Northern Europe's sights getting a makeover
Travelers to Germany, Switzerland and Scandinavia will encounter their share of renovations, red tape and reinvigorated neighborhoods and sights this year.
Berlin remains one of Europe's most exciting and affordable capitals. The city has been busy updating and expanding several communist sights, including the Berlin Wall Memorial, the DDR Museum, with a quirky collection of communist-era artifacts, and the new but underwhelming Stasi Museum, featuring exhibits on East Germany's state security service.
Unfortunately, visitors to the Reichstag -- Germany's inspirational parliament building -- must now make an online reservation to tour its impressive glass dome (www.bundestag.de).
In Munich, the Lenbachhaus, featuring early Modernist art, and the Halls of the Nibelungen at the Residenz remain closed for renovation and are projected to reopen in 2013.
In Wurzburg, the opulent chapel at the Residenz is undergoing restoration and should open to visitors in mid-2012, while St. Kilian's Cathedral will be closed for renovation until the end of the year. The classy horse races near Baden-Baden have resumed, with three sessions happening in May, August and October.
In Rothenburg, the country's best-preserved medieval walled town, you can now do a walking-tour double feature. Start by strolling the town on the Executioner's Tour, a macabre hour with Georg Lehle costumed as a 14th-century executioner, then follow it up with the long-recommended Night Watchman's Tour, accompanied by gritty tales of old-time Rothenburg.
If you're saddled with a long wait at Frankfurt's airport, the Frankfurt Layover Tour offers Frankfurt on Foot. The tour lasts at least three hours but can be tailored to your interests and time, and includes pick-up and drop-off at the airport.
In Denmark, Copenhagen's Meatpacking District, Kodbyen, is one of the city's most up-and-coming destinations for restaurants and nightlife.
In 2014, the Swedish capital of Stockholm will welcome a new commuter rail line that's being built beneath its main train station (until then, expect lots of construction).
Set in Stockholm and shot here, the Hollywood version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is making the cityscape more recognizable. Just south of the Old Town, the Sodermalm neighborhood is the primary setting of the books.
Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to him c/o P.O. Box 2009, Edmonds, WA 98020.
© 2012 Rick Steves/Tribune Media Services, Inc.
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