That Stockholm Feeling

Oh beautiful Stockholm with its sparkling waters, lush greenery and quaint little streets. Find out what makes the city tick, experience its unique air – just like the Stockholmers themselves.


Swedish courtesy is legendary. They thank you for everything, absolutely everything. A Swede would never think of accepting a service without expressing a friendly tack. The person addressed expresses his gratitude for the thanks with “tack, tack”. And if someone wants to be particularly affable, then he says, “tack, tack, tack” to the person who has just thanked him. Even if this seems a little excessive, just play along, it pays to be courteous in Sweden. But beware: Don’t interpret this friendliness as an invitation for excessive bonhomie. Swedes appreciate a certain amount of restraint.


Stockholm boasts a unique location between Lake Mälar and the Baltic Sea. That is why it is so rewarding to look out across the city. There are countless ways to do that. The most well-known option is the view from the City Hall Tower, but there is also a beautiful view of the Old Town from Fjällgata street  or Monteliusvägen path in the Södermalm district. And then there is also the SkyView from the roof of the Ericsson Globe and the viewing platform of the radio and television tower, Kaknästornet.


Stockholmers love the water and the skerries. Many of the capital’s inhabitants have a weekend house out on one of the islands, which they cross over to in their own boat, on the ferry, or aboard an excursion boat. Why don’t you stay a few days? You can also rent holiday homes on the skerries.


Part of the Stockholmers’ new savoir vivre means that shopping no longer entails just wandering through a market hall. A canapé here, a titbit there, a food sample over there: Stockholm’s everyday snacks have also been transformed into refined street food. The market hall on Östermalmstorg is particularly popular.


Strandvägen is the most prestigious boulevard in Stockholm. Many stars and starlets stay in the magnificent buildings overlooking the sea. As do Sweden’s well-to-do. The ship restaurants along the quay are the meeting place for everyone who wants to be seen sipping on a glass of Champagne. Why not join the cool crowd, don your sunglasses and order a glass of bubbly yourself? Those who only want to watch from the sidelines can sit on one of the numerous benches along the promenade, buy an ice-cream and view the strutting vanities.


It used to take a long time to find the in-districts in Stockholm. Going out was expensive – and anyone wanting to get into the upmarket bars had to get dressed up and join the long queue. Just meeting friends “for a beer” was not something people did. That changed a few years ago. In the nightlife district of SoFo you will find nice pubs and cafés, but you can equally dance your way through the night. The Kvarnen beer hall, which also plays a role in the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson is particularly popular.


A real Swede always has a song on his lips. Every Tuesday evening in summer, thousands flock to the Skansen Open-Air Museum for the Allsång to sing together. Even the TV crews are there. Even if you don’t know the songs, it is worth passing by. It would be difficult to find a more authentic experience of Sweden.


Swedes are fresh-air fanatics. Regardless what the weather is like, they want to be out jogging, skiing, cycling or doing other activities. However, there are more relaxing alternatives for the hours outside: a picnic with a cinnamon bun and coffee, the Swedish alternative to cheese and wine. (Drinking alcohol in public is forbidden.) People love the Rålambshovsparken on Kungsholmen. In Rålis, as the locals call it, you are even allowed to barbecue on the spaces designated for this purpose, whilst the youngsters can take advantage of the skateboarding track.

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That Cuba Feeling

Experience Cuba’s unique flair and find out what makes it tick – just like the locals themselves.


In Cuba you can learn salsa moves or hone your skills almost everywhere – in the bars and dance clubs, at concerts, with the help of the welcoming team at the airport, or under the instruction of the teachers at your hotel. First you need to learn the basic steps so it’s “un, dos, tres”… the man leads and spins his dancing partner until you get dizzy from just watching them.


It has become very popular to stay in a private Cuban home. Quite a few of these private rooms are now very well equipped. To experience a private stay, look for the blue sign (similar to an anchor) on the door. You will feel just like you are at home in the modest homes or in the elegant – a new development – casas particulares with lovely terraces, and sometimes even access to a beach or a swimming pool.


Not only vintage car enthusiasts will enjoy the sight of all the classic American cars, with their glittering chrome, as they roll through Cuba’s streets looking as if they are part of an open-air museum. Many of the Cadillacs and Chevrolets are maintained with great care and polished to a high gloss. You will feel as though you are on a journey back through time when you are chauffeured through Havana.


The Cuban coral reef is one of the largest and most species rich in the world. The south coast is popular with divers, especially the Isla de la Juventud. In sites like Cueva Azul and Tunel del Amor, divers swim among colourful fish, eagle rays and even turtles and explore the wrecks and canyons in the deep blue waters.


Wearing a T-shirt with Che Guevara’s face on it is not enough to make you a real fan of the Revolution. So the “Adelante Comandante!” (Forwards, commander!) slogan makes the Revolution more tangible on a hike through the Sierra Maestra. Follow in the footsteps of the guerrilleros inland and pay your respects to the most famous rebel and his fellow fighters – such as at the Che Guevara monument and mausoleum in Santa Clara.


If you are carried away by the pervasive rhythm of the congas and timbales, then why not take an introductory course in the art of drumming. Finding a teacher is not difficult – you can spot a real pro if he makes his pupils do fingers exercises to warm up before they start – all you have to do is ask one of the street musicians in the Callejon de Hamel pedestrian zone in Havana. It doesn’t get any more authentic than that.


No Cuban would even dream of spending his holiday on a bicycle – most of the bikes have neither lights nor gears. But, if you decide to ride a bike, you will have plenty of routes to choose from: endless, at trails and even the motorways (where there is usually very little traffic) or more demanding serpentine roads such as La Farola at Baracoa.


Some people never want to leave Cuba simply because of the drinks; Ernest Hemingway immediately springs to mind. You don’t need many ingredients to make a mojito, the national cocktail. Mix the juice of a lime with half a teaspoon of sugar, crush six mint leaves in the glass, add a shot of Havana Club Rum (Añejo 3 Años), fill it up with soda water and decorate the glass with a few sprigs of mint – this way, you will be able to keep on enjoying the Cuban feeling after you return home from your holiday.

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That Australia Feeling

Discover what makes this huge country with its unique flair so special – just as the Australians do.


In South Australia where the Murray River flows sluggishly into the Indian Ocean, a replica of a historical paddle steamer is an irresistible invitation to take a relaxing river cruise. The PS Murray Princess has lots of space on board, cabins with every conceivable comfort and is not going anywhere in a hurry – the perfect place to chill out under the southern sun (3–7 nights, departing from Mannum, Captain Cook Cruises, tel: (02) 9206 1100, www.captain


Thanks to the many Italian immigrants, Melbourne has turned into the Australian coffee culture hotspot. Skilled baristas conjure up wonderfully creamy latte, fluffy- topped cappuccinos and aromatic espressos in many different cafés in the city. The Melbournians generally find time for a coffee break – and when that’s not possible there is always the practical coffee-to-go.


True to the motto ‘life’s a beach’, a day with sea and sand is among the Australians’ favourite pastimes. The top address where tradition, style and a high fun factor can be found is Sydney’s fine sandy Bondi Beach, where the Bondi Surf Bathers’ Life Saving Club was founded in 1907. The voluntary lifeguards in their famous red and yellow swimsuits are liked by all, and the Club regularly keeps beach-goers on the move with watersport competitions.


The long-distance train ‘The Ghan’ operates between Adelaide in South Australia and Darwin in the far north. This legendary rail connection crosses 22 degrees of latitude and passes through four climate zones on its journey of almost 3,000km (1,850mi). This trip of a very special kind takes about 50 hours – and a meditative mind – as the stunning Outback scenery sails past the panorama windows. (Great Southern Railways,


Darwin holds evening cinema screenings under the starry tropical sky. Choose your lounger, order a cool drink and enjoy the magic of old and new films on the huge outdoor screen at the Deckchair Cinema. An open-air cinema also exists in the middle of Melbourne from December until March, the Rooftop Cinema at the top of Curtain House (252 Swanston St.,


Legendary Aussie roadhouses can be found at regular intervals on the endlessly long highways. The petrol stations are often attached to rustic eateries and motels which serve coffee, chilled beer and enormous portions of plain, simple food. One popular stop for truckers, who drive roadtrains across the Outback that can be up to 50m (165ft) long, is Blue Heeler Hotel (tel: (07) 4746 8650) on Landsborough Highway near Kynuna in Queensland.


Getting a close-up view of the continent’s unique wildlife is something typically Australian – such as taking a Jumping Crocodile Cruise, for example, (tel: (08) 8988 8144, on the Adelaide River, 64km (40mi) southeast of Darwin, where saltwater crocodiles – which grow up to 6m (20ft) long – leap out of the water at bait. And anyone who doesn’t manage to see enough animals in the wild can visit one of the many small animal reserves where it is worth timing your trip to coincide with feeding times.


Anyone wanting to explore Down Under up high should head for the Snowy Mountains in the south-east of New South Wales, where Mt Kosciuszko, at 2,228m (7,310ft), rises far above the rest of the continent. In winter, the slopes are at the mercy of skiers and snowboard fans; the rest of the time, especially during the spring when everything is in bloom, the rugged mountains make the hearts of hikers, climbers and other nature-lovers beat faster. The centrally located starting-point for year-round activities is the welcoming mountain resort of Thredbo which offers a range of places to stay and eat (

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That New England Feeling

The Atlantic Ocean, lobsters, beautiful nature and plenty of history and culture, New England and Boston have it all!  Experience the region’s unique air and find out what makes it tick – just like the locals themselves.


Families on picnics, students out for a stroll, tourists photographing the swans, ducks, and monuments: the Boston Common is many things to many people. Above all, it is a wonderful place to daydream. Sit down on one of the benches and ponder over everything that started here in Boston. Many of the movements that later changed the way America thinks had their roots in this city – puritanism, abolition, feminism and same-sex marriage are just a few.


Boston is Beacon Hill and, when you leave Boston Common and immerse yourself in this posh residential district, you will feel like you are right back in days gone by, in the America of old. In the days of horse-drawn carriages, the city’s most influential people resided in these red-brick town houses. Especially interesting are the cobblestoned streets like Acorn Street, with its tenement buildings where the domestic staff were kept out of sight.


Take a lawn with a monument in the center, add a neat church and scatter a few colonial-styled public buildings around it and you have the classic New England idyll. The following rule of thumb will help you in your search for the most beautiful village greens: those in Connecticut are large, there are a great number of them in Massachusetts and New Hampshire’s are small and inviting. Some of the most picturesque greens are in the following towns: Warren, Rindge, Lebanon, and Fitzwilliam (all in New Hampshire).


Artists are good for tourism and in summer many communities organise regular art walks. The galleries move their exhibits outside onto the pavement and invite passers-by to stop and chat with the artists. You will fund excellent art walks in Brattleboro, VT (www., Portland, ME ( walk) and Boston (


Steaming pots, melted butter, and long lines – the lobster shacks in Maine are at their busiest in summer. There are several dozen of these simple lobster eateries between Kittery and Bar Harbor. Especially good: Five Islands Lobster Co. in Georgetown ( and The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport (


New England in autumn comes alive with natural displays of colour when forests of birch trees, beech, and hickory all explode in vibrant tones. This spectacle of nature begins at the end of September and the foliage is most beautiful in the Berkshires, the Green Mountains, and the White Mountains.


Ever since Meryl Streep risked more than a quick glimpse at Clint Eastwood from one, covered bridges have become synonymous with romance. There are still many constructions of this type in New England; the roofs protect the wood from decay and their shady interiors make them ideal for a romantic rendezvous. That is why they are also known as kissing bridges. Vermont has the most, 106 in all, and also has the only museum devoted to this subject: the Vermont Covered Bridge Museum (44 Gypsy Lane, Bennington; Fri–Sun 10am– 5pm).


After so much culture you need a touch of the wilderness. The White Mountains are the best hiking area in the northeast and the Appalachian Trail, America’s most famous long-distance hike, runs through the most spectacular sections. And, if you feel like going on a multi-day hike but don’t want to pitch a tent, you can take advantage of the hut system operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club (5 Joy Street, Boston, 617 5 23 06 36, www.


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That Florence Feeling

Find out what makes the city tick, experience its unique air – just like the Florentines themselves.

Florence Marco Polo Guide


A climb up the Duomo or Campanile is rewarded by a panoramic view of Florence but if this is too strenuous there are other options. You can enjoy a wonderful view of the city and the Piazza della Signoria from the rooftop terrace of the Uffizi cafe and the bar in the La Rinascente department store offers a bird’s-eye-view of the Piazza della Repubblica and a close-up of the cathedral complex. In summer you can spend Thursday evening surrounded by stunning views when visit the rooftop bar of the Hotel Minerva (Piazza di Santa Maria Novella 16; for their aperitivo buffet.


If you are patient and keep your eyes open, you might find something of interest at one of the stalls at Florence’s flea market, the Mercato delle Pulci, on the Piazza dei Ciompi. When palazzi and villas are sold most items go to Pandolfini, Sotheby’s or Christie’s, but some fine objects do find their way to the flea market. In any case, it’s always fun to browse.


On warm summer days, as in times past, Florentines travel up to Fiesole where they sit in the bars and restaurants on the tree-lined piazza and enjoy the cooler air. In July and August the beautiful Roman amphitheatre hosts popular ballet, theatre and concert performances as part of the Estate Fiesolana (Summer Festival).


Dishes such as bistecca alla fiorentina may be famous but for Florentines the humble panino al lampredotto is a firm favourite. Lampredotto is tripe that has been simmered in a broth and is then tucked into a freshly sliced roll; the roll is then wrapped in a piece of grease-proof paper – and Buon appetito! The street stalls, or trippai, are usually always on the squares and street corners of the city centre. The locals know them, love them and vote for the best one every year – and it is perfectly acceptable to be caught with a tripe roll in your hand even if you are wearing your most expensive Armani outfit.


The food hall of the Mercato Centrale in San Lorenzo is a true culinary paradise. Here, everything is closely inspected, squeezed, turned upside down – no matter whether it be fresh fish, truffles, bistecca, Parmesan, ham, pheasant, suckling pig or fruit and vegetables. You can just take in all the sights and intoxicating aromas or, better still, taste the fare at Nerbone where the locals put their purchases down next to their bench and tuck in – just as they have been doing since 1872.


Retreat to the magical Boboli Gardens on a hot summer day and take a relaxing wander through its cypress avenues lined with statues, past the Casino del Cavaliere manor house and explore fanciful grottoes, splashing fountains and ornamental pools. A short visit to a spa, such as Soul Space (Via Sant’Egidio 12, 055 200 17 94;, is another good way to take a break from all the hustle and bustle of the city.


It need not be an entire outfit; even the tiniest little handbag from one of the top designers will delight! Via de’ Tornabuoni in the west of Florence is a prime shopping street for fashions, shoes and accessories.


The Oltrarno has a magic all of its own with its little artisan workshops and narrow side streets. There are still some small corners that have remained untouched by tourism and the tiny Piazza della Passera is one of them. The Trattoria 4 Leoni is located on the spot where there has been a pub since 1550. Here, you can still enjoy your meal in an authentic Tuscan ambience, even though when you now eat outdoors on the piazza, modern sun awnings provide your shade.


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That Mallorca Feeling

Experience the island’s unique flair and find out what makes it tick – just like the Mallorcans themselves.

Mallorca Marco Polo Guide


Exploring Mallorca from the sea is something Mallorcans and their guests love to do. Mon d’Aventura organizes fabulous accompanied kayak trips in the north ( You start from a beach at the wonderful coast town of Cala Sant Vicenç with the gleaming sea and spectacular cliffs of the Formentor Peninsula in front of you. Depending on the sea conditions, you may even be able to travel through a small cave in the cliffs. What an experience, in harmony with nature!


Not just for holidaymakers – the Mallorcans also love their beaches and like to mingle with the crowds and feel salt on their skin. One of the most popular spots is the unspoiled sandy beach that stretches for miles at Es Trenc in the south.


There is not only lots of sand, but also lots of sea salt, right at Mallorca’s doorstep. The mountains of salt, which can be seen from afar in the south of the island, point the way to the Salines d’Es Trenc. You can buy high-quality flor de sal – also flavoured with herbs or hibiscus flowers – in the shop. There is even a quaint vending machine for fine and coarse salt. And, if you want to find out more about how salt is harvested, you can take a tour of the salt works.


The pigs in their pens are a clear indication and so are the chicks and ducks in their cages: although there are many tourists and it is very crowded at the market in Sineu, the animals are quite clearly the main interest of the locals. They enjoy shopping at the markets just as much as the tourists do. Fruit, vegetables, cheese, sausages and more… maybe even a sow.


Admittedly, not all Mallorcans know the “dragon island”, off the west coast, by experience, but those who have visited it gladly pass on the tip. The protected park’s hiking trails of the offer spectacular views of the coast. And “dragons” even cross your path – miniature ones in the form of Balearic lizards – and there are lots of them, the visitors’ centre estimates that there are two lizards per square metre.


Mallorcans love going for a stroll. One of the loveliest promenades, in the holiday resort Colònia de Sant Jordi, runs almost entirely along the coast: from the small Marqués beach to the harbour, past tiny promontories, miniature bays, rocky outcrops, villas, hotels and a black-and-white striped lighthouse. The path is around 2km (1 mile) long and along the way there are wonderful views of the sea as far as the Cabrera archipelago. Unfortunately, there is not much shade so it is best to take this stroll in the early morning or evening.


Cala Figuera is an idyllic spot: a narrow fjord-like bay that ends at a wonderfully romantic harbour. Boats of all shapes and sizes bob up and down in the cove and a narrow footpath winds its way past whitewashed cottages and traditional fishing huts – unique!


The Mallorcans really know how to enjoy life to the full. Mock “battles” between Christians and Moors (Moros y Cristianos), are popular enactments of historical events and are characteristic of festivals like the one in Sóller (in May) and in Pollença (in August). And, there are plenty of other opportunities for the locals and tourists to celebrate. The beloved figures Gegants i Capgrossos (“giant and big-heads”) are a highlight of several festivities on the island.


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That Croatia Feeling

Croatia remains one of Europe’s favourite destinations. History, culture, nature, beaches and sunshine – in short it is every holiday wish packed into one! Experience the region’s unique flair and what makes it so special – just as the Croats do themselves.

Croatia Marco Polo Guide

Photo Credit: Tim Kelly

See and been seen: no Zabrebian would want to miss their evening korzo on the Trg Bana Jelacica. There is a lot of flirting and cliques of teenagers giggling outside ice cream parlours. Young parents can be seen pushing prams and elderly men and women strolling along at their own pace. Everybody greets each other and catches up on the latest gossip. Just join the promenade and have a look for yourself – it’s great fun (on summer evenings from 7pm onwards, in winter much earlier with many fewer people).

Varazdin is Croatia’s most beautiful Baroque town. When Croatian and international musicians perform works from this era in the Baroque halls and squares, some dressed in period costume, from mid September until mid October, you will find yourself transported back to the elegant 18th century with its lacy crinolines, smart uniforms and dainty dances (Varazdinske barokne veceri, mid Sept–mid Oct,

As a contrast to all the sights of Ancient Pula, take a look in the elegant Art Deco market hall (Narodni trg, Mon–Sat daily until noon) where the locals really go to town bartering for a bargain. Here, a little unadulterated piece of everyday Croatia can be seen every morning. No Istrian would even conceive shopping in a supermarket when farmers bring their fresh fruit and vegetables to market every day. Not to forget the range of fish on offer either.

Sandy beaches or ones with very small pebbles are rare on the Croatian coast. But the locals don’t miss this at all. They love their bathing spots on the cliffs due to the crystal-clear water – and that can’t be matched by any sandy beach. One particularly clean and picturesque beach with large pebbles is in the bay below the little village of Beli on Cres island. Don’t forget your flip-flops!

What do the predominantly male inhabitants of Split do on a late summer’s afternoon? They head for Bacvice beach to the east of the town centre to play picigin. This variation of water polo, invented in Split, is played by up to five people in knee-deep water, doesn’t seem to have any obvious rules and attracts an avid and critical audience. Why not join in?

No windsurfer should miss these hotspots: in the straits between Orebic on Peljesac and the little town of Korcula the powerful maestral wind blows surfers along in a force six gale at 1pm on the dot. The only snag is that you have to watch out for ferries and other people on the water in this narrow passage! And don’t get carried away in your quest for speed either or else you will end up many nautical miles distant at the second surfing hotspot on the Dalmatian coast, the waters off Bol on Brac.

A day without at least one tempting ice cream with a couple or more brightly-coloured scoops when on holiday on the Adriatic is virtually unthinkable! Simply the choice on offer and the juggling skills of the ice cream vendors are a delight themselves. The only question is: where is the best ice cream? The Ice Box in Porec is a popular place but the champion could well be the Dolce Vita in Dubrovnik too.

Croatian male-voice choirs call themselves klapa. And when they launch into their melancholic ‘a cappella’ songs, they will carry you away to a far off land of distant horizons and romantic sunsets with sailing ships heading out to sea and women waving to their departing lovers … This traditional, heart-melting and contemplative music, often performed in simple pubs (konobe), is moving indeed and calls for a glass or two of wine afterwards as a form of emotional comfort – zivjeli!

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That Amsterdam Feeling

Amsterdam continues to draw in tourists from all over the world – and it is for a good reason! Find out what makes the city tick, experience its unique flair – just like the Amsterdammers themselves.

Amsterdam Marco Polo Guide


Especially on Saturday, it seems that half of Amsterdam is out shopping for fish and vegetables at the street markets – or to eat some fresh syrup waffles or crispy loempia spring rolls. The largest market with the greatest cultural mix is the Albert Cuypmarkt; things are somewhat more tranquil at Noordermarkt and on neighbouring Lindengracht. It is part of the market tradition to end the visit with a slice of apple pie and a koffie verkeerd in Café Winkel.


Crispy, hot chips with a decent portion of creamy mayonnaise wrapped in a paper cone: the very thought is enough to make your mouth start to water. The best chips in Amsterdam are served at small street stalls at the markets or at established locations. The popular Vleminckx chip shop on Voetboogstraat even offers 20 varieties of mayonnaise. As an alternative, the locals sometimes eat their frietjes with Indonesian peanut sauce but never with tomato ketchup.


When Amsterdammers feel the need to escape from the hustle and bustle of the inner city, they just take the ferry across the IJ. The five-minute boat trip to the shore on the other side is free of charge and you are sure to enjoy the wonderful view across the water. There, you will be able to choose between a visit to the futuristic Film Museum and EYE Film Instituut (IJpromenade 1, daily 10am–1am) or a cycle tour through Nieuwendammerdijk; what was formerly a dike village is now a piece of picture-book Holland on the outskirts of town. You can pause for refreshments at the idyllic harbour café ’t Sluisje (daily from midday, Nieuwendammerdijk 297,


The literal translation of borreluur is “cocktail hour” and describes the period after office hours when colleagues like to get together in one of the “brown cafés” just around the corner. There, those in the convivial groups drink a beer accompanied by a couple of bitterballen – round croquettes. Quite a few of the pubs are completely full at that time and people just have to take their beer and stand outside. The Café Brandon (Keizersgracht 157) is one of the most popular watering holes because it even has its own landing stage on the canal.


Amsterdam is famous for its liberal creative scene and you can immerse yourself in it when you take the twenty-minute free ferry trip from the main railway station to the NDSM-Werft. An art community has now settled where ship hulls used to be welded. There are several cafés, an urban beach and artists’ studios, and a gigantic flea market is held once a month in an old wharf warehouse. The dates of the flea market vary. (Neveritaweg 15,


The canals, with their picturesque bridges and magnificent mansions, are very beautiful during the day. But an evening stroll also offers many rewards: hardly any of the houses have curtains and it is therefore possible to see into the well lit rooms on the lower floors. The people living there are aware of this and they have their best furniture on display there. You will see designer furnishings or high-quality antiques beneath stucco ceilings and centuries-old beams and get an insight into life along the canals.


Collective madness is de rigueur at the annual King’s Day celebrations. Until recently Queen Beatrix was honoured but now attention is officially focused on her son Willem-Alexander on 27 April. In reality, it is all about the typical Dutch party spirit coupled with business acumen: the entire city is turned into an enormous flea market in the morning and bands perform everywhere in the afternoon. Make sure you have some cash with you to buy some trinkets and head off to the Jordaan district where the festivities are the most social.


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That Vietnam feeling

Vietnam may first bring to mind the eponymous war and then the delicious cuisine but there is much more to this Southeast Asian country. A culture spanning back thousands of years and of course the beautiful nature. Experience the country’s unique flair and find out what makes it tick – just like the Vietnamese themselves.

Marco Polo Vietnam Guide

Temples as oases

Whenever your senses are the worse for wear from the sheer noise of Saigon, visiting a pagoda will soon soothe the soul – relax, here at last is a place without the rattling of mopeds and incessant hooting, a place of contemplation with Buddha where you can rest for a moment. The timeless atmosphere of this world apart, enshrouded in incense, is often just a few yards from the chaos of the main roads – in Le Van Duyet temple, for example, which lies a little further off the beaten track.

Coffee breaks

Just grab a plastic stool, take a seat on a street corner and order a ca phe sua nong. Then watch as the delicious smelling, thick, bitter coffee drips from a dented tin filter into a glass before sweetened condensed milk is added. The whole process takes place in slow motion – and helps enormously to relax in the midst of Vietnam’s frenzied everyday hectic, even if only for a few minutes.

Communism live

People move slowly and reverently past the revolutionary leader’s sarcophagus; soldiers in pristine white uniforms scare hawkers away; nobody is allowed to talk or even whisper. Hands must be taken out of pockets, sunglasses and hats removed. ‘Uncle Ho’, who can be seen behind the polished glass window, looks almost as if he is wistfully turning his head to see each visitor.

The early bird…

Everyone in Vietnam is up and about early in the morning. In the cool of the day between 5:30am and 7am people doing their morning gymnastics can be watched at Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi. Balance out your own yin and yang with a bout of shadow boxing, exercise to the rhythm of the cha-cha or play a round of badminton.


‘Homestays’ in Vietnam are always good for a surprise. Sometimes you spend the night in a type of dormitory under the roof, other times – in stilt houses – you sleep in the living room and meet the family personally. You can stay with the Vietnamese in their homes in cities, in the mountains, in the Mekong Delta, in national parks and on the less touristy islands.

At the fortune-teller

A glimpse into the future costs just a few dong. In the mountains, in particular, you can even watch the shaman telling a person’s fortune. The tools of his trade include a dog-eared book in Chinese characters, two split bamboo sticks, a stone that is heated in the embers of a fire and a thread that he winds around the stone – and, there you are, his ‘telephone to the spirits’ is ready for use.

Night markets

Try a tasty treat of a special kind. Start off with a steaming bowl of soup made with noodles, beef and onions, soya bean shoots and tiny strips of banana leaf – and slurp it quietly! For the next course, just follow the columns of smoke to a barbecue stand where skewered octopus is sizzling away, as an accompaniment dunk mint and basil leaves in a dip made of salt, pepper, chilli and lemon. Save the best ’til last: diep nuong mo hanh, scallops decorated with shallots and finely chopped peanuts – soft and slippery and incredibly cheap on top!

Timeless Vietnam

In the Graham Greene Suite in the Metropole in Hanoi it is not difficult to imagine how, in the 1950s, the eponymous author kept to his daily writing schedule like clockwork. Or how, one war later, Joan Baez strummed We Shall Overcome in a bunker under the pool. And in the Mekong Delta you can retrace the steps of Marguerite Duras in Sa Dec or of W. Somerset Maugham under the tamarinds along Saigon’s tree-lined avenues, just like in the days of old.


Buy the Vietnam Marco Polo Guide.

Vietnam Marco Polo Guide

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That Marrakesh Feeling

Marrakesh, with its brilliant riads and bustling souks, is a truly enchanting place. Find out what makes this Moroccan city tick and experience its unique flair – just like the Marrakchis themselves with Marco Polo’s insider tips.

Marrakech Marco Polo Guide

Thé à la menthe

No trip to Marrakesh would be complete without tasting some of the legendary Moroccan thé à la menthe (mint tea). If you want to try this sweet treat in the fairy-tale atmosphere of a palace filled with exquisite stucco, wood and zellij work, then you should definitely head to Dar Cherifa. It’s an extraordinary literary café where you can not only sit like royalty, but also admire temporary exhibitions and enjoy listening to concerts as you drink.

An evening meal at Jemaa el Fna

The food stands that are set up here every evening under the stars are the epitome of Marrakesh’s vibrant soul. Surrounded by acrobats, snake charmers and storytellers, you can either enjoy such simple dishes as fried fish and chips or try out something more exotic, like sheep’s head and snail soup. This is one experience you definitely won’t want to miss!

Storks chattering at the Palais El Badii

The El Badii palace is large, impressive, and almost completely empty. Nevertheless, a visit here is one of the absolute highlights of Marrakesh. Find a place to sit in the shade or at a café on one of the surrounding roof terraces and admire the palace walls while listening to the chatter of hundreds of storks. It’s a unique experience that gets even better just before sunset!

Haggle away!

At any respectable souk, you stroll around, haggle a little, and buy anything that takes your fancy. Things are a little more intense at the Bab el Khemis flea market, however. If you can’t find something here, you won’t find it anywhere! Sellers come from all directions in the morning to set up their stalls and try to earn some money with repairs or second-hand goods. The shoppers here – mostly Europeans – are on the lookout for the antiquities that pop up from time to time amidst all the other wares.

Hip Morocco

While you’ll come across the city’s poorest at the Souk el Khemis, you’ll mainly mingle with the upper crust when you visit the Hivernage, a quarter boasting rows and rows of hip hangouts, bars and rooftop lounges. If you feel like eating Thai food while you’re in Africa, this is the place to be – head to such restaurants as the beautiful Jad Mahal. The Hivernage is a melting pot of Moroccan and European influences, and money here is King.

Sweat in style

The spa at the La Mamounia Hotel is the pinnacle of Moroccan pampering. Entering the Hammam is like stepping into a dream from the Arabian Nights. The turquoise pool in its own little palace is surrounded by oriental lanterns and alcoves everywhere you look. It’s also furnished with big, comfy recliners with views of the world outside. There are few experiences that are more stylish and relaxing than a luxury steam bath – so take your time and enjoy!

Cyber-cuddling at the park

The Cyber Park, located between the New and Old Town, is special for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s a beautiful swathe of green right by Marrakesh’s city walls. Secondly, there’s free WiFi everywhere – and we mean everywhere! – in the park, so you can surf the web on laptops and tablets while you sit under the trees. Above all, however, it’s where the youth of Marrakesh come to have dates and hold hands – a sweet and entirely innocent sight!

Live like a pasha

If you’ve ever wanted to live like an Arabian nobleman (and who hasn’t?), Marrakesh is the place for you. More than 1000 riads (city palaces) have been renovated and turned into small guest houses that whisk you far away from the noise and stress of everyday life. Treat yourself to a magical stay in such palaces as the exclusive Riad Enija or the more simple Riad Bamaga.


Buy the Marrakesh Marco Polo Spiral Guide.

Marrakesh Marco Polo Spiral Guide

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