This blog post is loaded with wonderful European places to visit, single or not. It made me intrigued by Madrid and Florence. Check it out and see what takes your fancy. All of these destinations are within train distance from London.
If you are single and planning a trip to Europe, but you don’t know where to start, here you can find the best European destinations for singles.
As I continue to reflect upon some of the wonderful places that I have visited by train, I wanted to suggest Brussels. For me, I pick countries that I can get to without using aeroplanes as my real intention is to be more ecofriendly. My last journey to Brussels was at Christmas time and so now is a good time to share my experience. You may end up wanting to visit during the festive season.
Brussels is relatively affordable and certainly cheaper than Switzerland or Luxembourg, but I also love those places very much. Here are my reasons for considering Brussels as a holiday destination in winter.
1) The Christmas Market
Browsing the Christmas market was lovely because of all the scents and mouth-watering delights. There were so many continental meats and Vegan offerings as well as all my favourite sweet treats such as crepes and chocolates. At the far end is a Big Wheel which slowly rotates to give you a brilliant view of Brussels. We went straight to the wheel and then mused past the market, absorbed in the seasonal vibe.
2) The Grand-Place
You have to visit the Grand-Place during the daytime and at night. It is the historic city centre where government and city buildings sit around a beautiful pedestrianised square. This was definitely a hub of activity and the nearby streets had plenty of shops and restaurants offering a range of cuisines.
At night time, the amazing Christmas tree and lights set a fantastic scene and at the heart of the square was a very detailed and intriguing nativity set. The reason I suggest going to Brussels in winter is to witness their incredible displays and lights. The place just represented Christmas perfectly.
I first saw Mini-Europe on an episode of Travel Man (Channel Four) and was totally inspired by it. It looked so cool that it became a must-see on my little trip to Brussels. Although it was winter, a fresh walk around the intricately made mini-buildings and waterways of Europe was pleasant and enlightening. It gave me ideas of other places in the continent that I still needed to explore. From a little Colosseum to a mini Eiffel Tower, this place had everything.
This attraction was right next to the Mini-Europe venue and was an intriguing feature in the Belgian skyline. Constructed in 1958 for the Brussels Trade Fair, this 102m stainless steel structure is absolutely fascinating. You get to take a lift into the central sphere and then use escalators to access the other globes. Each one is unique and together they make a brilliant museum whilst having incredible views over this remarkable city.
There are many murals and paintings throughout Brussels and many contain images of Tintin. Herge’s famous cartoon character is synonymous with Brussels and is celebrated in a museum and shop. We visited the beautiful little shop which was littered with Tintin memorabilia but we never had the chance to visit the Herge museum (maybe next time).
I like how the paintings on the walls celebrate diversity. The picture above was in the LGBT district of town. Below is an impressive painting of Tintin on a mission. These fabulous images add more intrigue to an already busy city, full of history, culture and Christmas.
Being just a two hour Eurostar train ride from London, Brussels is an easy to get to destination. I went before Brexit kicked in and the pandemic started so I cannot tell whether prices have remained the same, but when I went it was very affordable. I stayed about a fifteen minute walk from the centre in a lovely hotel which had everything I needed. You are able to use Uber to get around when you don’t feel like a walk, but I enjoyed plodding through the streets which were full of atmosphere and vibrancy, instead.
If you enjoyed this post please consider following my growing blog. For another post about a visit to a European city, check my Paris feature here.
Last week I mentioned my incredible trip to Zurich in Switzerland which I took by train in Autumn. Now I want to share my experience of travelling to the equally beautiful Austrian city of Salzburg during the summer.
My blog often discusses environmental issues and this article is all about trying to avoid using aeroplanes when visiting Europe. I went to Salzburg via Brussels (2 hours on the Eurostar) and then Munich (about 7 hours with a stop off) with a final stretch of just over an hour before arriving at the main station. This sounds like a long time but the views were breathtaking and the food on the train was of a very good quality and affordable.
Have you ever wanted to go to Salzburg, Austria? Here are five reasons why you should.
1) The views
The mountains around the city are stunning and the whole place is situated in a scenic valley which has a very wide river, known as the Salzach, running through it. The city is divided into two sides, with the old town on one side and the newer part on the other. Many bridges cross the Salzach, including the MozartSteg which is built for pedestrian traffic.
2) Mozart and History
The city was especially musical when I visited in August because it just so happened to be the month that the well known Salzburg Festival took place. With theatrical productions and live music events held in the town square and prestigious buildings, the town was full of orchestras and a genuine buzz which was infectious.
The birthplace of Mozart is open to view as part of a museum called the Mozarteum. His music lives on all around Salzburg and the town seems very proud of its musical prodigy. The Mozart Wohnhaus is a second museum, where he lived for much of his youth, after the house he was born in became too small for his family. Along with two museums, there is a Mozart monument watching over Mozart Square. If there is one famous person you come to know more about after visiting Salzburg, I can bet it will most probably be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Historical buildings such as the abbey and Nunnery (Nonnberg Abbey) are all within easy reach as the city is actually quite small and most places of interest are within walking distance of each other.
Another quirky place that we sampled was the intriguing Salzburg Marionette Theatre, where we saw a production of the Sound of Music usually exquisite puppets, much like those used in the film.
3) Salzburg Castle (Hohensalzburg Fortress)
Up on the hill sits a large, intriguing castle which overlooks the city and is full of things to do. In order to get up there, we took the steep funicular railway which gave some stunning views and picture opportunities as we were whisked up to the castle itself. Inside there was plenty to see of the old fortress and there were shops and refreshments that included places selling local artwork, which was of a high quality.
4) The Sound of Music
One of the main reasons that I was originally intrigued by this beautiful city was because it appeared in ‘The Sound of Music’ movie. I have always loved this movie and wondered what the places featured on it were actually like. So naturally I booked us onto the Sound of Music Tour organised by Panorama Tours. I was not disappointed as we went to all of the key locations.
I especially enjoyed seeing the Mirabelle Palace gardens which were used during the famous ‘Do-Re-Mi’ song in which Julie Andrews and 7 children danced around the fountain and raced through the hedge tunnel which was covered in overhanging plants.
5) Mondsee and the countryside
Taking time out of the city, we got to see some of the incredibly beautiful sites of the surrounding hills. The Sound of Music tour took us to the huge church at Mondsee where Maria and Captain Von Trapp got married in the sixties musical. The town of Mondsee had a lovely market square with some wonderful shops and eateries which made the visit even better.
On the way we saw some of the popular lakes that locals flock to when the sun comes out, nestled beneath the mountains. As a geographer, I found myself marvelling at the landscape and enjoying taking photos of the green valleys and tranquil waters. The fresh air did me wonders as well.
A few things I have taken away from my visit are:
– a taste for sauerkraut (which it turns out is very good for your gut)
– a fascination with Austria with its traditions and Christmas shops, its love of music and intriguing history
– the satisfaction of visiting the locations of my favourite musical movie, ‘The Sound of Music’
– lots of knowledge about Mozart and classical musical history
– a desire to go back to Salzburg very soon
I hope that you enjoyed thispost and it has shown how intriguing Austria can be. I especially loved that I could travel there by train from the UK. The scenery was impressive and the reception was welcoming. Salzburg is such a culturally interesting and friendly town where I felt totally at ease.