A Weekend in Leicester

Leicester would not be my first choice for a English getaway, but when my little sister said she was performing at the Curve theatre, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to check out this unlikely weekend destination.

Mercure Hotel, LeicesterMercure Hotel, LeicesterMercure Hotel, LeicesterMercure Hotel, Leicester

To stay

The Grand Hotel Mercure Leicester – This centrally located 4 star hotel is housed in a grand Victorian building, and is the most upmarket accommodation option in the city. The bedrooms are spacious and comfortable and the common spaces downstairs have recently been modernised to provide a stylish and welcoming area for visitors. Prestigious chef, Marco Pierre White has opened ‘Marco’s New York Italian’ in the hotel which serves traditional Italian dishes alongside American classics. The Mercure Hotel is well equipped for business visitors with 10 meeting rooms and conference facilities, or for weddings there is the majestic Kings Ballroom.

John's House RestaurantJohns house restaurantJohn's House farm shop

To eat

John’s House – This quaint farm eatery opened at the start of 2015 and has become Leicestershire’s only Michelin star eatery. Award-winning chef John Duffin presents sophisticated and delicious plates of food, utilising the produce grown and raised on the family farm. After enjoying a wonderful lunch have a look round the impressive vintage car collection and pick up some homegrown ingredients to take home from the lovely farm shop.

Studio NLStudio NL

To shop

Studio NL – This stylish studio / shop is found 20 minutes outside of the city centre in an eclectic courtyard of creative businesses. As well as running imaginative workshops and coffee shops, Studio NL make a range of beautiful children’s clothing and accessories, and exhibit and sell a carefully curated collection of items from brands they have discovered and love.

coffee Leicester

To drink

St Martin’s Tea & Coffee Merchant – Tucked away in the creative quarter of Leicester, St Martin’s Tea & Coffee Merchant is a lovely place to spend a morning. The quirky cafe is spread over two floors with plenty of cosy seating areas to relax and enjoy a drink and cake. The team roast their own beans and the coffee is without a doubt the best in town, with a rich and creamy flavour.

More information on visiting Leicester and what’s on in the city here.

At the Chapel, Bruton

Bruton is home to the hip Hauser & Wirth gallery space so it makes sense that there is somewhere suitably stylish and creative for visitors to stay nearby. In the centre of the charming town of Bruton you will find At the Chapel, a beautifully restored medieval chapel with eight minimalist luxury bedrooms, a relaxed restaurant and an artisan bakery.

We were staying in Room 8 for a night, an indulgent mid-week escape from London. This large ground-floor room opens out onto a garden terrace and has a stunning spacious marble bath with free-standing bath and walk-in shower. Rooms range in price dependent on size, from £150 for the most petite to £250 for Room 5 which can accommodate families. I loved Room 2 which features the original 19th century stained glass window and Room 6, a first floor, south-facing bedroom which is gloriously light and offers views of the surrounding area. The rooms are decorated with modern artworks and vintage furniture, whilst ensuring the top comfort with king-sized decadent beds and smart tvs and ipod docks. The bathrooms are elegant and smart with Ren toiletries and cosy bathrobes.

The food at At the Chapel has a widespread reputation for good reason. Homemade pizzas at night and freshly baked croissants in the morning (delivered to the room) kept me satisfied. Locals visit the bakery throughout the day to pick up lunch or pastries and we couldn’t help buying a few of the irresistable loaves before we left.

During the day the building is at your disposal. Choose to enjoy an aperitif in the Clubroom or out on the terrace, or read the newspapers with a coffee upstairs in the secluded balcony. There are regular arty events held here and a wineshop stocking a carefully chosen selection of organic and biodynamic wines from small producers.

Without much competition nearby, At the Chapel is single-handedly making Bruton a must visit destination for hip foodie travellers.

Book a stay At the Chapel here.

Things to do in Munich

Munich is the capital and largest city of the German state of Bavaria, on the River Isar north of the Bavarian Alps. It is the third largest city in Germany, after Berlin and Hamburg, with a population of around 1.49 million. I am telling you all these things, because they are facts I did not know before visiting this brilliant Bavarian city. Booking the trip far in advance with my BA airmiles, I had almost forgotten that I was visiting, and did not know what to expect. I loved the creativity and diversity of Berlin, but found the cityscape ugly and so was delighted to be surrounded by the beautiful gothic, Baroque and Romanesque architecture of Munich. The culture and design scene is exciting and fascinating to explore, and the cuisine on offer is diverse and innovative. Of course, you cannot escape the beer halls and lederhosen, I chose to embrace these traditions whilst also finding my own less obvious Munich discoveries.

To sleep

Bayerischer Hof: This prestigious and impressive hotel is an institution. It is a significant part of Munich’s history and heritage, renowned and well loved by locals, tourists and celebrity figures. I loved the grandeur and luxury of the bedrooms, the vibrant blue pool and the smart champagne breakfast buffet.

Flushing Meadows: Quite possibly the coolest place in Munich. This hip hotel is housed on the top two floors of an industrial building in the most vibrant neighbourhood of the city, Glockenbach. The 16 individual rooms showcase the work of 11 creative locals, we stayed in a Loft Studio Super designed by the German techno musician, DJ Hell.

To eat

Tantris: this two Michelin star restaurant is renowned. Located on the outskirts of town with an alarming red colour scheme, it is memorable for more than just the food. Chef Hans Haas presents elaborate and delicious plates of unusual flavour combinations. We tasted the Saturday set lunch menu, which included lobster, veal with truffle and a chocolate with figs dessert.

Hey Luigi: Italian food plays a fundamental role in the Munich restaurant scene, and there is no point trying to find ‘the best’ as every local has their own favourite. Head to Hey Luigi, a buzzy neighbourhood eatery for reasonably priced big plates of pasta and a great atmosphere.

Theresa: One of the few decent restaurants open on Sundays in Munich. Theresa is known for serving the best meat in the city, and despite my high expectations I was still impressed with my fillet steak and chips. The service is slow but for Sunday brunch it feels natural to have a slow-paced meal.

Pommes Boutique: this Belgian café offers the best (twice-cooked) chips in town, and an endless selection of sauces. Fill a pot with your favourite, we liked garlic aioli and peppercorn.

Charlie: the owner of this eatery, Sandra Forster, has started up some of the coolest restaurants in the city. Charlie is THE place to go for great Vietnamese food, and on Saturday evenings it turns into a DJ bar. Forster’s restaurant Roecklplatz is also worth trying for traditional but trendy cuisine.

To drink

Man versus Machine: I did a lot of research to find the best artisan coffee in Munich. Eventually I came across Man versus Machine, a new coffee shop serving up faultless creamy fruity drinks. I loved the café design, the friendly baristas and the atmosphere in this trendsetting venue. If you are a real caffeine geek it is also worth trying Mahlefitz.

Stereo Café: After wandering round the nearby sights and museums, this trendy little café is the ideal place to rest your legs and sip a hot drink and nibble a homemade cake.

Café Vorhoelzer: the lucky university students have this rooftop bar with incredible views over the city. The good thing is… anyone can go, squeeze in the little lift and admire the sights. Sometimes they even had a coffee artist who will draw your desired animal in the foam of your cappuccino.

Super Danke: this super juice company could take over the world. Making juices full of goodness, that taste too good to be so healthy, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Anywhere that gets me drinking spinach and kale is a hit!

Goldene Bar: Bizarrely hidden behind the huge Haus der Kunst this ornate golden venue serves up fruity cocktails and gets very busy at the weekends. Also nearby is the popular celebrity club P1. If you like historical bars you must also pop into Schumann’s, the most famous bar in Munich. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the concoctions, though must admit it is pretty cool that Schumann was the inventor of so many classic cocktails.

Reichenbach bar: the best cocktails we tried in Munich were found here. The cocktail den is discreetly situated at the back of the main venue. The bartender is experienced and creative with his drinks and serves up strong and tasty drinks.

Hofbrauhaus: No trip to Munich is complete without the compulsory visit to a beer hall, and Hofbrauhaus is the most legendary of the lot. Originally built in 1589 by Bavarian Duke Maximilian I as an extension of the Hofbräu brewery, the general public was admitted from 1828. Sit at a wooden table with the fellow drinkers and order a stein. If you are peckish you can also eat authentic German food here.

To do

Spa at Kempinski: Hidden within the five star hotel this boutique spa offers advanced and indulgent treatments based on the seasons with the very best therapists. I loved my detox massage which totally relaxed my body easing all tension and tightness in my muscles.

Traditional Market: Marienplatz is a central square in the city centre of Munich. It has been the city’s main square since 1158 and is still a great place to taste German delicacies and the local beer.

Spa at Sofitel: this exotic spa is available for guests and visitors to the hotel. I experienced an immaculate full manicure, with an efficient and thorough beauty therapist. After preening my fingers and painting them a pretty pale pink she gave me the bottle of nail varnish to take home. A lovely gift at the end of a lovely treatment.

Englisher Garten: this large public park in the city centre perfect for Sunday strolling or bike rides. Head to the pictoresque Chinese Tower beer garden for refreshments.

To see

Alte Pinakothek: This is one of the oldest galleries in the world and houses some of the most famous Old Master paintings. We saw the charming Canaletto exhibition which brought back memories of my recent trip to Venice.

Museum Bradhorst: This modern art museum is worth seeing inside and out. The psychedelic multi-coloured building encourages you in from the street to investigate what it is all about. Inside it holds some of the works from Anette Brandhorst (and her husband Udo Fritz-Hermann’s) collection of late 20th Century and contemporary art.

Haus der Kunst: When it was open in 1937 this epic building was used to showcase Hitler’s art collection, now the venue is used for temporary and travelling modern art exhibitions. Works by the German Expressionist painter Georg Baselitz are currently on show.

Munich Residenz: Found in the city centre the Residenz was the official home of the rulers of Bavaria from 1508 to 1918. The rooms are fascinating and fantastically beautiful, I particularly admired the splendour of the Antiquarium gallery arcade.

Heiliggeistkirche: There are a few churches huddled in the centre of Munich, this Gothic hall church was my favourite, magically white and gold inside with a myriad of paper doves suspended from the ceiling.

To shop

Falkenberg: I want my home to look like this shop. Falkenberg owner Sabine presents a carefully curated collection of beautiful and intriguing things including fine furniture, books, clothes, stationery, candles and jewellery from designers across Europe. The best concept store in town.

A Kind of Guise: A Kind Of Guise was born from the idea of creating products which are equally well designed and of high quality in terms of both production and the materials used. All the garments are made locally in Germany, and are immaculately tailored. I loved the thick winter shift dresses and lovely shirts.

Saskia Diez: A renowned jewellery brand in Munich, the work of Saskia Diez is delicate and thoughtful. I particularly liked the ultra thin rose gold rings, and the special fragrances, Silver and Gold that she recently created.

Papierladen: It is no secret that I am a total stationery addict and this is where I got my Munich fix. An array of stylishly arranged books, pencils, paperclips and other writing paraphernalia. It is known to locals as “the one with the beautiful papers”… I couldn’t agree more.

Cheers from Downtown: Another Munich born brand who recently opened up shop to offer local designers work to the public. The team are friendly and enthusiastic and the clothes are cool and inspiring. A great place to buy a stylish German souvenir.

Distorted People: This trendy boys clothes shop doubles up as a barber. The garments are simple and classic and most feature their ‘Barber and Butcher’ motif, but it was scruffy vintage hairdressing room that I particularly liked.

Many thanks to the Munich Tourist Board for their help with this trip.