Florence – 18 things to do in a weekend – video

Florence is so packed with delicious art and architecture that it would take a lifetime to see it all. Of course there are some unmissable highlights, but it’s just as much fun to watch the world go by from a cafe terrace or escape the crowds in the Boboli gardens. On my weekend with Citalia I had just 48 hours and not wanting to miss anything I certainly packed in the sightseeing!

Florence 18 things to do in a weekend

Here’s my video that covers the key things to see in Florence and some fun things that I enjoyed while I was there. You don’t have to see it all, just take your time and have a few stops for a slice of pizza or a gelato as you discover this historic city.

If you can’t see the video above about my weekend in Florence, see it on my blog here or Youtube here and please do subscribe using the button above
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Here are some of the things I enjoyed during my weekend in Florence with Citalia – you can also read more in my other articles from the weekend;

How to spend a perfect long weekend in Florence
10 delicious things to eat in Florence

Duomo in Florence Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Duomo in Florence

1. The Duomo

Most visitors to Florence will visit its star attraction, the Duomo or Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, which is free to enter. The west facade, covered with intricate pastel coloured marble looks old, but in fact dates only to the 19th century. Most famous of all is the terracotta-tiled dome, designed by Filippo Brunellesci who studied the Roman Pantheon to come up with the double layer egg shaped design which you can still climb inside today. Buy a €15 ticket from the office opposite the Baptistry entrance to visit the Baptistry, Campanile, Museum and to climb the cathedral dome, including optional timed entry to enable you to skip the lines.

The Baptistry in Florence Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Baptistry in Florence

2. The Baptistry

Right in front of the cathedral is the octagonal Baptistry of St John, the exterior clothed with patterns of white, pink and green marble. Inside, the small arched windows illuminate the magnificent gold mosaics on the roof depicting scenes of the Last Judgement. The north doors of Ghilberti’s ‘Gates of Paradise’ are a magnet for the tourists, showing Old Testament scenes in intricate relief, although these are bronze copies of the originals in gold, which now reside in the Duomo museum.

3. Climb the Campanile

Rather than climb the dome itself, I decided to try the 85 metre high Campanile, for views over the old city and also a bird’s eye view the dome itself. The lines were long, but with my timed ticket I had a much shorter wait to start my climb up the 415 steps to the top. There were three different stages to take a break and admire the view before I arrived at the very top, looking down onto the Dome. Although the views were fantastic, be warned that it’s not for the fainthearted, as it can be quite claustrophobic trying to pass the long stream of people on the narrow stone stairs.

Porcellino in Florence

Stroking the nose of Porcellino in Florence

4. Stroke the nose of Il Porcellino

At the covered loggia known as the New Market or straw market, you’ll find Il Porcellino, the famous bronze statue of a wild boar. This ‘little pig” is a copy of an earlier marble version and is a popular lucky charm for visitors to Florence. Put a small coin in his mouth and watch it fall through the grill below, then stroke his nose, and your dreams are sure to come true!

5. Feast your eyes in the Mercato Centrale

The morning is the best time to admire the fresh produce in the Mercato Centrale, since this part of the market winds down after lunch. It was a pleasure to wander around and admire the traders at work, butchers expertly cutting up meat, fishmongers fileting fish, the fruit and veg being arranged in attractive polished pile. The deli counters sold everything from cheeses to dried mushrooms to bottles of limoncello to take home as a souvenir. I also enjoyed a tasting at the stall piled with cantucci, a twice baked almond biscuit that’s perfect to dunk in your morning coffee.

Mercato Centrale in Florence Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Mercato Centrale in Florence

6. Try some Tripe – the Florentine speciality

While we might feel a little squeamish at eating tripe, in Florence it’s considered a local specialty, so consider giving it a try. In the market you’ll see the white, spongy cow’s stomach on sale at the butcher’s counter and on the menu of many traditional Trattorias, a hearty home-cooked dish with a rich tomato or wine sauce. In the Mercato Centrale, the crowds were flocking around Da Nerbone, the stall on the ground floor of the market that serves tripe as a lunchtime snack in a bread roll.

7. Stay at Hotel Balestri with Citalia

My hotel was the four star Hotel Balestri, booked through Citalia, which was perfectly located for a city break, just a 5 minute stroll from the Ponte Vecchio. My window overlooked the river and despite being so central it was a quiet location, set apart from the busy tourist areas. The decor was clean and modern with a glamorous Art Deco feel, plenty of marble and mirrors. There was no restaurant, but a sitting area and bar where I tried the Negroni cocktail, a favourite aperitivo with the Florentines since it was invented here.

Bedroom at Hotel Balestri with Citalia

Bedroom at Hotel Balestri with Citalia

8. Window shop on the Ponte Vecchio

My walk took me across another of Florence’s must-see attractions, the Ponte Vecchio, a medieval bridge with an arcade of jewellery shops that seem to hang precariously over the river. The shops were originally populated by butchers and leather tanners, until in 1593 the Medicis decided that the smell was unbearable and ordered the shops to be let to goldsmiths instead. The shop windows dripping with gold jewellery are still there today, and it’s a popular place to hang out with a view of the Uffizi and the river.

La Strega Nocciola Gelaterie in Florence Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

La Strega Nocciola Gelaterie in Florence

9. Time for Gelato

One of the pleasures of Italy is the frequent stop for a gelato tasting, to cool and revive before moving on for more sightseeing. Look out for gelato artiginale, where the gelato is made on the premises from fresh ingredients, without the lurid artificial colourings you’ll find in some gelaterias. My favourite was La Strega Nocciola (Via de’ Bardi, 51) close to the Ponte Vecchio on the south side of the river, with a stylish, modern feel and delicious flavours. I also enjoyed the gelato at Vivoli close to Santa Croce (Via dell’Isola delle Stinche, 7) and Neri (Via dei Neri, 9/11) which had a neighbourhood feel and was packed with families choosing their afternoon treat.

10. Palazzo Vecchio

In Piazza della Signorina is the Palazzo Vecchio, where Cosimo I, the Grand Duke of Tuscany lived with his wife Elenora, until she sensibly moved with their eleven children to the Pitti Palace across the river. There’s a statue of Cosimo on horseback in the square and the imposing statue of Neptune in the fountain also has his likeness. At the door of the Palazzo stands a copy of the David by Michelangelo which stood here until 1873, when it was moved to the Galleria dell’Academia and now lives under its glass dome. Even if you don’t have time to visit the Palazzo apartments be sure to pass into the first courtyard to see the beautiful frescoes on the roof and walls of the loggia.

Palazzo Vecchio in Florence

Palazzo Vecchio in Florence

11. The statues in the Loggia dei Lanzi

To one side of Palazzo Vecchio is the Loggia dei Lanzi which forms an outdoor sculpture gallery, sheltered from the weather by the roof terrace of the Uffizi. The sculptures display scenes of struggle and violence, with the twisting Rape of the Sabines by Giambologna and the bronze Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini triumphantly lifting up the gory severed head of Medusa.

12. A hot chocolate at Café Rivoire

On Piazza della Signoria I couldn’t resist stopping at Café Rivoire for a hot chocolate and cannoli filled with whipped cream and candied orange peel. You pay a premium for waiter service at a table, but if you’re short on time copy the locals and order directly from the bar, which is much cheaper. It’s a great place to watch the crowds swirling through the Piazza della Signoria which is one of the busiest spots in Florence.

Caffe Rivoire in Florence Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Caffe Rivoire in Florence

13. The Old Masters in the Uffizi

The Uffizi is the main art gallery of Florence with all the masterpieces of the Renaissance and it’s a good idea to book a tour like the one offered through Citalia, or to reserve a timed ticket online. You could easily spend a whole day in the gallery, but a two hour tour will cover the most famous highlights, such as Botticelli’s Venus and Primavera and Filippo Lippi’s enchanting Madonna with two angels ( a portrait of the nun who became his lover and their children).

14. L’Accademia – Michaelangelo’s David

Another popular visit is Galeria dell’ Academia where most people come to see Michaelangelo’s sculpture of the shepherd boy David who slew the giant Goliath. The figure was carved from a block of marble that had been rejected by other sculptors and was originally intended to sit on top of the cathedral. Once complete it proved too heavy so was placed outside the Palazzo Vecchio, but later moved to l’Academia under a beautifully lit dome. After admiring the David, take a look at the ‘Prisoners’ , a series of unfinished sculptures by Michaelangelo that seem to be struggling to be released from their blocks of marble.

The David in Florence Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The David in Florence

15. The Pitti Palace Costume Museum

Walk across the river at the Ponte Vecchio and you’ll stroll through the Oltrarno district to the Pitti Palace, the residence that was purchased by Eleanora de’Medici, wife of Cosimo I who decided too move her large family away from the bustle of the city. I particularly enjoyed the Costume Museum, displaying the couture collections of notable Italian women, as well as a startling exhibit of the funeral clothes removed from the tombs of Eleanora de’Medici, her husband Cosima I and their son Don Garzia.

16. The Boboli Gardens

After visiting the Pitti Palace I wandered around the Boboli gardens, walking up through the parterres and formal gardens to the small lake with fountain at the top of the hill. The garden was commissioned by Cosimo I and is one of the Florentine’s favourite places to come and relax. On my way out I came across a spot where the view of the Duomo was framed by olive trees, the roof tiles of Florence glowing in the evening sun.

View of Florence from the Boboli gardens Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

View of Florence from the Boboli gardens

17. Dinner upstairs in the Mercato Centrale

The Mercato di San Lorenzo or Mercato Centrale was one of my favourite places to eat in Florence. Upstairs the open, industrial style space had different food stands around the walls each serving a different speciality, with bar staff who come around to take your drinks order. I admired the oozing balls of mozzarella, deliberated over the wood-fired pizza ovens, the matured beef and the fresh fish laid out on ice, finally stopping at the stall selling truffles for a plate of their antipasti covered with a generous layer of truffle shavings – heaven!

18. Designer shopping at Via d’Tornabuoni

Most of the top designer stores are to be found on Via d’Tornabuoni where I spotted Prada, Pucci, Gucci and Tiffany, to name but a few. At the end of the street, by Ponte Santa Trinita I popped into the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, a must for shoe collectors and fashion lovers. Salvatore Ferragamo learned his trade in Italy, but emigrated to California in the 1920s where he made his name selling shoes to film stars and celebrities, before returning to Florence.

Designer shopping in Florence

Designer shopping in Florence

Read more from my weekend in Florence

How to spend a perfect long weekend in Florence
10 delicious things to eat in Florence

Planning your weekend in Florence

My weekend in Florence was arranged through Citalia who are a leading specialist in Italian holidays, winning the title of ‘Best Tour Operator to the Italian Peninsula’ for seven years in a row. They have more than 85 years experience in putting together flexible itineraries to suit your needs, using Italy’s finest handpicked hotels. The Citalia team are expert and knowledgeable in all things Italian and even have local concierges in each destination for personal recommendations, advice and help with day trips, car hire, or restaurant bookings. For more information visit the Citalia Florence page

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18 things to do in Florence

Thanks to Citalia who hosted Heather’s stay in Florence. This trip was part of a project between Citalia and Travelator Media.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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Top 10 things to do in Southampton for cruise visitors

Southampton is one of those cities on England’s South Coast that’s easy to overlook. Heavily bombed in the war, it’s not the most picturesque of places, but as one of Europe’s major cruise ports, millions of cruise visitors pass through every year. Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that Southampton offers museums and cultural attractions as well as an interesting old town with medieval walls and houses. The port is gateway to the beautiful Hampshire countryside and the New Forest with many places of interest that can easily be visited in a day. So if you are visiting Southampton on a cruise, here are some of the things I’d recommend you visit in and around the city.

Top 10 things to do in Southampton

1 Walk Southampton’s old city walls

Just a short distance from the port you can walk the medieval city walls of Southampton that encircle the old town and were built to preserve the town from attack from the sea. You can still see the arcades that formed the entrance to warehouses where wine barrels were stored and walk along the top of the walls that would have overlooked the beach, a fashionable spot for sea bathing in the 18th century. At weekends there are guided tours of the wall starting at Bargate or pick up a self-guided walk leaflet from The Tudor House.

Southampton City Walls Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walk Southampton’s Old City Walls

2 Step back in time at The Tudor House

In the old quarter of Southampton, a short walk from the cruise port is the recently restored Tudor House, dating back to the 15th century. An audio guide takes you through the rooms to uncover the history of Southampton over the centuries.

The Tudor House in Southampton Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Tudor House in Southampton

There’s a pretty Tudor knot garden, views over the city walls, a kitchen laid out with food that the Tudors would have enjoyed and a glass-sided cafe overlooking the garden. For another dive into the history of Southampton, visit the nearby Merchant’s House that is furnished and preserved, as it would have been in the Middle Ages.

Getting there: Walking 10 min from cruise terminal. Adults £4.75 Children £3.75, Family ticket £13.50

The Tudor House in Southampton Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Tudor House in Southampton

3 Shop till you drop

If you enjoy shopping for international brands you’ll find them all in one place in the West Quay shopping mall in the center of Southampton. The major stores are John Lewis and Marks and Spencer with a wide range of fashion, lifestyle and technology stores as well as plenty of cafes and restaurants. If you’re looking for designer names at bargain prices you’ll find them in at Gunwharf Quays outlet shopping center near Portsmouth Harbour, which can be reached by train from Southampton, close to the other attractions of Portsmouth.

West Quay Shopping Centre Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

West Quay Shopping Centre

4 Nautical connections at SeaCity Museum

The SeaCity Museum explores Southampton’s connection with the sea over the centuries, with travellers from all over the world passing through the port. In 1912 the Titanic set sail from Southampton with most of its crew coming from the city. A poignant street map on the floor marks each person lost with a red dot, over 500 people from the city alone.

SeaCity Museum in Southampton Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

SeaCity Museum in Southampton

There are many interactive exhibits such as the Disaster room where the 1930s enquiry into the Titanic’s loss is replayed. An exhibition of Port Out Southampton Home (until June 2017) evokes the romance of the golden age of cruising from the 1920s to the 1950s.

Getting there: Walking 20 mins, Taxi 10 mins from the cruise terminal. Free shuttle bus from the terminal to SeaCity museum running 1 per hour. Adults £8.50 Family £25 Open daily 10am-5pm

SeaCity Museum in Southampton Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

SeaCity Museum in Southampton

5 The Southampton City Art Gallery

Next to the SeaCity museum is the Southampton City Art Gallery in the light and airy space above the public library. Under the high arched ceiling of the main gallery you’ll find everything from contemporary and twentieth century art to old masters and impressionists such as Monet.

Southampton City Art Gallery Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Southampton City Art Gallery

The side galleries hold regularly changing exhibitions and look out for the wood panelled gallery with a series of Pre-Raphaelite paintings by Sir Edward Burne-Jones showing the Perseus story from classical mythology.

Getting there: Walking 20 mins, Taxi 10 mins from the cruise terminal. Free shuttle bus from the terminal to SeaCity museum running 1 per hour. Free entrance although a donation is appreciated. Closed Sundays.

Southampton City Art Gallery Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Southampton City Art Gallery

6 Beaulieu Motor Museum, Palace House and Abbey

Put together a national motor museum, 13th century Cistercian abbey and stately home of the Montagu family set beside a lake, and you have the ingredients for a fun packed day out for all ages and interests. The Beaulieu motor museum is the big draw, housing over 250 vehicles from motoring history but the house is also beautiful with a lived in feel and interesting displays in the Victorian kitchens.

Beaulieu Motor Museum Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Beaulieu Motor Museum

Wander through the orchards and gardens, or get around on the high-level monorail or the open top vintage bus. If you have time, drive 10 minutes further to Buckler’s Hard, an 18th century village where ships for Nelson’s navy were built.

Getting There from Southampton: Taxi 30 mins, or Beaulieu can be booked as a cruise excursion. Entrance Adults £24, children age 5-17 £12, family ticket £64 with discounts if you book in advance.

Beaulieu Motor Museum Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Beaulieu Motor Museum

7 The Historic Dockyard at Portsmouth

At Portsmouth Historic Dockyard you can visit some of Britain’s most historic ships including Lord Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory and the Tudor warship Mary Rose. Around the waterfront are plenty of pubs and cafes for a bite to eat. The harbor scene is dominated by the 170 metre tall Emirates Spinnaker Tower, for views over the harbor from the skywalk and cafe in the clouds. A short walk away is the designer shopping outlet at Gunwharf Quays and one stop further on the train you’ll find the trendy area of Southsea with boutique stores and independent eateries.

Getting There from Southampton: taxi 30 mins, train 1 hr with 2 per hour.

Portsmouth Harbour Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Portsmouth Harbour

8 A taste of rural Hampshire in Romsey

For a flavour of rural Hampshire life visit the pretty market town of Romsey, gateway to the Test valley. Behind the tourist office is the medieval King John’s House which brings to life 750 years of history in Romsey, with a pretty garden and tea shop. Nearby is the imposing medieval Romsey Abbey containing beautiful religious art and treasures. You can join the long distance walking path, the Test Way following the River Test, past nature reserves and Broadlands, the home of the late Lord Mountbatten. Finish your day with an ice cream at Sundae’s Child or a traditional afternoon tea in one of the many cafes.

Getting There from Southampton: Bus 30 mins, 2 per hour. Taxi 25 mins. Train 30 mins, 2-3 per hour.

The Market Town of Romsey Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Market Town of Romsey

9 England’s ancient capital of Winchester

Once King Alfred’s capital, the small cathedral city of Winchester is a quintessentially English place to visit. At its heart is the ancient Winchester cathedral where Jane Austen is buried and farmer’s markets are held at weekends. Stroll along the river to see a working water mill at Winchester City Mill and the ruins of Winchester Palace, home of the Bishops of Winchester. Further up the hill is the Great Hall with a replica of King Arthur’s round table and the 18th century Peninsula Barracks with several military museums. With plenty of pubs and cafes, Winchester is a great day out for all ages.

Getting There from Southampton: Taxi 30 mins, Bus 1 hour with 2-3 per hour. Train 20 mins with 2-3 per hr.

Winchester Cathedral Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Winchester Cathedral

10 Salisbury and Stonehenge

Stonehenge is one of the best-known pre-historic monuments in Europe, featuring in many a selfie moment. The stone circle is a masterpiece of Neolithic engineering built from stones transported long distances using only simple tools, yet no-one knows for sure why it was built. Start at the new visitor center with exhibitions and Neolithic style houses, and then walk around the stone circle (but not inside it). Your visit is easily combined with a visit to the cathedral city of Salisbury, with elegant houses inside the cathedral close such as Arundells, the home of British Prime Minister, Edward Heath. Read about my visit to Stonehenge.

Getting There from Southampton: Train Southampton to Salisbury 30 mins, 2-3 times an hour, then bus from Salisbury station to Stonehenge 30 mins, 2 per hour. Salisbury and Stonehenge are typically offered together as a cruise excursion.

Stonehenge Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com


Guide Prices if you want to arrange your own cruise excursions

Taxis are available at the Southampton cruise port terminal and prices are agreed with each driver but typically a 2-3 hour return trip to attractions within 30 mins drive is £80-100. Train fares for a return ticket to places mentioned are from £5-12 return depending on distance and time of day. Bus tickets are generally a little cheaper than train but may take longer.

More information to plan your visit to Southampton

More information for visitors is available from the Discover Southampton Website and the Visit Hampshire website.

Note: I originally wrote this article for a cruise website but it was never published and has since closed so I am republishing it here, hoping that it will give some useful tips and advice for cruise visitors to Southampton.

More locations in the South of England:

A Weekend in Eastbourne – with cliff walks & fresh air
A summer day cycling in Dorset on the Jurassic Coast
Sunrise at Stonehenge – inside the stone circle

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Top 10 things to do in Southampton

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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A weekend in Coburg, Germany – castles and royal connections

The pretty town of Coburg, like many others in Germany, offers picturesque medieval buildings, a charming town square and cosy cafés to while away a weekend. But Coburg’s palaces and castles tell another tale, of an ambitious noble family that spread its influence by marriage through most of the royal courts of Europe.

A weekend in Coburg

The town is best known as the birthplace of Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, who grew up at Schloss Rosenau just outside Coburg. The royal couple visited several times before Albert’s untimely death in 1861 and Queen Victoria always had a great affection for Rosenau, writing; “Were I not what I am, this would be my real home.” Victoria and Albert were first cousins and their uncle Leopold, King of the Belgians, arranged numerous advantageous matches for his nieces and nephews around the royal courts of Europe. Small wonder then, that the town of Coburg has hosted so many royal and other notable visitors over the centuries.

The charming medieval streets of Coburg

When Guy and I visited Coburg in December, we started our town walk at the Martktplatz, the central town square that’s surrounded by pictureque medieval buildings. On one side is the town hall with a statue of the town’s patron, St Maurice standing on the gables. I’ll tell you his story in a moment, but you’ll spot that he’s holding the baton of a Roman marshal, although the people of Coburg say that his stick is to measure the correct size of their famous sausage. On the opposite side of the square is the Stadhaus, built by Duke Johann Casamir in the 1600s as the administrative centre for the Dukes of Coburg. It’s just that bit bigger and grander than the town hall with statues above the gables and prominent oriel windows on the corners – the Duke wanted everyone to know who was in charge around here!

Medieval buildings in Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Medieval buildings in Coburg

Spreading out from Martkplatz, are narrow streets with many beautiful old buildings. As we wandered around we noticed the old pharmacy on the square with a symbol of the ostrich, which dates back to the 14th century and is still a pharmacy today. Near our hotel was one of the three gates around the town, that are all that remain of the inner and outer walls that once surrounded Coburg. The town walls were largely demolished in the 18th century when they were no longer required for protection and were falling into disrepair.

Albertsplatz in Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Albertsplatz in Coburg

Nearby Albertplatz is a charming open space where we watched some ice carving and street performers as part of the Advent festivities. The houses that originally stood here were demolished to make way for the statue of Prince Albert that Queen Victoria commissioned after his death. The Queen, however, decided that there was no way her beloved Albert was to be sidelined to the second square of Coburg and so the statue was repositioned to the prime spot at the centre of Marktplatz.

Marktplatz in Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Marktplatz in Coburg

The Queen unveiled Albert’s statue herself in 1865, one of six visits she made to Coburg, the place that held so many happy memories and family connections for her. While we were visiting, the Christmas market was in full swing, so Prince Albert’s statue was enclosed by a canopy to stand under and drink our Glühwein – would Queen Victoria have approved I wondered?

St Maurice in Coburg

All around the town you might notice a moor’s head on mountains, public buildings and even man-hole covers. He’s St Maurice, patron saint of the city of Coburg as well as many other towns, who was adopted by the rulers of Coburg, to appear on their coats of arms from the Middle Ages. St Maurice was the leader of a Roman Legion and originally from Thebes in Egypt, hence North African rather than the negroid appearance he is normally given.

St Maurice in Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

St Maurice in Coburg

As a Christian, he was martyred after refusing to worship Roman Gods while on campaign in what is now Switzerland – the town of St Moriz where he died was also named after him. Around 1100 the German Emperor decided to move St Maurice’s remains to his new cathedral at Magdeburg and the procession passed through Coburg, giving rise to a cult of the saint in the town. His image appears in numerous places and coats of arms to this day, adopted by the Dukes of Coburg who were always on the look-out for something to add to their prestige.

Martin Luther in Coburg

Another notable visitor to Coburg was Martin Luther, the great reformer who spent 6 months in Coburg in the safety of the Veste fortress in 1530. This year will mark the 500th anniversary of the start of the protestant reformation, when Luther nailed his theses to the church door of Wittenberg in 1517. While his patron Elector Johann Friederich and a party of nobles continued to the diet of Ausburg to meet with the Emperor, Luther studied, worked on translations of the Bible and was in constant touch by letter with the events at Ausburg.

Luther rooms in Veste Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Luther rooms in Veste Coburg

Among the many interesting things to see in Veste Coburg are the rooms where Luther is said to have spent his time, with his portrait hanging on the wall. Since Luther had been both outlawed and excommunicated, he was supposed to stay incognito, and referred to the fortress in his letters as ‘the realm of the jackdaws” after the birds that squawked outside his window. An adjoining room was created to commemorate Luther in 1844 by Duke Ernst II of Saxony-Coburg and Gotha, which contains other paintings of Luther and the beautiful Hedwig Tumbler.

Luther and the Hedwig Tumbler at Veste Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Luther and the Hedwig Tumbler at Veste Coburg

This coloured drinking glass from the 12th century was given as a gift to Luther and was said to have originally belonged to Saint Elizabeth of Thuringia and have healing powers. Apparently it was in great demand by pregnant women, since a drink from the tumbler was said to bring the blessings of the saint for a safe birth.

A walk up the hill to Veste Coburg

From the town of Coburg, we enjoyed a lovely walk up the hill through the Hofgarten park to the fortress that overlooks the town. The Veste Coburg overlooks the surrounding countryside, with thick walls, ramparts and towers and was the residence of the Princes of Saxe-Coburg until they moved to the Ehrenburg Palace in the town in the 16th century. We spent a fascinating few hours looking around the different parts of the castle, some medieval, some more modern since this was also the home of Duke Carl Eduard of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from 1910 who installed the modern comforts of bathrooms and electricity.

Walking up to the Veste Fortress Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walking up to the Veste Fortress

The castle is now a museum containing all the art collections and treasures of the Saxe-Coburg family with everything from Venetian glass, carriages and suits of armour, to a fine collection of medieval religious paintings. You can walk the ramparts and peer down on Coburg and the surrounding countryside just like the soldiers of past centuries – if you don’t want to go in the museum, access to the courtyards and ramparts is free. Within the walls there’s also the Burgschenke Inn, which is perfect for a slice of apple strudel or a hearty Sunday lunch, after your brisk walk up the hill!

The art collections in Veste Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The art collections in Veste Coburg

Ehrenburg Palace

Coburg may be a modest sized town, but it has another large palace in addition to Veste Coburg. Ehrenburg Palace was built from 1543 on the site of an abandoned Franciscan monastery, when Duke Johann Ernst decided that it would be more convenient to live in town than in the fortress up on the hill. The palace was inspired by the fashionable renaissance palazzos of Italy and was rebuilt in baroque style after a fire in the 17th century and further improved by Duke Ernst I, father of Prince Albert.

Ehrenburg Palace in Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Ehrenburg Palace in Coburg

The lavish state apartments are painted in the fashionably bright colours of the 18th century, filled with portraits of the Coburg Dukes, the ceilings covered with ornate plasterwork and dripping with chandeliers. With relations in most of the royal courts of Europe, the Coburgs needed a place they could entertain in style such as the ornately decorated ‘Hall of Giants’ that hosted a meeting between Queen Victoria and Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph in 1864.

Ehrenburg Palace in Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Ehrenburg Palace in Coburg

Around Coburg – the castles of Rosenau and Callenberg

Just outside Coburg we visited Schloss Rosenau, the birthplace of Prince Albert and a favourite with Queen Victoria. The castle is set on a hill, surrounded by parkland and despite the colourful interiors, beautiful paintings and Biedermeier furniture, we felt the romance and human scale of Rosenau. It was used as a summer residence by Duke Ernst I, father of Prince Albert and after he married Victoria, she ordered paintings of the castle and interiors to remind the homesick Albert of his birthplace.

Schloss Rosenau near Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Schloss Rosenau near Coburg

The original paintings are in Windsor castle but copies were used more recently to restore the castle to its 19th century appearance, when it was renovated by Ernst I in romantic medieval style. There’s a point on the castle drive known as the Queen’s view, where the Queen would stop her carriage to have one last nostalgic look up at the castle on the hill, before driving back to Coburg.

Also a 15 minute drive from the town is Schloss Callenberg, which is the residence of Prince Andreas, the head of the house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The rooms are decorated with beautiful paintings and there’s an unusual shooting museum here as well as rooms dedicated to portraits and memorabilia of Victoria and Albert and their large family.

Schloss Callenburg in Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Schloss Callenburg in Coburg

Also worth a visit is the small town of Seßlach, which we visited for the Christmas market held at the beginning of Advent. It’s a pretty small town, full of picturesque half timbered houses, with cafes, inns and craft shops, a great place to stop for lunch and a wander round if you’re visiting Coburg for the weekend or driving through the region.

Sesslach near Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Sesslach near Coburg

Where to eat in Coburg

The people of Coburg are extremely proud of their Coburg Bratwurst, a long, thin, sausage that’s traditionally cooked over a wood fire of pine cones and served in a crisp white roll. It’s made with a mixture of beef and pork, with a smoky flavour from the fire which needs only a squirt of mustard for the authentic Coburg taste. You’ll find a van selling the Coburger on Marktplatz all year round, since the local butchers take turns to have a stall there.

Coburg Sausage in Coburg, Germany Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Coburg Bratwurst in Coburg, Germany

Our favourite place to eat was Restaurant 1627 which provides a light and healthy alternative to some of the ‘meat and dumplings’ dishes that are a foundation of German cuisine. It’s named after the year that the house was built to supply the Ehrenberg Palace just across the road and is part bar, part restaurant. The menu is short with just a few main course, vegetarian and desert options – my pan fried fish with salad and baguette on the side was delicious with a house cocktail.

Dinner at Restaurant 1627 in Coburg, germany Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Dinner at Restaurant 1627 in Coburg, Germany

If you want something more hearty and traditional, we also tried the roast pork and Coburg dumplings, washed down with local beer, at Brauhaus du Coburg. It serves the equivalent of pub fare and is tucked down a lane just off Marktplatz with a brewery next door where you can admire the copper stills through the window. This is the place to try the Coburg dumpling, which is made of raw and cooked potato and is very soft – like a ball of mashed potato that collapses with a sigh onto your plate.

Dinner at Brauhaus in Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Dinner at Brauhaus in Coburg

Of course, when you need a break from the sightseeing, a stop for kaffee und kuchen is a must, to cosy up in winter or watch the world pass by in summer. We liked the style of Queens Café on Albertsplatz with a wide selection of delicious cakes and light dishes – in summer it has plenty of outdoor seating on the square. We also stopped at Feyler, which has a café and impressive selection of cakes and chocolates, including seasonal biscuits like the Coburger Schmätzchen which are sold at Christmas.

Coffee and cake at Queens Cafe in Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Coffee and cake at Queens Cafe in Coburg

Delicious Souvenirs to bring home from Coburg

These days I prefer to bring back delicious edible souvenirs from my travels, rather than ornaments that will end up gathering dust on the shelf. We stopped at the Chocolate Coburg shop (Ketschengasse 9), to stock up on my favourite marzipan chocolates and at Feyler (Rosengasse 6-8) for those spicy German biscuits which vary with the season and the locality, since every region has their own variation. In winter you should look out for the Nurenberger Lebkuchen and the Coburger Schmätzchen which come plain or covered in chocolate flecked with gold leaf.

Delicious souvenirs from Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Delicious souvenirs from Coburg

At the Coburger Bratwurst stall in Marktplatz you’ll also find that they sell the cooked sausages in vacuum packs which you can easily pack in your luggage, so that you can savour the smoky flavour at home. We also enjoyed browsing the postcards and stationary at Veste-Verlag Roßteutscher (Steingasse 16) opposite the Ehrenberg palace, where we bought a gorgeous advent calendar with snow sprinkled local scenes.

Read More: Christmas in Coburg – discovering the seaonal magic in Germany

Plan your Visit to Coburg

For more information about what there is to see and do in Coburg, visit the Coburg Tourism website and follow them on their social media channels: Facebook and Twitter. You can also find information to plan your holidays in Germany at the Germany Tourism Website.

From the UK you can reach Coburg via Nuremberg airport (1 hr 15 min drive), Frankfurt (2 hrs 50 mins drive) or Munich (2 hrs 50 mins drive) and we recommend hiring a car, which will enable you to easily visit all the castles and places of interest around Coburg.

We flew from Bristol to Frankfurt with bmi regional who fly up to three times daily between Bristol and Frankfurt. One way fares cost from £93 and as with all bmi flights, include a generous 23kg of hold luggage, a complimentary in-flight drink and breakfast snack, allocated seating and a speedy 30 minute check-in.

Where to stay in Coburg

We stayed at Hotel Villa Victoria in Coburg (so many things are named for Victoria and Albert), which was the perfect place to spend a few days while exploring the town and the castles nearby. The accommodation is in a very pretty turn of the century villa, just outside the old town walls, with convenient parking outside for our hire car (although the spaces quickly filled up). In the villa are 12 rooms and ours was a most delightful suite with adjoining sitting room and view of the city gatehouse.

Villa Victoria in Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Villa Victoria in Coburg

The house had been beautifully renovated and we had the use of a guest sitting room on the same floor, with a tea and coffee station on the landing. We especially enjoyed breakfast in the charmingly furnished ground floor room, with pretty floral china and lace tablecloths. Across the road is a more modern residence, and guests staying there can also have breakfast in the villa, but I would check when you book that you can have a room in the older house if possible.

Breakfast at Villa Victoria in Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Breakfast at Villa Victoria in Coburg

Despite the name, you should be aware that Hotel Villa Victoria is more of a guest house than a hotel; for instance when we arrived mid afternoon there was no-one manning the reception and we had to call the owner who gave us instructions on how to find our key. When staying here be sure to let the owners know at what time you will be arriving and make arrangements accordingly.

Sitting room at Hotel Villa Victoria in Coburg

Sitting room at Hotel Villa Victoria in Coburg

Thanks to German National Tourist Board who hosted my visit to Coburg and to BMI Regional who covered my flight via Frankfurt.

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A weekend in Coburg, castles and royal connections

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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