So, week three of living locally and social distancing. It feels familiar now, this new normal. If you read my last post, you’ll know I’ve been entertaining myself by day dreaming about where I’d like to be, if I had this much free time under any other circumstances. Last week I took myself off to the beach, this week?  A city break.

I’m not really a city girl. I lived for a year in Edinburgh and spent a lot of time avoiding the city. I ran for the hills, literally, escaping into the Pentland Hills . But, I do love a city break. A bite size, show-me-the-good-bits, couple of days to explore a new place. A city like…

The Hometown, with Hidden Heritage…

Newcastle Upon Tyne. It’s my home town, although I haven’t lived there in a long time. When I do go back, I’m reminded that it is a brilliant city. Newcastle is notorious for the party scene and if making merry is your thing, you’ll be well catered for. But there’s much more than that. Including some pretty amazing hidden heritage.

The Lit & Phil, known as Newcastle’s secret library, is tucked away near the city’s central station.Despite being born and raised in the city, I only discovered the place last year. Expect a warm welcome, a beautiful interior, coffee, cake and books. Thousands of them. It’s strange to think of it empty of visitors as it is at the moment, but when all of this passes, it will be there. Waiting to be discovered.

Things Helen Loves, interior of Lit and Phil Library Newcastle

Fascinating parts of North Eastern heritage aren’t just found on the city streets, they also lie beneath them. Take the Victoria Tunnel; former wagon way, reinvented as a WW2 air raid shelter, reopened as a tourist attraction years after being closed up. Guided tours leave from the office in the Ouseburn area, a lovely little district finding new life beyond an industrial past.

My All time Favourite …

Berlin. I’ve visited time and again, and never seen the same city twice. There’s a buzz about Berlin that I don’t get anywhere else. Its full of history and stories and hope. Berlin is a lovely lesson of a city; it’s faced down boom and bust, war, invasion, division, reunification and tourist onslaught yet still continually reinvented itself and bounced back. We all need a bit of that spirit right now, I reckon.

TV Tower viewed through the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin
TV Tower viewed through the Brandenburg Gate.

The Dead Good City…

Step forward, Glasgow. If you’ve been around here a while, you’ll know I love a good graveyard. Tombstone tourism is my thing. I’ve been to quite a few graveyards in quite a few cities , but Glasgow Necropolis is exceptional.

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The Victorian garden cemetery is packed with monuments and memorials that create a stunning celebration of life and death. Glasgow uses the slogan People Make Glasgow. They certainly do, and the Necropolis  proves  that it’s not just the alive and kicking who make it.

Things Helen Loves, landscape of graveyard with statues

The Garden City…

Hannover, Germany. Home to the Herrenhausen Gardens, a vast open space made up of three parks each with a distinctive character of it’s own. From manicured formality to green houses full of plants from warmer climes,and all within a short tram ride of the city centre.


Incredibly, the baroque Grosse garten started out as a vegetable garden. That’s got to be the most successful garden make over, ever.

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The One with a Gorgeous Gateway…

Oslo, Norway. We day tripped the city on a minicruise .Not only is this a great way to get a taste of the city, it also involves sailing the fjord approach into the cruise terminal.

IMG_6740 (2)There’s plenty to keep you occupied, both in Oslo and on board. But sailing in and out, I’d just get settled with a drink and watch the shoreline, tiny islands and red houses drift by.

The Little One with A Lot of History…

Lovely Luxembourg. The original city comes in the form of the Casemates du Bock, a series of tunnels and chambers carved out of sheer rock. The Casemates were designed to shelter those within but also confuse the invader should they break through the defences hence the confusing layout that includes dead ends and stairs to no where. It’s a place to fire up the imagination.

Things Helen Loves Display of chocolates and Ribbons at the Chocolate House cafe in Luxembourg
The Chocolate House
A walk through the medieval streets of the old city brings you to the Grand Ducal Palace. Admire the beautiful exterior, take a tour of the inside if you want to see how the other half live. Right by the palace is the famous Luxembourg chocolate shop , The Chocolate House. Go on, treat yourself. I would (did).

The Place with People Power…

Hamburg. Wealthy city, keeper of a colourful history and even more colourful nightlife, also home to the Gangviertel. I blogged this unique Hamburg community the first time I visited, and I’m no less fascinated by this creative community now than I was then.


Artistic, welcoming, seeking a fair life and access to the arts for all regardless of income, the story of how this corner of the old working class neighbourhood was saved by a group of squatters who weren’t scared to take on a battle with developers is brilliant. The streets and alleys that make up the area are full of colour, free and very welcoming.

Things Helen Loves, Street scene Hamburg

The one with the best …

Zoo. Rail station. War memorial. Secret passageways. It might surprise you when I say, Leipzig. I’m not sure it’s a city on the radar of many British visitors keen on a German city break. It should be.

Things Helen Loves, image of old streets in LeipzigLeipzig is home to whole lot of history but it’s not stuck in the past. It also has the best zoo we’ve ever been to, complete with an amazing walk through monkey house and an indoor rain forest.


And the Place I’ve Rediscovered…

Prague. I mentioned in a recent post I’ve been scratching the travel itch via You Tube. One of my favourite views just now are the happy pair of  Honest Vlogs. Prague based, they  show sides of the city you just wouldn’t see without inside knowledge. A return to Prague is impossible for now, but I have my Must-see and Best-avoided list ready.


An Honourable Mention…

For Barcelona, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Bruges, Krakow, Paderborn. Places I  have lived or visited and enjoyed, but not blogged. If I’m travelling with the family, especially if Mr THL has been away a lot, I don’t always document it. Some times and experiences just need a place in the heart, not on the blog.

Stay safe & healthy,

Helen x





9 thoughts

  1. I’ve been thinking so much of where I would like to travel too recently, probably because I can’t at the moment! Thanks for this read, very interesting!

    1. ThingsHelenLoves says:

      Thank you Michael, and I agree. I’m more excited than ever to travel now I’ve had a taste of life without the possibility of it. Stay safe and healthy, hopefully we’ll all be back on the road in good time.

  2. I should have visited Porto last week but that’s now on the back burner. I think I’d be happy to go anywhere right now and dream about setting off somewhere new all the time. Happy Easter Helen x

    1. ThingsHelenLoves says:

      And to you, Marion. Hope you’ve had a lovely Easter weekend. x

      1. It’s been really nice considering the circumstances Helen with not having everyone home. The sunshine has helped a lot too.

  3. subdividedout8cf7e94916 says:

    What a great post. I love the diversity of cities you chose to feature. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Wow what a fabulous selection of cities, all well worth visiting. Never been to Leipzig but really want to visit there plus Dresden. Maybe after all of this lockdown is over. We’ll really appreciate those short city breaks even more won’t we?

    1. ThingsHelenLoves says:

      We certainly will, I’m starting to realise how much I’ve taken for granted!

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