Things to do in Maastricht: Your ultimate city guide

If you are looking to explore Maastricht, a beautiful gem of the Netherlands, here are our recommendations. Discover what to see, where to go, how to get around, and where to stay.

Maastricht was not originally on our list of cities to visit during our European train tour.  Our friend from Leiden recommended we head out here as it’s cute, calm and fun to discover.  In the end, we’re so happy we took his advice and headed here.  Although it’s a small town, and there’s not a ton to do here, it was one of our favourite places to discover.

Maastricht Town Hall in Maastricht, Netherlands
Maastricht Town Hall

Highly walkable, Maastricht was like Amsterdam‘s less hectic, but just as cute little sister.  Even though there are still tons of people biking around, you don’t feel like you’re constantly going to be run over by someone!  The streets are just as cute, lined with the old historic homes.  The markets around the city do not disappoint, and the locals are some of the friendliest we’ve met.

Originally a Roman settlement, Maastricht has become famous for a few reasons.  First is the world renown Maastricht University, home to over 16,000 students, almost half of which are foreign students.  Next is the Maastricht Treaty, better know as the formation of the European Union in 1992 and the creation of the Euro currency.

When to go

Maastricht is slightly more humid, so temperatures vary greatly here.  This reminds us greatly of our home town of Montreal, in Canada.  The humidity has a way of making everything feel a lot colder (or hotter) than it actually is.  The type of temperature that hits deep down inside your bones.  Regardless of when you go, make sure you bring an umbrella – the rain is just as unpredictable here as it is in Amsterdam!

If you like warmer weather exploration, Maastricht is hottest during the months of June, July, and August.  This also coincides with the busy tourist season.  July, August, and September are when the prices are high and the crowds flock in.

What to do

As we mentioned, there’s not a ton of things to do here, which is perfectly fitting with the laid-back feel of the city.  You can cram it all into one super busy day, of take two and do it at a leisurely pace.  We opted for 2 full days in Maastricht, and it was just perfect for us.  Another plus, the weather was highly cooperative!

Fort St. Pieter

We don’t usually do many guided tours, but when in Maastricht, we highly recommend coming to visit the Fort St. Pieter.  Our guide was funny, informative and highly knowledgeable, which made for a very entertaining tour.  Also, a guided tour is the only way to visit the Fort.

Fort St Pieter in Maastricht, Netherlands
Fort St Pieter

Maastricht has a highly strategic position in the Netherlands.  It’s at the intersection of the Netherlands, Belgium and France.  The location of the fort is also strategically chosen, up on the only hill in the area, it provides a great vantage point to protect (or sack) the city.  Truth is, the fort was built as an answer to one of the French attacks that broke the famous line in 1673.  The angular defensive fort was built a couple of hundred years later.

 

During the tour, you will learn a lot more about the history of the city, the fort and the “special” relationship between France and the Netherlands!  You will be able to visit the inside of the fort, go down to its tunnels and climb to the top as well.

 

You can buy tickets for the Fort online or directly at the Fort ticket office.  There is usually a daily English-speaking tour at 12:30 pm, and it lasts a little over an hour.  Tickets cost 7.20 Euros for just the fort, but we highly recommend the combo ticket to explore the Underground caves as well.

Underground caves

The only way to visit the underground caves in Maastricht is by going in a guided tour.  Heck!  How else do you plan to navigate through 20,000 corridors underground with minimal lighting?

A map of the North cave complex outside of Maastricht, Netherlands
A map of the North cave complex outside of Maastricht

Luckily, there are daily English tours at 2 pm that leave from the same ticket area as the Fort.  If you take the combo tickets for the fort and the caves, you will pay 11.50 Euros and have a perfect day (especially if it’s rainy).

Make sure you wear comfy shoes for your tours, you’ll be on your feet for a good part of 2.5 hours.  The weather in the cave is at a constant 11 degrees Celsius, and can very at the fort, so dress in layers.

 

Again, this tour is highly informative, entertaining and so much fun.  Learning the history of the caves, how people lived down here and how they are being used today was fascinating.  The coolest thing was walking around with no lights.  A slightly odd feeling for sure!

Basilica of Saint Servatius

It’s nearly impossible to miss the Basilica of Saint Servatius.  It’s in the coolest areas of the city, backing onto the town’s main square, Vrijthof.

The Basilica of Saint Servatius in Maastricht, Netherlands
The Basilica of Saint Servatius

Although this is the fourth church that has been built on this same site, it is still the same location of the grave of an Armenian missionary, Saint Servatius.  He was also bishop of Tongeren and died in Maastricht in 384.

We tried to visit the church, as it looked beautiful, but it was closed both times we went – once at night (around 7-8 pm) and again the next morning.  We were told that it is possible to visit the church, as well as its crypts and treasury where they have many relics.  Maybe you will have more luck than us!

Sint-Janskerk

Sint-Janskerk is located right next to the Basilica of Saint Servatius.  It’s a Protestant church that is iconic with its red tower – impossible to miss as well!

The Sint-Janskerk church in Maastricht, Netherlands
The Sint-Janskerk church

It’s possible to visit the inside of the church from 11 am to 4 pm on most days, as well witness Sunday Mass there, at 10 am.  Entrance to the church is free, but it will cost you 2.50 Euros to climb the tower.

Helpoort

Also known as Hell’s Gate, Helpoort is the oldest standing city gate in the Netherlands.  It was built in the 13th century as part of the city fortification that protected Maastricht.

Hells gate, also known as Helpoort in Maastricht, Netherlands
Hell’s gate, also known as the Helpoort

We thought it had a pretty cool name, until we found out that it was because of the fact that prisoners were kept in its tower. Luckily , those days are gone, as it later served as a residence, storage space and a workshop.  Today, the gate is home to a museum about the history of Maastricht’s fortifications.

Basilica of Our Lady

The Basilica of Our Lady stands tall and proud in Maastricht.  It’s dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption although it is often referred to as the Star of the Sea.  This is because the church’s main devotion is Our Lady, Star of the Sea.  Inside, you can even see some figurines depicting these stories.

The Basilica of Our Lady in Maastricht, Netherlands
The Basilica of Our Lady

The church is beautiful inside and out.  Inside, you can find a treasury that holds some beautiful artifacts.  There is even a little chapel on the side that seems to be independent from the main church.

The Our lady Star of the Sea chapel in Maastricht, Netherlands
The Our Lady Star of the Sea chapel

Waldeckpark

Maastricht’s city park is the best place to take a stroll.  Just outside the old city walls, you can walk around and see a variety of sights that were actually quite unexpected!

A sculpture of a sitting bear in the city park of Maastricht, Netherlands
The sculpture of a sitting bear in the city park

These wooden sculptures that can be found all around the river that cuts through the park.  There was even an art installation that talks about various animals that have gone extinct or that were mistreated in a local zoo.  Well, actually, this is what we gathered by using Google Translate on the signs that were posted!

 

The Waldeckpark is a beautiful place to walk around, take in the calm and beauty of nature, and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city (although it’s not very hectic).  Luckily, we had a somewhat sunny day and got to hang out here.

City Hall and Market Square

Situated in Markt Square, and right across from our hotel, the City hall was impossible to miss for us.  Although you can walk inside, there isn’t much to say about the City Hall, other than how beautiful it looks, both during the day, and all lit up at night.

The market outside Maastricht city hall in Maastricht, Netherlands
The market outside Maastricht City Hall

The market sets up every Wednesday and Friday, right in front of the City Hall.  Here, you will find pretty much anything and everything you could possibly need.

There are between 200 and 300 stalls that pop up from 9 am to 4 pm, selling everything from clothes, fabric, flowers, fresh produce, fish (only on Fridays) and so much more.  Just note that the Friday market is larger than the Wednesday counterpart.

Check out a Christmas market in Vrijthof

We got quite lucky with this one!  We went to Maastricht at the perfect time to check out a Christmas market.  In case you didn’t know, we love Christmas markets.  They are the perfect place to pig out and try all sorts of delicious local treats and meals.  Obviously, we wash it all down with mulled wine!

The Vrijthof Square Christmas market in Maastricht, Netherlands
The Vrijthof Square Christmas market

The Maastricht Christmas market did not disappoint!  It runs from December 1st to January 1st, every day of the week.  There is a skating rink, a huge ferris wheel and tons of stalls that sell souvenirs, food and pretty much anything you would want!

 

The Market is set up in Vrijthof Square, right by Sint-Janskerk and the Basilica of Saint Servatius.

Boekhandel Dominicanen

From the outside, Boekhandel Dominicanen looks like a church.  But when you head inside, you will find the coolest bookstore in the world!  It’s probably the most beautiful bookstore we have ever stepped foot in!

From the second we walked in, we were in love.  The vibe here is so cool, and so impressive.  To browse through books in this majestic and regal setting is an unreal feeling!

The entrance to the Boekhandel Dominicanen bookstore in Maastricht, Netherlands
The entrance to the Boekhandel Dominicanen bookstore

Initially, this was a 13th century Dominican church.  Five centuries later, the church’s ecclesiastical function ended, and it began being used as stables, a bike shed, exhibition space and a party hall.  It was only in 2006 that it became a bookstore.

 

Today, it is an independent bookshop (it used to be owned by a chain), and there are more than 700,000 visitors that come to see this beauty each year.  Inside, you can find new and used books, in English, French, Spanish, German and Italian.  There is also a music department, a café, and it’s even used as an event/exhibition hall from time to time.

Walk around the old City Walls

Maastricht has always been an important historical location, strategically.  It has been attacked by would be conquerors more times than it cares to remember.  For this reason, it should be no surprise that, centuries ago, the city was fortified and enveloped by a large and sturdy city wall.

Today there are only remnants of this once great fortification, but what is still standing is still beautiful to lay your eyes on.  For those of you like Derek, who is a geek and loves old time castles and fortifications, walking around the old city wall is a must!

A part of the old city walls in Maastricht, Netherlands
A part of the old city walls

It is one of those activities that can surprise you, like when we stumbled onto the serene scene above.  This is only one of many sights the wall has to offer, all of which emit a historical aura not to be missed.

Where to stay

We loved our stay at the Hotel de la Bourse.  It was in the perfect spot, right where the market takes place and within walking distance of all the sites, restaurants and just above an amazing cafe, what more can we ask for!

Hotel de la Bourse Maastricht Netherlands
Great place to stop for a coffee or beer at night

It was also super easy to get to from the train station.  We walked there with no problem in maybe 15 – 20 minutes.  No need to grab a bus or taxi, which is always great.

They provide breakfast which had everything we wanted, a great way to start the day. The room was large, with a desk where we could work from, which is oh-so important for us!  

 

It also checked off our most important box, a big comfy bed!

The staff were very friendly, providing great recommendations and keeping our bags while we visited the city after we checked out.  Sometimes, the little things make a huge difference!

The market outside of Hotel de la Bourse in Maastricht, Netherlands
The market outside of Hotel de la Bourse

Where to eat

La Bodega: Who travels to the Netherlands and doesn’t want to eat Spanish food?  Ok maybe not everyone, but if you are in the mood for something light, or some alcoholic beverages, you should stop by this delicious Spanish Tapas restaurant.  Whether you are into meat, or a vegetarian, they will have something yummy for you!  We tried some jamón ibérico croquettes, along with some mushroom croquettes, patatas bravas and pan con tomate.  It really was like being back in Barcelona.

Patty ‘n bun: In the mood for a burger and some fries?  Patty ‘n bun has burgers that leave you wishing your pants stretched a bit more than they do!  We tried the pulled pork burger (you will need multiple napkins, be warned!) and the veggie burger made of beetroot and of course a side of french fries.  The space is also really cool, especially this super retro 90’s mural they have.  Be sure to bring cash though, because they do not accept credit cards like Visa or Mastercard.  They accepted another European one, we clearly didn’t have!

A section of the old walls guarded by cannons in Maastricht, Netherlands
Canons guarding a section of the old walls

Maastricht definitely has that quaint, small town vibe that we love.  Being here just before Christmas added a little something to our experience too.  Highlights?  Visiting the caves and Fort St. Pieter gave us insight into the city’s history we otherwise wouldn’t have gotten.

If you ever are in the Netherlands, you just have to take a day or two, and come visit this University city that is teaming with energy.


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There are a ton of amazing things to do and see in Maastricht, Netherlands. Here are our recommendations of what to do, where to stay, what to eat and how to get around. Tips, tricks and more to have the best time in Maastricht #Maastricht #travel #Netherlands #traveltips #cityguide #thingstodo

Things to do in Amsterdam: Your ultimate city guide

If you are looking to explore Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, here are our recommendations. Discover what to see, where to go, how to get around, and where to stay.

Welcome to Amsterdam!  Since the day we started planning our trip, we knew we wanted to go to Amsterdam.  The beautiful canals that maze through the city and the unique homes that line them had seduced us.  The fact that you can bike around just had us swoon even more!

The sun sets over the canal in Amsterdam, Netherlands
The sun setting over the canal

We had four days here, but could have easily taken a few more weeks!  Whether you want to tip toe through the tulips, bike through the many canals, visit some epic museums, or live the “high life”, Amsterdam definitely has you covered.

When to go

The weather in Amsterdam is quite mild, as much in the summer as the winter, so anytime is good to visit the city.  Though no matter when you go, be sure to pack an umbrella – the rain in Amsterdam is unpredictable!

Beautiful architecture in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Beautiful architecture in Amsterdam’s Vondel Park

Tourist season in Amsterdam is between mid-April to mid-October, though crowds peak in July and August.  The weather is best at this time.  If you go out of this timeframe, you can expect cheaper prices in restaurants and hotels, as well as more peaceful exploration.

If you are heading to Amsterdam to check out the tulips in the fields nearby, make sure you go from April to mid-May.  That’s when the fields will be in full bloom!

What to do

There is more than enough to see and do in Amsterdam.  If you’re looking for a quiet day at the museum, or to go wild in the Red Light district, there is something for everyone.  You can choose to stay in Amsterdam for a few days, or even two weeks, and you’d still have more to discover.  You can bet that we’ll be coming back!

A lovely sunset over the canals of Amsterdam, Netherlands
A lovely sunset over the canals of Amsterdam

Anne Frank House

Everyone knows about Anne Frank, the famous diarist who hid from the Nazis during WWII with her family in this iconic house on a canal called the Prinsengracht.

The Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Anne Frank House

Today, the house that was Anne’s fathers workshop, where Anne and her family hid, serves as a museum that showcases the story of Anne Frank.  Also known as the Secret Annex, it is a must for those who want to tour the third most visited museum in the Netherlands.

The Statue of Anne Frank in Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Statue of Anne Frank

Just know that the house has been left bare, as per Anne Frank’s father’s request.  You will not see the rooms dressed as they were during the war.  Instead, artifacts and prints are showcased on the walls.

Bike around

Biking is serious business in the Netherlands, and nowhere more so than in Amsterdam!  We absolutely love this, as any measure that takes cars off the streets, and makes people exercise, is a huge plus in our books.  Not to mention, biking is a great way to get around the city!

A great sunset over the canals of Amsterdam, Netherlands
A great sunset over the canals

We did notice a few things that were kind of odd about the bike culture in Amsterdam though.  The first is that no one, seriously not a single person, wears a helmet!  How does a society that values biking so much not take bike safety seriously?!

Bicycles in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Bicycles in Amsterdam

The second thing is how little of the road/sidewalk/space is dedicated to pedestrians.  Since there is a very well-established infrastructure dedicated to biking in Amsterdam, much of which was taken from pedestrian sidewalks, it leaves very little room for people who want to walk around.  So if you do, watch out!

Discover some fun neighbourhoods

There are quite a few neighbourhoods and areas that are super fun to discover and walk of bike around.  There may not be a ton of ‘historic’ things to see or do around there, but they are really beautiful and just great to stroll around.

Jordaan

One of the coolest neighbourhoods in Amsterdam!  It’s full of cute boutiques, restaurants, and bars.  Enjoy your time here.  If the weather permits it, sit and just people-watch.  It’s one of our favourite things to do!

Cute houses on the canal in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Cute houses on the canal

The 9 streets

Another famous area, mainly because it’s oh-so-cute!  These small streets, lined with adorable shops and cafés, are the perfect place to chill around.  Be sure to check out the cool art galleries while you’re there too.  This is the perfect spot to stroll around on your way to or from the Anne Frank House.

The sun peaking over the buildings by the canals in Amsterdam, Netherlands
The sun peaking over the buildings by the canals

Dam Square

To be honest, we’re not quite sure what this area is called, but it’s surrounded by all these cute canals, tons of restaurants and shops.  It’s also right by the National Monument, tons of shops (if that’s what you want) and all the canal views you can get!  Plus, you’re steps away from the next stop on our list.

Dam Square National monument Amsterdam Netherlands wediditourway.com
The National Monument in Dam Square

Royal Palace of Amsterdam

Welcome to one of the residences of King Willem-Alexander.  The Palace stands proud in Dam Square and is a beauty to discover.  Luckily, it’s possible to tour the Palace, as it is open to the public as often as possible.

The Royal Palace in Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Royal Palace

Originally, the Palace was built to be Amsterdam’s town hall, until it found its true calling as a Palace!  Today, it’s recognized as the largest and most prestigious building from the Golden Age.

Museum hopping

There are tons of museums to choose from in Amsterdam, many of which are situated in the Museum Square, known as the Museumplein.

It’s home to some of the world’s most famous museums such as:

  • Rijksmuseum: National art and history museum
  • Van Gogh museum: Art museum dedicated to Vincent Van Gogh and other artists from his time
  • Stedelijk: Modern and Contemporary art museum
  • Royal Concertgebouw: Amsterdam’s Royal concert hall, considered one of the world’s best
  • Moco: The Modern Contemporary Museum Amsterdam, home to works from Banksy, Icy & Sot and a permanent exhibition from artists like Andy Warhol

If you love museums, you are in luck in Amsterdam.  We took the time to visit the MOCO, and absolutely loved it!  So many iconic works of art in such a small place.

One thing that we did not love, and something we have noticed lately at many museums through out the world, is people there simply to take pictures of themselves in the museum.

We understand this to a certain extent, after all we take pictures for Instagram all the time.  But to take up a whole exhibition hall to take 35 pictures of yourself in varying poses, while others who have paid to come to this place are trying to enjoy the art…

I mean come on, we live in a society here!  If you aren’t bothering anyone, then who cares.  But I was taking a picture of one of my favourite pieces of art at MOCO, when a woman who was taking her millionth picture of her friend in front of a piece “excused” me to move so she could take her shot…

Don’t be that guy/girl, just don’t.

Vondel Park

The Vondel Park, named after the 17th-century playwright and poet Joost van den Vondel, is a huge park situated West of the MuseumPlein and in the borough of Amsterdam-Zuid.

The entrance to the Vondel Park in Amsterdam, Netherlands
The entrance to the Vondel Park

Apart from the beautiful lakes, trees and paths that line this park, it also is home to an open air theatre, as well as many restaurants and cafes.  It’s the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon lounging with a book or a picnic basket.  Just make sure you bring an umbrella, the rain in Amsterdam is unpredictable.  We got fully rained on, even though it was a fairly sunny day!

Part of the Vondelpark in Amsterdam, Netherlands
A serene view at the Vondel Park… right before it poured down on us!

Molen De Otter

What visit to the Netherlands is complete without seeing some beautiful, old windmills?  The Molen De Otter is the only remaining one in Amsterdam proper, and has been restored to working order.

The Molen de Otter, the last windmill in Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Molen de Otter, the last windmill in Amsterdam

At almost 400 years old, this windmill was originally built as a sawmill, designed to saw wood.  Today it is not operational, and it has been proposed that it be moved from its current location.

It wasn’t the only windmill we got a glimpse of while we were in the Netherlands, but we couldn’t skip our chance at seeing one from up close!  You can’t officially “visit” it, but you can get quite close up and admire its beauty, and history.

Blomenmarket

Tulips and the Netherlands go together like peanut butter and jam.  Cultivated here for over 300 years, the country is famous for its production of these pretty flowers.  The famous Keukenhof gardens see over 7 million tulips bloom a year, and welcomes over a million tourists per year.

The famous Bloemenmarkt tulip market in Amsterdam, Netherlands
One of many, many tulip stores in the Blomenmarket

Canada and the Netherlands also have a unique relationship, one that is celebrated by the gift of tulips!  During the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands in WWII, The Dutch Royal family, including future queen Juliana, were sheltered for three years.  For this act of kindness, the Dutch government sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa, the capital of Canada.  Every year since, 10,000 tulip bulbs are sent as thank you.

Tulips from the Bloemenmarkt in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Tulip bulbs for sale at the Blomenmarket

While you’re at Blomenmarket, make sure you stop into one of the many cheese stores that line the street for a free tasting of delicious dutch cheeses from around the country!

Coffeeshops

For those who don’t visit Amsterdam for windmills, or tulips, they might come here to visit the local coffeeshops.  In case you didn’t know, they don’t exactly sell coffee in these shops though… If you’re looking for coffee, head to the local cafés.

A typical coffeeshop in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Thirsty?  LOL.  You won’t find much coffee here – this is one of Amsterdam’s infamous coffeeshops

Marijuana culture in Amsterdam is infamous, having been officially tolerated since 1976.  This has, in a way, defined the city and has created marijuana tourism the likes that no other city has ever seen.  At one point the city boasted over 1,500 coffeeshops, but the city cracked down in the 90’s, and today there are roughly 250 of them.

Edibles in an Amsterdam coffeeshop
It really comes in all shapes and sizes

If the smell bothers you, be prepared, because past noon, the smell of marijuana wafts through Amsterdam like a 1970’s rock & roll concert.  Rock on Amsterdam.

Check out AFC Ajax

Being crazy Canucks (read, Canadians), we love hockey, but I mean we LOVE hockey.  Well, in Amsterdam, the equivalent love of theirs is football, and their hometown Amsterdam Ajax of the Eredivisie league, Dutch football’s top division.

Johan Cruyff Arena home of the Amsterdam Ajax football club
Johan Cruyff Arena home of the Amsterdam Ajax football club

We couldn’t miss out on our chance to experience football in Europe, so we checked out a match between the Ajax and Ado den Haag.  The final score was 5-1 for the home team, a score that resembled more hockey than football, but we aren’t complaining!

The atmosphere was pretty insane, especially in the superfan section where drums could be heard all game long.  With an average attendance of almost 50,000 crazed fans per game, you can begin to understand the scene.

As some Spanish people told us, the Dutch league may not be La Liga (Spain’s top league), but this certainly topped the North American MLS and was an experience we strongly recommend if you are in town and there is a match.

Heineken experience

One of the most famous brewers in the world is Heineken.  Even if we aren’t huge fans of their beer, we wanted to check out the brewery.  Being a Dutch company that has been around for almost 150 years in the heart of Amsterdam, they have turned what was their original brewing facility into a modern day museum/virtual advertising campaign.

We went one rainy afternoon, and though we may have walked out slightly tipsy, were left with a bitter taste in our mouths, no puns intended!

The Heineken brewery museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Heineken brewery museum

After touring the original Budweiser brewery in České Budějovice less than a month prior, we were quite impressed as the tour of their actual brewery showed us their history, brewing process and also included a beer tasting.

But touring the Heineken “brewery” was a different experience.  Lacking was the feeling that a local beer was brewed here, because it is not.  The Heineken Experience is more of a marketing machine than it is a brewery.

The information was lacking, and two thirds of our experience were walking through a maze of all the things Heineken sponsors, from sports teams to nightclub experiences…  It just wasn’t a great experience! It was almost to the point that they should pay us to walk through this virtual advertising experience… but at least we got “free” beer out of it.

If you have a rainy evening, or if you REALLY love Heineken beer, then maybe this is a good place to hang out.  If not, you may want to skip this one!  If you go, make sure you buy your tickets online, and get them ahead of time.  You’ll save some money and skip the line.

Go skating at Ice*Amsterdam

What better activity for a couple of Canadians like us than to go ice skating!  As much we love ice skating, considering Carine used to figure skate and Derek still plays hockey, the weather wasn’t cooperating with us.

Go for a skate outside the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Go for a skate outside the Rijksmuseum

It was a balmy 10°C, so the ice was more of a swimming pool than an ice rink, but that didn’t stop a ton of locals and tourists alike!  For €5 you can skate to your pleasure if you have skates, otherwise a 2-hour rental will run you €11.

The Iceamsterdam skating rink outside the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Ice*Amsterdam skating rink

Incredibly, the rink is open from November 17th until February 3rd and is located behind the Rijksmuseum, right in the heart of Museumplein.  We say incredibly because the average temperatures from November through February go from 10°C down to a still above freezing 6°C.

Light Festival / Canal Cruise

Since 2012, every end of November, Amsterdam is host to their annual Light Festival.  This year, it showcased 30 artworks over 50+ days, and can be seen throughout the city’s canals.

The best way to see them all, is to take a night time cruise of Amsterdam’s canals, once specifically centred around the festival.  We did this with Blue Boat Amsterdam Canal Cruises, whom we were told were the best in the business from our hostel.

For €24 per person, we cruised the canals for 90 minutes and were able to take in the most prominent exhibitions the festival has to offer.

The cruise itself was nice and seeing the light festival was cool, but to be honest I think we would have preferred to take a cruise during the day to see the city better and not to be so cold.  So if you do want to go at night, they do provide blankets to keep you warm, but you should still bundle up.

Where to stay

We could not have loved our stay more at Stayokay Amsterdam Vondelpark.  Not only was the location absolutely perfect, the atmosphere was also amazing.  Situated right by Vondel Park, it was the perfect spot to discover the city.  We also had access to bikes, which made the whole experience even more fun and easy!

Chill out in the common area at Stayokay Vondelpark in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Chill out in the common area at Stayokay Vondelpark

Getting out of bed was pretty hard in the morning, considering how comfy the beds were, but luckily, we had some motivational help!  Their buffet breakfast in the morning was the best way to get our day started.  They even included the typical Dutch bread with jam and sprinkles.  Our new favourite breakfast! We also enjoyed hanging around the lobby, in one of the many hangout spots.  It was the perfect space to work, or to grab a bite at their restaurant, or even grab a drink and people-watch.

Rent a bike at StayOkay Vondelpark in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Rent a bike at Stayokay Vondelpark

The staff at Stayokay Amsterdam Vondelpark was also super friendly and helpful.  They went above and beyond to make us comfortable.  They gave us some great recommendations on things to do and see.  We also loved how eco-friendly the hostel was trying to be – from the shampoo and soap that was given to their efforts to create awareness around single-use plastic.  We totally love a place that fits with our values.

We could not recommend this hostel more!  Even if you think you don’t like hostels, Stayokay is so different!  They offer private rooms, and all the convenience and amenities of a hotel, without the uptight attitude.  With such a vibrant and fun vibe, we’re convinced that everyone will love this place!

Where to eat

Vegan Junk Food Bar: When you want to eat healthy, but also want some junk food, this is THE PLACE to go.  Even Derek, who is not a vegetarian, couldn’t get enough of this place.  He literally begged to go back for seconds.  Carine had the Original VJFB Burger with truffle fries, and Derek had the Shawarma fries.  Neither of us were dissapointed… in fact, we were very happy!

Original VJFB Burger at Vegan Junk Food Bar in Amsterdam
Original VJFB Burger at Vegan Junk Food Bar

Stroopwafel: Ok so maybe this isn’t somewhere to eat, but it is something to eat that you shouldn’t pass up!  Walk around and you will surely find somewhere to try this delicious Dutch dessert.  Take two slices of baked dough (like waffles), sandwich in some caramel syrup filling, and you have yourself a Stroopwafel.  They are as delicious to eat as they are fun to say!

Delicious stroopwafel in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Delicious stroopwafel

We loved our time in Amsterdam.  Don’t be to surprised to see us back there again soon.  There is so much to see and do, and the vibe is so cool that we just couldn’t get enough.

Have you ever been to Amsterdam?  Did you love it as much as we did?  Let us know in the comments!


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There are a ton of amazing things to do and see in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Here are our recommendations of what to do, where to stay, what to eat and how to get around. Tips, tricks and more to have the best time in Amsterdam #Netherlands #travel #Amsterdam #traveltips #cityguide #thingstodo

Things to do in Salzburg: Your ultimate city guide

If you are looking to explore Salzburg, the gem of Austria, here are our recommendations. Discover what to see, where to go, how to get around, and where to stay.

The hills are alive, with the sound of music!  How can you not walk around the beautiful streets of Salzburg and not think about the iconic movie from our childhood?!  The  old cobblestone streets, the beautiful architecture, the hills surrounding the city, the fortress sitting atop the hill – everything about Salzburg is just magical.  With so much to do and see, you need a good three days in the city to take in all the sights.

Salzburg may not be as large as the capital of Austria, Vienna, but to us, it’s like its charming younger sister.  Cute little streets that create a maze in the Old Town.  Friendly people smiling at you for no good reason, but their natural joie-de-vivre.  The Fortress that dominates the cityscape and makes the city look regal.  The mountains that surround the city, and make you want to break out in song, as if the Sound of Music soundtrack is on a loop in your head.  The fog and clouds that roll in and out and add a little je-ne-sais-quoi, making the whole city feel like a fairytale.  How can you not fall under the charm of this beautiful city!?

When to go

Although it gets quite chilly in the winter and really hot in the summer, the weather in Salzburg is usually quite mild.  The crowds come in with the heat, around July and August, just in time for the Salzburg Festival.  Then, you have the cutest Christmas markets that are set up in December.  Expect to see more tourists at these times of year.

 

If you are looking for peace and quiet, and more affordable pricing, the spring, early summer and autumn (September/October) are awesome!  Just be warned that you will have to deal with some rain… or a lot of it, like we did!

What to do

There is a lot to do and see in and around Salzburg.  It all depends on what you enjoy doing and where you want to spend the most time.  Walking around from one site to the next is easy, though some may need a bit more stamina to get to.  If you’re a fan of the Sound of Music, make sure you take it all in as this was one of the main shooting locations of the iconic movie.  You can even sign up for a tour that will take you to all the famous spots!

Looking at the Hohensalzburg Fortress from across the river in Salzburg, Austria
Looking at the Hohensalzburg Fortress from across the river

Hohensalzburg Fortress

Sitting atop the Festungsberg Hill, the Hohensalzburg Castle is impossible to miss from any vantage point in the city!  Its construction began in 1077, and it continued to expand for centuries after that.  It served as a fortress, military base, home to the archbishop, and to royalty.  It has quite a rich history, and the beauty of it is that you can visit it all today.

The Hohensalzburg Fortress seen through the early morning fog in Salzburg, Austria
The Hohensalzburg Fortress seen through the early morning fog

To reach the top, you can either use the pathway, or the funicular cable car.  You can guess what we took!  The funicular gets you up from the bottom to the top of the hill in about a minute.  How can our legs compete with that?!  The price of your entry ticket will include the lift.  Make sure you get them online, to skip the line and save some money as well!

 

Once you are up there, you can walk around the grounds, go through the museums (getting the all-inclusive pass will allow you to visit them all), walk up to the top of the tower with an audioguide, take in the amazing views and pretend that you are royalty!

St Peter’s Abbey

Situated near the entrance for the Fortress funicular, the Abbey is dedicated to St. Peter.  It was originally built over old Christian remains in 696 by Saint Rupert and has stood there ever since.

The cemetery of St Peter's Abbey in Salzburg, Austria
The cemetery of St Peter’s Abbey

You can peacefully walk around the cemetery grounds, admiring the beautiful tombstones.  You can also visit Austria’s oldest library with thousands of books (only accessible by guided tour) or the Long Gallery with its many paintings.  You can also go down into the catacombs.

The crucifix outside St Peter's Abbey in Salzburg, Austria
The crucifix outside St Peter’s Abbey

For fans of the Sound of Music, you may recognize this cemetery and the catacombs as the place the Trapp family used as a hiding place before escaping to Switzerland.

Mirabell Palace & Gardens

There is something so regal about Salzburg.  Home to countless historic sights, it’s no surprise it’s still considered it one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.  Listed as a cultural heritage monument, and built in 1606, the Palace was mainly used as a pleasure palace for royalty.

The Mirabell Palace in Salzburg, Austria
The Mirabell Palace

Although we didn’t have a chance to go inside, we loved walking inside the gardens, where you have amazing views of the Fortress and the Cathedral.  There are tons of fountains and statues around making the Palace look even more majestic.

 

For fans of the Sound of Music, it was also here that Maria and the children dance around the Pegasus Fountain, while they’re singing “Do Re Mi”.  At the end of the scene, the Trapp family stand on the steps in front of the Rose Hill to sing the song’s final bars.  Derek didn’t know the lyrics to the song, so we couldn’t recreate the scene ourselves!

Salzburg Cathedral

This beautiful baroque Cathedral is situated in an enclosed square next to the Salzburg Residenz.  It’s a beautiful place to visit, with a rich historical past.

The Salzburg Cathedral in Salzburg, Austria
The Salzburg Cathedral

Since being built in 774, the Cathedral has been demolished and rebuilt several times.  Today, it stands as a striking piece of architecture, only making the cityscape more beautiful!  It may look quite simple from the outside, but it’s actually quite beautiful and striking inside, where it counts.

The square outside the Salzburg Cathedral in Salzburg, Austria
That is not a real person on the giant gold ball… we totally thought it was at first!

We were lucky enough to go for Sunday Mass, and the sound of the choir, along with the beauty of our surroundings made it even more impressive.  If you choose to go at this time, please be respectful as it’s a place of worship.

Mozart’s birthplace

This is one of the world’s most visited museums.  Any classical music fan will not only love this city, because of all the museums, monuments and places dedicated to Mozart, but his birthplace is one of the most special.

Mozart's birthplace and museum in Salzburg, Austria
Mozart’s birthplace and museum

You can find it right in the Old Town.  There is a plaque on the front, as well as signage to tell you exactly where it is… you’ll also see a crowd there, so it’s hard to miss!  You’ll need a good hour to visit the museum where you will learn details of his childhood life, the musical instruments he owned and composed his famous symphonies with.

Nonnberg Convent

Another famous Sound of Music spot, the Benedictine Nonnberg Convent sits above the city, at the foot of the Festungsberg.  In the movie, this was Maria’s convent, when she was a nun.  In fact, every morning at 6:45am, you can hear the actual nuns of the convent sing Gregorian Chorals.  If you’re not a morning person, you can also hear the choir during special holidays!

The Nonnberg Convent in Salzburg Austria
The Nonnberg Convent

You can visit the frescoes in the so-called “Paradise” which is located below the Nuns’ Gallery.  You can also see the altar in St. John’s Chapel, but you need to ask for the key at the convent entrance.  Walking around the grounds, you will get a beautiful view of the city, and of the Hohensalzburg Castle.

Old Town

Walking around the Old Town was one of our favourite things to do in Salzburg.  But can you really blame us?  It’s one of the largest UNESCO World Heritage sights by area.  It’s lined with beautiful boutiques and restaurants.  The architecture of each building is stunning and the cobblestones only add to its charm.  If you want to spend an afternoon getting lost, this is the place to do it!

The cityscape of Salzburg, Austria
The cityscape of Salzburg

Kapuzinerg

If you want to get a little active during your time in Salzburg, and get an insane view of the city, head to Kapuzinerg.  We hiked to the top of this hill in the hopes we’d find another schlössl, which in our limited knowledge of German, was supposed to mean Castle, right?!  Like the Schönbrunn Schloss in Vienna, right?!  WRONG!  Turns out the ‘Franziskischlössl’ at the top of the hill is actually just a restaurant!

The Franziskischlössl restaurant on top of the Kapuzinerg in Salzburg, Austria
The Franziskischlössl restaurant on top of the Kapuzinerg

But that’s ok, because the hike itself was quite beautiful.  There are many trails to choose from.  The leaves were a bright red, the views we got of all corners of the city were stunning, and especially the view we had of the Fortress!  Just wow!

The view of Kapuzinerg hill from the Hohensalzburg Fortress in Salzburg, Austria
The view of Kapuzinerg hill from the Hohensalzburg Fortress

Kollegienkirche

Whenever we see a church, we love to walk in and explore it, and this even more true in Austria.  They are always stunning and so different from one to the next.  Kollegienkirche was actually more of a surprise than any other church we’ve seen.

The Kollegienkirche in Salzburg, Austria
The Kollegienkirche

From the outside, it looked like any other church we’ve seen.  But when we walked in, we discovered this very simple and beautiful church.  On top of it, there was an art exposition going on, with this impressive and imposing piece rolled on the ground with broken glass, as well as stunning portraits.  We would love to tell you more about the piece, but everything was in German.  Regardless, this piece was really moving.

 

Christmas markets

Pretty much the best thing about Europe at the end of November and most of December is the amount of Christmas markets that pop up!  And Salzburg is no exception with its Christkindlmarkt.  In fact, almost every square in town was taken over by a Christmas market.  Talk about merry!

 

If you know us, you know we’re not big on shopping for things.  This is not why we love the Christmas markets.  Instead, we love them because of all the food and drink we can get there.  Stalls and stalls selling local and traditional fare.  The souvenir mugs that you can fill and refill with mulled wine and apfelpunsch, a boozy apple drink.  Seriously, could life get any more perfect?!

Other sights we’ll need to come back for

Obviously, the two days we had were not enough to visit everything in Salzburg, which is why we recommend spending three.  We also hope you get better weather than we did (hello rain and clouds).  There were a few things we will need to come back for.  If you have more time, we highly suggest you check them out!

Hangar-7:  Created by the Red Bull gang, Hangar-7 looks like the coolest place.  Located at the Salzburg Airport, it not only houses the Flying Bulls aircraft fleet and a collection of Formula 1 race cars, but it also hosts art exhibitions, has a restaurant, two bars, a lounge, and a café.  A must see next time we’re there!

Hellbrunn Palace:  Built between 1612 and 1615, and located 15 minutes from the center of Salzburg, Hellbrunn Palace is not only a beautiful place to visit.  Make sure you check out its trick fountains as well.  And for you Sound of Music fans, you may just recognize a special gazebo there!

Leopoldskron Palace:  If the weather had cooperated, we would have never missed this iconic palace!  Built in 1736, this palace used to be home to archbishops and royalty.  It was also the main shooting location for the Sound of Music.  Today, it’s mainly a hotel.  Although certain places are closed to the public, there is a day in November that they allow non-hotel guests to visit the grounds.

Where to stay

If there is one place we recommend staying in Salzburg, it’s at Townhouse Tessa.  But don’t get us started as to why!  Actually, we’re going to tell you anyway!

Chilling in our room at Townhouse Tessa in Salzburg, Austria
Chilling in our room at Townhouse Tessa

First off, even before we got there, we were given access to Heym Collections website, where we could learn more about the city of Salzburg, and an overview of all the sights.  We were also sent our ‘key’ electronically, so we can get into our amazing apartment, quick and easy.  The key was sent on an app, and all we had to do was tap our phone on their door, and Open Sesame!  It was so easy and convenient.  We loved it!

Then, Townhouse Tessa was in the most perfect location.  We walked to every single spot we mentioned here.  It was so close and convenient.  You can even see the Fortress from the balcony.  We were steps away from all of the Christmas markets, which was great for discovering all the local foods and drinks.

 

Finally, the apartment itself was stunning.  Decorated in such a modern yet timeless manner, you could see that there was such attention that was paid to every little detail in the room.  As if the bed wasn’t comfortable enough, we loved hanging around in the living room, reading a book on the extra large couch.

At Townhouse Tessa, we really felt like we were at home, in the middle of this beautiful city.  We could not recommend it highly enough!

Salzburg Card

As always, depending on what you plan on doing while you are in Salzburg, you may want to get yourself the Salzburg Card.  It will give you access to the city’s museums and attractions for free or at a discounted rate.  You’ll get to use public transportation for free as well.

Take a look at the perks you get, and if it sounds good to you, you can get yours online.

A view of the Hohensalzburg Fortress from the Kapuzinerg hill in Salzburg, Austria
A view of the Hohensalzburg Fortress from the Kapuzinerg hill

We loved discovering Salzburg.  From the exploring the fortress and Old Town, to hiking Kapuzinerg, catching views of the city from every possible angle, we had a great time here.  It helped that one of us was a Sound of Music fan, but even if the movie is not your thing, you will surely find something that will make you fall under its charm.  Although it’s not as large as Vienna, the quaint and enchanting mountainous setting got us.  We’ll see you soon Salzburg!


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There are a ton of amazing things to do and see in Salzburg, Austria. Here are our recommendations of what to do, where to stay, what to eat and how to get around. Tips, tricks and more to have the best time in Salzburg #Salzburg #travel #Austria #traveltips #cityguide #thingstodo

Things to do in Ljubljana: Your ultimate city guide

If you are looking to explore Ljubljana and Lake Bled, the gems of Slovenia, here are our recommendations. Discover what to see, where to go, how to get around, and where to stay.

People often overlook Slovenia for their next holiday getaway.  It’s no surprise as this small country of 2 million inhabitants is mainly unknown, despite its rich history.  It’s not that visible on Instagram.  It’s not on many bucket lists.  But, to be honest, that’s the great part about it.  You can discover its beauty all for yourself!

Ljubljana, the country’s capital is a small and quaint city.  There’s plenty to explore here, but it’s also a great place to unwind and relax.  It has a bit of everything for everyone, from castles to dragons to fairytale day trips.  So here’s how to spend a quick 48-hours here.

A view of the city from Ljubljana castle in Ljubljana, Slovenia
A view of the city from Ljubljana castle

The people of Ljubljana are laid-back, friendly and often smiling for no reason.  Though we can’t really blame them.  We would be smiling too if we lived in such a cute city… especially considering its abundance of bars and outdoor terraces.

Ljubljana is a small town.  Pretty much everything you want is walking distance from the centre of the old town.  The streets are lined with delicious restaurants, cute boutiques and don’t be surprised if you stumble upon a market or two.  You can criss-cross the canals, get lost walking around a maze of streets, fully taking in the beauty of this place.

When to go

If you’re looking for heat, festivals and tons of outdoors drinking and eating, the summer is the best time to check out Ljubljana.  The city comes to life with festivals drawing in tons of tourists.  Just note that it does get quite crowded then.

If you want to enjoy warm and sunny weather, without tons of tourists, May and September are awesome for that.  When we were there in November, the weather was cold but still bearable.  And if you want to check out the Christmas markets, head there in December.

What to do

As we mentioned, there isn’t a ton to do here, which is why two days is the perfect amount of time to see what we’ve lined out.  It includes a trip to Lake Bled and a day in Ljubljana.  However, if you want to make two day trips from the capital, consider spending a third day.

Ljubljana castle

Perched on top of a hill, the Ljubljana castle keeps a watchful eye on the city.  You can take the funicular up for 2.20 euros (or 4 euros for both ways).  If you want to get a little workout in, there are also stairs to get up there.

It’s free to stroll around the castle and in courtyard.  If you want to check out the museum or go inside the castle, you will need to pay an entrance fee.

The courtyard at the Ljubljana castle in Ljubljana, Slovenia
The courtyard at the Ljubljana castle in Ljubljana, Slovenia

From the castle, you can get beautiful views of the city.  We loved walking around the grounds at night, seeing the lights of Ljubljana sparkle in the darkness.

The bridges of Ljubljana

One of our favourite things to do in Ljubljana was walking around the canals and crossing all the famous bridges in the city.  A map could be helpful (but you really don’t need one).  Just walk around the Ljubljanica River, you will cross them all!

Locks on the bridge of love in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Locks on the Mesarski bridge (or as Derek calls it, the bridge of love)

Dragon Bridge

By far, the coolest bridge we’ve seen in a while.  Pointing you toward the Ljubljana castle, this bridge is guarded by four dragons.  That’s one more than the Khaleesi, making this bridge even cooler (especially for us Game Of Thrones fans).

The Dragon Bridge dates back to 1888, and was built in honour of the 40th anniversary of Emperor Franc Jožef I.  It’s our favourite bridge in Ljubljana.

Cobbler’s bridge

This is a decent bridge, with cool columns, but what makes it interesting is how it got its name.  The Cobbler’s bridge is actually one of the oldest bridges crossing the Ljubljanica River.  It dates back to at least the 13th century.

The Cobbler Bridge in Ljubljana, Slovenia
The Cobbler’s Bridge

It didn’t quite look like what it does today.  It started as a wooden bridge with butcher shops on it.  Maybe the emperor of the time was a vegetarian, because he didn’t like the stench from the meat, so he paid to have them relocated.  The butchers were replaced by shoemakers and that’s where the name come from.

If you look hard enough around the bridge, you may even find an art piece paying homage to them.

Triple bridge

We really wonder where the name for this one comes from!  Just kidding, it’s actually pretty obvious.  This bridge has three different passages.  They connect and intersect across Ljubljanica River.  Made up of white stone and ornate columns that frame diagonal stairs.  They lead to underground walkways and bars.  It’s fun crossing this bridge a few times, never on the same path!

Tromostovje bridge in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Tromostovje bridge, also known as the triple bridge

As if that doesn’t make the bridge cool enough, it’s also in a prime location.  Across the beautiful pink Franciscan Church and Prešeren Square.

Prešeren Square

Prešeren Square is the central square in the city.  It’s actually a major meeting point where they hold festivals, the Ljubljana carnival, concerts, sports, political, and protest events.  It may not have much going on while you’re there, so it’s not a must, unless you want to check out the next stop.

Cerkev Marijinega oznanjenja

This is a beautiful pink Franciscan church dominating the square.  The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation was built between 1646 and 1660, and actually replaces an older church that was on the same site.  Its colour is symbolic of the Franciscan monastic order.  

The Cerkev Marijinega oznanjenja church in Ljubljana, Slovenia
The Cerkev Marijinega oznanjenja church

Since 2008, the church has been protected as a cultural monument of national significance of Slovenia.  Its quite imposing and beautiful so we understand why.  Just make sure you don’t follow our lead and go when it’s actually open!

Vurnikova hiša

This beautiful pink building is just so cute!  The Vurnikova hiša is one of the city’s most famous buildings.  Built in 1921, with its intricately decorated facade, it stands out from the surrounding buildings.  It’s celebrated as one of the finest examples of Slovenian national style architecture.

Vurnikova hiša in Ljubljana, Slovenia
The beautiful Vurnikova hiša

Unfortunately, the building is not open to tourists, but it sounds beautiful as much on the inside as it is on the outside.  It comes complete with a large reception hall, a glass ceiling constructed from small blue squares of glass with an inbuilt decorative strip made from various coloured bottles.  To add to it, the staircase hall, on the first and second floors, is decorated with stained-glass windows depicting geometric motifs.  Now if only we can find a way in!  Can anybody hook us up?

Central market

We just love markets.  We love seeing the locals come together, get friendly with each other, and just go on with their daily loves.  It’s always a great place to people-watch… oh, and try local food!

The Ljubljanica river near the central market in Ljubljana, Slovenia
The Ljubljanica river, with a view of the indoor market

There are 2 parts to this market.  The outdoor part in the main square, as well as the indoor part.

Cathedral of St. Nicholas

It’s hard to miss the Cathedral in Ljubljana.  Its dome dominates the cityscape but it was only built in 1842.  Originally a fake dome was painted on the arch above the centre of the cross.

Its location was originally where you could find a three-nave Romanic church.  After the fire of 1361, it was re-vaulted in the Gothic style, and then underwent several changes.  It was burnt down again in 1469.  Not such a lucky history!

Bronze doors of the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Bronze doors of the Cathedral of St. Nicholas

We really liked this cathedral.  The way the doors had figures melted into them, the beauty of the decor inside, the intricate design all made it very special.

The fountains & statues

Ljubljana is home to many beautiful statues and fountains.  They are littered all over town, but unfortunately for us, they are covered for winter… While I’m sure this helps to preserve them, especially in the long term, we would have loved to see them!

Cute way of preserving their fountains in the winter in Ljubljana, Slovenia
A cute way of covering up their fountains and statues in winter

Day trips

Lake Bled

Lake Bled is a fairytale land dream come true.  We’re not sure if the residents of Bled know how lucky they are to live in such a beautiful place.  We highly recommend you take a day trip there from Lake Bled and spend a whole day exploring its beauty.

A view of the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria from Bled Castle at Lake Bled, Slovenia
A view of the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria from Bled Castle

This is a beautiful place to walk around, no matter what time of year you go.  The lake, nestled in the valley, surrounded by mountains and cliffs is the best view you can ask for.

There’s not a ton to do here apart from the main attractions, such as the castle, the lake and island and the lookout point.

Wooden boats to bring you to the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria at Lake Bled, Slovenia
Wooden boats to bring you to the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria

Going up to the castle is a must.  It is beautiful and brings you back in time with things like an old fashion forge, wine cellar and print shop.  Visiting the castle will only set you back 11€ per person, definitely worth it in our opinion.

There is also a museum, which you get access to when you buy your ticket.  It’s small but interesting, so take the 20-30 minutes and check it out.

Sunflare through the gate at Bled Castle Slovenia
The beautiful gate at the Bled Castle

The best time to go is before 10 am, before the crowds start coming in.

To get to Lake Bled, get to the main bus station in Ljubljana and take the bus to Bled (platform 7). It takes about 1h20 min. Bled is the last stop and you can walk to the lake from it.

The Ljubljanica river in Ljubljana, Slovenia
The Ljubljanica river

Lake Bohinj

We didn’t have a chance to make it to Lake Bohinj, but it’s on our list for our next trip to Slovenia.  Take the sights around this beautiful lake, go hiking and just enjoy the beauty and serenity of the place.  If you are in the area, make sure you head there!

Where to stay

When in Ljubljana, we stayed at Atticus B&B, and cannot recommend it highly enough.  Equipped with dorms and private rooms, the B&B has everything you need to have an amazing stay.  Another plus, the location is perfect!  It’s close enough to everything you want to see, just a stone’s throw from the Ljubljana Castle.

The rooms are located on the last 2 floors of the building, in the attic.  But don’t expect them to be creepy like grandma’s old attic.  These rooms are beautiful.  With wooden beams and bright ceiling windows, they are so cozy.  If we could have, we would have moved in!  The beds are comfy, and we loved the multi-functional desk where we could get work done!

We adored having breakfast at the café downstairs.  We had everything we needed to get the day started on the right foot.  How can you go wrong when you’re being offered the most delicious chocolate croissants ever and a hot delicious coffee?!

The highlight of our stay however, was meeting and talking to the owner, Minca.  She was such a vibrant and sweet person.  We saw her work tirelessly to help her other guests have an amazing time in Ljubljana.  She had some great recommendations for us as well.  Talking to her, it was impossible not to leave without a smile plastered on our faces.  Minca, we hope our paths will cross again, and expect to get a postcard soon!

Where to eat

There are a ton of delicious places to eat in Ljubljana, and you have quite a selection of meals as well.  From cheap eats to super fancy meals, there’s something for everyone.  These are the two spots that we really enjoyed:

Gostilna Dela: Situated right in from of Atticus, not only is Gostilna Dela affordably priced, the food is excellent, with a menu changing every day (or so).  But what we loved most about this restaurant, is their purpose.  They offer vocational training to young people who are more vulnerable.  People without formal education, with disabilities or with special needs.  We loved this about them.  We also loved their pumpkin risotto!

Gujžina: A little more on the pricey side, Gujžina Prekmurska Gostilna is absolutely delicious.  This is where you can try traditional Slovenian food, although they specialize more in the cuisine from the northeast of the country.  They make the most amazing cheeses (we had sunflower seed and pepper), as well as melt-in-your-mouth knodels.  Their gnocchi with pumpkin seed pesto was out of this world.  We had never had pumpkin seed oil before, but after this meal, we have fallen in love, and want it on everything, all the time!

The Ljubljanica river at night in Ljubljana, Slovenia
The Ljubljanica river at night

Ljubljana and Lake Bled really stole our hearts.  We went with no expectations, but we were blown away by their beauty.  You have all the charm of Europe, in the cutest little packages!  Cozy, warm and friendly, we can’t recommend Slovenia highly enough!


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There are a ton of amazing things to do and see in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Here are our recommendations of what to do, where to stay, what to eat and how to get around. Tips, tricks and more to have the best time in Ljubljana #slovenia #ljubljana #travel #lakebled #traveltips #cityguide #thingstodo

Things to do in Zagreb: Your ultimate city guide

If you are looking to explore Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, here are our recommendations. Discover what to see, where to go, how to get around, and where to stay.

When people decide to go to Croatia, their choice rarely stops on Zagreb.  They privilege the coastal towns, the beachfront locations, and we cannot blame them.  But when we chose to go to Croatia in the middle of November, there was no point trying to hit the beach, those days were long over.  So we decided to go to Zagreb because we knew there would be a cool city to discover, there wouldn’t be tons of tourists, and we could go to a place that is often overlooked.  When you want to do things your way, Zagreb is the place for you!

If you come to Zagreb, we recommend you stay for 3 days, to be able to fully take in all the sights at a leisurely pace.

You’ll notice that there’s not tons to do in Zagreb and that’s ok.  The city has a laid-back vibe, making it easy to explore at your own pace.  It has a booming restaurant scene, for all the foodies out there.  It also has the biggest number of museums per square meter, for those trying to get their culture on.  It may not have beaches, but it makes up for it in many other ways.

The statue of King Tomislav in Zagreb, Croatia
The statue of King Tomislav

When to go

As always, it depends what you want to do, and what your favourite season is.  Zagreb has 4 distinct seasons with temperatures rising in the summer to 25 degrees C, and dropping close to zero in the winter.  It’s also one of the rainiest capitals in Europe, so come prepared.

If you’re a Christmas fan, make sure you head there for Zagreb’s Advent.  Christmas markets are sprinkled all over the city all through the month of December, making it the perfect spot to do some shopping for unique gifts.

What to do

There’s plenty to see and do in town, and even a few things you can check out around the city.  Everything is pretty close together, and you have tons of parks and green spaces, so walking around is the best option!

Zagreb Cathedral

No European city would be complete without its cathedral.  The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one of Zagreb’s icons.  With its twin towers and defensive walls with round towers, this church is quite beautiful to visit, adding to the city’s skyline.

The Zagreb Cathedral in Zagreb, Croatia
The Zagreb Cathedral

Across the Cathedral, you will find the famous fountain of the Virgin Mary with her Angels.  The gold-plated beauty is hard to miss.

Inside the Cathedral, you will find peace… and the embalmed body of Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac.  He was the Archbishop of Zagreb from 1937 to 1960, renown for helping the Jews and others to escape during WWII and publicly condemning the Yugoslavian government and its actions during the war.  He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1998 for all his work.

The Virgin Mary monument in Zagreb, Croatia
The Virgin Mary monument

If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Ribnjak park, right next to the Cathedral, is a great place to wander.

Dolac Market

You know how much we love food, and fresh local products (mainly produce), so Dolac Market was a must on our list.  This open-air market is one of the iconic features of the city.

The local Dolac market in Zagreb, Croatia
The local Dolac market

Here, you will find local vendors selling fish, cheese, fruits and veggies, some toys and handmade goods, and pretty much anything else.  Come early in the morning to get the freshest and best products.  Head there around 3-4pm to get the best deals.  And no matter when you go, make sure you’re hungry!

St Mary’s Church

With its beautiful gold and green spire standing tall, this beautiful 18th century church is hard to miss from the market.  Take a little moment to step inside and admire its  beauty.

A view of St Mary's Church from the Dolac market in Zagreb, Croatia
A view of St Mary’s Church from the Dolac market

Tkalčićeva

Undoubtably the most colourful and lively street in Zagreb, this is where you’ll find all the bars, restaurants, boutiques and shops.  You’ll also find the statue of Marija Jurić Zagorka, Croatia’s first professional female journalist, and advocate of equal rights (and you know how much we love strong independent women!).

The Tkalčićeva shopping street in Zagreb, Croatia
The Tkalčićeva shopping street, lined with boutiques and restaurants

In the area, you will also find the Bloody Bridge which is actually an alley that connects Tkalčićeva with Radićeva.  The bridge that was originally there was torn down, but the alley still bares its name.

You will also find the statue of St George with the dragon he killed.

The statue of St George and the dragon in Zagreb, Croatia
The statue of St George and the dragon

The Stone Gate

This is your official entrance into Upper Town.  It is the only old town gate that remains in the city today, although it was rebuilt in the 18th century.  Under the arch, you will find a little chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the patron saint of Zagreb.

St Mark’s Square

Impossible to miss once you’re in the Upper Town, St Mark’s Square and Church are the heart of this part of the city.  The Church was built in the 13th century and still stands tall today.

St Marc's Church in upper Zagreb, Croatia
St Marc’s Church

All around the square, you will find important government buildings like the Banski favori, the Governor’s Palace, and Sabor, or the Croatian Parliament.  This is also where you will find the Croatian History Museum, the Old City Hall an the Croatian Museum of Naive Art.

Catherine’s Square

Another important part of the Upper Town is Catherine’s Square with St Catherine’s Church.  It’s said to be Zagreb’s most beautiful Baroque church.

St Catherineès Church in Zagreb, Croatia
St Catherine’s Church

Right behind the church, you will find the best view from Gradec.  You will see the Cathedral, Dolac market for sure.  On a clear day, you will also see the dome of Mirogoj cemetery and Mount Medvednica.

A view of Zagreb from the Strossmayer Promenade in Zagreb, Croatia
A view of Zagreb from St Catherine’s square

Strossmayer Promenade

Running along the southern edge of Gradec hill, you have the Strossmayer promenade.  Lined with trees, it is a peaceful place to walk around, admiring the city from above.
There, you will find the statue of Anton Gustav Matoš, one of the city’s greatest enthusiasts and beloved Croatian writer.

A sculpture of famous poet Antun Gustav Matos in Zagreb, Croatia
A sculpture of famous poet Antun Gustav Matos

You will also find the world’s shortest passenger cable railway, the 66-metre funicular!  This connects Lower Town to Upper Town, although there are steps that might get you there just as quickly!

The cannon atop the Lotrščak Tower firing at noon in Zagreb, Croatia
The cannon atop the Lotrščak Tower firing at noon

The funicular is just next to Lotrščak Tower, the only preserved mediaeval tower from he 13th century fortifications.  This is where they shoot the famous canon from.  Every day at noon, a loud bang can be heard here.  Watch out, because it’s much louder than expected!

Museum of broken relationships

We usually consider ourselves pretty lucky, in love and in life.  But luck was not on our side when we were in Zagreb.  Despite the rainy and grey weather, we made the best of our time here.  And as you know, we’re not big on museums, but there was one we were really looking forward to exploring – the Museum of broken relationships… but it was closed when we went.  It closes once every four years, and it had to fall on the dates we were there!

The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia
The Museum of Broken Relationships

Started in 2006 this museum started out as a joke between two lovers who ended their relationship.  Today, it’s a globally crowd-sourced project that features items left over by lovers when their relationship ends.  Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?!  Yeah, that’s why we wanted to check it out too!  Guess we have to go back.

If you’re looking for museums to check out, you’re in luck because Zagreb is home to the largest number of museums.  There is really something for everyone, from the Nikola Tesla technical museum, to the archeological one, and a ton more.

Art Park

Right below the Lotrščak Tower, as you take the steps down to Lower Town, you will find Art Park.  This cute park for children is decorated by street artists.  We love street art, and this is the only place we found some in the city, along with a short staircase by Catherine’s square.

Ban Jelačić Square

Between Upper town and Lower town (though considered to be a part of Upper), you will find Ban Jelačić Square.  It’s the city’s commercial centre, and has been since 1641.  This huge square, with the imposing statue of Ban Josip Jelačić is where a lot of the trams and buses stop.

The monument in Ban Jelačić Square in Zagreb, Croatia
The monument in Ban Jelačić Square in Zagreb, Croatia

The Lenuci Horseshoe

Ok, at this point, we could break down all the little things you can find around the Horseshoe that makes up the Lower Town of Zagreb, but that would be waaaaay too long.  As they say: “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”. So here is what we suggest.  Walk down the horseshoe.  And stop and admire what you feel is important to you.  The horseshoe is made up of sooooo many parks.  Find a bench and people-watch.  There are museums all around it too, so you can stop and explore one of them if you feel like it.  Just do you, boo.

Start at Zrinjevac park, where you have the Meteorological Post, First Fountain and the Archeological Museum. You can also find HAZU and the Gallery of Modern Art there. Just after, you will find the Art Pavillion.

You will then get to King Tomislav Square with its imposing statue greeting everyone coming out of the main railway. Turn right when you get to the Hotel Esplanade, an iconic landmark of the city since 1925.  Fun fact: Guests from the Orient Express used to stay here.  One of its famous guests was Josephine Baker, a provocative dancer from the 20’s.

Keep going as you will make your way through the Botanical Gardens.  If the Gardens are open, take a stroll there, as you’ll be able to discover over 10,000 different plant species.
Keep going as you will come upon the Croatian National Theatre and the very sensual Well of Life.

Don’t be surprised to see students around there, as the Zagreb University is just there.  You will also find the museum of Arts and Crafts and the Mimara Museum. Did you spot the other statue of St George, this time killing a dragon? Famous guy, isn’t he!

Outside Zagreb

If you are looking to leave the city centre and explore things that are different, we have 2 spots to recommend for you.

Mirogoj cemetery

Ok, we know what you’re thinking.  Why in the world are we recommending a cemetery?!  Well, this is no ordinary place.  The architecture here is absolutely beautiful.  We don’t want to make this a main tourist attraction, but both a random tour guide and our hostel recommended we walk around here.

The entrance to the Mirogoj cemetery in Zagreb, Croatia
The entrance to the Mirogoj cemetery in Zagreb, Croatia

This is Zagreb’s main cemetery, opened in 1876.  It is the final resting place of many notable Croats, and people from all religions.  This is why you will see all sorts of Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim symbols around.

A path covered by trees at the Mirogoj cemetery in Zagreb, Croatia
A path covered by trees at the Mirogoj cemetery

If you go here, please be respectful.  It is not a place to take Instagram pictures, but a place of respect and humility. Just take in the beauty of nature and enjoy the moment.

To get there, take the 201 or the 226, just near the Zagreb Cathedral. The bus stops right at the cemetery.

Medvednica Mountain

We love a city that’s so close to nature.  Just North of Zagreb, you will find Medvednica Mountain.  Because Zagreb is known for being rainy, we didn’t have a chance to go here, but we know we will be heading up for a hike next time we’re in the city.

There are plenty of ways to get up there, but the most eco-friendly is biking or taking the bus.  If you head there, here are some more details on how you can do it.

Where to stay

Chillout Hostel is our favourite place to stay in Zagreb.  With a name like Chillout, there’s really no way to go wrong, is there?!  This hostel fits in perfectly with the vibe of the city: friendly, laid-back and full of life.

Downstairs, you have the bar where locals and travellers can meet.  Such a chill vibe, cool music and awesome staff makes this a place to meet new (or old) friends.  Super well located, right near Art Park, at the steps of the Upper Town, Chillout has super comfy rooms, with your choice of dorms or private.

As if that wasn’t enough, their staff is super friendly.  Corey made it a point to let us know where all the cool spots were, and had some awesome recommendations for us when it came to restaurants and things that were off-the-beaten path.  Plus, they offer free walking tours around the city, so you can learn more about the sites.

We can’t wait to head back here, meet up with old friends and make new ones.

Where to eat

Because we had such a short time in Zagreb, we have 2 recommendations for you in town:

Mali Medo: This microbrewery is known for its craft beer and delicious food.  Situated in Tkalčićeva, this place has an extensive outdoor terrace, so it’s perfect in the summer.  Derek loved his Pub plate that had a bit of everything.  I opted for pizza, as our waiter told us it was better than Italian pizza.  If you try, let us know what you think.  The verdict is still out for us!

Stari Fijaker: If you’re looking for typical Zagreb or Croatian food, this is your spot.  They don’t have many vegetarian options, but they were very accommodating, modifying their side dishes for me.  I had the delicious veggie steaks.

Getting around

Zagreb is fairly small (but oh-so-cute) so walking around town is your best bet.  However, if you want to get somewhere faster, or  get out of the rain, their bus and tram network is pretty awesome.

Zagreb Card

If you’re looking to visit all the museums (which would take you a long time), you may want to get the Zagreb Card.  Like in other cities, it gives you discounts on so many entrances and attractions, free transport and so much more.  It may be worth investing in the card if you plan on hitting these places up.

Street art in Zagreb, Croatia
Some faking nice advertising

Although our time in Zagreb was short, it was the sweetest.  Such a cool, laid-back city, so many parks and beautiful architecture, we highly recommend you find some time, head away from the coast, and discover this capital!

Have you ever been to Zagreb?  Did we convince you to check it out?  Let us know in the comments.


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There are a ton of amazing things to do and see in Zagreb, Croatia. Here are our recommendations of what to do, where to stay, what to eat and how to get around. Tips, tricks and more to have the best time in Zagreb

 

Things to do in Budapest: Your ultimate city guide

If you are looking to explore Budapest, the capital of Hungary, here are our recommendations. Discover what to see, where to go, how to get around, and where to stay.

Welcome to the beautiful capital of Hungary, Budapest!  Split in two by the Danube, you have the hilly Buda, home to the awesome castle, and the fairly flat Pest (pronounced Pesht, so you don’t sound like a total tourist!)  Unofficially, it’s one of our favourite cities in Europe… but we say that about every place we go!  The city with a rich history, funky culture and beautiful architecture has something for everyone.  Here are just a few of the amazing things to see and do.

When to go

As always, it really depends on what you want to do while you’re here.  If you want to avoid crowds and extreme weather (either too hot or too cold), make sure you go between March and May, or September through November.

The summer months in Budapest are the hottest and wettest.  January is probably the coldest month, and the winter sees a lot of snowfall.  But it’s beautiful to see and accommodations are at their lowest.

A view of the Hungarian Parliament Building from the Fishermans Bastion in Budapest, Hungary
A view of the Hungarian Parliament Building from the Fisherman’s Bastion

If you don’t mind the cold and want to check out the Christmas markets, mid-November and December are the perfect time to go!

What to do

The city has something for everyone to explore.  Whether you like castles and beautiful old buildings, or awesome food and hipster bars, if you are like us, you will just fall head-over-heels in love with Budapest.

Buda Castle

It’s impossible to miss the Buda Castle.  It sits proudly on top of Buda Hill and makes the city look so regal.  This used to be the home of the Hungarian kings back in the day.  Today, it’s home to a bunch of museums.

Behold the Buda castle in Budapest, Hungary
Behold the Buda Castle in Budapest

From the massive grounds, always free to walk around, to the stunning architecture, the intricate design and impressive city views, the Buda Castle is a must in Budapest, and on Derek’s list of favourite things to do in a city.

Fisherman’s Bastion

Also named the Halászbástya, the Fisherman’s Bastion was built between 1895 and 1902 and served to protect the castle and the city.  Today, it’s Budapest’s most visited attraction and an awesome viewpoint to see the whole city.  You get really impressive views of the Parliament from here.

The Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest, Hungary
You must go see the Fisherman’s Bastion, steps from the Buda Castle

Make sure you walk around the many paths around the Bastion.  You can also get really creative with your shots, so enjoy your time here.  Climbing up the towers comes at a fee, but if you visit early enough, or on a rainy day, you might get lucky (if you know what we mean!)  Luckily, there are actually a few free days from October 15 to March 10.  And night hours are free too.

Matthias Church

Located right in front of the Bastion, Matthias Church is one of the largest of the medieval Hungarian Kingdom and has a very rich history.

The Matthias Church in Budapest, Hungary
The Matthias Church

It’s quite impressive from the outside.  To get a glimpse of the inside, you have to pay a fee.

St Stephen’s Basilica

Named in honour of the first king of Hungary, this is the 3rd largest church in the country today.  As impressive as it is from the outside, it’s even more spectacular inside.

Hungarian Parliament building

You will surely be impressed when you walk by the Parliament of Budapest.  Not only is it the largest building in Hungary, as well as the tallest, it’s also the 3rd largest parliament building in the world.  With tickets, you can visit the parliament and the museum of the national assembly.

The Hungarian Parliament building all lit up at night in Budapest, Hungary
The Hungarian Parliament building shining bright

If you’re not impressed by its size, the architecture of the building will surely get you.  It’s just stunning!  You get the best views of the building from across the Danube.  Make sure you head there in the morning and at night as it looks completely different.

Shoes on the Danube

This is a memorial created by film director Can Togay and sculptor Gyula Pauer, on the east bank of the Danube River.  The memorial honours the 3,500 victims killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen during WWII.  They were forced to remove their shoes and shot at the edge of the river so their bodies were carried away by the flow.

The famous Shoes on the Danube river at night in Budapest, Hungary
The famous Shoes on the Danube river

Placed on the Pest side of the River, near the Hungarian Parliament, these shoes are a moving tribute to the victims.  Visitors today leave flowers, candy and candles at this site.

Great Market Hall

Located at the end of the famous shopping street, Váci utca, the Great Market Hall is the largest and oldest indoor market in Hungary.  Whatever you are looking for, you will probably find it here.  From fresh fruits and veggies, souvenirs, clothes and everything in between, the Great Market Hall is quite a trip, even if you’re not shopping.

Széchenyi Chain Bridge

Guarded by 4 lions, the Chain Bridge is an icon of Budapest.  This 19th century suspension bridge spans the Danube river and links Buda to Pest (see what we did there?! Chain bridge.  Links.  Hehehe)

The famous Chain bridge lit up at night in Budapest, Hungary
The famous Chain bridge lit up at night

This bridge is a convenient and beautiful way to get from one side of the city to the next.  Just make sure you check it out during the day and at night.  It looks so different when it’s lit up.

Hősök tere

Also known as Heroes’ Square, this is one of Hungary’s major squares.  Surrounded by museums, at the end of the famous Andrássy Avenue, Hősök Tere is an important landmark of the city, also where the first subway station in the city was constructed.

To be honest, although this is an important landmark of Budapest, it didn’t really strike a chord with us.  Luckily, you don’t need to get out of your way to see it.  It’s near the Vajdahunyad Castle and the Széchenyi thermal baths

Vajdahunyad Castle

Did you think we weren’t going to recommend this castle either?  Have you even met Derek?!  Built in 1896, this castle is quite impressive, especially in its beautiful setting in the City Park.

The Vajdahunyad Castle in Budapest, Hungary
The gate of the Vajdahunyad Castle

You can enter the courtyard for free, but to visit the inside and the museum, tickets are required.

Hungarian State Opera House

There are certain things you find out the hard way… by showing up and seeing that the Hungarian State Opera House is having a full facelift was one of those things for us!  We can’t blame anyone though, considering that the Opera House was founded in 1884.  It’s ok to get a little work done once in awhile.  Just note that it will be under restoration for the next 2 years, until 2020.

The beautiful inside of the State Opera house in Budapest, Hungary
Since the outside is under massive renovations, we had to settle on seeing the beautiful inside of the Hungarian State Opera house

You can still enter the main hall, which is stunning.  You can still do a tour of the Opera House, which you need to pay for.  And you will be treated to a mini concert, which sounded amazing from where we were standing in the lobby.

Dohány Street Synagogue

We’ll be honest with you here, we didn’t actually go into the Synagogue, though we really wanted to.  But the almost $20CAD entrance fee was a bit of a hard pill to swallow, especially at this point in our travels.

The Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest, Hungary
The Dohány Street Synagogue

The Dohány Street Synagogue is a historical building.  It’s the largest synagogue in Europe.  It’s the second largest in the world.  It looks beautiful from the outside, and we’re convinced it’s just as gorgeous from the inside.  So if you do go, please let us know how it is!  They do offer a free tour around the Synagogue, so make sure you check times before you get there.

Széchenyi thermal baths

Did you even go to Budapest if you didn’t go to a bath?  No!  No, you didn’t!

The Széchenyi baths are some of the oldest and largest in Europe.  Fed by 2 thermal sources, going here requires almost a full day.  It’s a moment of pampering, relaxing and self-care, so make sure you keep a good chunk of your day for it.

You can get your tickets online, at your hotel (that’s where we got ours) or directly at the baths.  There, you will have the chance to go to one of the 2 thermal outdoor pools, the outdoor lap pool, or one of the many indoor pools, all at varying temperatures.  They have a gym, a spa (for massages), a cosmetics bar and so much more.

Just make sure you bring your towel, flip flops, and a bathing cap (if you want to do laps in the pool).  A good tip is also to bring a bottle of water, as it does get quite dehydrating to be there.  Then, just enjoy and relax!

Jewish quarters

Welcome to the coolest quarters in Budapest.  Lined with boutiques, restaurants, cool bars, hole-in-the-wall eateries, this place is buzzing, especially at night.  This is also where you will find the cool Ruin Bars and Cafes in the city.

So walk around and pick any restaurant or bar to have a drink at.  It will be delicious and it will be fun!

Ruin bar

This is another place that we ask: Did you even go to Budapest if you didn’t go to a ruin bar?  And again, no!  You probably didn’t!

Come party at Szimpla Kert in Budapest, Hungary
Come party at Szimpla Kert

Rumour has it that these ruin bars started in the early 2000’s, when a bunch of friends were looking for a cheap place to grab a beer.  When they didn’t find what they were looking for, they decided to create their own spot.  They set up shop in an abandoned building and started selling $2 beers.  It was more of an underground movement back then!  The first one to open was Szimpla Kert, so that’s where we went.

A view from the second floor of Szimpla Kert in Budapest, Hungary
A view from the second floor of Szimpla Kert

Today, the ruin bars are not so underground, and definitely not as cheap.  They are however, very cool, and a fun place to drink, especially considering that most have been transformed by artists.  Filled with thrift store furniture, odd trinkets and mementos, packed with people from all over the world and all walks of life, our ruin bar experience was quite fun!

Budapest Eye

The Budapest Eye is a big 65 m ferris wheel that is located in Erzsébet Square.  We didn’t ride it, but a ride last about 3 turns, so 10 minutes, and costs €9 (roughly $10 USD).  It’s a great place to go to get a bird’s eye view of Budapest.

Come ride the Budapest Eye Ferris Wheel in Budapest, Hungary
Come ride the Budapest Eye Ferris Wheel

What to eat

Eat everything!  Seriously!  We loved every single thing we had in Budapest.  So eat everything your heart desires, it will probably be delicious!

Szimpla Kert:  We mentioned it before, and we’ll say it again.  Go to a ruin bar.  Go to this one.  It’s super cool, relaxed and tons of fun.  They serve tons of drinks there, as well as food, so you’ll be set for the night.  Another plus, they have tons of vegetarian options!

Bors GazstroBar This was our first stop in Budapest.  We had a delicious pumpkin soup (their soups change daily so feel free to try whatever).  Derek loved his pulled pork baguette and I adored my vegetarian one.  This is a street food style hole-in-the-wall restaurant, but with quality food!

Great eats at Bors Gazstro Bar in Budapest, Hungary
You don’t need to be a Star Wars fan to eat at Bors GazstroBar, but if you are you will love it!

Karavan:  If you love street food, this is the place for you!  They have it all.  Pizzas, burgers, Mexican, Hungarian, vegan, meat-lover, whatever you want, you’ll find it here.  Karavan is a group of food trucks set up in this cool courtyard with garden chairs, heaters and tables.

Desszert Neked When you’ve had enough to eat, eat more… dessert, of course!  We had some cake pops and chocolatey desserts here and they did not disappoint.  W’d love to tell you exactly what we had, but we enjoyed them way too much.  Anyway, we’re convinced you’ll love everything you have there.

Grab a yummy dessert at Desszert Neked in Budapest, Hungary
Grab a yummy dessert at Desszert Neked

Where to stay

There is only one option for us in Budapest: the D8 Hotel.  Newly opened, this hotel has everything you need to have a great time in the city.  Centrally-located, steps away from the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, and pretty much close to everything you want to visit, you can’t ask for more.

Wediditourway at the D8 Hotel in Budapest, Hungary
Chilling out at the D8 Hotel

Start the day off right with a delicious breakfast (try their croissants! They are some of the best we’ve had) then head out to explore the city.  If you need to get some work done before, no worries!  Their lobby and lounge areas have everything you need to get connected and get things done.

And don’t worry if it’s raining while you are there – they offer the cutest umbrellas so you don’t miss a minute of exploring.  We love these thoughtful touches D8 has thought of to make your stay comfortable and as pleasant as possible.

Welcome to the D8 Hotel in Budapest, Hungary
Welcome to the D8 Hotel in Budapest, Hungary

If you need any recommendations, if you need to book a trip to the thermal baths, their staff can take care of that for you.  They gave us extra towels for the baths, booked our tickets, gave us insider tips on where to go and what to do.  We wish we could have stayed here forever!

Getting around

All the sites in Budapest are fairly close to each other.  You know how much we love to walk, so we would go from one place to the next by foot.  Considering we had such a great hotel, so close to everything, we would even stop in sometimes before heading to a different part of town.

If walking is not your thing, Budapest has a super convenient subway system that can get you from one place to the next in a jiffy!  They also have trams and buses, so think eco-friendly and use their awesome public transportation system!

Budapest Card

And as always, depending on what you want to do and see, you may want to grab the Budapest Card.  You’ll get to use the transport system for free, visit your favourite museums and attractions for free, or at a discounted rate, and you get so much more.

Just make sure your initial investment will pay itself off with what you want to do and see.  Then, reap the benefits!

The Buda side of the Danube river in Budapest, Hungary
The Buda side of the Danube river

We loved our time in Budapest.  We know we say this often, and we really mean it (Every. Single. Time)!  But seriously, we loved it here.  From the delicious food, amazing architecture, relaxing baths and just walking around soaking in the history and culture of the city (we also soaked in some rain!).  We highly recommend you spend at least 3-4 days here to take in all the beauty of the city.

Have you been to Budapest?  Is it on your list yet?  Let us know in the comments.


We put a lot of time and effort into the content we create.  Please like, comment and share, every action on your part helps us out tremendously and is very much appreciated.

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There are a ton of amazing things to do and see in Budapest, Hungary. Here are our recommendations of what to do, where to stay, what to eat and how to get around. Tips, tricks and more to have the best time in Budapest

10 things NOT to forget to pack for your long-term trip

As much as you try to plan what to pack, there is always something you forget.  With the next 10 items, we learned things the hard way!  Hopefully, you will learn from our mistakes and bring these along on your next long-term trip

As much as you try to plan things and pack in a smart and efficient manner, there is always something you forget.  With the next 10 items, we learned things the hard way!  They may not seem like much but they ended up being really helpful when we finally got them.  Some we have yet to purchase.  But we’ve seen how much other travelers love them, and how they could have been helpful to us.

External hard drive

Sure, maybe you have cloud storage, and that’s a great backup.  But when you go to places where the internet is almost non-existent, your cloud storage is pretty much useless.  Do yourself a favour and get an external hard drive.  It will save you time, and a lot of frustration!  Because if you’re like us, and take tons of pics and videos, your laptop will just not have enough storage for all those wonderful memories.

A good adapter

Your electronics are probably the most expensive and useful things you’re bringing on your trip, so make sure you bring a good adapter to keep your things running smoothly.  We had bought a really bad one when we left, but luckily found this one that works wonders!

Our old one would barely charge our electronics, and when it did, it was so slow.  Again, save yourself the trouble and get a good one from the get-go.  In fact, get 2 or 3 because you’ll need them if you have tons of gear with you.

Lifestraw Go


When you travel, you underestimate how much water you actually drink, especially when it’s hot.  It’s only when you realize that you can’t drink the tap water in most of South-East Asia, and start buying insane amounts of plastic bottles.  Then, you start kicking yourself because you want to be an eco-traveler and this isn’t what eco-travels is about.

We left home without the Lifestraw Go and totally regretted it.  Luckily, we were able to get one delivered to us on the road thanks to a friend.  Not only did it help us save money but the environment as well, and we love that!

Drone

Yeah, it may be silly, but we really really wish we had a drone during our travels.  We were so gung-ho about trying to save money before we left, that we didn’t want to spend on such a big-ticket item… we regret it immensely now!

Why?

Easy!  Drones give you a point of view you can’t get on your two legs.  They give you a new perspective and a different way of seeing the world.  We have had the privilege of seeing so many beautiful places that we wish we could have seen them fully, from a bird’s eye view.  As soon as we have an income, this is the first big-ticket item we’ll be buying.

Tripod

This is a key piece of equipment, especially if you want to post pics on the Gram, and even if you don’t.  You can always rely on other people to take good shots of you, but way too often, they will be crappy.  We have the pics to prove it!

That’s why we got this great tripod when we found a good deal in Vietnam.  This tripod (we named him Javier) is so good to us.  It’s easy to set up, compact and light.  Perfect for travel!

Packing cubes

When we started out our trip, we had plastic vacuum bags.  They did the trick, but not for long!  Shortly after a few weeks of use, they started falling apart.  They didn’t stay compressed, they started letting air in, they tore.  They were just another piece of plastic waste.

We learned our lesson and have since moved on to packing cubes.  Better for the environment, longer lasting and easier to use.  We love them!

Scrubby bag

This is another handy little thing we wish we had.  Laundry is not always easy to do, especially if you’re staying in hotels often.  It can start getting pretty expensive.  That’s why we wish we had this little guy with us.  Some traveling friends told us about it and we’re in love.  This Scrubby bag is super compact and convenient to do your laundry anywhere, anytime!  Make sure you have concentrated detergent and you should be good to go!

Coral-safe sunscreen


We know, we know!  You have limited space when you pack for traveling long-term, but having sunscreen on is also key.  We found that sunscreen is a lot more expensive on the road than back home and the selection is teeny-tiny.  Also, most choices of sun protection in Asia are of the whitening variety and super polluting.  So save yourself the trouble and stock up on these coral-safe sunscreens.  Good for you and the environment! Double win!

Tiger balm


This little cream is a life-saver.  Literally!  It’s pretty much good for anything.  We used it where we had muscle pain.  Also, when we felt like a cold was coming on (or had already settled in).  It’s also great as an insect repellent and even as an “after bite” remedy.  Seriously, we wish we had known to bring this with us, because it’s the Swiss Army knife of life!

Shampoo bars

We actually didn’t know about these miracle bars until we found them through another blog… and we’re hooked.  Whether we’re traveling or not, we’ll be using these little puppies from now on.  No more plastic bottles.  No spill accidents.  No worries in carry-on luggage.  Just good-smelling, long-lasting bars!

There you have it! Our quick little list of 10 things we wish we had brought with us on our journey!  They say hindsight is 20/20, but the truth is, you don’t need hindsight if you learn from other people’s mistakes.

Have you gone on a trip, only to regret not bringing a certain item?  What was it?  Let us know, we always love discovering new life-saving, game-changing items!


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How to plan for long-term travel

So you’re finally taking the plunge and traveling long term?  Amazing!  Get ready for one of the best times of your life.  But before you set off, there’s a lot of planning to do.  Planning for any trip can be so fun.  But there is something even more special about planning for long-term travel.  It comes with a lot more considerations than a short 2 -week trip.  Having spent more than 14 months on the road, we learned quite a few things really quickly when it comes to planning.

So here are the main things to keep in mind when you decide to travel long-term.  We’ve broken it down on a timeline, but obviously, it’s quite flexible.  We decided to leave 4 months before our date, so this is more of a general guideline.

6-12 months before

Ask the important questions

There are tons of ways to travel long-term.  That’s why it’s important that you ask yourself some key questions to prepare accordingly.

  • What’s your travel style going to be? Will you be roughing it or living it up in luxury?  Will you stay in dorms or private rooms?
  • What’s your budget?  This will depend on how much you can save, what you plan on spending, where you want to go and how long you will travel for.
  • How are you traveling? Are you going solo, with a friend, or a partner?
  • Will you be working as you travel?  You can choose to pick up odd jobs, doing a working tourist visa, freelance, workaways or just enjoying life.
  • How long do you want to travel for?  Is it a few months? A year? Until you run out of cash?
  • Why do you want to travel the world?  
  • What do you want to get out of the experience?

Start saving

It’s never too early to start saving.  Regardless of how you want to travel, chances are the money you save now will help you travel for longer.  Your dollar saved will probably go further abroad than it goes back home, so put in the effort and start saving now.  Even before you decide to travel, if you can!  Here are some tips on how you can save money before and during your travels.

Some important advice that might help you:

  • Have a piggy bank account:  Basically, make sure you have a contingency that you keep on the side.  This is in case things go wrong, or your trip costs more than you think.  Because it always ends up costing more than you think!
  • Keep money for when you get back:  Just like your piggy bank, make sure you keep some money for when you get back.  We kept about $2,000, just enough to get things started again.  Depending on where you live, and what your situation is, you may need more or less than this.

Passport

Regardless of where you’re going, you will need a valid passport.  Make sure yours won’t expire for at least 6 months, or longer than you plan to travel for.  Check that you have at least 4 empty pages.  Also, make electronic and hard copies of your passport and keep them in a secure location while you’re traveling (not in your wallet).  And finally, give a copy to your parents or someone you trust.

Passports.jpg
You won’t be going far without these bad boys!

Start planning your itinerary

This does not mean to start planning every single day of your trip.  In fact, we beg you not to do that!  Keep some flexibility because itineraries change.  What we mean is to start making the list of countries you want to visit.  Check when the high and low tourist seasons are, look at the weather (dry vs wet season), look at the cost of living there, make sure there are some festivals happening.  This is also going to help you decide what to pack.

Travel map Europe
Grab a map and figure out where you want to go!

Visas & other paperwork

While your checking the list of countries you want to visit, look into visas as well.  A few countries don’t need any visas, others you’ll need to get online and some you can get at the airport.  Some are more expensive than others, so just make sure you do your research before you head out.

Also, if you’ll be driving in any of the countries you’ll be visiting, make sure to get an international driver’s licence.  You may need it to rent scooters in certain countries so make sure you have it done.  It’s not that expensive and it’s well worth it.

3-6 months before

Vaccines

Once you have your initial list of countries, make your way to the traveler’s clinic.  Get all the shots you need to get.  Start doing this at least 4 months before you head out, as some need multiple shots.  They will also let you know if you need any medication.

Insurance

We debate about this all the time, but really, there should be no debate.  Just get travel insurance.  It is a hefty chunk of money, but it’s well worth it.  Our rule is that is your trip is going to cost more than the cost of insurance, you should get it.  You can see what you want to have covered, but keep in mind that luggage gets lost, goods get stollen, flights get cancelled.  Don’t be stingy on this.

Start downsizing and selling

Depending on if you’re looking to live the nomad life forever or for a determined amount of time, start downsizing and selling what you no longer need.  You can start getting rid of things you know you won’t need or miss before you leave right away.  For anything else, wait 2 months before leaving to start selling it.  You’ll probably need it until then.

You can get rid of clothes, furniture, electronics, kitchen supplies, whatever.  You’ll notice as you travel that you get used to having so little so you don’t want to come back to unnecessary clutter.  Good sites to sell things on are Craigslist, eBay, and Kijiji.  You can even host a garage sale or a private sale for your friends.  Some things you can donate to charities.

1-3 months before

Check-ups

About a month before you head out, go get your usual check-ups done.  Dentist, gynaecologist, family doctor, allergy specialist, whatever you need to do on a regular basis.  Let them know you’ll be traveling for a while and where you’ll be going.  They may have important information to give you or medical advice to follow for your specific condition.

Car and real estate

At this point, you’ll need to decide what to do with your car.  Will you sell it like we did?  Will you break your lease?  Put it in storage?  These are options you can look into.  Obviously, it will depend on what your current situation is and what you expect to come back to when you get back home.  Our car was quite old but in great condition, so we just sold it.  We know that when we get back, we can get a cheaper lease or use a car-sharing service.

As for real estate, again, it depends on your current situation.  We own our condo, so we decided to put it up for rent, and have our parents take care of any issues that come up urgently.  If not, our neighbours and tenants can reach us at anytime, so this was not an issue.  If you are renting your place, you may want to break your lease or sublet your apartment.  Either way, make sure you let your landlord know.

Get gear you need

Sign up to your favourite stores’ newsletters and start keeping an eye on sales.  You’ll probably need some gear, so make sure you get them when they are discounted.  Even if you haven’t started packing yet, you know what you need to update or upgrade, whether its your photography gear, hiking shoes, backpack, whatever.  Just start looking so you have enough time to compare prices, test out some options and get a great deal.

Book your ticket

This is the other exciting thing you’ll be doing.  Book that ticket baby!  Usually, they say it’s best to book it 3 months before you go, so start looking at prices and be flexible.  Check to find the cheapest but most convenient way to get where you’re going.

2-4 weeks before

Quit your job

This is probably the most exciting and nerve-wracking part.  It’s time to quit your job!  Depending on your relationship with your employers, and what you what to do on your trip, and when you get back, you can look at different options.

Derek after leaving his job for the last time
Last day of work, peace out!
  • Leave of absence: You can ask your employers to take an unpaid leave of absence.  If you know your return date, they can potentially keep your position so that you can return to it.
  • Work abroad: We’ve met quite a few people who were able to continue working for their employer as a freelancer from abroad, or as a temporary employee when they need some extra help.  If you plan on working as you travel, this is a great option for both you and your employer as there won’t be training required.
  • Quit your job:  If these 2 options above are not possible, you can just quit your job.  Give them enough notice so that they are not stuck in a tight situation.  You want to leave on good terms.
  • Find new work: If you choose to work while you travel, start looking for contracts you can pick up as you travel.  Either you can contact local clients or you can offer your services online through sites like Fiverr.

Let your bank know

This is an obvious one.  Make sure you call up your bank and credit cards to let them know you’ll be traveling abroad, and how long you’ll be gone for.  This is so they don’t block your cards as you’re on the road.  Make sure you also know where to contact them in case they do freeze your account.  This happened to us because we stayed on the road longer than we expected.  Luckily, we knew what to do.

Power of attorney

Depending on what your situation is, you may want to give power of attorney to a trusted loved one.  Because we own property and have investments back home we can’t tend to on a daily basis, we gave power of attorney to one of our parents.  This way, if anything were to happen, we had a legally-assigned person to take care of things.  This will really depend on your situation, so it may not apply to you.  The best thing to do is to call your notary and see what does apply to your specific situation.

Packing

About a month before, start packing.  Carry your backpack around the house, check that it fits well and isn’t too heavy.  Try living with only the clothes you want to take with you.  This is a great way to figure out what you still need to get, what you think you need but don’t really, what you can live without and your absolute musts.

Cancel contracts

Cancel any contracts you don’t need anymore, like your phone contract, electricity, internet, etc.  Let them know your last date in country and when you’ll come back, if ever.

Redirect mail

Pretty straight forward.  Make sure you get your mail redirected to a loved one’s place.  Your parents, siblings, BFF, whoever.  Just get it sent there.

Say your “see you laters”

This is another one of our favourite things to do.  Have a huge party (or 3, like we did) to say Au revoir to all your friends, family, colleagues, and loved-ones.  Try to convince them to come visit you on the road.  But more importantly, enjoy your time with them.  Take pics and videos and keep those memories dearly!

And there you have it, that’s all you need to plan to get going on your long-term trip.  Is there anything else you did before leaving on your trip?  Let us know in the comments!


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8 amazing day trips from Yerevan

Armenia has a ton to offer.  From quaint little villages, to hikes, local markets and festivals, and so much more.  Here are the best day trips to do from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital.

Armenia has a ton of things to offer.  From quaint little villages, to hikes, local markets and festivals, and so much more.  A good 2 weeks are needed to fully enjoy the beauty of the country, but if you’re tight on time, here are some of the best day-trips to do from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital.

Some might say that the best things to see in Armenia are the churches.  There is also a ton to do here that is not limited to churches, so get out there and explore it all!

Getting around

Depending on the size of your group, there are many ways to do these excursions.  You can either go through different tour companies and opt for private or group tours.  You can rent a car and drive yourself.  You can grab a GG in town, asking the driver for a set cost before leaving.  You can grab shared taxis or marchutkas to the villages.

Or finally, you can hitchhike.  We were told it’s easy to get around this way in Armenia, so you can always try that if you’re feeling adventurous!  Just be warned, most of the time, your ride will offer you a meal and drinks at their place before dropping you off at your final destination!

Lake Sevan

Lake Sevan is Armenia’s largest body of water, and it is beautiful.  Head there in the morning to take full advantage of its beauty.  The route should take you about 45 minutes to an hour.

Lake Sevan Armenia
The beautiful Lake Sevan, Armenia

Once there, you can climb up the peninsula and visit Sevanavank, the beautiful church at the top of it.  Then, head down to the shore and enjoy a walk on the beach.  If you love swimming in cold water, jump on in!

Sevanavank church lake Sevan, Armenia
Sevanavank monastery on the shores of Lake Sevan, Armenia

You can either prepare your own BBQ khorovats meal on the beach, check out one of the many restaurants on its shores, or head back on the road and stop by Semoi Mot to have the famous fish there.

Dilijan

Dilijan is named the Switzerland of Armenia, and rightfully so.  Nestled in the mountains, this city is just beautiful!  The trip there should take you 1.5 to 2 hours.  If you leave early enough, and depending on what you want to do, you can fit Lake Sevan and Dilijan in one day trip.

Wediditourway Parz Lake Dilijan national park Armenia
Beware of the killer ducks at Parz Lake in the Dilijan National Park, Armenia

Dilijan has many beautiful things to do.  If you love hiking, you have many routes there, including the TransCaucausus Trail, the Dilijan National Park and many more.  There is a beautiful hike that will take you to the quaint Parz Lake.

You can also visit the Tufenkian hotel, where they have recreated a beautiful village with 19th century architecture.  They have even included intricately carved balconies, displaying the region’s historical love for fine woodwork.

CouplePIctureDilijanArmenia
Having fun taking our pics at the Tufenkian hotel in Dilijan, Armenia

For your meal, we recommend Kchuch, a delightful restaurant where you can have an array of wood oven cooked meals.  Everything we had was delicious, but the mushroom pizza/flatbread took the cake for us.  For your coffee fix, we recommend Caffeine, a beautiful little microroastery.

Garni, Geghard, Tsaghgazor

This trip is an awesome one.  This day trip is one of our favourites.  Garni is about 30 minutes away from Yerevan, Geghard, another 30 from there, and Tsaghgazor is another 30 from there.

Garni temple Armenia
Temple of Garni, the only standing Greco-Roman colonnaded building in Armenia and the former Soviet Union

Garni is home to an old pagan temple.  It was thought to be built in the first century AD, as a temple dedicated to the sun god Mihr.  It’s really a unique site in Armenia, not only because of its structure, but also because of its beautiful setting at the top of a cliff, surrounded by mountains.

Geghard monastery Armenia
Geghard Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kotayk province of Armenia

Geghard is one of the most spectacular monasteries in Armenia.  It’s a true architectural beauty!  The name “Geghard” means “spear”, as it is thought that the spear, which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, was allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, and stored here amongst many other relics.  What makes Geghard even more special is the fact that it is partially carved out of the adjacent mountain and its surrounded by cliffs.

Ski lift at Tsaghkadzor Armenia
Take the ski lift at the Tsaghkadzor ski resort to get a breathtaking view of the Kotayk Province of Armenia

Finally, make sure you stop by Tsaghkadzor, a spa town and one of the most popular health resorts in Armenia.  You can either indulge in one of the many different spas there, or make your way up the mountain on the ski lift.  Up there, you have beautiful views of the mountains and valleys.  A gorgeous spot!

Letters Monument, Amberd & Byurakan Observatory

This little trip will only take you a few hours, but it’s well worth it.  If you can, try doing it later in the afternoon so you can finish at the Observatory to see some stars.

Letters Monument Armenia
Find your initials at the Letters Monument in Artashavan, Armenia

First stop is the Letters Monument that was built in 2005, when the Armenian alphabet celebrated its 1600th birthday.  To commemorate the important date, a gift of 39 giant Armenian letters carved out of stone were erected near the final resting place of Mesrop Mashtots, who created the alphabet.

The Letters Monument is set against the beautiful backdrop of Mt. Aragats, the highest peak in Armenia.  This is a fun little stop to make, that shouldn’t take too long.  Make sure you find the letters of your name!

Amberd fortress Armenia
Amberd fortress, built in the 7th century in the province of Aragatsotn, Armenia.

Next, make your way to Amberd, the “cloud fortress” or fortress in the clouds.  This is a beautiful 7th century fortress overlooking a gorge on the cliffside of the mountains.  There, you will also find the 11th century Vahramashen Church, and a bath house dating between the 10th and 11th centuries.

This whole complex is located on the slopes of Mount Aragats, right where the Arkashen and Amberd rivers run.  The setting here is just beautiful, especially in the fall, when the leaves start changing colours.

Finally, check out Byurakan  Astrophysical  Observatory (or BAO) on a clear night.  The observatory was founded in 1946, and located on the slope of the mountain Aragatz.  The BAO focused its studies mainly on the instability phenomena taking place in the Universe.  You can contact the Observatory and set up a tour.  Entrance is just 1,000 dram (roughly $2USD).  But make sure you call before to confirm your tour, because it does depend on the weather.

Khor Virap, Areni Caves, Noravank

Get ready to step back in time on this tour.  The furthest point of this trip is about 2.5 hours away from Yerevan, so with long stops, this will be a full day of exploration.

Khor Virap is probably the most famous monastery in Armenia.  Not only does it offer beautiful views of Mount Ararat, but it’s also the birthplace of christianity in Armenia.  They say that Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned in a pit here for 13 years by King Tiridates III of Armenia.

Khor Virap Mount Ararat Armenia
Khor Virap at the steps of Mount Ararat, Armenia

You can actually visit the pit where he was said to spent these years, surrounded by snakes and rats.  He is said to have survived by the grace of God and the help of the king’s sister.  When he got out, he became the religious advisor to the king, and in 301, Armenia was the first country in the world to be declared a Christian nation.  This is why Khor Virap is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in Armenia.

Khor Virap from above Armenia
Khor Virap, said to have imprisoned Saint Gregory the Illuminator for 13 years, on the plains of Ararat, Armenia

Next, make your way to Areni, in Vayots Dzor.  This region is known for the production of wine, not only today, but centuries ago as well.  In 2007, the earliest known winery in the world was said to be found at the Areni-1 cave complex.  It was estimated to be 6100-years-old.  In 2008, the world’s oldest leather shoe was found.  Then in 2011, that the discovery of a straw skirt dating to 3,900 years BCE was reported.  It’s quite an impressive site to see.

Areni winery Armenia
Armenia is said to be the first place in the world to produce wine, if you ask an Armenian!

In the same region, you can go do some wine tastings.  We recommend you skip the Areni winery, where the lines are long and the wine is not so great.  Instead, head to Momik’s WineCube for some amazing wine in a lovely setting.  You can also opt to stop here after you’ve visited all the sites, all depending on what time it is, and how hungry you are… if you’re like us, that’s all the time!

Noravank Monastery Armenia_
The Noravank monastery, near the town of Yeghegnadzor, Armenia

Another awesome monastery to see that’s a few kilometres from the Areni-1 cave is Noravank.  This is a 13th-century monastery is known for its two-storey Surb Astvatsatsin church.  You can climb up to the second level by the narrow stone-made staircase jutting out from the face of building.  Luckily, there is a rope to help you up.  The setting of this monastery is gorgeous!  It’s in a narrow gorge forged by the Amaghu River.  The gorge is known for its tall, sheer, brick-red cliffs.  It’s a beautiful place.

Gyumri

There are many ways to get to Gyumri, but the most enjoyable and easy one is to take the new electric train.  This train only runs on weekends for now (including Friday).  From the main station in Yerevan, grab the 10am train to Gyumri.  Tickets cost 2,500 dram, or about $5 USD.  You’ll get there around noon.

Gyumri train station Armenia
Another example of why you should always look up. The chandelier at the Gyumri train station, Armenia

Gyumri is a beautiful city that is just building itself back after the 1988 earthquake.  It used to be the cultural centre of the country and strives to regain that title today.  Here, you can walk around Vartanants square, explore the beautiful Holy Saviour’s Church and the black fort.  There is also a market street by the church where you can by delicious local fare.

All saviors church Gyumri Armenia
Holy Saviour’s Church in Gyumri, Armenia

Right off the main square, there are a few beautiful pedestrian streets to stroll on.  Lined with bakeries, restaurants and shops, they are perfect to explore on a day trip.  And, if you have time to spare, check out Central Park, and the old soviet amusement park.  It’s a real trip back in time!

Gyumri Armenia
Gyumri was rocked by the 1988 earthquake, and though the effects still show today, the city feels rejuvenated!

If music or technology are your thing, then you can also check out the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies.  It offers free after-school education to local youth in areas such as music, robotics, computer programming, and a variety of other non-classical educational subjects.

Make sure you make it back to the train station before 5pm, to grab the train back to Yerevan.  You can also spend a night in Gyumri and take more time to explore the city.

Mount Aragats

Mount Aragats is Armenia’s highest peak, at 4,090 m.  It’s actually a four-peaked volcano massif that you can climb with the help of a tour guide.  The best time to hike this peak is between June and October, as the peak gets snowy and difficult.

If hiking is not your thing, you can drive up to Kari Lake and relax at the hotel and restaurant there.  During colder months, the restaurant is known for its khash soup.  This is a traditional Armenian soup made of cow hoof.  It’s eaten with copious amounts of garlic, lemon, lavash bread and vodka!

Etchmiadzin & Zvartnots temple

The route to Etchmiadzin is about 30-45 minutes away from Yerevan.  You can stop at Zvartnots on the way there or back.

Etchmiadzin Cathedral Armenia
Etchmiadzin Cathedral is like the Vatican for Armenians

It’s considered the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church.  According to many scholars, it’s the first cathedral built in ancient Armenia, in the early 4th century.  It’s considered to be the oldest cathedral in the world as well.  In 2000, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Zvartnots Cathedral, on the other hand, is a 7th-century cathedral.  Although it is now in ruins, it is a beautiful site to see.  It was only at the start of the 20th century that the ruins of Zvartnots were uncovered.  They discovered the foundations of the cathedral as well as the remains of the Catholicos palace and a winery.  After more excavations, it was revealed that Zvartnots stood on structures that dated back to 680 BC.

Both sites are quite close by and really beautiful to visit. Make sure you head out on a sunny day.

Longer trips

Some people may include these stops as part of a day trip, but they are quite far, so it makes for a really long day.  We’re talking about 12-14 hours.  You can do these separately or together, it’s totally up to you.  Just know that it is quite a journey!

Karahunj

Located on the route to Tatev, Karahunj, or Zorats Karer, is said to be the oldest astronomical observatory in the world!  This place is really magic.  Unlike Stonehenge which is blocked off, you can explore Karahunj freely.

Karahunj astronimical observatory Armenia

The site is made of six different parts, and a total of 223 stones of which 80 have a circular holes.  Studies showed that 17 of the stones were for observing sunrises or sunsets at the solstices and equinoxes, and 14 for the lunar extremes.

Karahunj stone Armenia
Many of the stones at Karahunj have these circular holes, used for viewing astrological phenomenons

This place is one of the coolest we’ve seen and you can really feel the energy when you’re there.  It’s a magical spot that is well-worth the visit.

Tatev

The route to Tatev will take about 3-4 hours from Yerevan.  Not only is Tatev a beautiful monastery, but it has a really cool mode of transportation to get there.  The Wings of Tatev!  This is the World’s longest reversible ropeway, measuring a whopping 5,752 m.  The views from the tramway are just epic!

Tatev Monastery Armenia
The Tatev monastery as seen from the Wings of Tatev, Armenia

The monastery, although under construction, is still a beautiful sight to behold.  Set on the edge of a cliff, it’s breathtaking.  And if you don’t want to see the church, that’s ok too!  You can go hiking in the area, do some wine-tasting, or even go paragliding!

Kndzoresk

Past Goris, Kndzoresk will take you 4-4.5 hours to get to.  Access to this site is not for the faint.  The swinging bridge to get here swings and bounces quite a lot.  But it’s quite awesome to see what’s on the other side.

Khndzoresk suspension bridge Armenia

Khndzoresk is a village and rural community in the South-East of Armenia, right by Goris.  It’s an old village built into the side of the mountains.  With caves and ruins for you to explore, it’s such a cool place.  Especially since it was inhabited until the 1950’s.

Yerevan is a great place to do these day trips from.  If you want to, you can also visit these spots on a continuous route as part of a 2-week Armenia road trip.  The possibilities are really endless.

What do you prefer? Long road trips or day trips from a home-base?  We like to have the option of doing either, mainly because we love road trips!


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8 amazing day trips from Yerevan, Armenia's capital.  From churches, monasteries, astronomical sites, temples, Lake Sevan and so much more.  Here are all the amazing sites you can visit right from Yerevan.   www.wediditourway.com

 

What to pack for long-term travel: advice & checklist

When it comes to packing for a year of travel, the task can be daunting! After 13 months on the road, we’ve put together our best advice and a handy checklist so you know exactly what to bring

When it comes to packing for a year of travel, the task can be daunting! As if packing for any trip wasn’t scary enough? We always fear we’re going to forget something, or lug useless things around.  After 13 months on the road, we’ve learned quite a few things about packing and what to bring with you, so we wanted to share the wisdom.  Sharing is caring, after all.  So here is our best advice and a handy checklist for you.

Things to consider

Before you start making your personal checklist and starting to pack, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.  These questions will help you figure out what you can do without and what your musts are.

What countries will you visit?

Maybe your list isn’t complete yet, or maybe you have the next year all planned out.  Regardless, make sure you bring clothes that are suitable for the countries you plan on seeing.  Are they conservative?  Very religious?  Highly liberal?  Always dress respectfully and adapt to that culture.

Japanease Alps lake

What seasons will you be going through?

This goes hand-in-hand with the countries you’ll visit.  Are you staying mainly in summer weather?  Will you go through all four seasons, like us?  Are you going through dry or wet seasons?  Your list will greatly vary from one list to the next, so make sure you bring some essential items depending on the climate you’ll go through.

What type of activities will you do?

Are you a beach bum like Derek?  Do you like to go hiking like Carine?  Will you do a lot of city walking?  Will you cab it most of the time?

Wediditourway Roy's peak Wanaka New Zealand

What is your budget?

We’re more middle-budget type travellers.  We don’t mind splurging once in awhile, but we usually stick to a decent budget.  We won’t do dorm rooms, but private rooms in hostels are ok.  We brought sleeping sheets, our pillow cases and bath towels, but if you prefer a life of luxury, you don’t need these.

What kind of bag?

Check-in of carry on?  Suitcase or backpack?  We were going through all four seasons, so we couldn’t fit everything into a carry-on.  But that’s our next packing goal.

Depending on your style of travel, you may be able to work with a good backpack or suitcase.  This choice is really personal.  Regardless of your choice, make sure you pick sturdy and durable bags.  There is nothing worse than having an ill-fitting backpack or having to replace your bag on your trip.  It may be an extra investment at first, but it’ll be well worth it.

Extra tip for choosing a good backpack:  Make sure you give it a good run before you commit.  Pack it up, wear it around the house, try living out of it for a week.  Return it if it doesn’t do the trick.  This will be your home for the time of your trip, so make sure you love this bag!

Best advice for packing

We wanted to share some of the best advice that saved us on our trip.  Again, this is really personal, so just go with what you’re comfortable with.

Pack for a 10-day trip

On a 2-week trip, you can bring an outfit for every day.  When you have to lug everything around for a year, you can’t pack for 52 weeks.  Some people say to pack for a week, but laundry can get expensive and things can go wrong.  Our advice is to pack for 10 days, just to have some extra wiggle room.

Think simple

Derek learned this the hard way.  Don’t go for flashy colours or big bold prints.  Make sure everything matches together.  This will help with laundry and ensure you don’t pack too much.  Also, prioritize colours that don’t show dirt too much, or sweat marks… yeah, those aren’t cute!  And, make sure all the clothes you bring are machine-washable.  It’s a no-brainer, but a life-saver!

Make sure you can layer

In many countries, tropical or not, the weather can change greatly from day to night, so make sure you can layer things.  This is also helpful for religious monument visits (temples, churches and mosques), or certain countries where they are more conservative.

Have a packing system

Derek is the king of organization, so this is his tip.  It’s a pretty good one!  Have a system, so you know where everything is at all times.  Always pack the same way to avoid scrambling to find things.  And keep the daily things close-by and handy.

You don’t need to have everything on you

You can’t account for everything, and it’s not worth lugging things around for months for those “just in case” moments.  You can always buy or ditch things as you travel.  Things (clothing and medication) are often cheaper on the road so buy them as needed.  Also, if you haven’t used something in weeks, chances are, you don’t actually need it!  Donate it to someone who does.

Know what is cheaper at home

Mainly sunscreen and bug spray.  You have more choices (eco-friendly and better quality) at home.  We’re not saying to lug these around for a year, but if you’re going to SE Asia, know you will pay 2 or 3 times the price for these items.  And if you want to stick to a budget, you may want to bring these items with you.

Buy smart toiletries

Buying toiletries for a year in insane, so just buy smart (i.e. less plastic) and travel in an eco-friendly way.  We love the plastic-free shampoo bars, toothpaste pills, and concentrated detergent.  They last longer and are better for you and the environment.  Plus, they help you save money!  Win-win-win!

If you love it, leave it at home

Shit happens a lot on the road.  If you love something, leave it behind, because you might lose it, have it stollen, ruined, whatever.  I really miss my wedding ring, but I’m happy I can go back to it when I get back home.  I’ve heard too many stories of people losing theirs on their trip.  No thanks!

If you can, do a test run at home

This may sound crazy, but if you can do it, DO IT!  Try wearing your packed items for a month (or 2 weeks at least).  Does everything fit ok?  Do your outfits make sense or do you look like a clown?  Are there things you never wore?  At least you’ll be able to make changes to your bag before you go!

Must haves

These are things you should have on you regardless of where you go.  Basically, if you don’t have these, you’re going nowhere!

Travel essentials

  • Passport:  Plus bring a copy or 2, just in case.
  • Travel insurance:  You never know if you’ll need it, but if this trip is going to cost you more than the cost of the insurance, GET IT!
  • International driver’s licence:  In a lot of countries, you’ll need this to rent anything motorized.  It’s not expensive, but totally worth it!
  • Student card:  If you’re young and lucky like that, bring it.  A lot of places offer discounts to students.
  • Cash money:  Always have at least $200 of the local currency on you (well, maybe less if it’s a really cheap country).  You don’t need to carry it with you, but you should have some cash, just in case.  Cause as my dad says “Cash is king”.  Wise words from a wise man, because in most countries, they don’t take cards, just cash.
  • Bank cards:  A debit card to pull money from ATMs, and a credit card.  Make sure you get one with rewards, cause those plane tickets add up!
  • Prescription medication
  • Glasses or contact lenses:  Bring spares if you can.  Like we said, shit happens!
  • Scarf / Sarong Bring 2 of these.  They can double as beach towels, as cover-ups for temples, to cover your head on hikes.  They’re lifesavers!
  • Flip flops Not just for the beach, but for certain hostel showers as well.
  • Day pack:  You’ll need this on hikes, if you’re out for a whole day and need to lug water, a jacket and a camera around.
  • Purse for everyday:  A small purse is great to have.  Make sure it slings around your body, both for comfort and safety.
  • Compression cubes:  These babies are a must.  They keep everything organized and smoosh them enough to make room in your bag.
  • A good book:  Bus rides are always longer and English books are hard to find, so bring one and trade it in when you’re done.  Better yet, get an E-Reader!
  • For the ladies, Thinx:  Depending on your menstrual flow, these underwear will save you and save the environment.  Well worth the investment (plus that link will give you a discount.  You’re welcome!).
  • Laundry line:  Because you will need to do your laundry in a sink at one point, and this little guy will save you!
  • Carabiner:  To put your bag off the floor, to hang up your laundry line, to hook things together.  It’s a small investment, but well worth it!
  • Concentrated detergent:  These detergent sheets are awesome and so practical!
  • Shampoo bars:  We love the ones from Lush Cosmetics!
  • Lifestraw Go:  To save money, to stop buying plastic bottles, to have drinking water anytime, any place.  We love this guy!

Packing list

So here we go, here’s what we recommend you pack.  Obviously, you can personalize this list to where you’re going, how you’re travelling, and your own style.  It’s more of a good base to work with so do it your way.

Clothes

  • Underwear x 10:  Ladies, I recommend a mix of thongs and full underwear, but it depends on your preference.  Also, depending on your menstrual flow, 3-4 Thinx underwear for your period.
  • Bra x 2:  One sports bra and one bralette.  Note: I hate bras now.  I might burn the ones I have back home!
  • Bathing suit / Bikini x 2:  Again, depends on where you go and if you’re a beach bum.
  • Socks x 3-5:  These are easy items to wash, and you can bring less if you’re going around in flip flops all day.  Make sure you bring at least 1 wool pair, just in case!
  • Dresses x 3:  Go for light ones, and bring one long one for temple days (make sure it covers your knees and shoulders).  If you don’t wear dresses, pack an extra top and bottom.
  • T-shirts / strappy tops x 3:  Make sure they match your skirts, pants and shorts. Pack 1-2 dri-fit ones if you plan on hiking a lot.  Guys, go with 5, unless you’re packing dresses.
  • Longsleeve top x 3:  If you’re going through fall/winter months.  Bring one (like a zip-up) that you can wear over the t-shirts so you can layer.  Bring just 1 if you’re staying in warm weather.  It will come in handy in temples.
  • Shorts x 1 for the ladies, if you have dresses.  Bring 3 if you don’t like dresses or skirts.  Guys, bring 3 pairs of shorts.
  • Skirts x 2: One long, one short.
  • Pants x 1:  Go for linen, cause they’re light and pack nicely.  If you hike a lot, bring some hiking pants (maybe those that convert into shorts).
  • Leggings x 1:  Men, bring light chilling pants.
  • Hoodie x 1
  • Rain jacket x 1
  • Packable warm jacket:  This little guy will save you in winter months, and you can layer with other clothes to make it warmer!
  • Flip-flops
  • Sneakers or hiking shoes:  Or both, depending on your type of trip.
  • Comfy walking shoes:  Especially if you plan to hike a lot in the previous pair.
  • Sarong X 2:  You can use them as a scarf, a beach cover-up, a towel. So many good uses.
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat

Toiletries

  • Shampoo / conditioner bars
  • Deodorant:  Or not.  We actually stopped wearing it.  It’s better for you and the environment.
  • Soap bar:  Avoid heavy liquids than come in plastic bottles.
  • Dental kit:  Toothbrush (bamboo ones, preferably), toothbrush cover, toothpaste (in tubes or pills), floss
  • Lip balm:  With SPF, obvi!
  • Nail clippers & nail file
  • Tweezers
  • Comb
  • Hair bands
  • Razor with razor blades
  • Sunscreen:  SPF 30 is a minimum.  We used 50 because the sun is lethal!  And make sure it’s coral-friendly.
  • Aloe Vera / moisturizer:  Perfect after long beach days
  • Makeup:  Only if you really need it.  I packed some, and never used it… and I used to wear makeup every day back home!  This is personal, so bring what you are comfy with.  I had a blush cream (that i used as eyeshadow and lipstick too), mascara, an eye-liner, and lipstick.
  • Contraception:  Condoms and/or pills.  Just be safe!
  • Sanitary towels / tampons / menstrual cup / ThinxWhatever works for you.
  • Sink plug:  To do your laundry in the sink.  Or get a washing bag!

Medical kit

  • Safety pins:  Bring a few, we always lose them and they’re so handy!
  • A needle:  Blisters happen!  And can be vicious in some countries. Ask Carine about her bug bites that turned into blisters in Vietnam!
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Antiseptic cream:  Polysporin is our favourite!
  • Plasters / Bandaids
  • Bandages
  • Ibuprofen
  • Antihistamines:  Especially if you have allergies.  They seem more severe when you travel
  • Oral rehydration sachets (Hello Hydralyte)
  • Antidiarrhoeal (Imodium):   We hate taking meds, but sometimes, you need it!
  • Antacid:  For indigestion or heartburn
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tiger balm:  This puppy is the best! For when you have a cold or sore muscles, as a repellant against mosquitoes, or as Afterbite, it’s so so good!
  • Baby wipes:  If you must, make sure they’re biodegradable and without scent
  • Insect repellent (DEET 50%)
  • After bite

Gadgets

gear

  • Mobile phone:  Well obviously!
  • Camera and gear: Camera, batteries, 32GB memory card, cables, tripod
  • Laptop:  Go for something light and compact.  We love our 13-inch Macbook Pro
  • Plug adapter:  Get a good one, because this puppy will be your best friend.  Bring 2 even!
  • Power pack:  This guy will save your life.  On long travel days, especially!
  • External HD:  Because wifi isn’t always great and your laptop and phone will run out of space.  Just get one, you’ll thank us!
  • USB stick
  • Flashlight or head lamp:  Always good to have!  We prefer a USB charging headlamp
  • Spare batteries:  Rechargeable is better!

Miscellaneous

  • Travel towel:  If it’s a 2-pack, even better!
  • Sleeping sheet & pillow case
  • Travel pillow:  The ones you can blow up with air.  Perfect for flights, bus rides and long waits
  • Eye mask:  especially if you’re a light sleeper
  • Ear plugs:  because of birds, loud snorers, and noisy streets in big cities
  • Book / E-Reader:  We highly recommend an E-Reader.  English books are hard to come by in a lot of countries, especially that book you really want to read!
  • Safety pin / sewing kit
  • Swiss army knife
  • Waterproof cover for bag
  • Laundry line:  This little guy will save you!
  • Carabiner
  • Concentrated detergent:  These detergent sheets are great for laundry days

So there you have it!  Our this is what we had for a year of travel.  It may not seem like much, but sometimes, we feel like it’s too much.  If you have friends or family meeting you somewhere, like ours did, they can bring and take some items with them too.  Or if you really love some pieces, you can have them shipped back to your home.  Either way, don’t get too attached to things, and don’t stress too much about this.  You’re out living your dream, and you can alway buy or ditch along the way!

Let us know what kind of packer you are in the comments.  Were you able to travel long-term with just a carry-on?


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Discover our best advice and a helpful checklist on what to pack for long term travel. Includes important questions and our best recommendations after 13 months on the road