It turns out March in Istanbul is the perfect time to visit. Actually, scratch that, I would say anytime is the perfect time to go. No wonder it’s been named the best destination to visit in 2014. Living in Athens, it was an easy trip for me and my friend across the Aegean for three days of exploring in the vast (trust me, it’s huge) sprawling Turkish City.
Ok, i’ll throw my hands up and say it was kind of a surprise to realise just how huge the city is. It’s spread across both sides of the Bosphorus. Since we had such a short time, we fancied seeing the obvious ones, this was a taster really, but here’s our highlights:
Ever wondered where the word ‘Spain’ comes from? Or how about how many miles of beaches there are in Spain? Let us help you out with our 16 excellent holiday facts about Spain.
#1 Let’s start with one of our favourite facts about Spain. It is the most popular holiday destination for Brits, (it was in 2013) with Majorca, Malaga, Tenerife and Costa del Sol holidays ranking highly. Purple Travel’s most popular Spain holidays included Ibiza, Alicante and Palma de Mallorca as well as city breaks in Barcelona.
#2. Some of the most famous names in the world hail from Spanish shores. Actors Javier Bardem (Gran Canaria),Penelope Cruz (Madrid) and Antonio Banderas (Malaga) and sports stars like tennis player Rafael Nadal (Majorca), Andres Iniesta (Castilla-La Mancha) and Fernando Torres (Madrid) are just a selection of the famous faces hailing from Spanish shores.
#3. The word for ‘Spain’ is said to come from ‘Hispania’, which roughly translates to Island of Rabbits. So if you see some bunnies, don’t be too surprised.
You’d be forgiven for thinking we’ve gone a bit piggy, what with our bacon beach post, but it seems we’re not alone. Read on for this amazing day out: The Pig Museum Stuttgart. Fun for a couples city break adventure, or just something a bit different (really different, if you ask us!)
The Pig Museum is a surreal collection of over 50,000 exhibits from all over the world to introduce you to the piggiest experience of your life. The SchweineMuseum on Schlachtofstraße 2A, 70188 Stuttgart offers visitors 25 themed rooms to explore featuring all things porcine. There are (stuffed) pigs to cuddle, representation of pigs in the arts as well as the science of pigs, from their anatomy, how little piglets are made as well as the history of the creatures. The kitsch art and culture is sure to win over grown ups, while kids can enjoy the stuffed animals and myths and legends surrounding pigs.
Meanwhile, if all this porky talk is making your mouth water (vegetarians look away now!) then you won’t bat an eyelid at the museum’s setting; in a former slaughterhouse. After exploring the piggery, a huge beer garden awaits, with tasty treats like knuckle of pork, grilled suckling pig and many more pork delicacies.
There’s more information on pricing and how to get to the Pig Museum Germany on their website here.
To make your visit extra special, you’ll be pleased to hear there’s a theme song to bring you through the museum, altogether now:
A spy museum, all you’ve ever wanted to know about toilets and real life samples from Big Foot, we’ve got 10 really weird museums from around the world for your pleasure.
Want to become a spy? Actually, can we just ask, who doesn’t? Well, now you can, for a day anyway, at the International Spy Museumin Washington DC, USA. We’re talking gadgets, code breaking and generally being a bit James Bond as you learn about the history of secret agents and get to grips with a life of espionage.
Iceland’s Phallological Museum in Reykjavik, is as the name suggests all about biology and takes it very seriously too. It is home to a collection of more than 215 penis specimens from various mammals found in the wild all over the island including a walrus, a rogue polar bear, a whale. There are also four examples from humans, but we didn’t ask where they came from.
We always hear of the priceless art found in countless cities throughout the world, but what about the bad stuff? The Museum of Bad Art in Boston claims to be the only one of its kind in the world. Featuring art that’s ‘too bad to be ignored’ it features plenty of paintings of dodgy blue people, symbols that don’t mean much and some weird uses of nudity.
For all you’ve ever wanted to know about the humble toilet, you could do worse than the International Museum of Toilets in New Delhi. The curators tell us: ‘the toilet is a part of the history of human hygiene which is a critical chapter in the growth of civilisation.’
Athens is well known for its museums filled with thousands of years of artefacts that document the birthplace of science and democracy. We like the Tactual Museum, where you’re actively encouraged to touch everything. There are all kinds of replicas, statues and frescoes that you can get up close and personal with.
The Hair Museum of Avanos in Cappadocia, Turkey is a fairly simple idea, but definitely one of the most bizarre things you’ll see. In a room under an unassuming pottery shop, you’ll find caves covered with a collection of over 16,000 locks of hair from women from all over the world. It’s free to enter, and women can leave a lock of their own if they want.
For the latest information and conjecture on the likes of Big Foot, the Montauk Monster, or the Abominable Snowman, then the Cryptozoology Museum, in Portland, USA is a good place to start. It claims to have ‘actual samples’ of hair and unique pieces of evidence from mythical creatures from all over the world.
Your green fingers will start tingling when you hear about the British Lawnmower Museum. As you would expect, it’s dedicated to all things grass cutting and is home to specialised gardening machines, vintage lawnmowers and all manner of parts and conservation materials from all over the world. A truly British experience.
If you’ve got a weak stomach, it might be best to skip the Paris Sewer Museum. You’re guided through the tunnels and pummelled by historical and factual information about the famous underground areas that have featured in French literature including Les Miserables and Phantom Of The Opera.
Love chips? So do we and so do the Belgians apparently, if the Friet Museum is anything to go by. The ground floor offers a 10,000 year potted history of the humble spud and it’s development into the tasty chip we know and love today.
1.Pythagoreion and Heraion (Πυθαγόρειο και Ηραίο Σάμου) Samos Island The remains of the ancient fortified port Pythagoreio, as well as the Heraion, temple of the Samian Hera, have been listed among UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1992.
2. Metéora(Μετέωρα) – Metéora, literally means “in the heavens above,” and you’ll realise why the moment you arrive. It consists of six Greek Orthodox monasteries built on huge natural sandstone rock pillars in central Greece. Metéora was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988.
3. Corfu Old Town (Παλιά Πόλη της Κέρκυρας) – The Old Town of Corfu Island features two forts designed by renowned Venetian engineers and is filled with neoclassical, as well as Venetian influenced buildings. It is considered to be home to some of the best and most authentic remaining ruins in the world. The Old Town of Corfu has been included among the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 2007.
4. The Acropolis of Athens (Ακρόπολη Αθηνών) – Quite possibly the most famous of the lot, the Acropolis is a huge collection of architecturally perfect buildings, natural landscapes, the historic and dramatic Parthenon and was the scene of some of ancient Greece’s most important moments. You shouldn’t leave Athens before you see one of the most important expressions of Greek architecture, listed among UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites since 1987.
5. Olympia (Ολυμπία) – The ancient sanctuary of Olympia is famous for giving the name to the Olympic Games and as a sanctuary of the gods, Zeus in particular. In the Peloponnesos region, it was listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1989.
6. Mycenae(Οι Μυκήνες) – Thanks to the famous Lion’s Gate and Treasury of Atreus, the archaeological site of Mycenae has been listed as a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site since 1999. Found in the Peloponnesos region, it’s an important site dating back to the 15th and 13th century BC.
7. Delos(Δήλος) – Greek mythology tells us Delos was the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis; so, the sacred island was one of the most important pan-Hellenic sanctuaries. Listed among UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1990.
8. Ancient Theater of Epidaurus (Αρχαίο Θέατρο Επιδαύρου) – The excellent acoustics and almost perfect condition gave the ancient theater of Epidaurus a place among UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1988. It’s a highlight to visit and enjoy a performance with the crowds in summer.
9. Delphi (Δελφοί) – In 1987, the sanctuary of Delphi, where the oracle of Apollo spoke, and was once called the ‘naval of the world’, was included among UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
10. Rhodes Μedieval Town (Μεσαιωνική πόλη της Ρόδου) – The Medieval Town of Rhodes, also known as the Town of Knights, was once a great stronghold where knights fell and bitter battles fought. It is an outstanding example of an architectural heritage illustrating the island’s history. Rhodes Town was listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1988.
Get the best deal for cheap holidays on your favourite historic holiday of discovery right now from Purple Travel. Call today on 0207 993 9228 for more.
It might not be as famous as Italy’s other cities like historic Rome or Pisa with its leaning tower, but we think it’s fair to say Florence is a cultural, artistic and romantic capital all its own. Find out more in our guide to Florence things to do:
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The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence is a small city filled with architectural marvels, cultural delights, breathtaking masterpieces, stylish Florentines and an atmosphere you could dip a spoon into. The birthplace of the powerful Medici family, Florence became a haven for aristocrats, architects and artists. A who’s who reads something like Botticelli, Michelangelo, Andrea del Sarto and possibly the greatest of them all Leonardo Da Vinci. That’s quite a lot of name dropping and we’ve barely hit the tip of the iceberg.
The Deep South in the USA is known for its hospitality, big personalities and as the birthplace of Elvis, the most famous jazz clubs that side of the Atlantic and food that is out of this world. Join us as we go one of the Great American Road Trips through the Deep South.
Start in Atlanta, Georgia an energetic city that’s home to world class southern hospitality. Rent a car, hop in and get some travellin’ tunes to get you on your way. Visit the High Museum of Art, or hike the Infamous Appalachian Trail to kick-start your adventure. As you pass through you’ll probably recognise bits of it from movies like Driving Miss Daisy, Fried Green Tomatoes and, erm, Deliverance.
In Tennessee, you’ll find Graceland, where Elvis spent the last years of his life. It’s an intriguing and moving place to visit. Fans make the journey from all over the world to pay their respects to the man known as ‘The King’. Sun Studios is like taking a step back in time and blues, gospel, country and rock ‘n’ roll fill the air.
You couldn’t go on a Deep South road trip and not visit Sweet Home Alabama. If there’s time, dip across the border and head for FAME or Muscle Shoals sound studios. These hosted some of the best acts in the world like Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones and Otis Redding. If you go even further, just outside Birmingham a stop by the Talladega Superspeedway will leave your head reeling, in a good way. A stop in Scottsboro at the Unclaimed Baggage Center, where airline lost luggage is unpacked and sold could give you a couple of bargains or something totally weird, so don’t say we didn’t warn you. Don’t forget to order grits for breakfast and ice tea with lunch to fit in, in Alabama.
A stop at the Country Music Hall of Fame and discovering the Grand Ole Opry makes Nashville a great addition to the trip. There is excellent live music in bars throughout the city ‘til late and Biscuits at Loveless Cafe are something an institution. The Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis will have you tapping your foot in no time and the city is known for some of the best BBQ, with hundreds of places for a pitcher of beer and some broiled ribs or pulled shoulder pork.
Mississippi’s Highway 61 is called the cradle of the Blues. At the crossroads between 61 and 49 you’ll find the spot where Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the devil in exchange for phenomenal guitar playing skills. Clarksdale is home to the Delta Blues Museum and the Ground Zero Blues Club juke joint is within touching distance. The Shack Up Inn is a real taste of southern hospitality.
Head for Jackson and eat at the infamous Two Sisters Kitchen, a buffet style in a traditional 1903 home. The all-you-can-eat price includes okra, cheese grits and skinless fried chicken. After a refuelling like that, the great outdoors might beckon; there are hiking trails, horse riding and activities in the gorgeous countryside around or you could visit your first ever rodeo at the Dixie National Livestock Show.
Continue your road trip to Louisiana to tickle your taste buds with a bowl of gumbo (everywhere has a difference recipe) or alligator sauce picante in Thibodaux. Then on to Lafayette, one of the best known music towns in the States, filled with Creole dancehalls, Cajun rhythms and zydeco music.
Finish up in New Orleans the legendary city of jazz on the Louisiana Delta. There are dozens of clubs to discover in the Big Easy, there are no closing times, so you can stay all night. And with jazz and blues, Latin, R&B, gospel, rock, cajun and everything in between you could stay for months without discovering it all. Go in February or March when you’ll find Mardi Gras, in April there’s jazz and international festivals, while in October there is the Angola Prison Rodeo and Art Festival.
If you’re off on a city break to Rome, don’t spend the time ‘fiddling while Rome burns’, instead discover the art beat of the capital. In this of the ten best museums and galleries in Rome, you’ll journey from a Renaissance palace to Mussolini’s cinema studio…. Enjoy the best museums and galleries Rome from Purple Travel.
The original sculptures and paintings in the Borghese Gallery date back to Cardinal Scipione’s collection, the son of Ortensia Borghese , Paolo V’s sister. Cardinal Scipion was drawn to any works of ancient, Renaissance and contemporary art which might re-evoke a ‘golden age’. In the Borghese, you will find a whole array of antique sculpture and painting, housed a grand villa, whose architectural features are to be attributed above all to Flaminio Ponzio, an extraordinary architect in whom the Pope and the cardinal placed absolute trust.
Nestled among 19th-century apartment blocks, the Macro is the newer and bigger of two spaces that combine to make up Rome’s municipal contemporary art museum (the other is in Testaccio). The main part of the museum was created by the French architect, Odile Decq from a disused Peroni beer plant. Providing a home for the postmodern painter and collagist Mario Schifano, Macro aims to be a more daring and controversial version of Maxxi (the National Museum of Art from the 21st Century). Take the toilets for example, which have mirrored walls and translucent plastic sinks that flash different neon colours as you use them.
Palazzo Altemps is a Renaissance palace opened as a museum in 1997. It remains one of the capital’s best-kept secrets, with a beguiling collection of classical sculptures. They include the Ludovisi Ares, a Roman copy of a 4th-century BCE Greek original, and the Ludovisi Gaul, part of the same group. But for sheer technical genius, visitors should see the 3rd-century sarcophagus, carved from a single block of stone, showing the Romans fighting the Ostrogoths – it is known as the Grande Ludovisi.
Cinecittà Studios was founded by Mussolini and due to this, the studio and set complex was bombed by the Allies in the Second World War. However in the ‘50s, the Studios became highly famous when they were used to make a series of costly classical epics, including Ben-Hur and Cleopatra. The 40-hectare site, which is claimed to be continental Europe’s largest film and TV production facility, was also where Federico Fellini shot most of his films.
The church of illusions was built between 1626 and 1650 and dedicated to Ignatius of Loyola. The trompe l’oeil ceiling mural by Andrea Pozzo uses foreshortening to create a realistic vision of the founder of the Society of Jesus soaring towards paradise to be welcomed by Christ. A disk in the floor marks the ideal spot from which to experience the illusion.
The Auditorium was designed by architect, Renzo Piano, who called his building a “factory of culture”. Its three concert halls, which stage all manner of productions, hold between 700 and 2,800 people. There is also the Cavea, an open-air theatre reminiscent of a classical amphitheatre, an art gallery and an archaeological museum within the building.
Santa Maria in Trastevere
The Basilica of Our Lady is one of Rome’s oldest churches, dating back to around 340 AD. It is thought to been the first church in Rome dedicated to Mary. In the nave are two rows of columns – 22 in all – that were taken from ancient Roman sites. Embellished with six mosaic panels of scenes from the life of Mary and a gilded octagonal ceiling painting by the Baroque master Domenichino, the basilica is extraordinarily decadent.
This less visited museum displays finely decorated weapons, intricate tapestries and stunning earrings and necklaces. Other exhibits include an ancient metal dog chain and an entire hall, taken from an aristocratic villa in Ostia, adorned with designs created using a technique known as opus sectile in which coloured marble is cut and inlaid.
Visitors to Rome who try packing in a trip to Pompeii often leave disappointed by the neglect and disorganisation they find there. Ostia Antica, less than 30km from Rome and reachable by train, offers an altogether more civilised (and arguably more instructive) experience. This, after all, was the port city of the capital of Europe’s greatest empire. Scattered among the umbrella pines that now dot the site are a splendid amphitheatre which is still used for concerts, and the remains of schools, baths, temples and latrines, as well as Europe’s oldest synagogue. Ostia Antica also boasts some unusually well-preserved mosaics and frescoes.
Set in a Trastevere backstreet, Galleria Lorcan adds a touch of hip to an otherwise classical scene. O’Neill, has used his Britart connections to put on exhibitions by Tracey Emin, Sam Taylor-Wood and Rachel Whiteread. He has also shown venerable non-Brits including Anselm Kiefer and provided a space for talented young Italians like Luigi Ontani and Pietro Ruffo.
Plan your holiday to perfect with our top 10 holidays for history buffs. From the Acropolis of Athens to the Mayan stronghold of Tulum in Mexico, we’ve got 10 of the best history holidays that will make your jaw drop.
Athens, Greece Almost anywhere you visit in Athens you’ll find precious ruins that date back thousands of years. The iconic Acropolis stands tall baking in the sunshine, while you can relive history at the ancient Greek and Roman markets, visit the colossal ruin of the Temple of Zeus, or take a walk around the Theatre of Dionysus.
Nile Valley, Egypt Actually, if you travel anywhere in Egypt, you’re likely to bump into an ancient and quite frankly, awe inspiring site. Some of our favourites are the ancient Giza Pyramids (how did they do that!?), Cairo’s Museum, where you’ll find the treasures of Tutankhamen and up the Nile River, the Luxor Temple and the Valley of the Kings.
Machu Picchu, Peru People wait a lifetime to visit the majestic ruins of the lost ‘city of the Incas’. Built around 1400, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has been voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Rome, Italy Once the most powerful city in history, Rome is still saturated with historical and cultural sites that will remind you of times gone by. The Colosseum, Roman Forum and Pantheon will transport you back in time, while the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain should be on your ‘must-see’ list. No wonder it’s made our top 10 list of holidays for history buffs.
Tulum, Mexico A seat of ancient Mayan civilisation, Tulum actually means ‘wall’ and is one of very few ancient sites that remains right on the sea. Dating back to 564 BC, you’ll find the Castillo, with breathtaking views of the ocean, the Temple of the Descending God and a selection of Cenotes (natural spring water pits that were used as a place of sacrifice.)
Prague, Czech Republic Once the capital of Bohemia, Prague’s ghostly atmosphere and historic streets mean there is a tonne to keep you going once you arrive. From the imposing Castle that overlooks the city to the Charles Bridge, it’s a haven for budding photographers. For occult hunters, most other sites pale in comparison to the Selec Ossuary. The Bone Church was built around the 1500s from the bones of thousands of people. Not for the fainthearted.
Florence, Italy Florence is a city dripping with art history, from the famous Cathedral, featuring a Brunelleschi designed dome, to the world famous Uffizi Gallery, showcasing works by Botticelli, Michelangelo and Raffaello, it’s a historian’s dream destination.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic The capital is a model for city and town planners across the world. Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492 and Santo Domingo became the site of the very first cathedral, university and hospital in the Americas, all laid out in a familiar grid pattern. It’s a wonderful place to combine sun holiday with historic wonder.
Vienna, Austria Vienna could easily be taken for one of the classical music capitals of the world. Combined with its history of royalty and the strategic positioning, it offers the State Opera House, Imperial Palace and Schonbrunn Palace, gorgeous!
Fez, Morocco The medieval capital of Morocco, Fez is one of the best preserved old cities you’ll find. The ancient Medina is home to excellent examples of ancient Islamic architecture, while the city’s car free policy means you’ll truly feel like you’ve travelled back in time.
From the Greek Islands ancient art to the imposing Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain, we take a look at the 10 best holidays for art lovers to impress and delight.
Florence, Italy Home to the famous Uffizi Gallery, you can feel art flowing through the veins of Florence. Dating from the 16th century the museum houses the world’s most magnificent collection of Italian Art. Of course a stop in this stunning city wouldn’t be complete without visiting Michelangelo’s famous statue of David.
Paris, France One of the best known museums in the world and home to masterpieces like the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, the Louvre is a jaw dropper. But it’s not the only top class museum in the French Capital. The Musee d’Orsay is home to works by Degas, Renoir and Rodin while the Pompidou Centre houses classics by Picasso and Magritte.
Bilbao, Spain You might recognise Bilbao from the imposing Guggenheim museum. An architectural wonder, its 32,500 food undulating walls and curves was designed by Frank Gehry. It is home to some of the most famous avant garde art in the world.
Greek Islands A Greek Island art holiday is a wonderful way of getting lost in the culture, the beautiful landscape and the rich heritage. It makes a really relaxing getaway, perfect for relaxed painting excursions, eating like your life depends on it and creating wonderful memories.
New York City The colours, the vibrant atmosphere, that whole feeling you get when you arrive in the Big Apple is different to anything before. It’s like a city built for art. There’s 5000 years of paintings, sculptures and exhibitions at The Met, (the Metropolitan Museum of Art) MoMA and the Guggenheim plus dozens if not hundreds of fashion, design and science museums to inspire you.
Favara, Sicily This is a small town in the Italian island that’s been transformed from quaint to contemporary. Thanks to an initiative by the Farm Cultural Park it’s seen an explosion in visitors from all over the world. Walls have been used as huge canvasses, sculptures and paintings dot the streets in a town where unemployment is rife.
St Petersberg, Russia Museums in Russia have benefitted for centuries from the royal family’s love of art. You’ll find works from the big guns like Leonardo, Poussin and Picasso and everything in between. Not only famous for its art, it is home to a wealth of historical and cultural artefacts and is home to a buzzing contemporary art scene.
Vatican City The architecture and Renaissance masterpieces of Vatican City have been inspiring people for generations. Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and Raphael’s frescoes are probably the most well known in the collection of renowned art you’ll find in the tiny city. And, of course beyond the walls, you’ll find Rome stretching out below you, another art treasure trove.
Barcelona, Spain The awe inspiring Sagrada Familia will surely make your jaw drop. The hugely detailed church has been under construction since 1882, with building work set to continue until 2026. Designed by architect Antoni Gaudi, it’s just one of his stamps that you’ll notice throughout the city. Park Guell, with its bright, mosaic sculptures will impress even the pickiest youngster; while a stroll through the streets of late night BCN will provide houses such as Casa Mila or Casa Batllo that look like they belong in museums instead of the street.
Berlin, Germany One of the hippest places to get your art on, over the past 20 years, Berlin has grown to become one of the biggest names in contemporary art, exhibitions and architecture. Try the Berlinische Galerie, or the Sammlung Boros Collection (if you can get in there!) It’s also home to art throughout the ages. Museumsinsel, or Museum Island is the biggest complex in Europe and is home to five separate institutions.