Sitges (40km from Barcelona) is a perfect one-day getaway for lovers of the beach and culture. It is also a good opportunity to have a deeper look of the Catalan culture.
The old town, situated on a hill next to the sea, is made up of narrow and winding streets. Many of the buildings are designed in the Modernist style. One of the top buildings of this area is the Sant Bartomeu i Santa Tecla church, which was built in the 17th century. Here are taken the most iconic pictures of the town.
The center of town is the commercial area. The most important streets are Carrer de Parellades, Carrer de Jesús, Carrer de Sant Francesc and Carrer Major.
Sitges Port is a picturesque area with boats and yachts waiting to sail the Mediterranean Sea. Passeig del Port d’Aiguadolç is the street that connects the town with the port. It is lined with palm trees and is nice to walk along. In this area, there are some good terraces and seafood restaurants.
Sitges is also a town of museums. The most important are: El Cau Ferrat (modernism art), El Museu de Maricel (20th century art collection) and La Casa Bacardí (Catalan famous rum).
Sitges has the honour to host “The Sitges Film Festival”. This cinema festival is one of the most important international festivals of fantasy and horror films. Founded in 1968, it normally takes place in early October. The main venue is the Auditori, which can host up to 1.384 people. The Maria Award winners are the main awards of the festival, which are selected by an international jury. Movies like “Citizen X” and “Requiem” have been chosen as best films.
Sitges is also known as the host of one of the most famous carnivals of Catalonia and Spain. Depending on the year, it takes place between early February and early March. The streets transform into a big party where people costume up and drink and dance until the dawn. A parade also takes place during these days.
The pearl of them all is Platja Sant Sebastià. Considered one of the best European beaches by the world known newspaper the New York Times, it is situated between the old town and the port. It is a family beach frequented by locals with more than 200 meters of coastline. From the beach, there are wonderful views of the old town.
Platja de la Ribera is right in the center of the town. During the weekends the beach is full but during the week you can enjoy its quietness and family atmosphere. Other beaches worth visiting beaches are Platja de Sitges and Platja Balmins.
How to get to Sitges from Barcelona
The fastest way is to take the C-32 highway (toll highway). It takes around 40-50 minutes by car. Another option by car is to take the picturesque C-31 road. It takes a bit more than one hour.
Sitges is also reachable by train from Barcelona. Catch the train at Passeig de Gràcia or Sants railway stations (line R2), and in 50 minutes you will be in Sitges.
Despite it being relatively smaller than most European capitals, many unexpected great things have come from Brussels. Here are some interesting facts:
Remembered as the iconic British actress, model, dancer and humanitarian that she was, Audrey Hepburn was originally born on 48 rue Keyenveld in Ixelles, Brussels. Although she is not Belgian, we still pride ourselves in knowing that she came from our city.
The Belgian capital has an impressive 138 restaurants per square mile, boasting every possible cuisine imaginable and making it one of the hottest destinations for foodies. From cheap eats to gastronomic Michelin starred restaurants, Brussels can satisfy any preference.
A Peeing Obsession
You’ll probably recognise this famous statue of a peeing boy, also known as the Manneken Pis. Repeatedly stolen and dressed in all sorts of costumes, this little guy is one of the main tourist attractions in Brussels. But did you know that in Brussels you can also find a peeing girl (Janneken Pis) and peeing dog statue?
Don’t ask us why… It’s a thing.
The Oldest Shopping Mall in Europe
The galleries Saint Hubert opened in 1847, making them the oldest shopping arcade in Europe. Tourists will find an assortment of high end brands like Delvaux, Belgian chocolate shops, like Neuhaus and Pierre Marcolini, and other artisanal Belgian shops.
Speaking of chocolate, we’re obsessed with it and so are our tourists. The airport in Brussels is the largest chocolate selling point in the world. Whether you’re picking up your haul in the city or at the airport, you will be met with a vast choice of famous household names like Leonidas, Godiva, Pierre Marcolini, etc.
The Biggest Court In The World
Standing at 26.000 square metres, the justice palace in Brussels is the largest court in the world. Constructed in the 19th century by Joseph Poelaert, it is currently a candidate to be recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Monument. Having been born after 1982, I have never seen this building without scaffolding, construction which is supposed to end in 2028.
Despite being the most hated vegetable in America, the success of our local veggie around the world is indubitable. Yes, Brussels sprouts were broadly cultivated here during the 16th century. Many people think that Brussels sprouts are baby cabbages, this is because they are part of the same family but they are different vegetables.
The romantic town of Como and its magnificent surroundings make for a perfect getaway from Milan. A one-hour long drive or train ride will be enough to reach one of the most beautiful destinations in Northern Italy. As a local, I have witnessed the growing popularity of Como amongst international visitors. Showing foreign friends around has allowed me to appreciate it even more. I am very proud to give you some advice to get the best from my wonderful hometown!
How to reach Como from Milan
Thousands of commuters and tourists shift to-and-from between Milan and Como. Therefore, several train connections are available at Centrale, Porta Garibaldi, or Cadorna railway stations. From Cadorna, only, can you travel all the way to the lakeside and the city centre. From Centrale or Garibaldi, you can reach Como San Giovanni with Switzerland-bound trains (Trenord, TiLo, or Eurocity trains). A basic Milan-Como train ticket will cost you about 10€ roundtrip (browse your options here). By car, you can reach Como via the A1 motorway or Statale dei Giovi. Once in town, be prepared to pay for expensive parking lots, as even locals have a hard time finding parking spots in the city centre. Driving on the narrow, winding lanes of the lake or mountain villages requires above-average driving skills. Travelling by train, and then by bus or boat, is probably more suitable. Como is small and you will not really need a car to visit its attractions.
What to see, plus some historical background
Despite its limited size, Como offers much to see. The town is located in a basin between green hills and the south-Western tip of the namesake lake. Nature and history literally stand side by side. Start your visit with a stroll in the old town. Its many treasures witness the city’s history, dating back to the Roman era (earlier Celtic settlements were found in the outskirts). A campsite was built there in the 1st century b.C. Little has remained of the Roman vestiges: the town came to shape during the Middle Ages, as proven by its walls and characteristic Romanesque churches. It is worth visiting San Fedele, in the beautiful namesake piazza, and Sant’Abbondio, a 10-minute walk from the centre. The tower on the top of the nearby hill is related to Holy Roman emperor Frederick I ‘il Barbarossa’, an ally of Como against Milan in the 12th century. He is still remembered in the tradition known as Palio del Baradello.
Como is indeed one of the earliest examples of municipality. The former centre of political power, the ‘Broletto’ tower, stands aside of the Cathedral, which is, in turn, one of the region’s most magnificent with Its distinctive green copper dome.
Neoclassical, Romantic and Art Nouveau architectures give Como an aristocratic atmosphere. To enjoy it at its best, you can walk along the waterfront. Going westwards from elegant piazza Volta, you will cross the city’s gardens, where the iconic ‘Tempio Voltiano’ celebrates Como’s most famous citizen, Alessandro Volta, the pioneer of electrical energy. Once there, you can take the promenade leading you to magnificent Villa Olmo. Instead, walking eastwards, you can opt for a funicular ride (round trip: €4.50) to Brunate, an uphill village embellished by fin-de-siècle villas and a glorious view.
It is fair to warn you about Como’s reputation as one of the rainiest towns in Italy, but this does not make the landscape any less charming, adding a melancholic twist to its blue and green nuances. Last, but not least, one defining trait of Como’s architecture is represented by many futurist and rationalist buildings and monuments, the most famous of which is certainly Palazzo Terragni, formerly known as Casa del Fascio for being the local house of the Fascist party in the 1920s-1940s. It owes its name to Giuseppe Terragni, the architect that designed it.
London is a veritable smorgasbord of architectural styles. 21st century skyscrapers dominate the skyline today, but nestled among them are Roman and medieval structures, Wren masterpieces from the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1666 and a whole host of elaborate architectural gems from subsequent centuries. Get inspired for your next trip our wonderful residences as we explore 10 of the greatest buildings in the city.
The site of every coronation since 1066 and the burial place of a plethora of British royalty and intellectuals, to say that Westminster Abbey is steeped in history is rather an understatement. Originally a small 10th century Benedictine monastery, over the centuries it has been transformed by a series of monarchs including Edward the Confessor and Henry III (who rebuilt the abbey in its current Gothic style). Read more here.
Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament)
Edward the Confessor established his royal palace on this site in the 1040s, but a fire destroyed much of the original structure in 1512. Thereafter its primary function shifted to housing Parliament. The palace has since been heavily reconstructed – its iconic Gothic Revival architecture is the work of architect Charles Barry following further fire damage in 1834. Read more here.
St Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral has existed in several incarnations dating back to 604 AD, but the current Baroque building is the magnum opus of Britain’s most illustrious architect, Sir Christopher Wren. Built from the ashes of the Great Fire of London and remarkable for its survival during the London Blitz, the cathedral is a truly stalwart London icon. Read more here.
Fit for a Queen
Buckingham Palace has undergone considerable remodelling over its three-century lifespan. Following Victoria’s accession in 1837 it was enlarged and remodelled several times, acquiring its current neo-classical appearance with a redesign by Sir Aston Webb 1913. Read more here. If you’re looking to stay somewhere nearby, we would recommend our Westminster residence.
Not far from our Kensington residence, you will find Kensington Palace. It has been a royal residence since its acquisition by William and Mary in 1689, at which point it was expanded and renovated ready for royal use by Sir Christopher Wren. The palace is perhaps best known as the birthplace of Queen Victoria – it was her affection for her childhood home that ensured its survival when the palace fell into disrepair in the mid 19th century. Today, the palace is both public museum and royal residence. Read more here.
Industry and transport
Westminster Underground Station
A futuristic mesh of concrete and metal take centre stage as you descend the escalators into Westminster Underground station. The architects’ vision is poetic – they speak of weaving escalators with lateral beams and of the geological texture of the walls – but perhaps The Guardian hit the nail on the head when it vividly described the interior as ‘Blade Runneresque’. While there are a whole host of remarkable tube stations in London, this might just be the stand out. Read more here.
Battersea Power Station
This 1930s built former coal-fired power station is both a monumental symbol of London’s industry and a prominent pop cultural image thanks in large part to its appearance on Pink Floyd’s Animals album cover. Constructed in brick-cathedral style, it owes its imposing riverside presence to architects J. Theo Halliday and Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. The building is currently undergoing a massive redevelopment with plans promising luxury accommodation and leisure facilities.
London Aquatics Centre
Form follows function with the harmonious lines and texture of the London Aquatics Centre. Designed by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid in 2004, the concept was ‘inspired by the fluid geometry of water in motion…[reflecting] the riverside landscapes of the Olympic Park’. As of 2014, the pools are open to the public for a small admission fee. Read more here.
The Gherkin (30 St. Mary Axe)
It took 7,429 panes of glass and 35km of steel to build 30 St. Mary Axe, designed by Sir Norman Foster in 2004.Gherkin-shaped in order to minimise wind turbulence, the towering commercial skyscraper is also very environmentally friendly with gaps in each floor creating six shafts that function as the building’s ventilation system. As well as admiring The Gherkin from afar, during special ‘Open Nights’ visitors can take in a panoramic view from Searcys restaurant and bar. Read more here.
The fourth-tallest building in Europe (and, with the top three all in Moscow, the tallest building in Western Europe) formed an elegant, gleaming addition to the London skyline when it was finished in 2013. Renzo Piano’s striking design takes inspiration from the spires of London’s churches and the masts of tall ships in Canaletto paintings. Read more here.
Architecture tours and access
When it comes to appreciating London’s architecture, the Open House Festival cannot be beaten. Taking place annually over a single weekend in September, the festival offers a rare chance to visit hundreds of London’s buildings that are not usually open to the public – all for free. In the past, these have included 10 Downing Street, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Senate House as well as The Gherkin and The Shard. The guide for 2017’s Open House will be available in mid-August. A copy can be obtained for free in participating London libraries or pre-ordered online for a charge.
There are plenty of year-round architecture touring opportunities, too. Venture forth by boat, bike or on foot with the charity behind the Open House festival, Open-City, who run around eight tours per month. Insider London also run a couple of architecture-focussed tours, including tours on the London Underground, Modern Architecture and Sustainable Architecture.
Milan prides itself on being a trendsetter. The 2015 World Exhibition certainly helped to boost the city’s popularity for international tourism, which has kept on growing ever since. Here is a clue as to Milan’s success: you never run out of finding something new to see. Many of the city’s hidden gems belong to private estates: from incredibly beautiful buildings, to gardens and courtyards. Others are open to the public but remain ‘under the radar’. Don’t let this discourage your ‘treasure hunt’. It feels good to find a moment of peace in such a fast-paced city! Allow yourself to go off the beaten track. Take a good city map in hand, head to some of these selected spots, and I promise you will be pleasantly surprised!
1. Orto Botanico di Brera (Botanical Gardens of Brera)
Warm, sunny spring days make Milan even more glorious. What better way to enjoy them than a walk in a park full of blossom, enjoying delicious gelato? Milan hosts many green areas, the most famous of which is Parco Sempione, just behind the Sforza Castle. This also happens to be right next to our lovely Bernardo penthouse. Immediately north of the park is Brera, possibly the city’s most picturesque district. The area is rightly renowned for its Art Academy and museum. Fewer people know about the Botanical Garden nearby, founded almost 250 years ago, and is currently run by the University of Milan. Its tranquil location and historical heritage make it one of the most charming Milanese gardens. Despite its small dimensions, it hosts many botanical species, including two gingkos and a tilia that date back to the 18th century. You can thank Napoleon for opening this green haven to the public! Opening times can be found here. And why not stay in our luxurious residence nearby?
2. House-museums network and the Albergo diurno Venezia
Milan is today typically associated with modern architecture. However, the city has always played an important historical role and its past can be best understood thanks to its impressive relics. Before the skyscrapers in the north were built, imposing palaces and elegant private villas would express the city’s wealth. And now, some of them have been opened to the public.
Are you fond of architecture? Do you want to feel like an old school Milanese aristocrat? The Porta Venezia area (north-east of the centre, not far from the luxurious via Montenapoleone) has many things to offer. Milan’s house-museums network – including Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Museo Bagatti Valsecchi, Villa Necchi Campiglio, and Casa Museo Boschi Di Stefano – provide an insight into the Milanese past. Their elegant furniture, sophisticated art nouveau decors and interesting collections of art and history are frozen in time. Another point of interest in the area is Albergo diurno Venezia, a subterranean passage dating back to the 1920s, which was closed for restoration in 2006. Brought back to its full splendour, it was recently re-opened by FAI (Fondo per l’ambiente italiano). It is located right beneath piazza Oberdan and it includes beautiful public baths and some old-style shops, clustered in an elegant hall. The place recreates the timeless atmosphere of a spa resort, right in the centre of a bustling metropolis.
It is worth emailing the FAI and asking for specific information on opening days and times, especially if you are staying in Milan for a little while.
3. Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore
Regardless of your religious views, no visit to an Italian city is complete without a look at the local churches. Milan is no exception: the white marble façade of its Duomo is the most iconic local landmark. And how can I not mention the spectacular Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, the early Christian basilicas scattered just north of Porta Ticinese, or Santa Maria delle Grazie, home to Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece The Last Supper?
Other beautiful churches, such as San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, often remain unnoticed, which is a pity. When you have gone through the low-key entrance of this Renaissance church, you can witness magnificent interiors, entirely covered with beautiful, colourful fresco paintings. Located on Corso Magenta, a five-minute walk from piazza Duomo, this quieter piece of religious architecture is certainly worth a visit.
Another exquisite piece of art nouveau architecture in Milan is the aquarium, located within Parco Sempione and embellished by colourful ceramic tiles. Opened in 1906 during the first Milan world exhibition, it is the third-oldest aquarium in Europe and hosts both freshwater and marine species. Today, the facility offers scientific itineraries, group visits and even a library. Just like the city’s Natural History Museum, the civic Aquarium has accurate reproductions of natural habitats, but here the species are alive. On the subject of animals: in 1992, Milan closed its only zoological garden next to the Natural History Museum, in the public garden dedicated to the late journalist Indro Montanelli. The same park, however, also hosts “Ulrico Hoepli” Planetarium, which is still functioning and open to visitors.
Cimitero Monumentale competes with Père-Lachaise in Paris or La Recoleta in Buenos Aires for as the world’s most impressive cemetery. The Monumentale is easily recognisable by its grand entrance, thefamedio, and it has many a famous Italian gravestone, amongst which Alessandro Manzoni, Giuseppe Verdi, Giorgio Gaber, the founding father of teatro canzone, and Davide Campari, the inventor of the famous drink. As it is in Italy, the cemetery mainly hosts Catholic graves, some of which are definitely over-the-top. However, the separate non-Catholic and Israelite sections are just as interesting. Whilst Cimitero Monumentale is peaceful and inspiring, it is also enormous (250,000 square metres!) and labyrinthian. It’s worth picking up a map at the entrance, or considering a guided tour.
Cosplayers, cartoonists and comics enthusiasts, rejoice! Someone in Milan loves you, and has dedicated an entire museum to your favourite hobbies. You just can’t miss its scenographic entrance, a big clue as to what the museum contains. Opened in 2011 by Fondazione Franco Fossati, WOW! offers interesting themed itineraries, events and exhibitions (listed here), featuring works by many famous Italian and international authors. Some more good news: the entrance to the ground floor, the library, the coffee shop and the bookshop is entirely free. You are only charged for exhibitions on the first floor.
Many gardens host playgrounds and museums often dedicate special guided tours for little visitors. MUBA goes beyond this, adopting the most child-friendly motto: Vietato non toccare (‘It is forbidden not to touch’), encouraging incomers to interact with their surroundings. Hosted in the beautiful historical complex known as Rotonda della Besana, the Museum includes a permanent exhibition, a space for temporary exhibitions, and holds several activities for children aged 2-11. Professional educators and entertainers take care of the museum’s little guests, and parents and older relatives and friends, are also welcome. On top of this, some of the museum’s spaces are available for birthday parties.
Tickets can be bought online here (where you can also find entrance fees and opening times), and there is a limited number of participants for each programmed activity. Therefore, it is highly advisable to check the museum’s calendar before planning a visit.
Looking for somewhere to stay in Milan? Book one of our many beautiful residences right now.