Europe

12 Divine Chocolate Shops

Is chocolate good for you? Researchers, conducting highly scientific studies, have found chocolate beneficial in preventing a plethora of ailments including cancer, stroke and heart disease. But Spot Cool Stuff has a more simple theory:

If it makes you smile, it’s health food.

In honor of National Smile Month—and to the dismay of dentists everywhere—here’s our look at 12 wonderful chocolate shops. We hesitate calling them the “best” chocolate shops given how there are easily 60 or more stores that we could have included on this list. All the shops we did include are superlative in some way.

Note that this overview is a companion piece to our equally dentist-horrifying review of the world’s best candy shops.

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The Best View from a Hotel Room on the Amalfi Coast

There are few regions of the world with as many scenically located hotels as you’ll find on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. On that stretch of Mediterranean shoreline from Sorrento to Salerno, dozens of hotels, guesthouses, hostels and inns peer down on sparkling seas, grand gardens, charming churches and other sights that tempt travel writers adopt to alliteration and make other visitors simply exclaim WOW.

On the Amalfi Coast — the whole of which is a UNESCO World Heritage site — selecting the hotel with the best room views is thus a daunting task. Forced to settle on one for this post, we’ll choose the Hotel Caruso Belvedere.

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The Semiramis Boutique Hotel: Art Deco in Athens

Is it Athens, Greece? Or is it South Beach, Miami? While staying at the Semiramis Hotel your GPS would tell you the former. But the day-glo colored lobby filled with beautiful people, the ubiquitous pop art and the pastel swimming pool area filled with the scent of suntan lotion is enough to convince you of the later.

Yes, everything about the Semiramis is undeniably cool. But it is as certain that this boutique hotel not for everyone. Its in-your-face design, its vibe and its location are the best reasons to stay here — and the best reasons not to.

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The Shard Lifts London Restaurants to New Heights

Like so many others, Spot Cool Stuff first traveled to London as college students. That was more than two decades ago and we still remember falling in love with the British capital for its salty residents, gritty streets and low-rise charm. Back then, we never could we have imagined London as the home of The Shard.

Yet, there it is. At 306 meters (1,004 ft) tall, the gleaming glass and steel skyscraper is the tallest building in the European Union. On a sunny day, The Shard literally casts a shadow on the London Bridge.

The building has been open for a few months now. But only recently has the public been able to eat at one of The Shard’s three main restaurants: Hutong, The Oblix and Aqua Shard. Each restaurant requires taking a non-stop lift to The Shard’s 32 floor. Each restaurant charges sky-high prices though, happily, each also offers views to match.

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5 Temples & Monasteries
on Perilous Cliff Sides

To monks, the monastery represents the victory of good over evil. To travelers, it represents the victory of architecture over gravity.

Spot Cool Stuff previously reviewed five towns on cliff sides — villages where drinking and driving . . . or drinking and walking . . . or simply walking could be especially perilous.

Following up on that, here are five religious buildings—a shrine, temple, church and two monasteries—built at a cliff’s edge. Gaze down the rocky drops from these structures, and out upon the magnificent vistas they offer, and perhaps one can’t help but believe in God.

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The Cat Houseboat of Amsterdam

Most crazy cat ladies live in dilapidated houses in blighted suburban neighborhoods that you wouldn’t want to travel to. Henriette van Weelde is not one of those crazy cat ladies. For one, she lives in a quaint section of central Amsterdam. Also, her cat-filled abode is not only a place you might want to visit, it’s a place lots of tourists do.

It started in 1966 when van Weelde decided to take in a family of stray cats she found near her home. Then she found another stray and thought to herself what so many crazy cat ladies have: Well, I’m sure I can find room for just one more cat.

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Our Favorite Room Themes at the Landhotel Hof Beverland

Spot Cool Stuff likes unusual hotels with creative themes. So, of course, we love the Landhotel Hof Beverland.

The Beverland (very much not to be confused with Bieberland) is located on the site of a former dairy farm near Ostbevern in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It has 62 rooms. And 36 radically different room theme.

There’s are the under-the-sea rooms, for example, and the medieval themed rooms. The hotel’s jungle rooms have beds suspended from the ceiling. Their Star Wars rooms have private cinema screening areas. Their disco rooms come complete with hanging disco balls and blaring 70s music.

None of those rooms, however, made our list of our top five favorite room themes at the Landhotel Hof Beverland. Which rooms did make the cut? Read on:

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Roof It Around Stockholm

For some travelers the opportunity to take a guided walking tour of historic buildings is about as appealing as taking a walk through an airport security checkpoint. Yet even those travelers would find the offerings by Stockholm tour operator Upplev Mer cool. That’s because their tours don’t walk alongside acclaimed architecture—they walk on top of it!

Literally. Participants on a Upplev Mer tour scamper across Stockholm’s roof tops like Mary Poppins. Except, instead of using an umbrella for safety, they rely on hard hats, harnesses and cables.

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