Travel Tips

These are some of the best places to visit in 2017-18!

Dog in airport terminal on vacation
Finding the best places to visit in 2018 is hugely dependent on what kind of travelling you are into. A beach holiday is not the same as venturing into an unknown city; and I am not even touching on winter- or water sports here, as these are highly susceptible to personal preferences. But for some great travel ideas, the article below should be perfect for someone looking to find some travel inspiration.   1. Portland, why not? As a non-American, Portland may not sound like much and definitely doesn’t rate high on the list of cities to visit for many travellers. But …

Finding the best places to visit in 2018 is hugely dependent on what kind of travelling you are into. A beach holiday is not the same as venturing into an unknown city; and I am not even touching on winter- or water sports here, as these are highly susceptible to personal preferences. But for some great travel ideas, the article below should be perfect for someone looking to find some travel inspiration.

 

1. Portland, why not?

As a non-American, Portland may not sound like much and definitely doesn’t rate high on the list of cities to visit for many travellers. But that makes those lists wrong and incomplete and I consider Portland one of the best vacation spots in the US, and most certainly one of the best vacation spots for couples. Portland, or “The City of Roses” has an unofficial slogan that insists it is important to “Keep Portland Weird”, and as a couple, it is great to take in all the “weirdness” while enjoying the beauty of the city.

best places to visit

Portland waterfront during fall.

As a result, Portland has spawned unique phenomena like Yarn Bombing, the famous “Naked Bike Ride”, the 24-hour Church of Elvis or the Portland Ukelele Association.

With all this creativity caught up in Oregon, its capital features numerous micro-breweries, hipster coffeehouses and a thriving music- and art scene.

Famous residents include Matt Groening, Chuck Palahniuk, Courtney Love and Esperanza Spalding (Google her – seriously!).

The best time to visit Portland depends on what it is that you are looking for. If you have rose-dependency issues, June is probably your best bet, as the annual Portland Rose Festival takes over the city and the International Rose Test Garden will be at its very best. For ski- and snowboarders, winter is probably best, as Mount Hood is truly legendary in their circles. For snowboards especially, Mt. Hood is one of those places to travel in the US.

places to travel in the us

Multnomah Falls, a 40-minute drive outside the city centre.

Make sure to check out the Portland Saturday Market , regardless of the season. its proximity to the Waterfront Park makes it a great combination day trip, and with several performances and events occupying the market, you are bound to find something interesting for everyone. Alternatively, try to make some time to visit Washington Park. It houses the previously mentioned International Rose Test Garden and features a Japanese Garden as well, along with numerous monuments and playgrounds.

 

 

2. Rome

As mentioned in one of our earlier articles, Rome is definitely one of the best places to visit in 2018. “The Eternal City” is a shining example of antique and baroque architecture and for anyone with a fascination for Christian history, Rome is a must-see.

Rome, top travel destinations 2016

The Coliseum, one of the top q0 tourist destinations in the world.

And even if you decide to skip Vatican city, the city offers numerous attractions like the Coliseum, the different antique ruins, and then of course there is the Italian food.

For a quick overview, Rome is best visited outside the timeframe of May until September. During that period, the city is incredibly hot and doesn’t lend itself as well for walking tours as it really should. You see, almost everything in the city is in walking distance, and the parks and “vicolos” tend to go uphill and downhill. I find sightseeing already tends to wear one down and in the very hot Mediterranean summer you may be tempted to stay indoors at times.

top 10 tourist destinations in the world

The beautiful Trevi Fountain.

Another reason to avoid the summer season is the prices; with the influx of tourists from all over the world, the amount of people crowding the different attractions can really diminish the experience. Exploring the Spanish Stairs or seeing the famous Trevi Fountain just isn’t as interesting when you are battling droves of camera hungry travellers.

Plus, these people drive up the prices in the hotels and it is not uncommon to see restaurants adapt their pricelist to the high season as well. In short, it is simply best to travel to Rome outside of the high season. And when you do, “”The Eternal City”” can be majestic.

 

 

3. Thailand

With 2017 being a difficult year for Thailand due to the passing of its beloved King, 2018 is bound to be better. The Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the country as a whole continues to focus on foreign tourists as a very welcome industry, so whatever you heard about Thailand being amazing – it is absolutely and completely true.

Located right in that sweet spot where affordable prices and 1st world luxuries meet, Thailand seems to represent the best of both these worlds. The service level is unlike anywhere else in South-East Asia, and it is going to take at least another decade or two before pricing truly catches up with the rest of the developed world. On top of that, it is one of the best tropical vacation spots in the world.

As such, a traveller coming into Asia through Thailand can enjoy five-star hotels at a fraction of the price that this would cost anywhere else, and enjoy luxurious amenities wherever they choose to go.

best vacation spots for couples

Come to Thailand, and annoy people at home with “modest” pictures like this.

For those travellers with a penchant for exploring, there are countless areas in the Kingdom that have seen very little development, and areas like Umphang (on the Thai-Burmese border) are breathtakingly beautiful and impressively savage.

Beachgoers will flock to the Southern part of the Kingdom to relax in paradise-like conditions (“The Beach” was shot in the Andaman Sea after all), while adventurers and trekkers travel to Northern Thailand and enjoy crossing borders over land instead of by plane.

Concerning the best time to visit Thailand, I would have to say that Thailand is great all-year round. However, there are regional aspects that should be taken into account. The monsoon season (July to October) has been erratic the last few years, but I would not recommend traveling to the Southern islands during that period as there are less rainy alternatives.

top 10 places to visit in the world

Flash floods like these usually disappear within an hour.

The North occasionally has to deal with the so-called “haze” or “”burning season”” and while it doesn’t affect me personally, I hear people with asthma and other allergies are concerned. During January and December this seems to be a thing. Checking a local calendar before you travel is always a good idea in general and like anywhere in the world, this applies to Thailand as well.

 

 

4. Amsterdam, you can’t forget about Amsterdam

“The best time to visit Amsterdam really depends on what you are looking for, as there is a regular influx of tourists from all over the world who do NOT come to Amsterdam for sightseeing. I will leave it to you imagination what the big fuzz is all about, but lets just say it rhymes with “”eat”” and gives you the munchies.

For travellers looking to see the world famous tulips and flowers, April makes the most sense as it is in the middle of tulip season and the high season hasn’t kicked in yet.

best places to travel 2017

Travellers come to Amsterdam for a variety of flowers and plants.

I strongly recommend only venturing into the city on a rental bicycle if you are confident on a bipedal. There are streetcar tracks everywhere, the locals are extremely impatient with their fellow traffic participants and for those people who drive on the left side of the street, there is an added level of difficulty right there.

Also do check out  the canals with one of the tour boats, preferably after you spent a few days in the city already, as it will really force your brain to remap the city as a whole. All the streets and alleys follow a complete different pattern than the canals and it messes with your sense of orientation. On top of that, the perspective on the different merchant houses from the 16th century is mesmerizing and it is a great way to unwind for a few hours.

hiring a private boat with a few friends

A typical canal cruise, slowly floating along.

If you have the money, I recommend hiring a private boat with a few friends, as you won’t have to listen to a pre-recorded tape about the dark ages and the differences between the rich and the poor in Amsterdam during the pre-industrial era. It’s all a little depressing and you should simply take in the sights while sipping on that rose you and your friends brought along for the ride.

Another hilarious phenomenon you should look into is Kings day. This proud display of Royalism used to be on the 30th of April, but with the new King this national holiday is now held on the 27th of April, unless this is a Sunday, automatically transferring the holiday to the 26th.

proud display of Royalism

One of the main canals during King’s Day in Amsterdam.

Make sure to wear something ridiculously orange, and if you can’t stand loud music, an abundance of beer and slow-moving crowds, it is probably best to stay away altogether. If it sounds like your type of deal though, make sure you know where the best parties are at and book a hotel nearby. Getting through the city during the festivities is going to be very, very slow.

 

 

5. New York

New York is an iconic city, and if you haven’t been there in the last five years, it’s probably time to hit the big apple again if you can. I would not recommend visiting New York during the deep winter months, with January and February being the worst, but then again, this is the time when hotel rooms are the cheapest.

And with the ridiculous pricing in- and around the city, that may be something you should consider. Spring is already much more hospitable, with locals flocking into Central Park, whereas summer can be on the hot side of things. But then at least it is New York, and unlike Rome mentioned earlier, you will be using the mass transit system to get from A to B so walking long distances won’t be that much of an issue.

Night traffic nearby Times square

New York, the big apple.

I prefer New York in the fall, especially since it allows you to head out to Boston through New England, taking in the sights along the way. This is not for everyone though, as most travellers will probably fly in- and out of New York, consistently making it one of the best vacation spots in the US.

There is no single destination where I have done more classic sightseeing than in New York, and I highly recommend most of them. Ellis Island really deserves a visit as it tells the tales of this relatively young country.

After 9/11 Ground Zero gradually morphed into the “World Trade Center Site”, with a dedicated memorial where the twin towers stood. The two gaping holes serve as a strong reminder of just what happened here and if you are in the Tribeca area I recommend checking it out.

Other great areas to visit are Harlem, especially on a Sunday, although it must be said that gentrification is coming on hard these last few years. So for travellers expecting to see a scene straight out of “Barbershop” or “Do the right thing”, this may get a little disappointing.

East Harlem, Harlem, Manhattan

East Harlem and its brownstone architecture.

The brownstone buildings in the area are iconic though, and along with the gentrification in Harlem, soulfood and hair salons are making way for bookstores and art galleries. I think it is safe to say that while the architecture is painstakingly preserved, the area is gradually becoming an extension of Manhattan’s upper east side.

 

 

Conclusion – Get off the beaten path

Just this morning I read a Bangkok review by some South-American kid who described Bangkok as “inhalaling ballons” (sic) on Khao San road. While I understand the need for everyone to party, I can’t get my head around why anyone would travel to the complete other side of hte planet, only to spend their precious time their amongst other travellers from all over the world.

In that sense, you may as well go to Spring Break, Coachella or Burning Man. These are all massive events, but have very little to do with their location.

I understand that leaving the familiar tourist infrastructure behind is mildly unsettling, but the rewards are incredible. Even if you don’t speak the language and can’t properly communicate in English or Spanish, certain things are universal. Besides, the further away you move from the usual hotspots, the more patience people seem to have for you and your attempts to communicate. Use your hands, your feet and the pictures on your phone to find that restaurant you read about and locals will praise your persistence, hell, they may even recommend a better place.

Have you noticed that the most interesting travel vloggers tend to stay away from the beaten path and actively try to carve out new destinations and experiences? Next time you travel anywhere, find a local who is not involved in the tourism ecosystem and question him/her about the best places in town. You’re going to be amazed!

 


More InspirationCheck out other amazing places you need to visit


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Sacha Albarda is an copywriter/online media expert living in South-east Asia for the better part of a decade. Asked what he likes best about living there, he usually answers that it’s “the tightly organized anarchy”.

 

 

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Australia & Travel Tips

Discover the best places to stay in Sydney, Australia

Cafe with people and the Sydney Opera House
Sydney is a fairly large city and choosing the best places to stay in Sydney is difficult. Don’t worry, we got some nice tips for you here! Sydney is one of the key destinations for travellers making it down under, as it is one of the largest cities in the country. Determining where the best place to stay in Sydney is really depends on whether you are alone or with a family. Maybe you intend to stay one night only, or perhaps you are looking to spend a fortnight in Sydney. But if you have never been to Australia, the prospect of choosing …

Sydney is a fairly large city and choosing the best places to stay in Sydney is difficult. Don’t worry, we got some nice tips for you here!

Sydney is one of the key destinations for travellers making it down under, as it is one of the largest cities in the country. Determining where the best place to stay in Sydney is really depends on whether you are alone or with a family. Maybe you intend to stay one night only, or perhaps you are looking to spend a fortnight in Sydney.

But if you have never been to Australia, the prospect of choosing a place to stay can be daunting, because first-timers do not have any reference to make their choice easier. Read the article below to get a feel for the different options and attractions in- and around the city.

best places to stay in Sydney

Bondi Beach promenade is idyllic.

 

Bondi Beach

Technically Bondi Beach is not “in” Sydney, but more of a suburb of Sydney. But for travellers coming to Sydney who may not want to opt for the big-city feeling and prefer an environment with a bit more of a holiday feel to it, Bondi Beach is that perfect destination.

This iconic beach area is a reliable surf spot, drawing in surfers from all over the world, while regular swimmers enjoy the weirdness of the unique Iceberg Ocean Pool. Built right on the waterline, the ocean regularly washes in- and over the 50-meter long pool, so naturally it is filled with salty water.

Swimming pool by the sea, Sydney Australia

I am sure you see the problem here.

Bondi Beach offers an exciting golf experience, and for the hungry souls there are many oceanfront bars and restaurants. The whole area seems to be directed at the ocean, and for good reason, as the sunset does look incredible.

For travellers who don’t like to spend their entire day relaxing on the beach (for god’s sake – please use some serious sun blocker!), there are several activities to pursue. Seeing the local surfers making it look incredibly easy will inspire you, so why not take a surf lesson. You only know that you are utterly useless once you’ve tried standing up in a shore break.

Find comfort in the fact that surfing is one of the harder sports to learn, as it combines some serious balancing, great stamina (that paddling will destroy you) and correct timing in combination with the ability to distinguish a good wave from a bad one.

Skateboarders, windsurfers or wakeboarders may have a little advantage, but in the end it all comes down to spending those hours in the shore break on beginner’s board made of foam and plastic.

Once you have done that, return to the shore and enjoy an Australian sunset in combination with a great drink from one of the many local bars.

Pro tip: Do not swim on the Southern Side of Bondi beach, it’s called ‘Backpackers Rip’ for a reason.

 

 

Where to stay in Sydney with family

Common sense dictates that any area which is busy by day and quiet by night makes a great area for families. By that very definition, Sydney’s CBD (more on that under ‘where to stay in Sydney cbd)’makes a lot of sense, as you won’t be disturbed by hard-partying youngsters who just got back from a night of serious drinking. But there are more advantages too; icons like the Harbour Bridge or the Botanic Garden (more on that later) are within walking distance, along with a host of museums and some major art galleries.

where to stay in Sydney cbd

Sydney’s CBD or Central Business District.

Alternatively, Darling Harbour could be ideal if your kids are a little younger and you are looking for a child-friendly environment. There is a wide range of different child-friendly attractions nearby like the IMAX Cinema, Madam Tussauds or the Sydney Aquarium. On top of that, the Darling Quarter section features an enormous playground surrounded by restaurants and cafes, where parents can keep an eye out for their loved ones.

For more of a holiday feel, Manly Beach is a 30-minute ferry ride from Sydney’s centre and it has that relaxed holiday feel to it, as opposed to the more urban areas mentioned earlier.

safe places to stay in Sydney

Similar to Bondi, Manly Beach has that holiday vibe to it and surfing is popular.

Manly Beach features playgrounds, all types of different walking routes, family-friendly restaurants and of course, the beach. Keep in mind that this is a tourist area, and that during the weekend and additional influx of Sydney residents is to be expected.

where to stay in Sydney Australia on a budget

The Corso on Manly Beach.

But why not follow their example? They come out to Manly for the different markets, a walk up the Corso or a relaxing bike tour. There are even tandems for rent, for parents who like the idea of a 10-year old powering their bicycle ride.

Pro tip: Check out ‘Out of Africa’ for some Moroccan food.

 

 

Newtown

Newtown is one of those neighbourhoods that is slowly making its way into the different tourist guides. Sure, there is no Opera House, but there are countless other attractions. For travellers who enjoy hipster baristas making supreme coffee, this is definitely a place to go to.

cool places stay Sydney

Sydney’s mellow Newtown.

Unlike the rest of Sydney, there are few high rise buildings in the area, making for a cosy and residential vibe. The neighbourhood is filled with vintage shops and cool little workshops where creative and the artistically inclined like to gather.

Having been there myself several times to admire the street art, I can attest that Newtown gets better every time you visit. The latest development is that there are several artisan brewers, and apart from the coffee houses and delicate micro art galleries, the neighbourhood is filled with vintage boutiques, street art and all kinds of interesting little corners to explore.

If you’ve ever spent some time in Greenwich village in New York, Newtown will feel strangely familiar. Since a lot of Sydney residents come to this place at the end of the day, King Street has gradually been renamed ‘Eat Street’ due to the abundance of restaurants and eateries on that road. Check out Gigi Pizzeria for a full-blown vegetarian menu that still manages to be delicious, or Golden Lotus for some quality Vietnamese food.

best neighborhood to stay in Sydney

Welcome to Newtown.

My personal favourite shop in the area is ‘Original Finish’, a shop that specializes in repurposing vintage and industrial antiques. It’s a mixed bag of course, because whenever I roam their showroom, a sense of jealousy comes over me as I admire the creativity and vision that has gone into many of their pieces.

I’ve heard of a place called “The Stinking Bishops” that is next on my bucket list, as it combines outrageously named cheeses and sausages with some very strong smells. And yet the place is renowned beyond Sydney for its quakity meals and exotic ingredients.

 

 

Free things to do in Sydney

Sydney isn’t terribly expensive but it isn’t cheap either. However, there are countless things you can do in- and around the city for free. The Sydney Opera House is a famous sight, and attending an Opera is going to cost you substantially. But simply admiring the iconic building is free and walking around Circular Quay was good enough for me. The Opera House steps are elegantly designed and offer great opportunities to take some nice pictures of yourself and the people you are travelling with.

Vivid Sydney is Sydney's most spectacular outdoor lighting

The Opera House during Vivid Sydney’s light festival.

If you are into hiking, the Sydney Harbour Walk is a great challenge. On foot, this route is absolutely free but expect to spend eight to nine hours walking. Time will fly though, as you walk through the harbour’s impressive scenery. And it is possible to cross several stretches of the tour with public transport as you see fit.

There is a die-hard Harbour Circle Walk as well, as it takes four days. Definitely NOT my cup of tea, but apparently it is easy to download maps for this specific trajectory along with tons of additional information on where to eat, where to stay and other details.

Besides the harbour, Chinatown and Paddy’s Market are also for free, and these neighbourhoods are scenic, historical and easy on the eye. Bring some pocket change for cheap clothing, jewellery or souvenirs, but a word of warning – especially at Paddy’s Market these souvenirs tend to get more and more tacky by the year. Think fridge magnets and Opera House miniatures.

Sydney’s iconic harbour

Circular Quay, an essential part of Sydney’s iconic harbour.

For more touristy and free sights, make sure to check out St Mary’s Cathedral, which is a gothic church and a historical reminder Australia has some English roots. Centennial park is another interesting area that has a dedicated rollerblading track, which is always interesting to look at while you lay on the grass and relax. Bring a Frisbee if you can’t sit still, and admire the way the park was designed (more than one hundred years ago).

The Royal Botanical Gardens are the oldest scientifical institution in Australia, and they offer a guided tour that is absolutely for free. I recommend making a reservation though, as these tours tend to get booked a lot.

Pro tip: Make sure to be there at sunset to see the fruit bats fly out into the night!

 

 

The Rocks / Nurses Walk

The Rocks is a semi-residential area of historic alleys, in close proximity to the Sydney Harbour Bridge (one of the sights to see). Both locals and tourists are drawn to the open-air Rocks Markets, where one can purchase street food and a range of handmade items. This neighbourhood also contains some of the city’s oldest bars and many of the upscale restaurants and pubs, priding themselves on the unobstructed harbour views.

The Rocks is a semi-residential area

George Street inside The Rocks, with Harbour Bridge in the distance.

The Museum of Contemporary Art is also located in the same area and will regularly host local and international exhibits. Performers are fighting for the attention of the visitors of the busy harbour front, creating a unique and carefree atmosphere.

In a modern-day city like Sydney, The Rocks is a reminder of the colonial days, with plenty of historical sights, hidden courtyards and cobbled walkways. A traditional sneer towards Australians is that they country was built by convicts, and there is no area in Sydney where this applies more than The Rocks.

After the arrival of the very First Fleet in 1788, Tallawoladah (the name given by the first people of Australia) became the convict side of the town. The governor and his staff preferred living on the more orderly eastern side, while the convicted men and women appropriated significant parts of the western lands.

Sunset view of the Rocks in Sydney

The Rocks and some of its historical architecture.

The Rocks today still features a fair share of Victorian and Edwardian buildings and is considered a ‘heritage theme park’ by its critics, while historians praise the area as a little speck that somehow escaped the high rises and development projects.

 

 

Where to stay in Sydney CBD

The CBD ot Central Business District is a great place to stay with kids, as I mentioned earlier under ‘where to stay in Sydney with family. But the absence of nightclubs doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to do; many cultural institutions are located in- or close to the CBD, and the Sydney Film Festival is celebrated at several venues across the CBD.

These are exceptional circumstances however, and the CBD makes the most sense if you re on a business trip and the office is nearby, or you are traveling with your family and you are looking for a central location without a busy nightlife.

Pitt St in the middle of a busy day in Sydney

Pitt Street in the middle of a busy day in Sydney CBD.

To give you an idea of the size of the Central Business District; the local subway covers it with seven stations. what this means is that within that large area, pretty much anything from 5-star hotels to service apartments and simple bed and breakfast or 3-star hotels are available.

The Rocks, Circular Quay, Chinatown and even Kings Cross are in walking distance, but as mentioned before, things go quiet after 8pm. So it’s not exactly the best area to stay in Sydney for nightlife experiences.

 

 

Conclusion

In this article I tried covering some of the main accommodation hubs like the CBD, Darling Harbour, Newtown and The Rocks. Since I know very little about Surry Hills or Padington there really isn’t very much I can share.

If I had to break it down in absolute choices, I would say The Rocks is perfect for a short, first-time stay. Newtown for an extended stay and the CBD for a family trip or a girly shopping spree.

 


More InspirationCheck out other amazing places you need to visit


Author's profile picture


Sacha Albarda is an copywriter/online media expert living in South-east Asia for the better part of a decade. Asked what he likes best about living there, he usually answers that it’s “the tightly organized anarchy”.

 

 

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Europe & Travel Tips

Are you looking for the most beautiful and best places to visit in Europe?


A brand new, updated look at the best places to visit in Europe. Whether you’re gearing up for your first Europe vacation or it’s your tenth time exploring European destinations, you’re certain to find something new here Asians love the Eiffel Tower and anything that is “Paris” in general, while Westerners flock to Amsterdam for different reasons entirely. Both beautiful in their own right, I do not think these are the best places to visit in Europe. In the paragraphs below I will describe some of the best places to visit in Europe and try to make a case for …

A brand new, updated look at the best places to visit in Europe. Whether you’re gearing up for your first Europe vacation or it’s your tenth time exploring European destinations, you’re certain to find something new here

Asians love the Eiffel Tower and anything that is “Paris” in general, while Westerners flock to Amsterdam for different reasons entirely. Both beautiful in their own right, I do not think these are the best places to visit in Europe. In the paragraphs below I will describe some of the best places to visit in Europe and try to make a case for them. Hopefully you end up seeing a few of them and become just as enthusiastic as everyone else; the most beautiful places in Europe are not always the most obvious ones.

 

1. Some of the best spots in Paris – Pere Lachaise

I know I mentioned Paris as one of the obvious places, but keep in mind that this is a pretty big city, especially for European standards. So naturally, there is more than just the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. Paris stands out as a city of opposites, with an affluent centre and some pretty disturbing no-go areas surrounding the city called ‘banlieues’. Sadly, this is not an opinion, it is a fact.

A few years back a few EU politicians wanted to prove everyone wrong by visiting these notorious suburbs, and guess what happened? They got robbed.

So it is best to stay away from these sad and dilapidated areas and stick to the beautiful centre. And where better to start than Pere Lachaise Cemetery? In the middle of the city, this enormous cemetery is an oasis of silence, filled with Neoclassical Mausoleums, gothic grave art and some of the most famous deceased in the world.

Jim Morrison’s grave is always visited by newbies and judging from the other graves in a ten-meter radius covered in graffiti, it is one of the most popular graves.

best places to visit in europe

Total quietude in the middle of the city, go check it out!

Another great stopping point is Oscar Wilde’s tomb, in shape of a giant Sphinx. The history of this tomb is colourful, and until 2011, a lot of visitors applied lipstick and kissed his tomb thereby leaving a ‘print’ of their kiss. The management got so fed up with removing lipstick from this tomb that they commissioned a giant glass wall around it that now gets kissed instead.

I get it that visiting a cemetery sounds creepy, but 3.5 million visitors per year can’t be wrong. The place is beautiful, romantic and because it is a cemetery people tend to be quiet. As a result, the animals in the trees are no longer afraid of humans, and on one occasion, we had a squirrel walking next to us for almost 50 meters before it ran up a tree again.”

Some of the best spots in Paris – Palais Garnier

places to visit in Europe in summer

One of the most beautiful and opulent buildings I have ever seen – a must see!

Palais Garnier is the most famous opera house in the world, inaugurated in 1875 and described as “”a building of exceptional opulence””.  Think multi-coloured marble, cut in curves and shaped into columns, along with strict symmetry in its designs and decorations.

It has to be seen to truly grasp its magnificence, but over the years it has inspired countless visitors. Gaston Leroux’s “”Phantom of the Opera”” was written with Palais Garnier in mind, and several copies were built in the US, Ukraine, Brasil and Poland.

Nowadays no more opera is performed at Palais Garnier, as the newer Opera Bastille is better suitable, but one can still see a ballet performance and the building itself deserves a visit, as it is a truly exceptional piece of architecture, mirroring the glory of a century gone by.

My favourite part is the grand staircase, but most visitors prefer the foyer which is a 15-metre long hall, lavishly decorated for the elite of Paris in 1875. It is highly recommended to visit the Palais outside regular opening times, to have the place more or less to yourself.

Pro tip: The single chandelier in the auditorium weighs over seven tons.

 

2. Bruges, Belgium

For couples, Bruges is one of best European cities to visit in winter time, as attested by the recent dark comedy ‘In Bruges’, with Colin Farrel and Brandon Gleeson. If you are looking for a continental city that truly shines in the dark season, Bruges fits the bill perfectly. The movie really captures the romantic essence of this beautiful and well-preserved medieval city. So it is no surprise Bruges is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Rozenhoedkaai, Bruges in Belgium

Exploring Bruges with a canal tour is a must.

Bruges offers the very best of medieval architecture, combining canals, cathedrals and churches and town markets. Note that the movie mentioned earlier was shot in winter, making the city that much more fairy-tale like. Remember this is still a Belgian city, so while the men can marvel at the intricate defensive structures, women can hop from the finest chocolatiers to genuinely cobbled shopping streets.

One thing to know about Bruges is that it is very popular with tourists, so do not expect to be alone out there during the summer months. But why not leave the crowds behind and have the town all to yourself? Again, Bruges really is one of the best European cities to visit in winter time, and the city also deserves a one-night stay at the very least, as the floodlights in the evening really add to the atmosphere.

cities worth visiting

At night, Bruges pops on the floodlights.

Pro tip: If you must visit during the summer time, pick a weekday to avoid the crowds.

 

3. Berlin, Germany

Berlin is an incredible city and highly recommended when you travel Europe in your 20s. Compared to the Southern parts of Germany, everything is much cheaper and there is an electric air of creativity in the air that has attracted numerous artists and musicians over the years. The business world has caught up with this trend, and numerous internet start-ups call Berlin their home.

When it comes to nightlife, Berlin is unlike anything in Europe. From casual residential areas with well-hidden speakeasies to prestigious electronic clubs, Berlin caters to everyone and until the very early morning. Amongst younger Europeans, spending a weekend in Berlin for some hardcore partying is almost a rite of passage.

And for some reason, there is always something going on; whenever a renowned techno temple is torn down, three new ones seem to pop up at the weirdest locations. The influx of party tourism is managed well by the authorities and with Ellen Alien, Ricardo Villalobos and countless other international DJ superstars calling Berlin their home, it is safe to say EDM is one of the more successful export products of this amazing city.

travel Europe in your 20s

Bearpit Karaoke at the Mauerpark (Wallpark). Anyone who wants to sing, sings.

Berlin also has an incredible recent history. What other European city can claim that they’ve seen a revolution, experienced one of the worst bombings in history, endure a separation by country border and finally saw a reunification, all within less than a hundred years? As a result, the city is littered with tangible remnants of major historical events. Wall remnants, Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust memorial or the communist architecture in the Eastern part are all equally impressive and deserve a visit if you are a history buff.

Pro tip: Do NOT visit Berlin in winter time! It is wet and cold and horrific.

 

4. Barcelona, Spain

If Berlin is the creative hub of Northern Europe that somehow combines high-tech, creativity and exciting urban life, then Barcelona would be its Southern counterpart. Located in the more developed area of Spain named Catalan, Barcelona is a wonderful artistic city in the Mediterranean.

most beautiful places in Europe

Montserrat Monastery, Catalonia’s most important religious retreat.

Considered one of the most beautiful places in Europe, Barcelona checks all the boxes for travellers looking for a dose of continental flair. Perhaps it is something in the water or the food that the Spaniards eat, but for some reason everything seems to be designed.

Barcelona offers some of the very best wining and dining and the nightlife is utterly insane. If you travel Europe in your 20s, do not expect to go out before midnight because most of your peers are still having dinner. Around one or two o’clock in the morning things slowly start to pick up, and people casually choose their favourite nightclub.

For some reason Barcelona can be considered a ‘soft-city’, meaning droves of girlfriends in their gap year make it out to Barcelona every summer, religiously taking selfies at a: La Sagrada Familia, b: Park Güell and c: anything along the Antoni Gaudí walking route.

View of Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain

Park Güell is one of the main attractions.

But like Berlin, it is also a start-up hub for a variety of companies who cherish the hospitable tax incentives, the presence of a large international community and the very low wages. So it is not uncommon for travellers to fall in love with Barcelona, extend their stay for a few weeks and suddenly end up with a job offer at one of the many multinationals in Southern Europe. What’s keeping you from visiting Barcelona?

Pro tip: For empty pictures of Güell, turn up in the early morning.

 

5. Vienna, Austria

Just like Barcelona, Vienna also attracts a lot of female visitors but for different reasons entirely. Where Barcelona is all about gothic and modernista, Vienna screams ‘baroque’. The Austrian city is also famous for its coffeehouse culture and a range of influential artists like Hundertwasser, Klimt and Schiele.

Vienna is leading both as an artistic city and an architectural one, and if that is what you came for, you are going to have your hands full. On the architectural and historical spectrum, sites like Schönbrunn Palace, the Old Town, Liechtenstein Castle and Kreuzenstein Castle beckon.

Schonbrunn Palace is a former imperial summer residence

The former Imperial summer residence, Schönbrunn Palace, at dusk.

For art aficionados, the choice is much bigger and depending on what movement you are into, there are several interesting choices. Apart from the visual arts, Vienna has had numerous other famous residents over the years as well. Mozart, Beethoven and Sigmund Freud all lived here, making their mark on a spectacular city considered one of the most beautiful places in Europe.

best European cities for 18 year olds

The famous apartment complex built by F. Hundertwasser.

I advise visitors to the St. Stephen’s Cathedral to book the catacombs tour, as it is much more extensive and allows for some great views of the cathedral and some special photo opportunities.

Visitors to the museum district are going to do a lot of walking, so make sure that there isn’t any rain forecasted and wear some comfortable shoes. The 7th district of Vienna is beautiful and while the biggest and best attractions are located on the same square, it is nice to make it from one building to the other without getting wet.

Pro tip: Visit Vienna during fall and plan your trip ahead.

 

6. Rome, Italy

People wanting to see what Christianity must have been like in all its glory should check out Rome. The Vatican City is a city-state on its own, ruled by the Pope of the catholic church (there are other popes out there too).

places to visit in Europe in summer

Essentially Rome.

Rome was thoroughly cleaned up for the coming of the second millennium, and unfortunately I saw Rome the last time before that. At the time some of the best squares resembled giant building pits, but from what I have heard and seen, Rome is restored to its former glory.

Alternatively, you can also opt for Milano, which is a little less remote from the mainland. For an impression of the Italian life, either cities will do really well, as everyone in Italy loves their food, their country and can’t help but gesticulate with their hand whenever they are trying to say something. It’s awesome.

 

7. Ljubljana, Slovenia

Consider Ljubljana the ace up your sleeve when planning for Europe. Instead of Prague, dare to go to Slovenia instead and take advantage of a beautiful city with prices that are incomparable to any other city in Europe. Since we all used to be young and broke at one point, I consider Ljubljana one of the best cities European cities for 18 year olds.

But it isn’t just an affordable city: The Dragon Bridge seems to come straight out of Game of Thrones, but with the important difference that it was built almost hundred years before George RR Martin wrote his masterpiece.

ancient statue in Slovenia

“Zmajski Most” or, the Dragon Bridge in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Ljubljana has the castles, the obligatory cathedral and  due to a strong university presence, the nightlife is great too. Highly recommended!

 

Conclusion

While creating this list of places in Europe, I deliberately left out the cities that disappointed. Whether it was through pricing or an atmosphere that struck me as unpleasant. The last time I was in London, things were ridiculously expensive and I couldn’t help noticing anyone in the service industry was from Eastern Europe. This says a lot about the economic state of affairs in the UK, and I hope the events around Brexit will positively affect pricing somehow.

The same goes for Prague, for which my expectations were probably too high and Scandinavia as a whole. I’d call it overrated and quite pricey. I do like Stockholm but it simply wouldn’t make my list of “go-to places in Europe”.

 


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Sacha Albarda is an copywriter/online media expert living in South-east Asia for the better part of a decade. Asked what he likes best about living there, he usually answers that it’s “the tightly organized anarchy”.

 

 

 

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Travel Tips & USA

All you need to know about the things to do at Disney World

Minnie Mouse Disney Character in the Hamner Christmas
If you’re making a pilgrimage to Florida, I’ve got 6 suggested things to do at Disney World that I just don’t think You should miss When thinking of Disney World, the very first that comes to mind is the iconic Cinderella Castle. The fairy-tale like structure is the calling card for the ‘Magic Kingdom’, one of four (!) theme parks in the entire complex. Together with the other three, they comprise the entire Walt Disney World Resort. It is said the resort is the most visited place in the world, and naturally, the list of things do at Disney World is …

If you’re making a pilgrimage to Florida, I’ve got 6 suggested things to do at Disney World that I just don’t think You should miss

When thinking of Disney World, the very first that comes to mind is the iconic Cinderella Castle. The fairy-tale like structure is the calling card for the ‘Magic Kingdom’, one of four (!) theme parks in the entire complex. Together with the other three, they comprise the entire Walt Disney World Resort.

It is said the resort is the most visited place in the world, and naturally, the list of things do at Disney World is endless. Mapping out what’s new, what you’d like to see and where you would love to stay is a great way to prepare your trip to Disney World. After all, it’s considered the must-see’s in American culture.

special things to do at disney world

Less than 10% of the entire complex, with Cinderella’s Castle on the left and Space Mountain at the back.

 

 

A word on the different things to do at Disney World

There are very few things to do in Disney World besides the parks, and why should you? The complex is truly enormous with four theme parks, two water parks, 27 themed resort hotels, a few golf courses, a camping resort and Disney Springs which is a stand-alone shopping and entertainment centre.

Chances are you aren’t going to visit longer than a week, and most visitors stay around four to five days. This gives you enough time to see the four theme parks and even spend a second day in your favourite one. Plus, the longer you stay, the cheaper the day passes become.

Whatever the length of your stay, under no circumstance should you give in to the tendency of packing in too much in those few days. Chances are you will pay too much or family fatigue sets in, and I do not recommend either one of the two.

 

Best time to visit Disney World in 2017

October is a great time to be visiting Disney World and I would argue September is even better, since the kids have just returned to school and the park will have considerably fewer visitors.

things to do at disney world

You will want your kids to sit next to each other on each ride, and not scramble for the last remaining seats.

Within the remainder of 2017, the best times to visit Disney World are most of the weekdays in October, all weekdays in November but make sure to dodge Thanksgiving. All weekdays in December work great too, but stay away from Christmas and New Years Eve to avoid unusual amounts of guests.

Pro tip: There is a universal way to get the most our of your Disney World visit. We highly recommend getting to the parks at the opening hours, and taking a break when the parks are at its very busiest – in the afternoon. If you make use of the wait-time apps and the Taputapu wearable (more on that below), you will quickly see that even at the very busiest days, a visit to Disney World suddenly becomes manageable is is a far cry from back in the days, when it seemed like you spent 75% of your time waiting in line while your ice cream melted on your hands and shoes.

 

1. New in 2017 – Legoland Florida resort

Essentially, coming to Disney World is something you do for the children, so why not go all out and stay at the most toy-themed accommodation you can find, the Legoland Beach Retreat? With 166 brand new rooms and 83 beach-themed bungalows, the accommodation puts a huge emphasis on the famous Danish building bricks.

You need to checkout the new Legoland in FL

You’ll meet these guys in the lobby (pic, courtesy of rubbishblog.com).

I sort of left Legos behind when I turned 11, with a brief relapse when my little brother got into it, but generally speaking I haven’t followed all the new ranges the company came up with.

So Ninjago Lego doesn’t really mean anything to me, but its one of the best-selling Legos right now with its very own TV-show, and 2017 features an entire park built around it with a variety of rides and other attractions. Or to put it in the words of Disney themselves; ‘think like the ninja, move like the ninja and train like the ninja’. Naturally, there are tons of Lego sets on sale as well in the different gift shops.

 

2. New in 2017 – Universal’s Volcano Bay

Growing up, one of the strongest memories I have from the different theme parks I visited were the waiting lines. As a kid, pretty much everything involved ‘waiting’ and I distinctly remember my early youth as being bored out of my skull most of the time. When we get older that feeling disappears and time tends to go faster and faster.

But as a little kid at a theme park, the queues and their daunting signs notifying you of ’60 more minutes after this point’ were truly horrific. Theme parks have been aware of this for quite some time, but until very recently there was no real solution at hand. A theme park where the majority of your time is spent waiting simply sucks.

disney world must do 2017

Sunset at the Universal Studios Resort in Orlando.

But new technology like wearables allows for ‘virtual lines’. You reserve a spot, and an app tells you it is your turn to ride. In theory, the idea is great but in practice it is often a high-tech solution applied to an old concept. Which translates to walking ridiculous distances in a park to catch that 10-minute window when it is your turn to ride. Not so at Universals Volcano Bay, where the entire park is designed around the TapuTapu wearable.

things to do at magic kingdom

VL stands for Virtual Line and every ride has one totem in front of it (pic courtesy slashfilm.com).

Altogether it creates a much more pleasurable experience, where you simply make reservations from your wrist, and other functions are expected to be rolled out in the future. For now, you can also use the waterproof wristband to trigger the cameras on the various rides, and it is rumoured to activate a variety of interactive features.

In a waterpark, the possibilities could be numerous, and one of the functions I read about is that it allows you to spray unsuspecting strangers with water.

I truly believe this is going to be a game changer and future generations will eventually associate theme park visits with apps or bracelets that conveniently let you map out your entire stay without a single waiting period. For this reason alone I’d like to try Volcano Bay as soon as possible.

 

3. New in 2017 – Race through NYC starring Jimmy Fallon

If you are looking for things to do at Disney World for Adults, do check out the Race through New York. This ride is a 3D-motion similator, housed inside a replica of the New York Studio where the tonight show is usually taped. The introduction and the rest of the musical pieces are played by The Roots, and Steve Higgins announces the guests of the show, which coincidentally happens to be you.

disney world must do 2016

Step in and its off to the races! (pic courtesy of UniversalOrlando.com).

Nowadays it is not uncommon to have a 3D ride like this set up in the back of a shopping mall, but the sophistication of this ride is on another level.

Of course there is the standard smell effects and the spraying of water, but the way in which it is all integrated really makes for a smooth and immersive experience for yourself and 75 other passengers. For New Yorkers, fans of the Tonight Show and/or the Roots, this is one of the special things to do at Disney World.

 

4. Dining in Disney World in 2017

I think it is a fair assessment that Disney World is mostly for the kids. But at the end of the day, having dinner at a great accommodation makes things infinitely better, and 2017 will see a variety of new restaurants and entertainment venues open up.

By now, most of them have had their opening festivities, but night venue ‘The Edison’ hasn’t opened yet. It is highly anticipated though, and it is rumoured that there will be a dress code and an adult only policy. Expect this to be one of those things to do at Disney world for adults.

Hamburg and beef steak with french fries cheese

How much more American food can you get? Dig in!

Other recent openings are the ‘Planet Hollywood Observatory’, think burgers and sandwiches a la Americana, the Paddlefish for seafood and the Polite Pig with a variety of grilled meals.

Next to The Edison, ‘Maria and Enzo’s will open by the end of the year, matching the feel of its neighbor and it is safe to say guests are expected to have dinner in one of the places and drinks at the other.

 

5. Opening November 2017 – Christmas at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

This is another massive franchise the Disney corporation has bought into and I have to admit, I read the Harry Potter books as well. Instead of focussing on my thesis, I was hanging out in a bookstore in Germany called Hugendubel, where you could buy a Cappuccino and read as many books as you wanted.

So visiting a theme park with a massive Harry Potter show could be an interesting trip down memory lane, although I couldn’t help thinking that ‘Christmas’ does sound very seasonal. What about the rest of the year? Will there also be special things to do at Disney world?

Christmas at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Hogwarth Castle is just one piece of the massive world of Harry Potter in Orlando.

As it turns out, I was onto something. Basically this special ‘holiday experience’ runs from November 18th until January 6th every year and it is a very atmospheric addition to an already cosy-looking ‘Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ that has been opened since 2010. Key elements of the books like Hogwarts Express™, Diagon Alley™, and the Leaky Cauldron™ wizarding pub are all present and it is safe to say no corners were cut.

Instead of a stationary wagon, the Hogwarts Express™ is an actual train traveling from another station, and the entire school was built as well, consisting of several attractions and rides as well, all with prominent roles in the books. So in case you have enjoyed the books yourself or your kids are about that age, paying a visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter makes total sense.

Have dinner at the Three Broomsticks, and you are pretty much guaranteed to generate lasting memories for yourself, but especially for your kids. First off, the decor, the costumes and carefully chosen architecture all work exceptionally well, but when you are young, you simply don’t look through the illusion as easy as you do when you get older.

 

6. Opening November 2017 – Universals Holiday Parade

Building on the parks long-existing Macy’s Holiday Parade, this re-imagined version of the old parade opens the same day as the Christmas theme for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and will feature newer characters from Dreamworks like the key characters from Shrek, the animals from Madagascar and the minions. I am pretty sure Santa is going to be in there somewhere as well too, so for a unique Christmas experience that your kids won’t forget anytime soon, seriously consider Orlando?

newer characters from Dreamworks

These guys will be replaced by Minions, Shrek characters and animals from Madagascar.

 

Conclusion – What’s coming to Disney World in the future?

So this is the bad part for me personally; since Disney purchased the Star Wars franchise for a whopping four billions US dollars, they are determined to ‘use the force’ and start generating revenue on this investment. As such, some very, very cool projects have been announced by the mother company. And with 14 acres planned, this is going to be the largest section of Disney World to date. Mickey Mouse is not messing around with this one.

A Millennium Falcon ride is planned, where visitors get to pilot the ‘fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy’. To continue the whole space theme, there will be a Star Wars battle attraction as well, with the resistance pitted against the first order, putting visitors inside a star destroyer. I am sorry for non-SW readers but this is all very exciting for someone who grew up with these movies.

Cosplay as Kylo Ren from Star Wars

This guy and many others await at the Star Wars hotel in 2019.

And it doesn’t stop there, as Disney intends to go beyond the Star Wars universe with a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction as well.

My absolute highlight would be the planned Star Wars hotel, which Disney describes as their most immersive experience as of yet. Similar to Westworld (the TV show), where visitors get to play out storylines, Disney intends to set up individual storylines for its guests as well. Without revealing too much detail, a two-day narrative was mentioned, which plays itself out during a stay at the resort.

Unfortunately, these attractions are not available anytime soon, with none of the Star Wars-themed attractions opening up before 2019. Until then, hard core fans will have to make due with Hotel Sisi Driss in Tunesia. As the original set for Tatooine, the former movie set has been converted to a very basic bed & breakfast, where the occasional hard core fan turns up. Reviews are a mixed bag at best, so don’t expect the Sisi Driss to be listed on Hotelquickly.com anytime soon.

 


More InspirationCheck out other amazing places you need to visit


Author's profile picture


Sacha Albarda is an copywriter/online media expert living in South-east Asia for the better part of a decade. Asked what he likes best about living there, he usually answers that it’s “the tightly organized anarchy”.

 

 

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