Dresden is such an easily forgotten Baroque gem when it comes to exploring Germany. Often overshadowed by the showier Munich and and edgier Berlin, so many don't realise the city offers a whole new side to the country. Dresden is a city steeped in history, heritage and beauty. It was the first place I have been in Germany where I truly felt like I had stepped back in time with some of the most beautiful architecture and streets I have found in Europe. Comparable to Vienna and Prague, the city is a perfect weekend escape, or even a day trip from another nearby city.
While we decided to drive through and spend an afternoon in the city on our way from Saxon Switzerland National Park to Prague, it would be a great place to visit if you were staying in any of the nearby cities, or to head for a whole weekend. Dresden was everything I had been missing about Europe while living in Australia, its streets are filled with stories from times gone by and it is a great place to indulge your love of the arts, music and theatre. While it was gorgeous in the summer sunshine, now is actually the perfect time to visit with it being the German capital of Christmas and boasting some of the most beautiful Christmas markets designed to make your winter sparkle.
With easy access by plane, train, bus and even by car, there's honestly no reason not to pay the city a visit. As I've said, it's a great place to spend a day while passing through to your next destination. Or you could spend a whole weekend there exploring at your own pace and enjoying the Christmas markets. If you've been exploring the nearby countries, there is also great international rail connections to Aarhus, Budapest, Bratislava, Prague, Vienna and Zurich. Once you arrive, you have your pick of exploring on foot or by bike, or using the public transport network by using buses, trains, trams and ferries. You can find out more about this, plus timetables and prepaid travel cards here.
If you love cities bursting with history and beauty, prepare to be wowed by Dresden. One of the few cities in Germany that wasn't destroyed or devastated by the wars, it rose majestically from the ashes and remains beautifully preserved today. Previously the seat of the Saxon rulers, it is clear that they lavished their attention on the city and blessed it with amazing architectural treasures in glittering palaces and stunning gardens and soaring churches that dominate the skyline. My best advice for exploring the city? Take your time. Don't rush and really take it all in. It's an amazing city and one worth appreciating.
This one was spectacular in the sunshine and perfect for walking around in the afternoon. Enjoy magnificent Baroque architecture at this 18th century palace on the banks of the river Elbe. Designed by court architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann, it is considered one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in Germany. With grounds filled with trickling fountains and statues of mythological figures, it's worth walking around the outside of the palace to really appreciate it's beauty. It served as the orangery, exhibition gallery and festival arena of the Dresden Court, but now houses the Dresden State Art Collections.
My favourite building in Dresden and one that will honestly take your breath away. I'm so sad I didn't get more photos there, but I managed to capture the stunning ceiling. This incredible reconstruction project saw the Dresden Frauenkirche transform from a Catholic to Protestant church during the Reformation, before being replaced in the 18th century by a larger Baroque Lutheran building.
Destroyed during Allied bombing in 1945,the ruins were kept and stored to be reconstructed following the reunification of Germany in 1990, with the church eventually reopening in 2005. Whether you're interested in history and architecture or not, this one will blow you away by it's fine embellishment and decoration, with gold and pink adorning the walls and the most intricately painted ceilings.
For fans of the arts, the Semperoper is a must-see in the historic centre of Dresden. Nestled on the west side of Dresden's Theaterplatz, one of Germany's finest public squares, is the city's opera house which is also home to the Semperoper Ballett. Built in the style of the Italian High Renaissance, explore the gardens at your leisure, or, to experience the magnificent interiors, attend a performance or take a tour.
One of the oldest buildings in Dresden, the Royal Palace was the seat of the kings of Saxony of the Albertine line of the House of Wettin. With over 800 years of history lying in its walls, it is known for the different architectural styles employed, from Baroque to Neo-renaissance and is beautiful to explore, especially in the evening.
Perfect for sunny afternoon stroll, "The Balcony of Europe" stretches alongside the city and high above the banks of the river Elbe. We were amazed that we were overlooking the same river as we do back in Hamburg, but I will say that Dresden's Brühls Terrace is a touch prettier than Hamburg's more industrial style. This historic architectural ensemble begins at the Schlossplatz on the site of the old city ramparts where you head up the steps.
Stroll along the promenade to find the Dolphin Fountain, the College of Art, The Moritz Monument, and below find the Terrassenufer, the main landing stage for cruise boats. If I can give you one tip for exploring this section, make sure you go into the College of Art and explore, cut straight through the entrance hall and go out the opposite doors to the courtyard. It was one of my favourite secret finds when exploring Dresden, like a secret garden time forgot and some seriously beautiful hidden archtecture.
This Baroque palace in Moritzburg, is about 13km northwest of the Saxon capital, Dresden, and makes a perfect day trip from the city. This stunning palace features an island, lakes and an 18th-century hunting lodge in the grounds. All feature the stunning designs, detail and luxe interiors.
Another spectacular sight, Dresden Cathedral, or the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, is another building with an imposing character. Looming across the square, it makes an impression as you wander down from Brühls Terrace. We couldn't go inside straight away due to a service ongoing, but we're so glad we went back later on because honestly, the building was breathtaking from the inside. So detailed and so much interesting history.
This amazing wall is quite a sight and luckily we stumbled across it when exploring the city. It was the original city exit to the Elbe Bridge and the first of the city's many Renaissance buildings. The famous Fürstenzug, the Procession of Princes, is a 102-meter-long portrait of the Dukes, Electors, and Kings of the house of Wettin, together with leading German figures from the arts and sciences.
Are you planning a visit to Germany? Dresden is such a great city for exploring history, heritage and the true beauty of Europe. Plus it's much quieter and smaller, so perfect for exploring on foot and for a more relaxed visit. After seeing how good the Christmas Markets are up in Hamburg, I can't even imagine how amazing they are over in the "home of Christmas".
Have you been to Dresden? How was your experience? What is your favourite European city?
My parents always treat themselves to a city break in the spring - it's a perfect time to celebrate both of their birthdays by escaping to Europe to explore some amazing new place. The other year they decided to try out Venice for the first time and came back raving about the maze of canals, the gondola rides and the amazing architecture. They spent their days wandering the city in the sunshine, stopping off regularly to indulge in the local delicacies washed down with endless glasses of wine. Their glowing recommendations made sure it became a place I have to one day experience for myself to experience the culture and art of this timeless city. It's definitely on my bucket list, and if you're planning a trip look no further than this post for tips on the top experiences on offer – and where to book your tickets.
Doge's Palace & Secret Itineraries Tour
The Venetian Gothic style will captivate visitors to the city, but none quite so much as the Doge's Palace. One of the city's main landmarks, the Palace is the main symbol of Venice and although starting out as the home of the Doge, the supreme authority in Venice it was opened as a museum in 1923. Purchasing a ticket to the Doge's Palace also allows entry to the Correr Museum, the Biblioteca Marciana and the National Archaeological Museum. You can purchase tickets here.
While exploring the Palace, it is worth checking out the Secret Itineraries Tour which includes the visit of the old rooms where the Serenissima government carried out all important and secret issues related to the administration of the State over the centuries. The tour gives visitors a taste of the political history of the city, Venice organization and justice institutions. You can purchase tickets for this tour here.
Venice Museum Pass
If you're a museum fan, this pass is the one for you. The Venice Museums Pass gives you access to all Civic Venice Museums and the museums in San Marco Square. These include Doge's Palace, Correr museum, National Aercheological museum, Biblioteca Marciana, Ca’ Rezzonico, Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Carlo Goldoni Home, Palazzo Mocenigo and Centro Studi di Storia del Tessuto e del Costume, Ca’ Pesaro, International Gallery of Modern Art and Museo d'Arte Orientale, the Glass museum, Murano, the Lace museum, Burano, Museum of Natural History. You can purchase this ticket here and it remains valid for six months.
Venice Islands Boat Tour
Fancy getting outside and exploring the city? Why not try the Venice Islands Boat Tour - get to see the city from the canals and visit the most important and famous islands of Venice lagoon, Murano, Burano e il Torcello, by boat. This tour is available every day and at just 22 euros it's a great way to explore the city. Tickets available here.
Gondola Serenade Tour
Of course a trip to Venice would be nothing without experiencing the magic of a gondola tour, and how better to woo your love than by being serenaded during this beautiful cruise along the canals? This is a fascinating tour along Canl Grande and smaller, hidden channels which gives visitors a chance to experience this unique city from an unsual point of view with a background serenade. Pick up your tickets here.
Venice Walking Tour
For those who prefer to stay on dry land and explore on foot, the Venice Walking Tour could be the perfect way to explore the city. Last around 80 minutes, the tour takes in a wealth of sights and monuments with a guide to tell you all about them. The tour starts from St. Mark’s Square giving you a description of the history of the main monuments including St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace,the Campanile, the Clock Tower and the Procuratie. The tour will then head to one of the most popular squares in Venice, S. Maria Formosa, before exploring Marco Polo’s house and Malibran Theatre, where ancient and recent history meet Mercerie in this wonderful corner of Venice. Tickets available here.
If you're planning a trip to Venice, don't miss out on the amazing deals available online and don't forget to book in advance as many of these attractions will get booked out during peak season. Be a smart traveller and skip the queues buy purchasing your tickets ahead of time through Italy Travels. Check out their website here.
During the summer I headed home to the UK for a short while but it wasn't long until I started getting itchy feet, and I thought why not take advantage of Europe being right on my doorstep? Living in the UK, we are so lucky to have so many countries and cultures so close and accessible, it's important to take advantage of that EU passport while we still have it eh! I've travelled quite a lot of Europe over the years but there were still so many places I longed to visit and since making so many new international friends on the other side of the world, it seemed a perfect time to go and visit them all at home for the ultimate Eurotrip! One of the top places on my list was Amsterdam - I've wanted to visit for years and have planned trips several times but ended up never quite making it. I would only have about 48-72 hours in the city but it was the perfect opportunity to experience it for the first time and to visit a good friend of mine at her home - from Australia to Amsterdam.I flew in from Budapest and after a fairly chilled few days spent in the stunning baths and exploring the city at a gentle pace, I was ready to take things up a gear to cram in sightseeing and partying into just a few hours. I was staying just outside the city with my friend, Lisa, and I have to give a huge shoutout to her for not only putting me up at her amazing apartment, but for helping me to make the absolute most of my Amsterdam experience. As soon as I arrived we cycled into the city in true Amsterdam fashion to check out the parks which were filled with the scent of barbecue and the chatter of friends. We sat in the sunshine at a little man-made beach along the river having drinks and pizza with friends, and spent the evening bar hopping along the canals. It was a perfect first evening there and gave me a chance to meet a lot of people, we even stumbled across a fashion festival happening in the streets with all of the high class shops hosting DJ sets and bars.The next days, I headed into the city first thing to make the most of my sightseeing time by taking one of the brilliant free walking tours. I first heard about Sandeman's free walking tours from a friend when I was in Berlin and after experiencing one there and another in 'Dam, I would seriously recommend them to anyone visiting a European city. The tours are fantastic quality and are led by energetic, knowledgeable and passionate individuals who bring history and heritage to life through their delivery. The walks last just a few hours and take in the main sights of each city plus there are several specialised ones including tours of the Red Light District, beer tours, history tours, graffiti tours etc. The best thing about these tours? They're technically free despite being such amazing quality. The people giving the tours make their money through tips - they just ask that you pay what you feel the tour was worth at the end - you can give nothing or you show how much you value the experience. It calls for the tour leader to really work hard to show you the city and it calls for you to give an honest and fair review of the services. I can't fault the company or the system. The Amsterdam tour was fantastic and our guide was really friendly and knowledgeable.Once we'd spent a few hours wandering through the busy streets and along the canals for the tour, I headed back to the apartment for a quick change and glam up. Then Lisa and I were straight out the door and off to Magneet Festival - a bit of a trip affair, the festival would feature some of Lisa's friends who were DJing on the most amazing stage overlooking the whole festival. It was an incredible night, amazing music and a fantastic group of people made for a pretty special experience. We danced and partied our way around the festival, even checking out hardcore and rock tents and watching some entertaining karaoke. It was such a fun night and pretty epic to experience a festival in Amsterdam. After the gates closed, we headed into the city and ended up at De School - a converted school which has become a club where must-lovers can rave in a dark, smokey basement until the sun comes up. Such a good club, we had a fantastic night! The next day, dying of hangover, I packed up and headed out to catch my train up to the north where I was visiting another amazing friend for just one night before heading home.It was such a flying visit but my goodness I crammed a LOT in, Amsterdam is a fantastic city which makes it hard not to want to cram everything into the quickest visit. Before even leaving I knew I already wanted to return for another visit - there is still so much I didn't have time to do, like the Anne Frank House and the museums. And I would love a chance to spend more time exploring the city at a slower pace. I will definitely return in the future but I was so happy to not only get to experience the city for the first time but to share the experience with such amazing people. I'm a lucky girl and travelling the world definitely has opened me up to some incredible cross-continent friendships. Getting to reunite with friends in a completely new land is definitely one of my favourite things about travelling the world.
Have you been to Amsterdam - what was your favourite experience? Can you recommend any other walking tours?
Whether you're heading off on that much anticipated two week holiday or you're heading off on a huge backpacking trip, it's important not to get so carried away you forget to safeguard your home. So often it is the last thing we think about when we're going away, but it is actually the time when our homes and our possessions are most vulnerable. With thieves getting smarter and so much of our personal lives being available for the world to see on social media, it only takes one bad egg to take advantage of your trip to line their own pockets. But as ever with travelling, planning is key and can save you a lot of time, hassle and money. So when planning your next trip, why not put some of these suggestions in action and see how much of a difference they make. You can spend as much as you like on a luxurious resort, but if you don't have peace of mind that your home is safe, there's almost no point in being there. Treat yourself to full relaxation on your next holiday by making sure you've done everything in your power to give yourself a good homecoming.
What can you do to protect your home?
For city breaks/summer holidays:
For the long-term travellers:
Don't suffer from FOBA (Fear Of Being Away) - get out there and enjoy your travels by doing all you can to protect your home while you're away. Just as you padlock up your suitcase and buy travel insurance as a back up in case anything goes wrong - make sure you look after what's waiting for you at home. Also, stay safe abroad by checking out my safety tips for travelling solo.
Have you been a victim of theft while on holiday? What security do you put in place at your home while you travel?
So many bloggers focus on one type of travel, but for me that's just not possible. You see, I like to vary my travelling style as much as I do my clothes. While sometimes I'll be backpacking on a budget, I still see the importance and the fun in enjoying a slightly more luxury stay whether for a holiday or city break. For me, it's all about finding that balance between big blowouts and treating yourself, to the times when you're making every penny stretch. I find you appreciate one so much more when you've experienced the other, and you learn a heck of a lot more about money along the way. I was lucky enough to live the Absolutely Fabulous lifestyle of dreams last weekend when I was invited to review The Mandeville Hotel. In a collaboration with Maison Christian Lacroix, the entire fifth floor of this luxury boutique hotel was redesigned with each room telling a different story from the French Riviera, based on Maison Lacroix’s “Belles Rives” Collection. It was perfectly timed as the final weekend I would get to spend in London before I jet back off to the other side of the world, and as a couture treat before I head back to a life of hostels.Situated just a five minute walk from Bond Street Station, the hotel is perfectly located for a weekend of shopping and sightseeing. Actually, I was so impressed at how close it was to one of the busiest parts of London, and yet the hotel seemed a million miles away from the hustle and bustle. It was actually a lot more peaceful in the streets surrounding the hotel with people sitting out to eat and drink in restaurants. As we walked up to the hotel excited to experience the decadence of Lacroix, we were greeted by the friendly staff who offered to take our bags to the room and organise any restaurants or taxis we might require during or after our stay. As we headed up to our room, we were left to check out the fifth floor makeover. All the rooms have their own individual flair and style, from The Jardin Exotique to Midnight Blue telling the story of the secret midnight bathing society, all telling beautiful stories with inspirations from Lacroix’s upbringing combined with Grace Kelly’s 'To Catch a Thief’.If you're like me and have grown up on the antics of Eddie and Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous, you'll probably have been just as excited as I was when the new movie came out. So to get to stay in a hotel that was every bit as fabulous as the crazy pair was one of my best London experiences yet! You'll see from the photos the decor was over the top in all the right ways and combined bright, clashing patterns and accessories with sleek designs to ensure maximum comfort. We were staying in The Jewel Box room, which combined Classic Lacroix with whimsical colours and bejeweled designs inspired by Grace Kelly’s stolen Cartier jewels. The lace and mantillas worn by women in The Camargue inspires the Macarena lace wallpaper around the room, balanced with classic Lacroix silver and black striped wallpaper, a true haven for fashion lovers. I was completely taken aback by the room when I walked it, it just screamed Absolutely Fabulous and I was so excited to be staying there. After the long journey, it was nice just to pop on the robes provided and have a coffee from the Nespresso machine in our room (I know where was the Bolly darling?!) and just take in the luxury. Heading into the gorgeous white marble bathroom, there were a selection of lovely products there to enjoy as I got ready.That night, after dinner and cocktails, we headed back to the hotel and I couldn't wait to get a good night's sleep. It turned out the room was the perfect place to relax on a Sunday evening, not a single sound from the street outside or the other rooms could be heard while we watched a movie. And when it was time for lights out, the room fell to complete darkness and silence. Combined with that incredible comfy bed and the lovely turndown service that had cleaned the room and organised the pillows for us, I was in heaven. It was the best night's sleep I've had in weeks. I woke up with a big smile on my face and ready to take on the hotel's breakfast - we'd been booked in for the full English breakfast with continental. Now I never normally order a full English breakfast so I was quite excited to have one for the first time in years - and I was so impressed with the high quality of everything on the plate, including the perfectly poached eggs. Plus over on the continental table there was plenty of fresh yoghurt, juices, fruit and muesli to choose from, as well as platters of croissants and pastries. It was the breakfast of dreams and with checkout not being until 12pm, I took advantage of the opportunity to go back to bed and catch up on even more sleep.I'd just like to say a huge thank you to all of the staff at the hotel for making our stay there exceptional. I felt so welcome from the second I walked in the door and they really worked hard to make sure every tiny detail was thought of and catered for. It really is a mark of excellence when you don't have to think of anything the whole way through your stay and come away from a weekend in London feeling rested and content - normally my weekends there leave me feeling exhausted. The Mandeville Hotel is perfect for a luxury treat if you're visiting London for a special occasion, at £317 a night for the room and full English breakfast, it is expensive but I can assure you it is worth every penny. Staying at the hotel is a whole experience that goes far beyond just a bed for the night, and one I would really recommend to anyone who fancies treating themselves. Find out more or book to stay at the website.
Have you stayed at The Mandeville Hotel - how was your stay? What other luxury hotels would you recommend in London?