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5 Must do's in Bratislava, Slovakia

clock 16th November 2015 | comment0 Comments

Eastern Europe has so much to offer holiday goers and explorers alike, with unique quirks, historical towns and beautiful landscapes, there is something to appeal to everyone.

The likes of Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia are now seeing an influx of visitors from Western Europe and the welcoming locals make a trip here truly unforgettable. One nation in particular which is growing in popularity is Slovakia, with the capital Bratislava an absolute must on a European cruise.

bratslavia-slovakia


Iglu Cruise offer a number of river cruises along the Danube, starting in Hungary and stopping off in Bratislava en route to Austria. So what is there to do in Slovakia's largest city? Here are our top five suggestions.

 

Bratislava Castle

Sitting on a hill of the Little Carphathians overlooking the city, Bratislava Castle is arguably the most historic and recognisable sight in the capital. It provides stunning views over Bratislava, parts of Austria and on clear days you will you be able to see as far as Hungary. As you would expect, the castle has a long and rich history. It can trace its origins back to the ninth century where it was believed to have been built by the Romans as a frontier post. It was accidentally burned to the ground by garrisoned soldiers in May 1811, leading to a full rebuild in the 1950s.

It is home to both The History Museum and the National Museum, with one of the rooms dedicated to the works of Slovakian and foreign artists. Around 3,500 paintings, statues and print are housed in the castle, the most impressive being copies of 15th century altarpieces by Paul of Levoca.

bratislava-castle

St Martin's Cathedral

Sticking with the historical theme, St Martin's Cathedral is a testament to Bratislava's Gothic architecture. Situated on the edge of the Old Town, the church can trace its history back to the 13th century when it was originally built in a Romanesque style. However, by the 14th century it was replaced by a three-nave Gothic dome and was fully transformed by 1452.

Being the largest and one of the oldest churches in Bratislava it has been the scene of many a famous ceremony. Between 1563 and 1830 it was known for being the coronation church for the Kingdom of Hungary and saw 19 Hungarian Emperors crowned during this time.

Today, it remains open to the public allowing people to wander around this magnificent structure and the see the work of famous Austrian baroque sculptor Raphael Donner.

St Michael's Street and St Michael's Gate

Both St Michael's Street and St Michael's Gate are go-to places for anyone visiting Bratislava. It is the main hub of activity in the city with shops and restaurants lining the street, making for a very lively place. Both locals and tourists alike come out to enjoy the ambiance on an evening with street bands providing a great atmosphere as the sun goes down.

At the top of the street is St Michael's Gate which remains the only city gate in Slovakia that has been preserved of the medieval fortifications. Originally built during the year 1300, it was rebuilt in 1758 and has survived several wars, occupations and the Communist rule, a period renowned for tearing down and replacing historic buildings.

Now it is seen and appreciated as a hugely relaxing area, ideal for enjoying a glass of wine or two and simply watching the world go by.

st-michaels-street-bratislava

Slovak National Theatre

If you get the chance, a visit to the Slovak National Theatre is an absolute must if you are a lover of the arts. It is the oldest professional theatre in the country and consists of three ensembles - opera, ballet and drama. It is split into two separate buildings the old, opened in 1886, and the new, opened in 2007.

The former was designed by Viennese architects R. Fellner and H. Helmer, responsible for creating ten buildings across Europe. It is the home of Neo-Renaissance opera, ballet and philharmonic performances and if you have the chance to catch a show, then it will be an unforgettable experience.

slovak-national-theatre

Novy Most

While Bratislava Castle provides a beautiful panoramic view of the city, for more spectacular views head to one of the more modern structures in Bratislava - Novy Most Bridge.

Despite being built during the era of Slovak Communism, the 1971 bridge does not follow conventional architecture of the time. It is more inkeeping with Bratislava's more historic side and has drawn comparisons to the Space Needle in Seattle.

Providing a link over the Danube, you can venture up the impressive structure to an observation desk where you can take in all the views of Bratislava. Maybe even have a spot of lunch at the restaurant UFO, a popular eatery so booking is advised.

 

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24 hours in Krems, Austria

clock 27th October 2015 | comment0 Comments

Krems an der Donau is a key feature of many Iglu river cruises along the mighty Danube, with a number of trips stopping there for a day of sightseeing.

The town is the fifth-largest in Lower Austria, around 40 miles away from the capital Vienna. Officially given its title in 995 AD by Otto III, it has grown substantially and almost superseded the capital during the 11th and 12th century. It is made up of ten smaller divisions and is a great stop-off point as part of your river cruise.

So what is there to do with 24 hours in this riverside town?

Krems, Austria

What to see

Take a stroll from the port into the old town where you will be able to get a real sense of the history of Krems. The town is influenced by the Baroque era of the 16th century and many of the buildings pay homage to this. One in particular is the Steiner Tor which acts as an entrance to Krems and was erected in 1480.

The gate is considered to be the symbol of Krems and took the place of a wall which surrounded the town until the 19th century. It features a mounted memorial on the side of the stone door which commemorates a flooding disaster in 1573. It has appeared on a definitive stamp, similar to a postage stamp, and in 2005 the Steiner Tor underwent restoration work to celebrate the 700-year anniversary of Krems.
Staying in the old town and the Kunst Halle Krems is an absolute must for the culture vultures among you. The art gallery is home to a swathe of contemporary works and in the past has showcased the work of artists such as Pipilotti Rist, Dominik Steiger, William Kentridge, Andy Warhol and Yoko Ono.

Another place to tick off should be the Weinstadmuseum which highlights both the history of Krems but also its proud winemaking traditions. The museum is housed in a beautiful monastery providing a calm and tranquil vibe when you walk through the front door.

Krems Town Hall, Austria

Krems Town Hall

Eat and drink

Situated in the Wachau Valley region of Austria, Krems is famed for its Marillenschnaps. Like many other towns in the area, Krems is a producer of this apricot brandy. While there are similar liquors elsewhere in the world, if you want an authentic taste of the Wachau Valley then you cannot go far wrong with Marillenschnaps.

Krems is surrounded by an abundance of small orchards that are dedicated to producing the apricots designed for this drink. Bars in the town will always have a good bottle, so it would be rude not to try a little following a hearty meal. When it comes to food, Krems is home to some authentic Austrian cuisine. If you are looking for somewhere with real local flavour then head to any one of the Heurigers that are dotted around the town.

Translated as wine taverns you will be able to enjoy some great local fayre washed down with some Austrian wine, but don't forget the Marillenschnaps before you set sail for your next destination.

duernstein wachau, austria


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9 Historical attractions you must visit on the Danube

clock 20th October 2015 | comment0 Comments

The Danube is the heartline of eastern Europe, starting from the Black Sea cutting through many major countries before ending in Germany.

Such is the diversity of the cities along the Danube, it makes the river ideal for a cruising holiday. There is so much history attached to the waterway that is best experienced on a river cruise. There are a wide variety of Danube river cruises available such as starting in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, passing through the likes of Austria and Germany and ending in Amsterdam.

Along the way there is an abundance of historical sights which help to build the history of the Danube. Let's take a look at nine must-see attractions en route.

danube river

Shoes on the Danube Bank

Starting in Budapest, the Shoes on the Danube Bank is a highly poignant memorial. A collection of shoes on the banks of the river on the Pest side of the Danube Promenade honour the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in the capital during World War II.

Created by film director Can Togay and sculptor Gyula Pauer, the memorial is a reminder of the tragedies which Budapest suffered during the war, while also commemorating the victims.

shoes on the Danube river

Schonbrunn Palace

This magnificent Baroque palace sits in the heart of Vienna, the next stop along the Danube. The 1,441-room palace is a former imperial summer residence originally purchased by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II in 1569.

It remains a focal point of Vienna's, and by a larger extent Austria's, style of architecture reflecting the changing taste of the Habsburg monarchs. Since the 1950s both the palace and the gardens have become major tourist attractions and were recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

Schonbrunn Palace, Austria

 

Kunsthistorisches Museum

Staying in Vienna and another attraction to tick off is the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Translated as the Museum of Art History, this magnificent building has stood in the Austrian capital since opening in 1891. Commissioned by Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary it houses some of the nation's finest art.

Notable works currently installed at the picture gallery include Jan van Eyck: Portrait of Cardinal Niccolo Albergati (c. 1431), The Fight Between Carnival and Lent (1559) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Rembrandt: Self Portrait (1652). It is an absolute must for all art lovers.

Mauthausen Memorial

Not far from the Austrian city of Linz is the Mauthausen memorial. Mauthausen-Gusen was a concentration camp used by the Nazis during World War II. Between 122,766 and 320,000 people are estimated to have been killed here during Germany's occupation of Austria.

Liberated by the US Army in May 1945, Mauthausen is now a national memorial site. It remains largely intact covering almost 3,000 sq ft. There are a number of guided tours going on throughout the day.

Regensburg Dom

Moving into Germany and the Regensburg Dom should be high up on the itinerary for anyone cruising the Danube. This huge cathedral is a brilliant example of pure German Gothic architecture and forms the focal point of the city.

Founded in 1275 and completed in 1634, the Dom is home to some magnificent monuments including one by renowned German sculptor Peter Vischer the Elder. It is a sight to behold and a must-see when in Regensburg.

Regensburg, Germany

Nuremberg Palace of Justice

Nuremberg is a city of huge prominence in Germany. The second largest in Bavaria, behind Munich, it is a place of so much history none more so than the Palace of Justice. Justizpalast was built in 1916 and was the scene of the infamous Nuremberg Trials between 1945 and 1949 after World War II.

Courtroom 600 saw the trial of the main Nazi Germany personalities such as Hermann Göering, Rudolf Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Arthur Seyss-Inquart. The courts are still used today and are open to the public.

Rhine Gorge

A magnificent natural sight in the heart of Germany, the Rhine Gorge is where the Rhine takes over from the Danube. The 65-kilometre section of river between Koblenz and Bingen was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002.

The area is unusual as it produces its own microclimate and has become the home to a number of species not generally native to this part of the world. Aside from this the gorge provides some splendid views.

German National Museum of Contemporary History

Moving on to Bonn in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany and a must in this city is the German National Museum of Contemporary History. Charting the nation's past after 1945, the museum ranges from artefacts from over the previous decades to the changing face of politics in the country.

Admission is free and guide booklets can be obtained in English, as the exhibitions and tours are presented in German.

Koblenz Germany

Koblenz, Germany

Anne Frank Huis

Ending the trip in Amsterdam, a visit to the home of Anne Frank is an absolute must. Situated at the Prinsengracht in central Amsterdam, this unassuming house was where Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank hid from Nazi persecution.

The 17th-century canal house became a museum in May 1960, following the publication of Anne's diaries in 1957, she did not survive the war. Behind the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank Huis is well worth a visit.

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Exotic vs European cruises - Which is for you?

clock 10th August 2015 | comment0 Comments

River cruising is one of the best ways to see the world and gives you an insight into places you may have never thought of visiting before.

With so many cruises available it can be hard to know just which one to choose. However, one of the simpler questions you need to ask yourself is whether you want an exotic or European cruise? We have holidays running throughout the year on many of the major rivers across the globe.

If you are looking to stay closer to home, the Rhine, Danube and French Riviera are potential destinations while further afield Southeast Asia boasts the captivating Mekong River with much to be discovered. So which will you choose? Our guide will help inspire your decision.

European cruise

Europe has a huge wealth of waterways ensuring you a memorable break. Cruising along the likes of the Rhine, Elbe or Danube provide opportunities to visit some of the most picturesque cities the continent has to offer.


Take the Rhine, for example. This huge river is the lifeblood of Germany - flanking great industrial powers such as Dusseldorf and Cologne. However, it starts its journey in northern Holland before making its way into Germany and eventually to Austria and Switzerland. Cruises in this region highlight the majesty of these cities and the European countryside.

Most cruises of the Rhine begin in Amsterdam, famed for its canals, before setting sail to explore all the Rhine has to offer. There are stop-offs to visit Cologne and its incredible architecture, namely the Dom and the Hohenzollern Bridge, the latter forms the main entrance to the city. Most trips also take in the Rhine Gorge before ending in the hugely historical city of Nuremburg.

The benefit of a European cruise is that you are able to avoid long-haul flights. As most journeys begin in central Europe, flight times should be around three hours maximum, depending on your destination. This also rules out any form of jetlag, so you feel raring to go as soon as you step on the boat. There are also more options for shorter breaks with four and seven day cruises around Europe.

Above all, a river cruise around Europe is an excellent way to experience multiple destinations, admiring historic cities and enjoying the picturesque river views.

 

Exotic cruise

An exotic cruise has an added sense of adventure. Travelling to regions such as Southeast Asia, India and Africa offers a step into the unknown, but can also turn out to be the best decision you have ever made.

Choose a river cruise along an iconic waterway such as the Mekong or Nile. These river cruising experiences vary greatly from European cruises and provide unique chances to experience a completely different culture. Many people consider an exotic river cruise to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.


Sail down the Mekong River and see the famous sights of Phnom Penh in Cambodia or stay in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) prior to your cruise. These cruises offer you experiences you simply do not get when on a European cruise.

Heading to the likes of Southeast Asia and Africa can be a lot of travelling but the memories will last a lifetime. You could even incorporate the cruise as part of a much larger holiday and do a bit of exploring yourself. The stories will no doubt impress your friends back home for years to come.

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24 hours in Budapest

clock 6th August 2015 | comment0 Comments

A true jewel of eastern Europe is the Hungarian capital Budapest. Dubbed the 'Paris of the East', the city is one of great beauty and has plenty to see and do.

Sitting on the banks of the Danube, Budapest has become the starting point of many Iglu river cruises voyaging through Hungary onto Slovakia, Austria and Germany. The vast majority of these itineraries include a night or two stay in Budapest, so you should take full advantage of this and spend at least a day exploring this glorious city.

Here is our guide to spending 24 hours in the Hungarian capital.

What to see

When Budapest was formed it brought together the separate cities Buda and Pest, which were split by the Danube. It is now divided into 23 numbered districts, which are still classed in one of the two, Buda covers the west area of the Danube while Pest covers the east. Such is the majesty of Budapest is that it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987.

It prides itself on having a unique atmosphere and a growing nightlife, not to mention its rich history of classical music. The architecture in the city is truly breathtaking and none more so than the Hungarian National Parliament building, making this the perfect place to start your tour of the city.

Hungarian National Parliament building


The largest building in Europe, this Neo-Gothic structure has stood in the heart of Budapest since the 1880s. With a startling 691 rooms, all more decadent than the last, it is hard not to be overawed by this magnificent structure. It stands in the Lajos Kossuth Square, named after a Hungarian lawyer, politician and Governor-President of the country in 1849, widely respected as a freedom fighter during his life.

Guided tours of the parliament building are available, where you will be able to see the old House of Lords and the Hungarian Crown Jewels. The latter were lost and stolen many times and it wasn't until the end of World War II that they were handed over to the US Army, and did not return to Hungary until 1978.

Another reminder of the scars of the war is much more sombre. On the banks of the Danube, between Kossuth ter and Szechenyi ter, is the Shoes on the Danube memorial. This collection of bronzed shoes has been placed here to honour the Jews who were shot by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen during the war.

There are plenty of free activities across the city and not many are better than a walk across Chain Bridge. The first bridge to connect the Buda and Pest sides of the capital, it was considered to be a wonder of the world when it was completed in 1849 and is often referred to as the 'Pearl of the Danube'.

Budapest Chain Bridge


It was damaged during the war, resulting in a complete rebuild in 1949. It has a connection to the UK, as chief engineer Adam Clark was a master builder hailing from Scotland.

If you are visiting Budapest for the first time then you need to experience just one of the city's many baths. The traditional Turkish baths draw off Budapest's rich thermal waters and some can trace their history back to the 16th and 17th centuries. Take a dip in Rudas, Kiraly or Veli Bej for the ultimate in relaxation.

Arts and culture

Budapest is hugely proud of its arts and culture scene, making a trip to the famous Opera House an absolute must while in the city. This beautiful Neo-Renaissance building has been in Budapest since opening its doors in 1884. It has featured the work of esteemed composers such as Ferenc Liszt and director Gustav Mahler. See a performance here and enjoy a truly immersive experience. It is not just music where Budapest reigns supreme in the cultural stakes. The Museum of Fine Arts and the Ludwig Museum are two absolute musts when it comes to art. The former is dedicated to paintings, drawings and sculptures of European origin and even features the horseman sculpture carved by Leonardo da Vinci.

Budapest Opera House


The Ludwig Museum is a homage to contemporary art of Hungarian and European origin. It displays artworks from the past 50 years, which have been collected by Peter and Irene Ludwig. The pair believe that the museum helps to bring the east and west closer together and features works from the likes of Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and Jasper Johns, among others.

Food and drink

If you want to experience some delicious Hungarian cuisine then there is only one place to head to - the Central Market Hall. Officially called Kozponti Vasarcsarnok, it is the largest indoor market in the city and has been here since the 19th century. Selling a large selection of sausages, meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables it will provide a great insight into day-to-day Hungarian life.

You will be able to sample some traditional goulash, which is a meat soup with potatoes and paprika that is normally served as a main dish. If you're feeling a bit more adventurous then sample the toltott kaposzta, a stuffed cabbage filled with meat in a paprika sauce and served with sour cream.

If you have a sweet tooth then why not try a somloi galuska, a poem on biscuit dough, cream and chocolate sauce. A trip to the Central Market will be able to perfectly top off a day in Budapest.

The Danube river is a hugely popular route for top river cruise lines, with Budapest being a must-visit destination along the way. With lines such as AmaWaterways, Saga River Cruises, Avalon Waterways and more visiting this fantastic city, be sure to browse our Danube River cruise deals and be on your way to your Budapest adventure!



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