101 Hidden Secrets of Europe
Done the whole European adventure? Been there, done that and got the t-shirt? We at St Christopher’s reveal some of the hidden secrets in some of Europe’s most popular destinations, that are definitely worth jumping back on the plane for. Places off the beaten track, the local haunts and mysterious hang outs your city guide book never led you to - plus some secret facts about cities that will fascinate you.
Only those in the know, will know some (but not all) of these 101 Hidden Secrets of Europe.
1 The prettiest street in Paris is the Rue Crémieux. This gorgeous Parisian street is lined with pinks, greens, yellows and blues.
2 Paris has the most libraries in the world with 830 around the city. Visit the oldest, grandest and most beautiful library in the city Bibliothèque Mazarine before it turns into another tourist hotspot!
3 The most visited monument in Paris isn’t actually the Eiffel Tower, it’s the Notre-Dame cathedral.
4 Paris has plenty of events, pop-ups and temporary exhibitions on every month to keep you entertained however many times you've been to the city. Keep up to date with our Top 10 Things Happening in Paris each month.
5 Once a month at the Dimanche Rouge, artists come together to turn willing visitors into quirky pieces of live art. Expect to see faceless humans, live bananas or meat-themed creations…
6 The shortest road in Paris, the Rue des Degrés, can be found in the 2nd arrondissement and is just 5.75 metres long.
7 La Campagne à Paris is a real hidden gem in the 20th arrondissement. Here you’ll find 92 of the quaintest houses in the city all perched on a mound.
8 The oldest cafe in Paris was founded in 1686 and is called Le Procope.
9 Paris’ patisseries are world renowned, however if you don’t make Maison Carton your first port of call, you’re doing something wrong.
10 One of the best places to party with locals is Rex Club. Check out our Clubbing Guide to Paris.
11 Parisians do brunch better than anyone with some seriously tasty spots dotted around the city.
12 Belleville is a Parisian neighbourhood full of quaint side streets, hills with stunning views and one of the best cafes in the city, La Mer à Boire.
13 The Tate Modern isn’t just a stunning, age old gallery. If you head up to the 10th story to the public terrace, you'll get views to die for. And it’s FREE!
14 Did you know that almost all of London’s most fascinating and famous museums are free to enter?
15 For the best bagel in London (that’s open 24/7 and mega cheap) head to Brick Lane’s Beigal Bake in Shoreditch. People come from far and wide to taste the salt-beef, pickle and mustard bagel inbetween checking out all the other quirky spots in Shoreditch.
16 There’s a street called ‘Cock Lane’ which got its name from being the only licensed street for housing brothels in medieval times.
17 There’s also Ha Ha Road in Greenwich… Haha.
18 One of the prettiest streets in London is Kynance Mews. Check out the Prettiest Streets in Europe.
19 Black cab drivers had to pass the ridiculously challenging test of all London’s routes called ‘The Knowledge’. They had to master 320 basic routes around over 25,000 streets.
20 London’s hottest restaurants are the city’s best kept secret. It’s so easy to be lured in by tourist traps but we’ve got you covered. For the best affordable food where the locals dine, we recommend:
- The best pizza
- The best fish and chips
- The best vegan food
- The best Sunday roast
- The best affordable sushi
- The best bottomless brunch
21 If you're after the view at the Shard, don't bother paying for 'The View at the Shard'... Head up to the Aqua Shard bar for free and take in the epic views with a cold beer for less than half the price!
22 London loves a pop-up event, so there’s always loads of cool, quirky things happening throughout the year. Keep up to date with our monthly guide to what’s on in London.
23 The London Underground, was built in 1863, and was the first metro of the world. The tube system can be tricky to master, but our guide on How to Travel Around London gives some great tips.
24 In summer, the Roundhouse in Camden turns into an urban beach and one of the best rooftop bars in London. Grab a cocktail and bask in that British sun!
25 Allada Vermell is one of the most picturesque spots down an alleyway in the heart of the Barcelona. Who knew a simple, wooden door surrounded by green plants in terracotta pots could be so photo-worthy?
26 The Antic Theatre attracts a young crowd but has managed to stay under the tourist radar. The open-air terrace and beautiful, old Catalan buildings make this a worthwhile visit.
27 Check out Barcelona’s very first bar located in a 200-year old crumbling building. Marsella is a popular choice for locals and tourists alike who are charmed by its sense of history. It's also one of the city's most affordable bars.
28 It may look like an old factory, but step into the courtyard and you’ll be in the midst of an urban jungle. Palo Alto attracts visitors for its monthly market but it’s actually open most days for anyone to hang out in.
29 If you fancy a litre of beer, head to L’Ovella Negra, the local student favourite. Barcelona is full of amazing beer spots.
30 There’s always temporary pop ups and fun things going on in Barcelona. Keep up to date with our guide on 10 Things Happening in Barcelona each month.
31 For cheap eats that won't let you down, these cool, local eateries are simply delicious.
32 The remains of the Temple of Augusto are rarely stumbled upon by tourists in Barca’s Gothic Quarter at Calle Paradís 10, but the 2,000 year old columns are a sight you shouldn’t miss.
33 A few minutes out of the city you’ll find the Jardin de Cactus de Mossèn Costa i Llobera - a park absolutely full of different cacti and amazing photo opportunities.
34 Head to Bogatell Beach for a quieter and more relaxed Barcelona beach experience than if you were to head to Barceloneta… Far less crowded and just a 10 minute walk away.
35 The Catalan tradition of attempting to build a human tower has been a thing in Barcelona since the 18th century. If you’re in the city and manage to glimpse this happening, you see that it’s actually very impressive!
36 Barcelona is home to some of the best food and flea markets in Europe. How many have you visited if Barca’s already ticked off the list?
37 It also boasts some of Europe’s most remarkable art spots (and, of course, architecture).
38 The vegan food scene in Amsterdam is booming, but you need to know where to look.
39 Do an early Thursday morning yoga session at one of the coolest rooftop bars in Amsterdam. Nest is one of the best spots for a glorious sunset over the city with a cold one.
40 The best place to party with locals is AIR Amsterdam with music to anyone’s taste.
41 If you want a real feel for the classic Dutch dishes whether its stroopwafels or herring, we've got some great recommendations here.
42 Electric Ladyland is the brightest spot in Amsterdam. This psychedelic art gallery is all about the fluorescents including an entire room that glows from top to bottom.
43 Only in Amsterdam would you be able to yell “backie” at a local riding a bike with a yellow rack on the back wheel, and get a lift anywhere you need to go. That’s Amsterdam-style hitchhiking for you!
44 Between April and September at the Alkmaar Cheese Market (a train ride out of the city) watch as hundreds of cheese wheels are weighed by cheese bearers in fun outfits. You’ll get to have a few samples, too. YUM.
45 Amsterdam is home to the world’s first specialised condom shop.
46 Smoking cigarettes was banned in cafes and restaurants in 2008, yet smoking weed is still allowed in coffee shops… So why not join in in one of the best coffee shops in Amsterdam?
47 Where else in the world would offer a tour with retired sex workers? The 70-something year old twins in charge of this quirky activity sure have some stories to tell!
48 Cat lovers, take note. The world’s only floating cattery can be found on Amsterdam’s canals. Consisting of two barges, tourists are welcome to visit and pet these friendly felines.
49 Dancing was forbidden in Amsterdam at the start of the 20th century.
50 Some of the city's best activities and exhibitions are only open for a short amount of time. Make sure you check out what's on during your visit with our Top 10 Things Happening in Amsterdam this Month.
51 The longest beer garden in the world is actually not in Bavaria, but in the German capital city. And did you know Berlin has its very own beer specialty, the Berliner Weiße. Check out the best beer spots in Berlin.
52 Berlin is known as the student and party capital of Europe. One of the reasons for this is because of its epic raves and insane festivals.
53 Berlin has the only place in Europe that you can have a go at base flying. Free-fall 410ft from the roof of Park Inn.
54 One of the best free activities to do in Berlin is the karaoke in Mauerpark every Sunday. Head to the amphitheatre to belt it out or just watch and enjoy!
55 There are 180 museums in Berlin and on average 106 rainy days per year. That’s more museums than rainy days! Our favourite is the Neues and Bode museum on Museum Island, and the Jewish Museum amongst a few others you shouldn't miss seeing.
56 On an average day 950 Döner spits are eaten in the city, and with each spit holding 63 kg, that’s 60 tonnes of meat a day. There are over 1,600 places to enjoy a doner kebab in the city but our favourites are Mustafas, Imren and Tadim.
57 Berlin is full of cool, quirky things to do that might only be on for certain amounts of time. Keep up to date with our Top 10 Things Happening in Berlin each Month.
58 Berlin’s walls are plastered in colour. Every year the city spends €35 million on cleaning graffiti off its walls. However, new street art pops up all the time (and it’s pretty impressive). Check out the best street art spots in Europe here.
59 There are 1,000 ways to buy cheap beer at all hours. With 1,000 Spätis (late night stores) in the city, we all live safely in the knowledge that our saviour lies just around the next corner.
60 Berlin has more bridges than Venice – around 1,700 of them. It's also said that Berlin has more waterways than Amsterdam, Stockholm and Venice COMBINED. The most famous and instagrammed bridge is the Oberbaumbrücke between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain.
61 Berlin is nine times the size of Paris but with a wayyyyy smaller population which is why it seems so spacious and airy.
62 Within Berlin there are over 180km of navigable waterways – Hire a kayak or take a boat tour for an interesting perspective of the city.
63 At 368 metres the Berliner Fernsehturm (Television Tower) is the tallest building in Germany and one of the tallest constructions in Europe. You can go up and enjoy panoramic views from the top.
64 Berlin is home to the largest department store in continental Europe. Kaufhaus des Westens, or KaDeWe as it is more often known, has over 60,000 square meters of display space spread over 8 floors.
65 It’s no secret that Belgian beer may be some of the world’s best, but where the best in Bruges lies is a whole other debate. Find out the top 7 beer spots here.
66 Not all chocolate shops in Bruges are truly made in the city. To make sure you’re buying the real stuff, look for a sign saying ‘handmade’ in the shop window. Check out the best chocolate shops in the city.
67 While we are talking about chocolate, the best hot chocolate in Bruges can be found at The Old Chocolate House.
68 There are more castle in Bruges per square inch than any other country in the world.
69 French fries, or ‘frites’, and mayonnaise is a local favourite. Head to one of the two green carts in the Markt square for your fix (or there’s even a Frietmuseum!)
70 Pet the sheep at Hof de Jonghe park. It’s a little journey out of the main city centre however if you like cute, bah-ing sheep and quirky activities, it’s worth it.
71 A lot of people reckon the Belfry Tower is slightly leaning. Have a good, long look and decide for yourself.
72 Bruges has a small body of water dubbed ‘Minnewater’ or ‘the Lake of Love’. Legend goes that the beautiful sailor’s daughter Minna died in the arms of her star-crossed lover, the young warrior Stromberg, at this very spot.
73 Party squat: Donkey squat is a dungeon-like squat that hosts art exhibitions and throws great parties with a ravey feel to them. It’s a hotspot for skaters in the winter as it boasts an indoor ramp.
74 The best night shop in Bruges is KWIK-E-SHOP because it has the friendliest and most amusing owner, Malik who likes to be called Apu (from the Simpsons perhaps?). He treats every customer as if they’re royalty. This shop has won an award for being the best night shop.
75 Potato bar, as the name suggests, screams potatoes. Even the bar is made from potato crates. Selling delicious Brugean frites as well as homemade croquettes filled with authentic fillings such as eel and asparagus, this place is definitely worth a try.
76 Sometimes in Bruges, a house is just abandoned. The roof of a small house in Bruges (now called Secret Garden) was rotting away, until it was roofless. Some neighbours decided to reclaim the space and make something beautiful out of it. A secret garden with countless pots with herbs and flowers.
77 Take a free walking tour to hear about the ghostly legends of Bruges, starting with the old Augustian Monastery where a monk searches for the nun he murdered for trying to run from him…
78 Gotye, you know, the guy that sang that banger from a few years ago 'Somebody that I Used to Know', he was born in Bruges!
79 Head to the Royal Library Garden for an oasis of peace and quiet in the middle of busy Copenhagen. Go on a sunny afternoon and relax amongst the beautiful beds of flowers.
80 Like porridge? Head to Grød for a seriously tasty bowl of the stuff.
81 You can rent a kayak and see Copenhagen’s sights from another perspective.
82 CUB Coffee Bar serves up one of the city’s most delicious brews, plus it’s underground making it feel cosy and a little bit secret. Discover the greatest local coffee shops in the Danish capital, recommended by coffee expert and ex-barista The Travelling Barista.
83 It's not much of a secret once you get there, but Copenhagen’s drinking laws are pretty relaxed when it comes to having an alcoholic beverage in public.
84 Copenhagen has a self-governing ‘freetown’ called Christiania where smoking weed is legal and taxes are non-existent. Definitely visit, however taking photos in some parts is forbidden.
85 Join the locals and sweat it out in a sauna in Christiania district of the city. It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday from 12pm until 9pm.
86 More than 50% of locals in Copenhagen cycle to work. Hiring a bike during a visit is a must but check out our first-timer’s guide to cycling there first - it’s a little confusing…
87 Take a trip out of the city and cycle amongst deer in the picturesque Dyrehaven Park.
88 The Cisterns by Frederiksberg Castle were once a water reservoir that was filled with 16 million litres of drinking water. Now it’s a dark, underground exhibit space - a cool attraction that not many people know about.
89 Have a drink at Christiania’s oldest bar, the Woodstock Cafe, where beer is cheap and the locals are always keen to strike up conversation.
90 Visit Nørrebro, a cool area of Copenhagen that’s off the beaten track, for amazing street art, quaint cafes and quirky shops.
91 Legends says that the creator of Prague’s Astronomical Clock Tower was blinded by the Old Town councillors with a hot poker out of fear that he would recreate the clock in another city, making this one less famous and unique. And yet it’s been replicated in Seoul, South Korea, to look exactly as it does in Prague!
92 Karlovy Lázně in Prague’s city centre is central Europe’s largest club. There are a whopping 5 stories of bars, dancefloors, different themes (including an ice bar) and music to suit anyone’s taste.
93 The John Lennon Wall may be one of the city’s most popular places to visit, but John Lennon himself never actually visited Prague.
94 Prague Castle is the largest castle in the world and has a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.
95 Prague locals consume the most beer per capita in the world.
96 Prague has plenty of microbreweries if you’re looking to sample some decent beer however for a real selection, head to the Beer Museum where there are 30 different beer types on tap. Check out the best beer spots in Prague.
97 The famous Charles Bridge is actually haunted by ghosts, and lots of them.
98 You can visit a beer spa. Bathe in beer, drink unlimited amounts and, apparently, revitalise your skin!
99 The narrowest street in Prague is only 50cm wide and has its own traffic light system to prevent pedestrians from awkwardly bumping into each other and getting stuck in the middle.
100 Prague is home to the world’s second ugliest building, the Zizkov Tower.
101 Head to Riegrovy Sady with a picnic and beer money for amazing views of Prague on a sunny day, it's one of the best summer spots in the city.
Which secret will you discover next?
Article by Darcy King and Shereen Sagoo