travel

Venice

Venice, famed for its canals and gondolas, is made up of over 100 islands connected by small bridges. With no cars or bicycles, only boat or foot to get around on, it has a very serene feel and is a great place for a relaxing weekend getaway. 


  • Currency: Euro
  • Local time: GMT +1
  • Language: Venetian, Italian

Stay: Hotel Al Nuovo Teson

Centrally located near San Marco, Hotel Al Nuovo Teson is the perfect choice for comfortable yet affordable accommodation in Venice. We were warmly greeted upon arrival and given a map and several suggestions for a local dinner, which was a huge help for first timers in what can be a very confusing city!

The rooms, albeit small, were well lit and comfortable, and came with a minibar, daily maid service and a fully stocked bathroom. Everywhere was within walking distance, and the best place that we ate (Taverna Scalinetto) was literally around the corner.


Do: Gondola ride, I Tre Mercanti, Rialto

A trip to Venice isn’t complete without a ride on a gondola. These famous boats are located all over Venice, and the gondoliers easily spotted in their stripy uniforms. Wait at any of the ‘Gondola Service’ signs if there aren’t any readily available and a boat will show up in no time. It’s worth noting that the prices are set, so don’t try to haggle! A daytime ride will cost €80 for 30 mins, while a night time trip after dark is set at €100. Steep? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

Famed for its tiramisu, I Tre Mercanti is located on the corner of a canal and offers up an impressive 30 flavours! They aren’t all of offer at once though, so stop by and look at the menu, and if there’s one in particular you fancy trying, ask when the next batch will be out. We tried their original and the Nutella, both of which were divine! They are all handmade each day on site, and if you’re lucky you’ll turn up when they’re doing exactly this, on display in the window!

The Rialto area is one not to be missed. Go early to explore the local fish and fresh food market, located a few streets away form the Rialto Bridge. After that, I recommend stopping for a coffee (or an excellent hot chocolate) at Naranzaria, which has lots of outdoor tables literally on the side of the Grand Canal. Just watch out for high tide, when the water can lap over the edge and up to the tables!


Eat: Ristorante Al Giardinetto da Severino, Rossopomodoro, Taverna Scalinetto, Trattoria da Denis,

You’re spoilt for choice with the number of restaurants in Venice, but we were keen to experience local and authentic places whenever we could. We asked for some recommendations from our hotel, as well as other travellers we met on the trip, and the result was a holiday full of excellent food!

Ristorante Al Giardinetto da Severino could easily be walked past if you weren’t looking for it, but once inside you’ll discover a grand dining room lit by candles and filled with chatter. Smartly dressed waiters keep your glass topped up and a smile on your face, and the food only serves to broaden the smile. The house lasagna and Black Tagliolini are our recommendations.

Rossopomodoro is located near San Marco, very centrally, and while it is often frequented by tourists, the pizzas are excellent and a very reasonable price. They have expansive seating inside, but if its warm enough definitely opt for one of the outdoor seats as you can watch the bustling street life pass by while you wait for your pizza.

Taverna Scalinetto is tucked away in a back street, but is totally worth searching out. It’s authentic and cozy inside, with a great outdoor terrace situated under a vineyard for the warmer weather. The charcuterie board was excellent, and the spaghetti carbonara was the best we’ve ever eaten – no exaggeration! House wine is reasonably priced and very good, and the service was all done with a smile. Definitely recommend!

Trattoria da Denis was another back street find, and the layout made it easy to chat to other diners while we waited for food. House wine was very reasonably priced and bread was brought to the table shortly after we arrived. It was our first meal in the city and a great introduction to Venetian cuisine.

travel

Copenhagen

Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, is the perfect place for a weekend city break, and even if you’re visiting for just a couple of days, theres plenty you can pack in to get a real taste of Danish life.


  • Currency: Danish Krone
  • Local time: GMT +1
  • Language: Danish

Stay: Inner City

Copenhagen is pretty compact, so most places are accessible by foot. Staying in the inner city area (we were near Nørreport station) made it super easy to get around, and there are lots of reasonably priced Airbnbs in the area to let you experience a true Scandinavian way of life.


Do: Nyhavn, Freetown Christiania, Canal tour

A trip to Copenhagen isn’t complete without a visit to Nyhavn (New Harbour) with its brightly coloured houses lining the canal. Visit early in the day to avoid the crowds, and don’t get sucked into the tourist trap restaurants along the water – It’s much cheaper to walk a few minutes beyond and find somewhere to eat there. (Theres a great street food area just over the bridge into Christiania, more on this below).

Based largely around the water, a canal tour is a must do to see the city from boat level. There are several tour companies that offer 60 minute cruises departing from Nyhavn – The cheapest is Canal Tours Copenhagen at 50DKK (around £6) per person, but expect to queue!

Freetown Christiania is a self-proclaimed autonomous district in Copenhagen, and is a must see! Incredible street art and a laid back vibe takes you into a different world from the busy tourist area of Nyhavn, and its the perfect place to visit to pick up a cheap beer and sit with the locals in the sunshine. Please note that once you enter Freetown, the taking of photos is prohibited.


Eat: Neighbourhood, Mad & Kaffe, Broens Gadekøkken

If you’re looking for a cool spot for dinner that won’t break the bank, head to Neighbourhood and enjoy their selection of low-carb pizzas and an excellent cocktail menu. There are two locations in the city, and its worth noting the one in Nørreport takes bookings.

Brunch is a particular favourite weekend hobby for the Danish, and if you’re looking for a great meal and to eat where the locals do, make your way to Mad & Kaffe – But be prepared to queue! You can design your own brunch here, selecting 3, 5 or 7 items from a list of options they give you. Highly recommend adding an iced coffee to your order – they’re amazing!

For great street food head over the bridge from Nyhavn to Broens Gadekøkken (The Bridge Street Market). There is a wide selection of stalls and a couple of bars – A perfect place to stop on a sunny day, and conveniently located as a pit stop on your way to Christiania.

travel

Amsterdam

Amsterdam is one of my favourite European cities, and I head back whenever I can. I’ve done the bars/clubs/Red Light District all before, so now when I go its all about relaxing by the canals and enjoying the slower pace of life.

Sample itinerary


  • Currency: Euro
  • Local time: GMT +1
  • Language: Dutch

Stay: Kimpton De Witt

The gorgeous Kimpton De Witt hotel is an excellent choice for luxury accommodation in Amsterdam. This 5* hotel offers exceptional service, luxury rooms and a great on site restaurant and house bar. They also have a wine hour at 5pm every day in the lobby for guests to meet up and swap tips on the city, along with free bicycles that can be hired from the concierge. What’s not to love?!

The location is perfect for exploring the nearby canals and Jordaan district, and is located only a few minutes walk from Centraal Station, meaning whether you arrive by aeroplane and jump on the quick intercity train or by Eurostar direct into Centraal Station, you can be checked into your hotel within 10 minutes of stepping off the train.


Do: Hire bikes, Red Light Secrets museum, canal cruise, A’dam Lookout, Albert Cuyp Markt, ice skating

When you ask most people what they associate with Amsterdam, the answer is usually one of two things; canals and bicycles. (Okay, there is a third – we all know about the ‘coffee shops’ in the city, but I’ll leave that up to you to explore if it’s your thing!)

There are plenty of places all over the city that offer bicycle hire, and most for a very reasonable price too! Pick one up and set aside a good couple of hours to go exploring – The numerous bike lanes make cycling around a joy, and its a great way to cover large amounts of the city in a small time frame. The iamsterdam website advertises a variety of cycling tours for those who wish to be guided through the city, and you can choose whether you want the focus to be on historical monuments or hotspots for Dutch cuisine.

The Red Light Secrets museum is a fascinating look into life in Amsterdams sex industry. The audio guides offer unique stories from women who have worked as prostitute in the city, and with the museum housed in an old brothel, it’s a great way to learn many of the secrets of this famous aspect of the city.

The A’DAM Lookout is located in Amsterdam North, just a short (free) ferry ride from Centraal Station. Aside from offering panoramic views across the city, there is a also bar and a restaurant at the top, and for those feeling brave, Over The Edge – Europes highest swing! Entry to the lookout is €12, and a swing ticket is €5. Pre-book to avoid the queues, then simply take the lift to the top, buckle up and enjoy an exhilarating ride that literally takes you over the edge of the building. The best bit? You get a free digital memento to keep as proof of your bravery!

Head down to the Albert Cuyp Markt in Amsterdam South to experience Europe’s largest daytime market. Selling everything from clothing and jewellery to fresh fruit and baked goods, there is plenty to see and you’re guaranteed not to go hungry! Particular mention goes to the freshly baked bitterballen and the Stroopwafels that are made in front of you and filled wiht either caramel or chocolate sauce!

If you’re heading in the winter time, make sure to check out the Ice* Amsterdam rink by the Rijks museum. Open November – February, it’s a great activity for children and adults alike, and each ticket includes skate hire and gives you a two hour slot to enjoy the ice. Wrap up warm and take some gloves – They’re mandatory!


Eat: Daalder, La Perla, The Butcher, Locanda, Senses, Pancakes Amsterdam. Jottum

Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities to eat in, and for good reason. The dining options are endless and cover all budgets.

Offering a unique dining option in the canal belt, Daalder serves up a ‘chefs surprise menu’, meaning you simply choose between 3, 4 or 5 courses at lunch or a 5 or 7 course dinner, and the chef will get to work on cooking for you! They always check for allergies or specific dislikes, and after that, its all a surprise! I particularly recommend opting for the wine pairings to accompany each course – They were expertly chosen and really added to the meal. Expect to spend around €130 for a 3 course lunch for two including wine pairings.

La Perla pizzeria, located in the heart of the Jordaan district is always packed, and rightly so. Fresh pizzas are the focus here, and the menu offers plenty of choice (Prosciutto San Daniele is a personal favourite). Turn up early and put you name down, then head to a canal side bar for a drink or two until your table is ready.

Also in the Jordaan area is Locanda, a cute Italian with a small but excellent menu of homemade Italian food. Tables line the streets outside in the warmer weather, but the inside of the restaurant is the star here – Think cozy interiors with small candlelit tables. Reservations are recommended here as it fills up quickly!

If decent burgers are your thing, then look no further than The Butcher. With a metal interior, it may not look like the most welcoming of burger bars, but the food more than makes up for it. (‘The Daddy’ is my personal favourite, but ‘The Butchers Wife’, with a grilled chicken breast instead of beef, is also an excellent choice).

For an incredible dining experience, head to Senses, headed up by chef Lars Bertelsen. With an emphasis on food art, every dish is exquisitely presented and the flavours are expertly paired. Choose the wine pairing option to accompany your meal to make it extra special! A 5 course dinner with wine pairings will cost around €110.

Jottum is the place to go for great tapas. A warm and buzzing restaurant with an extensive menu and delicious sangria to really give you that feeling of Spain! Particularly recommend the chorizo croquettas and the manchego and salami board.

You can’t visit Amsterdam without having pancakes, and while there are many, many options, there are our picks… For amazing fluffy pancakes and a warm welcome, head to Pancakes Amsterdam on Prinsengracht. They offer a set menu for around €14 including pancakes, orange juice and a hot drink. For a more traditional dutch crepe, head to The Pancake Bakery, also on Prinsengracht. Their cheese, bacon and mushroom pancake was excellent, and there is unlimited syrup on every table for guests. Perfect!


Drink: Cafe T’Smalle, P96, Super Lyan, Cafe Roenie’s

For a calming canal-side drink, I recommend heading to either Cafe T’smalle or P96 (a few minutes walk apart, both on Prinsengracht). Cafe T’smalle is a traditional wooden panelled pub, and is as lovely in summer when you can sit on the outdoor terrace with a cold beer as it is in winter when you can enjoy the candlelit interior with a glass of red wine. P96 is perfect for summer afternoons, as they have a stationary boat on the canal that you can enjoy your drinks on in the sunshine, watching the boats cruise along the canal, but it’s equally as great in winter, with cozy interiors and a great list of bar snacks to enjoy.

Attached to Kimpton De Witt hotel is the newly opened Super Lyan – the first international venture from Mr Lyan. With a gorgeous neon bar, plenty of seating and an extensive cocktail list (with two on draught!), make time for a drink here during your stay in the city. We particularly recommend the cucumber champagne!

Down near Vondelpark you’ll find Cafe Roenie’s – a laid back locals bar serving cold beer and a small selection of wines. A lovely ‘off the beaten track’ place to stop for a drink if you’ve spent the afternoon working up a thirst cycling around the park!