travel

Bern

The capital of Switzerland is often overlooked as a city break destination in favour of the more popular Zurich and Geneva, but Bern has its own charm and is a largely undiscovered city, making it a perfect escape for those wanting a slightly slower pace of life but the classic Swiss feel. 


  • Currency: Swiss Franc
  • Local time: GMT +1
  • Language: Swiss German

Stay: Hotel Schweizerhof

Located in the heart of Old Town, right opposite the main train station is Hotel Schweizerhof; a luxury hotel offering 5* accommodation complete with on site brasserie and spa.

Checking into a Junior Suite on the 6th (and top) floor of the hotel, it was quickly clear how this hotel had earned its 5* rating. With views of the parliament building and further afield across to the mountains, plus a large bed, a living area and separate bathroom with roll top bath and rainforest shower, this room was something special.

The spa is totally worth a visit during your stay, whether it’s simply to relax and unwind by the pool and enjoy use of the sauna, or book in for a luxury treatment. The Golden Relaxation massage that I had was exceptional, and left my skin feeling silky smooth.

Breakfast was included in the room rate and was served in the brasserie each morning, consisting of a cold buffet and extensive hot menu that could be ordered fresh from the kitchen. It was the perfect start to the day, and in a city where food and drink can quickly add up, it was great to have it included in our stay.


Do: Bear Park, Old Town, Bern Münster

Across the river just the other side of Nydeggbrücke bridge is the Bärengraben (bear pit) when the Bern bears live. Stop by and try and spot one of the three bears roaming around the park. At first glance it looks as if they are kept in a small enclosure, but the pit connects through to the large park below, where they have free reign of over 6000 square meters of space leading down to the river. Whilst at the bear park, grab an ice cream from Gelateria Eiswerkstatt, a recently opened ice cream parlour serving up some unique flavours (black vanilla, blueberry) plus the more traditional scoops.

The old town of Bern is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is easily explored by foot. Start at the main train station and cross to the Zytglogge (clock tower), from which you can explore the many cobbled streets and covered shopping arcades. There are plenty of small coffee shops and cafes situated amongst the shops, many of which offer outdoor seating and a change to stop and watch the world go by.

For incredible views across the city and to The Alps, climb the tower inside the Bern Münster. Costing only 4 Swiss francs, it’s a great way to take in a unique view of the city and surrounding areas, just be warned – it’s a steep climb of over 300 steps, and there is no lift!


Eat: Jacks Brasserie, Lötschberg, Toi Et Moi

No trip to Switzerland is complete without indulging in a classic Swiss fondue, and the one at Lötschberg was excellent. Opt for the classic ‘half & half’ (priced at 25 Swiss francs PP) which is served with bread and potatoes to dip. The restaurant itself has an extensive wine list and a cozy interior, and is the perfect place to spend an afternoon.

For a special evening meal in the city, head to Jacks Brasserie. Located within Hotel Schweizerhof, it’s very convenient if you’re staying in the hotel, but also easily accessible to visitors staying in other parts of the city. The seafood platter here was exceptional, and they offered a lot of Swiss classics, as well as a variety of French inspired dishes. The staff were very knowledgable and were readily available to suggest a wine from the menu that would compliment our meal.

If you haven’t had your fill of fondue, visit restaurant Toi Et Moi and head straight for the dessert menu. For 14 Swiss francs a person you can indulge in a Swiss chocolate fondue, served with seasonal fruit, marshmallows and mini smarties. It was more than enough chocolate to share between two, and we were glad we opted for this as lunch instead of a dessert afterwards – it was surprisingly filling!

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

Porto

Porto is Portugals ‘second’ city, after the capital of Lisbon, and is famed as the place that Port originates from. Set mainly around the Douro river, it’s a great city to visit for a relaxing weekend of sunshine, seafood and port wine.


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

Stay: The Porto Concierge

When searching for accommodation in Porto, it can be confusing as to which area is best to stay in, but we decided we wanted to be close to the river and its many bars and restaurants, as well as walking distance from the cool Baxia neighbourhood, so narrowed down an area on the map and began our search.

The Porto Concierge apartment that we stayed in was perfect – We were met in person  and efficiently checked in, given tips on where to eat and explore, and they even left us a bottle of wine as a welcome!

The apartment (Behind Blue Eyes) was also in an excellent location – Just a few minutes from the river in one direction and a (very steep) but pleasant walk uphill to the bars/restaurants of the Baixa area, which truly comes to life at night! Everywhere was within walking distance, which is exactly what we wanted.


Do: Port wine tour, cable car, Baxia neighbourhood

No trip to Porto is complete without learning about the history of port, and the best way to do this is obviously on a port wine tour! We booked in advance through Viator and paid £28 for a 3 hour tour with 7 port wine tastings, which turned out to be pretty good value! It was also great meet other people on the tour who had come from all corners of the world! We went to three port wine houses, were given a full history of port wine and then taught how to properly taste the port itself. A brilliant afternoon!

The Porto cable car starts at the top of the Dom Luis bridge and gently carries you down to the riverfront on the south side, towards the Port Wine cellars. At €6 for a one way trip, its an inexpensive way to get a unique view of Porto across the water.

The Baxia neighbourhood is Porto’s busting nightlife hotspot, and an excellent place to go on a Friday & Saturday night. In the daytime, streets may seem deserted in this area, but come back in the evening and you’ll realise each seemingly derelict doorway has turned into the entrance to a bar/club!


Eat: Patio do Duque, Bar Tolo

Undoubtedly one of the best meals we had in Portugal was at Patio do Duque  – a tapas restaurant serving up excellent quality food at very reasonable prices. We ordered a lot of tapas to share (chorizo sausage, tomato & mozzarella skewers, calamari & cod fritters to name just a few) plus a bottle of wine and water for the table and the bill was €38! The staff were very attentive and took a lot of time to explain anything on the menu that we didn’t understand. Highly recommended!

A short (15 minute) car journey from the centre of Porto takes you to Foz do Douro; one of the closest beaches to the main city centre. There are plenty of bars and restaurants to try here, but our recommendation is Bar Tolo, located a couple of roads back from the sea. The service and the food were both equally great, and the menu offered a wide variety, from more traditional tapas dishes to full main courses (the blackened pork cheeks were exceptional!). On a warm evening, sit outside in their pavement-side garden, or head up to the cute rooftop terrace with a sea view if it’s open (peak times).


Drink: Base Bar, Cafe do Cais

There are plenty of bars to explore in Porto, but we recommend starting your evening at Base Bar; a relaxed bar with an extensive cocktail menu, live DJ and bean bags to chill out on! As it gets dark, festoon lighting illuminates the area and gives a magical feel to this unique drinking spot.

Touristy as it may be, a drink at Cafe do Cais right on the river front is the perfect place to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the views. We paid a bit more here for a drink than you would in other places in the city centre, but with views like this bar has, you can hardly complain at an extra €3 on your bottle of wine!

travel

London

London is my home city, so this post will be slightly different in terms of ‘exploring’ but I LOVE London and having lived here for years, am confident I can recommend amazing restaurants and fun things to do for your weekend stay in the city!


  • Currency: British Pound
  • Local time: GMT
  • Language: English

Stay: Shoreditch House

Even though I live in London, I’ve stayed in hotels multiple times in the city. Most recently, I stayed at Shoreditch House – which is part of the Soho House group – for the weekend. Although it’s a private members club, you can book to stay in the hotel as a non-member if they have availability, and as a hotel guest you get full access to the club facilities for the duration of your stay.

The room was tastefully decorated and the bed was extremely comfortable, and the bathroom fully stocked with Cowshed products added to the luxury! The club itself was amazing, and the rooftop pool was the perfect place to chill out with a cocktail at the end of the day.


Eat: Flour & Grape, M Victoria,  Le Mercury, London Steakhouse Co, Table Cafe, Gaucho, Rabot 1745

There are so many places I could list here, but these are a selection of my favourites and a brief reason why. Roll over the photos to see where each one was taken.

Flour & Grape, Bermondsey: A relaxed and informal pasta restaurant with a simple but excellent menu and an extensive wine list.

M Victoria: Victoria: There are also M restaurants in the City and Twickenham, but the classy dining room and wine store on the top floor make Victoria my favourite. The Wagyu beef here is exceptional.

Le Mercury, Islington: Amazing French bistro dining in a relaxed atmosphere, with extremely reasonable prices.

London Steakhouse Co, City: A Marco Pierre White steakhouse with locations in the City and Chelsea, the steak here is incredible and the service was also impeccable.

Table Cafe, Southwark: For one of the best brunches in London, head to Table, located near the Tate Modern if you feel like being cultured afterwards!

Gaucho, City wide: There are several Gaucho’s over the city, and all offer excellent quality food in modern and sophisticated dining areas.

The Lemon Tree, Covent Garden: Excellent Thai food served in a small but cute restaurant area above the pub. Booking essential to secure a table.

Rabot 1745, Borough Market: Located in the bustling Borough Market, this Hotel Chocolat owned restaurant manages to incorporate chocolate in every dish on the menu. Amazing!


Do: Borough Market, Thames Cruise, Kew Gardens, Bermondsey Beer Mile

Borough Market is located at the foot of London Bridge, and is an amazing food market selling local produce ranging from breads and cheeses to brownies and paella. Visit to pick up some fresh produce or stop for lunch at one of the many stalls selling hot food to takeaway. The full market is open Wednesday – Saturday, with limited traders on Mondays and Tuesdays. The market is closed on Sundays.

No trip to London is complete without taking a boat tour on the Thames. There are many options to choose from, whether you simply hop on a Thames Clipper boat that runs as public transport along the river, or book a spot on an official tour boat – some even serve afternoon tea for that traditional British experience! The Visit London website has a list of the top tours on offer.

Kew Gardens is located in South West London, and is a botanical garden that is home to “largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world”. Entry to the gardens starts from £16 for adults and £4 for children if you buy online.

For all the beer lovers out there, I highly recommend taking part in a Bermondsey Beer Mile tour. Located South of the river, this stretch of bars, pubs and breweries run for (you guessed it, a mile!) and on the tour you’re given the chance to not only sample the locally brewed beers, but also meet some of the brewers behind them!

travel

Kos

The island of Kos is located close to the coast of Turkey, and is well known for its long sandy beaches. With sunshine almost guaranteed for May-October, it’s the perfect place to go for a week of relaxing on white beaches or by a swimming pool overlooking a stretch of olive groves.


  • Currency: Euro
  • Local time: GMT +2
  • Language: Greek

Resort: Tigaki

The coastal resort of Tigaki is located in the North of Kos, and is a short 30 minute drive from Kos International Airport. With its crystal clear azure waters and soft white sand, it’s a family friendly resort that boasts a large selection of restaurants and tavernas, along with a good amount of bars for evening entertainment.


Hotel: Mayflower Apartments

We booked the Mayflower Apartments through TUI, and absolutely loved our stay. The family run apartments are perfectly located just a few minutes stroll from the nearest tavernas, and a pleasant 15 minute walk from the beach. The swimming pool was huge and always spotless clean, and there were always plenty of loungers regardless of what time of day we went to the pool.

The BBQ night on site (Monday evenings) was brilliant, and a great way to meet the other people staying in the apartments. Food was lovely and the Greek dancing afterwards was a fun way to end the evening. All for a very reasonable €13 – I definitely recommend it!


Restaurants: Alikes, Plori Taverna, Vassilis

Greek food is easily found in Tigaki, with plenty of tavernas serving local food and Greek specialities. For authentic Greek food in relaxed surroundings, head to Alikes & Plori Taverna by the beach, or Vassilis on the Main Street in town. All served excellent quality food for very reasonable prices – In particular Alikes, where bread for the table, two mains and half a litre of local wine came to €20!

If you’re after a quick lunch, head to the main road in Tigaki and make your way to Poilos Avnva. The pork gyros pitta is exceptional, and at only €2.50 won’t break the bank either! To satisfy your sweet tooth, Palapanis is the place to go for excellent crepes and waffles, cooked fresh to order and served with ice cream.

travel

Bucharest

A city that may not at first spring to mind for a city break, but should definitely be on your list! With lots of garden bars tucked between amazing architecture, a charming old town with a huge variety of cafes and restaurants and Europes largest urban beach, there’s plenty to keep you busy!

Sample itinerary


  • Currency: Romanian Leu
  • Local time: GMT +2
  • Language: Romanian

Stay: Old Town

Evenings in Bucharest centre around the old town, and so staying nearby makes for easy access to all the bars/cafes/restaurants. We stayed in an amazing apartment that we found on Airbnb, owned by CityLife Suites, and at £230 for three nights, it was a real bargain! The communication from the owners was great, and they also sorted airport transfers for us and gave a huge list of recommended bars and restaurants, which gave us a great starting point for exploring the city!


Do: Therme, Garden Bars, Old Town

Therme spa is located around 30 minutes by taxi out of the city, but it absolutely worth making the trip for. I recommend buying an all day ticket (80lei/£15) as once you get here, you won’t want to leave! The outdoor pool area is also home to Europes largest urban beach – brilliant for a sunny day – and the pool also has a huge swim up bar. Inside, there is a regular activity timetable, and when the sun goes down it turns into a lit up party paradise!

There are plenty of garden bars to choose from in Bucharest, and if you have a spare afternoon, definitely take some time out to visit one. My favourite was Gradina Floreasca as not only did they do great food (see below) but the pool was amazing to relax by for the afternoon and the drinks were very reasonable.

Spend your evenings in the old town, wandering the streets (all pedestrianized, which is lovely) and take your pick from the many cafes and restaurants that line the streets. In the good weather tables are filled outside and the buzz of chatter fills the air. There are also plenty of bars to keep you occupied into the early hours.


Eat: Les Bourgeois, Gradina Floreasca, Hanu’ Lui Manuc

Dinner in Bucharest depends very much on what you’re looking for in terms of cuisine, but here are plenty of amazing places to eat!

Located in the heart of Old Town, Les Bourgeois has tables sprawling across the street and an extensive menu offering local Romanian dishes as well as plenty of international options, and all for a very reasonable price. The pork chop with truffled potato is my personal recommendation!

Breakfast at Hanu’ Lui Manuc was a leisurely experience, and we were seated in a very pretty outdoor garden. The breakfast menu is simple; omelette or fried eggs with a choice of cheese, ham or smoked salmon. Working out around £3 per person (including a hot drink) it was a great place for a cheap meal that was still very good quality.

We visited Gradina Floreasca for the afternoon to spend time in the relaxing garden bar and make the most of the (free) swimming pool. The food here was excellent – the chicken and avocado salad in particular – and it’s definitely worth heading here for an afternoon in the sun and a delicious lunch.


Drink: Nomad, Pure Vida, Gradina Floreasca, Bound Bar

Visiting in summer months can mean soaring temperatures, so if you’re in need of a drink to cool down, consider the outdoor patio at Bound Bar. The giant mojitos were a personal favourite, and if you fancy a dance in the evening, this bar turns into a club at night.

Gradina Floreasca (as already mentioned above) is a garden bar in the heart of the city, and has an extensive drinks menu of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. The perfect place to spend an afternoon with an Aperol Spritz!

If its a drink with a view you’re after, then Nomad and Pure Vida are the places to aim for – they’re two of the best rooftop bars in Bucharest.

travel

Crete

The largest of the Greek islands, Crete has many areas popular with holidaymakers, offering everything from sleepy mountain villages to coastal resorts with fine sand beaches. The best bit? Endless blue skies and temperatures that sit around 30 degrees all summer! 


  • Currency: Euro
  • Local time: GMT +2
  • Language: Greek

Resort: Agios Nikolaos

Agios Nikolaos is one of the most popular resorts in Crete, and with good reason. The focus of this picturesque town is undoubtably the lake, which is lined with tavernas and bars with people spilling out onto the pavements, happily soaking up the afternoon sun.


Hotel: Wyndham Grand Crete Mirabello Bay

The Wyndham Grand Crete Mirabello Bay is a 5* hotel offering one of the best All Inclusive deals in the area.

The food here was excellent, and well above usual standards of an all inclusive. I stayed for a week and never ate the same meal twice! Breakfast is served buffet style, and can get quite busy, but it’s so lovely to be able to take your food out onto the terrace and eat overlooking the sea. Lunch options are plentiful, ranging from snacks at the poolside bar, a daily buffet in the main restaurant or an a la carte menu at Elia restaurant (I particularly recommend the salads here!). Dinner is again offered buffet style, but each guest also gets a visit to each of the a la carte restaurants on site (one Greek, one Italian) during their stay.

As expected of an all inclusive, drinks are available pretty much any time, and the cocktail list here is extensive. There is a lovely rooftop bar offering gorgeous views of the bay and I highly recommend leaving some time before dinner to stop by here and watch the sun go down with a glass of wine. As for after dinner, head down to the beach, where the bar stays open late and often offers evening entertainment too.


Restaurants: Patriko

Even if you’re staying at an all inclusive, sometimes you want to venture out of resort and try the local restaurants. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from in Agios Nikolaos, most situated by the water, although there are also several within easy walking distance of Mirabello Beach.

Located a pleasant 15 minute stroll from Mirabello Beach is Patriko, and I cannot recommend the food here highly enough. We went for a mixed souvlaki skewer, which was served with pitta break, tzatsiki and fries, and the quality and taste was exceptional.

Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 14.22.57

travel

Budapest

Budapest is one of those places that everyone seems to have been to, and everyone seems to adore – and for good reason! Sightseeing and spas in the day, then partying with ridiculously cheap drinks in cool bars at night. What is there not to love?!

Sample itinerary


  • Currency: Hungarian Forint
  • Local time: GMT +1
  • Language: Hungarian

Stay: Downtown

When choosing where to stay in Budapest, it’s worth noting that Buda and Pest are two different areas of the city, split by the river. Most of the sightseeing and nightlife happens in Pest, so this is definitely the side to stay. When looking at a map of the city, you want to be to the right of the river.

Budapest has an excellent transport system, meaning that wherever you stay in the city, nothing is too far away. However, if you’re heading to the city for the nightlife, you can’t go wrong staying anywhere downtown. You’ll be within walking distance of Kazinczy street, which is the main hub of evening entertainment. Many streets twist and turn off of here, and they’re all worth exploring as ruin bars pop up in the lest likely of places!

The map below shows the area I recommend staying within for the overall city in red, and the blue is downtown if you’re after the nightlife.

budapest


Do: Spas, sightseeing, ruin bars

You must try one of the renowned spas whilst in Budapest, and if you only have time to visit one, make it Szechenyi. With a huge heated outdoor spa pool, along with a huge variety of spa baths, jacuzzis, steam rooms and saunas indoors, this place will keep you occupied for hours and you’re guaranteed to leave feeling relaxed. (Tip: take your own towels to save on a fairly hefty fee to hire them) If you feel like indulging and visiting more than one spa (like we did!) Rudas is also well worth a visit. Very different to Szechenyi, the focus here is indoor pools and saunas, many with a set order of use based on increasing the body temperature gradually. The real gem here though is the hot whirlpool on the roof, offering stunning views over the river Danube.

There is plenty to see in the city during the day, and most can be accessed on foot. St Stephens Basilica, the incredible Hungarian parliament building and Heroes Square are all must-sees and will guarantee some excellent Instagram snaps!

Famed for its ruin pubs and bars, nightlife in Budapest is like nothing else I’ve experienced. From quirky garden bars with candles and hammocks to huge clubs perfect for dancing in until morning, theres something for everyone here! Szimpla Kert is undoubtably the most famous of Budapest many ruin pubs, and for good reason. With so many rooms to explore and an outside beer garden too, hours can be spent here (and were) drinking away the afternoon. Szimpla also run a farmers market on Sunday mornings thats well worth a visit.

Other bars of note worth visiting are Fogas and Instant for large dance venues that stay open late, and the colourful and quirky garden bars Psst Shhh! & Koleves (both a bit tricky to find, located on Kazinczy U, but worth searching for).


Eat: Karavan, Kazimir Bistro, Comme Chez Soi, Gelarto Rosa

Eating in Budapest is fun and varied; they have everything from 5* restaurants to amazing street food!

Stop by Karavan street food park for a chance to try some of the local cuisine. I personally recommend the Langos (a bit like donut bread) with sour cream and cheese. Doesn’t sound appealing, but please take my word for it and grab one, you won’t regret it!

For a dinner that offers traditional food in a relaxed atmosphere, had to Kazimir Bistro. Located downtown near the famous ruin bars, it has a friendly locals feel and authentic Hungarian cuisine. Not to be missed!

Another restaurant well worth a visit is Comme Chez Soi. It’s Budapests answer to fine dining, and the prices are in line with this, however the lunch menu is a lot more affordable for those on a budget. They’re closed on Sunday and get very booked up the rest of the week, so worth making a reservation here in advance.

If ice cream is what you’re craving, make sure you head to Gelarto Rosa, a great ice cream parlour that encourage you to pick multiple flavours so that they can turn the contrasting colours into a delicate ice cream flower. Another one for Instagram!

travel

Bratislava

I visited Bratislava with my sister as part of a weekend break combined with Vienna. We spent a day and a half exploring the city, taking in the sights and trying the local food, and it turned out to be one of the prettiest cities I’ve been to!

Sample itinerary


  • Currency: Euro
  • Local time: GMT +1
  • Language: Slovak, German

Stay: Old Town

Bratislava is a very small city; you really can walk everywhere in the centre of town, and so technically it doesn’t matter where you stay – everywhere will still be accessible!

We chose to stay in Old Town Bratislava, which was covered in cobbled streets lined with cafes and restaurants, all seeming to lead to Hlavné námestie (Main Square).

We stopped off at a lovely wine bar in the square, aptly named ‘Wine Not?’, which had lots of outdoor seating complete with patio heaters and blankets, meaning that just because the temperature drops, the people watching doesn’t have to end! As night falls, the fountain in the middle of the square comes to life, lit up in an array of colours and makes for a great instagram shot, if thats your thing!

There were a wide selection of Airbnbs available all over the city, and all at extremely reasonable prices. Ours was on Panksá, a pedestrianized street one road behind the main square, and we loved that we could throw open the windows and look down into the streets below, watching the hustle and bustle of the city.


Do: Bratislava castle, Michaels Gate, Old Town

Bratislava castle is like something out of a fairytale, and is visible from most points in the city. It’s well worth taking some time to wander around this historic building – A gentle but definite uphill climb from the city centre will get you to the edge of the walls, and from there you can explore at your leisure.

In the middle of Old Town stands one of the oldest town buildings – Michaels Gate, or Michalska Brana as its known locally. For a small fee, you can enter via a discreet door from the street and find yourself inside a small museum, housing the Exhibition of Weapons. Wander around the museum inside the tower, climbing small flights or stairs as you go, and you will find yourself at the top of the tower, offering an observation deck with excellent views all across the city. A must do on a sunny day!

Human sized sculptures are dotted all over Old Town, and prove quite the tourist attraction. Often queues of people waiting to be photographed with these, it’s a must-have picture for the collection from your trip to Bratislava! Cumil ‘The Watcher’ was our favourite, although we got a few strange looks when we decided to lay down next to him when it was our turn for a photo!


Eat: No1. Slovak Pub, Modra Hviezda, Urban House

No trip to Bratislava is complete without a trip to No1. Slovak Pub. A tourist hotspot maybe, but its a chance to throw yourself into the culture and experience local Slovakian food in a (very warm) quirky pub in the centre of town. It was our first stop after dropping our bags off, and although on reflection we paid quite a lot for the food, I would 100% recommend it as an easy introduction to the cuisine.

We only had one evening in Bratislava, so we wanted to make sure we chose well for dinner. We had been recommended a particular restaurant by our lovely Airbnb host, and so we set out on foot (you really can walk everywhere!) to hunt the place down. Tucked away underneath the castle is the amazing Modra Hviezda – A real gem in the city! Slightly tricky to find, but more than worth it when you do, the food was outstanding and of very high quality; very reasonable too. Apparently it is always extremely popular (mainly with locals who book tables weeks in advance) so its worth giving a call to see if they have space!

If you’re after a spot of brunch in the city, head to Urban House, A fun and lively coffee house serving an excellent brunch menu. We went for avocado on toast with a poached egg and were not disappointed!

travel

Milan

I visited Milan for a weekend (literally two days!) in early October with a friend. In the 36 hours we spent in the city, we managed to cram in an impressive amount of sightseeing, and even more impressive amounts of wine and pasta!

Sample itinerary


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

Stay: The Westin Palace

My trip to Milan was booked on a bit of a whim, with only a few weeks until departure, so we managed to get an amazing deal on lastminute.com. We booked one of their ‘Top Secret Hotels’ (for those who haven’t done this before, it’s where they list hotels and show you a rough location of each, along with a generic description of the hotel and a star rating. Thats all you get until you confirm your booking and pay. A gamble? Yes. One worth taking? In this case, definitely. Once I’d paid (£91, absolute bargain!) they emailed confirmation to say our accommodation would be at The Westin Palace, and upon googling, we were suitably impressed.

Upon actually arriving at the hotel, our impression levels were kicked up a notch. A doorman greeted us and took our luggage inside for us. In reception, there were chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. And a harp player. Check in was a breeze, our room was ready and waiting for us (despite an early 11am arrival) and we were quickly escorted upstairs.

Although compact, the room was everything we needed and came with an impossibly comfortable bed and a seriously powerful shower. We couldn’t fault the service at the hotel, and the location was great too. It was within easy reach of several Metro stations, or simply a 20 minute stroll to the Duomo in the centre of town.


Do: Milano Navigli, Duomo Di Milano, Sephora

Without a doubt our favourite area of Milan was the Navigli area. It offered canal side eating and drinking as well as quirky market stalls and a very picturesque area to wander in the fading afternoon sun. (Tip: We tried to walk there from the Duomo and after getting ever so slightly lost, decided to purchase a Metro card and hop on. We never looked back!)

No trip to Milan is complete without visiting the Duomo! There are several options for exploring this incredible cathedral, but because the weather was so lovely, we opted to take the lift up to the terraces and take in the amazing views over the city. It cost €13 to go up, and while there was a bit of a queue for the lift, it was 100% worth it when we got to the top and had unlimited time to explore at our leisure.

Being British, we sadly do not have Sephora shops in the UK, so you can imagine my excitement when I realised they had them in Milan! Although not all of the brands I was used to from the American stores were available, I was still like a child in a sweet shop and had to be dragged out in the end in order not to miss our flight! It’s definitely worth adding to the list of many shops you will surely visit on your stay in the city of fashion but if like us, you’re travelling hand luggage only, don’t forget that you can’t buy anything over 100ml – sob!


Eat: Pavé, El Cicinin

For a fabulous breakfast/brunch in a place packed with locals (always tells me I’m onto a winner) head to Pavé. A neighbourhood favourite for very good reason; it comes complete with an incredible selection of cakes and pastries, as well as a main brunch menu and excellent coffee. If you only have time for one brunch out, Pavé is the place to head!

When it came to dinner in Milan, we found the best place to head was down to the Navigili area mentioned above. Restaurants and bars line the canal on both sides, and we were tempted by the aromas coming from most of them! After stopping for a glass of wine at an outdoor bar (the sun was setting and we were super lucky to get a table!) we wandered around the area in search of authentic Italian food. And wow did we find it! On a side road off from the main Navigili canal strip, El Cicinin offers cozy candlelit tables indoors and heated al fresco dining outside. The menu offered your typical Italian dishes; olives, bread baskets and charcuterie boards followed by pastas, pizzas and an excellent specials board. It was very reasonably priced, the food was divine and to top it all off, they served wine on tap by the litre. What more do you want for an evening in Italy?