A Mansion in Dutch Classicist Style
Like any proper castle, Amerongen Castle has been destroyed & rebuilt several times. The current castle, located in the Nederrijn’s floodplain, was built between 1674 and 1684, after its precursor was burned down by French troops in 1673.
Modigliani in Stuttgart and Potsdam
Amedeo Modigliani counts among the most celebrated artists of the 20th century. An exhibition first at the State Gallery Stuttgart, then at Museum Barberini in Potsdam, presents an overview of his oeuvre, together with works by contemporaries.
Northern Ireland: Living with the Troubles
Providing just a snapshot of the conflict, the exhibition Northern Ireland: Living with the Troubles at the Imperial War Museum in London unpacks this complex chapter of history through the multiple perspectives of people who lived through the period.
The Henrichenburg Boat Lift
Now a museum, the Henrichenburg Boat Lift in Waltrop was once the absolute state of the art in hydraulic engineering. The most spectacular structure on the Dortmund-Ems Canal, it hoisted barges over a distance of 14 metres in 2½ minutes.
Ludwigsburg Residential Palace
First a ducal residence, then a summer residence for the first king of Württemberg, Ludwigsburg Residential Palace, near Stuttgart, is one of the largest baroque buildings in Germany to survive in its original state.
Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum
Johannes Vermeer left a remarkably small oeuvre of 36 paintings. The largest ever Vermeer retrospective, at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, shows fully 28 of them and is almost surely never to be replicated.
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp is one of Belgium’s most prestigious & important museums. The collection spans seven centuries, from Flemish Primitives to expressionists, featuring works by artists such as Peter Paul Rubens and James Ensor.
The London Transport Museum
One of the coolest public transport museums in Europe, the London Transport Museum shows the role of London’s transport in the history of the city & at present, starring various double-deck buses & trams and Tube stock.
A Fancy Canal House in Amsterdam
Willet-Holthuysen House in Amsterdam is probably the most interesting canal house that is open to visitors. Its interior is an eclectic mix of 19th-century revival styles, of which Louis-XVI is dominant.
The National Maritime Museum
The Netherlands is traditionally a seafaring nation. The National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam shows how the country became linked to the sea, and explores the age-old relationship between the harbour & the city.
A Day Trip to Amsterdam
Apart from the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum & the Anne Frank House, Amsterdam has many more great places to visit, such as the Stedelijk Museum, the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Palace & the Jewish Museum.
A Landmark Cézanne Retrospective
A groundbreaking exhibition at Tate Modern in London brings together around eighty works by Paul Cézanne and features key examples of his still-life paintings, Provençale landscapes, portraits & scenes of bathers.
Face to Face with Death
The exhibition Face to Face with Death at St John’s Hospital in Bruges shows the recently restored painting The Death of the Virgin by Hugo van der Goes & a further seventy works by other Flemish Primitives.
A Family Castle on the River Vecht
Zuylen Castle in Oud-Zuilen, near Utrecht, is a 16th-century castle that was upgraded to a country house in 1752, in the French style that was in vogue at the time. This former home to the Van Tuyll family is now a museum.
An Awesome Array of Art, Arms & Armour
The Wallace Collection in London houses an outstanding array of 18th-century French paintings & decorative arts, paintings from the 14th to the late 19th centuries, medieval & Renaissance works of art, and a small arsenal of princely arms & armour.
The Harz Narrow-Gauge Railways
One metre wide & 140 km long, the narrow-gauge railways of the Harz are a Mecca for train enthusiasts. The network is made up of three lines: the Selke Valley Railway, the Harz Railway, and the Brocken Railway, which tends to be rather crowded.
A Day Trip to The Hague
The Hague is generally not high up on the bucket list for visitors to the Netherlands, but it’s a city well worth a visit. The Hague is the seat of the Dutch government, it houses a number of outstanding museums, and its coastal dunes are lovely.
The National Museum of Antiquities
The National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden showcases many fascinating objects from Egypt, the Near East, Greece, Etruria & the Roman Empire, and a large collection of archeological finds from the Netherlands.
Duchess Anna Amalia’s Dower House
The baroque Dowager’s Palace in Weimar, where Goethe & other members of the intellectual elite gathered around the Dowager Duchess Anna Amalia, is now a museum featuring her former parlours & staterooms.
A Day Trip to Potsdam
The main reason to visit Potsdam is to see Sanssouci Palace, the summer house of King Frederick the Great. Other highlights are Cecilienhof Country House, where the Potsdam Conference took place, and Museum Barberini, a museum of impressionist art.
The German Museum of Technology
Starring an über-cool DB Class V200 diesel-hydraulic locomotive, the German Museum of Technology in Berlin offers a compelling overview of the many ways in which technology has shaped our history & culture.
In Search of the Berlin Wall
One of the reasons tourists visit Berlin is to see the Wall, but it almost entirely disappeared after the city was reunited. There are some remnants in various places, but none of these really conveys the insurmountable barrier that the Wall once was.
Visiting Berlin: What to See and Do
Obliterated by bombing during World War II, rebuilt & divided during the Cold War and reunited after 1990, Berlin almost totally lacks historical grandeur, but with its great many monuments, museums and memorials it’s an exciting city to visit.
A Day Trip to Bremen
Bremen’s must-sees are the town hall, noted for its Renaissance facade, the Böttcherstraße, an architectural gem in expressionist style, and the Kunsthalle, an art museum featuring the work of, among others, painter Paula Modersohn-Becker.
A Small House for a Great Man
In 1697, Peter the Great stayed in Zaandam for a week to study the shipbuilding trade. His humble lodgings, known today as Tsar Peter House, are now a museum dedicated to Peter’s adventures in Zaandam and to the house & its many distinguished visitors.
On the History of Science and Medicine
Museum Boerhaave in Leiden, a museum dedicated to the history of science & medicine, is one of the best of its kind world-wide. Collection highlights include microscopes by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and anatomical models by Louis Auzoux.
Renaissance Portraits at the Rijksmuseum
An exhibition at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam shows over a hundred Renaissance portraits of powerful emperors, flamboyant aristocrats & well-to-do citizens, and features a large number of blockbuster-calibre loans.
The Rammelsberg Mining Museum
When the Rammelsberg ore mine in Goslar closed in 1988, it had been in operation for around 1,000 years. Today, it is a mining museum that is one of the coolest places in the Harz to visit, featuring several guided tours & a historical exhibition.
Seven Hundred Years of European Art
The Städel Museum in Frankfurt, home to Tischbein’s famous portrait of Goethe casually lying around in the Roman Campagna with two left feet, offers a rich survey of 700 years of European art from the early 14th century to the present.
A Fine Fake Medieval Castle
A highlight of Gothic Revival architecture, De Haar Castle in Haarzuilens, designed by Pierre Cuypers in the late 19th century as the holiday home for a noble family of party-givers, is beyond doubt one of Europe’s finest fake medieval castles.
At Home with Groningen’s Rural Gentry
Elsewhere in the Netherlands you will find castles, in Groningen we have borgen — manor houses. One of them, the Menkemaborg in Uithuizen, is now a museum that conveys a striking impression of how the Groningen squiredom lived.
Groningen’s Surrounding Countryside
Rural Groningen offers many places worth a visit, such as the Adelskerk Church in Midwolde, the reconstructed 18th-century fortress of Bourtange, the charming village of Niehove, and three stately manor houses in Leens, Slochteren & Uithuizen.
A Postmodernist Place for the Arts
Housed in the single most exuberant museum building in the Netherlands, the Groninger Museum in the city of Groningen showcases a varied collection of art & design, including the work of the local artists’ collective, De Ploeg.
A Day Trip to Groningen
The city of Groningen is perfect for a day out. Its highlights are the Groninger Museum & the climbable 97-m-high Martini Tower, and Restaurant Weeva, where poffert is served, a cake-like steamed pudding that is a regional speciality.
The National Technical Museum
The colossal National Technical Museum in Prague offers a dozen outstanding exhibitions ranging from architecture to household appliances to metallurgy to printing, and its collection of planes, trains & automobiles from the Czech lands is simply amazing.
Prague’s Jewish Quarter
At the core of Prague’s Jewish Quarter stands the Old-New Synagogue, the oldest extant synagogue in Europe. Four disused synagogues, the old cemetery & the former ceremonial hall now make up the Jewish Museum in Prague.
Visiting Prague: First-Hand Experiences
What to see in the city of a hundred spires; which baroque library to visit & which one to avoid; where to find the best ice cream in the Eastern bloc; and a reminder to always validate your ticket before riding Prague’s super-duper tramway.
Upper-Class Living around 1900
Van Gijn House in Dordrecht (locals say Dort), noted for its 18th-century tapestry room, shows the home of Simon & Cornelia van Gijn, who had most of their mansion renovated to neo-Régence, neo-Renaissance & Louis-XVI styles in the late 19th century.
Crossing the Alps on the Bernina Express
By far the greatest train ride in Switzerland is the Bernina Express, which connects Chur to Tirano via the Albula & Bernina Railways, best known for the landmark Landwasser Viaduct, the curved & spiral tunnels, and the elegant Brusio Circular Viaduct.
A Most Popular Pilgrimage Destination
A tourist attraction since the Middle Ages, Cologne Cathedral is the largest Gothic church in northern Europe, best known for the Shrine of the Magi, a masterpiece of medieval goldwork, and the stained-glass window by Gerhard Richter.
A Modernist Palace of Culture
The Kulturpalast in Dresden, built during the 1960s, was restored in 2017 and now features a concert hall with superb acoustics. The 45-m-long frieze Our Socialist Life & the 315-m² mural The Path of the Red Flag give the building a particularly socialist look & feel.
A Museum of a Museum
The Teylers Museum in Haarlem is the oldest museum in the Netherlands, founded in the spirit of the Enlightenment as an institute for art & science. Its exhibition rooms still look the same as when they were opened in the 18th & 19th centuries.
The Coolest Castle in the Netherlands
Muiderslot Castle in Muiden, the residence of the 17th-century poet, playwright & historian Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft, is the quintessential medieval moated castle, featuring everything you could possibly expect from a 14th-century stronghold.
Anders Zorn’s Swedish Idyll
Anders Zorn, one of the greatest Swedish painters at the turn of the previous century, is best known for his idyllic scenes from Scandinavia, and his female nudes. The Kunstmuseum Den Haag presents a retrospective exhibition of his work.
At Home with Goethe
The most impressive part of the Goethe National Museum in Weimar is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s residence, where the great German poet, dramatist & scholar lived from 1782 until his death in 1832 and where he wrote his magnum opus Faust.
A Place like Heaven for Bibliophiles
Museum Meermanno in The Hague is devoted to the book as an object, i.e. books with good looks. Its focus is on the development of the book from 1850 to the present, and there are temporary exhibitions on themes related to both the old & the modern book.
St Peter’s Church in Leiden
St Peter’s, a large gothic church with a warm atmosphere owing to its untypical unplastered brick walls, is home to the tombs & epitaphs of some of Leiden’s most illustrious brainiacs. Its two organs, dating from 1643 & 1883, are well worth listening to.
The Dornier Museum
Claude Dornier’s aerospace company at Lake Constance, which is best known for its Whale & Do X seaplanes, ceased to exist when it became part of DASA in 1989, but its pioneering spirit is kept alive at the Dornier Museum in Friedrichshafen.
Meersburg New Palace
The former residence of the Prince-Bishops of Constance in Meersburg boasts a colossal staircase, elegant baroque frescoes & masterful rococo stucco, and its terraced formal garden offers a stunning panoramic view of Lake Constance & the Alps.
A Sea of Flowers in Lake Constance
From mid-April until sometime in September, Mainau Island, a horticultural paradise in Lake Constance with a distinctly Mediterranean touch, displays exuberant floweriness to such an extent that it can all easily become too much.
The Netherlands American Cemetery
The Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten is the only American military cemetery in the Netherlands. An impressive site with 8,301 headstones set in long curved rows, it still looks the same as when it was dedicated in 1960.
A Castle with a Pleasant Seat
Doorwerth Castle, close to the Nederrijn river on the Veluwe’s southern fringe, features medieval & 17th-century period rooms with window seats, a 19th-century kitchen, and a kitchen garden where both unforgettable & forgotten vegetables are grown.
The Goethe Trail to Mount Brocken
Popular with hikers & witches alike, Mount Brocken ensures a marvellous view over the Harz — at least on clear days, which is almost never. Of the three hiking trails to the summit the Goethe Trail from Torfhaus is best suited for less experienced hikers.
The Rietveld Schröder House
The epitome of De Stijl architecture, the Rietveld Schröder House in Utrecht is spacious, simple & functional. Its clean horizontal & vertical lines and primary colours with white, grey & black make it look like a three-dimensional painting by Piet Mondrian.
Moving Water with Steam
The Wouda Pumping Station in Lemmer is the largest steam pumping station ever built, and the only one still in use. Its engine room looks virtually identical to what it looked like when the place opened in 1920, and the boiler room is pretty cool, too.
Charlemagne’s Palatine Chapel
Aachen Cathedral, built by Emperor Charlemagne around 800 and later expanded, is home to the Emperor’s old throne & quite a few religious objects that are among the artistic highlights of their time, such as Heinrich II’s pulpit & St Mary’s shrine.
Museum Paulina Bisdom van Vliet
A hidden gem tucked away in Holland’s countryside, Museum Paulina Bisdom van Vliet in Haastrecht is a perfect 19th-century time capsule showing the home of an upper-class family & its eclectic interior teeming with porcelain.
The Dresden Porcelain Collection
The most exquisite porcelain collection of Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony & lifelong sufferer from maladie de porcelaine, is comprised of 17th- & early 18th-century china from the Orient, as well as home-made artefacts from his manufactory in Meissen.
Claude Monet’s Garden Paintings
From 1900 onwards, impressionist painter Claude Monet devoted his life to painting his garden, which he deemed his greatest work of art. An exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Den Haag shows how he developed an increasingly abstract style.
The German Mining Museum
The German Mining Museum in Bochum takes you on a tour of 30,000 years of mining history, with an emphasis on coal mining in the Ruhr region, and presents a wide range of supercool heavy mining machinery in its 2½-km-long visitor mine.
A Day at the Zollverein
The Zollverein in Essen, best known for its iconic № 12 Shaft’s headframe, is the world’s most beautiful coal mine. The epitome of Neue Sachlichkeit architecture, it features a swimming pool with fricking cold water, the Ruhr Museum, and a design museum.
Wuppertal’s Suspension Railway
The 13⅓-km-long Schwebebahn in Wuppertal was built between 1898 and 1903, and is the world’s oldest operational monorail. In Vohwinkel, trains travel above the street, and from Elberfeld to Barmen they run above the riverbed of the Wupper.
The Myth of Austrian Victimhood
The exhibition Into the Unknown at the House of Austrian History in Vienna shows that Austria was not ‘the first victim of Nazism’, but very much on the wrong side instead, following its annexation by Germany in 1938.
The Viennese Museum of Fine Arts
The Kunsthistorisches Museum houses Egyptian & Near Eastern and Greek & Roman antiquities, a gallery of 16th- & 17th-century paintings, a collection of various art objects dating from the late Middle Ages to the 18th century, and a bunch of coins.
Visiting Vienna: First-Hand Experiences
After seeing the Hofburg & Schönbrunn Palace and The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, you can have Wiener schnitzel in more places than just Figlmüller. Do not by any means hop on a hop-on hop-off bus to hop off outside the Ringstraße; use the underground instead.
Saxon Switzerland in a Day
Königstein, just 40 minutes from Dresden, is the perfect starting point for exploring the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, climbing the Pfaffenstein mesa or paddling down the Elbe river past the Bastei rocks.
The Mesdag Collection
The Mesdag Collection in The Hague is an exceptional collection of 19th-century art by painters of the French Barbizon School and the related Hague School, assembled by the renowned painter Hendrik Willem Mesdag & his wife Sientje.
Religious Tolerance in Amsterdam
Between 1578 and 1796, the Catholic Church was officially banned from Amsterdam. The Museum of Our Lord in the Attic tells the story of how the church went into hiding, such as in the attic of this 17th-century canal house.
Luther’s Mighty Fortress
The Wartburg in Eisenach is a medieval castle noted for its late Romanesque architecture, and best known for its most prominent resident, Martin Luther, who translated the New Testament into German during his stay at the castle in 1521 & 1522.
The Royal Picture Gallery
The Mauritshuis in The Hague houses the Royal Picture Gallery, a collection of two hundred paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, including Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius.
The Netherlands and the Cold War
The exhibition When the Russians come at the National Military Museum tells the story of how the Dutch survived the Cold War. In the end, it turned out that it all had just been much ado about nothing, which makes the Cold War Hans’ favourite war.
Cheese and Cheese Markets
Dutch residents buy cheese at the local supermarket, and tourists go to designated cheese markets in Alkmaar, Edam, Gouda, Hoorn & Woerden. Only the one in Alkmaar features the well-known cheese carriers running around with cheese.
Windmills and Kinderdijk
There are well over a thousand windmills in the Netherlands, which historically performed many different functions. A perfect place to see nineteen of them in action is Kinderdijk, where they are used for draining water from the polder into the river.
Tulips and the Keukenhof
Introduced to the Netherlands by Carolus Clusius in 1593 and to local farmers by local thieves later on, the tulip has become a national icon. One of the best places to see tulips is at the Keukenhof in Lisse; best time is halfway through April.
The World’s Eighth Wonder
The Royal Palace in Amsterdam is the largest & most prestigious building dating from the Dutch Golden Age. When not in use for hosting royal events, the palace is open to visitors to enjoy the magnificent architecture, sculptures, paintings & furniture.
The Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau
Despite existing for only fourteen years, the Bauhaus was the world’s most important school of design. Its original buildings in Weimar & Dessau are open to visitors, and two new museums about the history & influence of the Bauhaus will open in 2019.
Science and Technology in Mannheim
The Technoseum in Mannheim presents the development of science & technology from the 18th century to the present day, and the impact of industrialization on everyday life. The Elementa exhibition explores general scientific principles.
A Glimpse into the Dutch Golden Age
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, best known for Rembrandt’s Night Watch & its many other excellent paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, presents art & history from the Middle Ages to the present day.
A Pocket-Sized Imperial Court
At the end of World War I, the German Emperor Wilhelm II fled to the neutral Netherlands, where he lived in exile until his death in 1941. His estate in Doorn is now a museum, featuring splendid furniture, paintings, porcelain & silverware.
Frankfurt’s New Historical City Centre
In 2018, 74 years after Frankfurt was destroyed, its historical city centre was restored to its old beauty. Fifteen patrician houses around the Hühnermarkt square, including the iconic Goldene Waage, were reconstructed according to their original plans.
The Duchess Anna Amalia Library
The oval Rococo Hall in the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, which was beautifully restored after the devastating fire of 2004, is quite impressive, as is the four-storey Bücherkubus in the new Study Centre.
The Court of Augustus the Strong
Thanks to Augustus the Strong, Dresden became renowned for its extraordinary cultural brilliance. Furthermore, probably all native Saxons today owe it to him that they are likely of royal descent one way or another.
Over 2,000 Years of Human Creativity
The Victoria and Albert Museum is Britain’s leading museum of art & design, housing innumerable highlights such as the Ardabil carpet, The Three Graces with the lovely bottoms, all things Arts & Crafts, a basket of nuts & seeds, and flags of main enemy troops.
Carl De Keyzer’s North Korea Grand Tour
An exhibition at Kunsthal Helmond presents photos of North Korea by Magnum photographer Carl De Keyzer, but it’s difficult to tell what you are really looking at — therefore keep in mind that daily life in the DPRK is not as good as Carl’s photos are.
The Netherlands for Time Travellers
The Open-Air Museum in Arnhem shows what the Netherlands was like from the dawn of industrialization onwards. Just over a hundred authentic buildings and live demonstrations convey a sense of the everyday life over the past two centuries.
Mouflons and Van Goghs
De Hoge Veluwe National Park offers a great opportunity for a day out, with its diverse landscape and rich wildlife, the fascinating art collection at the Kröller-Müller Museum, and the striking architecture of the St Hubertus hunting lodge.
Museum Railway Lines in the Netherlands
The railbus in Simpelveld, an original Uerdinger Schienenbus VT 98, makes the Miljoenenlijn the most enjoyable of the six museum railway lines in the Netherlands. The other ones are nice too, though.
Impressions of Summer
German painter Max Liebermann spent a number of summers in the Netherlands. An exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum featuring his masterpiece Free Period in the Amsterdam Orphanage shows how he developed from a realist to an impressionist.
The Gobelins Tapestry Manufactory
King Louis XIV’s Manufacture des Gobelins, founded in 1662, still exists today and is in fact very much alive & kicking. You can visit the workshops (by reservation only, as part of a guided tour, exclusively in French) and the exhibition gallery.
The Palace of Versailles
The estate of King Louis XIV is so large that you need two days to see everything. Better to visit the gardens and Trianons in the morning as the palace is less crowded in the afternoon. Avoid musical gardens days: they are a rip-off.
Visiting Paris: First-Hand Experiences
How to avoid having to break off your summit expedition halfway up the Eiffel Tower; where to find the statue of Ebih-Il, Monet’s Nymphéas, Foucault’s pendulum & various sorts of food; and advice on getting around without a Paris Visite travel pass.
Magical Miniatures in Utrecht
The exhibition Magical Miniatures at the Museum Catharijneconvent shows the wonderful world of medieval miniatures. It seldom occurs that so many miniatures of such exceptional quality are brought together.
The Rosetta Stone and the Royal Game of Ur
The Rosetta Stone at the British Museum is just fine, but the thing you really want to see here is the Royal Game of Ur. Sadly it’s not possible to play the game, even though curator Irving Finkel did find the rule book (actually a cuneiform clay tablet).
The Palaces of King Ludwig
Bavarian King Ludwig II built three of Germany’s finest palaces, including the famous Neuschwanstein Castle, after which Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle was modelled. (Not that Hans cares about the Magic Kingdom, but it’s nice to know.)
Everyday Life in the GDR
The Museum in the Kulturbrauerei has an excellent exhibition on everyday life in the German Democratic Republic and, unlike the popular DDR Museum, this one has room to move around, and admission is free.
The Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum houses the world’s largest collection of works by Vincent van Gogh. Hans tells about his favourite painting — Spoiler: Landscape at Twilight — and those of his children and of Vincent himself.