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: 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: Bansko, Bulgaria

Are you looking for some winter holidays inspiration? If yes, then you should head to Eastern Europe to Bansko in Bulgaria. Bansko mountain resort is an excellent choice for your ski and snowboard holiday in Bulgaria.

It is the best winter resort in Bulgaria with the longest ski runs and the richest cultural history. The town of Bansko is situated at the foot of the Pirin mountain in the south-western Bulgaria, 160 km from Sofia (around 3.5 hours’ drive from the airport).

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The resort offers excellent ski and snowboard conditions and infrastructure. There are a lot of hotels of various standards and prices based in there. I would personally recommend Premier Mountain Resort or Kempinski Hotel if you like staying in luxury hotels.

What’s worth mentioning here, the prices of hotels, ski rentals etc. are probably 50% cheaper than in Alps so you can stay in a 5 star hotel for the price of 2/3 star hotel in Austria or France.

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Après ski

So what to do after a day on slopes? Après ski in the resort is really good and offers hundreds of bars, traditional restaurants and clubs where you can indulge after your skiing or snowboarding adventures.

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Location

Bansko is a ski and mountain resort located in the south-western part of Bulgaria. The town is situated 6 km from the town of Razlog and 160 km from the capital of Sofia. The town of Bansko is located 925 m above the sea level whereas its ski area – at an altitude of 2000 – 2600 m.

Resort information

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Bansko ski resort is attractive in all seasons nut I’ve only been there twice during the winter as I love skiing. The ski season in Bansko lasts from 15 December to 14 April. During the recent years a multimillion Euros investment in a brand new skiing area has been made by Yulen, the company that runs the skiing area of Bansko. Numerous new luxury hotels and facilities in the area of the Gondola lift station have been constructed. It provides excellent ski and snowboard facilities, as well as a unique history and architecture of an old and new part of the town.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

Holiday ideas: Norwegian cruise from New York to Bahamas & Florida

As some of you know, I have just returned from my trip to The USA. I had a great time discovering New York and its surroundings. In addition, I also went on a cruise from New York to Bahamas & Florida and I really enjoyed it.

The common misconception on holidaying at sea is that cruises are only for pensioners. Until a few years ago, that was exactly what I thought. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was my third cruise and I am sure that there will be many more to come. This year, I went with my husband on a 7-day cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) on their ship the ‘Norwegian Breakaway’ from New York to Bahamas and Florida and I  would recommend it to anyone who is travelling to the Big Apple. You are probably thinking why? If you are intrigued then read on…

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Itinerary

The itinerary of this NCL cruise from New York combines the best of two great destinations – Orlando and Bahamas.

Our first stop was in (Port Canaveral). There were many excursions to choose from including a visit nearby Kennedy Space Centre, Daytona International (NASCAR) Speedway Tour, soaking up the sun on one of Florida’s beaches, going shopping or having fun at one of the theme parks. We decided to take a transfer (organised by NCL) to Universal Studios and we had a wonderful day.

Our second stop was in Great Stirrup Cay in Bahamas. Unfortunately, due to strong winds we were unable to tender to the island but I had a relaxing day sunbathing on top deck of the ship whilst sipping some cocktails.

Our final stop was in Nassau- the capital of Bahamas. This beautiful island is known for beaches and offshore coral reefs that are popular for diving and snorkeling. Once again NCL’s excursion team had many places and activities to choose from including a visit to  Atlantis Aquaventure park or Balmoral Island Beach.

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We decided to have a beach day at Blue Lagoon Island. Our excursion started with a 40-minute scenic boat ride through historic Nassau Harbour towards Blue Lagoon Island. We then discovered that many celebrities including Beyonce, Michael Jordan and Serena Williams love spending their spare time on the island and have bought some impressive properties there.

Once we arrived at Blue Lagoon Island we went to a private beach and enjoyed sunbathing whilst admiring its clear, blue waters.

The food & drink

As some of you know, I am a massive foodie. What I love about cruising is that you can always go and grab something to eat at one of many tasty eateries and you can dine on your time not on a schedule. As with other ships in Norwegian’s fleet, the Breakaway practices Freestyle dining, meaning there’s no early or late assigned seating and reservations are not allowed in the complimentary dining rooms. There are 28 restaurants on The Norwegian Breakaway ship with a mixture of complimentary and specialty dinning restaurants that range from the buffets to A la carte restaurants. Each day gives guests a chance to wet their appetite with something new. We bought the ultimate dinning package for 3 days and it gave us an opportunity to experience some amazing cooked to perfection meals in:

  • Cagney’s – a classic steakhouse serving cooked to perfection meals;
  • Le Bistro – a superb French restaurant that is perfect for a romantic meal onboard your cruise ship,
  • Teppanyaki – Japanese cuisine in which food is grilled live in front of guests and served to them in a restaurant.

During the remaining 4 nights we dined in the complimentary restaurants – Savor, Taste, Manhattan Room (with a dance floor and live music) and in O’Sheehan’s Bar & Grill offering the best chicken wings starter ever! All our meals were enjoyable and the waiters were extremely friendly and attentive.

What about drinks? There are many bars throughout the ship. We bought an all inclusive package that included most alcoholic drinks, cocktails and soft drinks. I loved the ‘mudslide’ cocktail so when you decide to travel with NCL then you should definitely try it!

Cabin

We stayed in a Spa Mini-Suite with Balcony. Our room had a private balcony, large double bed and sofa, TV, minibar and coffee making facilities.

Our bathroom had an oversized waterfall shower-complete with body spray jets and complimentary toiletries from Givenchy were provided.

Relaxing

When it’s time for relaxing, there are several ways to let your hair down. Norwegian Breakaway ship has a Mandara Spa which offers a steam room, sauna, Salt room and therapy pools. Passengers can also enjoy one of many treatments such as massages or facials for an extra charge. The access to Mandara Spa was included with our Spa Mini-Suite room which was perfect as I spent quite a bit of time in there relaxing whilst we were at sea. There was also a hair salons and a gym located just next door to the spa.

Entertainment

There are plenty of activities to do and it’s impossible to get bored on a cruise. Norwegian Breakaway ship has swimming pools, running track, gym, climbing wall and a video games arcade. There are also many dazzling shows on offer including ‘Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy’, ‘Burn the Floor’ or Rock of Ages’. If you love art then you can attend one of the lectures and learn more from the on-board’s Arts Gallery staff.  In addition, you can have a drink in an Ice Bar, attend one of the wine tastings, play bingo or ‘Deal or No Deal’, enter a karaoke competition, or splash some cash in the casinos. Kids can be left under supervision a the Splash Academy (3-12 years old) or Entourage (13-17 years old) so you can enjoy many of the activities available on board.

Final thoughts: 

Cruises are like floating cities- there is plenty to do, discover and enjoy whist on-board. Nothing can beat the thrill of being transported to an exciting new destinations whilst you sleep. In addition, as there are almost 4000 others traveling with you, you can meet interesting people from all over the world and make some friends. I had a great time on my Norwegian cruise and I cannot wait to enjoy some more holidaying at sea.

You can book your cruise on:

https://www.ncl.com/uk/

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: Universal Orlando Resort, Florida, USA

I have recently visited Universal Orlando Resort with my husband. It is based in Orlando in Florida (USA).

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Universal Orlando consists of three theme parks:

  1. Universal Studios Florida,
  2. Universal’s Islands of Adventure,
  3. Universal’s Volcano Bay water theme park.

If you like theme parks then you will love Universal resorts as it brings yours and your children stories, myths, cartoons and tales to life. As we were in the resort only for a day we decided to visit only 2 out of 3 parks.

Firstly, we made our way to Universal’s Islands of Adventure. This park consists of lots of theme specific attractions such as:

  • ‘Skull Island: Reign of Kong’ – multi-dimensional, interactive ride on a mysterious island.

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  • ‘Marvel Super Hero Island’ – where you can find attraction such as The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (3D thrill ride) , The Incredible Hulk Coaster (high-speed roller coaster) or a Doctor Doom’s Fearfall.
  • ‘Toon Lagoon’ with a range of water rides.
  • ‘Jurassic Park’ where dinosaurs have been brought back to life.
  • ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade’ where you can walk around the Hogwarts castle, visit the shops of Hogsmeade and enjoy some more exciting rides.

As we had a Park-to-Park admission ticket, we were able ride the Hogwarts Express train from Universal Islands of Adventure to jump in to the 9 and 3/4 platform at Kings Cross in London. As I love the Harry Potter movies, it was a great experience as I was able see characters and creatures from the movies whilst commuting between the parks.

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Once we disembarked the train, we were at the  Universal Studios Florida. This second amusement park consists of many picture and television studios where guests can experience films and TV shows at the variety of locations. There were many attractions to enjoy and these were my favourite ones:

  • ‘Production Central’ where you can experience TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D, Shrek 4-D or Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.
  • ‘New York’ where you can experience a thrilling Revenge of the Mummy the Ride or party with the The Blues Brothers.
  • World Expo where you can take the rides with the characters from The Simpsons or shoot some aliens on a MEN IN BLACK™ Alien Attack ride.

To sum up, we had an unforgettable day full of adventure experiencing many cutting edge and interactive rides. If you are looking for spectacular entertainment for the whole family then you should definitely visit Orlando Resort. In addition, there are many on-site hotels and eateries for an endless fun. I would definitely recommend to visit for a few days though. Although we had an amazing day, our visit felt rushed as we were running from one attraction to another. I will definitely visit this resort again however next time I will stay for a few days to enjoy it fully.

For more information visit:

https://www.universalorlando.co.uk/

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Pauline

Our stay in VISIONAPARTMENTS in Zurich

We travelled to Zurich recently for a short, weekend break. We stayed in one of the luxurious apartments managed by VISIONAPARTMENTS. They offer over 1,800 tailored temporary living solutions in Berlin, Frankfurt, Lausanne, Warsaw, Vevey, Vienna, Zug and Zurich. The main clientele of VISIONAPARTMENTS are businessmen and young leisure travellers who collectively help to create a great atmosphere there.

Location:
VISIONAPARTMENTS Wolframplatz building is situated just a few metres away from the Giesshübel Train Station which can get you to the Zürich Main Train Station in a few minutes. It makes it a perfect location for whether you are there on business or – like us – travelling for a short city-break. The airport is only 40min away can be easily reached by public transport too.
You can also grab a bite to eat nearby, with the nearest restaurants located only a short walk away or go shopping at the Sihlcity Shopping Centre which is a 5min walk away from the apartments.

Apartment:
The concept of an aparthotel is one that offers most of the services of a hotel: rooms are regularly cleaned but rather than living in a room, you are spend your time in a fully-equipped apartment. VISIONAPARTMENTS units are available in a variety of layouts, styles and sizes and are competitively priced whether you are looking for a long- or short-term accommodation.


We stayed in a lovely, fully furnished Junior Duplex Apartment (No# WO010), split over 2 levels. On the ground floor, it featured a bathroom, living room area and a kitchen (with a small mini-fridge, microwave and dishwasher). A staircase lead us up to our spacious bedroom with its own en-suite bathroom.

The bedroom had a large, comfortable king size bed, flat screen TV and handy night stands. There was a selection of toiletries available in our master bathroom in addition to comfy robes and slippers.


After long days of sightseeing, I really enjoyed coming back to our apartment and relaxing on the large sofa watching some news before going to bed. As our apartment had a fully furnished kitchen – we prepared our breakfasts there, trying some locally produced goods.

Overall experience:
We stayed at the VISIONAPARTMENTS in Zurich for 2 nights and we really enjoyed it. The complex is super modern – you do not need to even check in/check out as you get an access code to your apartment on the day of your arrival. I was impressed with how spacious and stylish our apartment was. There is no restaurant onsite but if you do not mind preparing your own breakfast or having it at one of the nearby cafes then that shouldn’t be an issue. I would definitely recommend it to all travellers who like to stay in beautiful modern surroundings that offer an excellent price to quality ratio.

Address:
Wolframplatz. 1,
8045 Zürich, Switzerland

Website:
https://visionapartments.com/en/

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: Cologne, Germany

Last week, we traveled with my husband to Cologne for 3-days weekend break.

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Cologne is the fourth-largest city in German located within the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region, one of the major European metropolitan areas, and with more than ten million inhabitants, the largest in Germany.

The city is less than 80 km from Belgium and it is located on both sides of the Rhine River.
IMG_3109When we arrived to Cologne, before we started our sightseeing we decided to visit Cologne Tourist Information Center which is located just opposite of cathedral.

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We bought two KölnCards, that provided us with free public transport as well as reductions at various restaurants, museums, bars and so on around the city. As Cologne is a major cultural center it hosts more than thirty museums and hundreds of galleries so the discounts we received using KölnCards were significant.

  1. Cologne Cathedral – beautiful Roman Gothic cathedral that is the main tourist attraction of Cologne and attracts over 6 million visitors per year.
  2. Museum Ludwig – great place to visit for art lovers. It holds extensive collection of Picasso works.
  3. Romano-Germanic Museum – holds a lot of Roman artifacts and antiques.
  4. Cologne Cable Car – a gondola lift that runs across the River Rhine.
  5. Fragrance Museum – perfume museum that holds artworks from 1685.

In addition, I would also recommend one of the city sightseeing bus tours. They take around 1.5 hour and you will be able to see all of the main attractions. There was a couple of companies running them and the tickets were 11 EUR.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline

The Adagio London Brentford, UK

Two weeks ago, I was invited the opening of the first ever Adagio Aparthotel in London Brentford. I’ve previously stayed in Adagio Aparthotel with my mum in Nice in France and I really enjoyed it so I was really looking forward to discovering what Adagio has to offer in London.

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Location:

The Adagio Aparthotel Brentford provides good links with Central London so it’s great for both business and leisure travellers. It is also located close to London Heathrow airport and within a mile of Kew Gardens. The closest tube station is 10minutes walk from the aparthotel.

Facilities:

Adagio Aparthotel Brentford offers all the comforts of home whilst you are away. The hotel features 100 apartments (a mixture of studios and one-bedroom apartments), virtual concierge, fitness centre, laundry facilities, open hot-desk work area next to reception and a restaurant where you can grab a breakfast or a drink from.

Aparthotels Adagio London Brentford’s design takes inspiration from its urban surroundings with a modern feel. All Adagio aparthotels aim to provide open areas where guests can work and meet, perhaps even take part in one of their spontaneous cooking sessions all within Adagios comfortable setting.

As soon as you enter, you are welcomed by friendly receptionists and beautiful, contemporary surroundings.

Room:

We stayed in a beautiful apartment located on the seventh floor. Our apartment had a fully-equipped kitchen, air conditioning, living area with flat screen smart TV, free WIFI and telephone. We also had a spacious bathroom with complimentary Malin + Goez toiletries.

The living area of the apartment consisted also had a large and comfortable bed so we slept very well.

We also had a large terrace featuring the panoramic views of London where the guests could enjoy a drink or sit down and relax with a good book.

Overall experience:

The hotel staff believe that ‘home is not a place, it is a feeling’ and they try to create a friendly, open surroundings for its guests. Although, we stayed at the Adagio Aparthotel Brentford only for 1 night, we had a great time. The hotel has everything that’s needed whilst away from home and I will definitely stay in Adagio Aparthotels in the future.

Address:

Key Eye Tower

Ealing Rd

Brentford TW8 0FL

Website:

https://www.adagio-city.com

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline