Top 10 things to do in St Kitts – for cruise visitors

I loved the relaxed and authentic Caribbean charm of St Kitts, one half of the twin island nation of St Kitts and Nevis. There’s something for everyone as you discover the island’s history, take a rainforest walk, get active on the water or lime like a local on one of the island’s beaches. Here are my top 10 things to do on St Kitts, especially if you’re visiting on a cruise.

St Kitts top 10 things to do

1 A relaxed walk around Basseterre

Start your island visit with a stroll around St Kitt’s relaxed island capital of Basseterre. From Port Zante pass through the archway of the Old Treasury to the Circus roundabout (St Kitts has no traffic lights!) and spot the green Berkeley Memorial clock, a well-known St Kitts landmark. On Fort Street and Bank Street, you’ll pass market stalls and food vendors selling anything from fruit smoothies, to local lunchtime dishes.

Independence square in St Kitts Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Independence square in St Kitts

Nearby is the shady Independence square which was once the island’s slave market. The small doors at the base of nearby colonial houses lead to basements where the slaves slept before they were sold. On the square is the delightful Gallery Café, where you can see the work of local artists and take refreshment in the small café and courtyard garden.

2 The Old Treasury and National Museum in Basseterre

The Old Treasury, on the edge of Port Zante, is an impressive 19th century building built of black volcanic stone. The central archway is known as ‘The Gateway to Basseterre’, since visitors would pass through it from the port and upstairs you’ll find the small National Museum.

National Museum in Basseterre St Kitts Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

National Museum in Basseterre St Kitts

While the displays are charmingly old fashioned, there are plenty of fascinating insights into the history and culture of St Kitts, with colorful carnival costumes and national dress on display.

National Museum in Basseterre St Kitts Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

National Museum in Basseterre St Kitts

3 Sugar history at The Wingfield Estate

The stone chimneys and windmills of a once thriving sugar industry can be found all over St Kitts and at Wingfield Estate you can visit the ruins of an old sugar mill for an insight into the sugar industry. The aquaduct once brought water from the slopes of Mount Liamuiga to power the mill wheel and the old rum distillery has been uncovered, with plans to start making rum again in the future. The estate is included on most island tours but there are information signs if you visit independently by taxi and entry is free.

Restored sugar mill at the Wingfield Estate Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Restored sugar mill at the Wingfield Estate

4 Romney Manor and Caribelle Batik

Adjoining the Wingfield Estate is Romney Manor, the estate’s Great House named after the Earls of Romney who owned it for 200 years. Surrounded by botanical gardens with green lawns and flowering shrubs, the sounds of birds and glimpse of butterflies makes this a peaceful setting where the gardens blend into the rainforest. Wonder at the stories that the majestic 400 year old Saman tree could tell and visit the Caribelle Batik workshop where you can buy a colourful batik handicrafts and clothing. (there’s a small entrance charge)

Caribelle Batik at Romney Manor, St Kitts Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Caribelle Batik at Romney Manor, St Kitts

If you’re looking for a hotel on St Kitts check prices and book on HotelsCombined.com

5 Step back in time at Fairview Great House

At Fairview Great House you’ll glimpse the lifestyle of a wealthy plantation owner in the 18th century. There are elegant porches and balconies, a dining room laid with antique silver and upstairs the bedroom where Prince Charles stayed when the house was a hotel.

Fairview Great House on St Kitts Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Fairview Great House on St Kitts

Some tours also include a rum tasting or cookery demonstration and after your visit you can enjoy the well-kept gardens. The house is close to other historic sites such as Wingfield Estate and Brimstone Fort so best reached by taxi as part of an island tour. (there’s a small entrance charge)

Fairview Great House on St Kitts Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Fairview Great House on St Kitts

6 The canons and views at Brimstone Fort

A winding road brings you up through narrow stone gatehouses to Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was built by the British colonial powers in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Known as ‘The Gibraltar of the West Indies’ the fortress supported the ambitions of the English to dominate the sugar rich islands of the Caribbean.

Brimstone Fort, St Kitts Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Brimstone Fort, St Kitts

There’s a visitor center close to the car park and the most spectacular views are from the top of the stone citadel with an impressive array of canons pointing in all directions. The fort can be reached by taxi and is included on most island tours. Entrance $10US

Brimstone Fort, St Kitts Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Brimstone Fort, St Kitts

7 A Rainforest walk

The mountains that form the backbone of St Kitts are covered with natural rainforest, teeming with birds and home to the Vervet monkeys. The most demanding walk is to the top of Mount Liamuiga, best done with a local guide and requires a good level of fitness. For a gentle self-guided walk, follow the trails on the Wingfield Estate under the Sky Safari zipwire where the cries of people zipping over your head mingle with the sounds of nature. A stream trickles beside the trail and aerial roots and vines tangle in the tree canopy. To learn about the forest trees and medicinal plants in the rainforest, we recommend hiring a knowledgeable guide such as O’Neil Mulraine for your rainforest walk.

Rainforest Walk near the Wingfield Estate Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Rainforest Walk near the Wingfield Estate

If you’re looking for a hotel on St Kitts compare prices and book on HotelsCombined.com

8 The St Kitts Scenic Railway

This narrow gauge railway was built in the 1920s to deliver sugar cane from the plantations around the island to the processing factory in Basseterre. While sugar production has ceased, visitors can still board the double-decker St Kitts Scenic Railway passing over the steel bridges with views over the fields on the slopes of Mount Liamuiga. Rum punch is served while the guide gives an entertaining account sugar industry on St Kitts and at the end you’ll return by bus or by catamaran. The 3-4 hour round trip is best booked as a cruise excursion since the timetable varies depending on the ships in port.

Scenic railway on St Kitts Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Scenic railway on St Kitts

9 Get active on the water

There are plenty of watersports options on St Kitts, from glass-bottomed kayaks to exhilarating flyboarding, using water jets that shoot you high in the air. While most beaches will have kayaks, snorkels or paddleboards to rent, the best range of watersports can be found at St Kitts Watersports on Cockleshell beach. Ask about their jet-ski safari where you’ll be taken to the best snorkeling spots nearby. A half-day catamaran trip will give you an ocean side perspective of St Kitts and normally includes lunch with a stop for snorkeling. Book as a cruise excursion or through the websites of Bluewater Safaris or Leeward Islands Charters.

Watersports on Cockleshell beach St Kitts Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Watersports on Cockleshell beach St Kitts

Ask about their jet-ski safari where you’ll be taken to the best snorkeling spots nearby. A half-day catamaran trip will give you an ocean side perspective of St Kitts and normally includes lunch with a stop for snorkeling. Book as a cruise excursion or through the websites of Bluewater Safaris or Leeward Islands Charters.

Watersports on Cockleshell beach St Kitts Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Watersports on Cockleshell beach St Kitts

10 Chill on the beach

If all this activity sounds too much and you just want to lime like a local, we recommend a taxi ride to the beaches on the South East peninsula. Cockleshell Bay is one of the most popular beaches on St Kitts, with a wide range of beach bars and sunbeds to rent, although it can get crowded if there are a few ships in port. For a quieter option, try South Friar’s Bay where you can rent a sun lounger at the Carambola Beach club or bag a hammock at the more rustic Shipwreck Beach Bar at the other end of the beach.

Cockleshell Beach on St Kitts Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Cockleshell Beach on St Kitts

More articles about St Kitts:

The Stylish Traveller’s Guide to St Kitts
10 views of St Kitts that would make the perfect postcard

Where to stay on St Kitts

Visiting St Kitts on a cruise is a great way to get a taste of the island, but one day is never enough! So if you like what you see why not return for a longer stay? If you do here are some great hotels that we recommend;

Ocean Terrace Inn – with colourful contemporary style, this is a great mid-range choice if you want to stay within walking distance of St Kitts, with great views over the harbour. There’s a beautiful landscaped pool area to relax and it’s easy to access all the other attractions of St Kitts by taxi. Read my review here and you can check prices and book through HotelsCombined.com

Ottley's Plantion Inn on St Kitts Heatheronhertravels.com

Ottley’s Plantion Inn on St Kitts

Ottley’s Plantation Inn – for classic Caribbean luxury, this old style plantation house hotel has it all. You’ll stay among beautifully kept gardens, either in the Great House or in private bungalows in the grounds. This hotel is a short drive from Basseterre so you’ll need to hire a car or take taxi excursions to see the island. Read my review here and you can check prices and book through HotelsCombined.com

Rockhaven B&B – This colourful bed and breakfast is a private home with just two rooms, offering fabulous views towards the ocean from the terrace. The rooms sing with colour and incorporate local antique furniture and traditional caribbean touches, while breakfast is home cooked and delicious. Read my review here and you can check prices and book through HotelsCombined.com

If you’re looking for luxury accommodation, we suggest Kittitian Hill or Marriott’s Resort. Although I didn’t stay at these hotels I did visit them and they would be my choice for a luxurious stay on St Kitts.

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Top 10 things to do in St Kitts for cruise visitors

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

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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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Coburg: Victoria and Albert’s romantic retreat in Germany

When the 20 year old Queen Victoria of England married her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, they must have seemed the dream couple of their age. The young German prince from Coburg turned out to be a loyal husband and their marriage was a happy one, producing nine children. When we visited Albert’s birthplace in Coburg I could understand why he felt so homesick for the rolling countryside and forests of his native Germany and how Victoria shared his love of Coburg, writing “it is a feeling as if I had spent my youth here.”

Coburg Victoria and Albert's Romantic Retreat

Victoria and Albert had been introduced by their Uncle Leopald with a view to making a suitable match for the future Queen of England. Victoria’s mother Victoire and Albert’s father Ernst were brother and sister, and the marriage of cousins was common in the royal families of Europe – keeping power and wealth in the family. Once Uncle Leopald became the first King of the Belgians, he used his influence to secure advantageous marriages for his nephews and nieces, including Victoria and Albert, resulting in his nickname ‘The uncle of Europe’. It was joked that while others built empires through war, the Coburgs did so through marriage.

Schloss Rosenau in Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Schloss Rosenau in Coburg

Albert’s birthplace at Schloss Rosenau

A few years after their marriage, the royal couple made their first trip to Coburg where Albert was able to take his wife to Schloss Rosenau, the childhood home he felt so nostalgic for. Just as Victoria and Albert must have done, we entered the park along a drive lined with chestnut trees, glimpsing the castle on the hill through a gap in the trees. It’s easy to see why they would have both loved spending time here, with freedom to ride and walk in the 36 acre park, away from the public gaze and formality of the English court. Perhaps in the elegant and romantic Schloss Rosenau, Victoria could imagine what life might be like as an ordinary wife and mother, writing in her memoirs, “If I were not who I am, this would be my real home.

Schloss Rosenau Photos: http://www.schloesser-coburg.de

Schloss Rosenau Photos: www.schloesser-coburg.de

Albert’s father, Duke Ernst I had remodelled the ruined castle in a style that harked back to its medieval origins, drawing on the romantic tales of the knights of old, with a gilded Marble Hall where balls were held in medieval costume. Prince Albert was born at Schloss Rosenau and it was used by the family as their summer residence, while they spent their winters at Ehrenberg Palace. In the 1940s the castle became an old people’s home and some of the fine decoration was lost but more recently the castle has been restored by the Bavarian state to its original splendour and was re-opened to the public in 1990.

Schloss Rosenau in Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Schloss Rosenau in Coburg

There are guided tours every hour at the castle and we were lucky enough to have a tour in English – although this would normally need to be requested in advance. The castle is on a very domestic scale and the pretty dressing room and bedroom of Albert’s mother Louise reminded us that she was a young girl of just 16 when she married the 33 year old Duke Ernst. The castle was so small that guests would have to walk through her bedroom, so there was a wooden box placed on top of the mattress to store her clothes from public view. Sadly the marriage ended unhappily due to infidelity and the couple separated and later divorced with Louise dying of cancer aged only 30.

Queens View at Schloss Rosenau Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Queens View at Schloss Rosenau

Schloss Rosenhau must have held poignant memories for Albert of his childhood, and to overcome his homesickness for his homeland, Queen Victoria commissioned a series of watercolour images of the castle interiors, including a view from Albert’s schoolroom over the park. The paintings now reside in the Royal Library at Windsor, but copies are on display at Schloss Rosenau and these were used to guide the restoration of the castle to its original bright colours and furnishings.

Beside the drive through the park is a small tree, planted to mark the ‘Queen’s View’, the spot where Queen Victoria could stop her carriage as she left and have one last look back at her beloved Albert’s birthplace on the hill.

If you go:  Scloss Rosenau website 

Ehrenberg Palace in Coburg

Another palace that holds many connections with European royalty is Ehrenburg, its splendour rather overwhelming the modest town of Coburg. This is where Duke Ernst I and his wife Louise, parents of Albert, spent the winter months, while Schloss Rosenau was more suitable for summer use since the thick stone walls were difficult to heat. When we visited the palace, our tour took us through a series of beautiful rooms, where we could admire the full length portraits of Albert and Victoria at the top of the grand staircase.

Ehrenberg Palace exterior Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Ehrenberg Palace in Coburg

Their grandparents Duke Franz Frederich Anton and Countess Augusta had succeeded from impecunious beginnings in creating a powerful dynasty through their marriage policy. By marrying their children into almost all the royal households of Europe they rose in wealth and influence, and as if to emphaise their success, the portraits of the Coburg extended family hang throughout the palace.

Ehrenberg Palace in Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Ehrenberg Palace in Coburg

Among the many beautiful rooms, stuffed with chandeliers and tapestries, we admired Duchess Louise’s bedchamber, renovated in vibrant green silk to replace the original faded furnishings. The Hall of Giants, with its ornate wedding cake ceiling, was where in 1863 the Hapsburg Emperor Franz Joseph met Queen Victoria, a convenient location half way between their mutual kingdoms.

Ehrenberg Palace in Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Ehrenberg Palace in Coburg

Pride of place on the tour is the bedroom where Queen Victoria would stay on her visits, complete with the mahogany panelled water closet that she had installed. Ehrenburg Palace seems to overshadow the small town of Coburg, but then it’s quite understandable that with relations in all the royal households of Europe, the Dukes of Coburg would need somewhere suitably impressive to entertain when they came to visit.

If you go: Ehrenburg Website

Queen Victoria's room at Ehrenberg Palace, Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Queen Victoria’s room at Ehrenberg Palace, Coburg

Visiting Schloss Callenberg, home of the Coburgs

Our final stop as we followed in the footsteps of Victoria and Albert was Schloss Callenberg, the family home of Prince Andreas, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and head of the Coburg family. The castle is filled with beautiful artworks, and antiques but we especially enjoyed the two rooms dedicated to Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children.

Victoria and Albert portraits at Callenberg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Victoria and Albert portraits at Callenberg

The Ducal Art Exhibit displays the portraits of all nine children of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert with information about the ties of family and kinship that the House of Coburg holds to Europe’s ruling nobility. There are many other beautiful collections in the castle, although the large open rooms had more of a museum feel, compared to the domestic scale and character of Schloss Rosenau.

Prince Albert portrait in Callenberg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Prince Albert portrait in Callenberg

There’s also a German Shooting Museum which is a quirky change from all the portraits and antiques, taking you through the history of archery and shooting as a sport complete with laser firing range for those that want to test their skills.

If you go: Schloss Callenberg Website

Schloss Callenberg in Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Schloss Callenberg in Coburg

Albert’s statue in Coburg

After Albert’s untimely death in 1861, Queen Victoria commissioned a statue of her beloved husband for his hometown of Coburg. To emphasise his achievements he stands wearing his robes of a Knight of the Order of the Garter and holds the plans for the Crystal Palace in one hand. Originally the statue was planned to stand in Albertsplatz and a whole block of houses was demolished to create an open space.

Albertplatz in Coburg Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Albertplatz in Coburg

However Queen Victoria would not hear of her beloved Albert ending up in the second square of the town and ordered that he should be placed with rightful importance in the main square of Marktplatz. The Queen even visited the town in 1865 with her children to personally unveil Albert’s statue which stands proudly in the heart of the town, and on our visit we stood under it in the Christmas market drinking our Glühwein.

Prince Albert in Coburg Photo: http://www.coburg-tourist.de

Prince Albert’s statue in Marktplatz, Coburg

Victoria’s final visit to Coburg was in 1894 when the royal families of Europe gathered for the wedding of Victoria’s grand-daughter to the Grand Duke of Hesse. It was only 20 years before the outbreak of the First World War when even the close family ties of Europe’s royal families could not prevent cousin fighting against cousin.

The Coburg’s ‘marriage policy’ had been spectacularly successful but as the English royal family changed their name to Windsor during the First World War, many of the Coburg connections have been forgotten. We enjoyed re-discovering them on our visit to Coburg and seeing the town through Victoria’s eyes as she visited her beloved Albert’s hometown in Germany.

Read more about our visit to Coburg

Christmas in Coburg – discovering the seaonal magic in Germany

A weekend in Coburg: Castles and Royal Connections

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

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