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Been there, done that?

Weds 30 Mar 2016

European city tours are becoming increasingly popular with UK tourists, but most of us don’t visit the same city twice. Once we’ve visited the most famous landmarks, we tend to think there is little left to see and do. You can’t go to Rome without seeing the Coliseum or visit Venice without taking a gondola ride. Once you’ve scaled the Eiffel Tower, admired the amazing panoramic view of Paris and taken the obligatory ‘selfie’, are you going to come back and do it all again? Such places are a must-see for first time visitors; maybe even worth a second visit, but what do you do after that?

At Blue Water Holidays we LOVE our European cities and we truly believe that most are worth a return visit, so we’ve found some interesting places and slightly unusual activities for you to include in your itinerary next time you visit Amsterdam, Dubrovnik, Paris, Rome or Venice.


Canal bikes in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most popular cities and thousands of tourists flock here every year, to immerse themselves in the relaxed culture of the Netherlands and the colourful history of the 800-year old capital. View the works of Van Gogh in the art galleries, visit the beautiful Rembrandt House Museum and travel back to a time of inexplicable horror, with an emotional and insightful visit to the Anne Frank Museum. Why not break up the cultural and historical excursions with something a little more indulgent?

Although often overlooked in favour of Brussels and Paris, Amsterdam is definitely one of Europe’s chocolate capitals. Thirty percent of the world’s cocoa beans are processed here and it is becoming increasing popular with chocolate lovers, so why not embark on a tantalising tour of the city’s most popular ‘choc’ spots? Purchase edible souvenirs at Puccini Bomboni, sample the diverse and unique selection of flavours at ArtiChoc and enjoy a fun and interactive tasting session at Chocolatl. There are also plans underway to open a spectacular Willy Wonka-style chocolate factory, complete with a chocolate river and a glass elevator!

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The marble streets, baroque buildings and impressive city walls of Dubrovnik are reason enough to visit this beautiful city on the dazzling Adriatic coast. The views and photographic opportunities you encounter as you walk the city walls are indescribable. The monasteries and palaces are probably high on your list of attractions and all are undoubtedly worth visiting.

In contrast to the grand Old Town and the ancient city walls, there’s a place not too far away which makes for an interesting day trip. Six miles south of Dubrovnik and easily accessible via public transport is Kupari Beach. The beach itself is the perfect blend of white sand and azure waters and is considered by many to be Croatia’s most beautiful. Kupari was once a popular holiday spot and vast amounts of military money was spent on transforming it into a luxury resort for the Yugoslav People’s Army. In the 1980’s it was opened up to foreign tourists and remained a desirable holiday location for over a decade. However, during the Croatian War of Independence in 1991, this stunning resort was completely ruined by gunfire and shelling. It was subsequently abandoned and looters ensured that nothing of value remained. Overlooking the perfect Kupari beach, the war torn hotels still remain and they’re free for you to explore.

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Eiffel Tower

We’re guessing that if you’ve been to Paris you’ve probably been to the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay. No doubt you’ve already seen some of the best artworks and historical collections in the city.

Paris is heaving with museums and there’s bound to be one which matches your interests. The oldest and one of the strangest of Paris’ Museums, is the Museum of the National Veterinary School of Alfort, which dates back to 1766. Prepared by the 18th-Century anatomist Honore Fragonard, there are twenty-one real cadavers on display. Each were dissected to display their internal organs and then mummified to help with the teaching of anatomy. Not only did Fragonard skin the bodies himself and open the flesh for the colour coding of the organs, blood vessels and tendons - he also placed them in theatrical poses. The most astounding examples of his work are the dancing human foetuses and the man perched upright on a galloping horse. In another collection at the museum, you will find various examples of the 19th Century’s fascination with physical abnormalities such as a 10-legged sheep and a two-headed calf.

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Vatican City

The 'eternal city' attracts visitors from all over the world and is one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world. Although bursting with famous landmarks, historical sites and places of religious importance, there is one place which may not be so well-known or well visited. The Museum of the Holy Souls in Purgatory is housed in the Parish of the Sacred Heart in Prati. The display consists of one large glass case containing objects supposedly touched and singed by the hands of souls in purgatory. According to Catholicism, the soul is stranded in purgatory until it atones for its sins, but prayers from loved ones can speed up their acceptance into heaven. These objects, which appear to have handprints burnt into them, are believed to be the direct result of stranded souls begging for loved ones’ prayers. The church itself is also worth seeing, as although small and not as elaborate as other churches in Rome, it is uniquely Gothic in style.

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Venice Gondolas

Brimming with culture, the renaissance city of Venice has much to see. From St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace to the stunning Grand Canal, you are spoiled for choice. Why not rest your feet after a day of sightseeing and head to Ca’Macana, to try your hand at decorating traditional Venetian Masks. It is one of the oldest mask making workshops in Venice and they craft authentic handmade masks in the same way in which Venetian artisans would have done 800 years ago. Choose from 45 different papier-mâché models and decorate it yourself in the workshop for a unique and personal souvenir.

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