11 Unique Ways to See the Tromso Northern Lights: Tours + Aurora Chasing Tips

Tromsø, Norway is one of the premier Norwegian destinations for spotting the Northern lights.

 But it’s so much more than that: it’s a vibrant, buzzy student city of more than 70,000 people, the “Paris of the North,” practically a metropolis around these sparsely-populated parts of the Arctic. 

The next-largest Arctic city in Norway, Bodø, numbers just over 50,000 people, and then population numbers drop off steeply outside of these urban areas.

Tromsø is a place of incredible beauty and culture, especially in winter. You can walk around the picture-perfect city center and shop on Nerstranda by day, and you can catch a concert at the Arctic Cathedral and stare up at the night sky with hot drinks in hand by night, hoping for a glimpse of the ephemeral aurora.

But there are so many more ways to see the Northern lights in Tromsø than just hoping for a glimpse over the city sky! We’ll go into all the unique ways you can combine sightseeing with a Northern lights chase below, but first, let’s tackle where and when is the best time to see the Northern lights in Norway.

Where to See the Northern Lights in Northern Norway

Allison wearing a red hat and blue jacket and snow boots and smiling in an ice hotel
Touring the Tromso Ice Domes, an awesome ice hotel in the Tamok Valley

The best place to see Northern lights in Tromsø is north of the Arctic Circle. The Arctic Circle’s latitude is located at 66°33″ N, and everything above that is considered part of the Arctic Circle — whether you’re in Scandinavia, Iceland, Russia, Alaska, or Canada.

The Arctic Circle is basically the lowest latitude where both the polar night and midnight sun phenomena occur; north of it, the length of polar night and midnight sun extends for longer and longer. 

Polar night is when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon, whereas midnight sun is the inverse, where the sun doesn’t sink below the horizon.

In Tromsø, located at 69°64″ N, the polar night lasts for six weeks, and midnight sun lasts for a bit over two months. In other parts of Norway, this can be even longer! Nordkapp gets polar night for more than two months, and Svalbard experiences it for two and a half months! 

There are three main touristic destinations in Norway in winter: Tromsø, Alta, and the Lofoten Islands. This post focuses on Northern Lights in Tromsø as it’s what I experienced!

Best Time to Do a Northern Lights Trip in Tromso

Allison in a large red parka with a swirl of the northern lights appearing in green colors in the night sky
Looking like an absolute marshmallow on my Northern lights tour in Tromso!

There is a wide span of when the Northern lights are visible above the city of Tromsø and in neighboring locations. 

The earlier you might be able to spot the Northern lights in Tromsø would be in early September, and the latest would be in early April. You just need a certain amount of darkness and enough solar activity. 

There isn’t a specific time of the year that is consistently more active than others; you just need enough darkness. The solar storms which cause the aurora happen all year long, you just need the sky to be dark to see it!

However, most people tend to opt for a winter trip to Tromsø so they can do other wintry activities like dog sledding, reindeer feeding or sledding, and whale watching activities.

I personally visited Tromsø in the first week of February and thought it was almost perfect. There was enough sunlight to get a little hit of Vitamin D every day (from about 10 AM to 2:30 PM daily). 

However, it was still in the heart of winter and there was snow everywhere. I was able to do snow-dependent day trips and excursions like dog sledding, whereas travelers who visited a few weeks later than I did had many activities stop due to lack of sufficient snowfall.

The one thing I regret, though, is that I came slightly too late for whale watching season, which ends around the end of January. If seeing orcas and other whales is part of your Tromsø bucket list, then make sure you visit around mid-January. There will be less sunlight, but you’ll be more certain to be able to do your whale safari tour!

Getting to Tromsø

Passengers disembarking a SAS flight in Tromso

For a place so remote, getting to Tromsø is relatively easy! When I went, I flew Sofia to Frankfurt to Tromsø on Lufthansa and it was pretty painless. My roundtrip ticket was around $550 USD.

There are also flights to Tromsø from London and Oslo. Many people will fly into Oslo on a low cost airline like Norwegian Airlines and then hop on another flight up to Tromsø.

I don’t recommend driving up to Tromso from Oslo. It’s a 22-hour drive and between renting a car and paying for gas it’d be far more expensive than flying. 

One other option would be the Hurtigruten cruise, which departs from Bergen and will bring you to different destinations along the Norwegian coast, including the Arctic!

What to Know Before Doing a Northern Lights Tour in Tromsø

Allison's hand holding her camera with ice all over it in the snow
The cold can wear out your camera batteries… and frost over your camera! Bring a lens cloth to defog it as well.

Be prepared for anything. 

While the Northern lights in the Arctic are actively dancing for much of the winter nights, it’s also easy to overstate the probability of seeing the lights. For one, cloud cover is a major concern: you need clear skies to see the aurora properly. 

With how often it snows in Tromsø, that can be problematic. In fact, when I did my Northern lights minibus tour, we actually drove all the way to the Finnish border and parked where we could see the lights dancing over Finland!

Another factor is solar activity. The aurora phenomenon is caused by charged solar particles entering Earth’s geomagnetic fields near the poles, causing beautiful reactions in the form of light energy emitting at different wavelengths, which causes the colors you see. Green is the most typical, but I’ve also seen white and purple colors and even a dash of red.

Finally, the Northern lights are a natural phenomenon. Guides are talented at predicting the intensity and location of the lights, but they are not miracle workers. Sometimes the Green Lady doesn’t appear, and that’s part of what makes the times you do see it so magical.

Bring all the camera batteries and a lens cloth.

The extreme conditions while chasing the Northern lights in Norway will do a number on your camera battery — just look at the above picture, taken after my camera was out in the cold weather for a few hours in -15° C / 5° F temperatures!

Be sure to also bring a microfiber lens cloth that can gentle remove the ice and condensation from your camera, as well as plenty of freshly charged spare batteries (keep those warm in your pockets!).

Bring your passport/ID if doing a minibus tour. 

Like I said, on a minibus tour where you are chasing the Northern lights activity, you may actually end up crossing a border to escape the cloudy weather on the coast of Norway. 

My tour guide on the minibus tour in early 2020 told me that about half of the nights, they had been driving into Finland to even spot the lights! So be sure to bring an ID to be safe. 

There are no official border crossings as it’s all Schengen zone, but you do technically need identification when crossing a border.

Be realistic and don’t get disappointed. 

A blurry photo of the Northern lights appearing over the fjord on a sailing cruise near Tromso
This photo, taken with a smartphone on the Northern lights sailing tour I did, is a pretty accurate picture of the extent to which you can see with the naked eye

First of all, I want to preface this by saying that the Northern lights are absolutely magical. However, they’re also different than I imagined. 

When you see jaw-dropping Northern lights photography, keep in mind these were taken by professional photographers using high-quality camera gear that’s far more sophisticated than the naked eye (or your smartphone, for that matter). 

Photographs of the Northern lights use slow shutter speeds so that the camera’s “eye” is open for multiple seconds, taking in light. Meanwhile, your eye processes things at, well, the speed of light! 

As a result, the lights you see in photographs of the aurora are far more spectacular than you can see with your eye. THis isn’t photoshop — the colors out of the camera are often barely touched or altered at all — but the magic of a long exposure.

Don’t plan an entire trip around seeing the Northern lights. 

If that is the singular purpose of your trip, you may wind up disappointed if the lights are less active than you expect or worse, you have poor weather blocking the view of the Northern lights! 

My suggestion would be there: book one minibus tour, as these tour guides are driven — literally! — to make sure you see at least something on your Northern lights tour. 

The rest of the trip, book other excursions at night that focus on outdoor activities and cultural experiences that have a chance at seeing the Northern lights, but aren’t singularly focused on it.

For example, I was in Tromso for one week. I scheduled one Northern lights tour, one sailing aurora tour, and one dog-sledding tour. I saw a tiny glimpse of the lights on my aurora sailing excursion, no lights at all on the dog-sledding night, and so much aurora activity on my dedicated aurora chasing minibus tour.

If you only have the budget for one tour though, make it a minibus tour. They are dedicated to making sure you see the Northern lights and will drive literally across borders to make it happen!

What to Wear in the Arctic

Allison posing at the top of Fjellheisen in Tromso with fjords and the city in the distance, near sunset
My typical Norway winter outfit!

I have a full packing list for what to bring to Norway in winter here, which you should definitely check out before your trip.

Note that being out spotting the Northern lights can be extremely cold! While virtually every company I know of offers free thermal suits for rent (which you absolutely should take advantage of), you’ll want to wear comfortable thermal layers underneath.

Warm socks, snow boots (though many places offer boot rental as well), warm gloves, a scarf, a hat, and thermal layers are must-haves when dressing for the Arctic. You’ll also want a parka and snow boots for walking around town.

Here are my quick recommendations:

Parka: For my trip to Norway, I wore a jacket that I bought from Decathlon which I can’t find online, but it is virtually identical to this one but in a navy blue. On my past trip to the Arctic, in neighboring Sweden where it’s actually a 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 moved over to Europe, where I was living at the time).

Snow boots: 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.

Yaktrax: Walking around Tromso is icy! While you might not need Yaktrax on your Northern lights tours, you’ll want them for walking around the city when it ices over. I like these simple Yaktrax because they’re easy to take on and off, as you’re not allowed to wear them in indoors stores, etc. in Tromso.

Cold weather accessories: A winter hat, two pairs of winter gloves (one thin and able to be used with touchscreen devices, one thick and waterproof), and a scarf or two.

Base layers: For thermal leggings, I recommend these for women and these for men, both by Columbia, a trusted outdoors brand. For a top thermal layer, I recommend this top for women and this top for men.

Wool socks: For making those warm snow boots even warmer, I love SmartWool — even though I normally hate wool, I don’t find these itchy at all.

Your normal winter clothing: Once you’ve got a parka, base layers, accessories, and snow boots, you can wear whatever normal winter clothing you’d wear — jeans, sweaters, etc.

Photography Gear for Shooting the Northern Lights

a man photographing the northern lights with a camera and a tripod with the aurora visible behind him

I have a full guide to photographing the Northern lights on the way, but here are the basics of what you need, and I also cover this topic quite a bit in my post on seeing the Northern lights in Sweden.

Tripod: You’ll want a stable tripod that won’t be knocked around if there are winds. A tripod is non-negotiable because you need to stabilize the camera when photographing the Northern Lights for seconds at a time, which your hand is incapable of doing. Some Northern lights tours will offer tripod rentals; others do not, so ask first or bring your own.

This COMAN tripod is reasonably priced (trust me, real-deal tripods can easily exceed $600, so this is a good deal) but far sturdier than the cheapest bare-bones tripods you’ll find on Amazon.

Camera with manual settings: You don’t need an incredibly expensive to see the Northern lights, not at all! However, you need something with a little more power than just a smartphone. I used a Sony A6000 when I snapped all my Northern lights photos and it worked just perfectly.

You’ll need to get acquainted with the best camera settings for capturing the Northern lights, but any camera that has manual capabilities will have plenty of power for capturing the lights. I recommend my Sony A6000 all the time, as it’s served me very well!

Lots and lots of spare batteries: A camera battery in the Arctic lasts way shorter than you’d expect. I run through a battery in about 30 minutes of use in the Arctic… sometimes even faster!

Carry at least 4 extra batteries with you, preferably in a pocket to keep them as warm as possible until you’re prepared to use them. Sony’s proprietary battery packs are expensive, so I use these ones by Wasabi Power.

Note that the charger included is only compatible with the Wasabi batteries, though, and not the one that came with your Sony. That you can charge via a USB.

Microfiber lens cloth: These lens cleaning cloths will help you remove ice and condensation that occurs on the lens in these extreme cold climate conditions!

Where to Stay in Tromsø

The arctic cathedral near Tromso

Central Tromso is nice and small, and there are tons of great accommodation choices right in the heart of town. 

Here are our 3 top picks in Tromso city center, as well as one amazing Arctic glamping spot just a bit outside of the city (free transfers are provided).

Budget: The best budget option in Tromso is  Smarthotel Tromso. 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, and 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 Scandinavian 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! 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.
>> Check reviews from verified guests, look at photos, and book your room here!

My Tromsø Northern Lights Experience

I’ve listed 11 unique Northern lights tours below, and I’ve done 3 of the tours: the fjords sailing tour, the small group Northern lights chase minibus tour, and the husky sledding and Northern lights tour.

I’ve also visited the Ice Hotel during the day (read about my experience here) and visited a Sami reindeer farm with lavvus during the day as well, so I can speak to a portion of those experiences. 

So I have some firsthand insight from 6 out of the 11 Northern lights tours here, and the rest are driven by research and chatting with other friends who visited Tromsø in winter. I hope this helps you narrow down your search and find the perfect Northern lights tour (or tours, as I did!) for you!

11 Unique Northern Lights Tours in Tromsø

Fjords Sailing and Northern Lights

Allison sitting on a snow-covered catamaran sailing in the Norwegian fjords
On my Northern lights fjords sailing tour!

This was the first Northern Lights tour I did on my trip to Tromsø and it was a great introduction to the beautiful fjords around Tromsø. 

We met at the Pukka Adventures office where we enjoyed coffee and snacks before our tour. We had a quick safety and tour briefing and got into our warm suits and boots! Then we walked a short walk to the marina where the sailboat was docked.

Once we disembarked, we set sail through the fjord, watching the city lights of Tromsø twinkle magically as we got further and further away from the city. We all clustered outside hoping to find a glimpse of the Northern lights, and we did… albeit briefly. 

Luckily, it was so vivid and powerful that I was even able to capture a tiny glimpse with my smartphone! However, I didn’t have my tripod set up yet, so I wasn’t able to capture a better shot, and then the lights faded for the night and hid behind the clouds for the rest of the excursion.

The disappointment of not seeing the lights in their full glory was quickly assuaged by a delicious meal of seafood chowder served with Norwegian bread and butter and some coffee and chocolate for dessert.

All in all, I absolutely loved the sailing experience and while I wouldn’t say it’s the most reliable way of seeing the Northern lights, I loved getting to do a sailing cruise around Tromsø at night and the seafood chowder with a view of the city sparkling around us was magical.

Book your Northern lights sailing tour online here.

Tromso Northern Lights Small Group Minibus Tour 

People sitting around the fire
Warming up around the fire between aurora sightings.

This was another tour I booked for myself during my trip to Tromso, and it was the Northern lights tour that delivered the most when it came to actually seeing the lights themselves!

My guides were absolute legends, driving all the way to the Finnish border and beyond to ensure we all got to see the lights. 

They were true experts — consulting different solar activity apps and talking about all sorts of scientific factors as to what that meant for the Northern lights, calling other guides to see if they had any scouting tips in terms of weather, always willing to make adjustments to the itinerary or plan to ensure we saw the lights as best we could

Once we arrived at our spot, a few miles over the Finnish border, they set up a little aurora camp: reindeer pelts atop snow “benches” (which were surprisingly warm to sit on) as well as a fire we could all get toasty around.

We roasted all-you-can-eat sausages — reindeer, pork, and vegan options — with tunnbröd or “polar bread”, a flat, tortilla-like bread. We had copious cups of coffee and hot chocolate around the fire, while our guide shouted for us every time the aurora made its appearance. 

He’d snap professional-grade photos for us, one by one, so we’d all have at least one aurora selfie to take home with us. He also helped with photographing the aurora independently, assisting with the tripod set up, and identifying the correct manual camera settings to best capture the lights.

All in all, I absolutely adored this tour. It was a lot of driving, and we got home very late — well past 2 AM, maybe closer to 3 AM — but it was well worth it for the amount of lights we were able to see, especially compared to other travelers I spoke to in Tromsø who went with less dedicated guides and didn’t get the full aurora experience.

Book your own Northern Lights minibus tour online here.

Snowmobile and Aurora Tour

Snowmobile with aurora in the background in Norway

I’ve never ridden a snowmobile, but this is another common aurora chasing tour option in Tromsø that combines a little bit of adrenaline, a lot of sightseeing, and hopefully, a shot at spotting the Northern lights!

Snowmobiling is a great way to cover a lot of ground in a way that gets your adrenaline pumping, and it’s perfect because you can move around a bit in order to find a clear patch of sky that hopefully will allow for perfect aurora spotting!

This tour takes you to the Tromso Ice Domes 1.5 hours outside the city, so you can visit the grounds of the magical ice hotel before going out for an epic snowmobile ride you’ll never forget in the Finn Valley. Hopefully, the Northern lights will make an appearance!

Book your Northern lights snowmobile tour online here.

Dog Sledding and Aurora Borealis Tour

Believe it or not, this is the LEAST blurry selfie I took with a pup on my dog sledding night tour.

This another one of the Northern lights tours I did on my last trip to Tromsø, and while I didn’t get lucky enough to see the lights, it was still one of my favorite tours… because hello, it’s dog sledding under the stars, how much more magical does it get?

There are two kinds of dog sledding tours you can do: self-driving and musher-driven. This falls into the latter category, where you get to sit in a seat on the sled as a musher drives you with a team of huskies, speeding through the snow while you cuddle up with some reindeer pelts to keep warm!

This is more passive than self-driving dog sledding, and as a result, it’s a lot less physically demanding, making it a great option for families of young kids who may be a little too small to handle self-driving.

The other bonus of it being musher-driven is that you have all the time in the world to look up at the sky and hope to see the Northern lights! In my case, it was hopelessly cloudy and there was no shot, but you may be luckier than I was!

After the husky sledding experience, which lasted around 30 minutes, we ended up at the lavvu (Sami-style dwelling, similar to a Native American tipi) to warm up around the fire and enjoy a delicious seafood stew dinner to warm up with! Vegetarian options are also available.

Book your dog sledding evening tour with a chance of Northern lights here!

Whale Watching and Overnight Aurora Camp

Looking through the glass window ceiling of a lavvu

Want to combine two Tromso bucket list musts into one perfect excursion? Well, pinch yourself, because that actually totally exists!

One thing to know about whale watching in Tromso is that the whales used to visit the fjords in Tromso proper, but now, they’re found quite a bit away from Tromso, in Skjervoy. Going by boat to Skjervoy can be a miserable, 3+ hour one-way experience with lots of seasickness.

This tour actually drives you to Skjervoy before embarking in a RIB boat (which allows you to view the whales in a more ethical fashion than big-boat tours, which can sometimes scare the whales). 

Your whale watching experience is wrapped up with a meal before heading to the beautiful Green Gold Villa, located in the Lyngen Alps, where you’ll enjoy a photography workshop to prep you on how to photograph the Northern lights, as well as a group dinner.

You’ll then get to watch the aurora from the villa, and you’l get to stay in one of the six Crystal Lavvos which offer an incredible glamping experience! 

The Crystal Lavvos are made of wood frames with a glass-paneled roof so you can watch the Northern lights dance overhead through the ceiling, like those glass igloos you may have seen in Finland!

The overnight Northern lights tour culminates with breakfast and a transfer back to Tromso city center.

Book your whale safari and aurora lavvu camping experience online here!

Reindeer Sledding with Sami Guide and Northern Lights Tour

Allison feeding the reindeer out of a bucket at a Sami reindeer camp near Tromso Norway
Here I am feeding reindeer at a daytime trip to Tromso Arctic Reindeer – a great local company that uses only Sami guides

This is a tour I did during the daytime, but the same company I went with also offers night tours which follow basically the same itinerary, but with a shot at getting to spot the brilliant lights!

The tour consists of visiting a reindeer farm, where you can either feed and interact with the reindeer (they are very tame!) or go reindeer sledding around the camp for 15-30 minutes, followed by a meal and a storytelling and singing session in a Sami lavvu.

Reindeer farms are a big part of Northern Norway’s tourism scene, and the history of it is really interesting. Historically, reindeer herding is how the Indigenous people of Northern Norway, the Sami (also written Sámi or Saami) have survived. 

So, who are the Sami? The Sami are indigenous to the region called Sápmi which covers parts of Northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and parts of Russia (specifically, Murmansk Oblast). 

Sápmi is mostly synonymous with the region known as Lapland, but the term Lapland is not preferred by most Sami, who consider the word “Lapp” to refer to a Sami person in a pejorative fashion. 

One of the things I liked most about my tour to the Sami reindeer camp was the chance to learn from my young Sami guide, who was an incredible storyteller. 

He spoke with passion and emotion about the history of the treatment of the Sami people, and he was not shy about criticizing the way the Norwegian government has traditionally treated the Sami people, which was not dissimilar to the treatment of First Nations and Native American people in Canada and the United States, respectively. 

Practices such as the banning of the Sami language and the forcing of Sami children into Norwegian boarding schools were aimed at destroying Sami identity. Unfortunately, as a result of these laws, many Sami have since lost touch with their roots and integrated with Norwegian or other Scandinavian societies, losing their language and culture in the assimilation process.

Today, Nordic governments are setting up truth commissions and working on reconciliation projects that will, hopefully, make up in some small way for the historic injustices the Sami have faced.

It all may seem a bit heavy for a Northern lights tour — and of course, the subject matter is heavy, but it is important. I was so, so glad I went and had the chance to learn from a young Sami storyteller, someone who is so deeply passionate about preserving his people’s identity but also with sharing that identity with tourists.

If you’re looking for chance to spot the Northern lights that also touches on culture, history, and cute animals — this is a great way to spend a night in Tromsø. 

This Sami reindeer camp and Northern lights tour is with the same company I did my daytime trip with, and I can’t imagine why the nighttime tour would be any less magical!

Book your reindeer camp and Northern lights excursion here

Snowshoe and Aurora Tour

snowshoe tracks left in the snow with a view of the aurora in the distance
Snowshoe Hare Tracks And The Aurora Borealis

Some people prefer a more active approach to spotting the Northern lights, one that combines some physical exercise with a chance of spotting the Northern lights. 

If you’re of the mindset that ‘the best views come after the hardest climb’, snowshoeing in the Arctic with the hope of spotting the Northern lights sounds like the perfect adventure for you!

I’ve gone snowshoeing in Abisko (part of Sápmi/Swedish Lapland) while spotting the Northern lights, and I had so much fun! 

I didn’t have time to do this tour in Norway, but it seems like a fantastic way to combine some exercise with an opportunity to see lights dancing above you without any interference from light pollution.

Book your nighttime snowshoe experience online here.

Ice Hotel and Aurora Camping

Allison Green sitting in bed at a ice hotel
Sitting on one of the beds at the Tromso Ice Domes, a great Northern lights spotting destination!

For the most epic way to see the Northern lights in Norway, try spending the night in an Ice Hotel!

I did a daytime visit to the Tromso Ice Domes, the premiere ice hotel in Norway, and was it ever stunning! I couldn’t afford the whole overnight package, unfortunately, but I enjoyed even my brief daytime visit (you can read about it here.)

If you’re visiting Tromso for a special occasion like a honeymoon, anniversary, or you just like to vacation like a baller, then you’ve got to spend a night hunting for Northern lights at the ice hotel!

Tromsø Ice Domes are located in the Tamok Valley, about an hour and a half away from Tromsø City Centre. You can do a day tour, but the best experience is the overnight in the ice hotel which also includes a dog sledding tour, Northern lights safari, snowshoe tour, and all your meals.

Enjoy the entire Ice Hotel — including an ice bar, ice cinema, ice restaurant, and ice bedrooms! — as well as the ice sculptures all around the property. 

The evening includes a snowshoe walk in the Tamok Valley, including a guide who will help you spot and photograph the Northern lights, as well as identifying animal tracks and learning about the nature in the area. You’ll camp out at the nature camp, and you can grill a delicious dinner on an open fire!

You’ll stay in the ice bedroom overnight and be given a cozy expedition-rated sleeping bag on a proper mattress (don’t worry, you won’t be sleeping on an actual block of ice, though you do have an ice bed frame!) covered in reindeer skin. 

In the morning, wake up to a beautiful icy landscape, enjoy a traditional Nordic breakfast, and go on a dog-sledding excursion before heading back to Tromso city center.

Book your Ice Hotel overnight and Northern lights tour here!

Jacuzzi and Sauna Northern Lights Cruise

northern lights rippling over the fjords in norway
Northern Lights

If you can’t afford a night at the Tromso Ice Domes, this is a romantic and luxurious way to spot the Northern lights on a far more affordable budget!

Imagine cruising the fjords of Tromsø while staring out at the beautiful city lights as you exit the port of Tromsø and give way to the beautiful waters surrounding the fjords…. while in a delightful jacuzzi or warming up in a sauna, Nordic-style!

This Northern lights cruise combines a relaxing spa experience with all the pleasure of chasing the aurora borealis… and keeps you warm and relaxed while doing so on this beautiful 4-hour Northern lights tour from Tromso.

Book this jacuzzi and sauna Northern lights cruise online here.

Arctic Cuisine & Northern Lights Cruise

Arctic cuisine - fish and mashed potatoes
I love Arctic cuisine!

For a special spin on a Northern lights cruise, do one that is cuisine-themed with a focus on delicious Arctic food!

You may wonder what Arctic cuisine entails. Well, it’s not particularly vegetarian or vegan-friendly due to the difficulty of growing vegetables in the Arctic! 

Arctic cuisine leans heavily on humanely-raised meat such as reindeer (which is typically herded and farmed by the Sami, who are the only ones allowed to herd and farm reindeer in many parts of Norway) as well as fish like cod, Arctic char, and more. 

Enjoy a 3-course Arctic-inspired meal aboard an electric catamaran with chances of seeing the Northern lights dancing overhead.

Book your catamaran & Arctic cuisine dinner cruise here.

Northern Lights Photography Tour in a 4×4

reddish green and purple colors of the aurora borealis

Each of these Northern lights tours listed has a slightly different focus. Some are more geared towards animal experiences, such as in the dog sledding and Sami reindeer camp tours. 

Others are geared towards exercise and active adventure, like snowmobiling and snowshoeing. Others still are focused on luxury and romance, like the Ice Domes or the Jacuzzi and Sauna Cruise. But what about a tour that focuses specifically on photography?

While many of the tours, including the minibus tour, will help you out with photos, you may want a more photography-focused excursion — in a 4×4, no less, so you can really get off the beaten path (literally) and out into the most beautiful nature Northern Norway has to offer.

This highly-rated 4×4 small group photography tour is the perfect choice for photography enthusiasts who have their heart set on taking home a beautiful photograph of the aurora that they snapped themself.

This tour includes two local guides who are willing to drive anywhere and everywhere (including into Finland) in order to spot the best Northern lights. Once a great location is found, the guides set up camp and help you set up tripods (provided by the tour guides) and give you all sorts of tips on best composition and ideal camera settings. 

The guides will also take photos of you, and photos of the aurora, in case you’re not confident in your photography skills. 

The group is always kept small — no more than 8 guests — and the tour includes a vegan soup dinner and dessert, hot beverages to keep warm by the fire while waiting for the aurora to appear, tripods and headlamps, hand and foot warmers if needed, plus all sort of thermal suits you might need to stay warm. Drop off is included as well, which is nice as you arrive back quite late!

Book your Northern Lights photography tour online here!

Seeing the Aurora Borealis in Tromsø Independently

faint northern lights occuring in the city center of tromso
Sometimes, you can see the lights dance over Tromso, visible even to the naked eye or a cellphone camera!

You can occasionally see the Northern lights dancing over the city of Tromsø itself! My Airbnb host spotted them one night from his house and he popped over to my room to give me a heads up that they were dancing, and I was able to spot them just from the balcony!

However, this only happened once in the 7 days I was in Tromsø, so view it as a bonus, not a given. 

If you want to increase your odds of seeing the Northern lights in Tromsø without booking a guided tour, you can take the Fjellheisen cable car up to their viewing platform. This helps you escape some of the light pollution and also offers a stunning vista over the city.

views from the top of the fjellheisen cable car showing tromso lit up at night and the fjords around it
The view from Fjellheisen at night — no Northern lights appeared during my visit, sadly!

A return ticket costs NOK 218.50, which is around $27 USD, a great price considering you can stay as long as you like! 

There’s also a restaurant up at the top, Fjellstua, which is reasonably priced given its gorgeous location. It’s recommended to reserve a table — email them at [email protected] to do so — as spots are limited. I didn’t reserve a table, but I visited around 4 PM when tables were plentiful. 

I had an all-you-can-drink cup of coffee (hot chocolate also available!) for around $4 USD, and a traditional waffle for another $5 USD!

If the weather forecast for Tromsø is pretty bleak but you don’t have a tour, you can try self-driving, so long as the weather conditions aren’t too intense and you are comfortable driving in cold, snowy landscapes.

You could drive out to Lyngen about an hour from Tromsø. The Lyngen Alps break up some of the cloud cover that Tromsø gets, so it can be a good location to try self-driving.

You might also just want to bite the bullet and drive to Finland if you’re self-driving. We ended up outside the town of Kilpisjärvi on our minibus tour, and it was the only place you could see the Northern lights for miles and miles, according to our guides!

Another option if you prefer independent travel is spending some time in Abisko, Sweden. Abisko is statistically proven to have the best Northern lights around, with scientists pegging your odds at 80% if you stay for 3 days. 

green and pinkish purple colors of the aurora in sweden
Abisko is where I took this gorgeous photograph, with green and a bit of purple!

Personally, I saw them 3 out 3 days in a row!

As a bonus, in Abisko, it’s so easy to see them without any need for tours due to the “Blue Hole” that forms around Torneträsk, the frozen lake at the heart of Abisko National Park. It’s a great budget option, so if you don’t necessarily have your heart set on Tromsø, Abisko makes a great alternative.

I have a bunch of resources on planning a trip to Abisko, which you can find here.

12 Unique Day Trips from Sofia, Bulgaria

I lived in Sofia from 2018-2021, and while I’ve since returned home to my beautiful home state of California, I still find myself raving to people about the underrated beauty of Bulgaria.

No one talks about how beautiful Bulgaria is. When I arrived, I was surprised to find some of the most beautiful mountains and mountain lakes in all of Europe, rivaling those of Switzerland and Montenegro.

I walked through historic old towns that didn’t make me homicidal trying to squeeze through crowds of tourists. I explored historic churches and monasteries and Roman stadiums nearly two millennia old.

Everywhere I went, I wondered why there weren’t more people exploring all the beauty of Bulgaria.

The best part is that with the exception of visiting the Black Sea coast, you can do almost anything as a day trip from Sofia.

During my first trip to Bulgaria, I based myself in Sofia for a month in an Airbnb. As a result, I did lots of day trips, leaving early in the morning to maximize my time and coming back at night to avoid paying twice for accommodation.

After living in Sofia for nearly 3 years as an expat, I’ve discovered even more wonderful cities, towns, and natural wonders around Bulgaria that I’m happy to share with you!

Of course, many of these destinations are also suitable for a longer stay, particularly Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo, but they also work as day trips from Sofia.

Unlike most Sofia day trips posts out there — I’ve actually done all these myself, with the exception of Musala because I’m not a very skilled hiker.

While I’ve included a ton of day trips here, there are still plenty of things to do in Sofia, but I always suggest taking a day trip to see some of the natural wonders this region of Bulgaria has to offer.

Planning on visiting Sofia? Since writing this post, I moved to Sofia and started running a travel blog exclusively dedicated to travel in Sofia with a fellow expat. Check out our new blog Sofia Adventures to help you with all your Bulgaria travel planning!

Seven Rila Lakes

If you’re at all into hiking, this is my #1 recommendation of what to do in Bulgaria in the summer and early fall. The Rila Lakes are less than 100 kilometers away from the capital, making it a perfect day trip from Sofia.

If you’re staying at a hostel in Sofia (I recommend Hostel Mostel, which I stayed at in Veliko Tarnovo and loved), many times there will be an organized tour you can easily hop on. If not, you can organize it yourself, but it’s a bit complicated. Take a bus from Sofia to Dupnitsa, then a minivan to the chairlift at Rila Lakes. Get an early start, as the chair lifts end around 4:30 PM. You can also take an organized tour to Rila Lakes. When I went, I took a group shuttle that my Airbnb host helped me organize, and I paid 12 leva each way.

The hike will take about 3-5 hours, not including the time you need to wait for and take the agonizingly slow chair lift (you can walk from the lift station to where it drops you off, but you’ll need to add a few more hours to your hike). The lift costs 10 leva one way, 18 roundtrip, and entrance to the Rila Lakes is free.

Rila Monastery

Despite sharing a name with the Lakes, these two places are not actually that close together. Originally, a friend and I rented a car, hoping to do both in one day — way overly ambitious, as there was simply no chance of that happening!

The Rila Monastery is stunning, and I don’t know what’s more beautiful: the church or the open terraced monastery where the monks live that encases the church and courtyard.

My friend Stephanie and I rented a car, which ended up being a good choice — we also got to explore the crazy unofficial junk museum/hoarder’s den in Kocherinovo, eat at a lovely restaurant where I nearly destroyed my throat choking on a fish bone, hike the Stob’s pyramids, and stop at a mall for sushi because apparently, that’s what you do when traveling in Bulgaria.

If you don’t have a friend to split a rental car with, it’s best to book a guided tour, as there is only one bus to and from every day, and it only gives you about two hours at the monastery.

Plovdiv

Plovdiv is worth an extended visit all on its own, but if you have limited time in Bulgaria, a day trip from Sofia is a great option (then come back and explore it more!).

Plovdiv is one of the oldest continually habited cities in the world, and it’s definitely one of the oldest in Europe, with artifacts found dating as far back as 6000 BC. A remarkably well-preserved Roman stadium is right in the center of town, which dates back two millennia.

Plovdiv is also home to Kapana, a neighborhood filled with artsy boutiques, funky cafés, and relaxed bars. Plovdiv was named the European Capital of Culture for 2019, and there’s a lot of revival happening in Bulgaria’s second largest city as they prepare for the festivities.

It’s quite easy to get to do a day trip from Sofia to Plovdiv by bus (check schedules here, prices start at 14 leva each way), but if you prefer a guided tour or want to see Bachkovo too, there are affordable tours on offer as well.

Veliko Tarnovo

Veliko Tarnovo is perfect for a longer stay, but it also works great as a day trip from Sofia or an overnighter. The Tsarevets fortress is a must-see, and the church at the top of the hill inside the fortress is home to some of the trippiest, oddest religious art I’ve ever seen in my life.

We’re talking BDSM Jesus meets cow skulls with a distinctly Cubist affect… I actually do kind of think whoever painted the murals inside this church must have been having a seriously bad PCP trip.

Aside from being home to the world’s weirdest religious art, it also has a beautiful monument and beer garden where you can see the town of Veliko Tarnovo cascading down the hills to the riverside. It’s also home to some surprisingly happening nightlife, with funky craft beer and cocktail bars like Tequila Bar staying open well into the night.

Veliko Tarnovo is also a good base for day trips to some nearby spots, like Buzludzha and the Krushuna waterfalls (see later on in this list) if either of those strike your fancy.

It’s easy enough to go by bus, but I recommend booking your tickets online or buying them at the station the day before. Both there and back, I had trouble getting on the bus I wanted and had to wait 1-2 hours for the next bus. For this reason, a day tour could also be a good idea if you are pressed for time or unable to buy bus tickets in advance.

Vitosha/Cherni Vrah

Photo credit to commenter Svetoslav Markov, thanks!

One of the easiest day trips from Sofia is hiking Vitosha, the 2290-meter mountain right outside the city. On weekends in the summer, LIDL runs two free daily buses to one of the trailheads in the morning (one bus leaves at 8 AM, the other at 9 AM, from Vasil Levski Stadium; arrive a half hour early to secure a seat or you may have to stand) and returning at 5 and 6 PM. There are also several city buses if you want to go during the weekdays; Free Sofia Tours has detailed information on their website.

The hike from where the LIDL bus drops you off (The Golden Bridges, or Zlatnite Mostove) takes about 3 hours up and 2 hours back; whereas if you take one of the city buses to a point nearer to the peak, it’ll only take you about an hour to the top and another hour back.

You can also check out Kopitoto, the TV tower and abandoned ski lift, whie you’re on Vitosha, which has amazing views over Sofia.

Buzludzha

(source)

Buzludzha is a former Communist meeting place, abandoned nearly 30 years ago and ravaged by time, vandals, and the elements. While it’s not officially open to the public and the main entrance has been closed, tours still run there organized by Bulgaria Communism Tours upon request, or you can rent a car to get there on a day trip from Sofia, Plovdiv, or Veliko Tarnovo.

Buzludzha strikes mixed feelings in the hearts of a lot of Bulgarians. When I expressed that I wanted to go there, many people didn’t understand why: “why go to a dead place?” my Airbnb host asked me, genuinely puzzled by my interest in the decaying monument.

For me, the decay is the main interest — an architectural scar on the landscape of a country wondering where to go next. This abandoned UFO-looking building is, in my mind, an interesting symbol of a country not sure how to properly memorialize its past while still looking forward.

Belogradchik Fortress

The Belogradchik Rocks are an odd, distinctive rock formation in the Northwest corner of Bulgaria, stretching nearly 30 kilometers long with stones measuring up to 200 meters. Each formation has a name based on what people in the past thought it looked like, and many of the formations have some sort of myth associated with it. There’s a famous fortress in nestled in the rocks, too, which you can explore as well.

It’s quite difficult to get here by public transport, as there’s only one daily bus and it takes four hours. You’re better off renting a car or going on a group tour that’ll show you both the rocks and the fortress. Personally, I came by car as part of a road trip combining Bulgaria and Serbia.

Koprivshtitsa

Koprovshtitsa, a great day trip from Sofia

Koprivshtitsa (try saying that three times fast) is a historic “museum town” that has kept in tact much of its 19th-century architectural style.

There are direct buses and trains to Koprivshitsa from Sofia a few times daily, but when I visited as part of my long Bulgaria road trip, I went by car so that we could explore Koprivshtitsa at its own pace.

Personally, renting a car is my favorite way to enjoy traveling in Bulgaria as public transit is a bit unreliable.

Saeva Dupka Cave

This is one of the first caves in Bulgaria I visited and it won’t be the last!

I have a weird thing for geology and I find caves especially fascinating. The Saeva Dupka cave is particularly gorgeous, with glittering mineral formations and tons of elaborate stalagmites and stalactites.

This cave actually reminds me a bit of the stunning ATM Cave in Belize with how massive it is and how crazy the stalagmites and stalactites look. You can go on a guided tour or rent a car to get here; we opted for renting a car and tried to combine it with the Krushuna Waterfalls (but failed due to rain). However, if you had better weather, you could definitely do both in one day.

Melnik Pyramids

Melnik, another day trip from Sofia possibility

Bulgaria is home to lots of funky rock formations, from the giant stone pillars of Belogradchik that almost remind you of Meteora in Greece to the hoodoos of Stub’s Pyramids near Rila Monastery which are like a much smaller version of Bryce Canyon.

Melnik is one of the cooler rock formations in Bulgaria, with pyramid-like rocks that stretch up into the sky surrounding a small humble town. Even better, the region is famous for its wine, so it’s a must-visit if you are intrigued by trying Bulgarian wine (the rosés here are especially nice, in my opinion!)

It doesn’t seem as if it’s possible to do a day trip using public transport, as what I’ve found online suggests the one daily bus leaves Sofia at 2 PM, so I’d suggest a guided tour of Melnik and the Rozhen monastery if you want to make this a day trip from Sofia, or stay overnight if you want to do it independently.

Krushuna Waterfalls & Devetashka Cave

If you’re in Sofia in the summer, it can get really, really hot. I’m talking sticky, 40 degree Celsius, massively-thigh-chafing heat. Sofia’s about a six-hour bus ride from the Black Sea coast, so if you have a long time in Bulgaria, it’s a great place to escape the heat for a bit. But if you’re just looking for a day trip from Sofia to give you some relief from that city heat, try going to the Krushuna waterfalls, a series of waterfalls formed by calcium travertines (similar to ones you may have seen in photos in Semuc Champey, Oaxaca, Pamukkale, etc.).

You can get there by taking a bus to Lovech and then onto Krushuna, or simplify your life with a guided tour of the waterfalls and nearby cave. This would also work great as a day trip from Veliko Tarnovo if you choose to spend time there, as it’s much closer to Veliko Tarnovo than it is to Sofia.

Musala Peak

If Vitosha isn’t enough mountain for you, it’s possible to leave from Sofia, hike the tallest mountain in the entire Balkan peninsula, and get back at night.

Musala Peak is in the Rila Mountain range, the same range as the Seven Rila Lakes hike, but Musala Peak stretches a staggering 2,925 meters into the sky.

To get there in one day, it’s probably easiest to do a guided day trip, as you can be sure you’ll have a roundtrip transfer. Otherwise, you can try to take a bus from Sofia to Samokov then a minibus to Borovets, where you can take a gondola that’ll bring you to 2369 meters.

You can then do the hike to the top of Musala, which should take about 3 to 4 hours to ascend depending on your pace.

Note: While Bulgaria is very safe, I always recommend purchasing travel insurance on your travels — especially if you plan to drive or hike and adventure around. I always use World Nomads to cover me in case I get injured or ill, and find them easy to deal with and affordable.

Where to Stay in Sofia – Recommendations from a Local

Sofia is a great place for all the Bulgaria day trips you can dream of! If you’re looking for a great place to stay in Sofia, I have a few recommendations broken down into a few different budget categories. Budget accommodations will mean hostels, which cost usually around $10 per night or less. Mid-range accommodations will fall around $50 per night, and luxury will cost you upwards of $100 per night. Still, Sofia offers great value compared to other European capital cities, so $100 in Sofia will get you much, much further than say in Western Europe.

Budget: If you are looking for a hostel I always recommend Hostel Mostel to my friends. I haven’t stayed at the Sofia one because I’ve always had an apartment or Airbnb as I live there, but I’ve stayed at the one in Veliko Tarnovo and can highly recommend it. I especially love that you get a free vegetarian dinner in addition to breakfast included in your stay! Check rates and availability here, as Hostel Mostel is popular and tends to book up in advance.

Mid-range: For a nice, trendy brand new boutique hotel that still won’t break the bank, I recommend R34 Boutique Hotel close to one of my favorite buildings in Sofia, the Ivan Vazov National Theater. I especially love the loft-like details, such as white-painted exposed brick, giant windows, and streamlined but trendy Scandinavian-esque décor. It’s quite affordable, too – check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here.

Luxury: If you want the best hotel in town, it’s hands down Sense Hotel. I go to their rooftop bar all the time when I have guests in town as I think it has one of the best views in the entire city and they make fantastic cocktails. So close to Alexander Nevsky Cathedral that many rooms literally hav ea view of it, the hotel also boasts a state-of-the-art fitness center, an art gallery in the lobby, a pool, and the rooms are just divine. It’s truly the best choice in town (and the lobby smells amazing — random but true!). Check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here.

22 Cool Hidden Gems in Amsterdam: Secret Spots Not to Miss

Dive deeper into Amsterdam’s rich history and culture by visiting some of the hidden gems in Amsterdam!

These secret spots in Amsterdam are tucked away behind popular landmarks, away from the crowds.

So, if you have seen the famous attractions, such as the Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, and the Dam Square, you can still make the most out of your trip to the city by visiting some of the lesser-known spots that will let you connect deeper to Amsterdam

With that said, even if you have been in the city several times, or if you’re new here and you want to see rare spots, these are the places to look out for!

22 Hidden Gems in Amsterdam: Secret Spots Away From the Crowds

Hortus Botanicus

Sunset at the Hortus Botanicus, a clear glass greenhouse surrounded by trees.

A bit off the beaten path in Amsterdam, Hortus Botanicus is an underrated botanical garden you need to visit when you’re in the city.

It is situated along the river, which makes it a great walk. The garden is also one of the best spots in the city you can enjoy on rainy days, too!

So, if it’s raining in Amsterdam and you want to do something calm and relaxing, you should definitely visit this botanical garden! 

Original Picasso In Vondelpark

Vondelpark isn’t really an Amsterdam hidden gem, but a concrete sculpture in the park is one!

Located at the southern end of the park is an original Picasso art that was created in 1965 as part of an outdoor exhibition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Vondelpark.

The structure is known as “Figure découpée l’Oiseau,” or The Bird. The structure was donated to the city by the artist after the exhibition. 

Symmetrical House

The house at Kloveniersburgwal 29 is known as the widest house in the city. It was built during a time when residents were taxed based on the width of their houses. Therefore, the wider the house, the wealthier the owner is!

Due to its width, it conceals the fact that is joined together by two adjoining symmetrical houses built by the Trip brothers. When the house was finished, the brothers’ coachman commented that he would be the happiest if he had a house even just as wide as the front door.

From there, the brothers complied and built a small house for him across the canal!

Mezrab

Do you want to listen to stories by random people? Mezrab is where you should go.

Storytelling nights are held every Wednesday and Friday, and they’re in English! So, you don’t have to worry about comprehension.

On some nights there are comedy and live music events that you shouldn’t miss as well!

You know what’s even better? The entrance here is free of charge, but there’s a donation jar (and you should definitely donate!) that helps the people behind the concept pay the rent. 

Noordermarkt

Aerial view of the Noordemarket with a large church-like building and smaller houses in the traditional Dutch style around it.

Located along Prinsengracht and on the edge of Jordaan, this is a lovely spot to spend your early mornings in and you’re ready for some shopping.

The area is known for its flea market and farmers market. On Mondays, don’t miss the textile market on Westerstraat, too!

The Maker Store

If you love shopping, it’s essential to shop locally when you’re in a foreign city. That’s why you need to visit The Maker Store!

Independent creators make all the products here in the city and you also get a chance to get some of the items personalized or made on the spot. The store is an excellent example of the city’s vibrant independent scene!

Tiny Hidden Houses

Along Westerstraat, you will notice that the numbers of the houses jump from 54 to 70, which is very curious.

You might want to wake a closer peek because the seven missing houses can be found in the crack between the houses; but now, they are in the form of mini houses!

So, make sure to look very closely. You don’t want to miss them! 

A Beautiful Mess

Have a meal in prison here at A Beautiful Mess: definitely a unique thing to do in Amsterdam!

The restaurant occupies what was formerly a prison called De Bijlmerbajes; today, it is home to several organizations, including the restaurant.

It is located in the prison’s old clothing repair section and you can really feel the prison-ish vibe here.

In fact, there are rows of old sewing stations you can see here still. It’s also a great place to go if you’re looking for fusion meals. 

Lighthouse

A white lighthouse with an orange roof and black room at the back of the lighthouse, shown on the water, a true hidden gem in Amsterdam.

The lighthouse on the former island in the Markermeer doesn’t only guide ships during the night, but if you look closely, you will notice that the lighthouse is horse-shaped.

It’s been a national monument since 1970, but still, a lot of people don’t really come here when they visit the city.

However, for those who are looking for hidden gems in Amsterdam and secret spots, then this is definitely one of the best places you could visit! 

Meneer Nieges

One of the best things to do in the city is to sit out by the water when the weather is nice.

It is challenging to find a spacious terrace in Amsterdam where you can lounge around, but the Meneer Nieges is the best place to start.

Another great thing about this is that it is located on the Western Islands, which means it’s out of the tourist route. Don’t worry, though; it’s still accessible. In fact, it’s only a ten-minute walk from the central station.

The terrace has a spacious terrace with picnic tables, deckchairs, and lounge beds where you can relax. 

NAP (Normaal Amsterdams Peil) Visitor Centre

There’s more to NAP than meets the eye!

Did you know you can see the city underwater through three glass tubes that show the sea level in various parts of the region?

It’s a real Amsterdam hidden gem that you shouldn’t miss when you’re here. 

Beth Haim Cemetery

Located at Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, the cemetery is the oldest Jewish cemetery here.

Most of the graves here below to Portuguese and Spanish Jews who fled the country in the 17th century. Some public figures are here, too, including Rabbi Menasseh Ben Israel, who was a collaborator of Rembrandt.

Aside from these graves, the ornate gravestones that feature beautiful symbolism and inscriptions in various languages are something you should keep an eye on as you stroll around.

Although it may sound creepy for some, the cemetery may give you a deeper insight into the lives of Dutch Jews in the 17th century. You will definitely experience the country’s culture and rich history just by walking the paths of the cemetery. 

Torensluis

Lights on the canal, with bicycles chained to the bridge, surrounded by traditional canal houses in Amsterdam at night.

Amsterdam has over 160 canals, and that means there are plenty of bridges here that connect places! The widest and oldest bridge is the Torensluis, which translates to Tower Lock.

The name was derived from the tower that stood on the site until it was demolished in the mid-19th century. You can still see its foundation today! But there’s more to it, though.

Look closely in the dungeon below and you can see barred windows and arched entrance to the prison cells that are located under the bridge. The area is now open to the public and is often used to host exhibitions and events. 

Nieuwendammerdijk

This is one of the most beautiful streets in the city, and it’s a great cycling route as well.

Consider the “roadside garden” on the street some kind of a phenomenon because with only one-square meter of fertile ground in front of an apartment, residents were able to create gardens of flowers, bushes, and trees.

Because of this, it has made the street one of the most beautiful cycling routes . Moreover, it is also the oldest street in this part of the city!

Aside from the gardens, there are beautiful houses here that date back from the 18th century that are a sight to behold. 

Amsteltuin

For a unique secret spot in Amsterdam, check out its cute vineyard—the Amsteltuin!

Although it’s not as exotic as a French vineyard, it is still a beautiful place. It’s perfect if you’re craving some vineyard feels while you’re in the city.

The owners are very welcoming and you get a fully-stocked picnic basket with delicious Dutch specialties and homemade wine. Explore the vineyard while you get just the right amount of buzz. 

Zootje Sculpture Garden

Just near De Plantage, follow the signs that will lead you to the Zootje Petit Zoo. However, this isn’t an ordinary zoo!

It has a hidden little sculpture garden that will give you a quirky experience. Just make sure to stay alert for the zombie or the dinosaur. 

Amsterdam Zuid

View of the buildings of the residential neighborhood of Amsterdam Zuid.

There are plenty of interesting houses in the city, but one of the most underrated ones is the Zevenlandenhuizen, which means “seven countries houses” on the Roemer Visscherstraat.

Seven houses that are next to each other, in which each house represents a specific architectural style from different European countries. The houses were built in 1974 and were designed by architect Tjeerd Kuipers. 

The Tea Rat

Located in a tiny alley off Spuistraat, you will find one of the smallest museums in the city, which is a teapot museum!

There are over a hundred teapots in a single room here and you can even dress up while you enjoy the collection. It’s perfect for tea and teacup lovers; this is heaven!

Even if you’re not a fan, it’s a curious place you should definitely check out while you’re here. 

Corrie Ten Boomhuis

The Anne Frank House is a popular place because it served as the house of Jewish stowaways; but there’s another one in Haarlem that far fewer people know about, the Corrie Ten Boomhuis.

Although this isn’t in the city anymore, it’s only 10 minutes by train!

The Ten Boom family hid behind a false wall in the house along with other members of the resistance. They were arrested and sent to concentration camps eventually, and it was only Corrie Ten Boom who survived.

Today, the house is now a museum that teaches about the Second World War and the Jewish faith. 

REM Eiland

Lit up building on the water where you can dine in Amsterdam, a secret spot!

For a unique Amsterdam experience, have a meal inside a water restaurant inside a renovated offshore platform!

It was originally owned by a group of pirate radio broadcasters who eventually abandoned it because they were raided by the Dutch government in 1964.

After decades, it was towed to the city’s Houthaven harbor and converted into a classy restaurant. 

Blijburg City Beach

Surprisingly, there are beaches in the city, and one of the classic beach experiences you can get is at Blijburg, a true Amsterdam hidden gem mostly enjoyed by locals.

The artificial peninsula has plenty of attractions and it also has a restaurant to accommodate beach-goers. 

Pancake Boat

Traditional dutch pancakes served with blueberries and mint leaves.

When you’re in the Netherlands, it’s important not to miss their Dutch pancakes!

You can have authentic Dutch pancakes in Amsterdam onboard the Pancake Boat, where you can have unlimited Dutch-style pancakes!

The trip starts in the city’s northern docklands then makes its way to the famous harbor of the city where you can marvel at the beautiful architecture while you eat your pancakes. 

***

Are you ready to dive deep into the rich culture of Amsterdam? These hidden gems will give you an entirely different perspective about the city that you won’t see at the most popular attractions here!

There’s more to the city than meets the eye; and if you’re up for it, visit these hidden gems and experience the city like never before. 

It is definitely going to be an eye-opening experience that you will cherish for the rest of your life. And even if it’s your first time in the city, make sure to allot some time to visit some of these hidden gems—you know you don’t want to miss them! 

Author Bio

Ask The Dutch Guy your go-to guide when it comes to The Netherlands! The goal of Ask The Dutch Guy is to showcase the beauty of The Netherlands and to inspire others to explore the country. Read more about Ask The Dutch Guy at https://askthedutchguy.com. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

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Lake District Itinerary: Your 2 Day Lake District Guide

Helvellyn summit looking down to Red Tarn in the Lake District

If you’re planning on visiting the Lake District and are looking for a 2 day Lake District itinerary, then keep reading to really see how you can have a fun-packed couple of days in Cumbria!

There really is something for everyone. And you’ll be booking your next break to get back as soon as you can!

Here’s how to spend a weekend in the Lake District!

Day One of Your Lake District Itinerary

Have breakfast in Keswick.

So where is the best place to start any good blog post on a guide for two days in the Lake District?

Well, with your stomach and making sure that it is filled and ready for the day ahead!

That’s certainly where we would begin any good adventure for the day ahead. And being local to Keswick, you really can’t find a better place for a choice of cafes and restaurants throughout the day.

This bustling tourist market town offers a wide variety of food, so you won’t be struggling for a new place to visit each day that you stay here.

The Merienda Café in Keswick is one of our favorites. We’ve been a few times now and each time we remember why it is that we keep coming back!

They have an excellent choice for breakfast and brunch to kick start your day. The Merienda cafe offers gluten-free and vegetarian options, so there is no fear that your needs won’t be accommodated while you’re here.

My personal favorite is the porridge, just because it’s a healthy and hearty meal, as well as a warm way to begin your day.

It’s sure to keep you going until dinner time and with the option of blueberries, honey, and banana to add to your breakfast: it’s just a great option.

They also do a mean full English, but they do it their own way. It’s a little unique, but it’s well worth trying. My mouth is just watering at the thought of it again now!

Take the scenic drive to Fleetwith Pike.

Being in the Lake District can cause you to get stumped with a million different possibilities for the day ahead. But that’s what we’re here for, and boy do we have a treat for you!

This is where we really begin the guide for two days in the Lake District. So once you’re in your car, head down the B5289 leaving Keswick as you head south.

It won’t be long until you will see the fells and mountains of the area all around you. Their slopes come right down to the roadside as you drive through the up and windy route that is Honister Pass.

It’s a view that has to be seen while on any Lake District itinerary, and so we just have to bring you this way to Buttermere!

You will pass Honister Slate mine on your left-hand side, and this is where we’ll be coming for some well-needed lunch.

But for now, you drive past this and begin the decline towards Buttermere itself. You will see some small lay-bys dotted around alongside the road and this is where you’ll want to be pulling up and parking.

View of rocky and grassy summit of a mountain the Lakes District, on a partly cloudy day.
Fleetwith Pike is on the left — which you’ll be climbing!

The start to Fleetwith Pike

Parked, backpacks on, boots tightened, and map at the ready, here we go! Begin your walk by following the road down to the base of Fleetwith Pike.

You’ll know what mountain it is when you can see a white cottage ahead of you on the road. When you see this, then you want to be looking on your left for a path leading off from the road.

Once you’ve located the path, head left and continue the easily-located path to the base of the ridge. From here, it’s a straightforward path that simply heads up.

There are no major complications here, just keep an eye on your footing and the easy scrambles as you make your way up this epic fell… and make sure that you take a moment or two to turn around!

Take in the views as you head up. So often we look in front of us, but at times like this, it is just as important to look behind too.

For us personally, the views from the top of Fleetwith Pike are some of the best in the whole of the Lake District. So for us to help guide you for two days in the Lake District, we only go on what we’ve witnessed and experienced, to get the best couple of days for you!

Celebrate at the summit of Fleetwith Pike.

When you reach the top of the mountain, you’ll be welcomed by a cairn and views that stretch for miles around you.

Towards the south-west is the famous Haystacks that holds some great memories and so much history in Cumbria too!

As well as this, the sight over Buttermere and the fells around towering down towards the lake are stunning.

I’m sure you can see this for yourself in the photo below — and when you’re there in person, I guarantee you it feels epic to be looking around you from the top!

A rock cairn overlooking green fells and small hills and a blue lake in the Lakes District
Fleetwith Pike is on the left — which you’ll be climbing!

But by now I’m sure you’ll be getting a little peckish. I mean, if you’re anything like us, you’ll be seriously hungry and ready for some lunch!

So let’s get moving again and get back for some food before our afternoon of cliff-hanging begins.

From the top of Fleetwith Pike, continue heading in the same direction as before over the top of the summit and locate a less distinct path here.

It will lead you down toward the Honister slate mine. When you get to a slight junction you will want to bear left here, and this will take you to lunch.

Fuel up on lunch at the Honister Slate Mine.

It is easy to find the Honister Slate Mine. When you see the building and car park in front of you, then you know that you have arrived.

Make your way through the car park and to the main entrance of the building. Once you’re inside, you will find the Sky Hi cafe that they have, and this is when you can go to town on ordering anything you like from the menu.

They have a good choice of food, and if you need warming through after your walk, then there are hot options available too. For us though, it was a hot day when we had been walking, so something cooler and lighter was needed.

Here you can take some time out and enjoy looking back through the photos of your walk so far. Even on a cloudy day in the Lakes, some of the views you can see will still amaze you. It will give added contrast to the skies and fells that you see too!

Once you’ve finished your lunch, it’s time to get those hard hats on and get onto the side of the rock face for more adventures!

Brave the heights on the Honister Via Ferrata.

To guide you through two days in the Lake District, we’d have to advise you to get booked in for this activity in advance!

Make sure that there are free spaces for the day that you’re going to be in this area of the Lake District. You can find more information about the whole experience on their website too.

When you’ve got yourself checked in then there will be a brief safety briefing for the activity ahead.

For those of you who haven’t done a via ferrata before, you’re going to be in for a treat. It’s something special for sure, and it’s not every day you have the option of climbing along the rock face of a mountain and hanging there watching the world go by!

If you have a fear of heights, this might not be the best choice for you, unless you’re ready to face that fear head-on. If so, then let’s do this together!

A group of four people climbing on iron ladders and railings (via ferrata) in order to ascend a cliff
Hazel and Zoe (truefreedomseekers) on the Via Ferrata in the Lake District

As you make your way through this activity for an hour or so, you’ll get to grips with feeling out of your comfort zone.

But you’re not alone — they have great guides for this in the Lake District. They go through the whole experience with you, along with a group of others just like you. So no need to fear, you’re always in good hands!

Simply jump in and absorb it all. It’s truly fun, and although my legs were well and truly shaking most of the time, I loved it. It’s something to look back on and smile, even laugh at how we were throughout the whole thing! Hazel even managed to split her trousers climbing up the metal ladders!

So it’s a great way to build some memories and feel truly free as you climb up the mountainside to the top for those seriously stunning views again.

Have some of the best fish and chips at the Old Keswickian.

When the via ferrata experience is completed and you’ve walked back to the slate mine, it’s time to get back to the car and head into Keswick for some serious fish and chips!

Head out of the slate mine and turn left onto the road, and go back to where you drove earlier this morning to get back to your car. Then you want to be heading back up the road and into Keswick.

A traditional high street in England with a man looking inside the restaurant that says "Old Keswickian" and has posters for fish and chips.
Some of the best fish and chips in Cumbria the Old Keswickian.

When you’ve parked up in the little town, simply head to the town center. Follow the crowds and it won’t be long until you smell the incredible smell that is fish and chips!

The Old Keswickian is located on the corner of the main high street. Now, it is entirely your choice to eat in or take out. There are benches dotted around the streets, so on a summer evening, it can be a great place to do some people watching too.

They really are some of the best fish and chips in Cumbria though, and you won’t be disappointed — I’m certain of it.

Head to the Castlerigg Stone circle.

Now how do you end a full packed guided first day in the Lake District? Well, even here, you can unwind and enjoy the slower pace. After all, you are on holiday!

So we couldn’t recommend heading to the east of the town and out into the countryside for a spectacular end to the day.

Castlerigg Stone Circle is a true hidden gem in the Lake District. There is so much history to the area, and once again, the views and aura of being in such a grand structure are worth the last slog up the hill to find it!

It’s about a half-hour walk from the center of Keswick, but when you’re there, you can simply sit down and enjoy simply just being there.

A circle of large stones casting a shadow in the late afternoon sunlight on Castlerigg in the Lake District.
A view from Castlerigg Stone Circle just outside of Keswick

Wait for the sun to go down for a true experience and see the stones glisten as the last of the day’s light hits them. Now that’s how you switch off and really enjoy being in the moment!

Day Two of Your Lake District Itinerary

Have breakfast at the Pooley Bridge tea rooms.

Welcome to day two of your weekend in the Lake District and day two of your guide!

We hope you’re ready for another big one…. and if you are, then you’re going to need a good breakfast to get that energy stored up!

We start day two at Pooley Bridge, which can be driven to from Keswick. It’s around a half-hour or so drive, and once you’re here and parked, then the day is ready for you.

The Granny Dowbekins Tearooms offer a great selection of breakfasts to get you started for the day — of course, you can enjoy a good cup of tea alongside this too!

Today, there is a bit more of a schedule to keep to because of the Ullswater Steamers, but more information about their landing times at each stop can be found on their website. So check them out to make sure you can fit everything in for your trip.

Take the Ullswater Steamer across the lake to start your walk up to Helvellyn.

Once on the Ullswater Steamer, you can take a seat for the beginning of the day and look over the side of the boat at the water beside you.

Take in the views across the other mountains and fells in the Lakes as you travel along the water to Glenridding.

A jetty point where you can disembark from the steamboat, with a white smaller boat visible, and some hills on the lake in the distance.
Glenridding jetty point on Ullswater in the Lakes

When the steamer pulls up at Glenridding jetty, hop off and head out through the car park and cross the road here too.

Head right at the road for a short period of time before detouring off left. This path starts to climb up through another car park and then out of Glenridding.

This, folks, is the path leading up to the third highest fell in the Lake District: Helvellyn.

Follow the clear and somewhat steep path in places as it climbs up the banks of Helvellyn. You might meet and join others on their walk too, but go at your own pace. There is no rush to climbing any mountain, so take your time, stop as often as you like, and simply enjoy being here!

As you near the famous gap in the wall, it isn’t much longer until you see the beauty that is Red Tarn in front of you. This main path guides you to the tarn on Helvellyn in the Lake District. 

To either side of this are the glorious ridges of Striding Edge and Swirral Edge: one to climb up to Helvellyn, and one to walk back down from the top. But first, let’s take a break for a well-earned lunch break.

Enjoy a tasty packed lunch on the fells.

You cannot go walking across the fells in the Lake District without having to take a packed lunch with you most of the time!

Now when it comes to packed lunches, we are the leaders. We make sure that we have enough food to feed an army! This is simply because we are constantly hungry and snacking is a big part of fell walking for us, to keep your energy up along with being healthy too.

Some of the best snacks and packed lunch ideas are fruit, nuts, cereal bars, energy bars, along with sandwiches or soup in a Thermos if it’s an especially cold day in Cumbria.

Always take enough water with you too so that you don’t get dehydrated. This is a must if you’re walking in the summer months for sure!

Something that you just have to have on you at all times when in the Lake District is Kendal mint cake.

It’s insanely nice and hits the spot as a real energy boost when you need it. You can pick it up in most local and larger stores around the Lakes, so there is no excuse to not try it out! You won’t regret it. Our two-day guide to the Lake District wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t give you some local food or snack advice!

So enjoy your packed lunch at the side of Red Tarn whilst looking up towards the ridges of Striding and Swirral Edge, knowing it will soon be your turn to take them on yourself!

Ascend Helvellyn via Striding Edge and come back via Swirral Edge.

Backpacks zipped back up and bellies full, it’s time to face the beast itself: Striding Edge and the final ascent to Helvellyn.

Take your time as you head up the ridge on the left of Red Tarn and truly enjoy the exhilarating climb to the top of this amazing mountain.

Helvellyn summit looking down to Red Tarn in the Lake District
Helvellyn summit looking down towards Red Tarn in the centre, Catstye Cam on the far left

From the top of Helvellyn, you’ll have insane views across the whole of the Lake District and beyond.

If you’re lucky enough to have the summit mostly to yourself, then enjoy walking to each and every edge of the plateau and take in the views from each side.

Get your camera or phone out and get some snaps! We do each time to make those memories easier to look back on, and to show others where we’ve been too. It also helps with our blog to show you what to expect too!

Head towards Swirral Edge on the northern side of Helvellyn and head down this ridge.

Part of the way back down you’ll see a detour path on the left. This heads towards Catstye Cam.

For your two-day guide to the Lake District, depending on how you’re feeling, you might want to take the detour up here. It’s worth it to see the sights looking back towards Helvellyn! But if you’re feeling a little worn out, just keep heading down back to Red Tarn.

From here, you follow the same path down which you came up. This is the easiest and most direct way back to Glenridding.

Have dinner at the Helvellyn Country Kitchen.

When you’ve hiked back down to Glenridding, it will be well and truly time for some good grub!

A great place to head for a hearty meal is the Helvellyn Country Kitchen. They have some great hot meals like burgers, along with chips, paninis, and salads if you’re after a healthier option.

For us, after a long day walking you can’t beat a good greasy dinner to finish the day off. But each to their own, so there are options for everyone here.

If you’re feeling particularly hungry — which, let’s be honest, you should be after the walk you’ve had! — then take a look at the Helvellyn Country Kitchens desserts and cakes.

You really can’t beat them to finish off any meal… and maybe a good local pint to wash it all down!

Head back to Pooley Bridge on the steamer.

After you’ve filled your stomach to the bursting point, head back towards the Ullswater Steamers and jump back on to head back to Pooley Bridge.

Check the timetable throughout the year to make sure you have plenty of time. Depending on the time of year, it depends when is the last steamer back to Pooley Bridge.

This is why it’s essential to check the planned timetable for the day in the Lake District for the steamers, and this goes for all the lakes as well as Ullswater. 

When you’ve got back to the car then jump in and let’s take a drive to the final stop-off point for the day: Aira Force.

It’s a relatively short drive to Aira Force. The parking for this is located at the north end of Ullswater, so just keep following the main road from Pooley Bridge until you see the signs to pull in.

Head towards the waterfall of Aira Force.

Park in the large parking lot, and then head towards the only way possible: the waterfall of Aira Force.

As you get closer to the waterfall, you’ll start to feel as though you’re in a fairytale! The woods get denser, and there are some lovely bridges and stone paths that lead over the streams below.

Aira Force waterfall in the Lake District

It’s possible to get utterly lost in time and lost in general whilst walking to the waterfall.

We have got lost here in a downpour, and when we finally made it back to the car we were in hysterics laughing at just how soaked we really were!

So rain or shine, it’s the perfect way to end a busy day climbing in the Lake District.

When you get to Aira Force, take a seat on the wall or stand and just become mesmerized by the water tumbling down. Let yourself drift into a calm place and reflect on the last two days in the Lake District.

I know for us, any adventure in the Lake District is special. So we hope you’ve enjoyed this Lake District itinerary, and truly got the most out of your weekend in the Lake District.

So that’s your fun-packed two-day guide to the Lake District from us!

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading and are ready to get your boots strapped on tight! Comment below for more information or your thoughts on the plan too. We’d love to hear from you. And if you need more resources, be sure to check our blog for more Lake District articles.

About the Authors

Two women, Hazel and Zoe, smiling and wearing glasses while visiting the Lake District of UK.

Hi, we’re Hazel and Zoe (True Freedom Seekers), who have a deep passion and interest in the Lake District of the UK. After visiting Cumbria over five years ago, we now make our way back to the Lakes at any time possible to enjoy more adventures while we’re there.

We regularly climb the Wainwrights and now blog on our journeys along the way. Along with information pages so you can get the best advice possible when you visit too.

You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or Medium

Pin This Guide to Visiting the Lake District!

One Week in Europe: 30 Ways to Plan a 7 Day Europe Trip

If you only have one week in Europe, you may be a bit intimidated when it comes time to deciding where exactly to go.

After all, there are countless possibilities: from exploring one country in depth to zipping around a couple of capitals as fast as you can, there are so many different ways to spend your one week Europe trip depending on the kind of traveler you are and what kind of sights you’re interesting in seeing.

I’ve broken down the best ways to spend 7 days in Europe with the help of well-traveled bloggers from around the world, sharing their favorite way of spending just one week in Europe.

From classic examples like Italy and Spain to one week itineraries for the Balkans and Central Europe’s capitals, here are 25 incredible ways to spend a one week in Europe itinerary!

One Week in Europe: Classic Itinerary Ideas

Classic Italy: Rome – Florence – Venice

A one-week road trip through Italy is on many people’s bucket list. The incredible views of Tuscany, mouth-watering food, and pristine history make it one of the best road trips in the world!

Rome to Florence and Florence to Venice are only 3-hour drives, and the route can also be done by train. 

Stop 1: Rome (3 days)

The eternal city of Rome is a traveler’s dream destination! With an incredible lifespan filled with rich history and delicious food, what’s not to love. 

Highlights:

  • Visiting the Colosseum and Roman Forum to appreciate the glory of Ancient Rome
  • Explore the history of Vatican City
  • Toss a coin or two into the Trevi Fountain to guarantee a return to Rome. 

Stop 2: Florence (3 days) 

Walking through beautiful architecture while snacking on homemade gelato is the perfect Florence day! 

Highlights:

  • Visit the impressive collection of museums in Florence – including the Uffizi Galleria 
  • Walk through the city to the Piazza del Michelangelo for panoramic views of the city
  • Enjoy live music throughout the many piazzas

Stop 3: Venice (2 days) 

The floating city of Venice is a breathtaking destination for all travelers.

Since there’s no driving in Venice, it’s the perfect time to drop off your rental car and use public transportation during your stay. 

Highlights:

  • Cross the iconic Rialto bridge with gondolas gliding underneath
  • Take a relaxing gondola ride through the small alleyways 
  • Enjoy cicchetti (Italian tapas) at a waterfront restaurant.

Explored by Pamela of the Directionally Challenged Traveler

Northern Italy: Venice – Verona – Milan

A one-week whirlwind trip through Northern Italy is the perfect way to experience a bit of Italy, without biting off more than you can chew with just one week in Europe.

Here’s how to structure a perfect one week Northern Italy itinerary!

Stop One: Venice (3 days)

Venice is a beautiful city with plenty of opportunities to just lose yourself in the backstreets.

There are some great family hotels in Venice making it the perfect base to start your travels.

Highlights:

  • Take a gondola ride through the canals to see Venice at its best.
  • See the glass being made in Murano, some of the most exquisite in the world.
  • Explore the history in the Doge’s Palace full of intrigue and culture.

Stop Two: Verona (2 days)

Verona is much less touristy than Venice but has a real charm.

It’s a place to see history, eat great food and soak up the history in this picturesque city that featured in Romeo and Juliet!

Highlights:

  • Take a trip to the Roman Arena which is older than the Colosseum.
  • Stand on Juliet’s balcony to imagine yourself in Shakespeare’s tale!
  • Climb to the top of the Lamberti Tower for spectacular rooftop views.

Stop Three: Milan (2 days)

Milan is a fantastic city to take in the culture, the shopping and the sights.

It is cosmopolitan Italy at its best!

Highlights:

  • Visit the Duomo di Milano – one of the largest cathedrals in Italy.
  • Shop until you stop at the Via Montenapoleone.
  • Immerse yourself at the Museo Nazionale Della Scienza e Della Tecnologia with all the creations of Leonardo da Vinci

Explored by Nichola of Globalmouse Travels

Classic Spain: Seville – Granada – Madrid

Spain is a beautiful destination that’s perfect for a first Europe trip.

If you only have one week in Europe and you want to see history, culture, and food: Spain is the destination!

 Stop One: Seville (2 days)

 Located in the southernmost region of Spain, Seville is a beautiful city that is easy to explore on foot.

It is filled with stunning historical buildings, traditional music and dance, and incredible food.

Highlights:

  • Visit the incredible Royal Alcázar of Seville
  • Experience music and dance at a flamenco show
  • Explore the Triana neighborhood and enjoy some of the best tapas in Seville

Stop Two: Granada (2 days)

Visiting the small city of Granada is like stepping back in time.

While many visitors simply stop for a day trip to the Alhambra, an overnight stay allows you to truly experience the heart of this historic city.

Highlights:

  • Visit the magnificent Alhambra Palace and gardens
  • Wander the historic Albaicin neighborhood
  • Visit the Granada Cathedral and the Royal Chapel, the final resting place of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand

Stop Three: Madrid (3 days)

The capital city of Spain, Madrid is filled with history, art, and wonderful food. Make sure to include a little of each during your visit!

Highlights:

  • Visit the Reina Sofia art museum to see Guernica, as well as the Prado if you have time
  • Take a tour of the Royal Palace (Palacio Real)
  • Walk around the beautiful Retiro Park

– Explored by Joanne of Sunsets and Roller Coasters

Beloved Italy: Rome – Florence – Pisa

There are so many wonderful destinations to spend one week in Italy, but perhaps the most classic is the combination of Rome, Florence, and Pisa, a tourist favorite.

Here’s how to tackle Italy if you have just a week in Europe!

Stop One: Rome (3 days)

Rome is the ultimate place to visit for ancient history, culture, and cuisine. It’s also home to many of Italy’s famous landmarks as well as plenty of hidden gems that will leave you in awe. 

Highlights:

  • Wandering the Colosseum, the biggest amphitheater of the Roman Empire
  • Admiring the beautiful fountains in Piazza Navona
  • Walking up the Spanish Steps and enjoying the view
  • Tossing a coin in the legendary Trevi Fountain
  • Seeing the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museums
  • Tasting the delicious local cuisine in the Trastevere neighborhood

Stop Two: Florence (3 days)

As the capital of Tuscany, Florence is filled with beautiful cathedrals, scenic bridges, and magnificent art. It also offers one of the most gorgeous sunset views of Italy!

Highlights:

  • Wandering the historical center with a gelato in hand
  • Climbing to the top of the iconic Duomo
  • Shopping for souvenirs on the scenic Ponte Vecchio
  • Watching a spectacular sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo
  • Seeing beautiful artwork in the Uffizi Gallery
  • Getting cultured in the museums of Palazzo Pitti

Stop Three: Pisa (1 day)

The charming town of Pisa is only an hour away by train from Florence, making it an easy day trip to take. It’s not only a great place to visit for architecture and food, but also for shopping!

Highlights:

  • Climbing up the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa
  • Listening to the acoustics in the Pisa Baptistery
  • Exploring the stunning Pisa Cathedral
  • Admiring the artwork inside Palazzo Blu
  • Shopping at Corso Italia

-Explored by Jiayi of The Diary of a Nomad

Southern Spain: Seville – Malaga – Granada

If you want to stick to the south of Spain (Andalusia), then this alternate one week in Spain itinerary is a great choice.

Stop One: Seville (3 days)

Seville is a top highlight of Spain, with incredible Mudejar architecture, 25,000 orange trees, spectacular streets with buildings covered in orange and white, amazing food, and flamenco music on every corner!

Highlights:

  • Visit the palace of Real Alcazar, a Game of Thrones filming location
  • Stroll around the colorful streets of Santa Cruz neighborhood
  • Watch the sunset from the top of Las Setas

Stop Two: Malaga (2 days)

Malaga is the most popular, and the largest beach town of Andalusia, with beautiful beaches, colorful streets, and vibrant nightlife.

We can’t forget that it’s the birthplace of the famous artist Pablo Picasso! By bus, it takes 2.5 hours to arrive from Seville, so it’s an easy next stop:

Highlights:

  • Visit the Picasso Museum to learn more about the man behind the paintings
  • Explore the beautiful beaches of Malaga
  • Watch a sunset from the best viewpoint of the town, Mirador de Gibralfaro

Stop Three: Granada (2 days)

Granada is one of the most authentic towns to visit in Andalusia, and it’s just an hour and a half away from Malaga.

The Moors (Arabic) played a really important part in Andalusia’s history and unique architecture, an you can see that in Granada.

Granada is spectacular for its amazing views, authentic feel, and the many flamenco artists that are strolling around in Albaicin and stopping at each restaurant for a quick show.

Highlights:

  • Visit the spectacular Alhambra palace
  • Wander around in the Moorish neighborhood, the white-washed old town of Albaicin
  • Listen to flamenco artists while enjoying a delicious meal

– Explored by Helga of ShegoWandering

Mainland Greece: Athens – Meteora – Thessaloniki

A wonderful trip through Mainland Greece is the perfect one week in Europe trip, since you won’t have to deal with coordinating flights and ferries during a shorter trip.

This one week in Greece is the perfect primer to Greece and is easy to travel by car or train.

Stop One: Athens (3 days)

Athens, the capital of Greece, is a vibrant city rich in history, archaeological sites, museums, and amazing food that enjoys great weather all year round.

It has a wealth of archaeological sites like the Acropolis but also the Ancient Agora, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and more.

Highlights:

  • Visit the Acropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Athens’ most popular attraction, as well as the Acropolis Museum and the Archaeological Museum of Athens to learn about Greece’s rich history.
  • Explore the street art on the streets of Athens
  • See the change of the guards on Syntagma Square

Stop Two: Meteora (2 days)

Meteora is another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is a place of unique natural beauty where you will find big rock formations with Greek Orthodox monasteries on top. 

Highlights:

  • Visting the 6 remaining monasteries
  • Watch the sunset from the top of the rocks
  • Hike one of the many paths around these unique rock formations

Stop Three: Thessaloniki (2 days)

Thessaloniki is the second-largest city in Greece built around the coastline of the Thermaic Gulf.

It is a lively city with great nightlife, food, and a lot of interesting historical sites.

Highlights:

  • Admire the view from Ano Poli
  • Check out the archaeological sites of the Roman Agora, the Rotonda, the Byzantine Baths, and the Arch of Galerius.
  • Visit the landmark of Thessaloniki, the White Tower on the waterfront

– Explored by Chrysoula of Athens & Beyond

Central Europe Sampler: Budapest – Vienna – Bratislava

Central Europe is a wonderful destination for travelers hoping to experience a few different countries in a single week in Europe.

The closely-linked capital cities of Vienna and Bratislava are just an hour apart, and Budapest isn’t far, either, making three European countries in one week not only doable but also downright pleasant.

Stop One: Budapest (3 days) 

A city of two halves divided by the Danube River, Budapest has so much to see and do. Budapest is a cosmopolitan city offering a wealth of culinary delights and a historical center with magnificent architecture.

Budapest also has the most thermal springs than any other capital in the world, so plenty of choice for bathing. 

Highlights:

  • Relax in the Szechenyi Thermal Baths, or the Palatinus Baths which is more suitable for families
  • Visit Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion on Buda Hill
  • Explore the Jewish Quarter and the ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’, a memorial to those killed during WW2

Stop Two: Vienna (3 days) 

Trains to Vienna (Wien Hauptbahnhof train station) depart from Budapest Keleti train station every hour and take around 2 hours 40 minutes, making this an easy next stop on a week in Europe itinerary.

Vienna is a romantic and magical city packed full of architectural masterpieces. If you like shopping and museums, Vienna has an abundance of both.

Highlights:

  • See Vienna’s magnificent Rathaus (City Hall) and Hofburg Palace
  • Visit Maria Theresia Garden, home to both the Natural History Museum & Vienna’s Art History Museum
  • Explore the beautiful Schönbrunn Palace & Children’s Museum

Stop Three: Bratislava (1 day) 

From Vienna, the train journey to Bratislava is just a little over an hour. It can be visited as a day trip or as an overnight.

Such an underrated city, Bratislava has something for everyone with its quirky historical old town and modern center, tightly packed with super trendy bars, cafes and eateries.

Highlights:

  • Visit the unique, white rectangular Bratislava Castle which overlooks the city
  • Wander around the old town and visiting the Church of St. Elizabeth (aka the Blue Church)
  • Walk over the River Danube via the UFO Bridge

– Explored by Gemma of Families Can Travel

Best of the UK: London — Lake District — Edinburgh

The UK is a compact and diverse country that is perfect for a first trip to Europe.

If you only have one week in Europe, you can easily visit both the English and Scottish capitals with a quick trip to the beautiful Lake District in between, all easily connected by train.

Stop One: London (4 days)

London, the capital city of England is brimming with history and royalty. From the many iconic landmarks to Red double decker buses to red telephone booths to black cabs, the city will make you fall in love with it.

Highlights:

  • Explore the royal city by taking a tour of the city and visiting Buckingham Palace and seeing the Change of Guard, Tower Bridge, London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, iconic Big Ben, British museum and cruise on the Thames river.
  • Taking a day trip to Greenwich and visiting Royal Observatory and other landmarks like Queen’s House, Old Royal Naval College, National Maritime Museum. Could ride the Emirates Cable for a round trip from London.
  • Taking a day trip to Windsor Castle and Stonehenge.

Stop Two: Lake District (1 day)

Lake District, a national park in Cumbria, is known for its mesmerizing glacial lakes surrounded by mountains and lush greenery. It is a popular vacation spot to unwind and rejuvenate yourself.

Highlights:

  • Take a cruise on the Lake Windermere or Lake Ullswater
  • Hike or explore on an electric bike around Lake Windermere along the trails.
  • Check out Castlerigg Stone Circle, 5000 year old.

Stop Three: Edinburgh (2 days)

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland is a vibrant city with beautiful landscape, cobblestone roads, window to the Scottish culture that will strike a chord in your heart. Checking out Edinburgh’s attractions will also let you enjoy its classical Scottish architecture. 

Highlights:

  • Walking the Royal Mile and shop for lambswool/cashmere, whiskey, and other souvenirs. Don’t forget to eat at the cafes on Royal Mile.
  • Visit the Edinburgh Castle perched atop the hill, Camera Obscura, Holyroodhouse Palace and Scottish Parliament all on the Royal Mile.
  • Hike Arthur’s seat for a panoramic view of city and take a Harry Potter tour. 

-Explored by Neha from Travelmelodies

Best of Ireland: Dublin – Cork – Galway

Ireland is the perfect introduction to Europe for first-timers to the continent. Friendly people, no language barrier for English speakers, beautiful landscapes: what’s not to love?

Plus, Ireland is small and compact so that if you only have one week in Europe, you can easily do Ireland justice without stressing.

Stop One: Dublin (3 Days)

Dublin is Ireland’s capital and largest city. Most importantly it’s the heart and soul of the country. The city offers something to see for every travel, incredible food and drink, and best of all, it’s easy to explore.

Highlights:

  • Learn about Ireland’s most famous export, Guinness, at the Guinness StoreHouse and Brewery
  • Trinity College and the Book of Kells
  • Explore Ireland’s tumultuous history at Dublin Castle

Stop Two: Cork (2 Days)

Welcome to the “Rebel City”. Cork is Ireland’s 2nd largest city and gateway to southern Ireland. The city has played a large role in the history of Ireland from confrontation with the British, to the setting off point for millions of Irish emigrants. Today it’s one of Ireland’s most dynamic cities offering tons to see and do.

Highlights:

  • Wander the English Market to sample some of the best Irish food in the country. 
  • Visit the 18th Century Gothic Revival St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral
  • Explore Fitzgerald Park and Cork Public Museum

Stop Three: Galway (2 Days)

Located on Ireland’s rugged west coast, Galway has been referred to as Europe’s “friendliest city.” More of a small town than a major city, Galway is a vibrant city thanks to a lively music and arts scene.  

Highlights:

  • Visit one of Europe’s youngest cathedrals, Galway Cathedral
  • See Galway from the water on a Galway Bay boat tour
  • See the last remaining parts of the old city medieval walls at the Spanish Arch

-Explored by Eric from Food and Drink Destinations

Best of France: Avignon – Lyon – Paris

These three French cities are connected via the high-speed TGV train, making this an easy one week in Europe itinerary.

Stop One: Avignon (2 days)

The cultural and historical heart of Provence, Avignon is a stunning city situated on the River Rhone.

From boutique shopping to dining in world-class restaurants, it offers a sophisticated city break.

Highlights:

  • Explore the UNESCO World Heritage city, with its intact ramparts and endless historical attractions
  • Visit Les Halles food market to shop for regional specialities and to watch food demonstrations
  • Take an interactive 3D tour (via histopad) of the Pope’s Palace.

Stop Two: Lyon (2 days)

Famous for food, Lyon is the ideal place to indulge your inner food critic.

Settle into the city’s cafes and restaurants to sample the region-specific specialities on offer. Then walk off your gluttony by touring the wealth of historical sights around the city!

Highlights:

  • Take a stroll through the streets of Presqu’île for stunning architecture and shopping
  • Go on a mural-spotting spree through the city, since Lyon takes street art to a whole other level!
  • Visit Vieux Lyon to take a step back in time and see how the city once was.

Stop Three: Paris (3 days)

Equally as alluring for lovers as it is for families, Paris is a destination with something for everyone.

From touring the city’s standout museums to people watching on a cafe terrace, the City of Lights is sure to dazzle every visitor.

Highlights:

  • Ride the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower for dreamy Paris views
  • Walk through Montmartre and climbing up to the Sacré-Cœur
  • Take to the French art of flaneur and spend hours wandering the streets and gardens as you go

– Explored by Nadine of Le Long Weekend

Paris & French Riviera: Paris – Marseille – Nice

This France itinerary from Paris to Nice covers Paris, Marseille, and Nice, and it is excellent for sightseeing if you only have one week in Europe.

All the cities are well connected by direct trains, so you don’t need to take any flights, great for a short trip.

Stop One: Paris (3 days)

Paris is always a good idea, and there’s no better place to start this 1-week holiday than from the French capital.

If this is your first time in Paris, you will want to visit some of the city’s main sights, perhaps with a couple of leisure strolls around the most picturesque areas.

Highlights:

  • Climb up to the Eiffel Tower
  • Walk around Montmartre
  • Visit the Louvre Museum

Marseille (2 days)

Direct TGV trains leave Paris Gare de Lyon train station to Marseille. The train ride takes less than 3 hours, and it is very straightforward.

Marseille, in southern France, is the capital of the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. It is one of the most important port cities in the Mediterranean Sea and an exciting place to visit for a couple of days. 

Highlights:

  • Stroll around the Old Port and visit the fish market, as well as the Le Panier neighborhood
  • Admire the magnificent views from Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde
  • Visit the MuCEM (Museum of Mediterranean Cultures)

Nice (2 days)

The last stop of this French trip is Nice.

Enjoy the sun and the glamour of this coastal city in the French Riviera famous for its baroque architecture and the iconic Promenade des Anglais.

Highlights:

  • Stroll around the Old Town
  • Admire the views from La Colline du Château
  • Walk the Promenade des Anglais, ice cream in hand

– Contributed by Elisa of World in Paris

Best of the Netherlands: Amsterdam – Rotterdam – Utrecht

The Netherlands is a compact country with so much more to offer than just Amsterdam!

If you only have one week in Europe, the Netherlands is a perfect destination as it’s compact, easy to travel by train, and very easy to navigate as a foreigner due to the friendliness of the people and the prevalence of English speakers.

Stop 1: Amsterdam (3 days)

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and known for its beautiful canals, 17th-century warehouses and excellent museums.

Highlights:

  • Admire world-class artworks from famous Dutch and international artists in the Rijksmuseum
  • Visit the house where Jewish diarist Anne Frank was hiding during WWII.
  • Learn about science at the interactive NEMO Science Museum (especially suitable for families planning a Dutch city trip with kids)

Stop 2: Rotterdam (2 days)

Rotterdam is the second-largest city in the Netherlands. The city is famous for its modern architecture such as the iconic Erasmus bridge, the Kubuswoningen (Cube Houses), and the colorful Market Hall as well as its maritime history.

Highlights:

  • Ascend to the top of the 185-meter-tall Euromast. On a clear day, you can look as far as the city of Antwerp in Belgium!
  • Learn about Dutch naval history at the Maritime Museum Rotterdam and stroll along the Old Harbor.
  • Take a boat tour and visit the Europoort, the largest harbor in Europe.

Stop 3: Utrecht (2 days)

Utrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands and is often called a smaller (and better) version of Amsterdam. Its historic city center can easily be explored on foot, or do as the Dutch people do and hop on a bicycle.

Highlights:

  • Climb the Dom Tower and admire the view (you can see Rotterdam and Amsterdam on a sunny day).
  • Take a bus to nearby Castle De Haar, a beautiful historic castle surrounded by lovely gardens.
  • For those with kids, the Miffy museum is a must. Here your little ones can meet this famous children’s book character and walk around in 10 miniature worlds based on the Miffy books.

-Explored By Lotte from Beste voor Kids 

Scandinavian Sampler: Stockholm – Malmo – Copenhagen

For a quick trip of some of Scandinavia’s best cities, you can easily combine a trip to Sweden and Denmark with just one week in Europe, using Malmo as a connection point between the countries’ two capital cities.

Stop One: Stockholm (3 days)

Stockholm, Sweden’s vibrant capital, is a city built on a 14-island archipelago. It has a series of bridges and ferries to help visitors navigate the city and the waterfront of Stockholm is seemingly everywhere. The city is a must-visit capital in Scandinavia and home to fascinating history and a most-welcoming people.

Highlights:

  • Wander the streets of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s perfectly-preserved medieval town center
  • Visit the Vasa Museum, an exhibit of a 17th-century Swedish warship that was recovered from the harbor fully intact
  • Check out the ABBA Museum and learn about the Eurovision Song Contest and the band that has become a Swedish national treasure 

Stop Two: Malmo (2 days)

Malmo is a diverse city in the southern region of Sweden. It’s geographically and culturally close to Denmark with historical ties to the nation, having been part of both kingdoms throughout the centuries. It’s a vibrant city with a young population due to the universities in the area.

Highlights:

  • Take a canal tour around the beautiful city of Malmo and its harbor
  • Visit the Malmo Saluhall, a hip street food hall in a rustic post-industrial building
  • Check out Malmo Castle, the city’s fortress and part of Malmo Museum

Stop Three: Copenhagen (2 days)

Copenhagen is an often-overlooked European capital that maintains a quiet and unassuming charm. It’s a perfect foodie destination and home to castles, canals, and an amusement park that inspired Walt Disney himself. 

Highlights:

  • Embark on a canal tour of Copenhagen to see the entire city from the water in under two hours
  • Try a New Nordic meal at any of the fabulous restaurants or Copenhagen street food areas
  • Visit Copenhagen’s famous amusement park, Tivoli Gardens, the second-oldest amusement park in the world.

-Explored by Derek & Mike of Everything Copenhagen

Best of Norway: Oslo – Flåm – Bergen

If you only have one week in Europe, the country of Norway is one of the most majestic places for a scenic vacation. Norway is a nature-lovers dream, filled with waterfalls, hikes, and stunning fjords. 

Stop One: Oslo (2-3 days)

Start your journey in the country’s capital city of Oslo. Plan to give yourself 2-3 days, as the city is filled with museums, the Nobel Peace Center, and the world-class sculpture park, Vigeland Sculpture Park. 

Highlights:

  • Visiting the Nobel Peace Center
  • Admiring the art in Vigeland Sculpture Park
  • Checking out the Fram Museum and the National Gallery

Stop Two: Flåm (2 days)

After a few days learning about Viking culture, art, and Scandinavian history, catch a train to Flåm, Norway. The tiny village in the heart of the fjords is serenely beautiful. Even the train ride to Flåm is known as one of the most scenic train rides in the world.

Take a cruise through the fjords, kayak or hike to a waterfall. To truly relax and take in nature, give yourself at least 2 days in Flåm before continuing on your journey to your final destination, Bergen. 

Highlights:

  • Admiring the views from the scenic Flåm Railway
  • Heading out onto the water on the Nærøyfjord Cruise
  • Seeing the gorgeous Brekkefossen waterfall

Stop Three: Bergen (2 days)

The coastal city is known as the gateway to the fjords. Give yourself 3 days in Bergen to explore Bryggen and its colorful row of wooden houses along the harbor, take the Ulriken cable car ride or take a funicular up Mount Fløyen. You can even hike between Ulriken and Mount Fløyen for stellar views of the harbor and its surrounding peaks.

Be sure to eat fresh fish from the Bergen Fish Market and take a short train ride to see the beautiful Fantoft Stave Church to round out your one-week itinerary in this incredible Scandinavian country. 

Highlights:

  • Take the scenic Ulriken Cable Car for incredible views
  • Soar above the city on the Mount Fløyen funicular
  • Marvel at the Fantoft Stave Church

-Explored by Melissa from Parenthood and Passports

One Week in Europe: Alternative Itinerary Ideas

Best of Benelux: Amsterdam – Brussels – Luxembourg City

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

This European itinerary belongs to the classics: just in 7 days you will visit 3 countries and their capital cities.

It features the so-called Benelux countries Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Stop One: Amsterdam (3 days)

Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe – with its maze of canals and step-gabled canal houses, the city attracts millions of tourists each year. The best way to discover Amsterdam is on foot.

Highlights:

  • Taking a boat tour of the canals – a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Visiting the Rijksmuseum to admire Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Night Watch 
  • Stopping at Anne Frank House to learn the story behind the famous wartime diary and its author – the Jewish girl Anne Frank
  • Seeing the gorgeous tulip gardens at Keukenhof (open only from March – May)

Stop Two: Brussels (2 days)

Belgium’s capital is an amazing city where the lush architecture of the historical centre is juxtaposed to the modern buildings in the European Quarter. Brussels is also the capital of the European Union as the most EU-institutions are headquartered there.

Highlights:

  • Admiring the Grand Place with the Town Hall – a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Binging on Belgian waffles, Belgian chocolate, Belgian fries and Belgian beer
  • Checking out the Atomium

Stop Three: Luxembourg City (2 days)

Luxembourg City is a cosmopolitan city with rich historical heritage. The city was founded in 963 and is a good example of medieval defensive European architecture. Luxembourg City is, after Brussels, the city with most EU-institutions in Europe.

Highlights:

  • Visiting Grund – the old town along the Alzette River with the Neumünster Abbey and the famous casemates – a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Relaxing at one of the cafés at Place d’Armes
  • Checking out on modern and contemporary art at Casino Luxembourg and at the Museum of Modern Art Grand-Duc Jean

-Explored by Daniela of Exploring the Netherlands

Beautiful Baltics: Tallinn – Riga – Vilnius

For travelers looking to visit three countries in Europe in a week, the Baltics are the perfect place to do so — and get off the beaten path in the meantime!

The three Baltic capitals are all beautiful and compact, and the short travel distance between them (and the easy bus connections) make it quite a perfect itinerary for a seasoned Europe traveler looking for a slightly different Europe trip.

Stop One: Tallinn (3 days)

Tallinn, Estonia is a beautiful cobble-stoned city that looks straight out of a fairy tale. It has a fascinating naval history to explore at the Maritime Museum. It’s also a delicious destination for those who want to try Nordic-style cuisine at much cheaper prices. 

Highlights:

  • Exploring Tallinn’s Old Town
  • Smelling the roses in Kadriorg Park
  • Seeing the best of Estonian art at the Kumu Museum

Stop Two: Riga (2 days)

Riga, Latvia is a fascinating destination for any lover of architecture from medieval to communist styles.

Its Old Town is full of charming statues like the one of the Bremen Town Musicians. It has some of the most beautiful Art Nouveau buildings in all Europe as well as a fabulous food market.

Highlights:

  • Visiting the many churches in Riga’s Old Town
  • Admiring the Art Nouveau designs on Albert Street and in the Art Museum Riga Bourse
  • Tasting the special Latvian drink known as Black Balsam

Stop Three: Vilnius (2 days)

Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania and the best place to learn about Lithuania’s rich history.

But it’s also a vibrant university city with an exciting youth culture and street art scene. It’s also a famous destination for riding hot air balloons!

Highlights:

  • Learning about Lithuania at the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
  • Visiting the quirky independent community Uzupis
  • Tasting local delicacies like the potato dumplings known as zeppelin

-Explored by Stella Jane of Around the World in 24 Hours

Classic Poland: Warsaw – Wroclaw – Krakow

For an alternative way to spend one week in Europe, go a bit more off the beaten path and explore Poland.

A great budget destination, Poland is also incredibly rich with history, culture, and delicious food and nightlife.

Stop One: Warsaw (3 days)

Warsaw, the capital of Poland, is an incredibly special city.

Its history and style combine pre-war classic old town (that was completely ruined and rebuilt) and castles, sad memorials from Second World War and the Holocaust, post-war gray communist buildings, and modern streets with fun vibes, great shopping, and interesting Polish food.

Highlights:

  • Stroll the cobblestone streets of the old town of Warsaw
  • Watch the view from the Palace of Culture and Science
  • Visit the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

Stop 2: Wroclaw (1 day)

Wroclaw is one of the most beautiful cities in Poland, and maybe in Europe.

The colorful houses, the Oder river, and the impressive cathedrals make you feel as if you are walking inside a 200-year-old painting!

Highlights:

  • Climb up the St. Elizabeth’s Church Tower to get an amazing view of the old town
  • Cross Tumski bridge (the Lovers’ bridge). If you are with your loved one, add your own lock to the bridge.
  • Follow the mini dwarf statues in between the city’s landmarks

Stop 3: Krakow (3 days)

Krakow is the second largest city in Warsaw and the historic capital of Poland (until 1596).

The city is an extensive cultural heritage, and the entire old town was declared a UNESCO world heritage site.  It is also a city of students and is renowned for its nightlife scene.

Highlights:

  • Visit the Wawel Royal Castle, the beautifully preserved 14th-century castle
  • Grab a beer at Rynek Główny – Europe’s largest medieval market square
  • Take a somber day trip to Auschwitz concentration camp to learn about Holocaust history.

Explored by Moshe of The Top Ten Traveler

Best of Bosnia: Sarajevo – Konjic – Mostar

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a beautiful country off the beaten path of Europe, and it’s a great place for a one week Europe trip for seasoned travelers.

While Bosnia and Herzegovina isn’t the easiest country in Europe to travel — language barriers and infrastructure issues are a concern — it may be one of the most rewarding, with kind-hearted people, fascinating (and at times tragic) history, and incredible landscapes. Here’s a Bosnia itinerary to follow:

Stop One: Sarajevo (3 days)

Sarajevo is Europe’s most multicultural city. The charming old town allows you to travel back to Ottoman times, but there is great Austro-Hungarian architecture too. With its scenic location in the hills there are a variety of things to do.  

Highlights:

  • Walking through the cobbled stone streets of the Bascarsija
  • Enjoying the Panorama views over Sarajevo from the Yellow fortress
  • Learning about the Bosnian civil war at the Tunnel museum and Galerija 11/07/95.

Stop Two: Konjic (1 day)

Konjic is a small town with a beautiful Ottoman bridge spanning the Neretva river. Recently it became more famous for being home to a secret nuclear bunker built by Tito. It also serves as a gateway to the spectacular natural beauty that surrounds the city.  

Highlights:

  • A visit to Tito’s bunker
  • Rafting over the Neretva river
  • Walking over the ancient Ottoman bridge.

Stop Three: Mostar (3 days)

Mostar is one of Bosnia’s most picturesque towns that is famous for its historic Ottoman old town from the 15th century. Although it was destroyed during the war everything was beautifully renovated, including its iconic bridge spanning the Neretva river. 

Highlights:

  • Watching the locals jump off the Stari Most bridge
  • Shopping for souvenirs in the old town
  • Visiting the Dervish monastery in Blagaj

-Explored by Ellis Veen of Backpack Adventures

Best of Czechia: Pilsen – Karlovy Vary – Prague

Most travelers to Czechia never make it past Prague, but if you want to see some of the best of this Central European gem, head a bit off the beaten path and explore cute other towns like Pilsen and Karlovy Vary.

Czechia’s small size makes it perfect for a leisurely one week in Europe, and here’s how to do it.

Stop One: Pilsen (2 days)

The beautiful Czech city of Pilsen is most well known for the beer derived from the destination. It’s located in the western Czech Republic and is wrapped in charming city parks hugging a medieval town center. 

Highlights:

  • Visit the Pilsner Urquell Brewery for a tour and tasting
  • Climb to the top of the Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew for a panoramic view of the city
  • Explore the old city and Pilsen’s Great Synagogue, the second-largest in Europe

Stop Two: Karlovy Vary (2 days)

Karlovy Vary is a picturesque spa town in West Bohemia. This Czech city has been a favorite of global celebrities and nobility since the early 19th century. The thermal springs have defined the city with visitors flocking to the spas that have emerged from them.

Highlights:

  • Hike to the many lookouts around the city of Karlovy Vary like the famous Diana’s Lookout
  • Book a spa treatment at one of the best thermal baths in Europe
  • Taste the waters from any of the hot springs fountains in the city’s colonnades

Stop Three: Prague (3 days)

The cultural center of the Czech Republic, Prague is a must-visit European capital. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in Europe with incredible architecture, art, history, and culture. It’s bisected by the Vltava River and has been a crucial trading center in Central Europe for hundreds of years.

Highlights:

  • Visit historic Prague Castle and the iconic Saint Vitus Cathedral
  • Walk across the famous Charles Bridge and admire the sculptures that line it
  • Wander Old Town Square and catch the hourly performance of Prague’s Astronomical Clock

-Explored by Derek & Mike of Robe Trotting

Best of Bulgaria: Sofia – Bansko – Melnik

Bulgaria is a beautiful and underrated part of Europe that travelers often miss, but that’s why it’s such a true hidden gem, a rare place where you can escape mass tourism in Europe.

This itinerary covers the capital, Sofia, as well as two small but quaint towns that are great for travelers looking for a less hectic one week in Europe itinerary.

Stop One: Sofia (3 days) 

Sofia is the country’s biggest city and the capital of Bulgaria.

The city has everything that you might wish for: cultural and historical heritage, amazing cuisine, exciting nightlife, plenty of parks and even its own mountain, Vitosha! 

Highlights:

  • Explore the ruins of the Roman city Serdika 
  • Visit Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia’s most iconic landmark
  • Go on a day trip to Plovdiv or the Seven Rila Lakes

Stop Two: Bansko (2 days)

The town of Bansko is one of the best places to visit in Bulgaria for hiking lovers and winter sports enthusiasts.

Located at the foot of Pirin Mountain, Bansko is famous for its distinctive architecture, stone houses, its wood-carving school, and the traditional Pirin songs as well as cuisine.

Highlights:

  • Hike in summer and ski or snowboard in winter 
  • Wander around the pretty Old Town 
  • Check out the oldest tree in Bulgaria, Baikushev’s pine (1,300 years old!) in Pirin National Park

Stop Three: Melnik (2 days)

Melnik is the smallest city in Bulgaria.

Situated among sand pyramids with bizarre forms, this little town attracts its visitors with its ancient houses and aromatic wines. The town is declared as a cultural-historical reserve. 

Highlights

  • Wine tasting along the Melnik Wine Route
  • Visit Rozhen Monastery 
  • Stop by the Kordopulov House

Explored by Bilyana of Owl Over The World 

Best of Portugal: Lisbon – Sintra – Porto

The best of Portugal can easily be seen in a week, meaning it’s a great introduction to Europe if you only have one week.

You’ll get to see the vibrant capital of Lisbon, the fairytale castles of Sintra, and the romantic azulejos of Porto all in an easy one week Europe trip.

Stop One: Lisbon (3 days)

Lisbon is one of the most vibrant cities in Portugal, filled with historical landmarks, museums, scenic lookout points, and charming neighborhoods. It’s also a fantastic destination for foodies and those looking for a buzzing nightlife scene.

Highlights:

  • Visiting the 11th-century São Jorge Castle.
  • Attending a Fado show to enjoy the soulful, most symbolic Portuguese music.
  • Exploring the important and unique National Tile Museum, housed in a 16th-century former convent.

Stop Two: Sintra (2 days)

Sintra is the queen city of beautiful palaces and castles, which gave it the title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s also a great base for exploring the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.

Highlights:

  • Admiring the colorful 19th-century Pena Palace – one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
  • Visiting the intriguing Convent of the Capuchos.
  • Living a fairytale at the dreamy Quinta da Regaleira palace.

Stop Three: Porto (2 days)

Sitting on the Douro River, Porto is a beautiful city perfect for travelers who love wine, good food, interesting landmarks and museums, and “wanderable” historic centers. It’s also a perfect base for exploring the Douro Valley.

Highlights:

  • Admiring the 18th-century Carmo Church and its stunning Azulejo tiles.
  • Getting lost in the maze of the narrow, colorful streets of the neighborhood of Ribeira.
  • Crossing the Luís I Bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia to visit some cellars and enjoy the best port wine tasting tours.

Explored by Or from My Path in the World 

East of the Iron Curtain: Berlin – Prague – Budapest

For history lovers, a one week Europe trip covering Berlin, Prague, and Budapest will allow you to visit 3 European capital cities in 3 different countries that were all formerly behind the Iron Curtain.

If you’re curious to see beautiful European cities while also learning more about the history of the 20th century, this is the perfect one week Europe itinerary for you.

Stop One: Berlin (2 days)

The quirky city of Berlin is unlike any other in Germany – and the world! Not only does it have buckets of history but there are plenty of alternative things to do in Berlin popular with young travellers and locals. 

Highlights

  • Learn about Berlin Wall history by visiting the Berlin Wall Museum and checking out the street art that now covers the remaining section
  • Explore quirky museums like the David Hasselhoff Museum!
  • Alternative nightlife – check out warehouse parties, discos in refurbished phone booths and friendly LGBTQ+ bars

Stop Two: Prague (2 days)

The capital of the Czech Republic is a fantastic place for history and architecture lovers especially those who love castles. Although it gets cold in the winter, you can warm up over hearty Czech cuisine and affordable Czech beer. 

Highlights

  • Drink in panoramic views of Prague from Vyšehrad viewpoint or Letna Park
  • Explore Prague Castle dating back to the 9th century 
  • Take photos at colourful and quirky John Lennon Wall

Stop Three: Budapest (2 days)

The beautiful city of Budapest is another one with classic architecture and history in abundance but also a quirky side and off-beat attractions. You can explore the best of both worlds during a 2 day Budapest itinerary.

Highlights

  • Soak in the famous Széchenyi Spa Baths
  • Catch the funicular up to Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion on top of Buda Hill
  • Have a drink in quirky ruin bar, Simpla Kertz and others set inside refurbished buildings.

-Explored by Rose of Where Goes Rose

Mini Balkans Tour: Kotor – Dubrovnik – Mostar

The Balkans is a complex region covering 12 countries and numerous languages, currencies, and traditions. Transit between countries can be time-consuming, and a proper trip through the Balkans definitely requires more than just one week in Europe.

However, this mini Balkans itinerary with stops in Montenegro, Croatia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina takes advantage of a particularly beautiful corner of the Balkans where you can easily visit three Balkan countries in just 7 days in Europe.

Stop One: Kotor (2 days)

Kotor is an ancient port city in Montenegro on the Adriatic coast. The city is on the UNESCO world heritage list. Kotor is famous for its churches, walls and astounding views.

Highlights:

  • Wander through the old town with many beautiful buildings, narrow streets, restaurants, terraces, small shops, and unique squares.
  • Climb the over 1200 stairs towards the fort, towering over the city. The rewards are stunning views over Kotor and the Bay of Kotor.
  • Take a boat tour in the Bay of Kotor. For the views on Kotor and to visit the town of Perast and the island Our Lady of the Rocks.

Stop Two: Dubrovnik (3 days)

Dubrovnik is another beautiful port city on the Adriatic Sea in Croatia. It’s a famous, walled city with red-tiled roofed houses. Visitable in one day in Dubrovnik, but it’s more relaxed in 2 days.

Highlights:

  • Walk on the medieval walls, surrounding the old town of Dubrovnik. Admire the city and its buildings from above.
  • Wander through the old town with its Stradun (main) street and old buildings like the Onofrio fountain.
  • Go up Srd Mountain with a cable car to have a perfect view over Dubrovnik.

Stop Three: Mostar (2 day)

Mostar is a city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, famous because of the bridge Stari Most. The bridge was destroyed during the Bosnian-Croatian war and rebuilt in the early 2000s.

Highlights:

  • Walk over Stari Most, the famous steep bridge. Admire it also from afar.
  • Take the Mostar Free Walking Tour, a walking tour with a local. Learn more about the city and its history.
  • Sit down at a terrace and try a Bosnian coffee.

-Explored by Cosette from KarsTravels

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One Day in Prague Itinerary (From Someone Who Lived There!)

Prague is a truly spectacular city that, personally, I could visit and revisit endlessly.

I spent six months living in Prague studying abroad, and even in those six months, I never found myself running out of places to explore or new hidden gems to uncover.

Returning to the city many years later, I fell in love with it all over again, re-dedicating myself to exploring and finding little hidden corners of the city to fall in love with, and eating as much Czech food as could possibly fill my stomach.

I’m hoping to convey my love to Prague for you in this quick one day Prague itinerary, helping you to see the city through the eyes of someone who lived there, loved it, and will always keep a piece of Prague in their heart.

I hope you enjoy this quick 1 day in Prague itinerary and that it helps you capture a piece of Prague for your own heart, too!

How This One Day in Prague Itinerary Is Structured

Astronomical clock in Prague surrounded by other old buildings with afternoon light shining on it.

This post is your one-stop guide to tackling the best of Prague in one day.

During my six months living in Prague, several friends came to visit, and I had the opportunity to show several visitors around the city in my days there!

As a result, I’ve figured out the best way to route a single day in Prague itinerary without missing any of the highlights, but still adding on a few of Prague’s hidden gems.

This one day in Prague game plan skips the tourist traps and brings you straight to the essential attractions, while also granting you an inside glance at one of of the prettiest cities in Europe and one of my favorite places on the planet.

This Prague mini-itinerary includes a few guided tours where it helps you save time or adds essential historic context, but for the most part, it leaves you free to roam around the city for independent exploration and fortuitous wanderings down beautiful streets.

Is 1 Day in Prague Enough?

The view of the famous Prague church from a high vantange point, people down in the square looking very small, with lots of red roof architecture and pastel building facades surrounding the church in the middle of the photo.

If you ask me, not quite…. but don’t despair just yet! One day in Prague is just the right amount of time to enjoy an introduction to the city and its main attractions.

With only a day in Prague, you won’t quite get a feel for the city outside of its most popular attractions, but it is definitely enough time to snap plenty of beautiful photographs, see the top attractions, and swear up and down that you’ll come back to Prague another day to spend more time in this beautiful, magical city.

On this 24 hour Prague itinerary, we’ll cover some important attractions — Prague Castle and the St. Vitus Cathedral, Charles Bridge, the Astronomical Clock, the Old Town — but we won’t quite get to everywhere. But we’ll do our best!

One Day in Prague Map

Your One Day Prague Itinerary

Morning: Kolaches, the Charles Bridge, & Prague Castle

Start the day with a tasty koláč.

Four different colorful kolache Czech pastries, with black, orange, yellow, and red jams, a great way to start a day in Prague.

Start your day bright and early so you have time to tackle this one day in Prague itinerary properly! I suggest getting a start at 8 AM if you want to be at the Charles Bridge by 10 AM for the tour. But first — breakfast!

If you’ve ever had a kolache in the Midwest or Texas, you may not have known it, but you were eating a traditional Czech pastry!

What is known is Czech as koláč (koláče in plural form) has been transliterated into English as kolache — I guess in default as plural because it’s pretty much impossible to eat just one!

Koláče in Czechia are lightly sweetened pastries similar to a small, handheld pie, consisting of dough baked with a sweet filling or either jam or poppy seeds (my favorite!).

You can find them all over the city, but my favorite are at the cute gingerbread shop Perníčkův sen in the Old Town.

While they specialize in gingerbreads, their other pastries are absolutely delicious as well, as it’s a great place to grab a Prague souvenir for a loved one!

Walk through Old Town to the Kafka Monument.

Bronze statue of a headless, armless man with a man with a hat sitting on top of his shoulders, with a city background behind the sculpture.

Prague is, rightly, proud of one of the city’s most famous writers, Franz Kafka.

As a matter of fact, you’ll find countless Kafka references all around the city, in the form of museums, placards, tongue-in-cheek statues, and more.

As you walk through the Old Town towards the base of the Charles Bridge down, you’ll notice a strange statue: a headless, armless giant man with a man (Franz Kafka) sitting on top of it.

Why a headless man? It’s a tribute to one of Kafka’s strangest and earliest works, “Description of a Struggle.”

It’s located right in front of the Spanish Synagogue in the heart of Jewish Prague — don’t worry, we’ll come back here later in the afternoon for even more sightseeing.

Admire the the Rudolfinum.

Gold-yellow symmetrical music house with two stories and tons of ornate detailing with a statue in front and green hedges and plants.

This stunning pale yellow music hall is home to the Prague Philharmonic. It’s one of my favorite buildings in Prague, a perfect example of the delicate, pastel 19th century architecture that defines the city.

We’ll just stop here briefly to admire the architecture and the views over the Vltava River — it’s onto our next stop on this Prague itinerary. Also while here, don’t miss the statue in tribute to Prague’s most famous composer, Antonín Dvořák.

Side note: If you’re a fan of modern sculpture, you can take a quick detour to the Jan Palach memorial, a two-part memorial featuring The House of Suicide and the House of the Mother of Suicide.

Jan Palach was a Czech student who lit himself on fire in Wenceslas Square to protest the Soviet’s violent repression of the peaceful Prague Spring reforms. His self-immolation shocked Czech society and led to several other such suicide protests in then-Czechoslovakia and other Soviet-occupied countries.

There is another more traditional memorial to Jan Palach and Jan Zajíc in front of the National Museum in Wenceslas Square, but personally, I like the abstract nature of this piece.

Walk across the Charles Bridge to Malá Strana.

Walking across the Charles Bridge towards Mala Strana and the Castle District, buildings with red roofs on the side and observation towers and a basilica dome in the background.

Stroll down Křižovnická to the Charles Bridge (Karlův most), where you’ll cross the bridge over the Vltava. This beautiful river bisects Prague into the Castle side and the Old Town side.

As you cross the Charles Bridge, admire the beauty of this bridge which was begun in the 14th-century (construction finished in the 15th century) and still stands today.

You’ll pass by many statues as you cross the bridge — 15 on each side, 30 in total — all replicas after being replaced due to theft and vandalism.

As you cross the bridge into Malá Strana (Lesser Town) and Hradčany (the Castle District), look back over the bridge to the Old Town — it’s a spectacular sight!

Note: Pickpockets love to lurk on Charles Bridge and other popular tourist destinations, so be sure to have a secure day bag to thwart would-be thieves.

Skip the money belt (you’re not fooling anyone) and opt for a secure bag instead. I’ve carried this PacSafe backpack to 30+ countries with me, and it’s my #1 travel companion. This chic, sleek backpack has double-interlocking zippers, slash-proof construction, and RFID blockers! Pick from one of seven colors — I have and love the classic black one!

Once you get to the other side of Charles Bridge, turn right and walk up U Lužického Semináře through the Lesser Town (Malá Strana), passing the beautiful Vojanovy sady park until the street turns into Klárov, then turning left once you hit the Old Castle Stairs (Staré zámecké schody).

Marvel at the majestic Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral.

Interior landscaped gardens of the Prague Castle, with statues, green low hedges, buildings with interesting tile work, and red roofed architecture.

Welcome to the Prague Castle complex!

The Prague Castle is the number one tourist attraction in all of Czechia, so you’ll definitely want to be strategic about your visit if you only have one day in Prague.

If you just show up at the Prague Castle in the middle of the day without a ticket pre-booked, expect to wait at least an hour, if not more — a lot more in summer, in fact.

I strongly suggest buying a skip-the-line ticket and tour online in advance, so that you can make the most of your time in Prague but also to fully understand the immense amount of history behind the Prague Castle.

While there is some signage and you won’t be totally lost at sea without a tour, having a guide to bring the story of the castle to life and imbue the sights with historical color amps up the experience times ten. Also, skipping the line like a VIP is pretty cool!

Book this skip-the-line tour online in advance!

The interior of a cathedral with stained glass and high arch ceilings with rows of pews

There are so many points of interest in the Prague Castle complex that I’d be doing you a disservice to try to describe them all briefly in this article, which is why I strongly suggest a tour.

If time is really limited and you can’t do a tour, make sure you visit the following main attractions: St. Vitus Cathedral (an absolute must), the Old Royal Palace, and the Story of Prague Castle permanent exhibit which details as much history as possible into a short exhibition.

The Golden Lane is also beautiful and infinitely Instagrammable — and as an added bonus for literature fans, #22 used to be the house of Franz Kafka’ s sister, and where Kafka wrote some of his works!

Afternoon: Lunch, A Walk in Petřín, & the Old Town

Grab lunch and beer at Strahov Monastery.

A view from the side of Strahov monastery, a white monastery with a red tiled roof and two towers, on the top of a small hill.

One of the coolest places to have a meal and a beer near Prague Castle is at Strahov Monastery, a nearly 900-year-old monastery!

While in my American mind, it’s a bit strange to equate monks and beer, in reality, monastery-brewed beer has a long tradition in Europe… and it’s delicious).

Klášterní Pivovar Strahov, the monastery brewery, serves over 25 beers brewed on the monastery premises as well as a selection of food.

Recommended dishes include beef tartare (Prague is famous for it!), goulash with bread dumplings (guláš s knedlícky), and pork schnitzel, but you can check their menu here.

Prices are reasonable given the location, about $10 USD per main dish, though of course, you can find some cheaper meals elsewhere in Prague. However, with only one day in Prague, why skimp?

An ornate library room with a pastel painted ceiling with lots of detailing and rows upon rows of books with wooden shelves and carved wood detail.

Insider Tip: If you have time, be sure to check out the Strahov Library!

A visit to the library (plus photography permission) is 200 CZK, about $9 USD, and it’s well worth it to see one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. An absolute must for bibliophiles. Check here for more details.

Scale up Petřín Tower’s 300 stairs.

View of Prague park and distinctive red tiled roofs from the double-helix staircase of Petrin Tower, between the steel geometrical bars.

For one of the most incredible views in Prague that’s just a little bit off the beaten path that most tourists trod, head to the lovely and underrated Petřín Park.

The walk up to Petřín Tower is a short walk from the monastery, but if you want to cut some corners on the way down, you can take the funicular down.

We’ll explore the park in more detail in a bit, but first, head straight to Petřín Tower. This cool observation tower measures 63.5 meters (208 feet) tall, but its placement on Petřín Hill means the views are even more extraordinary than its height would suggest!

Petřín Tower resembles the Eiffel Tower quite a bit, making it a fantastic photo spot, and the views from the top are spectacular… and well worth the 300 stairs you need to climb for the view. Note that there is no elevator. Admission is 150 CZK (about $7 USD).

Admire the statues and gardens in Petřín Park.

Sculptures of men on a set of stairs, the men appear to be torn or decaying with pieces missing from the sculptures

There a lot more to beautiful Petřín Park than just its tower, though! This park is home to some of Prague’s most beautiful gardens. I particularly love the Kinsky gardens, which is an English-style garden with a fantastic view.

Another interesting thing to see in the park is at the bottom of the hill, the Memorial to the Victims of Communism. This haunting memorial commemorates the losses of thousands of lives while Czechoslovakia was under Communist occupation as well as the hundreds of thousands who fled and emigrated.

The piece is particularly interesting when you start looking at it more closely.

“In the upper part of the memorial, you can see 7 persons walking on stairs. The first person seems to be all right, but one can clearly observe that the others are missing something of their anatomy, which should symbolize the suffering of the prisoners, their courage and resilience.”

Prague.eu

Grab a coffee at Café Savoy.

Cup of coffee in a cafe with lit up chandeliers and other lighting in background.

After all that walking around Petřín, it’s a good time to stop and rest those feet for a second in one of Prague’s most beautiful coffee shops.

There are a number of traditional Prague coffee houses to go to, but let’s stop at Café Savoy, a beautiful coffee shop whose wood-carved interior evokes the coffee houses of Vienna after which this café was modeled.

Prices are a little high, but it’s worth it for a coffee and perhaps a slice of cake in one of Prague’s prettiest, most nostalgic cafés.

Cross Legion Bridge.

View of Legion Bridge from the water with a view of some novelty water boats (such as swan boats) in the water. Prague Castle is in the background.

Legion Bridge (Most Legií in Czech) is another bridge connecting the two sides of Prague, and it’s great because it’ll give you a different perspective of the famous Charles Bridge!

Once you reach the other end of Legion Bridge, you’ll notice the beautiful National Theater (Národní divadlo), where you should stop for at least one or two photos!

Walk towards Wenceslas Square, where we’ll learn a bit about the history of this famous place in Prague.

Take in the history of Wenceslas Square.

The National Gallery building with a green dome on the rooftop and sculptures on either side, flowers in the foreground of the photo.

Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí in Czech) is one of the most important places in Prague’s history for a number of reasons, and it’s played a particularly pivotal role in the country’s history in the last century as a place for protest, resistance, and remembrance.

Wencenlas Square is truly massive, capable of holding at least a hundred thousand people (and it often has), which means it’s been the inflection point for several important historical events in Prague, such as the Prague Spring and the Velvet Revolution.

It was the site of Jan Palach’s historic self-immolation act of protest mentioned earlier in this article, and you’ll find a memorial to him in front of the National Museum, reopened in 2018 after nearly a decade of renovation.

You’ll also see the famous Statue of Saint Wenceslas in front of the museum, as well as several beautiful Art Nouveau buildings (Hotel Paříž and Hotel Evropa both come to mind) lining Wenceslas Square.

Stroll to the Old Town.

The Old Astronomical Clock with lots of painted detail and on the right side the Our Lady Before Tyn Church with two distinct spires, lots of pastel buildings around the square with cobblestone walkways.

Once you’ve checked out Wenceslas Square, you’ll want to stroll over to the Old Town… luckily, it’s quite a short and pretty walk.

I think the most beautiful way to enter the Old Town past the Mustek metro stop and through Melantrichova. I’m partial to this walk because it was my daily commute when living and studying in Prague, but I think it stands for itself!

Once you arrive in the Old Town, prepare to be amazed: this is one of the most spectacular Old Towns in all of Europe, and I’ve seen enough of them to feel confident making that claim!

Look immediately to your left once entering the Old Town to see one of my favorite buildings in Prague, Dům U Minuty (House at the Minute). This beautiful building dates back to the 15th century and is adorned with exquisitely detailed sgraffito work on the facade. It was also Franz Kafka’s home from 1889 to 1896!

And of course, you can’t miss the Astronomical Clock, which is mounted on the Old Town Hall (Staroměstská radnice). The clock dates back to 1410, making it the oldest still-operational astronomical clock in the world.

Be sure to ascend the tower at the Old Town Hall for stunning views over the Old Town. Save time by prebooking your ticket to the town hall’s observation tower — you can pick it up right at the 3rd floor where you can exchange a mobile voucher for a paper ticket.

Prebook your entrance tower ticket here!

Other places you must see while in the Old Town include the beautiful Church of Our Lady before Týn, with its two Gothic towers that soar 80 meters (260 feet) in the air. St. Nicholas Church is another church in the square, smaller and done in the Baroque style but no less lovely (and a frequent host of organ concerts!).

A few other points of interest in the Old Town Square include a branch of the National Gallery of Prague located in the lovely Kinsky Palace and the enormous Jan Hus monument in the center of the Square.

Arrive at the Jewish Museum.

Gravestones stacked up on top of each other in the Old Jewish Cemetery with greenery growing around it, a small building in the middle of the gravestone with a red roof.

Finally, hurry to the Jewish Museum! Try to arrive no later than 4:30 PM in order to properly have enough time to see this museum, which is more of a complex of buildings, before it closes at 6 PM.

The Jewish Museum consists of four synagogues (the Maisel, Pinkas, Spanish, and Klausen synagogues), the Old Jewish Cemetery, some archives and galleries, and more.

The museum contains over 40,000 exhibits of artifacts and objects related to Jewish life and history, so it can be a bit overwhelming to take in. If you have limited time, prioritize the beautiful Spanish Synagogue as well as the Old Jewish Cemetery, home to over 100,000 graves.

For three centuries, it was the only place Jews could be buried in the city, and it is the oldest existing Jewish burial ground in Europe.

For more information on Prague’s rich Jewish history, read here.

You can buy your tickets online here.

Evening: A Dazzling Dinner Cruise & Exploring Prague by Night

Dine with Vltava views.

Blue hour in Prague with lots of lights on in the city, reflecting in the water, you can see Charles Bridge, a watchtower, and distinctive Prague architecture in the skyline.

Once you’ve wandered all over Prague, you’re probably dying for a little time off your feet!

But if you don’t want the sightseeing to end, a dinner cruise on the Vltava River is a phenomenal way to end your one day in Prague.

You’ll get stellar views of the Castle District, the Old Town, Lesser Town, the waterfront, and more while toasting with a complimentary glass of prosecco and enjoying a traditional Czech meal to the sound of live music.

Dinner cruises last 3 hours, from 7 PM to 10 PM, and they arrive and depart by Čechův Bridge.

Tip: For a romantic option or a special occasion, be sure to request a window seat!

Book your dinner Vltava river cruise here!

Traveling with kids? You may prefer this medieval-themed dinner, which includes swordsmen and jugglers and all manner of performers… while adults can kick back and enjoy unlimited drinks! Book your medieval dinner here.

Walk over to the Dancing House.

The Dancing House building lit up at night: two buildings intertwined together with  a movement that makes them look like they're dancing, with light trails on the street in the foreground.

As your day in Prague draws to an end, make one final stop at the Dancing House (Tančící dům), also known as Fred and Ginger.

This whimsical architectural marvel is a collaboration between the Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić and Canadian-American Frank Gehry.

At night, the beautiful building all lit up is even more lovely and magical!

Call it a night or continue exploring Prague nightlife.

A man's hands making a cocktail, which looks to be a whiskey old fashioned, with an orange peel garnish, in a dark bar.

By now, I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to call it quits and turn in for the night!

However, if you wish to keep the night going, I do have a few suggestions.

If you’d like to a see a quiet, hip side to the city, leave the Old Town and head to Vinohrady, my favorite neighborhood in Prague.

Manesova Bar & Books is a chic cigar bar with a cozy library feel and is a great place for a nightcap if you don’t mind a little smoky ambiance.

If it’s the summer time, join the locals at Riegrovy Sady beer garden. And finally, if you want to check out Czech wine (and you should!), Vínečko Wine Bar is a great place to grab a low-key glass of wine.

If you don’t mind going a little further afield, Holešovice is a super-fun neighborhood off the beaten path in Prague — check out Cross Club for a guaranteed fun night out.

Where to Stay for One Day in Prague

Pastel colored facades in the Old Town as seen through an old stone gate

For tourists, Prague 1 and 2 are the most popular districts. I personally prefer the area around Vinohrady and the Old Town, though some people may prefer to be closer to the Castle District (Malá Strana and Hradčany)

I’ve noted my top picks for each type of traveler – budget, boutique, and luxury travelers – to make the hard choice a little easier!

Budget | Czech Inn

Combining beautifully European architecture and budget prices, this hostel provides affordable luxury to their guests with a fun vibe.

Most of the interiors are designed by Olga Novotná, a beloved Czech designer, and she uses eclectic kinds of materials to create a cozy and warm feeling for guests in the common areas and rooms.

They have private rooms, apartments, shared rooms and premium dorm room, all with huge windows that allow natural lighting inside.

The best part of the hotel is the Czech Inn Bar, which is situated underneath the hotel. It’s a great place if you’re looking for a budget-friendly stay with a social vibe.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Boutique | Le Palais Art Hotel

Want to feel like you’re staying in an art museum? That’s Le Palais in a nutshell. Upon entering its main hall, you will see a grand chandelier, matched by exquisite décor and furniture A lot of paintings are also on display in its hallways and rooms, which almost act as if a gallery.

Luxurious Ligne St. Barth toiletries are provided in their ensuite bathrooms. Some rooms even have a tub where you can soak after a long day of sight-seeing!

There’s also a wellness center and fitness center, and several other fantastic 4* amenities to make your stay in Prague both stylish and comfortable.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Luxury | Aria Hotel Prague

This beautiful luxury hotel (which has a partner hotel in Budapest) offers 5-star amenities with a tasteful music theme. The rooms are all inspired by the different types of music like opera, jazz, and classical music. They also named each room after famous musicians and music personalities.  

The rooms have a classic, simple, and elegant style taken up a notch with velvet upholstered sofas and seating. The suite-type rooms also have a living area and kitchenette that easily helps you feel right at home.

Inside, Coda Restaurant has an art deco interior located on the rooftop terrace.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

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2 Days in Madrid: Itinerary for a Weekend in Madrid

Madrid is a fantastic city, full of life, food, and culture. Whereas most people in the world end up adoring Barcelona, I ended up head over heels for Madrid. Even in the peak season in Madrid, the tourists feel dispersed (as long as you’re not waiting in line for the Prado, but that’s another story…) and prices are reasonable.

The backbone of any good Madrid itinerary is picking a central and fantastic neighborhood. Since you only have 2 days in Madrid, you’re going to want to stay somewhere central.

If you’re trying to decide what neighborhood in Madrid to stay in, here’s my personal choice: Puerta del Sol. This neighborhood is the heart and soul of Madrid, and our Airbnb was right in the thick of it.

We took full advantage of our prime situation and dove into the Spanish style of life – eating, snacking, drinking, repeat. Oh, and I guess a bit of tourism squeezed in between bites of luxurious ham and gulps of fantastic Rioja. 

2 Day Madrid Itinerary: Day 1

Start at Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol is the neighborhood I recommend you stay in if you have only a short amount of time like 2 days in Madrid. But in case you’re staying elsewhere in the city, make your way over to Puerta del Sol to start your Madrid itinerary here.

This is one of the busiest and best-known squares in Madrid, and quite literally the center of the city, as all the main roads radiate outwards from this central point.

There are a few important points in Puerta del Sol: the Real Casa de Correos, an old post office that is now home to the President of Madrid’s Autonomous Community, the Kilometer 0 stone, the “Bear and the Strawberry Tree” statue, and the giant Tio Pepe advertisement that’s now part of Puerta del Sol’s skyline.

Have ham for breakfast at Museo del Jamón

Do I seem a bit ridiculous suggesting you start your 2 days in Madrid by shoving your face with ham? I’m sorry, but I simply must.

(If ham for breakfast is too much of an ask, I recommend a breakfast pastry at La Mallorquina in Puerta del Sol)

Museo de Jamón (Calle Mayor, 7) is truly a pork lovers’ dream, literally packed wall to wall with enormous cuts of ham in every shape and size. And it’s cheap. As in, I wonder how they even turn a profit cheap.

Museo del Jamon Sol Madrid

We got a heaping plate of four different kinds of ham and manchego cheese for less than 8 euros. A beer? 90 cents (and that’s not even the small caña size, which will only set you back 50 cents) AND it comes with a snack. While you could skip the caña of beer since it is technically breakfast, I say screw it – if you only have two days in Madrid, you may as well live them to the fullest. 

I loved Museo del Jámon so much that I went twice: once at night during the Madrid Pride festivities, when it was jam packed with drunken revelers taking a wise break to refuel before returning to the debauchery. We loved it so much we went back again less than 12 hours later for breakfast, where we each had an espresso and a croissant, ham, and cheese sandwich for less than 3 euros apiece.

Not a fan of ham? There are plenty of other great breakfast and brunch spots in Madrid.

(Note: True ham fiends may want to check out this ham & wine walking tour, offered a few times a week)

Location: Calle Mayor, 7

Visit the beautiful Almudena Cathedral

Just a short walk from the Royal Palace, you can’t miss the gorgeous Almudena Cathedral in the Madrid skyline.

Although this cathedral is considered young and relatively new, its beautiful look today belies a history of more than a century of problematic construction. You see, Francisco de Cubas originally wanted to construct a pantheon to honor the late Queen Maria in the second half of the 19th century, influenced by 18th century French Gothic design.

Even though the first stone was laid in 1879, following religious developments, the plans changed for the structure that was planned to be a pantheon to be a cathedral instead. Its crypts opened in 1911, but they were shut down because of the civil war that came on as a result of the Franco fascist regime. Decades after, it ran at a smaller capacity, until it was redesigned and then fully finished in 1993.

While it may be a new building in a city filled with older architecture, I still think it’s worth visiting for its interesting history and gorgeous look that blends into the more jam-packed Madrid cityscape in a beautiful fashion.

Location: Calle de Bailén, 10

Head to the Royal Palace for some culture

Now, pretend you didn’t just shove your face full of ham and beer at my behest and get some culture at the lovely Royal Palace, one of the most important places in all of Madrid (and Spain in general).

Madrid has stood long before it became the capital of Spain. Its original name was Magerit. The spot where the city’s fortress once stood is now where the Royal Palace stands today. Because the old fort burned down, King Philip V ordered a new palace to be built.

It was inspired by the Louvre and as a result of that inspiration, it also has sprawling grounds, gardens, and fountains. The palace has over 3,000 rooms, which include the Main Staircase, Throne Room, the Guards Room, and many more. It’s one of the most visited historic buildings in Spain, and for a very good reason!

Location: Calle de Bailén

Visit a real Egyptian temple in the middle of Madrid

The Temple of Debod is a true piece of Egyptian history in the heart of Madrid. However, unlike most Egyptian artifacts you can find in the West (cough British Museum cough), this temple was actually a gift from Egypt to the city of Madrid!

It was originally constructed in the 2nd century BC, by the orders of the Meroe King of Egypt. The temple was dedicated to the god Amun and goddess Isis, with gorgeous high reliefs carved into the stone.

Egypt gifted this temple to Madrid in the 20th century to protect the city of floods. It was disassembled from its original location and then rebuilt stone by stone when everything was transported. The temple opened to the public in 1972 and it’s been one of Cuartel de la Montaña’s biggest attractions ever since.

Walk back through the Plaza de España

With its massive monument to the legendary author Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, it’s hard to miss Plaza de España on your walk back towards Puerta del Sol, where your lunch stop is.

Near the Plaza, there are a few quick points of interest to note. First is one of the tallest buildings in the city, Torre de Madrid at 142 meters/466 feet tall, and Edificio España at 117 meters/384 feet. Combined with the statue of Miguel de Cervantes, it’s one of the most iconic photos of Madrid.

Another interesting building to note is the gorgeous House of Gallardo, dating back to 1911 and emblematic of the strong Art Nouveau movement that took place in Madrid around the turn of the century.

Have a lunch of vermouth and a few bites to eat at Mercado San Miguel

The covered marketplace of Mercado San Miguel is a great introduction to tapas. My favorite eats there were the sweet and savory toasts piled high with mozzarella or burrata, the olive and pickled vegetable skewers called bandarillas, and some delicious vermouth with orange and ice for a single euro fifty.

Olives, check. Pickled peppers, check. Self-control, not pictured.
Olives, check. Pickled peppers, check. Self-control, not pictured.

Don’t eat too much here, though – this Madrid itinerary has you scheduled for a dinner walking tour exploring the tapas scene of this city at 7 PM, so you’ll want to save your appetite for later.

Location: Plaza de San Miguel

Stroll La Latina

One of my favorite neighborhoods in Madrid is La Latina. The Basílica de San Francisco El Grande is one can’t-miss place in La Latina, and it provides an interesting contrast to the newness of the Almudena Cathedral near the Royal Palace. Dating back to 1760, the church is one of five Royal Basilicas of Madrid and has three chapels, including a beautiful painting by the famous Spanish artist Francisco De Goya.

Another interesting part of La Latina is the Mercado de la Cebada, which has become a major street art hub in Madrid. Both inside and on its outer walls, you’ll find countless murals featuring street art by a variety of different artists both Spanish and foreign.

If you happen to be in La Latina on a Sunday, you shouldn’t miss El Rastro flea market, the largest open air market in all of Madrid. While a bit touristy, it’s great fun to browse and see if you can find something worth the treasure hunt.

Take a tapas walking tour

One of the best things to do in Madrid is mixing up delicious food and awesome history! Going for a tapas walking tour means the best of both worlds: you’ll discover old monuments and historic buildings from your guide’s local knowledge while stopping at 4 to 5 different tapas restaurants to try all the best food in Madrid along the way.

Tapas tastes include Iberian ham (aka the world famous jamón iberico), seafood paella, local Spanish cheeses, and several other surprises as well as a selection of red or white Spanish wine, beer, or soft drinks. For more information, check out tour details here.

2 Day Madrid Itinerary: Day 2

Eat churros con chocolate for breakfast

Yesterday it was ham for breakfast, now it’s churros!

There are many places churning delicious churros con chocolate all over Madrid, but the oldest and most famous is Chocolatería San Ginés.

churros in Sol, Madrid
Churros con chocolate, the breakfast of champions

The churros here are perfectly fried – crunchy on the outside, soft inside, without any taste of grease. They’re one of the best Spanish desserts, but they’re commonly eaten as a snack or even as breakfast!

Unlike their Mexican counterparts, these are not rolled in sugar and cinnamon; instead, you drown each bite in the cup of warm chocolate sauce. Pair with an espresso and you’ve got one hell of a sugar and caffeine rush – ready to take on day two of your Madrid itinerary.

Take in some art at Madrid’s most famous museum, Museo del Prado

Visiting Madrid without visiting the Prado is like going to London and not seeing Tower Bridge or Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. Simply foolish, in my opinion.

However – the line at the Prado is one of the most insane lines that I’ve seen. I recommend booking a skip the line ticket and putting it at the beginning of your itinerary on day two in order to minimize the crowds that pack the museum after lunch. Simply book it online and present on your mobile (no need to print).

Considered one of the most prestigious museums in Spain, Museo del Prado boasts one of the largest art collections in the country. It’s one of the most visited tourist attractions mainly because its walls are lined with artistic masterpieces the likes of which are hard to find a worthwhile comparison to. It’s on par with the Louvre or the Met in terms of vastness and quality of art.

The Prado has over 8,000 paintings and over 700 sculptures in its possession, which come from different schools of art ranging from the 12th to the 20th century. Here you’ll find masterpieces like Velasquez’ Las Meninas and Goya’s Third of May. The Prado holds the largest collection of Spanish art in the world, and one of the best collections of European art in general. It’s a can’t-miss for any art fan.

Location: Paseo del Prado

Stroll through the majestic Retiro Park

Madrid’s take on Central Park, walking through the scenic Retiro Park with its manmade lake and Crystal Palace is an unmissable part of any Madrid itinerary.

Located in the heart of Madrid, El Retiro Park is the city’s green lung. It spans over 120 acres and includes dozens of thousands of trees. It’s one of the most popular recreational areas in the city. Here you’ll find several different gardens, each comprised of beautiful types of flowers. The park even has a centuries-old Mexican conifer, which is supposedly Madrid’s oldest tree.

The biggest highlight of the park is the Large Lake. You can rent a boat to take out onto the lake (the perfect place for selfies!) for 6 euros on weekdays and 8 euros on weekends. Make sure to visit the exhibitions at the Velasquez Palace and the Crystal Palace, made almost entirely of glass and a can’t-miss Instagram spot in Retiro Park.

Location: Plaza de la Independencia, 7

Walk the Gran Via of Madrid and stop for lunch

Madrid’s answer to Paris’ Champs-Elysees and NYC’s Broadway all rolled into one street, this is the hub of shopping and entertainment in the city. Strolling down this grand avenue is one of the best ways to take the pulse of the city of Madrid, and it’s electric any time of day or night.

Don’t miss the massive Telefónica Building, built in 1928 and an early example of the skyscraper craze that would later change the definition of city skylines worldwide.

There are also several cinemas, bars, and restaurants on this street, so I recommend stopping for lunch somewhere along the way. I recommend De María Gran Vía or La Sirena Verde, located at 72 and 62 Calle Gran Via respectively.

Check out the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales

Literally translated to the Monastery of Barefoot Royals, this monastery a few short blocks away from Gran Via is definitely worth a small detour.

Photo credit; Zarateman [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons

Dating back to the 1500s, this monastery has an interesting and fascinating history. While many monasteries and convents are a bit austere, where the monks or nuns live in rather spartan conditions, this monastery is incredibly ornate. The reason for this is that the convent was primarily for young widowed women or noblewomen who never married — and therefore, for their dowries as well. The convent quickly became one of the richest convents in Europe, and you can see the splendor in the paintings and wall hangings that decorate the monastery to this day.

By the 20th century, the population of who lived in the convent changed dramatically, and rather than housing impossible-to-marry-off noblewomen, it ended up hosting primarily impoverished women. In the 1960s it became the museum that it is today.

The monastery is open daily from 10 AM to 2 PM and then again from 4 PM to 6:30 PM (except on Sundays, when it’s open from 10 AM to 3 PM), so be careful if you are visiting around lunch time.

Grab an espresso and people watch

One of the things you shouldn’t miss when in Madrid is the opportunity to simply people watch. There are countless cafés in the area around the monastery and Gran Via. The monastery is quite close to the Torres Barmejas where the flamenco show is, so I recommend not straying too far from this area.

Catch the nightly flamenco show at the Torres Barmejas

Flamenco is one of the most popular pieces of folklore and a truly unmissable Spanish experience. It’s an energetic and passionate dance and has its roots deep in Spanish history and culture.

There are countless venues where you can watch a flamenco show, but one of the most highly-rated in the city is the nightly 7 PM show at Torres Barmejas near the Gran Via of Madrid. The decors and motifs are a wonder to look at, inspired by the gorgeous Andalusian city of Granada and its majestic Alhambra Palace. The Spanish Moorish motifs and décor really add to the captivating atmosphere of the performance. The choreography and energy of the flamenco dance, including interesting finger and hand gestures, is one of the most unique aspects of the Spanish culture.

You can order dinner here, but in my opinion, it’s overpriced and not high quality enough to justify the expense – especially considering the plethora of amazing restaurants and tapas bars surrounding the venue. So, just order drinks or just take in the show and save your appetite for later. The show at Torres Barmejas is quite popular and often sells out, so I highly recommend booking your tickets in advance to be sure to see one of the best flamenco shows in Madrid.

Have dinner at one of Madrid’s many cervecerias and tapas bars

A good 75% of the reason why I decided I needed a month in Spain was to eat my way through all of the delicious tapas the country has to offer (the other 25% is wine and cider, obviously).

Food in Puerta del Sol Madrid
A media ración size of the ahi tuna – so perfect

I got a good head start on my goal in Puerta del Sol, where we ate at a few delicious restaurants. Lambuzo had delicious tapas and some great wine. As a huge Spanish wine fan, I went for the Ribera del Duero – so tasty! We loved the berenjas (fried eggplant with a dark, rich honey sauce), atún rojo (perfectly rare ahi tuna), and the croquetas de gambas (fried potato and shrimp croquettes).

Location: Calle de las Conchas, 9

My other favorite spot for dinner is La Carboneria. While it is in a touristic area, the food quality is so excellent that I literally ate there twice during my time in Madrid. What can I say – I was just that obsessed with their albóndigas a la casera (meatballs home-style – though I need to figure out who’s home it’s styled after and how I can move myself in there ASAP).

They also have the most perfectly cooked tortilla española I’ve had the pleasure of putting in my mouth. It was simplicity at its finest, a perfectly melting synthesis of potato and egg. It was gooey in the best way – not dry and set like less fresh tortilla españolas can be.

Don’t forget to order their delicious sangria!

Location: La Carboneria, Calle Coloreros 5

How to Spend One Day in Madrid: Your Perfect Mini-Itinerary

Madrid is one of the most vibrant cities in the world, and if you’ve allotted yourself only one day in Madrid, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

As the capital of Spain, Madrid is home to innumerable unique neighborhoods, countless dining opportunities, endless culture.

In a word, Madrid is inexhaustible, and you’ll always find more to do in this magical city.

But since you only have one day in Madrid, concessions must be made so that you see the best of what the city has to offer in a limited time. I’ve collected all my highlights of my many days in Madrid to create a perfect one day itinerary for you to follow.

How I Planned This One Day in Madrid Itinerary

Lit up arch with flowers in front in Madrid

Consider this post your plan of attack for seeing as much of Madrid in a day as you possibly can.

I’ve specifically created this post to have you traveling around Madrid as independently as possible without sacrificing the context and enrichment that the occasional paid experience can provide.

If planning your day in Madrid starts to stress you out, you could always book a full day Madrid sightseeing tour, but I personally always have a lot more fun when I mix and match fortuitous wandering, guided activities, and lots of walking while I’m sightseeing.

For this one day in Madrid itinerary, I nix hop-on, hop-off buses and guided city tours in exchange for long but purposeful walks through the city which make a point of seeing key architectural and historical gems.

I offset the potential lack of context by also opting for a handful of special tours and experiences, namely, a tour of the Palacio Real (the only way to see the interior) and a flamenco show in the evening.

Since time is limited, I also suggest skip-the-line tickets when they make sense to maximize your time and appreciation of the city.

I find that this is the way you’re best able to make the most of your time in Madrid while also not feeling like cattle being carted around from point A to point B!

One Day in Madrid Map

One Day in Madrid Itinerary

Morning: Breakfast, A Palace, & A Walk in the Park

Start your day the Spanish way with churros con chocolate.

Churros with a cup of coffee in Madrid
Churros con chocolate, the breakfast of champions

While to you and me, churros may be a dessert dish, in Spain, churros are a beloved breakfast treat, and nowhere sells more delicious churros than Chocolatería San Ginés.

Running for over a hundred years, this 24/7 achocolatería sells deliciously simple churros fried to perfection, served with coffee and lightly-sweetened chocolate.

Churros in Spain are a bit different than their Mexican counterparts: in Spain, they don’t use the cinnamon-sugar on the outside of the churro, making them a bit more savory (until you dip them in melted chocolate, at least!).

They’re also a bit thinner and more crispy, whereas the ones I’ve had in Mexico have been a little thicker and more custardy on the inside.

Head to the Royal Palace.

A symmetrical view of an ornate gray colored palace

A tour of Madrid’s Palacio Real is a must-do while you’re visiting the Spanish capital.

This is one of the top tourist attractions in Spain, so expect long lines. Beat the crowds by booking a skip-the-line ticket, which you can buy online here.

The palace is massive — as in, largest still-functional royal palace in Europe big, and this is a continent that likes its castles. We’re talking nearly 3,500 rooms big and 135,000 square meters of floor area (imagine those heating bills…).

I recommend going with a guided tour which helps you get an understanding of what you’re seeing and put the massive ostentation and wealth into perspective.

This tour is 2 hours and allows you early access privileges to beat the crowds. It covers all the best highlights of the Palacio Real: the Throne Room, Banquet Hall, Royal Apartments, exclusive artwork by the most famous artists in Spain, and time to walk around the beautiful Royal Gardens.

I’m not the biggest tour person, but I highly recommend this tour. I love having the opportunity to hear the royal stories which are able to bring this marvelous yet imposing palace to life.

Save time and book your skip-the-line ticket today

Marvel at the Catedral de la Almudena.

Side view of a beautiful European church with people walking around in front and a cloudy sky

Not far from Palacio Real is your next stop on this one day Madrid tour, Almudena Cathedral. To be precise, it’s the Catedral de Santa María La Real de La Almudena, which is quite a mouthful.

This cathedral blends Gothic and Neoclassical elements into a synthesis of beauty, yet it’s a surprisingly young cathedral.

The church took over a hundred years to be built, starting in 1883, yet didn’t finish construction until 1993, as its construction was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War and didn’t get picked up again until halfway through the 20th century.

The interior is a true marvel of architecture, showing its modernity with a variety of artistic styles on the interior, ranging from more traditional historical elements to those inspired by more modern elements. The ceiling of the nave is particularly interesting, more inspired by geometry than traditional Christian artistic elements.

Check out the happening Plaza Mayor.

A man on a horse statue and red buildings in the background

As with any great European capital, Madrid is home to several beautful plazas that are the heart of city life.

Plaza Mayor is nearly 500 years old located at the heart of what was once Old Madrid.

Skip the cafés, which are all a bit tourist-trappy, and just wander through and do some people watching as you pass.

Walk through Puerta del Sol.

Symmetical red building with a fountain in the center and pink flowers

Just a few blocks down the road from Plaza Mayor is yet another important square in Madrid, Puerta del Sol.

One thing you’ll notice as you walk through Puerta del Sol is the placard for Kilometer 0.

All the radial roads in Madrid emanate out from this central point, with address numbers closer to Kilometer 0 being smaller and getting larger as they make their way throughout the city.

It’s an interesting quirk of city planning, and while not incredibly interesting, it is cool to stand at the “center” of Madrid!

Stroll down Calle de Alcalá to Retiro Park.

Ornate white palace with a Spain flag and an empty road in front of it

This is one of the longest streets in Madrid, and it’s the best way to walk to your next destination, Puerta de Alcalá, which marks the beginning of Retiro Park.

On the way, you’ll get a chance to marvel at some of Madrid’s most beautiful architecture.

Stop and snap some photos at the Círculo de Bellas Artes as well as Palacio de Cibeles and its namesake fountain.

Wander through the magical Retiro Park.

A building with clear glass walls and yellow details next to a lake on a sunny day

Retiro Park is to Madrid what Central Park is to New York City: an seemingly neverending oasis of calm in the middle of a vibrant metropolis.

I largely urge you to put away your phone and your Madrid checklist for a bit and just enjoy strolling around the park and people-watching.

But, since you do only have a day in Madrid and this is your one chance to make the best of Retiro Park, make a point of seeing the Palacio de Cristal (the crystal palace, pictured above), the Estanque Grande del Retiro (artificial lake with a massive monument), and La Roseleda del Retiro (rose garden).

Afternoon: Lunch & Museum Hopping

Grab lunch near Retiro Park.

A bowl of red soup topped with meat and croutons at a Spanish restaurant.

A central location like Retiro Park would usually be full of tourist traps, but this is Spain, where bad food is nearly criminal.

There are a few places especially worth keeping an eye out for once you’ve finished your stroll through Retiro Park and are starting to feel the first grumblings of post-churro hunger.

If you’d like to try some Andalusian specialties, check out Lambuzo. Their salmorejo (chilled tomato soup which I love far more than gazpacho) is to die to for!

Another great place for traditional Spanish food is the lovely El Perro y la Galleta. I suggest you order mostly from the ‘entrantes’ and sample as much as you possibly can!

My favorites are the berenjas rebozadas (fried eggplant) and the croquetas de cocido (delicious bechamel and meat stuffed fried croquettes).

Get cultured at the Prado, Spain’s top musuem.

The front view of the famous Prado art museum with a statue in front, a must visit on your one day in Spain itinerary

I know that if you only have one day in Madrid, you don’t want to spend the entirety of it in a museum!

However, do please make an exception for the Prado, which is one of the world’s top art museums. It’d be like going to Paris and never seeing the Louvre.

Lines to enter the Prado are often quite long, and with only 24 hours in Madrid, you have super-limited time, so I strongly suggest buying a skip-the-line ticket so you can maximize your time — and skip waiting in a line that can often stretch around the block in the hot Spanish sun!

This museum contains art from the 12th century through the 19th century, and of particular note are its collections of paintings by Velazquez, El Greco (my favorite!), and Goya.

Beat the crowds and book your skip-the-line here.

Check out San Jerónimo el Real.

A stone and brick church with a tree in front and a grassy hill

This monastery dates back to the 1500s and has been remodeled beautifully, staying true to the original Neo-Gothic architecture while maintaining it for the ages.

At one point, this now-humble-looking church was once the official Royal Church of Madrid. Now, this stunning monastery overlooking the Prado from its vantage point on the hill is popular with tourists.

The interior is open from 8:30 AM to 1:30 PM and then from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM; at all other times, you’ll have to admire it from the outside. Entrance is free.

Wander through the Botanic Garden.

View of a park with a fountain and roses in both background and foreground.

This beautiful Botanic Garden is well worth the affordable 4 euro entry price, and a short 30-minute stroll through the park would be time well spent on your one day in Madrid.

Home to over 5,000 different species of plants, there are 90,000 flowers and plants in the garden… not to mention 1,500 trees and literally a million more individual plants in the herbarium!

Most interesting is the greenhouse which has recreated a desert climate — one of the only places in Europe where you can actually experience a realistic desert.

Visit the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.

Reflection of a traditional architecture building reflected by a modern building

If two museums in a day is pushing it for you, feel free to skip this one.

But if you’re a fan of Picasso, Dalí, Miró, and other famous Spanish modernists, you won’t want to miss this museum focusing on the country’s most innovative 20th-century artists.

If there’s one central piece you shouldn’t miss at this museum, it’s Picasso’s greatest work, Guernica, a tour-de-force of artistic social commentary against the evils of war.

It’s one of the most important paintings of the 20th century (if not all time) and must be seen in person to be believed.

Tip: Book your tickets to Reina Sofia online in advance to save time.

Evening: A Stroll Down Gran Via, Dinner & A Flamenco Show

Walk down La Gran Via.

A grand European boulevard with a building with an angel on top of the roof

Walk up the shady pedestrian street, Paseo del Prado, until you reach Fuente de Cibeles again.

This time, instead of taking Calle de Alcalá, wander down La Gran Via, the most famous boulevard in Madrid. Primarily composed of architecture influenced by Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements, you’ll see innumerable interesting buildings as you walk down the boulevard.

A few of the most iconic buildings you’ll walk past are the angel-topped Metropolis Hotel, the Torre de Madrid, and Edificio Grassy.

Stop for people-watching in Plaza de España.

A giant statue in the middle of the park with two skyscrapers around it.

Your stroll down Gran Via will end at yet another iconic Madrid building, Edificio España, another one of the tallest buildings in Madrid.

In front of it, you’ll find the large public space Plaza de España, a great place for people-watching!

Check out ancient history at Templo de Debod.

A few arches and a larger stone edifice that make up the Temple of Debod, an actual Egyptian temple in Madrid.

Finally, make your way over to the Templo de Debod, a reconstructed Egyptian temple in the middle of a public park!

The temple was gifted to Spain by Egypt in 1968 after the Aswan Dam was constructed, which put this temple and others at risk. It was rebuilt and opened to the public in 1972, and it is free for all to see.

It’s one of the few authentic pieces of Egyptian architecture that you can see (outside of, well, Egypt…) that’s not in a museum!

Cap off the night with dinner and a show.

A female flamenco dancer in a dark room swirling her scarf around artistically.

Finish your day in Madrid in the most epic way possible: a flamenco show at the legendery Torres Bermejas, one of the best places to see flamenco in Madrid.

Order some tapas and sangria while you watch talented performers bring the art of flamenco to life.

Flamenco is a unique blend of dance and theater, marked by nuanced hand and facial gestures, rhythmic tapping of the feet and castanets held in the hands, and utilization of the dress and scarf to create fluid, beautiful movements.

It’s a really beautiful art form you won’t see outside of Spain, so if you will only be in Madrid for one day, you really should make a point of seeing a performance!

Book your flamenco show tickets here!

Where to Stay If You Only Have One Day in Madrid

A view of a famous Madrid boulevard all lit up in pink and orange with sunset colors.

Boutique Luxury: For a chic boutique hotel in Madrid, look to Only YOU Boutique Hotel! With a central location that makes following this itinerary a breeze, a relaxing Thai-inspired spa center, a gorgeously decorated lobby, an outdoor lounge area, large rooms with high ceilings, and individualized rooms packed with personality, you won’t find much better for the price in Madrid.
>> Book online here.

Mid-Range with Views: Remember the beautiful Edificio España from our itinerary? Well, it turns out that the building is actually a hotel: Hotel Riu Plaza España! You can check out incredible views from any one of the 27 floors, sweeping over Gran Via, Parque Oeste, and Madrid’s skyline as far as the eye can see. Amenities include a 21st-floor outdoor pool, 27th floor terrace bar, and a 24/7 gym.
>> Book online here.

Budget: The chic but budget-friendly Hotel Regina is a fantastic budget-friendly option just 2 minutes away from Puerta del Sol, right in the heart of Madrid (making this itinerary super easy to follow to the T). Rooms are minimalist but stylish, with bold graphic designs and pops of color.
>> Book online here.

5 Things Not To Forget For a Trip to Madrid

A light-haired woman with a smartphone taking a photo of a famous Madrid landmark.

A secure daybag: While travel in Madrid 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! Despite all its security features, it’s really quite classic and stylish, without anything that screams “I’m a tourist, target me!”

Comfortable walking shoes: This one day in Madrid itinerary has you walking a lot — so you’re going to need the best possible shoes for your trip! I strongly recommend an ultra-comfortable walking sandal like these Birkenstocks, which mold to your foot for the most perfect custom fit imaginable.

You do have to wear them for a few days first to get that perfect contour, but once you do, you’ll never want to take them off. In fact, I literally mourn the day each year it gets too cold to keep wearing Birkenstocks, and one day I may just rock socks with sandals to keep Birkenstock season going just a little longer. I’ve had my pair of Gizeh sandals for 3 years and they are still fantastic.

Portable charger: As an electronics-addict, I’m always running out of juice while running around the city on my travels. Bring a portable charger to save yourself many headaches while traveling in Europe! Anker is a reliable brand and this portable charger is what I personally use.

Spain guidebook: While you may only have one day in Madrid, hopefully you have more time allotted for the rest of your time in Spain! If you do, be sure to snag a guidebook — while of course I love blogs, I also think guidebooks are essential for learning the basics of traveling a country, as they cover everything from tipping culture to common scams to useful phrases. I suggest this Fodor’s Spain travel guide as it was recently updated at the end of 2019 and is full of incredible Spain travel inspiration!

Travel insurance: No matter where you travel in the world, travel insurance is a necessity and should be factored into your trip budget. Trust me, you don’t want to have a second thought about seeking medical care abroad if something goes wrong on your trip. Travel insurance also covers you in case of trip cancellation, theft, baggage delays, and other emergencies. It’s a must-have in my opinion. I use and rely on World Nomads to keep me safe and insured throughout 60+ countries of travel!

The Perfect One Day in Toulon Itinerary: 12 Stops You Must Make

Toulon is mostly famous for its major naval base, and its talented rugby team. But more than that, it’s also a stunning city set on the French Riviera.

Often overlooked by tourists who prefer visiting Cannes or Nice, Toulon is a great place to explore if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination on the Côte d’Azur.

There are many things to do in Toulon outside of the Old Town, but for this quick Toulon itinerary, the focus is on the attractions in the Vieux Toulon and the harbor area.

Your Toulon Itinerary At-A-Glance

Here is a quick list of the top 12 places to visit in Toulon we’ll cover on this one day in Toulon itinerary, in the order that we’ll see them.

  • Place de la Liberté
  • Kiosques à Livre
  • Opera House
  • Place Puget
  • Boat Sculpture
  • Rue Pierre Semard
  • Musée de la Marine
  • Harbor
  • Maison de la Photographie
  • Place Raimu
  • Cours Lafayette
  • Cathédrale Notre Dame de la Seds

Your Toulon Itinerary: Walking Tour of the City

Stop #1: Place de la Liberté

Place de la Liberté (Freedom Square) is by far the most beautiful square in Toulon.

Located in Upper Town, the place has a stunning fountain (Fontaine de la Fédération) which is a symbol of force and justice.

It also has its own version of the Statue of Liberty!

Behind the fountain is one of the most iconic buildings of Toulon, the Grand Hôtel. Built in 1870, this stunning building is now home to a theater.

Stop #2: Kiosque à Livres

Toulon is home to a couple of typical bookstands where you’ll find a large selection of rare books, old postcards, and even music albums.

It’s really typical of the city, so I think it’s a great place to visit as a tourist. You’ll be impressed by all the (very) old books and treasures of these shops. These bookstands are located on Rue Prosper Ferrero.

On your way to the kiosques, you will find Galeries Lafayettes, a great department store which offers French and european items at a reasonable price.

If you’re looking for quality French clothes, bags and accessories, I definitely recommend visiting this shop as an addition to this Toulon itinerary.

Stop #3: The Opera House

With its nearly 1,800 seats, the Opera of Toulon is the second-largest opera house in France.

Built in 1862, the opera house is one of the most beautiful buildings in Toulon.

I definitely recommend going to one of the performances held there just so you can see the interior of this amazing place!

Stop #4: Place Puget

Head to Place Puget where you can grab lunch or stop for coffee in one of the many restaurants and bars.

Here you’ll also see the Trois Dauphins fountain, a beautiful fountain covered in moss and leaves. It was built in 1782, and it is one of the most iconic fountains in Toulon.

Place Puget is always animated with life, and it really is a pleasant place to stop on your walking tour.

Stop #5: The Boat Sculpture

Located right in the center of old Toulon, the boat sculpture on Place Vatel is a stunning piece of art.

This huge sculpture, placed against a building, is quite unusual. Being 10 meters high, the sculpture is a replica of the frigate “La FLore” which was based in Toulon in the 18th century.

Don’t miss it when you visit the old town of Toulon!

Stop #6: Rue Pierre Semard

Rue Pierre Semard, also called Rue des Arts, is located in Le Petit Chicago.

This district gave Toulon a bad reputation for a long time. Indeed, ‘Chicago’ used to be the sailors’ favorite place to visit at night because of its many bars!

Today, Rue Pierre Semard is bustling with art galleries and artisan shops, and it has become one of the most pleasant streets of Toulon.

Right next to rue Pierre Semard, you’ll find the beautiful Place de l’Equerre.

Recently refurbished, Place de l’Equerre is home to some of the best bars in the city. During summer, there are often events and concerts held in this square.

Stop #7: Musée de la Marine

Located in the arsenal gatehouse, the Musée de la Marine displays French naval history from the 17th century to the present day.

You don’t need to be a history geek to enjoy your visit at the Musée de la Marine!

If you want to see some of the best artifacts about the French navy such as maps, model ships, and paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries, then you should definitely go to this museum.

The museum has a good selection of exhibits, and the entry fee is only 6.50 Euros for adults. This is a great stop for curious travelers who want to learn more about the city!

Stop #8: The Harbor

The harbor of Toulon is very popular for many reasons.

Here, you’ll find stunning boats, including fishing boats and naval ships, but also some of the best restaurants in town as well as cute souvenir shops.

Also, you’ll see the beautiful statue of the Genie de la Navigation, a sculpture from French artist Louis Joseph Daumas. The sculpture represents the exploration of the sea.

The harbor is also the starting point of the little tourist trains of Toulon that offer guided sightseeing tours around the city. The trains even go to the famous Mourillon Beach.

The tours offer bilingual commentary (in both French and English) and will give you the opportunity to see more than just the city center of Toulon.

Tickets for the trains are only 7 Euros for adults, and 4 Euros for children. During the tour, you can hop on and hop off whenever you want, so it’s great to use as transit in between stops on this Toulon itinerary in case you get tired of walking on foot.

Stop #9: Maison de la Photographie

If you’re a photography lover, then head to the Maison de la Photographie, located right in the city center.

Opened in 2002, the place offers different exhibits with pictures from local artists.

This place is not very well known by tourists, so if you like to travel off the beaten path, I definitely recommend a visit to the Maison de la Photographie!

Stop #10: Place Raimu

Place Raimu is famous for the statue of the card game between Raimu and Panisse. You can even sit at the table with them and take a picture!

Right behind this square, you will find a fantastic restaurant called Tables de la Fontaine.

With its top-quality food, friendly staff, and cozy atmosphere, this quirky little restaurant is definitely one of the best in Toulon. On top of that, they cater well to vegetarians and even bake their own bread.

Stop #11: Cours Lafayette

The iconic Cours Lafayette, where the Provencal market is held every morning, is full of colorful fruits and vegetables and is definitely a must-see if you’re visiting Toulon.

At the bottom of the market, right in front of the church, you’ll find a small stand called “La Cade à Dédé”. This stand sells cade, a French delicacy typical from Toulon.

As you go up the street on the market, you can also visit the many shops there. I highly recommend Oceane, a crystal and fossil shop located in the heart of Toulon.

It’s a beautiful little store where you can find unique gifts and souvenirs. Whether you want to buy crystals, seashells, or other mineral items, you’ll surely find something interesting to bring back from Toulon.

Stop #12: Cathédrale Notre Dame de la Seds

Finally, you can stop at the cathedral of Toulon, also called Notre Dame de la Seds. The cathedral is located close to the Cours Lafayette.

Construction of the cathedral began in the 11th century and finished in the 18th century. Today, it is a national monument.

The cathedral has a very interesting history and is home to some work of art notably a baroque retable made by Pierre Puget.

Final Words on Visiting Toulon

Toulon is definitely an underrated tourist destination, and I definitely recommend visiting it if you’re planning a trip to the French Riviera.

With its beautiful harbor, fabulous Mediterranean market, and historical buildings, you’ll have a great time exploring this town full of history.

If you want to spend a few more days in the city, you can also go to the local beach, hike the Mont Faron, or take a day trip to beautiful Porquerolles.

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About the Author

Camille is a jewelry maker and blogger over at Crafty Explorer. Dedicated to traveling sustainably, she has been roaming the world and living abroad for over 7 years. When she’s not traveling, you’ll find her hiking or reading a good book.