From secret gardens to mini museums packed with fascinating objects, every country has hidden gems that can be all too easily overlooked. Stray from the beaten path a little, and you could encounter something quite unexpected. Often, these lesser-known attractions are a lot closer than you might think – and the ultimate way to embrace and experience the local culture of a country.
There’s nothing like a wee dram to warm your cockles on a cold day in the Scottish capital – although most whisky enthusiasts don’t mind too much about the temperature outside. At Holyrood Distillery – Edinburgh’s first single malt whisky distillery for almost a century – you can enjoy a sensory, hands-on experience with several whisky tastings included. And that’s just the start. Gin is also stilled in this renovated railway goods shed and made with equally creative measure. Sniff, swirl, taste and see if you can pick out the different flavours used to make each spirit.
Follow your nose through the history of the fragrance industry at the Fragonard Perfume Museum. Located in the heart of the Opera neighbourhood, the museum is housed in a 19th-century perfume factory and retains plenty of its original charm. Wander round and take in the fragrant aromas, or join the guided tour for the chance to see antique perfume bottles and learn a few secrets of the trade. A video will take you through the evolution of the industry, revealing historical perfume-making methods, and you’ll even get a scented soap to take home.
If you’ve ever dreamed of starring in your own version of Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, this may be the closest you’ll ever come. Shanghai’s Zotter Chocolate Theatre is a chocolate factory, a tasting parlour and café all rolled into one – with sweet whimsical creations tempting visitors from all angles. Grab a tasting spoon and dive in. There are liquid chocolate fountains, plates stacked with flavoured chocolates and a ‘smelling and curiosity cabinet’ which lets you guess different aromas. You’ll also get to learn about the origins of chocolate by watching a short film and see chocolates being made as you wander through. Just make sure you arrive with an empty stomach…
Spread over a vast space, each of the seven installations housed in teamLab Planets Tokyo is designed to immerse you in a wonderful world of weird. From lush tropical forests to swirling neon galaxies, the overall effect is achieved through mind-bending digital effects and lots of floor mirrors. You’ll need to remove your shoes before entering – and you’ll be wading through knee-deep water in some places so it may be best to wear shorts. You can even save this visit for the evening, as the exhibition is open until 1am every night.
With an estimated 1,200,000 burial plots, Glasnevin Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Ireland. On this walking tour you’ll get to head back to a Victorian Dublin and hear captivating stories about the people laid to rest here. Hear all about what life was like in Dublin at the turn of the century and soak up the peaceful surroundings while you learn about the famous Irish figures buried here, including political leader Daniel O’Connell, on a visit to the O’Connell Crypt and Tower.
This museum-gallery proves that seeing really is believing. It houses a collection of microscopic artwork that’s only completely visible when you peer through a magnifying glass or the lens of an microscope. Lean in to admire the astonishing details – from a gold-wire rose built inside a hollowed-out human hair to a Rembrandt masterpiece repainted onto a pumpkin seed. With this experience, an expert guide will tell you about the artists responsible for these breathtaking creations, and explain the painstaking methods that go into each one.
The last place you might expect to find a penguin is Dubai, but then this is a city that’s full of surprises. At Ski Dubai – a massive indoor ski resort housed inside the world’s largest shopping mall – you can don a thermal suit, head into the sub-zero penguin zone and watch both gentoo and king penguins waddling and sliding around on the ice. Your expert guide will introduce you to two or more of these adorable birds so that you get to have a closer look. There will also be a short video about how penguins survive in their natural habitat, plus the chance to watch the playful residents swimming in the pool through the underwater windows.
This incredible wooden observation tower overlooks the beautiful Gisselfeld Klosters Forest, just over an hour’s drive away from Copenhagen. It was designed with accessibility in mind, given that instead of steps, visitors ascend using a walkway that spirals around the 140-metre(459-feet)-high tower from top to bottom. Made entirely of local oak and weathered steel, the impact on the environment is kept to a minimum too. Head to the very top to marvel at panoramic views of hills, lakes, meadows and streams – and on a clear day, you might even be able to see the Danish capital glinting in the distance.
Panoramapunkt is Europe’s fastest lift, speeding you to the pinnacle of the Kollhoff Tower in just 20-seconds, where you’ll be greeted with sweeping views of the Berlin skyline. See if you can spot the famous Fernsehturm television tower or simply enjoy the sunset from the terrace. Snap insta-perfect pictures at one of Berlin’s highest observation points and tick off all the city highlights from up high.