience? Take a train through the channel tunnel, travelling in style on the Eurostar. You’ll be taking the ‘chunnel’ that runs under the sea between the London and Europe, travelling for 23 miles directly under the sea and, at its deepest point, 246 ft below sea level.

If you’re travelling between London and Paris, Brussels or Amsterdam, you can hop on the Eurostar from the city center and arrive in the center of your destination city, in less time than it would take you to fly.

Paris Top 5 bucket list

The Eiffel Tower from the Champ de Mars at sunset

1) See the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower

No Parisian bucket list worth its salt would miss out a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The iconic structure offers stunning views across the Paris skyline and, if you time your visit with sunset, it's possibly one of the most romantic spots in the City of Love.

2) Take a tour of the Paris Catacombs

This dark and atmospheric tour takes you into The Catacombs, that spread over 200 miles under the streets of Paris. This network of tunnels,  lined with the bones and skulls of long dead Parisians, lead to secret rooms, hidden sculptures and crypts. Take a guided tour to find out more about the eerie history of this unique and strangely beautiful place.
The Denon Wing

3) Explore the Louvre

There is so much glorious art in the Louvre it would take you months to see it all. From the modern angles of the Pyramid, to the classical architecture of the Sully Wing, every room is overflowing with history, art and culture. The Mona Lisa is on everyone's list but there's plenty more to see, so give yourself lots of time.
Rear view of Notre Dame cathedral

4) Visit Notre Dame cathedral

There can't be many cathedrals in the world so famous they have a novel, a film, a Disney animation and a musical named after them! The awe-inspiring Gothic interiors, soaring arches and jewel-coloured stained glass windows guarantee Notre Dame a place on any bucket list.
The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles

5) Discover the excesses of the Palace of Versailles

The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles gives new meaning to the expression 'over the top'. There's so much gleaming gilt and ornate furniture throughout the Palace, you may need to wear your sunglasses! The gardens and water features are sublime and it's only 45 mins from the center of Paris by train.


Where to stay

London Top 5 bucket list


1) Watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

For royal pomp and pageantry take a trip to Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the Queen, to watch the Changing of the Guard. Come rain, shine or heatwave, the Queen's Guard turn out to parade up and down in front of the Palace in their iconic bearskin hats. Definitely one for the bucket list as you won't see anything like it elsewhere.
The Ritz afternoon tea table

2) Have afternoon tea at the Ritz

Don't worry if the Ritz is out of your price range, there are plenty of other places in London where you can have a delicious, traditional British afternoon tea. Try scones with jam and clotted cream (the jam should go on first - that's how the Queen does it), delicate sandwiches with the crusts cut off and fancy iced cakes. You'll have a choice of teas, but Earl Grey or Assam are apparently favourites with HRH. 
People on the Abbey Road crossing

3) Take a trip to Abbey Road

Music lovers will know the iconic Abbey Road crossing from the Beetles album cover. take a trip to this North London street and see it for yourself. While you're there, head to the Abbey Road Recording Studios and sign the graffiti wall - you'll be in good company. Watch yourself crossing the road in the Beetles footsteps on the webcam later.
The Tower of London and the City from across the river

4) Visit the Tower of London

There is something for everyone at this medieval building. History buffs will love the prison tower and the gory stories of its previous occupants. Bling lovers can gawp in awe at the Crown Jewels and children can have fun while they learn about history through interactive exhibits, games and quizzes. You can even get your photo taken with a Beefeater and the Ravenmaster.
London eye

5) See the view from the top of the London Eye

There are plenty of high buildings in London where you can get great views of the city, but few are as good as the London Eye. Set on the South Bank of the river, the Ferris Wheel is perfectly positioned for views along the river, the main landmarks on the river, as well as the London skyline. It can be very busy so you may want to avoid the lines with a skip-the-line ticket.


Where to stay

Amsterdam Top 5 bucket list

Couple walking towards the Van Gogh Museum

1) Visit the Van Gogh Museum

Fans of art will not want to miss this museum which houses the largest collection of works by Van Gogh in the world. You can see The Sunflowers, one of his most famous paintings, up close along with hundreds of other works by the artist and his contemporaries. The building itself is pretty impressive, designed by Gerrit Rietveld in the 1960s, and completely renovated 2013.
View along a canal from a bridge

2) Take an Amsterdam Canal Tour

If Amsterdam is famous for one thing, it would have to be its canals. There are 62 miles of waterways covering over a quarter of the surface area of the city so, if you want to see Amsterdam, a boat trip around the canals is the best way to do it. There are plenty of options from cheese tasting cruises to hop on hop off trips allowing you to stop and explore along the way.
Tulips in Keukenhof Gardens

3) See the Tulip Festival

For the whole month of April Tulips take over the streets of Amsterdam in a riot of colour.The Keukenhof Gardens are a great place to go see the flowers as every year they plant over 7 million bulbs, in preparation for the festival. You can also take a trip out to the flower fields, just 30 minutes from the city to see the spectacular sight of the flowers planted in lines in the fields, like massive rainbows.

4) Go to the Bloemenmarkt

The Bloemenmarkt is the world's only floating flower market and, whether you're a horticulture fan or not, is worth a visit for the explosion of colours and scents. Pick up some packets of seeds to bring home and give as gifts. Plant them in your garden or in window boxes so when they're in bloom you'll remember your trip to Amsterdam and be transported back to the banks of the canal.
Massive copper beer vats in the Heineken brewery

5) Do the Heineken Experience

Beer lovers can learn the 'right' way to drink beer, while culture vultures can find out about the brewing process throughout history in the original Heineken brewery building. There are lots of different interactive experiences along with games and sports related activities to enjoy. Serious beer connoisseurs may want to do the VIP tour with a private tasting in the rooftop bar.


Where to stay

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top places to visit in Belgium

There are so many more great things to do in Belgium than just devouring its chocolate, beer and mussels – as you’ll discover below.
When looking for the top places to visit in Belgium, you actually have the options of the top part, which is Dutch-speaking Flanders (Flemish), and the bottom part, which is French-speaking Wallonia. The official bilingual capital of Brussels sits across the two regions. There are also a few German-speaking regions in the east. While this may seem complicated linguistically, the cultural mix has created many tasty top Belgian foods and, best of all, the best Belgian desserts.

There are many top places to visit in Belgium. Being a small country with excellent transport links, the best of Belgium’s tourist attractions are never too far away from Brussels. However, take care to ensure you avoid the top scams in Belgium and make a note of Belgium’s emergency numbers and public holidays whilst travelling. The close proximity of all the top Belgian cities makes Belgium perfect for weekend getaways and short-trips.

Belgium is diverse, historical and cosmopolitan, with a quirky underside that you can see in the top Belgian festivals, especially at carnival in Belgium, and surrounding the many myths of Manneken Pis, a small peeing statue that is a top Belgian attraction.

There is also some spectacular scenery for exploring in Belgium nestled between its rustic small towns. Why not visit the forested region of The Ardennes for outdoor activities, or any of the coastal towns on the world’s longest tram line Kusstram? When your muscles get tired you can head to the hot springs in Spa, the town from where we get today’s modern word. There are too many top places in Belgium to list them all, but below is a selection of the best places to visit and things to see.

Top things to do in Brussels

Top 10 places to visit in Belgium: Brussels
Belgium’s capital Brussels is filled with wonderful architecture, top museums, shops and restaurants – more than a dozen Michelin starred within five miles of the city centre. Brussels is a city where you can savour a coffee in one of the many terrace cafés in the main square, La Grand Place, surrounded by ornate 17th-century baroque townhouses, guild houses and a gothic town hall dating back to the 13th century. You can stroll around the luxury shops in the glass-roofed arcade Galeries St Hubert, wander the Royal Palace or visit the futuristic Atomium, built in 1958 to represent a molecule’s nine atoms, with exhibitions and panoramic views from the top. Brussels was also the centre of the 19th-century art movement Art Nouveau; and you can see houses – indeed, whole neighbourhoods – designed by Victor Horta and Paul Hankar. Tintin fans won’t want to miss the new Hergé Museum just outside Brussels in Louvaine-la-Neuve or Brussels’ comic book mural tour.
Top 10 places to visit in Belgium: Bruges
Bruges (Brugge in Dutch) is only about an hour from Brussels but takes visitors back to medieval times. Surrounded by an extensive network of canals, it’s been dubbed the ‘Venice of the North’. Its historic centre is the best-preserved example of medieval Flanders and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Chocolate lovers will enjoy exploring more than 50 chocolate shops in Bruges and a chocolate museum, while beer lovers have the De Halve Maan brewery. Cultural fans can find the Flemish masters (including Brueghel) in the Groeninge Museum, as well as the Belfry and the Béguinages. Foodies might enjoy the bistro De Refter, from three-star Michelin chef Geert Van Hecke. You will also find lots of shops selling souvenirs of handmade lace – Bruges is famous for it.

Religious beauty in Tournai

Top 10 places to visit in Belgium: Tournai
One of the main reasons to visit the Walloon city of Tournai is the Notre-Dame Cathedral, considered to be one of the most beautiful religious buildings in the world and designated as an UNESCO World Heritage site. The five-towered Romanesque and early Gothic masterpiece was built during the 12th and 13th centuries and today houses the Shrine of Our Lady and work by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens. If you have the energy to climb the 257 steps to the top of the Belfry, a free-standing bell tower, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views all around. Check out the Museum of Fine Art or enjoy a drink in one of the relaxed cafés in the Grand Place.

A theatre of tragedy and wars
Top 10 places to visit in Belgium: Waterloo
Belgium has been a location for both the European and world wars. Visit Waterloo where, on 18 June 1815, Wellington defeated Napoleon. Today, you’ll find battlefield tours, Napoleon’s headquarters, the Wellington museum and a re-enactment every June. Flanders Fields was the setting for World War I, and there are many monuments, sites and cemeteries in the area centred around Ypres (Leper), where the Last Post continues to be played every day. One of the most famous battles of World War II, the ‘Battle of the Bulge’, took place in the forested Ardennes region over the winter of 1944/5, near Bastogne. There are museums devoted to the Allied forces, a memorial to US soldiers who fell in battle and vast American military cemeteries.

forget to sample the city’s famous jenever (gin) or even buy a diamond: more than 85% of the world’s rough, and 50% of cut diamonds are traded here.

Chateaux and castles of Namur

Top 10 places to visit in Belgium: Namur
Namur, in the French Wallonia part of Belgium, has an abundence of castles. The Castle of Veves is a fairy-tale, turreted edifice dating back to 1410, which overlooks the village of Celles and is still inhabited by the original family. The Castle of Annevoie is an elegant chateau designed in the late half of the 18th century, with formal gardens filled with beautiful fountains and waterfalls. The Castle of Lavaux-Ste-Anne is an eccentric, moat-encircled series of domes containing three separate museums and a collection of stuffed animals. The Castle and Gardens of Freÿr, near Dinant, is aptly named after the Scandinavian goddess of beauty, and the house, its gardens, the 300-year-old orange trees and maze are simply just that.

The cultural capital of Liège

Top 10 places to visit in Belgium: Liège
Liège is the cultural capital of Wallonia and situated on the Meuse River not far from Maastricht in the Netherlands. Emperor Charlemagne was born here and so was writer Georges Simenon, creator of the fictional detective Jules Maigret. Must-see sights include the Palace of the Prince-Bishops, the medieval collegiate churches, La Batte Sunday market (the biggest and oldest in Belgium) and the courtyards, stairways and orchards of the Coteaux de la Citadelle. Close by is the Spa-Francorchamps Formula 1 racetrack.


Top 10 places to visit in Belgium: Charleroi
Interested in photography? Then come to Charleroi. The biggest city in Wallonia is where you’ll find the largest Museum of Photography in Europe, situated in an old Carmelite monastery. It covers the history of photography from its inception up until today. Besides photography, there are many other must-see attractions in Charleroi, including the Glass Museum, the 17th-century Cartier Chateau and its estate, the Saint-Vierge-Marie Church, the Town Hall and its 300-year-old Sunday market.

Beer tourism in Belgium

You’ll find hearty and delicious beers all over Belgium. There are more than 650 varieties, many brewed by Trappist monks. Kick off your beer tour in Brussels with a glass of non-malted wheat Lambic beer or Gueuze-Lambic (a blend of two or more Lambic beers with a champagne-like fizz). Then head south to Chimay and the Notre-Dame de Scourmont Abbey, where monks have been producing famous beer (and cheese) since 1862. You can walk off the beer in the nearby Hautes Fagnes (High Fens nature reserve). To the northwest is Dinant, on the banks of the river Meuse and the birthplace of the saxaphone, and the Maredsous Abbey, which produces blonde, brown and triple beers. Go southeast to Rochefort in the Val de Lesse, an area of forests, castles and caves and the Notre-Dame de Saint-Remy Abbey, where monks of the strict Cistercian order still brew their 6, 8 and 10% high-fermentation beers.
Top 10 places to visit in Belgium: Beer tourism
There are many more top Belgian towns to discover:

Travel abroad to more top European destinations: