reminiscing düsseldorf

The current travel restrictions put in place due to the pandemic means that most of us have been stuck at home and can only flick through holiday albums and fantasise about about the trips we were due to take this year.

For me, it’s Düsseldorf. The prominent German city which sits east of the Rhine river and hosts an array of luxury brands and museums. I’ve visited Düsseldorf multiple times over the past 5 years, but no visit was more special to me than my most recent trip there. It was during the beginning of the Christmas period and the lights in the town square had just been switched on. My previous visits to the city took place during the summer months, hence why this trip was the start of a new experience for me.

There’s nothing better than visiting a typical German Christmas market in the months of November. Although Düsseldorf remains one of the wealthiest and most expensive cities in Germany, the Christmas markets are far cheaper and more value for money than the ones near my home in London. Whether you prefer to splurge on Bratwurst hotdogs, chips and gravy – the national favourite – or browse the stalls with individually handcrafted nutcrackers and tree decorations, then the Christmas markets are just for you.

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It wasn’t only the Christmas markets which made my holiday. It was also the weather. I’ve always loved the winter season. It includes the combination of my favourite holidays (Halloween, Christmas, Birthdays…) but also the satisfaction of wrapping up in my winter coat, wearing thick walking socks and boots, longing for snowfall and only cringing at the approach of warmer seasons. Düsseldorf was cold but magical. From the minute I stepped off the plane, I felt a harsh wind pinching at every inch of my face. The best way to make the most of the weather was to take a stroll down the river in Königsallee. You will see a multitude of picturesque bridges and streams of small canal boats docked up for the winter. Beware though, Königsallee is also the ultimate shopping destination, boasting high end brands such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Rolex. This entire street would be filled with lights and Christmas decor so you are bound to bump into overly excited tourists one way or another. I hope to return to Düsseldorf soon – preferably again during the winter and perhaps explore more of the Christmas markets.

If you would like to see more of my trip to Germany, check out my video here.

If you liked this post, check out my other travel articles; Top 10 highlights in Amsterdam and 48 hours in Prague.

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Amsterdam: Top 10 highlights

Cobbled streets, narrow canals and an abundance of pancakes. We spent 4 days in Amsterdam and explored the entirety of the city by day and night. Here are my top ten highlights.

10. Van Gogh Museum. The dutch painter has his artwork displayed across the globe but in Amsterdam you can experience all the different versions of the ‘Sunflowers’, the works of Van Gogh’s friends and a deeper understanding of his life. Tickets are absolutely free for under 18s and €19 for adults, but make sure to reserve your places online beforehand as the museum is extremely popular.

9. Albert Cuyp Market. The largest market in Amsterdam that stretches across an entire alleyway. Just a 10 minute walk from the museum quarters, Albert Cuyp consists of hundreds of market stalls selling everything from electronics and jewellery to fresh fish and traditional dutch desserts. We tried everything from raw herring with pickles and onions to freshly made stroopwaffles run by a father and son. The market sells everything you could imagine from as little as 50 cents.

8. Bike rentals. The most obvious thing to in Amsterdam is rent a bicycle and join the locals on the roads, but we were torn between which rental company to use and whether to hire a tandem or not. As we were walking through a market, we saw a sign for bike rentals and discovered that the shop had an option for a four person bicycle. The bike consisted of 4 sets of pedals and one steering wheel. At just a cost of €20 for the hour (€5 per person), we rented it out and rode around the famous Vondelpark. It was the most spontaneous thing we did on the trip and by far the most fun we had. Just a word of warning though; don’t take a sizeable four person bicycle down the middle of a busy market on a Saturday afternoon. We did not please anyone..

7. Anne Frank house. This is a must-do when visiting Amsterdam. Anne Frank house remains as one of the most important buildings in the city, containing a mixture of historical and cultural values. The museum is €10 for adults but hurry, its incredibly popular with tourists so tickets must be bought at least 2 months in advance.

6. Electric ladyland Located just a 10 minute walk from the Anne Frank House, Electric ladyland is essentially a fluroescent museum in the basement of rock collectors. At €5 per person, you can spend an hour in a magnificent display of fluorescent lights as well as a tour of the couples jaw dropping collection of paintings including works from Leon Hendrix.

5. The pancake bakery. It may look small on the outside but the pancake bakery stretches far back into the shop, but not once failing to keep the smell of freshly cooked pancakes out of reach. The menu consists of everything from American pancakes to sweet and savoury Dutch crepes. It’s a little pricey but one of the best ways to discover the Dutch culture.

4. Hortus Botanicus. Spend a nice afternoon away from the busy tourist hot spots and visit the botanical gardens of Amsterdam. Tickets cost just under €10 and with that you can explore 3 different greenhouses, home to 1000s of species of tropical and temperate plants. You can also enjoy the butterfly garden as well as the pond which hosts giant water lilies. We also spent a significant amount of time in the gift shop, admiring the intricate hand crafted wooden sculptures.

3. Boat Tours. Make the most of the open canals with a boat tour around the city. Don’t be fooled to take a cramped, commercial boat tour where you essentially have no space to breathe. We were recommended the friendship boat tour which was about €16 for just over an hour. We were given blankets and there was even a bar, but most importantly it was an open roof.

2. NDSM. Just a 15 minute free ferry ride away from Amsterdam Centraal Station lies an undiscovered hipster territory. We spent an evening exploring the small town and its astonishing graffiti. There was also a large vintage market and a beach but we walked about 10 minutes further from the busy areas into the realms of container homes, where we enjoyed pizzas at a local cafe.

1.The windmills. Take a day trip outside of Amsterdam and visit the countries iconic windmills at Zaanse Schans. The train ticket cost just €7 and we spent an entire morning walking around a picturesque cocoa scented town. The town is home to more than 600 windmills and there are options to tour most of them. There are also many cafes which pride in making the best hot chocolates in the Netherlands.

If you liked this, you will enjoy reading 48 hours in Prague

48 hours in Prague

Prague. A city of history, culture and a rich profusion of ancient buildings. I actually visited the city for a wedding but having stayed inside the hotel for the most part, I was intrigued to see whether I could explore more of the city, but with a twist: in just 48 hours.

DAY ONE:

I didn’t land in Václav Havel airport in the best of moods. My flight was delayed for 2 hours (thanks EasyJet) and I got no compensation. Outrageous right? We left our things at the hotel and hurried out to make the most of our limited time. First stop, breakfast.

Café Spirit did not fail to keep in touch with it’s name. It was a pleasant café with friendly staff and delicious home-made food whilst being reasonably priced. We decided to spend the rest of the day doing the typical Prague tour. We went around by foot, mainly because I did not want to pay €150 for a Segway tour around the city (although I was tempted). We started at the famous Charles’ bridge; a connection that the King would use to get from his castle to the Olde town square. To the left of the river was

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Waldstein Palace

Waldstein palace, which in my opinion was a piece of architectural genius. A combination of arches and pointed rooftops along with the maze like gardens truly represented the gothic nature of the city and reflected the style of living in the late Middle Ages.

Next we made our way to the dancing house. Contrasting with the palace, the dancing house was an eccentric yet extraordinary building. It brings together both modern and gothic aspects of the city – almost reminding me of something you would find in a children’s horror movie.

As a huge Beatles fan, I needed to visit the Lennon wall and needless to say, I was not disappointed. The wall was originally put up in the late 1940s for protests to occur over the communist takeover. However, this soon became a memorial for John Lennon with Beatles inspired graffiti taking up every inch of wall- it was admirable to say the least. We had lunch in a local pub (the Czechs really do love their bread and potatoes)  and made our way to the other side of the river where we came across the narrowest street in Prague. Although it was just 19.6 inches wide, what fascinated me the most was that there were traffic lights installed telling us when to go! 

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Pub Lunch

The evening sun was fading as we entered the olde town square. And even so, the centre was full of life with the abundance of food stalls, restaurants and crowds gathering to watch the chime of the astronomical clock. If you really wanted to see the true beauty of the clock, my advice would be to start gathering at least half an hour before the chime because there will be A LOT of people. It wasn’t hard looking for the roasted potato swirl stalls because there were so many of them but if you have a sweet tooth, you will love Captain Candy which had more types of candy than you could imagine. Of course I had to stock up. At this point, my legs felt like jelly and we couldn’t go by foot any longer. A taxi back to the hotel it was.

DAY TWO:

The next day started slowly. By the time we were ready, it was almost time for brunch. The fresh and fat bistro (no, I’m not describing myself) did the job. The food was both delicious and instagrammable which is always a bonus. We headed on to Prague National Gallery, where I spent most of my time in the Medieval Arts section (what can I say, I’m a Medieval loving maniac). Unfortunately, Prague castle was closed for the day so we decided to…  The sex machines museum. In all fairness, I was frightened at first by the flexibility of the human body but equally fascinated by how these “machines” had developed over time. 

The next day started slowly. By the time we were ready, it was almost time for brunch. The fresh and fat bistro (no, I’m not describing myself) did the job. The food was both delicious and instagrammable which is always a bonus. We headed on to Prague National Gallery, where I spent most of my time in the Medieval Arts section (what can I say, I’m a Medieval loving maniac). Unfortunately, Prague castle was closed for the day so we decided to…  The sex machines museum. In all fairness, I was frightened at first by the flexibility of the human body but equally fascinated by how these “machines” had developed over time. 

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National Gallery gardens

The rest of the afternoon was spent in Palladium. With 11 floors, it’s definitely the biggest shopping mall in Prague. Architecturally  the building was fairly modern but had gothic accents to reflect the city’s past.

After dinner, we made a quick stop back at the hotel and headed back out to Karlovy Lazne which prides itself in being the largest nightclub in Central Europe. It was also a great time to try famous Czech cocktails – BECHEROVKA AND TONIC IS PHENOMENAL. We then spent the early hours of the morning half-drunkenly packing and heading to the airport. The hangover was unreal but what an amazing 48 hours it was. 

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