Capital Cities

Berlin, Belfast, Amsterdam, Prague, Budapest, London

BERLIN
Progressive

Germany’s capital city has a lot to offer to travellers, and the amount of modern culture it provides can be overwhelming.

Historical sights include the East Side Gallery (entry free), a mile long stretch of the Berlin Wall which is covered with art, and the unique Jewish Memorial.

Staying just outside of centre is less expensive, and encourages you to explore less popular areas of the capital and surrounding area.

Take advantage of transport links to see Hackescher Markt, a hot spot of alternative youth culture.

Berlin’s nightlife is anything but standard, with the Kreuzberg district now rivalling Mitte with quirky clubs such as live electro Club Maria or WMF 007. RA

Travel: limitless public transport day ticket, €6.30.
Eat: White Trash, p.8.
Free entry: Topographie des Terrors, Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate.


BELFAST
Historical

Surrounded by rolling hills steeped in folklore, Belfast offers natural wonders such as the Antrim coast road, Giant’s Causeway and Mourne Mountains.

Attractions vary from exploring where the Titanic was built, a tour round Stormont, or a ‘historical’ pub crawl to experience the hospitality and ‘craic’ Ulster folk are famous for.

The most ‘studenty’ bars are clustered around the University in the south of the city, but the oldest and the most ‘Irish’ bars are off backstreets and narrow entries nearer the Cathedral quarter.

A train from Belfast Central to Dublin will cost £30 for a day return.

For the more active among you, climb Cave Hill for city-wide panoramas. AM

Fly: Gatwick to Belfast International, £65, EasyJet.
2012: the capital is building a ‘signature project’ for Titanic’s centenary.


AMSTERDAM
Cycle

Definitely hire a bike to get around Amsterdam, as it’s the most efficient way to see the city, at just €11 for one day.

Cycle through the Vondelpark, and stop off at the Blue Tea House when you want a break.

Museums worth the entry include the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank’s House, and the Stedelijk gallery for a contemporary art fix.

Anne Frank’s house is €8.50. If you decide to visit, then the Jordaan area of the city where Anne Frank’s house is also holds most of Amsterdam’s established art galleries, such as Diana Stigter.

The Stayokay Vondelpark hostel is a good choice for somewhere cheap to stay, its situated right in the Vondelpark area, close to lots of restaurants and museums.

It’s easy to spend a small fortune on food, but in the Leidseplein restaurant district a five euro pizza can be found and as well as Dutch pancakes at ‘Sarah’s Pancake House’ on Raadhuisstraat. AT

Fly: September, £60, EasyJet.
Trams: triple check before crossing a road.
Watch: street performers in Dam Square.


PRAGUE
Architecture

A distinctive mix of medieval, Romanesque and Soviet architecture means walking around the streets of Prague, in whatever weather, is worth the flight. The Old Town square is good for people watching, and if kitsch is your thing then head to the garnet and glass shops.

Goulash soup and Pilsner beer, will only set you back 28 CZK, (just over one pound). Don’t be alarmed if the service in Prague is unfriendly, it is considered professional. For dinner with a view try Kampa Park, serves reasonably priced seafood looking across the Vlatava.

A walk across the Charles Bridge and climb up to the Castle complex on the left bank reveaks a panoramic view of the city, where entry costs to its attractions are optional. AT

Fly: September, £60, EasyJet.
Rest: St. Christopher’s at Mosaic House, £15 per night in 16 bed shared room.
Metro: from 15 CZK.


BUDAPEST
Nightlife

Budapest has as much to see and do as any other major European city but it is the company and atmosphere that will form your memories of a trip here. Carpe Noctem is the type of hostel that makes its money on being all but irresistible to leave.

Rarely housing more than half a dozen guests and structured like a university halls of residence with three dormitories instead of rooms, run by passers-through who decided not to leave and know exactly what will perfect your stay – all-inclusive.

Apart from it’s nightlife, Budapest is renowned for its music festivals. The Folk Arts festival and food festivals, including the International Wine and Champagne Festival are during early September, or try the Pálinka and Sausage Festival. JB

Fly: Peak return, £95.
Rest: July – September, £20 per night, including internet, bar crawl and advice on touring the city.


LONDON
Dynamic

If you can manage to avoid London’s tourist traps, it’s easy to enjoy a cheap trip to England’s capital. London is always lively, but simultaneously quaint and metropolitan.

Head to Lisboa for a coffee and a pastry at this small Portuguese hotspot on Golborne Road. If it’s a Friday or Saturday stick around Portobello road for a bit – and get an ice cream from Gelato Mio on Holland Park Avenue.

Otherwise, explore Camden Market (Tube stop: Chalk Farm). There you can browse the Moroccan dens, gothic stalls, vintage shops before rooftop drinks in Proud Gallery, located in the stables.

To give your weary pocket a break take a picnic to Hyde Park: the Serpentine Gallery always has something worth seeing. If you’re not an artsy type there are pedalos to ride and the best rollerblading around to sit and watch, or even join in.

Then head to the Southbank for a walk down the river where you will either run into a spontaneous event or get the chance to peek around the BFI, Haymarket Gallery, and the National Theatre. The annual Festival of Britain will be running until September 4 – this year it will include Tracey Emin’s first major survey show.

Chill out in Yumchaa tea shop, Soho, which has a selection of tea and chairs to provide a moment of calm in the hectic capital.

In the evening, if you stick central then check out Hip Hop Karaoke at The Social on Little Portland Road (Tube stop: Oxford Circus), but ideally you should head to the east side of the capital.

Queen of Hoxton bar has a rooftop cinema, and an affordable happy hour on drinks. For a gig Rough Trade East, on Brick Lane (Tube stop: Aldgate East) will have something good, and you can stick around to barter a curry afterwards in one of the countless curry houses.

For something slightly more memorable, The Bathouse, renovated Turkish baths-turned-speakeasy, on Bishopsgate Churchyard, is one of London’s best-kept secrets, and Madame JoJos, on Dean Street, is a club that truly reflects London’s eclectic reputation. MDG

Carnival: Notting Hill on the last weekend of August.
Culture: Arab culture festival, July 4 to July 24.
Cinema: Somerset House Outdoor Cinema.
Art: Hackney WickED art festival, July 29 to July 31.
Avoid: Oxford Circus as if your life depends on it.­­­­­


Photography: Lucy Dixon, Rosa de Graaf

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