After seeing the movie Taken 2, which is based in this incredible city, I quickly added Istanbul to my must see city list. After a painful overnight coach from Greece, 50 euro spent on a visa and against all my family’s pleas to avoid this country I found myself anything but disappointed! Istanbul offers an authentic cultural experience like no other. Take a stroll through the chaotic Grand Bazaar markets which is full of vibrant colours and amazing photo opportunities. Sip traditional Turkish tea while marvelling at the Blue Mosque or explore the local spice markets. At night wander the streets down alleyways and backstreets to find yourself outstanding doner kebabs for next to nothing while exploring street stalls selling handmade scarfs, purses and fabrics. My only regret about this city is that I couldn’t stay longer!
Spending 6 weeks covering the generic Europe spots I found myself craving something a little different. A cheap flight with EasyJet found me in this charming city in under 3 hours. There is something special about this city that I can’t quite put my finger on. Besides from the obvious charms there is a relaxed atmosphere that makes you question if you are in fact in a capital city. To start your trip take a tram ride around the city centre to take in the sights. The houses here are incredible. All are tiled different colours and patterns making each street uniquely individual. Head to Rossio Square which reminds me a little of St Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy. Discover exquisite statues and an opportunity to feel the sand between your toes down at the waterfront. During your stay be sure to keep an eye out for Lisbon’s creative street art and and talented buskers. Lastly don’t forget to stop into Case Pasteis De Belem which has been serving the world’s best custard tarts since 1837. The long lines are well worth the wait.. trust me!
Budapest has to be on par with Istanbul as my favourite European city. Not only is this one of Europe's most affordable cities, it is faster paced with an abundance of things to experience. Spend a day relaxing in one of the many thermal baths avaliable. I would highly recommend the Szechenyi Baths which are over 100 years old. Pay your respects while touching up on your communist and nazi history at the House of Terror. If you’re travelling to Budapest in winter don’t miss iceskating in the city park! Skating under the stars in front of the Vajdahunyad Castle, Europe’s largest outdoor ice-skating rink, has to be one of my most memorable european experiences. If you enjoy having a few drinks don’t pass up an opportunity to sample one of Europe’s best nightlife cities. With hookah bars on several street corners and underground ruins bars you are spoilt for choice!
It was by pure convenience I found myself submerged in the heart of Belgrade. Onroute from Spain heading to Greece my best friend and I boarded the EuroRail with days of travel ahead of us. After 2 days we were both more then ready for a hot shower and an actual bed. While I can’t imagine calling this city beautiful in the generic sense, it is definitely a cultural eye opener. The best way to explore Belgrade is on foot. Check out the stunning St Sava Orthodox Temple whose bells can be heard hourly from streets away. Take a stroll down Knez Mihailova Street which is centre point to the city and offers a unique cultural shopping experience from cafes to designer label outlets. To experience something different head to the less appealing areas such as Deponija which I can only imagine is quite similar to Brazil’s Favela. Overall Belgrade offers an all round unique experience and is the reason I have vowed to myself to take advantage of all future layover destinations where possible.
With Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt all front of mind when it comes to Germany it is no wonder I had never heard of Hamburg before stumbling upon it. One word... Beautiful! Sure it was -4 degrees and snowflakes were beginning to fall but what better way to experience winter in Europe? No one does Christmas better then Germany. The further north through Europe I travelled the more the Christmas atmosphere grew. Hamburg was no exception. The streets were littered with stunning decorations, fairy lights and trees. I was dreading being away from home for my first Christmas ever however Hamburg eased the burden. It was only December 2nd when I visited so just the beginning of the festive season. However I was spoilt with Hamburg’s Christmas markets! You can pick up exquisite hand made ball balls and sample an array of mouth watering chocolate. I couldn’t recommend this city more highly during Winter. My only regret is I haven’t experienced it in summer!