Six hidden gems in the UK

Goodbye London

Static caravans, fish and chips, fairground rides overlooking Victorian piers – the British holiday used to be a predictable affair which failed to appeal to many.

Then, 2020 arrived.

With many holidaymakers finding themselves grounded, exploring our own backyard has become the latest trend.

Brits are discovering there’s more to home holidaying than seaside rock and Helter Skelter slides. In fact, a study by Timetastic confirmed we’ve fallen head over heels with home turf – 73 per cent of Brits plan to holiday within the UK even after international travel restrictions are eased.

With this in mind, here are six unusual places to discover within the UK.

1 Swinton Druids Temple, Yorkshire

You’ve probably heard of Stonehenge – but what about Swinton Druids Temple? This arrangement of rocks looks similar to England’s most famous Neolithic stone circle and attracts groups of new-age pagans at the summer solstice.

Unlike Wiltshire’s prehistoric monument, the Swinton Druids Temple is a 200-year-old folly constructed by an eccentric landowner to channel the mysteries of ancient Britain. It is surrounded by lush shrubbery, and the arrangements create a unique atmosphere which is ideal for photo opportunities, eerie picnics and country walks.

This is one of many idyllic locations in rural Yorkshire, which also boasts the historic city of York, the metropoles of Leeds and Sheffield, plus charming towns such as Harrogate – and let’s not forget the breath-taking beauty of the Yorkshire Dales. It’s possible to get great deals on city stays and wild country retreats in Yorkshire with sites such as Travelzoo.

Druid's Temple, New Swinton Hall , Yorkshire (Folly)

2 Kinver Edge and the Rock Houses, Staffordshire

What’s better than visiting historic houses in the heart of England? Historic houses carved into cliffs could be quirky contenders.

At Kinver, in Staffordshire, houses are tucked into the sandstone cliffs. Unbelievably, these hideaways were occupied until the 1960s. Today, two have been restored to reflect their 1930s heyday – expect to see quaint rose gardens and chimneys emerging from the rock.

Kinver Edge is an attraction with great connections, too – nearby footpaths lead to Nanny’s Rock and boast panoramic views over the West Midlands.

Kinver Edge and the Rock Houses

3 The Shell Grotto, Kent

Britain is known for its Gothic cathedrals and luxuriously adorned stately homes. At the Shell Grotto, in Margate, our love of detailed décor takes on an entirely different form.

More than four million shells have been painstakingly arranged in this set of subterranean tunnels, creating a mosaic-like appearance which charms visitors. The debate about their origins and purpose seem to make the tunnels even more intriguing – some say it’s an ancient pagan temple, while others believe the mesmerising mosaics were arranged in the Victorian era.

This portion of southern England is 60 miles east of the M25 and is perhaps best known for the World Heritage Site of Canterbury Cathedral.Shell Grotto Roof

4 Dolbadarn Castle Ruins, Snowdonia

Wales is an historic land steeped in legend and its most popular National Park – Snowdonia – attracts more than four million visitors each year. At Dolbadarn Castle on the edge of Snowdonia, it’s possible to experience the best of heritage and nature.

This picturesque structure benefits from stunning views over Llanberis Pass. It was constructed by King Llywelyn the Great in the 13th century. The information boards help visitors to appreciate the history, but the real star of the show is the glistening lake – Llyn Peris – which creates enviable photo opportunities behind the stone fortification.Castle Dolbadarn ruins, Llanberis

5 St Ninian’s Tombolo, Shetland

Island stays are popular for international holidays – but of course, the UK has archipelago assets of its own.

The magnificent Shetland Islands perch 110 miles from the north of Scotland. Ferries run year-round from Aberdeen, transporting adventurous souls to some of the UK’s most peaceful locations.

Due to their remote location, the Shetland Islands are home to some of the most unspoilt beaches around – such as St Ninian’s Tombolo.

A tombolo is a beach maintained by wave action, and the St Ninian’s sands form the largest active beach of this kind in the UK. At low tide, it forges a distinctive sand bridge between two sections of coast.St Ninian's Tombolo

6 Fingal’s Cave, Isle of Staffa

An unlikely contender for musical tourism, Fingal’s Cave is known for having influenced 1960s’ rockers Pink Floyd – as well as the likes of John Keats before them. Even Queen Victoria visited this otherworldly location.

The reason? Unique, hexagonally-jointed basalt formations which create natural acoustics. When waves brush the rocks, the cave seems to sing. To get there, book a journey by boat from the neighbouring islands of Iona and Mull.

As the public once again falls in love with Britain, some of our most beautiful locations are being rediscovered.Fingal's Cave

Photo Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Swinton Druids Temple by Sinjy and Sadie; (2) Kinver Edge and the Rock Houses by Quisnovus;(3) Shell Grotto in Margate, Kent by Grahamvphoto; (4) Castle Dolbadarn ruins by John Englart; (5) St Ninian’s Tombolo by nz_willowherb; (6) Fingal’s Cave by David Nunn

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Five Epic European Road Trips

southern iceland dani car

Everybody loves a good road trip, and Europe has more scenic roads than you could cover in a lifetime. Majestic castles in Austria, half-timbered houses in Germany, rolling green hills in England, Alpine landscapes in Switzerland, majestic fjords in Norway, and vineyards lining the country roads as you are driving in France – these are just some of the things that lift my heart and keep me driving. As more and more European countries are re-opening their borders for tourism post-COVID-19, travel to Europe is starting to pick up. European road trips are one of the best ways to travel around Europe while staying safe. RV rental companies have already seen an increase in bookings,

If I had to pick just five, this would be the list of my favorite road tips in Europe:fiat 500 & san gimignano

Five Epic European Road Trips

1. The Amalfi Coast | Italy

The Amalfi coast in the south of Italy is the country’s most beautiful stretch of coastline, where quaint terraced villages are spread through the hillsides stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea are around every corner. The coast route follows the shoreline from Sorrento in the north to Salerno in the south. Your hearts will pound as you hug the road past steep cliffs, and soar when you pass the many vineyards where you may wish to stop and spend a few days. The four main towns on the Amalfi Coast are Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and Ravello, and stops in all of them are essential! This is without a doubt one of the most picturesque European road trips.

Best time for a road trip: March to May, when Spring is in full bloom and the summer tourist season has not yet begun.
Recommended number of days: 2 to 4 days
Level of difficulty: It is a beautiful drive, but challenging. Drivers should be confident on winding, narrow roads.

Cinque Terre coast1

2. The Highlands | Scotland

Scotland’s Highlands are unlike anywhere in the world and a Highland road trip covers some of the most spectacular places in the UK. I recommend a loop, starting your trip in Glasgow and finishing in Edinburgh, heading north through the mountains and locks that make the Highlands so famous, and then heading back down to the Scottish capital. Start in Glasgow and head to Loch Lomond before continuing north to the small outpost of Fort William from there. Here you can hike the mighty Ben Nevis, the highest mountain of the British Isles, or head west towards Mallaig with a stop at the picturesque Loch Shiel. From Mallaig, take the car ferry over to the Isle of Skye, and head back to the mainland via the Skye Bridge. Fro here it is a short drive to fairytale-esque Eileen Donan Castle.road trips in EuropeDepending on how much time you have left, I recommend driving further north to the fishing town of Ullapool and the little village of Lochinver, with its white-sand beaches. Otherwise drive straight east towards Fort Augustus, which is the perfect base to explore Loch Ness. Drive along the Loch to the quaint town of Inverness and take the scenic route via Pitlochry to Edinburgh, and you will see most of the iconic Scottish landmarks like the Lochs, Whiskey distilleries and Highland cows.

Best time for a road trip: April – October
Recommended number of days: 5 to 7 days
Level of difficulty: Roads are narrow and driving is on the left – drivers should be experienced and confident.

Scotland highlands sheep

3. The Romantic Road | Germany

The Romantic Road in the south of Germany offers some of the most stunning scenery of the country. Driving from Würzburg to the foothills of the Alps near Neuschwanstein Castle, you will pass sweeping views, ancient cathedrals and castles, castles, castles. You will drive through the pretty Tauber Valley before you arrive in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which dates back to the 13th century with medieval streets and thick city walls – doubtlessly the pearl of the Romantic Road! Other highlights include the gorgeous town of Nördlingen, Augsburg with its stunning cathedral, Hohenschwangau with its jaw-droppingly beautiful Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle and the nearby historic town of Füssen. If you have more time, you can drive up to Munich from here and end your road trip in one of Germany’s most traditional cities. Don’t forget to pack your lederhosen!

Best time for a road trip: Spring or summer, but fall is also a beautiful time to visit.
Recommended number of days: 5 to 7 days
Level of difficulty: The road is fairly easy to navigate, though it can get narrow at times.

European Road Trips

4. France beyond Paris | France

This road trip is the ideal way to combine a trip to Paris with an additional few days to explore the idyllic French countryside. I would recommend starting in Paris and driving through Chartres, Le Mans, Rennes, Caen, Rouen and then circling back to Paris. Just outside of the city, stop in Versailles to see Napoleon’s remarkable palace, and then move on to Chartres, home to a UNESCO World Heritage cathedral, before exploring Renne, which still has plenty of well-maintained wood-edifice buildings typical for that area of France. North of Rennes is the spectacular Le Mont-St.-Michel, a rocky island set in the English Channel, just off the coast, that is almost entirely inhabited by the medieval Benedictine Abbey and church – not to be missed! Rouen is home to the extraordinary cathedral made famous by Monet’s painting, and makes for a fabulous last stop on this French road trip.

Best time for a road trip: Between April and October
Recommended number of days:4 to 5
Level of difficulty: All roads on this trip are easy to navigate.

road trips in Europe

5. Dublin – Kilkenny – Cork – Galway | Southern Ireland

Traveling around Ireland by car is on many people’s wishlists, and this is indeed one of the most beautiful European road trips. Southern Ireland has some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, especially along the coast. Our Southern Ireland road trip starts in Dublin and brings you to Kilkenny, Cork, Limerick and Galway, and ends back in Dublin. This road trip is the perfect way to get to know the culture, landscape and history of Ireland, passing impressive castles as well as picturesque Irish villages. Some of the highlights of this road trip are County Kerry, which has a rugged coastline and tall mountains, and is especially famous for the Ring of Kerry, a circular road that follows a trace of coastline of mountainous fingers jutting out into the ocean. The infamous Cliffs of Moher, which tower 700 feet above the ocean, are another highlight of this trip. Earthtrekkers have a detailed 10-day itinerary for this ultimate Ireland road trip.

Best time for a road trip: Between March and October
Recommended number of days: 5 to 7 days
Level of difficulty: Left side driving and narrow roads. Not for novices.

European Road Trips

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Everything you kneed to know about La Sagrada Família

barcelona la sagrada familia

The Sagrada Família, located in Barcelona, Spain is hands down an architectural masterpiece. Designed by Antoni Gaudí in the 1880s, it is still under construction today after 135 years since the cornerstone was first placed. The project is estimated to be finally finished by 2026. The Sagrada Família is part of the history of Barcelona and a must-see on your trip to the city.Sagrada Familia Gaudi Barcelona

From the Vatican to Barcelona

Known today as one of Gaudí’s most recognizable works, originally he was not the architect in charge of the project. In 1882, Josep Maria Bocabella had returned from the Vatican inspired by its iconic churches with a desire to build a religious building that would stand out and mean something, inspired from the basilica at Loreto. He founded the Spiritual Association of the Devotees of Saint Joseph, and he began the campaign to build a temple dedicated to the Holy Family.Sagrada FamiliaThe architect in charge was Francisco de Paula del Villar, whose original plan was a Gothic revival church of standard form. The crypt of the church started in 1882 with the original design. After six years, Francisco resigned from the lead role. He had had several disagreements with Joan Martorelli, and then it was offered to Antoni Gaudí who assumed the role on the design in 1883, but obtained the lead of the project as Architect Director in 1884.Sagrada Familia

Under Construction Since 1882

When Antoni Gaudí assumed the design of the temple, the original plans changed drastically although he kept the Gothic concept combined with Art Nouveau, impregnating his own touch to the plans. One of the most remarkable features of the Sagrada Família is has never been a rushed construction, in the words of Gaudí himself: “My client is not in a hurry.”Sagrada Familia

Over the years, although Gaudí worked on other projects as well, the Sagrada Familia was still his main focus. And from 1915 he devoted himself almost exclusively to his masterpiece, which in essence was a synthesis of his architectural evolution. 

By the time of Gaudi’s death in 1926, the basilica Sagrada Família was between 15 and 25 percent complete. After his demise, the work was continued by Domènec Sugrañes i Gras, who was his assistant, up until the construction was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Domènec was known for his modernist architecture, but he stayed true to Gaudi’s designs and finished the façade of the Nativity. During the war, parts of the still unfinished basilica most of Gaudi’s models and workshops were destroyed by Catalan anarchists. The current design is based on reconstructed versions of those plans that were destroyed and other modern adaptations as well.Sagrada Familia

Four catalan architects –Francesc Quintana, Puig Boada, Lluís Bonet i Garí and Francesc Cardoner– took care of the work once the war was over: the illumination was conceibed by Carles Büigas. The current director and son of Lluís Bonnet, Jordi Bonet i Armengol, has been introducing computer technology into the design and construction process since the 1980s. The Executive Architect and Researcher is Mark Burry from New Zealand. The façade has been decorated by the following sculptors J. Busquets, Etsuro Sotoo and Josep Maria Subirachs. And Jordi Fauli who is native to Barcelona, took over as the chief architect in 2012. 

Since then, the work has been concentrated of the crossing and supporting structure for the main steeple of Jesus Christ.Sagrada Familia facade

Design of the Sagrada Família

After the completion of the apse and the crypt, still intended to be lifted in Gothic style, the rest of the church would be conceived in an a more organic style in an attempt to imitate the natural shapes with their abundance of ruled surfaces. The intention of the interior was to resemble a forest, with inclined columns to resemble branching trees, creating a simple but sturdy structure. Sagrada FamiliaGaudí put into practice all his previous experiments, including designs such as the Park Güell and the crypt of the Colònia Güell. His intention was to create a church with a perfect structure, with decorative elements in perfect harmony and aesthetically pleasing. The architectural plan of the Sagrada Familia is cruciform: a large nave composed of five smaller naves, a transept with three naves and an apse with seven chapels. It also has three facades that are dedicated to the birth, passion and glory of Jesus Christ, and in its final design 18 towers are contemplated: four on each side (twelve in total, representing the twelve apostles), four on the transept (representing the evangelists), one in the apse dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the central tower in honor of Jesus, which is planned to reach 172.5 meters in height. 

Although it was not designed to be an actual cathedral, the Sagrada Familia was conceived to be the size of one. There are no exact angles to see it inside or out and there a few straight lines in the design.Sagrada Familia

Current Construction Status

In 2015, the current chief architect Jordi Fauli announced that 70% of the construction of the Sagrada Familia had been completed and that it had entered the final phase, in which it is contemplated to raise six immense steeples. Most of the structure of the church is to be completed by 2026, which marks the centennial of Gaudi’s death. In 2017 it was estimated that the decorative elements should be completed by 2030 or 2032. To be able to accelerate the construction of the building the architects have relied heavily on computer-aided design technology. Detail in Sagrada Familia

Why You Should Visit the Sagrada Família

The Sagrada Família is an essential part of the history of Barcelona, although construction began in the 1880s, it is still being built today. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to explore it when you visit Barcelona, it is an iconic building that beautifully represents the vision and boldness of Antoni Gaudí. It is a definite must-see building that you should take the time visit and admire the greatness from the outside and the inside as well. The visitor entrance fees that vary between €15 to €20 finance the annual construction budget of €25 million, which has always been funded by investors and the public.DetailPhoto Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Sagrada Familia by Neusitas; (2) Sagrada Familia details by NH53; (3) Sagrada Familia by Ted & Dani Percival; (4) Sagrada Familia facade by Alper Çuğun; (5) Sagrada Familia facade by Valerie Hinojosa; (6) La Sagrada Familia inside by Michael Levine-Clark; (7) Familia Sagrada inside by Iwao Kobayashi; (8) Detail in Sagrada Familia by Brian; (9) Sagrada Familia Detail by Tamara Polajnar

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How to spend a weekend in Bournemouth

England Sunset

When we talk about UK getaways, it won’t come as a surprise to hear that London often tops the charts. For as long as the world spins round, and whether or not the UK is in or out of the European Union, this is something that is never going to change.

In some ways, this is highly unfortunate. After all, while nobody can take away the immense tourism power that London has, let’s not forget that there are plenty of other destinations in the UK that often go unnoticed. Sure, locals know about them, but they are hidden gems to everyone else.

Bournemouth certainly falls into this category. It’s regarded as one of the more premium coastal regions of the UK, although it does have plenty of hotels at excellent value. Bearing this in mind, today’s post is going to delve into Bournemouth in more detail and show some of the top things you can do if you take to this city.

Take to the piers

There are actually two piers that form part of Bournemouth, with both worthy of a mention. The first comes in the form of Bournemouth Pier itself. This has been going strong for nigh-on 140 years and still attracts plenty of attention. In fact, in the peak times at least, you sometimes have to pay to get on.

If you’ve never visited a pier on the English coast before, this should be the one you target. It has everything you’ve heard about, whether it be traditional games, an arcade and even a play area for children (this used to be a popular theatre). Then, when it comes to Boscombe Pier, this is a little more low-key. It doesn’t have all the attractions, but it is a restored Victorian pier and provides some stunning views across the sea.

Have a go on the West Cliff Lift

If you do make it towards Bournemouth Pier, try and get to the West Cliff Lift as well. This has been running since 1908 – and you can almost tell by the facade. Nevertheless, it’s an incredible sight and experience, with the railway carrying up to 12 passengers up one of Bournemouth’s cliffs. Unsurprisingly, the views are second to none.
West Cliff Lift, Bournemouth, Dorset

The Oceanarium

The sea is a major attraction that forms part of Bournemouth, and the aquarium just buys into all of this. The centre has established ten different environments within itself, meaning that whether you are looking to see what resides in the Great Barrier Reef or the Amazon, you won’t be disappointed. More recently, they have also added penguins.
Bournemouth Oceanarium

Peppa Pig World

OK, this final suggestion might not be for everyone, but if you happen to have little people in your family, we are pretty sure it is going to go down a storm.

While not strictly in Bournemouth itself, Peppa Pig World happens to be a short drive away. It’s actually part of Paulton’s Park, meaning if you have slightly older children as well, they are going to have the time of their lives when they visit as well.
Bournemouth East Beach - land train - Peppa Pig World

Photo Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Bournemouth by Phil Beard; (2) Bournemouth Pier by Diamond Geezer; (3) West Cliff Lift by Alwyn Ladell; (4) Oceanarium by Lebatihem; (5) Peppa Pig Train by Elliott Brown
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The Perfect Paris Itinerary for Female Travelers

paris sacre coeur

Not sure you can see the best of Paris in only a couple of days? Don’t fret: I am here to help you maximize your time in Paris! Whether you spend as short as a day (yes, there is such a thing as a Paris in a day tour) or as long as a month, you can see all the famous sights of one of the most popular and romantic cities on the globe.

Paris has so much to offer to tourists and as a woman who is visiting Paris for the first time, you’re likely to fall for Paris just as Audrey Hepburn and so many other women. From the delicious food to the fascinating history and the breathtaking monuments, there’s something for everybody in Paris.

In this article, I am sharing the perfect Paris itinerary for female travelers. This itinerary will help you visit the major attractions in Paris without feeling overwhelmed. If you’re going to stay in Paris a little longer, don’t rush around the city – take your time and see Paris off the beaten path, too.

To make this Paris itinerary extra special, I’ve tailored it to suit the taste and finesses of any woman who wants to savor the finest of Paris. I recommend getting the Paris Pass when you arrive – this pass will give you access to over 60 popular landmark attractions in Paris, river cruise and even a public transport card, and buying the pass is much cheaper than paying for each attraction chez marie cafe

So, let’s jump right into it!

Paris itinerary

Stop #1: The Eiffel Tower

Why not start the tour of Paris strong with one of the most visited sights in Paris – the Eiffel Tower?

This wrought iron structure was named after the engineer who designed this masterpiece, Gustave Eiffel. The tower overlooks the beautiful Champ de Mars Park where you can witness marriage proposals as well as declarations of undying love pretty much every day.

You can enjoy the view of the tower from the Trocadero Gardens located across the Seine River or you can have a lovely picnic at Champ de Mars gardens while you gaze at the Eiffel Tower’s beauty. You can also check out the view of Paris from one of the floors inside the Eiffel Tower, giving you a stunning panoramic view of the City of Love.

Stop #2: Seine River

A Seine River cruise will give you an fantastic view of Paris from a unique angle. The best part of it all is that you get to see most of the iconic landmarks from the boat – without having to walk a single step.

Some of the sights you get to capture a glimpse of are the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame Cathedral, Pont Neuf, Musée d’Orsay and Le Louvre. Going on a Seine River cruise after viewing the Eiffel Tower makes sense because the cruise ships depart near the Tower.

The tour of Paris on the Seine River is especially magical at night. So, whether you do the cruise in the day or at night you’re guaranteed to have a memorable experience. Have your camera ready!paris from eiffeltower

Stop #3: Le Louvre

You must have already spotted the glass pyramid from the Seine River. Le Louvre is one of the most famous museums in the entire world – naturally, this is a must on your Paris itinerary. It’s home to some of the most famous artwork on the planet, like Venus de Milo and of course the Mona Lisa.

If you’re not in a rush, take your time at the Louvre. The feeling of being in the midst of so much history and such magnificent art is incredible. If you don’t have much time in Paris, make sure to book your tickets in advance – the lines can get quite long, and you don’t want to waste hours waiting in a queue for tickets. If you have the Paris Pass, it includes a Skip-The-Line ticket for the Louvre. If you’re planning on staying a little longer in Paris, you can spend an entire day in the Louvre – it is a large museum that takes time to fully louvre

paris arc de triompheStop #4: Arc de Triomphe

From the Louvre, head over to the Arc de Triomphe. Not only will you walk past the gorgeous Tuilleres Gardens, but walking to the Arc will grant you the opportunity to do some shopping at the Champs Elysees before you get to the Arc de Triomphe. There you can shop for beautiful souvenirs and gifts to bring home, and window shop at the luxury brands.

The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoleon and was the largest triumphal arch in the entire world for the longest time (North Korea built a bigger one in 1982). The monument commemorates those who died during the French revolution and celebrates its victories. You can read the names of noteworthy successes during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods at the top of the arch. Underneath the Arc de Triomphe is the “Tomb of the unknown soldier” – a soldier who lost his life during World War I.

There are sculptures skillfully etched in the walls of the Arc – take a moment to wander around the arch and take in the fresco, writings and . If you want another view of Paris (with the Eiffel Tower in your picture), you enjoy fantastic views from the top of the monument. However, you will have to climb about 280 stairs to the top. I say the views are worth the climb and the admission (13).

paris notre dame

Stop #5: Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral is another of Paris’ world famous monuments. You’ll be enthralled by the detail of architecture, the elegance of the stained-glass windows and the vastness of it all. Sadly, the cathdreal can’t be visited anymore after a devastating fire destroyed part of it in April 2019 (and it’ll be closed for at least another five to six years), but just the very sight of Notre Dame will have you in awe.

Stop #6: Musée d’Orsay

You might think that seeing one museum is enough, but if you love art, you cannot miss this museum. It’s not too far from Notre Dame (about thirty mins), so you can even walk there – it’s a lovely walk along the Seine River. The Musée d’Orsay is a masterpiece on its own – a Beau-Art building which used to be a railway station. You can see the work of some of the most celebrated painters in the world here: Monet, Renoir, Manet, Toulouse-Latrec, Degas, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Seurat, Gauguin, and Sisley. The Musée d’Orsay is one of the largest art museums in Europe, home to paintings, sculptures, photography and more, so plan in some time here. Note: Paris Pass holders can skip the line metro

paris for female travelers

Stop #7: Versailles

A trip to Paris for female travelers would be incomplete without a trip to Versailles, about 40 mins from central Paris by train. Versailles is a breathtaking palace and as you walk through it, you won’t be able to stop yourself from picturing how it would have been to live here as a royal in the 17th century.

The large halls, intricate paintings and sculptures, plus all the incredible fittings will make you wish you could move into to this opulent palace. The vast and lush gardens, which took forty years to complete, are just wonderful to behold. By the way: Versailles is included in the Paris Pass, which also includes a travel card for public transportation.

Stop #8: Department stores on Boulevard Haussmann

Your Paris itinerary wouldn’t be complete without doing a bit more shopping. Paris is not just known for being romantic. It is also known for being a fashion hub!  Which is one of the things that makes Paris great for female travelers.

Boulevard Haussmann is a long beautiful tree-lined boulevard lined that runs all the way from Boulevard Montmartre to Avenue de Friedland near the Champs-Elysées. This boulevard is known for its many department stores as well as some of the most elegant shops in all of Paris – there’s no better place for an afternoon of shopping! Don’t miss the famous Galeries Lafayette Haussmann, a department store where the architecture is almost as interesting as all the things you can buy, and where, from the terrace on the 7th floor, you can enjoy sweeping views over france

Map provided by Wanderlog, a travel planner

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The Beauties of Croatian Coastline


Croatia is a beautiful Central European country that is fortunate to border the Adriatic Sea. A long, beautiful coastline, over 1240 stunning islands filled with amazing flora and fauna, breathtaking views and unforgettable landscapes attract almost 20 million tourists every year! Even if you had a month, it still wouldn’t be enough time to fully enjoy and visit all the beautiful places in Croatian coastline. Are you’re thinking of traveling to Croatia, but you don’t know where to go in Croatia? Read on to find out what I consider five of the best places to visit in Croatia – all located along the country’s stunning coastline.

The best places to visit Croatia

A popular way to see Croatia is by boat – island hopping allows you to get to explore some of the more remote islands and see stunning beaches that can only be accessed by boat. It’s not only an incredibly convenient form of transportation, but also the fastest way to get around and see a lot in little time. Obviously, you don’t have to own a yacht to be able to travel this way. Yachts, sail boats and other types of boats can be rented – check it out here.

The variety of stunningly beautiful places that you should see in Croatia is so wide that it’s pretty much impossible to visit them all. Because of that, I compiled a list of the most beautiful places to visit in Croatia.


1 Nakovana Ghost Town

If you love exploring abandoned places, the ghost town of Nakovana is a place you have to see! In the past, it was a vibrant farming village, but most inhabitants had to leave the city, because of the Italian and German troops invasion during the Second World War. An event that eventually finished the town off was the national civil war in the 1990s. Nowadays tourists can wander along cobblestone streets and feast their eyes on abandoned houses. Go there and feel like you traveled back in time. Don’t forget to bring some food and water, because there are no shops or restaurants in this area.

2 Dubrovnik

I don’t need to tell you that Dubrovnik is one of the best places to visit in Croatia – you already know that. It’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in Croatia for a reason though – it is just incredibly scenic with its seaside location, beautiful architecture and majestic city walls. Start your exploration of Dubrovnik with a walk of the city walls. It won’t take more than 2 hours, and you’ll be able to see beautiful landscapes and take dozens of photos. Also, make sure to take a ride on the Dubrovnik Cable Car. It was built in 1969, and millions of tourists use it to enjoy marvelous panoramic views over the city and the Adriatic Sea.where to go in Croatia

Are you a Game of Thrones fan? Even if you’ve never been to Dubrovnik before, you might feel that you’ve already seen some of these places before. It is because the city was the main location for King’s Landing, the largest city and capital of the Seven Kingdoms. If you want to sit on the Iron Throne, make sure that you visit this picturesque city.


3 Korcula Island Vineyards

A place that every connoisseur of the vine has to see. Vineyards extend to the horizon, and you can admire this stunning landscape, and indulge yourself with a tasting tour. It’s a place that you’ll never forget. But vineyards are not the only tourist attraction that you’ll find on this island. Rumors says that Marco Polo was born in Korcula town, so if you want to know more about this famous merchant, you have to visit Marco Polo places to visit in Croatia

4 Odysseus Cave in Mljet Island

Homer’s Odyssey is a book that many people have read. According to the legend, Odysseus shipwrecked on Mljet Island, and Nymph Calypso, who ruled this island, kept him in captivity for seven years. While this legend is now attributed to the island of Gozo in Malta, it is still worth visiting Mljet, as you will find a wonderful island, which is 70% covered in pine trees and has only one single road. The island has many gorgeous places to swim, and one of them is known as Odysseus Cave. You’ll need to rent a car or scooter to explore Mljet, sin Odysseus Cave is in the south of Mljet It’s recommended to go there during the midday hours because sun rays provide this place with exquisitely beautiful illumination.

If what you’re looking for is a tranquil, serene place, you don’t have to wonder anymore where to go in Croatia: Mljet is the perfect place for you.

where to go in Croatia

5 Brac Island

Brac Island is best known for the Zlatni Rat, often described as the most scenic European beach. Unfortunately, because of this title, it often gets very crowded, especially during the summer months. While Zlatni Rat puts Brac Island on most people’s list of the best places to visit in Croatia, it is a good idea to explore other parts of the island and find other beaches that are less-visited, but just as stunningly beautiful as Zlatni Rat. best places to visit in Croatia

If you are looking for rest & recreation, this is the perfect place for you. Spend your days on the beach, swim in the crystal clear, turquoise water, and you’ll feel recharged after a few days of not doing much here. As for accommodation, I highly recommend checking out Airbnb, where you can find apartments for as little as US$22 per night.



6 Konavle

Konavle is a small region south of Dubrovnik running all the way to the border with Montenegro. The region is known for its many vineyards, but the picturesque hilly landscapes also attract hikers and cyclists. Turquoise waters and palm trees are what make the coastal villages of Konavle so attractive. As of now, this region is still talked about as a “hidden gem”, but it won’t be long until word gets out and more tourists head to this southernmost part of Croatia.

best places to visit in Croatia

Photo Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Dubrovnik by Michael Gwyther-Jones; (2) Dubrovnik cable car by Luca Sartoni; (3) Korcula Island by Kate Tann; (4) Out of Odysseus Cave by Laurie Ray; (5) Brač Island by Nicolaj Potanin; (6) Konavle viewpoint by Miroslav Vajdic
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Your Guide to Traveling Europe on a Budget

Bavarian village, Germany

Travelers across the globe have ‘backpacking through Europe’ on their bucket list, and it’s one trip I recommend everybody takes – especially Americans. You can experience so many different cultures, so much history, so many countries – all just a stone’s throw away from each other. It’s a huge milestone for any traveler, and there are countless places to explore in Europe. The best thing about Europe is that most countries are inexpensive, and with some money-saving tips, you’ll be able to travel Europe on a budget.

If you want to go on a backpacking trip around Europe, follow these tips to help you save money while exploring exquisite travel spots throughout Europe:paris sacre coeur


1 Budget Accommodation in Europe

Hostels and Dorms in Europe

Staying in hostels and dorms is my #1 tip for traveling Europe on a budget. You may think hostels are only meant for young people, but you’ll be surprised to know that people from all age groups prefer staying in hostels on their backpacking trips. Some hostels even provide single and double rooms for people who don’t like sharing their accommodation with other travelers, so don’t be put off by the thought of sharing a room with other people.

My favorite thing about hostels is that there is usually a common area or lounge, which is great for meeting other travelers, and they often offer social activities such as pub crawls or free walking tours of the city you’re visiting – so if you’re traveling solo but you’d like to connect with other travelers, I highly recommend staying in hostels. Staying in hostels is something everyone who backpacks around Europe does.

abraham hostel jerusalem roof terrace

2 Eating Cheap in Europe

Cook Your Own Meal

Staying at a hostel or an Airbnb means that you have a kitchen. And considering food is one of the major expenses while traveling, the best thing you can do is to buy fresh ingredients and cook for yourself. It may not be feasible all the time, but you will be saving a lot of cash to spend elsewhere. If you want to travel Europe on a budget, you shouldn’t eat out three times a day – plan on making at least one meal a day in your hostel / Airbnb.

Eat Like A Local

Avoiding restaurants and eateries at tourist spots and finding the ones located a few blocks away will get you the best deals on food (as the food is always more expensive in touristy areas). milan pizza arugala

Eat Street Food

While traveling across Europe, you will easily spot food stalls around you all the time. Europe has a rich street food culture, and you could easily grab something to eat, like a slice of pizza or a crepe without having to shell out a fortune. Indulging in seafood across different countries may also prove to be a delicious experience. In Germany, you can get a kebab for as little as €3, in England you can get the popular supermarket ‘meal deals’ that include a sandwich, a drink and a bag of chips or fresh fruit for around £3, and in many cities in Spain you get FREE tapas when you order a beer or a glass of wine (which shouldn’t be more than €3).potosi chocolate crepe

3 Finding Budget Transportation in Europe

Getting Around Europe on The Cheap

I have already shared my best tips on how to get around Europe on the cheap in detail, but my number one app to book cheap transportation in Europe is Omio. This app lets you put in the city you leave from and your destination, and shows you every possible way to get there (bus, train, plane), and how much each option will cost you. This app is my go-to app every time I backpack around Europe.

travel Europe on a budget

Cycling or Walking in Europe

Exploring a city on your feet or on two wheels is an immersive experience, and a must try. It doesn’t only help you save money, but also keeps you fit while on the road. Most European cities have bikeshare systems that cost little money, and many cities now also have electric scooters that enable you to get around faster and cheaper than ever before.

Budget Airlines in Europe

A little research before booking your air tickets could get you cheap flight tickets. Hence, it is advisable to book your tickets in advance as they tend to be cheaper when booked months before. WhichBudget is a great tools that tells you which airlines cover the route you’re planning to take.flying

4 Cheap Luggage Storage In Europe

The great thing about Airbnb is that you can rent a room in someone else’s apartment for very little money – but the disadvantage is that you usually cannot store your luggage if you have a flight that leaves long after your check-out time, because usually the next guest is checking in right away or the host may not be around to hand over your luggage to you. But luckily, a number of companies have sprung up to solve this very problem, which is excellent for anyone who wants to travel Europe on a budget.

LuggageHero is one of the companies with the best coverage in European cities, for example:

Two more luggage storage companies that operate all over Europe are:

In addition, you find luggage storage in almost every train station in Europe.

5 Free Walking Tours in Europe

If you want to save money on sightseeing, I recommend starting your exploration of each city you visit with a free walking tour. I take a free walking tour in every city on my very first day, because not only do these tours give you a great overview of the city, but the guides are usually very budget-savvy themselves and always have great recommendations for cheap eats, happy hours and bars with cheap beers. The guides are a wealth of information for anyone backpacking around Europe, because many of them go on backpacking trips themselves when they’re not working. Here are some of the companies that I’ve used in Europe – make sure to book a spot online, because they tend to get very busy, especially in the summer, and DON’T FORGET TO TIP YOUR GUIDE!! (They have to eat, too.) An appropriate amount would be 10 – 20, depending on how much you enjoyed the tour.

  • Free Tours By Foot is one of the largest operator of free walking tours in the entire world, they cover most European cities.
  • Sandeman’s New Europe: one of the most popular operators of free walking tours in Europe, offering free walking tours in Barcelona, Lisbon, Rome, Brussels, Berlin, Hamburg, Edinburgh, Copenhagen, Liverpool, Amsterdam, London, Madrid, Munich, Seville, and more!
  • Good Tours operate in three cities: Vienna, Prague and Krakow

These tours are not free, but Get Your Guide is an aggregator of tours and attractions worldwide, worth checking for skip-the-lines tickets and tours that take you ‘off the beaten path’:


Don’t Forget: Get International Travel Insurance

Traveling to unknown places involves several risks: missing flights, losing luggage, getting sick or getting into an accident, or being mugged. I can’t stress it enough: you should always get international travel insurance when you plan a trip. This is a cost that you have to factor into your travel budget, and something you shouldn’t forgo in favor of a few beers or nice dinners during your trip.

Although international travel insurance cannot help you avoid misfortunes during your travel, it will offer relief in the form of monetary compensation.backpack around europe

Five budget-friendly cities you have to visit when you travel Europe on a budget

Yes, some European cities aren’t cheap – especially in Scandinavian countries, or Dublin – but there are a lot of places where you can go when you travel Europe on a budget – without breaking the bank. Here are five cities that are great for anyone traveling Europe on a budget:

    • Leon, Spain: If you consider yourself a foodie, this should be on your list
    • Krakow, Poland: Party animals will find themselves at home in Krakow as it’s undoubtedly the party capital of the world
    • Berlin, Germany:: If observing and learning about the culture of the place you visit fascinates you, you have to visit Berlin
    • Portugal: It is a small but lovely country for water enthusiasts who would like to unwind around water and watch sunsets
    • Transylvania, Romania: If adventure and hiking is what you are looking for, Romania is the perfect candidate.

So, stop making excuses! Pack your bags and get planning. Europe is waiting for you!


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Three must-do day trips from Krakow


Poland’s second city has a lot to offer in itself, with a stunning medieval Old Town that was declared World Heritage by UNESCO, a remarkable mix of architecture (including Gothic, Renaissance, baroque, Romanesque and art nouveau), a Royal Castle and a Jewish Quarter turned bohemian neighborhood, plus a cultural calendar so packed that it could keep you busy for weeks. But if you have a day or two to spare, there are actually a number of places outside of Krakow that are worth a visit. Read on for the best day trips from Krakow, how much time to spend there and how to do it:

1 Auschwitz

A visit to Auschwitz is not the most joyful of days, but educating yourself about the horrific experiences Jewish prisoners had to endure in this (and similar) concentration camps is something I believe everyone should do. Auschwitz has become the most important representation of the Holocaust, representing the brutal extermination of an entire religion, with over six million people unscrupulously murdered – over one million of which died in Auschwitz – and it is more critical than ever to be informed about genocide and the brutal regime of the Nazis. It is heartbreaking to read about the events of the Jewish prisoners and to see images as well as personal belongings, but a visit to Auschwitz should be on every Krakow visitor’s itinerary.Auschwitz

Trip Duration: Even though Auschwitz is not far from Krakow (65 km (40 mi) west of the city), it will take you hours to see both parts of the concentration camp, one of which now houses an extensive museum. This is a full day trip from Krakow.

How to do it: Buses run regularly between Krakow and Auschwitz from the Central Bus Station, they usually say ‘Oświęcim, Auschwitz Museum”. The main operator is Lajkonik. If they go directly to the concentration camp, bypassing the town, the ride takes around 90 minutes. The longer route can take up to 2.5 hours, so you’ll want to make sure you take a bus that goes directly to Auschwitz. Tickets are PLN13 (US$3.32) each way when purchased online or PLN14 (US$3.62) when purchased from the driver.

You can also take a guided tour from Krakow – they are advertised all over Krakow. Expect to pay between PLN130 and PLN150 (US$33 – US$39). It is also possible to organize your transportation from Krakow individually (i.e. take the cheap bus) and book a guided tour in Auschwitz. Tours run every 15 minutes and take between 2.5 and 3.5 hours. They start at around PLN60 (~US$15).

If you are planning to visit Auschwitz between April and October, it is advised to reserve a guided tour at least one month before your visit. Tours fill up quickly during high season.

Admission to Auschwitz is free.

Important: Note that during high season (between 1 April and 31 October) you can visit one large part of the camp (Auschwitz I) as part of a guided tour between 10am and 3pm due to the large number of visitors. If you prefer seeing the camp at your own pace, make sure to arrive before 10am. Arriving after 3pm would mean a rather rushed visit. Auschwitz Memorial and Museum are open daily from 7.30am – 7pm.Auschwitz

2 Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Wieliczka Salt Mine is a former salt mine where for hundreds of years miners pulled out rock salt which was processed into table salt for pretty much all of Poland.

After the mine closed, talented sculptors gave it a second life by decorating the caves with salt statues so elaborate that you have to go see them with your own eyes to believe it. There is even an entire chapel made out of salt down there – hundreds of meters below ground! The chapel, named Chapel of St Kinga, is so magnificent that it has become a popular spot for weddings and rock concerts. Other highlights of the cavernous maze of underground tunnels include an underground salt lake (which has a higher salt density than the Dead Sea!), a salt sculpture of Pope John Paul II, and a salt-crystal chandelier. There’s even a salt version of Leonardo’s The Last Supper carved into rock-salt wall!Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine has over 200 miles (300 kilometers) of tunnels, spread out of nine levels, of which the deepest is 1,073 feet (327 meters) underground. UNESCO recognized the splendor of the mine by rewarding it World Heritage status in 2010. In addition to salt sculptures, the mine also has displays of historic salt-mining technology and a salt museum.

Trip duration: You can visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine in a few hours, which means this can be done in a half day trip from Krakow.

How to do it: The easiest way to see the Salt Mines is taking a Wieliczka Salt Mine Tour from Krakow. Tours start in Krakow’s Old Town and with a tour you get to skip the line at the entrance, you are shown around by a knowledgeable guide who provides you with background information on the mines and brings you to the most remarkable sculptures and chambers. Tours take around 4.5 hours (90 minutes of which are transportation from and to Krakow) and cost around PLN150 (around US$35). Be aware that the tour includes quite a bit of walking in the mine, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes, and since it’s quite chilly in the mine (the average temperature is  57°F / 14°C ) you’ll want to pack a jacket, even on a hot day.---

3 Tatra Mountains

If you are an avid hiker, you should definitely make the Tatra Mountains part of your Krakow itinerary, but anyone who appreciates nature, scenic landscapes and mountains will enjoy a trip to what is often called the ‘Polish Alps’. Take a bus to Zakopane, a town in a picturesque city in the foothills of the mountains. From there, you can take a cable car up to the mountain top for panoramic views or to start a mountain hike along one of the many trails. In the winter, Zakopane turns into a winter wonderland and becomes a dream destination for winter sports enthusiasts.Tatra Mountains

You shouldn’t miss the Morskie Oko Trail, which brings you to the most stunning lake in the Tatra Mountains: Morskie Oko. This lake was named as one of the five most beautiful lakes in the world by the Wall Street Journal! If hiking isn’t your thing, soak up the atmosphere of Zakopane, wander Krupówki Street (the main street), which is lined with shops and restaurants, and enjoy a traditionally Polish meal at Dobra Kasza Nasza. Try the famous oscypek, a smoked cheese made of salted sheep milk that you find only in the Tatra Mountains. If you want to experience Poland beyond its cities, this day trip from Krakow is the one you should take.

Trip duration: Getting to Zakopane / the Tatra Mountains takes about two hours, so this is definitely a full day trip from Krakow, especially if you are planning to go on a longer hike. The Tatra Mountains would also make for a great overnight trip. If you go overnight, book your accommodation in advance – Zakopane can get busy.

How to do it: You can take a bus from Krakow which brings you to Zakopane in two hours and costs only between €3 and €. Book your buses and trains in advance to save money – You can book the bus via the Omio travel app at a discount price. I named this app as my number one travel app in my How To Travel Europe on a Budget article. There are trains as well, but they take longer (about three hours). If you want to be more flexible, you can rent a car in Krakow – car rentals start at around €35 per day.Calm

Photo Credit: Lead image of Krakow via Pixabay. All other images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Auschwitz by Michela Simoncini; (2) Auschwitz by the Anne Frank Trust UK; (3) Wieliczka Salt Mine by Charlotte Powell; (4) Salt Chapel by Tomasz Labuz; (5) Tatra Mountains by Remigiusz Agatowski; (6) Tatra Mountain Lake by Adam Baker
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Lakes, Castles and Beaches: A Northern Germany Road Trip

northern germany road trip lake

Over the past few years, my visits to Germany have been looking pretty much the same every time I go: I stop in my hometown to my family, I stop in Berlin because I can’t get enough of the city, and I visit friends in Cologne and Munich. But what about the rest of Germany? Even though I spent quite a bit of time traveling Germany when I was younger and still living in Europe, there are still plenty of places I have yet to visit. On top of my wish list: Spreewald (a biosphere reserve consisting of wetlands and forests southeast of Berlin), a northern Germany road trip including the cities of Bremen and Bremerhaven, and Lübeck, which is famous for its brick Gothic architecture, and the coastal region of East Frisia), and a southern Germany road trip along the Romantic Road which covers a bunch of fairytale-like towns in Southern Germany.

When my friend suggested we could meet up in Germany for a few days during my last visit, and asked me to show her Germany beyond Berlin, I immediately started researching possible trips. A quick search for car rentals in Germany revealed that a rental car would cost us less than $25 per day, and that was for a pick-up right in the center of Berlin (note that rental pick-up at one of the airports would’ve cost around $24 per day), which is an amazing rate. Plus, it meant we could bring my favorite furry travel companion along.Northern Germany Road Trip itineraryI decided to introduce my friend to Germany’s nautical side and mapped out a Northern Germany road trip route that is perfect if you have a week to spend in Germany, but which can also be driven in five days. I wanted to include the famous Mecklenburg Lake Plateau, the Baltic Sea, at least one of Germany’s fairy tale castles, a grand Hanseatic city and a smaller town in the countryside.

This kind of trip definitely required a car, since several towns were small and not on the main bus routes (side note: the buses also take the major highways, instead of scenic byways), and taking the train would’ve meant connecting. I created a road trip that had a couple of stops en-route, meaning we would only spend a couple of hours or an afternoon there on the way to our final destination for the day – which is only possible if you have a car. Train and bus travel are solid options in Germany when you just travel from A to B, but to see more of the country and to get ‘off the beaten path’, you really need a vehicle. Luckily, car rentals in Germany are inexpensive and you can get a small rental starting at around $23 per day, or a medium-sized vehicle starting at around $25 per day. And did I mention renting a car meant I’d be able to bring a dog? 🙂

Here’s the map of our route (I excluded highways so that we would only drive scenic country roads):Northern Germany Road Trip Itinerary

Read on for the highlights of this road trip through northern Germany and what not to miss in each of the places you drive through:

My Northern Germany Road Trip Itinerary


Germany’s capital has so much to offer, you can easily spend an entire week just there. If you haven’t been yet, get an overview and learn about the comprehensive and complicated history of Berlin during both World War II and the division between East and West Germany on a free walking tour. Go for a bike ride in Tiergarten Park and on Tempelhof airfield, an abandoned airport turned park. Take in the city from above from either Victory Column (only €3, but 270 steps) or the observation deck on top of the Park Inn at Alexanderplatz, right across from the TV Tower (€4).

Eat Middle Eastern food while you’re wandering the streets of Berlin’s trendy Neukölln neighborhood and go flea market hopping on a weekend in the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood (don’t miss Mauerpark for the flea market, street food and the largest karaoke event in Germany – every Sunday during the summer months – and the Sunday flea market at Arkonaplatz). Head to the East Side Gallery for fantastic murals, and go barhopping in the vibrant Friedrichshain neighborhood.

Check out my detailed guide to Berlin for more ideas on what to see and do.Berlin


Drive: Berlin to Neuruppin: 80 kilometers / 50 miles – about 90 minutes

Suggested stop along the way: Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg, a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg just north of Berlin. The visit is a somber but educational experience.

Leave Berlin and drive north towards the lake district. Once you’ve left the city limits behind you, you’ll find yourself driving through lush green parkland and forests, along small rivers and canals. Neuruppin sits right on the shore of Ruppin Lake, and there is a beautiful trail along the lake. The town is known as a garrison town and was mainly built in Neoclassical style – the many pastel colored houses provide gorgeous photo opps. The remarkable minster Sankt Trinitatis, a historic church with adjacent monastery, was built in 1264 (the oldest building in Neuruppin) is the centerpiece of the small town.

If you’re a fan of sauna culture, plan in enough time for a visit to the thermal bath in Neuruppin which is the largest lake sauna for swimming in all of Germany. The views of the Ruppin Lake from the many different saunas are fabulous.Neuruppin Germany

Plau Am See

Drive: Neuruppin to Plau Am See, 90 kilometers / 56 miles – about 90 minutes

The small town is the gateway to the Mecklenburg Lake Plateau, and its name translates to ‘Plau On The Lake’. The city was founded around 1235 and has a lovely historic Old Town with half-timbered houses that’s worth a stroll. The main sights include the historic church, the Neo-classical town hall, the ruins of Plau Castle, and a bridge that is vertically lifted every time a boat wants to pass through the channel below. There is also a historic water mill that dates to 1273.northern germany lake district


Drive: Plau Am See to Schwerin, 73 kilometers / 45 miles – about 1 hour

You’ll drive through the picturesque lake district for about an hour before you reach Schwerin, the state capital of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The city is famous for its majestic palace, Schwerin Castle, which sits on an island in Lake Schwerin, one of several scenic lakes. Until 1918, the picture-perfect fairytale palace was a main residence of the dukes and grand dukes of Mecklenburg, and since 1990, it has been the seat of the state parliament.

Schwerin is the oldest city in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (first mentioned in 1018) and has a well preserved Old Town, including the beautiful Schwerin Cathedral, built in Brick Gothic style (1260 – 1416).

Tip: If you don’t have time for an extended visit, I recommend a pit stop on your northern Germany road trip in Schwerin to see at least the stunning castle. Schwerin Germany

Wismar / Kühlungsborn

Drive: Schwerin to Kühlungsborn, 70 kilometers / 44 miles – around 1 hour and 15 minutes

Recommended stop along the way: Wismar

If you have time, stop in Wismar, about halfway in between Schwerin and Kühlungsborn. It’ll add only 15 – 20 mins to the drive, but you’ll get to see the remarkable medieval buildings of Wismar’s well preserved Old Town, which is part of the shared UNESCO World Heritage site of Wismar and Stralsund (another city on the Baltic coast). Both Wismar and Schwerin were major trading centers of the Hanseatic League, a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Northwestern and Central Europe, founded in the late 1100s.

As you drive towards Kühlungsborn you’ll enjoy lovely views of the countryside, little hamlets, forests, and eventually, the azure blue Baltic Sea.kuehlungsborn beach

Kühlungsborn is a famous German seaside resort on the Baltic Sea – the main attraction here is the 4 kilometer (2.5 miles) long beach promenade, one of the longest in Germany. There’s not much to do here beyond the beach, but that’s exactly why 3 million people flock to Kühlungsborn every year: to simply soak up some of the salty sea air, take a dip in the freezing cold Baltic Sea (the water temperature in the summer averages a cool 18°C / 64°F).

Spend a day lounging in a Strandkorb (a sheltered straw ‘beach basket’ seat typical for the seaside resorts along the Baltic Sea coast) on its long and wide sand beach. When you find yourself getting hungry, go for a stroll along the promenade and stop in one of the many seafood restaurants for the Catch of the Day.

If you want to be more active, rent bikes and ride along the ‘Kühlung’, the unique a forested ridge, part of a cycling route along the coast. Worth visiting are also nearby Heiligendamm, Germany’s very first seaside resort, and lighthouse Buk, built in 1878. The views over the surrounding area and the Baltic Sea from the top of the lighthouse are unrivaled.kuehlungsborn baltic sea


Drive: Kühlungsborn to Rostock, 33 kilometers / 21 miles – about 40 minutes

Rostock is the largest city in the state of Mecklenburg Vorpommern and used to be the most significant member of the Hanseatic League (see above). The city celebrated its 800th (!) birthday in 2018 and is famous not only for its past as an important seaport in the Baltic Sea, but also its striking architecture (many buildings were built in Brick Gothic style, typical for the Hanseatic cities), several grand churches (dating to the 13th century), the impressive harbor and restored gable houses from the 15th and 16th centuries. You can even still see parts of the medieval city wall.Rostock Germany


Drive: Rostock to Warnemünde, 10 kilometers / 6 miles – about 12 minutes

If you have time, don’t miss nearby Warnemünde, which is a district of Rostock that is located right on the Baltic Sea (Rostock is further inland, connected to the Baltic Sea via the Unterwarnow, the estuary of the Warnow River). Warnemünde has managed to maintain the character of a small fishing village (population 8,400), despite having become a popular cruise ship destination.

The promenade is lined with colorful houses, hotels, restaurants and little shops, and the main canal, Alter Strom, is lined with beautiful boats. The historic lighthouse, built in 1898, is worth the climb (135 steps) for the glorious coastal vistas.baltic sea boat

Tip: If you haven’t set the dates for your Northern Germany road trip yet, try to head to Rostock and Warnemünde during the second weekend in August, when Hanse Sail takes place. Hanse Sail is a huge maritime festival with up to 1..5 million visitors, celebrating maritime traditions and culture. Around 250 sailing ships of all types and sizes from different countries sail to Rostock for the festival – a truly unique spectacle. (If you’re planning to spend the night – book your accommodation well in advance!).kuehlungsborn strandkoerbe

Final Stretch: Circling Back to Berlin

Drive: Rostock to Berlin, 240 kilometers / 150 miles, about 4 hours

If you decide to head straight back to Berlin from Rostock, it’ll take you about four hours to get back to where you started. If you have time for an additional stop on the way back, I recommend to break up the drive in either of these two places:


(88 kilometers / 55 miles, about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Rostock; 152 kilometers / 95 miles – about 2 hours and 45 minutes from Berlin)

Waren sits right on Lake Müritz and is known for its historic town center, boasting a large number of historic buildings and monuments. It’s a pleasant city for a wander around town or along the lake. Lake Müritz is the second largest lake in all of Germany and the largest one in the Mecklenburg Lake Plateau, an Müritz National Park stretches the long eastern shoreline of the lake.Northern Germany Road Trip


(134 kilometers / 83 miles – about 2 hours and 10 minutes from Rostock; 111 kilometers / 69 miles – about 2 hours from Berlin)

Neustrelitz is also located right in the Mecklenburg Lake District, sitting on the shores of Lake Zierker See. The historic town center is known for its stunning Baroque architecture, with a wide open market square. While the palace of Neustrelitz was destroyed during World War II, the palace gardens are still intact, and they are delightful!Northern Germany Road Trip

And that was our Northern Germany road trip. Have you visited Northern Germany? Which stops would you add to my itinerary?

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Six Offbeat things to do in Porto, Portugal

Porto Portugal

When it comes down to discussing tourist destinations, Porto is one of the most popular places to visit in right now, and since it’s less hours from Lisbon on the train, why not add a stop in Porto to your trip to Portugal? And while Porto may not be as popular as Lisbon just yet, don’t think you’ll get away from tourists – Porto is still a touristy spot, however, if you want to do something ‘off the beaten path’, I recommend to find private tours in Porto with locals.PortoIn this article, I am sharing a few of the less talked about things to do while visiting Porto – once you’ve seen the main tourist attractions, check out these cool things:

Book a film show at an independent theater

Independent films and watching them around in Porto is quite the tradition. If you wish to experience something similar, the best way to go about with it is by visiting Cinema Trindale. It does offer some of the most amazing set of choices and that too at an amazing price as well. You don’t need to worry about the language barrier because there are subtitles for the movies you watch.

Visit Casa da Musica

Apart from the breathtaking beauty of the white and glass in the swerving walls of Casa, the Casa da Musica is one of those offbeat spots to visit around which offers an immaculate experience. The building itself is a must-see for architecture lovers, while the performances inside will wow not just lovers of classical music. The orchestral shows in there are nothing short of amazing and are one of the best things to do while in Porto. If you miss out on getting tickets to a concert, the cafe in the basement is worth a visit too. It is also an amazing spot to witness the skaters swerve through the slopes.Casa da Música, Porto - Portugal

Visit the Cat cafe

Cafes are everywhere to be found around Porto but the one that stands out is the cat cafe. It is not just one of a kind but quite a fun place to hang around in. It is called O Porto dos Gatos (The Port Of Cats) and is one of the only cat cafes in all of in Europe. The interior of the place is quite serene and has cats everywhere you turn. The cafe serves 100% vegan food which is fantastic for vegans – but also non-vegans will love the food here – the cakes and brownies are to die for!

Explore Ribeira

Something you shouldn’t miss while you are in Porto is exploring Ribeira, which is one of Porto’s liveliest neighborhoods and UNESCO World Heritage site. It is known for its architectural grandeur and the beauty it bestows. The name of this place translates to Riverside which is literally where it is located, hence the name. It is one of the most beautiful and charming areas of Porto, so take an afternoon and go for a wander around Ribeira. Use this excellent guide to Ribeira as your starting point to explore the neighborhood.Ribeira

Sign up for an art class

Irrespective of whether or not you are good at art, you can take an art class while you are in Porto. There are several local artists who offer amazing art classes that you can take. Not just the brush strokes, they often explain everything about the equipment too. You don’t need to have any kind of prior experience. All you need is to be enthusiastic about art.

Visit the Tram Museum

The Tram Museum in Porto is one of a kind and makes you travel back in time. Not only do you learn about the history of each train, but you can also find out why each one has a different surname. This museum is often named as a kids’ favorite.Tram 163, Porto Tram Museum

If you want to venture beyond Porto, I recommend taking a trip to Douro Valley. It takes only about an hour and a half to get there and the beauty of the Douro River is worth this road trip. If you have time for a day trip in Douro valley while you’re in Porto, don’t miss this breathtakingly beautiful part of Portugal.

Douro Valley

Photo Credit: Lead image of Porto by Nathsegato via Pixabay. All other images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Porto by Simplethrill; (2) Casa de Musica by Paolo Margari; (3) Ribeira by Miquel Bohigas Costabella; (4) Porto Tram Museum by Nigel Menzies; (5) Douro Valley by Porto Convention & Visitors Bureau
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