Cinque Terre Transportation
There are two main things to know when coming into the Cinque Terre for the firat time: details about your arrival from outside destinations, and then the layout of the five towns themselves.
By Train: From the south, take the train to La Spezia (which could be considered the "sixth town" of the Cinque Terre), where you change to the Regional train that will make local stops throughout Cinque Terre. There isn't much to see in La Spezia, but it's a good place to check timetables and grab a map so that you're set to make the transfer into your end destination. From the North, your main connection is through Genoa and into Levanto where you will hop onto the Regional train.
By Plane: Nearby airports are Milan, Rome, Florence, Bologna, Pisa and Genova. From any of these, hop on a train and head into the region. This can take anywhere from about 2 hours (coming from Pisa) up to 6 hours (coming from Rome)
Between the Towns
Hiking trails, trains and ferries connect the towns. The National Park of Cinque Terre has created the Cinque Terre Card for tourists - a ticket that allows you to walk on the "Via Dell'amore" train between the first towns, as well as gives you unlimited travel on the trains between Levanto and La Spezia, and access to the path for the Guardiola tower. Pick it up at any Tourist Information center for about €6/day.
Between 6:30am and 10pm, several trains run each hour between Genoa and La Spezia, stopping at each of the 5 villages. One train ticket costs a bit more than €1, but the Cinque Terre card will give you unlimited rides.
Cinque Terre Nightlife
While the nightlife in Cinque Terre doesn't rank anywhere near the reputations of cities like Prague or Barcelona, there are still ways to enjoy yourself once the sun goes down. Each town has it's own center with a unique flavor:
Manarola: Say hi to Ivo, an ex-pat from San Francisco, for us at Bar Centrale where the students hang out until close. Cantina dello Zio Bramante can also be a good time, especially when they host live m usic on the weekends.
Monterosso: In the largest town of the 5, you'll find pubs along Via Roma that are low-key.
Riomaggiore: Pie' de Ma' Wine Bar is a small spot with a local wine list and beautiful terrace on a nice night.
Vernazza: Here you'll find the most happening scene of them all, especially in the lively main square.
If you're visiting during the summer, take some time to look into local festivals going on and dive right in. There's always a party to be had on the local beaches if you want to get adventurous!
Whether it's sangria and flamenco in Barcelona or good craic in Dublin, we're checking out the local flavor!
Our Favorite Cinque Terre Eats
As the birthplace of pesto and white wine, there is never a shortage of delicious food in these sea towns. Get ready to indulge!
Pesto: Liguria is where this green sauce made its debut, and today, the basil grown in this region is used to create pesto alla genovese. Every restaurant has their own version- from pesto pizza and pasta to pesto bruschetta and foccaccia- so take a food tour throughtout the area, and let us know which was your favorite!
Miele Di Corniglia: The region's best gelato flavor, made from local honey - you'll be coming back for more!
Anchovies: Don't be shy - even if you're not an anchovy lover back home, you'll be swayed by the delicacy when visiting this region. Our favorite is crispy and fried, but you can find them stuffed, baked, on pizza, just about any which way! A staple of these Mediterranean towns, you'll find them to be especially abundant during the late spring and summer, when fishermen retreive them from just off the coast of Monterosso.
Mussels: As a group of fishermen towns, seafood is prevalent in every meal, but the traditional stuffed mussels prepared in a tomato sauce and seved with fresh parmasean is something you won't forget!
The entire Cinque Terre coast is covered by vineyards and olive groves, but the area is known for two wine varieties that are unique to the region - white wine and sciacchetra. Sciacchetra is a sweet, thick wine often served for dessert or special occassions.
Join us as we sample delicious local specialties throughout Europe!
Activities in the Cinque Terre
The 5 Terre is a dream like break from other European cities such as Rome or Paris - without a care in the world you are able to simply take in the multi-colored architecture and dramatic natural beauty. The famous walking trails give you a chance to explore each individual village while meandering along the 7-mile coast.
The Via dell'Amore, or "Lover's Lane" begins in Riomaggiore, and continues to Manarola. This is the easiest part of the walk right into the city center. From there, make the decision about how strenous of a day you're in for, and either follow the coastline to Corniglia or hike up through the vineyards.
After Corniglia, the path to Vernazza is arguably the most difficult, but the destination is so worth it. The most picturesque town of the five, head up the main street, past the train tracks until you find "Il Pirata". Run by a pair of goofy Sicilian twins, this spot makes the best canoli and authentic Sicilian granitas we've ever had. Feeling adventurous - try the blackberry!
Your last stop is Monterosso, and if you've put in a full day, this is the push to the finish. It's so worth the reward though when you come upon the beautiful landscape of this largest town, so stick it out!
Depending on how fast you move, the entire experience can take anywhere from 2.5 hours (super speed) to an entire day of exploring, shopping and eating. Andy ran from town to town in 1.5 hours one summer. Can you beat that?!
While we take no responsibility, keep your eyes open for fun cliff jumping spots. We've found a few good ones in our time, but it's important to be extremely careful!
Planning an entire trip through Italy? Come with us!
Getting There and Back
Getting to this tiny paradise is easy no matter where you're coming from!
Ibiza's international airport called San José (IBZ) is located just 4.6 miles outside of Ibiza Town (the largest city) and hosts most budget airlines such as ryanair and vueling. With frequent buses to and from you can easily get to where you're staying from the airport without having to pay a lot for a taxi, even though the option is available. Don't use the fixed-prices taxis right after you leave the aipor-- try to use one of the licensed taxis as their prices will be around 50% cheaper. Bus fare is less than 5 Euros one-way.
There are many ferry companies with many destinations to and from Ibiza. Prices depend on the season and the origin of your trip. Here are some of the popular destinations and companies:
- From Ibiza and St. Antoni you can use the company Iscomar.
- From Alicante (summer only) or Valencia (year-round) you can use the company Trasmediterranea.
- From Barcelona (all year) you can use either Trasmediterranea, Balearia, Blackpearl, Sailboat, or Iscomar.
The local bus system will allow you to get anywhere you want to go on the island. Bus fare varies on your destination, but for their time table check out the website at: http://www.horariodebus.es/.
Foodie Findings in Ibiza
When you're not in the mood for a kebab, which seems to be the most common source of noursihment on the island-- Ibiza can offer a lot more when it comes to food. So here are the top 3 foodie findings in Ibiza:
1) Golden Buddha, San Antoni:
Holding true to its name, this restuarante is filled with golden Buddas and Indian-inspired decor. This is a good place to grab a yummy bite while enjoying a view of the ocean.
2) Café Sidney, Ibiza Town:
Right off of the marina, you really will feel like you're in the Sidney harbor.
3) Café Matinal, Formentera:
Famous for it's breakfast and friendly service this place is great for a low key meal.
Welcome to Crazy Town
Ibiza is one of the world's top clubbing destinations. There are so many options that it's hard to pick just one, but keep in mind that tickets at the door are extremely expensive, but there are lots of other places to buy a last mintue ticket. Prices vary according to what time you get to the club and if you're going to see a famous artist or not, so tickets usually are priced from 40 Euros to 120 Euros per ticket (sometimes one drink is included). So, with that in mind, here are the most reccomended clubs in Ibiza:
This is a huge venue with platforms and rooms galore with plenty of space to dance, and with the beach just mintues away it's not uncommon to see people taking a swim to cool off afterwards. We Love... Space is their weekly party which opens at 4.30pm on Sunday and keeps going until 6 AM Monday morning, so the fun never really stops! For more information check out their website at: http://www.spaceibiza.com/.
Recently winner of the title "best global club" this is one of the world's best without a doubt. This venue can pack more than 5,000 people on its dance floors and was the first outdoor club on the island, including outdoor terraces where you can dance while you watch the sun rise. For more information check out their website at: http://www.amnesia.es/.
This is one of the world's biggest and most well-know nightclub franchises and Ibiza just happens to be its most famous location. Pacha is best known its five different rooms that all blast house music for the most part. For more information check out their website at: http://www.pacha.com/.
* For more recommendations and dates for special events, check out: http://www.ibiza-spotlight.com/night/club_dates_i.htm
The Beaches of Ibiza
With some of the world's most beautiful beaches most of the sights to see while in Ibiza are amazing white sanded beaches borded by clear turquoise waters. The island has countless coves that are accessible by a short bus ride (bus fares vary). Depending on what side of the island you're on you'll have access to different clubs and beaches. San Antoni is on the western side of the island and is a smaller city in comparasion to Ibiza town (on the eastern side), which is the main city and the most popular desintation for those who love to go out to clubs even though both offer plenty discotecas to chose from. There are also lots of boat parties that will take you to the smaller and more southern island of Formentera, which is rated the world's 4th most beautiful beach and definitely worth the trip! So here are the top 5 beaches to see while in Ibiza:
1) Ses Illetes, Formentera:
Settled on the most northern point of this tiny island, you can walk to a whole other island during low tide and walk less than 30 feet from one side of the island to the other at its most narrow point that's framed with some of the most amazing blue water you may ever see.
2) Cala Jondal:
Lookin' for a millionaire Spanish lover is sweep you off your feet? This is the place to find them! Cala Jondal is the exclusive beach where Ibiza’s yacht owners like to weigh anchor and spend the day soaking up the sun on a luxurious daybed or sipping on mojitos in one of the beach bars.
3) Cala Conta:
A short drive from San Antoni this cala (cove) is borded by rugged cliffs and white sandy beaches that help form the four smaller coves that are also home to some great snorkeling.
This beach is considered to be a suburb of Ibiza Town and is a short walk from Playa D'en Bossa and from where the majority of the clubs are, making your walk home a sandy stroll. This beach is also used as the port from where you can take a day trip to Formentera or the Wednesday cruise to Es Cana where the weekly hippy market takes place.
5) Cala Llonga:
This is the new beach hub of Ibiza as just 30 years ago this beach was only accessible by boat. Today it is one of the best for swimming, shopping, and soaking up some rays.
* For more recommendations on other beaches check out this website: http://www.loveibiza.net/beaches/
Budapest: Sites and Restaurants
A slightly touristy stretch of restaurants on this street but it offers lots of options with outdoor seating and isn't a bad place to sit, relax, grab a drink, and people watch!
Budavar Ruszwurm Cukraszda
Address: 1014 Budapest, Szentháromság tér 7
Wonderful cafe situated just down the road from Matthias Church. Famous for their cakes, it is well worth stopping here for the Hungarian chocolate or cream cakes.
Address: 051 Budapest, Vörösmarty tér 7-8
Great for any meal of the day. This cafe is famous for their pastries are heavenly & their breakfast plates are exceptional.
Address: 1061 Budapest, Liszt Ferenc tér 2
Situated just on the corner of Andrássy út, this restaurant is too good to be true. The restuarant is clean & modern, and features good traditional Hungarian food, great espeically if you're looking for a sit-down meal that won't break the bank.
Address: 1014 Budapest, Szentháromság tér 5
A medieval-looking view platform behind Matthias Church that features beautiful architecture and a nice resting spot.
Hospital in the Rock:
Address: 1012 Budapest, Lovas Way 4/c
Below Matthias Church is an old hospital/nuclear bunker that is open to visitors. You must go in as part of a tour but tours leave frequently and are given in both Hungarian and English. It is well worth the WWII and 1956 history lesson to see this establishment (and wax figures reinacting the scenes of the day!) as the small facility featured prominently in several large-scale events! Entry is roughly €10.
Address: 1014 Budapest, Szentháromság tér 2
Stunning example of neo-Gothic architecture. The church sits on top of Castle Hill and look over the Danube River towards Parliament for quite the view.
Address: 1055 Budapest, Kossuth Lajos tér
Check out Budapest's most iconic building situated right along the Danube River. It's worth going inside but be sure to reserve a tour group ahead of time, jumping on board the day of is highly unlikely.
St. Stephen's Church:
Climb to the top, it only costs about €3 and offers a breathtaking view!
Széchenyi Thermal Baths:
Address: 1146 Budapest, Állatkerti körút 11
Located right in the center of the city, these baths are easy to get to and are a great way to experience the Hungarian tradition of thermal baths. Entry is €10-€12 depending on the day of the week.
With the most number of bars per capita of any European city, Madrid has way too many options to pick just three, so if you see an interesting bar-- go for it! But here are some suggestions for bars and discotecas (night clubs) while in Madrid.
1) El Junco: This groovy jazz bar offers weekly concerts and a sutlry atmosphere. To see who's playing when, check their concert line-up at: http://en.eljunco.com/#!concerts. Metro stop: L1, Tribinual.
2) Tupperware: Covered in colorful graphitti and blasting alternitive jams, this bar is a great hangout. Metro stop: Noviciado.
3) Chapandaz: With stagaltites hanging from the ceiling this cueva (cave) is an excellent bar to grab a novelity drink from the bar and enjoy their weekly theme parties. Metro stop: L3,L6 Moncloa.
1) Joy: Extremely close to Puerta del Sol and open every single day of the year, this club is a crazy fun mix of concert venue and discoteca. For more information check out their website at:http://www.joy-eslava.com/Joy_Madrid/Welcome_Intro.html. Metro stop: Puerta del Sol.
2) Kapital: This may be Madrid's most famous club. Seven stories tall, with a different musical theme on each one, this place has it all. The first floor is Kapital's largest dance space, which plays house music and regularly features go-go dancers. The second floor is where the karaoke happens and the third floor has the hip-hop dance space. The fourth floor has a bar area and fifth floor the pop music dance floor. The sixth floor is dedicated to chill out with chairs and films playing while the last floor is in the open air and has billiards. For more information check out their website at: http://www.grupo-kapital.com/. Metro stop: Atocha.
3) OHM: One of Madrid's best gay clubs, there's usually a line wrapping around the corner, but it's well worth the wait to get into this old movie theater turned club. Metro stop: Callao. For more information check out their website at: http://www.ohmclub.es/. Metro stop: L3, Moncloa.
Tapas in Madrid
Madrid offers lots and lots of options when it comes to going out for a bite to eat, but if you're looking to save a few pavos (bucks) then here are the top 3 places to eat while in Madrid.
1) El Tigre: located just a short walk away from Gran Via this tapas resturant promises two things: the cheapest tapas in town and crushing crowds to prove it. This local institution offers cañas of beer for 1,50 Euros with a free plate of traditional Spanish tapas or dinner and a drink for 4,50 Euros. Not too shabby.
2) Mecardo San Miguel: Just off of Plaza Mayor is indoor market has a huge variety of goodies. Even if you're not hungry, it's a great photo opporntunity. Metro:Opera L2,L5,R.
3) Mueso de Jamón: With several locations throughout the city this places offers deli takeout service as well as tapas. This is a great place to try Spain's famous dried and cured jamón (ham). With jamón bocadillos (ham sandwhiches) for 1 Euro and fresh fruit and a drink for 2 Euros, this is the perfect place to get a picnic lunch before heading to El Parque del Retiro.
El Prado, Parks, and Madrileño Pride
Madrid is the home to some of the world's best fine art musuems, some the most passionate fútbol fans, and peacful parks--so no matter what you're interested in Madrid's got it. Here are the top 3 things to do and see while in Madrid.
1) El Prado, El Matadero, Reina Sofia, or the Thyssen:
Home of some of the world's most famous pieces of art, Madrid is filled with amazing museums.
- For one of the world's largest collections check out El Prado, for more information check out their website at: http://www.museodelprado.es/en/.
- To see Picasso's masterpiece, Guernica, and other works of contemporary and modern art check out the Reina Sofia. For more information check out their website at: http://www.museoreinasofia.es/index_en.html.
- Walk through the evolution of art and amazing temporary exhibits at the Thyssen. For more information check out their website at: http://www.museothyssen.org/en/thyssen/home.
- Explore the contemporary and creative space that is El Matadero. For more information check out their website at: http://www.mataderomadrid.org/.
2) Real Madrid Game:
Fan of soccer? Love fútbol? Buy your tickets ahead of time as the stadium normally sells out way before the game date. Even if you're not that into soccer, watching Spaniards go crazy is just as fun! For ticket information check out the website at: http://www.madrid-tickets.net/.
3) Park del Retiro:
Get lost in this huge park in the middle of the bustling city. Street vendors, local artists, and a great atmosphere come together to create a wonderful afternoon. There are also row boats that you can rent for an hour or two to take out across the lake.
Getting There and Back
Getting to Spain's capital is a snap using planes, trains, and other types of automobiles.
Madrid's international airport (MAD) is a big one, as it has 4 terminals and its own mini metro system to help you get to your terminal faster. MAD is located 8 miles outside of the city and is connected to the city metro to help you get around. You can take the metro into the center of the city (Puerta del Sol) by taking L8 (it's pink), the cost of a ticket is 4,50 Euros and runs from 6.30 am to 1.30 am. Another cheaper way to get into the city is taking the Cercanias commuter train (line C-1), tickets cost 2,15 Euros and it runs from 5.30 am to 11.30 pm. There is also a shuttle bus that costs 5 Euros, but it's cheaper to take the public bus (#200) as the ticket only costs 1,50 Euros. There is also a night time public bus (N4) that goes from Plaza Ciebels to Barajas. A night time shuttle bus is also available that costs 9,90 Euros for each passenger.
Madrid has two RENFE train stations which both have connections to the city metro and the Cercanias commuter trains. Most international trains connect with Madrid at the Chamartín station (metro lines 1 and 10), and most national trains (mostly to/from Barcelona, Andalusia, and Valencia) connect at the Atocha station. There are daily trains to and from Barcelona (taking 2 and a half hours) and Sevilla (taking 2 and a half hours) as well as trains to Lisbon, Milan, and Paris. To check out their timetables check out their website at: http://www.renfe.com/.
Madrid is home to 8 inter city, national, and international bus stations. Most international buses connect at the Estación Sur de Autobuses (Calle de Méndez Alvaro). There are also frequent buses to and from Bilbao and Barcelona that connect at the Avenida de América bus station. Both of these stations are accessible by the metro, and for further information you can ask a tourist office or check out their website at: http://www.esmadrid.com/en/portal.do.
Foodie Findings in Barça
As a prominent sea-side city, Barcelona offers lots of wonderful seafood and Catalán cuisine, such as paella (rice with seafood), pa amb tomáquet (bread with tomato), and cava (Catalán champagne). So here are the top 3 places to grab a bite to eat in Barcelona:
1) Bo de B: This is the best sandwich shop EVER. With a line always out the door, the wait is well worth the wait as these monstrous sandwiches cost up to 5 Euros (perfect for the student budget) and stuffed with all types of meats and veggies. You can stop by the convenience store next door to get a drink and then head over to the harbor to enjoy your meal.
2) Barrí Gotico: If you're looking to try out some Catalán dishes or Spanish tapas, this is the neighbor to do so with countless hole-in-the-wall joints that you'll want to try them all.
3) La Boquería: The central market right off of Las Ramblas, this place is a great stop to snap a few pictures and snatch a bocadillo (sandwich). They also serve fresh fruit juices for 1,50 Euro, and if you go around closing time (8 pm) the vendors might even give you a deal on whatever you have your eye on.
* Vegetarian option: If you're a vegetarian and are looking for something yummy, check out Maoz off of Las Ramblas. They also serve vegan options.
Sightseeing in Barça: Sagrada Familia Included
Barcelona is filled with amazing activities, architecture, art, and much, much, more. Every barrio, or neighborhood, offers their own unique and enticing array of attractions, but here are the top 3 sights to see in Barcelona:
Sights to see:
1) Sagrada Familia:
Visit the church that symbolizes the city of Barcelona. As it is still a work in progress your ticket entry helps pay for the on going construction. The wait can be long for this one, but it's well worth the wait. You can buy your ticket ahead of time at any Servicaixa ATM with the service fee of 1,30 Euro. Or you can book your ticket at their website: http://www.ticketmaster.es/nav/en/index.html. Otherwise entry is 14 Euros. It is highly recommended that you also send the extra 4 Euros to get the audio guide to hear all about the unique history surrounding this iconic building. Using the elevator inside costs 2,50 Euros and the wait could be a long one. Metro stop: Sagrada Familia.
2) Las Ramblas:
Rambla is the Spanish translation of the Arabic word for 'babbling brook'. There are many streets called 'Rambia de___', but the largest Rambla is one of the busiest streets in all of Barcelona, so there's a lot to see as you walk away from Plaça de Catalunya and towards the beach. But stay aware of your surroundings as this street is also full of pickpockets. Metro stop: Plaça Catalunya
The park above the city offers not only amazing views of Barcelona, but also art exhibitions, museums of all kinds, a night time fountain show, and much more. Metro stop: L2 or L3 to Parallel and then take the Funicular tram.
*Other suggestions: Block of Discord, Bogatell Beach, and Parc Güell
Join the Catalán conga line
Barcelona is home of some of the world's best nightclubs, called discotecas. This city has it all, from smooth jazz clubs to crazy fist-pumping venues, it's almost impossible not to dance the night away here. So here are the top 3 best bars and clubs to check out in Barcelona:
The Best Bars:
1) Chupitos: Chupitos is Spanish for shots, and with their countless selection (like the 'Harry Potter' and the 'Monica Lewinsky') you could easily spend your whole night here! For more information check out their website at: http://www.espitchupitos.com/barcelona/.
2) Apolo: A great bar with a wide selection of music. This place is well-known for its Monday night jazz and live musical showcases. For more information check out their website at: http://www.sala-apolo.com/.
3) Ice Bar Barcelona: Put on that ski jacket, grab that shot glass made of ice, and chill with your friends in one of the most unique bars in Barcelona. For more information check out their website at: http://www.icebcn.com/.
*Other suggestions: Cyranos, Harlem Jazz Club, Gat Nerge (1 Euro beer!), La Oveja Nerga (Best for sharing jarras, or jugs, of either sangria or beer with friends)
The Best Clubs:
1) Opium: It's a club, it's a restaurant, it's a crazy good time, check out their website at: http://www.opiummar.com/home/.
2) Otto Zutz: This place has been called the watering hole for Barcelona's rich, famous, and beautiful people. Skip the line by printing out a flyer or signing up on this website:http://www.discotecasgratis.com/Barcelona/Clubs/Bcn/Otto-Zutz/. Normal entry fee is 15 Euros.
3) Razzmatazz: No matter if you like electronic music and your friend likes indie-rock-- this club has it all, including an extremely fun atmosphere. Check out the website at: http://www.salarazzmatazz.com/.
*Other suggestions: Sidecar (Rock and Alternative), La Fira, Magic Club (80s music), and Moog (techno)
Getting There and Back
Getting to Spain's second largest city is extremely easy with lots of options to consider:
Barcelona is home to a major international airport with flights coming in from all over the world. Most major and lowcost airlines fly into Barcelona (BCN or also known as El Prat), but please take note that you can only check in for your flight at the respective terminal, but there is a bus that connects the two terminals.
The airport is located about 9 miles outside of the city center (around 30 minutes with normal traffic). There are lots of options for getting into the center of town: you can grab a taxi for around 30 Euros, which is the most expensive option. There are RENFE trains (R2 Nord) that leave every 30 minutes and has stops at Sants (around 20 minutes), Passeig de Gràcia (24 minutes), El Clot-Aragó (30 min.) and many more stops beyond the city limits. The city bus #46 leaves every 20 minutes from both terminals and stops at Plaça Espanya (around 40 minutes) a single ticket costs around 3 Euros. You can also take the Aerobus, which is the popular choice as it leaves every 10 minutes and leaves from both terminals. Line A1 goes to and from T1, and A2 goes to T2. The Aerobus goes along Gran Via de les Corts to Plaça Catalunya (beside El Corte Inglés), the trip normally takes about 40 minutes, single tickets cost 5,30 Euros and a round trip ticket costs 9,15 Euros. Please note that Aerobus stops running at 12pm. If you need to go to the airport between 11 pm and 5 am, you can take the Nitbús or the night bus which leaves every 20 minutes from Plaça Catalunya and takes around 45 minutes (line N17), a single ticket costs around 3 Euros.
There are two other airports that fly into Barcelona. Girona (GRO) is located around 62 miles to the north of the city. Reus (REU) is located 62 miles to the south. If you are flying into either one of these there are shuttle buses available. From the Girona airport there is a shuttle bus to the Estació del Nord (near the Arc de Triomf merto stop), a single ticket costs 12 Euros and a round trip costs 21 Euros. The trip takes about an hour and fifteen mintues with normal traffic. If you are leaving from Reus you can take the Hispano Igualadina bus that leaves in sync with Ryanair arrivals and departures. A single ticket costs 13 Euros and a round trip costs 24 Euros, the trip normally takes 2 hours with normal traffic. For a cheaper option you can also take the RENFE train to the Sants station, costing 7,25 Euros and then grab the #50 bus from the Sants station (2,10 Euros). The whole trip takes around two and a half hours.
The main bus company in Spain is ALSA and they have regular buses going to and from mostly any city in Spain. The main bus station is Barcelona Nord which has all of the national and international connections you may need. They also have 18 buses a day to and from Madrid. For more information check out their website: http://www.barcelonanord.com/default_eng.asp.
There are three main stations in Barcelona:
1) Barcelona-Sants (south western part of the city center)
2) Barcelona-Passeig de Gràcia (near Carrer d'Aragó on Passeig de Gràcia also in the city center)
3) Barcelona-Estació de França (near Avinguda Marquès de l´Argentera which is on the edge of the old town and next to Barceloneta)
Both the Estació de Sants and Passeig de Grácia offer trains every day to Cerbére, France with connections to Marseille and Nice. There are also two direct 'Taigo' trains every day that go to Sants to Perpigan, Beziers, and Montpellier in France. You can also take overnight trains through the company Elipsos that go to Milan and Zurich every other day, a second class ticket normally costs around 80 Euros. There are also trains that go over the Pyrenees mountains to Toulouse, France. There are four trains a day, and the normal cost for a single ticket is 30 Euros (the trip taking around 8 hours). For more information check: http://www.elipsos.com/.
There is also a high-speed rail line (AVE) that goes to Madrid. This rail offers 11 trains a day, and the trip takes around 3 hours total.
With Bilbao's emerging modernity there are lots of new and funky bars to check out while here. Boogie in the Basque region in the 3 top night clubs in Bilbao.
1. Distrito 9: Located near the Guggenheim Museum, this is one of the city's hottest alternative dance clubs. Mostly playing house music and serving refreshing drinks, this could be the most popular discoteca (night club) in this part of town.
2. Holiday: With its retro beats and prime central location this discoteca (night club) attracts the young party animals of the city.
3. Columbus: Highly recommended by locals this club has pumpin' beats and a very modernly decorated interior.
Pintxos: The Basque Tapa
The Basque region offers some of the freshest and unique food items in Spain. For the most part the Basque region is known for its famous rioja (red wine), but don't be afraid to try the sidra (hard cider). Try the Basque version of tapas, or pintxos, as they tend to be more elaborate and elegant in comparison. With that said here are 3 of the top places to eat while in Bilbao.
1. Zortziko: This restaurant offers up the best of traditional Basque dishes including the sea bass and pigeon, and make sure to ask ahead to eat in the wine cellar.
2. Antzokia: A great Menu del Día (Menu of the Day) makes this perfect for sharing with two main dishes and a desert for around 12 Euros.
3. Panko: A good place to try out the pinxtos (regional tapas) and the local wines. Everything here was very reasonably priced.
Bask in the Glory of the Basque Country
Just 20 years ago Bilbao was considered dangerous to visit, but with the involvement from the Guggenheim Foundation the city has transformed itself into a safe haven for amazing architecture and the Basque culture. Make sure to see the main points of Bilbao with the 3 top sights to see while in Bilbao.
1. The Guggenheim Museum: See Frank Gehry's silver masterpiece, the huge flower statue shaped like a dog by Jeff Koons, the large iron spider, or the spuratic fire fountain out front. Or actually go inside and see one the world's Guggenheims museums of modern art-- either way you are going to see some amazing artwork! Like most museums there is a student discount for the entrance ticket. For more information check out: http://www.guggenheim-bilbao.es/secciones/el_museo/el_edificio.php?idioma=en and remember that there are different hours during the summer months!
2. Casco Viejo: The old and historic neighborhood in Bilbao offers you open-air markets, goregous churches, and plenty of local watering holes.
3. Mount Artxanda: Take a small tram up the side of Mount Artxandra for less than 2 Euros and get the best view in town, of the town. One of the two small mountain ranges that frame Bilbao (the other one being Pagasarri) Artxanda offers you an amazing panoramic view after a 400 meter ride up the mountain with Monte Avril.
In the heart of the Basque region Bilbao offers a couple of day-trip options:
1. San Sebastian: This small coastal town hosts one of the best in-city beaches in Europe, giving you the unique opportunity to tan, surf, or swim right next to some of the major historical landmarks of the area.
There are trains that arrive from many parts of Spain, Portugal, and France including overnight rides from Lisbon and Paris (be careful not to confuse this San Sebastian with Saint Sébastien in France!) There are two train companies that go to San Sebastian 1) RENFE 2) Euskotren. There is also a small airport in San Sebastian about 20 km away from the city center with buses that leave from Plaza Gipuzkoa every hour. The trip takes around 30 minutes with four stops and it costs about 2 Euros. You can also bus into San Sebastian, Bilbao and Pamplona are around an hour's ride away. Overnight buses run from Madrid, Milan, and Barcelona as well. Major sites to see in San Sebastian include:
- Miramar Palace
- Mount Igueldo
- The beaches! (La Concha, Ondarreta, and La Zurriola)
2. Guernica: The small Basque town which was the site of the first airborne bombing attack on a civilian town during the Spanish civil war. The bombing in 1937 was the inspiration for Picasso to paint one of his most famous cubist works Guernica, now on display at the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid. To get there, there is a train each hour from Atxuri station taking around 50 minutes to get there, or you can grab a bus for 2,50 Euros each way making the bus the cheaper and faster option. Major sites to see in Guernica include:
- Fundacion Museo de la Paz de Guernica (The Foundation Museum of Peace)
- Euskal Herria Museum
- Park of the Peoples of Europe
- Assembly House and the Tree
- Udetxea Palace
You can see Guernica in two hours as it's a very small town, making it the perfect afternoon trip outside of the city.
Getting There and Back
The capital of Basque country Bilbao offers a rich culture that survived, not only the Roman conquest, but also the pressure of autonomy with the rest of Spain. Bilbao is just a quick bus ride to either the beach town of San Sabastian or the historical site of Guernika, which inspired one of Picasso's greatest works.
If you're flying into Bilbao's international airport (BIO) you can grab the Bizkaibus from the sidewalk, and it can be a bit disorienting as there is no Arrivals hallway. The Biskaibus leaves every half- hour (00:15 and 00:45) and the a one-way ticket costs around 2 Euros. You can also grab a taxi into the city center which will cost around 30 Euros.
All buses to other provinces leave from the TermiBus terminal. There are regular routes to Santander (around 75 minutes), San Sebastian (60 minutes), and Madrid (4-5 hours). The main bus company is ALSA, and be sure to buy your ticket in advance as there are only two ticket windows here. You can buy your ticket online here: http://www.alsa.es/portal/site/Alsa/ They can send you a text messege as proof of your purchase if you can't print out your ticket.
The train tends to be more expensive than the bus and goes to most of the same destinations. But if you are using a rail pass, or just want to experience the train, here are your options.
Renfe: runs intercity trains to Madrid, Barcelona, and Vigo (Galicia). All of trains with Renfe leave from the Abando Station. For more information check out: http://www.renfe.com/
Feve: runs daily trains to Santander (3 per day), and into Leon, France (1 trip per day). These train are very slow, and make a stop in almost every single town they pass through, but if you need a connection from Santander you can go to Oviedo (Asturias) and La Coruña (Galicia) with this company. All of these trains leave from the Santander Station. For more information check out: http://www.feve.es/es/
EuskoTren: runs a locally into San Sebastian, with connection there for the city of Irun (on the Spanish-French border). It should take around two hours to get to San Sebastian. All trains leave from the Atxuri Station. For more information check out: http://www.euskotren.es/
Exhibitions in Rome
Adding one of Rome's many "mostra" to your list of things to do during your trip is well worth it if you're looking to add a unique spin to your travels. From modern photography to a crash course in Italian history to Renaissance artists there's a little something for everyone in Rome. Here are some worth checking out if you get the chance:
Photography of Arturo Ghergo
Open Until May 25, 2012 at Palazzo delle Esposizioni
Tues-Sun, Fri-Sat until 10:30 pm, €12.50
The Fable of Amaore and Psiche
Open Until June 10, 2012 at Castel Sant'Angelo
Tues-Sun, 9am-7:30pm, €10
Mirò! Poetry and Light
Open Until June 10, 2012 at Chiostro del Bramante
Tues-Sun, 10am-8pm, Fri-Sat until 9pm, €12
Open Until June 17, 2012 at Scuderie del Quirinale
Sun-Thurs, 10am-8pm, Fri-Sat until 10:30pm, €10
Salvador Dalì, Genius and Artist
Open Until June 30, 2012 at Complesso Vittoriano
Every day 9:30-7:30, Fri-Sat until 11:30pm, Sun. until 8:30pm, €12
Lux in Arcana: The Vatican Secret Archives Revealed
Open Until September 9, 2012 at Musei Capitolini
Tues-Sun, 9am-7pm, €12
Sculptures from the Santarelli and Zeri Collections
March 27 - July 1, 2012 at Palazzo Cipolla
April 19 - July 17, 2012 at Palazzo Venezia
Andy Warhol and the Media
June 12 - September 9, 2012 at National Gallery of Art
Tues-Sun, 8:30am-7:30pm, €9
The Italian Cinema
September 30 - November 21, 2012 at Ara Pacis
Alhambra, Albaycín, and Much More
The Muslim conquest of 711 brought Islamic rule to the Iberian Peninsula with Granada as the capital of what was Al-Andalus (Andalusia). By the 15th century the Christian Reconquista (reconquest) expelled the Muslims with a military campaign led by King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile (Los Reyes Catolicos or the Catholic Kings) from Granada, and the Sultan Boabdil surrendered in 1492 and fled to Morocco. After over 700 years of Islamic influence Granada is lots of historic sights to see that reflect this time. So here are the some of the top sights to see in Granada along with some extra activities.
1. La Alhambra:
As the last Islamic stronghold this sight is part Alcazaba (fortress), part Palacios Nazaries (Nasari Palace), part Generalife (garden), and part Medina (government city), that overlooks Granada. The Alhmabra is the number 1 tourist destination in Spain, so don't miss out! The Alhambra reflects the splendor of the Islamic civilization in Andalusia and offers the magnificent sights of ornamental architecture, lush gardens, and refreshing water features, along with breathtaking views of the city. There are five parts to the Alhambra, some of which are completely free and other require a reseveration. The Palace of Charles V holds a free fine arts museum along with a historical museum about the Alhambra and Andalusia. You will need a reseveration to see the Palacios Nazaries (Nasari Palaces) to secure a spot in any of the three time slots: morning, afternoon, and evening. If you book with a credit card there will be a 10% charge. For more information check out: http://www.servicaixa.com/nav/landings/es/mucho_mas/entradas_alhambra/entradas.html?utm_campaign=Alhambra&utm_source=alhambra_tickets&utm_medium=varios&CODIUSU=P055AL07&canalMB=ALH
Getting to La Alhambra: From city center there are red mini buses that say the Alhambra on the sides. Lines 30 and 32 offer a direct connection to the Alhambra. Both pick up from the Pavaneras 1 stop (behind Plaza Isabel La Catolica) and the Gran Via 1 stop (next to the cathedral), with the 32 also offering a direct connection to the Albayzin. There are three stops for the Alhambra: Generalife (closest to the ticket office), Carlos V (closest to the Palace of Charles V) and Puerta de la Justica - fare is €1.20. A taxi from the central district (head to the stand on Plaza Nueva) will cost you around €5. You can also walk there for free, but be warned it gets steep!
2. Los Barrios del Albaycín and the Sacromonte:
The Albaycín is the ancient Muslim neighborhood that hosts beautiful simplistic white-washed buildings, Arabic shops and restaurant, gardens, and Miradors (vista points) from which you can see the Alhambra.
To enter the Albaycín you can start at Plaza Nueva and walk uphill (North) following Paseo de los Tristes and keep walking up. Don't get too worried if you get a little lost, this area was designed that way as a defense mechanism, but there are signs directing you to the major sights in the Albaycín, like El Mirador San Nicolas from which you can enjoy free flamenco music and an amazing view of the Alhambra. Remember that you can also take the 31 or 32 mini buses to the top of the hill from Plaza Nueva (the 32 also offers a direct connection to the Alhambra) and walk your way down into the city's center.
The Sacromonte is the gitano (gypsy) neighborhood behind the Albaycín. Locals often consider it to be a world away from the rest of Granada, but this distinct district of Granada is the home to many cave dwellings and cacti, creating the perfect breeding grounds for Flamenco music. There are lot's of options if you want to go and see a Flamenco show, one of the most popular is Los Jardines de Zoraya, which also includes dinner, see more information at: http://www.jardinesdezoraya.com/. There is also a Flamenco museum in the Sacromonte, for more information check out: http://www.sacromontegranada.com/
3. La Catedral y La Capilla Real:
Check out the site of the old Mosque, which was then converted into the Cathedral that it is today. Located right off of the Gran Vía, you are located just off of the main street and in the heart of the city. Inside the Cathedral and the Capilla Real you can visit the burial site of Fernando and Isabella or Los Reyes Catolicos (The Christian Kings). Just around the corner from the Cathedral is the old Alcaiceria (Arabic Silk market) which has been converted into modern shops, and here you can find Plaza Bib-Rambla, which is full of great tapa restaurants and a loose-leaf tea booth. For more information check out: http://www.capillarealgranada.com/
Getting There and Back
Granada is a very different experience in comparison to Madrid or Barcelona, the difference between Catalonia, the capital, and Andalusia. Immerse yourself into what has been called "the most Spanish city" in Spain.
Granada's international airport (GRX) is located 8 miles outside of the city (around a half an hour with normal traffic), but there is a shuttle bus that will take you directly into the city's center (Plaza Nueva). The cost is 3 Euros each way and has 12 stops along Gran Via, which is the main street in Granada ending at Plaza de Congresos. You can also get a taxi into Granada, which normally costs around 30 Euros.
You can also fly into the Malaga (AGP) airport, which hosts more budget airlines, and take a bus from the airport to Granada and vice versa. The cost is usually 20 Euros round trip. If you do take this option remember that the bus will drop you off at the Granada bus station which is far away from the city center, but you can grab either the 3 or the 33 into town. Normal bus fare is 1,20 Euro.
ALSA is the main bus company in Spain, and go to and from Granada regularly. You can get to Sevilla, Málaga, Madrid and Cordoba as well as the port of Algeciras. The bus station is located about 2 miles from the city center, but you can grab the 3 or the 33 city bus for 1,20 Euro to get there. For more information check out: http://www.alsa.es/portal/site/Alsa/
The train station is closer to the center of the city, but is usually more expensive and takes longer. A good example of this is the trip from Granada to Madrid. By bus it takes 4 hours and costs 20 Euros where the train costs 60-70 Euros and takes 5 hours. So make sure you compare before you buy your ticket! For more information check out: http://www.renfe.com/
TAPA TAPA TAPA
Yes, the rumors are true: free food with your drink. A glass of great Spanish wine can range from 1,50 to 4,00 Euros and a beer can range from 1,50 to 3,00 Euros depending on where you go. Truly a college student's dream. So here are the top 3 places to grab a tapa in Granada:
1. Anywhere on Calle Elvira: This is the tapa paradise and is just parrellel to the main street in town, Gran Via. Here you can walk two steps in any direction and find a good tapa, some good suggestions on this street are: Bella y la Bestia (huge portions, go if you're really hungry), La Riveria (the owners are likely to give you a free glass of wine or tapa), or Babel (great location and they offer a globally-infused menu).
2. Anywhere on Calle Navas: A little more expensive than Calle Elvira, but this is the most famous street in Granada to tapa-hop. Start off of the main street Reyes Catolicos and work your way down into the charming neighbor of the Realejo while munching on tortilla de patatas (omlete) or jamón (sliced and cured ham).
3. Cafe Manila: a groovy, reasonably priced cafe near the center of the city. They offer vegan tapas and run a zero-waste business! They also host international theme nights with trivia and prizes. See more at: http://mundomanila.org/
4. El Piano: all vegan, all delicious, this cafe offers lots of health conscious food for the student budget. For more information check out their website: http://www.el-piano.com/
Night Owl Central
Granada's night-life is one of the world's greatest and unknown vortexs that will suck you in before you even know it. Start your night out around 10 pm to grab some tapas, and stay out until 9 am when you get kicked out of the discoteca (night club). Granadaian nights are truly one-of-a-kind. So here are Granada's top 3 discotecas and bars:
1. El Camborio: Full of international students and locals, this discoteca brings the whole world together. Salsa dance in abandonded gypsy caves or dance out on the terrace with the Alhambra as the back-drop. Free entry before two if you sign up with them on Facebook, and if not the cost is 10 Euros including a free drink. See more at: http://elcamborio.com/
2. Mae West: The local watering hole this club is the quintessencial Spanish discoteca. Lots of different rooms and platforms create a unique ambience. Entrance is 10 Euros with two free drinks if you get there before 2am and one free drink included if you get there after 2am. See more at: http://www.ibribones.com/MaeWestGranada.php
3. Las Marsimas: This is the best local futból bar aviable in Granada. Watch the game or the locals, both are extremely entertaining. A cerveza (beer) here goes for 1,50 Euros and comes with free pipas (sunflower seeds) to munch on.
Foodie Findings in Marrakesh
Morocco is the adventurous eater's dream as there are so many different and new things to try. Be aware that most establishments have persistent 'greeters' that will try you to go to their restaurant, don't feel obligated unless you want to eat there. Here are the top 3 eateries in Marrakech.
1. Djemaa El-Fna: the main square where you can try almost any kind of Moroccan cuisine like tajine (steamed veggies or meat), couscous, and harira (a traditional soup). Some have offal (brains) and sandwiches.
2. Henna Café: recently opened in 2011 this is a great little café where you can get henna (natural body dye) for 50 Dh or 5 Euro. You can also grab a cup of tea for 80p or 0,80 Euro or delicious lunch for 20 Dh or 2 Euro. This is a non-profit and all of the profits go to local causes!
3. Dar Najat's Kitchen: great menu for a reasonable price with really fresh food. A good alternative to the normal touristic restaurants in the area.
Maroc ‘n’ Roll
In Marrakesh's ville nouveau (new district) there are lots of options for going out, over 200 discotheques (discotecas or dance clubs)! Here are the top 3 dance clubs in Marrakesh:
1. Le Pacha: Northern Africa's biggest nightclub! Lots of big names have performed here and with space for over 1,000 people to dance its thought to be more of three clubs combined into one. Entrance is around 150 Dh or 15 Euros. For more information, check out: http://www.pachamarrakech.com/
2. Le Paradise: located in one of the oldest hotels in Marrakesh this club is in the center of the Hotel Kempinski, and with its international set list its very easy to dance the night away. Entrance is around 150 Dh or 15 Euros. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYTPIoJqUk0
3. Theatro: one of the most popular in Marrakesh this club is always poppin'. For more information, check out: http://www.theatromarrakech.com/
PLEASE REMEMBER: Morocco is an Islamic country, meaning that most Moroccans don't drink any type of alcohol!!!
Getting There and Back
The Marrakech-Menara International Airport (RAK) have direct flights arriving from Europe daily, and for low-cost companies you may have to change flights in Casablanca to get here. The airport is located 4 miles away from the city, so you can get on the bus (line 19) for 20 Dh or 2 Euro one-way or 30 Dh or 3 Euro round-trip and leaves every half-hour. Or you can take a taxi to the medina, which should take about 15 minutes and cost 150 Dh or 15 Euro.
There are trains from Casablanca, Rabat, Fez, and Tangier, but Marrakesh is the southernmost stop. If you are traveling from Marrakesh to Tangier it is highly recommended to take the night train as the trip is 10 hours. This commute has sleeper compartments costing around 500 Dh or 50 Euro, so you don't lost a whole day traveling and can explore more!
For a full list of schedules, check out: http://www.oncf.ma/
The top three touristic companies are Pullman de sud, Supratours, and CTM as they are the safest. To be on the safe-side you should buy your ticket in advance, but if there's no one at the ticket window you can normally buy a ticket from the driver. This is sometimes the fastest and cheaper option for traveling, but not always, so be sure to check out the train as well!
This hostel has a great and included breakfast, AND its only 50 Dh or 5 Euro a night! http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Amour-d-Auberge/Marrakech/43783
Snow and Sand
Marrakesh offers a lot for everyone: hang out in hammams or Arabic baths, go skiing in the Atlas Mountains, or ride a camel into the Sahara Desert for a weekend.
1. Go to a hammam: hammams are Arabic baths that offer traditional methods in a modern spa setting. Les Bains de Marrakech is one of the few hammams that allow both men and women inside at the same time, and they offer treatments from a half-hour to the full day. For more information, check out: http://www.lesbainsdemarrakech.com/
2. Go on a camel trek: there are multiple offers for this one, you can take a taxi to an abandoned parking lot for a five minute ride (make sure to haggle for this one as they will ask for 500 Dh or 50 Euro!) or go out for the weekend or a whole week, prices will differ from company to company. For more information, check out: http://www.cameltrekking.com/Desert-Tours/marrakech-erg-chebbi.html
3. Go skiing in the Atlas Mountians: do the unthinkable and go to the snow in the desert! For more information, check out: http://www.amazingmorocco.co.uk/skiing.html
Inside of the historic part of Marrakesh there are many sights to see, and you shouldn't have to pay more than 20 Dh or 2 Euro to visit! So here are the top 3 sights to see while in Marrakesh.
1. Djemaa El-Fna: this is the main square that is the most active at twilight. See snake-charmers, monkeys, Berber water salesmen while sipping on refreshing local grapefruit juice and munching on the abundant street food. This is a must while in Marrakesh!
2. El Bahia Palace: Bahia means "brillance" in arabic, so see for yourself the brillant display of the gardens and courtyards. Entrance is 10 Dh or 1 Euro.
3. The Majorelle Gardens: this site is a 5 minute taxi ride away from the center of town, but worth it, as not only are the ashes of the late fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent are there, but there are magnificant gardens that house a Berber Art museum as well. For more information, check out: http://www.jardinmajorelle.com/
Chillin’ in Fez
Fez is not known for it's night life, but if you do want to go out and relax a bit here are the top 3 bars and cafés in Fez:
1. The Sheraton: A welcoming place for travelers, the drinks are a little expensive, but there's a happy hour special until 19.00 and it's open during Ramadan (Islamic month of festivals and fasting).
2. Café Clock: Located in the medina, this café is open on Sundays and is near the Medersa Bou Inania (the world's oldest university) and usually plays traditional Moroccan music.
3. Hotel Zalagh: A little bit on the fancy side this pool-side oasis is comforting and offers an amazing view of the mountianside.
PLEASE REMEMBER: Morocco is an Islamic country, meaning that most Moroccans don't drink any type of alcohol!!!
Getting There and Back
Royal Air Maroc flys into Fes-Saiss Airport daily from Casablanca, Paris-Orly, and London-Gatwick, yet EasyJet and Ryan Air also offer flights into Fez, just not everyday.
The airport is located around 10 miles outside of the city, but you can grab the shuttle bus, No. 16, into town for 20 Dh or 2 Euro and this bus leaves every half-hour. You can also grab a taxi for a fixed price of 120 Dh or 12 Euros, the trip should take around 30 minutes.
Although construction on a high-sped rail began in 2011, for now there is still the normal train travel option.
There are eight daily arrivals from Marrakech, which takes around 5 hours and costs around 300 Dh or 30 Euro, depending on if you choose first or second class tickets.
The trip from Casablanca is around 4 hours and costs around 200 Dh or 20 Euro.
The trip from Rabat is around 3 hours and costs around 200 Dh or 20 Euro.
The trip from Tangier is around 5 hours and costs 400 Dh or 40 Euro.
Remember that if you are traveling in the summer, second class train compartments can be hot, stuffy and uncomfortable, so think about up-grading to first-class, which will cost you around 100 Dh or 10 Euro more.
The old bus terminal (gare routiere) is the old city, near the Ain Zleten and Bab Boujloud entrances to the medina.
The CTM terminal (gare CTM) is located near the Allal el-Fassi in the Atlas neighborhood of the ville nouvelle, around 5 miles from the medina.
The gare routière covers more routes for a better price, but many travelers prefer CTM for its reliability and cleanliness. Most CTM buses leaving Fez, start from the gare routière and make a stop in the gare CTM. The CTM buses coming into Fez, will leave you at the gare CTM.
Foodie Findings in Fez
From the madness of the medina to restuarants, Fez offers the average and adventerous foodie lots of options to choose from.
So here are the top 3 food stops while in Fez:
1. Anything in the medina: Anything you see in the medina that looks or smells good, probably is. Moroccans love languages and probably speak English, so just ask what's cookin' and try it out!
2. Le Kasbah Restaurante: This is a good restuarant with an even better view! This restuarant is located right by Bab Boujloud, the door into the medina, so it's perfect for people-watching from above.
3. Restaurante Palais: a perfect break from the medina, you can sit down in this renovated house and enjoy traditional Moroccan cuisine.
Sights and Activities
Fez is full of history, culture, and amazingly cheap goods to bring home, just remember to leave your shyness in the hostel as haggling is a normal interaction when shopping here! Take a break from the medina's madness and take a relaxing stroll through the world's oldest university, or visit a mosque or two, the choice is up to you as Fez is an easy city to walk around. But make sure you hire a guide if you decide to go into the medina, talk to your hostel or hotel and they will make the arrangements!
So here are the top 3 sights to see while in Fez:
1. Merenid Tombs: located just by the Merenid Hotel, not only do you get an amazing view over the medina and the rest of the city, but you also get to discover some little-know history at the same time.
2. University of Al-Qarawiyyin: considered to be the world's oldest university-- it's only revival for the title is in Cairo, Eypt-- this is a breathtaking example of the unique Arab arquitecture in the city's heart.
3. Bou Inania madersa: This madersa (religious college) was built in the 14th-century and is one of the few places non-Muslims can tour. Be sure to hire a guide so you can learn about the symbolism behind the geometric tiles, why the color of Islam is green, and how they maintain the wooden walls. Entrance is 10 Dh or 1 Euro.
Here are the top 3 activities to do while in Fez:
1. Go to the Tannery: again a guide might be a good idea to explore the tanneries, but it's not completely necessary as there are signs throughout the medina guiding you towards the site. Here they still use an eather technique which has remained unchanged since the Middle Ages. You can walk beside them OR you can go into one of the shops and see them from above (this option also helps with the smell!) where you can see men walking up and down the narrow paths between huge vats of lye and colorful dyes. Depending on the week the vats will be filled with a different color, and at the end of the week they pour the all-natural left-over dyes into the river near-by.
2. Go into a Berber Pharmacy: Berbers are the main ethnic majority in Morocco, the indigenous people who know how to use the local indigrents to their advantage. In the medina there are lots of these types of shops to explore and each has hundreds of jars of twisted roots. The workers will probably give you a demonstration of some local ingridents (lotions and soaps), but don't feel pressured to by anything and don't eat anything they might offer, just to be on the safe side!
3. Go into the medina: Fez has one of the best and most authentic medinas in Morocco, so don't miss out or be intimiated! Hire a guide and enjoy the sights not normally seen, like a camel butcher, or the making of wedding chairs. This is a photographer's dream, just make sure to watch your bags!
Boogie Down at the Beach
Since Morocco was a French colony for so long French is still the country's official language, so most of the discotheques (discotecas or nightclubs) in Tangier can be found right down on the beachfront street of Mohammad VI Aveune, so boogie the night away right by the beach. Here are the top 3 dance clubs of Tangier:
1. Discotheque Beach Club 555: FREE entrance before 21.00, for more information check out: http://www.beachclub555.com/
2. Tangier Inn: Located on the beach and in a hotel, this is a smaller bar that offers a more relaxed atmosphere than the bigger clubs.
3. Palma Beach: Literally right on the beach this is a medium-sized venue.
PLEASE REMEMBER: Morocco is an Islamic country, meaning that most Moroccans don't drink any type of alcohol!!!
Getting There and Back
The easiest way to get to Tangier is by boat. There are many ferry companies that go inbetween cities in the South of Spain and the two Tangier ports. The most popular is the FRS Iberia company who run between the Spanish cities of Tarifa, Algeciras, and Gilbraltar going into both Tangier MED and the main port of Tangier. There are FREE busses that run between Tarifa and Algeciras (about 20 minutes) and from the port of Tangier MED into the main square of the city (about a hour) from where you can grab a taxi-- all you need is your ticket to board one. Depending on the season, you don't need to book your ticket ahead of time, but for more information check out the official website: http://www.frs.es/
You can also fly into the international airport, Tangier-Ibn Batouta Airport (TNG), which is located about 8 miles away from the city (about 20 minutes). You can grab a taxi into the city for around 130 Dh or 13 Euro. Companies that fly into TNG include: Royal Air Maroc, easyJet, Ryanair, Iberia, Jet4you, Air Berlin, Corendon Airlines and Air Arabia Maroc.
There is an over-night train that goes to and from Tangier and Marrakesh for around 700 Dh or 70 Euro per person. Highly recommended as this makes this commute more convenient so you don't lose a whole day on the train when you could be exploring!
Keep in mind that everyone entering or leaving Morocco is required to fill out an entry and exit card and non-residents are permitted to remain in Morocco for a total of 90 days without a Visa.
Museums and Day-Trips
Tangier is the perfect base for making day trips outside of the city and into the North African country-side. Some of these trips won't take all day, and some might take a day and a half. Here are the top 3 day-trips out of Tangier:
1. Chechuan: Within the day you can leave the city and find yourself twisting your way through the narrow streets of the small village of Chechuan. With every building painted a different shade of blue you'll feel as if you've found Morocco's hidden source of water. It is recommended you make this trip a little longer than a day, possibly an over-nighter, but completely worth it.
2. Grottes d'Hercules (Hercules Cave): These are beautiful coastal caves about 9 miles outside of the city. The outline of them look like the outline of the African continent, and they hold a lot of archeological importance, and it is said that these are the caves where the legendary Hercules rested after his 12 hours of labor. The taxi there will be around 200 DH or 20 Euros, and the entrance fee is 10 Dh or 1 Euro.
3. Mnar Water Park: If you need to cool off from the desert heat, Tangier has a Water Park for that! Cool down with an amazing coastal view-- for more information check out: http://www.mnarparktanger.com/
Due to Tangier's unique geographic location, it offers museums that have an interesting mixture of both European and African artifacts. Here are the top 3 museums to check out while in Tangier:
1. The Kasbah Museum: This museum is located in the old Sultan's palace allowing you to enjoy both the amazingly arab arquitecture and the artifacts at the same time. Closed on Tuesdays. Entrance fee is 10 Dh or 1 Euro.
2. Musée d'Art Contemporain de Ville de Tanger: Left-over from Morocco's colonial days this museums offers contemporary art in a new setting.
3. American Legation Museum: Explore the realtionship between Morocco and America. The museum is FREE and is open Monday through Friday 10.00 to 13.00 and from 15.00 to 17.00
Top 3 Foodie Stops
Tangier, and Morocco in general, offers a wide variety of cusine. So here are three places to eat, all with different views, menus, and student friendly prices.
1. Walk in the foot steps of some of the greatest musical artists: Café Hafa is where the Beatles and The Rolling Stones went to enjoy a coffee and the amazing view of the ocean. This café is situated on the side of a cliff so there are multiple levels you can choose from, depending on how many stairs you want to scale. The menu is simple and daily, but very good and cheap, a meal with a drink is around 40 Dh or 4 Euro.
2. Brahim Abdelmalik can be considered 'fast food', but it offers some of the local specialities for an amazing price. Here you can get kefta, or spiced meat, in a pita bread for around 14 Dh or 1,40 Euro.
3. Any type of street food that you find in the medina is sure to be delicious and cheap. Morocco grows a large amount of wheat for the rest of Africa, so there are lots of different types of bread and toppings to try!
In just under an hour, you can leave Europe and begin to explore the adventure-filled continent of Africa! Gaze out over the Strait of Gilbraltar to see Spain on the horizon while drinking mint tea or let go of your sense of direction and get lost in a medina (market place), yet whatever your preference is, Morocco offers activities for both the relaxed and outgoing traveler.
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp: Located just north of Berlin in the town of Oranienburg, Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was the model of all Nazi labor camps. Later used by the Soviets to hold political prisoners and inmates, Sachsenhausen is a sobering reminder of the atrocities of the recent past. Tours in English are available upon request, but it is usually better to arrange an English tour with an outside tour company.
Schloss Charlottenburg (The Palace of Charlottenburg): The largest palace in Berlin and the only royal residency dating back to the Hohenzollern dynasty, Schloss Charlottenburg was commissioned by Sophie Charlotte, wife of Friedrich I of Prussia. Audio guides for a tour of the palace and palace grounds are available. For the fullest experience, be sure to visit both the Old and New Wings of the Palace.
Olympiastadion (Olympic Stadium): Originally built for the 1916 Olympic Games (which were later canceled due to WWI), the Olympic Stadium in Berlin served as the site of the 1936 Olympic Games during the Nazi era. Today, the stadium has been renovated, is used as the home of the Hertha BSC soccer team, and has hosted several international sporting events.
Hohenschönhausen: Formerly the main prison of the East German Communist Ministry of State Security (Stasi), Hohenschönhausen represented a mechanism of the East German state’s political oppression. It was featured in the 2006 film, The Lives of Others, and is today a memorial with tour availability.
Kurfürstendamm (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church): Located in the center of former West Berlin, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church remains preserved in damaged condition after it was bombed in 1943 during WWII. The surrounding area around Kurfürstendamm represents one of the centers of Berlin’s shopping scene, often referred to as the Champs-Elysée of Berlin.
Tiergarten/Siegesäule: Berlin’s own version of Central Park stretches across the center of the city. With winding paths, calm streams, and plenty of green shade, the Tiergarten offers a relaxing repose from the bustle of the big city. In the center of the garden stands the Victory Column, a lone pillar with a golden statue of Victoria atop, visible from every street leading to its place in the center of the Tiergarten.
Treptower Park: Home to the Soviet War Memorial, Treptower Park sits in the eastern part of Berlin along the River Spree. Many a Berliner frequent the chill surroundings of Treptower Park in the summer for a day of relaxing day of grilling and socializing.
Tempelhofer Park/Victoria Park: A former airport mainly reconstructed under Nazi power, Tempelhof is now a site for recreation and cultural events. With baseball and softball diamonds on one end, the expansive former tarmac of the airport now host weekend recreation fanatics who fly kites, ride bikes, or jog around. Nearby, the manmade waterfall in Victoria Park offers a spectacular view of Berlin from above one of the city’s hipper districts.
Best Restaurants in Rome
Miscellanea or "Mickey's" is a favorite student bar and restaurant just behind the Pantheon. For €6 - €10 a dish you can get great pizza and pasta and if you're feeling up to at the end of the meal, the restaurant is famous for it's fragolina - a sparkling strawberry wine (a.k.a sexy wine!) that is just as much fun to drink as it is to say. Via della Palombella, 34.
Just off the famous shopping street Via del Corso is Gusto, a two part restaurant that features an inexpensive pizzeria (€6- €12) and an upstairs restaurant with more unique and upscale cuisine. Definitely worth stopping by for a taste of doughy Neopolitan pizza and checking out a more modern and minimalist take on Roman architecture as the building looks more like a warehouse than a restaurant! Piazza Augusto Imperatore, 9.
If you're tired of pizza and pasta Gallo Matto is the place to go. Easy to get to via metro, you'll find rotissary chicken and french-fries served by a consistenly humorous waitstaff that enjoys pulling pranks on the customers. Knick-knacks and string lights cover every inch of space on the walls and ceilings and tables are tight but the food is good and cheap - around €10 for a whole chicken, you're meant to share! Via Cavour, 107.
Top Sights in London
Buckingham Palace: Since 1837, Buckingham Palace has served as the center of the British monarchy. Today, the palace is the Queen’s official residence and ceremonies continue to be held here. If you come in the summertime, make sure to visit the State Rooms. Don’t worry if you’re not here in the summer, you can still see the daily changing of the guard! For more information, visit the British Monarchy's official website.
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament:
Tower Bridge and the Tower of London:
St. Paul’s Cathedral:
Trafalgar Square & Nelsons Column:
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre:
Best Clubs in Florence
Astor Caffe – Located right next to the Duomo, here you can find great music and drink deals. Locals, tourists and students come here for a good time. The dress code is casual. Location: 20 piazza duomo
TWICE - From 9 – 11, Twice is an elegant wine bar where you can listen to Jazz while dining on Tuscan cuisine. After 11 pm, however, Twice transforms into a night club. Drink specials only last until midnight and there is no cover charge. Check out this link!
SPACE Electronic Night Club – At Space, the first floor is a Karaoke bar and pub. Go upstairs to find the dance floor! Location: Via benedetta 2
Best Restaurants in Florence
Il Gatto E La Volpe: Known for its family style approach and friendly staff, the restaurant serves a variety of traditional Italian food. Its ability to cater to large groups is second to none. For groups over 5 people, the 15 euro per person family style meal serves everyone more than they can eat and includes wine. Location:
Acqua Al 2: The preferred upscale option for students in Florence. The restaurant serves great pastas and famous blueberry and balsamic steaks. For 15 euro each, two people can share a filling 5 pasta tasters and 3 steak tasters. Location:
The Oil Shope: By far the most popular sandwich spot in Florence, Alberto and his team are famous for their great sandwichs at cheap prices. The sign says the shop is open from 11am-6pm Monday-Friday, but make sure to get there before 2pm because they run out of sandwich's fast! Location:
Best Bars in Prague
U Medvidku Beer Hall and Restaurant - This is a 550 year-old institution that serves the famous X Beer 33. At 11.8% alcohol content, you might want to try some delicious Czech cusine with the X Beer! Location: Na Perstyne 7, Praha
Zizkov – This former industrial suburb has over 300 bars in 2 square miles.
Best Clubs in Prague
Bunkr Parukarka - Come here to experience a little Cold War history and have a good time. Bunkr Parkukarka is a quirky nightclub housed in a 1950s nuclear bunker. Location: Parukarka Park
Top Sights in Prague
Charles Bridge – The Charles Bridge was built by King Charles IV in 1357 to connect Prague Castle with the Old Town of Prague. Until 1841, this bridge was the only way to cross the Moldau River. 30 Baroque statues line the bridge and in the afternoon you will find artists and street performers standing alongside the statues. Come here early in the morning to see the sun rise above the city!
Old Town Square – Surrounded by pastel buildings, Prague’s main square has been a market since the 11th century. In the summertime, this square is lively with people and in December there are Christmas markets and decorations.
Old Town Hall – Next to the Old Town Square, you can find the Old Town Hall with the famous Astronomical clock. Built in 1410, this is one of the oldest working astronomical clocks. Come at the top of the hour to see four figurines come out of the clock and twirl around!
Prague Castle – Towering above the city, Prague castle is the largest ancient castle in the world. Founded in 880, it was built over the course of 13 centuries. The past centuries have housed the King of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors and the presidents of Czechoslavakia and the Czech Republic. Come at noon and see the changing of the guards! For more information, check out this link. Location: Hradcany, Prague 1
Museum of Communism – Communism reigned in Prague from February 1948 to its collapse in November 1989. The museum takes you back to this time, immersing you in daily life under communist rule. You can watch video clips at the Television Time Machine or check out rooms devoted to Communist politics and history. Check out this link. Location: Na Prikope 10, 11000 Pr, Prague
Petrin Hill – Petrin Hill is one of Prague’s greenest spaces. During the summertime, locals love to come and enjoy the landscaped garden and go through the mirror maze. To get here, take the funicular railway from Uiexd to Petrin Hill. Location: 150,000 Praha 5
Best Bars in Brussels
Celtica – This Irish pub in the heart of Brussels serves 1 euro beers. On weekends there is live music and a dance floor upstairs.
Delirium Café - There's one place everyone goes once they get to Brussels: Delirium. Nestled in its own alleyway, this bar is actually made up of several bars. Try the beer voted best in the world, Delirium Tremens, along with everything from cherry to cookie flavored beer. If you can't find a beer you like off their menu of hundreds, you're never going to. Location: Impasse de la Fidélité 4A
La Fleur en Papier Dore - Decades old, this bar was the heavily frequented spot of Magritte, Tintin creator Hergé and other artists of the time. Framed pictures, smoke-stained walls and antlers offer a cozy atmosphere in which to enjoy a Belgian beer and friendly service. Location: Cellebroersstraat 53
Best Restaurants in Brussels
Le Perroquet - The art deco interior of this small restaurant filled with locals is an enjoyable place to sit and eat lunch that isn’t fries or waffles. The menu is pages of pitas stuffed with more fillings than you can think of. The flavorful fillings are complemented by a platter of different sauces like curry and avocado. Location: Rue Watteeu 31
Friterie Tabora - Offering sauces like Samurai, Curry Ketchup, Garlic Aioli and dozens more, this fry stand has fries made, then double fries them again in front of you. Again, repeat tastings should be mandatory to try as many sauces as possible. Location: 2 rue Tabora
Waffles - There are waffle stands on the street sprinkled mostly around Manneken Pis. Since they all have similar prices and delicious toppings, you can’t really go wrong with any of them. From simple but delicious sugar to elaborate chocolate, bananas and whipped cream, it’s almost necessary to try several to determine which is right for you.
Best Chocolate in Brussels
Sampling chocolate is an essential part of the Belgian experience. No where else in the world will you find as many decadent little chocolate shops as here in Brussels. Here are just a couple favorites: Chocolatier Jean Philippe Darcis, Chocolatier, Mary Chocolatier, Chocolatier Laurent Gerbaud
Best Beer in Brussels
Brewer’s House – Located on the Grand Place, the Brewer’s House is the headquarters for the Belgian Brewers Foundation.
Brussels Gueuze Museum and Cantillon Brewery - Come to this Cantillion Brewery to see how traditional Belgian beer is brewed! Don’t leave before trying a traditional Gueuze-Lambic. Location: Rue Gheude 54
Top Sights in Brussels
Manneken Pis – Since the 15th century, Manneken Pis has served as a symbol for the city of Brussels. The fountain was built in the 15th century to provide citizens with clean drinking water. It has lasted through the centuries and now serves a more symbolic purpose. The little statue has over 800 costumes and everyday he is wearing something different. For special occassions, Manneken Pis will be adorned in his most prized outfits.
Grand Place – The Grand Place is the main square in Brussels. Gilded houses surround this historic square, which serves as the center of life in Brussels. Locals meet here to see outdoor concerts and shop at the daily flower market. If you come to the Grand Place at Christmas time, you can see a gorgeous Christmas tree and light show!
The Royal Palace – The Royal Palace is located near Brussels Park and serves as the home of the King of Belgium. You’ll know if he is home by whether or not his flag is flying over the palace.
Atomium – Like the Eiffel Tower, the Atomium was built for the World Fair. Constructed in 1958, this modern structure depticts a molecule’s nine atoms. In the summer months, you can take a ride on the Atomium.
Best Nightlife in Rome
Piazza Trilussa:From this piazza, wander the narrow streets of Trastevere to find any number of smaller bars that are more authentically Italian than anything near Campo de’ Fiori. There’s activity in this area every night of the week.
Testaccio:For those who love clubbing, this section of Rome is the place to go. Located a little outside the city center, there are several large clubs in a row. Dance into the wee hours of the morning to all the Euro techno and house you could ask for.
Campo dei Fiori:While Campo is a farmer’s market during the day, at night the piazza transforms as bars open. You’ll find a mix of locals and Americans here.
Best Gelato in Rome
Giolitti: This is the epitome of a classic Italian Gelateria. Order a small cone and you get a whopping three flavors. Giolitti is perfect if you like fruit or creamy gelato. Located near the Pantheon, Giolitti's is a must!
Old Bridge Gelateria: Everyone has their favorite gelato, but this one seems to be the frontrunner for most. Friendly workers (a rarity in Italy) serve huge portions that never seem to be enough. You need to try this gelato before leaving Rome. It's located right next to the Vatican, making it easy access for anyone.Viale dei Bastioni di Michelangelo, 5
Best Restaurants in Rome
Gusto: One of the best Italian traditions is aperitivo, which is a pre-dinner drink that includes a buffet of small hors d’oeuvre. For the student on a budget, this can be turned into dinner and a drink and allows you to sample a mix of foods. These are available at almost any bar across the city for 5 euro and up, but one of the best is at Gusto for 10 euro. Piazza Augusto Imperatore, 9
Pompi: Tiramisu is on almost every restaurant menu in Italy, but none come even close to the decadent, creamy tiramisu of Pompi. It’s not easy getting there, but what awaits you makes the trip so worth it.
Via Albalonga, 7
L’Archetto: This restaurant, just steps away from the Trevi fountain, is the ultimate pasta experience. There were over six pages devoted solely to the different types of pasta…they had everything from pomodoro sauce to pumpkin cream. Try ordering the sampler plate and receive three different types of pasta! To start looking through the menu, check out this link.
Il Chianti: For a different taste of Italy, try Il Chianti. This restaurant has wide selection of Tuscan favorites. Be adventurous and try the pappardelle al sugo di leper (pasta with rabbit sauce) or saltimbocca (slices of veal and ham rolled together)!
Best Cafes in Rome
Coffee is a must in Rome – but Italians don’t do coffee to go! Step inside a café and order at the bar. Italians stand around the bar while they drink their espresso or cappuccino!
Caffé Tazza D’Oro: For the best coffee in Rome, don’t miss Café Tazza! Just a block away from the Pantheon, this café has mastered the art of making a cappuccino.
Best Markets in Rome
Mercato Andrea Doria: This market near the Vatican contains some of Rome's most delicious and fresh produce. You can grab a fruit snack or pick up prosciutto and baguette for lunch. Vendors are super friendly and helpful - be sure to make new Italian friends!
Campo dei Fiori: Every morning vendors come to Campo dei Fiori, Rome’s oldest market, to sell fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, pasta and flowers. This colorful market is busy with locals shopping for their daily groceries. If you’re passing by here at lunch, buy some veggies and cheese and have a picnic!
Best Pizza in Rome
La Renella: There are pizza al taglio places on every corner, but none for as cheap and delicious as this one. Nestled in Trastevere, this bakery and pizza shop serves fresh pizza, paninis and cookies for some of the lowest prices out there.
Via del Moro, 15
Dar Poeta: Best pizza in Rome!
One of your best eating experiences in Rome will be at this restaurant. If you’re looking for pizza in Rome, you need to come here. It will be hard to choose which type to get, but no matter what you choose, you will be satisfied. Do not leave without ordering the nutella and ricotta calzone. It’s like heaven on a plate.
Vicolo del Bologna, 45
Top Churches in Rome
St. Peter's Basilica: St. Peter’s Basilica is huge. There’s no other way to put it. This tiny city-state and center of Roman Catholicism is a must-see. If you’re an art fan, consider shelling out some Euros for the Vatican Museums, which includes the magnificent Sistine Chapel. Climb up to the top of the cupola for a view over all of Rome. One of the best parts is standing inside the dome overlooking the altar and the floor far below, realizing just how grand this magnificent church really is.
Santa Maria Maggiore:
Santa Croce in Gerusalemme:
Santa Maria in Trastevere:
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva:
Top Sights in Rome
Pantheon: Because of the oculus in the ceiling of its dome, the changes in the lighting of the Pantheon are one of its most interesting features. It’s prettiest at sundown and early evening though, when the inside of this ancient temple to the gods seems to glow. One of the best preserved ancient monuments, this is not to be missed.
Aventine Hill: Located near Circus Maximus, this quiet hill offers a great space for walking. Make your way towards the orange grove at the top for a park filled with couples and an amazing view over the river and Trastevere. There’s a peephole in a door on top that offers the best view of St. Peter’s in the whole city.
Trevi Fountain: Take your picking from which film you’ve seen this in. Head over at night, when the fountain is at its most magical. Squeeze your way through the tourists to throw a coin in the fountain to return to Rome.
Spanish Steps: This piazza and giant staircase serves as a meeting point for many and the start of Via Condotti, a street filled with designer shops. If you’re a literary fan, the house where John Keats lived and died is right next to the steps.
Colosseum: You’ve seen it a million times in pictures, but there’s nothing like seeing this almost 2000 year old amphitheater in person for the first time. Damaged in many parts from earthquakes and looters, it is still easy to imagine gladiators and animal fights being cheered on by 50,000 fans.
Roman Forum: Standing at the Roman Forum, it’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that this was the political, legal and commercial center of the Roman Empire, which stretched at its greatest from England to Northern Africa to Turkey. The ruins aren’t in the best shape, but it is no less impressive. The view from behind the Capitoline Museums allows you to experience all of the Forum without spending money or time to go in.
Top Churches in Florence
The Duomo - Florence’s Duomo is the city’s landmark. The Cathedral is an early Renaissance work completed by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1436. Brunelleschi looked to the Pantheon for inspiration for the cathedral’s dome. Few domes had been created since the Roman empire, but this became a style typical of Renaissance art. Today, you can climb up to the top for a view of the city of Florence!
Santa Maria Novella - Located just outside the main train station, Santa Maria Novella is considered Florence’s first great cathedral. Come here to see Filippino Lippi’s famous Strozzi Chapel or Ghirlandaio’s Tornabuoni Chapel.
Santa Croce - Santa Croce is a Franciscan church that is famous for the people who are buried here. Inside the cathedral, you can see the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile, and Rossini. Moreover, Santa Croces boast sixteen beautiful chapels, many of which are decorated by Giotto.
Top Museums in Florence
For Art Lovers, Florence is the place to be!
The Uffizi Gallery - Once the Medici Palace, today the Uffizi Gallery is home to one of the best collections of Renaissance art. You could spend hours wandering the hallways and taking in the magic of the Renaissance. People come from all over the world to see Botticelli's Primavera and Birth of Venus, Leonardo's Adoration of the Magi, and Raphael's Madonna and Child. Location: Piazzale Degli Uffizi, 50122 Firenze, Toscana, Italy
For more information, check out this link!
The Bargello - The former palace of the Fazione del Popolo, today the Bargello is home to sculptures by famous artisits like Michelangelo, Donatello, and Verrocchio. While the Bargello is less visited than the Uffizi, it still offers an incredible selection of renaissance work! Check out this link!
The Accademia - In the Accademia, you can pay homage to Michelangelo's most famous statue, David. Unfinished works by Michelangelo line a long hallway that leads to this 17-foot tall masterpice!
Palazzo Pitti - Located on the other side of the Arno River, the Palazzo Pitti is a former Medici palace. Today the palace houses art galleries. If you’re a little tired of art history, consider visited the Palace’s amazing Boboli Gardens.
Top Sights in Milan
Leonardo's Last Supper: In 1495, Leonardo was commissioned to paint The Last Supper at the Refectory in the Monasterry of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Like all of Leonardo's paintings, his depiction of the Last Supper was unlike anything the Milanese in the Renaissance had ever seen. His careful composition and detailing has provided plenty of food for thought for art historians today. Rather than use the traditional fresco paints, Leonardo chose to use tempera on gesso. While this medium allowed him to create his renowned painting, over time the painting has chipped away. Today it has been restored but there is still some damage.
Il Duomo: Milan's famous cathedral, the Duomo of Milan, is the fourth largest cathedral in Europe and one of the most impressive works of Gothic architecture. It took over six centuries to complete, but the product was worth the wait! In Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad, he describest the cathedral, "What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful!".
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II: Milan's shopping mall, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, is an octagonal shaped building located in the heart of Milan. Wheather you're planning on shopping at Massimo Dutti or craving McDonald's, there is something for you at the Galleria!
Top Sights in Granada
The Alhambra is a beautiful moorish palace that crowns Granada.
Picasso Museum- highlights about the museum, entry costs, hours etc.
Things to do in the Amalfi Coast
The Isle of Capri: The beautiful Isle of Capri has been a resort town since the Roman Empire. Ferries run daily to the Isle of Capri from Sorrento and Naples and arrive at the Marina Grande. From there, you can boat ride to the famous blue grotto or go shopping in the town of Capri. If you want some beach time, Marina Piccolo. If you're going tot he Amalfi Coast, don't miss the Isle of Capri!
Sorrento is a cute town in the Amalfi Coast with shopping, restaurants and fun nightlife. Make sure to try some limoncello, a digestiv made from the local lemons! See this link for more information.
Positano: For a fun beach day or an afternoon of shopping, make sure to stop in Positano. This picturesque town is nestled within the cliffs of the Amalfi coast. You might recognize it from Under the Tuscan Sun or Only You.
Berliner Dom: Originally built in 1451, the Berliner Dom has undergone several new buildings throughout history, with the current iteration built by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. With roughly 320 steps to the top, the Berliner Dom's student prices offer one of the more affordable ways to see Berlin from above.
Nikolaikirche (Nikolaiviertel): Located in the middle of the Nikolai Quarter, the sight to see is as much the Church of St. Nicholas as the Quarter itself. Originally founded in the 13th century, the Quarter was destroyed by air raids during WWII and rebuilt in its original style during the 1980s by the former GDR.
Gendarmenmarkt (Fränzosicher Dom/Deutscher Dom): This historic square is home to two cathedrals—a French one and a German one—and the city’s concert house. With a statue of the famous poet, Friedrich Schiller, in the center of the square, Gendarmenmarkt is also the home of one of Berlin’s most popular Christmas markets during the winter months.
Brandenburg Gate/Reichstag: Arguably the number one spot to visit in Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate has seen its share of history, from Napoleon stealing the Quadriga to JFK and Ronald Reagan's historical speech made in the front. After taking the obligatory photo in front of the Gate, wander down the street toward the Reichstag, a fitting symbol of Berlin’s fractured but rich history with its new glass dome atop a classical building. The home of Germany’s Parliament has no entrance fee, but prior registration is required following terrorist threats in November 2010.
Samson Lin: A very abstract memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, this field of roughly 3,000 steles is located in the vicinity of Hitler’s now-buried bunker. The later-added (and free) underground documentation center paints a grim picture of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust across Europe.
Checkpiont Charlie and The Topographies of Terror: On he site of the old Gestapo headquarters, the Topographies of Terror houses both a stretch of the original Berlin Wall as well as a free exhibit on the horrific atrocities schemed by the Nazis. A few blocks away, the more overrated Checkpoint Charlie—the checkpoint between the former Soviet and American sectors in Berlin—offers a model of the old checkpoint house as well as the (overpriced) Checkpoint Charlie Museum nearby.
Pergamon Museum: As one of the top museums in Berlin—and indeed, the world - the Pergamon is home to a number of extraordinary pieces of ancient architecture. From the Pergamon Altar to the Gate of Ishtar, the Pergamon’s artifacts are as impressive in scale and size as they are in historical significance.
Neues Museum: Recently reopened in 2009 after being closed for over 70 years, the Neues Museum has quickly become another top museum in Berlin. Among its many residents, its most famous artifact is the bust of the Egyptian queen, Nefertiti, often considered the most beautiful woman of the ancient world. A must see!
Märkisches Museum: If you’re not a fan of long lines at museums and want to learn more about Berlin’s history specifically, the Märkisches Museum is one of the more underrated museums in Berlin. With specific rooms dedicated to the history of different districts of Berlin, the Märkisches Museum transports you back in time to see Berlin through the ages.
While in Venice, you might want to try a traditional Venetian pub crawl dinner, or "giro d'ombra" (literally "turn of shades"- ombra is Venetian slang for a glass of wine). Venetians traditionally move from one bar to another, grabbing a glass of wine and snacking on the appetizer-like cicchetti at each bar as they go. Start early, to get the best food. Some bars you might consider trying are: Cantina Do Mori, Bar all'Arco, Ostaria ai Storti, and Cantina Do Spade.
To arrive at the city of Venice, you'll take the bus or train to Piazelle Roma, the main transportation piazza. From there, cars are forbidden in the city, and there are two ways to get around the islands: by boat or by foot.
- Train, bus, or vaporetti: the train or bus is the easiest way to travel on the Venetian mainland and to arrive at Piazelle Roma on the outskirts of the island city. Once on the island, take the vaporetti, which are essentially water buses or taxis. You can buy an economical ACTV travel card that acts as an hourly pass for all Venetian transportation (both water and on land). Prices can be found on their website. ACTV also offers a three-day travel card for 72 hours for people 14-29 years old for 18€. You do need to present a Rolling Venice Card to receive this deal, however, which is sold at any Hellovenezia ticket office for 4 €.
- Foot: Venice is a city meant for wandering. The narrow streets and confusing signs (often pointing you two opposite ways to one destination) might be overwhelming if you are trying to form a detailed plan of your trip, but let yourself walk aimlessly and you'll find that best way to discover this enchanting city is to let yourself get lost. Besides, you'll never really get lost, as you are on an island that is small enough to leisurely walk from one end to the other in about an hour.
Venice is notorious for its overpriced, touristy restaurants - it's hard not to get caught in the trap and pay a ridiculous amount for bad food when visiting. We've done a little research, however, and can point you to some eateries that are good for the stomach and the wallet:
Al Nono Risorto: Choose from a menu of traditional Venetian dishes or opt to share the tasty pizza that this restaurant is famous for. You'll find Al Nono located at Sottoportego de Siora Bettina in the Santa Croce district.
Arte Della Pizza: You can't get a better, more authentic pizza deal than the 1,5 Euro pizzas at this hole-in-the-wall pizzeria in the Cannaregio district. Remember to get there with time to spare, since they close early at 9pm and serve in a very small space.
Osteria alle Botteghe: With a tourist menu at only 15€ and a selection of primi, secondi, and pizze, this osteria offers a Venetian dining experience that you can affordably conform to your personal tastes.
Rialto Food Market: The Erberia (vegetable market) and Pescheria (fish market) are open at dawn on Tuesdays through Saturdays until around 1pm. Besides experiencing a 1000-year old Italian market, the fresh food can be a cheap and delicious meal option.
Billa Supermarket: With five locations in Venice, Billa is a standard supermarket that is often a more affordable and faster option than eating out.
Paris is packed with tons of quality museums. Here's the ones you can't miss:
Musee du Louvre houses one of the most impressive collections of fine art on the planet. Among its all-star line up of masterpieces, you'll find the Mona Lisa, Crown Jewels, Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory, and even a couple sphinxes. If you spent 30 seconds on each piece in this gargantuan museum it would take you months to finish. Skip the outside security line by entering directly from the Meto stop: Palais Royale Musee du Louvre.
Musee d'Orsay is Paris' museum of Impressionism and is located in a converted train station that gives the place an interesting back story. The pieces featured date from 1848 through 1915 and even those who aren't in to Impressionism will find this collection impressive, myself included. Among the painters featured here are Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, Gaugin, Renoir, Cezanne and more.
Venice is a relatively quiet city and doesn't compare to the throbbing clubs of London, Barcelona or Prague. Rather, you can look forward to a fun yet more laid-back scene. You might want to try your night Venetian style with a giro d'ombra, a traditional Venetian tapas and drinks crawl (see the "Eating Out" tab for more tips). If you're still interested in hitting the dancing or bar scene, I've found a couple gems hidden throughout the city over the years:
Campo Cesare Battisti is just a stone's throw away from Ponte Rialto. It's a densely packed string of competing bars so go ahead and sample the locals' sparkling peach drink of choice, Bellini. Be sure to sample some of the cicchetti tapa-style dishes too!
Orange Bar and Lounge: Located in Campo Santa Margherita in the lively Dorsoduro neighborhood, this trendy bar is known for its wide selection of drinks and 2 Euro spritzers.
Piccolo Mondo is the closest thing we've found to a club, but it has been rumored to be sketchy as the night goes on, so don't go alone. Be sure to keep your wits about you to find your way home at the end of the night.
Piazza San Marco is the main public square of Venice, populated by as many pigeons as humans. This is the heart of the city and easily used as an orientation point. The square is bordered by Basilica San Marco, the Campanile, the Doge's Palace and the Procuratie, or the administrative offices of Venice. There are also several cafes that are a bit overpriced, but often offer music in the evening to any passersby that wish to enjoy the show.
Ponte Rialto (Rialto Bridge) one of only three crossing points of the Grand Canal and by far the most historic and decorated. Ironically built by a man with a last name meaning "bridge", it is the funneling point of pedestrian traffic and has some of Venice's highest prices, trendiest and most-touristy shops, and fanciest restaurants. Rialto, the neighborhood in which it's located, has been home to the market and trading district since the 12th century.
Venice's Campanile, or bell tower, is located in the middle of Piazza San Marco and is over 300 feet tall. It's possible to go up the Campanile for a panoramic view, but the line is often long, and be wary of the deafening bell that strikes at the top of the hour! The tower collapsed back in 1902 but was reconstructed in the same manner by 1912.
Basilica San Marco (St. Mark's Basilica) is a huge church that dominates Piazza San Marco and most famously boasts 4 beautiful bronze horses, taken from Constantinople in the early 1200s. This easily-recognized basilica of Venice houses the bones of St. Mark the Evangelist, and is characterized by its decorative, bold Byzantine style and decorations, many of which were stolen from the East.
The Island of Murano is known as the glass-making island of Venice. The popular industry was moved to this island in the 13th century, as numerous fires made it too dangerous to produce glass on the main island. It's worth a 20-minute vaporetto trip if you're interested in learning about the glassblowing process and visiting its historic churches.
Burano is known as the lace-working island of the Venetian archipelago. In recent years, it has also grown to be a vacation "get away" for resort-seeking Europeans. One of the quieter of the islands, I would only recommend making the trip out here if you harbor a special interest in textiles and lacework.
Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace): This 1000-year-old building on St. Mark's Square not only housed Venice's elected king, or doge, but also includes the meeting spaces for the Venetian government and courts as well as the prison. This muesum has all: art, history, architecture, and juicy stories. If you are crunched on time, this is the Venetian museum you can't afford to skip!
Gallerie dell'Accademia: Any art lover will be able to spend hours in this prestigious collection of influential Venetian and Veneto paintings from the Gothic and Byzantine times up to the Renaissance. Featured artists are: Bellini, Bellotto, Canaletto, Veronese, Tintoretto, and Tiziano.
Museum Card: For a reasonable student price, Venice offers a museum pass that allows entry into many of its museums. If you are interested in a wide-ranging experience of art, theater, glass blowing, palaces, and history, this is your best bet. Click here for information.
Scottish Parliament: The ultra modern design makes Scottish Parliament stand out in the backdrop of the Royal Mile and Holyroodhouse. After passing through security one may investigate the wonderful exhibits explaining the ins and outs of Scottish Legislation and how culture and history weaves in a modern framework of government.
Museum of Scotland: A wonderful opportunity to explore a series of galleries presenting the past and present of the country of Scotland including its people and industrial transformation. In addition, rotating Scottish exhibits presenting more personal facets of the country as the Lewis Chessman or an in depth look at the many lighthouses in Scotland.
John Knox's House: More than being a wonderful example of 15th century architecture, this was the former Royal Mansion of Mary Queen of Scots and the home of Protestant Reformation Leader John Knox. The exhibits within demonstrate the intricacies of Scotland’s rich history through the lives of two of its most prominent figures.
The Elephant House: A great place for reasonably priced Panini, sandwiches, and international foods. Located very close to Edinburgh University and Parliament Square. Did I mention J.K. Rowling was inspired and wrote there?
Castles and Palaces
Edinburgh Castle: Think Lord of the Rings meets Braveheart. Initially built in 9th century and completed in 12th resides in what is now the city center. The hilltop location provides panoramic views of the city and its exhibits share many cultural and historical insights into Scotland's past and present, including the presentation of the “Scottish Honours”, the Crown Jewels of Scotland.
Palace of Holyroodhouse: As Buckingham Palace is to England, Holyroodhouse is to Scotland with the difference that visitors may walk the halls, chambers, and dining rooms of a fully functioning palace. When visiting take a chance to view “Arthur’s Seat” which makes a great next stop on your visit.
Craigmillar Castle: Credited as being one of the most well preserved medieval castles in Scotland. Craigmillar Castle, located a short bus ride outside Edinburgh, provides visitors a chance to visit the 15th century by walking through the building’s many original chambers and hallways.
In addition to the countless beer gardens and beer halls close to downtown, there is a fun funky bar scene in the "artist's district" of Schwabing. This area is full of vibrant young people and with a wide selection of bars and cafe's, you're sure to find one that you love.
Germany is renowned for their efficient and widespread transportation system; getting anywhere in the city of Munich is a piece of cake with the tram, U-Bahn and S-Bahn. The best way to go is to buy a day ticket, which covers all three. You can grab maps and tickets at kiosks located in all S-Bahn and U-Bahn stations, as well as on regional busses.
- Bus and tram: punctual, comfortable, and useful for getting to places that the U-Bahn and S-Bahn do not stop right in front of.
- S-Bahn (Suburban Railway): Munich's aboveground metro and a first choice for speedy transportation to your destination.
- U-Bahn (Underground Railway): Munich's underground and a first choice for speedy transportation to your destination.
- Walking and Biking: Munich is also extremely pedestrian and biker-friendly. If you feel like working off some of the Wienerschnitzel and Würste, rent a bike or walk and see the city from one of its well-developed cyclist and pedestrian lanes.
Dachau Concentration Camp
One of the most well-known chilling and solemn memorials to concentration camp prisoners of WWII. The camp offers free admission to the museum, a documentary on the history of the camp, and individual 2.5 hour tours for 3 €.
Residenz and Schloss Nymphenburg: Both palaces offer a guided tour of their beautiful, ornate design for a small fee. Residenz was the permanent residence of the royal family, while the immense Schloss Nymphenburg was the summer residence.
Museum Brandhorst: Contemporary art museum located in the heart of the city.
BMW Museum/BMW Welt: Learn the history of the world-class vehicles as well as visit the display of the most recent models for sale in BMW Welt.
Several impressive historical buildings and sites are located around this famous plaza, such as the Odeon, Feldherrn Hall, Leucthenberg-Palis, a monument to King Ludwig I, the Scwabing Gate, and the Theaterinkirche. This square also displays a unique monument built to honor four police officers who died in a stand against the rise of Hitler in 1923.
Olympiapark (Olympic Park): Go for a walk, a bike ride, or a run in this expansive park, built for the 1972 Olympic Games. The park is the home of the Bayern Munich soccer team as well as several events and concerts throughout the year. It's a bit outside of the Altstadt and other sites, but is well worth the short ride north on Germany's ever-efficient U-Bahn.
Englischer Garten: "The English Garden," created in 1789 by Sir Benjamin Thompson, houses four beer gardens, countless trails, tranquil scenery, and the occasional nude sunbather. Close to Altstadt for a nice return to nature from the bustling surrounding city.
Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady): This gothic-style church dating back to the 15th century is the most recognized symbol of Munich. This church can house 20,000 people and has a bit of something for every traveler. Check out the legendary devil's footprint, enjoy the architectural feat of the "no window effect" from the main portal, or make your way around the side altars to glance at the art collection that spans 500 years.
Alter Peter (Old Peter aka St. Peter's): Located near the Viktualienmarkt, this church offers a great bird's eye view of the city for only 1,5 €.
Theaterinkirche: Bavaria's first Italian-style baroque church. Its bright yellow facade is hard to miss in Odeonplatz.
Rathaeuser (Town Halls)
Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall): This Gothic structure in the heart of the old city looks oks old, but was actually built in the late 19th century. People come from far and wide to see the famous Glockenspiel, which tells the stories of a marriage joust and triumph over the plague as well as dip in for a bite in Munich's Ratskeller, originally the town hall's personal wine cellar. The clock plays daily at 11am and 12pm.
Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall): On the eastern end of Marienplatz lies the 15th century old town hall. Although it is relatively inconspicuous, it's worth a quick look around.
Biergartens (Beer Gardens)
Hofbräuhaus: Munich's most famous brewery and always a good time. Visit any time after 12pm and visitors will be able to enjoy the authentic Bavarian music played by none other than a band in Lederhosen; you might even be able to experience some of your tablemates singing a traditional German tune.
Weisses Bräuhaus: Known in Munich for its "white" beer, dating back to the Mader and Schneider families of the 16th and 19th centuries.
Augustiner Keller: Located close to the Hauptbahnhof, this restaurant serves the acclaimed Augustiner beer, which hails from Munich's oldest brewery. Tourists and locals alike praise the Augustiner beer as the best in Munich. This Augustiner restaurant offers delicious Bavarian cuisine and an enjoyable experience in Munich's oldest beer garden.
Viktualienmarkt: Probably the most well known of markets located within walking distance of Marienplatz. Stop by for some artisan honey or enjoy lunch from one of the many lunch vendors in the central beer garden.
Auer Dult: Although this 700-year old festival only takes places twice a year at Mariahilfsplatz, it is worth planning your trip around. Check out the dates at www.auerdult.de to find German snacks, souvenirs and a Stein that doesn't cost all of the money in your wallet.
Elisabethmarkt: A slightly less touristy version of Viktualenmarkt a little north of Altstadt (Old City).
Residenz (Residence): Housed the Bavarian royal family from 1508-1918. The palace near Odeonsplatz now a museum, but some parts are free, such as the royal garden.
Schloss Nymphenburg (Nymphemburg Palace): Huge palace that served as the summer residence of the Bavarian family, worth visiting just for the size shock factor. It's a short bus ride from the center of Munich past a quaint part of the city.
Flying Pig Hostel
The Flying Pig Hostel in Amsterdam has a great backpacker vibe, and you'll have a blast staying here. There are two locations- one in the touristy heart, and the other much closer to the clubbing nightlife of the more modern pat of town.
Best Roman Viewpoints
- St. Peter’s: Climb up winding spiral staircases to reach the top of the cupola of St. Peter’s for a view over all of Rome. One of the best parts is standing inside the dome overlooking the altar and the floor far below, realizing just how grand this magnificent church really is.
- Aventine Hill: Located near Circus Maximus, this quiet hill offers a great space for walking. Make your way towards the orange grove at the top for a park filled with couples and an amazing view over the river and Trastevere. There’s a peephole in a door on top that offers the best view of St. Peter’s in the whole city.
- Campidoglio: The view over the Roman Forum from behind the Capitoline Museums allows you to experience all of the Forum without spending money or time to go in. You can see over all the Forum, with the Colosseum peeking out in the back.
Bus and tram:
There are many bus lines and a few trams that can take you basically anywhere you want to go at only 1 euro a ride. Tickets are available at any tabacchi. WSA doesn’t condone illegal activity, but most of the time no one cares if you validate your ticket or not, so many people ride without tickets. If you get caught by an officer that comes on board, there is a hefty fine.
The recommended form of transportation. As big as Rome is, it’s possible to walk from your farthest destination across the city in about 50 minutes. It’s also a lot easier than trying to figure out the bus lines and finding a space to stand on a crowded bus.
There are only two lines, since every time they start digging for a new tunnel, they run into ruins and have to stop. It doesn't serve many locations, but if you are near a station, take advantage of it. Tickets are 1 euro, available at tabacchis.
Large portions of pasta, pizza, a huge selection of desserts and friendly workers (a rarity in Italy) make this one of the best restaurants for dinner in Bologna.
Via Caduti di Cefalonia 5/e
Sitting side by side others at wood tables in a small space is always a sign of a good restaurant to me. Offering a variety of large paninis and pastas of the day, Osteria dell’Orsa is a delicious and inexpensive pick for lunch or dinner.
Via Mentana 1/F
To and From Florence
Unless a great deal is available flying into the Florence Airport (FLR), flying into the Pisa Airport (PSA) and taking an hour-long train between Pisa and Florence S.M.N. for under 6 Euro is recommended. Flying into the main Rome Airport (FCO) is another option, but be prepared to spend 14 Euro from the airport to Rome Termini and another 45 Euro for an hour and a half train from Rome to Florence S.M.N.
Italy Train Website: Trenitalia
Getting Around Florence
There is no need to use public transportation, because everything in Florence is within a maximum 20 minute walk. Take the short walking distances between major attractions as a means to enjoy the beautiful architecture throughout the city.
This place is absolutely packed with locals after 2pm in the afternoon every day of the week and for a good reason. There's no English on the wall in this spot, but you don't need it. Take a moment in the craziness to take your bearings and decide what you want. Leave your personal bubble at home because you'll have to elbow your way up to the counter to put in your order. An added plus: Each order comes with a glass of cava!
Some description here about mont saint-michel