Only in Munich

On and around Marienplatz, in the heart of Munich, busy shoppers are elbowing their
way through the department stores up and down the pedestrian precinct. On Viktualienmarkt, on the other hand, just 200m away, the stands are closing. It’s 6pm. A couple are seated at a wooden table in the beer garden in the shade of the chestnut trees. They both take a gulp of draught beer, squint into the evening sun, listen to the fountain splashing away and the natter of others at the nearby tables, watch the market tenders clear things away, take a contented breath of air filled with the smell of barbecued sausage and unpack the radishes and pretzels they have brought with them. So this is it: la dolce vita – the relaxed calm to be found in Munich that is otherwise attributed to southern Europe.

Discover Munich with Marco Polo and find out what unique experiences you can enjoy in this wonderful city:

Munich Marco Polo Guide

VIEW OF THE OKTOBERFEST

New York has its Statue of Liberty, Munich its Bavaria statue – personifying her homeland. She watches over the Theresienwiese and the raucous Oktoberfest. Climb up into her head and enjoy the view 18.52m (60ft) above ground level.

BAVARIAN BREAKFAST

A ‘real’ Bavarian breakfast is part and parcel of a visit to the state capital.
Many locals go to the Großmarkthalle pub for their Weißwurst and pretzel, homemade sweet mustard and wheat beer.

LA DOLCE VITA

The people of Munich live up to their reputation as the inhabitants of ‘Italy’s northern-most city’ on warm summer evenings and gather on the city’s squares, go for a stroll, or chat and relax in the open. This southern flair can be seen in particular on and around Gärtnerplatz.

BEER GARDEN TRADITION

When the weather permits, the locals like to spend their lunch breaks in a shady beer garden too. The Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) is especially well-known and popular.

CULT SITES

Both the Olympiastadion and the Allianz Arena are architectural masterpieces in which football history has been written which is brought alive on guided tours of the stadiums.

TRADITIONAL BAVARIAN COSTUMES

If you’re after a genuine Bavarian costume or at least an accessory as a souvenir, it’s worth seeking out the experts who can give you sound advice in a specialist shop, e.g. Ludwig Beck or Halfs.

THE SUN GOD

There’s hardly any other city where the art of sunbathing is so cultivated as in the Bavarian capital. Regardless of the time of year, even the very first rays of sun bring people out to the street cafés, e.g. to eternally trendy Tambosi.

 

Buy the Munich Marco Polo Guide.

Munich Marco Polo Guide

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Marco Polo’s Top 5 End of Summer Destinations + GIVEAWAY

The summer holidays may be almost over but there is no reason not to book a quick getaway and return to work or to your studies feeling just that little bit more relaxed. We at Marco Polo have compiled our top 5 end of summer destinations, and to sweeten it up even more, one lucky commenter is going to receive five copies of our Marco Polo Spiral Guides of their choice and a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 camera! 

Photo credit: SarahFunky

 CROATIA

Croatia is an immensely popular destination these days, and for good reason! Full of history and beautiful nature (just look at that picture taken at the Krak National Park!) it is definitely worth visiting at least once in your life – though once you have been there, you may find yourself wanting to go back. If you’re thinking of a city trip, your best bet would be either Zagreb or Dubrovnik.

Zagreb, with around a million inhabitants, one in four of the country’s population, is easily Croatia’s biggest city. This is the political, economic and cultural heart of the nation, which makes it easy to forget that it has only been a state capital since 1991. For most of its history, Zagreb has lived in the shadow of Vienna, as a provincial outpost of the Austro-Hungarian empire, or of the former Yugoslav capital Belgrade. Only in the past few years has it rediscovered its confidence as a youthful, vibrant, forward-looking city.

Dubrovnik on the other hand is the jewel in Croatia’s crown – a beautifully restored town, full of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, crowded onto a rocky headland and surrounded by its 15th-century walls. The English poet Lord Byron (1788–1824) quite rightly described the town as the ‘pearl of the Adriatic’.

 Marco Polo Portugal Guide

ALGARVE, PORTUGAL

The Algarve in Portugal has been one of our favourites for a while. Perfect for catching some sunshine and lounging on the beach, or hiking in the  fragrant pine forests of the Ria Formosa National Park in central Algarve.

Central Algarve is a melting pot of contrasting natural landscapes. It’s where the Atlantic meets the hilly hinterland and where long, sandy beaches encounter the labyrinth of canals and islands in the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa. In the centre of the region lies Faro, the capital of the Algarve and the point of arrival for countless holidaymakers. With its crystal-clear light, glittering nightlife, fantastic beaches and fabulous markets, the central Algarve has a wealth of diverse experiences to offer. 

At first glance, Faro can seem pretty confusing to visitors. After all, it’s the largest city in the Algarve and home to 50,000 people (65,000 including the surrounding area). If you come armed with a plan, however, the city will start to grow on you and you’ll quickly find your feet.

Photo credit: Flikr.com Zaprin Geguskov – Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

 BULGARIA

 We love Bulgaria, and so do countless other travellers! Fine beaches and austere mountains, unspoilt hilltop villages and lively major towns, effervescent temperament and Mediterranean laissez-faire – all this makes Bulgaria a country of contrasts, a delightful mix of east and west. The travel catalogues are full of sea and beach, in other words the Black Sea coast – a beautiful and important part of the country. But if you stick to the tourists trails, you’ll miss out on what’s really worth seeing.

Mother nature has been very kind to Bulgaria. With its surface area of a little under 43,000 square miles, it’s not a particularly large country (England measures just over 50,000 square miles), but it has to a great extent been richly endowed with diversity and beautiful scenery, with mountains and a coast measuring 378km / 235 miles, and it’s densely wooded with many lakes. In other words, Bulgaria has something for everyone: for beach lovers a holiday by the Black Sea; for skiers the ski runs around Bansko, for hikers and bikers the green peaks of the Rila and Pirin Mountains; and if you’re looking for solitude, you’ll find it by hidden mountain lakes. To all of this add any amount of culture in the world-famous monasteries and the picturesque, beautifully restored villages.

 

Amsterdam Marco Polo Guide

Photo credit: Tim Kelly

AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS

It seems to us that almost all of our lists include Amsterdam, but the Dutch capital has a truly special place in our hearts, and the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit the city each year would definitely agree.

The old heart of Amsterdam feels like two distinct cities. The more obvious of the pair comprises the sort of brash tourist trappings that you find in any major European city, in this particular case augmented by the unabashed indulgence of the main red-light district, De Wallen. Yet alongside such excess you can find oases of calm and solitude, plus some charming little places to eat, drink and shop.

De Dam, the main square, is not the most beautiful plaza in Europe, but it serves as a good hub
for exploring the rest of the area. Everything in medieval Amsterdam is a short walk from here. Almost all visitors to Amsterdam find themselves passing through De Dam, as the square at the centre of the city is concisely known. This was where the Amstel River was first dammed in the 13th century (today the river flows via underground pipes into the IJ). The square is central to the city and the country, containing both the Royal Palace and the National Monument. Initially, the unruly architecture may disappoint, as well as the fact that the whole place is decked in overhead power cables for trams. Although De Dam can largely appear as a tourist thoroughfare, it remains at the historical heart of the city.

The most romantic photographs of Amsterdam are taken in the western part of the city – which is also where the real soul of Amsterdam resides. Beautiful waterways and quiet courtyards, the trendiest and most liberal locals and authentic bruin cafés can all be found here. Almost any street you walk along is likely to reveal at least one of the following: a lovely old house embellished with a beautiful tablet or gable; an intriguing shop or café; or a charming canal view.

NICE, FRANCE

Ah, the French Riviera. The jetsetter dream and the azure waves of the Mediterranean, who can resist it? After all, the largest resort of the French Riviera, Nice is France’s main tourist centre and the most visited city after Paris. Friendly and informal, Nice radiates a unique atmosphere that is hard to define, although many have tried, labelling it the “Queen of the Riviera”, “Capital of the Côte d’Azur”, “Nizza la Bella”, “The Big Olive” and “Mediterranean Chicago”. “Nice” just doesn’t seem to cover it.

Over the centuries the city has enjoyed a colourful history. Founded by Greeks and settled by
Romans, it thrived in the Middle Ages under
the Counts of Provence who were followed by
the Italian Dukes of Savoy. United with France only as recently as 1860, it still retains a strong
Italianate character and is a seductive mix of the best
of France and Italy, with its own dialect (lenga nissarda) and delicious cuisine. Nice is also blessed with more museums and galleries than any French town outside Paris. Its Mediterranean charm has long provided inspiration to artists, with its pastel-painted buildings and terracotta roofs, cradled by the vine-clad foothills of the Maritime Alps and fringed by a vivid blue sea bathed in magical, incandescent sun- light. Even the palatial hotels, designer boutiques and crowded terrace cafés exude a carefree joie de vivre. No wonder Nice has been voted the city where the French would most like to live. As Sandy Wilson remarked in his musical comedy The Boy Friend (1954): “Other places may be fun, but when all is said and done, it’s so much nicer in Nice.” 

GIVEAWAY

To wave the summer goodbye, Marco Polo is organising a giveaway! We are giving away a set of 5 Marco Polo Spiral Guides and a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 camera to one lucky winner, chosen at random.

How to enter?

Simply share the story of your most memorable summer holiday moment in the comments below. You can earn more win-chances by liking our Facebook page and by following our Twitter and Instagram and by letting us know in your comment that you have done so.

The competition is open from Thursday 24 August 2017 until Friday 1 September 2017 at 12.00 GMT. We will contact the winner personally via email using the email address used to leave the comment so make sure to check that it is spelled correctly!

Good luck! 

Terms and Conditions:

  1. The promotion is open to UK and EU residents aged 18 or over, excluding employees and their immediate families of Marco Polo, its agents or anyone professionally connected with the promotion.
  2. To enter, simply comment on the blog post. Additional win-chances may be acquired by liking the Marco Polo Facebook page and by following the Marco Polo Twitter and Instagram accounts. If the entrant has done any of the mentioned actions, it should be stated in the comment.
  3. This competition will commence on 24 August 2017 and all entries must be received by 12.00 GMT on 1 September 2017. The Promoter accepts no responsibility for any entries that are incomplete, posted late, misdirected, and incorrect, garbled or fail to reach the Promoter by the closing date for any reason. Entries via agents or third parties are invalid.
  4. No purchase necessary, however internet access is required.
  5. The Prizes: 1 x prize winner will receive 5 x Marco Polo Spiral Guides: (£9.99 each) and a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 camera.
  6. The prize must be taken as stated and no compensation will be payable if a winner is unable to use the prize as stated. The winner will be liable for all costs and expenses not stated relating to claiming or partaking of the prize.
  7. The promoter may substitute the prize for a prize of an equal or greater value if, for any reason the original item is unavailable.
  8. By entering, winners agree that if they win they will participate in any reasonable publicity arranged by The Promoter or its agencies.
  9. By entering the promotion entrants confirm that they have read and agree to be bound by these terms & conditions and by the decisions of the Promoter, which are final in all matters relating to the promotion. Failure to do so will result in the forfeiture of the prize. No correspondence will be entered into.
  10. The Promoter or its agencies accept no responsibility for any loss or damage suffered through acceptance of the prize.
  11. The Promoter or its agencies will not be responsible for the non-inclusion of entries as a result of technical failures or otherwise, including any such failure which is within the control of The Promoter or its agencies. Proof of submission of entry is not proof of receipt of entry.
  12. The Promoter reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify any person it finds to be tampering or to have tampered with the operation of the promotion or the Marco Polo website, or to be acting in violation of these terms and conditions.
  13. To the full extent permitted by law the Promoter will not accept liability for any loss, damage, injury or death arising from this promotion beyond its reasonable control.

The Promoter is Marco Polo Travel Publishing, Pinewood, Chineham Business Park, Crockford Lane, Chineham, Basingstoke, RG24 8AL

 

Only in Dresden

Dresden exudes a magical aura. When the morning sun glistens on the Elbe River and highlights the silhouette of the Altstadt, even the residents of Dresden catch their breath. And that is especially true now that the imposing dome of the Frauenkirche once again graces the city skyline. At its foot reigns Babylonian babble: English, Japanese, Bavarian – the historic centre is firmly in the hands of the tourists. Dresden welcomes around ten million visitors every year, and this figure is on the rise. The majority are looking for a myth, for the Baroque city of Canaletto, for the ‘German Florence’, as Johann Gottfried Herder once called it. Dresden is one of the most popular travel destinations in Germany, impressing visitors with its monuments, art and culture.

Let Marco Polo show you some unique experiences to be had in this magical German city:

Dresden Marco Polo Guide

‘THE BALCONY OF EUROPE’

The Brühlsche Terrasse is 500 m long and 10 m (32.8 ft) above the Elbe, thus resembling a balcony against the backdrop of the Altstadt. Here, you can wander past the Albertinum and art academy and enjoy the view of the river, the Neustadt quayside and – inland – the Münzgasse with the towering Frauenkirche in the background.

SHIP AHOY!

A trip on one of the traditional paddle steamboats of the Sächsische Dampfschifffahrt can be one of the most memorable experiences of a visit to Dresden. On the way upstream, you will see plenty of sights.

THE ROOT OF HAPPINESS

The Elbwiesen stretching almost 30 km (18.6 miles) along the river banks make a significant contribution to Dresden’s quality of life. People meet here to sit around camp fires, eat picnics, go for a walk, ride their bikes or relax in the sand and watch the clouds go by.

VINEYARD WITH CITY VIEW

It is only 3 km (1.8 miles) as the crow flies from the Frauenkirche to the vineyard below Albrechtsberg Castle. Vintner, Lutz Müller, decants his wines from the Elbe slopes here. They are served with ‘Flammkuchen’ (tarte flambée) and a priceless view of the town.

INTO THE MORNING HOURS

The late 19th-century district to the north of the Bautzner Straße attained fame far beyond its boundaries long ago. The number of cafés, pubs and restaurants, bars and clubs is legendary. The city’s younger generation tend to meet here at the weekends, although in the meantime an increasing number of guests from other parts of the world come to party with them.

DRESDEN’S COOLEST PARTY

The street festival, Elbhangfest, takes places on the 7 km (4 miles) between Loschwitz und Pillnitz. The people of Dresden celebrate their dolce vita on the last weekend of June with theatre performances, readings, concerts, exhibitions, ‘wine villages’ and flea markets, as well as a large procession.

Buy the Dresden Marco Polo Spiral Guide.

Dresden Marco Polo Guide

Something to say? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

10 reasons to go back to Malta

Malta is one popular destination so there is a good chance you’ve already been to this beautiful island nation. However, there are plenty of reasons to go again. Below we have listed ten of what we think are the perfect reasons to go back to Malta. Of course, if you have never been, these are very good reasons to book your first Maltese holiday.

Photo credit: Tim Kelly

1. Although it plays host to many tourists, Malta itself remains authentic.

2. The price-quality ratio is spot on for most hotels.

3. Malta’s restaurant scene invites you on a culinary trip round the world. Such trips take time.

4. There are enough theatres, museums and events for endless cultural enjoyment.

5. Malta is improving its infrastructure all the time: every year new attractions are added to the list.

6. Where else can you explore a whole island by bus – and at such a low cost?

7. Every holiday to Malta will increase your interest in Megalithic temples and the Knights of St John.

8. The Maltese really know how to enjoy the Advent season. It makes Christmas shopping a lot of fun.

9. The same walks and tours display a myriad of different characters during the changing seasons.

10. Valletta is Europe’s elected cultural capital for 2018. By then at the latest, you need to get back for a visit.

Buy the Malta Marco Polo Guide.

Malta Marco Polo Guide
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What bloggers are saying about Marco Polo Guides

Our travel guides are often found in the hands of travel bloggers and who better to put them to the test! Here is what a few of them had to say about Marco Polo Guides:

Heels in My Backpack

Photo credit: heelsinmybackpack.com

Rome Spiral Guide: “It’s difficult when you’re visiting somewhere for the first time and only have a short amount of time to experience it. How are you meant to prioritise what to do? Should you just hit the big time high profile sights? Try to go off the beaten path?

Well this is the predicament I was in when I visited Rome last month. My Anchored cruise was departing on the Sunday and I decided to fly in on the Friday night so I could enjoy a full Saturday of Rome goodness. So essentially I needed to experience Rome in a day… I mean I know Rome wasn’t built in a day so presumably it would be difficult to see it all in a day, right?

Enter my brand new and shiny Marco Polo Spiral Guide to Rome.

To maximise my time, I thought I’d try out one of their ‘Perfect Day’ itineraries to make sure I was making the most of this glorious day.

And it really was glorious, it was 33 degrees celsius on this particular day. Not the ideal temp for walking around in the boiling sun all day, but hey, I went with it.
There are several day itineraries in the guide but I decided to go for the ‘Ancient City’ variation. Mainly because it included the Colosseum and I’m basic like that. But also because it looked like it had a good mix of the big sights I had heard of and under the radar gems.” See the full post here: heelsinmybackpack.com.

The Sunny Side of This

Photo credit: thesunnysideofthis.com

Brussels Pocket Guide: “My favorite parts of their guide were the Do’s and Dont’s of Belgium (particularly the driving laws of the city), the useful phrases section both in French and Dutch, and their Discovery Tours suggestions. For this review we did a little bit of a mix and match of their Discovery Tours section, given that we had the baby with us and we wanted to go around by public transportation.

We were also very relieved that the restaurant suggestions all come with the place’s schedules. Restaurants in Brussels are usually not open on Sundays, and only open during lunch time or dinner (ex. 12-2, and 6-9pm). Luckily, the park we visited had a festival that particular weekend and it was filled with food trucks!” Read more on thesunnysideofthis.com.

Sophie’s Suitcase

Photo credit: sophiessuitcase.com

London Spiral Guide: “I had a lovely 48 wandering London and used my trusty guide to keep me heading in the right direction and I came across so many lesser known shops, cafes and restaurants because of this. Marco Polo Travel Guide books trump other equivalent maps because each time the book mentions a place, whether it’s a cafe, bar or landmark, it also makes sure it references the map co-ordinates too so that you can find the place super easy. BINGO!” See the full post on sophiessuitcase.com.

Photo credit: sophiessuitcase.com

Paris Spiral Guide: “We also sat down with a cup of tea and planned the next 48 hours of our lives, in beautiful Paris! I don’t know why but I hadn’t really asked for tips and tricks from the internet and instead was relying solely on my new Marco Polo Travel Guide to get us from one spot to another.

As we were only going to be in Paris for 48 hours we circled the places we really wanted to visit, and then crossed a few others off the list that we would save for another trip. We mapped out our route for the days and used the book to find out opening times, entry prices and how we would get there.” Read more on sophiessuitcase.com.

Tara Povey – Where is Tara

Photo credit: whereistara.com

Dublin Spiral Guide: “If it’s your first time in Dublin, especially if you’re just visiting for a weekend, you might feel a bit overwhelmed about where to begin and how to really make the most of your time to experience the best that the city has in store. Never fear. Marco Polo and I are here to help you out. Marco Polo, you ask? The famous explorer? Well, kind of – The Marco Polo Dublin guide, stuffed to the gills with useful information. It’s a real gem when it comes to maximizing your time and planning your trip. Each part of the city is handily dealt with in separate sections. It’s easy to see at a glance which attractions are close to each other, how to get to them, and where to find great food without going out of your way. Navigating and finding your way around has never been easier.” Find out more on whereistara.com.

Alice – Teacake Travels

Photo credit: teacaketravels.com

London Spiral Guide: “There’s just so much to see and do around London! You could spend months and months here without barely scratching the surface. Yet, when time is so short, we need to get to the point!

What if you want to do something different, like that time I set out to discover the street art scene in Shoreditch? What if you want to see a different side of London, hangout in places that you won’t find in most guidebooks, see the city’s charmingly British eccentricity and hit up some of the most weird London attractions?

You could spend hours searching for tidbits online or alternatively arm yourself with my advice and a copy of the Marco Polo London spiral guide.

Divided into sections for different parts of the city, each chapter has a handy map and suggestions on how to maximize your time, leaving you able to discover the different parts of London with ease. There’s also terrific digestible recommendations for places to eat and drink in here, to stop you feeling overwhelmed from all the wonderful dining options in London!” See the full post on teacaketravels.com.

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Find our full range of guide books and maps here on Amazon.

What is your favourite Marco Polo travel guide?

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Marco Polo in Amsterdam

Our guide books have been around the world but this time we got to go with them!

Amsterdam remains one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe and summer is the peak tourist season in this idyllic Dutch metropolis. That is why we decided to take to the streets of Amsterdam and give out exactly one hundred copies of our Marco Polo Amsterdam Pocket Guide.

Marco Polo Guides Amsterdam

Marco Polo in Amsterdam

On Thursday, July 6, 2017, we parked ourselves outside the beautiful Amsterdam Central Station with a suitcase full of books. The station area is a great place for finding tourists as the train connection between Amsterdam and the airport is the preferred method of getting to the city for many travellers.

Marco Polo Guides Amsterdam

Marco Polo’s own Hayley and Senja ready to hand out some guides

 

Marco Polo Guides Amsterdam

A suitcase full of guides

With guide books in our hands we set to the task. Soon we spotted our first travellers who at first couldn’t believe that we were giving the books away just like that, no strings attached! Well lucky them, this time the lunch – or the book as it were – was free. In no time, there were dozens of tourists, ready to explore the city with their new Amsterdam Pocket Guides.

Marco Polo Guides Amsterdam

How to really experience Amsterdam: on a bike with the Marco Polo Amsterdam Pocket Guide

 

Marco Polo Guides Amsterdam

We were looking to find as many tourists as we could so we had plopped our suitcase down next to a map of Amsterdam. Of course, it turned out to be a great place to come across tourists as even in this age of smartphones and Google Maps, nothing beats a real map. In our bright yellow Marco Polo shirts, we looked every bit the knowledgeable travel guide and were bombarded with questions. Fortunately, we had some real Amsterdam insiders with us who were more than happy to share their tips on how to best get around the city. The pull-out maps that come with our pocket guides were also welcomed with great enthusiasm.

Marco Polo Guides Amsterdam

Even in the age of smartphones and Google Maps, nothing beats a map

 

After only a little more than an hour, our suitcase was empty and all of our pocket guides were on their way to exciting Amsterdam adventures with their new owners. We had many lovely encounters with people from all over the world, all excited and ready to enjoy their trip. We hope that our Amsterdam pocket guides came in handy and helped people to experience the city to the max!

Marco Polo Guides Amsterdam

Flipping through the pages of their new pocket guide

 

Marco Polo Guides Amsterdam

Our Marco Polo team got plenty of attention

 

We had a lovely time in the sunny Amsterdam, and if you wish to see more of our Amsterdam adventure, check out the short video below! 

 

 

Buy the Amsterdam Marco Polo Pocket Guide.

Amsterdam Marco Polo Guide

Something to say? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

Only in Paris

Paris, the city of love, fashion, gastronomy, art – and the city of lights. Paris has always been a metropolis where only the best is good enough, a city of superlatives.  Faster, prettier, bigger, glossier than other cities in France, and comparable to other capital cities around the world such as London or New York. But few cities have the flair and romance of Paris. Discover what makes Paris so special with Marco Polo’s tips:

Paris Marco Polo Guide

GOURMET MECCA

Paris is known as the culinary capital of the world, whose restaurants have garnered Michelin stars. Julien, the gastronomic heart of the city, offers the best quality with opulent Belle-Époque surroundings.

ARCADES – NOSTALGIE A LA FRANÇAISE

Paris is defined by the splendour of its past. Upscale covered shopping centres such as the Galerie Vivienne have existed since the 18th century and are typical of parts of the city even today.

MULTICULTURAL METROPOLIS

Chinese, Indians and Africans from every part of the continent have all injected culture and an exotic flair into certain districts. The African market, Marché Barbès, is a tantalising example.

PURE LUXURY

Paris is the epitome of luxury products and is celebrated for its champagne, perfume and fashion. You can find a large selection of luxury items at the ‘Triangle ‘d’Or’ – the golden triangle – centred around the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.

MUSEUMS OF INTERNATIONAL RENOWN

Apart from the Louvre – the museum with the largest exhibition space in the world – the Centre Pompidou boasts the most comprehensive collection of modern art in Europe today. The museum that best reflects Paris, however, is the Musée d’Orsay, with its collection of works by the French Impressionists.

STREET CAFÉS

Street cafés act as an extension of a Parisian living room. Even the tiniest space on the pavement has enough room for a couple of tables and chairs. The café terrace at the Café Marly at the Louvre is ideal for people-watching.

STEEPED IN HISTORY

There are few cities in Europe that can look back on such a tumultuous 2,000 year history. The Musée Carnavalet displays a profound and inspiring insight into the city’s past.

Buy the Paris Marco Polo Guide.

Paris Marco Polo Guide
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Low Budget Iceland

Iceland has a reputation of being an expensive travel destination, but there is plenty to explore without going overboard. With Marco Polo’s tips you are sure to have a great time on a dime! From puffins to geothermics, see what Iceland has to offer for the budget-conscious traveller:

Iceland by Sophie Boisvert

Picture credit: Sophie Boisvert, used with permission

DOWN ON THE FARM

The ruins of the 11th-century longhouse Stöng, which can be visited for free, give a vivid impression of the size and layout of farms back then. Route 32 is worth a detour on the way to the highlands.

ICELAND IN BLOOM

The Botanical Garden in Akureyri is a freely accessible, rambling site and home to all of Iceland’s native plants – plus a great many more from elsewhere. From Greenland to the Mediterranean, if it’s green and/or bears flowers, it’s here.

SCULPTURE GARDEN

Einar Jónsson was the country’s first sculptor of note, and consequently many of his works are to be found all over Iceland. You can also admire an interesting selection of them in the garden adjoining his studio, which is permanently open to visitors.

GET PALLY WITH THE PUFFINS

To see puffins really close up, you usually have to take an organised boat trip. On the steep coast at Látrabjarg the comical cliff-dwellers come up close enough for you to count the rings on their bills – for free.

WHAT’S GEOTHERMICS ALL ABOUT?

Get an answer to this question during a free visit to the geothermal power plant Hellisheiðarvirkjun. At the visitor centre, various information points with touch screens take you through the energy-generating process, and you can learn a lot about the region at the same time.

ROMANTIC SPOT FOR A DIP

The little pool at Selárdalur, which you can visit for free, has a charm all of its own. It lies on an idyllic river, and in autumn is lit up by the Northern Lights as well as candles.

 

Buy the Iceland Marco Polo Pocket Guide.

Iceland Marco Polo Pocket Guide

Something to say? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

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

PROMENADING
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).

THAT BAROQUE FEELING
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, www.vbv.hr).

MARKETS
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.

PEBBLES
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!

ON THE BALL
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?

GOING WITH THE WIND
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.

SLADOLED – GELATO – ICE CREAM
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.

WINE, MEN AND SONG
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!

Buy the Croatia Marco Polo Spiral Guide.

Croatia Marco Polo Guide

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Only in Portugal

Castles, beaches and beautiful cities. Marco Polo loves Portugal! This is our list of things you can experience only in Portugal.

Marco Polo Portugal Guide

LAND OF CASTLES
The huge number of castles dotted all over the country is astounding. One highlight is the Convento de Cristo Knights Templar castle high above Tomar. Explore the cloisters, gardens and hidden corners behind the high walls.

CINEMA AU NATUREL
Experience the wildest yet a typical aspect of the country at the Cabo da Roca. Untamed nature with steep cliffs, whipping winds and thundering waves. This is the end of Europe, you’re standing on its last throne above the Atlantic.

ROCK OF AGES
Discover the rock art of the Parque Arqueológico do Vale do Côa in the valley of the Côa river: numerous unique rock drawings by prehistoric settlers. The rock slabs appear to be teeming with horses, goats and aurochs. An impressive place, deservedly amongst the World Heritage preserved by Unesco.

TO MARKET!
Every Thursday, for market day in Barcelos, the little town turns into a buzzing open-air bazaar for the Feira. Its colourful rows of stalls offers everything – food, clothing and typical crafts – and is not even expensive. Well worth a visit even if you don’t want to buy anything

A BLESSING FOR THE MONASTERY VISITORS
Batalha boasts the Mosteiro de Santa Maria da Vitória, once inhabited by Dominicans and one of the most impressive monastic buildings in the country, having absorbed elements of the Gothic and Manueline styles. Experience the church, the cloisters and the Unfinished Chapels.

PICTURE-PERFECT BEACH
Thanks to its privileged climate and beaches, the Algarve enjoys a reputation as an oversized sun bed. A top-notch beach is the Praia da Falésia near Albufeira, beyond which rusty-red rock walls rise – a stunning contrast to the blue Atlantic!

Buy the Portugal Marco Polo Pocket Guide.

Portugal Marco Polo Guide

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