Cities and Towns in Europe
Belfast makes up for its lack of major sights in form of character and rich recent history. It is infamous for the unrest in the 1970's and 1980's when terrorizing factions of loyalist Protestants and republican Catholics turned Belfast into a war zone. To separate the two parties, West Belfast was then split like another Berlin with a peace line formed by tall fences and barbwire, which still stands today. Political and memorial murals have sprung up in neighbourhoods on both side of the peace line. The republican murals tend to be more political, while the loyalists' can be quite militaristic. Though a mural-tour is a fascinating history lesson, there is more to Belfast than post-war sightseeing. It has its fair share of gorgeous buildings like city hall and Queens University - and then you can't go to Belfast without being reminded of the fact that the Titanic was built here. We know, civil war and a sunken boat might not sound very impressive, but Belfast has edge and attitude.
Durham is a small but elegant university town dominated by England's finest Norman cathedral. You might have the feeling that you have seen this grand 11th century cathedral before, for it was used in the Harry Potter movies as the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry - a fact they are strangely shy about. Both the gorgeous cathedral and the next-door Durham Castle are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are the centre for the cobblestone old Durham town. It would have been picture-perfect, if it wasn't for the collection of drab concrete extensions of the university. For the best views of the cathedral and its massive towers, take a stroll through the woods on the other side of River Wear.
Edinburgh is soaked in history. It has been the royal seat for both English and Scottish kings throughout history. For protection, medieval Edinburgh had a city wall built, meaning that when the town grew bigger, it could only expand one way, up, creating the world's first skyscrapers, some 12 storeys high. The centre of attention in the Old Town is of course Edinburgh Castle, perched on an extinct volcano. From here the exquisite Royal Mile (the main street) runs down the ridge flanked by the impressive 'skyscrapers' and ending at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's Scottish residence. Narrow lanes and winding streets twist down the sides leading to squares or hidden courtyards. Pubs are everywhere, many named after historical criminals. In general, Edinburgh's history is filled with murders, executions and killings - it seems every place has a bloody history. But Edinburgh is far from being dead. Tourists and locals fill the pubs, nightlife is pumping (Edinburgh is a popular university town) and the city hosts a never-ending range of festivals. Edinburgh is certainly everyone's favourite.
© Fingal Ross
The resting place of King Arthur and possibly Excalibur, a pilgrimage place, known as the Isle of Avalon back in Arthurian times is now the very popular Glastonbury. There is definitely an energy that runs through the ground (and maybe the water) that creates joyful people who love to dress up. Fairies, Angels, Goths, bearded vest wearers, grannies with pink streaked hair, and shopkeepers that seem to teleport themselves to each shop fresh from the last witch's coven. If it is healthy healing or psychic abilities, tarot card readings and aura photos you are after, then look no further, there are crystals, joss sticks and spiritual healers at every second shop. Buskers play on the corners, dreadlocked hippies sell jewellery under the monuments, there are little alleyways that will lead off to crystal-adorned courtyards complete with cafes and bookstores full of locals and tourists alike. The Abbey is spectacular in all its historical ruins, and the Tor is worth the hike to the top for 360 views of the town and of the patch worked fields of Somerset. And keep an eye out for the Green Man.
A nice Scottish town at the mouth of river Ness, which functions as transport and shopping hub for the area. There is not much in terms of sights besides the nice river front, but Inverness makes a fine base to explore the region. It's also here the Great Glen Way starts and winds 117 km through some of the best bits of the Scottish Highland, including Loch Ness. Inverness is infamous for its own monsters, but contrary to the Lock Ness monster, the Inverness ones are very much alive and prey on young men at night time - so be careful at the pubs, boys.
The pretty seaside town of Llandudno is a Walsh mini version of Nice. The east side beach is long and flanked by an equal long promade with benches. Cute boutique hotels and B&Bs make up the first row of houses and seem to attract a mostly mature crowd. Llandudno is a very traditional British holiday town during summer, but doubles as a ski resort in winter, as the nearby mt Great Orme has a few ski lifts. There are plenty of smaller walks to do in the area, else head to Snowdonia National Park for some real mountains.
Well, London hardly needs any introduction. It is world famous for a long list of iconic tourist attractions that make London a very popular destination. Its reputation as a shopper's paradise and the never-ending offerings of entertainment (think musicals) and great eatings from all over the world only increase London's appeal. That said, it can be hard to enjoy all the splendour in high season, when you have to kick your way through the hordes of ice cream eating tourists and foreign school classes, but then you can always explore the lesser-known parts of London. Have a look at our London guide and get some inspiration for both the iconic places and hidden corners.
Elegant Oxford is one of the finest university towns in the world. The old part of town is dominated by the many exquisite colleges. No matter where you look towers, spires and graceful buildings come into sight. Every place has a long history and are not afraid of subtly boast of all the famous people, who have attended just their college. Though the whole area is fairly small, there are many narrow lanes, inner courtyards and hidden corners to get lost in. For those long philosophical walks head down to the River Thames, one of the deer parks or near the rugby fields, where the medieval skyline of Oxford can be taken in from the distant. The wonderful part, which is also the downside, is that Oxford is a functional university town. Students live and study here, so while some college, or at least parts of, are open to the public, many are off limits or charge a fee.
York could be yet another medieval English town, if it wasn't for its gothic cathedral. York Minster is quite frankly jaw-dropping. Firstly, it is massive. It is so big that it is hard to photograph the entire building unless you have an ultra-wide angle lens. Secondly, it is packed with wonderful stuff, like the giant (23.7 m x 9.4 m) stained-glass window (Great East Window) depicting Genesis and the Book of Revelations, that it will take days to see it all. So it's natural that you will keep circling around the cathedral, but York has more to offer. Cute old houses along curvy streets, ancient city walls and the lazy river of Ouse, not to mention Jorvik, a viking museum slash theme park.