Top Ten Iceland (Reykjavik): Top Ten Things to Do and See in Iceland.

Top Ten Iceland (Reykjavik): Top Ten Things to Do and See in Iceland.

Iceland Top Ten

1. Take a Walking Tour of Reykjavic.  A great way to start out you trip to any new city is with a walking tour.  It’s a great way to get acquainted with the city and your guide will likely make suggestions of unique things to see or restaurants to try.  Blogger Audur, who runs the popular blog I Heart Reykjavik recently started giving tours.  There are also various tip based tours available.

2. Search for the Elusive Northern Lights.  There are numerous tours available to try and find the Northern Lights in Iceland but none can promise you will actually see the lights.  The most popular tours involve a tour bus taking viewers outside the city to get away from light pollution and standing in a field, hoping to catch a glimpse.  You may want to consider choosing a tour that combines viewing the lights with another activity, such as a glacier walk or a boat tour, that way if you don’t see the lights you still did something else worthwhile.  Alternatively, you could rent a room in the countryside and try to view the lights from the comfort of your room.

3. Check out the Golden Circle.  One of the most popular day tours from Reykjavik is the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is a loop around some of Iceland’s famous sights including geysers, Gullfoss waterfall, and Thingveiller National Park.  Most tours also include a few more stops and last about half a day.  They are all pretty much identical, though one company offers a noon start time instead of the 9:00 a.m. start that most companies offer, which reduced the crowds at each attraction for us.

4. Watch some Whales. Iceland is one of the best places in Europe to whale watch.  Catch a tour and view some of the giants in their natural habitat.

5. Dine at Grillmarkaðinn (Grill Market).  One of the best restaurants I’ve dined at across the globe.  Everything we had was incredibly fresh and full of flavor.  A meal here isn’t cheap, but it’s worth the splurge for a special meal out. You won’t regret it.

6. Catch the View from Hallsgrimska.  Ride to the top of the iconic Hallsgrimska church for great views of the city.

7. Snack on the Famous Icelandic Hot Dogs.  The unofficial national food and the most popular restaurant in the country, is a hot dog stand.  The surprisingly delicious dog is made mostly from lamb and is a unique twist from the American version.  Getting a hot dog with everything is a must when you are in Reykjavik.

8. Tour the Countryside. Iceland’s greatest treasure is its natural scenery.  From glaciers to volcanoes, if you love the outdoors Iceland is your place.  A tour to the South Coast, Snaefellsnes Peninsula, or any other part of the country is definitely worth looking into for your trip.

9. Visit the Iceland Phallological Museum.  Reykjavik is home to the world’s largest display of penises and penile parts.  If you want a unique experience, this one is for you.

10. Experience an Icelandic Geothermal Pool.  Going to the pool is a huge part of Icelandic culture and something you should experience if you want an authentic experience.  The pools are most famous for their shower requirements (where all pool attendees must shower naked before putting on their swimsuits), but don’t let that scare you off.

Top Ten Venice (Top Ten Things to Do and See in Venice, Italy)

Top Ten Venice (Top Ten Things to Do and See in Venice, Italy)

Venice Top Ten

1. Take a Ride on Vaporetto Route #1.  A great way to get acquainted with Venice when you arrive is to hop on the number 1 vaporetto (vaparettos are basically the city buses of Venice) and ride around the city.  Find fare information and schedules here.

2. Wander Around the City.  Venice is often regarded as one of the safest cities in Europe. It’s small size and relatively aged population make walking around the city aimlessly a perfectly acceptable and safe thing to do.  The city is full of hidden shops and eateries perfect for stumbling into. Spend some time walking around and enjoying the unique city on foot.

3.  Climb (Ride) to the Top of the San Giorgio Maggiore Campanile.  Across the water from Saint Mark’s Square, you can go to the top of the bell tower of the San Giorgio Maggiore church and catch great views of the classic sights of Venice.  The view is a bargain at €3. Check the hours and get more info here.

4. Ride around Venice at Night.  This would be number one on the list if Venice wasn’t such a sight to see during the day as well.  The city is magical at night, with all the houses lit up.  I highly recommend you see Venice from the Grand Canal at night, just hop back on your trusty friend Vaporetto Number 1, you won’t regret it.

5. Sip on Spritzs. An aperitif that originated in Venice, a spritz is typically a a mix of Aperol or Campari, white wine, and sparkling water.  The Aperol version is the lighter of the two, with Campari being the more bitter alternative.

6. Day Trip to the Surrounding Islands. Venice has a selection of other island cities easily within reach to Venice tourists.  Murano, Borano, and Torcello are likely the most popular, and there are a wide selection of organized tours to see them.  However, you can easily get to these islands via Vaporetto for a fraction of the cost.  Murano is famous for its hand-blown glass, Burano is well known for lace and its brightly painted houses, and Torcello is a relatively unpopulated island known for its cathedral and peaceful reprieve from tourist filled Venice.

7. Take a Traghetto.  Since you can’t j-walk across a canal, the unique Venetian experience of traghettos was created.  A traghetto is a gonola-like boat that transports people from one side of the canal to the other.  The ride will set you back €2, but that beats walking until you find the next bridge.  Plus if you play your cards right, you can take a picture with a gondolier in the background and convince all your Instagram friends (and yourself) that you took a gondola without dropping the cash for a real one.

8. Dine in Piazza San Marco.  St. Mark’s square is bustling with tourists non-stop throughout the day.  Grab a cup of gelato or sit down for some cicheti (Italy’s version of tapas) at one of the restaurants around the square to observe some tourists in the wild.  The best time to do this is in the evening; you can watch the square clear out as tourists head back to their hotels for dinner and experience the square when it’s more peaceful.

9. Have a Beach Day at the Venetian Lido.  Across the lagoon from the main part of Venice, lies the Lido.  An oasis from the non-stop crowds, the Lido offers a more relaxed feel with great views of Venice.  The lido also has a beach perfect for a relaxing day.  Take a vaporetto over, grab a bike, and spend the day lounging around the island and visiting the many restaurants and shops.

10.  Enjoy lots and lots of Wine.  Wine, an Italian staple, is prevalent throughout the city.  There are also vineyards that are within easy reach of Venice, perfect for day trips.  You can travel to the vineyards on your own, opt for an organized tours of the wineries, or you can enjoy the Italian version of a pub crawl and hop from wine bar to wine bar in the city.  Grab a glass and get started!

Explore more things to do in Venice here or start planning your trip itinerary here. 

Top Ten: Berlin (Top Ten Things to Do and See in Berlin, Germany)

Top Ten: Berlin (Top Ten Things to Do and See in Berlin, Germany)

Top Ten Berlin Germany

Photo Copyright: Karaoke in Mauerpark: juliaviajando https://www.flickr.com/photos/juliakranz/5068594882/ Wannsee Beach: ax11 http://www.flickr.com/photos/ax11/347230273/

 

1. Get a Bird’s Eye View of the City on a Balloon Ride.  In the center of Berlin, you can climb on one of the world’s largest helium balloons and see the city from the sky. The balloon is tethered to the ground and releases you slowly up then pulls you back down.  For just over $25, the ride is bargain compared to the cost of hot air balloon rides.  Bring your student ID or proof you are unemployed (everyone carries that around, right?) for a discounted fare.

2. Visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  Not your average Holocaust Memorial, the Memorial includes an interactive structure composed of concrete rectangles eerily reminiscent of coffins.  The concrete slabs vary in height, but are arranged in a grid, intended to give visitors the feeling of a confusing atmosphere in a structured system. Definitely a unique sight worth stopping by.

3. Attend Karaoke in the Park. A new favorite activity of Berliners is Bearpit Karaoke in Mauerpark.  On Sundays around 3 PM, grab a cool beverage and join thousands of locals for a good laugh and some free entertainment at karaoke in park.

4. Drink Beer in a Biergarten. Drinking beer in Germany is a given, and the perfect place to do so is a beer garden.  Grab a famous Berliner Weiss and relax. Try Prater Garten, the oldest biergarten in town.

5. See What the Wall was like at the Berlin Wall Memorial. The Berlin Wall Memorial offers a look into what the Berlin Wall was like when it stood.  You can climb to the top of an observation deck to see all the obstacles separating the East and West sides of Berlin, which were much more complicated than just a wall.

6. Go on a Walking Tour of the City. I like to go on a walking tour the first day I’m in a new city to figure out the layout of the city and pick up helpful tips and suggestions from the guide and fellow travelers.  Berlin has a TON of history and interesting facts that you would likely miss if you were just wandering alone, making it the prime candidate for a tour.  We took the Free Sandeman’s New Berlin tour which we enjoyedbut I don’t think you can go wrong.

7. Stop by the East Side Gallery.  You can’t visit Berlin without seeing the Berlin Wall, it’s such a quintessential piece of the city’s history. Likewise, street art is a huge scene in Berlin. Combine the two and you get the East Side Gallery. Fun fact, the Berlin wall even caught the eye of a young lady, who called it “the sexiest wall ever” and married it in 1979 (no really,it happened).

8. Relax on a Lake Shore Beach. You read that correctly, I said beach in Berlin. Berlin has a few lake options that have beaches perfect for swimming and relaxing. Probably the best known, is Strandbad Wannsee on the west side of Berlin.  Though Strandbad Grunau, located on the far east side, is said to be more charming.

9. See the City from Above.  Who doesn’t love a sky high view? Panoramapunkt is a well known observation deck that offers arguably the best views in Berlin. If you want to try something a little less mainstream, check out the relatively new Klunkerkranich, a rooftop bar and hang out spot.

10. Day Trip to Visit Sachenhausen Concentration Camp.  Located less than an hour’s drive from Berlin, Sachenhausen is also accessible via public transportation.  Sachenhausen was one of the largest concentration camps during the Holocaust, and is an incredibly eye opening experience.  There are also tour and excursion companies that offer trips from the city, so if you’re hesitant about getting there on your own, that is a great option too.
See more things to do in Berlin and start planning your trip here

 

 

 

Top Ten Amsterdam (Best Things to Do and See in Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Top Ten Amsterdam

1. Cruise the Canals.  Amsterdam is home to 165 canals.  Viewing the city from the water is a must whether it be by a public boat or a private one.

2.  See the city by bicycle.  Bicycles are widely used in Amsterdam and it is incredibly easy to find a rental.  Riding around the city on bike is great way to experience the town.  Biking in Amsterdam should only be for those comfortable on a bike though.  Locals often express their annoyance at tourists who don’t know how to bike and who do not follow the rules of the road.

3.  Dine on Pannekoeken or Poffertjes.  When you think of Amsterdam, the cuisine is not likely to be one of the things that comes to mind.  Dutch Pannekoeken, or pancakes, are well worth a try though.  Similar to French crepes, but you can get fillings like meat and cheese in addition to dessert flavors.  Check out The Pancake Brewery for some good and unusual pancakes.

4. Visit the Markets. Amsterdam has a variety of markets to explode, some specializing in one particular thing such as fabric or flowers.  Dappermart was voted one of the top 10 shopping streets in the world by National Geographic and is worth a look.

5. Try local beer. The Heinken tour is a well known attraction in Amsterdam, but there are plenty of interesting pubs and micro-breweries that are likely cheaper and definitely less touristy than Heineken.  Check out this post for some ideas of where to get local beers: http://bit.ly/1gmWPIg, alternatively try a pub crawl.

6. Visit the tulip fields.  Every spring 1,000s of neatly planted tulips bloom in Holland.  One of the most famous spots to view the flowers is Keukenhof Gardens, which is just under an hour outside of Amsterdam.  Spend a day going to see the famous fields.

7. Experience a Coffee Shop.  Amsterdam is well known for its acceptance of cannibis, which has become a huge part of the essence of the city.  You should definitely stop by a “coffee shop” to see what the hype is about, no participation necessary.

8. Tour the Red Light District.  The Red Light District is much more than a sex symbol, the area is full of interesting culture and is a big part of Amsterdam.  Try a guided tour of the district to learn about the secrets that are often overlooked.  You should also visit during day and then again at night, it will seem like a completely different place.

9.  See Anne Frank’s House.  Arguably the top must see in Amsterdam, Anne Frank’s House is an incredibly sobering and interesting reflection on WW2.  Be sure to order your tickets online ahead of time and either go early or late in the day to avoid crowds as much as possible.

10.  Day Trip to a Surrounding Town.  There are a number of smaller towns outside of Amsterdam easily accessible by train.  Perhaps the most quintessential, Zaanse Schans is less than a half hour from the city and ofters a wooden shoe workshop, multiple windmills, and the famous Dutch blue ceramics.

See more pictures and things to do in Amsterdam here.

Top Ten: Barcelona (Top things to do and see in Barcelona, Spain)

 

Top Ten Barcelona Take 2

Photo Copyright: Labyrinth – daniMU https://www.flickr.com/photos/justmuit/4887814630/

1. Attend a FC Barcelona futbol game at Camp Nou.  There is no better way to experience Spanish culture than to go to a soccer game.  The Spanish love their futbol, and go crazy for the sport. There is no doubt it will be an experience to remember.

2. Relax in Park Guell. While I’m sure you’ve seen this on every Barcelona list, the park truly won’t disappoint. Take a snack, sit back, and relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery and art.

3. Picnic atop the old air bunker in Carmel.  Located in La Rouira in the neighborhood of Carmel, a WW2 bunker boasts one of the best views of Barcelona.  The spot is relatively unknown to tourists and is a perfect spot to relax or enjoy a picnic dinner, especially at sunset.

4. Watch a show of the Magic Fountain of Montjuic. If you love the Bellagio fountains in Vegas, check out the Magic Fountain.  Layers of fountains perform shows nightly complete with lighting and music.  Head there sooner than later, you don’t want to miss the show, and you’ll likely want to stay for the next one. View the schudule here:  http://bit.ly/POYRtQ.

5. Casa Mila.  Like most of Gaudi’s work, Casa Mila offers some very interesting architecture.  Even if architecture and buildings aren’t your thing, Casa Mila is worth checking out for the rooftop.  The house offers a great rooftop view of the center of Barcelona.

6. Explore the labyrinth at Parc del Laberint d’Horta.  Challenge yourself in the cypress tree maze in Barcelona’s oldest park.  The labyrinth is not your typical tourist attraction, but it offers a quiet break and something different for visitors to do. 

7. Day trip to Sitges.  Spend the day in upscale Sitges, known for its great beaches and vibrant gay scene. You can take the bus or train to the city in under an hour of travel time and less than eight Euros.  The city is renowned as one of the most charming towns on the Catalan coast.

8. Eat tapas. As much as possible.   Tapas are Spain’s greatest contribution to civilization (in my humble opinion).  Why the rest of the world doesn’t follow suit and offer complimentary bites to eat with your beer is beyond me.  An excellent way to avoid spending large amounts on food and also to avoid eat large amounts of food.  Read more about tapas in Barca here:  http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/restaurants/tapas-barcelona.html.

9. Dine on Catalan food in Gracia.  Grab dinner or lunch in one of the many modern Catalan restaurants in Gracia.  The neighborhood is north of the city center and is regarded one of the most typically Catalan neighborhoods in Barcelona.

10. Hit the beach.  You can’t miss the beaches when you visit Barcelona. Just be prepared to see more of people than you may wish, and make sure to keep an eye on your belongings.

Top Ten: London (Top Ten Things to See and Do in London, England)

Top Ten: London (Top Ten Things to See and Do in London, England)

Top Ten London

Copyrights: (Fish and Chips) http://www.flickr.com/photos/basykes/2299362200/ (Kensington Gardens) http://www.flickr.com/photos/charliedave/3660292339/ (Churchill’s War Rooms) http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaybergesen/2835567879/

 

1. London Eye – Never turn down a tourist attraction with a great view. The London Eye turns slowly enough that you can appreciate the surroundings and the pods provide protection from the cold and rainy weather no matter what time of year you visit.  Try to hit the Eye early in the day for shorter lines, and consider pre-purchasing your tickets.

2. British Tea – Afternoon tea is one of the most quintessential British activities.  Enjoy tea, scones, and other tasty petit fours at one of London’s many tea parlors.  There is often a champagne option for those who are not tea enthusiasts.

3. Fish and Chips – London is not typically known for its fine cuisine like many other European destinations. There is definitely one dish worth trying though, the classic pub food of fish and chips. Check out the Golden Hind for some great fish and chips, though you will likely find it at most London restaurants.

4. Portabello Road (Notting Hill) – Shop the markets on Portabello Road for anything from new fashions to second hand goods, fruits and vegetables, and less kitschy souvenirs.  An interesting place to wander around and people watch, the market is open Monday – Saturday.

5. Harrods – Incredibly large and always busy, Harrods department store sells just about every upscale good you can imagine.  Definitely worth checking out the lavish displays of goods and clothing around the store. The best part of Harrod’s however, is the food hall.  The hall hosts over 30 different restaurant stands with everything from pub food to upscale cuisine to packaged treats to take home.  I highly recommend the milkshakes from the ice cream shop.

6. Hangout in the Parks – London boasts many beautiful parks throughout the city with walking trails and gardens to explore within each.  For a relaxing break from visiting the tourist sites, hang out in one of the city’s parks.  Grab a snack from a to-go store like Pret A Manger or grab something from one of the park vendors and enjoy a beautiful day.

7. Kensington Roof Gardens – Once the largest rooftop gardens in Europe, Kensington Roof Gardens cover 1.5 acres on the roof of a former department store.  The Gardens include a restaurant and a club and are home to wildlife such as flamingos which wander around the gardens.

8. Pub Crawl – You can’t go wrong with a good old-fashioned pub crawl. Grab some friends or make some new ones and visit pubs throughout the city. There are multiple guided pub crawl tours in London, or you can make your own.

9. Watch a Show in the Globe Theatre – Home to Shakespeare, the Globe Theatre plays host to many of his works throughout the year as well as newly written plays.  Choose one of Shakespeare’s classics or watch a new show in the theatre for an experience from back in time.

10. Churchill’s War Rooms – Visit the underground chambers where Winston Churchill and the British Command developed strategies for WW2.  Filled with history and preserved from their time in use, you can see how the commanders lived in the time of war.

 

Top Ten: Paris (Top things to do and see in Paris, France)

Top Ten: Paris (Top things to do and see in Paris, France)

Top Ten Paris BIG copy

Photo credits: macarons- Copyright http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:More_macarons.JPG Montmartre- Copyright Carles Tomas Marti http://www.flickr.com/photos/carles_tomas/2671023608

 

 

1. Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe. Walk down the famous Champs Elysees and browse the high end stores. Make sure you stop at the Arc de Triomphe. You can take the stairs to the top for an alternative view of Paris, just note that there is an underground tunnel to get to the Arc de Triomphe. Trying to cross the traffic circle that surrounds it is a terrible idea if you want to make it through the rest of this list.

2. The Eiffel Tower. Need it even be said? Of course you should visit the Eiffel Tower. I love a good sky view, and the Eiffel Tower has a great one. Buy tickets online, ahead of time and arrive when it opens to avoid standing in line for half your day.

3. Macarons. One of the most underrated treats, macarons are a great Parisian treat. They also make great gifts to bring home to friends since they are quite travel friendly. Check out Pierre Hermé for the quintessential macaron.

4. Eat Baguettes (daily). If you travel to France and don’t eat baguettes at every possible occasion, you are missing the greatest part of french Life. Nothing hits the spot quite like a fresh French baguette and some French butter.  Perfect for a snack or light meal and very budget friendly.

5. Stroll through Montmartre. Montmartre is a quaint little neighborhood of France. When you picture walking the streets of Paris, these are the streets you are looking for. Vendors like the lanes and there are cute little places to grab a drink or bite to eat around every corner.

6. Take a boat ride down the Seine River. Give your feet a break and view Paris from a boat on the Seine river. Book a cruise in the evening for a great night view of Paris. They also offer dinner cruises regularly. Check out The Bateaux Mouches website.

7. Day trip to Versailles. Though not technically in Paris, we think the Palace of Versailles is good enough to make the list. Gorgeous grounds and tons of history make this a great day trip opportunity.

8. Eat crepes. If it isn’t clear, French food is famous for a reason. So many delectable things to try. You can find crepes just about anywhere and often the best ones are from street vendors or mom-and-pop shops. You can’t go wrong with a nutella crepe.

9. Picnic in the Luxembourg Gardens. The French love to hang out and relax here. Grab your baguette and wander through the scenic gardens.

10. Have some wine and cheese at a French wine bar. Nothing says French quite like wine, add some cheese with it and you will instantly feel like you are a Parisian. Paris has tons of wine bars to offer in all price ranges, make sure you stop at one before you leave.

Think we missed something? Let us know if there is anything you would add to the list!