Travel Destinations

20 Unforgettable Things to do in New Zealand

New Zealand is one of those places that excites the imagination. A land of mystery, Māori folklore and magical scenery. A country where you can ski and surf in the same day, hike on a glacier before sinking into a natural hot pool the evening, or take a boat through a cave of glow worms before entering the mystical land of Hobbiton for the afternoon.

As a New Zealand native, I often forget how incredible my home country really is. So as a reminder to myself, and to inspire others to visit this remote island nation, I’ve compiled a list of the 36 top things to do in New Zealand – that will ensure your visit is unforgettable!

Map of the Best Things to do in New Zealand

New Zealand is a bigger country than most people realise. But despite that, it’s fairly easy to get around. Most of the top New Zealand attractions are accessible by car, and nowhere is more than a few hour’s drive apart.

I’ve put together a simple map of all of the top things to see in New Zealand below, so you can create your own itinerary! Click on the markers to see the corresponding number/attraction.

Best Way to Get Around New Zealand

Although you can see many of New Zealand’s top attractions on an organised tour, I normally recommend self-driving if you want the most authentic experience. This allows you to set your own agenda and go at your own pace.

And while hiring a car is an excellent choice, I’d go one step further and look at hiring a campervan for the duration of your stay.  Campervanning is a popular way to tour New Zealand as it saves you money on accommodation costs, saves you the hassle of changing accommodation every few days, and allows a lot more flexibility in your schedule.

To compare campervan prices in New Zealand check out Compare and Choose.

Top 15 Things to do in New Zealand

We’ve tried to create this list in keeping with how you would naturally move from one attraction to another throughout the country. They’re more or less in geographical order around the country, so you can easily plan your route depending on which experiences you want to cover around New Zealand.

For all of these New Zealand activities and attractions, We’ve included links to further information or recommended tours, to help you further plan your travels.

Castlepoint Lighthouse, Wairarapa, New Zealand, at sunrise.

BEST THINGS TO DO IN NEW ZEALAND’S NORTH ISLAND

For New Zealand’s North Island attractions, we’ll start right at the top of the island at one of the country’s most famous beaches. The large majority of the things to do in the North Island are concentrated around the top half of the diamond-shaped island. With this in mind, you could forgo seeing kiwis on Kapiti Island, and drive in a circular route instead.

#1 Boogie Board Down Sand Dunes at 90-Mile Beach

Sandboarding on Ninety Mile Beach, New Zealand North Island

For the young and young at heart, Ninety Mile Beach is just waiting for an adventure. Miles (deceivingly only 55 of them) of pure white sand await at the northern tip of New Zealand’s north island.

Popular activities include surfing the left-hand breaks or bodyboarding down the giant sand dunes. Either one will get your heart pumping and your soul singing! Just a word of warning – you’ll need to keep an eye out for unexpected traffic on the sand… This beach is actually an official highway!

And while it may be tempting to take a trip down the scenic route yourself, it’s probably best to leave the driving to experienced guides. Most car rental companies won’t cover you if the worst should happen.

#2 Set Sail in the Bay of Islands

Sailing in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand.

One of the greatest things about New Zealand is its accessibility. The best sights aren’t reserved for the rich and resourceful, anyone can enjoy the spectacular nature of this wild land.

This rings true no more so than in the lush surrounds of the Bay of Islands. What feels like a wealthy sanctuary of perfect beaches, deserted islands and secluded inlets, is accessible to everyone. And this region of New Zealand’s North Island is concealing some of the countries most interesting and important historical sites.

Hire a boat or a kayak to fully immerse yourself in this slice of paradise. Paddle out to the ‘Hole in the Rock’ on Piercy Island, or go in search of New Zealand’s marine life. Dolphins, whales, fur seals and penguins all love this area of New Zealand as much as we do!

 

#3 Climb a Volcanic Island

Hiking Rangitoto Island in New Zealand North Island.

Rangitoto Island is New Zealand’s youngest volcano – erupting from the sea a mere 600 years ago. A scenic reserve, the island is uninhabited save for the native birdlife that thrives here. A daily ferry service will deliver you to the island where you can spend the day exploring the various walks on offer – including the most popular summit track. This short, steep track will reward you with breathtaking 360 views over Auckland and its islands.

Probably the most unique ways of experiencing Rangitoto Island is to take the evening guided kayak. This tour allows you to watch the sun setting from the summit, before paddling back across the Waitemata harbour under the stars.

 

#4 Sample Some of New Zealand’s Finest Wines on Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island wine tasting.

Waiheke Island is a popular day trip from Auckland City and is super accessible by ferry. Although the island’s beaches are noteworthy, it’s undoubtedly the award-winning wines grown here that draw visitors back time and time again.

With nearly 30 vineyards competing for space on the 92 sq km island, it’s not hard to see why it has earned a reputation as a wine lover’s playground. A popular pastime is to take a wine tour to some of the more popular vineyards, or stay for a few days in an exquisite holiday villa and sample the wines on island time.

#5 Chow Down on New Zealand’s Favourite Exhibit

Giapo makes the best ice cream in the world. It's one of the best Auckland things to do. New Zealand things to do.

Did you know New Zealand is home to the only colossal squid display in the world? Wellington’s Te Papa Museum houses the 470kg specimen that was captured in Antarctic waters in 2007.

It’s a much loved New Zealand icon and now another of the country’s icons – Giapo – have recreated the squid into an edible work of art! Giapo has long been famous for creating the most incredible ice cream in the world, and their latest creation – the Colossal Squid – is no exception.

A visit to Giapo’s Auckland store is always an experience in itself, so head downtown to sample an amazing range of flavours (which includes many vegan varieties!) and tick this New Zealand must-do off your list!

 

#6 Walk up Auckland’s Highest Volcanic Cone

Mount Eden, Auckland, New Zealand

A surprisingly short walk will have you at the top of Auckland’s highest volcanic cone, Mount Eden. Catch your breath (it’s a fairly steep walk) as you take in the expansive views of Auckland City and its busy harbour.

The 50m deep crater is unlike anything you’re likely to have experienced before. It’s a sacred place, so be sure to admire it from above rather than walking through it. View the relics of an ancient Māori village, and on the way back down, check out the Eden Gardens, a tranquil oasis in a bustling city.

 

#7 Kayak around Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove, North Island, New Zealand

Also called Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve, Cathedral Cove is touted as one of the best places to see in New Zealand. Located on the North Island, its isolated position on the Coromandel Peninsula adds to its irresistible appeal.

You can’t drive to the secluded cove, you only have the option of walking or taking to the seas. Boat tours will allow you to explore the caves and cliffs while learning about the history of the area, while kayaking allows a more intimate experience with the opportunity to ‘park up’ and enjoy the beach when the desire arises.

#8 Dig Your Own Spa at Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula is one of the best beaches in New Zealand
Hot Water Beach, Coromandel. Photo Credit: The Coromandel

Grabbing a spade and digging your very own hot water pool in the sand is somewhat of a Kiwi institution. Located in the Coromandel, not far from Cathedral Cove, Hot Water Beach has become one of the most popular things to do in New Zealand. For locals as well as visitors!

The beach is a spectacular place to visit any time, but 2 hours before and after high tide you’ll find families, couples and friends brandishing gardening tools as they head towards the beach. Soak in the warm water and relax as you enjoy the stunning scenery that surrounds you.

 

#9 Hang Out at the Hamilton Gardens

Hamilton Gardens are a must-do New Zealand activity

Hamilton far a way from the normal at the top of visitor’s wish lists when planning a trip to New Zealand, but there’s one very good reason you should be adding this underrated North Island town to your itinerary. The Hamilton Gardens are an award-winning attraction, world-renowned by garden enthusiasts, but little known to everyone else. The thing that really makes them stand apart is the elaborate themes they’re designed around. Walking through the gardens is like taking a tour around the world – while being much more achievable!

Be immersed in the zen-like space of the Japanese garden, smell the pungent aroma of gardenias in the Chinoiserie Garden, be transported to Italy in the Renaissance garden and learn about Māori food production techniques in the Te Parapara garden. There is so much to see and do within the garden complex, you could easily spend the majority of the day there.

And the best part is that the gardens are completely free to enter! If you’re visiting New Zealand with kids, they’ll love the complementary activity sheets and the destination playground at the end, not to mention the onsite café serving up all their favourite treats.

#10 Unleash Your Inner Movie Geek at Hobbiton

Visit Hobbiton in New Zealand for an unforgettable experience!

One of the most popular attractions in the north island, Hobbiton is also one of the most unique things to do in New Zealand! Where else can you step inside a movie set and instantly be transformed into the real middle earth?

Wander around the shire, the real-life movie set that was featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. Take your time to appreciate the effort that has gone into making every detail in this fairytale land a magical place. It’s certainly an experience like no other, whether you’re a fan of the Peter Jackson films or not!

 

#11 Visit the Glowworm caves at Waitomo

Waitomo Caves in New Zealand's North Island

The Waitomo caves have a reputation for being one of the best places to see glow worms in the world. You can find Arachnocampa Luminosa (the species of glow worm native to New Zealand) in many parts of the country, but the Waitomo caves host the most accessible and impressive collection.

Dive into the ancient caves below the rolling green hills of King Country to see the spectacle created by these luminescent creatures. If you dare, you can even go zip-lining into the caves, with just the glowworms lighting your way, before climbing underground waterfalls in the dark. Or, for a more subdued experience, simply sit back and admire the show on a guided boat ride.

#12 Visit the Bubbling Mud Pools in Rotorua

visiting Rotorua's mud pools is a must-do activity in New Zealand

Rotorua is a hotbed – quite literally – of geothermal attractions. Powerful geysers, colourful volcanic lakes, and bubbling mud pools can be found sprouting from otherwise innocuous-looking parks around the central North Island town.

Among the most popular places to view these otherworldly natural attractions are Hell’s Gate Geothermal Park and Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Wai-O-Tapu offers a stunning self-guided walk through a unique volcanic landscape, as does the ever-popular Hell’s Gate. However, the latter also offers the chance to soak in a therapeutic mud bath after your exploration.

If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly way to enjoy the geothermic wonders, never fear! There are plenty of simmering basins and bubbling sediments to be found right in the heart of the city. Head to Kuirau Park to enjoy the spectacle among tranquil surroundings. If you’re visiting New Zealand with kids, they’ll also love being let loose in the large playground in the park.

 

 

#13 Immerse Yourself in Māori Culture

Maori Culture, New Zealand Experiences

There are many ways to get acquainted with New Zealand’s indigenous culture, from spending the night in a marae (a Māori meeting house) and being welcomed with a pōwhiri, to simply learning about Māori heritage at Te Papa. Whichever way you chose to learn about New Zealand’s past, you’ll come away with a new respect for the land and its people.

But perhaps the most accessible way to learn about and have an authentic experience of Māori culture is in Rotorua, at the Tamaki Maori Village. Here you can witness the power of a Haka, learn about ancient traditions and eat a hangi (meal cooked beneath the ground). It’s a truly unique experience and one of the most memorable things to do in New Zealand.

#14 Be Amazed by the Waimangu Volcanic Valley

Inferno Crater Lake in New Zealand. A unique New Zealand attraction.

The world’s youngest geothermal system, Waimangu Volcanic Valley was created mid-1886 by the volcanic eruption of Mount Tarawera. A magical place brimming with bubbling pools, steaming craters and one of the bluest lakes you’ve ever laid eyes on.

Inferno crater (pictured below) is a sight to behold, but while it looks inviting, you’d be unwise to swim in the water as it’s highly acidic and can get as hot as 80 °C! Nearby you’ll find Frying Pan Lake, the largest hot spring in the world, and the steaming Cathedral Rocks.

#15 Ride the Rere Rock Slide

Rere Rockslide near Gisborne, New Zealand.

The Rere Rock Slide was a much-loved attraction for years with Gisbornites. Local families would head to the remote rock slide brandishing bodyboards, lilos, or anything at all that makes a smooth ride, in order to careen down the 200m slippery surface.

The little-known (outside of Gisborne) attraction was recently thrust into the spotlight when a drone video shot in the area went viral, causing an internet sensation. I suspect it’s busier now than it was when I used to visit in my teens, but I’m sure it’s still one of the best things to do in New Zealand for thrillseekers!

#16 Paddle out to the Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings

Mine Bay Rock Carvings on Lake Taupo, New Zealand

One of New Zealand’s most underrated, yet significant sights is that of the Mine Bay Māori rock carvings. The carvings were a labour of love led by Matahi Brightwell and his team of four to create the 10m high depiction of his ancestor Ngatoroirangi.

It is located on the side of a low promontory, the carvings are only accessible by navigating the calm waters of Lake Taupo. In order to get there you can paddle out in a kayak, take a boat tour, or even fly in by helicopter or floatplane! Whichever way you experience the beauty of these rock carvings, it will leave a lasting impression on you.

#17 See Kiwi Birds in the Wild

Southern Brown Kiwi spotted on the Rakiura Track on Stewart Island, New Zealand. The Rakiura Track is one of New Zealand's Great Walks.

While it’s fairly easy to track down one of New Zealand’s native nocturnal birds in a zoo or sanctuary, spotting one in the wild is a rarer occurrence. But this just makes it all the more special!

Many New Zealanders (myself included) haven’t had the opportunity to see a wild kiwi. Their population has rapidly reduced in modern times due to introduced species such as stoats, possums and dogs. Furthermore, thanks to careful conservation efforts, there are still some reserves where kiwi are thriving. Grab your chance to see one of these special birds!

BEST THINGS TO DO IN NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND

To visit New Zealand’s South Island attractions, start again at the top and drive almost in a circular route around the island. This time we’re starting at the incredible Abel Tasman National Park, driving down the East Coast, hopping over to Stewart Island, and ending the tour on the West Coast with a glacier walk.

#18 Go Beach Hopping in the Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park, one of the best places to visit in New Zealand

Encompassing one of New Zealand’s most unforgettable and unspoilt stretches of coastline, the Abel Tasman National Park feels like a true tropical oasis. Located at the tip of New Zealand’s south island, the national park’s beaches are only accessible by foot or boat. The Abel Tasman Coastal Track will take you around 3-5 days to complete – longer if you stop to savour each golden cove.

Boat tours and kayaks are also popular options and a good way to find secluded spots in this tranquil hideaway. Keep your eyes on the water at night and you may notice another natural phenomenon – phosphorescent plankton that glows in the dark as you move through the water. A unique New Zealand experience you’re unlikely to forget.

 

#19 Spot Humpback Whales in Kaikoura

Whale watching in Kaikoura, New Zealand is an incredible experience.

Kaikoura is known as the place for whale watching in New Zealand. Not only do you have sperm whales feeding off the abundant, nutrient-rich waters of the Kaikoura Canyon. You will also be able to spot humpback whales on their migratory route from Antarctica, and pods of orcas often swim by too.

Humpback whales pass by in winter, while orcas are commonly seen in summer, and sperm whales can be seen year-round. Making whale watching in Kaikoura a great activity in any season!

#20 Go White River Rafting or Jet Boating Down the Waiau Uwha River

White water rafting in Hanmer Springs is one of the best things to do in new Zealand

The Waiau Uwha River flows near the spa resort town of Hanmer Springs and is a popular spot for outdoor adventures! We opted for the family-friendly, yet still thrilling jet boat ride, but there’s also the more physically challenging option of white water rafting down the river. Either way, the stunning scenery is sure to impress!

The 360-degree spins and sheer speed of the jet boat ride were exhilarating, and surprisingly also educational in the quieter moments. The expert drivers and guides will make this a memorable item on your New Zealand itinerary.

 

Without a doubt, New Zealand is an exciting destination that will leave you spellbound. Whether you’re coming for rest & relaxation, or an adrenaline-fueled jaunt, you will find what you’re looking for, and more, in this magical place at the end of the world.

We hope this compilation of the best things to do in New Zealand has inspired your next visit!

The Ultimate Travel Guide to London

The Best Things To Do, See & Much More!

Ultimate Travel Guide to London

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London: the heart and soul of the UK is a vibrant and eclectic city with plenty to offer every visitor. Historically important and culturally diverse, modern-day London is a hub of famous landmarks, iconic buildings, and innovative attractions on every level.

From the hipster heart of the East End to the tree-lined avenues in the West, London is a collection of unique and individual boroughs all pulling together to create one the greatest cities on Earth.

Whether you are visiting London for business or pleasure, you will always be made to feel at home. The tourist heart of theatre land in Shaftesbury Avenue and the shopping mecca of Oxford Street are always busy, always lively, and always the place to be.

But if you want to step away from the hustle and bustle, you’re never more than a few minutes away from inner city parks and open spaces. Eat lunch with the pigeons in Trafalgar Square or have a picnic with the penguins in London Zoo; London is a city for creatures from all walks of life.

Furthermore, while you are here, you must visit the Queen! Buckingham Palace is one the most iconic and revered royal buildings in the world, surrounded by a raft of equally important historical buildings that make London such a charming and fascinating destination.

If you’re looking for the best hotels in London, head over to our dedicated article.

A Brief History of London

The history of London stretches back as far as Roman times, when Londinium was established as a civilian town founded on the point of the river. As a strategic location that provided easy access to much of Europe, London was used as a base for many early conflicts.

Following the fall of the Roman Empire, the Saxons took over the founding city, where it flourished for centuries until they fell at the hands of the Vikings.

Fast forward several hundred years, and the London that we know and love today really started to take shape during the 16th and 17th Centuries. While the city suffered dramatic and devastating losses during the plague of 1665 and the Fire Of London in 1666, it was still able to rise from the ashes to become a bigger and more eminent capital for the Britons than ever before.

During Edwardian and Victorian times, London was (as it still is) very much at the heart of British royalty and Government. With 2 World Wars destroying parts of the city, the one thing that never disappeared was the determination and community spirit of residents, or their love for the city they call home.

With so much history before us, and as a world-leading city for innovation, London really is the undisputed capital of the world.

Hot Tip:Want to fly to London using the minimum amount of cash? If so, check out our in-depth guide on the best ways to fly to London using points and miles!

London Fact File

Every borough of London has its own distinct character and ambiance. From the curry houses of Brick Lane to the Victorian terraces of Chelsea, London is a collection of suburban villages that together create one of the most interesting and eclectic cities in the world.

Wherever you find yourself in the city, some facts remain the same.

Here a few useful factoids about the city as a whole:

Population: 8.6 million

Area: 610 sq miles (1,584 sq km)

Official Language: English

Other languages spoken: Throughout the city there are as many as 250 different languages spoken by residents of all the different boroughs.

Official Religion: London, as with the rest of the UK is a Christian (Church Of England)/Anglican province.

Current Prime Minister: Teresa May (Conservatives)

Time Zone: GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) applies from late October through until March. When the clocks are adjusted after daylight saving time, the UK joins British Summer Time (BST), which is GMT + 1

Currency: Pound Sterling – GBP – £

Country Dialing Code Prefix: +44

Emergency Numbers: Dial 999 and ask for the service your require (police, fire service, or ambulance)

Open space: 33 percent (including regional, district, and local parks)

Black Cabs: 21,000

Number of Pubs: 7,000

Nature reserves: 144

Westminster Station
Image Credit: Marianna via Pexels

Getting There & Around

Getting There

The city of London is easily accessible by land or air, and it is just as easy to make your way around once you get here.

Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, and Luton airports are all important transportation hubs, both for the UK/Europe and the rest of the world in general. With direct flights from over 190 destinations and over 650 flights a day from Heathrow alone, London airports are some of the busiest and best in the world.

London City Airport is just a few miles east of the commercial center of the city, and is well-placed to service the needs of business travelers, as well as tourists and holiday makers from certain countries.

When you land in the UK, all of the airports offer fast and efficient access to the West End and the city of London via road or rail.

From Heathrow

Train:

Heathrow Terminal 3 offers direct rail service to London Victoria Station. Trains run approximately every hour and the journey time is around 50 minutes. You can pick up one-way tickets from as little as £25.00, depending on the time of travel.

The Heathrow Express runs between London Paddington and all 4 Heathrow terminals. Trains run from just before 6:00am to 11:00pm (approx) and costs from £22.00 for a 15-minute journey.

If you find yourself turned around at the airport, use this guide for navigating between terminals at LHR.

Bus:

You can jump on a National Express Coach from Heathrow Airport Central Bus Station for a 50-minute journey into London Victoria for as little as £5 per journey. Coaches run around the clock.

From Gatwick

By Train:

Trains run from Gatwick Airport Mainline Station to London Victoria every 30 minutes and cost from around £16.00 for the 30-minute journey. Alternatively, you can travel from Gatwick to London Victoria on the dedicated Gatwick Express service from £14.00 one-way for a 30-minute journey.

By Bus:

You can catch a National Express Coach from Gatwick Airport Bus Station for the 90-minute journey into London Victoria for as little as £10 per trip. Coaches run around the clock.

From Luton

Train:

Thameslink Trains run regular services from Luton to London Victoria throughout the day. The journey takes approximately 1 hour, and prices start at £20.00 one-way.

Bus:

National Express Coaches run from Luton Airport to London Victoria regularly throughout the day, with prices from just £5 one-way for a 40-minute journey.

From Stansted

Train:

Stansted Express trains run regularly from Stansted to London Liverpool Street throughout the day. The journey takes approximately 40 minutes, and prices start from £10.00 one-way.

Bus:

National Express Coaches run from Stansted Airport to London Victoria regularly throughout the day, with prices from just £5 one-way for a 40 minute journey.

Getting Around

Tube:

London is home the world-famous London Underground system spanning the central and greater metro area. The Underground (also known as the “Tube”) is one the most efficient public transport systems in the world.

First built in 1863 to service 6 intermediate stations between Paddington and Farringdon, the network now covers over 402km using 11 separate lines and stops at 270 stations.

The colored lines and easy-to-read maps make traveling on the Tube simple. Transport for London offers full details of timetables, ticket prices, and station information at www.tfl.gov.uk

Bus:

The London bus network is equally famous the world over, with its iconic red rear-entrance Routemaster double-decker buses delivering passengers throughout the city day and night.

Buses have been used on the streets of London since 1829, and although the iconic Routemaster has been retired from service on all but one route, the London bus network still undertakes over 4.4 billion journeys every year.

The night bus is also available to carry weary partygoers back home all night long. Again, Transport for London offers full details of timetables, ticket prices, and station information at www.tfl.gov.uk.

 Taxi:

Black cabs are a familiar sight on the streets of London, and they are an integral part of the capitol’s culture and community. Black cabs can be hailed on sight from anywhere in the city, and their drivers are legendary for having friendly personalities and extensive general knowledge.

Alternatively, you can call up an Uber and book where you want to go and when by using the app on your smartphone.

Payment:

Cabs, Ubers, and other private hire vehicles will accept most forms of payment, including cash, credit, or debit card. Most taxis can also be pre-booked using any form of electronic payment.

The London Underground and London buses, however, are accessed using a pre-payment Oyster Card that can be purchased during your stay and topped up as necessary. You can also use a contactless credit or debit card on the Underground system.

Hot Tip:Don’t forget to use a card abroad that’ll earn you lots of valuable points – such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card which earns you 2pts per $1 spent on ALL travel and dining purchases. This is our #1 recommended card. But – at the very least, do make sure you’re using a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees! Finally, make use of all the lounges opportunities that are available at London Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted by having a credit card that gets you airport lounge access – it’ll make for a much more relaxing experience at the airport.

Covent Garden
Covent Garden. Image Credit: Monica Volpin via Pixabay

Top 10 Neighborhoods you will enjoy visiting in London

It’s true what they say: a man could truly lose himself in London. To ensure that you don’t, here are some of the most interesting, unusual, and downright delightful neighborhoods in London that you should definitely visit while you are there.

1. The West End, Soho, and Covent Garden

The West End of London is the beating, bustling heart of the capitol with something to see and do on every corner. Enjoy a little retail therapy in the famous shops and boutiques of Oxford Street, or rest a while in one of the many first-class restaurants or bars dotted throughout the area.

Step back from the main road to explore the avenues behind, and you will find yourself in the energetic and eclectic streets of Soho. Take in a show on Shaftesbury Avenue, or stop to see the famous digital advertising boards at Piccadilly Circus.

The West End also encompasses the wonderful Covent Garden with the Royal Opera House, Italianate piazza, and streets packed with designer boutiques and high-end bars and restaurants. The West End has some of the most iconic landmarks in London, and you can access the area from a choice of tube stations including Oxford Circus, Covent Garden, and Piccadilly Circus.

Where to stay:

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2. Camden

If you like cool music, people, and fashion, Camden has you covered. You won’t find a more diverse, warm, or energetic part of London anywhere else. Camden may be famous for its younger vibe, but it’s perfect for anyone who is young at heart. Chock full uber-cool bars, restaurants, and funky little shops, Camden is at the heart of the live music scene in London —  you can catch every kind of band here.

To really enjoy Camden, take the time to wander the streets and be sure to look in all the shops (even the strange ones!), as everybody is lovely and welcoming.

Undoubtedly its most famous attraction is Camden Market. Eclectic to the max and offering a smorgasbord of unusual gifts and funky food stalls, it even has its fair share of well-known brands like Dr Martens, Shelleys, and other stores for you to peruse and enjoy.

Camden is also about the atmosphere. You can spend a day there without spending a penny as you watch the world go by. The best tube stations to use are Chalk Farm Road or Camden Town.

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3. Shoreditch & Spitalfields

Things don’t get much more hip and trendy than they do in Shoreditch. Eye-wateringly cool and oozing with fantastic little pop-up bars plus some of the best cafes and restaurants in London, Shoreditch is a hit with hipsters of all ages.

The music scene in the area is on top of its game, and you can catch anything from a country music shindig to an electropop extravaganza in its East End streets.

Spitalfields Market on a Sunday offers cutting-edge fashion, interiors, and original artworks as well as food. Meanwhile, the ultra-chic and ultra-cool Hoxton is just around the corner with its great selection of bars, boutiques, and eateries.

Shoreditch has been heavily regenerated in recent years and is now an area of innovation, experimentation, and super fresh ideas. If you are looking for something different during your stay in London, you will probably find it here. The best station to use is probably Old Street, although Liverpool Street station is only 5 minutes away.

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4. Peckham

While not on many visitors’ itineraries, Peckham is well worth a visit as it is slowly becoming the Camden of the South. Trendy cafes, art studios, and pop-up bars are appearing everywhere…and the locals don’t seem to mind one bit. If it’s a bit of traditional London you’re after, Peckham has that too, with plenty of pie ‘n’ mash shops, traditional pubs, and the odd market here and there.

Visitors hoping to see Only Fools And Horses-related things will be disappointed, however. The show may have been set here, but it was filmed elsewhere entirely.

The secret of Peckhams’ success as an up-and-coming area is its diversity. All cultures meet here to share their combined love of the London vibe, making it an area that is packed full of music, food, fun, and parties.

Peckham is best reached by the overground rail network stopping at Peckham Rye Station.

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5. Notting Hill

World-renowned for its annual Caribbean Carnival, Notting Hill is also a mecca for those who like to browse unique boutique shops. Expect hefty price tags in some shops, though, as the area is awash with money, supermodels, film stars, and directors…such is its rating on the cool scale!

The world-famous Portobello Market is close by too, where you will find a universe of street foods, fashion, curiosities, and all sorts of things to grab your attention. Saturday is the best day to visit the market, as this is when the street stalls are out. Street food in London is second to none, and this market is the epicentre of culinary greatness in the capital.

If the weather is pleasant, take a wander from Notting Hill Gate to Portobello Road and check out the quirky backstreets and pretty front gardens of the beautiful terraced houses that date back to Victorian times. The best station for the area is Notting Hill Gate.

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6. Kensington and Chelsea

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (to give it its proper title) is an affluent area to the west of the City of London. Bordering the Thames, the area has some lovely parks and conservation areas, as well as amazing views along the riverside.

If you like football, world-famous Chelsea FC play home games here in their enormous stadium, complete with its own 5-star hotel.

For everyone else, there are a myriad of designer shops, boutiques, super car showrooms, and beautiful people to be seen. Kensington is close enough to Harrods (with over 330 departments and 1 million sq ft of shopping!) to be worth a visit, if only to see what being a millionaire could get you.

Dining in the area is a life-defining moment (as well as a wallet-busting one), but treat yourself at least once and you won’t forget it! The best tube stations are West Brompton or Fulham Broadway for Chelsea and High Street Kensington for Kensington.

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7. Mayfair

The reason why Mayfair is the most expensive property on the Monopoly board. Take a wander around this exclusive area and you’ll soon see why. Mayfair contains some of the most expensive properties in London, usually with some of the most expensive cars parked out front.

Many of the world’s embassies are in Mayfair, and it can be a relaxing walk to tour the streets looking at the grand houses, hidden green spaces, and tranquil squares tucked away behind them. Hyde Park also borders the beautiful streets of Mayfair and is a stunning spot all year round.

Other local attractions include the Royal Academy of Arts and super-posh shopping strip Regents Street. As you might expect, food and drink are world-class in Mayfair, and your taste buds will thank you forever if you dine here. The best tube station to use for the area is Bond Street Station, just a short walk away.

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8. Brixton

Colourful, lively, and vibrant are just some ways to describe Brixton. Here you’ll find the always-excellent market with its street foods and amazing stalls, plus a myriad of incredible smells coming out of the various Caribbean cafes and other food outlets. You’ll never not hear music coming from somewhere in Brixton, usually accompanied by laughter as Brixton residents are some of the friendliest people in London.

For gig lovers, there’s the famous Brixton Academy, which always has something cool going on, though you’ll have to book (usually very far) in advance. It’s worth just coming down for lunch if you have a busy day elsewhere, as this really is London’s finest kitchen!

When your belly is full, walk off those calories with a wander through the area and enjoy the amazing murals and artwork painted throughout the neighborhood. The nearest tube for Brixton is, usefully, Brixton, which sits at the end of the Victoria Line.

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9. Greenwich

Britain invented time (sort of), and Greenwich is the place you can stand with one foot in the Eastern Hemisphere and one in the Western. It’s also the place to visit Greenwich Naval College and learn about Britain’s naval history, from it’s earliest beginnings to the modern day.

Be sure to see the Cutty Sark too. This beautiful tea clipper was once the fastest ship in the world, and she’s every bit as grand as you would expect her to be. Take a walk through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, which runs underneath the Thames to Island Gardens on the North Shore…then take the DLR back if you don’t fancy the walk again.

Greenwich also has lots of shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants, as well as a theatre. Being a historic river town, it’s also handy for grabbing one of the many sightseeing boats that head upstream to Westminster and beyond.

The best station for Greenwich is Cutty Sark on the Docklands Light Railway line.

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10. Hampstead

Hampstead is a village within a town within a city. It’s a peaceful place surrounded by protected parkland, with a wonderful view down onto the London skyline below.

Hampstead Heath is the city’s largest ancient wetland and park. Take a walk through picturesque Swiss Cottage, which looks exactly as it should given the name.

Stop at any number of lovely almost-countryside pubs and eateries, or check out some of the local museums. Despite feeling like you’re in the depths of the English countryside, excellent transport links will whisk you back into the heart of London within minutes.

The best tube stations to use for the area are Swiss Cottage, Belsize Park, and Hampstead.

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London Eye
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Top 10 London Attractions

London has more places to see and things to do than you could ever manage in just 1 visit. With this in mind, here are 10 of the top London attractions that you definitely should try to see on your trip.

Some of these attractions have specialized guided tours too so not only do you get to see the best of London, but you get a guide to tell you all the ins-and-outs along the way!

1. The Tower of London & Tower Bridge

The Tower of London is home to the Crown Jewels and is at the heart of much of Britain’s history. Guided tours start from £14.00 per person, and the Tower and visitor center is open from 9:00am–4:30pm almost all year round.

From the Tower you can see what is arguably the most famous bridge in the world. Opened in 1894, Tower Bridge is particularly impressive when it opens to let river traffic pass below. London Bridge walkways and visitor center are open daily and cost £8.70 per person. The nearest Tube station for both attractions is Tower Hill.

2. Buckingham Palace & the Changing of the Guard

Buckingham Palace is the London home of the British monarchy and a much loved tourist attraction. Visitors can tour the famous State Rooms from July to September, and the Changing of the Guard can be seen from 11:00-11:45am on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday from January to March, weather permitting.

For guided tours you can expect to pay £24 per adult (2018 prices), and the nearest tube stations are Victoria, St James Park, and Green Park.

3. The British Museum

Opened in 1753, the British Museum houses some of the world’s greatest treasures from throughout history. You can easily spend the whole day wandering the halls and still not see everything!

The 2001 renovation of the Great Court is also worth a visit. The museum is open daily and is totally free of charge, as are all museums in London. The nearest Tube station is Tottenham Court Road, about 500 meters away.

4. Big Ben & Parliament

The Palace of Westminster, which houses Parliament, was opened in its current form in 1870, although a palace has existed on the site since 1060. St Stephen’s Tower, home to the bell commonly known as Big Ben, sits at the eastern end of the palace. Various tours of the sprawling palace are available at various prices. The nearest tube station is Westminster.

5. Westminster Abbey

Opened in 1090, Westminster Abbey has hosted many royal weddings and funerals, so there are many Kings and Queens buried within the Abbey grounds. It is one of the most photogenic sites in London and sits right next to Westminster Palace. Open all year round, tickets cost £22 per adult (2018 prices). The nearest tube station is Westminster, which is a modern marvel in its own right.

6. The London Eye

For the best views of central London, take a trip on the London Eye. Opened in 2000, the giant ferris wheel will take you on a birds-eye tour of Westminster and the Thames over the course of 30 minutes. Tickets start at £25 and include entry into the 4D Cinema Experience.

The nearest tube station is Waterloo, although getting off at Westminster and walking over Westminster Bridge adds to the fun and affords some great views of the city too.

7. The Victoria & Albert Museum

Opened in 1852, the V&A Museum is one of the world’s largest (and best) collections of art, design pieces, and artifacts. It’s always worth checking out the website, as exhibitions and attractions change throughout the year. The museum is open daily and entry is free.

The nearest tube station is South Kensington, where the museum is just a short walk from the station through tree-lined avenues.

8. St Paul’s Cathedral

The original Cathedral was opened in 1300, although the one standing today was rebuilt and reopened in 1697. It is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world and has survived fires, plagues, and wars unscathed.

Visitors can tour this amazing feat of engineering, built by Sir Christopher Wren, and experience the delightful Whispering Gallery every day. Tickets start at £16 per adult (2018 prices), and the nearest tube station is St Paul’s.

9. Tate Britain & Tate Modern

The Tate Britain opened in 1897 and today houses a massive collection of British art dating back to Tudor times, including most of the works by Turner. Entry is free and the museum is open daily year-round. The nearest tube stations are Pimlico or Westminster.

The Tate Modern was opened by Queen Elizabeth in 2000. It houses the world’s largest collection of modern and contemporary art and always has special exhibitions going on. Entry is free and the gallery is open daily year-round. The nearest station is Blackfriars.

10. The London Dungeons

Opened in 1974, this horror- and history-themed attraction houses some gruesome and fun exhibits chronicling London’s sometimes-bloody past. Genuinely fun for all the family, it’s a must-see when visiting the capitol.

Tickets start at £21 per adult (2018 prices) and vary greatly depending on how much horror you can handle! The London Dungeons are open daily all year round. The nearest tube station is Waterloo.

Hot Tip:Don’t miss out on earning valuable points and miles when you’re abroad. If you don’t have long until your departure, you can always sign up for an instant approval credit card which will give you the card numbers instantly!

8 Unique & Quirky Things to Do in London

If you like your sightseeing to be a little bit off the beaten track, London has plenty of unique and unusual sights for you to see.

1. Dennis Severs House

The house is a time capsule of what a silk-weavers house would have looked like in the 18th century. Put together over many years, Dennis Severs House is a fascinating and detailed museum of early London life down to the finest detail. If you like historical recreations, the house is well worth a visit.

Open most days of the week, tickets start at £15 per adult. The house is on Folgate Street and the nearest tube is Liverpool Street or Shoreditch.

2. Clowns Gallery-Museum London

Situated in a former church, the Clowns Gallery-Museum is all about everything to do with clowns, from galleries of clown faces where no 2 faces are like, to clown stained glass windows, and props and gags from throughout the ages. Rumor has it the best part of the exhibition is hidden in the basement, if you dare!

Open on the first Friday of every month, entry is free and the nearest station is Dalston Junction on the Overground.

3. Graffiti & Street Art Tour

If street art is your bag and Banksy is your boy, then this fascinating Graffiti and Street Art guided walking tour should be right up your alley. Kicking off in Shoreditch near Liverpool Street Station, this tour takes you to see some incredible pieces of graffiti and street art, with explanations and interesting facts thrown in along the way.

These tours take you deep into the heart of London, and even into areas that some Londoners may not know exist! The tour will take about 3 hours and cost you £15 per adult.5. Hackney City Farm

An oasis of calm in the middle of the East End, Hackney City Farm is home to a wide variety of rescued and abandoned animals. There are always things going on at the Farm, from art classes to conservation programs and much more. If you have little explorers with you, it is the perfect place for them to get involved and learn about caring for animals and conservation on a wider scale.

Open every day except Mondays, entry is free but they do welcome donations. Hoxton and Cambridge Heath are the nearest tube stations.

4. Kayak on the Thames

Seeing London from the river is a great way to enjoy the many different sites the city has to offer. Take the plunge and kayak along the River Thames on one of many routes past Big Ben, Tower Bridge, and Little Venice. You can even do it at night.

These guided tours are safe and undertaken by a qualified instructor. Prices vary; for example, the Big Ben and Back tour starts at £39. Based near Battersea Bridge, the nearest station for the tours is Imperial Wharf on the Overground network.

5. Chislehurst Caves

Many visitors (and some Londoners too) don’t know that London actually has its very own underground cave network. Chislehurst Caves is a 22-mile long cave system that can be fully explored via a guided tour.

From London Bridge station, take the train to Chislehurst and the caves are just a short walk away. Open Wednesday to Sunday and every day during the school holidays, tours cost £6 per adult (2018 prices) and last about an hour. No booking required.

6. Stay Overnight in London Zoo

Want to see what goes on at London Zoo when everybody goes home? Now you can stay the night in a lodge and get an exclusive after-hours tour of the zoo, including dinner, breakfast, and 2 days of zoo entry. The lodges offer first class accommodation, and you will get the opportunity to see what really goes on behind the scenes at a world-class zoo and conservation center.

A stay at the Gir Lion Lodges at London Zoo costs from around £438 per lodge, based on 2 adults sharing and includes a host of extras. The nearest tube stations are Camden Town and Regents Park.

7. Lee Valley River Park

If you are feeling the need for an adrenaline rush, why not have a go at white water rafting on the very same course that was used for the London 2012 Olympics? Set within the glorious Lee Valley River Park on the northern edges of London, this massive venue hosts a myriad of outdoor activities, sporting events, and an impressive bar and restaurant to boot.

Tickets start at £50 per person (2018 prices) and are for those over 14 only. The park is open all day, every day. The nearest train station is Waltham Cross station, a 10-minute walk from the park.

8. Afternoon Tea Bus Tour

Glide around London on your very own vintage Routemaster double-decker red bus, while sipping tea and eating cakes as you take in the sights and sounds of the city from your top deck vantage point. You can choose from an Afternoon Tea Bus Tour or a Gin and Jam Tour. Prices start at £45 per adult (2018 prices). The tours depart from various locations (see website for details) and are available year-round.

Primrose Hill London
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Top 10 Green Spaces & Secret Gardens in London 

London may be a densely populated city, but you are never more than a few minutes away from hidden gardens, open spaces, or a tranquil oasis perfect for a picnic lunch or a few minutes meditation.

Enjoy any one of these below, or maybe discover your own favorite space as you step away from the major tourist hotspots and explore the city at your own pace.

1. St Dunstan in the East

A stunning reminder of the strength of the city, St Dunstan in the East is the bombed out shell of this 900-year-old church. Now, it’s covered with trees, ivy, and has wall climbing flowers winding through its once grand arches. Tucked away behind the city, this hidden garden is a poignant testament to the destruction the city suffered at the hands of the Luftwaffe.

The garden is open from 8:00am-4:00pm daily, and the nearest tube station is Cannon Street.

2. Kyoto Gardens in Holland Park

Find your inner Zen in the Kyoto Gardens. The gardens were donated by the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto in recognition of the Japan Festival held in London in 1992. This peaceful and serene “park within a park” is one of London’s most well known and frequented “secret” gardens.

The park is open daily from 7:30am until 30 minutes before dusk, and the nearest tube stations are Kensington High Street or Notting Hill Gate.

3. Culpeper Community Garden

Described as a “green oasis in the midst of streets, estates, and inner city bustle” the Culpeper Community Garden is a tranquil retreat for all to enjoy. Used as both a public park and an environmental community project, Culpepper Community Garden is managed by the people, for the people.

A true example of the community spirit of London, the park is open every day from 8:00am until 7:00pm. The nearest tube station is Angel.

4. Hampstead Hill Garden & Pergola

With its exotic flowers, overgrown vines, and faded grandeur, the Hampstead Pergola is both eerie and inspirational in equal parts. Formerly the home of Lord Leverhulme, the stunning raised gardens and the pergola itself are a delightful surprise set in the middle of Hampstead Heath.

The park is open daily from 8:45am until approximately 30 minutes before dusk, and the gardens are just a short walk from either Hampstead or Belsize Park stations.

5. Japanese Roof Garden

For instant tranquility in the heart of the city, the Japanese-inspired roof garden at SOAS, University of London, provides a peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle of busy London streets. Perfect for a spot of relaxation and meditation, the garden is accessed via the first floor of the Brunei Gallery.

The gardens are usually open 10:30am-5:00pm Tuesday to Saturday, and the nearest tube station is High Street Kensington.

6. Richmond Park

The largest of the 8 Royal Parks in London and home to over 650 deer, Richmond Park is a beautiful and vast open space in an upmarket area of West London. Popular with cyclists, runners, dog walkers, and those looking to enjoy the splendor of it all, Richmond Park is a perfect example of the quintessential English parkland.

The park is open from 7:30am until dusk all year round, and the nearest station is Richmond.

7. Epping Forest

Forging a link between London and rural Essex, Epping Forest includes 2,400 hectares of forest and open spaces offering a variety of activities all year round. You can take a walk, try cycling, go fishing, visit Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, and explore the remains of 2 large Iron Age forts tucked within the forest grounds.

The park is open all day everyday, but the visitor centers and conservation centers are open from 8:00am-3:30pm daily. The nearest station is Epping Forest.

8. Walthamstow Wetlands

A recent addition to London’s vast selection of open spaces, the Walthamstow Wetlands conservation center just opened in 2017. Situated just 15 minutes from central London, the site offers 13 miles of footpaths and cycle tracks between 10 reservoirs, 8 islands, and London’s largest heronry. Despite being so close to the city, it has the feel of a rural English idyll…just smack dab in the middle of London.

The Wetlands are open to the public daily from dawn to dusk, and the nearest tube station is Walthamstow.

9. Hyde Park

Perhaps the most highly regarded of all of London’s parks and open spaces, Hyde Park is set right in the heart of the West End and is perfect for boating, tennis, horse riding, jogging, cycling, or just enjoying the beauty of it all. The park famously hosts festivals and live music year-round and is open daily from 5:00am until midnight.

The nearest stations are Marble Arch, Knightsbridge, or Green Park, depending on which of the park’s many entrances you’re heading for.

10. Regent’s Park

Still resplendent with all of its Victorian grandeur, Regent’s Park is the largest grass area for sports in Central London. There is plenty to do and see there, including: the famous Open Air Theatre, the extensive London Zoo, beautiful gardens, and even a boating lake. Opened to the public in 1835, it remains a perfect example of London’s love of green spaces and gardens.

Open daily from 5:00am until dusk. The nearest tube station is Regent’s Park.

The Shard
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Top 10 Best Views in London

The London skyline is one the most famous in the world. With iconic modern architecture, industrial skyscrapers and historical spires all living comfortably together, London offers a whole world of opportunities above ground level.

If you are looking for the very best views of London, the sky is literally the limit. Try out some of these ideas for breathtaking vistas and unique aerial experiences.

1. The Sky Garden

Situated at 20 Fenchurch Street, The Sky Garden offers superb views across the city and beyond. The enlarged glass dome offers 3 stories of landscaped public gardens, observation decks, and an open-air terrace. Yes, gardens on top of a building — how amazing! You can book to eat and enjoy the views, or try your luck and turn up as a walk-in.

Open 10:00am-6:00pm Monday through Friday, and 11:00am-9:00pm on weekends. Bookings for free visits are released every Monday, and the nearest tube station is Monument.

2. One New Change

As a recently constructed retail development in the heart of the city, The Roof Terrace at One New Change overlooks St Paul’s Cathedral and offers further views out over the city. You can visit the roof for free from 6:00am-midnight every day, or enjoy cocktails and tapas in Madison restaurant and bar. You can even book a yoga class on the roof terrace, and different events are held all year round. The nearest tube station is St Paul’s.

3. The Monument

The Monument was built in 1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London and celebrate the rebuilding of the city. It’s in an iconic piece of British architecture and provides outstanding views of London in all directions from a height of about 160 feet. Due to the limited space in the viewing gallery, a maximum of 33 people are allowed inside at any one time.

Tickets cost £4.50 per adult, and the gallery is open from 9:30am-5:30pm every day, except for the December 25-26. The nearest tube stop is Monument.

4. Primrose Hill

First appropriated by Henry VIII to extend parkland available to the poor for open-air recreation, Primrose Hill is still a beautiful spot for everyone. With rolling hills and vast open spaces, it is situated 63 meters above sea level and offers views as far away as Hampstead and beyond.

The park opens at 5:00am and closing times vary throughout the year. The nearest tube stations are Chalk Farm and Swiss Cottage.

5. The Shard

The building that revolutionized the London skyline, The Shard is Western Europe’s tallest building. This whopping 95-story skyscraper is one of the most recognized landmarks in London, and as you would imagine, the views from the Shard are pretty spectacular.

Offering panoramic views stretching for up to 40 miles in every direction, you can enjoy your visit with tickets starting from £29.00 per adult, or an additional £15 for a 45-minute guided tour. The Shard is open daily from 10:00am and closing times changes throughout the year. The nearest tube station is London Bridge.

6. Tower 42

Built on the site of the former NatWest Tower, Tower 42 is the third tallest skyscraper in the City of London. At the top and 600 feet above pavement level sits Vertigo 42, a champagne bar that offers some of the finest views out across the city.

You can book to enjoy champagne and tapas Monday to Saturday from noon until 2:15pm for lunch, and 5:00pm to 9:30pm for dinner. The restaurant is open until 11:00pm, and the nearest tube stations are Bank or Liverpool Street.

7. Heron Tower

Situated at 110 Bishopsgate, Heron Tower is a 230-meter skyscraper in the heart of the city. At the top are 2 highly-regarded eateries that both offer outstanding views of the city.

The Duck and Waffle is an unusual take on traditional British food and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Sushi Samba offers Japanese, Brazilian, and Peruvian cuisine from noon until 1:00am. The nearest tube station is Liverpool Street, but Heron Tower is also accessible from Bank.

8. Oxo Tower

You can enjoy fabulous views across the river from the 8th floor of the Oxo Tower if you book a table in the rather swanky Harvey Nichols Restaurant, Brasserie or Bar. The lower floors offer shops and galleries for you to explore, and the Tower is just a short walk from Southwark or Blackfriars tube stations. The restaurant is open from noon to 11:00pm daily.

9. St Paul’s Cathedral

Visiting the inside of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral is a magical experience. Visitors can climb 259 steps up the dome to find The Whispering Gallery, which runs around the interior of the Dome, or go even higher to enjoy some of the most spectacular views over London from the Stone and Golden Galleries.

Admission costs £18 per adult and the Cathedral is open to the public from 8:30am-4:30pm Monday to Saturday. The nearest tube station is St Paul’s.

10. Emirates Air Line

The Emirates Air Line is a cable car link that will transport you across the River Thames offering exciting views over the capitol. If you’re feeling adventurous, you will enjoy this opportunity to see some of London’s most iconic spots from the air.

Tickets cost £10.50 per adult and the attraction is open from 7:00am-11:00pm in summer, and closes at 9:00pm in winter. The nearest tube station is Emirates Royal Docks on the DLR line.

Hot Tip:If you need a great place to stay, check out these hotels in London that you can book with points.

Top 10 London Shopping Areas & Markets

From the designer boutiques of Bond Street to the cool and quirky stalls of Camden, London truly is a shopping mecca to suit all budgets.

Whether you are looking for designer handbag or antique table, you won’t struggle to find what you seek in London. Great shops, malls, and markets can be found throughout the city, but here are some of the best.

Camden Market

As eclectic as they come, Camden Market is home to secondhand clothing, furniture, and antique stalls, as well as fabulously funky food stalls, bars, and restaurants. The market is open from 10:00am daily and is just a 5-minute walk from either Camden Town or Chalk Farm stations.

Portobello Road Market

Portobello Road Market is the world’s largest antiques market, and it regularly features over 1,000 dealers selling every kind of antique and collectible you could ever imagine. From tiny trinkets to one-of-a-kind furnishings, Portobello Road Market has something for everyone. The Market is open every day except Sunday. Times vary and every day is dedicated to different types of stalls.

Borough Market

Borough Market is one of Britain’s finest food markets, offering fresh meat, fruit, vegetables, and delicacies from every corner of the earth. The market is held every day from 10:00am until 5:00pm (6:00pm on Fridays), although it only offers limited stalls on Mondays and Tuesdays. The nearest tube station is London Bridge Station.

Old Spitalfields Market

More of a collection of markets than just a single one, The Spitalfields Markets offer cutting-edge fashion and interiors, original artworks, and secondhand clothes and goods. There are plenty of great bars and places to eat too, so you can make a real day of your visit.

The covered Victorian hall markets are open from 10:00am-8:00pm daily, while the outside traders are there from 10:00am-5:00pm. The nearest station is Liverpool Street.

Covent Garden

Known for its beautiful architecture, open markets, and designer shops, Covent Garden is the perfect place for a bit of retail therapy. You can explore the shops in and around the Italian-style piazza, as well as the pedestrian streets surrounding it.

Most shops are open from 10:00am-7:00pm 6 days a week, and 11:00am-4:00pm on Sundays. The nearest tube station is Covent Garden.

Oxford Street

One of the most famous shopping destinations in Europe, Oxford Street offers plenty of famous brand shops and restaurants for you to enjoy. With flagship stores on almost every corner, you will not find a better selection of High Street goods anywhere in the UK. Most shops are open from 9:30am-9:30pm Monday to Saturday, and 11:30am-6:00pm on Sundays.

Carnaby Street

Once the epicenter of the swinging 60s, modern-day Carnaby Street still has plenty to offer with over 100 shops and 60 different places to eat and drink. Most shops are open from 10:00am-7:00pm Monday to Saturday, and 12:00pm-6:00pm on Sunday. The nearest tube is Oxford Circus.

Soho

The streets of Soho are jam-packed with independent fashion outlets, record stores, and vintage boutiques. Where quirky meets classy, Soho offers plenty of unusual shops, great restaurants, and late night bars and clubs.

Opening hours will vary depending on the shops you’re planning to visit, with many clubs and bars staying open until the early morning hours. The nearest tube stations are Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus.

Bond Street

Home to some of the most prestigious shops in the West End, Bond Street boasts one of the biggest and best concentrations of designer shops in the world. If your wallet is up to the task, most shops are open 9:30am-9:30pm Monday to Saturday, and 11:30am-6:00pm on Sundays. The nearest tube station is Bond Street.

National History Museum
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15 London Travel Hacks

A trip to London is a wonderful experience, but it can also be an expensive one. You can help to keeps costs down however, by learning a few simple budget-busting tricks from the locals. Here are just a few to get you started:

1. Skip the Tour Bus

Save money on expensive bus tours by purchasing an Oyster Card instead. At no more than £4.40 a day for unlimited bus travel, you can save yourself a fortune. Routes 11 and 453 are considered the best, as they pass some of the most iconic sites in London and still operate using iconic red Routemaster double deckers.

2. Clip at a Pace Along the Thames

Don’t waste money on expensive river boat cruises, clip along instead! The Thames Clipper is a regular boat service that travels from Putney to Greenwich, taking in many of the city’s prime locations along the way for as little as £4 for a single ride.

3. Travel Outside of Peak

Unless you need to commute for business, travel outside the peak hours of 6:30am-9:30am and 4:00pm-7:00pm Monday to Friday. Transport systems are very busy and fares are more expensive at these times of day, so try to avoid them when possible.

4. Avoid the Stairs

The London Underground is just that, built a long way under the ground. When it’s busy and escalators are packed, don’t be tempted to take the stairs! Congested stations clear quickly enough, and you would be better waiting your turn than collapsing with exhaustion after climbing hundreds of steps to street level. Convent Garden and Russell Square stations are the worst stair offenders.

5. Know Your Exits

The London Underground platforms can get very busy. Native Londoners save time and energy by getting to know where to stand to quickly board and alight from their regular journeys. If you are a visitor, keep your eye out for groups of Londoners hovered around a space on the platform; this is where the doors will be when the train pulls into the station.

6. Skip the Express Trains

Most London airports offer a dedicated “Express” service into the city. The only thing that is different about them from regular public transport is the price! For example, the Heathrow Express charges £34 to take you into central London, but you could actually jump on the Piccadilly Line for less than a fiver…the journey takes about the same amount of time.

7. Group Buying Websites

The internet has given us many great things, and group buying sites are one of its greatest blessings. Sign up to find excellent discounts for eating out and entertaining yourself in the capitol. Restaurants, theaters, attractions, and many more companies often offer discounts via WowcherGroupon, and many more.

8. Cheap Nights Out

Nights out in London can be pricey. Drinks, cabs, and entrance fees can quickly add up. If you are feeling cheeky enough, take some pictures of yourselves, tag your preferred venue on Instagram or Twitter, and see if the promoters will offer you a free VIP table or discounted entrance. It might not work, but it is certainly worth a try!

9. Get Cultured for Free

London may have a reputation for being expensive, but there is actually quite a lot to see and do for free. Like most museums in the UK, the Natural History Museum, the British Museum, the National Gallery, and the Tate Modern are all free to enter. Great for your cultural growth, and somewhere warm to hide from the rain!

10. Walk, Don’t Tube

The tube is worth experiencing and some fares aren’t particularly expensive, but don’t be a slave to it. In Central London it can be just as quick to walk between Tube stations, with the average journey of 3 stops or under being equivalent to a 20-minute walk at most. Walking around helps you to save money and take in more of great sights as well.

11. Stay Outside of Zones 1-3

Central London is easily accessible from all zones. To save money, don’t pay central London hotel prices; find somewhere outside of Zone 3 instead. AirBnB properties and hotel prices are always much, much cheaper outside of the central zones.

12. Free Personal Shopping

If London fashion has got you feeling frumpy, Top Shop at Knightsbridge and London Oxford Circus has your back! Book a personal shopping appointment and you can select anything from a 30-minute “perfect jeans” session to a complete 120-minute “wardrobe overhaul.” Fabulous, darling!

13. Snap up Bargain Theater Tickets

Theater tickets can be very expensive in London, but if you’re smart you can see the best shows for a fraction of the full ticket prices. It you are between 16-25, you may be lucky enough to pick up one of the limited numbers of £5 tickets available at Cambridge Theatre (see website for details). Alternatively, matinee tickets are often much cheaper than evening performances and can be picked up at the box office of many of the theaters in town.

14. Find Free Entertainment on the South Bank

The South Bank stretches 2 square miles along the southern bank of the Thames. Every day there is a wide variety of free entertainment to be found in and around the Southbank Centre. Free lunchtime concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, free poetry, festivals, street entertainers, and lots more can be found here, along with a brilliant atmosphere and fabulous views of the river.

15. Charlotte Street: One of London’s Best Kept Secrets

Charlotte Street is a hidden gem in the heart of London. In the swanky sounding area of Fitzrovia, you will find a wealth of restaurants, shops, and bars all tucked away from the main tourist areas. Undiscovered by many visitors, the area has a great vibe and is full of Londoners enjoying their hometown.

10 Fun Facts About London

London is full of unique and often surprising secrets. As a city so rich in history, there are myths and urban legends that have lived on for centuries…and many of them are actual true stories handed down over the years. Here are some of our favorites.

1. Big Ben Is Just a Bell

As one of the most iconic landmarks in London, you may be surprised to hear that “Big Ben” is actually just a big bell. The clock face and the tower it is housed in was actually just called the Clock Tower until the structure was renamed the Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to celebrate the Queen’s jubilee.

2. Great Ormond Street Owns Peter Pan

The Great Ormond Street Hospital actually owns the copyright to Peter Pan and receives royalties from all associated works and performances. Author J.M. Barrie gifted the rights to this children’s hospital in 1929, despite having no children of his own.

3. The City Has Plenty of Streets, But No Roads

No, that’s not a riddle. Up until as recently as 1994 there were no streets named “Road” in the City of London, and today there is still only 1: Goswell Road. There are plenty of “Lanes,” “Streets,” and “Ways”…but public paths weren’t generally referred to as roads until the 16th century.

4. Hidden Histories

Cleopatra’s Needle on the Embankment houses a time capsule hidden underneath the monument. It is said to contain a capsule from 1878 with cigars, a razor, a portrait of Queen Victoria, copies of 10 daily newspapers, and pictures of 12 “English beauties of the day.”

5. Abandoned Underground

Abandoned tube stations are the stuff of legends, making great film sets and venues for private parties. These include The Strand, Down Street, Brompton Road, and Mark Lane, which is now a pub.

6. Get the Knowledge

If you want to become a Black Cab driver in London you need to successfully master “The Knowledge.” To complete the test you must learn all 320 basic routes, all 25,000 streets, and about 20,000 landmarks and places of interest.

7. St Paul’s and the Pineapples

St Paul’s Cathedral nearly had a couple of stone pineapples placed on the top of the dome. Sir Christopher Wren saw them as “a symbol of peace, prosperity, and hospitality,” and he wanted them to be seen by the whole of London.

8. Pet Cemetery

Hyde Park is home to a hidden pet cemetery that is rarely open to the public. Dating back to the 1880s, the cemetery contains the remains of over 300 animals marked in graves with teeny tiny headstones. At certain times of the year, you can book a guided tour to visit this dark part of the park.

9. Keep Well in Westminster

Feeling a bit under the weather? You should probably give The Houses of Parliament a miss then. Ancient law decrees it illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament. This is thought to be because anyone who dies in a Royal Palace is eligible for a state funeral.

10. Back to Bedlam

The Bedlam asylum was one of the most popular tourist attractions of 18th century London. Visitors paid a penny to watch suffering, and entry was free on Tuesdays. Thankfully, there are now many more wonderful and politically correct things to see in the glorious city that is London.

Bath UK
Image Credit: Andrea Smith via Pixabay

Top 5 Day Trips From London

If you’ve got a bit of extra time and fancy seeing a bit more of the country, here are 5 destinations you should consider within easy reach of London.

Bath

Bath is a historical city in the southwest of England. Famous for its stunning 18th-century architecture and natural hot springs, the city is surrounded by rolling English countryside. Visit the Roman baths, the majestic medieval abbey, or just spend time strolling through this beautiful British city. Perfect for a day away from London, you can reach the city of Bath by road or rail.

Trains run from London Paddington into Bath Spa station daily, and an off-peak adult ticket will cost you from £35.00 one-way for the 2-hour journey.

Stratford Upon Avon

As the birthplace of Shakespeare, Stratford Upon Avon is a world-famous market town in the county of Warwickshire. Take in a play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, take a barge along the Stratford Canal, or just spend your time enjoying the stunning medieval architecture that can be found throughout the town during your visit. Stratford Upon Avon can be reached by rail or road.

Trains to Stratford Upon Avon run from London Marylebone Station and the journey takes approximately 2 hours 10 minutes. Prices start from £30.00 for an off-peak adult single ticket.

Oxford

The university town of Oxford is famous for its 38 colleges, medieval architecture, students on bicycles, and plenty of stunning buildings and dreaming spires. Modern-day Oxford still centers around university life and is truly a picture-perfect town to visit. You can reach Oxford by rail or road, and the town is the gateway to the glorious Cotswolds if you want to travel further.

Trains run from London Marylebone to Oxford daily, and you can pick up an off-peak adult single ticket for as little as £25.00. The journey time is just over 1 hour 30 minutes.

Brighton

Sometimes referred to as “London On Sea,” Brighton is a lively, energetic, and eclectic seaside town in East Sussex. With beautiful beaches when the sun is shining and plenty of attractions to see if it’s not, Brighton makes for a great getaway from the city. Close enough to get there and back in a day, Brighton is easily reached by rail or road.

Trains run from with London Victoria or London Bridge stations and reach Brighton in just over an hour. Off-peak tickets cost as little £18.00 for a one-way journey.

Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour

Opened in 2012, the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour is a very popular tourist attraction based a short distance outside London. It can get very busy, and you will need to book well in advance…but once there you get to enjoy a fun-packed day exploring the set and scenery of the world-famous Harry Potter films.

Although the studio is only located about 20 miles from Central London, there is no direct rail route or nearby station. You can take the train from London Euston to Watford for around £23.00 one-way, and catch a shuttle bus from Watford Station to the attraction. Alternatively, you can book a pre-paid coach excursion from various pickup points around the city.

For the post part, transport networks in the UK are very good. With a bit of pre-planning, you should be able to make your way all around the country using public transportation without it costing you a fortune.

Booking tickets in advance and not traveling at peak times will help reduce ticket prices and guarantee you seats. If you want to plan your journey before you visit, The Train LineNational Express Coaches, and Transport For London all offer timetables, fares, and plenty of useful advice on how best to use their services.

How to Stay Safe in London

Overall, London is a very fun, safe, and vibrant city to visit. But like all big cities, there are incidences of crime — and knowing how to protect yourself or who to call if the worst should happen is always important when visiting somewhere new.

Emergency Contacts in the UK

  • If you are the victim of a crime, are unwell, or need urgent assistance with a fire, call 999 or 112 to contact the police, ambulance, or fire department.
  • For non-urgent crimes or advice on whether you need to contact emergency services, you can dial 101 and an advisor will be able to assist you.
  • Information about any major incidents in the capitol will be found on the Met Police website, or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

If you need travel information, updates of disrupted or canceled services can be found on the Transport for London website.

Keep Safe In The City

Common sense and an awareness of what is going on around you are always important in big crowds of people or densely populated areas.

To ensure you are not an easy target for pickpockets or would-be thieves, follow these simple rules:

Eating Out

  • Keep mobile phones, wallets, and purses safely tucked away, and never leave them in plain sight.
  • Keep your handbags or briefcases tucked away under your chair in bars and restaurants, or use a table clip if the venue provides one.
  • Never accept drinks from strangers — incidences of “spiking” are relatively low in the city, but it’s always best to be cautious

Visiting Public Places

  • Never leave your bags unattended. Apart from the potential risk of theft, unattended items often lead to unnecessary security alerts.
  • Always carry your wallet or purse close to you, and never carry too much cash around. Keep bags close to you in busy areas, and carry your backpack forward facing on your chest.
  • Mobile phones and other devices are incredibly tempting to thieves. Ensure that you always keep yours out of sight when not in use.
  • Before you travel, make a note of your electronic serial numbers (ESNs).
  • If you do lose your valuables, dial 101 for the nearest police station. You will need to make a full report with them as soon as possible. If you lose your card or it’s stolen and you don’t have a backup, consider an instant approval credit card that’ll show you your numbers and card details instantly online. That’ll allow you to make online purchases (travel purchases such as train/airline/hotel tickets etc) without waiting for the card to come.
  • If you are using an ATM, be sure that there is nobody looking over your shoulder as you enter your PIN.

At Your Hotel

  • Always keep your passports and other valuables in a locked room safe if one is available.
  • Keep a note of the address of your hotel and contact number with you at all times. If you get lost, you can use this to find your way back.

Traveling on Your Own

Always have a point of contact that you check in with during your stay, whether they are in the UK or another country. London is one of the safest cities in the world, but it is good to keep in touch with folks back home.

Although most areas of London do not pose any particular threats to single (or group) travelers, use your own common sense when walking around late at night. Stay on main roads and in well-lit areas.

Always Be Aware

Just as in any busy city, incidents can occur. To help stay safe during your stay, you can do some research before you visit. Watch the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s (NPCC) video with advice on what to do in the rare event of a firearms or weapons attack, and download the free CitizenAid app on Android or Apple, which gives advice on immediate actions in case of an incident.

Maximize Points

There are so many opportunities while traveling to earn lots of valuable points. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example, earns you 2x points per $1 spent on all travel and dining purchases (worldwide).

Don’t forget that the “travel” category is very broad and includes taxis, tours, parking meters, bus fare, and tube rides. There are also many other ways to earn Chase points.

Chase Ultimate Rewards are so valuable which is why we wrote up the best ways to use Ultimate Rewards points for incredible redemptions on both flights and hotel stays!

Barcelona Travel Guide: How to visit Barcelona on a budget

BARCELONA TRAVEL GUIDE — HOW TO VISIT BARCELONA ON A BUDGET

What to see, do, eat and where to stay while visiting Barcelona.

Barcelona is more likely to find its way onto most people’s itineraries… and for good reason. It has a vibrant food scene, a plethora of unique historic architecture, great Mediterranean weather, beautiful beaches, and arguably the best nightlife in Europe. This Barcelona travel guide will help you plan your trip and hopefully give you some tips for getting the most out of your time in the city.

WHAT YOU’LL FIND IN THIS BARCELONA TRAVEL GUIDE:

  • How Much to Budget to Visit Barcelona
  • How Long to Visit Barcelona
  • The Good and Not-So-Good Things About Barcelona: A Quick Overview
  • Barcelona’s Must-See Sights and Attractions
  • Barcelona’s Best Neighborhoods
  • Cheap Eats and Drinks
  • Best Barcelona Hostels
  • Barcelona Nightlife
  • More Resources to Help You Plan Your Visit on a Budget
  • Public Transportation
  • And More

HOW MUCH TO BUDGET TO VISIT BARCELONA

As far as price is concerned, Barcelona isn’t cheap — but it isn’t too terribly expensive either.

We recommend budgeting €30-€75/day if you’re on a backpacker’s budget — you can easily spend more and you might be able to spend less, but this is a good range for planning purposes. You can view our Barcelona Daily Price Guide for more in-depth cost details.

HOW LONG TO VISIT BARCELONA

Barcelona is one of those cities where you can easily spend more than a week exploring, but it’s recommended to spend at least 4 or 5 days in the city. If you plan on partaking in the city’s famous nightlife, you may want to add days to your visit so have adequate time to recover.

WHEN TO VISIT BARCELONA

barcelona-travel-tipsThe popular time to visit Barcelona is in the summer, but this means tons of people and sweltering 85+ degree weather. (Then again, this is great beach weather.) Winters are mild and the temperatures average in the mid-50s — it’s also when you’ll find the lowest number of visitors. Late spring and early fall bring great weather and fewer crowds than the summer, so those are the best times to visit.

THE GOOD AND NOT-SO-GOOD THINGS ABOUT BARCELONA: A QUICK OVERVIEW

Barcelona offers so many wonderful things to visitors, but it also has a few negative aspects that you should know before visiting.

THE GOOD

barcelona-beautyThe Nightlife. This is one of the main reasons people flock to Barcelona. The night doesn’t get started until about 10 pm, and you’ll find people eating in restaurants until well after midnight. Then they hit the bars until the early morning and then the clubs until 6 am. Clubbing not your thing? Don’t worry, Barcelona has options for just about anyone.

The Beauty of the City. Barcelona is undoubtedly a beautiful city, and it boats some of the most impressive architecture in all of Europe. Simply walking/getting lost in its charming medieval streets is a pleasure that you’ll love.

The Beaches. Barcelona is constantly rated as the best beach city in the world, so it’s no surprise that the beach plays a huge role in the city’s identity.

A Living City. It’s easy to see why people love living in Barcelona and that joy is in the air. There is always something going on, and you’ll constantly see people outside in the streets, parks, and cafes enjoying life. Watch out, it’s contagious.

Culture and Museums. Barcelona has something for everyone, including a number of excellent museums.

Great Weather and Excellent Outdoor Life. Barcelona has not so cold winters and warm summers. During winter, you can expect temperatures to be in the mid-50s; in the summer, temps stay around the low-80s. This means that Barcelona’s citizens spend a lot of time outdoors in the city’s many parks, squares, beaches, and outdoor cafes.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD

barcelona-pickpocketsLoads of Tourists. Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in Europe, so the city becomes overrun with visitors and looooong lines to the famous sights — especially in the summer months. That said, it’s no reason to avoid the city… but the weather is nice all year, so you can have a nice visit at any time.


Pickpockets and Tourist Scams.
 Hoards of tourists always attract lots of pickpockets and other scammers… and Barcelona is no exception. You have to remain very vigilant in Barcelona, especially in the touristy areas and on the beaches. Read our guide to avoiding pickpockets in Europe for more tips.

Spread Out Sights. Many of the famous sights are spread throughout the city, so you will have to do a bit of traveling to see everything. The public transportation is good though, so it’s not too much of a problem.

BARCELONA’S MUST-SEE SIGHTS AND ATTRACTIONS

If you get bored in Barcelona, you’re doing something terribly wrong. In this section, we talk about some of our favorite neighborhoods, the must-see museums, and other things you need to check out during your stay.

OUR FAVORITE NEIGHBORHOODS IN BARCELONA

The most visited, and oldest, neighborhood of Barcelona is called the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic) and it contains many of the top attractions, including the Cathedral of Barcelona and a handful of Roman ruins. Yes, it will be overrun with other tourists, but getting lost in its winding medieval streets and alleys is still one of the great joys of visiting Barcelona.

barcelona-ramblasThe second neighborhood (which is technically part of the Gothic Quarter but has its own personality) is Las Ramblas — which is a pedestrian-only street (and surrounding area) lined with shops, chain stores, tacky tourist stalls, cafes, and restaurants. This is the most visited tourist spot in Barcelona, so it’s buzzing all day and night. It’s also one of the biggest pickpocket hotspots in Europe, so be extra vigilant. The cafes and restaurants are super overpriced, so wander off Las Ramblas for better prices. Additionally, La Boqueria Market is a massive indoor market located off Las Ramblas, and it’s been rated the best market in the world. It’s a massive tourist draw, so it’s super busy, but it’s still a nice experience. If you want to escape the tourist hoards, head to Plaça Reial — which is a beautiful square that’s just off Las Ramblas.

El Born is the most trendy and artistic neighborhoodin Barcelona. In addition to its tapas bars, restaurants, avant-garde galleries, cool cafes, and vintage shops, this neighborhood is the home of the impressive Church of Santa Maria del Mar and the excellent Santa Caterina Market (which has an amazing Gaudí-esque roof). It’s also where you’ll find a lot of Barcelona’s famous nightlife, so you’ll find yourself here often.

barcelona-guide-leixampleL’Eixample is the largest neighborhood in Barcelona, and it’s home to many of the city’s most famous architectural highlights — including La Sagrada Familia. Eixample is popular with the locals because it’s a lively neighborhood without being as densely populated as the city center. Because of its size, you’ll also find that different parts of the neighborhood have their own personalities.

El Raval is one of the largest and the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in Barcelona. It’s more gritty than other parts of the city, so don’t be surprised if you see prostitutes in some parts, but the neighborhood is currently in the midst of rapid gentrification. It’s popular with young, hip folks, and there are new and interesting businesses, boutiques, thrift stores, bars, and restaurants opening all the time — it certainly always has something going on.

Gràcia is a neighborhood that’s often described as a village within a city, so it’s a great place to visit to live like a local. This bohemian neighborhood is located on a hillside, so it offers great views of the city. You’ll find plenty of trendy shops, bars, outdoor cafes, and restaurants filled with equally trendy locals. It’s also home to Gaudí’s famous and whimsical hilltop park, Parc Güell.

BARCELONA MUSEUMS

Joan-Miro-barcelona

Barcelona has a big number of excellent museums, but the most popular is the Picasso Museum. You can see art around almost every street. This museum houses one of the most extensive collections of Picasso works and focuses heavily on his earlier years. The second-most popular museum is the Fundació Joan Miró, which is the top collection of artwork by Joan Miró and many other contemporary artists. Joan Miró also created the Barcelona Contemporary Cultural Center to feature contemporary, alternative, and innovative art. If you’re up for something different, check out the CaixaForum. This museum is located in a former brick factory, and it features an ever-changing collection of excellent art.

If you feel interested in the history of the Catalan region and its accompanying art, check out the highly-rated Catalan Art Museum. If you want to learn more about the history of Barcelona, head to the Barcelona History Museum, which features some great Roman ruins. If you’re interested in checking out a few huge old ships, you should stop into the Maritime Museum that’s housed in a medieval shipyard (plus, it’s free and the building is really cool).

GOING GAGA FOR GAUDÍ

gaudi-barcelona-guideBarcelona’s signature Catalan Modernism architecture was created by one man — Antoni Gaudí. Examples of his work are scattered throughout the city, so you’ll come across many of his most famous works without much effort. One sight you won’t be able to miss is La Sagrada Família. This iconic Catholic church has been under construction since 1882 and isn’t expected to be fully finished until 2030 (or later). La Pedrera (sometimes called Casa Mila) and Casa Batlló are two of his most popular buildings. Park Güell is a park that overlooks the city and it shouldn’t be missed. Want more? Go admire the stunning interiors of the Palace of Catalan Music and the Casa Lleó Morera.

BARCELONA BEACHES

barcelona-beachBarcelona is an amazing beach city, which is interesting because the beaches were overrun by industry and pollution until the early 90s. The city completely cleaned up and renovated the beaches before the 1992 Olympics, and it’s now considered to have the best urban beaches in the world.

Barcelona has a number of beaches, but the most popular is the Platja Barcelona at Vila Olimpica, which was the home of the 1992 Olympics. Here you’ll find plenty of beautiful twenty-something Barcelonians flaunting their stuff and escaping the hustle of the city. However, theft is fairly common on Barcelona’s beaches, so don’t leave your stuff unattended.

TAKE A (FREE) WALKING TOUR

I’ve said it a million times… but I love walking/bike tours. They’re simply a great way to explore and learn more about the city you’re visiting. Luckily, Barcelona has a number of free (the guides work on tips) and paid tours. Most free tours offer a good overview of the city, while paid tours have more experienced guides who have a deeper understanding of their subjects.

We’ve listed a few the best tours below:

  • Runner Bean Tours — Free and paid tours.
  • Sandemans New Europe: Barcelona — Free tours.
  • Free Walking Tours Barcelona — Free tours.
  • Barcelona Walks — Paid tours.
  • Trip Advisor’s Tour Page

CHEAP EATS AND DRINKS IN BARCELONA

Barcelona has food options for just about any budget. In fact, they have one of the highest numbers of restaurants and bars per capita in all of Europe; unfortunately, many of them are nothing special. And the quality generally gets a lot worse near the tourist attractions, so do some research before you go or you’ll probably end up overpaying for low-quality food.

Also, don’t forget that lunch is generally the biggest meal of the day, and people don’t eat dinner until around 10 pm, so plan ahead.

TAPAS, SEAFOOD PAELLA, AND CAVA

Spain is famous for their tapas. Tapas are basically mini portions of single dishes that are meant to be snacked on in bars/restaurants, but a lot of people make a meal out of sampling multiple kinds of tapas. They can range from simple to extravagant, but they’re typically affordable. In some parts of Spain (mainly Granada and Madrid), the tapas are actually free as long as you’re buying alcohol, but this is becoming pretty rare and you won’t find it much in Barcelona.

barcelona-foodSeafood paella (and seafood in general) is very popular in Barcelona since the city is located on the coast. However, beware, because there are a lot of places selling really bad seafood paella. So do your homework on this one… trust me. Check out this article by The Barcelona Navigator for finding the best paella.

Cava, which is a sparkling wine like Champagne, might as well be the official drink of Barcelona. But what about sangria? That’s actually a specialty of southern Spain and it’s only served because tourists ask for it… and it’s rarely made well in Barcelona.

The food scene in Barcelona is ever-changing, so I like to rely on a handful of websites and Barcelona-based food bloggers to get the most up-to-date information on where to eat on a budget in Barcelona.

BARCELONA NIGHTLIFE AND CLUBS

Barcelona’s nightlife is legendary. Even on weeknights, the restaurants don’t fill up until after 9 pm, so people don’t start hitting the bars until late night — and the dance clubs are still going strong once the sun has come up. Prices for drinks tend to be fairly affordable (except in the clubs, of course) but do expect cover charges for the better/more popular clubs. Also, expect to put some effort into your appearance (no shorts, baseball caps, etc.) or the doormen might not let you in.

But the city’s nightlight isn’t just about clubs — there are tons of bars and restaurants that cater to just about anything you’re into. Check out these guides to help you find the best nightlife options:

BEST BARCELONA HOSTELS

The good news is that Barcelona does have a number of cheap hostels that also get good reviews. Furthermore, the prices tend to increase considerably in the summer thanks to the influx of visitors, so you’ll want to book as early as possible to ensure you get the best options. I’ve always used HostelWorld to book our hostels, so you’ll want to poke around there to find the perfect hostel.

Below is a list of the best-rated hostels that won’t break your budget:

TRAVELING AROUND BARCELONA

Barcelona has a good public transportation network. Most people use the Metro (subway) to travel long distances. The city is fairly compact, so many visitors end up walking everywhere. The Metro is nice to ride during the steamy summer because it’s air-conditioned.
barcelona-metroSingle one-way ticket: €2.15

T10 ticket (10 one-way journeys): €9.95

2-day pass: €14
3-day pass: €20.50
4-day pass: €26.50
5-day pass: €32

Barcelona Tourist Card (free unlimited public transit, including to/from airport, entry to some museums & other benefits):

  • 2-day pass: €34
  • 3-day pass: €44
  • 4-day pass: €52
  • 5-day pass: €58

Bus from airport to city: €5.90

Train (RENFE) from airport to city: €4.10 + €2.15 (to switch to the Metro)

Taxi from airport to city: €25-€35

PRACTICAL TRAVEL TIPS

  • Few city-run museums are free on Sundays from 3-8pm.
  • Catalán is the main language spoken in Barcelona, but Spanish is also spoken by just about everyone.
  • Whenever possible, purchase tickets online. Attractions often attract huge crowds and even huger lines, so the savviest visitors buy their tickets in advance.
  • Walking is the best way to explore the city. Luckily, Barcelona is a very walkable city.
  • Watch for pickpockets. They’re everywhere.
  • Metro stop has free wifi, and you can find free wifi in many parts of the city, so getting online isn’t difficult.
  • Avoid eating at any restaurant on Las Ramblas. There might be one or two exceptions, but 99% of the time you’re going to be overpaying for bad food.
  • Want to go to an FC Barcelona soccer game but can’t find a ticket? Head to www.fcbarcelona.com and you can find season ticket holders selling their tickets.
  • Summers in Barcelona can get hot, and winters tend to be rainy — but the weather is great during the spring and fall.
  • Restaurants close around 2-4pm and don’t open back up until 8 pm.

 

Switzerland Travel Guide

One of the most expensive countries in Europe, Switzerland is often skipped over by budget travelers.

Visiting Switzerland is not cheaper. Before you even get out of the train station/airport, you’ll begin to wonder “how the heck did I spend so much money already?!”

Even when I was backpacking Switzerland, I found myself constantly trying to find ways to save money.

At the time, while it is not a cheap destination, Switzerland is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

The country is home to shimmering lakes, picturesque mountains (hello Alps!), tiny walled medieval towns, soaring peaks, endless green fields you want to run through, delicious chocolate, icnredible beer, and friendly, welcoming people.

Everything runs on time here, the country is safe, and everyone is super nice. I loved my time traveling around Switzerland.

The country rocks no matter what time of the year you visit (summer hiking, winter skiing).

To help lower your costs, use this travel guide to Switzerland to help you plan your trip and save money!

 

Other Things to See and Do in Switzerland

1. Join in the Fasnacht Spring Carnival

This festival in Basel is a three-day party that welcomes in the warm weather and takes place annually on the Monday following Ash Wednesday. It’s something that’s highly anticipated by both tourists and locals, and it’s definitely Switzerland’s most popular festival. Fasnächtlers dress in elaborate costumes to hide their identities and parade around town with “cliques” (bands playing basler drums and piccolos). All the bars and restaurants in town remain open throughout the entire three days. Everyone here is in a good mood!

2. Explore Geneva

As the third largest city in Switzerland, Geneva offers spectacular views of the city’s lake (Lake Geneva), the world’s largest fountain, the UN, a historic city center, and a collection of international restaurants to satisfy anyone’s palate (thanks to the UN buildings in town). While you’re here make sure you check out the Geneva’s Art and History Museum or the Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum. There are 40 museums here in total!

3. Hike Mt. Pilatus

Located right outside the city of Lucerne, this beautiful mountain has breathtaking views of the alps. From the city, you can take a cable car to the top or (better yet) hike its trails to the top to look out over the Swiss Alps. There are some easier trails around the northern side of Pilatus, as well as other attractions in the summer months such as a ropes course.

4. Picnic at the Rhine Falls

Pack a picnic lunch and look out at your view of Europe’s largest waterfall. If you hop on a boat tour you can get extra close to the giant rock in the middle of the falls, and you’ll also experience the Rhine Falls Basin. Close by in the town of Schaffhausen, you’ll find a medieval castle which also houses a hostel for cheap but interesting accommodations.

5. Explore St. Gallen

The seventh largest city in Switzerland, St. Gallen boasts beautiful museums, colorful murals, and one-of-a-kind architecture. It doesn’t receive as much tourist traffic as the other cities and regions around the country, but it’s a fun town full of students and you’re likely to befriend a few locals during your visit. Must-do: visit the Baroque cathedral and the Abbey Library, which is home to nearly 170,000 documents. Some are hand-written and over a thousand years old!

6. Visit the Old Villages

Visit the Graubunden area of the country, where you’ll find villages with houses dating back to the 13th century. Here they also speak an ancient language called Romanch, which has died out everywhere else in the country and the locals take great pride in keeping the tradition alive. Of course, it’s a haven for nature lovers – there are 615 lakes and 150 valleys in the region. Visiting here is a true Swiss Alpine experience.

7. Have a romantic time in Montreux

With a picturesque castle (Chateau de Chillo) lying at the edge of a lake, this area makes for a pretty romantic destination. Tour the castle, which dates all the way back to the 12th century and inspired the likes of Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, and more. The town was also the home of Freddie Mercury and there is a statue here in his honor. It costs 12.50 CHF ($12.55 USD) to visit the castle.

8. Discover rural culture in Appenzell

This small village of 7,000 lies in the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden. There are no cars and the village has upheld much of its local traditions and culture, including dance and folk music. It’s an incredibly picturesque little town, with frescoed buildings and narrow alleyways. Its location near the foot of the Alpstein mountains makes it a great gateway for participating in summer and winter outdoor activities, like hiking and skiing. Take the Appenzell Railway to Wasserauen, and explore the fascinating prehistoric Wildkirchli caves (inhabited around 40,000 years ago).

9. Visit Lucerne

You can’t get much more of a typical Swiss destination than Lucerne. Located on the beautiful Lucerne Lake, the city offers a wonderful combination of urban life and nature. Spend some time in the old town, especially Weinmarkt, surrounded by medieval guildhalls and decorative buildings. Cross Chapel Bridge, the world’s oldest surviving truss bridge, and pay attention to the 17th-century ceiling paintings showing events from Lucerne’s history.

Switzerland Travel Costs

Accommodation – Hostel dorms average 30 CHF ($30 USD) per night, but in some major cities, they can run as high 50 CHF ($50 USD). Private hostels rooms range from 80-120 CHF ($81-121 USD) a night for rooms that sleep two. Most hostels offer free linens, WiFi, and some include breakfast. Hotels are super expensive. You should expect to spend between 90-120 CHF ($90-121 USD) per night for the most basic of rooms. For something a little nice and more spacious, look closer to 150-200 CHF ($151-202 USD) per night. A much better alternative to hotels is Airbnb, where a shared room in someone’s house typically costs 30 CHF ($30 USD) a night and an entire apartment is about 60 CHF ($60 USD).

Food – Although eating out is very pricey (as an easy comparison: Starbucks coffee is 8 CHF/$8 USD while McDonald’s is 15 CHF/$15 USD), you can keep your spending in check by going to the local supermarkets and buying your own groceries. You’ll spend around 130 CHF ($131 USD) per week for basics like pasta, sandwich ingredients, sauce, rice, eggs, and fruits and vegetables. Supermarkets also sell pre-made meals for between 5-9 CHF ($5-9 USD). Bars and cafés are the cheapest food option, cost about 9-15 CHF ($9-15 USD) for a lunch special. Restaurants with table service are around 20 CHF ($20 USD) for lunch and 40 CHF ($40 USD) for dinner (starter, main, and drink) to start (prices go up from there and I saw some Italian restaurants asking 35 CHF ($35 USD) per main course!! That’s expensive pasta!). You’ll typically find pizzas for around 20 CHF ($20 USD) in a restaurant. If you’re dining out (but still trying to stick to a budget), you’ll spend an average of 45 CHF ($45 USD) a day on food. From there, the sky is the limit! For people who want to cook and eat the occasional meal out, expect to spend around 20 CHF ($20 USD) per day.

Activities – Most museums cost around 10 CHF ($10 USD) to enter (if you are a student, you’ll save 2-4 CHF ($2-4 USD) off the price of your admission (be sure to have your student ID with you). All day hiking excursions or adventure activities begin around 70 CHF ($70 USD). Paragliding costs about 160 CHF ($161 USD) and a bit more in the winter. Ski and snowboard lift tickets can cost anywhere from 27-75 CHF ($27-75 USD) per day (depending on the mountain), and 6-day passes cost 4-5 times the price of the daily pass, so if you’re staying for a while, buy that.

Backpacking Switzerland Suggested Budgets

Those backpacking through Switzerland, budget at least 70-108 CHF ($70-110 USD) per day. This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, cooking most of your meals or eating fast food, and using local transportation or mostly walking. This is also assuming you’re enjoying plenty of free nature, or an occasional museum.

If you Couchsurf, cook all your food, and rideshare, you could probably do the country between $50-70 USD per day. It would be a tight budget but it would be doable.

For a mid-range budget of 230-270 CHF ($235-275 USD) per day, you’ll get to eat mostly fast food meals, stay in private hostel rooms, do some intercity trips, and opt for a few outdoor excursions or other attractions.

For a luxury budget of 490+ CHF ($500+ USD) per day, you can afford to eat out at restaurants, stay in nice hostels, have more flexibility with intercity travel, and enjoy more expensive activities (like multi-day ski passes or tours).

Accommodation
Food
Transportation
Attractions
Average Daily Cost

 

Backpacker
$30-50
$20
$10
$10-30
$70-110

 

Mid-Range
$81-120
$60
$25
$70
$235-275

 

Luxury
$200
$100
$100
$100-200
$500+

Switzerland Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips

Switzerland is a very expensive country. There’s no hiding that fact. But there are plenty of ways to save money in the country so you don’t go bankrupt while visiting. Here are some very helpful, high value ways I lowered my costs:

  1. Have an ISIC Card – To save 20-50% on the cost of admission to museums and other tourist attractions, be sure to present a valid student card. The ISIC is typically accepted in places where a foreign student ID is not.
  2. Use Couchsurfing – It’s a service that lets travelers stay with locals for free. It was a lifesaver that allowed me to keep my costs down the most. Since a lot of travelers use this service, make your requests for hosts early.
  3. Use BlaBlaCar – Transportation is very expensive, even more so than accommodation. Most intercity trains are around 50 CHF ($50 USD). That adds up too quickly! Instead, use the ride-sharing website BlaBlaCar to avoid the trains and meet locals. A word of caution: Be advised that many rides cancel. I had three rides cancel on me at the last minute (and one guy who just failed to even show up), so the service requires some flexibility. But when it works, it’s awesome.
  4. Use hotel points – Hotel reward points are a lifesaver in an expensive destination, where even hostels are expensive and the chance of getting a Couchsurfing host is small. Rack up a few hotel points by travel hacking before your trip and burn them while you stay in the country. Most hotel sign-up bonuses are around 60,000 points, which is worth about five nights at the chain hotels like Hilton, Marriott, or Starwood (just make sure you stay at their cheaper properties. Sorry, no W for you!).
  5. Don’t drink – Drinking will not be cheap here. Most beers are around 8 CHF ($8 USD). (Plus, who wants to hike while hung over?) Most wines are between 10-25 CHF ($10-25 USD) a bottle. If you must drink, stick to hostel bars where you can enjoy 2-for-1 happy hours and cheap drinks for around 5 CHF ($5 USD) or buy your beers at grocery stores for as little was 2 CHF ($2 USD).
  6. Cook – With sit-down restaurants costing around 40 CHF ($40 USD) per meal per person, eating out in Switzerland can be very costly, so buy your groceries. A week’s worth of food (bread, pasta, rice, eggs, vegetables, cheese, deli meats for sandwiches, and some assorted fruit) will cost you 75-100 CHF ($75-101 USD). The major supermarkets are Migros, COOP, and Spar. COOP is the most expensive.
  7. Go veggie – Meat is expensive in Switzerland. Every Swiss resident or expat I talked to told me about how they limit their meat consumption because it costs so much. Stick to veggies and avoid buying meat for your meals (especially beef). While I was trolling supermarkets and butchers for grocery prices (travel writing is glamorous, huh?!), I found a pound of meat was 12-14 CHF ($12-14 USD). At that price, stick to deli meats for protein!
  8. Use lunch specials – If you are going to eat out, do so during lunch when most lunch specials at cafes and restaurants cost around 10-19 CHF ($10-19 USD). Moreover, stick to the ethnic restaurants like Chinese, Middle Eastern, Indian, or Thai for the best deals and biggest portions (and closer to that 10 CHF/$10 USD price). Lunch specials are a great way to get a lot of bang for your buck and to enjoy the dinner menu but at a cheaper set menu price.
  9. Bring a refillable water bottle – At 2-4 CHF ($2-4 USD) a bottle, that’s a lot of money spent on water after a few days. The water in Basel is safe to drink, so refill your bottle before you go out to save money.
  10. Book your trains early – While a train ride is a cheaper way to travel than the plane, you can get even cheaper rates by booking your train ticket early. Swiss Rail also offers one-day and weekend group passes to look into.

48 hours in New York, an insider guide to the Big Apple

48 hours in New York

American author E.B. White once quipped about this city of eight million inhabitants: “New York provides not only a continuing excitation but also a spectacle that is continuing.” And while he may have said this nearly a century ago, his words still ring true to this day. The City that Never Sleeps is in constant motion – yes, even at 3am – and while the surface may be always transforming, its heart never really changes. Spend a day seeing the sites in Manhattan and another day wandering the heart of global hipsterism in Brooklyn. There’s no better time to take a bite out of this pulsating metropolis.

Eat

Bill Durney, pitmaster of New York’s well known barbecue, Hometown Bar-B-Que, opened up this buzz-worthy spot in Red Hook, Brooklyn in spring 2019 and it’s been packed ever since. New York City is the inspiration for Red Hook Tavern (329 Van Brunt St., Brooklyn; 00 1 917 966 6094) and Durney mined menus at classic Big Apple spots such as Corner Bistro, Peter Luger, and McSorley’s Ale House. There’s a great burger and steak as well as country ham croquettes, creamy chicken liver pate, and crispy smashed fingerlings. The excellent wine list veers to the natural variety.

Drink

In the Upper East Side isn’t a destination neighbourhood except for when you go museum hopping. But cocktail bar NR (339 E. 75th Street), which opened in October 2019, is worth the journey. It was opened by the people who run the Harlem ramen and experimental cocktail spot, ROKC,  and the cocktail list here is equally envelope pushing. Gin cocktails with an awesome pistachio cream, absinthe and Thai tea, and mezcal and wasabi are but a few of the inventive libations here.

Stay

PUBLIC (215 Christie St., New York; 00 1 212 735 6000), located in Nolita, is the lovechild of a luxury dream team: hip hotelier Ian Schrager is the man behind this 29-floor, 367-room property that was designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron and super chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten runs the coterie of kitchens, including Public Kitchen which serves up Gallic-accented comfort fare with worldly flare, including garlic pepper smoked short ribs with Alsatian potato salad and grilled chili marinated shrimp with shishito peppers. These rooms are stylishly minimalist with floor-to-ceiling windows, Bang & Olufsen Bluetooth speakers and ample USB ports.

 

Day one

MORNING

Hit Central Park (59th St. to 110th St.) for an early-morning stroll through this 843-acre-sized patch of greenery that looks like it was carved out of the urban landscape. The beautiful park, designed by genius landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, is a great spot to feel submerged in nature, far from the bustle of the big city.

Try to emerge from the park on the south-east corner. That way you’re only a small stroll from one of the best modern art museums in the United States (if not the world): The Museum of Modern Art (11 W. 53rd St.; 00 1 212 708 9400). The museum, best known as MoMa, has a vast collection of work by late-19th and 20th century artistic visionaries, including Van Gogh, Rousseau, Picasso, Dali, Mondrian, Warhol, Monet, Matisse, Frida Kahlo, Jasper Johns and Warhol. The best way to tackle MoMa is to take the lift to the top floor and work your way down (the most memorable works are on the top two floors).

If all that art gawking builds up an appetite, lunch is just a 10-minute walk to one of the New York-iest restaurants in New York history. Welcome to The Grill (99 E. 52nd St; 00 1 212 375 9001), where you can have a three-martini lunch in a mid-century Philip Johnson-designed dining room. The menu is classic New York City with lobster à la Newberg, pheasant Claireborne, and spring chicken à la queen getting top billing. The adjoining space, The Pool, is a fantastic spot for a cocktail.

 

AFTERNOON

Walk off that Big Apple meal with an amble down the High Line (Gansevoort and Washington Sts.), a very long stretch of once-abandoned elevated railroad track on Manhattan’s westside (from 34th St. to the Meatpacking District) that was converted into an aerial park. It has become an instant Big Apple institution, wowing visitors and locals with its cool design that incorporates much of the natural surrounding. Start at the top of the High Line on W. 34th St. and then work your way down. That way you’ll be deposited right into the atmospheric Meatpacking District.

Since the High Line spills out into the Meatpacking District and the West Village, take a breather at Té Company (163 W. 10th St.), where you can sip hard-to-find oolong teas from Taiwan and nibble on snacks made by chef Frederico Ribeiro whose logged time at multiple Michelin-starred restaurants.

LATE

When the stomach starts rumbling again, head east: Hanoi House (119 St. Marks Pl.; 00 1 212 995 5010), located in the East Village, is the best Vietnamese spot in the city. First timers should not miss the deeply complex beef-spiked pho.

Have a nightcap at Katana Kitten (531 Hudson St.; 00 1 212 243 3007), a sleek bi-level Japanese-themed cocktail bar. Sip a Negroni made with genever and aged umeshu or gin and tonic laced with shiso.

Day two

MORNING

Spend part of day two exploring Brooklyn. Get there by strolling across the Brooklyn Bridge, one of the most iconic spans in North America. The 271-ft-tall neo-gothic arches are certainly the bridge’s trademark, but ambling along the elevated pedestrian walkway is a must for any visitor.

When off the bridge, walk through leafy, historic Brooklyn Heights, especially the promenade above the river that offers splendid views of the downtown Manhattan skyline. And then, point yourself toward the tree-lined atmospheric neighborhood of Cobble Hill. Here is where you’ll find St. Julivert Fisherie (264 Clinton Street; 00 1 347 987 3710). Run by the husband-and-wife chef team Alex Raij and Eder Montero (who also run the excellent nearby La Vara), St. Julivert is an excellent seafood spot with an emphasis on Basque cuisine.

Work off your lunch by taking in more art at the Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway), the second largest museum in New York City. The 1895 Beaux Arts building include works by Mark Rothko, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe and Edgar Degas.

If you’re prefer to stay outdoors, go right next door to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (990 Washington Ave., Brooklyn), where there thousands of types of flora will take you miles away from the bustle of the Big Apple. Seek out the particularly peaceful Japanese Hill and Pond Garden.

AFTERNOON

Some post-sunset fun, head back to Manhattan. Linger for a while in Washington Square Park where bohemians and beatniks, street performers and students from nearby New York University give the place a groovy and fun vibe. On warmer days, children play in the fountain and jazz musicians thump out tunes. If the weather is not agreeable, pop into Blue Note (131 W. 3rd St.; 001 212 475 8592) where, since 1981, jazz and soul greats like Sarah Vaughn and Ray Charles, among many others, have taken the stage.

Then plant yourself at Minetta Tavern (113 MacDougal St.; 00 1 212 475 3850), a classic Big Apple spot that serves one of the best burgers and steaks in town.

LATE

Afterwards, wander a few blocks north to the new 8th St. hotspot, Existing Conditions (35 W. 8th St.; 00 1 212 203 8935), an avant-garde cocktail bar from master mixologist Dave Arnold. First timers should opt for a Manhattan, which is pre-mixed, bottled and then cooled with liquid nitrogen that will change your perception of the classic drink forever.

Where to stay ?

Luxury Living

The lavish Beekman Hotel, located way downtown, boasts spacious high-ceilinged rooms bedecked with vintage furniture and aged oak floors. Temple Court, the in-house restaurant by celeb chef Tom Colicchio, serves old-school New York fare, such as lobster Thermidor, but updated with seasonal ingredients.

Doubles from $458 (£343). 123 Nassau St.; 00 1 212 233 2300

The Beekman has two of the city’s top restaurateurs under one roof

Designer Digs

AThe NoMad Hotel, French designer Jacques Garcia gives a bohemian-chic makeover to a turn-of-the-century Beaux Arts building in the Flatiron District. The 168 sumptuous rooms, two swanky bars, a vintage fireplace and a restaurant overseen by superstar chef Daniel Humm make it one of the hottest hotels in town.

Doubles from $395 (£231). 1170 Broadway New York; 00 1 212 796 1500

Budget Beauty

The 612-room Moxy Times Square is a design-friendly property with budget-conscious millennials (or those who don’t mind travelling like one) in mind. The massive rooftop bar affords fabulous views.

Doubles from $139 (£105). 485 Seventh Ave.; 00 1 212 967 6699

What to bring home?

Stop by the New York Transit Museum (99 Schermerhorn St., Brooklyn; 00 1 718 694 1600) shop to pick up some iconic items of the New York City subway system: T-shirts of your favourite metro line, Grand Central socks, and subway-themed tote bags.

When to go ?

New York is a year-round destination with four distinct seasons. Winter can be magical, with thick snowfalls followed by cloudless skies, but also very unpredictable: one winter might regularly blanket the city in snow and the next year there will be only one giant storm. Summer is the most consistent, as the air turns sticky and humid but the warm weather brings out the fun. Spring and autumn are the optimum times to visit, highlighted by clear blue skies and a crispness to the air. October visitors will be treated to trees turning to golden red for the autumn.

Know before you go . . .

Essential information

Emergency services: Dial 911

Tourist office: See nycgo.com, the website of NYC and Company, for extensive information on what’s on in the city and tips on where to go. Stop by to pick up maps, leaflets and other information from the Official Visitor Information Centre (00 1 212 484 1222) at at 151 W. 34th St. between Seventh Ave. and Broadway; Open Mon-Sat, 10am-10pm; Sun, 10am-9pm; Times Square between 44th and 45th Sts; daily, 8am-7pm; Southern tip of City Hall Park; Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm; Sat-Sun, 10am-5pm.

Local laws and etiquette
It is standard to tip 15-20 per cent in restaurants. Sales tax in NYC is 8.87 per cent; taxes are not included in listed shop or restaurants prices.

The basics

Currency: US dollar

Telephone code: Dial 00 1, then the three-digit number of the borough (eg, 212 for Manhattan, 718 for Brooklyn/the Bronx) for New York numbers from abroad

Time difference: New York is five hours behind London

Flight time: London to New York is approximately seven hours

The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Bali, Indonesia

There’s something about Bali.

If you’ve never been to Bali, then the first thing you’ll probably think of are its sandy beaches. As idyllic as many of them are, they tell just a part of Bali’s story. Within days of our first trip, we learned that there’s so much more to this popular island destination than just sand and surf.

For beginers, it’s home to a thriving food and arts scene that’s more developed than anything we’ve seen in Southeast Asia. Instagram-worthy villas with infinity pools are the norm and there’s a wealth of cultural attractions to be experienced like Hindu water temples and Balinese dance shows.

But maybe the one thing that struck me the most was the vibe. There’s an energy to this place that’s hard to put into words. When you’re there, you just feel it.

Travelwithease team went to Bali expecting it to be like any other island destination in Southeast Asia. We expected to like it, but perhaps not enough to really want to go back. We were wrong.

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

Because of the current global situation, travel guidelines have been changing often. Our friends at SafetyWing created a website that lists detailed information on travel restrictions around the globe.

Very important when planning a trip to Bali, be sure to check the Flatten the Curve website for information on travel restrictions to Indonesia.

 

BALI AT A GLANCE

Bali is an Indonesian island province located between Java and Lombok. It’s the country’s only predominantly Hindu province with an estimated 83.5% of the local population identifying themselves as Balinese Hindus. This is interesting considering how Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world.

Bali is characterized by its striking coastal areas and verdant interior. Hindu temples abound throughout the island, as do expressions of its highly developed arts in the fields of painting, sculpture, woodcarving, metalwork, and dance. While the south is known for its beaches, the inland town of Ubud is regarded as the cultural heart of the island and a great place to experience Balinese culture and the arts. It is one of if not Indonesia’s top tourist destination, receiving over 6.5 million international visitors in 2018 alone. Tourism-related businesses make up 80% of the island’s economy, with most of the action happening in the south.

This island is to big to cover in one article so this travel guide will focus only on southern Bali, which is where many tourists will be spending most of their time.

 

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Like the rest of Indonesia, Bali has two seasons – dry and rainy. The dry season is typically from April till October while the rainy season begins around November and goes on till March. Temperatures stay fairly constant throughout the year so the best time to visit Bali is during the dry season.

The best months weather-wise are usually July and August, but these are also peak months. For that reason, I think the best time to go would be from April till June and September to November. The skies are clearer and the island isn’t as crowded.

APR-OCT: This is the dry season in Bali. We were there in July on our last trip and the weather was perfect. The sky was clear everyday and it didn’t rain once. Nevertheless, it was crowded everywhere and traffic was horrible, especially in Seminyak.

NOV-MAR: This is the rainy season. November should still be ok but December and January are the rainiest months, not to mention among the busiest. Bali gets pretty crowded over the holidays so this probably isn’t the best time to go. Hotel rates will be at their highest as well.

Climate: Annual Monthly Weather in Bali

To help you better understand the climate in Bali, We’ve created the average temperature and annual rainfall graphs below. Ideal months to visit are indicated in orange.

Average Temperature

Annual Rainfall

TRAVELING TO BALI

Most visitors to Bali will probably be flying in to Ngurah Rai International Airport, which is just south of Denpasar in southern Bali. If you’re staying in the south, then it’s probably best to take a private transfer or taxi directly to your hotel. As of this writing, there’s no developed public transportation system in Bali so any other option may be more trouble that it’s worth.

BY TAXI: You can also take a taxi to your hotel but based on what I’ve read, it may be more expensive than a private transfer. You can book it at the official taxi counter inside the airport terminal. Just tell them the name of your hotel and they’ll quote you a fixed price.

BY PRIVATE TRANSFER: This is the best and most convenient option. The driver will be waiting for you at the arrival area then take you directly to your hotel.

 

WHERE TO EXCHANGE CURRENCY

The unit of currency in Indonesia is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). Southern Bali is a big area so finding the best place to change your money will depend on where you’re staying.

We didn’t need to exchange currency in Bali but based on what I’ve read, there’s a mix of reputable and shady currency exchange offices in popular tourist areas. Banks are the most reputable so if you can, then exchange your currency at an established bank.

If you don’t have access to a bank, then you can change your money at a currency exchange office. According to this article, you should only change currency at Bank Indonesia-authorized money changers.

If you don’t like brining large sums of cash on trips, then another alternative would be to withdraw IDR from an ATM. I’ve been doing this more and more now and the rates are comparable. Just be sure to let your bank know you’ll be using your ATM card abroad so you don’t run into any problems. In my experience, my card works in some ATM machines but not in others.

NOTE: When an ATM machine asks if you’d like to proceed with or without conversion, always select WITHOUT conversion. I made the mistake of proceeding WITH conversion once and wound up with a terrible exchange rate. Proceeding WITH conversion authorizes the foreign bank operating the ATM to do the conversion for you, usually at highly unfavorable rates.

 

WHERE TO STAY

We’ve created the color-coded map below to help you visualize where each of these areas are. Please be advised that we’ve only stayed in Seminyak thus far, so I can only provide a first-hand account of that area. Everything else is just a brief summary based on my research.

There are so many great places to stay in Bali, ranging from 5-star luxury accommodations to humble but charming boutique hotels. The competition between hotels is so stiff that you can easily find beautiful hotels at very reasonable rates.

RED – Seminyak
TURQUOISE – Legian Beach
ORANGE – Kuta Beach
PURPLE – Jimbaran Bay
GREEN – Nusa Dua
DARK BLUE – Tanjung Benoa
PINK – Sanur Beach
YELLOW – Denpasar
BROWN – Canggu

SEMINYAK: Casa Kayu Aya

This was where we stayed. Seminyak is one of the most popular areas on the island with plenty of hotels, restaurants, boutiques, and bars. It’s listed as an upscale area but there are plenty of mid-range hotels too.

As you’d expect with such a popular area, Seminyak can get crowded. Traffic can get pretty bad here as well, especially during peak seasons. Seminyak is where you’ll find some of the island’s best restaurants which is why we chose to stay here.

Casa Kayu Aya is a lovely boutique hotel just off the main road and a short walk to the beach. It’s got a pool and a nice roofdeck where they serve breakfast. We enjoyed our stay at Casa Kayu Aya and would happily book there again.

Approximate Room Rate: USD 33 per night (as of July 2019)

KUTA BEACH

Kuta Beach is the most famous beach in Bali and one of its liveliest nightlife areas. It’s also got great surfing and plenty of budget accommodations. It’s proximity to the airport makes it one of the most convenient places to stay as well.

LEGIAN BEACH

This is the area directly south of Seminyak and north of Kuta Beach, which is fitting because it’s described as being a mix between the two. Average hotel prices fall somewhere between Seminyak and Kuta Beach, and the nightlife is fun, but not as rowdy.

JIMBARAN BAY

This is the area to the south of the airport. It’s described as a quieter area with many international chain hotels and 5-star resorts. If you’re in Bali on your honeymoon, then this is probably a good place to be.

NUSA DUA

Located on the eastern side of southern Bali, Nusa Dua is described as being the most exclusive beachfront area on the island and home to some of its best white sand beaches. Almost all of the hotels here are international 5-star resorts. It sounds like another great place to stay if you’re traveling to Bali on your honeymoon.

TANJUNG BENOA

If you’re into action-packed activities like jet skiing or parasailing, then you should probably stay here. Tanjung Benoa is located directly north of Nusa Dua and is described as being one of the best places on the island for watersports.

SANUR BEACH

Sanur Beach is apparently Bali’s very first tourism beach area. It’s quieter and more laid back compared to other areas like Kuta and Legian. Honeymooners may want to consider staying here as well.

DENPASAR

Denpasar is the capital city of Bali and the most urban area on this list. If you’d prefer to stay in a city rather than a touristy beach area, then Denpasar is one to consider.

CANGGU

I first learned about this area from a fellow travel blogger. Apparently, it’s many a digital nomad’s preferred place to live when staying for many months in Bali. From what I understand, it’s a secluded area with a good balance of coastal and rice terraced environments.

THINGS TO DO

There are plenty of fun and interesting things to do in southern Bali. However, attractions are spread out and the island doesn’t have a developed public transportation system. It’s easiest to book a private car charter with driver, which is what I did, or go on a guided tour. I’ll get into the different options in more detail below.

If you’d like to visit these attractions in the cheapest way possible, then it may be best to get around using the Kura Kura shuttle bus. It’s a fleet of air-conditioned minibuses that ply set routes on the island. You can get 1-day or 3-day passes on Klook. Follow the link for more information and a list of routes and stops.

1. Explore Bali’s Shopping Streets

We stayed near the main commercial area in Seminyak and had fun exploring Jalan Kayu Aya and Jalan Raya Seminyak. Unlike less developed island destinations in Southeast Asia, Bali isn’t just about market-like stalls selling folksy crafts and souvenirs. There are many international fashion boutiques here, along with art galleries and plenty of interesting cafes, restaurants, and bars. Check out this article on Bali’s shopping streets for a quick overview.

2. Enjoy the View at Tanah Lot Temple

This was the first stop I made on my private car charter. Tanah Lot is one of Bali’s most important Hindu temples. Built on a rock just off the shore, it’s also one of it’s most unique and visually striking, which is why I wanted to get here early before the crowds came in. Tanah Lot is a frequent stop on many sightseeing tours.

It was still high-tide when I visited so this was as close as I could get. At low tide, you can cross to the base of Tanah Lot though entrance to the temple itself is prohibited. After centuries of crashing waves, the temple’s rock base had eroded to the point that it needed restoration. About a third of the present rock is now artificial.

Farther along the coast is Batu Bolong Temple which you can easily get to on foot from Tanah Lot.

This entire area is lovely at this time of day. The temperature is relatively cool with few people around so you can sit and enjoy the sound of waves crashing onto shore.

3. Explore Uluwatu Temple

Uluwatu Temple reminded me of Tanah Lot with its similarly striking ocean view backdrop. But unlike Tanah Lot which is situated on a rock off the shore, Uluwatu is perched on a sheer cliff about 70 meters above sea level. It’s a beautiful sight that’s perhaps best enjoyed at sunset. I was here midday when it was scorching hot and the light too harsh so I didn’t enjoy it as much.

Another reason to visit Uluwatu at sunset is to be able to see the spectacular Kecak fire dance which is performed everyday at 6PM. Some people say it’s touristy, but fun and entertaining nonetheless.

Warning, stay aware of the plenty of monkeys patrolling the cliffs of Uluwatu. When I was there, a large monkey had a pair of aviator sunglasses in his hands. They’ve been known to snatch items from tourists so be careful with any loose belongings like mobile phones, cameras, and dangling jewelry.

Suggested Length of Visit: 1-2 hours / Admission: IDR 30,000

 

4. Marvel at the Giant Statues of Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park

I wasn’t sure what to make of this place. It’s feels like a theme park but instead of rides, it features large statues. Very, very large statues. Somehow this place reminded our team a little bit to Jurassic Parks Movies.

Pictured below is the first of three gargantuan statues you’ll find at Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park (GWK for short). I didn’t notice it at first but this is actually a duplicate of one portion of the main statue. You’ll see what I mean in succeeding pictures. It depicts Vishnu – one of the principal deities in the Hindu religion – who’s known as the god of preservation and guardian of all beings.

Like the statue above, this is also just one segment of the larger statue. It depicts Garuda – a legendary bird or bird-like creature in the Hindu religion. He is the trusted mount of Vishnu and recognized as a symbol of faithfulness and devotion. Check out the person in yellow walking on the lawn for scale.

The Garuda statue is looking to its left, at the park’s main attraction – a 121-meter (397 ft) tall behemoth that now stands as the tallest statue in Indonesia and the fourth tallest in the world.

 

 

This gargantuan statue wasn’t completely finished at the time of my visit but it is now. It depicts Vishnu riding on the back of his faithful mount Garuda. Not counting its base, the statue measures 75 meters tall and consists of 754 individual pieces weighing over 3,000 tons.

Interestingly, it took 28 years for this statue to be completed. Construction began in 1997 but financial problems and other setbacks delayed its completion till September 2018 at a cost of around 100 million US dollars.

The statues are well sculpted and magnificent to see, but there isn’t much else to do at the park. It felt a bit odd to be honest as it wasn’t clear to me what this place is for. It seems to be some type of cultural events venue.

Suggested Length of Visit: 2-3 hours / Admission: IDR 125,000 (adults), IDR 100,000 (children ages 3-10)

5. Watch the Devdan Show at Nusa Dua Theater

At first, I thought this Devdan show was a cultural performance similar to the Kecak fire dance, but it looks to be more like a theatrical show in the spirit of a Cirque du Soleil or Broadway musical. It’s a visual display telling the story of two children who stumbled upon an enchanted treasure chest filled with cultural objects from different regions in Indonesia. Based on its stellar TripAdvisor reviews, it’s an entertaining show that’s fun for the entire family.

You can purchase tickets from the Nusa Dua Theater website. 

Length of Show: Approximately 1.5 hours / Ticket Price: IDR 520,000-1,560,000

 

6. Take a Cooking Class

We took this fun cooking class in Ubud where we learned how to make Indonesian classics like gado-gado, sate, and pepes ikan. For me, there’s no better way to learn about an unfamiliar cuisine than to take a cooking class. It’s like looking under the cuisine’s hood. Other than Bali, we’ve taken cooking classes in Hoi An, Chiang Mai, and Phuket.

If you’re interested in taking a cooking class in Bali, then I suggest searching through Cookly. They’re a dedicated cooking class booking platform that offers many classes in different areas around the island like Seminyak, Kuta, and Canggu. Follow the link for a list of cooking classes in Bali.

7. Enjoy Contemporary Art

As described, Bali has a well-developed art scene. You’ll find contemporary art galleries and museums throughout the island, including the pioneering Nyaman Gallery in Seminyak. This is one of the best contemporary art galleries in Bali, showcasing an interesting mix of work from both local and international artists.

Its highly developed art scene was probably the one thing that surprised me most about Bali. I’m used to seeing just folk art in Southeast Asian island destinations, but not here. The body of contemporary art on display here is impressive. Check out this article for a list of interesting art galleries in Bali.

Even the commercial mass-produced art was impressive. This was a stack of paintings being sold by some sidewalk vendor in Seminyak.

8. Lay on a Beach

Doing nothing is probably one of the best things you can do in an idyllic island destination like Bali. And by “doing nothing”, I mean laying on a beach half naked just catching rays and sipping cocktails. Cliched I know, but who cares? You’re in Bali.

Being such a large island, there are plenty of beaches to choose from. We aren’t beach people so we didn’t spend too much time on the beach. Which beach(es) you go to will probably depend on where you’re staying, but you can check out this article for a list of the best beaches in Bali.

Here’s an aerial shot I took of Seminyak Beach with my drone. For many travelers, laying on sandy stretches of beach like this one is the only thing they need to do in Bali. I can’t say I blame them!

 

10. Make an Impact with Backstreet Academy

To be honest, I had never heard of impact travel until Backstreet Academy invited us to become ambassadors.

Impact travel is a movement that aims to provide tourists with authentic experiences while giving local communities a chance to supplement their income. Tourists can learn things like wood carving from a practicing craftsman or fishing from real fishermen during the off season, with up to 80% of tour revenues going back into the communities. Pretty cool right?

DAY TRIPS FROM SOUTH BALI

As described, Bali is a big island with lots to see and do. There are plenty of places you can go to on day trips from southern Bali. Here are a few suggestions.

1. Ubud

This is our favorite destination in Bali. Set amidst verdant rice paddies and a lush tropical jungle, Ubud is a small town located in the island’s interior, about an hour and a half north of the airport. It’s considered the cultural heart of the island with its Hindu temples, artisanal boutiques, art museums, and galleries.

You can visit Ubud on a day trip but I think splitting your time between the coastal areas of the south and the inland atmosphere of Ubud makes for an ideal Bali stay. On our first trip to Bali in 2009, we went straight to Ubud from the airport and stayed there for the entire week.

There are plenty of Ubud day tours you can do from southern Bali. If you’re rather stay longer or go on your own, then you can check out our Ubud travel guide for more information.
Saraswati Temple in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Suggested Length of Visit: Full Day

 

2. Nusa Penida

We haven’t been here but if you like looking at travel photos on Instagram, then you’re probably already familiar with this place. It’s an island southeast of the mainland that’s become a popular photo backdrop for its coastal cliffs resembling a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Though the cliffs of Kelingking Beach are the island’s most identifiable feature, there’s lots to appreciate here for nature lovers. Compared to the main island, it’s much less developed and perhaps provides a glimpse of what Bali used to be many years ago.

There are plenty of accommodations on Nusa Penida so many travelers stay for several nights to fully explore the island. However, you can visit on a day trip, either on your own or on a guided tour.

Saraswati Temple in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Suggested Length of Visit: Full Day

 

3. Ayung River

The Ayung River is the longest river in Bali. It starts from the northern mountain ranges and runs for about 68.5 km (42.6 miles) before opening up into the Badung Strait. This River is famous for its white water rafting.

If you’ve had enough rest and relaxation and need a spike of adrenaline in Bali, then you can book a white water rafting adventure on the Ayung River which will be the safest.

Tegenungan Waterfalls, Bali, Indonesia

PHOTO: “Ayung River” 

 

4. Tegenungan Waterfalls

There are plenty of picturesque waterfalls in Bali, but Tegenungan Waterfalls is probably one of the most accessible. It’s located between southern Bali and Ubud so you can probably make a stop here en route to central Bali. We visited the waterfalls while on a private car charter, but there are a few guided tours you can join that make a stop there.

By reason of being so accessible, Tegenungan Waterfalls also gets pretty crowded so it may be best to come here first thing in the morning before the crowds get in. If waterfalls and crowds are like oil and water for you, then you can check out this article for a list of Bali’s best Waterfalls.

Tegenungan Waterfalls, Bali, Indonesia

Suggested Length of Visit: Half a Day / Admission: IDR 15,000

HOW TO GET AROUND

Bali is a huge island so getting around to fully appreciate it can be a challenge. It doesn’t have much of a public transportation system other than a network of vans called bemo. Unfortunately it isn’t the most comfortable way of getting around but it’s definitely the cheapest. Check out this article for more on Bali’s bemo minibuses.

A better alternative might be the newer Kura Kura shuttle bus system. It’s a network of air-conditioned minibuses that ply set routes throughout the island. You can get 1-day or 3-day passes that entitle you to unlimited travel for the duration of your pass.

You can also get around by taxi by using Go-Jek, or rental motorbike/scooter. We traveled by Grab Bike a couple of times and it was super fun. It’s faster and cheaper than Grab Car too.

The most convenient way of getting around Bali to go sightseeing is by booking a private car charter with driver. We did this twice in Bali, the first time to explore central Bali and the second to explore the southern past of the island. If you have enough people in your group to split the cost, then this will probably be your best option.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dream Holidays in Marbella South Spain

Marbella, situated in the foothills of the Sierra Blanca, on the Costa del Sol, in the province of Malaga. A mediterranean resort and firm favourite with holidaymakers from all over the world.

Since the 70s, Marbella has been renowned as a playground for rich and famous. Underneath all the swagger, there is so much more to Marbella. With cosmopolitan atmosphere, exudes charisma; attracting visitors for its many facets: diverse beaches, mild climate, multitude of leisure facilities, including some of the best golf courses in Europe; Michelin star restaurants, world-class nightlife and International luxury shopping brands.

Marbella is warm and welcoming city, beguiling to all who visit her. So it’s no surprise that time and again, it tops the most visited city in Spain list. Who wouldn’t want a piece of the action in Marbella?

 If you are looking for a holiday that offers great beaches, wonderful all-year round climate, unique leisure facilities, gastronomy and entertainment, its way of life will enchant you.

History 

Although Marbella is a fairly modern town, it still has an interesting history and a significant architectural heritage.

Some experts believe the first settlement in the Marbella area dates back to the Phoenician occupation in the 7th century, although there is no conclusive evidence of this. The Casco Antiguo (Old Town) dates back to the Roman occupation and was originally called Salduba (Salt City).

See & Do

 Marbella offers so many activities and facilities, visitors have no need to venture away from the area to enjoy a full and active holiday.

In the cozy ’Orange Square’, you can while away hours, sipping sangria, taking in the beautiful surroundings and people, visiting the charming boutiques and gift stores.

The labyrinth of tiny streets and alleys that surround Orange Square will reveal further tiny shops selling all forms of trinkets, fashion and souvenirs and there are some excellent restaurants and bars for a young and trendy crowd.

Cross the road from the Old Town and you find yourself in La Alameda Park, filled with exotic plants, leading down to an open exhibition area; where you can enjoy a permanent exhibition of Dali sculptures and temporary art and media exhibitions during the year.

Down from the park is the Paseo Maritimo (Promenade); this is one of the favourite places for locals and visitors. The boulevard is filled with restaurants of all gastronomies, terraces facing out the beautiful Mediterranean.

Marbella’s beaches:

Furthermore Marbella coastline stretches from Cabopino through to San Pedro de Alcantara. 26 kilometres of golden sandy beaches, shelving down to the calm Mediterranean Sea.

By east, Cabopino port and beach are home to a couple of laid-back and economical Beach Restaurants, the beach right next to the port has sunbeds for hire and is a popular kite surfing spot. As you move west away from the port, the beach becomes a nudist spot. Head west to the popular area of Elviria and the famous Nikki Beach and then on to one of the most beautiful and natural stretches of beach.

Marbella town’s beaches are well equipped, with water sports facilities, beach restaurants line the golden sands, cooking sardines on the spit, ideal for family beach days. Head further west into Puerto Banus and you have a mix of family beach zones and hedonistic beach clubs, where you’ll likely bump into a few celebrities and paparazzi.

San Pedro de Alcantara, at the western limits of Marbella. Here the wide, palm-fringed beaches are more laid-back, backed by a beautiful promenade and restaurants.

Shopping: If you want to combine a beach holiday with a shopping trip, Marbella is an excellent choice. Between Marbella town and Puerto Banus you have an impressive mix of independent boutiques, luxury brands and international Spanish high street brands.

The luxury Port is crammed with designer boutiques, then this is the place to shop. If you’re looking for something a little more unique, then Marbella Old Town is a good shopping destination and La Cañada Shopping Centre on the highway above Marbella, is home to chain stores, boutiques, supermarkets, DIY stores.

Festivals: Around June, the summer season in Marbella gets going and with it comes a host of festivals and parties. Events include a weekend of pure luxury, at the Marbella Luxury Weekend and the annual Marbella Feria, a week of flamenco, flounce and frivolity. The summer solstice is celebrated on the beach for La Noche de San Juan, where bonfires are lit all along the beaches of Marbella. These three events take place in June. The world-renowned Starlite Festival comes to Marbella in August, bringing together musicians and artists from around the world in a series of concerts to raise money for charity.

Museums: Marbella might not be a big city, but it has its fair share of cultural attractions. If the day is overcast and you don’t fancy shopping, then we recommend a trip to the Bonsai Museum (Museo de Bonsai), which houses a wonderful collection of Bonsai trees from all around the world, in it’s fantastic garden-museum.

Art lovers have the choice of the Ralli Museum, a contemporary art space, with works from Latin American artists; the Poligono Gallery, a wonderful space created to emulate the art district in Beijing. The Museo del Grabado Español Contemporáneo houses exhibitions of engraving and art works from national artists.

Golf:10 golf courses in the Marbella area alone and over 50 in the region of the Costa del Sol. Local courses include: Rio Real, Los Naranjos, La Quinta, Marbella Club and Aloha Golf.

Places you can’t miss visiting

In the Plaza de Naranja ’Orange Square’, you can while away hours, sipping sangria, taking in the beautiful surroundings and people, visiting the charming boutiques and art galleries.

The labyrinth of tiny streets and alleys that surround Orange Square will reveal further tiny shops selling all forms of trinkets, fashion and souvenirs and there are some excellent restaurants and bars for a young and trendy crowd.

Cross the road from the Old Town and you find yourself in La Alameda Park, the park is filled with exotic plants and trees and you will feel like you have arrived to a tropical forest in the centre of Marbella. During many weeks of the year there are exhibitions on show in La Alameda.

Down from the park is the Paseo Maritimo (Promenade); this is one of the favourite places for locals and visitors. The boulevard is filled with restaurants of all gastronomies; all look to the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.

There are heaps of activities to keep a family occupied in Marbella, but if you want to venture out of town, pop down the road to Puerto Banus, making sure you stop off to visit some of the cool cafes and restaurants on the Golden Mile (Milla de Oro). Puerto Banus is notoriously known across the globe for its glitz and glam, chic and showy boutiques, clubs and yachting port. And it’s not far off the mark. If you have the cash to dash for a shopping spree, then here you can shop Gucci, Tom Ford, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, the designer list is endless. If you don’t have a spare couple of grand to go shopping, you still need to experience the port. During the day you can enjoy a stroll to the end of the portside, rhapsodize over the luxury yachts and then enjoy a Cosmopolitan cocktail at one of the portside bars, where you can sit on the terrace, watching the world glide by in their Ferrari.

The neighbouring town of San Pedro de Alcantara combines a traditional old-town, with a more modern seafront. There are some superb restaurants and a long, clean stretch of family-friendly beach.

Up into the mountains behind Marbella to enjoy day visits to some of the inland, whitewashed pueblos of the region. The closest village is Ojen, around 10 minutes drive from the coast, nestled between the Sierra Blanca and the Sierra Alpujata and just five minutes from the stunning Sierra de las Nieves natural park. A charming town, small but perfectly formed. Slightly further inland you have the villages of Monda and Coin, and Istan is reached heading inland from the Golden Mile. Many foreign residents have settled in these parts, but the villages still retain an air of the past and are worth a visit. You can spend a day out visiting several of the local interior villages, to get a feel of Andalucian life.

Gastronomy & Nightlife

Some of the best restaurants on the Costa del Sol can be found in Marbella, East Marbella, Puerto Banus and San Pedro de Alcantara. Traditional tapas bars, jostle with fish and seafood restaurants, beach bars, Michelin-star establishments and international diners. Whichever way you turn in Marbella, you’ll come across a restaurant. Head to the old fishing port for a plate of fried fish, clams sardines. The Old Town combines budget tapas with some real fine dining establishments.

If you want to eat and then party, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Marbella. Glamourous beach clubs, stylish cocktail bars, rowdy tapas until the early morning. You choose.

Travel Tips

Marbella has a mild micro climate, protected by the impressive Sierra Blanca mountain range, the winters are mild and the summer months reach 32-35 degrees. You don’t need a car, but if you want to get out of town and visit some of the region’s beaches and villages, then it’s advisable.

Holidays away from the crowds in the Bahamas

travel to bahamas sailing

The Bahamas in the Caribbean make an idyllic holiday destination. There are many accommodation options available on the islands including choices away from the crowds. Chartering a yacht and more remote beach houses are self-catering accommodation options in the Bahamas that offer added tranquility.

Located in the Caribbean, the Bahamas is made up of 700 islands and makes a perfect holiday destination. The archipelago boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world with crystal clear waters and a large barrier reef which is fabulous for snorkelling. Islands of the Bahamas include the larger New Providence and Grand Bahama or you can head out to smaller or quieter islands such as the Abaco Islands. There are a range of hotels to cater for holidaymakers including all-inclusive hotels and some exclusive boutique hotels. While a hotel holiday may be attractive as there’s no need to think about cooking or washing-up and there is plenty of activities and entertainment laid on, self-catering holiday accommodation can often give you more freedom and seclusion away from the crowds.

The idea of being alone and away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and not having to interact with other people, including hotel staff, can be very appealing. In self-catering accommodation you will often have more of your own space than you would in a hotel room and if you have young children self-catering options can be particularly practical as they can run around in without disturbing other guests. Accommodation options in the Bahamas away from the crowds include yacht charters and beach houses on the quieter and more remote islands.

 

Chartering a yacht in the Bahamas

Known as the sailing capital of the world, with its tranquil waters and gentle breezes, the Bahamas is an ideal sailing holiday destination. There are many companies that offer yacht charters and you can include a skipper for your holiday or, for those with more experience, you can sail yourself. A bareboat charter will mean that you hire a boat without any provisions provided so you are responsible for all your food requirements and sailing needs. This is perfect for giving you the freedom to sail round the islands of the Bahamas enjoying the seclusion and tranquillity away from the crowds.

 

Beach houses

Private beach houses are available to rent on many of the islands of the Bahamas. They will often provide space away from other holidaymakers and can be found in some of the most beautiful parts of the Bahamas. While the more remote islands can take longer the reach, you will be leaving the crowds behind and enjoying the sound of your own company. The islands of Andros, the Cat islands and the island of Acklins are all worth exploring to find your perfect beach house accommodation.

The Bahamas makes a great holiday destination for those in search of tranquillity. By chartering a yacht or finding a beach house on one of the more remote islands of the Bahamas you’ll be able to enjoy the stunning scenery, warm seas and climate in total relaxation and peace.

5 Things to do in Los Angeles

thing to do in los angeles

Everyone wants to visit Los Angeles. It’s a place where dreams come true. Unfortunately, it’s also a place where dreams fail. It’s not that easy to get noticed in Los Angeles. The good news for a traveler who doesn’t live in the area is that you only get to enjoy the great aspects of the city, which we will cover here.

Disney Hall might sound like an amusement park to some people, but it’s actually a concert hall. This is where you go if you want to see and hear classical music being played live. Gustavo Dudamel – Music Director of Los Angeles Philharmonic – does an excellent job. He’s highly energetic. You will be entertained; that’s for sure. You might also enjoy the unique architecture of the building. It was designed by Frank Gehry and is all stainless steel. The twists and turns are remarkable.

 

Dodger Stadium

Dodger Stadium is not the most interesting ballpark in the major leagues. Actually, it’s old and on the standard side. However, going to a Dodgers game is a unique experience. It’s more about spotting celebrities than watching the game. That’s why so many people leave in the middle of the game. If you’re a baseball fan, the good news is the Dodgers are a solid organization and usually put a competitive team on the field.

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is the second largest museum in the country. It’s home to more than 35 million different artifacts. It also has something for everyone. For instance, for those who love the outdoors, go to the Rose Garden. If you like birds, visit the Pavilion of Wings. If you prefer butterflies, visit the Butterfly Pavilion. For kids, there is plenty to do, including an interactive dinosaur-themed room in the basement.

 

Party in Los Angeles

If you like to party, Club Mayan will be one of the best experiences of your life. The prices are fair and the atmosphere is insane – that’s meant in a good way. This 3-level nightclub has different types of music and atmospheres on each floor. There is also an outdoor section. Oh, and the people are gorgeous.

Are you more of the laidback type? If that’s the case, go to the Million Dollar Theater, which is the best place to see classic films such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show or Blade Runner.

This is only a small sampling of how much there is to do in Los Angeles. These attractions will cost money, which makes saving money on Los Angeles holiday packages so important. If you’re going to do L.A., do it right.

Top Extraordinary Places You Should Stay in Australia

stay in australia

If you are looking for an amazing trip to Australia, you can find great and extraordinary places to stay that can give you a more unique accommodation experience. These top extraordinary places may come in different prices and forms with varied heights of excitement that can give the adventure travellers in Australia the extra thrills and unique vacation experience.

Coober Pedy’s Underground Bed and Breakfast

Any traveller will be willing to pay a $130 a night accommodation just to have an extraordinary experience of staying beneath the earth on this underground accommodation from Coober Pedy. This amazing underground hotel is definitely one that every traveller should not miss to see when travelling in Australia. The site is able to gain 200 five star reviews and it is indeed a unique place to stay. Enjoy the unique dugout accommodation experience just 1.5 Km from the town center with the opportunity of visiting some great attractions like the Breakaway Reserve consisting of colourful low hills and the Old Timer’s Mine which garnered several tourism and cultural heritage awards.

Southern Ocean Lodge

Kangaroo Island’s first luxury lodge is the Southern Ocean Lodge which is marked with its magnificent view and luxurious accommodation. You can arrange your accommodation in this prestigious hotel with a royalty accommodation to offer to its guests. The Southern Ocean Lodge is an extraordinary place to stay in Australia because it allows you to experience staying on a hotel floating a secluded cliff with breathtaking views of the coast. You will be overwhelmed with the pristine waters of the Southern Ocean and view the wilderness of the Kangaroo Island.

 

australia places to visit


Thorngrove Manor

This small manor in Adelaide Hills is one of the most visited places in Australia by travellers who want to have a taste of a royal accommodation in a majestic place as the Thorngrove Manor. The decor and the facade of the hotel are impressive that fit for a royalty accommodation. The architectural structure of the manor is in combination of natural, royal and futuristic. With its beautiful decor and room arrangements, you will feel at home in this peaceful place that is also regarded by its visitors as one with a romantic touch of beauty.

Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge

This is more than just a lodge once you set afoot the entrance of the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. The lodge is in the middle of stunning towering forests with breathtaking scenery of the mountains with a spectacular view of the glacial lakes. Among the activities that you can enjoy doing in the Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge include 20 crisscrossed walking trails, trekking and mountain biking. You can also further enjoy the glacier lake view by fly fishing and canoeing. Guests will have an extraordinary vacation experience with unique serenity and tranquil natural views for a perfect relaxing experience while in Australia.