Joanne O'Connor, The Guadian, February 09, 2014
Take me there: City West, Berlin
The city's commercial district doesn't have quite the same cachet as trendy east Berlin, but that could all be set to change as a cluster of iconic postwar buildings, including the Zoo Palast cinema and the "Bikinihaus", are transformed into a new "urban oasis".
What to do
The highlight of the "Bikini Berlin" development will be a huge rooftop park which will open to the public in April (bikiniberlin.de). Uncover west Berlin's bohemian side on a literary stroll with Slow Travel Berlin (slowtravelberlin.com). The Berlin Zoo and aquarium make a great family day out (zoo-berlin.de).
Where to stay
The 25hours Hotel Bikini has just opened in a 1950s high-rise overlooking the zoo and Tiergarten park. It has an industrial-meets-jungle theme and a cool rooftop bar and restaurant with an Israeli-inspired menu and DJ nights (from €89, designhotels.com).
Where to eat
If you can resist the temptations of gourmet food-trailer Burger de Ville, parked right outside the 25Hours Hotel, keep walking to Kantstrasse, a melting pot of ethnic restaurants from Polish cafés to Taiwanese noodle houses: Lon-Men's is worth a detour for its chilli wontons (Kantstraße 33, 49 30 3151 9678).
"For an intimate after-dinner drink, Rum Trader (Fasanenstraße 40) is the oldest, smallest and most characterful cocktail bar in Berlin," says Paul Sullivan, founder of Slow Travel Berlin. "In summer, head to the Preußenpark (Konstanzer Straße 46) in Wilmersdorf. Taken over at weekends by Asian expats, this 'Thai Park' serves up the tastiest street food this side of Bangkok."
From designer homeware to edgy crime thrillers, it seems we can't get enough of all things Scandinavian at the moment. But it wasn't always so. Turn the clock back 1,200 years and the sight of a bunch of hairy Norsemen paddling towards our shores was enough to strike dread into the hearts of natives.
The lives and legends of the Vikings will be at the heart of a major new exhibition at the British Museum this spring, the centrepiece of which will be the remains of a 37m-long Viking warship, the longest ever found (6 March-22 June, britishmuseum.org).
The city of York will also be celebrating its Norse heritage this month at the Jorvik Viking Festival, now in its 30th year (5-23 February, jorvik-viking-festival.co.uk). To mark the anniversary, the organisers have lined up the biggest events programme yet, highlights of which include a Viking feast in York Minster, a candlelit performance of Beowulf in St Helen's Church and a spectacular battle re-enactment complete with 300 Viking warriors, a host of Norse gods and a firework display. There will be plenty of events for children, too, from combat- skills workshops to craft activities.
And in Lancashire a new exhibition of Viking treasure will go on display at the Museum of Lancashire (from 15 February, lancashire.gov.uk/museums). Known as the Silverdale Hoard, the collection is made up of more than 200 coins, arm-rings, ingots and silver fragments which were found buried in a field in Lancashire by an amateur metal detector.
It's a good time to head to… Montenegro
Old Town Hostel, Kotor Set within the medieval old town, this hostel is not short on charm. With thick 13th-century stone walls, beamed ceilings and attractive communal areas, it's a great base for exploring Kotor's beautiful bay. Staff are friendly and "extras" include the odd cocktail, evening meal or bar crawl.
From €10pp for a bed in a dorm; from €15pp for a twin room. Breakfast can be provided in a nearby café for €3 (hostel-kotor.me)
Perast Boutique Apartment With its Baroque palaces and Venetian defence towers, Perast is one of the prettiest settlements on the Bay of Kotor. Perched above the village, this simple apartment is just a two-minute walk to the waterfront restaurants. It's homely and rustic with painted wooden chests, mismatched ceramics and glorious views.
From £70, sleeps 2-4 (i-escape.com/perast-boutique-apartment)
Palazzo Radomiri, Dobrota If you're looking for a peaceful alternative to the bustle of Kotor then this elegant waterfront palazzo could be the answer. There are just 10 bedrooms, with sea views, antique furniture and embroidered bedspreads. There's a private pontoon for sunbathing, a small courtyard pool and free yoga classes each morning. Kotor is a half-hour walk or five-minute taxi ride away.
From €140 (i-escape.com/palazzo-radomiri)
Hotel Forza Mare, Dobrota Each of the 10 bedrooms at this contemporary boutique hotel is themed around a different part of the world. Expect bold colours and statement pieces (a zebra's head in the Africa suite, for example). There's a spa with hammam, sauna and pool, though most guests opt for the private beach. The waterfront restaurant specialises in seafood.
From €200 (forzamare.com)
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk