,

Travel Guide to Sofia: The historic Bulgarian capital

 

Standard ice cream shot whilst on a sunny city break 🍦🍦 Look at those blue skies 😍😍 #Sofia #Bulgaria #visitsofia

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

OK so this is post is waaaaaayy overdue, but better late than never, right?! I visited Sofia back in May after snapping up flights with Ryanair for £30 return. Yep, you heard correctly, £15 each way for the 3hours it took to get from Birmingham to Bulgaria. This trip was totally unintentional and completely unplanned, but when my lovely friend Toni and I decided to frantically browse Skyscanner for cheap flights to anywhere, we realised this bargain was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Fast forward seven days and we were sat on our flight heading across to the furthest Eastern European country I have ever visited! Here’s what we got up to during our time in Bulgaria, and I’ve listed my top highlights for this cultural capital city…

 

Take a FREE walking tour

 

 

I absolutely LOVE free walking tours and feel they are the best way to discover a new city for the first time, especially as they help to get your bearings when you’re wandering around like a crazy person trying to find out where everything is. The free walking tour in Sofia begins outside the Palace of Justice, right in front of the steps, and departs every day at 11am. Our tour guide, Vasil, was so friendly and informative throughout the whole event, which lasted around an hour. Within that time we saw pretty much every important landmark within the city centre, and got to make some brilliant photo stops along the way. Although we didn’t have time to go inside the churches etc during the tour, we got a good idea of the places we wanted to come back to and explore a little later on. Thank you Vasil for an amazing first couple of hours in Sofia!

 

Visit the Alexander Nevsky cathedral at night

 

 

This is probably the most famous landmark in Sofia and, in my opinion, definitely the most beautiful! As soon as I knew I was heading over to the city I made it my mission to visit the Alexander Nevsky cathedral as soon as possible. We actually walked past that place a number of times during our stay, it’s an incredible piece of architecture and looks good from every angle, especially from the inside. I particularly loved it when it was lit up at night though, as it literally glowed in the dark and made for the most beautiful picture! Sadly my camera couldn’t do it justice, so this picture is from my lovely friend and fellow travel blogger Allison who is currently spending some time in Sofia and calling it her temporary home… Thanks Allison!

 

See the ancient remains of Serdica

 

 

If you’re in to your history, you will LOVE ancient ruins, artefacts and crumbling remains as much as I do. Did you know that Sofia is over 6000 years old?!?! Nope, I didn’t either until I got there and took the fantastic walking tour. The city was known by many names until it became the Sofia we know and love today, and the ancient remains of Serdica date back thousands of years. Wander towards the metro station and you’ll find ruins that were discovered when the council started digging and building the metro line back in 1998. There’s also a brand new hotel (Arena de Serdica) that has just opened and original Roman ruins that were discovered during excavation can be found in the lobby, where an exclusive exhibition housing the 3rd century Roman Ampitheatre has been made. Learning about the history of Sofia was one of my favourite things to do in the city and it made me fall in love with it even more!

 

Explore the many different religions of the city

 

 

There aren’t many cities where you can find a Mosque next to a Catholic Church, but in Sofia it’s something that’s pretty normal! The city is home to a whole host of different religions, from Muslim and Jewish to Catholic and Protestant, but there is no divide present in the city whatsoever, it feels very united and everyone really seems to come together, no matter what their religion. We spent time wandering around the churches and admiring them from every angle. My particular favourite was the Church of St Nicholas, with it’s tiny crypt underneath welcoming visitors into it’s Wishing Room. I did make some wishes, and I do hope they come true!

 

Climb Mount Vitosha

 

 

So we didn’t exactly climb Mount Vitosha, and the tale of how we got up there in the first place is a pretty ridiculous one!! To cut a long story short, we got in a taxi hoping to head towards a rooftop bar with panoramic views for drinks and cakes before our flight home, but the taxi driver got a bit lost, didn’t speak good English and wasn’t sure where he was going. After an hour we arrived at said rooftop bar, only to find that it was CLOSED and was most definitely not in use! Luckily there were a few staff members on site who allowed us to access the roof terrace in exchange for a few Bulgarian Lev – I am sooo glad we did this as it was well worth the hours taxi and the views from the top were INCREDIBLE. Obviously I would have liked to have climbed it properly, but it was an adventure and an experience and was worth all the taxi hassle. If we had more time we would have actually hiked the mountain, and explored the nearby Stone River and Golden Bridges too as this looked super cool, but there’s always another excuse to come back!

 

Stay in a central hotel 

 

Central Hotel Sofia

 

We stayed in a brilliant hotel. right in the heart of the city, and it had everything we needed and more. As the name suggests, Central Hotel Sofia was exactly that, slap bang in the middle of everything and the location couldn’t have been more perfect. The hotel is a 4* and has all modern amenities you could wish for. It was clean, smart, and excellent value for money. We paid £30pp per night for a good size twin room with en-suite bathroom and had a really comfortable stay. I’d highly recommend this hotel to anyone looking to stay somewhere central, modern and affordable in the heart of Sofia.

 

Eat just outside of the city

 

 

Everything is so cheap in Sofia, that meal times are an absolute steal and you can taste some wonderful food without paying a small fortune. Although the central boulevard is brimming with restaurants, bars and cafe’s, I’d recommend getting a taxi a little further out of town to see where else you can eat. After a recommendation from a local friend, Toni and I decided to jump in a cab and make our way over to Pod Lipite, a small restaurant just 5 minutes from the city centre that serves traditional Bulgarian food and hosts traditional Bulgarian singers and dancers who play every night for their guests. This place was super cute and cosy and served the most amazing food from salads and soups to chicken and beef dishes. We both had an incredible meal, with an alcoholic drink each, and the bill came to just £17!! It’s little places like Pod Lipite which really allow you to take in the culture that a city has to offer, and this meal out was definitely one of the highlights from our trip to Sofia.

 

So there we have it, my Sofia travel guide in a nutshell! Despite spending just 2 nights/3 days here, we saw pretty much everything we wanted to see and I definitely think it was enough time. Obviously we could have spent hours more properly exploring each of the churches, or taken a full day to hike Mount Vitosha, but a 2 night stay will give you enough time to see a lot of the city and worked really well for us. Hopefully this post inspires you to think about choosing Sofia for your next city break, even though it might not be an obvious choice it’s a real hidden European gem. Have you ever been to Sofia before? Tell me what you thought of it, I’d love to hear your comments on this charming place!

Love Jess x

 

Had the best time exploring the beautiful city of #Sofia with my wonderful friend of 10 years 💖

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

,

Ten Things to do in Tenerife

 

 

Tenerife is a sun worshippers haven. Situated in southern Spain, just across the sea from North Africa, Tenerife enjoys temperatures as high as 35  degrees during summer, 25 degrees during winter, and is hot all year round. There’s more to this Canary island than sunbathing and beaches though, as I discovered when I spent a week here with my sisters on a girly holiday back in June. With its mountainous scenery, rugged coastline and vibrant atmosphere, here are my top ten things to see and do in sunny Tenerife…

 

1. Hike Mount Teide

 

Just one more 📸 of the amazing mount teide cos I just love it 🗻 #teide #teidelover #tenerife #canaries #traveltuesday

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

If you’re an adventure seeker and want to keep active whist you’re on holiday, Mount Teide is the place to be! The third highest active volcano in the world, this mountain can be climbed, hiked, or reached by cable car all year round. My sisters and I booked an all day excursion to Teide whilst we were on the island, and it was definitely one of the highlights of our holiday. Rather than riding the cable car to the summit, we opted to hike around the base of the mountain and admire the views from down below instead. If I were to visit again I’d love to go to the top though as I’m sure the panoramic scenes from up there were even better! Whilst at Teide, we also visited Los Roques de Garcia, a UNESCO world heritage site with rock formations that are over 170,000 years old – it looked like something out of an ancient movie and the landscapes were breathtakingly beautiful.

 

2. Create waves at Siam Park

 

#SiamPark #MaiThaiRiver #chilling #waterfall #Tenerife @travelblogneverseenbefore

A post shared by Siam Park (@siampark) on

 

Voted the best water park in the world, this Thai themed adventure island boasts some of the biggest, most daring rides you’ll ever see. I’m a huge water park fan but sadly didn’t have time to visit this place during our time in Tenerife as we were very limited on days (and euros!). The park attracts over 850,000 visitors a year and is home to a lazy river, crazy rapids, a sealion island and it even has its own beach! Located in the family friendly resort of Costa Adeje, this place is amazing for a fun filled day out for all the family, no matter what your age, and is definitely one of the most visited attractions on the whole island – I am 100% checking this out next time I return!

 

3. Wander down Las Americas

 

Casting shadows 🌗🌴 #Tenerife

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

We stayed at one of the Parque Santiago resorts, right in the heart of Las Americas, in front of the beach and on the main strip itself. Las Americas is a thriving resort brimming with bars, cafe’s, shops and restaurants and offers plenty of things to see and do. Tribute acts fill the bars and pubs every night, whilst water sports take over the beach and live music plays from the restaurants during the day. There’s always something going on in Las Americas, and that’s one of the main reasons I loved the resort so much. Everything is so close by, and you never have to walk more than 10 minutes in either direction to find what it is that you need. I’d definitely recommend Las Americas to anyone looking for a lively, fun-filled, stress-free holiday in the heart of Tenerife.

 

4. Have drinks at the Hard Rock Cafe

 

Bright lights, big city ✨ #Tenerife #lasamericas

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

One of the most extravagant hotels in the whole of Las Americas, and one of the newest, The Hard Rock Cafe is arguably a tourist attraction in it’s own right, and for good reason! I love this brand and always try to visit whenever I’m exploring a new city, but the Tenerife chain is definitely one of the best I’ve ever seen. With a 5* hotel, enormous swimming pool, trendy restaurant, music hall and glamorous rooftop bar, the Hard Rock has it all. We found that this place was great for having a few cocktails before hitting the rest of the strip, but it was quite pricey so we had to limit ourselves!

 

5. Watch the fountain show at the Safari shopping mall

 

Magical fountain shows are my favourite ✨✨✨ #Tenerife

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

I wasn’t even aware this place existed until I wandered past one night and heard my favourite song booming from the speakers… When I heard Elvis – Can’t Help Falling In Love playing, I turned to see where it was coming from and was greeted with the most amazing sight! A beautiful sparkly fountain show right in the centre of Las Americas, that was set to music and attracted more and more people to the crowd as they stopped and stared just as I had done. The show lasts for around 10-15 minutes and a number of classic songs are played as the fountains do their thing. The show ends with the iconic New York, New York by Frank Sinatra and the fountains look even more beautiful lit up as they come to a sparkly end! You can catch the show every night at the Safari Shopping Mall, right on the Las Americas strip.

 

6. Explore Loro Parque

 

According to the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums’ “Bottlenose Dolphin Fact Sheet”: Bottlenose dolphins are found in temperate and tropical waters around the world (cosmopolitan species). They can inhabit a variety of marine and coastal ecosystems of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea (Ridgway and Harrison, 1999). Bottlenose dolphins in the western North Atlantic are found from Nova Scotia to Patagonia and from Norway to the tip of South Africa. They are the most abundant dolphin species along the United States coast from Cape Cod through the Gulf of Mexico (Reeves et al., 2002). Other types of bottlenose dolphins are found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, as far north as the southern Okhotsk Sea, the Kuril Islands and central California. They are found as far south as Australia and New Zealand. Dolphins everywhere depend on healthy oceans for their survival. They depend on us! Protect and conserve #OurWorldOceans #AMMPA #welovedolphinseveryday Según la ficha informativa sobre los delfines mulares de la Alianza de Parques y Acuarios con Mamíferos Marinos: Los delfines mulares se hallan en aguas tropicales y templadas alrededor del mundo (especies cosmopolitas). Pueden habitar en una gran variedad de ecosistemas marinos y costeros en los océanos Pacífico, Atlántico e Índico, así como en el Mar Mediterráneo (Rigway y Harrison, 1999). Los delfines mulares del Atlántico Norte occidental se reparten desde Nueva Escocia hasta la Patagonia, y desde Noruega hasta el extremo de Sudáfrica. Son la especie de delfín más abundante a lo largo de la costa de los Estados Unidos, desde el Cabo Cod hasta el Golfo de México (Reeves et al., 2002). Otros tipos de delfines mulares pueden encontrarse en los océanos Pacífico e Índico, así como tan al norte como al sur del Mar de Ojotsk, las islas Kuriles y California Central; y tan al sur como en Australia y Nueva Zelanda. Los delfines alrededor del mundo dependen de océanos sanos para sobrevivir. ¡Dependen de nosotros! Protege y conserva nuestros océanos. #OurWorldOceans #AMMPA #welovedolphinseveryday

A post shared by Loro Parque (@loroparque) on

 

Loro Parque is one of the most popular excursions on the whole island and is situated in the pretty Puerto de la Cruz area, a bus ride away from Las Americas. Awarded the title of best zoo in Europe, Loro Parque offers an unforgettable day out for all the family and is home to over 4000 species of animal across its 33 acre gardens. As well as having numerous exhibits for visitors to wander around, the zoo hosts dolphin, sealion, orca and parrot shows daily too. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to tick this place off my Tenerife bucket list, but I will definitely be checking it out next time I’m on the island!

 

7. Sunbathe on Las Vistas beach

 

Pick a sunbed any sunbed ☀️ #Tenerife #beach #lasamericas

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

One of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever seen, Las Vistas is the perfect place to take time out and relax during your holiday to Tenerife. We spent many hours there sunbathing, swimming in the sea and watching the world go by. The beach was right behind our Parque Santiago hotel, so gave us direct access, and it was a stones throw from many of the cafe’s, bars and restaurants that are dotted along the sea front. The beach also offers a multitude of watersports for the thrill seekers out there who prefer keeping active to lounging around on the sand – I didn’t take part in these as was far too busy sunbathing – but it looked like so much fun!

 

8. Take a boat trip from Puerto Colon

 

Vitamin Sea 🌊🐬 #Tenerife

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

Despite suffering from horrendous sea sickness, boat trips are totally my thing and I always try to do one when I’m on holiday! I think boats are a brilliant way of seeing places from different perspectives, and I adore marine life so take any chance I get to spot dolphins, fish and even whales whilst I’m out on the open sea. Sadly I was feeling absolutely AWFUL during the entire trip and spent most of the three hours at sea with my head in a sick bag!! Despite my sickness though I still managed to see dolphins AND whales swimming next to our catamaran and that alone was worth every minute of how I felt that day. Maybe next time I’ll just go on a bigger boat so I don’t feel the waves as much… I’ve suffered with travel/motion sickness for as long as I can remember and would love to know how I can overcome it… Suggestions on a postcard please?!

 

9. Go clubbing on the Veronica’s strip

 

🍾🍑

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

This is something we only did a couple of nights during our trip; we much prefer bars to clubs so spent most of our time on the main strip in Las Americas, rather than wandering over to the Veronicas despite it being in the same resort. This strip is a ten minute walk from the centre of Americas and is filled with more bars and even more clubs offering cheap drinks deals, DJ’s and dance floors; think Zante/Ayia Napa/Kavos and you get the picture. I’m now 24 and this isn’t really my scene anymore (I’m so old!!) but it was fun to spend a few hours there and just a short stroll away from the lively resort centre so easily reachable on foot.

 

10. Watch the sunset from the sea front

 

Not a bad place to watch the sunset 🌅🌅 #tenerife #lasamericas #friyay

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

Anyone that knows me will know how much I love my sunsets! Every time I’m away I always try and catch a sun set at least once during my trip, and luckily we were able to see a couple during our week in Tenerife. Plonking ourselves in a pretty restaurant on the sea front we sat and watched the sun go down over the Atlantic sea whilst we drank cocktails and stuffed our faces with yummy meals. I think we did this on our first night and it was really special – my sister captured a timelapse of the sunset and it looked totally magical! Would def recommend having dinner in front of the sun set during your time in Tenerife if you get the chance.

 

So those are just some of the many reasons why you should visit Tenerife this summer, or in fact at any time of year. There’s so much to see and do, the weather is fantastic all year round, and the lively atmosphere makes the island a hit with families, groups and couples alike. To be in the heart of the action, stay in Las Americas and take advantage of the proximity of the beach, bars, restaurants and lively nightlife. If however you’re looking for a more relaxed holiday, the smaller resorts of Costa Adeje and Los Cristianos are probably more your thing. I absolutely loved my holiday to Tenerife this summer and couldn’t have asked for a better location from which to unwind and enjoy some much needed sunshine. The scenery was beautiful, the temperatures were just right and there was so much to do we didn’t once get bored. Have you ever been to Tenerife? What resort did you visit? Would love to know what you thought of the island!

Love Jess x

 

I think I'm a little bit in love with #Tenerife 😍🌊

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

,

Travel Guide to Vienna, the musical Austrian capital

 

As part of my mini Europe trip taken in March I visited the pretty city of Vienna, somewhere I have wanted to explore for AGES! If you read one of my previous posts you’ll know that I travelled with my friend and fellow blogger Lucy to Bratislava for two nights before catching a train over to the Austrian capital for a further two nights. We stayed in the quirky Musuemsquartier, located in the cities seventh district, and found it to be the perfect base for exploring the rest of the city. We only had two full days there so barely scratched the surface, but here’s a round up of my short time in the city and my top tips on what to see and do there…

 

Climb St Stephen’s Cathedral

 

Because a city isn't a city unless it has a beautiful cathedral at the very heart of it 💒😍 #Vienna #stephanzplatz @viennatouristboard

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

Climbing towers is probably one of my favourite things to do when I’m on a city break – there’s just something about racing to the top to discover breathtaking views of the city below you and viewing it from every angle possible. I didn’t get chance to climb the 343 steps of St Stephen’s South Tower during my visit to Vienna, but I saved my little legs and instead was able to take an express elevator up to the top of the North Tower to capture the most stunning views of the Old Town below. Although the South Tower is the highest point of Vienna’s inner city skyline, and the views are supposedly slightly better, I really enjoyed my visit to the North Tower and even caught a glimpse of the largest bell in Austria, The Boomer Bell, which has resided in the tower since 1957.

 

Visit Hundertwasser village

 

 

This was somewhere completely off the beaten track and really unexpected but I am so glad I got chance to visit this pretty place whilst I was in Vienna. Lucy had seen photos of Hundertwasser all over Instagram, but I was yet to lay my eyes on it so had no clue what to expect when we set off on our wander through the city to try and find it. After a few wrong turns we came across our desired location and we soon fell in love with this place – I’ve never seen anything like it! Essentially it’s just a residential block of flats with a small shopping centre directly opposite, but the design, style and architecture is incredible and made for the most amazing Insta shots. Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser founded the site, which has now been turned into a museum and is visited by thousands of tourists annually. I think the building was really reminiscent of iconic Spanish architect Gaudi, and Hundertwasser looked a little like Park Guell. I just feel a little sorry for all the residents who have to go about their normal everyday lives whilst the cameras are constantly clicking, but if you get chance I’d 100% recommend stopping off here for a few minutes!

 

Wander around Stadt Park

 

 

After a busy day of exploring it was nice for us to sit down, rest our feet for a short while and just enjoy the ambiance of Stadt Park, a gorgeous green space right in the heart of the city. With flowers, trees, ponds, streams and local wildlife to look at, this place offered some respite from the hustle and bustle of the city centre and was well worth a visit. We cut through Stadt Park to reach Hundertwasser Village and the walk was gorgeous.

 

Tick off all three of the big palaces

 

Pretty sure this is one of the most beautiful palaces I've ever seen 😍 #Vienna #belvedere @viennatouristboard

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

Make sure you visit Belvedere Palace with it’s elegant architecture and perfectly manicured flower gardens…

 

Ohhhhhh Viennaaaaaaa 🎼🎼

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

… don’t miss out on Schonnbrunn either, one of the most recognized landmarks in the whole of Vienna, and the biggest palace complex in the city…

 

 

… and finally, no trip to Vienna would be complete without visiting all of the big three palaces, so ticking the stunning Hofburg complex off your list is an absolute must! With so much history and culture to discover, taking a trip to all of these palaces will help you to fall in love with Vienna even more.

 

Eat like a local

 

 

I always try to indulge in some local cuisine when I’m visiting a new city, and as it was my first time in Austria, I couldn’t wait to see what would be on the menu! I have to admit, I wasn’t as adventurous as I normally am when travelling, mainly because I was a bit limited on funds and short on time, so mostly just wanted to eat quickly before getting on with exploring! I did however get chance to eat chicken schnitzel for dinner and traditional Viennese sausages for breakfast which were a particular highlight. Sadly I didn’t get chance to sample any of their world famous apple strudel.. but there’s always next time!

 

Stay in the Museumsquartier area

 

The edgy, quirky district of #Museumsquartier made the perfect base to explore #Vienna 😍 @viennatouristboard

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

I’m slightly biased as I stayed in this area during my time in Vienna – you can check out my hotel review of the amazing 25 Hours Hotel to find out why it was so great – but I would definitely recommend basing yourself near to the Museumsquartier area if you can! This place made such a good base for us as it was so central, close to the metro/bus/tram stops and there was so much to see and do within the district itself. Brimming with shops, cafe’s, bars, restaurants and, of course, museums, this part of town is edgy, lively and will certainly keep you busy during your visit to Vienna.

 

Make use of the metro or the trams

 

 

I’ll go into more detail about this below, but I cannot stress how important it is to use public transport during your time in Vienna. The city is ENORMOUS, and you’ll barely even scratch the surface if, like me and Lucy, you only have two full days there. I did get to tick off all the landmarks I wanted to see, but still feel like we saw barely any of the city despite exploring as much as we possibly could. The transport systems in Vienna are amazing, so take advantage of them, whiz from place to place and see as much, or as little, as you want to see there whilst allowing your legs to rest while you’re chilling on the tube!

 

Purchase Vienna city cards

 

 

This was an absolute MUST for us and we couldn’t have been without them during our trip. These city cards, from the lovely team at the Vienna Tourist Board, gave us free public transport to anywhere in the city, on the trams, metro and buses, and enabled us to go as far and as wide as we wanted. Vienna is such a huge city and it’s impossible to see it by foot, so these cards were a godsend and I’d 100% recommend them to anyone visiting the city.

 

So there we have it, my travel guide to Vienna. For the best possible experience I’d recommend using different methods of transport to get around, such as the metro, buses and trams, and you can walk to some places too, depending on where you’re staying. The city is huge and you’ll find it difficult to see everything without using the metro to get from place to place, but I always think it’s boring just being whizzed around on the underground, rather than appreciating the beauty of the city from one of the open top tourist buses! I have to admit I felt a bit like this during my time in Vienna and it kind of spoilt it a little – we were so pushed for time that we had no option but to use the metro, but I just felt like we were whizzing from place to place just to tick certain landmarks off, rather than spending time getting lost down side streets and discovering quirky, hidden areas of the city.

 

 

Overall though, I did think Vienna was absolutely stunning and I saw as much as I wanted to see during my short time there, but I just wish I’d got to really immerse myself in the city a little more. Hopefully this post inspires you to think about choosing Vienna for your next city break, and will leave you wanting to explore one of the most famous places in Austria. Have you ever been to Vienna before? Tell me what you thought of it, I’d love to hear your comments!

Love Jess x

Thank you to the wonderful team at the Vienna Tourist Board for our complimentary city cards for the duration of our trip.

 

,

Highlights from #MustSeeMenorca: My Favourite Spanish Island

So #Menorca's harbours look pretty special in the sunshine ⛴⛴ #mustseemenorca #spain #visitspain #igersmenorca

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to be selected to go on my first ever group press trip and I had the most amazing time! Along with the brilliant teams at Jet2, Traverse Events, Turismo Menorca and Spain I headed off with 59 other bloggers, Youtubers and Instagrammers to explore the beautiful island of Menorca. Although this place is the smallest of the Balearic islands (excluding Formentera), it’s right up there with its sisters Majorca and Ibiza and is brimming with gorgeous white sand beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters and so many things to see and do. This was my fourth visit to the island but my first as an adult and it made me appreciate it’s beauty, culture and charm so much more! Here are my highlights from my trip and why I think you #MustSeeMenorca too…

Watching the sunset from Illa Lazareto

 

 

On our first night in Menorca we took a short boat ride from the pretty port of Es Castell over to Illa Lazaretto, an old quarantined island which has remained largely untouched since it was used to house terminally ill patients of various diseases. We wandered around the former grounds of the hospital wings, the communal gardens and the old chapel and the whole island felt very eerie, almost haunted, and I could just sense the history that was there. We had the privilege of watching the most glorious sunset over the harbour and across Es Castell, but it was a sight in itself to see 60 bloggers snapping away furiously with their Go-Pro’s, iPhone’s and DSLR cameras all trying to get the perfect Instagram shot!

 

Partying in Cova D’en Xoroi

 

 

This was probably my favourite part of the entire trip; partying in a bar in a cave on the sea – could it get any better than that?! Our closing party took us to the amazing Cova D’en Xoroi, a place I went to when I was 7 years old but could barely remember, so I was super excited to be attending again, and this time I could have a drink or three 😉 We had a wonderful time dancing to music, drinking cava, and watching the most glorious sunset over the Mediterranean sea. This place is an absolute MUST when visiting Menorca and it’s not hard to see why!

 

Exploring the white washed village of Binibeca

 

 

Another part of Menorca I had visited when I was a little girl, but didn’t realise until I got home and showed my mum this photo! Binibeca was a real hidden gem, and probably the most beautiful village I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. With its black lampposts, tall trees and white washed buildings, Binibeca makes the most picture perfect shots. You’ll also find a couple of small shops, restaurants and a doctors surgery on site whilst it’s location at the edge of the sea offers the most stunning views of the turquoise waters below.

 

Walking around the old capital, Ciutadella

 

 

The capital of the island  until 1722, the gothic city of Ciutadella is definitely worth a visit during your time in Menorca. The city is home to cobbled streets, local markets, a pretty harbour and the most stunning cathedral. Ciutadella is considered the most religious capital of the island, compared to Mahon, the new capital, and is visited by large numbers of tourists year after year. Why not taste some of the Spanish delicacies at one of the many food markets before wandering around the harbour or people watching along the side streets? There’s so much to see in Ciutadella – we spent our last day there and it was the perfect ending to a wonderful week!

 

And exploring the new capital, Mahon

 

 

Known for it’s striking architecture, it’s bustling streets and it’s busy port, Mahon is the proud capital of Menorca and boasts that it’s the birthplace of Mayonnaise, or ‘Ma-hon-aise’ as it’s supposedly pronounced! Mahon also has the one of the largest natural harbours in the world, stretching 900m wide with gorgeous clear waters. Getting around on foot is definitely the best way to see the city, and exploring the little side streets, with their wonderful array of restaurants, bars, cafes and shops, makes for the most delightful afternoon. My favourite part was walking along the harbour and taking a boat trip from the port, but don’t miss the stunning Church of Santa Maria too, with history dating back to the 1200s!

 

Kayaking in Cala Galdana

 

 

I was super nervous about kayaking for the first time… water sports are not my strong point despite having jet-skied, boat-tripped and para-sailed in the past! Let me tell you now though that kayaking was one of the hardest physical things I have ever done, but definitely one of the most rewarding. Luckily, I partnered up with the lovely Paco from the Spanish Tourist Board and he was amazing, doing most of the work whilst my poor arms couldn’t cope with the tremendous amount of rowing that was required. Sorry Paco – I’m useless and have no upper body strength! Our time on the water saw us speeding across the open sea, entering dark caves, cruising into little coves and we even stopped for a swim and a snorkel whilst enjoying crisps and drinks on the rocks. Kayaking definitely isn’t for the faint-hearted, but it was hands down one of the best things I’ve ever done and I’m so glad I got to do it with all of my wonderful Menorca buddies!

 

Visiting the highest point of the island, El Toro

 

 

El Toro is an absolute must see when visiting Menorca, and for very good reason. Drive (or hike, if you’re feeling brave enough) up to the top of the highest point of the island for the most spectacular panoramic views below. You’ll get to see the rest of the island from every angle, and you’ll also get to visit the Sanctuary of the Virgin of El Toro, a stunning 15th century baroque-style church. To the front of the site you’ll see the iconic statue of Jesus of the Sacred Heart with his arms stretched wide, said to be blessing the Menorcans who died in the Spanish Moroccan wars of the 20th century. This place felt truly special, and the views were completely stunning.

 

Tapas eating in every kind of Menorcan restaurant

 

 

We all know that food is a big part of any trip abroad, but even more so when you’re visiting Spain; the home of Tapas, Paella, Gazpacho and many more iconic dishes. As you’d expect, meal times were one of the focus points of our press trip and I think we were all desperate to enjoy a true taste of Spain during our time in Menorca. My favourite restaurant was La Minerva in Mahon, a floating restaurant in the middle of the harbour that served up the most amazing Tapas, seafood and more. I’m not the most adventurous person when it comes to food, I try as many new things as I can, but I’m happy just to stick to plain foods as 9 times out of 10 I get sick when I start eating things that are rich, or that my stomach isn’t used to! Luckily I pushed myself a little on this trip and managed to try new things that I never would have picked if I was travelling alone – cuttlefish and squid being two of my new feats, although Tapas will always remain a firm favourite of mine!

 

Other important parts of our trip

During our time in Menorca we stayed in the stunning Hotel San Luis PortBlue in the peaceful resort of S’Algar, just a few minutes walk from the waterfront where you’ll find a small selection of restaurants and shops. The resort itself was super quiet and I normally prefer staying somewhere more lively with more places to go and more things to see and do, but as we had jam packed itineraries for the entire week, it made a nice change to have a sleepy resort to be based from! We each had spacious and modern double rooms with en-suites, desks, LCD TVs and the most amazing sea views across S’Algar… I’m definitely missing waking up to those every morning!

 

 

Obviously, the main reason we were all visiting Menorca in the first place was to attend the two day conference held at the luxurious Barcelo Hamilton Hotel in Mahon. Our hosts put on a fantastic event with inspiring talks from speakers, enjoyable group challenges and plenty of time for everyone to get to know each other a little better. We were also treated to a fantastic display of foodie treats throughout the two days and admired the gorgeous sea views from our central location. My favourite part was our mini closing party on site, where we spent time drinking cava from the rooftop terrace complete with bar, hot tubs and the most amazing views across the harbour below!

 

Rooftop views and cava to end day 2 of the #mustseemenorca conference at the beautiful @barcelohamilton 🍾🍾 #menorca #Spain

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

So there we are, the highlights from my #MustSeeMenorca trip – an unforgettable week with so many memories, and there were so many more I could have picked! I posted tonnes of photos on my Instagram  whilst I was away and received so many comments from lots of you saying that you wanted to hop on a plane and join me out in Menorca! I hope you all get to visit one day, and I just want to say a huge thank you again to the fantastic teams at Jet2, Traverse, Turismo Menorca and Spain for hosting our trip and making it so wonderful – our week in the sun definitely felt like a holiday and not a press trip! Have you ever been to Menorca? What were your favourite parts? I’d love to hear your Spanish stories!

Love Jess x

 

,

Travel Guide to Bratislava, the charming Slovakian capital

I'm just gonna keep posting pics from my #Bratislava trip cos I was there this time last week and I LOVE IT SO MUCH 🏰😍 @visitbratislava

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

If you follow me on social media you’ll know that I’ve done a lot of travelling already this year. Although we are only four months in to 2017, I have explored four new countries, and new four cities, and have had numerous days out and weekend stays too. Two weeks ago I headed on a mini European adventure with my wonderful friend, and fellow travel blogger, Lucy. We had booked 2 nights in Bratislava and 2 in Vienna and were so excited to be kicking off our holiday exploring the Slovakian capital. We had the best possible start to our trip as this place totally stole my heart and, in my humble opinion, it’s extremely underrated and is a true hidden gem! When you think of city breaks, Bratislava might not be at the top of your list, but here’s why I really think it should be, and here’s my ultimate guide to this beautiful city…

Get around on foot

Although Bratislava is a fairly big city, pretty much everything you would want to see and do is located in the Old Town and Historical Centre, which is a small area and can easily be covered on foot. If you’re anything like me, you’ll LOVE wandering around on foot, getting lost down side streets and discovering places off the beaten path. You can use trams or buses to get around the city, but to be honest everything is close by and walking along the cobbled streets really helps to immerse yourself in the true Slovak culture. During our trip, Lucy and I planned the landmarks we really wanted to visit and then roughly mapped out our day making sure we ticked off everything we wanted to see during our short time there. We managed to see almost everything we wanted to, but I could have wandered for hours more and really wanted to hike up to the Slovak Monument for panoramic views across the city below… There’s always next time though!

Take advantage of cheap accommodation

Room with a view! Good morning #Bratislava we can't wait to spend all day exploring 😍☀️ #VisitBratislava #WanderlustWednesday

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

Part of the beauty of visiting Eastern Europe is that prices are super cheap compared to back home in the UK, or in other parts of Europe such as Scandinavia, where things tend to be more expensive. Bratislava was hands down one of the cheapest places I have ever visited, along with Prague and Budapest which I found to be really good value for money too. Hotels were inexpensive with top chains like Ibis, Crowne Plaza and Hilton offering fantastic rates on rooms, but in the end we opted for different type of accommodation, and one I had never experienced before! Yep, we booked a hostel!

I was super nervous about staying in a hostel as I’d only ever heard horror stories of unclean rooms, dirty dorms and shared areas, but we booked a private apartment which was actually part of the hostel itself so this meant we got the benefits of a hotel room for the price of a hostel which worked really well. We stayed at the funky Freddie Next to Mercury Hostel which was a 5 min walk from the train station and about a 20 min walk to the Old Town – a little out the way but the apartment was HUGE with great views and for just 36 euros pp for two nights who were we to complain?! I’d definitely stay in a hostel again, as long as it was a private room with private bathroom, and will be using this mode of accommodation to save pennies on future trips!

Purchase a Bratislava City Card

During our trip we were delighted to be working with the fantastic team at Visit Bratislava who were super helpful and gave us loads of tips to help us plan our time in the city. We were treated to complimentary City Cards which also meant we were able to join one of the free walking tours that depart daily from the Tourist Information centre just behind the Old Town Hall. The walking tour lasted for around an hour and a half and we covered all of the main sights and really got to understand the history behind this little known city.

Our tour guide was fantastic, she knew her stuff, had perfect English and was happy to answer any questions we had. Being in a small group of four also meant we could take our time and really enjoy the tour without rushing round, so it was a great way to explore the sights as well as find out all about the places we were visiting. I’d highly recommend purchasing a City Card during your time in Bratislava, but only if you have a good few days to explore as I feel we missed out on a lot of the benefits we could’ve taken purely because we didn’t have the time to do everything we wanted to do! A big thank you to the wonderful team at Visit Bratislava for looking after us!

Explore the beautiful castles

If you see just one thing in Bratislava, make sure it’s at least one of the beautiful castles – seriously these things are sooo princessy and dreamy and I was totally in my element! Hrad Castle, on top of a hill overlooking the city, was the highlight of the trip for me and it was so worth the hike up there from the bottom of St Martin’s Cathedral! The red turrets, the white walls, the black lampposts, everything about it was like something from a Disney film and I just gazed up at it in awe for ages taking it all in!

If you have the time and don’t mind venturing a little out of the city, a day trip to Devin Castle should be on your go-to list and will be well worth the visit. From all the photos I saw on Instagram, and in the tourist brochures, this place looked AMAZING and I am so gutted I didn’t get chance to visit!! With history tracing back to 5th Century BC, the castle and its ruins stand on a cliff over 200m high offering spectacular panoramic views of both the Danube and the Morava rivers. It’ll take you around 20 minutes to reach Devin, and the easiest and quickest way to get there is either by bus from Bratislava’s main bus terminal every half an hour, but if you’re looking to make a day of it why not jump on a boat from one of the nearby ports? The boat service runs twice a day and a comfortable cruise along the Danube will get you over to Devin in no time.

Base yourself at the Main Square

By day one way, by night another 🌓

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

Every city should have a main square, right?! I just love finding central squares to base myself from, it really helps with getting my bearings and knowing where to come back to after a long day of exploring! The main square in Bratislava is really beautiful and boasts some incredible architecture. We spent most of our first morning in the city wandering around the little side streets, eating ice cream, pigging out on pizza and just enjoying the sunshine and the cobbled pathways. The square is also home to cafes, shops and restaurants offering plenty of places to stop and recharge your batteries.

My favourite thing about the main square though was the old town hall with its coloured roof and its impressive tower and spire. We climbed the tower and were treated to stunning views across the rest of the city, catching all the landmarks lit up in the glorious spring sunshine. Looking down towards the square you’ll find the stunning fountain right at the heart of it, and see the surrounding architectural buildings too.

Eat in Hviezdoslav Square

Finding a nice restaurant to eat in after a long and tiring day’s walking can sometimes feel like a chore, especially if you don’t have any recommendations to go on, or if you don’t really know here you’re going! Lucy and I felt a bit like this in Bratislava, we were both exhausted after walking over 18km, and were absolutely starving! After visiting Hrad Castle we’d walked past a few places that took our fancy but it was quite early to eat and, naturally, most places were empty and not yet serving food.

On our walking tour earlier on in the day we stumbled upon the pretty Hviezdoslav Square and so headed back there to see if we could find somewhere to feed ourselves and rest our feet for a couple of hours. The Square is one of the focal points of the city, with fountains, shops, hotels, bars and restaurants dotted along each side of the street. Named after poet and dramatist Pavol Hviezdoslav and located in the Old Town, between the Slovak National Theatre and the UFO Bridge, the Square is the perfect place from which to unwind after a busy day’s exploring. We chose to eat at Carnevalle, a meat restaurant serving steaks, poultry and more, but there were lots of other places to choose from and the Square was lively with plenty going on both during the day and in the evening too.

Ride up the UFO Tower and cross the SNP Bridge

This is another major tourist attraction in Bratislava, and sadly one which I didn’t quite get to tick off my list! Lucy and I trekked down from Hrad Castle, over the SNP bridge and along the river Danube, only to be told that the tower was closed for a private event and no longer open to the public for the remainder of the evening. We. Were. GUTTED! We had planned to watch the sunset there and take in some fantastic views across to Austria and Hungary, but sadly it just wasn’t meant to be. I will definitely return here though and see it for myself, and there’s a fancy restaurant right at the top of the tower with gourmet cuisine and panoramic views which looks right up my street! I’ll be back UFO, I’ll be back.

Discover the charming churches

St Martins Cathedral was looking so beautiful in the #Bratislava sunshine today 😍💒 #visitbratislava @visitbratislava

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

Anyone that knows me will know that I LOVE churches. I love exploring inside them, I love climbing their towers, and I love gazing up at their ornate architecture and pretty ceilings. Bratislava is home to a number of impressive churches, and you could spend so much time exploring just these buildings alone, but my two favourites were the stunning St Martins Cathedral, and the striking Church of St Elizabeth, also known as the Blue Church. The Cathedral is one of the focal points of the city with its spire standing 279ft tall and dominating the Old Town’s skyline. We were given scarves to cover our bare shoulders inside this Roman Catholic Church and were not allowed to take any photos so instead just gazed up at its beautiful altar, stained glass windows and intricate gothic ceiling. If you have the time you can purchase a ticket to go down to the ancient catacombs hidden beneath the church floors to see the crypts that have been discovered there.

Unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, the Blue Church was a special sight to behold and one of my favourite places in Bratislava. Built in the early 20th century and designed by Hungarian architect Edmund Lechner, it’s art nouveau style is absolutely beautiful, and both the interior and exterior are of the building are painted shades of blue all over. The Church also boasts a 36 metre high round tower which I would love to have seen but sadly the building was closed when we went to visit!

Find somewhere special to watch the sunset

🌅🏰 We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill 🌅🏰

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

This was quite possibly the highlight from my entire trip to Bratislava. If you do just one thing in the city, PLEASE make sure you find somewhere incredible to watch the sunset. We wandered over to the swanky Lemontree & Sky Bar Restaurant just before 7.30pm to indulge in a yummy cocktail before watching the sun set and cast its golden shadows across the whole of Hrad Castle below. We had planned to watch the sunset from the UFO Tower and, as you know, we weren’t able to do this but our plans turned out way better than expected as we enjoyed Bratislava’s golden hour in the most amazing surroundings. The Sky Bar was absolutely beautiful and it was the perfect place from which to watch the sun set over the castle on the hill, in true Ed Sheeran style.

So there we have it, my ultimate travel guide to Bratislava. For the best possible experience I’d recommend getting around on foot; the city is small enough to explore everything this way, but you can use the tram system to get around if you don’t fancy walking , or you can take a river cruise down the Danube if you’re wanting to venture a little further afield. Hopefully this post inspires you to think about choosing Bratislava for your next city break, I would 100% recommend it to anyone looking for somewhere totally new and exciting to explore!

Have you ever been to Bratislava? Tell me what you thought of it, I’d love to hear your comments!

Love Jess x

Thank you to the wonderful team at Visit Bratislava for our complimentary city cards for the duration of our trip.

Because blue ice cream and blue skies make for the perfect day in the spring sunshine ☀️☀️ #Bratislava @visitbratislava

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on