Holiday destinations: Hamburg, Germany

As it was a Bank Holiday weekend last week, we travelled to Hamburg in Germany. I’ve never there before so I was looking forward to discovering this second largest German city with the largest port. Hamburg has became one of the major centres for international trade due to its location and it continues to be one of the wealthiest cities build on maritime stories. Locals have mastered how to live well and if (like me) you like to indulge in diverse cuisine then you would enjoy your stay here as there are a plenty of great restaurants, bars and breweries to visit.

If you like sightseeing then you can take one of the sightseeing walking tours showing you the city’s highlights or grab a map and discover the major sites by yourself.

Here is a short list of my suggestions of places worth visiting:

  • Speicherstadt – the largest warehouse district in the world located in the port of Hamburg with some signature red-brick warehouses, canals & museums.

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  • Elbphilharmonie Hamburg – a newly constructed concert hall in the HafenCity on the Grasbrook peninsula of the Elbe River. It is one of the largest and acoustically most advanced concert halls in the world which cost 8 times more to build than the Sydney Opera House.
  • Townhall and Alster – the seat of local government which is one of Germany’s 16 state parliaments. Located next to Hamburg’s most popular river – Alster leading to many shopping malls and boutiques.
  • Planten un Blomen – a large city park with a size of 47 hectares featuring themed gardens, a lake & Japanese tea house

How to get there?

If you live in the UK then you can easily get to Hamburg from most of major cities. We’ve flown from London Stanstead and it took us slightly over 1 hour to get there. Perfect for a short weekend break.

Other tips:

Hamburg has a very good transport network and you should definitely get a Hamburg Card when you visit – it will cover all your travel in addition to some discounts i.e. to some of the top attractions, restaurants, river cruises etc.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: Milan, Italy

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled with my husband to Milan in Northern Italy. I’ve been in Milan a few times before as I love the cosmopolitan vibe offered by this global city which is perfect for anyone who loves the art, design, entertainment and fashion.

Milan has been recognised as one of the worlds fashion capitals and the famous Milan Fashion Week takes place here on a yearly basis. It is also one of the key European financial capitals and Italian stock exchange is based here.

Over 8 million visitors are attracted by Milan every year as the city has lots of heritage with some great museums and art galleries featuring some of the most famous collections in the world including works by Leonardo da Vinci.

If you like sightseeing then there is a lot to see and the city will appeal to a wide range of different visitors.

Here is a short list of my suggestions of places worth visiting:

  • Duomo di Milano – one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world which completion took almost 600 years. Located on a Piazza del Duomo with many lively cafes and the elegant fashion shops.
  • Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – one of the most beautiful and oldest shopping malls in the world featuring many designer boutiques based in a four-storey arcade opposite of Duomo di Milano in central Milan.
  • Sforzesco Castle – a castle built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza who was a Duke of Milan.

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  • Sempione Park – a large park leading to Sforzesco Castle which was established in 1888.
  • Teatro alla Scala – a well-known opera house which was established in 1778.

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How to get there?

If you live in the UK then you can easily get to Milan from most of major cities. We’ve flown from London Heathrow and it took us slightly over 2 hours.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: Porto, Portugal

Last week, I traveled with my husband to Porto in Portugal. Porto is Portugal’s second largest city after Lisbon set on the northern bank of the Douro River.

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The city is located inland from the Atlantic and the visitors can visit one of its popular beaches which I just a short train ride away.

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Although, Porto is not known as a city-break / weekend break destination, it is quickly becoming one of Western Europe’s most respected tourist destinations. In 1996, the historical center of Porto was classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. This year, the city was nominated by WTA (World Travel Awards) in these 2 categories:

  • Europe’s Leading City Break Destination 2017
  • Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction 2017

The city boasts an extensive history, interesting tourist attractions and a buzzing nightlife.

If you like sightseeing then there is a lot to see and the city will appeal to a wide range of different visitors. As we arrived quite early on Saturday morning, we decided to take one of the sightseeing bus tours to quickly see all the main sites prior to exploring this colorful city on foot. There were lots of opportunities to admire the viewpoint of the terracotta rooftops and the city’s dreamy architecture.

Here is a short list of my suggestions of places worth visiting:

  • The Ribeira district – the oldest district of the city which is filled with ancient houses, narrow cobbled streets and numerous family owned restaurants, cafes and bars.

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  • São Bento train station – a 19th-century railway station located in the centre of Porto that features some beautiful tiles.
  • A mini-cruise down the Douro rivers admiring the architecture of the city and its beautiful bridges.
  • Dom Luís I Bridge – a double-deck metal arch bridge that spans the River Douro between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia in Portugal.
  • Palácio da Bolsa –  a historical building built in the 19th century by the city’s Commercial Association in Neoclassical style.
  • Casa da Música – a modern design, 12-floor concert hall & top floor restaurant  completed in 2005.

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How to get there?

It’s never been easier to get there and Monarch, the scheduled leisure airline, operates year round flights and holidays to Porto from Birmingham, London Luton and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, from £42 one way (£77 return).

For further information or to book Monarch flightsMonarch Holidays or Monarch Hotels, please visit www.monarch.co.uk

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I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: Washington D.C., USA

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Washington D.C., the capital of the United States. Washington, D.C. is formally known as the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as “Washington”, “the District”, or simply “D.C.”.

Statistics from last year show that Washington had an estimated population of 681,170 however commuters from the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs raise the city’s population to more than one million during the workweek. Washington, D.C., is located in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. East Coast.

There are many places worth visiting in Washington. Please find a quick summary listed below:

  • Learn more by visiting free Smithsonian museums so you can absorb culture the way it was meant to be experienced — in short encounters in the midst of everyday life.
  • Take flight at the National Air & Space Museum.
  • Learn about the freedom of the press and take some cool photos at the Newseum.

IMG_2019You should also visit the Pulitzer Prize photographs gallery which features all the winning photographs.

  • Go and take some photos of the White House. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get the access to the building but there are quite a few good places where you can view it from.
  • Visit United States Capitol. You can still access it and the tickets are available from a kiosk just outside the building.
  • Stroll down The National Mall. It is definitely the best way to see most of Washington’s monuments starting from the Capitol all the way to the Lincoln Memorial.
  • Visit Washington National Cathedral. This beautiful Gothic cathedral has been used for state funerals for three presidents and many other important burials and memorials.
  • Go shopping at Tanger Outlet. It is located 20 min drive from central Washington and if you like a bargain then you should definitely go there and check it out.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: Zagreb, Croatia

Two weeks ago, I travelled with my husband to Zagreb in Croatia. Zagreb is not the first city that comes on anyone’s mind when thinking of Croatia but it should definitely change. For me, it was the third Croatian city we’ve seen so far as we previously visited Split and Dubrovnik known from Game of Thrones.

Zagreb is the capital and the largest city of Croatia. It is located in the northwest of the country, at the southern slopes of the Medvednica mountain. Zagreb’s metropolitan area is the biggest in Croatia with a population of over one million.

Zagreb is a city with a rich history dating from the Roman times to the present day. The city smells of roses and there are many flower shops as well as a flower market located in center of the town.

I love how colorful and vibrant it it. It is a perfect destination for a weekend / city break. There are hundreds of great restaurants and bars located in there and even the most demanding foodies like me can choose from a range of local and international cuisines.

If you like sightseeing then there is a lot to see. Here is a short list of my suggestions of places worth visiting:

  • The Upper Town
  • Zagreb Cathedral
  • Zagreb Eye
  • King Tomislav Square
  • Maksimir Park and Zagreb Zoo
  • Ilica Street (for a bit of retail therapy)
  • Museum of Broken Relationships (if you would like to read some heartbreaking stories told by hundreds of personal belongings of past lovers from all over the world).
  • And many more hidden gems like these:

How to get there?

Monarch, the scheduled leisure airline, operates year round flights and holidays to Zagreb from London Gatwick and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, from £42 one way (£79 return). It is a great cheap airline with the friendliest flight attendants I have ever met.

For further information or to book Monarch flights, Monarch Holidays or Monarch Hotels, please visit www.monarch.co.uk

I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline

Holiday Destinations: Bruges, Belgium

A few weeks ago, I took my husband to Belgium for 4 days break to celebrate his birthday. During our stay we spend most of our time in Brussels but we also went on a day-trip to Bruges.

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Bruges is Belgium’s most perfectly preserved medieval town and its stunning architecture attracts over two million visitors every year. If you Belgian fries, waffles, seafood and beer then you should definitely make your way there.

Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the northwest of the country. The historic city center is a prominent World Heritage Site of UNESCO. The city’s total population is slightly over 120,000 of whom around 20,000 live in the city center.

There’s lots to see in this beautiful city often referred to as the Venice of the North.

Here is a short list of my suggestions:

  1. Belfry and Halle;
  2. Markt;
  3. Town Hall;
  4. Groeninge Museum;
  5. Church of our Lady.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: Paris, France

Last weekend we went for our mini-moon to the most romantic city in the world – Paris. It is a capital city of France and it has a population of 12 million (2014) which covers 18 percent of the residents of France. In 2015 Paris received 22.2 million visitors, making it one of the world’s top tourist destinations.

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Travel:

We travelled to Paris by Eurostar as it is the easiest way to travel to Paris from London. It takes under 2.5 hours and trains depart from King’s Cross Station in central London every hour. Prices vary from £29 for a standard single ticket booked in advance to £249 for a business premiere ticket including an access to the Executive Lounge and some complementary drinks and a meal on-board. Our meal was disappointing both during our morning and evening journeys and on our way back the service was extremely slow so I am not sure if it was worth paying £1000 for 2 return tickets…

Attractions:

The Central area of Paris along the Seine River is classified as a UNESCO Heritage Site, and includes many notable monuments. In addition, Paris is the home of many important museums and cultural institutions. There are many places worth seeing however if you are in Paris for a limited time (we were there for 3 days) then you should definitely visit:

  • The Eiffel Tower – an iron lattice tower on the Champ de Mars that was named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower.

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  • The Louvre – the most visited and the largest art museum in the world.
  • Arc de Triomphe – is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle, at the western end of the Champs-Élysées.
  • Notre Dame Cathedral – is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité built in the 12th century.
  • Pont Alexandre III Bridge – is a deck arch bridge that spans the Seine in Paris. It connects the Champs-Élysées quarter with those of the Invalides and Eiffel Tower.
  • Basilica du Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre – is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that opened in 1914.

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Furthermore, I would definitely recommend that you either take a walk down the river or alternatively you can take one of many mini-cruises especially if the weather is nice. We were extremely lucky with the weather and we decided to have a romantic walk around the River Seine on our way from The Eiffel Tower back to our hotel which was located just a minute walk from the Arc de Triomphe. In addition, if you love live-shows and cabaret then you should definitely visit Moulin Rouge but be prepared-tickets for a show and dinner are quite expensive and start at 190 Euros per person.

Hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline