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48 Hours in Valencia: The Perfect Spanish City Break

 

 

Beautiful Valencia. Famed for its football team, its extra long beach and for being the home of everyone’s favourite Spanish dish, Paella. The third largest city in Spain, Valencia was the second stop on my recent interrailing trip with my sister, breaking up the journey between Madrid and Barcelona. It was equally as beautiful but much less touristy than the other two cities, which we actually loved and it felt so nice to explore somewhere that wasn’t super crowded. We stayed just outside of the old town centre, in the new modern area, but within walking distance to the old town and all its attractions. Valencia is almost like a city of two halves; its old town square being home to the historic cathedral and bell towers, and then the more modern part of the city with its enormous Oceanarium, bioparc and state-of-the-art science and culture park. Although we only had 48 hours in Valencia, we felt this was definitely enough time to see everything and tick off plenty of the best known sights from our list. Here’s what we got up to, and what I would recommend you do there too…

 

Discover the gothic architecture

 

views from Valencia cathedral

Views from the top of Valencia Cathedral

 

Did you know that Valencia has its very own Gothic architecture? Influenced by the city’s Roman past and Mediterranean construction techniques between the 12th and 15th centuries, some of Valencia’s most popular landmarks represent this type of Gothic architecture. The main square, Placa de L’Amoina, is where the gorgeous Valencia Cathedral is located, along with it’s adjoining bell tower and incredibly ornate interiors, with the ceiling said to be inspired by Rome’s Sistine Chapel. The cobbled streets surrounding the cathedral are brimming with shops, bars, café’s and restaurants , and you can climb the tower for stunning panoramic views over the entire city below. Whilst wandering the streets during our 48 hours in Valencia, we found a super cool area called Plaza Redonda, a unique area filled with tapas restaurants and boutique stores laid out in a round circle, offering traditional Spanish food and souvenirs. La Lonja de La Seda, otherwise known as The Silk Exchange, is a one of the most civil Gothic monuments in Europe with history dating back to the 15th century, and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

 

Walk through Jardin del Turia

 

Torres de Serranos Valencia

The Torres de Serranos lit up at night

 

Spanning nine kilometres of lush gardens, winding foot paths and sports areas, the Turia Gardens (or Jardin del Turia) is one of the largest urban parks in Spain and runs alongside the former River Turia that once meandered its way through the city. Torres de Serranos is the gateway to the old style Valencia, linking the gardens and the new town with the history of ancient monuments in the old town. We actually walked through the gardens to get from our hotel to the old town many times during our 48 hours in Valencia and the walk was so lovely, with plenty of trees, flowers and plants lining the pathways. The walk between the towns takes around 20-30 minutes depending on how fast or slowly you’re going, and you’ll pass no less than 18 bridges above you as you make your way there. As well as being the gateway to the old town, the gardens are sprinkled with modern touches and are also home to the City of Arts and Sciences centre and plenty of sports and recreational areas with football pitches and tennis courts too.

 

Chill out on Malvarossa Playa

 

palm trees on the beach in valencia

The palm trees at Malvarossa Playa

 

I wasn’t sure if we would have time to head to the beach during your short 48 hours in Valencia, but I am so glad we did as it was definitely one of the highlights of our time there! Instead of spending an afternoon there soaking up the midday sun, we actually headed over at around 5pm to catch the last parts of the early evening sunshine and still got to enjoy the heat whilst we were there. We headed for dinner on the beachfront and enjoyed a cocktail or three as the sun started to set behind us. Malvarossa Playa was super lively and there was so much going on that we could have easily spent another day/night checking out all the other bars and restaurants. There’s also plenty of water-sports action if that’s what you’re in to, and the long stretch of sand makes the perfect place for a spot of sunbathing.

 

Visit the Oceanografic Centre

 

Valencia's Oceanografic Centre

Photo credit: www.musement.com
Valencia’s Oceanografic Centre

 

Located in the Arts and Sciences complex at Jardin del Turia, and with impressive architecture that looks similar to Sydney’s iconic Opera House, the Oceanografic Centre is one of the tourist attractions that’s a real must see during your 48 hours in Valencia. Laid out over two levels, with nine underwater towers housing over 45,000 marine species, the Oceanografic Centre is considered to be more of a training and research centre as opposed to a zoological park, making it an aquarium like no other. Split into ten geographical areas, from the Mediterranean and tropical seas to the polar oceans of the Arctic and Antarctic, you’ll spot more than 500 different species of marine life, including sharks, sea lions, manta rays and penguins. There’s also a separate dolphinarium, with training talks and daily feeds as well as shows at the auditorium which seats over 2000 people. If all the fantastic marine life isn’t enough to tempt you to the Oceanografic Centre during your 48 hours in Valencia, I’d highly recommend checking out the underwater restaurant where you can sit and watch some of the amazing species of fish swim right past you as you dine.

 

Where to Eat

 

valencia's central plaza

The central plaza in Valencia – great for eating out!

 

There are an abundance of restaurants, café’s and bars to choose from during your 48 hours in Valencia, most of which can be found in the old town, on the streets that lead from Placa de L’Amoina, where the cathedral is located. On our first night we ate in a tiny restaurant overlooking the cathedral, which was super cute and really cheap considering how good the location was. Our pizzas cost around 10 euros, and we had a cocktail each too. On our second night we hopped in a taxi from the old town square to Malvarossa Playa, the long stretch of sandy beach that I mentioned earlier on in this post. There were so many lively restaurants and bars to choose from, and there was even a club at the end of the pier too. We ate in a small beach bar that served an eclectic menu of Spanish and Italian dishes and enjoyed great sea views as we dined. We stayed out quite late that evening as it was a Saturday night and we were hitting up the cocktail bars, but a taxi back to our hotel was only 10-15 euros and was around a 20 minute drive away.

 

Where to Stay

 

The Expo Hotel Valencia

The rooftop pool at The Expo Hotel Valencia

 

We stayed out of the old town, in the new area with the El Cortes Ingles shopping centre just behind us which seemed to be v popular in Spain! Our hotel, The Expo Hotel, was around a 5-10 min taxi ride from the train station, where we came in and out of because we were interrailing, but it wasn’t too far from the airport either. A 20 minute walk through the Jardin del Turia took us under some of the historic bridges and through the gate at Torres de Serranos which marked the entrance to the old town. The Expo Hotel had a rooftop bar and terrace with fantastic city views which we loved, as well as a rooftop swimming pool too! It was super handy having the shopping centre right behind us and there was a courtyard of restaurants to choose from too if you didn’t fancy walking all the way into the old town for dinner. We ate lunch in one of the restaurants on the day it was raining and it felt like we were locals not tourists! Our room was spacious and modern, and the hotel was really stylish throughout, in a great location. If you want to stay in the heart of the action during your 48 hours in Valencia, I would recommend staying in the old town instead to really soak up the atmosphere.

 

My sister and I absolutely adored this city, and we discovered that 48 hours in Valencia was definitely enough time to explore and take everything in. We loved relaxing on the beach, enjoying the amazing foodie scene and admiring the gothic architecture. Valencia felt like true authentic Span, more like one of the Balearic islands than one of it’s cities, and I felt it was super similar to Palma in Mallorca with it’s ancient landmarks combined with lively nightlife. We had a fantastic 48 hours in Valencia and I would recommend this city to anyone looking for a true taste of Spain in a really beautiful city. Have you been to Valencia before? I would love to know what you got up to over there!

 

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Two Nights in Madrid: Visiting the Spanish Capital

 

 

Only have two nights in Madrid? Don’t worry, I did too, and I promise you’ll have enough time to see most of the sights and explore as much as you can during your short time there! Madrid was the first stop on my recent Spanish interrailing adventure with my sister, where we took in the beautiful cities of Barcelona and Valencia too, and what better place to begin than the beautiful capital city? From the lively squares of Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol to the Royal Palace and the Temple of Debod, there’s so much to see and do that you’ll want to return again and again. Here’s what we got up to during our two nights in Madrid, and some top tips for making the most of your visit there too.

 

Visit The Royal Palace

royal palace of madrid

The Royal Palace of Madrid

 

One of the cities most famous attractions, the Royal Palace of Madrid should be the first thing you tick off your list during your two nights in Madrid. The palace is the official residence of the Spanish royal family and was built back in 1735. With over 3400 rooms and one million square feet of floor space inside, it’s the largest functioning royal palace in Europe. Today, both the palace and gardens are open to the public during certain times and are certainly worth a visit. My sister and I kickstarted our two nights in Madrid by wandering around the gardens and admiring the palace’s extraordinary architecture from the outside. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go inside and do a tour as they only ran at certain times of the day, but we climbed the rooftop of the cathedral opposite to get a good birds eye view of the palace and its forecourt. We did manage to watch the Changing of the Guard though, which takes place every Wednesday and Saturday at 11am.

TOP TIP: If you’re an EU citizen, admission to the palace is free Mon-Fri 4pm-6pm from Oct-Mar and Mon-Fri 6pm-8pm from Apr-Sept. Quick, make the most of it before Brexit happens guys 😉

 

Chill out in El Retiro Park

 

el retiro park

The beautiful El Retiro Park

 

This was one of my favourite spots of Madrid because my sister and I stumbled upon it purely by chance whilst we were out wandering around the city on our first day. Located off the Gran Via, the main shopping district, El Retiro Park is a gorgeous green space stretching over 125 hectares with flowers, trees and plenty of places to sit and watch the world go by. There are small bars and cafes selling snacks, lunches, drinks and ice creams, as well as a gorgeous blue lake where you can rent a paddle boat and row across the water. The park is huge and is also home to Palacio de Cristal, a glass palace overlooking a huge pond filled with hundreds of tiny terrapins, and the Teatro de Titeres, the only theatre in Europe that puts on puppet shows every weekend! We walked a lot on our first day and rewarded ourselves with an ice cream and a mini siesta in the sunshine at El Retiro Park, but we could have easily spent longer there as it was such a beautiful place and didn’t feel too touristy either.

 

Soak up ancient history at The Temple of Debod

 

the temple of debod

The Ancient Egyptian Temple of Debod

 

I am an absolute sucker for ancient history, particularly anything to do with Greek or Egyptian stuff, so when I found out that Madrid was home to an second century Egyptian temple I just HAD to go and check it out! Built waaaay back in 200 BC, the Temple of Debod was under threat in Egypt many moons later in 1960 due to the construction of the Aswan Dam. When Spain stepped into help with saving this and the nearby Abu Simbel temples, the Egyptian state donated Debod to the country in 1968. The temple was dismantled and flown over to Madrid, then rebuilt in Parque del Oeste, right near the Royal Palace. Since 1972, the modified Temple of Debod has been open to the public; entrance is free, but make sure you’re prepared to queue as only a small number of visitors are allowed in at a time. It really is a fascinating temple, with hieroglyphics and ancient markings carved into the walls, and it’s one of the few ancient pieces of Egyptian architecture that you can see outside of Egypt.

 

Explore the many cathedrals 

 

The beautiful Almudena Cathedral

The ornate Almudena Cathedral

 

The capital of Spain has GOT to have it’s fair share of cathedrals, right? Correct! There are plenty of churches and cathedrals to see during your two nights in Madrid, with some of the most stunning architecture and gothic style features. We made our way over to the Church of San Francisco, which was unfortunately closed when we got there but the gorgeous rose garden behind it was well worth a visit, with pretty views over to the city in the distance. We also visited the Crypt at Almudena Cathedral, a Neo-Romanesque church built below the ground that houses hundreds of ancient tombs as well as a 16th century image of the Virgen de la Almudena. The star of the show however has to be the beautiful Almudena Cathedral itself, located right opposite the Royal Place of Madrid. Construction began back in 1879 but was not completed until 1993, the same year it was consecrated by Pope John Paul II. Nowadays, the cathedral is arguably one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, and you can climb the staircase to the rooftop for breath-taking panoramic views across the city below, and visit the onsite museum too.

 

Go shopping along the Gran Via

 

The buildings along the Gran Via are nothing short of spectacular

The magnificent buildings along the Gran Via

 

Likened to London’s West End, I enjoyed the Gran Via way more than I thought I would and actually loved strolling along it each day when we were getting around the city walking to and from our hotel. With gothic style buildings and designer stores lining the streets, the Gran Via was super lively both during the day and at night too. There were a handful of casinos and nightclubs as well as grand theatres showing amazing West End and Broadway shows like Anastasia the Musical, Ghost and The Lion King, making the Gran Via a fantastic entertainment district for locals and tourists alike. The Gran Via is absolutely buzzing at any time of day, and is the beating heart of the city, especially after dark when everything is lit up and it becomes a real hub with everything staying open until the early hours. You certainly won’t be short of things to see and do during your two nights in Madrid if you base yourself close to the Gran Via!

 

Where to eat

 

the colourful plaza mayor

The colourful Plaza Mayor is a great place to eat out

 

I suppose the bad thing about only having two nights in Madrid is that you can only try a handful of restaurants during your short stay, which is super annoying given that the foodie scene in the city is AMAZING! On our first night we ate at an authentic tapas restaurant just off the Gran Via and indulged in allll the patatas bravas, cheese and chorizo washed down with sangria. On night two we headed to Puerta del Sol to a tiny Italian restaurant just off the main square and ate up some delicious pasta. For lunches we did the classic supermarket food ‘picnic’ as we were out exploring all day everyday and were happy to just eat on the go so we could splurge in the evenings, but there were tonnes of cool places to stop for lunch too. The colourful Plaza Mayor, pictured above, also looked like a fantastic place to eat out as it was lined with tonnes of restaurants, but it looked quite a lot pricier than some of the other nearby restaurants. For something a little different, check out Mercado San Miguel, a covered market with bars and mini cafe’s serving every kind of Spanish food and drink you can think of, located a 5min walk from Plaza Mayor.

 

Where to stay

 

views over to the red rooftops from our hotel room

Views over the Madrid skyline from our hotel room

 

During our two nights in Madrid we stayed at the Hotel Madrid Plaza Espana by Melia, a stylish hotel right on the Gran Via, at the heart of the city. After taking the metro from the airport (tubes run every 5 mins from 6am-2am at either T2 or T4 and cost 3EUR per journey plus a small 2EUR airport supplement) we got off at the Plaza de Espana stop and our hotel was literally opposite, just a 10 second walk away. The hotel was in the perfect location for exploring all that Madrid had to offer and we walked absolutely everywhere, only using the metro on our last day to get us over to the train station. Our room was huge with spacious beds and modern bathrooms, and the view from our window wasn’t bad either! Make sure you ask for a room on one of the higher floors to get views like this too. There were other Melia hotels to choose from in Madrid, as well as Eurostars properties too, but we had a fantastic say at our Plaza Espana Melia and I would definitely stay here again if I ever came back to Madrid.

 

Although two nights in Madrid was enough time to tick off pretty much everything that we wanted to, there was so much going on that you could easily spend another day or two wandering around the city and discovering even more. Madrid is a charming place and we fell in love with the foodie scene, the ancient landmarks, the gorgeous green spaces (v unusual in a city as large as Madrid), and the great nightlife. Have you ever spent two nights in Madrid (or longer) before? I’d love to know what you thought of it too!

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Three Days in Barcelona: Exploring with Marco Polo Guides

 

reading the barcelona book in barcelona!

Reading my Barcelona Marco Polo Guidebook

 

Ah beautiful Barcelona, one of the most famous cities in Europe, and the Catalonian capital of Spain. The last time I visited back in May 2014 I ended up bed bound for pretty much all of the entire trip after being horrendously sick for 48 hours, so I was itching to get back and explore the city properly this time, over five years later. Barcelona was the last stop that my sister and I visited on our recent Spanish Interrailing adventure, along with Madrid and Valencia, and it was the perfect place to end our holiday. From Gaudi’s iconic Sagrada Familia and Park Guell to the vibrant St Joseph’s Market and bustling Las Ramblas, Barcelona is a tourist’s haven and offers the perfect city break escape. Along with the help of my trusty Marco Polo Guidebook, here’s what I would recommend you see if you have three days in Barcelona, and what we did during our time there too…

Wander down Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas, view of the busy street

A view of Las Ramblas from our hotel

Perhaps the most famous part of Barcelona, and the focal point of the entire city, Las Ramblas is the lively street that is an absolute must see during your visit. Marvel at the street performers, have dinner and drinks in one of the many bars and restaurants, or stock up on souvenirs at the variety of shops on offer. Las Ramblas is busy at any time of day, but comes alive at night when the bars and restaurants stay open late and revellers from the nearby Gothic Quarter spill out on to the street. My favourite part of Las Ramblas is St Joseph’s Market, located right in the middle of the street and at the heart of the action. Inside, you’ll find tonnes of stalls selling everything from organic fruit and veg to sweets, savoury snacks and souvenirs. The bright colours of the fruit, all sold in cute little €1 pots, will mesmerise you as you meander your way through the tiny gaps between stalls, and there’s so much food to choose from that you’ll end up coming back every day for your lunch, just like me and my sister did!

Visit La Sagrada Familia

inside of sagrada familia, me with the audio guide

Using the audio guide to make our way around

The outsided of La Sagrada Familia

The beautiful La Sagrada Familia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This place is truly breath-taking and nothing short of iconic. We hadn’t actually booked tickets online before our visit as we had completely forgotten – I got back from Australia the week before so am blaming the jet lag – but we needn’t have worried as our fantastic hotel reception sorted us out with some last minute tickets. We booked the audio tour which was around €30 each and gave us access to all parts of the cathedral. The Cathedral itself is an absolute masterpiece featuring incredible architecture and history, giving an insight in to the life of its famous creator, Antoni Gaudi. Although it is not finished yet, the Cathedral is truly memerising. My sister and I found the audio guides super helpful and I’d definitely recommend these when booking your tickets. La Sagrada Familia is away from the city centre, so it took us a good hour to walk there from our hotel on Las Ramblas, but we did break up the walk with a stop at the Arc de Triompf and a cake break opposite another of Gaudi’s creations, Casa Mila, before catching the metro back to Las Ramblas instead of walking. If there’s one thing you tick off during your three days in Barcelona, make sure it’s the spectacle that is La Sagrada Familia.

Chill out on Barceloneta Beach

me in front of the marina in Barcelona

The beautiful Barcelona marina

One of the most popular parts of the city, Barceloneta Beach attracts thousands of tourists each year and is a great place to relax and unwind after a busy few days of sightseeing. To me, it seems weird to be spending time on a beach when you only have three days in Barcelona, but on our last day my sister and I welcomed the chance to chill out after a hectic week of exploring three Spanish cities in seven days, and walking at least 20km every single day. Barceloneta Beach is a huge stretch of sand right by the marina, dotted with sunbeds, umbrellas and a few beach bars too. It was super crowded when I went, but I think that’s because it was the Saturday of the bank holiday May weekend here in the UK at the time. Having said that, it was a great place to people watch, read a book or listen to music whilst watching the waves lap against the shore, and there were boat rides and water sports on offer in the sea too. We didn’t get chance to take the cable car over the ocean, but I have added that to my list for my return visit next time!

Climb to the top of Montjuic Hill

views from montjuic hill over barcelona below

The breath-taking views from the top of Montjuic Hill

Something else that we didn’t quite manage to tick off was the Magic Fountain show that lights up the skies after dark on certain months of the year. Located at Montjuic Hill, this is a spectacle not to be missed, although sadly it wasn’t on when we were there as May is the only month (apart from Jan & Feb) that the show doesn’t run – gutted! We did however still walk from Las Ramblas to Montjuic Hill, following the 2-3 hour walking route that was on page 103 our trusty Marco Polo Guidebook, and had such a great time exploring a totally different area of Barca that we hadn’t seen before. We passed the Plaza de Espana along the way which looked like the Campanile in Venice’s San Marco Square. When we reached the summit, the views from the top of the hill were absolutely amazing, and it didn’t feel like we were in Barcelona at all as we gazed over the city below and spotted the mountains in the background. I’d definitely recommend you make a stop here during your three days in Barcelona to see a totally different side to the city!

Explore the Gothic Quarter

me and my sister on the roof of catedral de barcelona

Exploring the rooftop of Catedral de Barcelona

I really loved this area of the city, and we spent almost every evening there during our stay having drinks and indulging in some people watching! There are plenty of bars and restaurants around and the Quarter is super lively. With its tall palm trees, decorative fountain and ancient buildings, this place feels like a  mini oasis right in the middle of the busy city. Just off from Las Ramblas, the Quarter is easily reached from all areas of the city and is best explored on foot, but you will also find tourist bikes being offered left right and centre if you prefer to be shown around by someone else. Right around the corner is the gorgeous Catedral de Barcelona, with its gothic architecture and stunning interiors. It’ll cost you 7 euros to get in, but don’t forget to head up to the top of the roof for a small fee of €3 where you’ll be rewarded with incredible panoramic views over the entire city, and you’ll even spot La Sagrada Familia in the distance.

TOP TIP: Page 29 of my Marco Polo Guidebook informed me that entrance to the cathedral is free Mon-Fri 1pm-5:30pm, Saturdays 1pm-5pm or Sundays 2pm-5pm, so head there between those times if you’re on a budget. Ladies, make sure you cover up as you won’t be allowed in if you’re wearing shorts and a vest top, as I found out! (they sell scarves at the entrance for €1 though so you can purchase one of these if you don’t want to go back to your hotel room and get changed).

Where to Stay

picture of hotel room

Our room at Eurostars Las Ramblas

We treated ourselves to a top 4* hotel for our three days in Barcelona as we wanted to round off our Spanish interrailing adventure in style, but there are plenty of other budget friendly options too. I’ve previously stayed in the 2* Meson Castilla, right at the top of Las Ramblas, and that was in a great location although the rooms were pretty small, and a bit dated. There are plenty of hostels to choose from if you’re backpacking, and I’ve heard that Safestay and Generator are both good picks. For something more luxurious, I would wholeheartedly recommend our beautiful hotel, Eurostars Las Ramblas, which was at the heart of the action on the city’s most famous street. We had a balcony room overlooking Las Ramblas and could people watch til our hearts content. The huge rainforest shower was amazing, the beds were super comfy and we couldn’t fault the staff! Other top hotels include the W Barcelona and the H10 Casanova. Barcelona is a huge city, and you can hop on the metro at any time if you want to save your legs, but most hotels are really centrally located so you’re never too far from everything, no matter where you stay.

Where to Eat

me with my cocktail!

Look at the size of those cocktails!

my sister with her cocktail

 

My sister and I ate out every night of our stay, and we certainly picked some fantastic restaurants! On our first night we headed to the marina but couldn’t find any restaurants that weren’t stupidly overpriced, so we made our way over to Catedral de Barcelona and ended up eating right next to it, in a gorgeous restaurant called Taverna del Bisbe, which served the most amazing tapas. On our second night we stayed close to home as we had done so much walking and didn’t fancy venturing too far from our hotel, so we just ate at one of the casual restaurants out on the terrace in the middle of the street, where we had incredible paellas and cocktails the size of our heads – they were €20 each but they were amazing! Our last night took us to the Gothic Quarter where we dined at Restaurante Rossini , the most authentic Italian that could’ve been right in Tuscany if you didn’t know you were in Spain! The food was amazing – the calzone’s were like enormous pillows that we struggled to finish – and we popped over to one of the nearby bars afterwards to watch Liverpool FC knock out Barcelona in the semi final of the Champions League which was certainly a night to remember! If you’re staying on Las Ramblas I would recommend eating anywhere along there or in the Gothic Quarter, but if you’re staying a bit further afield there are plenty of other fantastic bars and restaurants to choose from too.

These are just a few of the top sights to see during your three days in Barcelona, but as the city is so huge, you could easily spend a week there ticking off plenty more landmarks. You can probably tell that I absolutely adored visiting La Sagrada Familia, and it was beyond my wildest expectations, but I loved discovering the Catedral de Barcelona too and was pleasantly surprised about how much I enjoyed it! Next time I visit I would like to take the cable car over the sea, head over to Park Guell and stop by the Magic Fountains for one of their iconic evening shows… I guess that gives me plenty of reasons to come back! Have you ever been to Barcelona before?

NB. This post was sponsored by Marco Polo Guides  but all words, thoughts and images are of course my own.

st josephs market

st josephs market

The bright colours of St Joseph’s Market

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Why Cruising is my New Favourite Way to Travel

I know what you’re thinking… cruising is for old people, right? WRONG! Cruises are so much fun, they’re so exciting and they are SUCH a great way to travel to new places. I embarked on my very first cruise last summer when I spent a week sailing round the Med with my family, and I had one of the best weeks of my whole life – you can read more about that trip right here. I loved just waking up in a new destination each day and couldn’t wait to get off the ship at each port and explore a new city. Days at sea also give a totally new meaning to the words ‘ultimate relaxation’ and I certainly got my money’s worth at the epic food buffets! Here’s why cruising is my new favourite way to travel, and why I think you’ll fall in love with it too…

 

The ship feels like a gigantic hotel

 

 

I know most people will say that some of these pointers will vary depending on what ship, cruise line and what destinations you choose, which is of course absolutely correct, but I can guarantee that pretty much every single cruise ship you’ll ever go on will ALWAYS feel like a gigantic hotel! With hundreds of rooms, multiple floors, hoards of bars and restaurants and plenty of shops, your cruise ship will feel like the biggest all inclusive hotel you’ve ever seen – and then some. At first you’ll get lost trying to find your room and won’t be able to remember which bars are in which direction but trust me, that’s all part of the fun, it’s like discovering a new hotel or resort every single day, but the best bit is that you’re staying in one place the entire time!

 

Your all inclusive package will be worth it

 

 

I have to say, I never usually opt for all inclusive when I’m abroad and always go for self catering, but with a cruise you don’t really have a choice! Every guest receives some type of meal plan with their cruise, whether it’s half board, full board or all inclusive, and this obviously depends on which cruise line/ship you choose. Some companies may offer an upgrade from full board to all inclusive, which I wouldn’t usually pick, but ours was free when we booked as we were eligible for a special offer, so naturally we said YES! This actually made a real difference to our stay as we didn’t pay a single penny for any food and drink consumed on board, even branded drinks and cocktails were included within our package, and you could literally have as much as you wanted – result! Some of the restaurants on board some of the biggest cruise ships out there are totally out of this world, and you’ll want to try as much of the food and drink as you can whilst you’re on your cruise to get the most out of your experience – just be prepared to come home a few pounds heavier after all that over indulging 😉

 

The sail in’s/ sail away’s are amazing

 

 

This was without doubt my favourite part of cruising. The sail away on our first night was so much fun and we had a live band playing party music as we left Croatia, with the bright lights of Dubrovnik glittering in the distance as we made our way further out to sea. Sailing in to a new destination every day was also super exciting, and I got up at around 5:30 each morning so that I could head up to the top deck and be one of the first on board to take in the epic sights. I’ve never really experienced anything like it before, just breathing in the fresh sea air and enjoying the panoramic views that were ahead of me. One of my favourite sail in’s was Kotor, Montenegro; it was an early one (6am) and there were only a handful of people on the top deck watching with me and my parents. The turquoise waters glistened below and the enormous mountains provided the most amazing backdrop whilst we glided into the tiny port. It was at that exact moment, just 2 days into my trip, that I realised cruising was such a special way of travelling and that I’d totally fallen in love with it.

 

There’s excellent entertainment on board

 

 

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*NEW BLOG POST* (link in bio) Top 10 Tips for First Time Cruisers in Their 20s 🚢 My first post from my recent cruising adventure has just gone live on the #blog, and I'm sharing my top tips for first time cruisers, especially if (like me) you're in your 20s and you have NO IDEA what to expect from a holiday at sea 🌊 This post will talk about all things cruising, from choosing your favourite cabin type to watching different entertainment on board, and I hope it's useful to those of you who want to know a bit more about ship life ⚓️ I also try to dispel the myth that cruising is just for old people, so hopefully this post helps you see why it is fun for all ages! I can't wait to book my next one, and I'm a total cruise convert now! 🚢 #allaboard #newblogpost #happycruising

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Again this depends on which cruise line and which ship you choose, but cruising nowadays has such a big focus on the entertainment factor that you’re bound to find something which appeals to everyone. From West End style shows and world class magician experiences to dance extravaganza’s and Cabaret performances, the entertainment on board cruise ships has never been better. Most ships will offer jam packed programmes every night of the week, with shows to cater for all tastes and ages, whilst the cruise teams will also have entertainment throughout the day too. We often took part in the trivia quizzes, bingo and interactive games during the day and went to at least one show every couple of nights. You can be involved as much as you want, or if you prefer just to sit back and relax with a glass of wine whilst listening to some live music, you can of course do that too.

 

Both the sunrises and the sunsets are unreal

 

 

Along with the sail in’s and sail away’s, I think this was my other favourite part of cruising. Being in the middle of the ocean you are in prime position to see the best sunrises and sunsets in the world. There’s nothing in the way, there’s no light pollution when you’re at sea, and the reflection of the water just makes it that bit more special. The sunrises are amazing during the sail in’s, especially if you’re a bit far away from port but can see it in the distance. I know not everyone wants to wake up early on their holiday though, so don’t worry, the sunsets are just as spectacular and you definitely won’t want to miss out on golden hour. We sometimes just spent ages on the top deck watching the sun cast it’s golden shadow across the water, waiting for the pink skies to go dark, and it was truly mesmerising.

 

You can wake up somewhere new every day

 

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Don't mind me, just posing in front of expensive boats like it's the most normal thing in the world 🙋 I'm currently writing up my #travel guide to #Kotor and can't wait to share it with you all! This pretty city is fast becoming the new go-to place for a European break in 2018, and with cute cobbled streets, an ancient old town and a glamorous waterfront like this, it's not hard to see why! 😍 I LOVED my time in #Montenegro when I visited as part of my recent #cruise and am already planning a return trip to explore more of this gorgeous country 🌍 Have you ever been to Kotor before? On this miserable windy day in England, I know where I'd rather be rn ✈️ #TBT #VisitKotor #VisitMontenegro #MarellaCruises #GoMontenegro #Insta_Montenegro #MontenegroWildBeauty #KotorMontenegro #KotorBay #CruiseLife #Europe #TravelGuide #TUI #ThrowbackThursday

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One of the best parts about cruising is that all the travelling is done for you while you sleep! Most ships do all the travel between their guests going to bed at night and then waking up the next morning, meaning you’ll go to sleep in one destination and wake up in another, amazing huh?! I absolutely loved this element to cruising as it meant I could really maximise my time in each port and wasn’t tired after a long travel day. Plus you don’t feel a thing whilst your sleeping and you don’t miss out on any sights either as you’re literally just in the middle of the sea for hours. Some of the destinations I went to in the Med would take DAYS to travel between if I was on land, so I realised just how handy cruising could be and how much time it saves doing it all by boat!

 

You can see why I had such a great time on my cruise now, right?! I just loved every single second on board that ship, and I’m already dreaming about booking my next cruise so I can tick some brand new cities (and countries) off my ever expanding bucket list. With thousands of different ships, itineraries and routes offered across the globe, and with plenty of places online to find a great cruise offer, there’s never been a better time to go on a cruise! Have you ever been on one before? I’d love to know what you thought of it!

NB. This post was brought to you in collaboration with Rol Cruises but, as always, all words are of course my own. 

 

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Doing the Titanic pose all by myself cos this Rose doesn't need a Jack in her life 😎 I've been home for just 24 hours and I'm already missing being at sea 🌊 Words can't describe the amazing experience I had on my first ever cruise 🚢 I was so nervous before going as I suffer so much with travel sickness (ironic as I'm a travel blogger) but luckily I was absolutely fine and kept well the entire time! It's only now that I'm home I'm suffering with motion sickness despite being back on land! What is THAT all about?! 😩I think it means I need to book another cruise asap, I'm a total convert now and loved waking up in a new place each day, but my favourite thing was spending hours looking out at the blue waters, with nothing but the ocean staring back at me 🐬 Can I go be a mermaid again please? #cruiselife #titanicpose #takemeback #marellacruises

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Travel Guide to Valletta, Malta: Europe’s Capital of Culture 2018

 

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Good morning beautiful Valletta! #VisitMalta

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Listed as 2018’s European Capital of Culture, Valletta is a lively city brimming with history and culture and it has been on my bucket-list for the past few years now. I was lucky enough to get the chance to visit Valletta during my recent Mediterranean cruise and, as it was my first time in Malta, I was super excited to wander around and couldn’t wait to explore. Malta actually turned out to be my 25th country and it was an amazing place in which to celebrate this achievement! I literally only had a day in Valletta which wasn’t nearly enough time to experience it all properly, but we did do quite a lot in our short time there, and we got a good feel for the city during this time. Luckily, I had my trusty Marco Polo Malta guidebook with me which really helped us plan our time and make the most of the few hours that we had to spend there. The book covers the entire areas of Malta and Gozo, but there’s a fantastic detailed section of the capital city, along with maps, photos and plenty of recommendations of things to see and do and a full travel guide to Valletta, which was super helpful. If, like me, you only have a day to visit this pretty place, this is what I recommend you do there…

 

Take a glass elevator up to the Barrakka Gardens

 

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*NEW BLOG POST* ((link in bio)) A #Travel guide to #Valletta 🇲🇹 I got to visit this pretty city during my #Mediterranean cruise last summer and it was one of my highlights of the entire trip! 🚢 We spent our day in the Maltese capital wandering around the cobbled streets, checking out the enormous harbour and admiring panoramic views from the city walls 😍 I used my trusty @marcopologuides book to navigate myself around Valletta and it was an absolute God send! We found the cutest restaurants and bars after following recommendations from the book and the street maps came in super handy 🙌 Come and find out what I got up to whilst exploring 2018's European Capital of Culture, and it just happened to be my 25th country too! 🌍 (AD) . . . #ad #wanderlustwednesday #travelblog #travelblogger #bloggersofinstagram #girlslovetravel #visitmalta #marcopolo #travelbloggersofig #instatravel #travelgram #darlingescapes #mytinyatlas #cruise #europe #malta #igersvalletta #igersmalta #lovemalta #maltaphotography #maltagram #vallettamalta #lovevalletta #citybreak #cityscape #europetravel #europe_pics

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Once we had docked and left the ship we headed towards the general direction of the city centre and stumbled across a modern looking lift that connects the Grand Harbour with the Barrakka Gardens. I had spotted this place in my Marco Polo guide book and really wanted to visit, so we bought our tickets (€1 each) and headed up in a glass elevator towards the top exit. Installed in 2012, the elevator is 58m high and, within a matter of seconds, we arrived at the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Home to fountains, flowers and war memorials, both the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens are a beautiful place to wander round and, as the Upper Gardens are the highest point of the city walls, they make the best place from which to marvel at the 2000 year old Grand Harbour below. For the past 500 years, Valletta’s guns protected the harbour from naval attack, and there is now a daily operation, the Saluting Battery, which is one of Valletta’s most famous attractions, and possibly the oldest Saluting Battery that is still in operation. Every day at 12 noon, soldiers begin a ritual and cannon fire can be heard and seen over the Grand Harbour as a mark of regulating peace across the city. I’d recommend getting to the Gardens early to get your spot for the Saluting Battery as it gets super busy and you’ll be pushed to find a decent spot much past 11.45am!

 

Visit the historic Fort Saint Elmo

 

 

Separating the Grand Harbour from the smaller Marsamxett Harbour, Fort Saint Elmo is a star shaped fortress that is perhaps best known for its role in the Great Siege of Malta back in 1565. After the 40,000 strong Ottoman Empire tried to invade the island in May 1565, a garrison of over 8000 soldiers and 700 Maltese men stood strong and resisted for four weeks until the Ottoman’s eventually took over St Elmo, but at the loss of 8000 of their men. The Ottoman’s then set their sights on St Angelo and, in August 1565, Malta saw some of the bloodiest battles of the Holy War. By September, the Ottoman troops finally started to retreat after losing thousands more men, and the Great Siege ended on 8th September 1565. This day became one of the most important dates in Maltese history and marks the founding of the capital city of Valletta, named after Grand Master Jean de la Valette, who was buried in the city three years later. Nowadays, Fort Saint Elmo is home to the National War Museum and offers a fascinating insight into its history as a working fortress, as well as pretty harbour-side walks along the sea.

 

Marvel at the Grand Harbour

 

 

As we were on a cruise we got to see this from the best view possible, whilst sailing in and out of the fantastic port during our visit! The Grand Harbour is truly stunning, and was one of the biggest ports we visited whilst on the cruise. There are loads of ships lined up that dock regularly and, after being in use as a natural, working harbour for over 2000 years, this place proves that Valetta really is the gateway to Malta and the rest of the Mediterranean. If you’re not on a cruise and want to see the harbour from land, head back up to the Barrakka Gardens for incredible panoramic views over the waterfront and fortifications below.

 

Go shopping down the high street

 

 

As a former part of the British colony until it gained its independence in 1964, Malta has a distinctly British feel to it, particularly in Valletta, which made us lot feel right at home! Our lovely Queen Elizabeth remained the Queen of Malta until the country became a Republic in the 1970s, and there are still a huge number of British ex-pats that still live and work in the country. Valletta was one of those cities where I instantly felt safe, and where I could easily navigate my way around, probably because the locals were so friendly and everything is sign posted in English which helped – there was even a bright red British post box right next to the tourist information centre! Walking down the main street felt like walking down any of our Great British high streets back home. There were tonnes of designer stores and well known retail shops including New Look, La Senza and even Peacocks – my own local high street doesn’t even have one of them anymore! Although it felt weird walking round all the normal shops like I do at home, it was interesting to see how our British culture is received abroad, and how similar Valletta is to some of our British cities, minus the gorgeous waterfront location and it’s fabulous city walls of course!

 

See the Triton Fountain

 

 

I had spotted this landmark in my Marco Polo guidebook and was super keen to see it during my visit to Malta as I love anything to do with mythology and legends! Located right near the City Gate of Valletta, Triton’s Fountain is one of Malta’s most recognisable and most important Modernist landmarks. Completed in  May 1959, the fountain comprises of three bronze Triton’s (Greek gods/Mermen also known as messengers of the sea) holding up a large platter, balanced on a seaweed base filled with water. The fountain is used as a stage for shows and national celebrations and each of the Mermen’s faces can be seen from the City Gate. The water and the Triton’s symbolise Malta’s links to the sea and were said to be inspired by the little-known Turtle Fountain in Italy’s capital city of Rome. When we visited there were lots of other monuments and art displays located in the central plaza where the fountain is based. I think this was to do with the Capital of Culture events that have been running across Valletta throughout 2018, so this really added to the area and the plaza was a really lovely place to stop for a drink or some food and marvel at the sculptures that were present.

 

Discover the stunning cathedrals

 

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St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta #VisitMalta

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Valletta is brimming with churches and cathedrals as it is quite a religious city, so I was in my element as one of my favourite things to do when exploring a new city is to wander round it’s many saintly buildings. Most of them were displayed in the Marco Polo guidebook, but the ones which caught my eye were the impressive Saint John’s Co-Cathedral, and the pretty Saint Paul’s Pro-Cathedral. St John’s is the most famous, with an elaborate design, 9 individual chapels, 2 tall bell towers and a stunning altar adorned with statues and Baroque style decoration. Built between 1572 and 1577, St John’s is a Roman-Catholic Cathedral and is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. Nowadays the Cathedral is one of the most visited attractions in the city, and is well worth a visit. St Paul’s on the other hand is an Anglican Church and is built in a fantastic Neo-Classical style which dates back to the 1800’s. The spire from the top of the building is one of Valletta’s most recognisable landmarks rising to over 200ft, and it’s Corinthian columns make it look similar to the Pantheon in Rome. A pro-cathedral is a church with cathedral status but is not the main cathedral in the city, which is why St John’s is more famous in Valletta.

So as you can see, I didn’t have much time at all, but still managed to fit in plenty of things to see and do in Valletta during my quick visit there. I really loved the honey coloured buildings, cobbled streets and fantastic buildings that are dotted across the city, and it’s history and culture was fascinating too. The fact that it was right on the water front made Valletta appeal to me even more, as I love the idea of a city break on the sea so you can still get your fix of the ocean whilst wandering around and exploring a new town on foot. I really want to return to Malta to see what the rest of the island has to offer and I would like to take another day trip to Valletta too in order to see more of this stunning city. Have you been to Malta before? The Marco Polo Malta & Gozo guidebook made for a great travel guide to Valletta, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to visit this country too!

NB. This post was sponsored by Marco Polo, but as always, all words and opinions are of course my own!