They say that cities never sleep; that they stay awake for 24 hours a day, every day, brimming with life, activity and energy. And that’s exactly why city-break-addicts like you and me love them. But many of the world’s most famous cities have another side to them; a side that lies dormant, abandoned and asleep deep underground – their lost subway stations.
Hidden beneath the earth, these disused railway stations, or ghost stations, have become popular sites for urban explorers as tributes to bygone eras or unfinished urban developments. Here are 10 lost subway stops to think about exploring on your next city break. Continue reading
Gone are the days when being a vegetarian meant going hungry when travelling. In fact, vegan and vegetarian travel are now growing markets and the best meat-free cuisines around the world are sought out by travellers with hearty appetites. Whether you’re a curious carnivore or a master of meat-free food, here are ten cities worth visiting if you enjoy vegetarian and vegan food. Continue reading
If your children are animal lovers, care for a treasured pet or deliver heartfelt speeches on the terrible effects of whaling on the sperm whale population; they’ve probably already told you that today is World Animal Day.
To celebrate a day of caring for the cute and fuzzy, the feathered and winged, even the scaly and slimy; we’ve put together some pictures ideas for your next holiday break, if you want to centre your holiday around getting your little activists enthused about some of the amazing creatures to be found in all corners of the globe.
When some animal rights lovers think of a zoo, they sometimes think of dank, dark cages and sad animals in wretched captivity. But the truth is that many zoos around the world are beautiful places to live, dedicated to animal conservation and providing their fluffy guests with plenty of room to roam and live free-range, as it were. These are some of the best.
Chester Zoo, Chester, England.
credit: Adam Foster
Tiergarten Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria
National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Bronx Zoo, New York City, United States
Berlin Zoological Garden, Berlin, Germany
credit: Tambako the Jaguar
Apart from the only way for many of us to experience incredibly tough to spot deepwater fish (such as the rarely-seen-in-captivity Sunfish which you can find in Valencia or Lisbon) – and the slow, otherworldly elegance of the earth beneath sea-level, aquariums are homebase for many marine biologists, whose jobs are to try and keep the oceanic ecosystems in balance.
Dubai Aquarium and Discovery Centre, Dubai, U.A.E.
The Deep Aquarium, Hull, England
credit: Bruce Stokes
L’Oceanogràfic, Valencia, Spain
credit: Jofre Ferrer
Turkuazoo, Istanbul, Turkey
Oceanário de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
Featured image of Squid, the HouseTrip office dog, by reversepanda.
We’re about to say something that’s going to burst a few frothy cappuccino bubbles, ‘The only real Coffeehouses are Viennese’. We know there’s a legend doing the rounds about bags of camel dung and Turkish invaders and entrepreneurial 17th century Austrians, but it’s not the history of its coffee that makes the Viennese Coffeehouse authentic, it’s the culture of coffee and conversation and philosophising – yes, in a Viennese Coffeehouse sitting around doing nothing is considered a worthwhile activity.
So Starbucks take a seat and learn at the knee of the masterful Viennese. You can keep your power bloggers and pundits and Capitol Hill speech writers and anyone else with a notebook and a half-caf-skinny-mocha-choca-frapuccino-kitchen-sink-in-a-styrofoam-cup-with-lid-and-cuff-wholemeal-lo-fat-zero-carb-no-cholestrol-zero-taste-muffin. In Vienna, coffee comes marvellous as standard however it’s served, the cake has songs written about it (nobody’s humming anything about a ‘Fat Free Brownie’) and everyone’s relaxed and at home (most Viennese have favourite Coffeehouses which are just like their second homes really).
‘House Waiters’ are known for their ‘schmäh’: sense of humour and chat. Sitting alone is perfectly acceptable (you don’t even have to accessorise with electronics or a book). Nobody minds if you linger long over your coffee (you could be thinking great thoughts). And don’t be surprised at the glasses of water that appear on your table; in Viennese Coffeehouse tradition you’re a ‘guest’ and the water says you’re welcome to stay as long as you like.
Now you know the basics of what makes Vienna’s Coffeehouses the best in the world, here are a few specifics. Word of warning though: no matter how finely tuned you think you’ve got your local coffee order the Vienna experience is guaranteed to ruin it forever.
Café Central, Herengasse 14
Possibly one of the most famous and illustrious of all the great Viennese Coffeehouses (and that’s going some), Café Central was also the place where Sigmund Freud liked to while away a few hours – no doubt pondering his own and others’ neuroses. With its magnificent and vast ‘column and cloister’ Moorish interior, Art Deco design details and aura of hushed traditionalism Café Central should either be the first Coffeehouse you visit and judge all others by comparison or the last on your list for a perfectly grand finale.
Try ‘Weiner Melange’. In an effort to describe its ethereal delights people call it a cross between a Grand Crème and a Cappuccino – it’s not. It’s milder, creamier and infinitely more delicious.
Café Demel, Kohlmarkt 14
Café Demel is blonde parquet floors, creamy walls, deep cushioned window seats and the type of understated elegance that makes you just want to move in and live here permanently with your staff and quite probably a coach and four. Unsurprisingly this Coffeehouse is where the ladies of the Austrian Aristocracy drank a cup of hot chocolate on the first cold day of every year. A ritual that might have had something to do with Café Demel being part of K&K Hofzuckerbäcker, possibly one of the most celebrated chocolatiers in the world – just a thought.
Leave time to stand in the middle of the chocolatier, close your eyes and just breathe – forget Freud this is real Viennese therapy.
Café Hawelka, Dorotheergasse 6
If a café could be a love story it would be Café Hawelka. Run by the Hawelka family since it opened in 1939, the very elderly Leopold Hawelka was unabashed when he said, ‘without my wife there would be no Hawelka’. Even though Leopold passed in 2011, this iconic figure has been immortalised in the furnishings, decorum and tall tales inside this, the little coffeehouse that could. Café Hawelka is the polar opposite of the Demel and the Central: earthy, bohemian, lively and open unusually late (till 2am every day except Tuesday). Café Hawelka is where to see Vienna’s literati and creative types.
Go later in the evening for Hawelka’s famous Buchteln (deliciously yeasty sweet buns) – good with coffee, great with beer.
Café Prückel, Stubenring 24
Café Prückel is a mere child by Viennese Coffeehouse standards but its immaculate 1950’s interior is as charming as the Rococo or Art Nouveau drama of its more traditional elders. Join the very mixed crowd for the café’s regular book readings, exhibitions and live piano sessions as well as all the usual Coffeehouse deliciousness.
Café Prückel is directly opposite the Museum of Fine Arts (MAK) on Vienna’s famous Ringstrasse.
Café Sacher, Philharmonikerstrasse 4
Only one of the most famous of all the famous Coffeehouses and definitely one of the most glamorous, Café Sacher is part of the Sacher Hotel and home, of course, to the Sacher Torte. Widely considered to be the first chocolate cake, Sacher Torte is much copied the world over but never, ever comes close to the sinfully good confection created on home ground.
You have to taste the torte but it goes best with a summer afternoon on the Café Sacher’s delightful open air terrace.
Café Schwarzenberg, Kärtner Ring 17
The first café to open on Ringstrasse Boulevard, Café Schwarzenberg is opulent, whispery rich and incomparably chic. Whatever you do don’t worry about how you look, the Viennese in haute café mode are effortlessly elegant and there’s no point in competing. But should you feel like slipping into something slightly smart Café Schwarzenberg hosts regular concerts to go with your coffee and cake.
Try the famous and dangerously decadent Café Schwarzenberg Trüffeltorte – ask for two forks and share.
Grand, decadent, artistic, elegant, understated or chocolaty, choose your Viennese Coffeehouse with care. Pay attention to the details. And don’t forget to turn your laptop off – in Vienna if you’re not deep in conversation or deep in thought you’re just not Coffeehouse material.
It’s a funny thing. Love, the most inconvenient and unpredictable of all emotions, is neatly celebrated once a year on Valentine’s Day. Because of course that’s the day the world at large feels romantic. Apparently every single one of us wakes up on the 14th of February with nothing on our minds but roses and hearts and kittens and chocolate and strangely inflammable looking lingerie. Well here’s a handy Valentine’s Day tip: ‘if it’s supposed to be romantic, it probably isn’t’.
Romance is imaginative, sincere, memorable, unexpected – not rings in pudding, that’s just silly and dangerous. Romance isn’t about a gesture or a day, it’s a shared experience that no one else can have in quite the same way.
So in the true spirit of romance we’re leaving Valentine’s Day to the Divine Order of Retailers and laying claim to the rest of the year instead.
Romance is wherever you happen to be. By yoga – photowork.
Giudecca Island, Venice
When it comes to romantic experiences that just aren’t, The Gondola has to be right up there with a carriage ride round Central Park. We defy you to find a pic. (not posed by models) where the ‘happy couple’ don’t look as if they’re thinking, ‘Please Venice sink faster and take us with you’?
True romantics catch a vaporetto and cross the lagoon to Giudecca Island. Giudecca is the best place to see an uninterrupted panoramic view of St. Marks, its breathtaking Campanile and the skyline of Venice itself. The island’s also home to the world famous Hotel Cipriani and, since you saved a fortune foregoing a gondola, you could afford a cocktail and the pleasure of the hotel’s seductively beautiful gardens.
Hotel Cipriani, Venice. By sabinaharlacz.
The Giant Pandas, Edinburgh
We can’t vouch for any romantic entanglement between Tian Tian and Yang Guang themselves as yet, but we can tell you that Edinburgh’s Giant Pandas are now so popular with everyone else you need to book a time to see them. Good news is you don’t pay extra and you can choose your 20 minute Panda Experience time slot on-line and print your pass. Plus you’ve got the rest of one of the world’s best zoos to enjoy while you’re waiting.
Tian Tian. By afcone.
La Musée de la Vie Romantique, Paris
If anything can kill the spirit of romance quicker than a sweltering summer afternoon spent creeping along in a queue at the base of the Eiffel Tower, we’d love to know.
You’ll find us at 16 Rue Chapital, at the foot of Montmartre hill, taking tea in the garden of La Musée de la Vie Romantique. Once famous for its Friday evening salons where Chopin, Delacroix, Georges Sands, Ingres and even Charles Dickens were guests, 16 Rue Chapital is one of only three Literary Museums in Paris. Small (by Louvre standards) the museum is like a perfectly imagined Parisian home filled with eccentric and intriguing art and ephemera where you can wander around for free any day of the week – except Monday.
La Musée de la Vie Romantique. By eraritjaritjaka.
Orange Blossom, Seville
In spring the streets of Seville are filled with the scent of oranges and orange blossom. It’s not too hot just warm and pleasant. And the streets aren’t crowded with tourists ticking one after another of the city’s Moorish masterpieces off the ‘Must See’ list. If you want to make Seville the setting for your own particular romance, Spring is definitely the time to do it.
Orange lined street. By Simon & Vicki.
Vienna On Ice
When it comes to romance Vienna doesn’t make such a song and dance about things as Paris. It’s quite happy to let the city speak for itself. This is where the waltz was born, home to Gustav Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’, chocolate cake is considered part of a balanced diet and just about everyone looks confident, happy and almost unreasonably attractive.
Plus, every winter from January to March the kindly Viennese freeze large parts of the city to let you, and your love, skate. So if you want to leap and whirl or just stumble about try the grand rink in front of Vienna City Hall. Take to the frozen paths of City Hall Park. Go classical at the Wilhelminenberg Palace. Or join everyone else on Friday night for in-line skating – we think you may need to practice this first. It’s outdoors, very Viennese and who doesn’t look desirable in a beanie?
Skating on the Danube. By trbuh.
Wild and Wanton Winter Beaches, Cornwall
We’re the first to admit to a bit of a winter crush on wild British beaches. The weather doesn’t matter because it’s not August so we don’t (foolishly) expect too much sun. And crashing surf make us feel rugged and explorer like.
From windswept Godrevy on the North Coast to the gentler sweep of Praa Sands in the South, Cornwall does beaches – lots of them. And, as an added bonus, almost every Cornish beach comes with a cosy pub not too far away. So once you’ve braved the elements, faced down your fears and made it back from the wild, you can cuddle up and have tea.
Fresh, clear and cold. By grakki.
Night and Day Amsterdam
It doesn’t really matter what they’re showing at Amsterdam’s Theatre Tuschinski book a Love Seat. Then sit back with some food and wine and enjoy the old fashioned romance of this wonderfully grand and eccentric Art Deco cinema.
A Saturday picnic is a bit of a tradition and the best place to pick up supplies is De Negen Straatjes, the city’s irresistible shopping district. Just a short walk from Dam Square and spread out over the network of 17th century canals, De Negen Straatjes is where the very tall, very elegant and very charming citizens of Amsterdam gather at the weekend to make the rest of us feel like a sub-species. For your picnic spot choose nearby Vondel Park; sitting on the grass, holding hands and looking picturesque is almost the law here.
Tuschinski Theatre, Amsterdam. By Kees van Mansom.
Birthplace of Aphrodite, Paphos is known for beaches, glorious weather, secluded swimming coves and wonderful walks. What better way to worship the Greek Goddess of Love’s bounty than by making the most of her home town? Best time to visit is Autumn or Spring when the Mediterranean climate is only perfect for cycle rides, lazing in the sea, long picnic lunches and touring the Temples.
Cyprus sunsets. By sweenpole2001.
Horseshoe Bar, The Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin
The most famous thing about Dublin’s most famous hotel is the iconic Horseshoe Bar. Name checked no less than four times in James Joyce’s Ulysses, just having a drink here gives romance a glamorously louche and Worldly edge.
Horseshoe Bar. By aj842.
A Moment in Barcelona
At about half past seven on a late summer’s evening the crowds, queues and postcard sellers have moved on, La Sagrada Familia is silent and Barcelona is in between day and night. There’s a little park just opposite the Cathedral where you can sit and have a glass of wine in the last warmth of the sun. The Passion Façade is yours alone for just that very brief time. It’s an almost perfect moment.
The Last Supper, The Passion Facade, La Sagrada Familia. By bobcat rock.
Happy Valentine’s Day – and the rest!