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Nine Reasons to Visit Nendaz, Switzerland

 

If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that I’ve just returned from a wonderful week away in Switzerland after staying in the ski resort of Nendaz, located above the Rhone Valley and just a 2hr train ride away from the popular city of Geneva. I flew out to Switzerland to join 4 other bloggers on a press trip to Nendaz where we were staying in a Travelopo chalet and working with the local tourism board too. We had such a fantastic week and enjoyed a jam packed itinerary showcasing all that the resort has to offer. I would never have thought to visit a ski resort for a summer holiday, especially as I thought there was nothing much to do other than go skiing in winter, but I have had my eyes opened to the amazing things there are to see and do in Nendaz, from mountain biking and cheese making to bisse walking and spa indulging, and here’s why I think you should visit this beautiful resort too…

 

1. The scenery is incredible

 

 

Nendaz was truly stunning from every single angle; the landscape looked different every time I woke up and I can’t believe how much it changed on a daily basis! Sometimes there were bright blue skies, other times it was grey and snowy, but no matter what the weather was doing, there was no denying that this place looked totally out of this world. My favourite views were from our beautiful chalet, which I will talk more about in another blog post, and the views from Tracouet, where we celebrated the traditional Alphorn Festival, were pretty amazing too. I really enjoyed just going for little walks around the town, and hiking further afield when we were making a day of it, as walking was definitely one of the best ways to appreciate the spectacular scenery that Nendaz has to offer.

 

2. There are endless activities on offer

 

 

Considering we visited during summer, I really wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of activities, and thought there wouldn’t be much on offer at all, but I couldn’t have been more wrong! The lovely Annick from Nendaz Tourisme put together a fantastic itinerary for us which comprised of mountain biking, bisse hiking, cheese making, sunrise watching, festival going, spa chilling and outdoor swimming! Each and every one of our days in Nendaz was jam packed with plenty of things to do, but with just enough free time so that we could relax and enjoy everything that the resort had to offer. My highlights were the gorgeous outdoor swimming pool with the most amazing views of the mountains in the background, cheese making in the middle of the Alps at 7am, and taking three ski lifts 3300m high to catch the sun rise at the top of Mont Fort, one of the highest points in the whole of Switzerland! As well as doing all of these fantastic activities, you could also go husky sledding (weather permitting), take a guided tour of the old town, or join a group exercise class. There really are so many things to see and do in Nendaz that you’ll be completely spoilt for choice!

 

 

3. The ski lifts are a great way to get around

 

 

Although Nendaz itself is small, the mountains are obviously mahooooosive and it’s difficult to get around all of them if you’re limited on time. I’d never been on a ski lift before, but by the end of the week I’d been on them several times and each trip was such a great experience and a brilliant way to get up to the top of the mountains in such a short amount of time. The ski lifts offer panoramic views over the valleys below, and they’re pretty spacious so you can have a few of you in there at a time and STILL have enough room to get those all important selfies. Not gonna lie though, I did feel a little queasy whilst on my way up and down on those lines, I just tried not to look down and kept my eyesight level – this really helps me with my motion sickness, but if you’re lucky and don’t suffer like me, you’ll love every second and get the most stunning shots!

 

4. It’s beautiful at any time of year

 

 

We went during summer, so the weather was mainly beautiful, with bright blue skies and it was surprisingly really warm! On most of the days temperatures were hitting 25 degrees plus which meant we could get in our bathing suits for the spa and the pool and enjoy some gorgeous sunshine. At night though, or on days when the sun wasn’t shining, it felt much cooler and there was a bit of a chill in the air, so I’d definitely recommend taking a jumper or a jacket. As we had so many early starts for our itinerary, we got to experience the weather first thing in the morning which was freeeeeeezing, especially at times when we were over 3000m high! I thoroughly enjoyed our summer stay, but I would also really love the opportunity to visit during winter as I think the snow and icy temperatures would make this place look even prettier than it does when it’s warm, and it’d look like a proper little winter wonderland too!

 

5. It’s easy to get to

 

 

We started our Swiss adventure in the vibrant city of Geneva, so hopped on a train from there to Sion in order to make our way to Nendaz. We then took a bus (line 362) from Sion direct to Haute-Nendaz and reached our destination in a short 30 minute journey, complete with steep, winding roads and stunning views of the towns below. The buses from Sion to Nendaz run every hour and cost 10fr per person, or around £8 each. Trains from Geneva-Sion run every half an hour and we found SuperSaver tickets for as little as 34fr each way, which was £28pp – an absolute steal in our opinion! Visit the Swiss Rail website for more info, and don’t forget to look out for the SuperSaver tickets when you can to grab a bargain.

 

6. The nightlife is pretty good

 

 

OK, so it’s not exactly Ibiza, and you won’t find David Guetta playing a DJ set anywhere on the resort, but considering this is a largely un-touristy area, Nendaz has plenty of things to keep you occupied during the evening, no matter what season it might be. You’ll find an abundance of bars and restaurants along the main road from Haute Nendaz station, just past the tourist information office, and there are plenty of others dotted in between Haute Nendaz and Basse Nendaz too, it’s sister resort. During our stay we mainly chose to eat in and use the kitchen facilities at our luxury chalet, but on a couple of nights we actually ate in two of the best restaurants in the area, both of which were rated #1 and #2 on Trip Advisor! Our first evening out was at Cafe du Sapin Blanc, a gorgeous restaurant in Basse Nendaz with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and trees, serving organic homemade food. Our second evening out was a little closer to home, just a 5 minute walk from our chalet at the wonderful La Lanterne et le Vieux-Chalet, an excellent restaurant boasting quirky, tailor made menus and the friendliest owner in the town! A big thank you to Nico from Cafe du Sapin Blanc and Alex from La Lanterne for looking after us both nights, and for allowing us to sample some of the best items on your carefully thought out menus!

 

7. It’s fun for all ages

 

 

As you know, I travelled with four other travel bloggers to Nendaz for a group press trip – we’re all young girls in our twenties – but this place is suitable for people of all ages, no matter what you want to get from your holiday. We saw kids, families, groups of guys and girls, couples and solo travellers too enjoying everything that Nendaz has to offer. There’s fun sports for the kids, a luxurious spa for the girls, nightlife for the adults, and intense mountain biking for those who are a little more hardcore! I know that I, along with Elaisha, Hannah, Hayley and Allison, had the most amazing weekend in Nendaz and we were sooo sad to be leaving after a fantastic week! Miss you girls!

 

8. You can explore as much as you want on foot

 

 

Nendaz is quite a small town, so it’s super easy to reach everything on foot. If you have a hire car, then that would be great for exploring the nearby towns or places a little further afield, but you really don’t need a car to be able to get the best out of Nendaz. If, like us, you’re arriving by bus from Sion, you can explore the entire town from Haute Nendaz station, right opposite the tourist information office. There’s one major road running through the resort, and it’s lined with shops, restaurants, bars and cafe’s so has everything you need for your stay, and it can easily be reached by walking. Throughout the rest of the resort there are other roads, pathways and streets leading to a number of different areas, but no matter what route you take you’ll find they all end up back where they started, so by walking you really can’t get lost at all!

 

9. You’ll be in the heart of the Swiss Alps

 

 

One of the best things about Nendaz is it’s fantastic location, nestled in the very heart of the Swiss Alps. I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in a place as beautiful as Nendaz before; the Alps genuinely took my breath away every time I looked at them and I felt on top of the world each time I climbed them. The Alps are famous for being the most iconic part of Switzerland and, given that they make up around 60% of the country, they attract the most tourists too. With mountains as high as 3000 metres, the Alps offer spectacular views from the top and look just as good from down at the bottom, making them quite possibly the most photographed landscapes in the whole country.

 

I still can’t look through my photos from Nendaz without gazing in awe at the incredible scenery that surrounded us during our stay. The resort really is one of the most beautiful places I have ever stayed in, and I didn’t realise just how much I would enjoy my week there. With so much to see and do, Nendaz is perfect for families, couples, groups or even solo travelers just looking for an alternative location for their summer holiday. If you’re an outdoorsy kinda person who enjoys fresh air, gorgeous views and long mountain hikes then this is most definitely the place for you! A big thanks to the team at Nendaz Tourisme for putting together such a fantastic itinerary for us, and to Travelopo for providing our beautiful accommodation for the week. Have you ever visited Nendaz, or stayed somewhere similar? For someone who isn’t particularly sporty or outdoorsy I absolutely adored my time in the resort and would recommend it to anyone looking to do something a little different this summer instead of lying on the beach for a week!

Love Jess X

NB. My trip to Switzerland was sponsored by Travelopo and Nendaz Tourisme but, as always, all thoughts, words and photos are my own.
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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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Travel Guide to Bratislava, the charming Slovakian capital

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

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

Get around on foot

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

Take advantage of cheap accommodation

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

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

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

Purchase a Bratislava City Card

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

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

Explore the beautiful castles

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

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

Base yourself at the Main Square

By day one way, by night another 🌓

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

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

Eat in Hviezdoslav Square

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

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

Ride up the UFO Tower and cross the SNP Bridge

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

Discover the charming churches

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

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

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

Find somewhere special to watch the sunset

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

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

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

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

Love Jess x

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

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

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48hours in Miami- A guide to the US party capital

Palm trees, skyscraper hotels and a beautiful harbour.. It can only be M I A M I 🇺🇸🌴 #Florida #Miami #wanderlustwednesday

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Hi everyone,

On my American Adventure this summer I had the chance to explore the US party capital of Miami, somewhere I have wanted to visit for months and months! I only had two full days to explore whilst on my Contiki Grand Southern trip, but I definitely made the most of my short time there and it lived up to my crazy high expectations – Miami was INCREDIBLE! Two full days actually gives you enough time to see the main sights, although I would love to have embraced the beach life for a few days longer! Here is my list of must see’s and my guide on how to make the most of your time in the city…

 

Hit Lincoln Road Mall for the ultimate shopping experience

 

#tbt to M I A M I 🇺🇸🌴 #America #USA #contiki #grandsouthern #noregrets #throwbackthursday

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Lincoln Road Mall was the first stop of my Miami trip and it was the best way to get acclimatised to the city. We strolled up and down the boulevard checking out all the stores, picking up souvenirs and stopping for drinks whilst people-watching til our hearts were content! This place is THE premier shopping mall in Miami and stretches for miles with stores selling everything you can think of. I loved that the streets were lined with palm trees and there were market stalls on every corner – embracing the true Miami lifestyle was so much fun and it was one of the best shopping experiences I’ve ever had!

Take a thriller speed boat ride to Star Island

 

BRB, just gonna move in to ma new house 🌴🏡 #Miami #Florida #wanderlustwednesday #housegoals #agirlcandream

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This was an optional extra on my Contiki trip and I am SO glad I did it! I am usually really  bad with boats, or any kind of water based activity, as I suffer badly with both travel and sea sickness, so I really thought I’d struggle on this one, but the boat went SO FRIKKIN FAST that I don’t think my body even had time to start feeling sick! We sped across the ocean and sailed around Biscayne Bay before making our way over to Star Island to ogle at all the famous people’s houses that were on site! The 90 minute tour took us past amazing homes belonging to Will Smith, Julio Iglesias & Gloria Estefan before making our way back to the harbour where we were placed firmly back on the ground and came back to the real world! The boat tour was a really fun way of seeing Biscayne Bay – tours run every 2 hours departing from the harbour – and I’d 100% recommend it to anyone wanting to explore Miami from the ocean!

Embrace beach life

 

I'm in Miami bitchhh! 🇺🇸🎉🇺🇸🎉 #noregrets #grandsouthern #miami

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Miami is suuuuch a cool place and it has some of the best beaches I’ve ever seen! Both Miami Beach and South Beach were my faves; they were framed by skyscraper hotels, art-deco buildings and white sands with the bluest sea I have ever swam in! Beach life is a massive part of Miami, and these beaches are known to attract top celebs all year round – I tried my best to spot some A-Listers but sadly didn’t see anyone during my trip! After a hectic week exploring Florida it was so nice to just chill out on the beach and spend some time people-watching and seeing those ocean waves roll in… what I would give to be back there right now!

Take in the awesome skyline

 

 

So this kinda goes without saying, but as soon as you arrive in Miami you won’t be able to miss the incredible skyline that is present across the entire city. The best way to see it is by boat, look behind you and just gaze up at the sheer size of those buildings – they’re so iconic and you’ll pinch yourself to check whether you’re actually there or whether you’re just day dreaming! I know I did that, and I still can’t believe I’ve actually been to Miami, even four months after I got back!

Party like a local

 

Miami rooftops 🎉🇺🇸 #saturdaynight

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You can’t visit Miami without partying at least once, so go out like a local, hit the clubs and dance the night away! We had drinks on the rooftop of our hotel (Hotel Croydon on Collins Avenue – would highly recommend this as a place to stay) then headed out to the main strip and went in a few small bars first before getting into the clubs which were HUGE! Drinks and entrance charges were really expensive, think Vegas prices, but the venues are so luxurious and there’s no where else quite like Miami so it definitely has to be done at least once on your trip!

Sail around Miami Harbour

 

🇺🇸🇺🇸 #Miami #florida #contiki #grandsouthern #noregrets #starttheadventure #takemeback #traveltuesday

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So this was organised as part of my Contiki trip, but if you get the chance to hop on a party cruise and sail around Miami Harbour I would definitely recommend it! We saw the whole of the Miami skyline lit up at night which looked totally amazing, and sailing around the bay was sooo dreamy. Our big American flag flew proudly at the rear of the ship, and we had an on-board bar with our very own DJ which made for a brilliant party atmosphere! I know Miami is big on clubbing, but a party boat is suuuuch good fun and a really good way of getting to meet people if you’re travelling alone or in a small group, plus it’ll be cheaper than the clubs and less busy – winner!

So there we have it, my top tips on exploring Miami in a whirlwind 48 hours! Immerse yourself in the buzz of the city, visit the sites, relax on the beach and embrace the party vibe that is present throughout for the full Floridian experience. Hopefully this post inspires you for your trip to the city and helps with that all important planning!

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

Love Jess x

🇺🇸 M I A M I 🇺🇸 #wanderlustwednesday

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🏙🌊 #Miami #Florida #takemeback #wanderlustwednesday

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A guide to Florence, the charming Tuscan capital

#Florence sunsets 😍🌅 #Italy #visitflorence #nofilter #takemeback

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The prettiest cathedral I've ever seen 😍🇮🇹 #duomo #florence #firenze #italy #ig_italy

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Hi everyone,

Last month I spent some time in the charming city of Florence, somewhere I hadn’t really thought of visiting until I started planning my Italian Escapade ! Three nights/ four days is a perfect amount of time to spend soaking up the typical Tuscan atmosphere, and you could even plan a day trip to a nearby city if you’re wanting to explore a little further afield. Here’s my ULTIMATE guide to visiting this beautiful city…

Arrive by train

 

firenze-smn

Photo credit: www.acprail.com

 

 

Arriving by train is a really easy way to begin your journey to Florence. The city is well connected to other major cities in Italy, just 2hrs from Venice, 1hr30 from Rome and 1hr 40 from Milan, with up to 40 trains a day running between them. The Santa Maria Novella train station is centrally located and easy to navigate. Taxis are waiting to collect you as soon as you exit the station, so you’ll arrive at your accommodation in a matter of minutes, depending on where you’re located. We found all the trains to be high speed, very clean and quiet and extremely efficient, as well being a great stress-free alternative to flying!

 

Cross the Ponte Vecchio bridge

 

 

Perhaps one of the most iconic landmarks in the whole of Florence, the Ponte Vecchio bridge is one of only 4 bridges left in the world with shops built in to it on either side. Accessed only on foot, the medieval bridge is popular with locals and tourists looking to buy authentic souvenirs, expensive jewellery and quirky handmade gifts. At night when the shops have closed, the bridge is lit up beautifully and is fairly quiet, apart from the occasional band or busker playing on site. Famously, the Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge in Florence to survive the German bombings in 1944, with Adolf Hitler claiming it was ‘too beautiful to destroy’. One of my favourite things to do during my time in Florence was to grab some proper Italian gelato (ice cream), soak up the sunshine and perch on the edge of the bridge gazing down to the River Arno below – bellissimo!

 

Jump on the Hop on Hop off bus

 

Panoramic views over #Florence? Yasssssss 🙌🙌 #Firenze #michaelangelo #italy #ig_italy #sundayfunday

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So this is a pretty touristy thing to do, and it might not appeal to everyone, but a CitySightseeing Hop on Hop Off bus is a really great way to explore Florence and beyond. It’s a large city, and not everything can be reached within walking distance, so using the bus allows you to see just about everything whilst giving your legs a rest! An adult ticket costs €23 and there are three routes in which to explore. Line A is a great one to start with as it lasts for just an hour and you can see everything  you need to without getting off – it’s good just to get your bearings and see where everything is. Lines B & C run for 120 minutes each, but they cross over a lot in parts, so between all three lines you’ll see just about everything. I’d highly recommend getting off at Michaelangelo’s Piazza for stunning skyline views across the city, as well as stopping off at Fiesole, a pretty town high on the top of a hill, just a few kilometres out of Florence, which is worth a visit in itself.

 

Purchase a 5 in 1 church pass

 

 

Florence is quite a religious city, and there a number of important buildings that should be seen on your visit. Queues can be extremely long, so I would recommend purchasing a 5 in 1 combo ticket (€15) either from the ticket office in piazza San Giovanni, or online if possible. We actually just turned up on the day to purchase but had to queue for around 40 mins first! The 5 in 1 pass is great as it gives access to 5 fantastic buildings; The Dome, The Basilica (although entry for this is free), Giotto’s Bell Tower, The Baptistery & The Opera del Duomo Museum. You can climb both the dome and the bell tower for spectacular panoramic views across the city, but be prepared to climb a significant number of steps at both! We climbed the bell tower and were treated to some amazing views, including a close up of the dome itself which, in our opinion, was arguably better than the view from the top of the dome! No visit to Florence is complete without visiting these fantastic buildings.

 

 

Eat dinner in the piazza

 

 

Florence is all about the food, and what better way to enjoy the famous Italian pizza, pasta and Prosecco by sitting in one of cities beautiful piazzas and soaking up the Florentine atmosphere?! There are a vast array of restaurants to choose from in the city, many of which are centred around some of the most picturesque piazzas. You’ll often hear musicians playing in the squares, or see buskers performing their talents and offering some light entertainment whilst you’re dining. Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza della Signoria are great places to enjoy typical Italian dining and the prices aren’t extortionate either. If you’re not on a budget and you fancy eating in front of the beautiful cathedral head over to Piazza del Duomo, although it’ll cost you a little bit more, the setting is truly stunning.

 

Plan an excursion

 

 

Florence is perfectly positioned to explore some of the finest hotspots in Italy, so why not wander out of the city and take a day trip somewhere new to satisfy your wanderlust cravings? Tour operators such as CitySightseeing and Viator offer some fantastic half and full day trips to a whole host of nearby destinations. Why not take a tour of Pisa and the Leaning Tower? Hike the Cinque Terre for some spectacular scenic views? Or enjoy a unique Vespa tour of the Tuscan hills? Italy offers so much choice, and there are a multitude of things to see and do in this beautiful country, so go and explore it while you’re in Florence!

 

So there we have it, my top tips on exploring Florence! Immerse yourself in the true Tuscan charm of the city, visit the sights and learn about its fantastic history. Hopefully this post inspires you for your trip to the city and helps with that all important planning!

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

Love Jess x

 

😍🇮🇹 #Florence #duomo #visitflorence #italy #ig_italy

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