This guide looks to uncover the hidden wonders that are often missed when visitors travel to these historic cities, whilst learning how to experience Europe like a local.
Few European capitals are visited and talked about as much as Amsterdam, and with good reason. The Dutch capital can be a cultural mecca if you know where to look; as well as its many tourist hotspots, such as the Anne Frank Museum and the Rijksmuseum, there are a whole host of things to do in Amsterdam that can introduce its visitors to a whole other side of the city.
Those who think they have already seen everything Amsterdam has to offer should think again. Its ever-changing delights make it a great place to explore via several different methods of transport, whether that is from the water whilst enjoying the views from the Rhine during European river cruises or, as the locals do, on two wheels.
Cycling is the mode of transport for experiencing this city like a local and, with the great cycling infrastructure that is in place for residents, it is safe and convenient for visitors too. People are often surprised at just how much more they can see of Amsterdam by bike and, with plenty of cycle hire shops around, there is no excuse not to get in the saddle and give it a go.
The Hungarian capital of Budapest is so filled with eye-catching culture and history that seeing the real Budapest as the locals do may take some time. A good starting point to finding out why residents favour the city over the other European capitals that lie along the river Danube is to go on the tour of Buda Castle and learnt the difference between Buda and Pest.
For local gastronomy, be sure to head to one of the many covered markets; these will provide the perfect shelter if the Budapest weather should take a turn for the worse, and will also allow you to get a taste for the way Hungarians eat. Budapest salami, or szalámi, is a local delicacy, and one that you must try during a stop in the city.
There are also a number of authentic Hungarian restaurants that are popular with residents and visitors alike. One of the best of these is Klassz, which offers diners traditional meals made with the freshest ingredients. For a truly local Budapest evening, you can sit back and listen to some Hungarian jazz in one of the city’s many gypsy jazz clubs or, if you would prefer, there are also some fantastic opera performances to be enjoyed.
Vienna is usually described as a classical destination, and the popular Schönbrunn Palace and Vienna Opera House are great places to start. Once these historical landmarks have been explored, there are other fantastic sights to discover that aren’t just privy to locals. Vienna is home to some great local markets, where residents and visitors alike can pick up some unique and unusual items. Among the most popular is Naschmarkt, an open air market and a real international experience with its many small restaurants and range of flavours and tastes. Here, there is also a flea market which is open on a Saturday morning and sells items ranging from tulips to figs and wines.
Street food in Vienna is regarded as much more of a cultural delicacy than the typical burger van you may find closer to home; the Wu¨rstelstand, or ‘sausage stands’, are renowned among locals and can offer a much-needed warming snack. Once refuelled, you can do as the Viennese and catch a dramatic or classical music performance. The Vienna Philharmonic is an iconic ensemble and considered to be one of the best orchestras in the world.
So, whether you are new to such cities or a regular visitor to the European capitals, it is clear that there is still no better way of experiencing the culture of a foreign destination than to embrace the world of the locals. Remember the tips in this guide and you will be coming back from your European cruise with a host of extraordinary memories.
Image Credit: Dennis Jarvis (flickr.com)