Thursday, March 6, 2014

In Europe for the first time, and pressed for time?

London calling

Mention London and images of Big Ben and the royal family come to mind. But get your comfy shoes on during nicer weather for a walk, and you’ll end up with a better idea of what else the city can offer. Must-sees include the Tate Modern, which features cutting-edge, international modern and contemporary art, as well as a good view of London from the restaurant on the sixth floor.  

Don’t miss nearby Borough Market, where you can buy exceptional, international produce and rub shoulders with chefs, restaurant owners and other foodies.

Established in 1890, Gordon’s Wine Bar is said to be the city’s oldest. Head down to the brick-lined cellar to snag a table lit by candlelight. You can even learn a bit of history as you have your wine and cheese – the building was once home to Samuel Pepys and Rudyard Kipling.

For a different night out, head to The Troubadour. A west London institution for original music since 1954, it’s seen acts like a young Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello and many more.

Lose yourself in Montmartre, Paris

Exit the metro at Abbesses station and you’ll find yourself at Montmartre, a former artist’s enclave and one of Paris’ most historic neighbourhoods. Work your way up the maze of steep, cobbled streets towards the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, and take in the breathtaking views of Paris from the highest point in the city.
Head back down to street level to the 200-year-old Élysée Montmartre. A music venue often overlooked in favour of nearby Moulin Rouge, the Élysée is said to be the birthplace of the French can-can dance. These days, its Gustav Eiffel-designed columns reverberate to the sounds of the latest DJs.

Roman contradictions

Enjoy a mix of the old and new in one of Rome’s largest public parks, Villa Borghese. Dating back to the 17th century, the former vineyard is the ideal place to escape the dust and crowds of Rome. In direct contrast to the ancient grounds, the Carlo Bilotti Museum houses an extraordinary collection of contemporary art housed in a restored 16th-century marble palazzo.

Amsterdam by boat

No visit to Amsterdam would be complete without a tour of the canals.

Grachtengordel, the Canal District, was built during the 17th century. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010. The canals are lined with centuries-old gabled houses, built so tall and thin that they need hooks at the top for pulling up furniture and heavy objects that won’t fit the narrow staircases. To get the best view, jump on a boat for a 75-minute canal tour for around €15 (S$26) per person.
The area is not just scenic; it is also the heart of the city, where locals and tourists frequent the shops, galleries and cafés.

Barcelona beach time

Choose Barcelona if you want some cool beach-side action – it was voted top beach city in the world by National Geographic. Try popular Barceloneta Beach for some sunbathing and people-watching, then stop off at chic, minimalist restaurant Bestial near the Olympic port. Part of the trendy Tragaluz group, Bestial combines delicious Italian-Catalan dishes with a stunning venue that’s perfect for a sunset dinner. If pool-side drinks are more your thing, try Grand Hotel Central’s rooftop bar for great cocktails and soaring views of Barcelona.

Berlin nightlife

From underground techno venues to sleek and stylish lounge bars, Berlin’s bar and club scene has something for everyone, and has long been the preference of party people in the know. Berliners keep late hours and parties last all night, so you’ll need to pace yourself. Get ahead of the cool crowd and befriend locals to find out where they’re going. If you need a starting point, go for the Berghain/Panorama Bar, Berlin's iconic club-within-a-club set in a converted power station. Berghain lives up to its worldwide reputation with all-night sessions of hard techno mixed by house DJs and international guests.