I've recently come across the website Surprise Trips which sounds like a fantastic concept. You give them details such as your budget, trip length, and departing airport and they create a surprise trip for you. Your trip could be to anywhere in Europe, and you find out on the day you travel! I absolutely love the concept, and the destinations they travel to includes major capital cities, and smaller towns all over Europe. I thought I would write a guide to photography for some of the lesser know destinations on the list. You might know where you want to go in a capital city, but for a smaller town, it's always useful to have some advice on where to go, particularly for some good photography opportunities.
A city that really embraces craft and design, Aarhus is a truly unique destination. You can see from it’s varied and unusual architecture, just how entrenched their love of design is within the city. As with any city, it's great to wander around to discover things for yourself that you won't find in a guide book. For some unusual architecture, head to the Isbjerget to see some apartments build to resemble icebergs - truly unlike anything you’ve seen before. There's also the Rainbow panorama at the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, for fantastic colour tinted views of the city. For those interested in nature based subjects, head to the Botanical Gardens, where you can view unusual specimens in spectacular green houses.
A beautiful, picturesque city on the west coast of Norway, Bergen can be best described as adorably Norwegian. It's filled with the typical scandinavian colourful, wooden houses, and plenty of windy roads to get lost in. Head down to Bryggen, a World Cultural Heritage site, where you can see the historical Hanseatic buildings, which had a previous life as warehouses, but are now used for shops, pubs and museums. Bergen is also a fantastic place from which to explore the beautiful fjords, and a number of tours run from Bergen. On a tour you'll see spectacular mountain ranges, picturesque villages and tiny islands.
A stunning, old city on the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik is high on my list of places I'd love to visit. The old city is filled with museums, castles, and historical buildings, so there's plenty of great photographs to be taken. You can take in the beautiful terracotta coloured roofs of the old town and the vivid blue of the Adriatic Sea by taking a cable car up the hill that runs from just outside the old city. If you're looking for a break from busy city life, take a boat over to the nearby island of Lokrum, where there’s a beautiful monastery, gardens and even some peacocks roaming around.
A beautiful, chilled coastal town on the Algarve, Faro is perfect for a more laid back trip (and some idyllic photographs). The white and pastel coloured buildings make for some picturesque photographs. If you're looking for something a bit creepy, visit the Capela Dos Ossos - the bone chapel. Bones from overflowing cemeteries were integrated into the design of the chapel, making it a bit of a contrasting atmosphere to most of Faro. There's many great locations for photography near Faro too. You can catch a boat to the various caves along the Algarve coast, including the awe inspiring Grutas de Benagil.
A back drop to the filming of the last season of Game of Thrones, Girona is a beautiful, atmospheric Catalonian city near the east coast of Spain. For those of you who love a good architectural column, check out the Arab Baths, and Sant Pere de Galligants, some stunning examples of the older, yet varied architecture of Girona. It's also worth popping down to the river to see all of the orange coloured houses backing onto the water. If you’re happy to get a little further out of the town, there’s the surreal landscape of the Bardenas Reales Natural Park. You can also head to nearby Figueres, to see the Dali Theatre-Museum - a museum of Salvador Dali, and his burial site. One look at the Bardenas Reales Natural Park, you can see where Dali got the inspiration for some of his landscape set paintings.
With the dramatic back drop of the Austrian Alps behind it, Innsbruck is photograph ready. With the Alps so close, and beautiful surrounding countryside, there's plenty of photographic opportunities. As with many older European cities, it has brightly coloured buildings in the centre. But for an old city, it has a very young atmosphere, with a number of colleges and universities having campuses there. As a result of the younger, arty influence, there's a surprising amount of street art. You can also take in Innsbruck by air - either by cable car (designed by Zaha Hadid) or even a glider! Under an hour away you can head to Achen Lake, a gorgeous lake surrounded by forest and mountains.
With a slight Grand Budapest Hotel look about the old town, Ljubljana is a photographer's dream. It also looks quite Venetian in a way, so there's plenty of stunning photos to be taken. If you're fortunate to be in the city around Christmas, take in the incredible light display that centres around the Cerkev Marijinega Oznanjenja. Less than an hour outside of Ljubljana, you can visit Lake Bled. A beautiful setting, you can travel around the lake on large, sheltered row boats, and visit the church on the little island in the middle of the lake.
The capital of Sicily, Palermo is a spectacular, commanding city. With the Italian love of a good church and palazzo, if you love older architecture then this city is ideal. Whilst Sicily is Italian, it has previously been under Arab and Norman rule, which is evident in some of the architecture, creating a complimentary array of buildings to explore. In particular, it is worth visiting the Palazzo dei Normanni, the oldest royal residence in Europe. Palermo also has some beautiful beaches, and it's also worth visiting the Riserva Naturale del Monte Gallo for some stunning landscapes. Head up into the hills above Palermo to visit the Santuario Santa Rosalia, a church inside a cave, where you can also get fantastic views across Palermo.
I had the pleasure of going to Iceland back in February of this year and absolutely fell in love with the place. When I flew over, I was greeted by an Iceland completely coated in snow, but underneath it is black volcanic rock. You can do a whole host of day trips by coach, car or sea to see waterfalls, volcanoes, geysers, or the Aurora Borealis. I highly recommend going to the Blue Lagoon either on the way to the airport or on the way back. Reykjavik itself can look quite industrial in architectural style, but the people are incredibly friendly, and it's filled with lovely shops, bars and cafes. The stand out location for me in Reykjavik is the Hallgrimskirkja Church, which is absolutely jaw dropping to stand beneath.
Right on the border of France and Germany, Strasbourg is a wonderful mishmash of both cultures. Much of the old timber framed houses in La Petite France have survived since they were built in the 16th and 17th centuries, making the city centre look almost perfectly preserved. The building's design and decoration is both vast and intricate, so it's ideal for photographers interested in design. You also have the imposing Strasbourg Cathedral, a beautiful example of gothic architecture. It's also worth popping by Gare de Strasbourg to see it's spectacular glass covering. For those seeking some bigger, open space, head to Parc de L'Orangerie, a beautifully landscaped park.