6 of The Best Day Trips to Take From Budapest
01 of 06
Around 55 miles northeast of Budapest in a valley of the Cserhát mountains, Hollókő is a traditional Hungarian village and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old part of the village is a conservation area of 55 houses that have been rebuilt in timber and stone to reflect the original Palóc rural architecture. The protected zone includes the 12th-century castle ruins that sit on a hilltop above the village. It's scooped the title of Hungary's Most Beautiful Village on several occasions and there are a number of festivals throughout the year that celebrate local traditions and craftsmanship.
How to Get to Hollókő From Budapest: The easiest way to travel to and from Hollókő is by car. The journey takes around 90 minutes. Alternatively, there's a direct bus service from Puskás Ferenc Stadion (on the blue metro line). The journey takes around two hours and there's one service per day during the week and two services at the weekend.
02 of 06
Between Budapest and Lake Balaton, Székesfehérvár is one of Hungary's oldest towns. It served as the country's capital in the Middle Ages and parts of its iconic cathedral date back to 1235. The colorful town features beautiful baroque buildings and there are plenty of cultural attractions to explore including the King St Stephen Museum, the Toy Museum and the Istvan Csok Art Gallery. Just outside the center, Bory Castle is worth seeing. It was built by architect and sculptor, Jeno Bory between 1923 and 1959 as a loving tribute to his wife. The castle features a range of architectural styles including Romanesque and Gothic and it's set in beautiful sculpture-studded gardens.
How to Get to Székesfehérvár From Budapest: There are frequent trains that run from Budapest-Déli station. The journey takes between 65 and 80 minutes. There's also a direct bus service from Budapest's Népliget station. The journey time is around 80 minutes. Ticket prices are roughly the same for the train and bus however the bus station is closer to the center of town than the train station.
03 of 06
While Lake Balaton is Hungary's largest lake (and the biggest in Central Europe), it's a little far from Budapest for a day trip. Lake Velence however is just a 45-minute drive away and a great spot to spend a few sunny hours by the water. The warm shallow waters can reach temperatures of 26-28 degrees celsius in the summer months and there are several beaches lining the shore. Reeds cover almost a third of the lake's surface making it attractive to rare water birds and fish. Activities include bike riding, kayaking and windsurfing and there's a thermal spa at Agárd.
How to Get to Lake Velence From Budapest: There's a direct train service from Budapest-Déli station to Gárdony that takes around 45 minutes. One way tickets cost around $5. If you're hiring a car, the journey takes around 45 minutes.
04 of 06
Less than an hour northeast of Budapest, Gödöllő is home to a magnificent royal palace that once served as the summer residence of Austrian Emperor, Franz Josef. Built in the mid 18th century, it's Hungary's largest baroque manor house and was a favorite spot of the much-loved Empress Elizabeth (better known as Sissi). It served as a barracks for Soviet and Hungarian troops under communism until it underwent a renovation in the mid 1980s and you can now enjoy wandering around the lavish interiors which have been restored to reflect the imperial era. There's also a beautiful botanical garden to explore that covers an area of 190 hectares.
How to Get to Gödöllő From Budapest: There's a frequent HÉV suburban train service from Budapest's Örs vezér tere station or an hourly bus service from Puskás Ferenc Stadion. Both journeys take around 45 minutes.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
The Danube Bend
North of Budapest, the Danube Bend (Dunakanyar) is the most scenic stretch of Europe's second longest river. The best way to explore it is on a boat trip when the river's at high tide between May and September. Traveling from the capital you'll pass picturesque peaks and lush riverbanks. On the west bank you can visit some of Hungary's oldest settlements: Szentendre, a small baroque town with cobblestone streets lined with art galleries, museums and shops; Visegrád, with its 13th-century hilltop citadel and Renaissance palace ruins, and Esztergom, the country's former capital city, home to Hungary's largest cathedral.
How to Get to the Danube Bend From Budapest: There are a number of guided boat tours that depart from Budapest between May and September and visit Esztergom, Visegrad and Szentendre. You can expect to pay around $50 for a full-day tour including lunch. Alternatively, there's a train service from Budapest's Nyugati station that runs to Esztergom via Vác and Visegrád and takes up to 90 minutes. Or you can catch bus 880 BK-SZ from Budapest's Újpest Station which runs to Szentendre, Visegrád and Esztergom. Hiring a car would give you the most flexibility if you want to explore each town independently.
06 of 06
At the foot of the Bükk Mountains around 85 miles northeast of Budapest, Eger is one of the country's best-known wine regions. The area's winemaking traditions date back to the 11th century and many of the ancient cellars are carved into limestone rock that form a network of underground tunnels. The most famous wine produced in the region is Bull's Blood (Egri Bikavér), a blend of three or more grapes that have matured in oak barrels for at least 12 months. Head to Szépasszony-völgy (The Valley of the Beautiful Women) to hop between cellars for tours and tastings.
How to Get to Eger From Budapest: A direct coach service runs from Puskás Ferenc Stadion to Eger.The journey takes about two hours and a one way ticket costs around $10. Alternatively, you can take a direct train from Keleti train station. The train also takes around two hours but the train station is on the edge of town whereas the bus station is right in the center. If you're hiring a car, the journey should take just under two hours.
Every Berlin Neighborhood You Need to Know
01 of 07
Mitte literally translates to “middle” and that is (basically) where it lies. This district is plopped as close to center as possible for the squiggly line mess that is a map of Berlin.
Packed full of must-see sights from Brandenburger Tor to the Reichstag, Mitte is a necessary stop for anyone traveling through or to Berlin. However, it is not recommended to stay in central Mitte. Berlin's transportation system is excellent, and staying in another Kiez can better acquaint you with the multiple facets of the city and the people who live there (plus some actual grocery stores).
Central Mitte was once the heart of East Berlin and besides monuments, it holds loads of chic shops, restaurants and tacky tourist shops. This area is one the most urban looking as Berlin is largely devoid of skyscrapers.
02 of 07
Prenzlauer Berg is perfect example of the confusion regarding neighborhoods. Though this is one of the most popular areas for visitors and Berliners, it is actually part of the Pankow Bezirk.
No matter its administrative status, Prenzlauer Berg is among the most popular neighborhoods for a reason. It survived WWII with many of its elegant Altbaus (old buildings) intact. Rapid gentrification has changed it from a Jewish ghetto to a place full of squatters and artists to one of the richest areas in Berlin. The bohemians have settled into yuppiedom and now roll with baby strollers rather than fixies.
The good news is that the area is beautifully restored with some of the most picturesque streets in all of Berlin. Organic ice cream shops, kindercafes (children cafes) and playgrounds sit on every corner. The streets of Kollwitzplatz and along Kastanienallee are particularly desirable, if now totally uncool.
03 of 07
Friedrichshain is now part of a combined district of Friedrichshain -Kreuzberg, but these Kiez across the water have distinct personalities.
Friedrichshain is young, punk, industrial, and full of history. Artists and their galleries have long found a home here, with informal street art tagging every external surface. Squatters once occupied many of the abandoned buildings around Berlin, but there are only a few strongholds left, mostly in Friedrichshain. With some of the best nightlife in the city, clubs lurk beneath the S-Bahn or behind that unmarked door.
Rental prices have traditionally been low, meaning there are plenty of cheap eats. But gentrification has even started to encroach on this neighborhood's grime and art nouveau façades have gotten some polish.
04 of 07
Like so many of Berlin's coolest neighborhoods, Kreuzberg was once the area for immigrants, then squatters, then artists and students, and is now being taken over by a much richer crowd at a breathtaking pace.
Bars seem to breed here, as well as restaurants offering more exotic fare than schnitzel. There is a bohemian vibe with a strong current of counter-culture. Massive works of art adorn the walls (look for the “people eater” as soon as you cross Oberbaumbrucke) and notable pieces that have become world-famous that have since gone missing.
Its multikulti (multicultural), anything-goes atmosphere has made it a nightlife hub while fabulous parks and ever-changing cafes and restaurants keep it buzzing during the day. It continues to pull an international crows, but they are now more likely to be from San Francisco than Istanbul.
This pull has made it one of the most expensive areas to live in the city, though living costs are still quite manageable. It is also the site of two of the city's biggest festivals, Ertser Mai and Karneval der Kulturen.
Kreuzberg is in what was West Berlin, and is divided into its own subdivision of West (Kreuzberg 61) and East (SO36).
The Kreuzberg 61 area around Bergmannkiez is bourgeois and exceptionally desirable with leafy trees enclosed by gorgeous Altbaus (old buildings). Graefekiez is similarly lovely and located alongside the canal.
Grittier than its western side and radiating out from Kotti (Kottbusser Tor), SO36 is the real heart of Kreuzberg. Eisenbahnkiez is the “nicest”, nearest neighborhood.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf (its administrative title—again uniting two formerly distinct neighborhoods) is the nicer Berlin. It is cleaner and more civilized than other sections of the city, but for many people that also means it is more boring.
Ideal for upscale families and older people, it also has some of the best Asian restaurants in the city (plus a wildly popular market). There is a palace, a museum lined with Picassos, and shopping is done for sport.
The area around the Zoo station is undergoing renovation, but still holds bits of its past as We Children from Bahnhof Zoo. On the other hand, outlying districts like suburban Grunewald accommodate Berlin’s high society.
06 of 07
Wedding (pronounced VED-ding) has a very different reputation than much of Mitte. Located just north of central Mitte, the area is still a haven of relatively cheap rents in grand historical buildings. But the now tired saying, “Wedding kommt” (“Wedding is coming/developing”), has been uttered for years now and is more of a warning than a promise.
Gentrification is changing this gritty, bustling area as young Germans and Western immigrants move in. It is one of the most diverse neighborhoods with African grocers, hipster breweries, Turkish restaurants, and Korean nail shops. It is estimated that 30% of the population is non-German.
07 of 07
Neukölln is one of the most popular up-and-coming neighborhoods, swiftly changing amidst rampant gentrification. Romanticized by David Bowie with his song “Neuköln”, this neighborhood is the current darling of new immigrants and a great place to base yourself for some of the best nightlife in a changing Berlin.
Central Neukölln can generally be divided into three areas:
- Reuterkiez or Kreuzkölln: In the north section closest to Kreuzberg, this was the first area to experience the spread from the center. It has become uber trendy, and expensive.
- Rixdorf: The traditional village has grown-up to be a respectable area within a wild neighborhood.
- Schillerkiez: At the western border of central Neukölln, connected by Boddinstraße and Leinestrasse, this micro-kiez is of growing popularity. It offers easy access to Tempelhofer Feld and Volkspark Hasenheide and is still on the grittier, graffiti-spackled end of gentrification.
The 11 Most Romantic Hotels in the United Kingdom
Shangri-La Hotel at the Shard: London
One way to get away from it all is to simply get above it all. As of 2018, the Renzo Piano-designed Shard is Europe's tallest building. And one of London's newest luxury hotels, the Shangri-La, occupies floors 34 to 52.
Because of the shape of the building (The Shard says it all), every room is slightly different. All are furnished in a simple, but stylish contemporary mood with luxury materials and clean lines. The main decor feature is London itself. The rooms are wrapped in floor to ceiling windows that make London the star. Key landmarks and features—the Thames, Tower Bridge, The Tower of London, St. Pauls Cathedral, the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf—are part of the ever changing vista.
It's a long way down but if you are on honeymoon, you really never have to leave the hotel. There's a 24-hour concierge service, 24-hour in-room dining, a classy Asian restaurant on the 35th floor and a buzzy bar on the 52nd. You can have in-room spa treatments and your own butler in the high end suites. If you begin to feel a bit to shut in, head over to the 52nd floor gym where there's a horizon pool that's like swimming in the sky. In fact, if we're not mistaken, we think they call it the Skypool.
And for really private luxury, how about lounging in your own top of the world bath like the one pictured here.
10 Great Things to Do in Monte Carlo
Or Stay by the Bay
Also owned by SBM, the Monte Carlo Beach Hotel is set on a cove overlooking the principality's shoreline. This sleek, modern hotel first opened in 1929. Recently restored, it evokes the French Riviera of yesteryear, yet is as stylish as tomorrow.
Oriented to the Riviera, the hotel offers a safe, gentle place to swim in the sea. Fans of watersports can jetski, waterski, and parasail here. Tents, cabins, and sun lounges are available for rent on the private beach. There's also an Olympic-size seawater swimming pool heated to 75 degrees.
The hotel holds only 40 rooms and suites. More than a satellite of its posh sibling the Hotel de Paris, it is a destination in itself and a member in the Relais & Chateaux group of extraordinary properties.
Tidy and nautical, standard guest rooms mimic the feel of being on one of the smaller yachts in Monte Carlo harbor. The shower, which is big enough for two, features a large round window that works like a porthole to the view.
Your room key card entitles you to free entrance to the Monte Carlo Casino and the free shuttle that travels between the various Société des Bains de Mer properties.
Treat yourselves to dinner at Michelin-starred Elsa's restaurant, named after the legendary hostess and yenta extraordinaire Elsa Maxwell, She was the first public relations representative of the Society des Bains de Mer.
5 of the Prettiest Tiny Villages to Visit in England
01 of 06
Picturesque, Historic and Nostalgic: The Pretty Villages of England
The back roads, byways and country lanes of England are still dotted with pretty tiny villages full of storybook charm. But except in places like Suffolk, where picturesque villages are rather thick on the ground, you generally won't find them “on the way” to somewhere else. The fact that they have stayed off the beaten path is what keeps them small and interesting, and preserves their ancient yet timeless character.
If you are planning an itinerary that will include a few pretty little villages with stops at village tea shops and pubs (and perhaps even an overnight stay at a pub) you need to plan your travels with a good map or road atlas. Your sat-nav or GPS device may be great at going directly from one destination to another, but the routes it suggests usually bypass all the good stuff. Instead, be willing to get off the main routes and travel the back roads. Ask at local tourist information centers and whenever you are given a choice of routes, choose the scenic ones.
Don't expect to rush from one exquisitely photogenic village to another. English back roads are slow. Slow down with them and enjoy exploring at a gentler pace. And whatever you do if you are talking to the locals, don't eve refer to these small towns and villages as quaint. Local people find that word incredibly patronizing and nothing irritates them more.
Here are some of the most interesting tiny villages we've explored recently.Continue to 2 of 6 below.
02 of 06
Clovelly's 83 pastel and white-washed cottages tumble 400 feet down a steep ravine to the sea on the North Devon coast. This privately-owned village of 300 people, was once a busy fishing port. The donkeys that today provide rides for children up and down its one cobbled street were once used to ferry boxes of herring from the little fishing harbor to the top of the town. Today only a few fishing boats still harvest a catch in the local waters.
The town is recorded in the Domesday Book and at the time of William the Conqueror it was owned by the king. For the past 800 years, it has been held by just three families; most recently the Hamlyn family, who have owned Clovelly and surrounding lands since 1738.
The village has one cobbled, pedestrian street which winds its way down to the working port at an angle of 20º. The best way to visit is to see the short film in the Visitor Center at the top of the hill and then stroll down to the harbor, stopping for tea or a bite to eat in the village inn or tea rooms. House numbering is quirky so if you are looking for a specific address it's a good idea to know that going down hill, on “Down along”—the cobbled street, numbers on the left side ascend and on the right side (called “Up along” but in actual fact the same street) descend. So the first house at the top of the street on the left has the lowest number and on the right the highest number.
A Car Free Village
Clovelly is a real village where real people live, but because of its fragile position on the side of a cliff and its limited vehicle access, entrance is only permitted between 9 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., and then only on foot. An admission is charged to help pay for village upkeep. One Land Rover is kept at the bottom, near the harbor, so that people who have walked down but don't fancy the trek back up can book a ride to the parking at the top. Between Easter and October, disabled visitors can book the Land Rover at Visitor Center Reception to take them both up and down.
Things to Do
Just exploring this pretty village—the Britain in Bloom winner for the Southwest in 2017—makes a great, leisurely day out. It is 10 miles west of Bideford off the A39. But there is also plenty to do:
Continue to 3 of 6 below.
Two museums are included in the village admission charge. The Kingsley Museum commemorates the life and work of Victorian writer Charles Kingsley, author of “The Water Babies” and “Westward Ho”. The Fisherman's Cottage is the place to see how fishing families lived in the 1930s when Clovelly was still an important Devon fishing port.
Craft workshops near the Visitor Center include a silk workshop and a pottery workshop where you can learn about local crafts, get hands on experience and buy artisan textiles and ceramics
Shopping A small number of interesting craft and gift shops can be found on the cobbled street and on paths leading off it. About midway down, an art gallery sells work by local artists
Harbor Activities Boats can be chartered for diving, angling and day trips. For a small fee, visitors can also try night fishing from Clovelly's ancient harbor wall.
Movie Tourism – Clovelly harbor was the stand-in for Guernsey in the film adaptation of the New York Times Best Seller, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, due for release in May, 2017.
03 of 06
Lacock Village, Wiltshire
If the Wiltshire village of Lacock looks familiar, that's because you've probably seen it before in films or on television. In recent times, this traditional English village of timber-framed, and golden Cotswold stone houses has appeared in Downton Abbey, the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice and Cranford; in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone; and in the film Wolfman. Lacock Abbey also featured in The Other Boleyn Girl and its cloisters were used for Hogwarts classrooms.
All of this, plus the fact that the National Trust looks after Lacock, makes it easy to forget that this is another one of those impossibly pretty, tiny English villages where people—a population of about 1,100—actually live and work.
The village is about three miles from Chippenham, signposted from the A350. Although there is no visitor parking within the village, you can drive through it and there is pay and display visitor parking about 220 yards from the village. If you are touring the Cotswolds or planning a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Bath, Avebury and Stonehenge, a visit to Lacock will fit right in.
Things to Do
The village itself is wonderful to walk through. It's atmospheric and photogenic and there are several tea rooms, a hotel with a pub, and local shops worth exploring. All of that, save the small pay and display parking fee (free for members of the National Trust), is free. An admission fee covers entry to the nearly 800-year old Abbey and grounds—not a religious establishment but a home since the 1540s—and to the Fox Talbot Museum in the 16th century Tithe Barn. Of the original abbey, the medieval cloisters, a sacristy and chapter house remain.
William Fox Talbot, who inherited Lacock Abbey, was pioneer in the early days of photography. He perfected the technique of preserving negative images so that photographs could be duplicated by being printed and fixed on photographic paper. The museum created in his home and in his honor features permanent and temporary exhibitions of early as well as modern photography.Continue to 4 of 6 below.
04 of 06
In 1973, film director Ridley Scott made a television and film advertisement for Hovis, a popular British brand of wholemeal bread. It featured Gold Hill, the steep central street of Shaftsbury in Dorset and its image of a boy on a bike delivering bread to a traditional English village has been an icon of nostalgia ever since. In fact, the British public voted it the 1973 film its favorite ad.
Shaftsbury, a small market town, was founded about 1,000 years ago by King Alfred the Great, the most English of English kings, credited with actually creating England from a group of disparate Anglo Saxon, Celtic and Danish kingdoms. It is one of the oldest, and highest towns in England, with views that stretch across the area of Dorset author Thomas Hardy called Blackmore Vale. Hardy included descriptions of Shaftsbury in his “Wessex” novels, as the fictional town of “Shaston.”
The town is considered a gateway to the southwest and it fits easily into an itinerary that includes Stonehenge, Bath, Bristol and the Jurassic Coast. It's about 22 miles west of Salisbury on the A30.
Things to Do
Continue to 5 of 6 below.
- Walks: The open, hilly countryside around Shaftsbury is prime hill walking territory. But do keep in mind, these hills, that look gentle and rolling are actually high and long. After a weekend in the area, even our dog had muscles too sore for climbing steps. Bring a walking stick.
- The Gold Hill Museum: This modern museum charts the course of local history from before Alfred the Great to the present day. Located at the top of Gold Hill, it occupies two ancient houses, one of them an old priests house with a peep hole into the church.
- Shaftsbury Abbey Museum and Garden: The modern museum sits in a medieval herb garden and orchard, beside the ruins of a once magnificent Benedictine Abbey founded in 888 by King Alfred the Great. The museum relates the story of the Abbey, an Anglo Saxon nunnery, that flourished for 650 years before being destroyed by Henry VIII.
05 of 06
The tiny Suffolk village of Kersey is little more than a crossroads and a few side streets, but with its thatch-roofed, pink-washed timber-framed houses, some dating from as early as the 13th century, this village of 350 is a magic place to stop. Go for lunch in the 14th century village pub, the Bell Inn, built in 1378, and have a walk round after. It was once named one of the top 10 villages in Britain.
Kersey was one of the early Suffolk wool towns that were among England's richest in the middle ages until cheaper, lighter fabric from the Netherlands wiped out their industry. Kersey was, in fact, a kind of woolen cloth but there is little evidence that it was made in this little town.
The main street of the village crosses a ford (so you actually drive through a bit of river) beside a building that was once an old textile mill. There are a handful of pretty, thatched, self-catering cottages to stay in and the hill that climbs up to the village church offers wonderful views of the entire village.Continue to 6 of 6 below.
06 of 06
All sorts of legends swirl around the “chiding stone”, a massive sandstone boulder that guards the entrance of Chiddingstone, Kent and, some say, gives the village its name.
The National Trust, who own and manage the village, list a handful of rumors without verifying any of them:
The stone was an ancient druid altar where judgments were pronounced.
Ancient Britons conducted trials at the stone.
- This impressive, prehistoric formation was used as a Saxon boundary marker.
- Nagging wives and witches were punished, or “chided”, by villagers in Medieval times.
Walkers hiking in the Kent Weald often come across this natural pulpit, and it inevitably draws them to the village itself. It's not only the oldest and prettiest in Kent but, according the the Trust, it's also the most accurate surviving Tudor village in the whole country.
Most of the timber-framed or brick buildings in the village are more than 200 years old and many are considerably older. The building that's now the post office is mentioned in local histories as early as 1453. The castle, used by the military in World War II, dates from the early 1500s. And the village itself, mentioned in the Domesday Book, was given to William the Conqueror's brother, Bishop Odo, in 1072.
Today the village consists of one narrow street with cobbled sidewalks, several independent businesses along the high street, a church, a tea room, several residences, a castle and an independent pub and restaurant, the Castle Inn, that dates from 1420.
If you are a fan of real ale, you should stop at the pub to sample Larkins, beers and ales made right around the corner—some with locally grown Kentish hops—about as local as it gets.
And, naturally, as with so many National Trust sites, Chiddinstone has a long list of cinema credits including A Room With a View, The Wicked Lady and The Wind in the Willows.
5 Reasons to Visit Portugal in the Winter
01 of 05
You’ll Get a Dose of Winter Sunshine
Unlike much of the rest of Europe, most of Portugal doesn’t suffer from grey skies or freezing temperatures in the middle of winter. While it regularly snows in the interior of the country, Portugal’s long Atlantic coastline often sees sunshine and blue skies at that time of year, especially in the south.
It’s not unusual for temperatures to reach the mid-sixties in the Algarve in January or February—warm enough to sit outside and enjoy a glass of wine in the sun—and Lisbon is often only a little colder. It’s a different story in the north, however, as Porto is typically grey, chilly, and damp at that time of year.
Another option for winter sun is to visit one of Portugal’s two island chains. Madeira lies off the coast of North Africa, and regularly sees temperatures in the mid to high sixties. While rain is a definite possibility in late winter, it’s far from guaranteed, and the temperate conditions make hiking and other outdoor activities more enjoyable than in the mid-summer heat.
If you happen to time your visit for New Year’s Eve, you’ll also witness one of the biggest and best fireworks celebrations in the world. The island’s capital, Funchal, set a Guinness world record in 2007 for the largest fireworks display.
The Azores, sitting out in the mid-Atlantic, is also surprisingly mild during the winter months. Daily maximum temperatures in the low sixties are typical from December through March, although again, like Madeira, you’re more likely to get some short-lived rain during your stay as well.
02 of 05
You’ll Avoid the Crowds
While the Algarve has been a favorite of British and other European holidaymakers for decades, most of the rest of Portugal was a bit of a hidden secret until recently. That’s no longer the case, though, with both Lisbon and Porto now very much on the tourist radar, and seeing hordes of visitors from mid-spring until mid-fall.
During peak summer months, it can be hard to move at the major tourist attractions, or on the narrow downtown sidewalks of either city. Since many restaurants and bars are North, they’re also often filled to overflowing, with endless demands pushing the patience of stressed-out wait staff. Combine that with the high temperatures, and visiting in July or August starts to look less appealing.
Winter, though, is a whole different story. With cooler temperatures comes a huge reduction in visitor numbers. The pace of life slows down, it’s possible to walk into most restaurants without a reservation and still get a seat (although don’t try it with the Michelin-starred places!), and even popular spots like Sintra see a fraction of their summertime visitors.
If you’re happy to forgo sunbathing in favor of a less crowded and stressful visit, definitely plan it for winter!
03 of 05
You’ll Save a Bunch of Money
Since visitor numbers drop off so much in winter, there’s plenty of spare capacity on all the services that cater to them. Planes, trains, rental cars, and accommodation are all under-booked between about November and March, and that means big discounts are on offer.
While hotel and Airbnb prices in Lisbon and Porto in peak season have skyrocketed in recent years, they plummet in winter. It’s not unusual to see discounts of 50% or more in January and February, as hoteliers and landlords desperately try to fill their empty rooms. Post-Christmas, flight prices are also noticeably cheaper, both from the United States and elsewhere in Europe.
Once you’re there, getting around by train, bus, or car can be almost embarrassingly cheap, especially if you book in advance. The three-hour one-way train ride from Lisbon to Porto, for instance, can often cost under ten euros. Portugal is one of the least expensive countries in Europe at all times of the year, but in winter, it’s positively cheap to visit!
04 of 05
It’s Peak Wave Season
If you’re keen on surfing, or just like to watch the professionals do it, definitely plan your trip to Portugal for the least expensive months. Nazaré, around a ninety-minute drive north of Lisbon, is famous for its towering waves, and they’re at their peak in winter. The world record for the largest surfed wave in the world was set here just a few years ago, and top big-wave surfers descend on the small town whenever conditions are right.
If trying to master 100-foot breakers seem a little ambitious, head elsewhere on the mainland, or to the Portuguese islands instead. No matter where you go, winter makes for bigger, better conditions in all of the country’s surf spots, and you’ll have far fewer people to share the waves with when you’re there.
Of course, the Atlantic isn’t renowned for its balmy water temperatures at the best of times, and that’s particularly true in the middle of winter! If you’re planning to spend any time in the ocean, be sure to pack or rent a very thick wetsuit.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
You’ll Enjoy Traditional Winter Food and Drink
Portuguese cuisine isn’t well-known elsewhere in the world, which is quite a surprise. The country excels in simple, delicious seafood and meat dishes, often paired with inexpensive, yet very drinkable, local wine.
While lighter dishes dominate during the long, hot summers, winter sees more hearty fare appear around the country. One of the heartiest of all is the cozido, a form of stew that’s heavy on the animal products. Various cuts of pork, chicken, and beef typically all make an appearance, along with boiled vegetables and potatoes.
Every region (and probably, every cook) has a different version, so it’s rare to get exactly the same thing twice. Don’t expect to see it at tourist restaurants or high-end places, though—cozido is definitely a simple, local affair.
The colder months are also a great time to check out caldo verde (green soup). Winter is when it traditionally makes an appearance on the menu, although you’ll likely be able to find a few places selling it throughout the year.
Often just called “sopa” or “sopa do dia” (soup of the day), this simple, warming bowl usually contains kale, onions, potato, garlic, and olive oil, often with some local pork sausage thrown in for good measure. Much like cozido, no two bowls are ever exactly the same.
6 Reasons to Visit Thessaloniki, Greece
01 of 06
Attend a Feast of Festivals
From high art to street art, popular culture to cultural excellence—Thessaloniki reels from one international festival to another throughout the year. These are just a few:
- Reworks brings together an eclectic mix of music—from experimental sound to modern classical music and contemporary electronics. It's five days and nights of performances by well established and emerging artists from across Europe.
- The Street Mode Festival is a four-day celebration of live, street-based performances and visual arts. There's music, gigs, DJ sets, and MC competitions; graffiti and street art shows and competitions; street dance and street sports—parcour, freerunning, and BMX. Also, lots of side events and a children's program.
- Thessaloniki International Film Festival is a November celebration of the best in contemporary filmmaking with shows, forums, professional masterclasses, and discussions. Missed it at TriBeCa or Sundance? Catch up with it in Thessaloniki.
- The Dimitria Festival, a major cultural event in autumn combining art exhibitions, music, theater and dance performances, films, discussions, and workshops. Artists, performers and experts gather from all over the world.
02 of 06
Stay out All Night
Nightlife is one of the main reasons Thessaloniki should be on your 2018 hot list. Whether it's tavernas with live rembetika music or vast pulsating clubs, the party goes on into the wee hours in pockets of entertainment scattered around the city. , National Geographic recently named it one of the top ten cities in the world for nightlife, claiming more bars and cafes per capita than any other city in Europe.
Try Mylos. It's a vast entertainment and nightlife space that was once a flour mill in the warehouse area of Port in the western part of the city. It's full of cafes and bars, music venues, concert, exhibition and performance spaces, and hundreds of milling revelers. It's where the Reworks Festival is usually based. Or check out what's happening at Fix, the Fix Factory of Sound, a live music venue that has concerts and club nights and a kind of mosh pit scene.
For less hectic nightlife, stroll the restaurant and entertainment district of Ladadika where there are plenty of bars and cafes with music. And look for rembetika, the traditional, political blues music of Greece, in rembetadiko—small tavernas where musicians sit on the edge of the stage and perform while people eat and drink. Rembetika is the Portuguese Fado or the Canto Flamenco of Greece and these days it's the hipster's choice.
03 of 06
Enjoy a Vibrant, Eclectic Restaurant Scene
Thessaloniki's great variety of informal dining and modern, irreverent interpretations of traditional dishes—at very reasonable prices—has recently won the city the title of Gastronomic Capital of Greece.
Some districts are better than others for grazers and diners alike. Try Ladadika for lively bistros, island-inspired dishes, and a casual, young atmosphere. In the seafood and vegetarian heaven that is Greece, Palati is a good choice for meat eaters and there's usually bouzouki music to go with.
Along the Port area, restaurants and cafes are a bit pricier, because of the seafront views. But the people watching here is great, so plan to at least have coffee or sunset drinks. And for a special, bust-the-budget blowout, try 7 Thalassas for very good seafood.
For some of the best views and an ever-changing selection of little, family-run places, head uphill to the area known as Ano Poli (for Old Town) where you can dine overlooking the whole of the city and port, beside ancient castle walls, for as little as about €20 per person. Downhill from there, Tsinari Square has airy, open cafes and plenty of accomplished, modern variations on traditional mezethedes.
While in Thessaloniki, be on the lookout for Eastern European influenced dishes such as stuffed cabbage or piroshki and try to find the very local specialty known as trahana. It's a cracked wheat or couscous dish served with yogurt or sour milk.
04 of 06
Wander Great Galleries and Museums
Considering the city's location at the crossroads of European and Ottoman culture, you'd naturally expect Thessaloniki to have some terrific museums of ancient history. And the city does not disappoint. The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, one of the largest museums in Greece, traces the civilization of Macedonia from pre-history to late antiquity and it's crammed with dazzling ancient treasures.
The Museum of Byzantine Culture opened to much applause in the 1990s, is home to collections that cover the transformation of Roman religion and the early Christian Church to the 15th-century fall of Constantinople.
But if you're not into ancient history, there are wonderful contemporary museums and galleries such as:
Continue to 5 of 6 below.
- The architecturally interesting Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art.
- The Thessaloniki Museum of Photography, with regular and internationally relevant exhibitions and events.
- The small but interesting Cinema Museum and Film Collection, the only cinema museum in Greece and hub for the city's annual film festival.
- The Olympic Museum of Thessaloniki, the only museum of its kind officially recognized by the Olympic Committee.
- There's even a museum devoted to basketball, The ARIS Basketball Museum.
05 of 06
Explore Ancient Monuments in a Modern Setting
Like most major cities in the Balkans, the built environment of Thessaloniki has suffered more than its fair share of war wounds. Much of the city has been built or rebuilt during the 20th and 21st centuries.
But the evidence of ancient Byzantine and Ottoman architecture is dotted all around the city, each standing out like a gem in its modern setting.
Some, like the White Tower, are prominent and important. The tower, which has become a symbol of Thessaloniki, was a 15th-century Ottoman fortification, built to replace an earlier Byzantine fortress. Only 75 visitors are allowed in at one time. Even if you aren't a history buff, it's worth the climb to the top (34 meters—about 10 stories) for the views.
Others, like the Byzantine Baths, are found in hidden corners of residential districts. The baths were built around 1300 and, remarkably, were fully functional for almost seven centuries—until 1940.
06 of 06
Hit Some UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The whole of Thessaloniki is UNESCO listed as an Open Museum of Early Christian and Byzantine Art. There are 15 different buildings, sites, and monuments in the listing that covers the transition from Roman through early Christian times to the Ottoman occupation.
You can follow the trail of the Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki but if that seems like too much hard work, at least visit The Rotunda, a remarkable building that has survived earthquakes and empires and has fragmentary remains of beautiful early mosaics.
The Rotunda, along with the Arch of Galerius nearby, started life as part of a Roman Emperor Galerius's 4th-century imperial palace. Emperor Constantine had it consecrated as a church. It remained a church for 1,200 years until Thessaloniki fell to the Ottoman Empire. In the 16th century, it became the Mosque of Suleyman Hortaji Effendi and it still has the minaret—the only one in the city—that was added then. Finally, in 1912, when the Ottoman Turks were expelled from Greece, the Rotunda was reconsecrated as a Greek Orthodox Church.
Today, it is formally known as the Church of Agios Georgios but most people refer to it simply as the Rotunda. A huge and impressive example of late Roman architecture, it is a must visit site.
6 Things to See and Do Near the Spanish Steps in Rome
Walk Around Villa Borghese park
Piazzale Napoleone I, 00197 Roma RM, Italy
+39 06 0608
Once a playground of the Popes, this vast park contains walking trails, a zoo, a carousel, a small lake with boat rentals, plus cafes, pony rides and a tiny cinema. It's also home to two of Rome's greatest art museums, the Galleria Borghese and the National Etruscan Museum at Villa Giulia. The former is a stellar collection of mostly Renaissance and Baroque art, while the latter contains thousands of artifacts from the pre-Roman Etruscan culture. You need a reservation to visit Galleria Borghese.
The Top Things to Do in Sagres, Portugal
The relentless Atlantic waves draw surfers to Sagres like moths to a flame. The angle of the headlands means some beaches are much more sheltered than others, making the surfing appropriate for a wide range of skill levels.
If the surf isn't much good on one of Sagres's four main beaches, it's worth taking a look at the others—conditions vary significantly between them, depending on the wind and tides. You can also head slightly northwest of town to Praia do Beliche, another popular surfing spot.
There are several surf shops in Sagres, and lessons are relatively inexpensive. It's also possible to hire whatever gear you need from the stores, avoiding the hassle of transporting it.
If being dumped by waves all day isn't your idea of a good time, kitesurfing is another good option. It's probably best left to those with prior experience, however, as the wind can be strong and very gusty.
5 Attractions Near Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence
Visit the Abbey of San Miniato al Monte
Via delle Porte Sante, 34, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
+39 055 234 2731
About a 10-minute walk uphill (with stairs) from Piazzale Michelangelo, this beautiful 11th-century abbey and church complex is worth every ounce of effort to get here. Its geometric facade of green and white marble and gold mosaics is visible from the center of Florence, and its interior is a jewel box of early Medieval religious art and architecture. Resident monks still produce candles, sweets and herbal products, which make unique gifts and at 5:30 p.m. most days, they celebrate mass with Gregorian chant. Carefully tended grounds and a cemetery with some elaborate tombs make this a pleasant, atmospheric place to spend an hour or so.