‘Something special’… Depot Rotterdam.Photo: SBWorldphotography/Getty Images
Inside a mirrored ark, Rotterdam
A museum shop – but not as you know it… As soon as you see the enormous mirror ark called the Rotterdam Depot, you know you are in for something special. The Escher-esque stairs are open to the public and are designed to encourage visitors to get lost; to discover objects from below, from above, to look at the backs of photos. Guided tours (you can wear a white coat for this) give visitors insight into the storage of objects and the complex process of a museum loan. And if you are full of wonder, you can enjoy delicious tea and food at the rooftop restaurant, while enjoying the city view from the roof garden. Tickets cost €20.
The library of the future, Helsinki
Our December trip to wintery Helsinki was pretty amazing – I was blown away by a parkrun in a snowy forest, heated sidewalks in the city center, Portaloos with radiators at the Christmas market, but then we came across perhaps the best library ever! There are the usual books and magazines and computer use, but at the Oodi Central Library you can also rent meeting space, photo studios, recording studios, games room and kitchens/dining rooms, have lunch, large format printers/cutters, sewing machines, use musical instruments, do your ironing And (my favorite) rent power tools! How cool is that?
Tips from Guardian Travel readers
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The brutal dwarfs of Wrocław
For me it has to be the Bronze Dwarves of Wrocław. Now that there are over 600 in the city (the boom started in 2005, when there were only a few dozen), you can find them doing all kinds of mischievous activities on storefronts, street corners and in public gardens. They make a fantastic spotting activity for a walking tour, and you can even get guides and maps to help you tick them off. Look for the cheeky ice cream eater and the brave fire team.
Urban surf, Porto
Wild and elegant come together in Porto. Hop on the metro and whiz past UNESCO-listed cobbled streets, cafes bursting with tart pastries and dark, aromatic port wine cellars. You’ll soon find yourself in the suburb of Matosinhos, home to some of Europe’s best urban surfing spots. Grab a board and wetsuit from a local surf school and paddle headfirst into the wild Atlantic spray. Total beginners can book lessons from just €25. The soft, sandy-bottomed beaches are great for learning and attract far fewer crowds than hotspots such as Ericeira and Peniche further south.
An intoxicating fairytale, Ljubljana, Slovenia
During an Interrailing trip with my boyfriend, we made our third stop in Ljubljana. We had relatively low expectations, but were blown away by the food, culture and friendliness of the locals. We stayed at the Fuzzy Log Hostel for three nights and researched “cheap eats” to help us stay on budget. The city is small and clean, but thriving and youthful, with a mix of fairytale architecture and relaxed Mediterranean culture. We were especially happy to discover that Slovenia is one of the best wine capitals in the world, something we definitely made the most of!
Porches and pizza, Bologna
Italy’s “fat city” is a dream for anyone who loves food. Stroll the streets and stop for pizza by the slice, the perfect marriage between greasy but crispy and wood-fired. Spend a leisurely morning browsing vintage goods at the antique market in Via Santo Stefano, and regret booking carry-on only. Have lunch at Mò Mortadella Lab for a ham sandwich while enjoying the view of the Two Towers of Bologna. Full feeling? Wander through the porticoes of Bologna, 664 arches that wind through the streets, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. End the day with tagliatelle al ragu in a cozy restaurant with a bottle of red wine.
Staggering in the years, Copenhagen
To see Copenhagen in a different light before you go or while you’re there, check out the Danish Film Institute’s silent film archive at stumfilm.dk. Many of the films contain parts shot on location, such as the fragment from The Cocaine Rush, with a scene about the Copenhagen Zoo tower, or the social democratic propaganda film From Darkness Towards Light, which shows various facilities that have been built by the social partners. Democrats. It’s a fascinating way to compare the city of 100 years ago with what we see today.
The historic hills of Munich
I saw Munich in a new light after climbing to the top of the “Schuttberg” hills scattered throughout the city center. These literally mean ‘piles of rubble’ and were created after the Second World War, when piles of rubble left over from bombings were planted with greenery. They are not small: the highest (Olympiaberg) is 56 meters high. The hills offer far-reaching views of the city. But the place is also a strong reminder of German history and its rebirth after 1945. The other hills are called Luitpoldhügel and Neuhofener Berg.
Stick around in Palma, Mallorca
I can highly recommend Palma. It is often a place that vacationers fly to, but then quickly leave when they fly to the island’s resorts. But they have to stick around. The city features beautiful architecture, cafes on tree-lined boulevards and a truly spectacular cathedral. You can easily get lost for a day wandering the old streets of the city center. Our unexpected discovery on our recent visit was the wonderful ride on a 1912 open-sided train from Palma to Sóller, through beautiful mountains, with orange groves, olive groves and stunning views to Port de Sóller – a lovely place for a day out.
Winning tip: beautiful Sarajevo
My partner and I could not have enjoyed this beautiful city more. Winding, cobbled streets from the Ottoman era suddenly transform into dazzling Austro-Hungarian splendor as you explore its rich, tragic history. Make sure you take the cable car up to Trebević for great views and to see the old bobsleigh track. The food is fantastic and incredibly good value for money – deliciously grilled ćevapi (£5 per portion), in a range of flavours burek (£2-3 each) and velvety Bosnian coffee (£1).