Best things to do in Ljubljana

Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia and the largest city in the country.

Legend says that Ljubljana was founded by Jason, the hero of Greek mythology, and the Argonauts. Jason stole the golden fleece from King Aeetes and fled back home to the Adriatic coast. On their way Jason encountered a dragon, which he defeated and killed.

Dragon symbols have been present in Ljubljana since then. In ancient times, the dragon was present on medieval coat of arms as decoration, but later it assumed a more central position. Nowadays, the dragon is the symbol of the city. From its initial portrayal as a monster, it gradually transformed into a protector full of courage and wisdom. You will see dragons everywhere around the city.

This unique fairy tale look alike city is worth a visit. It is colorful, lively, small and stunning. You can just stroll and explore it without planning everything in advance. However, I highly recommend you to take part in a free tour. They will explain you more about the history of the city and the country, and you will see amazing spots.

But, how can such a small city have amazing spots?

Well, let me tell you that the vibrant old town is full of ancient buildings, pedestrian-only streets and lot of history. In this post, I want to share with you some of my favorite places in Ljubljana. Ready?

The City Center

Get lost in the old town of Ljublana. Stroll along the pedestrian-only street that lines the river, enter the central marke to try some local products, go for a drink or a coffe to Cankarjevo Nabrezje or have a walk in Park Zvezda.

Visit the central square in Ljubljana, Preseren Square, and the pink colored Franciscan Church of the Annunciation. You can go inside and have a look at the frescoes. During summer time, most of the free tours start from this point.

By the way, if you are interested trying traditional Slovenia food and local beer, I highly recommend you to stop by Gostilna Sokol. An ancient restaurant where you can taste regional food.

Ljubljana’s Bridges

As I previously said, dragons are present all around the city, but mostly in Ljubljana’s ancient bridges.

Triple Bridge (Tromostovje)

Although it can sound kind of weird to have three bridges sitting side by side, there is a logical explanation for this.

Around 1840 the central bridge was created to replace the original, ancient medieval one, which was made of wood. This central bridge was opened to motorized traffic back then. Therefore, some years later, two pedestrian bridges where built on either side of the central one. And so, the Tripel Bridge was formed.

It was not until the year 2011 when motorized traffic was banned to drive the central bridge, making all three bridges pedestrians only.

The Dragon Bridge (Zmajski Most)

The Dragon Bridge replaced an old wooden bridge from 1819 and it is a unique creation considered a special piece of technical heritage. It is adorned with statues of fierce dragons and its uniqueness makes this place one of the most photographed spots in the city.

Butcher’s Bridge

The Butcher’s Bridge, built in 2010, is Ljubljana’s love bridge. Countless lovers symbolically padlock their love and drop the keys into the river as a symbol of eternal love.

All around the bridge you will see unique large statues and small sculptures created by Jakov Brdar.

Tivoli Park

A green oasis some minutes away from the old town. Tivoli park is the largest green area in Ljubljana. Stroll around its botanical gardens, enjoy the view of the lake and have some rest surrounded by nature.

Cathedral of St. Nicholas

Inside the cathedral you can see unique frescoes decorating the ancient building. Outside, the cathedral is full of bronze sculptured doors with reliefs illustrating scenes from Slovenia history.

If you decide to take a free tour, you will learn some interesting facts about the doors and the different illustrations.

Ljubljana Castle

On the green hill in the middle of the city, behind the ancient walls, you can see Ljubljana Castle. Over the centuries, the castle has played an important role and remained a city symbol.

Built in the middle of the 15th century, the castle has become a popular tourist destination. In fact, it offers an outstanding view over the city. My recommendation? Visit it in the evening and enjoy a magical sunset from the top of the tower.

Although surprising, you don’t have to pay anything to enter the castle courtyard. Opened from 10.00 am to 18.00 pm, it is easy to reach walking up the hill or by taking the funicular. Both options are amazing. I took the funicular to go up, and I walked down the hill to go back to the old town.

Other interesting spots

Neboticnok Skyscraper

Outside the old town you can find Neboticnik. It is a skyscraper with a rooftop terrace from where you can enjoy stunning views of the entire city. To come up there you do not need to pay anything, just if you order something in the bar.

Zitni Most Bridge

This part of the city is really beautiful if you want to discover a less touristic area. In fact, I had a great time here since it was a lively area but more quiet than the old town. Locals were chilling around and I enjoyed a tasty brunch at Ek Bistro.

Traditional Slovenia Food

Another great place I found to try traditional Slovenian dishes is Slovenska Hisa – Figovec, a restaurant not far away from Neboticnok tower where I tasted delicious traditional dishes and desserts. Highly recommended!

 

Your turn

Have you ever been to Ljubljana? What did you like the most? Is there any other recommendation you would like to do?

In case you want to share your experience, feel free to leave a comment below or to contact me via social networks. I am always thrilled to read your adventures!

 

 

 

*Please, note that I am not an English native speaker. Therefore, you may find some spelling mistakes in this post. Feel free to let me know it and help me improve my English skills.

6 Best Things to do in Lake Bled

Lake Bled is one of the most known places in Slovenia and one of the most visited ones. This magical, magnificent lake has one lone island where a charming church is located. There is no doubt that this is a Slovenia must-see. I had the chance to spend one day around and this is a once-in-a-life experience.

What to do in Lake Bled?

Ring the Wishing Bell

There is a legend dated from more that 500 years ago, that says that whoever rings the bell will have their wish come true.

To spend some time in the church there are two options:

  • To rent a boat and paddle around the lake – You do not need prior experience to do this but be ready to feel a bit unstable at the beginning. The drive takes around 10-15 minutes and it costs €20 per hour.
  • To rent a Pletna boat – This is a traditional wooden boat. You just need to sit down and enjoy the ride. It costs around €15 per person.

Traditionally visitors should walk the 99 steps leading to the Assumption of Mary Church, where you can ring the Wishing Bell.

Visit Lake Bled Castle

To enjoy one of the best views of Lake Bled you should visit this 1000 years old castle.

This is the oldest castle in Slovenia, dating to the year 1011. On a visit there, sept onto the lake-facing terraces and enjoy the spectacular view. The castle includes a museum detailing the history of Bled, and a restaurant with a wine cellar.

Bled Castle Opening Hours:

08:00 – 18:00: From January to March + November and December

08:00 – 20:00: From April to June + September & October

08:00 – 21:00: July & August

Take a Stroll around Lake Bled

Ready for a walk around a magical lake? In this case Lake Bled is the perfect place. It takes around 1 hour to walk the 6km distance, depending on how many times you stop to take pictures, and the views are stunning.

Personal tip: Do it at sunset… 😊

Hike to Mala Osojnica

If you are a hiking person, the walk to Mala Osojnica is the perfect plan for you. It is a quick hike, a little bit tough sometimes but the reward is a unique view of Lake Bled.

During the climb you will spend most of the time under the cover of trees. You know you are getting close to the top when you see the metal staircase. The main viewpoint – Mala Osojnica – is five minutes away from the stairs.

The entire hike takes one hour and you do not need hiking shoes, although I would recommend you to use them. Some running shoes could also be a good option in this case.

Visit Vintgar Gorge

Nearby you can visit Vintgar Gorge, one of the most amazing nature spot in the country. To access the gorge just walk the wooden boardwalk that follows the river to a waterfall.

Try Bled Cream Cake

Although every café in Slovenia serves it, the original source of Bled Cream Cake is Park Hotel.

This delicious dessert is one of the most popular ones in the country. It is said that the hotel is serving up Bled Cream Cake since 1953, shortly after the arrival of pastry chef Ištvan Lukačević following the Second World War. Hope you like it!! 😊

 

Your turn

Have you ever been to Lake Bled? What did you like the most? Is there any other recommendation you would like to do?

In case you want to share your experience, feel free to leave a comment below or to contact me via social networks. I am always thrilled to read your adventures!

 

 

 

*Please, note that I am not an English native speaker. Therefore, you may find some spelling mistakes in this post. Feel free to let me know it and help me improve my English skills.

Predjama Castle and The Caves

In one day, you can easily visit three of Slovenia’s most stunning destinations: the Postojna Cave, Predjama Castle and Škocjan Caves.

Postojna Cave is a 24 kilometers long cave system, made up of four caves interconnected through an underground river. This cave is the longest one in Slovenia and one of the longest in all Europe. As interesting fact, German forces used the cave to store 1,000 barrels of aircraft fuel during World War II.

Predjama Castle is one of Europe’s most dramatic castles. This Renaissance castle,  was built in the mouth of a cave halfway up 123-meter cliff around year 1200, but most of what we can see today is from the 16th century.

Škocjan Caves are a unique natural phenomenon included in the UNESCO list in 1986. These caves, one of the largest underground canyons in the world, are truly amazing. They have beautiful stalactites, stalagmites and other rocks formations, but what makes this place so unique is the underground river (Reka River) which disappears into the underground beneath a rock wall.

Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle are near to each other (like 5-10 minutes’ walk), however, from the castle to Škocjan Caves you have around 30 minutes’ drive. To reach them I highly recommend you to rent a car and drive there. It is a one hour drive from Ljubljana and around a 45 minutes drive from the coastal towns.

Postojna Cave

Some important information

To visit the cave you need to book a tour. The price per adult varies from €25,80 to €27,90, depending on the season of the year you visit the cave.

Before the tour starts, a guide will group you according to the language you chose. Guides speak many languages; Italian, English, German… If you speak different languages I highly recommend you to avoid the English group because it is usually the most crowded one.

Inside the cave

Inside the cave there is a constant temperature of 10 degrees. It is damp and chilly, so I suggest you to wear pants and to bring a jacket to avoid cold. If you get cold easily, you may also want to bring gloves and a hat.

The tour of Postojna Cave starts off with a train ride. The journey is around 4km long and it last less than 15 minutes.

The yellow train drives you through a hall with Murano-glass chandeliers. I couldn’t stop taking pictures since I was amazed at what I was seeing. However, I didn’t know that this was not even the best of what the cave had to offer.

After stepping off the train a guide will lead you through the cave, sharing interesting scientific and historical information. You will follow a well lit path and you will see enormous stalactites and stalagmites, the oldest one – open to the public – is 150,000 years old.

I have read many blogs where people say that taking photographs is not allowed. Well, we could take photos (no flash of course) during the whole tour, so I assume it depends on the guide. Therefore, if you want to take photos of this amazing place, ask your guide before starting the tour.

Predjama Castle

Some information

Less than 10 minutes’ walk from Postojna Cave you will find Predjama Castle.

The entrance fee for adults is €11,90 and the opening hours vary depending on the season of the year. If you plan to visit the castle between May and October, the first tour starts at 9:00 am, otherwise you have to wait until 10:00am to enter the place.

If you are planning to visit both the castle and Postoja Cave you can purchase a joint ticket for €31,90.

Inside the castle

The entrance fee includes an informative audio guide with 29 points of interest throughout the castle detailing its history.

During the visit you will find many original items, as well as replicas in the rooms and halls. Thanks to the audio guide you will learn several interesting facts as you walk among them.

The castle itself is easy to visit, although some areas are very narrow and cobbled, so I recommend you to wear compact trainers.

The audio guide tour lasts around one hour. You can also walk through the castle without the audio guide, in this case inform yourself about its history before visiting it, otherwise you will wander through the rooms without knowing what you are seeing.

Once you finish the visit it can be a good idea to drive 30 minutes to Škocjan Caves

Škocjan Caves

Some important information

To visit the caves, you will need to book a tour. There are three different tours:

Through the underground canyon: The first tour takes places at 10:00am every day of the year. The price per adult varies from €16 to €20 depending on the season of the year you visit the cave.

Following the Reka River underground: This route is only available from April to October. The timetable varies depending on the season of the year but the price per adult  remains constant to €12,50. A combined ticket of both tours (1 + 2) costs €24.

Along the Škocjan Education Trails: This tour allows the visitor to learn more about the geology, relief forms and hydrological characteristics of the area. This is also a guided tour and costs €6 every day of the year.

Before the tour starts, a guide will group you according to the language you chose. Guides speak many languages; English, German, Chinese…

In a group of maximum 25 people, you will enter the Škocjan Caves.

Inside the caves

Inside the cave there is a constant temperature of 12 degrees, so it is advisable to bring a jacket and hiking boots or compact trainers to avoid cold and to prevent yourself from the slippery floor.

For an hour and a half, a guide will lead you through the caves, sharing interesting historical and scientific information. You will see enormous stalactites and stalagmites, you will walk across a bridge that sits 50 meters over the river, you will see the largest underground canyon in Europe and you will enjoy a unique uphill, downhill walk.

The tour ends at the natural opening of the cave.

 

Your turn

Have you ever been to Predjama Castle and the caves? What did you like the most? Is there any other recommendation you would like to do?

In case you want to share your experience, feel free to leave a comment below or to contact me via social networks. I am always thrilled to read your adventures!

 

 

 

*Please, note that I am not an English native speaker. Therefore, you may find some spelling mistakes in this post. Feel free to let me know it and help me improve my English skills.

Visit Slovenia: Piran & Izola

Slovenia is mostly landlocked, with the exception of a small part of land that stretches out the Adratic Sea. In this part of the country there are three small coastal towns: Koper, Izola and Piran, which are worth a visit.

Since I was not really sure what to do, my Slovenian colleagues recommended me to visit Izola and Piran, two beautiful towns with incredible views and great seafood restaurants.

Let’s start our visit to the coast of Slovenia in Piran!

Some information about Piran

The colourful town of Piran was part of the Republic of Venice until 1797, then it bounced between Austria, France and Italy until 1991, when it became part of Slovenia (What a mix of cultures! 😊).

Much of the food and architecture in Piran have Italian influences, since this village is located not far away from Trieste. In fact, until the middle of the 20th century, Italian was the official language.

Best things to do in Piran

Tartini Square

Until the end of the 19th century Tartini Square, named after the violinist Giuseppe Tartini, was filled with water. It was not until 1895 when some platforms were added and buildings were constructed forming the square we can see today.

Medieval Walls of Piran

You can walk the medieval walls of Piran to get a unique view over the city.

These walls were built during the times when the village was part of the Republic of Venice to protect it from Turkish invasions.

The Church of St.George

To get another spectacular view of Piran and the coast, climb up the hill to visit the Church of St.George. From the yard, in a sunny day, you can even see the Italian and Croatian coastlines.

The Old Town

The old town is a stunning mix of cobblestone streets and colorful houses.

Wander through the old town, eat some seafood in a restaurant in front of the sea and take a walk until the beach.

Some information about Izola

Izola is a hidden gem located between Piran and Koper. I did not know anything about this town before I visited it. In fact, I planned to visit Koper until my Slovenian colleagues stopped me and recommended me to visit Izola. And thanks God!

The town of Izola was established on a small island by refugees from Aquileia in the 7th century. Its name originates from the Italian word “Isola”, which means Island. It became part of the Republic of Venice in 1267. It was in 1954, when it was first incorporated into Slovenia.

Izola still preserves the fisherman’s traditions. The small harbor is the belly of the town and there you can find nice bars and restaurants. The point where all streets meet is consider the center of the town.

Best things to do in Izola

Church of Mary of Haljaetum

The Church of Mary of Haljaetum dates from the 11th century and it is considered the oldest building in Izola, consecrated to protect fishermen.

This ancient building is generally open during daylight hours.

Church of St. Maurus and The Bell Tower

At the top of Izola stands the Church of St. Maurus, patron saint of the town.

The legend says that when praying to the patron to save Izola people from the Genoese navy, a white dove appeared and drew the nave away from the town.

The church was originally built in 1356 and reconstructed several times in the past centuries, but the original Renaissance design and later Baroque modifications were preserved.

You will find a Gothic bell tower standing beside the church. This bell was built in 1585 and is more than 30 meters high. You can visit and climb the almost 100 steps leading to the top of it.

The Besenghi Degli Ughi Palace

This palace, built in 1781, is one of the most well-preserved Late Baroque monuments in Slovenia.

Nowadays, the palace hosts the Izola Music School and it is used as a venue for wedding ceremonies.

Parenzana bike trail

Enjoy some biking in Parenzana Bike Trail. A trail that connects the three countries of Italy, Croatia and Slovenia.

Your turn

Have you ever been to Slovenia? Is there any hidden gem that I forgot to mention?

In case you want to share your experience, feel free to leave a comment below or to contact me via social networks. I am always thrilled to read your adventures!

 

 

 

 

*Please, note that I am not an English native speaker. Therefore, you may find some spelling mistakes in this post. Feel free to let me know it and help me improve my English skills.

Best things to do in Slovenia

Some months ago I had the good fortune of being able to visit Slovenia. But to be honest, apart from my business meetings I had no idea what to do in Slovenia or even if there were any interesting things to do!

Slovenia has hardly ever been on my list of places to visit. What a mistake! The moment I landed in this country I realized how beautiful it is full of towering mountains and crystal clear rivers.

There are so many things to do and visit in Slovenia, that I think I will have to revisit 😊

I hope by the end of this article you also fall in love with this stunning country and even have booked a trip to visit it.

Best things to do in Slovenia

Visit fairytale city Ljubljana

One of the most obvious things to do in Slovenia is to visit the capital Ljubljana. It is colorful, it is lively and it is packed with interesting museums, architectural gems and gorgeous parks.

More than anything, Ljubljana is incredible pleasant to explore. While you are here stroll the colorful streets, enjoy the unique Slovenian food, observe the many bridges and contemplate the sunset from Ljubljana Castle.

Visit Piran and Izola

These small, colorful coastal towns are considered by locals Slovenia’s gems.

Established in the 7th century, these towns were strategical for fishing. This led to many disputes among neighbors making both towns public enemies during the 13th and the 14th century, when there were “town wars” among them.

When visiting Piran and Izola stroll the streets, enjoy fresh fish or seafood and walk along the sea to enjoy some fresh, Adriatic air.

Here more about these stunning places 

Visit Predjama Castle

Built more than 800 years ago directly into a cliffside, Predjama Castle is the largest cave castle in the world. This castle was run by Erazem of Predjama and when it was under siege, the cave system was used both to get food inside and to get people out safely.

Visiting Predajma Castle is a quick day trip from Ljubljana and can be combined with Postojna Cave, the largest cave system in Slovenia.

Visit Postojna Cave

The Postojna Cave system is a jaw dropping experience. It is a series of 2 million years old caves and halls, some around 24km long. The cave has a constant temperature of 8-10° and with the regular tour you can visit around 5km of the cave (3 of them covered by electric train).

My personal recommendation is that you visit both Predjama Castle and Postojna Cave the same day, since they are not far away.

Visit Lake Bled

One of Slovenia’s most popular destinations.

Sure, Lake Bled is touristy but there are many reasons for visitors to pay a visit to this stunning place. With a castle on the hill, a unique island and hiking trails, Bled is a nice place to visit all year long.

When visiting Lake Bled cycle around the lake, ring the bell of The Church of the Assumption, hike to a viewing point and try Bled cream cake.

Other things to do in Slovenia

Slovenia is an amazing country. Sadly I did not have enough time to visit everything I wanted.

Here you can find other interesting places in Slovenia my Slovenian colleagues recommended me:

Hike Vintgar Gorge

Vintgar Gorge is a short but spectacular hike located just few kilometers away from Lake Bled. Locals come to this picturesque area to escape from the bustling city.

Visiting Lake Bled and Vintgar Gorge is a spectacular, quick trip from Ljubljana.

Drink a glass of wine in Gorica

This beautiful wine regions, close to the Italian border, has medieval cities and stunning vineyards.

Locals consider it as a quiet place everybody should visit once in life.

Visit Maribor

The second biggest city in Slovenia was founded in the 12th century in the east of the country and it is full of interesting monuments.

This beautiful city is also known due to its wine. Vineyards are located just outside the downtown. In fact, you can see them on the surrounding hills. Isn’t it a dream for wine lovers?

Visit Triglav National Park

Triglav National Park is one of the most beautiful areas in Slovenia. Here you can hike, bike, swim, fish or just relax in nature and enjoy the stunning views.

 

This month I will be sharing more experiences about Slovenia. I will create various posts to share more information about the different places I visited.

In the meantime, I hope I aroused your interesting to find out more about this stunning country.

 

Your turn

Have you ever been to Slovenia? Is there any hidden gem that I forgot to mention?

In case you want to share your experience, feel free to leave a comment below or to contact me via social networks. I am always thrilled to read your adventures!

 

*Please, note that I am not an English native speaker. Therefore, you may find some spelling mistakes in this post. Feel free to let me know it and help me improve my English skills.

 

5 best things to do in Madeira

View from Restaurant São Cristóvão, Boaventura

Although it is part of Portugal, the island of Madeira is closer to mainland Africa than it is to Europe. Only 500km away from the Canary Islands and a three-hours flight from Paris, this stunning island is often compared to Hawaii due to its volcanic landscapes. If you are looking for adventure, botanical wonders and dramatic coastlines this is the right place for you.

In this post I have highlighted five reasons to visit Madeira, a destination that offers a glorious climate, a stunning natural scenary and challenging mountain hikings.

Let’s discover together the best things to do in this subtropical island!

1. Ponta delgada and São Vicente

Located in the north coast of Madeira, Ponta Delgada and São Vicente are small villages which economy is based on agriculture, services and tourism. The main attractions in this area are the dramatic “São Vicente Caves” and the festival “Arraial do Bom Jesus”

São Vicente Caves

Formed 890.000 years ago from a volcanic eruption in Paul da Serra, they were first reported by the English naturalist James Yate Johnson in 1885. These are among the first caves of volcanic origin to be opened to the public in Portugal (1st October 1996) and may be visited by following an underground route over 1,000 meters long.

At the end of the tour, visitors are welcome to access the Volcano Center, a pavilion where to discover more about the birth of Madeira and the evolution of the caves among the years.

Arraial do Bom Jesus

If you go to Ponta Delgada in September make sure you see this festival. It takes place the first weekend of the month and it is one of the biggest on the island. Pilgrims come from all over Madeira in a desmonstration of faith to devote the Imaculado Coração de Maria.

The rest of the year, Ponta Delgada is a quite rural area which activity is based on agriculture and some tourism. There you can find a few hotels and high quality local restaurants. Surounded by stunning cliffs and located close to the mountain, this part of the island is ideal if you want to enjoy wild nature.

2. Porto Moniz

Still in the north of Madeira we can find Porto Moniz.

This area is known due to its three natural swimming pools filles with salt water and its black sand beach. This unique pools are formed by natural volcanic rock structures which allow cool, fresh sea water to enter, offering a refreshing experience to visitors. Enter in this pools will cost you only 1 or 2€ per day.

Personal tip: Use some water shoes and a mask to have a better experience

3. Ponta do sol

Situated on the south coast of the island, Ponta do Sol is more turistic than the above mentioned places.

Although the economic activity is based on the primary sector, mostly on the production of sugar cane, bananas and floriculture, Ponta do sol is considered the sunniest point of the island, which is an attraction for both locals and foreigners. Here you can enjoy a cute pebble beach and amazing sunsets.

In case you´d rather enjoy the mountain than the beach, there is another stunning attraction in this municipality: Paul da Serra, the only plateau on the island of Madeira with an altitude of 1,500 meters, from where you can enjoy the stunning views surrounded by indigenous vegetation.

4. Levadas 

Walking along the levadas is one of the main tourist attractions of Madeira. But do you know the origin of this paths?

Levadas are channels of water with a slope originally created to transport the water from the north to the south of the island, where the climate is drier and the population higher. The origin of these paths dates back to the 15th century, when the levadas were created as a way to irrigate sugar and vineyard plantations.

Nowadays, the levadas are an extraordinary way to discover the magnificient nature of the island.

In this post I want to share with you two of my favourite levadas:

Levada das 25 Fontes

This is one of the most popular levadas in Madeira. Its name comes from the number of little waterfalls that you can find once you arrive there. The path is stunning and it allows visitors to admire a wide variety of flora and fauna.

To walk along the 25 Fontes levada I recommend you to wear comfortable mountain shoes and clothes. The climate in this mountain is really damp and warm, therefore do not forget to bring some shorts and something to drink.

It took us around 4 hours to finish the whole path. Would you also like to enjoy this magic place?

Vereda de Ponta de São Lourenço

This mini levada is situated on the very east point of the island. Unlike the “Levada das 25 Fontes”, São Lourenço’s climate is windy and semi-arid, which explains the lack of trees and the low vegetation that you will find along the path.

Walking along this levada you will enjoy stunning rock formations, resulting of the volcanic origin of the island. Take your time to appreciate all details!

After a few kilometers you can find the Sardinha house. If you are wondering why someone would like to live in the middle of a levada, let me tell you that São Lourenço is part of Madeira’s natural park. Therefore, the Sardinha house is the base for a group of people, who work for the park and who are responsible for watching over the area and its species.

Since this part of the island can be very warm and sunny, I recommend you to walk this levada early in the morning. It took us around 3 hours to reach Ponta de São Lourenço and come back.

If you are interested in more Levadas take a look at this page, where you can find more than 50 walks, safety information, points of interest and more!

5. Funchal

The capital of Madeira is located in the south coast of the main island. The majority of the population of this volcanic island live in dramatic Funchal, with abundant plant life, colourful gardens and an eternal spring climate.

There are lots of things to do in Funchal, many of which are free. From cable cars to colonial architecture, this city is a fantastic holiday destination.

Lets explore some of the best things to do in Funchal:

Funchal city

Old town Funchal is relatively flat and easy to explore by foot.  Here are some of the highlights of Funchal that we discovered during our trip:

Santa Maria

In 2010 the project “Arte Portas Abertas” breathed new life into the historical center of the city by turning old, disused doors into works of art. Rua Santa Maria is the best place to enjoy the creativity of local artists.

Funchal Market

Fruit, fresh fish, vegetables, flowers and souvenirs are beautifully displayed in Funchal’s “Mercado dos Lavradores”.

 

 

 

Santa Clara convent

Built in the 16th century, by order of the second captain-major of Funchal, this convent is a valuable heritage for its furnishings. Nowadays, this unique place is still the house of Franciscan Sisters, who kindly open their doors for those ready to admire the stunning Amarante Chapel and the courtyard.

Opening hours:

Monday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm & 15:00 pm – 17:00 pm

Cable car

Ready to enjoy magnificent panoramic views from Funchal?

The cable car is one of the main tourist attractions in the city. It takes you from the old part of Funchal to Monte in around 15 minutes. As you go up the environment evolve and the urbane mesh is substituted by green slopes and flowery hills, with the city and the sea in the background. A stunning experience not suitable for those suffering from vertigo (although one of my companions suffers from vertigo and he took the cable car without hesitation. Yes, he couldn´t move a muscle during 15 minutes 😉 therefore, he took great photos 🙂 ).

Opening hours:

Monday to Sunday: 09:00 am – 17:45 pm

Wicker toboggan ride 

Once you reach Monte you will find a very special type of transport: the Wicker Toboggans, which is a unique experience not to be missed 😉

The “carros de cestos” are produced with wicker and wood. Traditionally, they have two seats and are driven by two men called “Carreiros”, who are dressed in white cotton clothes and a straw hat, using their rubber-soled boots as brakes. The downhill journey is made in about 10 minutes (around 2 kilometers at a speed of 48km/hour) of pure adrenaline. Ready to try it?

Madeira botanical garden

One of the most beautiful, colorful gardens in the island is Madeira botanical garden. Built in 1881 this part of the city was created by the Reid family as a private park. Luckily, this 80,000m² park is now open for everybody ready to enjoy its fascinating collection of a wide variety of plants.

Opening hours: 

Monday to Saturday: 09.00 am -18.00 pm (last admission at 17.30)

Madeira typical food

Espetada

Espetada is made with meat cubes – it can be chicken, beef or pork – in a laurel skewer and grilled on wood. To accompany the dish, locals suggest “Milho Frito” (fried maize).

If you want to try the best espetadas of the island, I highly recommend you the local restaurant São Cristóvão in Boaventura, north of Madeira. Try them while enjoying a stunning view of the blue ocean and the magnificent Madeira’s cliffs.

 

Scabbard Filet

Espada“, or black scabbard fish, is the most typical fish of Madeira. This kind of fish swims in deep waters and has a fearsome appearance, at least before cooked. However, it is really tasty, mostly when they prepare it with some fruit sauce.

Picadinho

Another traditional recipe of Madeira.

Prepared with beef cut into small cubes, fried and seasoned with garlic, “Picadinho” is always a good option if you want to try some local food.

Octopus

Tropical fruits

Bolo do caco

A typical bread made from wheat flour. Its name is due to the way it was traditionally cooked: on a basalt stone called “caco“.

It can be consumed hot as a meal entree, with garlic butter spread to melt, or as a main dish.

 

Your turn

The island of eternal spring, the “Hawaii of Europe”, the blossom island…

Madeira is a stunning place full of exotic plants, tropical fruits, steep cliff edges and beautiful waterfalls.

Have you ever been to Madeira? Is there any other hidden gem in this island you would like to recommend us?

In this case feel free to leave a comment below or to contact me via any social network. I am alway thrilled to read your adventures and suggestions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Please, note that I am not an English native speaker. Therefore, you may find some spelling mistakes in this post. Feel free to let me know it and help me improve my English level.

How to experience the best of Paris like a local

 

While travelling around the globe, understanding local’s customs and way of life is important to feeling like you are connecting with the local culture and community. Paris is a place with deep-rooted traditions and is a city that offers a wide variety of possibilities for both locals and tourists. In 2018 around 40 million people visited Paris area, hitting a new record.

Recently, I asked in IG if you guys wanted to discover what do locals in Paris do. Due to the positive reactions I asked a raised and born Parisian boy to help me writing this post. Loic is a young engineer who is about to show you 10 iconic sights, secret spots and locations you should visit to experience the best of Paris like a local.

1. La butte aux cailles

A hilltop neighbourhood of Paris which was once home to countless windmills and many vineyards.

“It small streets and cozy bars contrast with the noisy, busy areas os Paris” says Loic. “This “oasis” is like a small village inside the city. A haven of peace for those who are looking to experience the real Paris.”

This historically working-class district has become the favourite area for hipsters and artist, providing him with a special charm free of international fashion stores and full of street art.

2. La rue Crémieux

At one time this little cobble street was a “secret place” few people knew about.

This is a colourful residential area which receives its name due to Adolphe Crémieux, a lawyer who defended the human rights of the Jewish people in France. Amid the colourful façades you feel more in Portobello than in Paris. That is the reason why this street is so special” he smiles “However, it is Instagram which is making this street famous”.

He is right, IG is becoming this part of the city the most Instagrammable one irritating its residents. So please, take this into account when you visit this street and avoid being laud and noisy 😉

3. Le parc des Buttes-Chaumont before chilling next to Canal de l’Ourcq

“A green, peaceful oasis in the northeast of Paris. From this park I suggest you to walk until “Canal de L’Ourcq” where you can enjoy a nice aperó at sunset”.

To better understand this park, I would like to share some facts with you.

Before “Le parc des Butter-Chaumont” was opened by Napoleon III, in 1867, it had a sinister reputation. Until 1760, the bodies of hanged criminals were left in this area after their executions. Nowadays, this pleasant spot in the middle of the city has 2.2km of paths, a lake, a suspension bridge and a temple called “Temple de la Sibylle”, a miniature version of the famous ancient Roman Temple of Vesta in Tivoli. A nice place to go for a casual stroll under the sun.

4. Le pavillon de l’Arsenal

A center for information, documentation and exhibition of the urban planning and architecture of Paris.

“Here you can better understand the evolution of the city of Paris throughout its architecture. You can also enjoy their regular temporal exhibitions about new architectural and urban projects. And, it is for free!“.

5. Restaurant “Au dernier metro”

Close to the Eiffel Tower there is a lively, welcoming restaurant where Parisians like to spend some time gathering with friends and relatives while enjoying a nice meal.

“It is an authentic Parisian restaurant. It is located in front of the metro. Here you can meet locals and enjoy a nice beer. My suggestion is to order a “planche de charcuterie” (a plate of cold meats & cheese) and a glass of good french wine”.

6. Have a crepe in “Le petit Josselin” next to Tour Montparnasse

“A small, cozy crêperie with tasty crêpes and galettes. It is located nearby the “Tour Montparnasse”. In fact, my recommendation is to first visit the top of the building Montparnasse and then to come downstairs and to enjoy a delicious “crêpe caramel au beurre salé” :)”.

7. Bar “À bulles”

Located next to Pigalle is a cozy bar/restaurant which offers a wide variety of tapas and local apéritifs.

“This bar is a hidden gem in the middle of Place Pigalle and the area of Moulin Rouge. They open from Tuesday to Sunday until 2 am in the morning, so you can either go for a drink in the evening or have lunch at midday.”

Find more information in the website: Bar à Bulles

8. Le Marais

“If you like to have brunch on Sunday morning this is your place.”

Le Marais is a historical medieval area of Paris converted into a bobo (bourgeois bohème) quartier full of wine shops, fashionable art galleries, fashion boutiques, trendy stores, restaurants and hotels.

“This area is a unique one. I like to meet my friends and go for a drink on Friday evening or a meal on Sunday morning. At the same time, every time I need to buy some clothes, I always walk around Le Marais and check all the stores. Here you can find everything!“.

9. Les Catacombes

The Catacombes are ossuaries located under the streets of Paris which contain the remains of around six million people. These ossuaries were created to provide the overflowed Parisian cemeteries with a solution.

The entrance to this underground cemetery is located in the Place Denfert-Rochereau, a square known by locals as the place where most demonstrations and protest marches in Paris either start or end.

“The Catacombes are a travel in time. They are a network of underground tunnels that you cannot find in many countries. To visit the Catacombes is a unique opportunity to understand the history of France.”

10. Cine UGC les Gobelins

Have you ever thought about going to the movies in Paris?

“If you ever plan to go to the movies while visiting Paris I highly recommend you to go to Cine UGC. This theater is located at the entrance of Mouffetard street, the party place of the city. So after the movie you can directly go to enjoy a glass of wine and a dance night.”

 

Your turn

Have you ever been to Paris? Is there any other hidden gem you would like to recommend us? In this case feel free to leave a comment below or to contact me via social network. I am alway thrilled to read your adventures and suggestions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Please, note that I am not an English native speaker. Therefore, you may find some spelling mistakes in this post. Feel free to let me know it and help me improve my English level.

What to do in Jiufen

If you are staying more than a couple of days in Taipei I highly recommend you to spend some time in Jiufen, a nice traditional taiwanese village located two hours away from Taipei.

Although Jiufen was founded during the Quing Dynasty, it became popular when gold was discovered in the area. The gold industry carried this city industry until the 60´s. From the 90´s onwards, this gold mine town became really popular among tourists.

The name Jiufen (Chiufen – EN: nine pieces) comes from an ancient legend. Regarding this legend, nine families used to live in this town. Since going to the market was a huge inconvenient due to the lack of transportation the nine families came to an agreement; whenever one family went to buy groceries at the market, they would have to divide them into nine pieces, each for each family.

Jiufen Old Street

Located within hills, next to the mountains and facing the ocean, Jiufen Old Street is known for its foggy weather and its beautiful views. The street is full of local snack vendors, traditional products and souvenirs stores.

Among the various snack vendors you can find some Jiufen traditional food such as taro balls, fried meat balls and taro cake. In addition, chinese tea houses are really popular among both locals and tourists.

Instead of having lunch on the street surrounded by locals and thousand of tourists – be careful, Jiufen is so trendy that its old street is usually crowded with people in the noon time, especially on the weekends- we decided to stop in a nice cafeteria with natural juices and beautiful views.

Temples in Jiufen

Jiufen is not only a touristic old street. If you are curious enough, I highly recommend you walk up the main road to the top of the hill.

On the way you will find a first temple – which was full of locals praying and some tourists – and at the top of the hill you will find a second one, – to find this temple you may need to get yourself lost among all the tiny Jiufen non-touristic roads. This is quite an adventure! and locals are so nice…! :). Sadly, I don´t know the name of this second temple, however, I still remember the peaceful, good vibes that we could feel up there. In fact, we were alone in the temple, no locals and no tourists. A heaven of peace!

Another interesting – and really well-known – temple is Fushan Temple. This 200 years old temple is dedicated to Tudigong, the God of Earth, and it is an interesting blend of Japanese, Chinese and Western elements.

How to get to Jiufen?

There are two different possibilities to reach Jiufen from Taipei:

Train to Riufang and then bus to Jiufen From Taipei Main Station – Take a train to Riufang – the views during the trip are really interesting. Once you reach Riufang, leave the train station behind you and go straight, cross the main square and turn left.  After a 5 minutes walk – you can always stop at a local vendor to buy some tasty tea – you will reach the bus stop. Don´t worry, you won´t get lost! All tourists are walking the same direction 😉 There you will find all the information related to the bus and its schedule.

Direct bus to Jiufen – Apparently there is a direct bus from Taipei to Jiufen. At that time we were recommended to take the train, so we could make other stops if we wanted to.

The bus starts at Zhongxiao Taipei Station and it drives you directly to Jiufen Old Street.

Your turn!

Have you ever been to Jiufen?

This ancient gold-miner town is a once in a lifetime must-see place. Although it is becoming too touristic, this place maintain some ancient charm that makes it special.

I highly recommend you to escape the town bustle to climb the hill, to reach the highest temple of Jiufen and to enjoy a moment of peace staring at the sea. It is a good idea to reconnect with yourself and to recharge some energies while contemplating an amazing view.

Enjoy your time at Jiufen and feel free to send me a photo via IG or Twitter. Share this post or comment below if you want to share your experience with us.

 

 

Must-dos on a short trip to Taipei

Our Taiwan trip is coming to an end…

It took us 10 days to visit the west coast of this magnificent island: Kaohsiung, Kenting, Changhua, Taichung… All were great, beautiful places where we had the chance to learn more about local traditions, local culture and local food 😉 Each city had a positive impact on us. What a country! 🙂

Therefore, we couldn’t finish our Taiwan adventure without visiting the capital of the country: Taipei (and some other places nearby… We love to discover!).

Taipei is the most inhabitant city of Taiwan with an estimated population of almost three million people, as well as the most modern city of the country. Here visitors can enjoy fascinating attractions both modern and historical. And while a three-day break is nowhere near enough time to see it all, here you can find some of the “must-dos” on a short trip to Taipei:

Lungshan Temple

Located in Manka district, this temple was founded in 1738 and dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. Today, Lungshan Temple is no longer the original building constructed at that time. In fact, many deities of Taoism have been included in the temple structure among years.

The present temple consists of three halls: the fore hall, the main hall and the rear hall. The first one is used as the entrance and the space to worship. The second one, located in the center of the whole complex, is home to a statue of Guan-Yi, the main God of the temple. The third hall was added at the end of the 18th century.

Something that fascinated me about this place was the waterfall located at the right corner of temple´s main entrance. This is known as the Waterfall of Cleaning Your Heart.

Tradition says that when visitors come to the temple, they must first clean their hearts with the spring water. In this way they can clean their minds and dignify their bodies, so that they are in a good position to worship the Buddha and learn the wisdom.

 

Taipei Liberty Square

This magnificent square known as Liberty or Freedom Square, is a massive 240.000 square meter plaza located in the Zhongzhen District.

This place is dedicated to leader Chiang Kai-Shek and it hosts many of Taipei´s public gatherings. In fact, the National Theater and the National Concert Hall are located in this complex and they host over 8000 different events each year.

Bopiliao Old Street

Bopiliao Old Street is located in Wanhua, one of the oldest districts in Taipei. This area has undergone different historical periods during his 200 years of history, starting all the way back in the Ching dynasty period, running through the Japanese occupation to the post World War II period.

Between 2000 and 2009 the government repaired the buildings, built a Culture Center and invited artists to decorate the street. Today, Bopiliao Old Street is full of creative paintings, as well as of stores such as a barbershop, a Chinese medicine store, clock stores and a tea house.

Ximending

This part of the city got its name due to its position outside the west gate of Taipei City. During Japanese times, this was a wilderness area through which there was a road connecting the west gate and Bangka (now called Wanhua). Later, the Japanese decided to set up a business and entertainment area.

One building which perfectly represents this area – as well as one of the oldest buildings in this part of the city – is the Red House Theater, built in 1908. The inside of this building consist of two remodeled floors full of Taiwanese indie, modern art galleries and fashion stores. It is really interesting to take a look around!

Nowadays, Ximending is known as the shopping district of Taipei. In fact, young people like to meet here to enjoy tasty food, have some tea, go shopping or enjoy the last blockbuster at the movies.

What can you find at Ximending?

  1. Tattoo Street – One of the most interesting things you can find in this area is its famous Tattoo Street, where you can get a nice, high quality tattoo.
  2. Penis cakes – Yes, you can find thousand of different flavours
  3. Claw machines – Since I arrived to Taiwan I was impressed because you can find claw machines all around the country (even in some Buddhist temples!!). There are probably dozens of these machines all around Ximending, so you won’t have to look far to find one.
  4. Graffiti Lane – Also called America Street, is full of incredible graffiti-works made by famous Taiwanese graffiti artists.
  5. Nice cocktails – Just behind the Red House, you can find the city’s largest LGBT district, which is a welcome-all environment and Taipei’s best collection of outdoor bar patios.
  6. Tasty Sushi – Have you ever thought about eating sushi from a Conveyor Belt Choo Choo Train? In Taipei it is possible! In fact, if you like sushi this is a nice place to enjoy some fresh row fish.

Memorial Sun Yat Sen

Located in Xinyi Distric you can find a memorial to Sun Yat Sen, the founder of the Republic of China.

The hall contains displays of Sun´s accomplishments and today it is a meeting ground for social, cultural and educational activities.

At the main entrance there is a statue of founding father for the public to pay their respect. Outside the main building there is a nice park which includes decorative historical walls and beautiful gardens.

Taipei 101

Probably you have already heard about the tallest building in the world until 2010, year when Burj Khalifa succeeded to the throne. This dramatic building is one of the most photographed spots in the whole Taiwan. We decided to spend one day visiting Taipei 101 and the surroundings, which were built to support the tower´s feng shui and to prevent positive energy to escape.

Although the construction of Taipei 101 started in 1999, it was not until 2004 when it finished. This magnificent, full of symbolism building incorporates a steel pendulum – the largest and heaviest in the world – that sways freely to offset the movement of the building itself. In this way, this enormous pendulum can counteract and help Taipei 101 tower to survive potentially destructive nature forces such as typhoons and earthquakes.

Visitors can see the pendulum once they reach the observation deck. In fact, it has became so popular that it has a mascot 🙂

Some other interesting facts about Taipei 101

  • Height – 508 meters, from which the highest occupied floor is at 438 meters
  • Owner – Taipei Financial Center Corporation. There are many companies based on the tower as well as five floors underground which are home of brand stores and restaurants.
  • Elevator – Inside the tower you can find 61 elevators, which have atmospheric controls to keep passengers´ears from popping. The two fastest elevators (Toshiba Ultra Speed Elevators) inside the building move at a speed of 1.010 meters per min. They are considered one of the fastest elevators in the world since they just need 30 seconds to travel from the ground to the roof.
  • Sundial Tower – This enormous tower is known as the tallest sundial in the world. A circle-shaped park surrounding the building was built to support the tower’s feng shui, as well as to reinforce the sundial effect idea.
  • French Spiderman – French climber Alain Robert climbed Taipei 101 legally on Christmas Day in 2004
  • Tower colours – The tower lights up in different colors depending on the day of the week.
  • Observation decks – Taipei 101 has both indoor and outdoor observation decks. I have been there with people suffering from vertigo, so do not worry if you are one of them. You can do it! 😉
  • New Year´s Eve – Since 2005, Taipei 101 is the place-to-be in New Year´s Eve. Fireworks at Taipei 101 attract thousand of locals and visitors every year.

Elephant mountain

Officially known as the Xiangshan Hiking Trail, the Elephant Mountain is the perfect place to have the most amazing view possible of Taipei 101 – and of Taipei city in general-. This hiking trail is a very straightforward path. The entire trail is 1.4500 meters long and it takes about 1 hour to complete it. If you do not have so much time, or motivation, you should at least reach the top of the mountain to enjoy the view.

From the beginning of the path – it is a climb full of stairs and Taiwan weather can be really hot, so please do not forget to take some water with you – you can make it to the top in about 15-20 minutes if you are in good shape, if not, do not panic! There are plenty of rest stops and seats all around the path.

If you decide to continue on this path, after getting awesome shots of Taipei´s skyline, you will reach a trail down and some facilities.

Traveller hint: I recommend you to do it or early in the morning or in the late evening, to avoid both tourists and hot weather.

Jiufen

Located less than one hour away from Taipei you can find this picturesque city called Jiufen. If you are able to spend more than one day in Taipei, I highly recommend you to spend some time in Jiufen and to get lost in Jiufen Old Street.

Check the post I wrote about what to visit in Jiufen and discover more about this place – and how to reach it from Taipei.

Must do in Taipei

Mango Shaved Ice

There is one great refreshing snack that we should import to Europe 🙂 and that visitors should try – it is traditional from Taipei.

The mango shaved ice is a bowl of shaved ice topped with fresh mango, mango ice-cream and sweet mango sauce. The bowl is huge and I recommend you to share it (unless you are super ultra hungry 😉 ).

Your turn!

Have you ever been to Taipei?

The capital of Taiwan is a city full of contrasts and nice surprises.

Taipei 101 is the main attraction of the city, however, other parts of the city have also some special charm that makes the visitor fall in love with it.

I highly recommend you to spend a couple of days walking around and discovering the different areas of Taipei. You can find really cool traditional galleries and stores hidden among modern buildings!

Enjoy your time at Taipei and feel free to send me a photo via IG or Twitter. Share this post or comment below if you want to share your experience with us.

It was a pleasure to share this adventure with you & to read your opinions via different social networks. Thank you!

 

Discover Kenting

To continue our taiwanese trip we decided to drive to the southern part of the island.

Therefore, after spending a couple of days in the beautiful city of Kaohsiung, we took the Kenting Express bus to go to Kenting.

It took us less than two hours to arrive to this picturesque seaside town, whose lively streets welcome visitors with lights and music.

This part of the island is a tourist attraction for taiwanese and chinese people who want both, to enjoy some peaceful days at the beach and to discover natural parks.

If you are planning to visit Kenting, I highly recommend you to avoid chinese new year and summer season, since the national park can be really crowded and hotels can duplicate their prices.

Ready to find out what to visit in the unique seaside town of Kenting?

Kenting National Park

Kenting National Park (Eluanbi Park) is open from 7 am to 5:30 pm.

This area is a great spot if you are into hiking. I would recommend you to choose a non-rainy day to visit the park, otherwise, the path will be wet and slippery.

If hiking is not for you, you can always either rent a scooter or get a tourist bus to visit the National Park.

A nice spot located at Kenting National Park is the renowned Eluanbi lighthouse, nestled on a green grassy hill. Built during the Qing Dynasty, in 1883, this unique lighthouse suffered serious damages during the World War II and had to be re-built in 1962. Today, this iconic place is still functional and, at the same time, is held as a historical monument admired (and photographed) by tourists who visit the National Park.

Kenting Beach

A nice place to chill and get some sun while practicing different water activities such as kite-surf or snorkel. If you like calm crystal waters where to explore the deep sea, Kenting Beach is the ideal place for you.

Little Bay Beach

A more hidden, quiet place. Little Bay Beach is a small beach located not far away from Kenting Beach, however, this beach is more quiet and familiar than the previous one. Most of people visiting it are just families or couples looking to chill and swim in the warm sea.

This place is also interesting during the night because the snack bar located at the entrance offers live music until midnight.

If you are looking forward to eat chips and finger food while you get a tan, this is your place. Otherwise, you can always enjoy a nice sunset or a drink in the evening.

Sail Rock

Known as Chuanfan Rock is a huge piece of coral reef rock. The name “sail rock” was given to the rock due to its from,because, from a distance, the rock looks like a sailboat protruding out on the sea.

Situated next to the Sail Rock, there is a small sandy beach popular to practice snorkel, since the area is rich of aquatic life and coral reefs. If you are not into snorkeling, you can always lay down and enjoy the warm water.

Kenting Main Street

How many food stands and restaurants can coexist in one street? If you want to get an answer, come to visit Kenting Main Street where delicious traditional taiwanese food stands and occidental restaurants live together among traditional buildings, which turned into modern hotel rooms.

Something that I really liked about this street was the good vibes you could feel in it. Most of the people knew each other already, in fact, many locals owned a food/drinks stand together with other friends, as a way to earn some money during the weekends, and they were super nice with visitors 🙂

Your turn!

Have you ever been to Kenting?

This southern point of Taiwan is a unique place with a lot to offer.

Kenting National Park is the main attraction, however, Kenting beaches and the town itself have some special charm that makes the visitor feel somewhere else.

This part of the island is far from noise and pollution. It is the perfect place to disconnect from daily crazy routine and to re-connect with yourself and with nature. If you plan to visit Taiwan, I highly recommend you to spend a couple of days relaxing in Kenting. Furthermore, locals are super friendly!

Enjoy your time at Kenting and feel free to send me a photo via IG or Twitter. Share this post or comment below if you want to share your experience with us.

Next time we will travel to the north of Taiwan, to the capital of the island: Taipei. Meet you there!