The wonderfully historic capital of the Netherlands is equally famous for its seventeenth-century buildings and snaking canals as it is for its Red Light District and marijuana cafe culture. In Amsterdam’s Museum District you can check out the Rijksmuseum’s Vermeer and Rembrandt collections, as well as visiting the world renowned Van Gogh Museum. Once you’ve paid a visit to the humbling museum at Anne Frank’s House on the Prinsengracht canal, wander the floating Bloemenmarkt for some tulips or hop on a bike to explore via the city’s numerous cycle paths.
Gothic Cologne is the cultural hub of western Germany, boasting a beautifully reconstructed old town and the famous twin-spired Cologne Cathedral. If you’re feeling fit, climb over 500 steps in the south tower to witness a well-deserved view of the city’s twelve different Romanesque churches, medieval townhouses, dozens of museums and galleries, and the Hohenzollern Bridge covered in lover’s padlocks, which crosses the wide Rhine river. Those with a sweet tooth will love the Chocolate Museum (and its accompanying gift shop!) while Cologne’s Botanical Gardens, which dates from the 1800s, has plenty of cacti and plant houses to satisfy the green fingered.
Set at the junction of the Rhine and Mosel rivers, the ancient city of Koblenz is a picturesque place to wander - whether it’s through little squares and flower-filled parks or around the labyrinthine rooms of Marksburg Castle, built in 1117 and the only Rhine castle that has never been destroyed.
Well known for its winemaking, Rudesheim is a Rhine Valley town so well known for its winemaking that the town’s medieval Brömserburg Castle also houses a wine museum inside its walls. Equally historic is Drosselgasse, a cobbled street filled with beautiful narrow half-timbered houses, shops, restaurants and traditional entertainment venues.
The small medieval town of Miltenberg in Bavaria boasts stunning half-timbered houses and Faust Brewery, one of the oldest in the country. High up on a hill is Miltenberg Castle, which provides great views of the town and even holds a modern art gallery inside.
Rococo and baroque architecture adorns the narrow streets of scenic Wurzburg and spills over at The Residenz, a UNESCO-protected palace with 360 rooms decorated with frescoes, paintings, gilt work and mirrors. In WWII 90% of the city centre was destroyed, but extensive restoration has transformed Wurzburg to nearly pre-war grandeur.
Laid out like a chessboard, Mannheim is constructed on the site of an old fortress and is where many of Germany’s industrial companies are based. The city’s university is housed in an eighteenth century palace, and Mannheim’s civic symbol is a 60 metre Romanesque water tower, set in a beautiful park where many city students visit on a sunny day.
Basel is a beautiful medieval city in northwest Switzerland which centres around the Marktplatz and features stunning examples of old and new architecture. Of particular interest is the twelfth century Gothic cathedral which holds the tomb of the Dutch scholar Erasmus.