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Travel guide to Vilamoura: Planning your trip to The Algarve

 

The beautiful Algarve, one of Portugal’s most visited regions and one of the most popular beach destinations in Europe. I visited Portugal for the first time back in September when I spent 5 days in Vilamoura on a girls holiday – how it took me 26 years to visit Portugal I will never know!! I absolutely fell in love with the Algarve during my trip; the weather was amazing, the beaches were stunning and the food was incredible! If, like me, it’s your first time visiting the Algarve or you’re planning a return trip there for 2020, here’s my travel guide to Vilamoura, and how I would recommend you spend your time there…

 

Wander around the marina

 

The beautiful Vilamoura marina

 

The marina is without doubt THE place to be in Vilamoura, with a wide range of shops, bars and restaurants lining the harbour. Sip cocktails as you watch the mega dollar yachts bobbing up and down in the harbour, or take your pick of some of the Algarve’s best restaurants and enjoy lunch or dinner by the sea both day and night. There are plenty of lively bars (including at least three Irish bars!) that are open until late, offering lots of places to enjoy a few drinks. The marina is the hub of Vilamoura and has a real buzz about it, so you’ll definitely find yourself spending lots of time here during your holiday, and no travel guide to Vilamoura would be complete without it!

 

Go to the Aquashow Waterpark

 

The Aquashow Waterpark

 

Located in Quarteira, just a 10 minute taxi ride (or short bus ride) away from the marina, the Aquashow Waterpark is a fantastic day out for all the family and offers something different on my travel guide to Vilamoura. There are huge water slides for the thrill seekers, smaller rides and flumes for the less adventurous and even land rides for those not wanting to get too wet. An onsite café and shop allows you to purchase food, drinks and souvenirs, and there are lockers available for a small charge. There’s a lazy river, wave pool and large swimming pool if you’re looking to have a more chilled out day instead of going on ride after ride. We spent the morning on the big rides and then the afternoon on the smaller rides and had an amazing day doing something different that didn’t involve the beach or the marina, but whatever your reasons for visiting, you’ll be sure to have a fun filled day out at Aquashow – an absolute must see on your travel guide to Vilamoura!

 

Hop on a dolphin watching boat tour

 

Photo courtesy of www.tripadvisor.co.uk

 

I reeeallly wanted to do this during my time in Vilamoura but sadly we ran out of days and didn’t manage to squeeze it in! There are plenty of boat trips to take in Vilamoura as the area is fantastic for dolphin watching, with the Atlantic Sea being one of the best places to spot them in the wild. Some trips take you out to the middle of the sea and into the Benagil Caves for a fantastic experience, whilst others just focus on offering amazing opportunities to see some brilliant marine life. Next time I am in the Algarve I will definitely be taking a boat trip as I have only seen dolphins in the wild a handful of times and they are my favourite animals in the world so you can imagine how gutted I was that I didn’t get chance to try and see them this time round!

 

Explore the two long sandy beaches

 

Having fun on Praia de Vilamoura beach

 

There are two beaches at the heart of Vilamoura, Praia de Vilamoura to the east – the most well known as it is right by the marina – and Praia da Falesia to the west which is located a little further away. Both beaches are equally as beautiful, with long stretches of golden sand and deep blue waters that are perfect for swimming in. I was really apprehensive about swimming in the sea as Portugal sits on the Atlantic Ocean which is notoriously chilly and no where near as warm as the Med, but once I got over the initial shock of coldness and started swimming properly I completely forgot I was in the Atlantic and enjoyed spending plenty of time in the water! Both beaches have sunbeds and umbrellas to hire, and there are small beach bars too, with the luxurious Puro Beach on Praia de Vilamoura being part of the Anantara Vilamoura hotel (more info below) and THE place to sunbathe if you’re looking for VIP treatment.

 

Get involved with the golfing

 

Photo courtesy of www.anantara.com

 

Known for its excellent golfing facilities, home to no fewer than 40 golf courses across the resort, no guide to Vilamoura would be complete without mentioning the G word, even though I am quite possibly the least likely person in the world to play golf! I think September must be big in the golfing calendar because there were sooo many groups of men there who were either on stag do’s or group golfing trips – the majority of which were taking over the Irish bars night after night! The Portugal Masters, held in October, are a super popular time to visit, so I would avoid going to Vilamoura at this time if you aren’t bothered by the golfing as accommodations are more expensive and restaurant capacities are limited as they are often inundated with groups.

 

Where to stay

 

Our hotel, Dom Pedro Portobelo

 

We chose to stay at the Dom Pedro Portobelo Hotel, which is in a perfect location for exploring all that Vilamoura has to offer. Just a 4 minute walk away from the marina, the hotel is close enough to the action without being right on the harbour and offers fantastic value for money. There’s a restaurant and large pool onsite with accommodation options ranging from standard double/twin rooms to spacious 1 or 2 bedroom apartments. We had a 1 bed apartment that slept 4 of us comfortably, and our spacious balcony had views overlooking the pool and the sea in the distance. Faro Airport is a 25 minute drive away, and I would recommend booking a shuttle transfer before you travel as they are so cheap (£13pp return) instead of just jumping in a taxi when you get to the airport. The Dom Pedro Portobelo is one of many hotels in Vilamoura from the Dom Pedro brand and I would thoroughly recommend them to anyone looking to enjoy a fantastic stay in Vilamoura without the hefty price tag that comes with staying on the marina!

 

Hanging out at Anantara Vilamoura

 

If you have a bigger budget, you’ll be spoilt rotten at the Tivoli Marina, right at the heart of the resort and commanding some of the best views in the area! The excellent location, top notch restaurant and spa and the exquisite rooms with stunning marina views will give you a fantastic stay at any time of year. Alternatively head to Anantara Vilamoura, located a 15 minute drive from the marina by complimentary shuttle, which is a world away from Vilamoura’s buzzy atmosphere but amazing for golfers and those who want luxury, privacy and peaceful surroundings. There are 4 pools, 3 restaurants and 2 bars as well as a spa and state of the art gym with a world class golf course home to the Portugal Masters directly opposite the hotel. I was lucky enough to see both of these 5* hotels during my time in Vilamoura as I was doing some site inspections for work (even whilst on holiday – dedication or what?! ) and got to really experience the luxurious nature of them both, so can whole-heartedly recommend them if you’re looking to splash the cash and I definitely wanted to include them on my travel guide to Vilamoura.

 

Where to eat/drink

 

The glitzy Vilamoura marina

 

The marina is really the only place to go in Vilamoura to ensure you get a top notch meal, and I have to say we were blown away by the quality of food night after night during our holiday here. The meat and sea food dishes were amazing, with fresh produce and eclectic menus to choose from no matter which restaurant you ended up at. We ate at Italian, Portuguese and Mediterranean restaurants during our holiday and certainly weren’t disappointed. For drinks, I would head to the cocktails bars along the harbour front if you’re looking for something sophisticated and casual, but if you want somewhere a bit more lively I would definitely choose one of the Irish bars to get you in the mood for dancing!

As you can see from my photos, I had an absolute ball during my time in Vilamoura, and I definitely could have spent another few days lazing on the gorgeous beach, admiring the glitzy marina and swimming in the deep blue sea. With so much to see and do, the Algarve provides the perfect place for a week long holiday or a weekend escape for couples, families and groups alike. Hopefully my travel guide to Vilamoura has shown you that this part of Portugal is perfect for all types of travel, but if you need convincing further, take a look at this gorgeous candyfloss sky which lit up the marina night after night once the sun had started to set – truly magical, am I right?!

 

Candyfloss skies

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How to Spend a day in Verona

 

Fair Verona. Home to Romeo and Juliet, the second oldest Colosseum in Italy and excellent pizza, pasta and gelato. Well known for it’s excellent location close to Lake Garda, Verona makes the perfect place for a city break during your travels to Italy. I visited Verona for the first time back in June whilst I was in Italy to attend my 4th annual Traverse conference which was being held in the small city of Trento, nestled in the Dolomites. I only had time to spend a day in Verona but still managed to tick off most of the sights and get a real feel for the city during this short time. The city centre is pretty compact and is super easy to get around on foot, with all the major attractions in walking distance of each other, so only having a day in Verona really isn’t a problem and is actually doable! Here’s what I got up to during my visit, and how I recommend you spend a day in Verona too…

 

Check out the Verona Arena

 

me in front of verona arena

The historic Verona Arena

 

This was the first thing I did when I spent a day in Verona and it was a great way to get my bearings and to kick-start my time in the city learning about some of its fascinating ancient history. Tickets cost 10 euros and offer access into the main Arena as well as the tunnels surrounding the amphitheatre. The inner part isn’t huge and is a bit underwhelming if you have been to the iconic Colosseum in Rome, but I would say it is still worth a visit if you want to learn more about Verona’s history during Roman times. Built all the way back in 30 AD, on a site which used to be pas the city walls, the Arena is in fact one of the best-preserved ancient structures in the world. Nowadays, the Colosseum is used to host concerts, shows, sporting events and plays throughout the year in Verona and is a great hub seating up to 30,000 guests in the middle of the city, with the surrounding restaurants, bars and café’s in Verona’s main square being great places to people-watch.

 

Climb the Torre dei Lamberti tower

 

verona rooftops from the top of the tower

The amazing views over Verona from the top of Torre dei Lamberti

 

Located behind Piazza dei Signori, the Torre dei Lamberti is one of the tallest towers in the city at 84 metres high and is definitely worth a visit if you’ve only got a day in Verona. Construction first began in 1172, with the bell tower being added in 1295. Some 110 years later, the top of the tower was struck by lightning and remained damaged until restoration works began 16 years later in 1448. For just a couple of euro’s you can either hop in an elevator or walk the staggering 368 steps to the top of the tower, which in my opinion is a much more exciting option, especially when you are rewarded with stunning panoramic views over the city below! Catch a glimpse of the iconic terracotta rooftops, the winding river Adige and some of the beautiful houses and courtyards that can be found across the city, making your journey up to the top well worth a visit, especially at sunset or after dark when the city is lit up and dazzles below you right before your eyes!

 

Visit Juliet’s Balcony

 

me in front of juliet's statue

Well it’s worth a try, right girls?!

 

Definitely one for the Verona bucket list, but beware of the crazy amounts of tourists all flocking to do the exact same thing! Located on Capello Street, Juliet’s Balcony is perhaps one of the most famous tourist attractions in Italy, and for good reason. Based on the iconic Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet, Juliet’s Balcony is said to be the place where Romeo declared his eternal love for Juliet, and you can visit the onsite museum which allows you to take photos on the world famous balcony. Although ridiculously busy, I still think it’s worth stopping by to tick this one off your list of things to do if you only have a day in Verona. There’s a life-size bronze statue in the courtyard garden below and, according to legend, if you touch Juliet’s right breast you will be granted eternal love! I’m not sure how accurate it is though gals – I tried it and, guess what, I’m still single 😉

 

Take the cable car up to the top of Castel San Pietro

 

the views from the top of the castel san pietro

One of the best viewpoints in Verona!

 

This is an absolute must see when spending a day in Verona, and the best time to visit is at sunset so you can watch the city turning a vibrant shade of orange as the glow of the sun reflects off the red rooftops below. A trip in a cable car up to the top of Castel San Pietro, part of Verona’s castle complex, will set you back just a couple of euro’s, and you can take a slow walk down the sloping hill afterwards if you prefer to return on foot instead. The views from the top of the hill are breath-taking, and especially good during sunset – I would recommend taking a good hour or so out of your day in Verona to visit this so you have enough time to go up and down and take in the amazing views as well!

 

Walk along the River Adige

 

the beautiful ponte pietra bridge

The best known bridge in Verona, the Ponte Pietra

 

The Adige is the second longest river in Italy, flowing over 400km through the northern part of the country towards the Adriatic Sea, and it is the same river that runs through Trento, the place that I was visiting next after spending a day in Verona. Cross the many bridges to see the city from both sides as the river runs below you, and walk the as far along as you wish to explore some of Verona’s beautiful surrounding countryside away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Verona’s most famous bridge, the Ponte Pietra, is a Roman arch bridge which provided the city with access to the Arena and was completed in 100 BC, making it the oldest bridge in the city. The arch nearest to the right bank of the Adige was rebuilt by lord of Verona Alberto I della Scala in the 1200s and sadly four of the arches were destroyed in world war two but rebuilt in 1957 using original materials.

 

Where to stay

 

the exterior of stravagante hostel verona

StraVagante Hostel Verona. Image courtesy of booking.com

 

I was on a budget so stayed at the brand new StraVagante Hostel which had only recently opened and really enjoyed my stay as the hostel was clean, comfortable and central, with much more of a hotel feel than a hostel which I really liked. The hostel is in a great location for both the airport and train station – I arrived by plane and found the Aerobus super easy and cheap to use (make sure you buy tickets – 6 euros each way – at the ticket office or on the bus using cash) and the train station was just a 10 min walk away too. If you’re looking to spend a little more, there are plenty of great hotels to choose from in central Verona, including the Grand Hotel des Arts and Hotel Milano and Spa.

 

Where to eat/drink

 

piazza bra in verona

Piazza Bra, a great place for food and drinks in Verona

 

Unfortunately I didn’t eat out much at all during my day in Verona as I wasn’t there for very long, but I did manage to have a fantastic pizza in Piazza del Signori, right near to Juliet’s Balcony. Verona has a fantastic foodie scene and there are plenty of restaurants serving pizza, pasta and gelato so you can indulge in alllll the Italian food; I’d recommend eating in Piazza Bra and Piazza delle Erbe as well as the areas by Torre dei Lamberti and the Colosseum for a brilliant choice of authentic Italian restaurants. I was actually pretty gutted that I didn’t eat out anywhere else during my time in Verona, but I guess that’s just another excuse to go back, right?!

As you can see, I had a great time soaking up the ancient Roman feel about this beautiful city, and what Verona lacks in size it certainly makes up for in charm, culture and history! If, like me, you only have the time to spend a day in Verona, I would definitely recommend you see these main sights as they are all totally doable. I would definitely return to do a day in Verona if it was planning a trip back to Italy, which I am sure I will do in the next year or two, and I would try and visit Lake Garda next time too as that place has been on my bucket list for soooo long. Have you ever been to Verona before? I’d love to know what you thought of it!

 

stood in front of the river adige in verona

Saying a fond farewell to fair Verona – I will certainly be back!

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3 Nights in Trento: Exploring The Dolomites at Traverse 19

 

Earlier on this summer I spent 3 nights in Trento (Northern Italy) as part of my fourth annual Traverse conference weekend. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I have been a07ttending Traverse conferences for the past 4 years now, travelling to Cardiff, London and Rotterdam, so I was super excited when The Dolomites was revealed as the location for Traverse 19! Despite visiting Italy numerous times before, I have never been to the northern part, and was particularly excited about the prospect of exploring the Dolomites, which are home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe! After enjoying 2 nights in Verona, I was super excited to hop on a super quick 1 hour train and spend a further 3 nights in Trento exploring everything that this pretty Alpine town had to offer. Here’s what I got up to during my 3 nights in Trento, and what I would recommend you see there during your visit too…

 

Wander around Buonconsiglio Castle

 

The beautiful views from the castle balcony

 

The most important castle in Trentino, Buonconsiglio Castle is the residence of the Prince Bishops and an iconic symbol of Trento. Built in the 13th century, the castle is split into three different parts, reflecting different historic eras of the city, showcasing arts and incredible frescoes from the Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic ages. Nowadays, the castle is an open air and indoor museum, with visitors able to access almost every part of it, and every year an excellent summer exhibition runs activities and workshops for schools. I would definitely recommend climbing the stone staircase towards the upper part of the castle, where there are some seriously stunning mountain views from the top balcony!

 

Take the cable car up to Trento Alta

 

Just look at that amazing landscape!!

 

This was probably my favourite thing about my 3 nights in Trento, and it was the perfect way to get my bearings and start exploring the city as this was the very first thing I did when I arrived (after devouring some pizza, of course). From Piazza del Duomo, a few other bloggers and I made the short walk across the River Adige over to the Trento Alta cable car, located at the foot of one of the enormous mountains that dominated the Trento skyline. As we had Trentino visitor cards, our cable car journey was totally free, but otherwise it costs just a couple of euros for the return trip. A rapid ascent will see you reach the top of Trento Alta in just a matter of minutes, and believe me when I say you will be totally mesmerised when you see the breath-taking views that are waiting for you when you get there! I’ll let the photograph above do the talking…

 

Walk inside Trento cathedral

 

Trento Cathedral

 

Trento Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of San Vigilio, is located in Piazza del Duomo, right at the heart of the city, with the majestic Fountain of Neptune in front of it. Built in the 6th century, over an ancient temple dedicated to the city’s patron saint, the cathedral as we know it now wasn’t constructed until the 11th century, when the Prince Bishop Uldarico II started work on it. The Roman Catholic cathedral is decorated beautifully inside, with Gothic architecture, ornate frescoes and a stunning rose window at the front, also known as the Wheel of Fortune. I admired the Cathedral from the outside many times when I was passing by the main square, but it wasn’t until I went inside on my last day that I really appreciated it’s true beauty – this place is an absolute must visit during your 3 nights in Trento!

 

Base yourself at Piazza del Duomo

 

The glorious main square, Piazza del Duomo

 

The focal point of the entire city, Piazza del Duomo is at the core of Trento and is the main square from which everything leads off. The surrounding cobbled streets are home to numerous bars, cafe’s, shops and restaurants, with the glorious mountains providing an impressive backdrop. The main part of the Traverse 19 conference was set up in Piazza del Duomo, and it’s a great place to base yourself in order to get your bearings of the city. Enjoy lunch and dinner in one of the many restaurants surrounding the piazza, or simply people watch whilst sat at the Fountain of Neptune to enjoy the views from wherever you’re positioned.

 

Where to stay

 

My balcony at Hotel Albermonaco

 

I stayed in the quirky Hotel Albermonaco during my 3 nights in Trento, located near the train station and directly adjacent to the castle. My room had a spacious balcony with amazing views of the mountains and castle which was a pleasant surprise as I hadn’t expected any view at all given that the price I paid was super cheap! Along with tonnes of other travel bloggers who also attended Traverse 19, I recently contributed to this accommodation guide to Trentino, which was put together by Teresa from Brogan Abroad. As Trento is a fairly small city, you’ll be able to access pretty much all of it on foot no matter where you choose to stay, but I found being close to the castle and the train station super handy at the Albermonaco, and it was just a 10-15 minute walk away from the main square too!

 

Where to eat/drink

 

Traditional Italian gelato in Trento

 

Fortunately, my Trentino visitor card and my Traverse 19 ticket came with some complimentary/discounted food and drinks vouchers that I could use throughout my visit during my 3 nights in Trento, but I did get to sample a lot of different meals and check out numerous restaurants and bars during my trip too. A few fellow bloggers and I decided to head for dinner at local restaurants most evenings, whilst lunches and evening drinks were generally included at the conference days. Particular restaurants which stood out to me were Uva e Menta and Ristorante Antica Trattoria, which served excellent pastas, pizzas, meat and fish dishes. Pretty much anywhere around the Piazza del Duomo is recommended, and it’s really not hard to find good food in Trento!

 

Trento really is a hidden gem at the heart of the Dolomites, and a fantastic place to base yourself if you want to explore more of northern Italy. As I mentioned, Verona is just an hour away by train, and is in close proximity to Lake Garda too – somewhere that has been on my bucket list for soooo long! I’d definitely suggest giving yourself at least 3 nights in Trento to spend time exploring everything properly, but you could easily spend a week or two using the city as a base and then discovering plenty of the surrounding areas nearby too. Have you ever been to Trento before? I’d love to hear what you thought of it!

 

Walking along the river Adige

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Restaurant Review: The Botanist Cheltenham

 

Last weekend I headed over to Cheltenham to catch up with some of my old work girls and was lucky enough to be invited to review The Botanist, one of the best restaurants in town, with my friend Steph. I had been twice before, once for lunch with my sister and once for an evening meal and drinks for my leaving do just before I went to Australia, but I was super excited to be back as I got to try out the brand new autumn menu this time! With 18 restaurants in various locations across the UK, The Botanist offers fantastic food, drink and live music in a beautiful secret garden style setting, as well as brilliant cocktail, gin and ale tasting masterclasses with crafted experts. I had wonderful evening during my visit, with the food, staff and new menu all being super impressive! Here’s what I got up to during my trip to The Botanist Cheltenham…

 

The location

The Brewery, Cheltenham

 

Situated on the corner of The Brewery, one of the newer parts of town, The Botanist Cheltenham is in a prime position to explore all that the town has to offer. There are shops, restaurants, bars, a Hollywood Bowl, a Lost Worlds Golf and a Cineworld all at the Brewery, as well as popular hotel chains Premier Inn and Holiday Inn Express being just around the corner. With both indoor and outdoor seating, The Botanist Cheltenham is in the perfect place for people watching at any time of day and is easily accessible from every part of the town, with a huge NCP car park just across the road too.

 

The restaurant

The pretty interiors at The Botanist Cheltenham

The plant wall on the right is so Instagrammable!

 

 

Decorated in signature The Botanist style, with references to botanical gardens including plant pots and flowers aplenty, the interiors at The Botanist Cheltenham are seriously dreamy. Split into two sides, there are lots of seating areas both to the right and left of the bar, with booths, bigger and smaller tables and even a private dining room for guests to use exclusively. The floor to ceiling plant wall to the left of the bar is the perfect place to capture those all important Instagram pics, and there’s enough floor space to get up dancing if the live music gets you in the mood.

 

The menu

The new autumn menu at The Botanist Cheltenham

The brand new autumn menu at The Botanist Cheltenham

Launched in mid October, the brand new autumn menu at The Botanist Cheltenham showcases a fantastic range of starters, mains, sides and desserts as well as the ever popular cocktail/drinks menu offering an eclectic range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, with most of the cocktails available as mocktails too. In addition to the main a la carte menu, which is available from lunch and dinner daily from 12noon til late (or from 10am Fri-Sun), there are also separate kids, non-gluten, breakfast and Sunday roast menus too. Serving everything from home comforts such as bangers and mash and fish and chips, to the signature Botanist pies and famous hanging kebabs, the new autumn menu has something to suit all taste buds, with mains ranging from £9.95 – £19.50. The nibbles, starters and sides start from just £2.95, with the deli board and grill section offering popular dishes including steaks, burgers, meats, fish and cheeses. Finally, the yummy dessert menu serves up mouth-watering dishes including lemon tart, cookie dough and the iconic chocolate brownie hanging kebab, the perfect end to every meal!

 

The food

Our amazing hanging kebabs

Yummy starter dishes

Excellent cocktails

 

Steph and I ordered from the brand new autumn menu and were super impressed with all of our meals. We were treated to three courses and two cocktails each so certainly made the most of trying as much as we could from the new menu! For starters I chose the garlic mushrooms on toast whilst Steph opted for calamari, both of which were delicious. For mains we chose the famous hanging kebabs, one halloumi with seasoned fries and one surf and turf with sweet potato fries, all of which were AMAZING. Finally, for dessert, we both ordered the Nutella and biscoff bread and butter pudding which was absolutely incredible and totally melted in the mouth as we ate it! During dinner we had two cocktails each; I opted for a raspberry daiquiri and a raspberry disaronno sour (which was served with dry ice in a plantpot!) whilst Steph chose a passionfruit colada and a lychee and rose martini, all of which were super scrummy and the choice of cocktails on the menu was excellent.

 

The staff

 

The entrance to The Botanist Cheltenham

 

We were so well looked after during our visit and cannot thank the fabulous staff enough for making our visit to The Botanist Cheltenham truly outstanding. Our waiting staff, Georgie and Alex, served our food and drinks promptly and were friendly, welcoming and very informative when we were had questions about some of the items on the menu. Mark, one of the managers, came over to introduce himself towards the end of our visit and asked for some feedback which I gladly gave him as we had such a fantastic time. Natalia, on front of house, was equally as welcoming and friendly and even gave me a hug as we said goodbye at the end of the night – what a lovely lady! A big thank you to all the staff who looked after us so well during our visit, we will both certainly be back very soon.

As you can probably tell, I had a wonderful evening catching up with my old work friends in a beautiful setting right in the heart of Cheltenham. The food was amazing, the cocktails were scrummy and the live music and busy bar area made for a fantastic place to spend a Saturday night. I will certainly be back to The Botanist Cheltenham next time I am in town to visit my friends, and can’t wait to enjoy many more lunches and dinners there in the future. Book your table online to ensure you don’t miss out on availability – it’s getting busier and busier now that Christmas is creeping ever closer!

NB. All my food and drinks were gifted for the purpose of this review, but all words and photos are of course my own.

Thank you to The Botanist Cheltenham for a fabulous evening!

 

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How to Spend 24 Hours in Manchester

 

Last weekend I stayed overnight in Manchester for a fab travel blogger conference, Blog at the Beach, hosted by Ice Lolly Holiday and Visit Barbados. I had an amazing time catching up with all my fave blogger friends and meeting loads of new ones, and was excited to explore Manchester properly for the first time in YEARS. In the past I’ve usually just headed straight to the Trafford Centre from Liverpool as I spend a lot of time with my family up there, but this time I was determined to see all that Manchester had to offer, so when Hotels.com asked me to create a guide on how to do a budget break to the city, I was more than up for the challenge! They offer some fantastic accommodation options including luxury hotels, budget B&B’s and the serviced apartments Manchester are a great choice too. Here’s what I got up to during my 24 hours in Manchester, and what I recommend you do there during your northern getaway…

 

Check out Exchange Square & the Northern Quarter

 

exchange square manchester

The Exchange Square

 

Located slap bang in the middle of the city, Exchange Square is home to the shopping district and is right behind the popular Arndale Centre. You’ll find street performers and live music in the square, with the Corn Exchange building as the impressive backdrop. There’s also the Printworks, which has now been converted to a food court with the likes of Five Guys & the Hard Rock Cafe dominating the skyline. The Northern Quarter is another quirky area of the city which is home to an abundance of bars, cafes, shops and restaurants as well as some fantastic street art too. Situated between the Ancoats and Piccadilly, the Northern Quarter is the retro part of Manchester and has plenty of character, with record shops, vintage stores and places where bands gather to play live music.

 

Shop til you drop on the high street  

 

the arndale centre

The Arndale Centre

 

Manchester has got some fantastic shopping, and the high street is one of the best places to go for this. You’ll find every kind of high street, designer and department store you can think of, and the enormous Primark is also home to the newly opened Central Perk Friends Cafe which is hugely popular with locals and tourists alike. Located five miles west of Manchester city centre, The Trafford Centre is of course another obvious choice for shopping, and boasts a fantastic range of shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. There’s also plenty of leisure options for those that don’t fancy shopping or eating, with an Odeon cinema, laser quest, mini golf course, escape room and even a Sealife aquarium offering a fantastic day out for all the family.

 

Visit one of the many museums

 

The National Football Museum

The National Football Museum

 

Manchester has some great museums, many of which are free to enter and are suitable for people of all ages. From football and music to art and fashion, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The National Football Museum, just a stones throw from Victoria station, is one of the city’s most popular attractions, detailing the successful history of the beautiful game. The Science and Industry Museum and the Manchester Art Gallery are well worth a visit, as is the Imperial War Museum located right on the waterfront at The Quays. For those of you who are soap lovers, Coronation Street The Tour at MediaCityUK in Salford is a great day out for all the family. You can explore the historic cobbles, wander through Weatherfield and even see where the pints are pulled in the Rovers Return.

 

Have a night out in Deansgate

 

 

One of the liveliest parts of Manchester, the Deansgate area is a great night out and is brimming with bars, clubs and restaurants. We had cocktails in the All Star Lanes bar, which is complete with a full bowling alley at the back, and then headed to Rudy’s for pizza. We passed the Peaky Blinders bar, a popular new hangout right in the centre of Deansgate, and also passed tonnes of other clubs and bars too. This area of the city is the place to be for a great northern night out, with the mile long road home to trendy eateries such as The Living Room, MOJO and The Botanist.

 

Getting around

a Manchester tram

The trams in Manchester

 

Manchester is quite a big city, so you may need to use public transport or taxis to get around, but the central area is best discovered on foot. You can walk from the high street up to Exchange Square in around 10 minutes, and head to the Victoria or Piccadilly train stations which are either a 5 or 15 minute walk away too. For a proper Mancunian experience, hop on a tram to get around like a local and explore everything much more quickly.

 

Where to stay

 

quad room at the macdonald manchester hotel

Macdonald Manchester Hotel & Spa

 

We stayed at the 4* Manchester Macdonald Hotel & Spa which was located a little out of the city centre, but was just a 3 minute walk from Picadilly train station. The hotel was in a perfect location for our Ice Lolly event as the office building was right around the corner, but we did have to get Uber’s/ taxis in and out of the city centre as the 25 min walk was a little too much for some of us who were wearing heels in the evening! The hotel had plenty of facilities including a tecnho-gym, swimming pool and spa with infra-red sauna, sensation shower, eucalyptus steam room and even an ice igloo. Please note that the spa was only accessible by paying a £10 supplement per person. I was in a room of 4 and we had 2 double beds between us which were super comfy and the bathroom was amazing. I’d definitely stay here again on my next visit as it was the perfect place from which to base ourselves during our 24 hours in Manchester.

 

Where to eat 

 

yard and coop manchester

Yard & Coop Manchester

 

Manchester has a great foodie scene, and we spent most of our time having lunch or eating dinner around the Deansgate area where we were going out on the Saturday night. There are some brilliant restaurants to choose from, with popular chains including Bella Italia, Nandos and Wagamama, but we opted to eat at Rudy’s which has been voted as one of the UK’s best pizza restaurants. For lunch the next day we headed to the Northern Quarter and ate at Yard & Coop, a speciality chicken restaurant serving every kind of chicken dish you could think of! Other great foodie areas include Peter Street and the Ancoats.

I had a great 24 hours in Manchester exploring all that the city had to offer, but I know there’s lots more that I didn’t see during my short time there. If I had longer I definitely would have spent more time seeing some of the museums and exploring the older buildings, as well as venturing out to the Trafford Centre too, but I definitely got a good feel for the city during my 24 hours in Manchester. Have you been to Manchester before? I’d love to know your top tips!

NB. My spending money during my time in Manchester was gifted by Hotels.com but all views, words and photos are of course my own.