Best of European Travel
Review: 58 Tour Eiffel, Paris
Tourist fare or tour de force? Tiana Templeman takes a chance on a dining experience at the iconic Eiffel Tower.
It is hard not to feel just a little bit smug as we stroll past the enormous lift queues and join the small line for those dining at 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant.
My husband and I are heading to the first floor of the Eiffel Tower for an evening of French wine, fine cuisine and romance.
Or, at least that’s what we hope.
We could also be heading for two hours of dining hell with bad function food, cheap vino and every tour group in Paris.
With the iconic wrought iron structure towering above us, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the excitement as everyone in the restaurant’s exclusive lift jostles for position, eager to catch a glimpse of Paris and tonight’s dining venue.
Our sense of expectation (and impatience) builds as we mill around the grand double doors that open with a flourish at precisely 6.30pm; everyone is seated across the restaurant’s two levels in minutes, with tour groups allocated a separate area, away from the intimate tables for two and four.
58 Tour Eiffel offers three pre-booked options for dinner, priced from $118 to $165, depending on the table location and whether wine is included.
It’s our lucky night because our mid-priced ‘privileged seating in the main room’ booking ends up having the same Trocadéro view as the most expensive tables, albeit one row back from the window.
With two two-hour seatings per night, 58 Tour Eiffel runs with military precision, although our friendly waiter manages to give the illusion that his guests have all the time in the world.
We have just finished our welcome glass of Champagne when the entrée of spiced king prawns arrives, served atop a colourful scattering of avocado, grapefruit and sweet edible blooms.
The dish is far better than we expected from what is essentially a tourist restaurant.
The roast herbed guinea fowl breast that follows, with mashed potato, green asparagus and mushroom cream is quintessentially French and equally impressive, as is my husband’s choice of grilled lamb.
Fortunately, there is a break before the rich chocolate marquise for dessert, which leaves us time to enjoy the view and another glass of wine before we end our evening with a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower, bien sûr.
58 Tour Eiffel, Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars, Paris, France.
The IT Verdict
With food and service that exceeds expectations, this iconic dining experience delivers.
Location: 10 / 10
Dining atop the Eiffel Tower is hard to top.
Style / character: 6 / 10
The food and the view beat the bland, beige décor.
Service: 8 / 10
Friendly and professional.
Atmosphere: 8 / 10
Bustling and lively with a touch of romance.
Value for money: 8 / 10
Better than expected given the exchange rate.
You can also visit for a picnic-style lunch without a reservation.
All IT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.
Review: Hotel National Moscow
During a harsh Russian winter, Amy McPherson checks in to one of Moscow’s most historic hotels to find warmth in old-fashioned glamour and borscht.
This year marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution, and for more than 100 years Hotel National Moscow has witnessed the country’s political transformation, from imperial reign through to communist rule and the fall of the Soviet Union.
Arriving in Moscow, it seems only fitting to stay in a hotel that can match the city’s fascinating history.
The doorman, dressed in a long trench coat and polished leather shoes tips his top hat as I approach.
“Welcome ma’am,” he says holding the door open with a gloved hand.
In the reception, chandeliers hang from high ceilings; large picture windows that look out towards Red Square are framed with thick, luxurious red curtains trimmed with gold tassels; and on the opposite wall a heavily decorated mirror complements the Art Nouveau furnishings.
My Junior Suite is spacious and has the same regal ambience as the reception.
Everything about the room is impressive, except for the view: opening the windows I’m greeted by the sight of the roof of the bar below.
Never mind; I set out to explore the hotel.
I descend via the grand staircase and follow its intricate railings, stained glass windows and royal red carpet to the second floor in search of room 107, where a plaque informs me that Lenin lived and worked here in March 1918.
Intrigued, I continue further down the corridor to find a gallery of all the guests of political and social importance who have stayed here.
I am surprised to find a picture of a pre-presidential Barack Obama hung not far from the portrait of Stalin.
How times have changed!
Hungry but not yet brave enough to take on Russia’s savage winter, I dine at the bar I can see from my window, Bar Alexandrovsky.
At 6pm it is already busy with guests enjoying pre-dinner drinks – perhaps why the service is inconsistent.
It takes a while for me to get someone’s attention long enough to ask for a menu, and another while to flag down a waiter to place my order.
I order a beer (the Siberian beer is excellent), borscht (beetroot soup) and the ‘House Special’ beef stroganoff.
As I wait, a woman, dressed to the nines, conspicuously loiters around the bar.
Ten minutes later, a lone man approaches, pays for her drink, before the two leave together.
I suspect that the hotel, as one of the oldest in Moscow, must have some tolerance for the world’s oldest profession.
My food arrives and the borscht instantly warms me inside and out, while the beef stroganoff is the best I’ve had by far.
The following morning there’s an excellent choice on offer at the buffet breakfast, and the dining room on the first floor has big windows with a perfect view of Red Square and the Kremlin.
There is no better way to wake up to Moscow, and I dine on blinis with fresh fruit thinking of the ghosts of revolutions past.
Hotel National Moscow; 15/1 Mokhovaya Str. Bld. 1, Moscow, Russia.
The IT Verdict
This historic hotel has the feel of an imperial estate. Perfect for those interested in Russian history.
Location: 10 / 10
Situated just across from the Kremlin and Red Square, and a block from the Bolshoi Theatre.
Style / character: 8 / 10
The hotel wears its history on its sleeve and has a romantic, old-school glamour.
Service: 7 / 10
Staff have varying degrees of experience and are mostly friendly.
Rooms: 8 / 10
The Junior Suite is impressive but could do with a better view.
Food and drink: 9 / 10
The menu has something for every taste and the bar is well stocked.
Value for money: 9 / 10
I paid $517 per night; great value for a 5-star hotel of such standing.
All IT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.
5 reasons you need to visit George Street, Edinburgh
Leigh-Ann Pow checks her credit card balance and sets out to stroll one of the Scottish capital’s most stylish streets.
Bookended by Charlotte Square at one end and St Andrews Square at the other, Edinburgh’s George Street is lined with the type of gracious Georgian architectural gems that the Scottish capital is so well known for.
Situated in the city’s New Town, the term is relative: the confection of grand townhouses, imposing bank buildings and wide squares were created from 1767 to the 1830s to ease the overcrowding in the Old Town, the ancient warren of tenements and closes crowding The Royal Mile.
Nowadays these buildings house some of the Scottish capital’s most desirable boutiques, restaurants, bars and hotels.
1. Having replaced a collection of dreadfully uninspiring 1960s and ’70s office blocks and a depressing bus station, Harvey Nichols department store is a soaring piece of modern architecture that reflects and enhances the historic architecture that surrounds it.
Inside it’s a fashionista’s dream come true, with every designer brand imaginable available for the taking.
The Forth Floor Window Bar is also one of the hottest places in town to meet for a drink and soak up the view across Edinburgh to the Firth of Forth.
2. Cruise has been catering to the cutting-edge fashion needs of the city’s bright young things for well over 30 years, and was a style oasis back in the days before the likes of Harvey Nics moved into town.
Its longevity comes from its brilliantly curated collection of designer names (which after starting in menswear now includes women’s and kids’ fashions) including the likes of Kenzo, Vivienne Westwood, Dolce & Gabbana and Saint Laurent.
3. Open since 1866, and by appointment to the Queen no less, Hamilton & Inches is a glory box of pretty shiny things.
Generations of Scottish girls have dreamt of picking out engagement rings here; if you aren’t in the market for one, content yourself with window shopping.
4. At number 7 Charlotte Square, The Georgian House was completed in 1796 for the Clan Lamont chief.
Now beautifully restored to reflect a typical New Town house in the late 18th and early 19th century, it gives an irresistible glimpse into the day-to-day life of Edinburgh’s great and good at this time.
5. With its entrance flanked by hulking Corinthian columns, The Dome is a breathtaking proposition to behold, and that’s before you even get a glimpse of the stained-glass dome at its heart.
The former bank building is the go-to place for locals to meet friends and family, and impress out-of-towners, with everything from coffee and cake, to lunch or dinner and drinks on the menu.
The Georgian Tea Room is one of the best places in town for afternoon tea.
5 picturesque villages and hamlets to visit in Italy
Italy isn’t defined by its cities alone; its impossibly picturesque villages and hamlets are big on beauty, drama and history.
For centuries travellers have flocked to Italy to experience its headlining cities and be mesmerised by their seemingly endless beauty and rich history.
But the true soul of the country can perhaps better be found away from the hustle and bustle, in the exquisitely picturesque small villages and tiny hamlets that are dotted across the country.
Here a more relaxed, traditional pace of life pervades, as time is metred out in lazy hours spent wandering cobbled streets or lingering over a meal of time-honoured local dishes.
But there is also no shortage of sights to take in, nature to experience at first hand, and history and drama to trace in their small but evocative surrounds.
1. Castellaro Lagusello
Sitting between Verona and Mantua in the dramatic Lombardy region, Castellaro Lagusello is perched on the edge of a small heart-shaped lake and has an exquisite sun-bleached beauty to its proud stone buildings.
Time here can be spent getting lost in the maze of narrow streets, witnessing the charm of local life, or exploring the countryside of hills and lakes by bike.
The local cuisine honours its ancient farming traditions: try capunsei, bread dumplings, the recipes for which dates back centuries.
Located 80 kilometres south-west of Palermo on the island of Sicily, Gangi was voted the most beautiful village in Italy just a few years ago.
Visitors here will be lavished with palaces, castles and the kind of atmospheric cobbled streets that would constitute most people’s fantasy of what Italy should be.
Plan your visit for summer and take in the annual Memories and Traditions event, when scenes from ancient life play out on the streets.
Just a few kilometres from the Riviera dei Fiori (Coast of Flowers) in the Liguria region, the colourful houses of Apricale, many of them festooned with murals, crowd around a lovely piazza, the focal point for the many festivals celebrated here every year.
After visiting the Castle of the Lizard, with its compelling museum, indulge in the other local attraction: food.
Specialities include sardenaira, a sort of oven-cooked pizza with tomato and sardines, and pansarole, a sweet pancake smothered in warm sabayon.
Filled with medieval charm, the Sardinian hamlet of Castelsardo offers up sea views, pristine nature and a rich history that can be traced through its buildings, from the Gothic cathedral to the imposing castle perched high above the quiet bay below.
Walk to the castle tower before sitting down for lunch of spaghetti with lobster at a family-run restaurant filled with locals.
5. Monte Isola
With the waters of Lake Iseo gently lapping at its edge, the tight little clusters of terracotta-roofed houses that make up the 11 hamlets and villages of Monte Isola in the province of Brescia are home to just 1800 people.
Get off the ferry at Porto (the island is blissfully car free) and head to the medieval castle in Siviano, before strolling the alleys of Masse or Novale.
There are more castles and fortresses at Peschiera and Sensole, while Cure has views out to the lake..
More information: Head to Italian State Tourism Board.
Travelling to Italy soon? Check out:
- Italy's 8 secret travel gems.
- Hitting the Italian slopes with the ‘new’ Club Med
- Rome’s best bars for drinks
All IT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way - so we experience exactly what you would.
City guide to Padua, Italy
This vibrant northern Italian city has a venerable history that has seen Trojans, Romans and some headlining astronomers walk its ancient cobbled streets over the millennia.
Padua is known for
The university, Giotto’s frescoes, galileo galilei
Padua's Eat streets
Pizzeria Al Duomo’s pizza is considered the best in the city, while Gelateria Artigianale da Bruno has award-winning gelato for afters (Via Montà, 83).
For something a little more upmarket, Antica Trattoria Zaramella, is a local institution that has two Michelin stars for its traditional dishes.
Gran Caffè Diemme is another firm favourite for its food and welcoming staff, on the lovely Piazza dei Signori.
Out and about in Padua
Supposedly founded in 1183BC by the Trojan prince Antenor, Padua owes much of its reputation to the frescoes of Giotto, the glory days of the Renaissance, residents of the likes of Galileo and Copernicus, and William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, which was largely set here.
When exploring the city, start at Scrovegni Chapel, with Giotto’s masterpiece fresco cycle telling the story of Jesus and the Virgin Mary; there are more works by Giotto, as well as Donatello, in the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua.
The Palazzo della Ragione is a vast medieval hall, built in 1218 with a beautiful painted wooden ceiling.
And the Museum of Jewish Padova in the restored ‘German’ synogogue tells the Jewish story in Padua.
On the weekend Paduans escape to the Euganean Hills just south of the city to bask in the bucolic surrounds, scattered with castles, farms and wineries open for tastings.
There have been markets at Prato della Valle since 1775; each Saturday stalls selling everything from fashion to flowers pop up, with an antique market held on the third Sunday of the month (turismopadova.it).
The ultimate experience
The University of Padua, the second oldest in Italy, is steeped in history: take a guided tour of the Palazzo Bo at its heart and see the spectacular wooden anatomical theatre inaugurated in 1595, and the Aula Magna, the great hall where Galileo taught.
Caffé Pedrocchi (Via VIII Febbraio, 15, 35122) is an attraction in itself, with a 200-year history of serving up coffee to the great and good of Padua. The pastries are to die for too!
Caffeine (Via Rome, 94/96, 35122) is a luxe cafe-cum-bar with a big menu and a funky vibe.
Where to Stay & play in Pauda, Italy
A quirky family-run hotel with colour-themed rooms (Red Passion, Orange Life, Blue Dream, White Truth), Hotel al Fagiano is close to the city’s historic heart.
Hotel al Prato is a light, bright boutique hotel of 16 rooms, housed in a restored 16th century building on the Prato della Valle, the largest piazza in Italy.
Beyond its gloriously restored exterior, Methis Hotel & Spa is a haven of muted tones and modern chic.
City guide to Hull, England
It’s still gritty, but the northern English port city of Hull (or, officially, Kingston-upon-Hull) is having a cultural renaissance.
Hull, England is known for
Its port, art in 2017, poet Philip Larkin
Hull's Eat streets
Head to Humber Street, with newly laid cobblestones, in the Fruit Market cultural quarter for good meals in cool, repurposed industrial spaces.
Try gourmet tapas at Ambiente and an experimental menu at bistro-style Butler Whites.
Nearby, you’ll also find Indian fine diner Tapasya@Marina, (tapasya.org.uk).
Local institutions Cerutti’s, a family-run seafood restaurant that’s been doing its thing on the site of Hull’s old pier since 1974, and pub and steakhouse Humber Dock Bar & Grill (known as The Green Bricks until recently) offer a thread of tried-and-tasted continuity to this rapidly changing area.
Out & about
The British public was bemused when it was announced, four years ago, that Hull would be the UK City of Culture in 2017: in 2003 it was voted number one Crap Town in Britain.
But serious money and creative nous has gone into regenerating this ancient, gritty port city whose number one attraction before now has been its huge aquarium, The Deep.
Those looking to engage in some world-class culture can let the Hull 17 program be their guide.
Much activity is focused on the old fruit market’s redevelopment, and the Ferens Art Gallery (based in the Old Town, which has its own charm) will host the Turner Prize this year.
If you’re getting cool-new-art-space overload, head to residential West Hull for a gig at the city’s alternative music institution, The Adelphi Club. Once a three-bedroom terrace house, this tiny and insalubrious-looking venue has seen Radiohead, The Stone Roses, Pulp and many more grace its stage, and is where local band The Housemartins started life.
Look out for the Humber Street Market on the third Sunday of every month at Fruit: arts, crafts, records and vintage clothes plus craft beer, street food and live music.
The ultimate experience
visit multifaceted new venues like humber street gallery, a three-storey contemporary arts space that exhibits visual art, film, photography and more and also houses a cafe and rooftop bar.
Thieving Harry’s is based in the Fruit Market quarter, overlooking Hull’s marina, and makes coffee using beans from a local specialty roasters.
It does a great line in brunch and grilled cheese too. Coffee nook Caffeinated in Trinity Market and hidden-away Liquid Jade in the Old Town will hit the spot too.
Where to stay & play
Book the Olde Town Victorian Hideaway, 1869 through Airbnb for a cosy base that’s next to ‘England’s smallest window’.
A Victorian-era hotel in the Old Town, Kingston Theatre Hotel offers classic rooms and full English breakfasts.
Occupying two floors of a townhouse that dates back to the 17th century, the boutique Arthouse Apartment merges vintage and modern stylings.
What to do in Stockholm when it rains
Don't let the rain dampen your trip away, here are six things you can do in Sweden's capital Stockholm when the heavens open up.
1. Take a fika
Absorb local culture by taking a fika. Essentially meaning a coffee break with a cake or pastry (the cinnamon bun or kanelbullar is a favourite), ‘fika’ can be used as both noun and verb and is a word – like hygge in Danish – that’s hard to define and very much of its place.
The key ingredient? Sit back and slow down. You’ll find no shortage of cool and cosy Stockholm cafes in which to fika!
2. Vasa Museum
Head to Scandinavia’s most visited museum for a one-off experience: to see the world’s only preserved 17th-century ship. The Vasa capsized and sank in Stockholm in 1628 and spent 333 years on the ocean floor before being salvaged and restored.
Today, visitors can find their sea legs throughout a variety of exhibitions based around the ship and life on board in the 1600s.
3. Östermalms Saluhall
Stockholm’s historic food hall – which dates from 1888 – is undergoing a renovation and is out of action until 2018. But the Östermalm district’s main square, the site of a thriving market trade prior to 1888, has become a temporary hub for all things foodie.
Visitors can find gourmet Swedish fare – such as västerbottenpag (cheese pie) from Lisa Elmqvist – alongside international cuisines in a contemporary space designed by architecture firm Tengbom at Östermalms.
4. Stockholm Public Library
If you’re a book lover, an architecture enthusiast, or even just an avid Instagrammer then check out Stockholm’s Public Library, or Stadsbibliotek. With a rotunda built by architect Gunnar Asplund in 1928, this beautiful space is a city landmark. Monumental from the outside and majestic inside, its books are spaced over three floors.
5. Swedish style
Make the most of being at the heart of Scandinavian design by hitting the shops. Head to the creative Södermalm district for an eclectic mix of fashion, interior design and vintage stores; and explore the more exclusive streets around the Östermalm neighbourhood for classic Swedish interior design store Svenskt Tenn on Strandvägen and big Swedish exports such as Acne and COS.
There’s no shortage of great contemporary art galleries in Stockholm, and Södermalm is home to some of the best. Fotografiska is a must: its 2500 square metres of exhibition space showcases the works of world-renowned contemporary photographers and the building also houses a good bookshop, a rooftop cafe-cum-bar and an award-winning restaurant (with one of the city’s best views).
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