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Visiting Europe - Local knowledge for global travellers.

Visiting UK

Easter in London

Golders Hill park in LondonSpring Flowers in London

Easter 2014 is on Sunday, 20 April 2014

The UK has two bank holidays around Easter weekend, so there are four days of Easter festivities running from Friday, 18 April to Sunday, 20 April.

For those looking for something special to do for Easter in London, here are a few Easter-related events going on around the city:

Easter Egg Hunts in London

Cutty Sark egg hunt
Kew Gardens egg hunt
Kensington Palace egg hunt
V&A Museum of Childhood egg hunt
Ham House egg hunt
Sutton House egg hunt
Battersea Park Zoo egg hunt
Osterley Park and House egg hunt
Fenton House egg hunt
Morden Hall Park egg hunt

Family Events for Easter in London

- Real eggs and fluffy ducklings at WWT London Wetland Centre

- Handel's Messiah performed by The Royal Choral Society on Good Friday at Royal Albert Hall

- Kew Gardens puts on a show for Easter, with an egg hunt, face painting, and chocolate-themed workshops. This year Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will be brought to life at Kew Gardens for Easter 2014 (5 to 21 April 2014).

- The Horniman Easter Fair takes place on the Saturday of Easter weekend (19 April 2014) at the Horniman Museum. In addition to an Easter egg hunt, it features arts and crafts and other fun family events.

- The Clapham Common Easter Fun Fair is a great family event every year. Children can experience the waltzer, a carousel, and other adventure rides.

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Visiting France

Afternoon Tea in Paris

Afternoon Tea CakesAfternoon Tea

When it comes to afternoon tea, London may be the most famous place to indulge, but the trend has caught on in Paris and the French capital is starting to rival its British counterpart. After all, there's no place like France for patisserie, and the cakes and pastries in Paris show it. If you want to sample the goods yourself, here are a few of the best places for afternoon tea in Paris.

Mariages Freres
Address: 30 rue du Bourg-Tibourg, Paris 75004

Tea and Mariage Freres are synonymous in Paris, what with the famous French tea house being established way back in 1854. There's no better tea to be found in Paris, and the tearoom in the Marais is the perfect place to indulge. I love the colonial ambiance and signature teapots (for sale in the shop if you want to take one home afterwards), and the tea menu is as extensive as you'll find anywhere. Their afternoon tea selection consists of sandwiches filled with duck foie gras and Empereur Chen Nung flavored smoked chicken, as well as sweets like millefeuilles, creme cakes, crumbles, fresh fruit tarts, and macarons.

Four Seasons George V
Address: 31 avenue George V, Paris 75008

If you're looking for the most luxurious afternoon tea in Paris, the Four Seasons George V is the place to go. The hotel offers several different options to choose from, all of which include fine teas, an assortment of savories like foie gras and smoked salmon, homemade scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, and pastries like canneles from Bordeaux, Madeleines, and Financiers. All of it can be enjoyed with a glass of champagne in the beautiful setting of La Galerie, which has stunning Flemish tapestries and 19th century paintings and furniture. As an added bonus, a pianist plays every day from 3:00pm.

Hotel Daniel
Address: 226 Rue de Rivoli, Paris 75001

Hotel Daniel is one of the most popular places for traditional afternoon tea in Paris. A Relais & Chateaux property, the hotel exudes elegance and and offers a luxurious place to indulge in tea and pastries. The menu features exotic teas from all over the world served with an assortment of finger sandwiches, traditional scones, and a selection of pastries. Champagne is optional, but encouraged. This is Paris, after all.

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Visiting Czech Republic

Easter in Prague 2014

Prague Easter MarketEaster Market in Prague

The Prague Easter markets run from April 5th to 27th, 2014.

If you are visiting Prague at Easter, don't miss the famous Czech Easter markets. The markets in Prague are located in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.

Each Easter market has over a hundred stalls and sells everything from decorated cookies to great Czech food, wooden toys, traditional Czech Easter pomlazkas (whips) and rehtackas (rattles), and Czech crystal.

Travelers with children can visit the markets' petting zoos, where there are lambs, ducks, rabbits, and other baby animals.

However, the Prague Easter markets are most famous for their hand-painted Czech Easter eggs, which come in a variety of colors and patterns. They are hard to resist, so make sure to leave room for some in your suitcase.

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Visiting Netherlands

Keukenhof Gardens 2014

Keukenhof GardensKeukenhof Gardens

Keukenhof Gardens 2014 Dates: March 20, 2014 to May 18, 2014

Keukenhof Gardens Opening Hours 2014: 8:00 to 19:30 daily (ticket office closes at 18:00)

Keukenhof Gardens are the famous tulip fields near Amsterdam in The Netherlands.

Every year from mid-March to mid-May, Keukenhof opens its doors to the public. People visiting Amsterdam and Holland can visit the gardens to view the many different kinds of tulips and other flowers that Keukenhof is so famous for.

A visit to Keukenhof Gardens is a great experience. You can walk through the beautiful grounds to see the different kinds of tulips, as well as the ponds and the greenhouses. There is also all kinds of food on offer, as well as daily entertainment.

Visiting Keukenhof Gardens is a great day trip from Amsterdam, as the gardens are easily accessible by public transportation.

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Visiting Portugal

Wine Tasting in the Douro Valley

Wine grapes in the Douro ValleyDouro Valley Grapes

Wine tasting in the Douro Valley is one of the most popular activities in the region. The most famous wines and Ports in Portugal are produced in the area, and many of the quintas, or wineries, are open to visitors for tastings.

Big names like Sandeman and Fonseca offer daily tastings and wine tours at their wineries in the Douro Valley. The quintas are open to all visitors, from independent travellers to tour groups, and reservations are not necessary.

Smaller wineries in the region may not have daily tours and tastings, so it is a good idea to call ahead or make an appointment if you want to go wine tasting at these quintas.

Getting around from winery to winery is best done by car, as there is no other easy way to travel between estates. You can rent a car in Porto or hire a car at Porto airport, or you can go by train to the Douro Valley and take a taxi or hire a car in Regua.

Whatever you choose, the opportunities for wine tasting in the Douro Valley are such that it is worth spending several days in the region while you are visiting Portugal. There are so many wineries to visit and so many great hotels and restaurants in the area that it is advisable to stay a night or two to fully experience what the valley has to offer.

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Visiting Belgium

Top 5 Chocolate Shops in Brussels

Neuhaus Chocolate Shop in BrusselsNeuhaus Chocolate Shop

Belgium is known for its food. From French fries and waffles to mussels and beer, the country is home to some great culinary treasures. And let's not forget chocolate.

Some of the best chocolate in the world is made in Belgium, and the famous chocolate shops in Brussels sell the country's top confections to locals and visitors alike.

To help you figure out where to shop for chocolate when you are visiting Belgium, below is my list of the top 5 chocolate shops in Brussels. For a more hands-on experience, try attending some of their chocolate making classes.

Pierre Marcolini
Web: www.marcolini.be
With several locations in Brussels, including the chi chi Grand Sablon, Pierre Marcolini is renowned for its artistic take on making chocolate. If you go, beware that some of the confections might be too pretty to eat!

Laurent Gerbaud
Web: www.chocolatsgerbaud.be
With a shop right in the heart of Brussels, Laurent Gerbaud offers unique chocolates that don't use any sugar beyond the natural sugars in the ingredients. The chocolates themselves offer a variety of flavors, many of them with different kinds of nuts and dried fruits. Workshops are available for those that want a hands-on experience.

Zaabar
Web: www.zaabar.com
Another of the top chocolate shops in Brussels, Zaabar offers some of the most inventive offerings. They also host regular events and workshops that are great ways to learn more about the chocolate-making process.

Mary
Web: www.mary.be
Beloved Belgian chocolatier Mary is an artisan chocolate shop that was founded in 1919. Known for its elegance and feminine style, the shop offers all kinds of chocolates wrapped in beautiful vintage-style boxes. Workshops are also available.

Neuhaus
Web: www.neuhauschocolates.com
One of the larger chains in Belgium, Neuhaus is nonetheless one of the top chocolate shops in Brussels. Their stores can be found all throughout the city selling classic confections and great seasonal gifts.

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Visiting Germany

Dresden Sightseeing Map

Below is a Dresden sightseeing map that you can interact with.

The map has significant historic and cultural sightseeing destinations in Dresden's Old Town and New Town pinpointed on it.

You can click on the blue pins for more information about each location, or click and drag the Dresden sightseeing map to move it around. You can also learn more about each point of interest here.



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Visiting Ireland

Best Small Group Tours of Ireland

Rope Bridge in IrelandIreland

Visiting Ireland independently works well for some people, but if you feel more comfortable with a guide and driver, small group tours of Ireland are a great alternative.

Information about three of the best companies offering such tours is below. Each company has a variety of itineraries for different lengths of time, and they all cater to various travel styles. As such, it should be easy to find a tour that works best for your trip.

Vagabond Tours

Vagabond Tours is an award-winning tour company that specializes in small group tours of Ireland. Vagabond offers tours with an active, outdoor focus and lots of opportunities for adventure travel in Ireland. Their 12-day Giant Irish Adventure Tour offers an action-packed itinerary with activities like horseback riding and sea kayaking.

They also have a brand called Driftwood Tours, which focuses on discovery. Driftwood offers trips like an 11-day Discover Ireland Tour. It gives a comprehensive overview of the country that focuses on Irish tradition, culture, history, and food. Both Driftwood and Vagabond also offer private tours of Ireland that can be tailored to your specifications.

Tauck Tours

While most of Tauck's tours are for larger groups, they offer several small group tours throughout the year for a supplement. Their pricing is slightly higher than that of some other companies, but they also include more in the overall price, so the value for money is still good.

Tauck offers a comprehensive 14-day tour of Ireland called The Best of Ireland. It starts in Shannon and covers most of the coastal areas of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Wolfhound Adventure Tours

Wolfhound features small-group tours of Ireland with an active focus. Daily hikes and bike rides take participants through the Irish countryside, allowing them to enjoy it up close. There are opportunities for other activities like horseback riding as well.

There is a lot of flexibility and choice involved in Wolfhound's tours, so you can make them as active (or not) as you want to. Wolfhound also offers private tours.

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Visiting Spain

Visiting Seville for Semana Santa

Semana Santa Parade in SevilleSemana Santa Procession in Seville

Semana Santa is one of the best times of year to visit Seville. With parades and processions filling the streets from Palm Sunday through Good Friday, the city comes alive during festival.

Semana Santa runs from the Sunday before Easter through the Friday before Easter each year. During Semana Santa, or Holy Week, brotherhoods from around Seville parade through the streets in long robes carrying elaborate floats with the Virgin Mary on top.

People from all over Andalusia come to the city during Semana Santa to watch or participate in the parades, and visitors from all over the world visit Seville during Semana Santa to witness the events.

Because the festival is such a popular time to visit Spain, the city gets crowded during the week. This is especially true on the Thursday and Friday. As such, if you are planning on visiting Seville for Semana Santa, make sure to book your hotel accommodation and flights or trains well in advance.

Also note that during Semana Santa not everything will be open. Many stores, museums, and churches have shorter opening hours than usual, so try to plan ahead to make sure that you can visit the places you want to see while you are there.

This includes the Cathedral in Seville, which is closed on Sunday and Tuesday of Semana Santa and has reduced opening hours during the rest of Holy Week (opening at 11:00 and closing at 13:30 or 16:00).

Some shops and restaurants also close for Semana Santa in Seville, but many remain open late into the night to take advantage of the increased population in the city during the week.

You can call or ask your hotel concierge if you have questions about the shortened opening hours of specific restaurants and shops in the city during Semana Santa.

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Visiting Italy

Easter in Rome


Spending Easter in Rome is a very popular choice for people visiting Italy in the springtime.

The highlight of spending Easter in Rome is to go to the Vatican for Easter mass at St Peter's Basilica. Thousands of people gather in front of the church to hear the pope give mass at St Peter's, so make sure to show up early to get a prime spot if you plan to attend.

Opening hours for attractions and restaurants vary during Easter in Rome. All major museums and archeological sites are open on the Sunday, with the exception of the Vatican Museums, which are closed on both Easter Sunday and Easter Monday (Easter Monday is a national holiday in Italy).

Most restaurants are open on Easter in Rome. Most shops are closed on both Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, with the exception of those that primarily serve tourists.

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Visiting Austria

Top 10 Things to Do in Salzburg

Church in Salzburg AustriaSalzburg

The pretty city of Salzburg has a lot to offer visitors. No matter what time of year you travel to Austria, there is plenty to keep you busy. To help you decide where to spend your time, below is my list of the top 10 things to do in Salzburg:

1. Visit the cathedral - Salzburg cathedral is one of the most famous buildings in the city. The current structure is the third incarnation of the cathedral, and was built in the Italian style in the 17th century. The interior is worth a look, as are the five organs.

2. Go to Mozart's birthplace - Mozart is one of Salzburg's most famous residents. The house where he was born is now a museum, and visitors can see where the famous Austrian composer spent the early years of his life.

3. Take a walk through the Mirabell Palace gardens - The Mirabell Palace gardens are one of the most beautiful places in Salzburg. Bursting with color throughout most of the year, they are a great place to stroll on a sunny afternoon.

4. Go on the Sound of Music tour - The famous Sound of Music?tour is one of the most popular activities for people visiting Salzburg. The tour takes you to many of the places that were featured in the film, including the house that served as the home of the von Trapp family, the gazebo where one of the songs was sung, and the church where the wedding took place.

5. Visit the castle - Salzburg castle dominates the city skyline, and visiting it is definitely one of the top 10 things to do in Salzburg. You can get there by funicular or by walking up the hill, and once you are there you can explore the grounds and admire the views over the city.

6. Visit the Christmas markets - If you happen to be in Salzburg in the wintertime, don't miss the city's famous Christmas markets. Spread across several plazas by the cathedral, the markets are home to traditional craft stalls and stands selling hot food and wine. There is also an ice skating rink nearby.

7. Have dinner at the oldest restaurant in Europe - Dating back to 803, the St. Peter Stiftskeller restaurant is famous throughout the city. The restaurant has a series of small dining rooms where guests can enjoy traditional Austrian cuisine. There are also banquet rooms that often host Mozart concerts and other dinner shows.

8. Take a hike - Salzburg is surrounded by beautiful countryside, and there are hiking trails that lead from the city center up into the hills. Spend an afternoon walking along the paths to get a feel for the city's outdoor spaces.

9. Go skiing - Austria is famous for its great skiing, and Salzburg is close to many of the country's most famous ski resorts. If you are visiting Austria in the winter and have time during your trip, a day on the slopes is a great way to see the country.

10. Eat Mozartkugel - Perhaps the most famous food in Salzburg is Mozartkugel chocolate, and trying a piece is definitely one of the top 10 things to do in Salzburg. The originals are from Furst, which has several shops around the old town. Many other companies produce them as well, so you will have plenty of opportunities to buy them when you are visiting the city.

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Visiting Switzerland

Top 10 Swiss Train Journeys

View from a train in the Swiss AlpsView from the Train in Switzerland

Europe is famous for its great rail links, and Switzerland has more than its fair share of stunning train routes. If you're looking for an epic trip, below are the top 10 Swiss train journeys.

Glacier Express

The Glacier Express is by far the most famous train journey in Switzerland. Running between the Engadine and the Matterhorn, the train travels straight through the Swiss Alps. On the way, it passes through 91 tunnels and over 291 bridges in what is one of the most scenic railways in the world.

Bernina Express

Like the Glacier Express, the Bernina Express train travels through the Alps. On its stunning journey, which is studded with beautiful views, the train goes from Chur to the Engadine, all the way through the Poschiavo Valley and the Valtellina Valley to Torino, Italy.

GoldenPass Line

Covering both geographical and linguistic distances, the GoldenPass Line spans a route from the German part of Switzerland to the French part. It starts with the Lucerne-Interlaken Express, which runs over the Brunig Pass to Interlaken. From there, the BLS runs to Zweisimmen, and then the GoldenPass Panoramic or Classic runs to Gstaad and Montreux.

Wilhelm Tell Express

Part train journey, part boat trip, the Wilhelm Tell Express travels from Central Switzerland to Ticino. From Lake Lucerne, the 1st class panorama car travels along the famous Gotthard line, with a paddle steamer cruise in the middle.

Pre-Alpine Express

Starting in the picturesque Swiss German town of St Gallen on Lake Constance, the Pre-Alpine Express runs through Appenzell via Toggenburg and Pfaffikon, ending in Lucerne. The journey offers a great range of scenery throughout the countryside.

BLS RegioExpress

There are several routes to choose from with the BLS trains. One of the most popular is the Bern-Valais route, which is incredibly scenic and includes the mountain journey to Brig. Another is the Bern-Lucerne route, which runs through the pretty Emmental region.

Jungfrau Railway

One of the most spectacular Swiss train journeys is the Jungfrau Railway. Starting in Interlaken Ost, the train winds its way up the mountains to the Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe. The view from the top is breathtaking, and the trip makes for an unforgettable journey.

Lavaux Line

The tranquil Lavaux Line runs from Geneva to Brig, traveling through the Lavaux vineyards en route. It also goes past Lausanne, Montreux, and Martigny, all of which are scenic Swiss cities.

Jura Foot Line

The Jura Foot Line travels between Basel and Geneva, two of the biggest cities in Switzerland. Along the way, it passes through the three lakes region of Biel, Murten, and Neuchatel, as well as La Chaux-de-Fonds, a town famous for Swiss watchmaking. Out the windows, the Jura mountains can be seen in the distance.

Three City Line

Running between Lucerne and Chur, the Three City Line offers a great Swiss train journey for lovers of all things urban. The train travels through Zurich, one of Switzerland's most important cities, as well as more rural areas like Lake Walen and the Bundner Herrschaft wine region.

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Visiting Croatia

Ferries from Croatia to Italy

Ferry Sign in DubrovnikFerry Sign in Croatia

If you want to combine holidays in two different European countries, you can take a ferry from Croatia to Italy.

Ferries from Croatia to Italy leave from a number of Adriatic Sea ports on the Dalmatian coast. These include several Istrian ports as well as Dubrovnik, Hvar, Split, and Zadar.

Below are the routes:

Ferries from Dubrovnik arrive in Bari.

Ferries from Hvar (Stari Grad) and Spilt arrive in Ancona.

Ferries from Mali Losinj arrive in Cesenatico, Pesaro, Rimini, and Venice.

Ferries from Porec, Rabac, Umag, and Pula arrive in Venice.

Ferries from Rovinj arrive in Cesenatico, Pesaro, and Venice.

Ferries from Zadar arrive in Ancona, Cesenatico, and Pesaro.

Ferries from Croatia to Italy are operated by a number of different companies, including Azzurra Line, Blue Line Ferries, Emilia Romagna Lines, Jadrolinija, SNAV, and Venezia Lines. Some run passenger-only ferries, while others run larger boats that have room for cars. Each ferry company sells its own tickets, which can be purchased online for a discount or at the offices in the ports.

Not every ferry from Croatia to Italy runs every day of the week or all year round. Many ferry companies only run popular tourist routes from mid-June through mid-September, and some boats only run Monday through Friday or on certain days of the week. Many only run once a day on days when they do operate. In light of this, make sure you check to see if your ferry is operating on the date and time you want to take it before you book your travel.

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Visiting Turkey

Best Luxury Hotels in Bodrum

Kempinski BodrumKempinski Hotel in Bodrum

If you're looking for luxury in Turkey, Bodrum is the place to be.

The city and its surrounding peninsula are part of the proverbial Turkish Riviera, and jet setters from all over the world descend on the area and its marinas throughout the summer season.

If you're not lucky enough to have a yacht to sleep on while you're visiting, the many luxury hotels in Bodrum are the next best thing. Here are a few top picks.

Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay

The Kempinski hotel in Bodrum is located on the stunning, secluded Barbaros Bay. A short drive from the Bodrum city center, the hotel offers guests a private beach beneath its stunning hillside property. Most rooms have views of the sea, and the beautiful swimming pool, multiple restaurants, and spacious spa offer enough to do that you may not want to leave at all.

Amanruya

One of the exclusive Aman Resorts, the Amanruya numbers among the most famous luxury hotels in Bodrum. Located on a tranquil hillside offering breathtaking views of the sea and a winding pathway leading to a sheltered pebble beach, the hotel offers privacy in all of its 36 spacious and elegant Pool Terrace Cottages.

Casa dell'Arte

The famous Casa dell'Arte hotel in Bodrum is the first contemporary boutique art hotel in Turkey. Situated in the the historic fishing village of Torba, the beachfront property is home to over 200 Turkish paintings that rotate on display throughout the year. Whether you choose to stay at the residence, the family resort, a villa, or a yacht, there is something for every traveler at the Casa dell'Arte.

Maca Kizi

Design-led Maca Kizi is a luxury boutique hotel on the Bodrum Peninsula. Many of its modern rooms and suites have views of the sea, and its beautiful spa and wooden decks are great places to relax. Its restaurant offers fresh, flavorful food and wine, and its location in the town of Turkbuku means that it is close to the Bodrum city center while still retaining a sense of peace and seclusion.

Marmara

The Marmara is a luxury boutique hotel overlooking Bodrum. Located high on a hill above the bustle of the city center, it offers guests a great balance between privacy and proximity to the city. Its 97 rooms and suites offer views of the land and sea from their balconies and terraces, and its restaurant, lounge, and pool bar serve Mediterranean cuisine befitting their location.

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