Four cities – many sights with a twist
How about exploring some slightly different culture or history sights on your next city break? We picked some off the beaten path spots to explore in four familiar cities around Europe.
If you love quirky museums, you will love Amsterdam. The city is practically filled with eccentric collections dedicated to anything and everything. You could start your exploration at De Kattenkabinet, a small museum filled with art representing cats from 18th century paintings to art deco posters.
If music is more your thing, you should check out the Pianola Museum. The museum has a collection of automatic pianos and related objects, including 30 000 rolls of automatic music. The museum also hosts concerts, played on the pianola of course.
For something a bit more contemporary Fashion for Good is an initiative and an exhibition space dedicated for sustainable fashion. The interactive space tells you about the future of clothing as well as lets you get involved. You can for example create your own action plan for better clothing choices or design a sustainable T-shirt.
Berlin’s unusual and varied history can be experienced in every corner of the city. One of the more bizarre sights is Teufelsberg, an abandoned and dilapidated spy station. The strange building topped with white globes acted as a listening station to the American NSA during the Cold War. Teufelsberg is around 13 kilometres from the city centre but can be reached with public transport.
For a different take on the cold war period, visit the museum dedicated for East Germany’s iconic car of choice, the Trabant. The Trabi museum is a real nostalgia trip, but if you want to make the experience even more memorable you can book a seat for a Trabi Safari around Berlin!
If you are planning to go to Potsdam, add Cecilienhof Palace to your agenda. The Tudor style manor house has interesting connections to both World Wars and the Cold War. It is best known as the site for the 1945 Potsdam Conference attended by Josef Stalin, Harry Truman, and Winston Churchill.
Visiting a cemetery might not sound like the most enjoyable holiday activity, but Lisbon’s 19th century Prazeres Cemetery is well worth a visit. Prazeres even means pleasure! The cemetery is very beautiful with tree-lined streets leading off to architecturally interesting mausoleums, including the largest in Europe.
Lisbon’s Museu da Farmácia, museum for the history of medicine, also offers something unique. It houses entire apothecaries constructed in the styles of the 18th to the early 20th centuries. The displays include everything from apothecary instruments to strange medicinal ingredients.
For fans of history and literature a must-see in Lisbon is the Livraria Bertrand. The 1732 established business is the world’s oldest bookshop still in operation. The shop has a vast collection of books, including an extensive English language department. It has also been a favourite meeting point for artists, writers, and intellectuals through its history.
Prague has many quirky sights with a link to the city’s medieval past. The 13th century Kostel svatého Jakuba Většího (Basilica of St. James the Greater) is a stunning church in Prague’s old town with elaborate mosaics and gildings. What makes the church slightly odd though is that it also displays a centuries-old mummified arm of an alleged church thief.
For more medieval eccentricity try the museum of alchemists and magicians Speculum Alchemiae. The museum is in one of the oldest houses in Prague and it has displays of alchemical laboratories with all relevant equipment. If you want to extend your knowledge on the subject, the museum also has walking tours of Prague’s places that have a connection to magic and alchemy.
For something modern but equally off-beat, try out one of the black light performances shown in several of Prague’s theatres. The performances are held in darkened rooms using black light and various methods of optical illusion. The result is breath-taking. Search for "black light theatre" to find the options available.