travel

Slovenia

Slovenia, located in Central Europe, is a great place to visit if you’re looking for a European destination offering a range of activities and landscapes. Start in the capital (Ljubljana) and then make your way to Bled to visit the glacial lake, followed by a trip to Postojna to explore the magical caves.
  • Currency: Euro
  • Local time: GMT +1
  • Language: Slovenian

Ljubljana

Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, is located in the middle of the country, and is a great place to start a trip to Slovenia. The public transport in the capital is great, and gives access to most parts of the country from the central bus and train station. There are lots of outdoor bars and restaurants in the city, many of which line the banks of the Ljubljanica River, making it a great place to visit in warmer weather. As for things to do, a few hours should be set aside for exploring the mainly pedestrianised Old Town, with its cobbled streets and colourful buildings. Keep an eye out whilst wandering for the numerous water fountains that are dotted over the city, offering fresh cold drinking water to passers by. Ljubljana Castle is well worth a visit, and the views from the funicular on the way up allow you to see miles across the city and into the mountains in the distance. When up at the castle, you can take part in either a guided or audio tour, as well as exploring the viewing points and castle tower offering a full 360 degree panoramic view of the surrounding area. There are so many options of where to eat and drink in Ljubljana, covering all tastes and budgets. We tried to stick to trying local food as much as possible, and were not disappointed! Some of the things you may see on the menu include idrijski žlikrofi (traditional Slovenian dumplings – a bit like ravioli), struklji (dough rolled with various fillings) and kranjska klobasa (Slovenian sausage).
  • Hisa Pod Gradom: Tucked away in a side street a few minutes from the river is the charming Hisa Pod Gradom. Instantly greeted with a warm welcome, we were shown to a table in a cozy dining room and handed menus with an impressive amount of local dishes on. We chose several different dishes, all from the local list and all were excellent. Particular mention to the sausage cooked in dark beer, served with Idrija Žlikrofi. House wine here was great and very reasonable (€15 for a litre!) and the dessert selection in the cabinet made making a choice very difficult indeed! Loved this place so much we ate here twice on our trip.
  • Julija: Julija is located on the main street in the city centre, and is a great place to eat if you’re wanting to sample local cuisine in an upmarket setting. Candlelit tables set the scene, and smartly dressed waiters bring menus with a wide selection, offering plenty of meat and fish options along with a page dedicated to local dishes. The cheese štruklji (dumplings) here were excellent!
  • Druga Violina: I loved everything about Druga Violina, from the service to the food and outdoor seating. This restaurant is unique in that it employs several people with special needs, training them up and giving them a chance to work in a welcoming environment, and it was lovely to watch how the staff supported each other while serving. Local dishes are mainly served here, and the crushed potato with sausage was excellent, as were the pasta dishes we tried, and of course the classic Slovenian sausages. This was one of the cheapest places we ate cost wise, and the quality and service were superb.
  • Cacao: For excellent ice cream in the city, be sure to stop by Cacao, located on the river bank. They have a wide variety of gelato flavours, plus an extensive drinks menu, cake cabinet and plenty of seating both inside and outside. (Particular mention to the Cacao cake, which was rich enough to share but good enough that you’d want your own piece!)
  • Union pub: Run by the Union brewery, Union Pub is a few minutes walk from the main bus/train station I the city and is a great place to go to sample the local beer. We ordered beer tasting flights, which had three 100ml tasters and came with snacks. Priced at €5.20 per flight, this was a great introduction to the many beers that they serve, and is a fun way to spend an afternoon. There is also the option to take part in the Union Experience next door, going through the history of the brewery and sampling the beer in the place it is made.
  • Premier pub: Premier Pub was located beneath our apartment, so it was only right that we stopped by for a drink! They had lots of outdoor seating, which is great for nice weather, but the inside was cozy too so no problems if its cold/wet outside! An extensive drinks list with reasonable prices, the spritz drinks were great (cherry in particular) and the local beer was cheap. They also have a daily happy hour from 5-7pm!
We booked an amazing apartment through Airbnb for around €400 for three nights, and it was spotlessly clean and very centrally located. It had two bedrooms – one double and one twin – plus a sofa bed that would have slept two more people if necessary. The apartment was in a pedestrianised zone and overlooked the river, and was literally seconds from the centre of the city. There were bars and restaurants right below which were great for breakfast n the mornings or a quick drink before dinner (happy hour from 5-7pm in most of them!). The communication from the host was great, and they offered private transfers to and from the city, plus the option to leave bags if your flight home was a little later in the day.

Postojna

Around an hour from Ljubljana by public bus, the town of Postojna is home to the Postojna Cave Park. The caves are located in the South West of the country, and are 377ft below ground. A unique underground train will take you into the depths of the caves, and upon exiting the train carriage, a guided walking tour begins. There are well paved paths throughout the caves and the walk is done at a slow pace, so should be manageable for most people. The tour takes 1.5 hours in total, and lots of information is given throughout, as well as plenty of opportunities to stop and take photos. Tickets for this tour can be combined with several other activities in the park, including Postojna Castle.

Lake Bled

Located 55km from Ljubljana, Lake Bled can be reached easily using public transport from the city. Busses depart every hour from the central bus station and it takes a little over an hour to reach the lake. Combined tickets can be bought at the bus station (or online in advance) that include return transport, a boat trip out to Blejski Otok (the island in the middle of the lake), entrance to the church and view point on the island, plus an optional add on of Bled Castle.

The lake itself can be walked around and there are plenty of cafes and restaurants to stop off at. In good weather, leave some time to simply stroll along the path and take in the views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

Boats to the island run every hour, taking around 15 minutes, and you then have one hour to explore before catching the boat back. Once on the island, make sure to visit the gothic church and take your turn at ringing the wishing bell (via a rope located in the middle of the church). Just remember not to tell anyone what you wished for, or it won’t come true!

Food wise, if you’re looking for a spot of lunch whilst in Bled, make your way to Pizzeria Rustica for reasonably priced and very tasty pizzas.

If you have time (and aren’t too full from the pizzeria) make sure you sample Bled Cake and/or Potica cake – Bled cake being a local speciality made from vanilla cream, whipper cream and butter dough, and Potica a traditional Slovenian cake made from thinly rolled yeast dough and filled with various fillings (commonly walnut, almond, cottage cheese or poppy seed).

travel

Iceland

Iceland is truly a unique country to visit – like nowhere else I’ve been. With ice glaciers, geysers and waterfalls, plus a geothermal spa, the scenery is stunning and there is so much to explore. With the added bonus of the chance to see the Northern Lights several months of the year, this is a once in a lifetime place to visit! 


  • Currency: Icelandic króna
  • Local time: GMT 
  • Language: Icelandic 

Reykjavik

Landing into the capital of Iceland – Reykjavik, makes this the most logical place to start your trip. A bus from the airport takes around 45 minutes, and private shuttles to most hotels in the city centre can be arranged. 

The capital is small and totally accessible by foot. Allow yourself a day to explore, eat and drink around the city, leaving time to climb the Hallsgrímskirkja, which is the tallest church in Iceland. The views are amazing, and if you time it right you can be at the top for the hourly ringing of the church bell. 

Stay at the centrally located Hotel Leifur Eiríksson for easy access to the city centre and incredible views of the Hallsgrímskirkja directly opposite. 


Golden Circle tour

To see the best sights that Iceland has to offer, join a Golden Circle tour (we booked in advance form the UK through Viator) which will take you to Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall and Strokkur waterspout at Geysir. Along the way we stopped at various small waterfalls and viewing points to see as much as we could of the rural Icelandic countryside. 

Take layered clothing on this trip as the temperature can change rapidly in Iceland and our tour was a full day excursion – I was very grateful of my gloves and extra jumper when we were standing on the edge of Gullfoss – I didn’t want to move from the amazing view but it was remarkably cold!


Thórsmörk excursion

Without doubt my favourite day in Iceland was the private tour we took of Thórsmörk; a valley nestled between glaciers and located around a three hour drive from Reykjavik. We hired a private driver with a very large 4×4 jeep, who drove us expertly through some fairly extreme weather conditions and down into the valley. The scenery along the way was stunning, but nothing compared to what we found once entering the valley. 

We parked the car once we could drive no further and then walked into the valley along a number of small (and sometimes very icy!) paths. Snow was falling by the time we reached the small lagoon, which had amazing naturally formed blue ice sculptures. We spent a couple of hours exploring the area, and only saw a handful of other people the whole time we were there. It felt very remote and like we had experience a truly authentic part of Iceland.


The Blue Lagoon

No trip to Iceland is complete without a visit to The Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa with average water temperatures of 37-39°C. It’s the perfect place to relax and unwind, floating in the naturally heated waters and covering skin in the mud masks (provided on site) for a real pampered feel. 

Entry costs are from 6900 ISK (£43) but a trip can be booked in combination with drop off at the airport, which is what we opted for. We had three hours at the lagoon in the morning, including time for a shower before we were picked up and taken with our luggage to the airport for our flight home. For those wanting to spend longer at the lagoon and maybe sample some of the food on offer at their restaurant, a full day excursion can be booked from the centre of Reykjavik. 


The Northern Lights

You can never predict when the Northern Lights will appear, but visiting Iceland at certain times of the year enhances your chances of seeing this magical display. September-March are the best months to visit if the Northern Lights are high on your list, as in the summer months, Iceland gets very little darkness. 

We booked a tour for our first night with the hope of seeing them, and stuck lucky. While my photos do not do it justice, the pictures of it in my mind will remain with me forever. 

A lot of companies offer a deal whereby if you do not have success on your first trip out, they will offer a free second trip the following evening, so this is well worth looking out for. We booked ours through Viator, who are one of many who offer this ‘return trip’ option.

travel

Tanzania

There is nothing as magical as going on safari, and Tanzania is the perfect place for your first safari experience! With The Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Park all within travelling distance of each other, it’s easy to see abundant wildlife in a fairly limited amount of time.
  • Currency: Tanzanian shillings
  • Local time: GMT +3
  • Language: Swahili, English

Lake Manyara

My trip started in Lake Manyara National Park, which we drove to after flying into Kilimanjaro airport. Known for its flamingos, there is also a high chance of seeing elephants, which is exactly what we saw approximately 3 minutes into our drive. It’s a great place to start your safari adventure, as the drive from Kilimanjaro airport (via Arusha) isn’t too far. We checked into Kirurumu Manyara Lodge for the night, which is an authentic tented lodge on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater. The panoramic views from the balcony of our tent were incredible, and the staff welcoming and friendly. Breakfast was included here, and they made us a lovely packed lunch to take on our trip to the Serengeti the next day. Make sure you save some time for a cocktail in the bar before dinner – the menu was extensive!

The Serengeti

Leaving Kirurumu behind, we drove towards the Serengeti and were treated with incredible wildlife viewing along the way. We checked into Sanctuary Kusini, which is the only permanent camp in the South of the Serengeti. The luxury tents here, coupled with the stunning main lodge (where breakfast and dinner are served each day) make for a fantastic safari experience, and the sundowners each night on the huge rocks in the middle of camp offer stunning sunset views and a change to relax and share stories with other travellers after a full day of game viewing. The staff were also able to lend a telescope when night fell so that we could study the amazing stars above us. The Serengeti itself was where we saw the most varied wildlife, including but not limited to: elephant, lion, leopard, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and cheetah. Game drives can be arranged through the camp if you are not travelling with a private driver.

Ngorongoro Crater

After an incredible two nights in the Serengeti, we moved to the Ngorongoro Crater, via a trip to a Masai Village. It was a great way to see how this tribe live in the middle of barren land, and we not only got to see the inside of their huts and meet the tribesmen, but were also treated to a traditional welcome dance. It was inexpensive to visit the Masai, and we were encouraged to buy a small trinket/piece of jewellery from their stand on the way out, to which we happily obliged (and I still wear my bracelet to this day!). We stayed overnight in the stunning Gibbs Farm during our time in this area. A peaceful and rustic environment with individual cottages for guests, the service here was impeccable and the food some of the best we ate on the entire trip. Gibbs Farm operate a farm-to-table motto with their food, with most of what you eat here having been grown on site. The meat is locally sourced and the coffee roasted each morning on the patio (a lovely activity to watch while eating breakfast) and you really can taste the freshness in each meal. There are a whole host of activities to join in with during your stay here, including farm walks, local town tours and even a visit to a primary school. The Ngorongoro Crater was formed by a volcanic eruption, and the form of the crater creates an almost ‘natural enclosure’ for the wildlife. It is a great place to try and spot the elusive black rhino, along with lion, zebra, wildebeest, gazelle and plenty of flamingos in the lake in the south.

Tarangire

Our final stop on safari was in Tarangire National Park, staying at Sanctuary Swala. This unapologetically luxury camp had everything, from an on site watering hole to a swimming pool that frequently had elephants drinking from it! The accommodation was stunning and the dining area in the main lodge had an outside terrace, meaning meals could be served with a view to the animals drinking from the waterhole. Tarangire park is famous for it’s elephants, and is without doubt the place that we saw the most. From young babies to older matriarchs, the elephant viewing in this park is unrivalled. It is one of the lesser visited parks in Tanzania, which meant we were often the only vehicle around and watching the elephants in silence felt like we had been let in on an African secret that nobody else knew about!
From Tarangire, we transferred to Arusha airport, where we caught a flight to Zanzibar to finish off the trip with some time on the beach. More about the beach break, and our overnight in Stone Town can be found here.
travel

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has something to offer everyone – Culture, safaris and golden beaches await in this diverse and exciting country. Two weeks is plenty of time to get a good feel for the country, but anything from 10 days to 4 weeks and beyond can be spent here! 

Sample itinerary


  • Currency: Sri Lankan rupee
  • Local time: GMT +5.5
  • Language: Sinhala, Tamil, English

Kandy

My trip started in Kandy, which is in the Hill Country and around a three hour drive from Bandaranaike International Airport. We checked into Randholee Resort & Spa, just outside of Kandy. It had an incredible infinity pool with incredible views over Kandy and the hills beyond. The hotel offered dinner on site which was a huge bonus for us as we didn’t arrive until 8pm and after a long flight didn’t fancy exploring the city that night. The next day we took a tuktuk tour of the city, visiting the Botanical Gardens, Temple of the Tooth, Kandy Lake and Kandy viewpoint. We then left our driver and wandered around the town, stopping for food in a local restaurant called Kandyan Muslim Hotel which turned out to be amazing and one of the cheapest meals I’ve ever eaten! Drinking is not huge on the agenda in Kandy; its a very religious part of the country and many places are not licensed. If you’re after a cold post-dinner beer though, head to The Pub, where good snacks and drinks are served – just don’t expect to find any locals in there!

Ella

From Kandy, we took the train to Ella, which I highly recommend! Often named as one of the most scenic train journeys in the world, it’s easy to see why almost immediately after you depart Kandy. Opt for second class to ensure you have the authentic experience of open windows & doors – first class may have air conditioning, but you may as well be on the Eurostar and most importantly, you won’t get that classic ‘hanging out of a door’ shot. We stayed at The Secret Ella during our time in Ella, and it was incredible. The service was impeccable (every room comes with its own butler) and the food at the restaurant was divine. It was the best Sri Lankan curry we had on the whole trip! As for things to do in Ella, the list is long. You can’t leave without seeing the nine arch bridge (walking distance form The Secret Ella) and for the more adventurous, tackle Ella Rock. The views from the top are incredible and totally worth the climb, but make sure to set off early so you avoid the peak sun and take plenty of water. Expect to spend at least two hours climbing to the top, and note that the last 30 minutes are steep and rocky – trainers/walking boots essential! In the evenings, Ella town comes to life. There are plenty of bars and restaurants to keep you entertained, many offering live music. Particular mention to Matey Hut, which served authentic local food at a very cheap price – just be prepared to queue!

Udalawawe

Moving on through the country, we hired a driver (a tuktuk driver we had met in Ella who also ran a taxi service) to take us to Udalawawe National Park. We had booked a room at Private Organic House for the night, which we knew in advance was able to organise a safari for us the next day. The accommodation was basic but clean and the staff friendly. There are only three huts on site and a communal dinner is served each evening, which is a lovely way to meet other travellers. We set off at 5.30am for a safari run by the owners of the accommodation, and with only four of us in the truck we all got a window seat. It was an amazing experience, getting so close to the elephants in the park without any barriers, and we also saw plenty of exotic birds and smaller wildlife, including jackal, mongoose, jungle cat and deer. It cost the equivalent of around £60 for two people, including all park entry fees and was added to our bill on departure.

Unawatuna

On arrival in Unawatuna, it quickly became clear we had arrived in paradise. Thaproban Pavillion Waves is easily one of the best hotels I’ve stayed in, and oozed luxury from the moment we checked in. The infinity pool takes centre stage here, and the rooms boast balconies/patios with views directly over it. Sundown drinks are also served on the decking beside it, and at the end a small private beach can be found. The rooms were large and spacious with incredible air conditions and luxury products replenished daily. The breakfast in the restaurant (included in the room rate) was great and the lunch menu by the pool also very good and a reasonable price. Unawatuna itself is a lively beach resort, with countless restaurants and bars right on the beach. Sweeping round the bay, there is always somewhere offering happy hour, and the fish and seafood served at many of the restaurants is some of the freshest I’ve ever eaten.

Hikkaduwa

Our final destination of the trip was the gorgeous beach destination of Hikkaduwa. Our hotel, Sapphire Seas, was located right on the beach and had stunning views over the pool and out to the ocean. The rooms were all fitted with air conditioning and every first floor room had a balcony that overlooked the pool and the sea. In Hikkaduwa itself, there are plenty of restaurants in town to choose from – particular mention to Home Grown Rice & Curry and Thambili Cafe who served exceptional food – as well as a large selection of beach bars to keep you entertained in the evenings. If you aren’t content to laze by the pool all day, the turtle hatchery is a lovely way to spend an hour, and not only does your entrance fee go towards keeping the turtles of Hikkaduwa safe, you learn a lot during your visit too!
From Hikkaduwa we took a taxi to the airport, which took around 3 hours (including rush hour traffic) and boarded our flight to London (via Doha). We had an evening flight so left the coast late afternoon, but if you have a morning flight, I’d recommend staying closer to the airport the night before as traffic can be very unpredictable!
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?

travel

Dublin

Dublin was my first taste of Ireland, and I quickly discovered that the Irish are about the friendliest people you’ll meet! The city is very compact, so everything is in walking distance – Even the Guinness Storehouse which is the other side of town.

Sample itinerary


  • Currency: Euro
  • Local time: GMT
  • Language: English

Stay: City centre

Dublin City centre is fairly small, and so anywhere with a central postcode will be fine for exploring. We walked everywhere on foot (even home from a night out!)

There was a large group of us – 8 in total – and so we chose to stay in an Airbnb so that we could all stay together. This worked out well in terms of food too, as we cooked breakfast in each morning (food bills in Dublin quickly add up, it’s not the cheapest city!) and were also able to go back and enjoy the communal living space in the evening that you wouldn’t get with a hotel.


Do: Guinness Storehouse, Irish pubs

You can’t go to Ireland and not drink. Well, this is what I was told when I attempted to go whilst partaking in Dry January! Turns out it was true. Our very first stop when we got out of the cab from the airport was a pub, The Ferryman, which turned out to be a traditional Irish pub full of locals – Perfect start to the weekend! We visited many more pubs over the weekend, some more touristy than others, but we had a brilliant evening in Whelans, a live music venue in the heart of town that is a favourite of Ed Sheeran and also the filming location of PS I love you…

The Guinness Storehouse is a must-do if it’s your first trip to Dublin. We timed our visit so that there was time to explore the factory (upon entry, you wander around at your own pace – expect to spend around an hour doing so) and make it to the Gravity bar at the top for sunset. Your entry ticket includes a pint of Guinness in the bar, and the views you get from the top are brilliant. It’s worth noting that tickets for the Storehouse can be purchased in advance on their website, and doing so will save you money and queuing time on the day.


Eat: Chai Yo, 777

Dinner in Dublin needn’t be an expensive affair. Chai Yo was recommended to us by a friend who had previously been to Dublin, telling us ‘the food is great and you’ll have a lot of fun’. And wow, did we have fun! The waiting staff turn what could be a standard Thai meal into a full on party; singing, dancing and performing at tables in-between courses being served. The entertainment would have been enough for me to recommend it, but as it turns out the food was also excellent, and the bill wasn’t eye watering either! (Tip: Check out the set menu, 4 courses for €17.50 can’t be argued with!)

If you weren’t specifically looking for it, you would walk straight past 777, but it’s worth seeking out as this Mexican is truly a hidden gem of the city. The funky restaurant has great music, an expansive menu and excellent cocktails. The best bit? On a Sunday, every dish is €7.77 – A welcome break from the usually expensive dining out in Dublin.

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!