Racing and royalty: a day trip to Monaco

With the famous Monaco Grand Prix on the horizon, what better time to reflect on my recent day trip to the principality? A truly regal experience, touring around Monte Carlo, in particular, oozes glamour. Race-goers: take note.

High expectations

Its name synonymous with wealth, glamour and class, Monaco continues to be a haven for the rich and famous, largely due to its generous tax advantages and geographical position along the French Riviera. Whilst critics lament its built-up topography and consistent expense for a mere bottle of water, a short visit to Monaco promises a once in a lifetime opportunity to mingle with elites, walk along a historically treasured F1 track (aka the principality’s very streets) and relax in the midst of a marina dotted with the most luxurious yachts imaginable.

IMG_7935

Breathtaking views of Monaco’s distinct landscape

A royal engagement

Without a doubt, Monaco prizes its royal family, much merchandise in souvenir stores and the content of numerous magazine covers reflecting their commercial importance today. Police escorts are relatively common in the principality, which often gives the impression that tourists and residents are never too far from the Grimaldis, particularly given the proximity Monaco’s small but treasured territory offers. High up on a hilltop, the Prince’s Palace of Monaco (originally constructed in 1191) offers breathtaking views of the country. It is not only the Grimaldi name that reinforces Monaco’s regal appeal, but the very fact that the territory is known for hosting royal visitors: Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were spotted visiting a monegasque flower market just days after my visit.

Casino Royale

A visit to Monte Carlo’s celebrated casino, forever referenced in Hollywood blockbusters (hint: James Bond) is at the top of any savvy tourist’s bucket list. Perhaps more than any other landmark the principality possesses, this luxurious hub of excitement and wealth embodies pure glamour. Whilst exploring the high-stakes area may set you back around 10 euros, the rest of the casino is open for public viewing. Be warned: if you do fancy your chances at the betting table, be sure to dress smartly, avoiding jeans and trainers. Visitors are regularly refused entry due to casual attire.

IMG_4001

Monte Carlo’s decadent casino is definitely worth a visit!

Play, race, win

Monaco is perhaps most famous for its annual F1 Grand Prix, a street race with sharp turns and scarce scope to overtake along the principality’s narrow roads. A visit to the principality during race weekend guarantees high-adrenaline adventure and the opportunity to mingle with the world’s A-listers (as well as numerous F1 drivers who reside in Monaco). Can’t afford a race ticket? In the months leading up to the Grand Prix, visitors can walk along the very race tracks (exceedingly easy, given the GP’s street circuit status), a stone’s throw from the famous marina. For football fans, the principality offers its famous Louis II stadium, home to AS Monaco.

IMG_3934

Wishing it was race day… Chilling alongside the marina.

The shopping experience of a lifetime

Want to blend in with the exceedingly elegant Monegasque citizens who roam the streets, going about their daily business? Shop where they shop! Le Métropole Shopping Monte-Carlo offers a range of outlets, from Spar for a quick snack to a beautiful handbag boutique, stocking all of the finest luxury brands, from Moschino to Versace. Shoppers are greeted with a marble interior and dazzling chandelier, a decadent indication that wallets will be considerably lighter on exit.

Relax

Visitors who become tired of hiking up Monaco’s hilly terrain often choose to take the ‘Grand Tour of Monaco’ (aka an open-topped double-decker bus, driving tourists around a circuit of the principality’s most fascinating attractions). Stop off at the Jardin Exotique for some pure relaxation amongst soothing fountains, stunning horticulture and mesmerising sculptures. This stop should perhaps be reserved until the end of your day trip, allowing one to unwind and reflect on their regal tour of Monaco.

Top tip: Hotels in Monaco are, unsurprisingly, pretty pricey. For those happy to spend the day in the principality without paying a fortune for accommodation, staying in nearby Nice is a sensible option. A 20 minute train journey away and a vibrant city in itself, Nice offers the perfect spot to rest your head after a busy day exploring the French Riviera.

IMG_7891

Monaco’s position on the French Riviera is one of its top selling points: why not escape to a seaside spot for some relaxation?

Touring and tasting: champagne houses in the champagne capital

During my last week in Reims, I reflect on what it does best: champagne! Who could leave the Champagne region’s most popular city without a quick sweep of the specialist houses it has to offer?

In 2015, UNESCO granted the champagne industry a protected status. In short, this meant that consumers would only be drinking ‘real champagne’ should it be produced in its designated French region. Champagne ‘counterfeits’ (bottles produced anywhere else in the world) would be known simply as sparkling wine, from then onward. On the other side of the coin, this development ensured that producers local to Reims, Epernay and surrounding communes would be reassured of the consistent high quality of their trade.

When walking through Reims, you are never too far away from a champagne house. From the famous Veuve Clicquot to the lesser-known but equally enchanting Martel, touring and tasting spots are abundant. Only a short train journey away, neighbouring Epernay is home to the globally renowned Moet-Hennessy as well as a handful of smaller-scale, family-run retailers. Each has its own specialities and many offer both cellar tours and tastings.

image2 (6).jpeg

Enjoying a glass in Pommery’s main foyer, following a fascinating tour.

 

Vranken-Pommery, Reims

Perhaps the city’s most decadent champagne house, Pommery is the founder of Brut. Priding itself on this innovation (champagne with considerably less sugar mixed in), Pommery’s cellar tour also shows off its vast collection of art. Why would a champagne cellar house mesmerising art, you ask? The answer is one of a historical nature: the widowed Madame Pommery was not only the pioneer of female entrepreneurship in the industry but also conceptualised the ‘champagne tour’. Unsurprisingly, she envisioned making Pommery’s cellars as aesthetically-pleasing as possible for visitors. This ambition lives on today. For a taste of Vranken’s art (and, of course, a glass of its champagne!) a standard cellar tour with subsequent tasting amounts to 22 euros per person.

image1 (8)

Veuve’s elegant terrace is the perfect spot for a tasting in the sunshine.

Veuve Clicquot, Reims

A five minute walk away from Pommery, the luxurious base of Veuve Clicquot can be found. Much of Veuve’s significance comes through its prestigious brand reputation. The fact that the organisation pioneered ‘riddling’ (a crucial champagne production technique) only adds to its historical importance. Tastings are readily available at the house, as are captivating tours. For those who fancy a glass of Veuve’s finest produce, tastings begin at 12 euros per person and are best enjoyed on the house’s bright yet elegant terrace in brilliant sunshine.

Martel, Reims

For a low-key tasting and a comprehensive explanation of what you are drinking and how it is produced, Martel is the place to go. Although tours do not operate here until mid-late summer, the 3-glass tasting offered (12 euros pp) comes complete with a friendly connoisseur in a luxurious sitting room. For an alternative champagne experience, away from the grand houses which tend to dominate international markets, Martel is highly recommended.

Jacquart, Epernay

In neighbouring Epernay, Moet-Hennessy is by far the biggest name in town. However, whilst in the area, a few of the smaller houses are definitely worth a visit. Take Jacquart, for example. A family-run business, passed down through generations, Jacquart offers an informative tour of its chalk cellars and production rooms which are still in action today, in contrast to many larger houses. Whilst failing to compete with Moet in terms of glamour, the pared-back experience Jacquart offers is inherently authentic, presenting a fascinating insight into the life of a champagne tradesman today.

Milan: visiting a fashion capital in style

A few weeks ago, I took my boyfriend to Milan to celebrate his 21st birthday. Admittedly, the San Siro football stadium was at the top of his agenda, but this did not stop us from spending a fantastic weekend exploring Italy’s fashion capital. Here is my selection of the best ways to make the most of your time in Milan…

1) The Duomo

The first stop on any savvy tourist’s trip to Milan is a tour around the city’s Duomo. Whether you wish to explore its decadent interior or casually wander around its perimeter, this is the most iconic selfie-stop in Milan. On a bright day, sitting in the Cathedral’s square is the perfect way to take in the ambiance Italy’s urban jungle has to offer. However, please take heed of a word of warning: in this quarter, both con artists and wreckless pigeons are abundant, so be prepared. On the bright side, Milan’s sight-seeing buses tend to converge in this central area, which is incredibly convenient for those wishing to explore every corner of the city.

Taking the obligatory Duomo tourist snap (whilst praying no pigeons would come my way!)

2) Sforza Castle

For history fans, Sforza Castle offers a complex of museums, covering everything from niche interests (The Museum of Musical Instruments) to ancient tales (The Egyptian Museum). A beautiful set-up itself, the castle’s surroundings offer the perfect place to unwind with some traditional gelato. At only a stone’s throw away from the city centre, the Castle is definitely worth a visit, if only to admire how this formidable structure has been preserved so well in such a highly populated, modernised city.

The Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II is a decadent hub of luxury goods

3) Shopping, shopping, shopping

How one could leave Milan without indulging in its endless opportunities for retail therapy baffles me. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a must-see, if only for its stunning decoration. From Prada to Louis Vuitton, the gallery offers a chic cluster of luxury brands for lovers of high fashion. Nearby, my personal favourites, H&M and Zara can also be found, for those on a budget.

4) The San Siro Stadium

For all football fans (and accommodating girlfriends), a trip along the purple metro line to the renowned San Siro Stadium should be on the cards. Its sheer size is astounding and, arguably, completely necessary, given that it is home to both of Milan’s football teams: AC and Inter. On a visit to the stadium’s gift shop alone, the players will be there to greet you in all of their glory (well, not in real life, but their faces are everywhere). Don’t like one of the teams but love another? Not to worry, the store is well and truly divided, half of it drowned in blue, the other immersed in red. You could literally draw a line between the two sides of merch displays. For access to the stadium’s museum and tour, expect to pay around 17 euros per person.

5) Eat, drink, relax!

After exploring a city in full, it is always reassuring to have on-hand, go-to recommendations of where to eat, drink and relax (and how to avoid remarkably rude service). Frankly, restaurant service was very mixed in Milan, but in some eateries, it appeared as though waiters were going out of their way to be bullheaded with tourists (take Gino’s 1928, where the best thing about our dinner was the view of the Ferrari store across the street). Otherwise, for an evening meal, Di Gennaro produces some delicious, albeit small portioned, pasta. Be aware first-time tourists: any restaurant will include a variable service charge at the end of your bill (this may or may not include bread in return). For some self-love, central Cioccolatitaliani is the place to be: indulge in anything your sweet tooth could imagine, from sublime nutella pancakes to a few scoops of classic gelato. Finally, for a drink to close the day, Dry Milano offers a range of tasty cocktails served by the friendliest staff in the city. For more expensive tastes, the Moet- Chandon rooftop bar of the Rinascente department store is open until midnight and offers some spectacular sunset views.

Indulging in some authentic Italian pasta at Di Gennaro… Bellissimo!

 

Next stop on the Tour de France… Dijon!

During my time here in France, it is safe to say that I have been travelling around the country a fair bit… Well, a lot! My most recent trip was to the beautiful Dijon, famed as much for its speciality mustard as its beautiful UNESCO-protected buildings, which encapsulate unique pieces of history at every corner. Read all about it below…

 When you think Dijon, you think Dijon mustard. At least that’s the first thing both my mother and boyfriend referenced when I announced that I would be visiting the city over Easter Weekend. In all honesty, that was all I myself knew about Dijon, although I had heard that it was also host to another Sciences Po Paris Campus (or, a home away from home, in my case). So, it was clearly time to explore!

 The most striking thing about Dijon is its history, or rather its ability to have intricately treasured buildings dating from the Capetian, Gothic and Renaissance periods. It is not rare to feel as though you have been transported back in time, when roaming the cobbled streets of the city, where even the local pharmacies operate from within beautifully antiquated buildings. Only adding to this historical ambiance is the fact that all museums in the city may be explored free of charge.

IMG_3763.JPG

With impressive, historical architecture at every turn, it is easy to see why Dijon’s buildings have attained UNESCO-protected status

 Given that Dijon offers such a range of museums, it may be difficult to decide where exactly to begin your tour, but a sensible suggestion is the city’s Musée des beaux-arts. Quite literally, housed in a former ducal palace, the establishment offers some of the finest arts from antiquity to modern day. It also provides a fascinating, interactive history lesson on the Bourgogne Empire and its reign, something scarcely covered in textbooks (based on my personal experience, at least). Tempted to learn more about this period? Has Beaux-artsgiven you the bug? Fulfil your interest in the departmental hub’s history by paying a visit to the Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne! Amongst some rather creepy waxwork figures replicating everyday life in a Dijon long-gone, you will find intricately crafted insights into how Bourguignonne life operated daily. From displays of mustard pot antiques, to a whole mock ‘shopping street’ modelled to permit your personal exploration as a Bourguignonne consumer (including everything from sweet stores to apothecaries) you really will come away feeling as though you have momentarily taken a huge leap back in time.

 Not a history boffin? The Jardin des Sciences- Planétarium Hubert Curien offers an alternative, yet still enriching experience. With a range of stunning mineral rocks on offer and various interactive features allowing visitors to explore our universe (to some extent, at least), this is perhaps the most ‘fun’ museum to visit during your stay in Dijon. On top of this, the planetarium is located on the outskirts of Dijon’s botanical gardens, which really are magnificent and only a stone’s throw from the Dijon Ville train station. On a sunny day, this is the perfect place to relax, especially convenient when waiting for your train.

 Where else can you unwind? Jardin Darcy is a must-see, especially if the weather is on your side. If you have time to spare (and perhaps a good book), waste away the day in front of its grand fountain and iconic ‘Pompon’ Polar Bear sculpture. Alternatively, a relaxed exploration of the city’s windy, cobbled streets, popping into its many chocolatiers and mustard shops along the way, is a great way to clear your head.

IMG_3814

Jardin Darcy did not disappoint, with its famous polar bear sculpture in place to greet us

 Speaking of mustard, I’m frankly surprised I haven’t covered that yet! As we know (and referenced in the introduction) Dijon is famed for its speciality mustard. This is, of course, available across the city, in a range of boutiques. However, perhaps the most authentic way to pick up your jar is at Les Halles, a vast indoor-outdoor local food market open on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings. To be honest, some of the vendors are less than pleasant if you’re not prepared to buy from them then and there, without any kind of internal debate. One for example, despite my French fluency, decried my ‘funny accent’, without using proper French grammar himself. Nonetheless, the market is definitely worth a visit for its wide-ranging offers of local produce and the group of nice vendors who treat customers with respect.

 Another speciality Dijon has to offer is its gingerbread, or rather gingerbread cake! This is widely available across the city and definitely worth a try before you leave; you won’t regret taking some home with you!

 Fancy something a little more substantial after a long walk around the city? Gina is a centrally-located Italian-Corsican restaurant, serving up a range of delicious specialities with impeccable service. Alternatively, try Caffe Cosi for an impressive Bouef Bourguignone, but slightly higher prices. If neither of these recommendations suit your tastes, take a tour around Les Halles by night and explore the restaurants that circulate the old market building.

 A trip to Dijon guarantees some fantastic local cuisine blended with a taste of history and some picturesque scenery, if you do it right. So, what are you waiting for?

IMG_3743.JPG

Port Guillaume is yet another famous historical landmark that Dijon has to offer, right by its main shopping street

A dream is a wish your heart makes… My first trip to Disneyland!

It isn’t often that you come across a 20 year old girl who has never even been near to Disneyland… Well, hello! My name is Katie, lovely to meet you! Yes, that’s right: with a handful of days left before turning 21, my dream of visiting Disneyland became a reality. A dream come true it was. However, the day did not quite start off to plan…

A bumpy start

Waking up at the crack of dawn was not a problem this past Sunday. Nor was catching a bus in a random area of Reims, with the tranquil company of around 10 strangers. I was on my way to Disneyland Paris, to meet my good friend Alain for a day of adventure, nostalgia and excitement. Filled with anticipation, I could not wait to be let loose in the park, ready to take in all of its scenery and meet an array of my favourite Disney characters (excuse me for sounding like a child; it was my first time, okay?)

Dozing on and off during the journey, I was quickly and abruptly awoken on reaching the park. For some unknown reason, the jolly bus driver had decided to drop passengers off at an Esso petrol station  (???), touching the very peripheries of the resort. Confused and faced with the Cars-themed Santa Fe hotel (which looked great, but felt like more than a million miles away from Disneyland, itself), I made my way down the most reassuring road I could find. After several wrong turns, 3 calls with Alain and all of this compounded by the fact that I had no mobile data left to access Google Maps (story of my life), I finally reached the park gates, to be met with exactly what I expected: a dreamlike, jovial resort that I already wished I had visited a lot sooner.

Now, it is not hard to guess that Disneyland isn’t cheap: 99 euros for on the door entry to both parks (Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios) served as a bit of a blow to my bank account, but the day ahead was certainly worth it.

Walt Disney Studios: a celebration of success

Starting off at Walt Disney Studios provided a real adventure, an exploration of the conglomerate’s biggest hits through a series of rides and attractions. This was, indeed, less of the generic ‘fantasyland’, one tends to expect from Disney, instead more of a corporate sweep through the company’s successes.

image2 (2)

Exciting times at Walt Disney Studios

As a disclaimer, I simply refused to go on the renowned Tower of Terror. Yes, I know, what a spoil sport! It has great reviews, I am aware of this. However, the most horrifying elevator ride to ever be encountered proved to be too much of a fright for me, somebody who was brave enough only last year to start going on ‘adult’ roller coasters. To compensate for this, I promised to face all of the other adrenaline-inducing, edge of your seat attractions the park would offer.

Thrill seeker Spoilers

Now, first on the agenda was to collect a fast pass for the Rock n Roller Coaster. Little did I know that if you plan ahead and collect free fast passes at a given Disney ride to return later during a designated half hour, you can effectively skip the queue of said attraction, saving precious time to enjoy the rest of the resort. Sensational!

So, after some savvy logistical planning, we decided to embark upon our first ride: Crush’s Coaster! Fun fact: I love the rapids and log flumes, for that matter. Knowing this, my good friend Alain convinced me that, since this Coaster was Finding Nemo-inspired, we would be queuing for approximately 2 hours (yes, the queues are insane) to enjoy some rapid-ripping fun. Finally arriving at the front of the line, this turned out to be far from the case. Instead, we were presented with a crazy indoor roller coaster, consisting of sudden drops and dizzying effects. Although my eyes were closed for most of the ride, as a result of pure shock and disarray, I do recall opening them at one point to find myself inside a dark cave filled with glowing, psychedelic jellyfish… Confused does not even begin to cover how I felt. So, be aware: this ride is definitely for thrill seekers and not, as originally thought, a casual raft being bandied about over bumpy waves.

image1 (4)

Crush’s Coaster was a real thrill… Although not quite what I expected!

A brief recovery from Crush’s Coaster meant that it was time to put our fast passes to use on the Rock n Roller Coaster, a high-speed, Aerosmith-themed adventure with 360-degree loops, sudden drops and tense stops. This was perhaps the biggest thrill of the day. Walking through a mock-recording studio, complete with a pre-recorded video of the band, my stomach had never played host to more butterflies. My fears, however, disappeared as the ride commenced. An adrenaline-inducing journey, my screams gradually turned to giggles as I realised that Walk this Way was blaring out for riders to enjoy, amongst the chaos. Yes, I still have absolutely no idea as to why there is an Aerosmith-themed ride in the park, but I’m not complaining: it was pretty fantastic in the end.

Nostalgia, nostalgia, nostalgia

Following two heart-racing encounters, we needed to catch our breath, making the decision to explore the more tranquil Disneyland Park. On entering the second half of the resort, I was met with exactly what I had expected of Disneyland: a surreal fairytale kingdom, ripe with imagination and nostalgia. Walking down Main Street, I could not believe my eyes: each and every store or restaurant was intricately and creatively themed, the vision behind it executed to a tee. In the distance, the park’s landmark, pastel pink castle was the centre of focus, towering above for all to see.

29526652_1947912401916937_998130737_o.jpg

Disneyland’s most remarkable icon did not disappoint

When I was only a small child, my Great-Grandparents, avid fans of Disney and frequent visitors to the Florida resort, would show me videos of the fantasyland that I one day hoped to visit. Without any kind of exaggeration, it was simply as though I was now starring in one of those treasured VHS tapes. They always used to tell me about the jovial boat ride It’s A Small World and so visiting that attraction was a priority.

After waiting in another long queue (there seems to be a pattern emerging here, no?), accompanied by the rhythm of a deafening clock’s ticking, we climbed into a small boat to see if it really was a small world, after all. The ride was adorable. With little dolls representing a spectrum of nationalities in very stereotypical settings (of course, we, the Brits, were represented by soldiers and London’s Tower  Bridge) our microcosmic tour of the world was very pleasant and, for me, reminiscent of childhood memories.

29693464_1947879105253600_728290815_o.jpg

It’s a small world after all! Seeing Disney’s Tower Bridge made me feel a little closer to home

An obligatory carousel ride (if not for the experience, just for the selfies) was followed by some much needed nourishment. Spending over an hour deciding where to eat, we settled on Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost, a cute, little Italian restaurant hidden away in Adventureland. My star-shaped, 10 euro pizza was surprisingly filling and tasty, meaning that I passed up on the opportunity to indulge in one of the many desserts the restaurant offered. A special mention also goes out to the neighbouring Hakuna Matata restaurant. Whilst its spicy meatballs, kebabs, burgers and Lion King-esque atmosphere all seemed appealing, they could not quell my appetite for Italian cuisine, or, frankly, just any form of pizza.

A spectacular disappointment

Our energies revived, we then proceeded to waste a grand total of nearly two hours queuing for the park’s Indiana Jones roller coaster. After watching the coaster pass by approximately 1,567 times, we were greeted with the message that, due to technical difficulties, the ride would be taking a little operation break. Observing stranded passengers getting evacuated by staff, we decided to move on to bigger, better and what we hoped would be well-functioning attractions.

Ending the day in style

The frustration of waiting for a defunct ride’s revival to no avail could only be tempered by one solution: retail therapy. Purchasing a pair of obligatory Minnie Mouse ears with an enormous Minnie shaped lollipop, the inner child in me was restored. Exploring Aladdin’s hidden cave and Sleeping Beauty’s iconic castle itself, the disappointment of Indiana Jones soon felt like a distant memory.

29680618_1947911985250312_798868675_o.jpg

Enjoying the nice weather at Alice in Wonderland’s Labyrinth

We were even lucky enough to watch the park’s epic parade! Initially surprised by the resort’s apparent lack of our favourite costumed-characters, I soon realised that this vibrant carnival was what they had all been preparing for. Everybody from Peter Pan to Donald Duck took to the streets, putting on an unforgettable spectacle which attracted vast crowds of all ages.

29513791_1947912511916926_808571433_o

Our favourite characters finally came to greet us in the afternoon parade!

Before heading home, there was one thing left to do: be brave and face the infamous Hyperspace Mountain. Fast passes in hand, we quickly made it on to the Star-Wars themed shuttle. A high-speed, bumpy adventure left me a little underwhelmed and with a slight blow to the head. Nonetheless, travelling through another galaxy was an exciting way to end the day. 

Back to reality

En route back to the Santa Fe, in a bid to successfully reunite with my bus, I did not want to leave. There was still so much more to do, to see… Of course, in the future I intend to return and stay in one of the resort’s abundant ‘themed’ hotels. Until that day, I guess I’ll have to just re-watch all of my favourite Disney movies; I mean, they never get old…

 

A day well spent in Europe’s hidden gem

On arriving in France for my year abroad, it took some time to settle in, as it does when one moves to a new country. Once I had grown used to the intense French schooling methods and pretty much everything being closed on a Sunday, my friends and I took a road trip to nearby Luxembourg, which proved to be a real adventure. I decided to write an article on what Europe’s hidden gem has to offer…

Luxembourg is a small country with nothing to do. This is one of the most common myths too often repeated in discussions concerning the fascinating microstate, nestled between France, Belgium and Germany. A day spent in Luxembourg City, the state’s capital, is typically a day full of culture, history, delicious cuisine and shopping (if you wish). Whilst one can probably cover the full extent of what the city has to offer during a day or so, this small but sweet grand duchy certainly merits a visit.

Despite being accessible via train, plane, bus or car, landlocked Luxembourg has retained its traditional approach to living. Staying true to its heritage, symbols of the micro state’s royal family are abundant in the capital city’s centre, whether they appear in the form of novelty souvenirs or in the shape of the nation’s grand palace. However, what the state has managed to achieve is something rarely found: a perfect blend of respecting its unique roots whilst modernising in line with our increasingly globalised society. Yes, development projects are apparent but this is a sign of progress and certainly does not take away from the grand duchy’s evident beauty.

IMG_1496

The magnificent gates of the famous Grand Ducal Palace

Amongst the culturally enriching venues Luxembourg City provides are several captivating museums. Most notably, Luxembourg’s modern art museum (MUDAM) offers year round exhibitions which are thought provoking to say the least. Currently on display is the Ad Reinhardt exhibition, which is ripe with the American abstract painter/ illustrator’s diverse work. With free entry for students and reasonable rates for adults, this museum is a must see on any visit to the city.

Notre Dame Cathedral and the National Museum of Natural History are also highly recommended establishments to explore, to truly appreciate the history and culture Luxembourg has to offer. Built between 1613-1621 by Jesuits as a church for their college, the Cathedral’s beautiful architecture has stayed intact and, within its walls, offers a piece of history, largely hidden and underappreciated. The Natural History Museum hosts exhibitions covering regional life in Luxembourg, the evolution of natural species and even the origins of the universe. It would be an incredible challenge not to learn of multiple captivating stories, after coming away from this venue.

Whilst rich in what it has to offer culturally, simply taking a walk in Luxembourg and exploring its capital first hand is rewarding enough in itself. Notably clean for a city centre, a browse around the capital’s shops is a pleasant experience. Typical chain stores such as H&M can be found amongst more independent stores, selling both clothes and locally produced food, meaning that shopping in the centre caters for a range of tastes (quite literally).

Want to escape from globalised civilisation and truly explore what this hidden gem has to offer? Take a walk by the River Grund. Located in the lowest part of the city, should you take the elevator down to the walkway, you will have a prime chance to take in some of the beautiful scenery the city has to offer. A keen photographer’s dream, particularly in autumn, a walk by the Grund or simply over the Pont Adolphe offers some stunning sights that can never be forgotten.

IMG_1528

Perhaps not the sunniest sky, but Luxembourg still offers beautiful views

Exploring even a microstate’s capital can work up an appetite, so of course it is useful to know the best places to eat in the area. A must-visit is the Chocolate House. With an endless choice of flavours, from ‘rose’ to salted caramel, relax behind a luxurious hot chocolate in this cosy hideaway before continuing to explore. Worked up more of an appetite than a hot chocolate can satisfy? Bistrot de la Presse, just across from the magnificent Grand Duchal palace, offers hearty portions of a range of dishes in a traditional Luxembourgish atmosphere. Surrounded by souvenirs celebrating the state’s royalty, a taste of history is as readily available as a delicious meal.

Screenshot 2018-03-24 at 15.00.29

At the Chocolate House, relaxing over some Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

Keen to revisit some of the gems you have discovered? Why not stay overnight? Most hotels in the capital range from 80-150 euros per room per night. On the more luxurious end of the spectrum, Sofitel Luxembourg Le Grand Duchal is perfect for those wanting to continue their Luxembourgish fairytale. Alternatively, the Grand Hotel Cravat is conveniently located near to the train station and only 8KM away from the airport.

It may be small for a country. It may be often underappreciated in terms of its culture, history and cuisine. However, a trip to Luxembourg is a trip never to be forgotten, as it is guaranteed to be ripe with wonderful memories and enrichment.

IMG_1475

A road trip is definitely the best way to travel to and from Lux; bring friends for added fun!