When you think of Vienna, you think of palaces, Orson Welles and sharp architecture, accompanied by apfelstrudel. You perhaps don’t put Vienna in the same price bracket as Reykjavik or Copenhagen, which draw as many worried glances as jealous stares when you tell people you’re going there.
Brace yourselves, kids, because Vienna is more expensive and demanding than you think – I found Reykjavik and Copenhagen much cheaper and friendlier for city breaks overall, and with more food choices, despite their pricier reputations. This makes it difficult when you’re a solo traveller in Vienna, or you’re a first-time visitor trying to see the city minus a hefty credit card bill.
‘Tis the season of Christmas shopping, frosty walks and winter minibreaks (at last!), but you need a winter wardrobe of reliable basics if you’re going to make the most of these colder months. Whether you’re wandering locally or heading overseas, have these winter wardrobe essentials close to hand and you’ll be travel-ready in an instant.
Your Adaptable Winter Wardrobe Ingredients
2x winter coats – one long and resilient, and one short, lightweight and fun
3x knitwear – a draped cardigan, a slim-fit jumper, and a knitted dress
1x black skinny jeans or jeggings
2x thermal tops – one long-sleeved, one tank top or vest
1x smart camisole
1x pleated or patterned skirt
1x thermal leggings and 1x 100-200 denier tights; 1x fleece insoles for shoes
Accessories: 1x blanket-style scarf or wrap, 1x gloves, 1x winter hat, 1x skinny waist belt, 1x statement necklace
1x flat knee-high boots or ankle boots
1x water-resistant trainers (e.g. leather, PU leather or waxed cotton)
The City Break
Drape the scarf over a knitted dress (I love this metallic khaki dress by JD Williams) and secure it with the skinny belt, à la Burberry circa 2014, for a stylish lunch date. Alternatively, team it with the jumper, skirt and trainers for a low-key adventure. Heels are great for evenings out, but not so useful for active breaks, so check your itinerary before you pack those stilettos. Your pair of knee-high boots or ankle boots act as a smart alternative.
Tell someone you’re off to the land of Borgen and The Killing and they’re bound to ask, “Is Copenhagen expensive?”. Technically the answer is ‘yes’, but only in the same way that Paris or London can be pricey for the uninitiated. You really can do Copenhagen on a budget without skimping on culture, and I’ll show you how.
Free Things to Do in Copenhagen
Catch the Changing of the Guard ceremony every day at noon, at Amalienborg Palace. Yes, it’s a tourist cliché, but it’s fun too. Also, make time to wander around Nyhavn, which you’ll recognise from postcards and any films set here. For something a little offbeat, read my review of the free tour at the Danish Parliament, the Folketinget, or consider visiting the Danish Music Museum (Rosenørns Allé 22).
There’s more to the Big Apple’s retail scene than Macy’s, Bloomingdales and the designer haunts loved by Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City. In fact, New York shopping should be on your agenda even if you’re not a fashion fan, because there are some excellent specialist shops to discover on your travels. I’ve picked two of my new favourite niche stores not to be missed.
The Fountain Pen Hospital
With sixty years of pen repairs under its belt, this is a thriving business and a fascinating place to explore. It has survived relocation and the ups and downs of the economy, and is now run by the third generation of the Wiederlight family, brothers Terry and Steve. Inside its doors you can pick up a posh rollerball, browse the latest pen catalogue and check out limited edition fountain pens at well over the $1000 mark. As the ‘hospital’ name indicates, your pens can be repaired in store, and the staff really do know their stuff.
‘The hand and the machine’ is the vague-sounding inspiration for Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, at the Metropolitan Museum. It’s about the high levels of craftsmanship involved in making fashion since 1900, either by hand-sewing and embellishing or using sewing machines and 3D printers in the process. Kind of dry until you realise how important the fashion industry is around the world, how it reflects society, and how many economies it supports. It seems we could all learn from this show.
Sick of living under British rule, and tired of being asked to support their British oppressors in WWI, a faction of Irish citizens planned to take action in Dublin on the Easter weekend of 1916. 100 years later, the world remembers the Easter Rising, and Dublin still bears the scars.
Though many rebels got cold feet and one leader actually called off the Rising on 23rd April 1916, the remaining fighters dug trenches and took strongholds as arranged on 24th April, in the name of the Free Irish Republic. Their proclamation was issued from the General Post Office, which became their command hub from Easter Monday and was left gutted by the end of the fighting on 29th April.
Most major cities have their own tourist cards, promising discounts on sightseeing and transport, but it’s not always easy to tell which ones are worth paying for. However, when it comes to the Lisboa Card, Lisbon’s equivalent, the benefits are certainly tempting enough…
How much does it cost?
There are 24, 48 or 72 hour cards available, priced at €18.50, €31.50 or €39.00 for adults, or €11.50, €17.50 and €22.50 for children. Bear in mind there’s hardly any price increase from 48 to 72 hours, so you might as well pick the longer option, especially as this gives you access to exclusive restaurant discounts (not available on shorter options).
Writing longhand seems like a guilty pleasure these days, but one stationery shop in Bristol makes it unashamedly cool again: Papersmiths.
This Clifton store offers a carefully curated selection of pens, notebooks, cards and accessories, not to mention a vast range of fashion and lifestyle magazines to rival those stocked by London’s best newsagents. I popped in during a quick trip to the city and, being a self-confessed stationery addict, I was quickly won over by most of the stock.
Brands in store range from the minimalist design-centric (Hay) to the infinitely quirky (Herb Lester travel guides). Visual merchandising is simple but effective, with pencils arranged in colour order, and copies of The Gentlewoman slotted between thick woollen rugs and bowls full of chunky erasers in the window, so you start to picture your own home gradually being transformed into a Papersmiths palace.
Well, guest blogger June has captured the mood and is here to inspire you with tips for travelling solo in Tokyo, so you can see what all the fuss is about…
Solo travel can be daunting, let alone when you want to see the most populated metropolis in the world. Tokyo, the capital of Japan, is a massive city with a population of more than 13.3 million people, and it’s known worldwide for great food, trendsetting fashions, shopping areas and a stark contrast of tradition and modernity. There’s something for everyone, especially solo travellers.
People may rave about the award-winning art scene in Manchester and the street art in London or Bristol, but I want to add another city into the mix. With weird and wonderful architecture in Sheffield, not to mention the artists and creatives seemingly around every corner, ignore the Steel City at your peril.
Eye-Catching Architecture in Sheffield
The Park Hill estate is a concrete hulk of Brutalist architecture, inspired by Le Corbusier. Completed in 1961 as a rejuvenation project for one of the city’s poorest areas, Park Hill was initially a success but gradually fell into disrepair as it mirrored the declining steel industry in the 1980s.