Non-cliché things to do in Europe
A land of budget airlines, rich ancient and modern history, puffer-jacket enthusiasts and bilingual foodies; Europe is both a sight to behold and a walking cliché.
Some say it’s overdone – you go for a few months, attempt to speak the language, wrangle a few instagrams in front of a Church, make a joke or two about meeting an Italian model and bringing him home to Australia, cry into your pillow when it doesn’t happen, go to therapy, get over it, pack your bags and head home.
These people are the travellers who are dying to soak up every ounce of the so-called European ‘sensibility’. They go to every tourist trap and pay copious amounts of money to get the version of Europe they think they deserve. When in fact, the allure of the place lies in the streets you stumble upon, lost along the way, the people you meet, the hostel that always looks way better in the photos and the random sixteen-piece orchestra that’s playing a complete album rendition of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
So without further ado, here is our definitive list of non-cliché things to do in Europe. Say goodbye to all things generic, and hello to the whimsically untouched cobblestones less travelled.
Run the world’s only wine marathon in Bordeaux, France
Coined the ‘longest run in the world’ by virtue of the fact it’s a fully-fledged wine dash, The Marathon De Château Du Medoc is the kind of event that excites athletes and speed-walkers alike. Not for the faint hearted but also open to all athletic abilities (or inabilities), picture running through France’s greatest wine-region; its vineyards and multi million-dollar chateaus the ultimate backdrop – with a crowd favourite being Château Mouton, owned by the Rothschild family and home to its very own ‘Museum of Wine in Art’ (swanky, I know).
Take a stop at your leisure every kilometre or so for a selection of wines, cheeses, coffee and even ice cream, whilst dressed like a lunatic to the theme which changes from year to year. Held in September, expect a little bit of heat but mainly that of the wine rushing to your head and a ‘sweeper’ (that is literally a box with brooms sticking out of it, manned by helpers screaming for you to run faster) to make sure you complete the run on time. If you’re lucky enough to brush the finish line, enjoy a free celebratory beer and food fest after in the winner’s tent hosted by the marathon, a medal, a bottle of French wine and eternal bragging rights.
Marathon De Château Du Medoc
5, Rue Etienne Dieuzède, Pauillac
8th September, 2018
Ski to the sounds of Snowbombing Festival in Mayrhofen, Austria
Hosted in the heart of some of Europe’s best snow, April’s annual Snowbombing Music Festival is the ideal place to dip your toe into anything from luxury spas and ski facilities to igloo raves, alpine yoga sessions, street parties (Austria’s biggest), paragliding; snow limos, Snowlympics, Cable Car-aoke, fancy dress nights, chairlift speed dating escapades and a lineup of top EDM acts; all 8,497 feet above sea level.
9th-14th April, 2018
Eat your weight in cheese at Caseifico BIO Reggiani Factory in Parma, Italy
Tack yourself onto a Food Tour for your one and only source into the scandalous lives of manhattans Italy’s elite cheeses. From the cows who produce the milk, the creation and fermentation process and the unmissable tasting session; no stone goes unturned – including meeting the masters who test and sculpt the cheese. Trust me they know what they’re doing. We’re talking about a country so cheese-obsessed that banks take wheels (which can cost up to thousands of dollars) as collateral whilst Parmigano makers expand their factory empires. Get on it Turnbull.
Caseifico BIO Reggiani Factory
Via F.Baracca, 6
41013 Recovato di Castelfranco, Parma, Italy
Accessible via food tour and appointment
Street art meets the big leagues at the Moco Museum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Not your average art exhibition and ideal for those not completely convinced in traditional Museums – Moco is the solution. If you’ve never heard of icon and prolifically anonymous New York street artist Bansky then you’ve been living under a rock. As one of the greatest social commentators of the modern era, the permanent ‘Laugh Now’ Exhibition is something that should be seen by all. A compilation of privately owned works, expect his famous ‘Balloon Girl’, ‘Flower Thrower’ and ‘Beanfield’ (a work not exhibited since 2009), as well as ‘SWAT Van’; an installation cautioning the power of defence forces using a mixture of pre-fabricated stencils on an armoured vehicle – located outside the Museum.
As comes with the nature of having no identity, his works when released are plucked from the street and kept privately if not preserved mere hours after they are found. Hence, the idea of having so many of his works in the one place is unheard of. Keep a look out for Banksy’s constant motif of Rats, highlighting their dirtiness and ability to ‘live without permission’; much like his own ability to speak for the voiceless through street art.
Honthorststraat 20, 1071
Take a break at God’s Own Junkyard in London, England
Welcome to the largest collection of signs and neon lights in all of Europe. Salvaged from old film sets such as Johnny Depp’s ‘Charlie & The Chocolate Factory’, Jack Nicolson’s ‘Batman’ and Tom Cruise’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, light leader and neon enthusiast Chris Bracey has been collecting and creating God’s Own Junkyard for 37 years with an unsurprising cult following in both London and Los Angeles. An eyeful of salvaged signs, reclaimed neon and retro displays, LED and cathode luxury products, fairground and circus lighting and revived waste; which make the quirkiest partner for a cup of warmth and an oasis away from the English rain, aptly named ‘The Rolling Scones Café’. Get a taste for the bright and beautiful with a 360 tour here.
God’s Own Junkyard
Unit 12, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall St, Walthamstow
Stumble around at Spreepark in Berlin, Germany
After becoming insolvent in 2001, this abandoned dinosaur theme park near the Spree river of Berlin is the resting ground of old clowns, childhood memories, semi-burnt attractions and a playland of rich greenery. A cool spot to look around, take photos and get a feel for the intricacies of Berlin; including that of its past owner who with basically no money to his name and a failed Spreepark under his belt, attempted to rebuild his life in Peru by illegally sending over some of his attractions for a revived ‘Luna Park’… and then was jailed for drug possession. Weird.
Kiehnwerderallee 1-3, 12437
Be an artist with Colour by Numbers in Stockholm, Sweden
Operated by phone call or app, Colour by Numbers is a permanent interactive art installation by Erik Krikortz in collaboration with designer Loove Broms and architect Milo Lavén, which sees users change the colours on Stockholm’s Telefonplan tower. With twenty-four-hour access and a live online feed, you can test out your skills before you arrive here
Telefonvägen 18-20, 126, 37
Open 24 hours
Swim to Museo Atlántico in Lanzarote, Spain
An island from the cluster known as the Canaries and closer to Morocco than it is Spain, Lanzarote and Co. are often overlooked by travelers. What you’re missing is the only underwater museum in the world (just casually). The recently inaugurated exhibition on the South Coast is fronted by British sculptor Jason DeCaires Taylor whose cautionary works stress the relationship between humans and the environment, social change and awareness. The submerged collection of 300 figures and 12 installations are paired with the tropical island’s local sea life and double as a habitat for them. This inspired underwater experience is best accessed by scuba dive, but can also be visited by snorkelers as well.
Oficina de información del Museo Atlántico, Calle el Berrugo, 2, 35580 Playa Blanca,
Lanzarote, Palmas, Spain
Attend the Snowpolo World Cup in St. Mortiz, Switzerland
As the only high goal polo tournament in the world played on the snow, the Snowpolo World Cup gives football a run for its money. The Swiss gem that is the frozen over St. Mortiz lake, 1850 meters above sea level and a winter wonderland to say the least, becomes the field for four elite teams to compete for the notorious Cartier Trophy. With about 12,000 spectators every year the events are complimented by a luxurious pick of Swiss resorts to fill the time in between.
Snowpolo World Cup
Lake St Moritz, St. Mortiz, Switzerland
25th-27th January, 2019
Listen to the musical stylings of the ocean at the Sea Organ in Zadar, Croatia
Winner of the European Prize for Urban Public Space, this built-in musical installation designed by architect Nikola Bašić in Croatia’s Zadar, is where sounds meet the sea. Following damage in the Second World War, the concrete waterfront was reconstructed to include the creation of marble steps, which hide a range of polyethylene tubes and a resonating cavity that combined with sea winds and waves create sound. Think a larger than life version of putting a seashell to your ear. Listen here
Obala kralja Petra Krešimira IV, 2300
Open 24 hours
Step out in style with Georgios, Stavros & Pantelis Melissinos in Athens, Greece
Sandal maker to the stars (with the likes of the Beatles’ McCartney and John Lennon, Sophia Loren, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kate Moss) and deemed lovingly ‘The Poet Sandal-Maker of Athens’, the Melissinos’ are a Grecian national treasure and their hand-crafted traditional products are notorious in quality. The family company, started by Stavros’s father Georgio, in 1927 and currently led by Pantelis, lives in the heart of Athens and was often frequented by Greek Queens. Their leather sandals, bags and belts possesses that ancient, strappy style which traditional Greek goods are known for. With 32 rare variations, be sure to ask to sample the Cleopatra-esque pair crafted for none other than Jackie O.
Melissinos Poet Sandal Maker
Gias Theklas 2, 105, 54