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Travel Guide to Geneva, the Chic Swiss City

 

 

Last summer I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days exploring the Swiss city of Geneva. It was my first time to the city, and to the country of Switzerland, and nothing could prepare me for its undeniable beauty (and its extortionate prices!). My visit to Geneva came at the start and end of my trip to the ski resort of Nendaz, where I spent a week enjoying summer in the Alps for the first time in my life. Just a short flight from London (1h 40m), Geneva plays host to the United Nations HQ and is the perfect place for a short weekend city break no matter what time of year. Surrounded by stunning countryside and boasting an enormous, clear blue lake with the famous Jet D’Eau water fountain at its heart, Geneva is truly captivating. The cobbled streets of the old town provide history and culture, contrasting perfectly with the snazzy sidewalks of the new town, with its designer shopping quarter reflecting the city’s wealth. I only had 1 night/2 days to explore this pretty place, but here’s what I got up to during my time there…

 

Marvel at the Jet D’Eau & wander round Lake Geneva

 

Lake Geneva in the summer sunshine

 

The focal point of the entire city and probably its most famous attraction, Lake Geneva and it’s wonderful Jet D’Eau are an absolute must-see when in the Swiss capital. You can’t really miss them to be honest, and you wouldn’t want to either as they are stunning! The blue water shimmers in the bright sunshine whilst the Jet D’Eau, an enormous fountain that shoots water 100ft high into the air, dominates the city skyline, with surrounding mountains in the background. You can take a boat across the river to see the rest of the city from the water, or just simply walk around the lake and admire it from every angle whilst staying nice and dry. I walked round the lake a couple of times during my short stay in Geneva and loved nothing more than parking myself on a bench, devouring some gelato and staring into the deep blue water watching the world go by. Look out for the swans though – they are EVERYWHERE!

 

Take a stroll around the Old Town

 

The gothic St Pierre Cathedral

 

I’m a sucker for an Old Town, and I wasn’t sure where Geneva’s was during my first couple of hours as I wandered around aimlessly on my own whilst waiting for the other girls on my blogger trip to arrive. However, after consulting my map and tearing myself away from the Lake for a few minutes, I realised that the Old Town lay just behind the busy district quarter and could see the spire of St Pierre’s Cathedral peeping from behind the tall buildings. The Old Town is quite small, but really cute with cobbled streets, tiny buildings and traditional shops and restaurants. Just as you’d expect, there was a wonderful cathedral right at its beating heart, and St Pierre’s was a really beautiful church with a tall, striking spire. The Old Town is also home to the longest wooden bench in the world, The Marronnier de la Treille, and was built in 1767. At 413ft long, the bench snakes around Geneva’s promenade and is tucked behind the city hall, overlooking the pretty La Treille Park. Despite having almost every aspect of an Old Town, this area didn’t actually have a central market square from which everything centred around, and I kind of missed that element when comparing Geneva to other European cities. It is split right in half from the New Town to the Old Town though, so I guess the split kind of centres everything, I just missed having a market square to wander round!

 

Wander through Jardin Anglais

 

The famous flower clock with the Geneva ferris wheel in the distance

 

One of the most popular areas of Geneva is without doubt the beautiful Jardin Anglais. Best enjoyed in summer, the gardens are a colourful spectacle which come alive in the sunshine and create picture perfect photo opportunities at every turn. The famous ‘clock face’ is built into the floral displays and is the busiest place for a quick selfie, although you may have to battle your way through the crowds first! You can take a train through the gardens for a relaxing ride around the park, or why not hop on a boat at the edge of the pier and take a trip over the lake? There are small shops, café’s and ice cream vans at every turn offering plenty of food and drink if you fancy a picnic, but you’re still just a stones throw from the Old Town with its winding cobbled streets if you’re wanting to eat a little more substantially.

 

Shop til you drop in the business quarter

 

The water front divides the old and new town in the city

 

For a city with so much history, it may surprise you to see a vast row of ultra-modern office buildings and high end stores and eateries right in the middle of the city. Located just behind Lake Geneva, and with St Stephen’s Cathedral and the Old Town in the distance, the business quarter screams luxury and adds a new dimension to Geneva. Women totter around in high heels, guys stride confidently in their suits, and there are children being pushed in designer prams everywhere you look! Geneva is well known for its jewellery and watch-making, and this plays a huge part in the retail market here. I don’t tend to shop or spend much time in business quarters when I’m on a city break, mainly because I can’t think of anything worse than going clothes shopping when I’m abroad, but this place has a different feel to it and I was weirdly drawn to its luxurious centre. Whilst you wouldn’t catch me in Prada, I did find myself wandering around for an hour admiring all the glamorous locals and people watching to the max whilst I was stuffing my face with gelato and trying to look posh! When in Geneva…

 

Where to eat/drink

 

The marina is home to a number of restaurants, cafes and bars to enjoy

 

I had such a short amount of time in Geneva that I didn’t really get chance to sample the Swiss cuisine or try out any of the local restaurants. As I spent the night in a hostel with my blogger friends, and it was chucking it down with rain, we actually decided to get food from the supermarket for a quick meal and had a movie night in the hostel common room, chatting with fellow travellers and soaking up the bacpacker vibes before we were treated to 5* luxury in our ski chalet over in Nendaz! We passed a number of fancy restaurants by the lake and in the old town though, and they did look amazing! There were some on the waterfront with gorgeous views, and some tucked away down side streets in the old town, and they all looked super cute but quite expensive. As we were staying close to the train station, there wasn’t a large selection of restaurants within close walking distance and we didn’t want to go far as it was raining so much. If I had  more time though, and wasn’t on as much of a budget, I definitely would have wandered down to the lake to check out some of the eateries that were on offer. I know cheese fondue is huge in Switzerland (we had it loads in Nendaz!) so I would highly recommend treating yourself to this delicious dish whilst you’re in Geneva!

 

Where to stay

 

Image courtesy of Booking.com

 

As we were only there for one night at the start of our blogger trip, we didn’t want to pay a lot of money and were on a limited budget. Everything in Geneva is damn right expensive,  but when we found a hostel for £30pp we jumped for joy and booked it as quickly as we possibly could! We stayed in City Hostel Geneva which was in a great location, not far from the train station and within walking distance to all the major attractions in the city. Unfortunately it was really hot that night and the air con wasn’t great, but it was only for one night and we survived! The proximity to the train station really helped though and I would definitely recommend this place if you’re looking for somewhere cheap to stay in a city which is super expensive. Otherwise, have a look at some of the independent/chain hotels located near the train station, they all looked very fancy and expensive, but if you can afford to splash the cash then there’s no better place to do it than Geneva!

 

As you can see, my time in Geneva was short and sweet but super fun, and it made for a lovely start and finish to my week long trip in Nendaz. Although one of the most expensive cities I have EVER visited, Geneva is one of those places with serious wow factor, and you actually don’t mind paying over the odds to just enjoy being in the Swiss city. Summer was a great time to visit and made the gorgeous lake look even more blue and sparkly, but I can imagine in winter the place feels super festive and looks amazing too. Whatever time of year you visit, you’ll be sure to have a magical stay in wonderful Geneva. Have you ever been before? Let me know what you thought of it, and if it was worth the money!

Love Jess x

 

Til next time, Geneva!

 

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48 Hours in Ljubljana, Slovenia & a Fairytale Day Trip to Lake Bled

 

 

I know I start most of these posts with the same line, but if you’ve been following my blog for the past few months you might remember my travel guides to Warsaw, Prague and Salzburg from my autumnal inter-railing adventure last September that I took with my friend Toni. We spent nine days travelling around Europe and had the most magical time. The last stop of our adventure was lovely Ljubljana, and I think we certainly saved the best til last! This was my first visit to Slovenia, and it’s capital city had been high up on my bucket list for the past couple of years, since the tourist hype from the fairytale Lake Bled found its way on to my Instagram feed. My time in Ljubljana exceeded all of my expectations, and I had the most amazing couple of days which ended my inter-railing adventure perfectly. Two nights/three days was definitely enough time to spend in the city, and I even had time to take a full day trip to Lake Bled and explore some other beautiful areas too including the stunning Vintgar Gorge and the medieval town of Skofja Loka. Here’s what not to miss during your stay…

 

Look out for the numerous city bridges

 

 

As Ljubljana is fairly small, it’s super easy to walk around and it helps that it’s connected by a series of historic bridges in the middle!  Well known for being home to no less than SEVENTEEN bridges, the Slovenian capital is a visual treat and it’s bridges add to its interesting history. My favourite ones were the iconic Triple Bridge, Dragon Bridge and Butchers Bridge too. Dating back to the 1800s and at the heart of Preseren Square – the focal point of the city – the Triple Bridge is the city’s most famous and most visited too. I also loved the Dragon bridge which was built in 1901 with yep, you guessed it, huge green dragon statues at the end of each walkway. The Butchers Bridge is lined with glass walkways giving a view of the Ljubljanica river below, and the support cables either side are decorated with ‘lovelocks’ left by tourists and locals alike. I walked along these bridges many times during my stay to get from one end of the city to the other as they connect the old town with the new town and I found it to be a great way to get my bearings and explore the area!

 

Cross over the Ljubljanica river

 

 

Ljubljana is a modern, up and coming city with cool bars, nice restaurants and plenty of green spaces in between.  If, like me, you love nothing more than wandering around for hours and exploring a new city on foot, you will fall in love with Ljubljana. During the summer months I imagine the streets will be packed with tourists, but during my visit in September it was fairly quiet and we pottered about quite happily. Much like the bridges, the Ljubljanica river is at the heart of the city and its’ one of the most well known features. The city comes alive at night, and the numerous bars, cafe’s and restaurants that are dotted along the riverbanks make it a vibrant place to be no matter what time of year you’re visiting.

 

Climb up to the top of the castle tower

 

 

One of my favourite things to do when exploring a new city is climb a tower, or find a castle, or do BOTH! Luckily in Ljubljana I was able to do just that and discovered the medieval fortress that has been present since the 11th century. The castle was thought to have been constructed in the 15th century, and it’s prominent position on top of a hill enables it to take in some spectacular views over downtown Ljubljana below. After a short walk from the central Preseren Square, Toni and I took the funicular up to the top of the castle fortress where we were treated to stunning views over the city below just as the sun was starting to set. Exploring the castle grounds at dusk was a magical experience, as was catching the last of the sun’s rays as the red roofs shone in a bright orange glow on our first afternoon in Slovenia… Truly mesmerizing!

 

Take a day trip to Lake Bled…

 

 

Despite only having two nights to cram everything in, we knew that no visit to Ljubljana would be complete without a day trip to the most talked about lake in the world right now… the stunning Lake Bled! The wanderlust inducing images that I’ve seen all over social media made me want to visit this place months ago, and I’m soo glad we were able to squeeze in a visit during our time in Slovenia. The wonderful guys at Roundabout Travel booked me on to their full day Alpine Fairytale Tour which sounds as magical as the name suggests. One of the highlights was of course the magnificent Lake Bled which looked incredible against a backdrop of blue sky and yellow sunshine as we enjoyed a warm sunny day in September. Bled was everything I thought it would be and a little trip across to the island on a traditional Pletna made for the most photogenic boat ride I have ever taken. Despite its beauty, Bled was absolutely HEAVING with tourists and their annoying selfie sticks, especially at the cafe at the top of the hill which gave us some breathtaking panoramic views of the lake below. We did however enjoy an ice cream with our view before climbing up to the castle and seeing yet more spectacular scenery. I can see why it’s so popular – it took my breath away every time I looked at it and looked picture perfect from every single angle!

 

…and Lake Bohinj…

 

 

On our Apline Fairytale Tour we spent a full nine hours exploring different parts of Slovenia that you can’t see whilst in Ljubljana alone, and the tour really gave us a chance to see other important areas of the country. There was only six of us, and our tour of the Julian Alps began with a visit to the traditional medieval town of Skofja Loka, elevated 1000ft high and built in between two rivers, where we walked along its cobbled streets and stumbled across its ancient town square. Next up was a stop at Triglav National Park, with its resident glacial lake and mountainous backdrop. I’m gonna be a little controversial here and say that I actually thought this place, Lake Bohinj, was EVEN BETTER than Lake Bled because the mountains surrounding the lake were insane and there was literally no one around and it was so peaceful and beautiful and I just loved it so much. Isn’t it amazing what you can discover when you steer away from the tourist hot-spots and find hidden gems like this?! Our tour guide was amazing – super knowledgeable and really friendly whilst allowing us plenty of free time to explore at our own pace too – thank you Jerry for looking after us during our time in Slovenia!

 

…Oh and pay a visit to Vintgar Gorge too

 

 

As if you needed any more reasons to visit Slovenia than your very own WATERFALL! I had never heard of Vintgar Gorge until I booked on to the Alpine Fairytale Tour and it definitely ended up being one of the highlights of our entire trip, not just on our visit to Slovenia. Walking through the Gorge, with it’s caves, bridges, narrow walkways and glorious waterfalls was a truly amazing experience and one I definitely won’t forget in a hurry. You can walk at your own pace whilst following the trail, stopping to take in the scenery and to take a million photos like I did. The walk takes around an hour to complete and isn’t too difficult, just a little hilly and narrow in places but there are plenty of people about and a cafe/shop/toilets at the end for you to make use of. I got the most stunning photos of this place and every now and then I have to pinch myself and remember that I ACTUALLY went there because it was just so beautiful. If you get the chance to visit this place whilst in Ljubljana, please please go – I promise you’ll love it just as much as I did!

 

Where to eat/drink

 

The restaurants along the riverbank come alive at night

 

 

Ljubljana is brimming with trendy bars, cafe’s and restaurants to choose from during your stay and we were certainly spolit for choice when it came to finding some yummy food after a busy day of exploring. After crossing the Dragon Bridge you’ll walk alongside the Ljubljanica river and find numerous places to choose from. There are restaurants from all corners of Europe, most notably Austria and Italy where Slovenia takes lots of food influence from, and we ate in a fancy Italian restaurant one night which was AMAZING. We also found a cute cafe which served traditional Slovenian cakes including apple pie, derived from Balkan influences and one of the most popular dishes in the country. Whatever your tastebuds desire, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Ljubljana.

 

Where to stay

 

Image Courtesy of Cube Central Rooms For 2

 

As my friend and I were inter-railing for ten days we were on a budget and most of our accommodation consisted of hostels/cheap hotels. We were a little limited for choice in Ljubljana as we left it late to secure anywhere and we found there was a huge conference event taking place during the weekend we were there which meant that lots of hotels were already booked up months in advance. I did however manage to find a little gem just a stones throw away from the centre of the city which meant we could enjoy all the sights with the comfort of knowing that everything was within walking distance. Cube Central Rooms For 2 provided exactly as the title suggests – compact rooms for two in an unbeatable central location. This place was neither hostel nor hotel, more like tiny little self catering apartments with shared common rooms and bathrooms. Perfectly formed, despite being super small, and with key codes instead of physical keys, our double room barely had any space for ourselves let alone our suitcases and hoards of clothes, but it was cute and the beds were comfy which is all we really needed. I think the rooms were all full during our stay, but we rarely bumped into any other guests at all and pretty much had bathroom use whenever we wanted it – no queues for the toilet in the middle of the night! If you’re looking for luxury, this isn’t the place for you, but if you just want somewhere to rest your head for the night and enjoy a peaceful residential location just away from the city centre, I would definitely recommend Cube Central Rooms For 2! Thank you to Petra the lovely receptionist for making our short stay so comfortable!

 

As you can see, I managed to fit an awful lot in to my short time in Ljubljana, but I am sure there are many things that I missed and did not get chance to include. If, like me, you’re limited on time I would suggest that these sights are a good place to start. Ljubljana is so pretty and so full of greenery it would be nice to just find a park on a sunny day and enjoy the scenery, but equally it’s great fun for a jam-packed city break and the area has so much to offer. Have you ever been to Ljubljana before, or is it on your bucket list for 2018? Let me know as I would love to hear your thoughts!

Love Jess x

NB. My stay at Cube Central and my tour with Roundabout Travel were offered to me at a discounted rate for the purpose of this blog post, but all thoughts, images and notes are of course my own.

 

I'm currently drafting my #Ljubljana travel guide and it's giving me alllll the throwback feels 😍 The Slovenian capital was the last stop of my interrailing adventure back in September and I think we definitely saved the best til last! Here's the view from the top of Ljubljana Castle with the red roofs, green trees and shady mountains in the distance 🏰🏔 #ThrowbackThursday #VisitLjubljana #Slovenia #ifeelsLOVEnia . . . #travel #bloggers #travelblogger #wanderlust #worlderlust #travelphotography #traveladdict #instago #instatravel #travelgram #inspo #passionpassport #incredibledestinations #tourism #darlingescapes #lonelyplanet #beautifuldestinations #mytinyatlas #icelollyloves #travellover #girlsvsglobe #europe #interrail #girlslovetravel

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Prague Travel Guide: 48 Hours in the Czech capital

 

After my friend Toni and I kicked things off in Warsaw, the next stop on our inter-railing adventure was picture perfect Prague. I had already visited the Czech capital a few years previously, but was excited to go back and experience the city in warmer weather instead of in winter as I spent the whole of my last trip being FREEEEZING!! I spent my second visit to Prague seeing the sights again and finding new things to discover. Brimming with cobbled streets, stunning gothic architecture and an enormous amount of history, there’s so much to see in Prague and its hard to do it all in just 48 hours, but here are my tips on making the most of your short time in this fascinating city…

 

Take a walking tour

 

There’s nothing I love more than discovering a new city by foot, and the cobbled streets of Prague let you do exactly that! There are many different walking tours that’ll show you the city’s best sights and some of them are even free too. We took a free walking tour of the old town in the morning and then paid for a castle tour in the afternoon, which gave us access to the wonderful castle complex before finishing up at the iconic Charles Bridge. I know what you’re thinking, two tours in one day? Yep. Seven hours of walking? Yep. Our feet hurt and we barely sat down all day, but we made friends with everyone in our group and hung around afterwards with them for dinner, then for drinks, then we partied til 3am and we had the BEST TIME EVERRRR!

 

Explore Old Town Square

 

 

 

The focal point of the entire city is undoubtedly the old town square, with its astronomy tower, gothic church (Our Lady Before Tyn) and cobbled streets oozing character, charm and history. In and around the square you’ll find horse drawn carriages, souvenir shops and plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants to keep you occupied. At night the square totally comes alive and the tower and church are both lit up beautifully. Don’t forget to stand in front of the astronomy tower on the hour to see its enormous clock face come alive and create something very special. Prague’s New Town, with its Dancing House and famous Wenceslas Square are well worth a visit, but it’s the Old Town that totally steals my heart every time I visit this spectacular city.

 

Wander across Charles Bridge

 

Charles Bridge is one of the most amazing bridges I have ever walked across, and I’ve found myself just stopping in my tracks and gazing at it every time I’ve been lucky enough to be there. Built under the order of King Charles IV in 1352, the bridge crosses over the River Vltava and is part of the so called Royal Route. With statues, gargoyles and gothic towers at either end, the bridge is rich in history and is an absolute must see on your visit to Prague. Don’t forget to visit at night to see it lit up in all its glory!

 

Leave your mark on the John Lennon wall

 

 

I didn’t get to do this on my last visit, mainly because I didn’t know it existed and I had no idea what it was! Basically this wall is designed for anyone to come and leave their mark and express themselves, and is in memory of the late great John Lennon. The colours on the wall were so striking and it was such a cool, alternative thing to do in a city as historic as Prague. You can also stop by the world famous John Lennon pub if you fancy a pint – it’s conveniently located just across the road!

 

Discover the largest castle complex in Europe at Prague Castle

 

 

I’d been to Prague castle before on my last visit but kind of forgot how beautiful it was, especially when I was at the top of the fortress where the sun was shining and illuminating the pretty red roofs below. Our afternoon walking tour gave us access to the castle complex, including the grounds of the royal palace, the cobbled courtyards of the beautiful basilica and the inside and outside of the impressive St Vitus Cathedral. You could easily spend a few hours wandering around the complex, and exploring it’s many historical buildings too, and it was definitely a highlight of our visit to Prague.

 

Where to stay

 

 

We stayed in the super cool Sophie’s Hostel, located in a quiet neighbourhood just a 10 minute walk from Wenceslas Square and a 25 minute walk from the Old Town. The hostel had a real boutique hotel feel about it, and was much more glamorous than a standard hostel you’d expect to find. We had booked a private double room and we’re delighted to have been upgraded to an enormous apartment on arrival for the duration of our stay! We made the most of our giant bedroom, separate kitchen and big rainforest shower in the bathroom and loved having so much space all to ourselves. The bar and reception staff couldn’t have been more helpful throughout our stay, and we loved our pancakes at breakfast too! I would highly recommend Sophie’s Hostel as a fantastic place to stay during your visit to Prague, and it’s a great base for access to both the old and new town, as well as the airport and train station too.  Special thanks must go to the Sophie’s team for making our stay so wonderful!

 

Where to eat/drink

 

There are plenty of bars, restaurants and cafes to choose from in Prague, and most of them can be found in and around Wenceslas Square and the Old Town Square. We chose to eat in some of the side streets in the old town, as they generally tended to be much cheaper than the eateries that were situated on the square itself. We ate beef goulash in traditional tavernas and enjoyed wonderful meals both evenings – with so much choice you’ll find good food everywhere in Prague. We also ended up in the super cool Absinthe Bar on both of our evenings and had absolutely no regrets the next day – it was such a cool place to visit and our new friends from the tour loved it too!

Although I’ve been to Prague twice now and have seen such a lot during my time there, I know there are tonnes of other things to see and do that I haven’t even discovered yet. If you’re short on time though, this 48 hour guide should give you a good starting point on the main sights to cover and will stand you in good stead for your trip. Have you ever visited Prague before and would you go back like I did? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Love Jess X

 

*NEW BLOG POST* September Newsletter: Read what I've been getting up to this month! ((link in bio)) #wordpress #newpost #newsletter

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Travel Guide to Warsaw: 48 hours in the Polish capital

 

 

Last month I had the pleasure of visiting Warsaw for the first time, and it was my first ever visit to Poland too! Warsaw was the first stop on my recent inter-railing adventure with one of my best friends, and it was the perfect city from which to kick start our time in Europe. Warsaw is brimming with colourful buildings, cobbled streets and tonnes of history, and with so much to see and do it was impossible to get round everything in just 48 hours, but here’s my tips on making the most of your short time in this amazing city…

 

Take a FREE walking tour

 

 

I really love free walking tours and feel they are the best way to discover a new city for the first time, especially if you only have a couple of days and want to squeeze in as much as possible! The free Old Town Walking Tour in Warsaw begins right underneath Sigismund’s Column and departs every day at 10.30am. Our tour guide was so friendly and really gave us an insight into the history behind Warsaw, going into particular detail about the horrendous destruction of the city during world war two. The two hour tour passed by a number of points of interest and within that time we saw pretty much every important landmark there was to see in the historic Old Town, and got to make some brilliant photo stops along the way too.

 

Wander round the Old Town

 

 

If, like me, you only have a couple of nights in Warsaw I would definitely recommend basing yourself in the old town as I think this is the most popular area of the entire city. With its historic cobbled streets, vibrant market square and a vast array of colourful buildings, old town Warsaw is a UNESCO world heritage site and is best explored on foot meaning everything can be seen within a day or two. I really enjoy visiting cities that have a small historic centre, particularly if I’m pressed for time, as it means I can really immerse myself in the atmosphere and soak up the culture at the same time too. Don’t forget to climb the clock tower just opposite Sigismund’s column for spectacular panoramic views of the castle square below, and a visit to the famous mermaid statue is a MUST too!

 

Walk along the Vistula River

 

 

After a busy day of sightseeing I love nothing better than venturing a little out of the city and just taking a gentle stroll along the river. Warsaw’s old town is so compact that it was nice to explore a little further afield and see other parts of the city that were completely new to us, and the views from across the river were pretty stunning too! A wander along the Vistula will take you to Warsaw Zoo, Park Praski and the quirky neighborhood of Praga, which was the location for the award winning film The Pianist.

 

Visit one of the many museums

 

Warsaw is full of interesting museums to visit, containing everything from war and jewish history to music, science and modern art. I do think it’s difficult to find the time to visit museums if I’m on a super short city break though, so I don’t tend to put them at the top of my list, but there are so many in Warsaw that I just HAD to include them in my guide! We actually wandered around the Museum of Warsaw, which is located in the archway/city gate just behind the iconic market square, and found the history so interesting. Another must-do is the Uprising of the Jews and the Palace of Culture which is somewhere I really wanted to head to but sadly we ran out of time!

 

Where to eat/drink

 

 

There are a variety of restaurants in the old town, most of which serve a mix of traditional Polish food and popular European dishes too. We chose to eat at a local restaurant called Zapiecek on our first night as it was just a few doors down from our hostel and served amazing pierogi (dumplings) which are a traditional Polish dish. Serving a variety of mains including everything from pork and chicken to salmon and sausage, Zapiecek restaurants can be found dotted across Warsaw and are a must visit when looking for somewhere to eat in the city. Other restaurant recommendations I received, but sadly didn’t dine at, were Magda Polka in the Castle Square, and Michelin starred U Fukeria which can be found in the market square, just opposite the famous mermaid statue.

 

Where to stay

 

 

During our time in the city we chose to stay at the super cool Oki Doki Hostel, one of the only original pre war buildings left in the city. The location couldn’t have been more perfect for us as we were right in the middle of the old town with a number of shops, bars cafes and restaurants within a few minutes walk. We were staying in a private double room on the third floor with our own en suite bathroom. The beauty of staying in a private room is that you pay hostel prices for hotel standards and this couldn’t have been more true for our stay at Oki Doki. The communal areas including the kitchen, garden and breakfast place were kept very clean and tidy but were also great places to hang out and meet fellow travellers. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Oki Doki Hostel to anyone looking for a comfortable stay at a fantastic price right in the heart of Warsaw’s old town. Special thanks must go to Agata for making our stay so wonderful!

I could have spent at least another two days exploring everything that Warsaw has to offer, and even then I still don’t think I’d have scratched the surface! Considering Warsaw lost pretty much everything during World War Two, the defiant spirit of this city is incredibly powerful and shines through its core. Have you ever visited Warsaw before? I’d love to hear what you thought of it!

Love Jess x

 

 

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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

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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 💖

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