- we visited Dublin for New Year celebration; the hotels seemed kind of expensive this time otherwise the weather was rainless save for one day in the entire week when it poured the whole day; make sure you’ve got raincoats and umbrellas;
- if you get a hotel near the Temple Bar or the Docklands you can easily walk around the city; and if it’s too hard to walk at some point or you just feel like being lazy just hop in one of the Double Decker buses there are plenty of them all around a trip costs somewhere better 1,50 to 2 euro and you can pay directly in the bus;
- Temple Bar and Trinity College area have plenty of restaurants and pubs; for shopaholics there’s Grafton street and some streets near the Leprechauns museum;
- Guinness Storehouse has 7 floors so it will take you some time to run through all of them; maybe save 2 -3 hours for this experience; there are places for eating also;
- Jameson Distillery is a cool trip through the world of whisky with tasting at the end; make sure to book online before going;
- Dublinia is a fun experiences for all ages but especially for kids as they have plenty of games and experiences to test out;
- Trinity College Library and the Book of Kells is something we did not got to visit as it was closed for winter holidays; but from the reviews it seems worth visiting; do give it a try;
- Entrances to main attractions are rather expensive (somewhere between 10 and 20 euro) so expect to take some money out of your pocket if you want to try the Guinness Storehouse experience (20 euro), Dublinia (13.5 euro combined ticket with Christchurch) or Jameson Distillery (17 euro).
- Temple Bar Pub in Temple Bar area with live music and Guinness beer;
- Getting lost on the South Circular Road amongst houses with colourful doors;
- The view from the Gravity Bar of Guinness Storehouse;
- Wandering the world of the Vikings and the Medieval era inhabitants of Dublin in Dublinia;
- Leprechauns and fairies stories in Leprechauns Museum;
- Whisky tasting in Jameson Distillery;
- The Emerald green you find all around Dublin and especially the Aran wool knitted clothing;
- The Double Decker buses;
- O’Neill’s Pub and their big plates of Irish food;
- El Bahia restaurant near Grafton Street.
“I’ve been a wild rover for many a year /And I spent all my money on whiskey and beer,/And now I’m returning with gold in great store/ And I never will play the wild rover no more/And it’s no, nay, never,/No nay never no more,/Will I play the wild rover/No never no more.”, the Dubliners sing this so well with that typical Irish accent https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJwC9jPhuY4 to make one sit for just one more beer and one more gossip with friends in one of those traditional pubs spread all across Dublin.
Founded as a Viking settlement Dublin is the capital of the Emerald Isle better known as Ireland or the place of the green Shamrock, leprechauns, Irish Gaelic language, Irish music, pubs, Guinness beer, incredible landscapes and for us, Romanians, the home of Bram Stoker that guy that wrote Count Dracula and made us famous without even visiting our country. Ah yes, and the place of redheads…although statistics say only 9% of the Irish population are natural redheads :p.
Arseways, too much talking let’s carry on with the trip.
What we did
Temple Bar and Trinity College
The lively part of Dublin resides in the areas of College Green and Temple Bar. Pubs, restaurants, museums, shops, souvenirs, the Irish House of Parliament, Trinity College, the loved Temple Bar Pub with live music, Auld Dubliner, O’Neill’s with their huge plates of Irish food, Quay Pub and so many more.
The seat of UK’s administration in Ireland until 1922 is considered now a major Irish government complex. Not too many rooms but stylishly decorated and if you add the Christmas trees magic it’s worth a visit. Not to mention that is also a filming venue including for the Tudors (if you guys are fans).
I’m sure you all know Guinness beer with that brown colour and distinct burnt flavour. Well, the father of Guinness beer, Arthur Guinness started brewing ales in 1759 at St. James’s Gate Brewery, Dublin. Today over 850 million litres of Guinness are sold annually and the beer is brewed in almost 60 countries.
The Storehouse that used to be a fermentation plant for Guinness covers seven floors surrounding a glass atrium shaped in the form of a pint of Guinness and takes visitors through the history of Guinness; you even get to pour your own Guinness and have a free glass in the Gravity Bar with view over Dublin. Ah, not to forget, the lease for St. James Gate Brewery (where Guinness Storehouse is also located) was signed by Arthur Guinness himself for a period of 9,000 years for an annual rent of £45. What a visionary right?
Dublinia and Christ Church
Dublinia recreates life in Dublin in the Viking and Medieval period. It takes visitors to a cruise around Viking houses and day-to-day life, medieval fairs, warfare, crime and punishment, disease and primitive cures. It is interactive and educative with all types of games and questions to make the visit more fun.
Christ Church Cathedral built sometime around 1028 well renovated with a welcoming interior and an underground opened for visits. It is also famous for its choir.
Old Jameson Distillery
The Old Jameson Distillery is the original site where Jameson Irish Whiskey was distilled until 1971. John Jameson, a Scottish lawyer, and his son (also John Jameson) started the history of Jameson Whisky in 1810 after taking over ownership of the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin from his wife’s cousins. By 1866 the Jameson Distillery was so spread that it was called a “city within the city”.
Old Jameson Distillery will offer an inside story on how whisky is made and finish with a whisky tasting session.
A leprechaun is a type of fairy in Irish folklore. Leprechauns are one third the size of a usual man, wear a beard, coat and hat, they are solitary creatures spending their time making and mending shoes for fairies and hiding their pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Walt Disney seems to be responsible for the green colour of today’s leprechaun’s costume (earlier it was brown) when he dressed their king in green to distinguish him from the rest in “Darby O’Gill and the Little People”. Incidentally the same movie released in 1959 brought Sean Connery the role in James Bond – small world.
Where we ate
We tried to experience a variety of place while in Dublin so we went eating Irish food, Spanish food, Moroccan food. Our favourite places for eating where Boxty House, El Bahia and Auld Dubliner. For more details on where and what we ate click here.
Where we stayed
We stayed in two places in Dublin since we split our trip with a 2 days trip to Belfast. First hotel was Arlington O’Connell Bridge (www.arlington.ie/ ) – well located right across Temple Bar and near the Connelly Train Station, spacious room, clean. The second hotel was Maldron Hotel on Pearse Street (www.maldronhotels.com )– although is more near the Docklands and is a 15 minutes walk to Trinity Street there are busses to take you straight to Trinity College, the rooms are very spacious and recently renovated and there’s a supermarket 1 minute away opened until late.
What we think about the Irish
We felt the Irish as being nice people thanking the bus driver, handsome, most of them young (maybe this is why statistics say 50% of the Dubliners are under 30), most of the time surrounded by friends or family, proud of their roots, beer funs enjoying a good time in their traditional pubs singing out loud to Irish traditional folk, rather smiley shinny people despite or the rainy all year long weather.
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You are standing on the shore of a canal surrounded by medieval buildings all brown stone and red painted window frames, the May sun is warming you up and it smells like spring, there are yellow flowers in pots around you on walls and wood fences, you can hear the distinct sound of horses on the cobblestone streets around and the engine of the boat getting closer and closer to the shore. Are you ready to board a trip through fairytale land?
Where are we going?
There’s this magic place in Northwest Belgium with not more than 120k inhabitants which is said to have been founded in the 9th century by the Vikings and is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site with medieval buildings, romantic canals, cobblestone streets, beer, lace and swans. The place is Bruges and the name might very well derive from the old-Scandinavian word “Brygga” which means “harbour, or mooring place”. Curious? Than just sit down in the boat and let’s get lost In Bruges.
What to do
Markt and Burg
Markt and Burg are the most important squares in Bruges. Markt is located in the heart of the city and is a large square surrounded by historical buildings like the Belfry Tower (83 meter high) and Provincial Court and medieval looking houses (many of the houses are just modern reconstructions of the medieval styles).
The Markt was freed from traffic in 1996 and is the place where the carriage rides around Bruges also start.
If Markt was the commercial heart of medieval Bruges Burg was the administrative heart. The Burg square is the house of the Town Hall (House de Ville) and of the Chapel of the Holy Blood. The last one seems to be the more famous one being the house of the bottle of rock crystal containing Christ’s blood and the place of the yearly Procession of the Holy Blood.
If you are taking a train to Bruges what you will most likely notice first while walking towards the city centre is Minnewater or the lake of love (the Dutch word “Minne” meaning love). Minnewater is a canalized lake with plenty of swans. The legend says that in 1488 the people of Bruges had executed one of the town administrators belonging to the court of Maximilian of Austria called Pieter Lanchals (long neck). Maximilian punished Bruges by obliging the population to keep swans on their lakes and canals till eternity.
Right there next to Minnewater lies Beguinage De Wijngaard (the Vineyard). A group of houses around a garden with large trees and flowers which became a monastery and the home for the Benedictine sisters since 1937 until today.
In the 13th century a mystical form of religion was born as reaction to the growing material and formal aspirations of the regular clergy, one that apostle poverty, simplicity and preaching. The female followers of such movement were tolerated in the form of the Beguine movement and were allowed to live in separate parts of the cities called Beguinages. The beguines lived like regular nuns but with less stringent vows than the regular ones. Although most of them made the vows of obedience and chastity they did not make the vow of poverty and they could break their vows at any time and leave the beguine community.
In the Middle Ages, the canals in Bruges were used by ships to deliver goods to the city and to take exports from local merchants. Today the canals are exclusively used for tourist boats. There are five families that are allowed to organize tourist boat rides on the canals with 4 boats for each family. The boat ride takes around 30 minutes and offers a great view of the city, with medieval buildings on the shores, small bridges, nice gardens and swans swimming all around.
Central Bruges has a couple of shops where you can rent a bike for an hour or more to wander around the city. If you have more time and you start in the morning you can even take a bicycle and ride to the windmills, the nearby Flemish countryside, the North Sea or even go to the Netherlands. We choose the streets and parks of Bruges and it was all worth it. For the trip from Bruges to the Netherlands check out the stories from Avem Diacritice.
The streets of Bruges have plenty to offer. From small hidden streets along canals, to private gardens along the shores, medieval look like houses..
colourful doors, souvenir shops, lace shops, parks with colourful tulips and open air concerts, carriage rides, windmills…
Where to crush
We stayed in Lybeer Hostel Bruges just 10 minutes away from the city centre and easy to reach from the train station. Great private room with private bathroom, good prices and very nice staff. The hostel has also a shared area downstairs with a bar and a piano.
What are people in Bruges famous for?
The Bobbin Lace, a very expensive type of lace to make, is a speciality of Bruges and is a technique that requires that each thread is wound around a separate wooden bobbins. Lacemaking is an industry which nowadays employs in Belgium about one thousand lace works, all of them ladies aged between fifty and ninety years of age.
Click here for our Top 10 experiences in Bruges.
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For what to experience in the close neighbouring city of Brussels, waffles, frites and Belgian beer check out our post on What do Manneken Pis, exquisite chocolates, French fries, dark beer and BDs have in common?
Top 10 Bruges
- Charming houses and colourful doors;
- Canal rides;
- Bicycle rides on the streets of Bruges;
- Belgian beer;
- Chocolate and bananas Belgian waffles;
- Breakfast time in a restaurant in Markt;
- Minnewater and especially the swans;
- Open air concerts in a park in Bruges;
- Chilling beside the windmills.
“Do you want to hear a story about that small island?” my friend asks as we cross over Pichola Lake in Udaipur. The small island with a courtyard is the keeper of a story about a tightrope walker (natani). It is said that Maharana Jawan Singh of Udaipur promised a natani half of his kingdom if she succeed in walking over the lake on a rope that was suspended above the water. When it was apparent that she was about to succeed one of the Maharana’s ministers cut the rope and the girl fell in the water and drowned. Before drowning she cast a spell on the Maharana’s family that of not having any direct descendants or heirs. Spell or no spell six out of seven of the Maharana’s descendants were adopted sons.
We reached Udaipur (also called Romantic City of Lakes or the Venice of the East) after more than 9 hour drive from Jaipur and landed right in the middle of a Muslim festival. The streets were more crowded than the usual crowd in India – cars, scooters, rickshaws of all sorts, pedestrians, flags, festival arrangements.
While sipping our coffee on the rooftop terrace of our hotel we absorbed the city that was unveiling in front of us. A labyrinth on hills, small streets intersecting even smaller streets, typical Indian houses tall with rooftop terraces put together like domino pieces, painted in light blue and white, Indian ladies appearing from a window or an a terrace here and there carrying about their normal chores and in the middle of it all the Jagdish Temple blissfully located inside the labyrinth like a sweet escape from the madness outside.
We had less than 2 days in Udiapur so our plan included no plan. We left it all to our feet to carry us around and to the city to uncover its mysteries.
We went wandering the streets amongst houses decorated with wall paintings displaying colourful and elaborated portraits of men, women, elephants and deities…
We mingled amongst the people praying in the Jagdish Temple – an impressive temple built in 1651 well decorated in a way that reminded me of the temples in Khajuraho and with an open air praying area resembling the Balinese Hindu temples..
We got lost in the rooms of the well conserved royal City Palace and admired the panoramic view overlooking the city and the Pichola Lake. Built in 1559, the palace is considered a fusion of Rajasthani and Mughal architectural styles. Legend says that the location of the palace was actually pointed out to the Maharana Udai Singh by a hermit that he found meditating while he was hunting in the Udaipur hills…
We chilled in a small coffee shop on the shore of Pichola Lake admiring the impressive Lake Palace. The formal royal summer palace a Taj hotel since 1971, the Lake Palace is both a royal abode and luxury hotel, loved by people like Vivien Leigh, Queen Elizabeth, the Shah of Iran, the King of Nepal or Jacqueline Kennedy and depicted in several movies amongst which the 1983 Octopussy – Bond series…
We watched traditional Rajasthani dances…
We took a boat ride to the Jag Mandir Island at the Lake Garden Palace. Currently a hotel and restaurant often used for royal weddings and parties the palace used to be a summer resort and pleasure palace for holding parties by the royal family. The palace served also as a refuge to asylum seekers amongst which the “father” of the Taj Mahal – Emperor Shahjahan when he rebelled against his father…
We shared memories and dreams, gossips, jokes, laughter, hidden tears on a rooftop terrace overlooking the Pichola Lake with small fires to warm the night and good wine to warm the hearts…
As we listen to the story of the natani our feet carry us through the small streets of Udaipur on a quiet January night. It’s well past midnight and there’s no tuk-tuk to take us to our hotel so we walk. No soul around, no bird, no wind, no move…just the footsteps and voices of three friends talking life. And as we get closer and closer to our hotel and to our imminent goodbyes we know that we are meant to meet again on the streets of Udaipur. Just like the legend says “See Venice and die, but see Udaipur and live to see it again and again”.
Click here for our Top 10 Udaipur.
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- Wandering through the small streets between the decorated houses;
- City Palace;
- Jagdish Temple;
- Jag Mandir;
- The Lake Palace;
- Cruise on the Pichola Lake;
- Enjoying a nice dinner in one of the rooftop terraces overlooking the Pichola Lake;
- Seeing a show with traditional Rajasthani dances;
- Enjoying breakfast in the coffee shop on the shore of the Pichola Lake with butter sandwich and a good coffee;
- Panoramic views from the City Palace.
“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,/To gain all while you give,/To roam the roads of lands remote,/To travel is to live.”, this is what Hans Christian Andersen was saying in the Fairy Tale of My Life: An Autobiography and man he was so damn right.
Our first trips in the Northern countries started with Copenhagen. Well now, in figures, Denmark has a population of 5.4 million people, is made up of 406 islands, is a little bit larger than the Netherlands and could easily fit into Sweden 10 times. Hmmm, too much info? We agree. Let’s better leave this details for the science people and start an imaginary scroll down the streets of Copenhagen. We promise you will love it.
What we did
It’s probably fair to say that most part of our 3 days escaped to Copenhagen was spent walking and getting lost on the streets blending with locals, tourists, kids, bikers and what not. We made no plans of what to see or do and just left it all to our feet to carry us around. Being a very compact city and not so big it was easy to actually bump in most of the attractions. Here’s what we’ve seen from the recommended attractions:
Most of the postcards and pictures of Copenhagen will either depict the Little Mermaid (more about this one later) or the Nyhavn area. Nyhavn is a 17th century waterfront, canal and entertainment district. It was a gateway from the sea to the old inner city where ships handled cargo and fishermen’s’ catch. In older times, it was notorious for beer, sailors and prostitution. Nowadays the area is notorious for its colourful buildings and great restaurants facing the harbour.
The Round Tower is a 17th century tower located in the centre of Copenhagen built as an astronomical observatory. Walk the helical corridor leading to the top of the tower and you will have a great view from up above of Copenhagen.
Amalienborg is the Royal Family’s main residence and consists of four similar palaces. The palaces have been built in the 18th century and represent a highlight of the Danish Rococo architecture. The Danish Royal Family enjoys remarkably high approval ratings in Denmark (somewhere between 82% and 92%). Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II has eight grandchildren – that must be fun!
Every day at noon you can see the changing of the Danish Royal Life guard in traditional uniforms. The route of the guards starts at 11:31 at the barracks and goes from Rosenborg to Amalienborg so if you are lucky you can actually catch them marching on the streets of Copenhagen towards Amalienborg.
A renaissance castle and a former country summerhouse of the Danes Royals the Rosenborg Palace was built by King Christian IV in the 17th century and became his favoured residence. The Palace exhibits almost 300 years of the history of the Danish kings, valuable furniture, art treasures, well decorated rooms with impressive ceilings as well as an exhibition of the Crown Jewels and the Danish Crown Regalia (the symbols of the Danish monarchy – 3 crowns. Sceptre, an orb, a sword and an ampulla).
Christiania is located in Christianshavn and is walking distance from the port area of Nyhavn all you have to do is cross the bridge and walk some 10 minutes or so.
Also known as the Freetown Christiania it is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood of about 850 residents located on the area of a former military base. The spirit of Christiania developed in a hippie movement, collectivism and anarchism. People of Christiania have their own flag and even currency called Løn. Christiania it’s famous for Pusher Street where hash and weed were sold openly (and it seems that are still sold).
Once you reach Christiania you are greeted by the words “You Are Now Leaving the European Union.” and by 3 main rules: “Have fun, Don’t run, No photos”. There’s a hippie look all around, barracks, some buildings that look more deserted than occupied, stalls covered up so you can’t see the faces of the sellers where you can most probably buy hash and weed, graffiti works, some sellers of artisan works. We’ve only seen part of Christiania but with all respect for free spirit we can’t say we liked it that much.
More about Christiania with pictures included in this interesting post http://www.littleobservationist.com/2014/01/27/colour-and-cannabis-in-christiania-copenhagen/ .
The Little Mermaid (Danish: Den lille havfrue – still can’t properly read this one :p) is a statue by Edvard Eriksen, depicting a mermaid. Based on the fairy tale of Hans Christian Andersen, the small statue is a Copenhagen icon and has been a major tourist attraction since 1913. The statue is located in the Kastellet area and you can actually walk from the city centre to see it no need to spend money on a boat cruise or a Hop-on/Hop-off bus. Honest opinion about this one is that is more advertising than an actual attraction; it is small, it gets crowded around the statue with people anxious to touch the statue and click pictures and that’s kind of all to it.
Where we ate
We tried to experience a variety of place while in Copenhagen so we went to restaurants in the Nyhavn area for breakfast, cafes in the city centre area near the Round Tower for late lunch or dinner and stopped for beer or coffee wherever it felt cosy enough. Our favourite places where Mormors and, although rather expensive, Geist.
For more details on where and what we ate click here – Food & Drinks Copenhagen.
Where we stayed
We stayed in Generator Hostel on Adelgade Street just 5 minutes away from the city centre and the Nyhavn area. Comfortable room, great location, good prices, cool shared area downstairs with music and bar with food, drinks and even a pool table, lockers downstairs to leave your luggage if you want to walk the city some more after check-out, helpful staff.
What we think about the Danes
It is said that the Danes are the happiest people on Earth. We don’t know about that but we can definitely share with you that we felt the Danes as being peaceful and nice people, handsome, tall, neat, family kind most of the time surrounded by kids, friends or family, lovers of nature and spending time outside irrespective of the weather, bicycle riders and lovers, health orientated people with the word organic being used often.
Interesting fact about the Danes is that they seem to have their own word for something that is cosy, comfortable, loving, and intimate all in one. And that word is “hygge”. To describe what hygge means is rather complicated but it seems to have something to do with people’s behaviour towards each other, the art of creating intimacy, the sense of comradeship, conviviality and contentment rolled into one.
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Our favourite spot in Copenhagen is definitely Mormors cafe which translates to “Grandma”. It’s a cosy little café with tables inside and outside and usual window stalls that you can find in most of Copenhagen cafes. The décor is a special one reminding you of a dream living room of anyone’s grandma, a place where you can find ancient furniture and old time memories, porcelain, old pictures, not matching chairs.
The staff is really nice and welcoming. They serve homemade sandwiches and Danish cookies, smoothies or all sorts, coffee and amazing warm chocolate to take the edge of any day. They even have two memories book where visitors have signed in from 2008 onwards; take time to read through them we promise it will be a fun ride.
Giest is a very fancy restaurant in Nyhavn area and rather expensive one. It has a simplistic décor, with diffuse light and candles and with everything just in the right place that you instantly fall in love with the atmosphere. The kitchen area is open so you can see the cooks preparing meals. The star and owner of the restaurant is the cook Bo Bech and the menu includes items like baked celeriac with condensed buttermilk, guail with chanterelles and chili, salted and dried young duck breast; the guy won a Michelin star in his fomer restaurant Paustian.
We enjoyed some wine at the window stalls, at candlelight overlooking the Nyhavn area and Geist definitely goes on our list for the next visit when we promise to try some of Bo Bech specialities.
Located in the Nyhavn area, good restaurant serving also breakfast and brunch for a fixed price (99DKK). The staff is really nice and the food is amazing.
Located in the centre of Copenhagen on 2 floors it’s the perfect gateway from the city. It was incredibly crowded with locals enjoying dinner and drinks. We tried their Danish beer and their amazing chocolate cake.
Located near the Round Tower this is a spacious restaurant more than a café like the name indicates. It serves buffet dinner and lunch and it was thus crowded. We had late lunch for half price with pastas and Danish beer and all was very tasty. Prices are also very affordable.
Fancy restaurant that seems to have also some live bands in certain evenings. We loved their steak and fries all together with some Hoegaarden beer.
Organic bakery and coffee, light and elegant decor, the usual window stalls and a couple of tables and couches. They serve great coffee, juices and cookies.
- Beautiful, peaceful people that enjoy riding bicycles;
- Nyhavn area and breakfast outside;
- Rosenborg Castle;
- Danish cookies and warm chocolate in Mormors;
- View of the city from the Round Tower;
- The special cafes with bookshops;
- The change of guards at Amalienborg Palace;
- Danish beer;
- Danish restaurants with candles and an opened kitchen area;
- The Marble Church (Frederik’s Church).