Cardiff is the capital city of Wales and one of the largest cities in the UK. It’s also one of the easiest cities to get to from London, with direct train and road links.
In 2011, it was ranked 6th in the National Geographic’s list of alternative places to visit, which means it’s one of the most visited places in the UK, with over 25 million visitors each year.
What’s nice about Cardiff is that it lives up to the hype. There are so many things to do in Cardiff, both inside and around the area.
If you visit as part of a Wales road trip (which I highly recommend), it’s easy to park up your vehicle and explore the city for a couple of days. Once you’re done, you can add some of these alternative ideas to your itinerary.
Things to Do in Cardiff Center
There are lots of things to do around Cardiff Center – here are five of our favorites
Visit Cardiff Castle
This spectacular castle is built on foundations dating from 50 AD. The city grew up around it and it’s been destroyed and reconstructed many times. But the latest reconstruction (mostly from the 1800s) is magnificent.
The interior is incredibly opulent – it was designed by the world’s richest man (at the time!) Make sure you buy tickets to visit the Arab room and the castle apartments — they’re breathtaking.
Go to St Fagan’s
St Fagans houses some of the oldest buildings in the city. Over 40 houses, gardens, and other buildings create a living museum, representing an old Iron Age village.
It’s brilliant for kids and adults of all ages and is a fantastic way to learn more about the history in the area.
Visit the National Museum
This is a great place to come should it rain. Side note: ALWAYS expect rain. It’s Wales!
This museum houses a huge collection of art (both modern and older), and some incredible depictions of the history of the area and the animals which wandered Wales- including woolly mammoths and dinosaurs!
Visit Bute Park
This wonderful park is a haven in the city center. There are 130 acres of gardens and parkland, which once belonged to Cardiff Castle.
The river runs through it and there’s plenty of space to spread out, making it a wonderful place for walks, picnics, or sunny Saturday afternoons.
Enjoy a coffee in Roald Dahl Plass
Named for the famous children’s author, this is a large square in central Cardiff.
It’s home to the Senedd (famous striking government building) and the Millennium Centre (home to many sports and artist performances).
The square itself often hosts open-air concerts and it’s a wonderful place for people-watching and soaking up the atmosphere of the city.
Other Great Things to Do in Cardiff City
Visit Cardiff Bay
Cardiff Bay is actually 2 rivers, which form a large freshwater lake in the heart of the city. It used to be tidal, but now locks provide access for boats.
Years ago, the Bay was the hub of the city and was where the coal ships were loaded up. You can still wander around many of the docks and pier heads, which have mostly been regenerated and turned into smart bars and cafes.
See the Norwegian Church
Whilst you’re in the area, don’t forget to visit the Norwegian Church Arts centre- a rescued wooden church which was rebuilt in 1992. Roald Dahl used to attend this church as a child, and it now is a venue for charity work and small concerts, conferences and art exhibitions.
There are many other incredible and unique things to do in the centre of Wales- such as white water rafting!- but let’s focus on some things to do outside the city centre.
Visit the marvelous Caerphilly Castle
If you like castles you must visit the second largest castle in the UK. It’s impressively built and surrounded by artificial lakes, which aided in its defences.
This isn’t the only thing that makes it famous though; it also has a leaning tower that has leaned 3 meters since 1648! Who needs to go to Pisa?
Check out Llandaff Cathedral
The heart of the Church of Wales, this is actually one of 2 cathedrals in Wales (the other is Roman Catholic).
You can walk around the Cathedral whenever there is no service on- it has some beautiful architecture, windows, and history to discover.
See Castell Coch
Yep, it’s really called that (and yes, you can snicker). This Gothic castle is just outside Wales and was constructed by the Normans to control the trade route.
The roof of the castle is totally at odds with many of the other UK castles- it looks more like something from one of the German fairytale castles!
Check out Barry Island
Despite its name, this is no longer an island (although it used to be!).
This area is well-known for its beach and pleasure park, but it is possibly more famous as the home of Gavin and Stacey (from the hit BBC TV show)
Cross the Newport Transporter Bridge
This is possibly one of the coolest things in the entire area and I highly recommend everyone add it in when they’re planning a UK road trip.
It’s one of a handful of working transporter bridges in the world, and it’s a great way to take your car or camper across the River Usk. It can take 6 vehicles and 120 pedestrians – or if you’re feeling really brave, you can walk across the top.
Opened in 1906, it is an electric-powered gondola that goes between two towers that are at a slightly terrifying height of 242 feet each. Definitely not one for those who have that fear of heights, but it is exciting and it’s a challenge to see how well you manage up there. For adults, it costs £2.75 and for children, it’s £1.75.
Best Things to Do Near Cardiff (Within a 60 Minute Drive)
Here are some other incredible places which are all within an hour of Cardiff:
Take the Brecon Mountain Railway
Trains are a fantastic way to explore the countryside, especially when it’s a steam train- it’s a great way to watch the world go by.
This mountain railway travels through foothills of the Brecon Beacons, alongside Pontsticill reservoirs until it gets to Pant, just north of Merthy Tyfdil. The main station at Pant opens at 9:30 am, the last train leaves at 5pm or 4:15pm depending on the time of year from Pontsticill. Return Adult currently costs £13, children return costs £6.50 (15 and under). All children under 5 receive free entry
Delve into the National Showcaves
This is one of the most sizeable cave systems in Western Europe. The caves were uncovered about a century ago and inside are underground lakes, rivers and several breath-taking waterfalls. There are 4 different caves- you can even get married in one of them!
Also, for the kids, there is a dinosaur park with more than 200 life sized dinosaur models. Admission rates allow entry to all the attractions. It’s currently £14 for Adults and £9.50 for children aged 3-16. Children under 2 go free.
Wander through Tintern Abbey
This is one of the most well preserved monastic ruins in the country, despite the fact that it’s been decaying for nearly 500 years.
This beautiful abbey sits on the banks of the River Wye and was the second of its type to be built in Britain. It has become a haven for artists who want to draw, paint, or photograph it, as well as for history lovers and dog walkers.
Stroll around Margam Park & Castle
Margam Country Park is perfect for a relaxing day around nature. There are wild deer and farm animals that you can pet, a train that goes around the park, a stunning castle, and vast amounts of grassy areas and open space.
You can also visit the house at the center, go to the café, and also to the fishing lake. For the kids, there’s a children’s play area. Entry is free, although you need to pay for parking.
Visit the Big Pit National Coal Museum
The Big Pit is inside an old coal mine that was operational until 1980. Here, you can take one of the world-famous tours that go 300 feet underground and get to see and understand what life was like for those thousands of men who worked in the mines. A real-life miner accompanies you and shares stories of life in the pits.
There are also tours above ground that are multimedia and exhibitions. Entry to the Big Pit is free!
Hike up Pen y Fan in Brecon Beacons National Park
Pen y Fan is the highest point in South Wales. It’s a steep climb but worth the trek and the feeling of accomplishment after!
There are two routes you can take, either straight up and down or you can go the “horseshoe” route which is longer but possibly slightly easier. Be aware, the weather at the top of Pen y Fan is not often the same as below- so make sure you pack appropriately.
Visit the stunning Saint Mary’s Priory
Known as Wales’ Westminster Abbey, this priory contains some of the most important medieval treasures in Britain.
There are more than 10 alabaster chest tombs and the 15th-century wooden sculpture, known as the tree of Jesse, which has been described as one of the finest medieval sculptures in the world.
Entry is free but donations are welcomed here.
Stroll through Dyffryn Gardens
Dyffryn Gardens are the beautiful grounds which surround a gorgeous Grade II listed house built in 1893-4. The gardens stretch for 55 acres and are open all year round.
They’re ornate, beautiful and peaceful — perfect for a wander and explore, or even a picnic if the weather is kind.
Do go chasing waterfalls
There are some incredible waterfalls in this area, especially around the Brecon Beacons. One of the most famous is Aberdulais Falls which is now owned by the National Trust and is closer to Swansea than Cardiff, but can be reached within an hour
In the Brecon Beacons, there are a series of waterfalls called the waterfall walk. This incorporates Henrhyd Falls: the highest waterfall in the National Park, with a drop of 27m and the home of the bat cave in the 2012 movie The Dark Knight Rises.
But, honestly, the most impressive waterfall is Sgwd yr Eira, which is the waterfall you can walk behind! It can be a little hard to find using sat-nav, but it’s well worth the effort and the walk to get there.
So there you go — 21 incredible places to visit in and around Cardiff. Whether you can only visit for a day or have a week or more to explore, there’s plenty to see and do in Cardiff area, Wales.
About the Author
Kathryn Bird decided to get out of the rat race whilst she was still young enough to enjoy it. Together with her husband and cocker spaniel puppy Mac, she explores Europe by motorhome and motorbike, sharing her experiences on the award-winning travel blog Wandering Bird. In two years they have visited 19 countries and driven nearly 50,000 miles in their motorhome- not including the times they were lost!
Tromso in winter is an absolute wonderland: a pristine city center, glittering freshly-fallen snow, glimpses of the aurora winding overhead. There’s no shortage of charms this Arctic City, called “The Paris of the North,” has to offer.
You’d think a wintry city near the top of the world, above the Arctic Circle, would be rather sleepy, but Tromso in winter proves otherwise. Winter is Tromso’s peak season, where people from all over the world flock to see winter in its purest form.
Depending what month you visit Tromso in winter, you’ll either have some or no daylight. That’s because Tromso experiences the “polar night”, a 2 month period where the sun never reaches above the horizon, roughly between November 20 and January 20 each year.
I wanted to be able to have a bit of sunlight to my days, so I planned my Tromso winter trip for early February and it was perfect. Once the sun finally makes its reappearance, the days lengthen rapidly, and I was enjoying plenty of sunlight and lots of hours to look for the aurora!
I’ve gathered 30 incredible things to do in Tromso in winter, but I know that may be overwhelming for some people who have a limited amount of time in Tromso.
Therefore, I’ve structured the post to list my top 10 favorite things to do in Tromso first, then I break it into extra Tromso activities — foodie, cultural, and adventure — which you can add to your Tromso bucket list as you see fit.
Where to Stay in Tromso in Winter
First things first: when it comes time to pick where to stay in Tromso in winter, book early. The best deals go fast, as accommodation is limited and Tromso is soaring in popularity as arctic travel gets really big.
Accommodation will be one of the pricier parts of your trip to Tromso, so be sure to budget accordingly. Expect to spend, even on the budget end of things, approximately $100 USD per night at a minimum, and around $300 per night for upper-tier accommodations.
Budget: The best budget option in Tromso is hands-down SmarthotelTromso. It’s right in the heart of central Tromso, so it’s easy to get to all your activities, it has all the things you need in a hotel — 24 hour reception, comfortable beds, a work desk, some food available in the lobby. Note that breakfast is not included in the price but can be added for a fee. >> Check reviews from verified guests, see photos, and book your room here.
Mid-Range: If you want to stay in a chic boutique hotel that’s not overly fancy, Thon Hotel Polar is a fabulous choice. The decor is irreverent yet modern with an arctic and polar theme, many with vibrant pops of color that make the hotel have a lot more personality than many other Nordic hotels which tend to be a bit more muted in terms of decor. Breakfast is included and there is also a restaurant on-site should you want to dine in. The location couldn’t be better, so it’s a fantastic choice for mid-range travelers to Tromso in winter. >> Check reviews from verified guests, look at photos, and book your room here
Luxury: There are three Clarion Collection hotels in Tromso, but the nicest of the three seems to be Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora. Why? It’s harborfront and has an incredible rooftop jacuzzi where you can try to spot the Northern lights! Just 250 meters away from the Hurtigruten cruise dock, it’s perfect if you’re staying in Tromso for a few days before embarking on an adventure on the Hurtigruten. Rooms are luxurious and modern with updated bathrooms, and the facilities include a gym, free afternoon coffee with waffles, and a light evening meal as part of your stay. >> Check reviews from verified guests, look at photos, and book your room today!
Arctic Glamping: For a stay that’s truly memorable, look no further than the epic Camp North Tour for a glamping experience, Arctic-style! Stay in heated yurt-style glamping tents, complete with cozy carpeting, comfortable beds heated with reindeer pelts, and panels that open up into the aurora above you so you can watch the Northern lights dance overhead from your bed! It’s not located in Tromso proper, but transfers or free parking are provided. Buffet breakfast & traditional dinner are both included, and you can even book activities like dog-sledding on-site. >> Check reviews from verified guests, look at photos, and book your room here!
Here are the key things to pack for Tromso in winter!
One of the most important things to pack for Norway in winter is a sturdy pair of crampons. Crampons are basically small spikes or grips that you attach to your winter boot with a stretchy silicone attachment
I used these simple Yaktrax which were really easy to take on and off — this is essential, as indoor places everywhere in Tromso ask you to take off your crampons before entering, so you don’t want difficult ones to put on and take off.
They were also perfectly grippy for icy city streets and I didn’t have any slips while wearing them, walking around in the snow and ice for miles (trust me– the day I went out without them on accident, I definitely noticed the difference!).
Moisturizer and lip balm
Winter in Tromso will really dry out your skin, so you’ll definitely want to pack a pretty heavy-duty moisturizer as well as lip protector.
I remembered the former but forgot the latter and by day 2 I had sore, chapped lips and running to the nearest pharmacy to drop way too much money on a simple stick of chapstick… so be smarter than I am and bring it from home where you’ll spend less on something better.
It’s highly likely that one of the reasons why you are going to Norway in the winter is to see the magical Northern lights.
In that case, you’ll want to ensure you have a camera that is capable of manual settings – a smartphone won’t do if you want proper photos. Most importantly, you need to be able to set the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. I use a Sony A6000 and it works great.
But a camera isn’t all you need. To properly photograph the Northern lights, a travel tripod is absolutely essential.
You need the camera to be still for at least 3-5 seconds to get a decent photograph, and there’s no way you can eliminate camera shake for that long without a tripod. In the past, I’ve used a simple, cheap 50″ Amazon tripod and it worked just fine.
Be sure to also bring spare batteries as the cold will knock out your batteries so much quicker than you expect!
You can get away with wearing most of your normal winter clothing in Norway as long as you have proper base layers that help insulate you and keep you warm.
You need clothing that’s moisture-wicking and antimicrobial, which will keep things from getting stinky or uncomfortable when you sweat (which you will if you’re walking around or being active, yes, even in the cold!).
Many people swear by wool, but in general I can’t wear wool or I get insanely, tear-off-all-my-skin itchy (though wool socks are fine for me as the skin on my feet is thicker). If you can tolerate wool then something like these merino wool leggings, paired with a cashmere sweater layer, will serve you very well.
A warm winter jacket or parka
For walking around in Norway in winter, you’ll want a nice and warm winter jacket (preferably a parka which goes to about mid-thigh) that is water-resistant and hooded, to keep you warm against the snow.
While winter in many parts of coastal Norway like Tromso actually isn’t that cold, with average temperatures around -4° C to 0° C (24° F to 32° F), there is a lot of wind and precipitation, making it feel colder. You want a waterproofed jacket that will protect against snow and even worse, freezing rain.
For my most trip to Norway, I wore a jacket that I bought from Decathlon which I can’t find online but is virtually identical to this one but in a navy blue. I loved having a faux fur lined hood to keep snow and rain out of my face and the weatherproof material was much-needed. Down feathers add a nice layer of warmth that really helps insulate you (though if you want a vegan option, this jacket is similar).
On my past trip to the Arctic, in neighboring Sweden where it’s actually a fair bit colder, I did really well with my North Face parka which I’ve owned for 10 years and absolutely love, I just didn’t have it with me as I’ve recently moved country and haven’t got all my clothes with me!
Snow boots & wool socks
I wore a pair of snow boots by Quechua which I bought from Decathlon, which I can’t find online, but here is a similar boot by Sorel, a trusted winter brand that’s beloved in Norway and beyond (here’s a women’s version and a men’s version). I recommend sizing about half a size up to account for thick winter socks.
But no matter how insulated your shoe is, it won’t do much good if you are wearing thin, crappy cotton socks. I invested in these Smartwool socks after some hemming and hawing about the price and I’m so glad I did.
10 Best Things to Do in Tromso in Winter
Chase the Northern lights with experts
Of course, the main reason people visit Tromso in the winter is for a chance of glimpsing the magical Northern lights!
However, it’s not quite as easy as you’d think. You may imagine that the Northern lights swirl overhead like a never-ending light show going on all night… yet unfortunately, that is very rarely the case.
I was lucky enough to see the Northern lights three times during my week in Tromso: a tiny, minute glimpse on a night sailing tour, once from my Airbnb in Tromso, and a wild show on my Northern lights tour with Northern Horizon (this is the exact tour I did!).
I highly recommend going with the same company as I did for several reasons. For one, they truly went above and beyond to ensure we got to see the Northern lights properly, which meant driving all the way past the Finnish border and setting up camp in the one place that didn’t have cloud cover.
We stayed for quite a while, eating fire-roasted sausages (reindeer, pork, and vegan options) while sitting on reindeer pelts out in the snow, drinking cocoa and coffee to keep warm by the fire as we waited for the Northern lights to resume their dance.
Every so often, the guide would call out to us that the lights had returned and were dancing again in the sky, and he’d arrange for Northern lights portraits (like the above picture of me looking like the Marshmallow Man who attacks New York City in Ghostbusters — which is entirely not his fault but the fact that I was wearing both a parka and a thermal suit…)
I’ll be honest: you can try seeing the Northern lights on any selection of tours, but I did several night activities hoping I’d get a glimpse of the lights, and many of them, I had a fantastic time doing the activity but saw no lights. So if the Northern lights are on your Tromso bucket list, don’t settle for anything less than a true Northern lights chase or you might end up disappointed.
For me personally, I had more fun self-driving — it’s more active and the rush of wind at your face as you help your dogs man the sled is just incredible. You get your heart racing and pumping as you see the incredible fjord scenery all around you and you really feel like you’re part of the pack as you help your dog team manage the sled!
However, for many people, I think they would enjoy a guided tour better. It’s a far better option for families traveling with younger children (the minimum age is 4 for guided tours, as opposed to 7 for self-driving tours).
It’s also better for those who are not very physically fit as self-driving is far more active than you imagine (imagine running to help push a sled in shin-deep snow!), and for those who are a bit anxious about dog-sledding, I’d suggest a guided sled ride.
But if you have a keen sense of adventure and are at least mildly fit (I’m no picture of health, but I managed perfectly fine), you definitely ought to try a self-driving sled ride… it’s a trip of a lifetime. Personally, it’s my favorite winter thing to do in Tromso.
And whichever tour you choose, you’ll be given plenty of pup cuddle time!
Whale watching in Tromso is atop many people’s Tromso in winter bucket lists… but there’s a lot to consider when planning whale watching as part of your Tromso itinerary.
First thing to consider is when in winter you are going. If you are visiting Tromso in November through January, you are almost guaranteed to see whales on your whale watching tour… remembering that this is a wildlife excursion and there are no guarantees in nature.
However, by the end of January, the whales tend to leave the Tromso area. I was able to snag the last day of whale watching excursions when I arrived on February 5th…. but unfortunately, the excursion was canceled as the whales had already migrated out of the area. So if whale watching is high on your Tromso list, be sure to visit during whale season and don’t assume it’s all winter long like I did.
Another thing to consider is the significant time investment that whale-watching in Tromso requires. The whales used to feed in the Tromso fjords, but now they no longer go there, and instead go to Skjervoy… which is about a 3 to 4-hour boat ride from Tromso.
You’re talking about 7-8 hours of boat travel time in order to have about 2.5 hours of whale watching time… a trade-off I think is well worth it, but if you have a very short amount of time in Tromso or if you’re very prone to boat sickness, this may not be the excursion for you.
Unfortunately, since my tour was canceled due to the whales leaving Skjervoy a little earlier than anticipated, I’m not able to report back on my experience, but friends who have done whale watching in Tromso say seeing the animals is incredible.
However, they’ve also emphasized that it’s vitally important to go with a small-group, ethically-run whale watching company. Some larger boat companies approach the whales too closely and their motors are too loud, scaring the whales.
I feel very comfortable recommending this small-group orca whale watching tour, as it goes with the same tour company I did my husky tour. I can vouch for their ethics as far as how well they treat their dogs at the husky farm, and the fact that they limit their whale watching cruises to only 12 people on a boat speaks volumes to how they approach whale-watching in an ethical manner.
The Sámi people are an indigenous people who live in the far north of four countries: Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Russia. Their history in the Nordic lands goes back millennia and they are the original people of the Arctic north. The Sámi people have herded reindeer for centuries, moving large herds of reindeer around Northern Norway to forage and living nomadically.
Now, many Sámi reindeer herders make some money during the harsher winter months by bringing their reindeer down from the north to reindeer farms outside of Tromso.
Climate change is making it harder for the reindeer to find food naturally up in Northern Norway in winter, and so these farms serve a dual purpose of providing Sámi people a good income from tourism during the winter months — something they were historically shut out from — and ensuring the reindeer have plenty to eat during the winter season before they get brought back up north to graze in Sámi lands.
On the farm, you’ll get a chance to hand-feed reindeer, go reindeer sledding if you want, try reindeer stew (or a vegetarian option if that’s a bit too on the nose for you), and listen to a Sámi reindeer herder share his story and the history of Sámi people.
>>> Book your Sámi excursion here — day or night <<<
I was really impressed by our Sámi storyteller. He was so passionate about preserving Sámi culture but also acknowledging how the culture has changed — such as herders using drones to herd their reindeer! He was quite young, very open and honest, and not afraid to touch upon important issues like bigotry and anti-indigenous sentiment.
It’s important to be aware that Norway has historically been quite oppressive of the Sámi population — same as other Nordic countries. Many state-sanctioned measures attempted to erase Sámi history from Norwegian culture through forced assimilation measures (Norwegianization or Fornorsking av samer) which included prohibiting the teaching of Sámi language or culture in schools, stripping away land ownership rights of Sámi people, and even separating Sámi children from their families to be sent to boarding schools elsewhere in Norway.
This legalized form of cultural genocide continued into the 1980s. Measures have been taken to atone for Norway’s horrible treatment of the Sámi, including reparations, an official apology, and a truth commission to further acknowledge the extend of what the Sámi experienced. While Norway is making strides towards better treatment of their indigenous people, it’s important to note that anti-Sámi bigotry continues to this day, with Sámi people being assaulted for speaking their native language in public.
It’s important to be aware of Sámi history as we enjoy Northern Norway, their ancestral lands.
Visit a stunning Ice Hotel for the day — or night!
The Tromso Ice Domes are not actually located in Tromso city, but rather about 100 kilometers away in Tamok Valley… but it’s well worth a side trip during your time in Tromso!
The easiest way to visit the Tromso Ice Domes is via a guided tour and shuttle bus which departs from Tromso. This is the exact tour I took, which I highly recommend — it was a definite highlight of my time in Tromso.
If you aren’t planning to rent a car when in Norway (and I don’t recommend it unless you are a very experienced winter driver, as the road conditions in Norway in winter can be quite treacherous for the inexperienced), a guided tour with a dedicated shuttle bus is the only way to get to the Tromso Ice Domes as public transportation will not take you here.
The most popular package is to combine a visit to the Tromso Ice Domes with a snowmobiling ride through the stunning Tamok Valley where the ice hotel is set.
I was aching to do this, but unfortunately, the snowmobiling portion of the tour requires that you have a valid driver’s license in order to operate a snowmobile, and mine just expired, so I was unable to do so. However, if you can, I highly recommend bundling the Ice Domes and a snowmobile ride as the area around the ice hotel is truly spectacular and I wish I had more of a chance to explore it.
Sail into the fjords at night for a shot at spotting the aurora
How does sailing away past the city lights through a glassy fjord in search of the Northern lights sound?
If you answered “pretty darn magical,” I’d say you’re spot on.
I took a sailing and Northern lights trip with Pukka Travels during. mytime in Tromso and it was an absolute delight. We weren’t super lucky with the weather, but we did spot a glimmer of Northern lights… which I hastily snapped with my smartphone, because by the time I got my tripod out, it had already gone.
Regardless of only seeing a brief glimmer of the lights, I had an amazing time sailing, mostly because the crew was so lovely, making sure we were warm, well-fed and caffeinated, and comfortable.
We ate a delicious fish soup — truly the best I had in my week in Norway, and I must have eaten at least 5 bowls of fish soup, drank tons of tea and coffee, and enjoyed the scenic city lights as we entered and left Tromso harbor, even if the Northern lights didn’t cooperate so well!
The Arctic Cathedral in Tromso is located in Tromsdalen, across the bridge from the more touristic part of Tromso. It’s an easy and beautiful walk over the bridge from downtown Tromso, but you can also take bus line 28 from Tromso center.
You can visit the Arctic Cathedral during opening hours like for a 50 NOK (around $6 USD) entrance fee. Note their limited opening hours in 2020: 2 PM to 6 PM in winter months with special hours during Christmas. Check the schedule here.
But if you’re visiting Tromso in winter, I recommend trying to see one of their Northern Lights concerts — if you can stay uup late enough one night!
They run from Thursday to Sunday between January 30 and March 29, and include all sorts of music, from religious to classical to Sami music. The concerts begin at 11 PM and cost NOK 200 for adults (about $25 USD) and NOK 50 (about $6 USD) for children.
Take the cable car for sweeping views over Tromso
Also in Tromsdalen is the Tromso cable car (Fjellheisen), which offers you sweeping views over the city of Tromso and the fjord landscape. Views here are simply remarkable!
You can visit independently as I did: return tickets are NOK 218.50, about $24 — not bad for Norway prices, and definitely not bad for those amazing views!
You can hike around the area for some incredible scenery, but be sure to wear proper shoes with crampons as it can get quite icy and slippery here.
After you’ve walked around a bit and checked out the views, you ought to stop by the cafeteria for a delicious Norwegian waffle and a cup of coffee!
Prices are surprisingly reasonable — they are standard Norwegian prices (so not budget) but not inflated for the view.
Take a bird and wildlife fjord cruise
While I couldn’t go whale watching during my time in Tromso in winter, I was able to go on a wildlife and bird safari through the fjords of Tromso and it was incredible!
During the 5 hour cruise, I was able to see an amazing array of wildlife from the boat: seals, otters, dolphins, and even sea eagles which are truly incredible!
The cruise included a fantastic lunch with fresh Arctic fish and. warm drinks, plus they had insulated bodysuits in case you were cold (though I was pretty toasty warm in the parka I packed for Norway!)
With only a week in Tromso in February, I had to make a few cuts to my original Tromso itinerary, and unfortunately I missed the chance to go snowshoeing while in Tromso last winter.
However, I’ve down snowshoeing before in Swedish Lapland when I was staying in Abisko in winter and I absolutely adored it! It’s a lot of fun, but it’s a surprisingly difficult workout.
It’s also important to note that unless you are picking a well-trodden trail, it’s better to only snowshoe with a guide. With as much snow as there is in Tromso, some places are not safe and are at risk for avalanches, so be sure to go with a licensed guide and never do anything crazy like try to hike up to the Tromsdalen cable car by yourself!
Alas, another thing I didn’t get to do on my trip to Tromso in February — this time not because of time, but because my driver’s license expired in December before my trip began, and I didn’t have time to renew it before leaving for Tromso!
I wanted to add on a snowmobile excursion to my trip to the Tromso Ice Domes (which you can do here) but it also would have been fun to take an aurora snowmobile ride!
Norwegians love cross-country skiing — it’s a super popular activity in Tromso!
It’s not something I’ve ever tried… I’m uncoordinated enough without two planks of wood strapped to my two left feet… but if you enjoy skiing but aren’t planning to do any downhill/alpine skiing on your trip to Norway, you may want to give cross-country skiing a try!
For a small city of about 70,000 people, Tromso has quite a bit of local culture that’s well-worth exploring, with tons of world-class museums that give you a better sense of Tromso beyond the Northern lights and dog sledding activities which, while fun, are admittedly quite touristy!
One of the best places to dive into Tromso’s culture is the Northern Norway Art Museum (Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum). This art museum features artists who were from Northern Norway or made Northern Norway the subject of their art.
My favorite part about seeing these beautiful paintings was seeing the use of light done by these artists. Nordic light is like no other, dreamy and creamy in winter with so many pastel tones, and brilliant and vibrant under the midnight sun. It has so many shades and tones you won’t see in other art around the world, and it was really cool to see.
There was also some really cool Sámi sculptures while I was there, and it was great to see their initiative in showcasing more Sámi art, which has historically been shut out from Norwegian culture.
Admission to the Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum is reasonable – around 80 NOK or about $10 USD – and it’s a must for any art fiend. Allow about 1-1.5 hours to peruse the museum, depending on your pace.
Peruse the free exhibits at Perspektivet Museum
They say Norway is expensive, and they’re not wrong, but one of the great things about Norway is that many museums are free or rather affordable!
The excellent Perspektivet Museum is always free, and it’s well-worth visiting to see a more contemporary side to Norwegian art.
When I visted the Perspektivet Museum, there were a few different photography exhibits focusing on different aspects of Norwegian life.
When I visited, the theme was “Homo Religious”: all about mankind’s different relationships with religion and the many forms that took even in a small place like Tromso.
I was surprised and pleased to see such diversity showcased in Tromso, and it was really interesting to see how people from around the world have come to this unique corner of the globe and brought their religion and customs with them.
Exhibits change often, but the theme is always diversity in Tromso through photography, so you’re sure to learn a lot about Tromso and the people who live here no matter what the exhibit. Absolutely worth a visit!
Learn Arctic history at the Polar Museum
This museum was a true highlight for me, as I’m a total nerd who is absolutely enraptured by people who explore extreme environments (mostly because I’m a wimp who will never be brave enough to do even a fraction of what they do!).
The Polar Museum was super cool because it showcased so many incredible Arctic Explorers who went on missions to discovered uncharted and never-yet-touched lands (by man at least), such as Svalbard and the North Pole.
I really loved learning about all the explorers who left Tromso in search of understanding the globe we live on more fully, and the harsh and extreme conditions they underwent in order to discover a previously unknown part of the globe. I was also particularly enraptured with the story of Wanny Wolstad, a fierce explorer who was the first woman to be a fur trapper on Svalbard, the ultra-northern Norwegian archipelago.
Her story was fascinating (read a bit about it here) and I’m so glad the Polar Museum made sure to highlight her story, as women’s voices are often lost in stories about discovery and exploration.
Visit the Tromso Cathedral
Not to be confused with the Arctic Cathedral over in Tromsdalen, the Tromso Cathedral is located in the heart of the City Center.
It’s a fairly standard Lutheran church, and to be honest, it’s not particularly interesting compared to the more architecturally rich Arctic Cathedral, but since it’s in the heart of Tromso you’ll inevitably walk past it.
If you’re interested, you can enter the church but I believe there’s a small entrance fee, roughly 30 NOK / $4 USD.
Another church worth seeing is the Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady, also not far from the center, which is a cute wooden church which holds the cool honor of being the northernmost Catholic church in the entire world!
Marvel at the architecture of the Tromso library
Now this is more my speed architecture wise! The Tromso library is a really cool piece of modern architecture right in the heart of the city, and it looks really cool next to the snow — almost like an igloo from the future.
It’s a modern style that looks different at every angle, something that I personally really enjoy in architecture.
Inside, the architecture is really beautiful and all the windows make it so light and airy. Better yet, it’s free to use the internet there in case you need to warm up and browse the internet or kill some time between activities without wanting to spend a lot of money on coffee and cakes!
Check out local art at the gallery
I love looking at local art galleries while I’m traveling… even though I’m admittedly a window shopper as I rather don’t trust my own taste in art!
In between some of my activities I spent some time checking out the Galleri NORD and I was really tempted by some of the art — particularly this beautiful piece which features an almost abstract rendering of some Arctic reindeer running — too bad it was a bit out of my price range.
There’s lots of exquisite art here and it’s located just around the corner from the Radisson Blu hotel, a common tour pickup point, so it’s absolutely worth browsing!
Experience Norwegian coffee culture
In my opinion, there’s nothing quite like enjoying a cup of coffee on an Arctic winter day. And I think Norwegians would agree, as they drink on average 4-5 cups of coffee a day!
I had coffee at a number of cute Tromso cafes during my time there. Two standouts are Smørtorget, also near Galleri NORD and a great place to stop between tours if you’re doing both a morning and an evening activity, as well as the charming Svermeri Kafé og Redesign which is a coffee shop mixed with some cute furniture and decor pieces also for sale. They have delicious cakes as well!
Svermeri is located near the Polar Museum and makes a great stop after visiting the museum.
Sip drinks at the Magic Ice Bar
Since I went to the Ice Bar at the Tromso Ice Domes, I didn’t feel a need to check out the Magic Ice Bar as it’s a little on the pricy side (280 NOK per person to enter, about $30 USD, but that includes warm gear, a welcome drink plus a cocktail of your choice, which honestly isn’t bad given the price of alcohol in Norway).
However, if you don’t have time to squeeze in a visit to the Ice Domes but you do want that Ice Bar experience, it’s right in the heart of Tromso and seems like an awesome way to spend some time, though of course, since it’s -5 degrees Celsius in there, it’s no way to warm up!
Drink at Tromso’s oldest pub
Now, this is more my style! I really enjoyed having a craft beer at Ølhallen, the oldest pub in Tromso which features over 72 taps of beer!
It has a long history in Tromso, one that you’ll learn if you visit the adjacent former Mack brewery for a cool beer tour (more on that below).
The bartender here is really knowledgeable and can definitely point you in the right direction! I recommend going with one of the smaller breweries rather than Mack beer, which you’ll find all over Tromso, so you can find a more unique brew worth your kroner… and again, alcohol is very expensive in Norway, so expect to spend the equivalent of at least $10 USD on a small beer!
Tour Tromso’s own brewery
Next door to Tromso Ølhallen is Kjeller 5, a beer shop that sells tasty Norwegian craft beers and also does cool brewery tours!
Behind the beer shop are the former Mack brewery premises. Mack used to be the northernmost brewery in the world (however, now there are at least two breweries in Svalbard, though they didn’t mention this on the tour and keep calling themselves the northernmost brewery…).
Still, it was cool to learn the history of Mack and how they moved from this smaller brewery here to a larger brewery just outside of Tromso. However, they still brew a few microbrews here, and you’re able to see the facilities and learn about the microbrewing process on their daily brewery tours.
It wasn’t the best brewery tour I’ve ever done, but it was interesting nonetheless and worth the price (190 NOK / ~$21 USD for a one-hour tour plus tastings).
Foodie Things to Do in Tromso in Winter
Have a beautiful harborside meal at Fiskekompaniet
One of the best tricks for enjoying meals in Norway on a budget is going for lunch rather than dinner! While I was visiting Tromso on a mid-range budget, I opted to eat my meals out for lunch and at home for breakfast. and dinner (when it wasn’t included on a tour).
On my last full day in Tromso, I splurged on a 2-course lunch special at Fiskekompaniet and it was fantastic! For about $35 USD, I enjoyed a meal of a spectacular fish soup and delicious local cod prepared beautifully.
Enjoy burgers, shakes, and games at Burgr
It can be hard to find a good deal in Tromso… but Burgr is a very noteworthy exception, especially at lunch time! I forget the exact price, but I think I got a meal with burger and fries for about 140 NOK / ~$15 USD. Not bad for notoriously expensive Norway!
The burger was excellent and they have all sorts of fun, inventive spins on the standard burger if you want something a little more out there.
There are also some video games you can play while you’re waiting for your burger, which is a fun way to pass the time!
Try a reindeer burger at Nyt
This meal won’t be for everyone, because it’s about as Norwegian as it gets, but I loved it!
The reindeer burger at Nyt has a trifecta of three things Norway: reindeer meat (delicious!), brunost (Norwegian brown cheese — not bad, but not my favorite thing in the world), and rye bread.
I had it at Nyt for lunch and quite enjoyed my meal! I had better reindeer dishes elsewhere in town (see my review of my sandwich at Bardus below), but overall, I enjoyed it and would recommend it to other visitors to Tromso. Price was around 150 NOK / $17 USD.
Note that the service here is a bit slow, though, so it’s not a place I’d recommend if you’re really crunched for time.
Eat a sophisticated meal at Bardus
Besides Fiskekompaniet, this was my favorite meal in all of Tromso!
I had the reindeer open-faced sandwich at Bardus Bistro and oh my god, it was truly incredible. The reindeer was served rare and it was absolutely delicious, better than steak to be totally honest. It was paired with duck paté, greens, and a lingonberry jam aioli. It was life-changingly good.
It was a little more expensive than other places in Tromso, 180 NOK / ~$20 USD for a sandwich at lunch, but worth every kronor.
Have lunch at Mathallen
Really on a budget? Get the lunch of the day at Mathallen, easily the best deal in all of Tromso!
I spent 99 NOK on this really tasty fish gratin — I promise it was much better tasting than the picture suggests — with buttery baby potatoes and a sweet carrot salad.
It’s much more expensive to eat there at night — we’re talking tasting menus that run between 700-900 NOK, (~$80-100 USD) — so this is a fantastic deal given the quality of food at Mathallen.
Located in East London, God’s Own Junk Yard is one of London’s hidden gems and offers a multi-colored neon art gallery. Just note that where it’s located is not the best area in London, and when I visited, I went past the place. It’s easily missed!
Some of the items include a multi-colored neon arrow pointing downwards with bulbs around the edges. The bright neon “Laughter” lit in the middle of the arrow. Why not see the British Union Jack flag brightly lit in red and blue neon lights? Or see a bright neon Santa next to his sleigh with his red and white costume?
The creator, Chris Bracey, has worked with Vivienne Westwood’s store to install neon lights for her storefront, David La Chapelle, and Selfridges in the past. There are hundreds more to choose from. If you have a retail fashion store, a bar or night club, ask in store for details; it’s a shop too! Enjoy cakes and coffee and spend at least an hour here.
If you love cemeteries, then you’ll love Highgate Cemetery. Situated near Archway Tube Station, and the upper-class area of Hampstead Heath (another London hidden gem), Highgate Cemetery is said to be haunted. Several important people such have been buried here, for example, Karl Marx is buried here.
Check out Egyptian Avenue where you’ll find rows of subterranean passageways on a hillside, used to be used for religious purposes. All around you, you’ll find stuccoed brick in the area.
Check out Waterlow Park where you’ll see great views of London. You can sit by the rows of benches just enjoying the green space and relaxing, looking at wildlife and historical 18th to 19th-century buildings.
Find a place where you can sip your coffee and eat cake and relax for a bit. Don’t forget to take photos of the stone gargoyles on either side of the stone steps, enjoy yourself by the lake and have a picnic.
Be sure to check out Lauderdale House while in the area, an intimate art gallery where you’ll see numerous art collections and another hidden gem in London
Hampstead Heath is an upper-class area of London and not far from Highgate Cemetery. You can easily walk there and combine two London hidden gems in one outing!
One of the most popular open spaces in London, Hampstead Heath is by far the best out of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. With 800 acres of woodlands, you will see a great view of London from the top of Parliament Hill.
If you’re coming from Trafalgar Square, it’s around 30 minutes from Leicester Square on the Northern Line. Alternatively, take bus numbers 88 and 214. Here are some activities you can do in Hampstead Heath Park.
You can swim in the open-air Bathing Ponds and Parliament Hill Lido during the summer (these are usually for residents of the UK rather than tourists, so check ahead of time). You’ll also find the lovely Kenwood House located here.
There are various paid sports events and sports activities, especially for families with young and older children. For sports lovers, you can go fishing, practice your athletic skills, play cricket, ride a bike, go swimming, or play tennis. There are also sports clubs from rugby, running, croquet, bowling and many more.
For wildlife and nature, you can spot woodpeckers, bullfinches, stag beetle, grass snakes, and many more. Although you rarely see beautiful colorful flowerbeds, you will still enjoy green trees turn orange and yellow in autumn, then disappear into leafless trees in winter.
You will often see bats and up to 25 different types of butterflies, along with foxes, hedgehogs, deer, a duck pond, and many more.
Check out Golders Hill Park and Golders Hill Park Zoo (free), adjacent to Hampstead Heath Park for more open space greenery and wildlife.
Located in the heart of Central London, Soho, behind Shaftesbury Avenue, House of MinaLima is a Harry Potter gift and merchandise shop. If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, then this place is for you! It’s also a great place if you’re visiting London with kids.
The storefront looks like an arcade: red all over with small light bulbs surrounding the name of the shop. It’s situated below a pink bricked house; you can’t miss it.
You will often see several black and white Harry Potter billboards, a replica of several posters and billboards you’d see in the movies. Other items include the flying envelopes that the Dursley’s kept from Harry, a statue of Hedwig, a large artwork of the Marauder’s Map on the floor (you can step on it), many books on witchcraft and wizardry as well as the Dark Arts. See the exhibition downstairs for more surprises!
Situated behind Shaftesbury Avenue, the major West End theatre district, House of MinaLima has several members of staff who would be willing to help you choose your Harry Potter products. They’re the real Harry Potter fans.
If you haven’t had enough of the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden, then visit the shop when you get back to London (if you have enough time, that is). The store closes at 7 pm.
Historically, Brick Lane was the place in London where the poorest of the poor lived and congregated. Many years back, Jack the Ripper claimed his many unfortunate victims in this area; however, now, it’s a place for trendy fashion and it’s the home of many Asian communities.
Situated in the East End of London, you can see the multi-cultural aspect of London here. Brick Lane Market opens every Sunday, selling street food and drinks from around the world. During the rest of the week, Brick Lane is also a place for several curry houses scattered around this area.
You can usually smell the hot spices mixed with different aromas of food as you walk past. Sometimes you can still feel the heat from the hot pan as you choose your dishes!
As for retro fashion, make sure you wear your best vintage outfits to fit in. You’ll see a different side to London, a sight not normally seen in Central London.
The community on Brick Lane is largely Asian, particularly Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Indian. Although it’s remarkably busy, you’ll enjoy the community feel, and you will see several Asian shops selling saris, headscarves, jewellery, street food, restaurants, and cafes.
Along with the multicultural community and retro fashion all around you, you will see a lot of colorful street art adorning the brick walls and storefronts.
On Brick Lane, you will see a large artwork of a pelican, (a photo popular on social media!), a large painting of a lady in orange/purple street-style outfit with her large silver necklace around her neck, and many more. Take advantage of taking several photos when you pass them!
Don’t forget to give the buskers (playing all kinds of music, from Caribbean to R&B) your attention while in the area as well, and give them a tip if you like the music!
Brick Lane is young, vibrant, multicultural, colorful, and artistic all rolled into one. A place not to be missed!
Kayaking and canoeing along the Thames
Most tourists do a hop-on hop-off bus tour or take a river cruise along the Thames. To do something a little different, why not canoe or kayak and enjoy the cool breeze as you see the many famous landmarks in London?
Kayaking and canoeing are not for the faint-hearted and not for beginners. The current in the River Thames can actually be very fierce and when it’s windy, it’s wise not to go out. I have seen experienced swimmers struggle getting out of the water because of its currents. Make sure you know the risks and go with a licensed guide!
The great thing about kayaking and canoeing in London is that it covers the quieter side of London too if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. These places are not always the most scenic, but if you’re into grazelands and abandoned spaces all overtaken by wildlife, then its an interesting sight!
Located in West London, Little Venice consists of boat houses, Georgian houses, waterways, and much more. You hardly feel as if you’re in London at all here!
It’s quiet in some areas and crowded in other areas. Connected to Regent’s Canal and the Grand Union Canal, as you walk further up into the canal, you will see Camden Lock, Camden Market near Regent’s Canal, and Portobello Market near the Grand Union Canal. Those two markets offer vintage, quirky, and trendy atmospheres and more crowds, whereas other areas are a bit quieter.
The crowds of people will make you feel a part of the friendly community and the quiet areas will give you peace. Don’t forget to check out some of the Georgian houses and see how locals live in council estates scattered around the canal.
Why not ride a boat and enjoy the ducks paddling along with you with the currents? I guarantee you that you will have a chance to avoid the crowds, and enjoy some peace in nature.
Another great thing about the areas near Little Venice is the classic and quirky cafes along and above the canal.
It’s a great feeling, sipping tea and coffees or cocktails in the evening, hearing crowds of people talking, and seeing the lights from boathouses twinkling in the night sky.
Leadenhall Market is situated near London Fenchurch Street and Monument. If you happen to visit the Sky Garden, give Leadenhall Market a visit before or after.
As you step inside the cobblestone pavement in the market, you will be surrounded by many luxurious shops dating back to the 15th century. Sip some luxurious coffee in one of the coffee shops among businessmen in their suits. Buy some cinnamon pastries or sugary waffles, chocolate croissants, and various cakes to take away.
Not enough? Why not visit the New Moon pub, a brightly lit golden pub for traditional British fish and chips? Other than buying cakes, sipping coffees, and eating fish and chips, you can buy flowers at the florist, fresh meat from the market, or taste fine wine in a casual wine café.
There are plenty of shops, restaurants, and cafes to choose from here, and it’s a welcome contrast to the vibrant working-class Borough Market and vintage Portobello Market.
It’s not just the shopping you’ll experience; it’s the historical architecture all around you. The brightly lit pathway lines many shops and as you look above, you’ll see the exceedingly high arch-shaped glass roof. As you arrive in the middle, above, you will see an extremely high dome-shaped roof. It’s a guarantee that you’ll be surrounded by stunning architecture!
Experience Pie, Mash, and Liquor
Traditionally, pie, mash, and liquor was the food of the working class in the 19th century. This dish consists of mashed potatoes and pie, usually served with gravy called ‘liquor’ (which is actually non-alcoholic), made from the stock leftover from stewed eels.
People usually eat this traditional meal with mixed vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, or peas. Complement it with a traditional British tea with milk. The taste is salty and filling at the same time. The presentation isn’t elaborate, but it’s the flavor that counts.
You can eat it for lunch or dinner, and it can be found in British pie and mash cafes or some traditional British pubs around London.
If you happen to see English cafes scattered outside Central London, the settings consist of simple flat chairs and simple tables. Regular locals will usually eat in these types of places; that’s the beauty of experiencing the British culture, seeing how and where regular Brits eat.
Here are 5 recommended Pie & Mash cafés worth a visit.
Mother Mash: 26 Ganton Street, London, W1F 7QZ, England (Soho).
Castle’s Pie and Mash Eel: 229 Royal College Street, London, NW1 9LT, England (situated near Camden Town and popular with tourists).
M Manze Tower Bridge: 87 Tower Bridge Road, London, SE1 4TW, England (follow the road from Tower Bridge and head South)
Goddards at Greenwich: 22 King William Walk, Greenwich, London, SE10 9HU, England
Fuller’s Pie and Ale House: 33 Tothill Street, London, SW1H 9LA, England (situated in near St. James’ Park)
All Hallows by the Tower Church
All Hallows by the Tower Church is situated next to the Tower of London. The nearest tube station is Tower Hill. It’s the oldest Anglican church in London and still holds services to this day.
After your tour at the Tower of London, why not give All Hallows by the Tower Church a visit? Later on, you can eat at the Coppa Club Tower Bridge restaurant, famous for its igloos by the River Thames, overlooking Tower Bridge and The Shard (be sure to make a reservation in advance!).
All Hallows by the Tower Church has survived many disasters including The Great Fire of London and the German bombers during the Blitz. It can also be easily missed since everyone will be attracted to the Tower of London.
If you’re into Roman history, the history of Anglo Saxons, and Ernest Shackleton, then this place is for you. Compared to Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London, there are not usually a lot of people here, so it’s an intimate experience if you don’t like crowds.
Check out the crypt museum and the many multi-colored glass crests on the stained-glass windows. It’s historical, spooky, creepy, and interesting at the same time!
The Operating Theatre and Herb Garret
The Operating Theatre and Herb Garret Museum is in the South East of London. This place was used to store herbs for medicine, and it’s one of the oldest surgical theatre in London between the 18 – 20th Century.
If you’re a science buff or you’re into the history of medicine, this museum is for you. Here, you will see a collection of different flavored aspirins ranging from mint to coffee and usually taken with milk or water.
Other interesting items include a red velveted surgical box with its complete silver surgical tools. The item that most caught my attention was the blood testing kit. Seeing it, I could imagine how much it hurt when the thick syringe went into the skin to take blood samples!
In different areas of the museum, you will see other items: a 17th-century wooden hospital trolley, a 19th-century urinal glass shaped like a vase with a handle, a rusty tinned ward lantern, and a tool known as a blade scarificator, used for bloodletting. Bloodletting was intended to draw blood from a patient to cure and prevent future illnesses. Most of the time, they used to use leeches to extract blood.
It’s great fun for all the family (if you’re not squeamish or have very young children, that is) and educational if you’re curious to see what life was like during the 18th to the 19th century.
The museum is situated next to London Bridge Station. If you happen to visit The Shard, Borough Market, or the Southbank area, then you can’t miss this London hidden gem museum.
See the deer in Richmond Park
Richmond Park is situated in the southwest of London. There’s no other place to go deer watching than Richmond Park! Richmond Park was a recreational and hunting ground for the royal family for more than 1,000 years, but now everyone can visit.
Richmond Park is the second-largest of the royal parks in London, and it consists of 2,500 acres of green space with lots of paths for walkers and lanes for drivers. As you reach the Richmond area, you can feel a bit of a rural village vibe in London.
Although a busy and popular area for locals and tourists, by mixing with nature and wildlife, it’s a place that makes you feel at peace — as a bonus, all that green space boosts your immune system, a contrast to the stressful, a contrast to the sometimes stressful urban area of Central London.
While deer spotting, don’t get too close! They are not pets; they’re wild animals. People have been injured feeding them. If you go by car, if you’re lucky, you can see them close as you drive by (but be careful not to hit them!)
Check out the café and Isabella Plantation for beautiful walks among plants, trees, and flowers. You can go cycling, walking, picnics, dog walking and see a great view of the Thames in Richmond Hill from the hilltop. See if you can spot Mick Jagger’s house!
If you want to try out something different from the usual partying areas scattered in every corner of Soho, you must try out several secret bars, which London is well known for.
Hidden from the busy life of the city, this post wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging a few obscure secret cocktail bars around London. Here are 4 recommended secret bars in London to visit.
The Luggage Room
The luxurious, cozy, and dark cocktail bar has an intimate setting hidden in the aristocratic area of Mayfair. The Luggage Room offers 19th century-inspired alcoholic drinks up to the current period. If you want to experience the lively atmosphere, make sure you check in during the weekends by 10 PM to get in.
The simple black door has a silver lion knocker. It can easily be missed and be mistaken for an abandoned house. However, as you reach the basement, you’ll feel like you’re on the set of the Great Gatsby movie.
The afternoon tea cakes and sandwiches taste the same as the afternoon teas served around London, but the sweets and savories taste so different from the other restaurants and cafes in London.
Check out the marble fireplace, the leather menu imprinted with the club’s initials, a selection of cocktails that used to be served in the medieval times down to the peanuts. These small details are what make the place memorable, especially when you’re spending time with your family and friends!
The Little Yellow Door
The Little Yellow Door Cocktail bar is situated in the colorful and fashionable area of Notting Hill. This bar has a 19th-century Victorian feel to it, and its theme makes you feel that you stepped into someone’s flat as you get that cozy feeling of being at home.
Here, you can have dinner parties, Sunday roasts, bottomless brunches, and house parties. Although the food is average and tastes similar to other pubs around London, the atmosphere is unique and the theme of feeling like you’ve stepped into someone’s flat is such a good idea.
Lunch ends at 5 PM, and if you like R&B and hip hop, head downstairs to dance a while downstairs. Take advantage of the DJ booth, a vinyl station, a fancy-dress box, poker, and backgammon tables if you’re hiring the place for a private event. You can play Jenga and other board games in the bar area as well.
Evans Peel Detective Agency
Situated in Earl’s Court, Evans Peel Detective Agency is a speakeasy bar hidden in Central London. Like the Luggage Room, Evans Peel Detective Agency will make people feel like they’ve stepped into the set of the Great Gatsby!
The great thing about this speakeasy bar is that once you arrive in front of the door, a waiter playing a detective will tell you they’ve solved your case. Be prepared to have a story ready and play along with the dialogue as they guide you to your table.
The professional mixologists have excellent knowledge of modern classic cocktails. As for the decor, you will see many detective themed items in the 1920s, including maps, magnifying glass, and many more to add to the ambiance.
The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town
Situated in Bishopsgate, you can visit this London hidden gem before or after visiting Spitalfields Market, a retro vintage and antiques market like Portobello Market. Like Evans Peel Detective Agency, it’s also a speakeasy bar.
When you arrive at the Breakfast Club bar, tell them that you’re there to see the mayor. They’ll escort you to what looks like a large fridge that will lead you down to a cozy, dark, and lively underground pub!
Try the Basic Kitsch cocktail for their signature vanilla, raspberry syrup, and lemon sweet and sour cocktail. It’s an average price for the atmosphere; I’ve seen many bars that are more expensive. I recommend it!
The Hardy Tree
The Hardy Tree consists of hundreds of 18th century tombstones which were placed close together around a large ash tree by novelist Sir Thomas Hardy.
It’s a bit bizarre, but in the mid-19th Century, London was in the middle of a great railway expansion, which they thought would affect the souls buried in the nearby graveyard.
Sir Thomas Hardy thought it was a good idea to pile the burials near the ash tree so they could rest in peace. However, it’s thought the people buried here aren’t resting in peace to this day.
Weeds and algae have grown between the tombstones and people have had bad luck here — some say the souls resting here can commit an act of “bodysnatching”. Visit this tree if you’re brave enough — good luck!
Cruise the Thames on an old paddle steamer
There are many companies that offer cruises on the River Thames. You can choose from exploring the city with live entertainment, fine dining with wine, and fireworks display if you choose to come for NYE and experience the Tower Bridge lift, a rare occurrence nowadays!
We went with Dixie Queen, and the service there was amazing. As you board the Dixie Queen, you feel like you’re stepping inside a mini-Titanic cruise ship. The wooden stairs with brass handles will take you to the second floor of the dining area. There were around fifty chairs and tables covered in white tablecloths. Large white candelabras are placed on each table.
We went to the lower deck; this deck consists of several intimate booths and blue couches complemented with dark wooden tables. The upper deck consists of a bar for alcoholic beverages, and you can also opt for buffet service if you prefer.
At the end of the boat, there is a great space for dancing, live entertainment, and a balcony for fresh air.
It’s recommended to take in these sights at night, since London can be rather dense and industrial around the Thames. During the day, the view isn’t as beautiful at night, when it’s all lit up!
Interesting landmarks covered include the former Battersea Power Station, Palace of Westminster (Big Ben), The London Eye, the Gherkin, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, Cutty Sark ship, Greenwich The O2 Arena, and the Thames Barrier to prevent from flooding.
Dixie Queen is the busiest, but you can choose from the Elizabethan, Edwardian, and Equity. Equity is for private tours of no more than 6 people.
If you happen to be in St. Paul’s Cathedral, make sure to check out Postman’s Park, nestled behind. It’s a great place to get away from the busy atmosphere, and a great place to have your lunch. You’ll be surrounded by giant ash and oak trees, green plants, and tall 14th-century Tudor houses.
The special thing about this park is the Watt’s Memorial to Heroic Self. It consists of memorial plaques of over 40 people who have sacrificed their lives to save others. The memorial opened in 1900 and dates to the 19th Century. One plaque is above; two other plaques include:
Thomas Griffin, a laborer who died in a boiler explosion so he could search for his mate. Died 12 April 1899.
Alice Ayers, a daughter of a bricklayer, saved 3 children from a burning house. Died 24 April 1885.
It’s worth reading all the plaques and imagining what they had to go through risking their lives, taking a moment to honor their sacrifices.
Jack the Ripper Tour
For those who don’t know Jack the Ripper, he was a notorious criminal back in 1888 who targeted women. Nearly all of his victims died within the Highgate and Whitechapel area.
If you love true crime and a good mystery, this highly-reviewed walking tour will offer you just that. I enjoyed hearing the macabre stories, though it is definitely not for young ears!
The tour usually last about 2 hours, and they’re more than happy to answer any questions you may have about Jack the Ripper. You will see the various alleyways he used to lure in his victims, you will visit the Ten Bells pub where one of his victims used to work, and you will get to see the historic Spitalfields Market, a vintage and retro market near this area.
Before or after this tour, check out Wilton’s Music Hall, the oldest music hall in London dating back to the 19th century, another hidden gem of London. It kept its original décor including its pillars, balcony, and stages, and it’s well worth a visit.
About the Author
Hi, I’m Annisa, an Indonesian national living in London. I’ve been living here since 1991. My family and I packed our bags to pursue a better way of living.
Since living here, I noticed London is rich in history and culture and I had an idea of writing about it in a blog, London Travellers. As a resident here, I’ve learned the ins and outs of London and every time visitors see London, there’s always something new to see and do. It’s impossible to see everything in a short amount of time, so that’s why I made it my mission to write about London and give visitors tips and tricks for planning a great holiday.
As a continent, Europe is perfectly suited for road trips. The distances between countries are short – at least in this American’s eyes – so you can easily see several countries on one quick trip, or very thoroughly explore one country in depth.
While the rail and bus system in Europe is quite advanced, there’s really no better substitute than having your own car so you can explore as much as possible and get off the beaten path whenever you like.
I asked some travel bloggers to share their expert opinions on what some of the best road trips in Europe are, and they didn’t disappoint! Check it out below and get inspired.
The Five Ferries Route on the west coast of Scotland is traditionally a cycle route, but who says the 55-mile loop can’t be equally done by car? It’s the perfect island-hopping road trip if you’re short on time.
The route is named after the five ferries one must take between the mainland and various islands and peninsulas in this jagged coastal landscape.
The road trip begins in Ardrossan, a seaside town with a busy ferry port around 35 miles southwest of Glasgow. Set sail to the Isle of Arran and on to the Kintyre peninsula. From there make your way to the Cowal peninsula, the Isle of Bute and back to the Ayrshire coast on the mainland.
The first stop on the Five Ferries Route is the Isle of Arran. It is also known as Scotland in miniature and boasts a little bit of everything Scotland has to offer. Stunning mountains and white sandy beaches, baronial and ruined castles, locally made produce from beer to cheese, an independent whisky distillery, and even some fascinating standing stones. Spend at least one full day on Arran before heading on to the ferry.
Next up is the Kintyre peninsula. The ferry from Lochranza on Arran arrives in Cloanaig near the top of the peninsula. If you are pressed for time, you can simply take in the nearby sites (Skipness Castle and Tarbert Castle) before heading on to Portvadie on the next ferry, or you can spend a couple of days in the area to explore everything the long finger-shaped peninsula has to offer.
From the beautiful lighthouse at the Mull of Kintyre to the whisky distilleries in Campbeltown, stunning beaches and bay along both coasts or a day trip to the Isle of Gigha, there is a lot to see here.
The next part of the Five Ferries Route takes in a remote part of Scotland called Argyll’s Secret Coast. While it’s not really a secret, this area on the Cowal peninsula is so far off the beaten path, few people venture here. Your efforts will be rewarded with stunning natural beauty, breathtaking scenery and welcoming and vibrant villages.
From Colintrave (on the second finger of the Cowal Peninsula), catch the short ferry across to Rhubodach on the Isle of Bute. Bute is a true hidden gem among Scottish islands – super easy to get to from Glasgow, lots of things to do, yet a complete underdog in comparison to the likes of Skye, Mull or Islay.
Visit Mount Stuart and spend a few hours on the beaches of Ettrick Bay or Scalpsie Bay. Hike from Kilchattan Bay to the remote Glencallum lighthouse and visit the sites around Rothesay. 1-2 full days on the island is enough to see the highlights.
Finally, make your way back to the mainland. From Wemyss Bay, head on to Glasgow or continue down the Ayrshire coast back to Ardrossan. Stop for ice cream and Scottish Viking history in Largs and visit the colorful Kelburn Castle.
NC 500, Scotland
By Gemma Armit of Two Scots Abroad
Historic castles, white beaches, turquoise water, local food, live music, Highland coos, fresh air, hills, whisky distilleries – what’s not appealing about Scotland’s North Coast 500?
The UK’s answer to Route 66 starts in Inverness and goes around the Scottish Highlands over just over 500 miles in a loop route.
There’s no right or wrong way to drive around the route but the roads are mostly single track so you need to be careful when you meet other cars. Use the passing places to pull in so locals and fellow road trippers can enjoy the space too.
Starting in Inverness head west over Scotland’s most terrifying road, the Bealach Na Ba. Crawl around the corners and pray that no one is coming the other way! Your first food stop is Applecross. Enjoy lunch at the pub and enjoy the views by sitting in the outside area if the weather is on your side.
Next, head through the small villages of Sheildaig and Gairloch stopping at the secret beaches, Mellon Udrigle Beach and Gruinard Bay. This section of the trip includes a drive through the majestic Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. You will most likely want to spend the night in either of the two villages mentioned above. Which one really depends on availability.
The next section takes you to the spirited town of Ullapool. There’s always live music at one of the three hotspots, The Ceilidh Place, The Arch Inn or the Argyll Hotel. It is worth spending an evening here and setting off a little later the following day. Scotland has a zero-tolerance drink driving policy.
Heading north to Durness, make a pitstop and take a short walk to the ruins of Ardvreck Castle at Loch Assynt. Enjoy the crazy landscape of the B869 to Achmelvich Beach.
At Durness visit Smoo Cave and pay the £5 to ride the boat inside in the cave. Next head up to Dunnet Head and John o’ Groats, the most northern tip of mainland Scotland!
From here you can catch a ferry to Orkney or start your route down the east coast of the Highlands stopping at the castles and distilleries along the way. The designated driver gets to choose the lunch spots.
Spend some time dolphin spotting at the Black Isle before ending your trip back in Inverness.
Scotland is an ethereal place where you can expect to find emerald green hills, bright blue waters, trendy cities, and never-ending countrysides. With the country being fairly small in size, it is possible to see most of Scotland during a short road trip.
As we were on a bit of a time limit ourselves, we only had 5 days to explore and we saw a lot in that short space of time. Our road trip went a little like this: Edinburgh > Loch Lomond > Glenfinnan > Loch Ness > Isle of Skye.
Starting your Scottish road trip in super trendy Edinburgh, it’s best to explore the city on foot. A visit to the Edinburgh Castle to learn some fascinating histories is a big recommendation, as is eating haggis in the local restaurants and admiring the Edinburgh skyline from the top of Holyrood Park.
Driving west from Edinburgh, you can discover Loch Lomond in the Trossachs National Park, which is really beautiful to see. When visiting Scotland, it’s definitely a must to explore as many of its vast lakes as you can, given how much Scotland is renowned for them. There is a pathway to take you along around the outskirts of the lake, or you can opt to see the lake from on top of it instead – in a canoe or kayak!
Glenfinnan isn’t on most travelers’ lists when visiting Scotland, but if you’re a Harry Potter fan, then this is an absolute must. Glenfinnan Viaduct is a filming location from the second movie and is the perfect place to see the Jacobite Steam Train chug past (or better known as the Hogwarts Express)!
Loch Ness is of course a must-see in Scotland, especially if you’re interested in learning more about the legends behind the Loch Ness monster.
Given just how vast this lake is, you will likely not see the whole of it. But there are plenty of places to park up your car and explore its outskirts by foot.
Next, drive the main road of the Isle of Skye so that you can see as much of it as you can. This also makes for a really simple circular route!
Portree is a great pit stop for various restaurants, bars, and shops, but my advice would be to head to the northernmost tip of the island. From here, you can see some old castle ruins and fabulous views across the sea.
By Cath of Passports and Adventures
One of the best road trips to take in Europe has to be a tour of Wales. Once a kingdom in its own right, this small country lies in the West of the United Kingdom and is a beautiful, rugged country with rivers, lakes, mountains, coastline, and much more.
To tour Wales, it is best to start in Cardiff, the capital, in the south east. Do not spend time here first though, pick up your car and start heading north. Enjoy some of the best castles in Wales by visiting Caerphilly, Chepstow, and Raglan. From Raglan, you should head to Brecon and enjoy the mountains of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
If you are adventurous and enjoy hikes, then take a day to scale Pen-y-Fan, the highest peak in South Wales. It will take a couple of hours, just make sure weather conditions are favorable and bring layers, drinks and snacks. Stay in Brecon Castle, now a hotel in the town of the same name and enjoy wandering the streets of this quaint little town.
From Brecon, continue north along the A470, stopping in Builth Wells for lunch before continuing to Rhayadar, your next stop on your tour of Wales. This town will be your base for exploring the beautiful area of the Elan Valley.
The Elan Valley is an area of natural beauty centered around three reservoirs. While the reservoirs are man-made, the surrounding area is beautiful with amazing scenery. It’s worth spending a day driving around the reservoirs or hiking some of the hills.
From Rhayadar, head to the north coast and Conwy, famous for its magnificent castle, which is a must-visit. Use Conwy as your next base for exploring the north coast of Wales, Anglesey and Bangor.
From Conwy, head south towards the Snowdonia National Park, using their Porthmadog or the very pretty Portmeirion as your base for spending a few days exploring the Snowdonia National Park.
If your fitness levels are good, you could scale Snowdon, the highest mountain peak in Wales. If you do not fancy that, you can get the tourist train up to the peak of Snowdon.
The Snowdonia National Park is one of the most beautiful areas of Wales and is a must-visit on your road trip. Visit the small ruined castle at Harlech, the pretty seaside town of Barmouth, before heading south towards Aberystwyth. You could stay here if you arrive late and enjoy a walk along the seafront.
From Aberystwyth, head south along the coast towards the Pembrokeshire coastline where you must visit St David’s, Solva and Pembroke Castle in the town it shares its name with. You could make Tenby, a colourful, picturesque town, your base for exploring the beauty of Pembrokeshire.
And when you have finished exploring West
Wales, return to the capital Cardiff to explore everything this vibrant city
has to offer. If you are visiting Wales
as a family, ending your road trip in the capital is a must as there are so
to do in Cardiff with kids. From Cardiff Castle to St Fagans, Cardiff Bay
and the city centre, this is a great place to end your exploration of Wales.
To cover the length and breadth of Wales, you will need at least a week to ensure you can visit all the places mentioned here and to have some time to get out and explore. If you have more time, even better, as you can take your time and really soak up all that Wales has to offer. At each town mentioned there will be hotels and guesthouses to stay in and plenty of cafes, restaurants and even pubs to eat and relax in.
By Stephanie of History Fangirl
There is no country in the world that’s makes for a better road trip than Ireland! The rolling fields, herds of sheep bounding their way down the road, and stunning coastline make the Emerald Isle the perfect road trip destination.
While there are tons of options here for a road trip since the country is packed with scenic Irish drives, a few popular choices include the Ring of Kerry, the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland, and the Wild Atlantic Way which includes Slea Head Drive.
The Wild Atlantic Way is the perfect introduction to driving in Ireland and includes some of the country’s most famous roadside attractions. Fly into Shannon Airport in Galway to pick up your rental car. You can spend the night here or immediately head north.
For your first stop, begin in Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey. One of the country’s most famous Instagram spots, the picturesque abbey is one of the most famous postcard images from Ireland.
Next head south to Doolin. This is the perfect place to base yourself to see both the Cliffs of Mohr as well as a day trip out to the Aran Islands. Make sure to spend some time driving through the Burren before you leave this part of the country.
As you make your way south, you will arrive in Dingle. This colorful town is the perfect place to relax for a night or two. While here make sure to do the Slea Head Drive, visit the Dingle Distillery, and go on a Dingle Dolphin tour. You can make a day of it, or you can enjoy more of Dingle’s activities and extend your time here.
As your trip reaches its end, drive back to Galway. Spend a day exploring this lively city before turning your car back in at the Shannon Airport.
By Darek of Darek and Gosia
When going to England, do not limit yourself to exploring the capital. Around London, you will find historic towns, picturesque villages, and beautiful landscapes. Here is our plan for your successful road trip of southern England.
First up, head to the Cotswalds. The nearly 80-km range of limestone hills, among which the sources of the Thames are hidden, attracts with idyllic landscapes. A trip to the Cotswolds will be perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. Almost everything – from dog huts, garden walls and houses to churches and castles – is made of material mined in local quarries. The Cotswolds also delight in straw thatch covering buildings.
The northern part of the hills is considered more picturesque than the southern one because of the higher hills. At 300 m, at the intersection of eight roads lies Stow-on-the-Wold, one of the highest located towns of England, which dates back to prehistoric times.
Next up, spend a day in Bath. Bath is close to the only natural geothermal springs in the British Isles. In the spa town, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, Roman baths and pump rooms have been perfectly preserved. The place also impresses with Georgian architecture, including sandstone buildings that blend in perfectly with modern buildings.
Bath was the destination of trips already 2 thousand years ago! The beauty of the spa and the beneficial influence of waters on humans again attracted tourists in the 18th century. Today, many visitors believe that mineral water from Bath is a remedy for various ailments.
Next up, time to hike the Cheddar Gorge! Cheddar Gorge is the largest limestone gorge in Great Britain. It is located near the village of Cheddar, in the southern part of the Mendip Hills, in the English county of Somerset. The rocks that make up the gorge are full of caves, and one of them found in 1903 the oldest human skeleton in Great Britain (9,000 years old), called the Man of Cheddar.
Cheddar Gorge, along with caves and the nearby village, is a popular tourist attraction attracting about half a million tourists a year.
Next up is one of England’s greatest attractions: Stonehenge. The Stonehenge stone complex is one of the oldest megalithic structures in Europe and one of the most recognizable structures in Great Britain. It has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1986.
Some say that Stonehenge was used to observe the sky and stars, others that pagan ritual ceremonies were held there. The mystery also remains how prehistoric peoples managed to transport these huge stones to the place where they are now, about 5,000 years ago.
Finally, hike the Seven Sisters in East Sussex. There you can see for yourself the amazing work of nature which certainly are white cliffs aptly named Seven Sisters.
The chalk cliffs are located between the towns of Seaford and Eastbourne in the area of Seven Sisters Country Park. It is certainly an interesting fact that there are eight hills instead of seven as the name suggests.
There is so much to see in the southern part of England. But to see it all you will need to spend a bit longer on the road trip around southern England!
This entire area is filled with cute villages, pretty roads and incredible views over the rolling English countryside- as long as you are lucky enough to do it on a clear day!
I’d recommend starting in Salisbury, a fabulous city with plenty to do and see- including one of the best cathedrals in the UK. There are great shops and plenty of bars and cafes to get you started.
Whilst there, you have to head out to Stonehenge and see the world-famous stone circle. You don’t need to stop unless you have time- you can see it quite well from the road, but except long queues as everyone slows to take photos. If you do choose to stop, tickets can be bought on the day but there may be a wait in high summer.
From here, head to the Cotswolds. This collection of pretty villages has become famous as being picture-postcard cute and is the perfect place for instagram shots. I highly recommend the villages of Bourton on the Water and Castle Combe- both have been called the prettiest villages in England. You can drive around as many villages in the Cotswolds as you have time for and there are plenty of places to stay in the area if you want to explore for a few days.
Alternatively, end your road trip in Bath. This beautiful city is built from local ‘yellow’ stone, which looks spectacular in the evening sunset. It is a bustling city with plenty of nightlife and things to do. I also recommend staying a night (or two) and enjoying an afternoon tea at the Pump rooms (an English tradition), as well as exploring the city on foot.
The Best Road Trips in Europe: Nordics
Iceland Ring Road
By Nick & Val of Wandering Wheatleys
When it comes to iconic road trips in Europe it’s hard to beat the Ring Road around Iceland. True to its name, Iceland’s Ring Road runs the circumference of the island and allows you to take in most of the country’s top sights.
Even though it is just 1,330 kilometers and you can technically drive the Ring Road in just 16 hours, most people spend 10-14 days because of the plethora of spectacular waterfalls, beautiful hikes, and inviting hot springs along the route.
You’ll almost certainly begin and end this road trip in Keflavik, due to that being home to Iceland’s largest airport. From there you’ll head east along Iceland’s Southern coast.
The first 2 stops on this road trip that you absolutely cannot miss are 2 of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls – Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. Seljalandsfoss is a 60-meter high waterfall that pours down in front of an overhanging cliff face that allows you to walk behind the waterfall.
Skogafoss is an equally tall waterfall but with an impressive width of 25 meters making it one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland. You can walk right up to the base of Skogafoss if you don’t mind getting absolutely drenched by the spray from the falls.
The next stop on your trip is Diamond Beach – a black sand beach covered in tiny bits of ice that sparkle like, well, diamonds. This beach sits in front of the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Giant icebergs break off of the Jökulsárlón glacier and float out to sea where they are broken up and washed back ashore by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
From here you’ll round the southeastern corner of Iceland and start heading north up the eastern coast. The road winds its way in and out of endless fjords on this side of the island and you’ll encounter scenic views the whole day.
On the northern side of the country, you’ll want to make sure you stop at Detifoss. While this waterfall drops just 44 meters, it is an impressive 100 meters wide. And with almost 200 cubic meters of water flowing over it every second, Detifoss is the second most powerful waterfall in all of Europe.
After all the driving and exploring you have been doing you have earned some rest, so spend a day relaxing at the Mývatn Nature Baths – the water is the same striking turquoise color as the famous Blue Lagoon, but it’s 1/3 of the price and much less crowded.
As you round the west side of Iceland you’re in for a treat. The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is home to stunning waterfalls, stunning views, and cool hikes. The most common stop on the peninsula is at the iconic Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall with Kirkjufell Mountain in the background.
If you still have time left in Iceland you can spend a couple of nights in the capital city of Reykjavik. Otherwise, head back to the Keflavik airport for your flight home.
Most people who arrive in Reykjavík hire a care to drive the Golden Circle, or head south. This is pleasant, but your trip could be so much better if you simply drove north, into the Icelandic Westfjords!
The Westfjords are home to some of the most jaw-dropping scenery you will witness in this already staggeringly beautiful country. They are also quite remote – the area only sees a fraction of the tourists that otherwise flock to Iceland every year. There were long stretches of the road where we simply did not pass any other cars at all.
There’s plenty to do in the area, beyond simply gaping at the scenery. I recommend visiting the little town of Bíldudalur, which is located far north enough to catch the Northern lights (as we did one night in early autumn).
Ísafjörður is the capital of the region and acts as an excellent base for exploring the area. There are constant festivals held in the town throughout the summer.
If you like museums, Iceland has some good’uns. In this region of the country you’ll find the Sea Monster Museum and the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft in Hólmavík (one of the displays is a replica of 17th century necropants. Google it. It’s worth going for this alone).
And it wouldn’t be an Icelandic experience without a waterfall – Dynjandi Waterfall is massive and has the advantage of not being constantly swarmed by tourists!
Senja, Northern Norway
ByAga of Worldering Around
A road trip on the island of Senja in Norway makes for an unforgettable experience. Jagged mountain peaks plummeting to the sea, turquoise water, white sand beaches and wild nature describe Senja perfectly.
Senja is an island located in the Troms Country in Northern Norway above the Arctic Circle. It’s the second largest island in Norway with the area of 1 589.35 km2. Thanks to its northern location, in the summer the sun doesn’t set, which is called a midnight sun phenomenon. In winter, there is a polar night and an opportunity to see the Northern Lights.
Senja is best to be discovered by car. There is public transport on the island, but it’s scarce and not always easy to manage. There are a lot of places that are worth visiting and stopping by, so having the car is convenient.
The Norwegian National Tourist Route runs through Senja, passing through some of the most beautiful parts of the island. The route is 102 km long and it runs from Gryllefjord to Botnhamn, with short detours to Mefjordvær and Husøy. If you want to go on a road trip on Senja, I recommend following a National Tourist Route. And if you have more time, extend the road trip further.
I recommend starting the route from Botnhamn or Husøy, a picturesque tiny island with one of the most active fishing communities in Senja. A place worth taking a break in is Ersfjordstranda, a famous beach with fine, white sand, and green sharp mountain backdrop.
The next stop is Tungeneset, a wooden walkway overlooking the Oksen mountain and the crashing waves of the North Sea. Another viewpoint worth driving to is Bergsbotn. This 44-meter long viewing platform lets you admire the waters of the Bergsfjord and the mountains behind.
Other places to visit during the road trip on Senja are the Hesten hike with a view to Segla mountain, the Segla hike, Ånderdalen National park, and Hamn I Senja.
By Jamie Italiane of the Daily Adventures of Me
Take a trip through southern Scandinavia to experience the maritime culture and learn Viking history in just a little over a week.
Start in Gothenberg, Sweden: the home of the Fish Church. Drive north up Sweden’s west coast stopping at the Stone Ship, a Viking burial ground.
Be sure to spend a few days in Oslo, Norway’s capital. To learn details about Viking history, spend at least half a day in the Viking Ship Museum. From there drive the winding roads across Norway to see the magnificent fjords.
Spend at least one night in Flam, Norway exploring the fjords, waterfalls, and fairy-filled forests. Continue to the coast, visiting Bergen and Stavanger, learning about Norway’s industrial and immigrant cultures.
Take an overnight ferry ride into northern Denmark, a worthwhile experience in itself. Head through the flat farmland of Denmark until you reach its capital, Copenhagen.
Spend time in this cultured, seaside city and visit its famous garden and amusement park, Tivoli Gardens. Finally, head to Hamlet’s Castle before taking the very short ferry ride back over to Sweden, and your Scandinavian road trip is complete.
Best Road Trips in Europe: Western Europe
By Matt of It’s All in Italy
If you’re visiting Italy on vacation and are planning the ultimate Italy road trip, the drive from Rome to Florence is a special one as you’ll be passing through the stunning Tuscan countryside for at least half of the trip.
Starting in Rome, here’s a fantastic driving itinerary that takes you through some of the most historic and picturesque cities and towns in the heart of Italy…
Departing from Rome, make your first stop in Bolsena, situated on a beautiful lake by the same name. The quaint village of Bolsena is a must stop for a quick stretch, a traditional Italian meal such as wild boar ragu and perhaps a walk by the lake.
The largest volcanic lake in Europe, Lake Bolsena is an essential stop on your road trip from Rome to Florence.
Next up is Montalcino – a name wine lovers will recognize! the Medieval hilltop town is famous for its unique wine, especially its Brunello di Montalcino. Offering spectacular views over the region, dotted with vineyards, you’ll really feel like you’re absorbing the best Italy has to offer when you visit Montalcino.
Afterwards, head to Siena. Perhaps it’s a little less known than its more popular neighbor Florence, but no less interesting, Siena is distinguishable by its medieval brick buildings and its popular town square, Piazza del Campo with its iconic 14th-century tower, Torre del Mangia.
Next up on your road trip is Monteriggioni – one of the smallest medieval fortified hilltop towns in Tuscany. Monteriggioni is a special place to spend a few hours, either experiencing Italian village life, walking the walls for stunning vistas of the Tuscan countryside or enjoying a meal and locally produced wine.
Finally, you’ll arrive in Florence, where you’ll feel the unique history of this special city, home of the Renaissance. With countless statues, monuments and artworks, you’ll run out of time before you run out of things to see. Must-sees include Michelangelo’s ‘David’ statue, Uffizi Gallery, the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) and finally, the city-wide views from Piazzale Michelangelo.
Whether your road trip will be continuing after Florence, this itinerary could satisfy your travel bug for years to come. Enjoy!
By Claudia Tavani of Strictly Sardinia
A road trip along the south-eastern coast of Sardinia is an excellent way to enjoy one of the most beautiful parts of the island, especially in the summer months, and it can be done as an easy day trip from Cagliari.
The obvious starting point is Cagliari, the capital. From there, take SS554 all the way to the end, and then follow the signs to Villasimius. You can stop at various beaches along the way, all of them different and all of them beautiful.
Your first stop should be Cala Regina. This small, rocky cove will surprise you with its transparent waters, perfect for swimming or just for relaxing. If you want to get splendid views of the beach from above, make sure to follow the narrow trail on the right hand side of the parking lot.
Next, make a stop at Mari Pintau. A favorite of locals, this is another small cove with large pebbles, but contrary to Cala Regina, the seabed is actually sandy so perfect for standing up once you get in the water. As this beach is very well protected from the wind, you will usually find very calm waters.
Hop back in the car and follow the coastal road to Villasimius. It’s windy and slow, but the views are impressive and you will often be tempted to stop for photos. Although Villasimius is home to many beaches, some of them only allow a limited number of people in – which means you’d have to get there at the break of dawn to get your own spot.
Once you pass the village of Villasimius, you can head towards the scenic Cala Pira, which contrary to the other already mentioned beaches is sandy. This small beach is surmounted by a Spanish watchtower (there are many scattered around Sardinia), which you can see from the outside – however, the best views are actually from the southern side of the beach.
Pack up and head to Cala di Monte Turnu, another small sandy cove with incredibly clear waters and well protected from the wind. It will take you about 10 minutes to drive there from Cala Pira. From Cala di Monte Turnu, it is a short drive to get to Costa Rei, one of the most popular summer destinations in Sardinia.
The beach in Costa Rei is long and sandy and perfect even for families with children. The transparent waters will invite you in for a swim. Along the beach there are several kiosks. If you want to have dinner in Costa Rei, Chaplin is a budget friendly trattoria that focuses on fish and seafood dishes – make sure to try their swordfish carbonara.
Costa Rei is a good place to stop for a couple of days if you don’t want to drive all the way back to Cagliari. There are various holiday homes for rent, but you need to book well in advance via one of the local real estate agencies. If, on the other hand, you’d rather head back to town, you can get on SS125 as the drive is much smoother and quicker from there.
By Maria & Katerina of It’s All Trip To Me
A land of sun and endless plains filled with century-old olive trees and vineyards, the region of Puglia in Southern Italy feels as though it’s made for a road trip.
The best way to enjoy a road trip across Puglia is by following a circular route that begins and ends in either Bari or Brindisi, the two main entry points to the region, as both of these cities have a port and an international airport alike.
With countless picture-perfect towns, pristine beaches and unique sites of natural beauty, the sky’s the limit when it comes to essential stops you need to make while road tripping across Puglia.
However, there are some places that you most definitely have to add to your itinerary. These include the beautiful towns of Trani, Polignano a Mare and Monopoli that adorn the region’s Adriatic Coast, some of the most stunning towns in Itria Valley such as Alberobello, Locorotondo and Cisternino, as well as dazzling Ostuni and easy-going Otranto.
The important thing to keep in mind here is that you should take your time while roaming the authentic and breathtaking region of Puglia. This sun-kissed piece of land in Italy’s South hides at its core the essence of the laziest and most nostalgic Italian summers.
This is evident at the historic centers of its medieval towns, the jaw-dropping courtyards of the most impressive estates that have been turned into unique farm-stays as well as the plentiful beaches of turquoise waters and abandoned watchtowers.
Puglia is where you’ll get to mingle with locals more than anywhere else in Italy. It is a region that doesn’t suffer from overtourism. At least not yet. Food is delicious and always prepared with locally grown ingredients. Available activities you can try range from hiking or cycling through the stunning countryside to attending cooking classes with people whom you’ll be calling friends from then onwards.
Yet it’s on the road that Puglia will steal your hearts forever. All along its scenic routes, away from impersonal and grey highways, it’s where you’ll witness the magic of Puglia unfold right before your eyes.
Castle Circuit, Germany
By Becki from Meet Me In Departures
This circular trip starts and ends in the German city of Köln (Cologne), it covers the south-west region of Germany going down as far as Stuttgart before completing the circuit through the Rhineland’s. Ideally, you’d want approximately 4 or 5 days to complete it, although a more leisurely week is better.
This castle route is one of the best road trips in Germany, as you’ll get to see beautiful fairy-tale castles, the ancient Black Forest as well as picturesque cobbled towns.
In brief, the places on this circuit are Koln > Frankfurt > Mespellbrunn Castle > Stuttgart > Bad Wildbad > Heidelberg Palace > Koblenz > Eltz Castle > Rheinstein Castle > Cochem Castle > Bonn > Köln.
From the city of Köln head in a south-easterly direction towards Frankfurt. It’s well worth spending at least half a day exploring the Old Town and getting lost in the pretty cobbled streets.
From here, continue the journey towards the first castle on your road trip, Mespellbrunn Castle. If you’ve ever ready the fairytale Rapunzel, this is probably the sort of tower she was kept in. The tall and circular tower overlooks a pretty lake. Make sure you take the guided tour inside the castle too.
The final stop of the day is in Stuttgart. You’ll probably arrive quite late in the day, but enough time to explore the town, get a nice meal with local beer. This is also a great place to spend the night too. The next morning finish exploring the town before heading north-west towards Bad Wildbad. If you have time, spend longer here to explore some of the fabulous walking trails.
After you’ve visited the Black Forest, keep heading north-west to the university town of Heidelberg, and Heidelberg Palace. This complex gets quite busy, so you might need several hours here to see everything. The town is also quite lively, with a bustling town square. Stay overnight in the town.
The next day you’ll be heading towards the picturesque town of Koblenz with its quaint buildings. Spend a couple of hours here before driving on to Eltz Castle.
Eltz Castle is the quintessential fairytale castle, it’s perched on a rock, in a valley, with a stream running next to it, all surrounded by ancient woodlands. You’d probably want a couple of hours here. It’s also worth getting the tour inside the castle.
The next destination on this road trip is to the smaller Rheinstein Castle overlooking the Rhine River. It often gets overlooked, so it’s quieter than lots of the other castles, it does have an interesting crypt as well as the turrets and roof you can climb up to.
Continue driving towards the town of Cochem and Cochem Castle. The colourful town is situated along the riverside, with the castle overlooking the surrounding vineyards. This is also a great place to try the local wine. From here head towards the town of Bonn, as well as wandering through the town, be sure to visit the fabulous castle.
From Bonn, complete the circuit and drive back to Köln. If you’re looking for something to do in Cologne, make sure you climb the cathedral.
An amazing European road trip is the 350 km (220 mile) drive from Avignon to Nice via the Luberon hilltop village region and the Gorge du Verdon, the deepest gorge in France. Plan to take at least four days to drive this route to enable you to have enough time to properly explore each location.
Day 1 starts from the ancient Roman town of Avignon. You start your journey by traveling east 36km / 22mi / 45 minutes to your first stop, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, to see the amazingly clear natural spring waters, which flow out of a 230m high cliff.
Plan to spend 1-2 hours exploring the township and see the most powerful natural spring in France.
Your second stop is the hilltop town of Roussillon, a beautiful winding drive of 31km / 20 mi / 55 minutes.
Roussillon means ‘red’ in French, and the town lives up to its name by being surrounded by amazing red cliffs and is also located in the center of the biggest ochre deposits in the world. Enjoy at least 1-2 hours exploring the beautiful colors, art galleries, and fantastic natural views of the Luberon countryside.
Your next stop is the amazing Provencal Colorado, an old ochre quarry which is located 20km / 12 mi / 25 minutes drive east from Roussillon. You will enjoy the short walk through this site, where you can see amazing shades of red, orange, yellow, white and black, with streaks of blue and green. Plan to take 1-2 hours to explore the site at your leisure as it is truly amazing! Plan to stay overnight at accommodation located near Moustiers-Sainte-Marie (a 45km / 28 mi /1 hour drive further east), ready for an exciting adventure exploring the Gorge du Verdon the following day.
Day 2 starts by deciding which route to take to explore the Gorge du Verdon – you can drive on either the north or south side of the gorge – the northern route is called Route des Gorges (or the rive droit – right bank), and the southern route is called the Route de la Corniche Sublime (or the rive gauche – left bank). From the northern route you can also access the circular one way Route des Cretes loop where you can see amazing cliffs and views.
You can take either one or two days to explore the Gorge du Verdon region – for one day plan to drive the Route des Gorges and ensure you also take the circular Route des Cretes loop before driving on to either Castellane or Trigance.
If you have two days then take the Route de la Corniche Sublime, and plan to stop at the township of Les Salles sur Verdon to hire a boat or kayak to explore the river before driving the route through to Trigance. On day two you can drive along the Route des Gorges to the Route des Cretes, before returning to Trigance or Castellane.
On your final day you can drive from either Castellane (63km / 40 mi / 1:05 hrs) or Trigance (70km / 44 mi / 1:10 hrs) to Grasse, where you can enjoy several hours exploring the perfume capital of the world. The surrounding fields are covered in flowers during the peak season! Your final seaside destination is Nice, a drive of 42km / 26 mi / 40 minutes.
Provence (Luberon Valley)
By Martina Grossi of The Global Curious
Far from the Côte d’Azur bling packed with beaches and flashy vibes, and closer to calm sunsets gazing across the countryside, lies Provence, in France. Medieval villages made of stone buildings hanging on to cliffs, abbeys, lavender fields, vineyards, and that classic French grace that never gets old.
Travelers looking to relax and get a taste of the sybarite life should definitely spend between 3 to 7 days exploring one of Europe’s most charming regions.
The area’s expansive countryside, tranquil settings, and proximity between highlights make it an ideal option for road-trippers! You could easily rent a car or motorbike and do a whole loop, or head south toward the Riviera for your itinerary’s grand finale!
Avignon is where this itinerary kicks off! Avignon is a small city and a great way to ease your way into the region. Explore the XIVth century Papal Palace, the famous Avignon Bridge, and take a stroll around the city’s tree-lined boulevards.
Then head west and hit Arles, an absolute must for art and history lovers. For Roman ruins, visit the Arles Amphitheatre, and then discover the streets that inspired some of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings.
Once you’ve checked two of the region’s most important cities, get right into the soul of France’s countryside! Wander the Les Baux castle, tour the Saint-Paul Asylum -where Van Gogh spent his final year-, go wine tasting around Saint Remy, and catch a sunset in Roussillon!
For a movie-set worthy spot -literally- spend a morning enjoying Gordes panoramic views and the village’s central square. This hilltop town appears in Russell Crowe’s 2006 movie, ‘A Good Year,’ and it’s considered to be one of the most beautiful villages in France.
To crown your Provence road trip, spend a day chilling by the most famous and gorgeous spot in the whole region! The Sénanque Abbey was built in the XIIth century and now remains as a monastery, a retreat place for guests, and an expansive lavender field. You’ll truly feel like you’ve escaped reality and jumped into a painting here!
Once you’ve finished your ‘Provencal holiday,’ either circle back to Avignon, or keep driving south, toward the French Riviera. A word of caution! Don’t be surprised if you feel like giving up everything to move there and become a poet -just blame it on the lavender, the wine, the food, and the views!
Dordogne Valley, France
By Cindy Baker of Travel Bliss Now
The Dordone region in the southwest corner of France couldn’t be more perfect for a road trip. There are miles of quiet country roads, lined by forests and vineyards, and dotted by quaint, medieval villages where castles and fabulous gourmet fare await.
Many international visitors will arrive in Bordeaux, close to the Atlantic coast. Treat yourself to at least two days of wining and dining in the city, culminating in a visit to the interactive wine museum, La Cité du Vin.
Form Bordeaux, it’s 1.5 hours via the A89 to your first stop in the Dordogne, the town of Bergerac. Enjoy the pretty town square, the narrow streets lined with half-timbered houses and the Maison de Vins de Bergerac in a beautiful old cloister. Spend the afternoon or stay overnight in Bergerac before proceeding to Sarlat-la-Canéda (Sarlat), in the heart of the Dordogne.
Sarlat is the perfect base for two or three nights to explore some of the most beautiful villages of France. These include the castle towns of Beynac-et Cazenac, La Roque-Gageac and Domme. Sarlat, itself, is a pretty, well-preserved medieval town. It’s also known as a gourmet’s delight, specializing in truffles, foie gras and wine. A great place to stay to soak in the old world charm of Sarlat is Les Suites Sarladaises.
From Sarlat, head north to the romantic village of Brantôme. On the way, stop in at the Lascaux International Centre for Cave Art to see incredible, prehistoric cave paintings and have lunch at Le Dejeuner sur L’Herbe, a hidden away cafe by the river in lovely Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère.
Brantôme is known as the Venice of the Dordogne because the village is surrounded by a river. The highlight is the town’s ancient abbey, but be sure to take some time out for romance with a stay at the Relais & Châteaux, Le Moulin de l’Abbaye.
The final stop in the Dordogne is Périgueux. In the very unlikely case that you haven’t had enough to eat on this road trip yet, Périgueux is often called the culinary heart of France. Try to time your visit to be there for market days on Wednesdays or Saturdays to sample the best delicacies of the region.
After you’ve had your fill in Périgueux, it’s time to head back to Bordeaux. The entire road trip could be done in as little as 5 days, but take your time (more like 9 – 10 days). Enjoy the slower pace of French country life and all of the delicious things it has to offer.
better way to explore Portugal’s hidden gem than by road-tripping? This road
trip itinerary will take you from the vibrant Portuguese capital to the
breath-taking cliffs of Algarve, stopping along the way to visit charming small
Begin your Portuguese road trip in Lisbon. The colorful city packs lots of things to see and do, and you could easily spend a week here exploring its nook and crannies. While in Lisbon, make sure to watch the sunset at one of the many Miradouro, get lost in the colorful neighborhoods, visit the oldest bookstore in the world, and go on a free walking tour.
After Lisbon, make your way to Sintra. Besides Lisbon, Sintra is probably the second most popular place to visit in Portugal. Here you will find the famous Palacio da Pena as well as many other beautiful palaces. The old town is a UNESCO Heritage Site, so it is not to be missed. Pick up the car rental early in the morning and make your way to Sintra. Once you finish exploring, make your way to Evora.
Next up is Evora, the capital of the Alentejo region, is a UNESCO Heritage site and one of Portugal’s most beautiful medieval towns – a hidden gem! The small town also makes a great base if you want to explore the region.
After Evora, head to Elvas. Elvas is located east of Portugal near the border with Spain. This small town exudes Portuguese charm with its narrow streets and whimsical façade. It was once a defense point, but now, Elvas is a peaceful, picturesque town.
Next up is Monsaraz. Monsaraz is a beautiful medieval village perched on a hilltop overlooking the Alentejo plain. The quaint town is filled with colorful bougainvillea amid whitewashed cottages. It is a great place to spend a few hours strolling the cobblestone streets and enjoying the panoramic view.
Elvas and Monsaraz are small and close enough that you could visit both places on the same day. If you have extra time, add Marvão to your itinerary as well.
Finally, end in the Algarve in Lagos. Lagos boasts the most spectacular views in Portugal, not to mention beautiful beaches and scenic hiking trails. The old town is a charmer too! If you enjoy nature and outdoor activities, you are going to love Lagos.
nearest airport in Lagos is located 30 minutes away in Faro. You can return the
car by the airport before departing.
Portugal makes it easy to explore for road-trippers. Most hotels outside Lisbon, as well as attractions, offer free or affordable parking. The roads are smooth and easy to navigate, and driving distances are relatively short.
ByReshma Narasing of The Solo Globetrotter
Andalucia in southern Spain is one of the best regions for planning a road trip in Europe. What’s special? Well, splendid monuments boasting Moorish architecture, magnificent castles, pretty beachside towns, excellent food & drinks(Think Tapas and Sangria), beautiful roads along the coast flanked by stunning landscapes dotted with vineyards – Do you need any more reasons? This Spain itinerary can be done in about twelve days or more if you want to.
Start at Seville, one of the most popular cities in Spain, which is a perfect place if you are flying to the town. Spend a few days admiring the iconic Plaza de España, the bell tower La Giralda, the Royal Palace of Alcázar. Walk amidst the pretty cobbled streets, taste the best Tapas with Sangria in one of the many excellent restaurants, spend your evenings watching the enthralling Flamenco dance performances by local artists.
Leave Seville to arrive at Cordoba, one of the most famous ancient cities in Andalucia with a rich history, and the epicentre for two religious faith. You can cover the highlights in a day or better, spend at least two nights here. Check out the historic Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, the second largest mosque in the world after Mecca, renowned for its grand confluence of Moorish-Renaissance architecture.
Next to it is the beautiful Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs. Take a walk admiring its grandeur. In the evening, stop on the Roman Bridge of Córdoba for capturing panoramic views across the river.
Next, it is time to get a peek of south Spain’s beach line at the port city of Málaga, which was one of the prominent ports during the Roman empire. You can choose between hitting the beaches and enriching monuments. Even if you are not into history, don’t miss Alcazaba, a medieval Moorish castle for its excellent location and gorgeous views of the sea. Close to it is the remnants of a Roman Theatre, dated 1st Century BC. For more views, head to the hilltop palace Castillo Gibralfaro.
If you want to relax instead, head to Costa del Sol Occidental known for its lovely beaches, cliffs and bays spending the day soaking in the sun, enjoying the sand and Sangria.
Drive next to Granada, enjoying the beautiful landscapes surrounding the Sierra Nevada mountains, beforemoving up the coast. Granada is a classic example of Moorish medieval architectural grandeur. It is the city of Palaces, Cathedrals and fortress – each more beautiful than the other.
Explore the fortified palace Alhambra which consists of several stately buildings and gardens, the summer palace The Palacio de Generalife, medieval Catedral de Granada & the old town.
Head next to Cartagena, the ancient Roman city and port with lovely beaches for a more relaxed time, after castles and forts. Stay close to La Manga so that you can enjoy the beaches nearby. Visit the iconic Roman Theatre, which also has a museum. Wrap up this fabulous road trip by heading to Murcia, from where you can fly out.
By Bhushavali of My Travelogue by Bhushavali
Namur is the capital city of the Wallonia Region of Belgium and is the home to Namur Castle which Napoleon Bonaparte described as the ‘Termite Mound of Europe’. While exploring the citadelle is free for all, the fascinating thing here is the guided tour (ticketed) of the underground tunnel system! Apart from the Castle, there are quite a few things to do here including, visiting the Belfry which is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belgium.
Stop next at Wepion which is known for its strawberries. There is a museum dedicated to the local strawberry cultivation techniques and of course there’s an orchard. A visit in late spring or summer is perfect to experience strawberry cultivation, first hand! Of course, anytime of the year, it is possible to shop for yummy strawberry preserves and other products.
The next stop would be Les Jardin d’Annevoie, which is a huge garden filled with several fountains. While on the first look, they might look like regular fountains, but these were built in mid 18th C, without any motors, but with merely basic laws of physics of pressure and flow! The water is all fresh all the time because it constantly flows in and out of the river Meuse. There is a chateau in the midst of this garden, but now it is under renovation. With waterbodies and swans, it is indeed very picturesque.
The next stop is the very unique Railbikes of Molignee. Long back, Belgium was extremely well connected by railway lines. Today some of these lines have fallen into disuse and have now been converted to rail biking activity. It’s quite unique and we get to bike through tunnels and some areas of spectacular views. This would take between 2 to 3:30hrs.
The final stop of this journey would be Dinant, which is one of the most fascinating little towns! First, it is the birthplace of the musical instrument Saxophone! A bridge here is filled with art installations of huge saxophones!
The Notre Dame Cathedral with the imposing castle at the back is very picturesque. The best way to experience Dinant is by taking a cruise or by kayaking. Also, it is possible to do quite a few adventure activities here including rock climbing, ziplining, and more.
By Umang Trivedi of Travelmax
Amsterdam is a revelation for many first-timers. It was my first European city and going from a comparatively conservative country like India, I had built sky-high expectations from the European city.
When I reached Amsterdam, these expectations were not only met, but exceeded! Moreover, I did a road trip to the fishing towns of Marken & Volendam which offered me a view of the beautiful Dutch countryside as well. This short road trip added more flavors to my visit to the Netherlands and at the end of the day, I was in love with the country.
In order to go to the fishing towns of Marken & Volendam, you need to go through the Amsterdam – Noord region. There are public busses going between Amsterdam city & the towns of Marken & Volendam and you can pick the specific route. However, if you have your own car, driving down to these fishing towns will give you a memorable experience.
You can easily return to Amsterdam, but I’d recommend staying in one of the cute Airbnbs in Marken or Volendam. Frankly, I’d recommend staying in Marken because of one beautiful hike which I have suggested below as 5th stop. This hike is completely untouched and will give a spectacular sunset view.
The road to Marken is a treat, because a narrow stretch of road is engulfed by water on both sides. A worthy road trip indeed.
Here are the 5 stops which you can consider on this road trip from Amsterdam to Volendam to Marken.
Start with Adam’s Lookout & This Is Holland experience. I am mentioning this as one attraction as they are adjacent to each other. Adam’s Lookout will give you a bird’s eye view of the Amsterdam city from a swing located at top of a high rise building. This Is Holland experience will give you a virtual tour of the Netherlands with 4D effects and flight simulation.
Next, visit the Volendam Museums. After enjoying the various views of Amsterdam, head to Volendam and enjoy the 3 museums: Volendam Museum, Palingsound Museum, and the Cheese Factory.
Next up is the city of Marken and its famous shoe factory. From Volendam, after lunch, you can leave for Marken to see the Shoe Factory. These shoes are basically clogs – a Dutch symbol – a locally preferred footwear style from yesteryear. You can see the shoes being made along with an interesting collection of clogs as well.
Afterward, check out the Marken Lighthouse: There is a lighthouse in Marken town that offers a wide view of the ocean. Unfortunately, you cannot go to the top of the lighthouse, but can surely spend some peaceful time at the nearby benches.
Finish up with the Marker Landtong hike. This is nothing but a hiking stretch on a slightly elevated piece of land with ocean both sides. It’s popular as a dog walking track among locals, but lesser-known in the tourist circuit. This hike goes on till you can reach the land’s end. It offers some beautiful sunset vibes and views.
After this sunset, you can consider heading back to Amsterdam. You can also stay back in Marken as the morning can be very peaceful!
Best Road Trips in Europe: Central & Eastern Europe
Mini Balkans (Croatia, Montenegro & Bosnia)
By Mayuri of ToSomePlaceNew
One of the amazing European road trips to take
is to the Balkans. On this road trip, you can explore some of the popular
destinations like Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia, and then visit
Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro.
Start this epic road trip in Split in Croatia (if you are traveling from overseas most likely you will arrive in Zagreb and you can travel to Split from Zagreb in about 4 hours). Explore the old town of Split, admire the Doelicitian’ Palace, Temple of Jupiter and stroll the lovely Split Riva Promenade.
Next day start for Mostar in Bosnia Herzegovina. Split to Mostar is only a 2 hour drive away. Ensure you carry your passport, and a license plate (from car rental companies) to cross the border.
In Mostar, fall in love with the Stari Most
(old bridge) in Old town, and learn about its history, and how the town is
shaping up after the 1992 Siege. In and around Mostar old town, is the Crooked
Bridge, pretty bazaars and cafes, Mostar Peace Tower and the war exhibitions.
Spending a day or two in Mostar is a good idea, and when ready head to the stunning Kravice waterfalls, also located in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Mostar to Kravice is only 45 minutes away, making it a perfect stop before arriving in Dubrovnik, back to Croatia.
At the Kravice waterfalls, go for a swim, kayaking, boast tour or just admire the stunning falls. The water is perfect for a swim in the summer months.
The border crossing in Bosnia Herzegovina (to Croatia) can get super crowded in the peak tourist months, so factor in the time as you plan your road trip stops. Aim to reach Dubrovnik hotel by evening, so that it’s easy for sightseeing the next day.
In Dubrovnik, visiting the historic city walls are a must. Opt for a walking tour in the old town and visit the city highlights like the Rector’s Palace, Sponza Palace, Dubrovnik Cathedral, Saint Franciscan Monastery, Placa, to name a few.
Don’t forget to pig out and eat in one of the
outdoor cafes, relishing Balkan cuisine. When in Dubrovnik hit the beaches or
embark on an island tour from the old port. This will be one of the highlights
of this road trip – the Adriatic will leave you speechless!
From Dubrovnik, make your way to Montenegro –
this time for the Kotor Bay. Dubrovnik to Kotor is only 2 hours away. Depending
on the time you have on the road you can either explore more of Montenegro,
starting in Kotor, then heading to Budva and then Stevi Stefen.
However, you are pressed for time, take a day or road trip to Kotor Bay and Perast. Kotor is a coastal town in Montenegro, and it is filled with Adriatic charm with orange rooftops and the stunning blue waters.
You can easily spend a day or two here,
wandering through the old town and square, including visiting the iconic Kotor
Cathedral. Boat tours are quite popular here.
Perast is also located near the Bay, just north of Kotor and is known for the island of Our Lady of the Rocks. These two destinations will definitely give you a taste of what Montenegro’s coastline has to offer.
Croatia (Zagreb to Dubrovnik)
By Maggie Turansky of The World Was Here First
“One of the best ways to see the highlights of Croatia is by hitting the open road and, if you want to be able to see some of the most iconic areas that this beautiful Adriatic nation has to offer, the drive from Zagreb to Dubrovnik is an excellent option.
Starting in Croatia’s dynamic capital, this road trip can take you by some of the most spectacular natural and coastal scenery in the country along with stops in some historic towns and cities. Leaving Zagreb, make sure to stop in the incredible Plitvice Lakes National Park. Spending at least a night near the park will ensure that you can visit early in the morning and avoid the large crowds that descend on this incredible area by the late morning.
From the inland highlight that is Plitvice Lakes, make sure to include a stop on Pag Island, which is easily reached by a bridge. This island is known for its cheese production and, if you’re visiting in the high season, you may even have the opportunity to visit a dairy and sample some of the award winning cheese.
From there, spend a night or two in the historic city of Zadar, or head a bit further south to enjoy the lovely town of Sibenik or the beautiful Krka National Park.
On a road trip from Zagreb to Dubrovnik, you also can’t miss Croatia’s second-largest city of Split. There are countless things to do in Split and the city is well-situated to explore a number of Dalmatian towns and even countless Croatian islands. Make sure to spend at least a few nights in this beautiful and historic city in order to really do it justice.
When you finally make it to Dubrovnik, you will have seen so much of Croatia that you’re sure to have completely fallen for this beautiful country!
By Chrysoula of Travel Passionate
Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and can be visited as a year-round destination. From the wildflowers and hikes in spring to the beaches, archaeological sites and sunshine of summer, Crete makes a wonderful destination for a road trip as there really is so much to see and do.
Start your Crete road trip in the coastal town of Agios Nikolaos that sits perched between the lake and the sea with quaint cafés and restaurants looking out over the water in every direction. You can begin your journey with a relaxing day or two here, soaking up the laid-back way of life; wandering along the marina and visiting the small church that gives this town its name.
From here, you’ll make your way on to the port town of Sitia. This friendly settlement has a rich history of Venetian and Turkish reign, the remains of which can be seen in the town’s architecture such as the restored Venetian Fort which now plays host open-air theatre performances.
While the town itself is more catered to the locals living there than to tourists, Sitia does serve as the gateway to the Richtis Gorge, a dramatic natural landscape that is a favorite among walkers. Travel down to the small village of Exo Mouliana just outside of Sitia to enjoying hiking in the gorge, starting early to avoid the heat of the day and ending up at the blissful Richtis Beach for lunch!
The hike takes around 3-4 hours and follows lush landscapes, old water mills and the Richtis waterfall which is a lovely place to take a dip. Your road trip then moves on towards Kato Zakros a region famed for an ancient settlement from the Protopalatial Period (1900-1700 BC). Today, visitors can explore the archaeological site which features ancient tombs, palatial ruins and religious ceremonial grounds. Guests can take a guided tour of the site in summer to learn about the history of the region in more depth.
The penultimate stop on your Crete road trip is the town of Ierapetra on the southern coast of the island. This bay is known for having the highest temperatures and most amount of sunny days in Greece so it’s the perfect spot for some sunbathing and relaxation. Thanks to the town’s locale nestled between the mountains of western and central Crete, Ierapetra sees very few cloudy days so don’t forget your swimsuit and sun screen and enjoy the beach!
While staying in Ierapetra you may also want to catch a boat out to Chrissi Island for day trip, a small stretch of white sand buried in the azure waters of the Libyan Sea. This island boasts a stunning landscape of forest, sea, sand and sunshine and with a church, lighthouse, bar and taverna and one house being the only structures on the island, Chrissi really is a peaceful place to be!
After spending your last few days relaxing on the beach, you’ll return to the town of Agios Nikolaos to drop off your car and continue your vacation or catch your flight home.
By Giulia of Travelling Sunglasses
Even though Budapest is undoubtedly the most famous destination in Hungary, there are plenty of charming towns worth including in a road trip.
Due to the small size of this Central-European country, it is easy and quick to travel from city to city. After landing in Budapest, reach the Southern cities of Szeged and Pecs; then, head North-West to Balaton lake to visit the towns of Tapolca and Balatonfured; end your Hungary road trip in Budapest.
Budapest, the pearl of the Danube, is not your usual European capital: it carries the signs of time and wars, it is experienced, yet young and full of life. Discover the grand, Austro-Hungarian palaces from the mid-1800s in Pest, and explore the iconic landmarks of Mathias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion in Buda.
Head South to the city of Szeged, close to the Serbian border. After being destroyed by a flood in 1879, Szeged was rebuilt as a jewel of Art Nouveau architecture. Make sure you visit the imposing Dom Cathedral and the eclectic New Synagogue: the intricate decorations of the former and the glass dome of the latter are masterpieces of Hungarian art and skill. Check out here more things to do in Szeged.
To the West is Pecs, famous for the Zsolnay ceramics factory: the colorful roof tiles and decorations you saw in Budapest are produced here. The museums at the Zsolnay Cultural Quarter showcase artifacts of incredible beauty and quality. The city centre features beautiful eclectic and neo-Baroque buildings and two major places of worship: the unusual Pasha Mosque-turned-Church and the huge neo-Romanesque Cathedral.
Balaton Lake is the Hungarian Sea in this landlocked country. Surrounded by tourist destinations and hills covered with vineyards, there are plenty of towns to visit.
Tapolca is a hidden gem located on the northern side of Balaton Lake, 15 km away from the shore. The heart of the tiny city centre has a fairy-tale charm: a small lake surrounded by colorful houses, a church and a water mill. The Lake Cave also deserves a visit: rowing a boat on crystal clear waters in an underground cave is a magical experience.
Balatonfured is one of the largest towns on the shores of Balaton Lake. Stroll on the promenade with an ice cream in your hand to get a feeling of a typical Hungarian summer. Nearby, on top of a peninsular hill stretched into the lake, is the beautiful Tihany Abbey, established in 1055. The views of Balaton Lake and the surrounding countryside are gorgeous.
The Hungarian road trip ends in Budapest. Enjoy your last gulyas soup and say goodbye to the Danube river!
Going on a road trip is one of the best things to do in Slovenia. This involves driving around the incredible scenic countryside, hitting beautiful lakes, spotting castles, crossing forests, discovering lovely cities and meeting the friendly locals.
The first stop of the perfect road trip itinerary in Slovenia would have to be Ljubljana, the gorgeous capital. The city is packed with lovely sights, good museums, and beautiful parks. My top recommendation, however, is to do a food tour. This would include a wonderful sample of all the local eats (and wine too) and is a great way to learn more about the culture of the country.
Lake Bled would be the second (and obvious) stop. The gorgeous lake can be best seen from Bled Castle, and can be explored on a lovely boat ride.
Getting off the beaten path when driving is incredibly easy, and thus I would wholeheartedly recommend heading to Bela Krajina to follow its Wine Road.
Slovenia has a great wine tradition, and Bela Krajina is a great place to learn more about it. Road tripping, it is possible to admire the beautiful hills covered by vineyards, and visit some of them to have a taste (remember not to drink and drive!).
Driving around Bela Krajina, don’t miss the Kolpa River, a gorgeous scenic area with some hidden gems like an abandoned mill, the ruins of various castles, thick forests and hidden archeological sites. It is also possible to go rafting.
Finally, when visiting Slovenia on a road trip, I recommend stopping by some of its lovely small cities. Semic, in Bela Krajina, dates back to the 13th century. Metlika, on the left bank of the Kolka River, has a beautiful castle dating back to the 15th century and a nice parish church.
Switzerland (Zurich to Geneva via Bernese Oberland)
So tiny, yet so awesome! Switzerland is such an extremely beautiful country and I truly believe that road tripping through Switzerland should be on everybody´s bucket list!
Why? I cannot think of any other place that is packed with so much gorgeousness in such a small space. If you are looking for picture perfect sceneries where each detour is a blessing, rather than a problem, then Switzerland is the place to get a car and start a road trip.
It is not only the scenery (great lakes in the most beautiful colors, and wonderful mountains – some of them world-famous) that is beyond stunning. You´ll also find some great and very lovely towns and villages, and even some lively cities – well, basically you have it all.
Since Switzerland is not big, you can see a lot without having to drive thousands of kilometers to see all the beauty. Plus Switzerland is super safe and it is easy to drive.
You can’t miss Zürich, where you can visit the most expensive shopping street in the world: Bahnhofsstraße. Lucerne is another highlight. After seeing the world-famous Chapel Bridge drive to and the hidden gem “Weggis” to swim in the clear lake with a view of the Alps.
Bernese Oberland is my absolute favorite area in Switzerland. It is home to places like Interlaken, where you could hike up Harder Kulm to enjoy a fantastic view and you should do a boat tour on Lake Brienz.
Don´t forget to visit places like Thun, Bern, Grindelwald or the Furka Pass and plan in some extra time to stop along the way, soak in the beauty and enjoy some picnics at the many lakes.
The Italian-speaking part of Switzerland (Lugano and Lucarno) can also convince with its beauty (though driving there is a bit….let’s say Italian-style). If you are heading to Locarno definitely put Valle Verzasca on the list and swim in the emerald green water!
Finally, you must visit Geneva. I admit that driving the freeway from Luzern to Geneva is not a highlight, but once you have arrived in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, you’ll enjoy the scenery and experience a touch of France in Switzerland.
Switzerland (Zurich to Bachalpsee)
By Nisha of Nerdy Footsteps
Switzerland is a small country with an abundance of natural beauty. The best way to explore it is on the road.
To see the best of what Switzerland offers, take the road trip from Zurich to Bachalpsee. This road trip will take you through stunning shimmering lakes, beautiful lakeside towns, and villages, waterfalls, Alpine peaks, green meadows, creeks, and frozen lakes. Yes, all on one road trip!
Start your road trip from Zurich and drive in the direction of Lucerne. Laying by the namesake lake, Lucerne is one of the most charming cities in Switzerland. With attractions like the medieval age Chapel bridge or the Lion monument, it has made its unique place in the tourist itineraries. Kids will love the Swiss museum of transport.
A short drive away is Interlaken, the adventure activity hub of Switzerland. From paragliding to rafting, there is a lot of adrenaline rushing activities you can choose from. Nestled between the Lake Thun and Lake Brienzer, Interlaken justifies the tourist attention it gets. For a bird’s eye view, take a funicular to Harder Kulm.
The journey from Interlaken to Grindelwald is my favorite chunk of the trip. The journey itself is stunning and refreshing with waterfalls rolling down the alpine peaks, on every turn. Once in Grindelwald, feel free to explore the petite village on foot. Park your car and get lost in this paradise. The traditional wooden Swiss houses and the green meadows paint a beautiful picture of Switzerland.
But don’t stop here. Take a 30 minutes gondola ride (expensive but justified) to the First mountain pass for the amazing Alpine views. Up at First, you can get a 360-degree panoramic view of the are on the Tissot walk, which is free of cost.
You can also take a short hike/walk from First to Bachalpsee, one of the most beautiful serene lakes in Switzerland. Secluded due to its location, the Bachalpsee lake makes for a perfect picnic spot on this road trip.
This road trip offers you a glimpse into all the natural wonders Switzerland offers. Be it the Alpine views or the beautiful glacial lakes, every stop on this road trip will make for an unforgettable memory.
One of the reasons why I like Europe is that you can visit many countries in a short time, and each of these countries has its own culture, people, architecture, and especially landscapes. For this reason, a month ago my boyfriend and I decided to go on a spontaneous road trip, where we would visit 5 countries in 7 days.
We started in Sibiu, Romania, where we rented the car for the road trip. Of course, we took advantage, and we got lost on the streets of the old center. We admired the beautiful architecture of the pastel-colored houses, whose roof windows seem to resemble some eyes spying on you. We also visited Paltinis, a mountain resort just 30 km away, where we had lunch on green grass at a height, with a dreamlike panorama in front of us and many sheep that were quietly grazing.
From Romania, we headed straight to the capital of Hungary, Budapest, an underestimated city from my point of view. Budapest is superb, it has sensational neo-Renaissance architecture and many places where you can get a picture-perfect panorama of the city, such as Fisherman’s Bastion or Citadella. One of my favorite buildings is the Palace of Parliament.
Next, we moved onto Croatia to visit the Plitvice Lakes National Parks. This national park with its stunning waterfalls has long been on my bucket list, and I’m glad that I finally had the opportunity to visit it on a perfectly serene and warm day of May. I almost have no words to describe how beautiful the place is. Although I always had the feeling that the colors of the lakes have been edited in the photos on the internet, I was surprised to discover that they are just as turquoise in reality.
After, we moved onto Lake Bled in Slovenia. I didn’t know much beforehand, so I was pleasantly surprised when I finally saw it. The country is full of towering mountains and forested hills. It is a very green and very beautiful country, so I was already expecting to be conquered by Lake Bled, the famous lake situated at the foot of the Alps in the northwest of the country. And yes, I was.
Our final country was Austria. The first stop was in Zell am See, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. We stayed on the shores of Lake Zeller See, surrounded by picturesque chalets. Also, in Zell am See, we tried the Alpine Coaster in Kaprun, which was a sensational experience I was eager to try. From Zell am See, we went to Hallstatt to check out a fairy tale spot where swans are spotted on the lake, and everything looks perfect as if you were looking at a postcard.
After a few hours in Hallstatt, we headed to Vienna, the capital of Austria, an elegant and romantic city, with rich culture and colorful buildings, whose Baroque and Gothic architecture will definitely conquer you.
Road-tripping through northern Italy’s Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna regions is an awesome way to see Northern Italy’s most beautiful cities and towns, as well as get off-the-beaten path a bit.
The region is well set-up for road trips, with many hotels just outside the cities offering free or affordable parking, and the historical cities offering affordable paid parking lots just beyond the pedestrianized areas, making it easy to park and explore.
We picked up our rental at Bologna airport, and drove south to start our trip in Tuscany. I’d recommend budgeting at least 2 days to explore Florence’s neighborhoods and catch the panoramic sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo.
Siena deserves a day as well, with time to climb the tower in Piazza del Campo for great city views. Take a day trip from Siena, and hit up Monteriggioni and San Gimignano, two of Tuscany’s most beautiful towns.
From Siena, I recommend driving through the Chianti region to San Marino, one of the smallest and richest (per capita) countries in the world.
Perched at the top of a mountain, with castle-like towers standing watch over the Italian plains below, it’s easy to see why San Marino is an independent country that’s never been conquered! It offers incredible, fairytale-esque views, so be sure to charge your camera battery. For a fun souvenir, hit up the tourist office for a San Marino passport stamp (€5).
The beach-side city of Rimini is the most convenient Italian city to base yourself after a trip to San Marino, but isn’t worth more than a night; enjoy a seaside dinner before heading northwest the next day, to the pretty, low-key university city of Bologna.
Despite the name, spaghetti bolognese is nowhere to be found on Bologna’s menus: look for tagliatelle al ragu instead, if you want to try this local classic. Centrally located, Bologna is a great base with a car, or you can return the car and take the train to visit the lovely small city of Ferrara, or even visit some of Italy’s more well-known cities, like Venice or Verona, as a day-trip.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
By Helga from ShegoWandering
This is possibly one of the most authentic, dreamy, and colorful road trips along Italy. Heading from the Rome down south takes us to places with breathtaking scenarios, and allowed us to see a different view and perspective of the Italian lifestyle.
The fist stop on the road trip is always Naples. The city that has many faces, and gives many impressions. Naples is the colorful south Italian city, where you can have a deep look into the culture, and it really differs from everything you’d see in Rome, or on the Amalfi Coast.
Busy streets, colorful buildings, loud people, crazy drivers. Yes, that’s Naples! But Naples is also about the authenticity, the breathtaking monuments and panoramic views. Seeing the Vesuvius volcano from the city, with an amazing panorama from Castel San’ Elmo, or admiring the sea from Castel dell’Ovo is really a must. Oh, and don’t forget about Naples’s specialty, the pizza! If you have the chance to spend at least two days in Naples, that’s really suggested to have enough time to explore it!
Down from Naples, the next stop must be Pompeii, the town that was once covered in lava, after an exploration of the Vesuvius volcano. Pompeii can be visited at any time of the year, however you’ll always need to pay an entrance fee.
Leaving behind the coast of Naples, we’re arriving into the Sorrentine bay, with the first stop being Sorrento, the charming Italian lemon town. Sorrento is on top of the cliffs, overlooking the bay.
A colorful little town, where you can walk under lemon trees, watch a sunset from the Villa Comunale, and enjoy the vibrant nightlife in the coastal town. Sorrento is a great place to spend the night, as there are many accommodations here, for lower budgets as well!
Right after Sorrento, driving over the other side of the peninsula on a road that’s built on the cliffside, offers an unforgettable experience. Imagine a tiny, sinuous road, where on one side you have huge cliffs above, and on the other side, you have a view of the sea.
This road leads us to the dreamy little town of Positano. The cliffside town is known for its beautiful colors, and beautiful landscapes, as well as its tiny beach with a great view of the cliffs, and the colorful town.
Right after Positano, the next stop should always be Amalfi. A town just as charming as Positano, but with a beautiful town center and the famous Amalfi Cathedral, that really deserves a visit!
If you’re on a road trip and you want to add some more places to visit, driving down until Salerno, with a stop in this other famous cliffside town called Ravello will make your Amalfi Coast experience complete!
One of the most amazing road trips we have ever done is the road trip to the French Riviera or Côte’D’Azur. In order to explore the French Riviera properly, you will need at least 7-10 days, but it’s also possible to do it just during 4 days. Nice is a wonderful starting point for this trip. Actually, if you’re only doing this trip over 4 days (like we did), it makes sense to be based in Nice during all the 4 days. Why? Because the distances in the French Riviera are not so long!
So, which places are totally worth seeing during your road trip in Côte’D’Azur?
Nice is a very beautiful and quite big French city with a wonderful promenade – Promenade des Anglais, where you can stroll during the evenings in France. The sea in Nice is really blue – you won’t believe your eyes!
Cannes is another iconic destination you have to visit during your trip to the French Riviera. It’s lavish, posh, and has amazing seafood restaurants. Maybe you’re even lucky to get to go to the Cannes Festival.
St. Tropez is a lovely French village, which happens to be home to some of the most expensive restaurants and clubs in France. It’s a place for the billionaires to park their yachts and enjoy the nice weather in France. For the rest of the people, it’s just a lovely place to spend a couple of hours!
St. Paul de Vence is a unique medieval French village located on top of the hill just 30 minutes away from Cannes. There are plenty of crafts and arts you can buy and in case you’re planning to have a dinner there – you need to make a reservation in advance!
Monaco is actually a separate country, but there is no passport control or anything to enter this tiny country. Its capital, Monte Carlo, is world famous for its casino and the shops and restaurants in Monaco are among the most expensive in the world!
Combine three countries, stunning scenery, unique buildings and plenty of good food and beer and get an awesome Bavaria road trip experience that only takes about 600 miles of leisurely driving.
We set off from Munich, but not before spending a few days to take in all that this place has to offer. Our first stop will be the charming old town of Regensburg. Take a few days to explore the alleys of the medieval Old Town district and the beautiful riverside areas before heading back out on the road.
A quick detour on the way to our next stop will take you to see one of the most interesting buildings in Germany. Feel transported to ancient Greece as you witness Walhalla high on the hills overlooking the Danube.
Next we arrive in the fairytale town of Cesky Krumlov. Much photographed but still unspoiled by high tourist numbers, this tiny town will capture your heart. While in the Czech Republic, make sure to sample some of the seemingly thousands of beers on offer.
After a short stay we find out if the hills really are alive with the sound of music. Our destination is the cultural city of Salzburg in Austria. Be sure to take the funicular to the top of the hill and explore the castle, the views are sure to impress. For more iconic things to do, visit the Sacher Cafe for the original Sacher Torte or take a “Sound of Music” tour.
Another detour after we depart Salzburg not only takes us along some of Europe’s most scenic roads but brings us to Berchtesgaden with some of the most amazing views in Bavaria.
Our final stop keeps us in Austria but gives us a totally different type of town. Innsbruck is all about the mountains which you can scale using the Nordkette funicular to reach as high as 2250 meters for some stunning views. Be sure to try some strudel and then spend the evening around the river.
Time to round off the trip and head back to Munich but not before our final detour which takes us to arguably the world’s most famous castle, Neuschwanstein. Whether nature gives you the white background of winter or the colors of fall, this is a place that makes average photographers look good and creates lifelong memories.
Europe is perfect for road trips as it allows you so much variety over short distances. Bavaria and beyond is one of the best parts of Europe for that experience.
You have the option to start this road trip in either Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital city, or in Tivat on the southern end of the Bay of Kotor. Both cities have international airports and plenty of car hire agencies to choose from. End your trip in Herceg Novi on the opposite side of the Bay, close to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.
If you need to return your car in the same place you hired it, you can easily turn the route into a loop by adding a few extra hours of driving on the final day. Set aside a minimum of 5-7 days total, more if you want to spend time lounging on the beach or hiking in the hills above the bay.
If coming from Podgorica, start your road trip by crossing the bridge over Skadar Lake. Stop in Virpazar for a short boat trip through the marshy swamps of the largest lake on the Balkan Peninsular before continuing to the coast. Sveti Stefan (the bizarre beach town with its privately owned, off-limits island) is a good place to base yourself for a few nights. The first of two UNESCO-Listed old towns, Budva, is just 15 minutes’ up the road.
From Budva, cut across to reach the Bay of Kotor, the highlight of Montenegro with its beautiful Venetian towns and secluded coves. Kotor is a must-see; set aside a full day to wander the Old Town and climb up to the fortress for a view. Further along the bay, Perast has a shallow harbor and is a lot quieter than Kotor by contrast because it doesn’t get the same cruise ship crowds. Stay here for a couple of days, exploring the charming streets by foot and taking a boat to Our Lady of the Rocks, an artificial island built from shipwrecks and topped with a gorgeous chapel.
For a break from the beach, you can make a detour between Kotor and Perast to visit Lovcen National Park. This involves driving on the infamous Kotor Serpentine, a road with 25 switchbacks that offers spectacular views of the entire bay. Your final stop, Herceg Novi, has yet another gorgeous old town and plenty of swimming beaches and hiking trails. If you’re returning to Podgorica, stop at Ostrog Monastery, Montenegro’s most sacred pilgrimage site, along the way. You can easily extend your itinerary by continuing to Durmitor National Park in the country’s mountainous north.
Driving in Montenegro is pretty safe and straightforward. Just be wary that it’s often very difficult to find a street park in the busier towns, especially Budva and Kotor. Choose accommodation with secure on-site parking, and avoid driving in Montenegro during peak summer season.
By Erin of Three is Us
Start your Albania road trip in Tirana. As the capital city and the only international airport in the country, Tirana is a likely spot to start a road trip through Albania. (If you’re arriving from Greece, just do this road trip in reverse!)
Spend a few days exploring the capital city of Tirana. Skanderberg Square is the main square, located in the center of Tirana. This large, open pedestrian area is named after the Albanian national hero Gjergj Skenderbeu and is surrounded by some of the most important buildings in the country. South of the square lies many monuments and museums reflecting on the communist times, such as the Blloku area, Postbllok monuments, Bunker Art and House of Leaves museum.
Before leaving Tirana, head up to Mount Dajti on the Dajti Express cable car. Mount Dajti National Park at the top of the mountain is a great place to hike and has an impressive view of the city.
After a few days in Tirana, head west to the port town of Durres. Originally the capital city, Durres is the oldest city in Albania and one of the oldest in Europe. Known for its’ Roman amphitheater, it also has sandy beaches and excellent restaurants along the water.
From Durres, head south to Berat. Perched high above the town is Berat Castle, one of the last inhabited castles in Europe. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Berat is also known as the City of 1000 Windows. Traditional white houses are built close together, rising up the steep hills and their large wooden windows seemingly overlook the town, earning Berat its’ nickname.
From Berat, head west towards the coast to the town of Vlorë. This is where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet, which makes for excellent beaches. There are beaches in the city and also stretching down the coast for a few kilometers. Vlorë is also where Albanian Independence was declared. Flag Square and an independence monument in the center of town pay tribute to this.
From Vlore, head further south to Gjirokastër. Like Berat, Gjirokastër is a UNESCO Heritage Site, earning the distinction for its’ well-preserved and rare Ottoman-style architecture. It’s also the birthplace of communist leader Enver Hoxha and writer Ismail Kadare.
Head back to the coast and visit the town of Sarandë. Often called the capital of the Albanian Riviera, it’s a popular beach destination. Boasting a perfect beach climate and surrounded by hills of olive groves, it’s a perfect place to relax and finish your road trip of Albania.
Grossglockner High Alpine Road (Austria)
By Anjali Chawla of Travel Melodies
A road trip through one of Europe’s highest alpine road, Grossglockner High Alpine Road or Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse is hands down one of the most awesome road trips in Europe or rather the world.
How can you not feel the adrenaline rush through your veins as you climb to 3,000 feet while swishing around the 36 hairpin turns? The Grossglockner is a 48 km stretch that starts inSalzburg and ends in Carinthia.
The best part about the road journey is it taking you through the oldest national park in Austria and one of the largest in Europe, Hohe Tauern National Park. Meaning, you’re going to witness the mother nature up close. Snow-clad peaks, gleaming white glaciers, gushing waterfalls, lush grasslands, lakes as clear as crystal, rare and exotic flora, and fauna, and well, in short – the road trip has it all!
There are tons of amazing stops to make along the Grossglockner road trip. The road is dotted with amazing attractions like museums, themed playgrounds, expositions, and offers scenic hiking opportunities. To tell the truth, you’d not wait for the stop to stop and admire the ethereal beauty all around.
Wild-& Erlebnispark Ferleiten, a wildlife park that’s home to about 200 animals in the Alps, should be your first stop on this iconic road trip, especially if you’re traveling with kids.
Make Haus Alpine Nature Exhibitions your second stop to know more about the alpine ecology as it was during the construction of the engineering marvel called the Grossglockner.
The most thrilling stop on this road trip itinerary will be Edelweißspitze, famously known as Biker’s Point for the right reason. You can’t, in your right mind, drive up to this highest vantage point in a car, taking into account a narrow winding access road and the harsh winds. What’s so special about it? It gives you a 360-degree panoramic view of the region encompassing more than 30 mountains. You can park your car and walk up to the lookout point to enjoy the view.
Fuschar Törl is a must-stop as it unfolds the first view of the mighty Grossglockner. You may want to stop at Fuschar Lake and pay a visit to Herbert Haslinger, who tames alpine marmots at Mankei-Wirt. You can meet and have fun with the adorable marmots.
Visited by Emperor Franz Josef along with Empress Sissi in 1856, Kaiser-Franz-Josef-Höhe is a unique vantage point that offers the views of Grossglockner, Pasterze (Austria’s longest glacier), the black mountain, and Glocknerwand, and Johannisberg mountains. Also, many of the famous Grossglockner hikes like Gamsgrubenweg Trail and Pasterze Glacier Trail start from here.
The last leg of the road trip is Heiligenblut, a quaint village known for its church of St. Vincent.
Pin These Europe Road Trips for Future Inspiration!
Blessed with some truly magnificent natural beauty, there are over 200,000 kilometers of well-maintained hiking trails in Germany.
Literally a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, nature-buffs, and health freaks, it’s so easy to get off the beaten path and explore the rural landscapes on your own. Whether it’s Sächsische Schweiz, Allgäu Alps, or the picturesque Baltic Coast, there is something for everyone in Germany!
From glistening mountain lakes to the enchanted Black Forest shrouded in legend and mystery, from the otherworldly peaks reaching for the sky to the jaw-dropping views of the glaciers, here are some of the best hiking trails in Germany.
Grab your trekking shoes, a bottle of water and some grain bars, jump in your rental car, and head out to some of these truly inspiring hiking destinations.
The Best Hikes in Germany
This 320-km long hike along the bank of the Rhine River allows to test yourself and enjoy difficult gradients and spectacular views of countless castles, stately homes, cliffs, and vineyards.
The trail is well-marked with plentiful signs along the way that make it easy to follow the paths without using navigation devices. As Germany’s oldest hiking trail, which runs from Wiesbaden to Bonn, Rheinsteig is definitely worth taking.
If you plan on hiking along Rheinsteig Trail, consider starting at Wiesbaden-Biebrich train station, and then follow the path leading to the trail itself through the castle grounds. While going the full distance can be somewhat strenuous, most hikers opt for taking a particular section or two.
Depending on your route you will be able to see Kloster Eberbach, Schloss Johannisberg, Lahneck Castle, and Eibingen Abbey. The trail is open year-round and you’ll need decent walking shoes and supplies to last the length of your hike.
The Eifelsteig is the long-distance hiking trail that takes you through the unspoiled scenery of the Eifel. The trail connects the historic cities of Aachen in North Rhine-Westphalia and Trier in Rhineland Palatinate.
While hiking this route, outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the changing landscape of rolling fields, rivers, moorland, and volcanic crater lakes. The total length of the route is about 313 kilometers (194 miles) and is divided into 15 daily sections, each between 14 and 28 kilometers.
For hikers looking for specific types of accommodation, there are hotels, bed and breakfast, campsites, youth hostels, and holiday flats along the route. You may also take advantage of additional services, ranging from advice about hiking, packed lunches, to baggage transfer to your next place of stay.
If you’re looking for some in-depth exploration, you may want to go on day hikes or multiple day hikes in combination with the Eifelsteig. The trail is quite challenging but the old pilgrimage sites and abbeys, along with hilltop-perched medieval castles of Manderscheid make this hike unforgettable.
Painter’s Way Trail
The Malerweg trail (Painter’s Way in German) is a part of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, the mountain range located in Saxony (southeastern Germany) and North Bohemia (Czech Republic).
This impressive 112 km (69.5 miles) trail is also known as Saxon Switzerland and Bohemian Switzerland in both Germany and the Czech Republic respectively.
The trail got its name from many romantic artists and poets who loved to spend their time here, roaming around in the search for inspiration. The area became particularly popular as a prime hiking destination in the late 18th century thanks to the painters from Dresden Academy of Fine Arts, Anton Graff and Adrian Zingg.
The hike is broken into 8 daily walks of about 17 km (10.5 miles) each. This allows you can take a day hike or go on an aspiring week-long journey across table-top mountains and narrow gorges. Different stages offer various levels of difficulty, but generally, the Malerweg trail suits all levels of fitness.
The Bastei Bridge is definitely the most popular section is the second stage. Built-in 1824, the scenic bridge wonderfully crosses the rock and overlooks the Elbe River.
If you want to get to Saxon Switzerland from Germany, the nearest city is Dresden. Alternatively, you can travel from Berlin. The entire trip takes around 3 hours by car.
If you’re coming from the Czech side it will take about 2 hours from Prague, the Czech capital. The national park is extremely well-connected to other Western European countries and cities by buses, trains, or planes. If you’re traveling from Dresden’s Hauptbahnhof (main central station), arrive at Pirna/Liebethal or Stadt Wehlen to start on the second stage.
Crossing the Ahr Valley, also known as Germany’s “Red Wine Dorado,” the Ahrsteig Trail takes you to a number of peaceful meadows, narrow rocky paths, isolated high plateaus, and lively wine villages. take your time to soak up the panoramic views of the Ahr Valley, with sights that stretch as far as Cologne.
The 84-km trail follows the Ahr river, and you can hike the entire length of this trail by spotting the Ahrsteig trail logo on the tree trunks along the route and rest on the trail’s comfortable seats along the way.
Hikers should know that there are two ways to walk the Ahrsteig trail. First, you can take the red route, which begins at the source of the Ahr in Blankenheim, and finishes just before Altenahr.
The second way is to take the blue A route that follows the river to the wine-producing area of Walporzheim and onwards to the spa town of Bad Neuenahr and on to Sinzig. Both routes are interconnected, so you can choose the one that best suits your needs.
Before undertaking a multi-stage hike it pays to be in reasonable shape. Particularly, you need to be at a reasonable level of fitness to cover the first 11 kilometers from Blankenheim in the Eifel mountains to Freilinger Lake, a popular nature reserve and recreation area.
Hochuferweg from Sassnitz to Lohme
The third most beautiful hiking trail in Germany in 2012 according to Wandermagazin (a German hiking magazine), the raised coastal path from Sassnitz to Lohme combines the raw charm of the chalk cliffs with unparalleled views of the Baltic Sea.
Situated on Germany’s largest island by area, Jasmund National Park is an amazing place for anyone willing to enjoy the combination of forests, meadows, marshes, and Rügen’s chalk coast.
The 13.5-kilometer long trail takes you from the car park in Wedding/Sassnitz along the steep coast of the Baltic Sea. The path to the Königsstuhl (King’s Throne) passes the Wissower Klinken that once inspired the romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich to draw his famous “Chalk Cliffs on Rügen”.
From the lookout point, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Sicht, the raised coastal path takes hikers through the Ancient Beech Forests that are among the last untouched forests in Europe. These forests are on the UNESCO list as well.
Once the Königsstuhl has been reached, the picturesque chalk cliffs can be appreciated from the Victoria viewpoint. Then head on to the Königsstuhl National Park Centre (German: Nationalpark-Zentrum Königsstuhl) and learn everything about the development of Rügen’s chalk coastline and more than 1400 species that inhabit it.
Should the hike take longer than expected, you can hop on a bus from the National Park Centre back to Sassnitz or continue hiking along the path to Lohme. A bus also leaves to Sassnitz from there.
The 290-km long trail takes you high above the Lahn River all the way from Netphen to Lahnstein. Lahnwanderweg trail covers a series of viewpoints with spectacular views of the Lahn valley and Westerwald forest.
While some prefer the enchanted landscape at the source and in the upper Lahn valley, others the larger expanse of the floodplain landscapes in the middle Lahn valley and the wild and romantic lower Lahn valley, where the river meanders deeply between towering rocks. At your own walking pace, there are many opportunities to let your mind wander.
The entire path is divided into 19 stages allowing hikers enough time to enjoy and discover the villages, towns, castles, and palaces. It is usually possible to create a magnificent walking experience.
A total of about 6,000 vertical meters and small side valleys contribute to the historical timber-framed buildings, to historical ruins, delightful scenery. If you want, you can even scramble through a few easy and well secured via ferrata passages.
To start this trail you may want to come to Koblenz and then a local train to Bad Ems or Diez.
Circular Path Around the Eibsee
Eibsee is a beautiful mountain lake in Bavaria around 100 km southwest of Munich. With crystal clear water that turns turquoise on nice summer days, the lake is close to the border with Austria and hikers can reach it either from Grainau or Garmisch-Partenkirchen by car or bus.
The 7-km long loop trail around Eibsee invites you to enjoy the fresh air and picturesque nature and it normally takes about 2 hours to complete at moderate speed — it’s just is perfect for everyone!
With few gentle hills around, it’s possible to hike off-the-beaten-path and walk along the lake. In case you want to skip the regular trail, you’ll need decent trekking shoes and hiking experience. Alternatively, there is an opportunity to go swimming, rent a boat/SUP, and explore the lake’s small islands. The trail is open year-round.
To start your hiking adventure, you may go either counterclockwise or clockwise around the lake. If you start from the parking and don’t want to do the whole walk, consider going to the right and follow the path in the North direction.
On your way, you will pass the Hotel Eibsee and the actual path which leads around the lake will start. The bulk of the islands can be found on this side of the lake.
After the snow melts, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany’s tourist ski town, turns into a hiker’s paradise.
Located some 100 kilometers south of Munich in Reintal Valley, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is only a stone’s throw away from Zugspitze, Germany’s tallest mountain. All these things make Partnachklamm trail a truly unique place and will impress even the most seasoned hikers.
The Eckbauer, a 1238-meter-high peak at the southern edge of Partenkirchen, is a good starting point for a hike. It is the smallest of the Wetterstein mountain chain, as the area’s predominant section of the Bavarian Alps is known, and lined with easy and moderate trails.
Beyond Forsthaus Graseck hotel begins a dramatic gorge, the Partnachklamm, formed by a mountain stream with a number of paths running through tunnels in the rock drilled alongside. A journey through the tunnel makes you feel like a kid again. At the end of the Partnachklamm, for those who don’t feel like walking, there are horse and buggies back to the chairlift, or Eckbauerbahn.
Heading through low mountain ranges, a 239-km long WesterwaldSteig trail offers mind-boggling views as it extends across Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia. The trail is designed for folks looking for picturesque rock landscapes, idyllic lakes, and pretty half-timbered villages.
To start your adventure, head to Hesse Herborn in the Dill Valley. From here, the path leads you to the Fuchskaute, the highest point in the Westerwald. If you’re really want to get some spa treatment consider visiting the town of Bad Marienberg on the way.
As you explore the area around you definitely should wander through the deep Holzbachschlucht Gorge and learn more about the time when the volcanic rock basalt was mined here. A number of monasteries are also located along your way to the Rhine. Pay them a visit if you’re interested in history.
Pretty much any section of WesterwaldSteig can easily be reached by train. Of course, you can opt for doing one or a few of the sections if you don’t want to hike the entire trail. In this case, find a village that has train connections and start your hike from there. In general, the region is well connected by bus and train.
At the end of each of 16 stages, there are usually some hotels. However, it’s always wise to plan and book where you want to sleep in advance as there is not always a large choice.
About the Author
Ivan Tannenberg is an independent traveler, history junkie, and a techno-geek. Having traveling the world out of a backpack for a year-and-a-half non-stop he is now based in Vietnam aiming to explore new incredible destinations and cities. Go and check his travel blog for more of his journeys around the world. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
Pin This Germany Hikes Post for Later Inspiration!
One of the most popular destinations in Spain is its capital Madrid with over 6 million visitors per year.
The city is known for its historical sites and some of the best art museums in all of Europe but it’s also a haven of Spanish culture from bullfighting to Tapas, Madrid has it all.
Not least to mention that it is officially the sunniest city in Europe with 250 days of sun per year!
With all these epic reasons to visit, you’d think it will cost a fortune but it’s actually very easy to visit on a budget. In this guide I’ll show you where to stay, the best affordable things to do and some top tips for budget travel in Madrid.
Where to Stay in Madrid on a Budget
Accommodation in Madrid is quite inexpensive compared to many other cities in Europe, such as Paris or Amsterdam. The most popular neighborhoods to stay on a trip to Madrid are Centro, La Latina, and Malasana.
Malasana is the best neighborhood for those visiting Madrid on a budget as it is close to the city center and you’ll find some great value for money places to stay. As it’s not right in the city center, you also get the added benefit of a more relaxed atmosphere. A typical budget hotel in Madrid will usually set you back around €100 for a standard double room.
If you are looking to keep your expenses as low as possible, hostel dorm rooms are considerably cheaper than hotels, starting from as little as €13. This is an especially great choice if you’re a solo traveler as many of Madrid’s best hostels offer free dinners and cheap activities.
Free and Affordable Things to Do in Madrid
You can still have an incredible time in
Madrid without spending a lot thanks to loads of free and affordable things to
do. Here is a Madrid budget bucket list for your trip:
Museo Del Prado
Prado Museum is known to be one of the
largest art galleries with over 9,000 pieces of artwork. This museum boasts an
impressive permanent collection along with temporary exhibits from prestigious
Prado Museum offers free activities and educational talks to those who sign up at the Jeronimos building 15 minutes beforehand. Museo del Prado offers free admission from 6-8 pm Monday-Saturday, and 5-7 pm on Sundays and holidays.
El Retiro Park
El Retiro, the most famous and the most
central park in Madrid, is known for being the green oasis heart of the city.
The park is the attraction itself, with many pathways, gardens and even a lake
A day trip to El Retiro park gives you
unlimited activities immersing you into Madrid daily life. You can explore,
attend free exhibits, people-watch, meet locals, and make memories for no cost
Spain’s Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is a gorgeous
architectural and historical wonder, standing for almost three centuries and
remaining one of the biggest palaces in all of Europe.
The Royal Palace is a top tourist
destination, and it’s easy to see why. This ticket is well worth budgeting for
the small price of €10 to tour the vast estate grounds, gardens, and palace
rooms for a few hours.
Walking La Gran Via is a perfect way to soak up Spain’s exciting atmosphere for not much money at all. Gran Via is Madrid’s entertainment, shopping, and cultural center, often bustling with life until early into the morning.
During the day, the streets are filled with
shoppers and families, and after dark the streets are lit up with nightlife
from bars and clubs along the road. Hanging around Gran Via is a guaranteed way
to immerse yourself into daily life as locals in Spain.
Plaza Mayor is a beautiful Renaissance
style square where many come to admire the beautiful architecture, hang out at
cafes, or just to walk around the large space.
Within the square are bustling cafes,
fountains, and a statue of King Phillip III. Plaza Mayor is free to visit,
although if you can afford a coffee at a cafe it is definitely worth the
experience to sip your coffee and people-watch.
El Rastro Street Markets
El Rastro is a famously popular flea
market, held every Sunday. There is a single main street dedicated to market
stalls, however, the side streets contain the hidden antique treasures.
Whether you want to reward yourself for staying true to your budget and hunt for a souvenir, or just explore, the market El Rastro is the perfect scavengers hunt for low-budget travelers.
Free Walking Tours
Free walking tours are easily accessible
throughout Europe via hostels, travel agencies, and companies advertised
through the internet.
Free walking tours are an ideal way to get oriented within the city, along with learning about historical events, sites, and cultural traditions from a local’s perspective.
While they are free, be sure to tip!
Templo de Debod
Templo de Debod is an Egyptian temple located
close to the Royal Palace in the middle of Madrid’s city streets. The temple
was given to Spain as a thank you from Egypt and its one of the few Egyptian
works seen outside Egypt.
This site is a unique and underrated
architectural gem in Madrid. The park is free to visit but it is closed from 2
pm-6 pm daily.
Budget-Friendly Tips in Madrid
The easiest way to go over budget is by not planning out your accommodation, food, and travel expenses so here are some top tips to keep you in check.
The most budget-friendly accommodation options, especially for solo travelers, are staying in hostel dorms.
Hostels are budget-friendly, often offering free city tours and sometimes including family dinner in the price of your stay. In addition to being good to your wallet, hostels are brilliant places to meet other travelers with whom to explore the city sites.
Food & Drink
From a hearty seafood paella to rich gazpacho soup, there is no shortage of delicious foods to find in Madrid. I recommend Taberna Malaspina & Bar El Tigre for cheap tapas and delicious wine close to the city center.
Although tapas are the most affordable food
you’ll find around Madrid, the most budget-savvy way to eat is to use a hostel
kitchen and cook your own meals. This also allows you to take inspiration from
the Spanish cuisine and cook the recipes yourself.
Travel around the city is quite easy as most attractions and nightlife are all within walking distance of the city center. However, if you want to explore further than the city center, I recommend exploring via public transportation instead of private taxis.
Madrid’s metro is one of the largest metro systems in Europe so you’ll be able to get around super easily. A metro ticket costs between €1.5 – €2.5 per trip versus a metered taxi’s starting price of €3.
When combining low budget travel tips such
as staying in hostels and mixing up cooking and eating out you can keep
your daily cost of living in the city as low as €30.
Enjoy your budget trip to Madrid, and hopefully you will be able to afford to travel back to Madrid again. Safe travels!
About the Author
Kieren is a 20-something year old from Wales with a passion for adventure and backpacking. He’s spent time traveling through Europe and Southeast Asia with plenty more on the bucket list. Kieren shares tips and travel guides over at Got My Backpack.
Note: This is a guest post by Brady Trautman of SV Delos.
Sailing across an ocean is a humbling experience!
Over the past ten years, I’ve been fortunate enough to live a lifestyle that allows me to experience the world by boat, crossing vast distances by the power of the wind, and experiencing a way of traveling that in my opinion, is matched by no other.
Sharing our adventures on YouTube aboard SV Delos, a 53-foot bluewater yacht has taken our crew to some of the most remote places on earth.
Over the years we have had over 50 crew join us on our filming adventures. From tiny islands in the Pacific Ocean to far-flung anchorages in the Caribbean, Africa, and the Indian Ocean, we’ve visited places on earth that have inspired, exhilarated, and mystified us.
Our most recent passage saw us heading east from Bermuda, sailing 2,500 miles across the North Atlantic Ocean, arriving into the archipelago known as the Azores.
This sprinkle of land in the vast Atlantic Ocean, about 800 miles west of Portugal, offers sailors and intrepid travelers, a lush, volcanic sub-tropical wonderland, free of the many tourists, hassles and high prices found in mainland Europe. The island of Faial is the most central of the 9 islands of the Azores, offering those lucky enough to visit some truly memorable experiences.
This itinerary assumes you have rented a car in order to best explore Faial. If not, you’ll likely need to hire a taxi to take you around the island; however, it’s much cheaper to rent a car in the Azores.
Not sure where to get the best deal on your rental? I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on Discover Cars as the best car rental search engine – it searches over 500 trusted rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare prices for car rental in Faial here.
Here are the best things to do in Faial, Azores!
Visit the Horta Marina
The Horta Marina is perhaps the most famous in all the Azores.
Throughout the centuries, boats making their way across the Atlantic would find refuge in her sheltered waters after many days at sea, and after encountering some pretty gnarly conditions during our passage from Bermuda, we were keen to do the same.
Stepping onto the dock, the first thing we noticed were the murals that adorn almost every surface of the marina. Hand-painted logos left by previous sailors who had made the long journey across the North Atlantic, only enriched the experience of stepping onto land after so long at sea.
It became quickly apparent that the residents of this marina were a little different from those we had seen in the Caribbean, there were no flashy charter boats, just rough and ready ocean-going vessels, salty from the thousands of miles put under their keels.
As we walked the docks, the smiles and nods received from fellow sailors created an undoubted feeling of kinship, we had all arrived by sea, travelling across the globe in our tiny boats, eliciting wind from mother nature while desperately hoping we didn’t encounter her full wrath.
Have a drink at Peter’s Bar
Landfall in Horta means a visit to Peter’s Cafe Sport (bar), a famous establishment run by generations of a Portuguese family.
The atmosphere is rich, the food and drink plentiful and the service welcoming. Horta’s history as a whaling town becomes obvious in the photographs, carvings, and unforgettable scrimshaw that adorns the bar’s walls.
Scrimshaw, which is intricately carved ivory whales teeth, are truly works of art. Hauntingly beautiful pictures of tall ships, sunsets, wives, and newborn babies so delicately and painstakingly inscribed, bought, and sold in days of old as a way for the whalers to make money.
Although the whaling industry is long gone, its impact on Faial is long-lasting, and the local whaling museum found upstairs, gives a real insight into how these starving farmers could make a living. It was hard to decide what was more enjoyable, drinking beer with the Portuguese locals, swapping stories with other yachties or marveling at the bar’s paraphernalia.
Check out the vista at Capelinhos
Faial has one of the Azores’ most dramatic volcanic landscapes, located on the western peninsula, at Capelinhos. In the 1950s, volcanic eruptions created over 2km² of new land, this natural phenomenon caused massive damage to the environment and triggered a wave of emigration, as locals fled to America after losing their homes and livelihood.
The volcanic slopes can be observed from a viewing platform perched high on a cliff. Looking out at this baron otherworldly landscape, with the ocean pounding the rock face, is a reminder of nature’s power and beauty.
Observing what was probably the newest piece of the earth the Delos crew had ever seen was a reminder that Mother Nature is still doing her thing. The history of the volcano is well documented, and the Capelinhos Interpretation Centre, a building constructed entirely underground, has detailed exhibits that explain its formation, as well as how volcanoes around the world develop and the history of the lighthouse that towers over the center, which can be climbed for another viewpoint.
Join the locals at Porto do Comprido
When the sub-tropical sun is out, and the breeze is warm, the locals head to Porto do Comprido, a natural swimming pool formed in the jagged volcanic rock nearby.
This spot is a photographer’s dream, with the contrast of water, rocks, cliffs, and the lighthouse providing a perfect backdrop. Slipping into the cool Atlantic water of the pools, as the swell slowly rises and falls, gazing at the coastline before you, is truly a surreal experience — just be sure to stay clear of the phenomenally purple Portuguese Man-O-Wars that inhabit the area.
These interesting creatures float in the water, their little sail in the air, hoping the trade winds will blow them towards their next meal, or an unsuspecting swimmers leg!
Marvel at the Caldeira
Visiting the Caldeira is perhaps one of the most well-known things to do in Faial. Located in the middle of the island, it is a two-kilometer wide, 400-meter deep volcanic cone.
This nature reserve showcases the rare flora species found in the Azores, and with stunning views of not only the crater but the towering Pico island to the east, it is one of the best vantage spots in the Azores.
On a clear day, high atop the Caldeira’s rim, you will feel among the clouds, watching the mist flow in as the cool moist air blasts your face. For those who like to get down and dirty, it is possible to take a trek into the crater, however, to protect the natural plant species, the local tourism authority only allows a limited amount per day.
There is also a slightly more forgiving goat trail along the rim of the crater, where every vantage point of this incredible natural showpiece can be experienced.
Experience the countryside while horse riding
Something we rarely have a chance to do as sailors is to throw a leg over a horse and gallop through the countryside, lucky for us, Faial has some great horse riding opportunities for beginners and the experienced.
The first thing you notice when riding your horse along a trail, or any road in Faial for that matter, are the hydrangeas lining the roadside. In full bloom, it is literally impossible to take a photo anywhere on the island without a purple green and white bouquet in the background.
They cover Faial in their tens of thousands, only adding to the magic of this European wonder. The sub-tropical climate means the Azores is lush with vegetation, which keeps the local cows happy as they munch on grass in the stone-walled fields.
The views from the rugged clifftop coastline are intoxicating, the air fresh and the water blue. Our horses took us through trails we would never have known to walk down and was a great way to see the local communities and to learn about the islands day to day life.
Try your hand at surfing
The Azores Islands are well known among the surfing community for their uncrowded volcanic point breaks. Since safe anchorages or marinas are usually at the opposite end of the island than the surf breaks, you definitely have to put in the work to catch waves as a sailor in the Azores.
The time of year for surfing is from September to December, by constantly watching the weather and waiting for a low-pressure system to roll across the North Atlantic, you will have an opportunity to find the swell. The ideal time to jump in the water is just after a low swings past so the wind will switch to offshore.
Entry into the water can be tricky, having to jump off rocks and inevitably scramble back up them. There are also the ever-present Portuguese Man of Wars to be dodged!
Each surf is a challenging but rewarding mission that usually starts with walking a few hours uphill and often ends by sleeping in the rain on the beach. Anyone reading this may call us surfers crazy for going through all this trouble just to catch a wave, but for us, the challenge is all part of the adventure.
Hiking with surfboards and friends, catching rides with locals, exercising our bodies, acquiring some simple scars along the way all make for a good story. The moments when you find yourself in glassy water with chest high waves, offshore winds, and your buddies by your side makes it all worth it.
Experience shark diving
The Azores is known as Europe’s premier whale watching destination. With pristine waters that descend to the black depths of the deep, whale and dolphin sightings are common, however, we were keen to do something a little different, diving with blue sharks!
After meeting up with one of the local dive shops, we organized a crew to take us out to an area known for mako and blue shark sightings. With our guide chumming the water to get the scent of blood out there (a practice we don’t necessarily agree with) the sharks soon turned up.
Diving with these amazing creatures in the clear cool Azorean waters was phenomenal. The blue sharks looked like 6 feet long puppy dogs, playful and inquisitive, not like the hammerheads and bull sharks we had experienced in other parts of the world. Watching these sublime creatures glide through the water was a massive rush.
Go scuba diving
Faial is known for some incredible diving, and it didn’t disappoint. Another area just off the coast of Faial is the Princess Alice Bank, a spot where the ocean floor rises and the water is only 35 meters deep.
Scuba diving here has a very different feel than close to shore, with open water all around and nothing but you and a few other dive boats, it’s a rare spot.
The 45 mile trip to this location was well worth the effort, as we found ourselves diving with massive manta rays as big as a dining room table.
In 100 meters of clear blue water, among a school of thirty of these graceful creatures gliding past, seemingly unknowing of our existence and with only the sound of air bubbles rising from our scuba tanks, it was impossible to not feel totally at peace.
Take a quick visit to Pico
Although not technically on the island of Faial, it is impossible to avoid the allure of the neighboring island of Pico.
The incredibly high peak of this volcanic beauty, which rises almost 8,000 feet out of the ocean and is Portugal’s highest point, is not easily missed.
A very short ferry trip across the channel from Faial brings you to this towering beauty, which can be hiked but is not for the faint-hearted, taking 5 to 7 hours depending on your fitness level.
After registering with the authorities at the base of the mountain, and receiving our GPS trackers so they could track our whereabouts, we were free to explore the steep slopes.
It is possible to pitch a tent in the crater of the volcano and stay the night, and even though it wasn’t the most comfortable thing to do, the evening sunset and the morning sunrise were spectacular, well worth the effort of lugging a tent and filming gear to the summit.
Looking out over the clouds, a perfect view of Faial and the vast Atlantic Ocean reminded us of the reason we travel far and wide over this incredible blue planet.
The Azores is a place that has something to offer everyone, the Portuguese people are proud of their islands, their culture, and their long history. It’s obvious to anyone visiting this archipelago that the natural environment plays an important part of life here, and the people have done an amazing job of integrating society with it.
Although there are plenty of cafes, shops, and buildings, they are built in a way that ties them to the land, often created from stone and wood. The pace of life is slower, and people take the time to enjoy life’s little treats, like sharing a coffee with friends, enjoying a view or swimming in the volcanic pools.
If you decide to travel to the Azores, you will not find white sandy beaches with coconut trees, but you will find a lush, subtropical, volcanic paradise largely unspoilt by human interaction.
About the Author
Joining Delos in 2010, Brady Trautman brings an essential element to the Delos brand. With his easy-going vibe, infectious smile, and quick wit, he ensures laughter and love are felt by all those around him. Originally from Florida, Brady studied environmental engineering before making the transition to full-time sailing.
Brady’s skills in marketing, video editing and qualifications as a Dive Master, Dive Instructor and Rescue Diver have played a huge part in keeping Delos in the top echelon of YouTube sailing channels, all the while inspiring others to follow their dreams. With his charismatic personality, he is at home around people, no matter where in the world he is, he will find a way to connect with others and share the Delos love. You can follow Brady on Facebook and Instagram.
Lisbon is beloved for its canary-yellow streetcars, delicious food, tile-covered buildings, and gorgeous viewpoints.
But there’s more to Lisbon than meets the eye, and this guide to the crucial things to know before visiting Lisbon for the first time will lay it out for you.
I’ve been to Lisbon twice and my husband used to live there, so we know the city well… however, this post is brought you to by a true Lisbon local, Marco Santos, who will truly lead the way on the best way to visit Lisbon. Below are his tips for visiting Lisbon, as written by a local expert.
Practical First Time in Lisbon Travel Tips
1.When to visit Lisbon?
Set at the edge of Western Europe, Lisbon enjoys almost year-round sunshine and some of the best weather compared to the rest of Europe, making it a great all year destination to visit.
Peak travel season in Portugal is generally during the months of July & August, which also happens to be Lisbon’s hottest months. This is also the time of year when accommodation and travel prices do tend to peak.
Although winter in Portugal is far milder than the rest of Europe and the festive season in Lisbon is well worth experiencing, the winter months do tend to be the rainy season. If visiting between the months of February and April, you are far more likely to encounter rain than any other month.
Personally, I love the months of May & June or from mid-September through to October.
One of my travel must-haves is a scarf that can help when transitioning from day to night, indoor to outdoor, street to church. This fashionable scarf has a hidden pocket which helps protect you from pickpockets! Stash your cash, phone, and passport in here and stroll around Europe worry-free.
Whilst Lisbon may not be the largest of European cities, there is still so much to see and do both in and surrounding Lisbon. It really amazes me when I hear of travelers planning to stay for one night in Lisbon.
In order to start scratching the surface of this incredible city, I would recommend you spend at least a minimum of 3 to 4 nights or more in Lisbon. You will honestly not get bored easily here, even if staying for a full week.
3.Where to stay in Lisbon?
In order to be smack bang in the center of all the action, I always recommend that travelers consider staying central in the areas around Chiado, Baixa, Rossio, Principe Real, or even along the gorgeous tree-lined avenue of Avenida Liberdade.
Avenida Liberdade is far less crowded and touristy but still an easy walk into downtown Lisbon. Whereas trendy Chiado, Baixa, and the area around Rossio is pretty much the heart of downtown Lisbon.
Regardless of which of these areas you choose to base yourself in, there is an amazing selection of good quality, well-priced accommodation in all of these areas, to suit all preferences and budgets.
4.Getting around in Lisbon?
Being a relatively small and compact city, Lisbon is super easy to get around in. If you’re staying central to downtown Lisbon, you can easily get by on foot when exploring all the top sights and attractions in Lisbon.
But Lisbon also has a fantastic public transport system, including a metro line that connects various parts of the city. At present, a one-way metro journey costs only €1.34 and you’re able to purchase a reusable transport card for €0.50, onto which you can top up funds in order to make use of the metro.
Lisbon also has a number of different cab-hailing services in operation. These include Uber, Bolt, and Kapten, to name a few. If you’re traveling as a group of 2 or more, it may in fact work out cheaper to make use of these cab services compared to paying for individual metro tickets.
Note: Lisbon is known as the city of seven hills and can get incredibly steep and hilly in certain areas. Travelers with mobility issues should plan carefully when visiting Lisbon. Also make sure to pack comfortable walking shoes with a good grip as the cobbled streets can get slippery, especially when wet.
5. Is English widely spoken in Lisbon?
Most Portuguese, and even more so in the larger cities such as Lisbon, do speak fluent English, which makes traveling in Lisbon and Portugal in general a breeze.
In saying this, it wouldn’t hurt for you to learn a couple of key Portuguese phrases and greetings, which is always welcomed by the locals. But, they will no doubt switch into English soon after realizing you are a visitor who doesn’t speak the Portuguese language.
6.Paying with credit cards in Lisbon
When visiting Portugal, you may wonder whether local restaurants and shops would accept only card or cash. Well, the answer is both, really.
Typically, larger shops and restaurants do accept cards although some may only accept local cards and may decline your international card. This is due to the higher merchant fees the provider will pay to process on an international debit or credit card.
Some shops and restaurants also impose a minimum limit of €5 before accepting any card as payment, whereas others may indicate that they only accept cash.
It really is a mixture and as such it’s always good to carry a mix of both card and cash when visiting Portugal.
7.Using ATMs in Portugal
Whilst on the subject of card payments, you will find plenty of ATMs / Cash Withdrawal Machines all over Lisbon. But beware! Whenever you withdraw money, make sure to use the local ATMs named Multibanco. These are the official ATMs in use throughout the country.
ATMs such as the lesser-known (but omnipresent) Euronet ATMs will charge you a fee to withdraw funds, so it’s best to avoid these at all costs.
8.Hotel tourism tax
Lisbon has a local municipal tourism tax that is applied to any hotel/accommodation stay in the city. As of 2019, this cost was set at €2 per night, up to a maximum of €14 per stay.
This charge only applies to travelers over the age of 13 and is usually payable directly at the hotel upon check-out.
9. Tipping in restaurants in Lisbon
Generally speaking, tipping in restaurants isn’t compulsory. Given that all companies are obliged to pay their staff a minimum wage by law, most waiters and waitresses do earn a basic salary.
In saying this, do bear in mind that the minimum wage in Portugal is really low (and the cost of living for locals is rather high), and a small tip would definitely be appreciated.
Also, when the service at a restaurant is particularly exceptional, then I would absolutely leave a tip too.
Tips for Making the Most of Lisbon
10. What to eat and drink in Lisbon
Calling all foodies! Portugal is a food-lovers’ delight. With so many dishes, pastries, desserts, and drinks to try out, I’m certain you’ll fall in love with Portuguese cuisine.
Some of the main dishes and pastries to savor include the famous Bacalhau à Brás (Cod Fish), which is virtually the national dish as well as the Pastel de Nata egg-yolk custard tarts.
When it comes to wines, Portugal is known world-over for its incredible selection of award-winning wines and Port wines. Make sure to try out the fresh and bubbly Vinho Verde (Green Wine). Or take a shot of the popular cherry liqueur called Ginjinha!
Particularly, when visiting Lisbon, I would highly recommend you go check out the TimeOut food market in the Cais do Sodré area. It’s a vibrant and busy food hall and market where you can sample a selection of both traditional as well as non-traditional foodie options too.
11. LGBTQ-friendly destination
The Portuguese are warm, friendly, and very hospitable and will welcome you with open arms. Perhaps it’s this open-minded approach, especially in the cities, that has made Lisbon a top destination for LGBTQ travelers. In fact, Portugal is known to have some of the most progressive LGBTQ laws in the world.
In general, gay travelers will have no issue visiting Lisbon and should feel extremely safe and welcome.
12. Start-up and digital nomad hub
In the last couple of years, Lisbon has garnered somewhat of a reputation as being Western Europe’s new, up and coming start-up and digital nomad hub
Lisbon was thrust into the spotlight when the annual global technology conference, WebSummit, was hosted in Lisbon, which has also been announced as the official WebSummit home for the next couple of years.
Thanks to the relatively cheap cost of living, the fact that most Portuguese speak English, the fantastic weather, and overall balance of life, many expats and digital nomads have made Lisbon their home.
This has led to my co-working spaces popping up as well as various digital nomad meetups, events, and conferences being held in Lisbon.
13. Lisbon’s incredible views
As already mentioned, Lisbon is a very hilly city. But this has the added advantage of offering up some of the most incredible views out over the city.
In fact, Lisbon is blessed with many ‘Miradouros’ (viewpoints) all over the city, from which you can enjoy gorgeous vistas out over the city and the river Tejo.
Of course, many restaurants and bars have taken advantage of these views too. So, when visiting Lisbon, be sure to head over to one of the many rooftop bars and restaurants such as Topo Chiado, Skybar, Rossio Gastro Bar and Park Bar to name but a few.
14. Amazing day trips from Lisbon
As I mentioned earlier, there is honestly so much to see and do in, as well as around Lisbon. If you’re planning an extended stay in Lisbon then you should absolutely embark on a day trip from Lisbon.
Thanks to a great rail and coach network, you can easily get to many of the quaint and charming towns and villages surrounding Lisbon. One in particular that should be top of your list in terms of day trips, should be to travel to magical Sintra from Lisbon.
The gorgeous town of Sintra used to be the summer residence of royalty and nobility at the time when Portugal still was a monarchy. Today, you can visit Sintra to admire the many palaces, manor houses, and castles that are found throughout Sintra.
Responsible Travel Tips for Lisbon
15. Hotels vs. Airbnb
Lisbon has experienced a revival of sorts in recent years. This is largely thanks to the many World Travel Awards the city and Portugal as a country has won, cementing Lisbon and Portugal as a top travel destination.
Both tourists and expats alike are flocking to Lisbon which has sadly caused somewhat of a housing crisis. Rental and Housing prices have skyrocketed in the last few years and so too the number of Airbnb properties.
Many foreign investors have snapped up properties in downtown Lisbon, refurbished them, and now rent them out on Airbnb.
In fact, in recent months the Portuguese government has put a halt on issuing new ‘Alojamento Local’ licenses (a license required to operate an accommodation establishment), due to the surge in Airbnb properties popping up.
This has resulted in many local Portuguese moving out of the city into the surrounding neighborhoods.
As such, I always suggest to friends visiting Lisbon to much rather consider booking into an already established hotel versus booking an Airbnb.
16. The truth about Tram 28
Lisbon’s yellow trams are undoubtedly one the most iconic shots you’ll get to see of the city. And one tram in particular has been gaining a lot of attention.
The Tram 28 that starts its route in the square in Martim Moniz has become a tourist hotspot with many bloggers and travel guides listing this as a top thing to do when visiting Lisbon.
But what many forget is that these trams actually do form part of Lisbon’s day to day public transport and the popularity of Tram 28 is causing major headaches for locals who rely on this tram to get around.
The situation has gotten so out of hand that it’s not uncommon to see a queue of tourists stretching several hundred meters line the start of the tram line. This has made it nearly impossible for locals to make use of this service in their day to day life.
As an alternative, rather consider booking one of official hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus tours, or even the paid red tram tour instead.
17. Buying Lisbon tiles
One of the features that many visitors to Lisbon, and in fact Portugal, fall in love with has to be the stunning traditional Portuguese tiles, known as Azulejos. These tiles that often adorn many of Lisbon’s buildings, come in an array of different colors, designs, and styles and are simply too gorgeous.
Visiting flea markets, such as the well-known Feira da Ladra market, you may be tempted to buy some of these tiles being sold by the various street vendors. But, be mindful that many of these are actually illegally stolen by being chopped off buildings and then sold at informal markets or flea markets.
If you do want to buy a beautiful Portuguese tile as a keepsake of your holiday to Portugal, then rather buy these at official and reputable stores.
In downtown Lisbon, you’ll find one such store that specializes in the production of traditional Portuguese tiles. This store, Cortiço & Netos, is located in 37D Rua Maria Andrade and is a great place to buy stunning traditional Portuguese tiles from.
18. Support the tascas and pastelarias – eat like a local
My last tip in terms of responsible and sustainable tourism practices relates to supporting local restaurants and bakeries in Lisbon. Around every corner, you’ll find a local bakery (known as a Pastelaria) or a local restaurant (known as a Tasca).
These are almost always family-run businesses that rely on the community’s support. Plus not only is the food proper traditional Portuguese fare, but they are often cheaper than your mainstream restaurants.
We’ve often eaten at our local Tasca and ordered the menu of the day (O menu do dia) that includes a soup, a main meal, and an espresso, all for under €10.
So, why not ditch the tourist traps and go eat where the locals eat. You won’t be disappointed!
Safety Tips for Lisbon
19.One of the safest cities in the world
According to the Global Peace Index rankings, Portugal is regarded as the 3rd safest country in the world. I can honestly say, in the last three years of living in Portugal, that I’ve never felt uneasy or unsafe.
Naturally speaking, any city will have its good and bad areas, and even in the 3rd safest city in the world, you may still encounter unpleasant incidents. But these are honestly few and far between.
The Portuguese police do take matters of crime very seriously and it’s not uncommon to see the police patrolling the party districts, such as Bairro Alto, late at night in order to keep the peace.
In the event that something does happen to you whilst visiting Portugal, you can report the incident at the local police station or you may also call the national emergency number which is 112. This is the general emergency number that connects you to both the police and ambulance services.
Thankfully pickpockets are not too prevalent in Portugal as a whole – but in Lisbon, you should pay a little extra caution. It goes without saying that you should always guard your belongings and items of value when traveling to a new country.
In Lisbon in particular, the Tram 28 has become a pickpocket hotspot, due in large part to these trams often being jam-packed with tourists.
As such, when in cramped spaces such as the Tram 28, always be on the lookout for suspicious activity and make sure to guard your belongings.
While travel in Europe is safe, pickpocketing is a major issue. Thwart would-be pickpocketers with a chic, sleek backpack with double-interlocking zippers, slash-proof construction, & RFID blockers! I’ve carried this PacSafe backpack to 30+ countries with me, and it’s my #1 travel companion. Pick from one of seven colors — I have and love the classic black one!
I have to admit, one of the most annoying features of Lisbon has to be the pesky drug dealers that you’ll encounter in the tourist hotspots.
These harmless dealers will often walk up to you offering to sell drugs, although it’s a known fact that they’re probably selling oregano and other herbs instead of actual drugs to unsuspecting tourists.
However, all you have to do is to simply ignore them and continue walking and they’ll leave you be.
About the Author
Born and raised in South Africa, Marco Santos from Travel-Boo, together with his partner moved to sunny Lisbon over 2 years ago. With an absolute love for Europe, he is on a mission to rediscover his own Portuguese heritage along the way. Marco has set out to blog and share his passion for traveling through and exploring both Portugal and Spain (as well as throughout Europe) through his blog, Travel-Boo.
Of all the things I wanted to do in Tromso this winter, visiting the ice hotel in Tromso, the Tromso Ice Domes, was high up on my list.
I mean, a hotel that’s entirely constructed of ice and snow, rebuilt each year in the middle of a frozen-over valley above the Arctic Circle? What’s not to love?
However, while the ice hotel may be called the ‘Tromso Ice Domes’, it is most definitely not in Tromso — in fact, it’s nearly a hundred kilometers away, necessitating either a rental car or a guided tour in order to visit the ice domes.
Therefore, I’ve decided to write this guide to visiting the Tromso Ice Domes to break down how to exactly to visit this popular attraction in Tromso. Luckily, it’s easier than you might think, though it being Norway, be prepared to spend a pretty penny!
What are the Tromso Ice Domes?
The Tromso Ice Domes is a hotel made entirely of ice outside of Tromso, Norway, about an hour and half’s drive away from Tromso city center.
It’s a relatively new attraction — the most recent season, the 2019-2020 season, was only its third year in operation, so there is not a lot of information on the internet about it yet.
But despite being a fairly new attraction, it’s one of the must-do excursions in Tromso, and if you have more than two days allocated for visiting Tromso, I definitely think the Tromso Ice Domes warrant a visit.
Are the Tromso Ice Domes really made of ice?
Yes! The Tromso Ice Domes are constructed every year from scratch. It takes about one month to construct, and each year, builders use several thousand tons of ice from a nearby river in order to build the ice hotel.
The actual structure is constructed by blowing up giant balloons to create the ‘dome’ structure, and then the ice blocks are built up around the domes and then melted together in order to create a solid ice structure. They also invite ice carvers to create ice sculptures for the interior of the hotel, and each year, the themes and carvings differ.
Structurally, the ice is 3 meters thick on the outer walls and about a meter thick at the top, and it’s a rather roomy structure — not a cramped igloo-like structure, but actually really spacious and roomy.
On the interior, basically every single thing is made of ice – from the chairs and tables in the restaurant to the ice bar itself to the bed frames. Seating surfaces are covered in reindeer pelts in order to keep you warm.
They demolish the ice domes at the end of the season, though being made entirely of ice, they would just melt away as summer set in on Northern Norway.
All in all, the Tromso Ice Domes are open from December 10th to the end of March each year, just over 3 months of operating time each year!
How to get to the Tromso Ice Domes
The most popular way to visit the Tromso Ice Domes is via a guided tour and shuttle bus which departs from Tromso. This is the exact tour I took, which I highly recommend — it was a definite highlight of my time in Tromso.
If you aren’t planning to rent a car when in Norway (and I don’t recommend it unless you are a very experienced winter driver, as the road conditions in Norway in winter can be quite treacherous for the inexperienced), a guided tour with a dedicated shuttle bus is the only way to get to the Tromso Ice Domes as public transportation will not take you here.
The most popular package is to combine a visit to the Tromso Ice Domes with a snowmobiling ride through the stunning Tamok Valley where the ice hotel is set.
I was aching to do this, but unfortunately, the snowmobiling portion of the tour requires that you have a valid driver’s license in order to operate a snowmobile, and mine just expired, so I was unable to do so. However, if you can, I highly recommend bundling the Ice Domes and a snowmobile ride as the area around the ice hotel is truly spectacular and I wish I had more of a chance to explore it.
If you are renting a car on your trip to Tromso, you can arrive at the Ice Domes independently and pay for a guided tour upon arrival, which costs 499 NOK (about $54 USD) per person, so you can save a bit of money if you’ve already rented a car.
The guided tour is at noon daily, and you can stay around the area for as long as you’d like, having lunch at the restaurant, meeting their reindeer, walking around the premises, etc.
What you’ll see at the Tromso Ice Domes
The tour of the Tromso Ice Domes lasts about two hours, and you’ll start off in their Ice Cinema, watching a brief informational movie about how the Ice Domes are constructed.
The Ice Cinema is a gorgeous introduction to the Ice Domes, an amphitheater-style room made of snow and ice. Learning about the effort involved in constructing the Ice Domes while sitting inside of the fruits of that labor is a really cool experience!
Following the quick briefing in the Ice Cinema, you’ll visit the rest of the Ice Hotel, starting in the ice bar and restaurant room. Here, you’ll enjoy a shot (alcoholic or non-alcoholic options were provided) in a cup made entirely of ice from the ice bar, while sitting at a table made of ice on ice chairs!
There are some cool decorations in the ice bar, including a very Instagrammable ice throne which everyone gets really excited to take pictures in. I suggest waiting until you have free time to explore the ice hotel after you see the ice rooms, as then you’ll have fewer crowds to contend with and it’ll be far easier to get some good photos here.
Next after the ice bar area comes the part you’ve probably been the most curious about — the ice hotel bedrooms themselves!
As with the rest of the property, the rooms are made entirely of ice as well, right down to the bed, which is made of a block of ice with a mattress covered in reindeer pelts to add warmth. A thermal sleeping bag and warm accessories will help you get comfortable should you stay in the night here!
After getting briefed on the ice bedrooms, you’ll have about 40 minutes at leisure to explore the Ice Domes.
I recommend taking photos to your heart’s content before heading over the warm room where you can order a delicious lunch — when I was there, they offered a fantastic lunch special of a bowl of creamy fish soup with unlimited coffee for 199 NOK (about $21 USD, which is about normal for lunch in Norway).
You’ll also have a chance to briefly visit and feed the reindeer their favorite treat – some lichen – should you want to while you’re visiting the Ice Domes!
After your free time, it’s back on the bus, where you’ll head back to Tromso via some of the most beautiful roads you can imagine.
Staying overnight at the Tromso Ice Domes
Of course, the Tromso Ice Domes is a true ice hotel, and that means you can spend the night here!
I didn’t do this, as at over $1,000 USD a night for a room, it was well out of my price range… but if you’re visiting Norway for a special occasion like a honeymoon or anniversary, you’re a baller, or you just really are living that YOLO mindset, you may want to splurge on staying the night!
If you’d like to stay at the Ice Domes, you can book here, which includes a guided tour, welcome shots, dinner cooked on a campfire while out in the Norwegian wilderness, an evening snowshoe tour with the possibility of Northern lights photography, breakfast, and a morning self-drive husky sled ride, plus transfers.
If you need to borrow any warm clothing or equipment, this can also be arranged with the hotel. The hotel will also provide everything you need to sleep warmly, including expedition-strength sleeping bags, which keep you so toasty warm that you can sleep in only thermal underwear!
What to bring to the Tromso Ice Domes
Inside the Ice Domes, the temperature is kept a constant -5° C / 23 °F due to the insulating effects of the ice — so even if it is much colder outside, it will always be -5° C inside.
As a result, you’ll want to dress fairly warm for the day, though you’ll want to dress in layers as the bus you’ll take to the Ice Domes will be heated quite warmly.
I recommend wearing a thermal top and underwear/leggings, jeans or snow pants and a sweater on top, a warm down jacket as your outer layer, and cold weather accessories (hat, waterproof gloves, and scarf).
I also strongly recommend bringing crampons, which are little spike traction slip-ons for your shoes, as the area around the Ice Domes can get quite slippery! If you’re not sure what to bring and you need more guidance, I have all the winter clothing and products I recommend listed on my Norway winter packing list.
Of course, you’ll definitely want to bring your camera as well for all the amazing photos you’ll take during your stay.
If you’re staying overnight, you’ll want to also bring whatever toiletries, medicine, a change of clothes, etc. that you would need for an overnight stay.