Street art tours through Berlin, coffee with macarons on Paris’s Seine, shopping sprees in London—you’ve booked your weekend getaway to a European capital with the budget airline of your choice. But why should you solely rely on the EasyJet magazine or your dog-eared Lonely Planet for tips when you can experience the city as a local? Stunning landscapes and countryside retreats are often just a stone’s throw away from your destination—perfect for some R&R to let those impressions of the metropolis sink in. We asked locals from our international team for their go-to spots and favourite haunts in and around their home cities, giving you insider travel tips for Europe’s coolest destinations.
Street-art & spätis: Berlin
“Poor but sexy” goes the now legendary phrase former mayor Klaus Wowereit used to describe the German capital. While gentrification has seen rents soar in Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg, and Prenzlauer Berg, somewhat eroding the cheap and cheerful part of the equation, Berlin remains a city with an incredible history and a raw edge. It is a city without a real centre: each kiez—that’s ‘hood in Berlin-speak—has its own centre and in the warmer months, life happens pretty much exclusively on the streets. Us Kreuzbergers spend our summer evenings at the Admiralbrücke or Landwehrkanal; Friedrichshainers, on the other hand, hang around Boxhagener Platz, affectionately referred to as Boxi—often accompanied by a cold brew from the local Späti—that’s Berlinerisch for a corner shop that never closes.
The East Side Gallery, Mauerpark, the photography museum C/O Berlin...We’re all in agreement here in the JUNIQE office: once you’ve ticked the top 10 cultural highlights from your travel guide off your list, take the S-bahn to Grunewald for a stroll through the forest. Visiting the former NSA listening station on Teufelsberg—a man-made hill built from the rubble of the Second World War—slurping on a cold one in the beer garden on the Havel, and enjoying a picnic on the sand are ideal activities if you’re looking for a little break from the city. And with some fresh air in your lungs you’re ready to hit one of the city’s legendary techno clubs and dance through dawn.
Art & architecture: Paris
If you are looking for a more cultural weekend full of museums and historical architecture, Paris is the destination for you—and there are plenty of places to visit. A Parisian born and bred, one of our French staff writer’s top travel tips is the Jardin des Plantes, a beautiful botanical garden perfectly suited to summer walks along the flower beds. After that, don't miss a visit to the Evolution Gallery and the adjacent Great Mosque—a truly dazzling sight. Her advice: pamper yourself with a hammam or relaxing massage, before enjoying a spot of tea in the garden with almond crescents (locally known as gazelle horns due to their appearance)—the perfect setting for combining relaxation, little treats, and a spot of culture on your Parisian getaway.
And then, of course, there's art. Go on an excursion to the Louis Vuitton Foundation, a huge museum of 20th-century contemporary art with works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gilbert & George, and Jeff Koons, among others. Nestled in the Bois de Boulogne, it also offers spectacular rooftop views, as well as being a real gem of contemporary architecture. If you prefer more classical art, Paris is also home to dozens of small museums lesser known than the Louvre, but just as charming. These are often located in private mansions, such as the Musée de la Vie Romantique and its flower garden in Montmartre, the Galliera or Jacquemart-André museums, or the Musée des Archives in the Marais—little chambers of art, architecture, and nature in the heart of the city.
Canals & canoes: Amsterdam
The Dutch capital is a truly alluring destination. So what to do in The 'Dam? With its stunning city centre and its labyrinth of canals, its many museums and exceptional gastronomy, the city certainly has a lot to offer. Our tip? Away from the hustle and bustle you’ll find perfect spots to eat and enjoy a drink on the terrace. Visit the Brouwerij 't IJ brewery for a taste of authentic local beer or try one of the smaller breweries in the city, such as Oedipus Brewing or Butcher’s Tears. And as far as museums are concerned, the Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank House are classics. The FOAM photography museum and Nieuwe Kerk have regularly changing, often surprising collections and exhibitions.
Combine your city break with a visit to the Amsterdamse bos, the city’s landscape park where you can navigate waterways by canoe, finishing up at the goat farm. Or go out of town to the Zaanse Schans for classic Dutch mills and historic wooden buildings that really capture 18th century Holland. If you’re more of a velophile, you can take the ferry to Noord and follow the green cycling route to Twiske and beyond, with stopovers possible at Pllek and Noorderlicht on the way. Or go to the beach of Zandvoort aan Zee. There really is no shortage of day trips right on Amsterdam’s doorstep, making it a perfect destination for a weekend away.
Food & fashion: London
Think of shopping and you think of London. If you’re into the finer things in life, then Chelsea with all its high-end shops and designer boutiques is your best bet. But second-hand lovers will also feel right at home in the British capital. Brick Lane is the place to be for vintage shopathons. Our top tips: Blitz has an excellent selection of more mainstream vintage fashion, but for one-of-a-kind dresses, jackets, and other special items, Hunky Dory Vintage and This Shop Rocks are just the tickets. Notting Hill’s perfect for finding that latest signature outfit in one of the many charity shops in the borough. Don’t forget to visit Portobello Market for all manner of antiques. Finally, hit up Oxford Street for the flagship stores of major fashion chains and shop till you drop.
Foodies are also in for a real treat in the capital: whatever you’ve got an appetite for on your weekend away, London has it—the city is home to a number of fantastic food markets. Gorge on the very best jerk chicken at Brixton food market’s Jamaican stalls, or explore Borough market while munching on Scotch eggs, pastries, and countless other delicacies from the Isles.
So whether you’re jetting off to Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, or London, or have your sights set on Barcelona, Copenhagen, or New York: pay homage to your favourite destinations with our travel art and bring some wanderlust to your everyday life.
Text: Laura Veneklaas
Translation: Nicholas Potter