Tel Aviv City Guide: What to Do, Eat & Drink

THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO TEL AVIV

After only one day in Tel Aviv, it ranked as one of my favourite cities in the world- top five even.

The coastal city is a place that’s hard to put into words- it’s ancient Middle Eastern history and culture, but mixed with a modern, progressive heartbeat- relaxed and fun-loving.

It’s easy to see why it’s quickly becoming a hot travel destination. 

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When I visited, I had three days in Israel- two of which I spent in Tel Aviv.

On the other day, I took a day trip to Jerusalem and the Dead SeaBy contrast to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem is enough religious history to leave anyone awestruck. Couple these two cities with an afternoon spent floating in the Dead Sea, gazing at Jordan in the distance, and I’m hard pressed to dream of a better holiday.

City, beach, history, nightlife, desert sun, delicious eats and excellent cocktails- Tel Aviv was everything I love about a holiday.

I’m not sure when I’ll make it back there, but there’s no question it earned a place on my list of places to visit more than once. 

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A COMPLETE GUIDE TO TEL AVIV

What To Do

  • Wander the city, there’s so much to see and explore
  • Visit Jaffa, a city conjoined to Tel Aviv, is an ancient port city that feels like stepping back in time. Be sure to wander the old town- there are so many alleyways to get lost in, and great views of the sea. It’s believed this is the area where Jonah left from the biblical story of Jonah and the whale
  • Walk along the beach. Tel Aviv’s west side faces the Mediterranean Sea and has nine miles of beaches. You can even walk from Tel Aviv to Jaffa along the promenade. My hotel was a 5 minute walk from the beach, so I headed down there every morning to talk full advantage of sandy strolls
  • Visit the shuks. One of my favourite things to do in any city is browse the local markets, and Tel Aviv has great ones. Known to locals as shucks, Shuk HaCarmel is the most famous one and it’s been around for hundreds of years. Offering fresh food, spices, sweets, clothing, plants and housewares, it’s a bustling place. I did a tour of HaCarmel with Be Tel Aviv and LOVED it. As someone that travels with anaphylactic nut allergies, I’m always hesitant about trying new foods, and won’t eat anything if the ingredients can’t be guaranteed to be nut free. As much as I love perusing markets, they’re not always the easiest places for me to eat. Cue: Be Tel Aviv, not only were the guides fantastic, regaling us with history of the market and the city, but they also had thorough exchanges with vendors to ensure food was safe for me. I tried so many things I never would have on my own. Nearby Carmel Market is Levinsky Market. I enjoyed this market as well, but it’s smaller in scale, and more so composed of shop fonts (think spices, nuts, olives, grains, beans)
  • Take a day trip to the Dead Sea and/or Jerusalem. I opted for a guided tour because I was short on time, but a high speed railway connects Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, so it’s possible to visit on your own

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Where to Have Coffee

  • Cofix: The go-to spot for cheap, but good coffee- it’s easy to see why Starbucks didn’t stand a chance in Israel. The one near Levinsky Market is spacious, and has awesome (strong) cold drip

  • Yom Tov Cafe: Near HaCarmel Market, the coffee is good, decor is cute, and breakfast bowls are lovely 

  • Nahat Cafe: My favourite place for third-wave coffee in Tel Aviv- I even bought back a bag of beans to make my own cold brew at home 

  • Amalia: Stumbled across this cafe looking for coffee before my Carmel Market tour. Cosy cafe with good iced lattes

  • Basma Coffee: Beautiful coffee shop in Jaffa 

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Where to Eat

  • Abu Hasson: The best hummus I’ve ever had, no competition. Served warm with herbs and spices on top, it’s nothing short of incredible

  • Puaa: A beautiful, vintage cafe in the heart of the Jaffa flea market- this was one of my favourite places in Tel Aviv. Come for breakfast, sit outside and watch the city wake up while sipping homemade lemonade 

  • Citizen: Vegetarian food and detox juice heaven 

  • HaKosem Falafel: Could not believe how great the falafel here was. So great, I came back twice

  • Night Kitchen: The beetroot and artichoke salads were delicious

  • Bucke Cafe: Healthy, colourful food. Lots of vegetarian options
  • Abraxas North: Quickly established as one of Tel Aviv’s go-to hot spots, Chef Eyal Shani’s food is fantastic. Don’t miss the cauliflower and artichoke

  • La Shuk: This places deserves two thumbs up, one for being near my hotel and two for having some of Tel Aviv’s best Mediterranean tapas 

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Where to Drink

  • Levinsky 41 Cafe: Order a kombucha and then revel in delight when you see it comes with a flower and herb bouquet, and a bunch of fresh fruit
  • Shaffa Bar: Sip on homemade lemonade with mint and spice syrup while people watching at one of the street tables
  • Jusa: Great for cold pressed juices
  • Imperial Craft Cocktail Bar: On my never ending hunt to visit the world’s best bars, I knew I had to stop at this place after seeing it rank on the 2017 list. Hidden behind an unassuming hotel lobby, the bartenders seriously know their stuff 

  • Bell-Boy: A prohibition style bar with fun delicious cocktails. I had two drinks here, each was excellent. And, as a fun touch, they serve shots of the house punch from oyster shells

  • Mabrouk + Denim: Fun, lively bars with good late night specials. I stopped by both post Bell-Boy on my way to falafel, and genuinely enjoyed sipping wine and chatting up a few locals. Sidewalk drinking culture is a thing in Tel Aviv, and I’m here for it 

  • Breakfast Club: This place came recommended from a few friends as part of Tel Aviv’s club scene for its techno and deep house

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Extra Travel Tips

  • Language: Hebrew, Arabic and English. Everyone I encountered spoke great conversational English
  • Currency: Israeli New Shekel. I withdrew some Shekels to have in case anything was cash only, but pleased to find most places accepted contactless payment
  • Getting There: I flew into Tel Aviv from Bucharest (was previously there for a conference), and then returned to London. From London, the flight deals are too good to pass up- usually less than £200 return
  • Getting Around: Walk. For super long distances (e.g. Jaffa to Dizengoff Square where my hotel was located, I walked one way and Uber’d back to save time)
  • When to Visit: I visited in early October, and had sunny, warm days. Generally, I’ve heard March-April and September – November are best, usually cooler and less crowded 
  • Tipping: Waitstaff and bartenders expect 10-15%
  • Wifi Access: Every cafe, restaurant, bar and coffee shop offers wifi, just ask for the password. I didn’t have service- I relied on wifi to get around and had no issues 

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Have you ever been to Tel Aviv? Is it on your list of places to venture to one day?

Enjoyed this Complete Guide to Tel Aviv? Pin it. 

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How Helsinki Became One of My Favorite Cities in Europe

Helsinki is truly a hidden gem.

A longtime lover of Scandinavia, visiting Iceland, Sweden and Norway ranked high on my list of travel priorities over the past few years. Perhaps because Helsinki and Lapland, and the Faroe Islands, aren’t discussed as often as the others, but while Finland was on my radar, it wasn’t a top priority.

When planning out a few long weekend trips for this year, I decided to finally prioritise Finland, deciding I’d do 2.5 days in Helsinki and one day in Tallinn- a short ferry ride across the sea.

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I may not have had a ton of time in Helsinki on my first visit, but it was enough for me to fall in love. Stockholm is still my favourite Nordic city, but Helsinki has secured a spot as a close second.

Trendy restaurants, excellent cold brew, beautiful architecture and design, relaxing Finnish customs and incredible nice locals make Helsinki a great city break.

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What to Do

Senate Square + The Harbour
A ~5 minute walk from different points in the harbour, which is lively, beautiful and worth exploring, Senate Square is home to some of the city’s most recognisable buildings. The Helsinki Cathedral is a Finnish Lutheran church built between 1830-1852. There’s also the Government Palace, the National Library and a few university buildings.

The Design District
Candy coloured homes left and right, stunning architecture, even examples of Art Nouveau. Really enjoyed strolling this area. On one rainy afternoon, we also stopped in the Design Museum for a few hours. There was a beautiful glassworks display, and it was cool to learn about some of Finland’s famous design achievements (Angry Birds, Fiskers orange scissors). Interested in seeing more design? Amos Rex is a new underground design museum in city centre- checked it out, very cool

Hakaniemi Market
Always a fan of local market halls, this one is filled with vendors carrying great food (pastries, sandwiches, soups, fish, cheeses, veg), coffee and displays of craftsmanship. We came here for breakfast one morning, a great way to explore Finnish cuisine

Uspenski Cathedral
A beautiful church, elevated on a hillside near Market Square and overlooking the harbour. Interesting Russian architecture, worth a visit to see the outside even if you don’t have time to head in

Finnish Sauana
You can’t visit Finland without going to the sauna, it’s a key part of Finnish culture. I’ve heard there are more saunas in Finland than people. I’m reading more about how/why sauna came to be integrated to their culture, but I already have no trouble understanding why Fins love it- talk about ultimate relaxation. In a typical sauna experience, you’ll sit in the sauna for a bit, possibly ‘beat’ yourself with birch branches to energise yourself, and then jump into the sea (or a lake) to cool out. Then, repeat the hot/cold cycle 2-3 more times (or as needed).

Löyly is an urban sauna situated on Helsinki’s waterfront. After being in the steam room, you can jump into the Baltic Sea. And, afterwards, there’s a relaxing terrace you can lounge on if you’re not quite ready to leave. After our sauna experience, we ordered a bottle of wine and sat on the terrace in the late afternoon sun, listening to the waves crash into the rocks below us. Utter perfection 

Sibelius Park
Helsinki is packed with green spaces, the Sibelius Park is near water on the westside of the city and home to a beautiful work of steel art that resembles organ pipes

Suomenlinna
Dubbed as a must-visit, this was something else we didn’t quite have time for but came highly recommended. It’s an island with a fortress that’s only a short ferry ride away from downtown

Porvoo
An hour outside of the city, you’ll find the second oldest city in Finland. We’d hoped to make it here, but didn’t because it rained pretty heavily and steadily on the day we’d planned to visit. It’s high on my list for a return trip, think: Red wooden houses and an Old Town that dates back to the Middle Ages

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Where to Eat & Drink

We didn’t have much time in Helsinki, but set out with the intent of visiting as many cafes renowned for their cold brew as possible. And, in between, sampling some Finnish delicacies and treating ourselves to holiday indulgences.

Favourite places:

  • Eat:
    • Cafe Regatta: Few things are as synonymous with Scandinavia as cinnamon buns. Regatta had the best ones of the trip- warm, gooey cinnamon and topped with flaked almonds – so good. And, served up in an adorable lakeside Finnish cafe where dogs are welcome
    • Vanha Kauppahalli: One of Helsinki’s historic markets, we loved the fish and salmon soups on offer here
    • M/S Flying Dutch: A floating beer garden with good salads and tasty fish soups
    • Putte’s Pizza: Again, not Finnish food but pizza being a classic ‘treat your self’ vacation food, we were eager to find good za in Helsinki. Daddy Greens Pizzabar is also supposed to be good, but we chose Putte’s since it was closer to our Airbnb
    • Pueblo: Whenever I’m on holiday, always into tacos and margaritas. Stoked to find good nachos, tacos and margs in the Finnish capital
  • Drink:
    • Chapter: Known for its awesome tasting menu, we’d heard the cocktails were ‘can’t miss’. Happy to confirm we weren’t misled- the drinks we had here are some of the best gin cocktails I’ve ever had
    • Liberty or Death: Cosy cocktail bar with a fun, tempting drink list. We stayed for two rounds and could have easily stayed for a few more
    • The Riff: Rock + roll, plus pints while in Helsinki? Practically a mandatory
    • Apero: Lovely little wine bar with a solid Aperol spritz
    • BrewDog Helsinki: Not much of a beer drinker, but we stopped in and were delighted to find Finish micro brews alongside BrewDog classics
  • Coffee:
    • Cafetoria: THE. BEST. COLD. BREW. EVER. Do not miss this place. I’m serious, it was so good, we bought beans to take back to the UK
    • Andante: On our first day, this was my favourite cafe for its minimalistic decor and ace cold filter
    • Johan & Nyström: We stopped in here with the intent of grabbing coffee/waiting out the heavy rain, but were pleased to find a great lunch (delicious, hearty salad of greens, feta, watermelon, lentils + olives with a balsamic reduction) and cold brew soda flavoured with Swedish blueberries. SO good, on both counts
    • Kaffa Roastery: Regarded as the best coffee in Helsinki, the cold filter here was great. Don’t miss their giant cinnamon buns!
    • Story: We were on a bit of a cold brew tear in Helsinki (I’d heard the coffee scene was great), and popped in here to sample more of our preferred beverage. Cute cafe in the midst of a historic market on the harbour, definitely recommend popping in
    • Brooklyn Cafe: Cold brew and bagels in Scandinavia? SOLD
    • La Torrefazione: Good cold brew, great lattes – several locations around the city

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Where to Stay

We opted to stay in the West Harbour area, which was only a 10-20 minute tram ride to downtown destinations. Because we were taking the ferry to Tallinn from West Harbour, we decided it’d be best to stay in an area close to the terminals.

It also helped we found an incredible deal on an Airbnb- £55 a night for a beautiful, huge flat with a huge balcony in a new condominium. The only downside was the amount of construction happening in the area, but it was nice to have such a great space to come home to and start the day in, so I’d stay there again vs. paying +2-3x more to stay closer to downtown. That said, I also really liked the Töölö area, slightly north of city centre, and would look there on a return trip.

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Other Bits to Know

Airport to City Centre: It’s easy to take one of the trains, 5 Euros, from the airport to Central Station, and only takes 30-40 minutes

Currency: Finland is on the Euro. We carried cash, but also found, that much like Sweden, just about everywhere accepted cards/contactless payment

Cost: Yes, Helsinki is expensive. All of Scandinavia is. As with any trip, there are ways to keep down cost, like prepping some of your meals at an Airbnb, or spending less on alcohol out / have a few drinks at your Airbnb or hotel before you head out (super key, alcohol is very expensive in Finland)

Getting Around: City centre is walkable, and if you head to any of the areas a bit further out, the city is well connected through underground metro, buses and trams. Download the HSL app, where you can buy tickets – single ride, day pass, etc. – through mobile. I loved this- so easy, we didn’t need to worry about having the right amount of change, or find ticket machines every time we wanted to take a bus/tram

Have you ever been to Finland? I’m dreaming of a winter trip in the snowy north, spending a weekend in Lapland. 

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Two Days in Beautiful Belfast

Belfast, a city previously defined by The Troubles, is quick becoming a destination worthy of a city break. Slowly rising from its dark past, Belfast is less crowded and cheaper than Dublin.

There for two days before a race weekend in Dublin, I was excited to explore a new city, and see more of the beautiful Irish countryside.

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Day 1: Exploring the city

Exhausted from a late night arrival, we slept in and had a slow morning at our Airbnb. Mid-morning, we walked into the city to start exploring.

We didn’t have a plan in mind, per se but knew there were a few things and places we wanted to check out over the course of the day. This is where Google maps come in handy, and why I love them so much- having plotted out a few stops we wanted to make, it was easy to see where things were as we explored.

Stops on our day of exploring:

  • St Georges Market: Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings, more than 150 traders set up stalls offering everything from crafts to antiques to fresh baked bread and gorgeous produce.
  • The Crown Saloon: Owned by the National Trust, this beautiful Victorian pub has been in operation since 1885. The decor is incredible- most of the finishings are original. A real gem. I’ve included a few more of the pubs we enjoyed below, but this should be considered a can’t miss for a glimpse into Belfast’s history.
  • The Cathedral Quarter & Commercial Court: The perfect spot for a night out- plenty of great bars and restaurants. Also, charm is everywhere with cobbled streets, colorful murals and beautiful brick buildings.
  • Titanic Belfast: As the city that built her, Belfast is the home of the Titanic. The museum is a tribute to Belfast’s shipbuilding industry with a focus on how the Titanic came to be- it’s even built on the slipways where the ship was constructed over 100 years ago.  We were here for a little over two hours, and really enjoyed the experience. Definitely book tickets in advance though, the museum gets very busy, and if you buy day-of, you may have to wait over an hour to enter.
  • The Merchant Hotel: Renovated from the old Ulster Bank, the hotel’s restaurant and bar exude elegance. We popped in for a few drinks at the bar, it’s considered to be one of the best hotels in the world for cocktails. I loved the menu- it’s built on classic services, but offers alternate versions for each one in case you want to try something new.
  • Food & Drink:
    • Established Coffee: Proper coffee, the espresso was excellent
    • Root & Branch: Popped in here for flat whites on our second day on the way to our coastal tour, small simple cafe with good brews
    • The Pocket: Love a cute local coffee shop
    • Little Wing Pizzeria: Great lunch stop if you’re on a budget – we had the £6 pizza and salad deal
    • Made in Belfast: Good craft brews, and although we didn’t eat anything here, the menu looked great
    • Muriel’s Cafe Bar: Great cocktails, we came here for another pre-dinner tipple after The Merchant hotel
    • The Duke of York: Adorable, lively pub
    • Kelly’s Cellars: One of Belfast’s oldest pubs, it’s said to be the best authentic Irish bar in the city – was certainly lively on a Friday evening
    • Bittles: An odd shaped pub with great music and a good selection on draft
    • The John Hewitt: Another good pub, we came here because I heard they had a solid cider selection
    • Bootleggers: The food here is so good, we came for dinner two nights in a row. It’s rare you find a place with ace cocktails, great beer selection and lots of delicious vegetarian options on the menu. The halloumi tacos and burger were amazing

With only one day to see as much of the city as possible, there were a few things we didn’t get to, but I’ve heard great things about, like the Black Cab tours and street art in the west.

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Day 2: Driving the Causeway Coast

Regarded as one of the most beautiful drives in the world, Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coastal Route is the kind of rugged coastline you don’t really find anywhere else in the UK.

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Travelling with one other person we looked at the cost of renting a car for our coastal explorations, but ultimately decided it would be more affordable (and easier) for us to join one of the guided Causeway tours.

Normally not one for guided tours, I was a bit hesitant about signing up for a mass group experience. But, when found a Game of Thrones tour with Irish Tour Tickets that had great reviews and stopped at every place both of us were interested in seeing, we decided to go for it.

Turned out to be a great decision. Even though we were on a coach, our driver kept us on a tight schedule- at most stops, we arrived ahead of other buses, which meant no where we went was too crowded.

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Back to the tour. I’ve never seen an episode of Game of Thrones, but still enjoyed the tour. The reason we decided to do the GoT tour over the other Causeway options was because of the day’s final stop at the Dark Hedges.

First stop: Carnlough, a quaint Irish coastal village. We were only stopped here for 20 minutes, but it was just enough time to walk around the harbour and snap a few pictures.

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Next, we drove to the Cushenden Caves. After perusing the caves for a bit, we walked through town, popping into a cosy cafe for raspberry scones to bring back to the bus for an afternoon snack.

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Heading further north, we drove through beautiful valleys- so much greenery and endless rolling hillsides.

On the way to the Giant’s Causeway, we stopped for pictures at Dunluce Castle. Roofless castle ruins on the edge of a cliff? Breathtaking. The medieval castle is also said to be inspiration for many fantasy writers.

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Early afternoon, we arrived at the Giant’s Causeway, a definite highlight of the afternoon. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the causeway’s unique look was formed by volcanic activity 60 million years ago.

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Although, local legend would have you believe otherwise. Legend says a giant by the name of Finn McCool was having trouble with someone across the water. The Scottish giant Benandonner was thought to be threatening Ireland. An enraged Finn grabbed chunks of the Antrim coast and threw them into the sea, forming a path for Finn to follow to teach Benandonner a lesson.

Folklore aside, the causeway is spectacular, so unique in appearance, it’s hard to believe it’s real. Some of the columns are appear symmetrical, it seems only logical they’d be human crafted but that’s not the case.

When we visited, it was crowded, but still enjoyable. We had two and a half hours here, and spent the entire time walking along the columns and hiking the coast. There’s also a visitor’s centre with a cafe, toilets and educational materials.

Ready for the next adventure, we hopped on the coach and drove to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Before heading to the bridge, we stopped at Larrybane, a limestone quarry with gorgeous views where scenes from GoT were shot.

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Ready to challenge my fear of heights, we picked up our bridge tickets and hiked 20 minutes to the start of the bridge. We couldn’t have been more lucky with the weather- 60 degrees F, sunny and a light breeze keeping us cool from the water.

The rope bridge played a big role in Northern Ireland’s history, with salmon fisherman crossing the bridge daily during fishing season with their daily catch. Since the bridge opened to the public, they’ve ensured safety features, like two side handles for crossers to grip while walking across.

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A few years ago, crossing the rope bridge wouldn’t have been laughable for me- I had such a paralysing fear of heights, I couldn’t even look at the window of high office buildings. Since then, I’ve made major progress in becoming more comfortable off the ground, even skydiving once. That said, while the bridge is high (but not unbelievably high), I did find myself taking deep breaths across the bridge each time I crossed it.

Even if you don’t want to cross the bridge, seeing it and walking along the adjacent cliffs is reason enough to visit.

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At last our final stop of the day, the Dark Hedges. The hedges are almost surreal- towering hedges shading part of a country road, surrounded by farm side.

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Back in Belfast at 6 pm, we headed to Kelly’s, one of the oldest pubs in Belfast for a few pints with the after-work Friday crowd. Next up: A stop at another pub, Bitter’s, before heading to Bootleggers for burgers, fries and a couple craft cocktails.

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A beautiful two days in Northern Ireland.

Have you ever been to Northern Ireland? Have you explored Belfast or drove along the Causeway Coast? 

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A Fairytale Reality at Burg Eltz

Scrolling Instagram a few months ago, I saw one of my favourite fitness influencers was traveling through Europe. When I saw her post at Burg Eltz castle, my jaw nearly dropped- it was beautiful.

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Having visited Neuschwanstein, I knew Germany was home to some pretty epic castles, but I hadn’t heard of Burg Eltz before.

Looking up Burg Eltz, I realised I could visit it in a weekend if I flew into Frankfurt or Cologne. Having heard good things about how cool of a city Cologne is becoming, I booked a Saturday am flight and a late Sunday return, and planned to visit Burg Eltz and the Mosel Valley on Sunday. 

From Cologne, you can easily drive to Burg Eltz, but if you’re like me, and prefer taking transit, it’s also possible to get to the castle- just takes a tad longer. 

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I took a train from Cologne to Hatzenport, one of the first towns along the Mosel River 

In Hatzenport, I waited ~40 minutes for the bus transfer to the castle by wandering the town and walking along the river. 

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The Burgenbus runs in summer months, and connects the parking lot of the castle to a few towns along the Mosel River. We took the bus to the parking lot, then hiked 15 minutes to the castle entrance. 

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Eltz castle is unlike any other castle in Germany, it’s deeply hidden in the woods. You don’t even see it driving on roads near the castle- you have to either hike down to it, or hop on the shuttle service to the entrance.  

If you choose to walk, there are two paths to take- a quicker, steeper one down a paved road (there’s a nice overlook on this route), or a less step, slightly longer, scenic walk through the woods. 

Walking up to the castle took my breath away. It felt as if I’d stepped into a fairy tale. If you take the scenic route, you turn a corner, and suddenly, admits the trees, the castle comes into view. 

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Burg Eltz is an insanely well preserved castle. The center area was build in 1290, almost 200 years before Christopher Columbus set out for America. 

It’s never been destroyed, and has remained in possession of the original family since it was built. 

The castle is only open for tours from April-November. You can visit the castle during the off months, but won’t be able to go inside. I visited at the end of July and decided to do the guided tour (10 euros) to see more of the castles rooms (there are over 100 of them). 

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I arrived to the castle at 10:30 am, which was perfect timing- only a few other people were around. But, when I left closer to noon, dozens of visitors had descended upon the castle. 

Post castle visit, I hiked down to Moselkern (another town along the Mosel River), and wandering the darling streets before hopping on a train to Cochem.

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Cochem is one of the biggest towns along the Mosel, you’ll find plenty of restaurants, bars and hotels here. And, another castle! 

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I had to catch a train back to Cologne, so I didn’t have time to visit the castle but looking at it from the bridge spanning the river was magic enough. 

As far as enchanting castles go, Burg Eltz is a strong contender. 

It’s tough to pinpoint just one thing that makes Burg Eltz so wonderful- it may be that it’s hidden from view, or that it sits atop a giant rock in the middle of a lush forest, or that it’s so well preserved and easy to imagine what it’d be like to live there. 

Whether you’re visiting Cologne, Frankfurt or driving through Germany, I can’t recommend stopping at Burg Eltz and a few of the towns along the Mosel River enough. 

A day full of magic.

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The Perfect Itinerary for a Weeklong Roadtrip in Ireland

When I moved to the UK, road trips around Ireland and Scotland rocketed to the top of my travel list.

Why the Emerald Isle?

Incredible greenery, rolling hillsides, tiny villages, sheep and cows everywhere, and pubs alive with traditional music where the pints never stop flowing. Ireland epitomises culture, beauty and history.

Although I’m not a huge fan of holidays spent road tripping, I knew driving around Ireland would be the best way to see the countryside and explore small towns.

So, when my friends told me of the trip they were planning, I had to join for part of it. We started in Dublin, then drove through the Wicklow Mountains, to Kilkenny, to the Rock of Cashel and Blarney, then Cobh and Kinsale before heading north to Adare, Limerick, and finally west to Doolin and Galway. We covered a lot of ground in six days and had the most incredible time.

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Luckily, I had a few people to help me plan the trip and rotate driving shifts. If it’d been just me, I think I would have tried to take trains and Bus Éireann to see as much as possible. But, renting a car really is the best way to make your way around Ireland- you’ll have the freedom to make unplanned stops and spend as little or as much time you want at each destination.

As for lodging, we alternated between Airbnb in bigger cities (Dublin, Galway), and B&B’s found through B&B Ireland for smaller towns (Kilkenny, Kinsale, Doolin).

I joined my friends for the first 7 days of the trip, choosing to fly back to London from Shannon Airport (took the bus from Galway to Shannon).

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My friends, however, continued north to Sligo and into Northern Ireland before taking a ferry from Belfast to Glasgow. If you do the same, you could continue driving to Dublin to round out your adventure, or take the bus from Belfast to Dublin.

I visited Belfast and the Causeway Coast on a separate trip in August, guides for both places are linked at the bottom of this post.

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We were short on days and din’t have time to drive out to the Dingle peninsula, but I’ve heard it’s a can’t miss if you can build it into your road trip.

Because we wanted to see as much as possible, we forwent the luxury of spending longer than a few hours or half day in each destination. Was the quick speed of the trip worth it?

Absolutely.

Knowing that we’d need to be up and out the door by 8 or 9 each morning made turning in at a reasonable hour easy- and, it helped we were excited by each day’s activities. If you have a bit more time, I’d recommend either seeing more of Ireland or spending more time in some of the bigger cities/villages, like Kilkenny and Kinsale.

Itinerary for a Weeklong Roadtrip in Ireland

Days 1 + 2: Dublin

Dublin is one of those cities that’s perfect for a day trip or weekend break. As Ireland’s capital, it’s a town filled with culture, beauty and history. Even though it’s quite big, I’ve had no problem getting around by foot or hopping on a local bus.

I joined in the evening of day 1 since I’d been to Dublin before and am planning on running a race there in coming months. One full day in Dublin, for me, felt like enough time to get into holiday mode. My friends from the States actually had 3 full days in Dublin after arriving to Ireland late one evening.

If it’s your first time in Dublin, Trinity College and the Temple Bar area are must-see’s.

During this visit, I decided to sample whiskies at Teeling’s Distillery and the Bow Bar, which boasts 200+ kinds of whisky. I also popped in St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a tour, wandered around downtown Dublin and cheers’d pints at a few pubs in the Temple Bar neighbourhood with my friends.

One of my favourite parts of visiting Dublin is wandering streets at leisure, popping in and out of shops, admiring pubs with overflowing hanging flower baskets, and listening to live music in the alleyways. The Temple Bar neighbourhood and downtown area are easy to walk, even if you’re short on time.

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Day 3: Wicklow Mountains National Park > Kilkenny

Early the next morning, we picked up our rental car, packed it up and hit the road.

First stop: Wicklow Mountains. In actuality, our first stop was in a small town called Roundwood for coffee and blueberry scones at an adorable cafe.

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Then, we continued onto the Glendalough visitor centre. Glendalough means, Valley of the Two Lakes, and there’s a medieval monastic settlement that dates back to the 6th century.

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After parking the car, we walked to the Round Tower, the Cathedral, and then continued on the path to the right towards Upper Lake. It’s about a 15-20 minute walk, and if you can swing it with timing, I’d definitely recommend it- so beautiful. On our way back to the car, we noticed another trail leading to Poulanass Waterfall. It only took us about 3-5 minutes to hike up the trail, but was a detour well worth it for the view.

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All in all, our nature wander took us about two hours. Next, we continued driving to Kilkenny, hoping to reach the town mid-afternoon so we could see the castle before dinner.

Kilkenny, an Irish city where medieval meets modern.

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After checking into our adorable B&B, Celtic House, we walked five minutes into town. With its roots as a medieval city, Kilkenny has no shortage of cobblestone streets. The High Street is even known as Medieval Mile for its narrow lanes and historic buildings.

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Walking towards Kilkenny Castle, we decided to head in and wander before it closed for the day. The Anglo-Norman castle, which was built around 1195, has been altered over the years and recently refurbished to reflect original stylings.

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Keen for a bit of exploring before dinner, we dipped in and out of alleyways, admiring the city’s colourful facades and doors, and then walked along the River Nore before settling on Matt the Millers as our pub for dinner.

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Whilst at dinner, we formed a plan to do a pub crawl of sorts- there were a few places we wanted to check out, and figured, what better way than an impromptu crawl? Fun fact: Kilkenny is listed as one of the top cities in Ireland for a hen party (bachelorette party).

I’ll always be a fan of medium ciders, stouts and single malt whiskies, but the others in my group enjoyed two local brews- Kilkenny and Smithwick’s.

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As we finished dinner, live music was just starting so we decided to stay for one more pint at Matt the Millers, making it our first stop. Next, we headed to Kyteler’s, one of the oldest inns in Ireland- established in 1324. It used to be the home of Dame Alice de Kyteler, a wealthy woman who outlived four wealthy husbands and was involved in one of the world’s first witch hunts. She managed to escape being burned at the stake by escaping to England, but her servant wasn’t so lucky- she was tortured. Next up: Bollard’s, and finally a whisky nightcap at Cleere’s.

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Day 4: Cashel > Blarney > Cobh > Kinsale

In the morning, we woke early and headed straight to Cashel so we didn’t have time for The Black Abbey or Smithwick’s Experience, but I’ve heard both are great attractions in Kilkenny as well.

We were determined to get to Cashel early because we wanted to be among the first people to visit the Rock of Cashel, one of the most visited sites in Ireland.

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From Cashel’s tourism site, “It’s huge, it’s complex, it’s iconic, there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world and it’s right here in Cashel at the heart of Tipperary. The Rock of Cashel (Carraig Phádraig), more formally St. Patrick’s Rock, it is also known as Cashel of the Kings. Reputedly the site of the conversion of Aenghus the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century AD. Long before the Norman invasion The Rock of Cashel was the seat of the High Kings of Munster, although there is little structural evidence of their time here. Most of the buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries when the rock was gifted to the Church.”

We chose to do one of the free tours offered, and I’m so glad we did- learned a lot about the site and its historical significance.

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From there, we drove to Blarney. After seeing the castle from afar (and the hoards of tourists going inside the complex), we decided to skip entry and instead, walked around the town of Blarney and grabbed a pint before continuing our trip (#hearteyes for pub dogs).

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Note: Although we drove around Ireland and enjoyed drinking pints daily, the person who was driving never drank. Safe driving was part of the reason why we usually arrived in a city/village mid-late afternoon and stayed there for the rest of the day- we wanted everyone to have a good time.

Next up: An impromptu stop at Cobh en route to Kinsale.

Last port of call for the Titanic, Cobh is a beautiful town in the south of Ireland to spend an afternoon in. Known for its cathedral, the tallest in the country, Cobh is full of other surprises- like it’s colourful deck of cards homes, similar to San Francisco’s pained ladies. We only spent a few hours in Cobh, but enjoyed wandering the seaside and picnicing along the waterfront.

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Then, it was onwards to our final destination of the day, Kinsale, a charming coastal town in southern Ireland with relaxed vibes.

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We arrived early evening, ~7 pm and checked into Valley View B&B, which was okay. By comparison to some of other B&Bs, it fell short in a few regards (small rooms, no breakfast time flexibility, and a small window and small fan meant a very warm room). However, the owner was very nice and the view from our window of the surrounding countryside was stunning. We took a taxi into town for the evening, and had no problem getting one back to our B&B at the end of the night.

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Kinsale is cute, colourful with a scenic harbour that seems endless. Narrow streets wind throughout the town, there are so many shops and restaurants to explore.

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Its harbour is guarded from the sea by a pair of forts that were once the scene of a battle for the Irish army.

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We only ate dinner in Kinsale, but dubbed it the best meal we had in Ireland, which supports the town’s foodie reputation. A friend had recommended eating at Fishy Fishy to me before our trip, and after looking at the menu when we got to town, everyone agreed it looked delicious. We all ordered fresh fish, such a great decision for a seaside town.

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Post dinner, we walked around until we found a pub with lively music. Dalton’s Pub was one of my favourite nights out in Ireland- traditional music with solos from locals.

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No matter how much time you have in Kinsale, it’s hard not to love this gem of an Irish town.

Day 5: Adare > Limerick > The Burren > Doolin

Awaking in Kinsale, we got on the road early. Known as one of Ireland’s most charming towns, when I first heard of Adare and realised it would only be a 15-20 minute detour from UL, I hoped we’d be able to fit it into our trip.

The pretty village of Adare is located in County Limerick. It’s a designated heritage town, famous for its thatched cottages.

On our way into town, we stopped at the Augustinian Friary. Repaired in the early part of the 19th century, the building exemplifies a medieval Irish church. Prior, it was home to the Augustinian Order until they were driven out during the 15th century.

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Heading into town (after saying hello to some cows grazing in a nearby field), we parked in the back lot of the visitor’s centre. First stop: The Good Room Bistro.

Beautiful and delicious homemade baked goods, plus wonderful teas. This is a must visit.

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Of course, no trip to Adare is complete without seeing the thatched cottages. The cottages have survived for hundreds of years. Today, some of them are restaurants or shops, but some are still privately owned.

Next to the cottages, near the Visitor Centre, there’s a small, beautiful park. We sat here with our teas and coffees, soaking in the sunshine before hopping back in the car and continuing to Limerick.

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Limerick was a quick stop for us. Someone in our group spent a semester while in uni in their study abroad program, so we did a quick spin around campus and then stopped in a bar downtown that used to be one of her pub go-to’s, Dolan’s.

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Back on the road to the west, we drove through part of Burren National Park, a place where it’s easy to think you’ve been transported to the surface of the moon. The word “Burren” actually comes from an Irish word “Boíreann”, meaning a rocky place.

We stopped to see Poulnabrone Dolmen, a tomb that dates back to the neolithic period.

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With the sun starting to set, we kept driving, eventually arriving in our final destination for the night, Doolin.

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The unofficial capital of Irish traditional music, Doolin is a small, single street with only a few pubs and restaurants, but was one of my favourite places we visited on our road trip around Ireland.

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It’s a picture perfect village, winding roads where the Irish countryside meets the Atlantic sea. We spent a night in Doolin because it’s the perfect place to visit Cliffs of Moher from- only a 15-20 minute drive from town. Doolin is also a good hub if you want to visit the Aran Islands, ferries leave throughout each day from Doolin’s pier.

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First stop: Checking into our B&B at Glasha Meadows. This was my favourite B&B of the trip- our family room was newly renovated with sweeping views of the countryside.

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Breakfast was also my favourite of the b&b’s we stayed at- they offered the usual staples of Irish breakfast, plus pick your own sides (fruit salad, scones, toast, banana bread, yogurt) and the chance to choose a main breakfast meal (eggs, oatmeal, pancakes, etc.). The most important part though was the b&b pup- Chase. The cutest.

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Post check-in, we walked ~20 minutes into town in search of dinner and pints. With only a few pubs to choose from, we’d heard all were great, but a few, in particular, were favoured by the locals: O’Connor’s, McDermott’s and McGann’s. We spotted a huge table at McDermott’s, liked what we saw on the menu and decided to spend the night nibbling, and sipping Stonewell ciders.

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As great as the food and drink were, the best part was then the traditional live music started. We stayed far longer than planned, and when we finally headed back outside, realised the sun had long set. Not enticed by the idea of walking home along dark country roads, we gladly took the pub owner up on his offer to drive us back to our b&b.

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It doesn’t get much more charming than Doolin. If you’re driving along the Wild Atlantic Way and need somewhere to stay for a day, you’ll be welcomed by open arms in Doolin.

Day 6: Doolin > Cliffs of Moher > Driving along The Wild Atlantic Way > Galway

The next morning, we awoke to sunshine and blue skies and were so excited- it was Cliffs of Moher day.

Waves crashing into rocks, cliff edges towering overhead, The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most visited and unique attractions.

Part of a dramatic stretch of coastline, 14 km of cliffside trail in total, the cliffs draw thousands of visitors yearly.

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Millions of years ago, the area where the cliffs are today was the mouth of a large river. Over time, floods, sand and mud were washed to the area to become the compressed rocks the cliffs are today.

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On our visit, we considered hiking the full way from Doolin, but ultimately wanted to be on the road north by noon, so we decided to drive to the Visitor Centre instead. Admission is €8 per person, or €5 for students.

Our first stop once inside was the Visitor Centre to learn more about the cliffs. The centre is built directly into a hilltop, so as not to obstruct the view from the cliffs.

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Heading to the trails, we went to the right first, walking toward O’Brien’s tower. We didn’t pay to go inside, we felt like we’d be just fine capturing beautiful shots cliffside. At a certain point, you have the option of going beyond the ‘safe zone’ and continuing on the cliffside trails. We chose to do so, but stayed far back from the edge.

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We visited on a beautiful, sunny day when wind was light but still exercised caution and stayed away from the cliff edges. Be careful when you visit, especially if you go beyond the recommended areas. We saw so many people getting way too close to the edge for photos or selfies- it’s not worth it.

After walking close to the end, we turned around and headed back in the other direction. On this side, past the initial cliff, there were rock barriers to prevent people from getting too close to the edge. Since we had a nice day, we climbed over the barriers for a bit, but again- still stayed back from the actual edge.

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In total, we spent about 2 hours at the cliffs before heading back to Doolin and continuing north.

The only thing I wish I’d brought with me were a pair of binoculars. So many species of birds and marine life reside in and near the cliffs, but are tough to spot without magnified assistance.

After hiking around the Cliffs, we headed back to Doolin to explore more. Doolin Cafe is a sure bet for coffee, and if you really want to see more of the countryside, drive north along R477.

You’ll be treated to incredible coastal views- two points of interest: Doolin Cliffs, where the extraterrestrial landscape of the Burren meets the sea, and Fanore Beach, a stretch of sandy coastline with rocks for lounging and surfers to watch.

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Post beach time, we got back on the road and started driving north to Galway.

We made a quick stop in Ballyvaughan, stopping for coffees at The Soda Parlour and snacks from a small grocery store. Then we continued on until we reached Dunguaire Castle. A scenic stop, Dunguaire was a nice chance to stretch our legs for ~15-20 minutes before finishing our drive.

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Galway- cobblestone streets, colourful buildings, and salt air from the sea. Before heading to Galway, everyone I knew who’d been there told me it’d be one of my favourite stops of the trip.

Pulling into town mid-evening, we grabbed a pint at McGinns Hop House and checked into our Airbnb.

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Then, dinner at The King’s Head, followed by live music and a bit of bar hopping.

Oh, Irish nightlife, there’s no shortage of it in Galway. Galway is the kind of city where pub patrons pour into the streets on a standard Wednesday night. The city is practically alive with the sound of music. Head to Taafees Bar at the bottom of Shop Street to start, another favourite place: An Pucan pub.

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Day 7: Galway > fly back to London in the evening 

My last day in Ireland was spent exploring Galway until I had to leave early evening to catch my flight out of Shannon. Ultimately, I loved Galway, but smaller Irish cities, like Kilkenny, Kinsale and Doolin won my heart.

Not to say though Galway isn’t worth a visit. Buzzing with history, Galway is a vibrant town. If you find yourself driving through Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way and can swing a few hours or a day or two, I’d definitely recommend stopping in Galway.

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While in Galway, a few of my favourite activities: 

  • Learn about the city’s history and get acquainted with its cute streets through a free walking tour with Shamrock Tours
  • Stroll along the River Corrib and visit the Galway Cathedral, a beautiful modern church. Walk the opposite way to see the Spanish Arch, the gateway to the city. And, from the arch, head across the river from the arch for a great vantage point of The Long Walk, a row of pastel coloured homes
  • Meander Eyre Square, a central focal point for the city for over several hundred years
  • Savour Irish cheese and fine wine at Sheridans, so good
  • Wander Shop Street and The Quays, packed with pubs, restaurants and shops

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Days 8 – 11: My friends who continued the road trip followed the bottom itinerary for the rest of their trip-

  • Day 8: Galway > Sligo
  • Day 9: Northern Ireland (Giant’s Causeway, The Dark Hedges, etc.) > Belfast
  • Days 10-11: Belfast

No doubt our Irish road trip was one for the record books, it was a week I’ll never forget. 🙂

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Have you ever drove around Ireland? If so, which parts of the trip were your favourite? 

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Two Days in Krakow, Poland

Krakow, an unexpected gem of a destination.

Beautiful architecture, friendly locals, good food, great culture and amazing affordability, Krakow is all these things and more. During the weekend, I couldn’t get over how beautiful all the pastel buildings were, how much greenery there was in and around city centre, and how interesting it was to see so many pieces of WWII history.

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From watching the sun set atop a hill that local legend says a dragon used to live in, to sampling strawberry Polish vodka, to wandering the city’s aged cobblestone streets, to descending 800 steps into salt mines- I loved every moment spent exploring Krakow.

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If you’re visiting Poland, the neighbouring Baltic countries or the Czech Republic, and have time you should definitey stop in Krakow.

Short on time like I was during my weekend visit? All of the activities I’ve included below can be accomplished easily in 2.5 days.

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4 Reasons to Book a Trip to Krakow

Krakow’s Affordability

The decision to visit Krakow was a spur of the moment trip booking- I found a cheap flight (£40 return), and a beautiful Airbnb near Old Town for £32 a night. And so, I booked a city break without much further thought.

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Flight and lodging aside, over the course of 2.5 days, I spent less than £80 (excluding £30 for a tour of the salt mines). That £80 includes: transit to/from the airport; 2 cocktails; vodka samplings; 3 ciders; 3 dinners; 2 breakfasts; cafe snacks; 1-2 coffee drinks a day; attraction admission to the church; apartment snacks (chocolate, pretzels, bottled water); locker storage for my bag on the last day; and likely one or two other things I’m forgetting about. Point being: I had great food and drinks while in Krakow, but still spent under £30 a day. Score! Easy to see why Krakow made the top of The Telegraph’s list of cheap city breaks in Europe.

A Charming Old Town

Old Town in Krakow is small enough to walk everywhere. It may be a small city, but there’s a lot to do. The city’s historic centre was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978, largely because it was lucky to come through WWII almost untouched.

Krakow’s main market square is packed with bars, restaurants and cafes- it’s a great place to peruse throughout your trip. Dating back to the 13th century, the main square is one of Europe’s largest medieval squares. It’s framed by beautiful pastel buildings, cobblestone streets and a towering church. Major heart eyes.

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Activities you shouldn’t miss in Old Town: 

  • Free walking tour: I’d booked a walking tour with Cracow Free Tours, but my guide failed to show. Still managed to see everything on my own, but I’ve heard these tours are an awesome way to get more context on the city’s history

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  • St. Mary’s Basilica: I’ve seen my share of gothic cathedrals in Europe, and was still blown away by this one. A small admission price + photo taking fee (under £3) gets you entry into the cathedral. The interior is spectacular- built in 1397, the basilica is known for its Veit Stoss altarpiece and an incredible ceiling painted in dark blue and gold to look like the night sky. Another fact about the basilica: the two towers, of different heights, were added in the 1400s. Legend has it the towers were built by two brothers, each trying to out-do the other, until one grew jealous of the other’s work and killed himACS_0223
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  • Wawel Castle: A mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, Wawel is a series of buildings and structures arranged around a central courtyard on Wawel Hill. Overlooking the Vistula River, a folklore tale says a dragon used to live in the foot of the hill. Legend has it a Polish Prince named Krakus defeated the dragon, and built his palace over the slain dragon’s lairIMG_1487IMG_1493IMG_1495
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    Loved these dragon details

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  • Old Town Tower: Climb to the top for a stunning view of Old Town SquareACS_0228ACS_0229
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  • Planty Park: Daily strolls in this park were a main fixture during my time in Krakow. Surrounding Old Town, the park is lush greenery, a perfect place to find reprise from the afternoon sun or for a morning stroll
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Great Food & Cute Cafes

Polish cuisine doesn’t make too many headlines, but it’s some of my favorite comfort food. Growing up in a family with strong Polish heritage, pierogies and haluski were staples in our home. So, I was excited to visit Poland and try some of my favorite Polish eats in the country they originated.

Albeit a cute area, I didn’t eat at any of the restaurants or cafes right on the square- generally, I find these kind of places to be too touristy. Instead, these were a few of my favourite places to grab a bite or have a drink:

  • Zarowka Cafe: An insanely cute cafe, slightly removed from the street so you can truly relax without the bustling sounds of tourists
  • Coffeebook: Said to be the best flat white in town
  • Big Hat of Coffee: Strong, excellent latte
  • Singer Cafe: Cosy cafe with a Singer sewing machine on each table, came here one morning for coffee. Heard it’s a lively bar at night too
  • Pierogarnia KRAKOWIACY: Went here three times for pierogi- that good. Pierogi are kind of like ravioli- the dough is a bit thicker, and traditionally, pierogies are filled with mashed potatoes and cheese, and topped with sautéed onions. The pierogies here were amazing. Especially loved the traditional potato and cheese ones, and the apple cinnamon dessert variety
  • Hummus Amamamusi: Ace hummus in Krakow? I was as surprised as you may be! Simple, yet delicious- tried the classic hummus, which came with fresh vegetables for dipping and pita
  • Moment: Awesome place for brunch! Had a huge omelet stuffed with cheese, spinach and tomatoes for under £5, and a fresh orange-grapefruit juice for less than £1. 10/10 recommend
  • Charlotte: Another great brunch find, like Paris in Poland. Great cafe creme and tried a goat cheese, honey and thyme sandwich on the cafe’s fresh toasted bread
  • Cafe Camelot: Stopped in this pink beauty to read for a while, and snacked on baguette topped with goat cheese, beets and sprouts. Very yum
  • Truckarnia: Didn’t eat here, but walked past it to check out the food trucks. If you’re into street food, looks like there are a few good options here if you’re hungry while wandering the Jewish Quarter
  • Mercy Brown: You know a speakeasy is good when it’s completely unmarked, and to get to it, you have to speak to a man at a building reception desk, then head through hallways reserved for kitchen staff.  Seriously impressed with the cocktails being served here- for less than £6 a drink, I tried a variation on the Manhattan and a gin inspired tea drink
  • Scandale Royal: Preferred Mercy Brown, but this was a fun stop for a final drink (bit busier, closer to market square)
  • Mleczarnia: Krakow is full of beautiful, casual beer gardens, but this was one of my favorites
  • Wodka: Great vodka tasting, you can choose individual flavors to try or choose several as part of their sampling tray

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A Sobering Connection to WWII

After the invasion of Poland at the start of World War II, Hitler made Krakow the capital of Germany’s General Government. At that time, the Jewish population was foced into a walled zone, known as the Krakow Ghetto only to be sent to Auschwitz or other nearby camps.

On one of my mornings, I wandered the Jewish Quarter. The square, known as Ghetto Heroes Square, is where Jews were forced to live in poor conditions. Just across the road is Schindler’s Factory, the inspiration for Schindler’s List.

If you really want to cram in as much as possible on your trip, I’d also book a tour to Aucshwitz. I hadn’t planned any activities before visiting, and missed out on booking a tour when they all filled up. If this is on your must-visit list, book your visit in advance- there are plenty of tour companies that leave from central Krakow, usually early morning and early afternoon. Visiting on your own is a bit tougher, because unless you’re there before 10 am, you have to register your visit on-site and join a tour.

Today, the Jewish Quarter is an up and coming part of Krakow. With interesting beer gardens, restaurants and cafes down every alleyway, it’s a good place to spend a few hours, taking in history and being entertained.

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The Wieliczka Salt Mines

Just outside of Krakow, the salt mines have been around for over 700 years, and are some of the oldest in Europe. If you book a tour to visit from the city, expect to spend a half day there- it’s about ~25-30 minutes each way, and the tour itself takes ~2.5-3 hours.

It’s time well spent though, the mines are fascinating.

Inside, you’ll descend 800 steps over the course of the tour (don’t worry, there’s an elevator at the end) to see carvings of important figures in Polish history, churches (yes churches inside the mines!), model equipment, enormous chambers and narrow passageways.

You’ll have no doubt of the salt around you- at a few points in the tour, you can try the salt from the walls or the salt water running through the mines.

Visiting was such a unique experience, I’d recommend it to anyone visiting Krakow.

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Have you ever been to Krakow? What was your favorite part of your visit? 

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PS. Never stayed in an Airbnb? If you use this link, you’ll get a £25 discount (off a trip of £55 or more), and I’ll earn credit towards finding great places to stay on one of my future trips.

3 Reasons to Love Stavanger, Norway

In the weeks leading up my trip to Norway, I’d tell people I was visiting Bergen and Stavanger, and more often than not, they’d ask, ‘Where is Stavanager?’

A southwestern port city in Norway, Stavanager is surrounded by fjords, mountains and sandy coastlines. Wood houses dot the hillside above city center and cobblestone streets abound. It’s a place that oozes charm in every sense of the word.

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While booking our trip, I knew I wanted to see more of Norway than Bergen, but didn’t want to lose a day on the train to Oslo. So, faced with the decision of going north (to Alesund) or south (to Stavanger), I ultimately landed on south after scoring a cheap return flight to London, and finding an affordable ferry ride from Bergen to Stavanger.

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In the weeks leading up to our adventure, we decided not to book tours because we were worried the weather would be less than ideal. Once we realised we’d have five days of blue skies and sunshine, I booked us on a 3 hour fjord cruise, but left the other days open for us to wander.

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In total, we were in Stavanger for two days- arrived Saturday evening and left Monday evening.

~48 hours was the perfect amount of time to explore this Scandi city. If you’re thinking about visiting Norway’s western coast, these are my top reasons for spending a few days in Stavanager.

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Mountains to Hike

Stavanger’s most popular hike, Preikestolen is known to most visitors as Pulpit Rock. It’s said to be a stunning four hour return hike that ends in an incredible view of the fjord below. When we visited, the hike wasn’t officially open for the season and we’d been told to only consider it if we hired a guide and rented a car (ferries/buses don’t run often in the off-season). Interested in doing neither, we decided to busy ourselves with alternate activities, and managed to get our hiking fix while in Bergen.

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Fjords to Cruise

Lysefjord is one of Norway’s most stunning fjords. We’d cruised fjords while in Bergen on Norway in a Nutshell, but found Lysefjord to be our favourite. The boat we cruised on for Lysefjord was much smaller than the one we’d been on for Norway in a Nutshell, which meant we were close to the mountain walls- even cruising right up to a waterfall to get fresh drinking water.

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Our cruise left at 11 am Easter morning, which meant we had time to pick up breakfast from 7-11 (cinnamon roll and coffee, everything else was closed) before boarding the boat. For the first part of the cruise, as we sailed past fishing villages and mountains, we enjoyed the landscape through the boat’s panoramic windows- it was pretty chilly outside.

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Once we slowed speed and entered the fjord, we headed to the front deck- the perfect place to see and get shots of the fjord ahead. Also ended up being a prime spot for seeing the waterfall up close 🙂

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We brought breakfast on board, but there’s a kiosk offering snacks and beverages in case you get hungry while cruising.

Wherever you are in Norway, a fjord cruise is a can’t-miss activity. They’re magnificent.

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An Old Town and Modern City to Wander

Oh Gamle Stavanger, Stavanger’s Old Town. Cobblestone streets, white wooden houses, groomed flower boxes- it’s picture perfect. An area composed of 173 white houses, Old Town is thought to date back to the 17th century and regarded as the largest surviving wooden house settlement in northern Europe.

Rumor has it painting your home white was a sign of wealth in old times- in a seaside city like Stavanger, the upkeep needed to maintain a white finish in salt air equated to serious money. In fact, some home owners even went so far as to paint the front of their homes white to create the illusion of having more than they actually did.

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The cuteness doesn’t stop in Old Town. Areas in city centre ended up being some of our favourite places from the trip.

Øvre Holmegate is one of the most colorful streets you’ll come across- the restaurants, shops and cafes are every shade of the rainbow. Check out Cirkus for a beer, Froken Phil for brunch or a cocktail, and Boker and Borst for a coffee or beer pick-me-up with plenty of games to play.

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Next to Øvre Holmegate, you’ll find The Norwegian Petroleum Museum. We didn’t visit the museum, but adjacent to the building is a playground made out of retired oil rig parts, Geoparken. Bright graffiti and a waterfront view made this one of our favourite discoveries.