Hamburg, (Germany)

“Roman Treva”, “Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg”

Hamburg, Germany, July 2019

Again the finally well deserved time to come back to a city I have never returned since the first and only time 9 years ago, Hamburg. Why this long is easy to explain, basically being concentrated in visiting hundreds other cities across dozens of countries across the globe. In a lapse of 9 years I can easily count 90 countries and over 400 cities and places, most of which available here in my travel blog for anyone to enjoy a proper guide. No need to mention this is a great excuse for remaking this entire guide adding lots more to what was there already and bringing it a most up to day bump.

How a city can change in that many years is fascinating to be honest. Back then I remember a lot of cranes and construction going on. The second largest city in Germany was transforming and evolving itself, gentrification at its best and incredible projects coming out from the countless derelict areas around the former docks and factories. Restoring its heritage buildings while designing a proper 21st century city. Today, most of it is done, and new projects being drawn ever since. What has been a very industrial city, suffering from destruction during the WWII raids, the 1962 North Sea flooding, and then from the closure of dozens of factories, re-emerged  wealthier each time as a key tourist destination in Germany focusing in business, finance, media, research, education, science, arts and of course what it does best, a major shipping logistic and infrastructure.

Hamburg, together with its neighbouring trade alliance city of Lübeck merely 65 kilometres to the east marked at the brink of year 1241 the origin and core of the powerful Hanseatic League of trading cities; Lübeck itself becoming the capital of such vast network that extended all over the Baltic and benefiting Hamburg ever since in the riches and wealth from the trade.


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Stralsund, (Germany)

“Stralow: Polabian for Arrow”, “Our Town Stralow”, “Stralesund”

Stralsund, Germany, June 2015

And yet again back in Germany at only 6 days after the last time. On this occasion, our final destination was Szczecin, city we flew on Friday night but that we left for visiting on Sunday. Instead for today Saturday, we decided to enjoy a day trip towards the Baltic Coast of Poland, and crossing over to Germany which lies few kilometres from the border towards the UNESCO World Heritage Site listed city of Stralsund. One of the most beautiful and iconic Hanseatic cities, which together with its brother city of Wismar, shares the same UNESCO status listing.

Unfortunately due to the lack of time and because of the already far distance we had to drive to come here, it was physically impossible to fit this second city of Wismar, way much farther to the west. The easiest and fastest way for this one will be in the future, flying to Hamburg or Lübeck as those are the nearest airports and a short train or bus ride from there.

The way from Szczecin to the north is a fast and beautiful drive, in between lakes and nature, soon arriving to the Baltic Sea passing Swinoujscie. From here it is meters away from the German border which is a pretty straightforward crossing and without queues. There is a fee to cross over but that’s all. Probably they don’t even require you to hand over your ID/Passport either, since they are in the European Union and they run only spot checks at random.


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Helsinki, (Finland)

“Helsinge fors: The Helsinge Rapids”, “Swedish: Helsingfors”, “The Daughter of the Baltic”

Helsinki, Finland, March 2015

Many years have passed since the first and only visit to Helsinki to date, probably 12 if I am not mistaken in my memory. Very long time to remember well not to mention how young I was. That long ago I was only starting my first year at the university of architecture so I have to admit I was not even too impressed and demanding about the architecture in the city. Totally opposite as how I am now wherever I travel. But something that has never changed in all this time is my passion for art-deco and art-nouveau styles. And yes, that’s right, Helsinki has one of the largest collection of art-nouveau buildings in the world.

Returning back to this city I already visited 12 years ago was as exciting as for the first time. Gladly to find out it is still as cute and well cared, clean and elegant as I remembered. A big down side, the much higher costs for everything overall. Back in 2002 they were only starting to use the Euro for 6 months before my arrival and I remember the people already telling how much the prices went up. But now everything has changed, and although it is not as expensive as the neighbors (Sweden and specially Norway), there is a clear steep increase in prices.

So this time, I got to see how the city looks like in winter time (fair enough I am cheating a bit as it was March and not the peak December/January), but still, was freezing cold. The previous time this was over 30 degrees summer!


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Riga, (Latvia)

“Duna Urbs”, “Rija: Threshing Barn”

Riga, Latvia, October 2014

Just a week after visiting Vilnius, I return to Riga. And yet again a very well deserved return to revisit after my only time here back 9 years ago as part of a trip through the Baltic countries. The fact that I never returned to Riga is still a fact I cannot quite explain. I cannot think of any possible reason nor excuse as it is still ranking one of my all time favourite European cities not only for the beauty and cosines of the old town but because of its impressive collection of art-nouveau buildings, the largest of its kind on any city in the world. By the way, for those who don’t know me yet, art-nouveau together with art-deco are my favourite architectural styles.

Riga is the largest city not only in Latvia, also the largest of any city across the Baltic countries, hosting one third of the country’s population. As such, plan at least 2 days for visiting it. Any shorter than this and you will struggle to enjoy the sights and relaxed time at any of the many restaurants and bars. Yet still, over 2 days and you might end up with not much more to do and see unless going to the outskirts neighbourhoods or nearby seaside resort of Jurmala.

The old town is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list due to its importance and rich past and prosperity over history as one of the major cities of the Hanseatic League and for hosting an almost intact medieval layout coupled with an incredible collection of 19th century wood classical buildings in the Russian style and an unrivaled 19th and 20th century art-nouveau city extension. (more…)

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Vilnius, (Lithuania)

“Vilnis: Surge”, “Vilnyti: To Surge”, “The Baroque City”

Vilnius, Lithuania, October 2014

Exactly 9 years since my first and only time back then to Lithuania, I finally returned to the capital city, Vilnius. I would not be surprised if my current stay was precisely on the very same days I was back then, as part of my Baltic trip. Nevertheless, it was as great as for the first time, and probably even better now that some buildings are finally beautifully reconstructed like the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and the many other refurbishments and embellishment of the streets overall. And adding a newer note in here while updating here and there few points in this guide, we did return couple of times more and will keep returning for sure.

There is nevertheless another great point for returning to the city other than sightseeing, that is visiting my Lithuanian friends with whom we are friends since 2002 when met and worked together during one of those summer work-and-learn-English programs in a resort in the UK. Nice to see they were all doing well and really enjoyed their company and the places they took us; as the first time.

Was nice to see that every time more and more tourists consider visiting Lithuania and the Baltic Countries in general. Around year 2005 the airlines offering routes here were really limited and expensive, but now this is way different with a great choice and therefore competence though still coming during high season months can be really expensive, specially if you are on a budget, but if you aim for late September, October or spring, then you will find a good deal for sure. Later than this, during the winter months is quite cheap to come, however there is something you must consider it planning a trip during this time, the weather. Expect below 0 Centigrade, sometimes really extreme, and snow. It can be very harsh to coop. I am for sure not prepared for that and do not have the appropriate clothing. I can still remember the “horrible” experience that was once Tallinn, and that was already in spring!.

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Gothenburg, (Sweden)

“Göteborg”, “The second largest city in Sweden”


A quick trip this time, just go and back in the same day to the second largest city in Sweden. I know this was way too short time to enjoy such a beautiful city with so much to see and do, but hey! why to stay home if for merely £20 return flights you can get to at least enjoy other culture, other places, some nice food and a first time contact to a city for sure worth the return for longer the next time. After all, sounds crazy that sometimes it’s cheaper to go abroad than staying in London where you will spend certainly more going out for some drinks and dinner with friends. So why not to take the friends with you and travel together then?

This is a very elegant city. Full of tree-lined boulevards and avenues, canals, squares and impressive buildings everywhere, especially these along the canals. But it’s not only the architecture what makes the city special, it is also about the people. So polite, friendly, educated and so well dressed overall! We felt quite out of place as our outfit was definitely more casual.

Walking around and trying to get lost is the best way to explore the city. Since it is not too big you don’t need to worry about “getting lost”. You will always find your way and come to see those not so main streets everyone aims for, avoiding the rest of the usual tourists. Don’t get me wrong here, of course visiting the major thoroughfares is part of the mandatory sightseeing.


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Tallinn, (Estonia)

“Qalaven”, “Kesoniemi”, “Rääveli”, “Reval”


Although this is currently my second time in this city, it was very long since the first time, hence actually glad to be back to one of the most charming place in Europe. Not the best weather in this occasion though. From what was a perfect summer time was back in 2005 to really winter this time. We could not even believe that almost in April, there was still -5 degrees with the feeling at much lower, and the Baltic Sea entirely frozen. One for another, having the chance to have seen the city during these two different seasons was already a plus, enhance for being able to admire the sea completely frozen as my eyes could reach, that was a first in my life!.

When planning your time here, the good news is that two days are good enough to visit everything. The Baltic capitals are in general small and perfect for a weekend trip, or if on a wider tour, still 2 days at each is perfect when talking about cities like Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius or Helsinki.

To make things even better, once you are in the Upper or Lower town, you will get to see everything on foot. Most of the streets are pedestrian only, extremely compact and the whole of it listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. One can hardly see any damage from WWII, thankfully it retained what is now one of the best preserved medieval old towns in Europe. (more…)

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Lubeck, (Germany)

“The Former Capital of the Hanseatic League”, “The Queen of the Hanse”

Lubeck, Germany, January 2010

Coming to the second day for this weekend trip we headed towards Lübeck from Hamburg, this time to enjoy this incredibly beautiful city and also because my returning flight to London was departing from here. At only 65km one to another, it is not even one hour train ride centre to centre. Either if you fly to Hamburg or to smaller Lübeck airport for visiting Hamburg, you really must consider and plan some time for this Hanseatic jewel, often bypassed by the average tourist.

It won’t take you any longer than half day to visit the city if I am honest. Its small size and organisation of the streets plus the compact historical centre means any longer than half a day will already be too much. It’s perfect for a day trip from Hamburg where you don’t need to start your day very early nor return late at night; just have a perfect relaxing day, or as it was in my case, sightseeing and enjoying it before heading to the airport.

The city is an UNESCO World Heritage Site listed for it’s former importance as the capital of the Hanseatic League, and for having preserved it’s Medieval old town unaltered ever since, built between the 12th until the 16th centuries. The constructions in this city are among the finest and most incredible from any of the former Hanseatic cities. The stunning Brick Gothic architecture will captivate any visitor. Without any doubt and hesitation, it did to myself, although I do admit I am a fan lover of the Hanseatic Gothic architecture. (more…)

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