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.

 

 

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Discover Sun Moon Lake Taiwan

Just 64km away from Taichung (2 hours by bus) lies the unique and dramatic Sun Moon Lake.

The largest body water in Taiwan is also home to the Thao tribe, an aboriginal taiwanese tribe, and a tourist hotspot, mostly during Chinese New Year.

This area offers some accommodations for those who want to spend some days discovering this enormous lake and its surroundings. In our case, we spent a whole day enjoying this majestic place before coming back to Taichung.

First thing we did after getting off the bus that drove us to the lake, was to take a plan of the area at the tourism information office and to check which activities we could enjoy.

Following you can find some information about Sun Moon Lake attractions:

What to do in Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake Circular Walk

After grabbing a coffee at a local cafeteria we decided to explore one of the walking trails at Shueishe Pier (the main pier of the lake). We figured out that we could have a nice walk among nature and take some nice pictures of the clear turquoise waters.

On our way we found some local fishermen and a couple of adventurous who, like us, were enjoying an early morning walk.

 

Sun Moon Lake Shuttle Boat

The quickest way to discover this beautiful lake and its green mountains is to take one of the various ferries that you will find at the Shueishe pier.

Since there are many different ferry companies I recommend you to take a look at this website “Taiwan Sun Moon Lake Boats“. Here you can find all the information related to the different boat operators, their prices and schedules.

If you decide to take a boat tour you will be able to see and visit the following places:

Shueishe Pier

Although Shueishe is the most tourist-oriented part of the lake, it is also a great area to have a nice walk, to enjoy nature and to visit some traditional places such as Longfeld Temple.

Ita Thao Pier

You can get off the boat at Ita Thai Pier and discover the old village of Thao tribe, the aboriginal taiwanese tribe. Here you can get lost among the narrow, colorful street and their food markets. If you want to try some traditional food and buy some souvenirs, this is a nice place to do it.

From the wharf you can enjoy an amazing view to the sun moon lake cable car.

Xuanguang Pier

From my point of view this is, by far, the most interesting spot in Sun Moon Lake.

Once you get off the boat you can enjoy a nice, an maybe crowded, walk until you reach Xuanguang Temple. This beautiful taiwanese temple was built to honor Xauanzang,  a prestigious monk who devoted his whole life to promote Buddhist teachings and it is still one of must-go places for many visitors to Sun Moon Lake.

However, this is not the only temple created to honor Xuanzang. At the top of the mountain, visitors can discover one of the most magnificent temples I have ever seen: Master Xuanzang Memorial Hall.

To be honest, you can reach the temple either by walk or by bus/Car.

I highly recommend you to discover the trail on the mountain, surrounded by nature and wild animals (Do not worry, they are afraid of people, so they tend to hide when you make noise).

We decided to invest some time at Xuanguang and to walk up the mountain until Xuanzang Memorial Hall. Surrounded by nature, we did not find any other tourist on the way – which was a huge surprise for us.

The first image that comes to my mind when I think about the temple is the dramatic views that the visitor can enjoy from its esplanade.

The temple is also really special. On the first floor, it is easy to find solo monks praying on silence. On the second and third floor, the visitor can learn more about Xuanzang story and the importance of this monk  who brought back the original Buddhist sacred texts to translate them himself.  This journey took him twenty years and, since then, his contributions to the Buddhist community were innumerable.

Lalu Island

Located in the middle of the lake, this tiny island was inhabited by Thao people. It is too small and fragile for tourists since it has been half disintegrated due to the building of a dam around 1930, as well as due to the 921-earthquake in 1999. However, you can have a great view of it from the boat.

You can dock the boat at either Shueishe, Xuanguang or Ita Thao Pier and get back when you are done with visiting each part of the lake.

Sun Moon Lake Bikepaths

At the very beginning I talked to you about the Circular Walk. If you prefer to ride a bike instead of having a walk, I recommend you to do not miss out this amazing bikeway that covers half of the lake and allows the visitor to enjoy great views as well as to take beautiful pictures.

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway, with around 1.877 meters length, runs between Ita Thao Pier and Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village. The cable car travels over two mountains with altitudes around 1000 meters.

This ropeway is used as a public transport by locals, as well as a touristic attraction by foreigners ready to enjoy a dramatic view of the lake. The cable cars are designed with three different colors: red, yellow and blue, which represent the sun, the moon and the lake.

Your turn!

Have you ever been to Sun Moon Lake?

This lake is a beautiful area with a lot to offer. Cycling, having a nice walk around the lake, getting ourselves lost among the streets markets and discovering dramatic temples is a unique opportunity you should not miss. This place is stunning!

Enjoy your time at Sun Moon Lake 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 colorful city of Kaohsiung. See you there!

What to visit in Changhua

Located around 2 hours by train from Taichung, Changhua county is the fourth smallest by area and Changhua city is the second largest city in central Taiwan, with a population of around 230.000. The county embraces incredible people, abundant resources, dramatic spots and delicious cuisine.

To continue our trip to Taiwan we decided to spend one day in Changhua in order to visit its famous Great Buddha Statue. However, once we arrived there we discovered that Changhua has a lot of different things to offer.

What to visit in Changhua

Confucius Temple

Built in 1726 to worship Confucius, this beautiful temple hosts the renown Baisha Academy, one of the four most famous academies in Taiwan. The front gate remains always closed except during worshipping day (28th of September), therefore visitors must enter through the side gate.

Lukang Old Street

One of the most popular streets in Changhua. Full of traditional taiwanese food stands, Lukang Old Street hosts many historical buildings such as Yanchanghang.

Buddha Statue of Baguashan

Built in 1961, the Great Buddha Statue of Baguashan used to be one of the biggest Buddha statues in Asia back in the days. This around 25 meter high statue is located in the hill 74 meters above sea level and its interior is separated into various different floors, each of them containing colorful dioramas representing the story of Buddha´s life.

Yes, you can actually walk around inside the monument!

It is very interesting the fact you can climb the stairs up and down to learn more about Buddha and his life. If you are a religious person you can use the ground floor to find some inner peace and pray.

Around this dramatic Buddha you will find various different statues, each of one representing something different. The most symbolic ones are the different Buddha statues (Laughing Buddha, Wise Buddha…) and the 12 Buddhist Zodiac Signs (the rabbit, the rat…).

 

Following the the statues you will find to the Great Buddha Temple, located behind the huge Buddha statue and built in 1972.

This temple is quite special since it is a combination of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian beliefs in one single community. Divided by three floors, always accessible for the visitor,  the first one is dedicated to Confucius, the second one enshrines the Taoist God of War (Guan Yu) and the third one is dedicated to the practice of Buddhism. Beside the temple you will find two beautiful 9-floor pagodas.

From the balcony located at the third floor you will enjoy from one of the most beautiful views ever. Starting from the whole esplanade, in the middle of which you will recognize the draw of a lotus flower, and finishing with the panorama of the whole Changhuan City. This area is known as the highest point of Changhua and it is the ideal place to find some inner peace, to have a relaxing walk and to discover more about the asian culture.

Behind the temple you will find a pond full of enormous, colorful fishes and beside it you will find more nice Buddha statues and some private areas only accessible for monks and Confucius students.

Never mind if you are not religious at all. This place is so dramatic that I recommend you to spend at least half a day discovering it. If you go during the weekend, you will probably find locals enjoying the beautiful sunset and dancing traditional music nearby the lighted water fountains located all over the place.

How to arrive to the Buddha Statue of Baguashan

There are two different ways to arrive to the top of the hill.

To go up we decided to take the “nature walk”, which means that we started from the Changhuan City Library and we followed the path up to the hill. During the walk we discovered a small old house from where we could take nice pictures of the city (some locals where have lunch and enjoying a nice talk there) and the Baguashan Silver Bridge.

To come back to the downtown we took the most touristic walk, let´s call it the “city walk”. From the Buddha Statue we descended the whole way nearby the parking. This is also a nice walk since the way is full of ancient God statues, some of which we did not know before.

Lukang Mazu Temple

Another historical temple that you should visit is the Taoist temple dedicated to Matsu (the God of the Sea). Here you will appreciate the image of black-faced Matsu, and a huge display of weapons.

This area is pedestrians only and if you decide to visit it during the weekend, you will find out a really nice market where local vendors will gently offer you some local Taiwanese snacks.

What to eat in Changhua

Visiting Changhua, as well as visiting Taiwan, means getting lost among its multiple food markets. So, if you want to enjoy the Changhua experience you should try some traditional meals including the tasty Changhua Meatball.

How to arrive to Changhua

  • If your first travel destination after landing in Taipei is Changhua, you should know that there is a bus (less than 3 hours journey) that covers the route Taipei Airport-Changhua.
  • If you are planning a day trip from Taipei the best option is to travel by train. You can choose between Taiwan High Speed Rail and regional trains. The price you will pay in case you take the THSR can be twice as the regional trains price (around 400NT$).
  • If you are enjoying some time in Taichung – do not hesitate to take a look at my last post containing some tips about what to visit in Taichung – and you want to escape from the city, I recommend you to take a regional train from Taichung HSR Station (less than one hour journey).

Your turn!

Have you ever been in Changhua? Do you know any other interesting places to visit in this area? If so, feel free to share your thoughts leaving a comment below 🙂

 

Trip to be continued….

What to visit in Taichung

To start our taiwanese trip we will travel all around the city of Taichung, a taiwanese hidden gem chosen by locals as the best destination in Taiwan. The attractiveness of the city originates in its architectural mix, its lively streets, its mild climate and the kindness of its citizens.

Taichung is the second largest city of Taiwan with 2.7 million inhabitants and it is known to be the house of the famous, tasty bubble tea (still don´t know the taiwanese bubble tea? Just keep reading then 😉 ).

While endeavoring to achieve modernization with the construction of new, modern buildings as well as remember the past, Taichung strive to position as the second most important city of Taiwan (today this honor belongs to Kaoshiung).

What to visit

Let´s make a tour around the city to discover some amazing spots you should take into account when preparing your trip to Taiwan:

Central District

Konfunzious Temple

Built around 1976 Confucius Temple is a peaceful oasis in the middle of Taichung´s downtown.

This incredible temple follows the construction-style of the Song Dynasty by mixing sobriety and simplicity together with vivid colors and decorated roofs and beams. In the galleries located at the side of the main courtyard the visitor can find various classrooms and a library, where traditional arts are taught.

This temple is usually used by young couples as the perfect landscape for their pre-wedding photo album.

Yizhong Street Night Market

If you want to experience the real, ancient Taiwan lifestyle you CANNOT miss this unique night market.

Located closed to Taichung´s University, this area accommodate thousand of students willing to enjoy its young, trendy culture with many fashion stores and tasteful finger food such as stinky tofu (you can feel its smell since the moment you approach the market), baozi or fried chicken.

Among its specialities you will also find cold tea, watermelon juice and the famous bubble tea.

Haven´t you ever heard about it?

Bubble tea was invented in Taichung in the 80s. Although there are many varieties of this unique drink, the original recipe contains a tea based mixed with milk, tapioca balls (know as bubbles 😉 ) and fruit jelly such as lychee.

North District

Paochueh Temple

A nice walk from the city center will lead you to Paochueh Temple.


Beautiful isn´t it?. Wait to discover its dramatic (laughing) Buddha statue (the largest in Taiwan). I fell in love with it! 🙂

 

Feng Chia Night Market

Described as a “sensory feast for both eyes and palate”, this is the most touristic and large (around 1 km) market in Tiachung.  Always full of people (during the weekend around 30.000 people usually visit it), this market boast about exotic and delicious food such as crepes, stinky tofu, cheese potatoes, low-calorie ice-cream, bread with fried noodles and many more. Furthermore, due to its proximity to Feng Chia University, visitors can also find a wide range of low-cost fashion and tech stores.

Shengang District

Balloon Museum

Taiwan Balloon Museum is in fact an over-50-years-old balloon factory located in the residential area of Shengang. Here visitors can take an informative journey to discover how does the manufacturing process of balloons work. In addition, the museum offers rubber balloon DIY workshops and guided tours.

An original plan for children and not so children 😉

Taiping District

Earthequake Museum

On September 21, 1999, Taiwan experienced one of its worst natural disasters ever, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake that destroyed the central part of this amazing island. The earthquake museum was built in order to honor the victims of this catastrophe, as well as to raise citizens awareness and show them how to act in case of earthquake.

West District

National Taichung Theater

Ready to walk on the roof of an opera house?

The National Taichung Theater is an opera house and multifunctional space which includes:

  • Grand Theater: A 2007 seats cozy, red-themed theater
  • Playhouse: An ocean blue space where musicals and concerts usually take place
  • Black Box:  A black interior space for experimental theater performances
  • Outdoor theater: Covering 1000 square meters, the theater is surrounded by transplanted trees that creates a beautiful natural space, which, by the way, is linked to the Black Box
  • Sky Garden: Visiting the Sky Garden is like entering a different world. The space, surrounded by skyscrapers, is a great area for outdoor concerts. This sixth floor venue is accessible via elevator

National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

Great museum with exhibitions mostly focused on taiwanese art, although all the time there are temporary exhibitions. The building itself is splendid and it has been  rebuilt after the 921 earthquake.

Where to sleep

Love I

Located just a short 4-minute walk from Feng Chia Night Market, it is a pretty cozy place, nicely decorated and with own private bathroom.

Talmud Hotel

Located in the central district, 1-minute walk from Yizhong Street Night Market is an ideal european style hotel with private bathroom and taiwanese breakfast.

Wowwow House

Located near by Taichung Park and surrounded by restaurants, Wowwow House is a taiwanese cozy hotel whose rooms own private bathrooms.

Where to eat

Street food

  • Fengchia Night Market
  • Yizhong Street Night Market

Hint: Try both stinky and spicy tofu. Tasty!!!

Hot Pot

  • Modern Toilet

European Food

Japanese Food

  • Chung You Department Store

Did you like the post? Motivated to include Taichung in your bucket list? If you want to share more information about this dramatic city feel free to leave a comment below 😉

To say goodbye I want to share more pictures with you (Remember: Next stop Sun Moon Lake 😉 ):

 

 

 

 

8 reasons why you should visit Taiwan

 

After 22 hours travel (including three flights with Cathay Pacific – first time with them and I fell in love with the company), a 3 hours sleep night and two films + 3 episodes of Sex and the City, I finally arrived to Taiwan 😊.

Let me confess that this wonderful country was not in my bucket list. In fact I had never thought about visiting it until a good friend of mine moved there. So, I basically took my decision based on a good friendship. What am I trying to say? Well, let’s be honest: I had no clue about what I could expect from Taiwan. I had no idea about the country, its people, its culture…

Now that I am back in occident I can strongly say that Taiwan should also be in your bucket list, in fact, you should consider Taiwan as your next holidays destination.

To understand why I am saying this I want to invite you to visit my blog within the next weeks, when I am going to tell you more about this amazing place and I am also going to give you a lot of tips to prepare your trip.

Today, to start this blog series about this idyllic asian island I would like to share with you the 8 main reasons why you should visit Taiwan.

Are you ready? Then… Let´s go!

1. The people

No words to describe the kindness of Taiwanese people. Even though most of them do not speak English, they are always willing to help you.

Yes! This trip allowed me to improve my chinese skills 😊

2. The wide amount of beautiful temples

Taiwanese are quite religious with many beautiful temples dotted all around the country.

Do not feel a little intrusive when visiting them, locals are extremely welcoming to tourist that do. However, do not forget that temples are sacred buildings where some rules should be followed.

In the coming weekends I will show you some of the most amazing temples in Taiwan.

3. Taipei is home of the 8th biggest building of the world

Taipei 101 (the figure denote the number of floors) was the tallest building in the world until 2010. This is not only a business building, but also a great place for tourists. From its observation deck on the 91st floor the view is dramatic (I will tell you more on a post dedicated to Taipei 😉 )

4. The dramatic landscapes

When Portuguese sailors first saw Taiwan in the 1500s they literally fell in love with the landscape of the island. In fact, the called it “Ilha Formosa” (beautiful island) and the name remained until the arrival of the Ming dynasty.

5. They have a balloon and an earthquake museum

Can you believe it? I was so amazed when I found out about the balloon museum… I couldn´t even imagine the existence of such a museum!

And the earthquake one? Thanks to it I learnt that Taiwan sits on the same earthquake “ring of fire” as Japan and California.

In 1999 Taiwan experienced a magnitude 7.3 earthquake, its worst in recent memory, which killed 2.400 people. Apparently, the museum was created to inform and raise awareness on how to act in case of an earthquake.

I have never heard about this kind of museums. What about you?

6. Taiwanese food is considered one of the best of the world

Ready to try it?

Within the next weeks I will give some hints about where to eat in the different cities that we will visit together 😉

7. The hiking trails

Taiwan offers tourists a wide hiking trails opportunities, from light treks to real climbs. One of the most known places to hike are Taroko National Park and the beautiful Kenting National Park.

8. Their night markets

While the country is pretty lively during the day (let´s say from 10.00 am onwards), it is when the sun goes down when the island of Taiwan really wakes up and becomes alive.

Taiwan is full of night markets where you will find delicious street food, clothes and tech products. If you really want to understand the Taiwanese way of life, you must definitely visit its night markets.

Taiwan Post Series

Ready to visit the country now?

Within the next weeks we will start a trip visiting many different places such as Taichung, Jiufen, Kenting or Taipei on the blog.

Together we will discover more about the taiwanese culture, its history, its food, its people and its traditions. (If we are connected via IG, I am sure that you have already seen some of my taiwanese pictures 😉 )

Our first stop will be the dramatic city of Taichung.

Next week we will discover more about the third largest city of Taiwan and, at the same time, the most traditional one.

Have a nice week and see you soon! 🙂

 

* when I talk about “tourists” you must take into account that Taiwan is not known for being an international holidays destination, so most of the tourists visiting the island are local or chinese ones.

Visit Bilbao & Eat Pintxos

Last year Bilbao celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Guggenheim museum, a building that supposed an urban relaunch in which the industrial past of this city was overlaid with green areas and modern architecture.

Most of art lovers around the world started to look at this city as “the next place to visit”, almost all Spaniards got rid of their prejudices and the most relevant travel experts placed Bilbao (finally) on the map. Thankfully, the old Basque traditions still remain intact. Despite the constant growth in visitors’ number, Basque people still maintain their ancient soul. Eating pintxos and supporting Athletic de Bilbao are still part of their lifestyle.

Bilbao is a great city for people interested in food, architecture, history and even music (Bilbao yearly hosts different music festivals, the most popular one is the BBK Live, maybe you have already heard about it).

Although the vast majority of visitors come to Bilbao attracted by the Guggenheim Museum, most of them go back home having discovered an unique place full of charm. And that is what I would like to show you with this post, a living city opened to embrace visitors and to share their culture with them.

What to visit in Bilbao

Casco Viejo

A good way to start discovering Bilbao is to visit the core of the city, the place where it all started: “Siete Calles” (Seven Streets), the old town of Bilbao.

Bilbao, as we all know it, started as a seven streets village located in the middle of two mountain ranges which gained importance in Spain due to its port activity. Nowadays, the old town looks much different as before. Its ancient narrow streets are closed to traffic allowing the visitor to get lost among renamed places such as the 14th century Santiago Cathedral, the Unamuno square (which honors the Spanish writer with the same name), Plaza Nueva (the most important square of the old town reconverted, nowadays, into a “place to be” for all pintxo lovers), Mercado de la Ribiera (the ancient Bilbao´s market, nowadays reconverted into a modern one. Check it here: http://www.lariberabilbao.com/en/ ) and Teatro Arriaga (the historical theater of Bilbao)

The neighboring area of Bilbao La Vieja has a similar history and vibe but it has started to attract artists and gallery owners, after years of controversy. This renovated part of the city is becoming popular among young and middle age people who like to try new, modern restaurants.

Museums

Leaving the old town and walking along the river side we start our way to the two main museums of the city: the Museo de Bellas Artes (Bilbao Fine Arts Museum) and the Guggenheim.

Although the Guggenheim take most of the credit, Bilbao´s ancient museum always organizes a great program of temporary exhibitions. Both museums complement themselves.  On the one hand, the Museo de Bellas Artes, which is part of the city landscape since 1914, has one of the best collections of paintings made by many great Spanish masters like El Greco, Velazquez, Zurbarán or Goya. The Guggenheim museum, on the other hand, has one of the most renowned modern art collections of the world. Its temporary exhibitions as well as the permanent collection are in line with the groundbreaking architecture of the building. Two of the most popular outdoor artworks are the Puppy, a terrier carpeted in bedding plants created by Jeff Koons, and Maman, a tribute to  Louise Bourgeois´ mother created in form of a spider.

Downtown

After this cultural visit I would recommend you to enjoy some refreshment before exploring. A good street to recharge your energy  is Pozas, a traditional meeting point for locals.

Following I will show you three different ways to walk from the Guggenheim until Pozas (do not forget the name of this place 😉 )

River path

Leaving the Guggenheim and walking along the river side we start our river path. As you may already know, Bilbao experienced an architectural transformation the last 20 years which meant a radical change not only on its image to the outside world but also on its economy.

Walking along the Nervión (Bilbao´s river) is a good way to understand and to discover this transformation. Next to the Guggenheim we can find two modern university libraries (one belonging to the private and the other one to the public university) located just in front of one of the most ancient buildings of Bilbao: the renowned University of Deusto.

If we continue our way, we will find the highest building of the city: La torre Iberdrola, a modern office  building. Straight forward we reach Doña Casilda park (better known as the ducks´ park) from where we can observe the modern Palacio Euskalduna, a theater and conference hall.

Just walk a couple of steps more to reach Plaza Circular (Circular Square) in Gran Vía, the commercial and financial centre of the city, and the new San Mames football stadium.

At this point we should remember that Bilbainos (people of Bilbao) are really pride of their football team. Why? Since more than 100 years ago, heritage and tradition are hugely important to Athletic de Bilbao Club. In a football world ruled by money and globalization, Athletic has a complete reliance on their cantera (youth basque players playing for Athletic Club in youth league). This non-written policy implies that every player who pulls on the famous red and white shirt is drawn from the Basque Country. This special non-written rule is the soul of Athletic Club that attracts fans not only from Bilbao but from all around the world. If you are one of those who think that this policy could create an inferiority between Athletic and other Spanish teams, let me surprise you by telling you that Athletic is one of the three clubs never relegated from “La Liga” (the others are Real Madrid and Barca).

Starting from this point, just a couple of meters away from San Mames,  perpendicular to Gran Vía, we arrive to Pozas.

City path

Leaving Puppy behind our backs we will start this path which will lead us to Pozas.

Streets such as Mazarredo, Elcano, Iparraguirre or Alameda Rekalde make up the modern “art district”. Among them it is easy to find art galleries, modern pintxos bars as well as gift and antique stores. At the end of this area we will reach Gran Vía, the financial centre of Bilbao, a 1.5 kilometers street long between Plaza Circular and Plaza del Sagrado Corazón. The halfway point is Plaza Moyua (Moyua square), home to the Carlton Hotel and to the shopping area of the city.

Although Moyua contains historical, dramatic buildings, one of the most interesting monuments of this square are the subway entrances.

Designed by Norman Foster, Bilbao´s subway stations are station-caverns made of stainless steel and glass. Inside, the stations are a large basilica-style gallery with two platforms. Outside, at the street level, the entrances are circular canyons made of glass. The renowned architect changed Bilbao´s landscape with this perfect example of engineering and architecture combination. You can find subway stations almost all around the city. It is well worth visiting them.

To reach our destination we just need to walk through Alameda Recalde until Pozas or to enjoy a ride in the subway 😉

Image found on Google Image from the blog Arquitectura en Red

 

Parque de los patos path

Although its real name is “Parque de Doña Casilda” this beautiful park located in the middle of Bilbao is popular known as ‘”Parque de los patos” (Ducks´ park) due to its lake usually crowded by lovely ducks and swans.

At the entrance of this city´s little green lung, appears the previously mentioned Museo de Bellas Artes, whose outdoor exhibition welcomes the visitors of the park. Walking through Doña Casilda Park we can discover a huge variety of trees and plants until we reach Indautxu, a centric area of Bilbao which offers a wide range of stores and businesses, although it is particularly noted for its many pintxos bars and ancient constructions.

Where to eat: The tradition of Pintxos

Pintxos are skewered and bite-sized foods, traditionally pierced with a cocktail stick to attach them to a piece of bread. They range from traditional pintxos to mini haute cuisine experiments such as grilled foie with a cream of blackberry and warm flavoured cheese. When going to have some pintxos, it is important to know that there is no need to order them, you can directly take them from the bar counter. Do not forget to don´t throw away the toothpick attached to it, you will need them to show the barman how many pintxos you ate, so that he can charge you accordingly.

Locals usually eat one or two pintxos with a glass Txakoli (traditional Basque white wine) or Zurito (a small glass of beer) before moving on to the next bar. Resist to sample every pintxo in a single bar, there is always another bar around the corner with more amazing pintxos waiting for you! 😉

But, where can I find Pintxos in Bilbao?

Let me show you the best streets to enjoy this tasty bite-sized foods.

Pozas

The famous Pozas Street is back on the post! Yes, if you remember we came walking from the Guggenheim until Pozas to have some refreshment after our cultural visit to the dramatic Frank Gehry´s building.

Here there are traditional bars such as Restaurante Sotera, Zaharra or Restaurante Serantes. From Pozas, you can follow your gastronomical route in Calle Maestro Garcia Rivero (best pintxo bar of the street: Gozatu) or in Plaza Campuzano (traditional Pintxo bar: Bar el Estoril, highly recommended).

Plaza Nueva

Years ago Plaza Nueva looked different, nowadays it is the new Bilbao´s pintxos area. Reconverted in “the place to be”, many new bars are opening their doors in this part of the old town. The best ones? I would like to recommend you: Bar Sorginzulo, Bar Zuga and Bar Gure Toki. All of them have a great pintxos variety.

Diputación

Classics never die.

Diputación is a small square located in the downtown, nearby the council office (ES: Diputación), full of traditional Bilbao bars. I recommend you to try at least one pintxo in each bar:

  • Bar el Globo: Most popular pintxo – Pintxo de Txangurro
  • Café la Vina: Do not forget to eat jamón there. They have the best one in the entire city
  • Bar Zurekin: Try one Pintxo de Bacalao
  • Bar la Olla: Really tasty Tortilla de Patata

What else to visit in Bilbao

Before leaving this beautiful basque city I would like to recommend you a couple of places more to visit:

Artxanda

You can take a cable car in Plaza del Funicular, a couple of meters away from the city hall, up to the hill to see a fantastic view of Bilbao from above. It is worthy!

Basílica de Begoña

Built on the site where the Virgin appeared in the early sixteenth century, this Gothic Basilica is the sanctuary to venerate the Virgin of Begoña, patron saint of Bizkaia. Thousands of tourists and pilgrims (the Way of Saint James pass through its main arcade) visit this one of the greatest symbols of the city.

Getxo

Ready to drive to the coast? Just take the modern city subway and go to Las Arenas. Have a walk around, visit Puente Colgante and walk along the river side until you reach the beach. Fantastic views!

If you travel in summer you can also go to Larrabasterra or Plentzia to enjoy the beautiful, wild basque beaches.

Did you like the post? Do you want to recommend us another spot? Do you have any question regarding this city? Just leave your comments below or via social networks: FB, IG, Twitter

Have a nice trip!

 

Best places in Germany

Unlike many people think, Germany is not a grey, serious and rainy country but an interesting place to discover something new every day.

After a couple of years living here I have had the opportunity to visit not only the well-known German metropolis such as Berlin or Hamburg, but also small ancient cities and the countryside. If you are willing to come to visit Germany in an unconventional way (by visiting some “non-so-touristic” places) keep reading this post because this week it is starting the “Best Places in Germany” post series. Are you ready to discover this remarkable country?

Best places in Germany (of the week):

Monschau

The first time I heard about Monschau was in December 2014, when I friend of mine advised me to visit its Christmas market. Since I could not do that (it is worthier to visit it during the week, instead of during the weekends) I decided to give this old town a chance during the summer time.

Located nearby the Belgium border, Monschau preserves an ancient style, which provides this small city with a special charm. The city center is divided in two by the Rur river, consequently, the two parts of the city are connected by ancient bridges.

What to visit in Monschau

  • Christmas market

Although I could not visit it (not yet 😉 ) I can imagine the importance and the magnitude of this market, since one of the most visited places in the city of Monschau it is its Christmas store (open all year)

  • Castle Monschau

Most part of the castle is in ruins nowadays. Reused as a hostel after the IWW it is the perfect location to host summer concerts.

  • Market square

The heart of the city. Here the visitor can find restaurants, ancient buildings with flowerbox adornments and remarkable spots to be amazed with the mountains surrounding the city.

Heidelberg

Heidelberg is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany, as well as one of the most important student cities.

Ancient castles, narrow alleys, hilly streets  and beautiful parks and gardens are part of the landscape. Its university is the oldest in Germany and famous for its medical faculty. In Heidelberg, everything is within easy reach either on foot or by bike.

What to visit in Heidelberg

  • Heidelberg Castle

The castle, one of the most important renaissance structures, was started to be constructed in 1210 A.D. and, although, it has been destroyed several times due to different wars it preserves its ancient splendour.

It is worth to visit the main attraction of Heidelberg and it can be seen from each corner of the city.

  • The Altstadt

Down in the Altstadt (the old town) there are plenty of narrow streets and squares full of restaurants, stores and cafes. The main square, Markplatz, is a cute place where to enjoy a good cup of coffee or a Rothhaus Pils, one of the most famous beers of Heidelberg.

  • River Neckar

Having a walk along the River Neckar is always a good idea to avoid the crowds and to re-discover Heidelberg. The view from this side of the river is really cute and, if the weather is good, this area of the city is the best place for a picnic.

  • Alte Brucke

The Alte Brucke (Old Bridge) can be discover after passing through a remarkable medieval gate. The bridge dates from the 18th century and it is the most visited bridge of the city.

Düsseldorf

And last but not least, the beautiful city of Düsseldorf.

The capital of the NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia) Region reflects the development that this area of Germany suffered some years ago.

The old industrial city of Düsseldorf led to a modern, cosmopolitan city, centre of fashion, glamour and international businesses. Known as the german city of fashion, Düsseldorf has the honor to have been ranked as the 6th world´s best city to live in beyond other important cities such as Frankfurt or Berlin.

What to visit in Düsseldorf?

  • Mediahafen

To understand the transformation suffered by this remarkable city it is important to have a walk around its “Mediahafen”. The old port was rebuilt into a modern area full of international business, restaurants and hotels. Frank Gehry, in charge of this transformation, built the most emblematic buildings of this area.

  • Altstadt

The old town is the core of the city. Full of narrow, car-free streets is the best place to discover the ancient Düsseldorf.

  • Königsalle

Ready to have a walk surrounded by the best fashion firms of the world? Just visit the Königsalle.

Special tips:

  1. From the Rheinturm the visitor can enjoy a strinkingly view of the city
  2. Benrath Schloss (the palace of Benrath), located 15 minutes away from the oldtown by subway, has beautiful gardens and tasty home made cakes
  3. Bilk is the best area to enjoy a good meal under the sun
  4. Stadttmite is the place-to-be for sushi and japanese-culture lovers (more than 10.000 Japanese live in Düsseldorf, the largest community in Europe)
  5. An “altbier” tour should be compulsory ;). Do not forget to try the traditional Düsseldorf Beer!

Have you ever been to Germany? Which are your favourite places? Share your thoughts!! 🙂 

Five things to do in Šibenik

 

five things to do in sibenik

If you plan to visit Croatia you should add the town of Šibenik to your bucket list.

Its increasing popularity among tourists is understandable since this small coastal city has endure the test of time remaining as special as ever. But what makes this city so different? For one, the fact that Šibenik is the only dalmatian city built by Croats (cities such as Split or Dubrovnik were founded by different cultures). Second, its ancient monuments, fortress and cathedrals, all of them made of stone.

Still curious about Šibenik? Let´s find out then what to visit in Šibenik:

1. Cathedral of St. James

This UNESCO Heritage cathedral is the number on attraction in Šibenik. This magnificent monument was built  in the 15th and 16th centuries and can be said to be the only cathedral in Europe constructed only with stone.

Although the original dome was damaged by Serbian forces when the city was shelled in 1991, it was quickly repaired providing the cathedral with its original magnificent aspect.

The Cathedral of St. James (listed on the UNESCO World Heritage since 2000) is considered the most important Renaissance building in Croatia.

The ticket to visit this splendid building costs around 15kn (2€)

things to do in Sibenik

2. Šibenik City Hall

A strikingly building situated on the medieval Square of the city.

The City Hall of Šibenik was built between 1533 and 1546. Although it was destroyed in December 1943 during the attack of the allied forces, it was rebuilt to look exactly like it did before the war.

On the ground floor is located a nice restaurant with a wonderful terrace where to taste some croatian food.

untitled-design-8

3. Old Town

The Old Town of Šibenik is a medieval car-free city made up of narrow streets.

The beauty of this city lies in its ancient buildings and churches, some of which are still marked by the signs of the balkan war, and the hidden hideouts the visitor can find while walking around the old town.

The cobbled streets connect all these historical buildings. Sometimes the narrow streets pass underneath an arch, other times, the visitor have to pass through a tunnel which leads to a narrower street where stands, for example, a small sanctuary. But that is the magic of a place which was built on a rocky coastal area.

five things to do in Sibenik

4. Fortress of Šibenik

Šibenik  had such a strategic position in the Adriatic Sea that the city has been always desired by all the Mediterranean powers. However, croatians anticipated that and erected a couple of fortresses which have been an underused tourist attraction. An ambitious program of restoration is already beginning to return the four fortresses of Šibenik its ancient splendor.

The four for Šibenik are:

1. St. Michel´s Fortress: The first fortress of the city was built on the 11th century under the reign of King Petar Krešimir IV, considered the founding father of the city. 

2. Barone Fortress: Built in the 17th century to protect the city from the Candia Wars.

3. St. John Fortress: Also built in the 17th century but more popular than the previous fortress since it was used as set of Game of Thrones in 2014.

4. St.Nicholas´ Fortress: The most beautiful fortress due to its privilege location. This fortress stands at the entrance of the St. Anthony Channel.

things to do in sibenik

 

5. The port of Šibenik

To have a walk outside the old town allows the visitor to enjoy different parts of the city such as the medieval mediterranean garden or Šibenik harbour.

From the ancient port of Šibenik not only the view of the city is remarkable, but it is easy to travel to other dalmatian cities such as Primosten (read more about this city here) or to navigate to the impressive Krka National Park (more information about this spectacular place here).

five things to do in sibenik

Now it is your turn; have you ever been to Šibenik? Did you like it? Which monument did you like the most? What would you recommend to visit in Šibenik? Feel free to share your experience! 

Primosten

 

Primosten

Primosten is ranked as one of the most picturesque small town in the Adriatic due to its remarkable beaches and its old town, which is located on a small island connected to the mainland by a mound. This ancient place is located only 36 km from Krka National Park (if you want to find out more about this remarkable park click here) and 26 km from Sibenik (new post coming soon! ;)), and it is easily accessible by car.

Although the overcast sky threatened storm we remained firm in our half day excursion and we visited some historical sites such as St. Juraj church (located on the highest point of the island and built in 1485) and St. Roko chapel (a valuable cultural monument built in 1680). From my point of view the most amazing spot was the graveyard which encloses the St.Juraj church, from where the visitor can enjoy a striking view of the open sea.

Primosten

During the summer months many festivities take place in Primosten such as folk music evenings and fishing nights, although the most know is the traditional donkey race (the race of these charming animals is an annual tradition which attract thousand of visitors every year). Furthermore, the port of Primosten hosts many sport and recreation activities such as jet-ski, water sports and beach volley.

Primosten
St. Juraj church

Despite the cloudy sky and the shower that welcomed us at the beginning of our trip, the sun started to shine the moment we descended the narrow slopes of the old town. Therefore the moment we reached the sandy beach of Primosten we could contemplate the calm Adriatic sea, enjoy a nice walk around the town wall and choose a nice restaurant to try some local dishes.

Primosten

If you also want to enjoy a good meal and become acquainted with the local gastronomy I recommend you to visit the “Marina” restaurant (more information here). The place is located in front of a small beach and they serve home made regional food (Tip: The mussels were really tasty).

Before leaving Primosten we could not resist to stop at the top of a mountain nearby the national road to capture this beautiful moment

Primosten

Have you ever been to Primosten? What did you like the most? Share your comments! 

 

 

Krka National Park

Krka

During our trip in Croatia we had the opportunity to visit the National Park of Krka. Located 90 km far from Split.

The Krka National Park is one of the most beautiful natural spots in Croatia.

Our minds changed the moment we started our hike

Arriving to the park was not as astonishing as we thought because it looked as a common natural park that you can easily find in any other country.

After paying 110 Kn per person (around 14€ /16$) we were allowed to enter into the National Park and to take the free bus to go down hills. We were a bit disappointed since we were expecting something more “wild” (more natural) from the very beginning.

However, our minds changed the moment we started our hike. Instead of taking the bus we decided to descend the green hills of Krka walking down a natural narrow path from where we could enjoy an amazing landscape.

Krka

National Park Krka

 

Once we arrived to the end of the path we reached a tourist area. From there you can choose two different ways:

  1. Krka National Park by walk
  2. Scradinski Waterfall and Ferrys

Krka

 

Krka National Park by walk

Following the main trail of the park the visitor can enjoy a nice walk surrounded by nature.

By choosing that option we learnt more about the national flora and fauna while passing through natural caves and waterfalls. Once we reached a high vantage point we enjoyed the wonderful view of the famous Scradinski Waterfall.

Down there, it is located a footbridge that cross the lake allowing the visitor to appreciate the immensity of nature. Furthermore, it is allow to have a swim in the lake to enjoy its pure fresh water.

National Park Krka

Krka

Following the trail we reached the previously mentioned lake. After a nice bath in its transparent water we had a break laying down on the green grass.

As we wanted something more exotic we decided to walk around until we found a nature path which we decided to follow. Since it was not so touristic we could enjoy the essence of the nature and the incomparable views of the  Krka forest.

Krka

 

Scradinski Waterfall and Ferrys

If you prefer to enjoy the nature of the National Park without wasting corporal energy I recommend you to take the ferry that sails across the blue river of Krka.

Here you can find more information about the natural and cultural heritage of Krka, the National Park´s price list and more.

Do not miss the chance to buy some traditional products

At the end of the path we found some antique traditional houses, rebuilt into souvenir stores, where we stopped by to find some presents for our friends. However, the most special products we bought were some traditional delicatessen made by locals; honey, oil, compote… Tasty and healthy products that I highly recommend you to buy if you ever  want to try real croatian foodstuff.

To finish the tour we decided to take the bus which drove us back to the main entrance of the park, where our rented car was waiting for us to keep discovering Croatia.

Your turn: Have you ever been in Krka? Did you like it? Share your experience!