Autumn city breaks: Europe’s greatest capitals

It’s that time of year again: uncertainty over whether to pack the umbrella (do it), doubt over whether to cycle in the rain (don’t do it), and the annual household argument over central heating (it’s definitely cold enough). Yep, Autumn is here.

The onset of our third season also means that we can start deliberating over a much more exciting predicament – planning an autumnal getaway. Autumn is prime for a European city break and today I’m going to focus on a quintet of the continent’s most fantastic capital cities.


“The Paris of the East” is the perfect nickname for this wonderful central European destination. The two sides of the city, “Buda” and “Pest”, straddle both banks of Europe’s most famous river – the Danube.

Hungary was once one of Europe’s powerhouse countries and the architecture alludes to that. The Parliament building, Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion are all examples of a city that thrived, largely thanks to its proximity on a river that spans 10 countries.

Another positive of going to Hungary right now is the favourable exchange rate from pound to Forint.


If “Paris of the East” is used as praise for Budapest – then just imagine being Paris! I know Paris doesn’t have feelings, but it is most definitely a city with feeling!

The City of Romance, the City of Lights, the home of the Louvre, The Eiffel Tower, a thriving arts scene, arguably the best food in the world, The Palace of Versailles (day trip), Notre Dame Cathedral – there are so many globally recognised “wow” things to do in Paris that it’s quite unbelievable.

If there is a greater city in the world to sit and have a late-afternoon coffee and watch the world go by then please, add it to the comments section as I’d like to go!


Although similar, Lisbon doesn’t get the recognition of a Barcelona or a Valencia but then, Portugal is used to sitting in Spain’s shadow. Unfairly? Without doubt. Do they care? Not really – they’re used to it!

Lisbon is not quite a  secret anymore though. If it is, then it’s a badly kept one. That’s because this is a glorious city full of colour, life and verve. And unlike Paris or Budapest, you’ll likely get a bit of sunshine in the Autumn too. The hills are severe, the cobbled streets winding, the areas varied in aesthetics and content. And the seafood, oh the seafood.

Lisbon is on the Atlantic Coast and to my mind, the seafood rivals anywhere in Europe.


A city steeped in history. Home to the most powerful empire to have ever existed, and a place that has not forgotten its past.

Luckily, it’s not quite as dangerous as it once was but you can still visit all of those places and imagine what it once was. Go to the Coliseum, go to the Pantheon, go to Vatican City – it’s okay to be an old-school tourist for the day because in Rome, you just have to.

And once you’ve got all of that out of the way then explore the winding, slopping back-streets: popping into bars for antipasti, beer, wine, coffee – Rome is indulgent and so should you be.

Fun fact: An estimated €3500 is thrown into the Trevi Fountain by travellers every day – the money has been used to subsidise a market for the homeless. Nice touch.


Despite being Spain’s capital city – Madrid is regularly overlooked as a European holiday destination – a reality I feel is rather unjust.

Madrid has all the things that people love about Spain. Delicious food, amazing weather, late-night dining and dancing, but it also has a certain pace and vitality that you can only get in a capital.

The palaces are stunning the municipal buildings the grandest and most jaw-dropping in Spain, unusually for this part of the world, there is also a fair smattering of greenery… although as it’s autumn the parks will also be full of reds, yellows and browns too

Sports fan or not, a visit to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium should be on your list too. Real Madrid are the biggest, richest and most famous club on the planet and they employ the world’s greatest footballer in Cristiano Ronaldo. You need to see the passion of the locals up close.

So finally, if you put me on the spot, which city would I select?

If I had to pick one, I’d pick Budapest – but I think it’s because I went with medium expectations and it totally over-delivered.

The truth is, you could close your eyes and point to any of these capitals and you wouldn’t be disappointed. Just move in fast, autumn is here and flights and accommodation will fill up fast.

Rob Stross is Chief Marketing Officer at WeSwap.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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7 great reasons to visit central Europe


Central Europe might not conjure images of luxury when you’re planning the perfect holiday, but that’s an outdated perception that means only those in-the-know are taking advantage of this vibrant region’s best options. From admiring opulent architecture to pampering yourself at mountainside spas, Central Europe offers more than enough options for luxury travel. Here are a few of my personal favourite.

1. Awe-inspiring architecture in Prague

Just about every city in Europe has a nickname, but Prague actually has two of the most alluring: “The City of 100 Spires” and “The Golden City.” Together, they nicely sum up the charm of Prague and its magnificent architecture.


Many of those beautiful buildings are evidence of Prague’s recent foodie renaissance, with Michelin-starred restaurants in some of the city’s loveliest areas, including Field in Old Town and Eska in the Karlin district.

For a royal experience you can stay in Mala Strana, the quaint neighborhood below the castle. From there it’s a short walk across the iconic Charles Bridge to some of the most dazzling sites in Central Europe.

2. Dresden’s decadent Christmas markets

Dresden is famous throughout the world for its decadent Christmas markets. There’s something truly wonderful about huddling with good friends over steaming cups of spicy mulled wine as the city reveals its fairytale Christmas scenes.


Dresden is also no stranger to luxury, with some of the region’s finest hotels located in the heart of the city, along with several more unique boutique options. And don’t forget about the museums. The Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Picture Gallery) and The Green Vault are two of Europe’s most impressive collections of art and treasure.

3. Opulent opera in Vienna

Vienna is a city of unparalleled high culture and there’s no better way to experience it than by taking in an opera while you’re visiting. The building itself, the Vienna Opera, is worth the price of admission, even if you’re not a music lover. If you are, you’re in for a true treat, as this is some of the finest classical music in the world.


It’s not hard to find excuses to enjoy the high life in Vienna, from the lovely coffee houses to the boutique hotels and high-end shops. This is a city with style to spare and you can really experience the best of the Old World here.

4. Breathtaking beauty in Slovenia

Slovenia doesn’t always top the list for luxury vacations, and that’s too bad because it’s one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. The capital, Ljubljana, has class and culture and an excellent restaurant and cafe scene. Rural destinations like Lake Bled are fabulously picturesque.


All over the country you’ll find a laid back, welcoming atmosphere, and the perfect mix of urban sophistication and untouched landscapes. The excellent local cuisine and wine might even remind you of northern Italy, which isn’t far away.

5. Beer halls and history in Munich

Don’t let Munich’s staid exterior fool you, there’s a raucous food and drink culture here, along with a volatile history. Often the two intermingle. Hitler actually staged his first rallies in Munich’s beer halls, some of which you can still visit today.


It’s hard to think of another city that so successfully combines the power of modern business with history and a love for good times. Bring an appetite when you go!

6. Bohemian chic in Berlin

Berlin’s history as a divided city fostered a creative community of artists and musicians, many of whom are now helping make it a destination for travelers seeking authentic Bohemian chic.


Besides the surreal wonders of the Berlin Wall and all of the amazing museums associated with World War II and the Cold War, there are several outstanding neighborhoods to explore like Mitte and Kreuzberg, and many fine dining restaurants with world-class charm.

7. Hot springs and spas in Budapest

They call Budapest “Paris on the Danube” for good reason. Between the fabulous five-star hotels and the impressive Old World architecture, it’s easy to feel decadent and luxurious while vacationing here. That’s especially true if you know where to enjoy the best the city has to offer.


Andrassy Boulevard is one must-see street, with amazing architecture and great shopping. A river cruise is always in order, and the spas and hot springs will have you feeling your best after a long day of urban exploration. These are gems of architecture in themselves, and have a long and proud history in the city.

Jay Ternavan is the Founder of JayWay Travel.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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5 of the best art stops in Budapest, Hungary


In recent years, Budapest has become a firm favourite for travels of all generations. For young backpackers exploring Europe, the Hungarian capital offers quirky ruin bars and late-night parties in the famous thermal baths; for mature travellers, highlights include the rich political history embodied by Buda Castle and Parliament, as well as hearty Hungarian cuisine and fine-dining. One aspect which unites all visitors to the ‘Pearl of the Danube’ is the city’s artistic heritage, with traditional, modern and contemporary art on display in various museums and galleries throughout Budapest. Here’s our list of top Budapest art spots:


Magyar Nemzeti Galéria (Hungarian National Gallery)

At the top of Castle Hill looking out over the Danube river and the city is Buda Castle, which was home to the Hungarian monarchy for some 600 years; today, the castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been home to the Hungarian National Gallery since 1957. The journey to the top of Castle Hill alone is an activity not-to-be-missed, which can be reached either by a pleasant uphill walk or a ride on the funicular. The views from Castle Hill are breathtaking, and can be enjoyed alongside a spot of lunch or an afternoon drink from one of the cafes and restaurants in the area. The Hungarian National Gallery houses both Hungarian and international works of arts, from the Medieval period up to the modern day; this collection boasts 6,000 paintings, 2,100 sculptures, 11,000 drawings and 5,000 prints. One of the striking architectural features of the gallery is the Dome, which offers unparalleled views of the city from its terrace, whilst the interior of the Dome is highlighted with hanging sculptures. Until July, the gallery will host an exhibition on German artist Georg Baselitz, with paintings and sculptures from public and private collections.

Hungarian National Gallery

Magyar Szecesszió Háza (House of Hungarian Art Nouveau)

During the early 20th century, Budapest was enamoured with the Art Nouveau style, which emerged from Britain and spread across Europe and the rest of the world. As a result, the city’s landscape is scattered with stunning Art Nouveau buildings, with some examples combining unique Hungarian architectural elements. Budapest’s love affair with this art movement is celebrated by the House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, situated in the former home of the wealthy Bedő family. The house was built in 1903 by architect Vidor Emil, who was responsible for the first Art Nouveau style house in the city. Today, the house is owned by Tivadar Vad, who renovated the building to its former glory and opened his Art Nouveau collection to the public; the collection exhibits furniture, interiors, porcelain art and paintings from this period. After admiring the delights of Vad’s collection, have a bite to eat or a coffee break in the museum’s cafe, Secessio Cafe & Delikat, which offers sandwiches, cakes and drinks in a charming Art Nouveau setting.

Magyar Szecesszió Háza

Mai Manó Ház (Mai Manó House of Photography)

In 1893, Imperial and Royal Court photographer, Mai Manó, embarked on the project of an eight-storey home and studio in the heart of Budapest. The building’s architecture and decor reflected Manó’s aesthetic interests, featuring an impressive neoclassical façade; meanwhile, the interior aided his photography, with a ‘Daylight Studio’ (‘Napfényműterem’) included on one floor, used to take photos with natural light. Since the late 1990s, the house has been used as centre for Hungarian photography, encouraging new photographers whilst preserving the photographic works of Hungarian artists from the 20th century. Past exhibitions have included emerging native photographers, such as Andi Schmied, alongside renowned war photographer, Robert Capa. The house is also home to the József Pécsi Library of Photography, which provides photographic resources for public use.

Mai Manó Ház

Szépművészeti Múzeum (Museum of Fine Arts)

On the edge of Heroes’ square – one of the most recognisable locations in Budapest – is the grand neoclassical building of the Museum of Fine Arts. The museum’s collection consists of an astounding 100,000 pieces, ranging from Classical Antiquities to Old Master paintings which have been gathered from the collections of Buda Castle, the noble Esterházy and Vichy families, and other collectors. Amongst these pieces is the collection of Egyptian art, which is the second largest collection of its kind in Central Europe. The permanent exhibition of Old Masters includes important works from across Europe, such as Raphael’s Esterhazy Madonna and Titian’s Portrait of Doge Marcantonio Trevisani. Moving into the 19th century, the Department of Art after 1800 is as rich in artistic masterpieces as the museum’s other collections. This section presents the work of Romanticist, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists, such as Delacroix, Manet and Monet. The museum is currently undergoing extensive renovation, and will be reopened in 2018.

Szépművészeti Múzeum

Iparművészeti Múzeum (Museum of Applied Arts)

Another example of Budapest’s Art Nouveau architecture, the Museum of Applied Arts is located in the striking design of Ödön Lechner – also known as the ‘Hungarian Gaudí’. Built between 1893 and 1896, the building also integrates elements of Islamic and Hindu architecture and features a vibrantly-coloured roof decorated with Zsolnay tiles. Within the opulent exterior is a collection of metalwork, furniture, textiles and glass, celebrating the craftsmanship of Hungary. Until June of this year, the museum is presenting an exhibition on the Modernist design of Hungarian-born architect and furniture designer, Marcel Breuer. Other permanent exhibitions from the Museum of Applied Arts are also situated in the baroque Nagytétény Castle and the György Ráth Museum, featuring further examples of Hungarian craft and skill.

Iparművészeti Múzeum

Pontus Silfverstolpe is Co-Founder of Barnebys.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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