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Alset Tours provides Canada's best custom, private tours in zero-emission Tesla Model S & Model 3 sedans and a Tesla Model X SUV visiting locals' hidden gems & world-class destinations around Victoria, BC
You don't need a passport to enjoy these relaxing escapes and epic adventures. Here are some of the best staycations, day trips and long weekends (that are well worth the flight) within our own borders.
Enjoy a nostalgic afternoon: Meet at Receiver Coffee Co. on Victoria Row for one of the best lattes in town before taking a walk to see St. Dunstan's Basilica Parish, then head over to Province House National Historic Site (which hosts P.E.I.'s legislative assembly) and the grounds of the historic Great George Hotel. Catch a show at the Confederation Centre of the Arts (perhaps the hugely popular Anne of Green Gables musical), then swing by the waterfront and check out the shops and restaurants on Peake's Wharf. If you're with an active bunch, you might consider cycling through the city. Whatever you do, make it over to Cows Ice Cream, the island's famous ice cream shop, for a scoop. Our favourites are PEI Strawberry and Moo Crunch. (Better yet, make it two scoops.)
Connect with our celtic heritage: An hour west of the capital is Summerside, the province's second-largest city. The quaint metropolis is heavily influenced by Celtic heritage, so check the schedule at The College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada for a concert the kids will get a kick out of. Stroll the bustling boardwalk, and maybe buy a souvenir at Spinnakers' Landing, which was fashioned after a fishing village and boasts shops and restaurants right on the waterfront. End the day with a picturesque bike ride along Confederation Trail.
Go where culture meets romance: Stroll hand-in-hand along Old Quebec's cobblestone streets and stop in at the unique boutiques and eateries along the way. (Make a special trip to Le Croquembouche boulangerie pâtisserie on rue Saint-Joseph for its decadent but light macarons.) Connect with Canada's Francophone culture and heritage at Musée de la civilisation, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec and the historic Citadelle de Québec. Head to a place where adventure awaits: Drive about 40 minutes north to Mont-Sainte-Anne, where you'll find spots for hiking, camping and mountain biking. A panoramic gondola will whisk you to gorgeous views at an elevation of 800 metres, then take in the cascading Jean-Larose Waterfall at the foot of the mountain.
Take a history lesson: The Big Smoke boasts some of the most fascinating attractions in the country, from the typical tourist hot spots such as the Royal Ontario Museum, Kensington Market and the Distillery Historic District, but don't skip Toronto's lesser-known historical haunts. The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library is perfect for book lovers, who can register and request to leaf through pieces in the impressive collection (which includes drafts and first editions of Canada's most celebrated works and a 1789 BC Babylonian cuneiform tablet—the library's oldest piece!). Afterward, head over to the Toronto Necropolis to tour one of the city's oldest and most historic cemeteries; the High Victorian Gothic burial grounds date back to 1850, and it's the final resting place of dignitaries such as Toronto's first mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie.
Get a good bottle of wine (or two): About two hours from Toronto, Prince Edward County is a favourite of locals and visitors alike. After all, it's been coined the gastronomic capital of Ontario, and it's where you'll find more than 35 wineries in addition to the Taste Trail of premier eateries. Bring your appetite (and a designated driver).
Please everyone in your party: Check out the Royal Saskatchewan Museum's award-winning T.rex Discovery Centre (home to one of the world's largest T. rexes). Continue the cultural day at the MacKenzie Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of Regina to admire the work of local and international artists. After that, take a mental break and wet your whistle on the Regina Mixology Tour, which features palate-pleasing beverages made by some of the city's best bartenders. After a busy day of sightseeing, relax at the Wascana Centre, a 930-hectare park built around Wascana Lake, where you'll find the perfect spot for a serene sunset picnic. Spend a Saturday with the kids: Drive 50 minutes west to Moose Jaw, where the kids will delight in a trolley tour of town and a visit to the Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village & Museum. Spend the rest of the day outdoors in Wakamow Valley—an urban park and conservation area with 20 kilometres of trails—or Crescent Park, which boasts an Olympic-size outdoor pool the kids will love, plus an ampitheatre and an art gallery in its 11-hectare location.
Indulge in a quiet couples' retreat: Set on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria is home to a host of historic sites, from Canada's oldest Chinatown to Hatley Park National Historic Site (an Edwardian estate with stunning gardens), and several museums (including the Royal BC Museum, Craigdarroch Castle Historic House Museum and the Maritime Museum of British Columbia). Take a heritage break and head down to Fisherman's Wharf to try your luck on a whale-watching expedition or go on a souvenir-hunting shopping trip along Government Street. Beachcombers should visit one of the many parks (including Island View Beach Regional Park), plus Elk Lake and Beaver Lake to swim and hike the trails.
Escape city life: Catch a ferry to Salt Spring Island, located in the Strait of Georgia between the mainland and Vancouver Island. The boutiques, galleries and cafés are attraction enough, but you'll really get a sense of the island by checking out some of the food and wine tours or taking a leisurely boat cruise around the area.
We had the opportunity over the past years to visit Salzburg Austria and stay at the Hotel Sacher on many occasions and would like to share our discoveries with you. There are many reasons to visit Salzburg, Austria, and in this travel guide, we had the opportunity to visit this wonderful city and highlight what it is about beyond its well-known parts and cliches detailed in the things to do in Salzburg lists, and beyond only Mozart and the Sound of Music. Let’s pretend all of Austria’s major cities are siblings. Vienna would be the classical one with a hidden, gritty second personality. Innsbruck would be sporty, and Graz would have a Mediterranean flair. Salzburg? She would be exquisitely beautiful and musically gifted. Everyone wants to see Salzburg.
Sacher Hotel Salzburg - Stay in the heart of Salzburg – Excellent location - Opened in 1866, the privately owned Hotel Sacher Salzburg is a grand, historic hotel which combines timeless elegance and tradition with highest standard of service. It is centrally located on the banks of the Salzach River with magnificent and unique views of the historic old town and Hohensalzburg Fortress. Free Wi-Fi is available in the entire hotel. All rooms and suites are furnished in an individual fashion and offer state-of-the-art facilities. Each one has been personally decorated by Mrs. Elisabeth Gürtler, the hotel's owner, with a great love of details. Furnishings include original paintings and silk wallpapers. All rooms offer air conditioning, a minibar, and bathrobes. The restaurant Zirbelzimmer, whose wooden panelling and elaborately carved ceilings are unique in Salzburg, is a popular meeting place for gourmets. Restaurant Roter Salon is located on the footpath along the Salzach River and offers beautiful views of the old town and restaurant Salzachgrill serves barbecue specialties. The Hotel Sacher in Salzburg is considered one of the world's best luxury hotels in Mozart's hometown. Let the special flair of Salzburg work its magic on you in a unique elegant ambience, enjoy first-class comfort, hospitality and culture in the heart of Salzburg.
The Reason to Visit Salzburg, Austria
There’s more to Austria’s fourth-largest city than Mozart and the Sound of Music, of course, but the city is first and foremost a musical metropolis, even if this is not your sole purpose for visiting.
Salzburg’s streets are filled with buskers, opera singers and all manner of harmonic performers, continuing to serve with melodies a city that bore one of the greatest composers of all time. Annually the city hosts over 4,000 cultural events, including the internationally renowned Salzburg Festival. In-between, die-hard fans of the Sound of Music seek out the film’s famous film scenes, just as I did, and winter in Salzburg sees people come to visit the origins of the Silent Night Christmas Carol.
It’s no wonder Salzburg takes the tagline “Stage of the World”. That’s a lot of performance to pack into a compact city. Yet, Salzburg is also a great place to wander and absorb the history that marks it out from other Austrian cities etched with typical Habsburg style and their distinct atmosphere. Salzburg is timeless while having carved out a youthful vibrancy; distinctly famous without being disgustingly overcrowded and charming in a way that you always hear about, but which you only connect with once you are there.
Things to Do in Salzburg Beyond Musical Fame Visit the Historic Palace of Schloss Leopoldskron My journey began in the Schloss Leopoldskron, the historic palace 20-minutes from the city centre. The epitome of majestic Salzburg, this landmark building from 1736 sits upon the banks of a shimmering blue lake (of Sound of Music fame), with manicured gardens and a mountainous backdrop. In 1918 it was taken over by the famous theatre director and founder of the Salzburg Festival, Max Reinhardt who renovated to how it stands today with stunningly decorated rooms and a grand library – all of which you have free reign to wander. Once the gathering place of writers, composers and other creatives, I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to a city I had longed to visit for many years. After an emotional arrival (for reasons I cannot work out I just wanted to burst into tears the second I stood on the grounds here) and gorging on Palace interiors, the city was calling.
See Archbishop Heritage over Hapsburg Legacy Salzburg’s historic city centre has been a World Heritage Site since 1997 and is seen as the most significant baroque city north of the Alps. It was built to be exquisite and display prosperity. Occupying a unique position in Europe as a Roman stronghold on the junction of a military road that linked the north and south of Europe, it came into being in the 7th century (year 700) when it was founded and ruled by independent Catholic Prince Archbishops. Its absence of grandeur Hapsburg touches was replaced by those of the secular kind – with Cathedrals and beautiful baroque church spires, all set within large open Italian flair squares which today brim with artworks and views to the castle on the hilltop. The Archbishops’ power and affluence continued well into the 19th century, who built the city from the wealth accumulated through salt trading (hence the city’s name). It only became a part of the Habsburg Empire in 1816.
Wander Getreidegasse – the Stunning Shopping Mile In place of pastel candy coloured noble houses and overshadowing the art nouveau touches of the Austrian monarchy, you’ll find alternative splendour in pretty avenues. One particular highlight is Getreidegasse – a notable street and stunning shopping mile full of traditional confectioners, tailors and weavers alongside international brands. The defining feature of Getreidegasse is the uniform design of the shop signs. Notice how McDonald’s even adheres to the signage styling.
Find the Smallest House in Salzburg The smallest house in Salzburg (No. 10a Alter Markt) is less than 1.5 metres wide, yet perfectly blends in. The legend is that a young man went to his future wife’s father to ask for her hand in marriage. The father permitted the marriage only if the man could provide his daughter with a house and this was all his funds permitted. The truth is the house was built to fill an old Medieval alleyway between the larger houses on either side of it and is, today, a jewellery store.
Enjoy the Best Viewpoint over Salzburg Admire the city’s 1,000 protected buildings from various elevated viewpoints in the city. The best is the rooftop of the Museum of Modern Art, which is a full window on the city that includes the 11th-century Hohensalzburg Fortress – the medieval castle that watches over the city (itself a frequented panoramic vantage point).
Explore Modern Salzburg Filled With Artworks On the subject of modern art, Salzburg doesn’t just covert the best of it in museums. Modern artworks like the man on the golden globe and the giant interactive chessboard, add colour and curiosity to old squares as you stop and gaze at the baroque structures that dominate. I always like to see how old cities add some modern spark to stay exciting and relevant to all manner of visitors. Salzburg is opulent, but it isn’t without a subtle coating of gritty, youthful vibes and modern creative inclusions, which are fun to find and push you to explore outside the architectural boundaries of the historic centre.
Live Five Centuries of Salzburg Beer Heritage Salzburg is a city with over 500 years of beer heritage. It’s a rite of passage to immerse yourself in Salzburg’s beer heritage and sip on a Steiner at the Augustiner Brewery as you marvel at the history of the monks.
First, you choose the size of your Steiner, pay for it and then let one of the guys fill you up from the barrel. Find a table, socialise with locals and grab some traditional foods, which you can find served outside the giant beer halls. Even if you are on your own, as I was, you will strike up a conversation since sharing tables is a part of the beer culture. My good friend, Steph, demonstrates the scale of the beer from her visit a month before mine.
Still thirsty? Head to the 17th century established Stiegl Brewery that is still in operation today. Cross the River – See Salzburg Differently It’s easy to spend all your time on the side of the river where the historical centre and old town is. Yet, a simple river cross to the other side reveals another side of Salzburg, where trendy neighbourhoods are thriving in timeworn alleyways and cosy city corners. Walk Along Steingasse – the Oldest Street in Salzburg Get to Steingasse, across the river from the Historic Old Town. Stone Street (as it translates) is the oldest street in Salzburg, and this quiet, historical alleyway of the city is not forgotten but is a place where street art and trendy neighbourhood vibes are emerging.
Go Local in Salzburg’s Andräviertel Neighbourhood While you are on this side of the river, wander through the neighbourhood of Andräviertel. It’s quieter, has some independent stores and cafes, adding to a growing bohemian feel that makes it feel like a different ‘halve’ of Salzburg across the water.
A University City, you’ll stumble across from the hum of coffee houses in courtyards, trendy bars and bistros that feed the young heart. Salzburg is where ‘Lederhosen Donnerstag’ (Lederhosen Thursday) was established, where young people come together in traditional clothing to socialise and muse in a modern establishment on this chosen day of the week. The city is known for its endless array of Dirndl and Lederhosen shops, and this fun movement keeps the culture alive in a modern setting.
What to Do in Salzburg for the Music Go on The Sound of Music Tour Hollywood can often ruin a city, especially one made famous by the longest standing musical film of all time that attracts over 300,000 tourists a year. However, while some of the 1965 film’s scenes are within the centre of the city, many remain outside of it, accessible only by your meticulous planning (and special permission) or via The Sound of Music Panorama Tours bus.
I admit I was a little pessimistic about a bus tour since I like to bounce around on my own time. But here’s the honesty. It was one of the most fun mornings I’ve ever had – a bus full of excitable Sound of Music fans hyper on Do Re Me, My Favourite Things, How do You Solve a Problem like Maria and all other tunes, while staring out of the window at Salzburg’s green vistas. Panorama Tours have created a sing-along, multi-stop schedule that runs every day of the year (because it is THAT in demand). It stops at various highlights including the other side of the Schloss Leopoldskron pond (access is only available if you stay at the property), the white gazebo known for “Sixteen going on Seventeen”. It passes the outskirts of Villa Trapp, heads out to the church where Maria and Captain Von Trapp got married and ends at the beautiful Schloss Mirabell in the city. So you can dance on the Pegasus (Do-Re-Mi) fountain and snap yourself on the famous stairs at the Mirabell Gardens.
The tour is also a way of getting out in the surrounding nature of Salzburg, where you can spot the Untersberg – the panoramas used in the opening scenes of the Sound of Music. While the city pops with gardens and cycle paths, the mountain ranges of the Mönchsberg, Festungberg and Kapuzinerberg hug the city, whose old and modern districts get divided by the river Salzach.
On the Panorama Tours bus, you weave through these mountainous valleys and past half a dozen lakes, getting an introduction to the diversity of Salzburgerland state.
You Can’t Visit Salzburg Without Honouring Mozart. Mozart is the city’s most famous son, born and bred in Salzburg and forever a part of its legacy. Born in Getreidegasse 9 (in 1756), today fans flock for a picture outside the building’s brightly painted yellow façade, which now incorporates a permanent exhibition about his life and career.
Afterwards, you can indulge in a Mozartkugel chocolate, whose silver and blue wrapper marks it out as the “Original Salzburger Mozartkugel” – the real deal compared to the red and gold wrapped ‘souvenir’ style Mozartkugels found elsewhere in Austria. There’s a lot of pride here over the Mozartkugel – a delicious mesh of green marzipan layered with nougat and dark chocolate, which you can buy from Fürst on Brodgasse. In 1890, master confectioner Paul Fürst invented this treat and named it after the city’s composer, who was not even that famous at the time. It is still produced by hand to this day with the original recipe and tastes a lot better than the mass-produced ones.
Travel to the Origins of the Silent Night Song in Salzburg Winter in Salzburg is not just one of the most romantic places for all things advent and Christmas related; it is also where the story of Silent Night began. The most famous of all Christmas Carols, Salzburg is pivotal to the beginnings of the song with seven locations related to it. Joseph Mohr, who wrote the Silent Night songtext, was born in Salzburg and lived at Steingasse 31. In wider SalzburgerLand, around 30 minutes from the city, you can visit Arnsdorf village where school teacher Franz Xaver Gruber first composed silent Night before moving on to the neighbouring village of Oberndorf where you’ll find the Silent Night Chapel.
Located in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, on the east coast of Germany’s largest island, Rügen, We had the pleasure of staying at the Grand Hotel Binz as we explored the island of Rugen and the town of Binz. The Grand Hotel of Binz offers spacious, comfortably elegant hotel rooms that welcome you with generosity, harmony and comfort. It is a retreat with a magnificent view, stylish interior and plenty of space to pause and breathe. Enjoy exclusive wellness experiences as part of their packages, which you will only find with them: from unique enjoyment for two to regionally inspired feel-good moments on Rügen.
This beautiful Hotel on the Beach of Binz on the Island Rügen is stylish with its medical wellnes, beauty and spa and culinary temptations that makes this a magical experience. The staff are very helpful and polite, we truly made some great friendships and connections while staying here. We highly recommend the Breakfast Buffet as well, with it's variety of choices, and customized orders.
Grand Hotel Binz
Restaurant RUIANI A journey through the exciting world of flavors
Enjoy pleasures of the palate all day long with fresh products from regional suppliers in top quality, an honest love for what they do, focusing on a seasonally varied cuisine – that's how the culinary team enjoys spoiling you from morning to night!
The living room and heart of the hotel is the SHAKER'S BAR. Here, you can review the experiences of the day, relax, enjoy or socialize daily from 5:00 pm. The stocked bar has something for every occasion and every taste, such as classic cocktails, long drinks, different types of whiskey, selected wines from various regions of Germany and the world, freshly tapped beers and non-alcoholic beverages of all kinds. They have just the right pleasure for every taste!
Binz is a Baltic Sea resort that is famous for its historical significance as well as its modern, family-friendly leisure amenities and seaside location. The charming, traditional architectural style of buildings in Binz is well-preserved and is one of its main attractions. Surrounded by picturesque natural scenery.
The Beach and its Many Attractions notwithstanding, the importance of the architecture and history of Binz and the lush beauty of the surrounding countryside, for many visitors (especially children), the main attractions of Binz in modern times are, as with all seaside resorts, the sea and beach.
Day Trips from Binz
The island of Rügen is blessed with many more interesting places to visit, both coastal and inland such as Jasmund National Park. Many are worth a visit, and one definite advantage of being based in Binz, the island’s largest resort, is that there are good bus and train transport links from Binz to many other parts of the island. Get around easily by car or the convenient local shuttle bus or the popular RRB steam train that serves various parts of the island. With its many charms and attractions, Brinz is certainly a seaside resort par excellence.
The locals are genuinely friendly and welcoming and will ensure that your visit to the charming seaside resort of Brinz is one that you’ll treasure for a lifetime.
Away from the pleasures and fun of the beach, the town of Binz is a delight to explore. The traditional and well-preserved architecture is charming and a real pleasure to stroll around. The main historical importance of this town is that in 1885, it became Germany’s first bathing resort. The town’s (and the whole island’s) more recent history under Nazi control in 1937 also provides a dark allure for many visitors.
For those interested in that period of Binz’s history, the Dokumentationszentrum Prora is a museum dedicated to Nazi attempts to establish their ‘Strength through Joy’ scheme. Visit Jagdschloss Granitz, too. It’s a magnificent former hunting palace dating from 1723. It can be accessed by taking the RBB steam train to Jagdschloss and Garftitz. It’s an interesting and very educational tourist attrction to visit. If driving, the nearest parking is two kilometres away and parking charges are around two euros per hour.
Germany was once home to some 25,000 castles. Yes, you read that correctly, 25,000. However, according to the History of Yesterday, who dug through the European Institute of Castles data, just 60% of those castles remain either in all their glory or in ruin, meaning just about 15,000 can be found in the nation today. But as a fun fact, the website did add this tidbit: If that 25,000 number was once correct, that means, at one time, there was a German castle every 15 miles.
These were the homes of not just kings and queens but of knights and nobility stretching across hundreds of years, who each wanted to build a status symbol of their own. Think of it as their version of a planned development. Thankfully, the owners built many of these magnificent homes to last so we can still enjoy them while visiting Germany on vacation today. Indeed, the castles remain some of the most popular German attractions, drawing visitors from across the globe to their treasure-filled armories and enchanting grounds. Neuschwanstein Castle, in Bavaria, has the distinction of being one of the most-visited castles in the entire world, luring in more than 1.5 million tourists a year with its two-story throne room and ornately-furnished chambers. Turrets and towers rise from all across the German countryside, crowning Alpine mountains and overlooking vast parklands, forests, and charming villages.
You can find them just outside popular cities or floating on island lakes. German castles represent a vast range of architectural designs, including the medieval Burg Eltz Castle and the Renaissance ruins of Heidelberg Castle. What they all have in common, of course, is their vivid depiction of a moment in German history. These castles remain important parts of German life. They now serve as government buildings, museums, landmarks, hotels, and — in more than a few cases — incredible private homes. Ready to see a few for yourself? Here are just a few of the German castles you need to add to your must-see list.
Eltz Castle has endured more than most, including several wars, with minor damage. In fact, it looks pretty much the same as it did in the 15th century, when it accommodated three noble families. Today, it's still under the ownership of one of the original households (the Eltz's), who have had it for 33 generations. And we're not the castle's only admirers: Back when Germany's national currency was the Deutsche Mark, its spires featured prominently on every 500-mark bill printed between 1961 and 1995.
Althoff Grandhotel Castle
This former hunting chateau was originally commissioned as a "grander" version of Versailles. It served as a military hospital, boarding school, and refugee center before it was ultimately remodeled as a grand hotel in the year 2000. The hotel is now a member of Leading Hotels of the World. Its 120 rooms and suites are tastefully done with leather upholstery and wooden desks. The hotel also boasts views of the Rhine Valley and a 3-star Michelin restaurant, Vendome. All this is just 12 miles away from Cologne.
Nicknamed the Sleeping Beauty Castle, families love this ivy-covered, rose-filled estate for its fairy-tale looks (its actual address is on the Fairy Tale Route) as well as its offerings. The castle sits next to Tierpark, Europe's oldest wildlife park with 80 different species, including bison, wild horses, and penguins. The castle has also been undergoing extensive renovations since 2018. However, Reinhardswald Nature Park is working with the state of Hesse to allow guests to enter the castle courtyard and sun terrace to experience its magic. And, if you're lucky, you'll even see Sleeping Beauty and Prince stroll through the complex at selected times.
This Norman castle makes quite a first impression. Strategically hidden from view, travelers first approach through dense forest, when suddenly the branches and treetops give way to soaring stone ramparts and watchtower. Wartburg is one of the best-preserved medieval German fortresses, dating back almost 1,000 years. Martin Luther is said to have spent six weeks here translating the New Testament into German, and Wagner used it as a refuge while composing his famous Tannhauser opera.
Framed spectacularly against the Bavarian Alps (with Germany's highest peak, Zugspitze, just 30 miles away), Schloss Elmau is a pastoral gem, which hosted the international G7 summit in 2015. A major fire in 2005 meant that much of the original structure had to be rebuilt, but the premises have since been restored. Travelers — especially families — can plan an entire vacation here, as the site hosts two world-class spa hotels, complete with restaurants, yoga facilities, a hammam, outdoor pools, a concert hall, and guided nature excursions.
This Neo-Renaissance castle, built on an island inside Lake Schwerin, is completely surrounded by water, connected to the mainland by a single bridge. The first records of Schwerin date back to 793, when the site was used as a military fort, though the castle we see today wasn't built until 1857. Instead of Grand Dukes and Prussian officers, Schwerin Castle now houses the State Parliament, as well as a museum, porcelain collection, and concert venue.
Fronted by English and French-style gardens and neighboring the Saale river, Dornburg is a candy-colored fortress that contains not one but three distinct castles, each corresponding to a different epoch. Visitors can freely wander the Rococo and Renaissance castles, while the Old Castle (dating back to 1573) is available on special guided tours only. The famous German poet Goethe used to visit here, and there's even an exhibit devoted to his work.
Looking for an easy day trip from Frankfurt? This grand estate, and one-time royal palace, is a worthy contender. In the late 1800s, Empress Victoria (Queen Victoria of England's first child) decided to build a neo-Gothic castle for herself that combined German Renaissance and English Tudor styles. The result is impressive. Visitors today can browse the halls filled with antique paintings and tapestries. There is also a golf course, several restaurants, and a whiskey bar with live jazz.
Overlooking the Salzach River, Burghausen Castle is a hardwearing 11th-century citadel capped with lustrous red tile roofs. Don't let its beauty fool you. It was once the gruesome site of torture and executions (there's even a museum with various iron implements on display). At 3,422 feet, it's the longest castle in the world and features a magnificent collection of late Gothic panel paintings, along with a cycle illustrating the history of Bavaria.
This gravity-defying cliffside castle, which contains two immense banquet halls and an artificial indoor cave, was originally commissioned in the mid-1800s by King Ludwig II to represent the ideal (or, at least, his ideal) medieval fairy-tale castle. So swept up in his own fantasy, Ludwig hired a theatrical set designer — rather than an architect — to design it. The result is an unmistakably grand silhouette that shines like a crown amid the somber Bavarian Alps. Not that we'd expect anything less from a man once quoted as saying: "I want to remain an eternal mystery to myself and others."
Lichtenstein Castle, first built in the 14th century, was left to ruin and would have stayed that way if owner Count Wilhelm hadn't seized the opportunity to have the entire medieval structure rebuilt in 1842. Inspired after reading the novel Lichtenstein, the Count based his design around the original castle walls, which rest on a plummeting cliff edge. Inside, visitors can browse original paintings, stained glass, and military armor from medieval times.
One of Germany's most-visited castles, this neo-Gothic hilltop abode was rebuilt three times over the course of eight centuries. The current iteration, the work of late 19th-century King Frederick Williams IV of Prussia, contains a letter from George Washington, in which the former American president commends Baron von Steuben (a descendent of Hohenzollern) for his service in the American Revolutionary War.
With their eye-catching artwork, unusual architecture, and remarkable use of light and colour, these 20 subway stations from around the world turn commuting into an aesthetic experience.
Renowned for their grandeur, Moscow’s first underground stations were built during the rule of Joseph Stalin under the slogan “Building a Palace for the People.” Komsomolskaya station, which opened in 1952, is one of the most impressive, with sweeping arches, marble columns, and a vaulted yellow ceiling.
Olaias station was built to link Lisbon’s inner city with the site of Expo ’98. The interior is a collage of geometric shapes and primary colours that recalls the abstract paintings of Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg. There are coloured glass panels on the ceiling, chandeliers, enormous rust-hued columns, and walls covered with intricate tile mosaics. The station was designed by architect Tomás Taveira and artists Pedro Cabrita Reis, Graça Pereira Coutinho, Pedro Calapez, and Rui Sanchez.
New York City’s first subway ride departed from City Hall station in 1904. The vaulted tile ceilings were created by Rafael Guastavino, the master builder behind many of the most spectacular tiled arches in the United States. Although the station is no longer in use, you can book a tour of the site through the New York Transit Museum.
Stockholm’s metro network resembles a vast art gallery: of its 110 stations, more than 90 feature works created by about 150 artists. Rådhuset, on the blue line, is one of several stations with colourfully painted exposed bedrock. The result is a dramatic, cave-like space.
Located in the city of Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan, this station is home to the Dome of Light, the world’s largest glass art installation. Created by Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata, the colourful dome measures 30 metres (98 feet) in diameter, covers an area of 660 square metres (7,104 square feet), and is divided into four sections—water, earth, light, and fire—that symbolize the story of human life.
Both a metro station and Madrid’s intercity railway hub, Atocha station contains a tropical garden with thousands of plants—including 260 different species from America, Asia, and Australia—under a high glass and steel ceiling. The lush green space, created after the station’s expansion in the early 1990s, provides a welcome escape from the crowds of travellers.
Candidplatz station makes the daily commute a little brighter with the vivid colour gradient painted on its walls and ceiling. The colours also serve a purpose: the platform contains an unprecedented number of pillars to support the weight of the sewerage canal that runs above the station, and the rainbow mural was chosen to give the impression of spaciousness.
The Naples metro system includes several “art stations,” a project initiated by the city to beautify its public transit hubs and offer the public an up-close look at contemporary art. Toledo station contains multiple works, including mosaics depicting scenes inspired by the city’s history and large-scale photographic portraits of Neapolitan performers.
Catalan architect Oscar Tusquets Blanca designed the station’s most famous feature: the Crater de luz, a cone-shaped, blue-tiled opening over the escalator that spans the entire depth of the station. The 144 LED lights inside the crater are themselves a distinct work, titled Relative Light, by American artist Robert Wilson.
Canary Wharf station is notable for its awe-inspiring scale; at 300 metres (984 feet) long, it’s the largest of the stations built as part of the London Underground’s Jubilee line extension. British architecture firm Foster + Partners covered the three entrances with huge glass canopies that curve over the escalators and draw natural light down to the floor below, lending an aura of serenity to one of the city’s busiest tube stations.
One of seven distinctive West Berlin subway stations designed in the early 1980s by architect Rainer G. Rummler, Paulsternstrasse station is adorned with tile mosaics of colourful trees and flowers. According to CityLab, the artwork was inspired by the landscape that might have been seen on a carriage ride between Berlin and Spandau in the 18th century.
Avtovo station opened in 1955 as part of St. Petersburg’s first metro line, and it remains one of the city’s most striking subway stops. Inspired by the defence of Leningrad, the space is decorated with many emblems of military valour such as laurel branches and gilded swords, and the platform is lined with columns covered with marble and ornamental glass manufactured at the renowned Lomonosov Porcelain Factory.
One of the more extravagantly decorated stations in the North Korean capital is Puhung (which translates to “Reconstruction”), with its elaborate chandeliers and colourful mosaic commemorating former leader Kim Il-Sung and the workers who rebuilt the city after the Korean War. Pyongyang’s metro system—one of the deepest in the world—is accessible to foreigners via organized tours.
The walls of Santiago’s Universidad de Chile station are covered in a mural by Chilean painter Mario Toral, titled Visual Memory of a Nation, that captures the country’s history across six themed panels. Completed in the late 1990s, the work portrays Chile’s first inhabitants and the Spanish conquest along with scenes inspired by more recent history, such as the hardships experienced by coal and copper miners and the violence of the military dictatorship.
Formerly known as Khalid Bin al Waleed station, Dubai’s BurJuman station features jellyfish-like lighting fixtures designed by Czech glassmaker Lasvit. Officially titled Water, the sculptures are made of a base of textured bent glass that connects to a “waterfall” of hollow, hand-blown drops.
In the summer of 2018, a ban on photographing the Tashkent metro was lifted, unveiling to the rest of the world the art and architecture of the Uzbekistan capital’s underground. The walls of Kosmonavtlar station are lined with portraits of cosmonauts and covered in a blue-to-black gradient of ceramic panels that evokes Earth’s atmosphere.
Resembling a fantastical submarine, the interiors of Arts et Métiers station were designed by Belgian artist François Schuiten, co-creator of the Cities of the Fantastic comic book series. There are copper-panelled walls inspired by Jules Verne’s fictional Nautilus vessel, portholes displaying miniature contraptions from the collections of the nearby Musée des arts et métiers, and giant gears, pulleys, and cogs peeking out of the vaulted ceiling.
In 2014, Budapest-based firm Spora Architects built twin stations on opposite banks of the Danube. Szent Gellért tér and Fővám tér share an unusual feature: criss-crossing concrete beams that brace the walls and reduce the need for columns, allowing for more space on the platforms.
Szent Gellért tér’s tunnels are also decorated with a colourful mosaic by artist Tamás Komoróczky.
For Rotterdam’s Wilhelminaplein station, Zwarts & Jansma Architects aimed for “a luxurious allure,” and the result is a subtly futuristic space in a palette of gleaming white and chrome. The station is full of unique details such as porthole-like cutouts in the concrete barrier between platforms, “free-floating” floors between the platform and surface levels, and a curvy-walled, all-white entrance tunnel that looks like something out of a spaceship.
Munich’s first metro stations favoured shades of brown, orange, and grey and simple, modernist designs popular in the 1970s. But from the 1980s onward, the city’s subway architects began embracing a more playful aesthetic. Westfriedhof station, for instance, is lit in red, yellow, and blue by 10 oversized “light domes” that make for an interesting contrast with the exposed rock face of the walls.
Completed in 1944, Moscow’s Elektrozavodskaya station was named after a nearby lightbulb factory and contains marble bas-reliefs of early pioneers of electricity such as Michael Faraday, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Popov. The station’s most spectacular feature is the lighting in its central hall, made up of six rows of circular inset lamps.