Top Secret Cities: Discover Something New In 2014

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When it comes to travelling, we all love to share our experiences. Whether it’s putting a photograph on Facebook of the stunning view from our hotel room, or sharing our holiday snaps with friends and family on our return. Without fail we will all come back from our break with a story about a wonderful little place we found, which only the locals go to, or a restaurant we tell our friends they just have to try if you are visiting London, Rome etc. Some secret discoveries just have to be shared.

Well our Top Secret® Hotels offering is definitely a secret worth knowing. Essentially, we know that even four and five star hotels can’t fill their rooms every night. This gives you the chance to live the high-end lifestyle without the price tag to match. We also know that some people love to plan exactly where they are staying and what they can do and where they can eat while on their holiday or weekend city break. So why not be spontaneous and give yourself an instant upgrade at one of our hand-selected luxury Top Secret® Hotels, in some of the best city break locations in the world. We are even offering an extra 10 per cent off our great Top Secret® Hotel offers! Why not try it for yourself and see how booking something surprising can be just as rewarding.

Because we can’t tell you which hotel it is until you book, we have decided to reveal some of our hidden gems in the six of the cities featured in the Top Secret® Hotels trial. We hope this will make you feel like it is less of a step into the unknown. So here are our top tips for spontaneous trips to Rome, Munich, Milan, Barcelona, Paris and London:

When in Rome…

Colosseum in Rome

This has to be one of the most stunning, and best preserved, cities in the world.It just oozes classical history, making you feel like you have just stepped back in time. Clearly first-time visitors must visit the iconic attractions: from Michelangelo‘s Sistine Chapel fresco in The Vatican, which despite the crowds is still an awe-inspiring monument to human creativity, to the Roman Forum, Pantheon and Colosseum.

Pantheon Altar

Pantheon Altar

Fabulous frescoes

But taking a break from working your way round the dizzying list of ancient monuments, why not try some of Rome’s more unsung “heroes”. Clearly Michelangelo sets the bar ridiculously high when it comes to frescoes, but Raphael and his friends have also produced some amazing art. This can be seem at the Villa Farnesina which is a little less packed out than The Vatican. The Palazzo Doria Pamphilj is another little gem. This huge palazzo has an incredible collection of paintings, from the likes of Caravaggio, that you can have almost have for yourself! Finally you have to visit San Clemente Baslica, which is a church built on a house which dates back 2,000 years. Incredibly you can climb down through the church into the remains of the house and a pagan temple.

Finally Rome is a gourmet’s delight, from the perfect pasta and pizza to mouth-watering gelato, they really celebrate food. We love the authentic, Maccheroni restaurant, for pure Italian theatre; it’s so good.

Magnificent Munich

The capital of Bavaria is Germany’s third largest city and is probably most famous for its world-renowned Oktoberfest beer festival. However there is so much more to Munich; here are our insider tips.

Surfing in Munich

Surfing in Munich

Surf’s up

One thing that might surprise and delight you is the sight of laidback surfers strolling along the city centre streets, boards under their arms, looking like they are searching for a beach. Despite being more than 500km from the coast, they are in fact heading to the Iser River where there is a permanent wave to ride at a stretch called Eisbach. This is produced by water shooting out from an underground tunnel, and Munich’s surfers access it from the city’s iconic Englischer Garten park.

If your love of the life aquatic runs into more leisurely pursuits, the Müllersches Volksbad, a beautiful Art Deco pool, might be a little more relaxing. Built in 1901, and boasting all its original features, this is the place to take a glamorous dip.

The Müllersches Volksbad building, Munich

The Müllersches Volksbad building, Munich

So if all that swimming has given you an appetite; why not try something a little different to the traditional Weisswurst. Bavarian “Dim Sum” anyone? Fei Scho is a quirky restaurant that serves a kind of Asian / Bavarian fusion; definitely one to tick off the foodie list. Japanese restaurants are also now enjoying a boom in Muncih, with J-Bar and No Mi Ya particular favourites to give the tastebuds an outing.

Finally if you want to end your day on a sweet note, café MAELU is not to be missed. Cakes or works of art? Well that’s for you to decide.

Brilliant Barcelona

Park Guell, Barcelona - Spain

The Catalan capital is a firm favourite with travellers the world over. From Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrado Familia, to the Nou Camp, home to Barcelona FC and their artistic Tiki-taka football; this is a city to savour. Check out the bar and restaurant suggestions sent to us by Le Cool Barcelona. For lovers of vintage, they also have some wonderful shopping recommendations to try out while you are there!

 

Barcelona bites

For lunch why not try El Cañete . The restaurant is expensive and you have to book in advance, so if this is a spontaneous trip, we recommend trying the bar (we actually prefer it!) The tapas are really good and they offer you homemade dishes from the menu that are incredible. If eating seafood Paella by the beach while looking out to sea sounds good, then check out Pez Vela. If you need to whet the appetite further, why not try Boca Chica for cocktails. And if dancing the night away is what you have planned, then the niftily-titled Bling Bling, can see you disco the night away in its brightly-lit interior until 6am.

Facade of Palace of Montjuic, Barcelona, Spain

 

Marvellous Milan

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Milan

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Milan

Milan may be famous as the fashion capital of the world, but if you can tear yourself away from a shopping spree for a few moments, there are plenty of hidden places to discover. The Milan Tourist Board suggest heading off the beaten track and visiting the Vicolo dei lavandai area, which is set among the Naviglio (artifical canals), and takes its name from an ancient laundry which was once sited there. Here you will find bars and restaurants brimming full of character.

They also recommend the church of Sant’Antonio Abate, which is home to some hidden treasures; from paintings to frescoes and the original brick tower, and example of Lombard architecture from the C16th.

 

Milan

Perfect Paris

View of the Eiffel Tower

View of the Eiffel Tower

The “City of Light” is famous for being one of the most romantic cities, with a moonlight stroll along the Seine and dinner by candlelight, while discussing philosophy, high on most people’s “bucket list”. Parisian cuisine is renowned form being among the best in the world; so we asked some local experts for their favourite restaurant recommendations. Take a look at the options they picked via Twitter below, to help you decide where to go. Also check out travel writer, Pól Ó Conghaile, top tips for eating in the culinary capital of the world.

 

 

 

Lovely London

The London skyline at night

The London skyline at night

First-time visitors faced with a city of the sheer size and scale of London can sometimes be a little overwhelmed. With so many places to visit, from Buckingham Palace to Big Ben and St Paul’s Cathedral; if you are not careful it can turn into a ticking-off the icon rush-around. But London deserves so much more careful attention than that. Why not try breaking it down into neighbourhoods and really trying to get to know one of those.

Covent Garden continues to shine as a popular entertainment hub for tourists and city dwellers alike. However if you need a helping hand discovering all the hidden gems, from pubs to restaurants and bars to clubs; we have created a handy Covent Garden app to point you in the right direction and help you break away from the norm.

Royal Naval College in Greenwich

Royal Naval College in Greenwich

Why not try Greenwich? Home to the city’s oldest Royal Park, which boasts stunning free views across the river towards Canary Wharf and the city. It has museums, a quirky market full of independent stalls and lots of pubs full of character and colour. Try the Cutty Sark pub, which might be a ten-minute wander down the river from Greenwich, but it has a bay-window dining room view to die for. You can then take a river boat back to either London Bridge or Westminster Bridge.

Don’t forget to visit our Top Secret® Hotels trial page to pick up your discount and book one of hand-picked hotels.

Do you want to share your secrets?

We want to hear what your favourite places are in these cities. You can leave us a comment below, or you can tweet us your hidden gems @lastminute_com. We can’t wait to hear your stories.

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About Author

Kirsten Beacock

Kirsten is the chief blogger here at lastminute.com. A former newspaper journalist (don’t hold that against her), having taken extensive trips to China, America and Australasia, she is now pouring her passion for travel into writing blogs and features for the lastminute.com website. Arriving in London via exotic Scunthorpe, Kirsten has made it her mission to try out as many pubs and restaurants as she possibly can in the capital.

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