Inspiring European Summer Festivals for 2018

If you’re planning a European holiday this summer, there are lots of exciting events you could visit. Let’s take a closer look, so you can get some great ideas and inspiration for your trip!

France
Celebrate Bastille Day in Paris, France on 14th July, when the city is alive with festivals, fun and frolics. Festivities include spectacular fireworks over the Eiffel Tower and a free music concert. Most events are free, and you can spend a little if you want to sit in a private yacht to watch the festivities.

Also in France and stretching from 15th June until 8th July, the Festival de Marseille is a riot of dance, theatre, music and art. The festival attracts thousands of visitors to Marseille, and it costs around £45 to be a part of a small bike tour.

Italy
Food lovers will enjoy the Stragusto Food Festival held in Trapani, a pretty Sicilian town, from 23rd to 26th July. The stalls offer delicious street food from around the Mediterranean including Greek, Moroccan and Serbian cuisine among many others.

Czech Republic
If you’re looking for something different, the Road Junky Festival of Creativity is held every year from 22nd June to 2nd July in the Czech Republic. Campers can enjoy creative workshops all day long including dance, shiatsu, fire-making, music and singing. It’s a great chance to learn or teach something. Other activities include story-telling, bush-crafts, juggling and baking cakes. Tickets are around £200 which includes food.

Finland
The Seurasaari Midsummer Bonfires is held in Helsinki on 22nd and 23rd June. The festival takes place on Seurasaari Island in an open-air museum and includes several outdoor and indoor events, including folk heritage, folk dances and music. Tickets are around £20 on the day and children under 12 can enter for free.

Romania
The Electric Castle Festival in Romania takes place between 18th and 22nd July when the entire Transylvanian Banffy Castle is lit up in honour of the annual music festival. Enjoy a variety of rock, indie, electronic and reggae music with tickets starting at £148.

Austria
Love combining art and fun? Consider visiting Austria between 8th and 14th July to watch top artists of the world go head-to-head for body painting. The surreal World Bodypainting Festival is followed by a massive after-party with more than 50 DJs. Ticket prices start at under £20 per day.

As you can see, there are numerous music, food, dance, art and theatre festivals taking place across Europe, offering plenty to choose from. Some are mainstream, and some seem downright odd, but whatever you’re into, Europe has something great to offer you this summer!

Leeuwarden: A less crowded alternative to Amsterdam

Many people will think of Amsterdam when they hear of the Netherlands. If you’ve been to Amsterdam, you’ll know how beautiful it is, and also how crowded it can be. Every year millions of tourists visit Amsterdam; however, other Dutch cities are competing to attract some of these tourists. You will hear names like Rotterdam, Utrecht and Den Haag (The Hague), but few will mention a little gem in the north of the country: Leeuwarden.

Where is Leeuwarden?
Situated about 20 miles from the north-western coast of the Netherlands lies Leeuwarden, the capital of the province of Friesland and European Capital of Culture 2018, boasting over 600 monuments, several museums, and the house of artist M.C. Escher.

The city has a rich history dating back to the 9th century. Leeuwarden was granted city rights in 1435, and you can still find quite a few buildings dating from that time in the city centre.

The Oldehove
This askew tower was the result of a rivalry with the capital of the neighbouring province, Groningen. The goal was to build a higher church tower than Groningen’s, but what the Liwwadders (as the people of Leeuwarden are called) didn’t know was that the construction site was on the edge of one of the three terps (mounds) that made up the city before the area silted up in the 1300s.

During construction, the church tower began leaning sideways and the builders tried to compensate for it, but at a height of around 127 feet they simply stopped building!  Since then, the unfinished tower has become a symbol of the city.

From the top of the Oldehove you can enjoy a beautiful outlook over the city. Until the 31st October the tower is open to visitors every day of the week from 1pm to 5pm. The admission fee is 3.50 euros (about 3 pounds).

Shopping and culture
From the Oldehove you can go for a stroll through the Kleine Kerkstraat where you can find many small stores selling regional products, especially cheeses and meats, as well as Frisian treats.

The province of Friesland has a strong cultural identity that differs from the rest of the Netherlands, and outside of the cities you will not hear Dutch spoken often, as the native language here is Frisian.

Compared to Amsterdam, the city centre of Leeuwarden is smaller and less crowded. You will find many shops, and lots of these are small and run by the owners. And, like in lots of Dutch cities, you will see a large number of cafes located alongside the main canal running through the city centre.

Architecture
If you prefer beautiful medieval buildings, take a detour down the Grote Kerkstraat. This street leads to the Protestant church, called Grote Kerk. This was of special importance to the Dutch royal family, which is reflected in the architecture and decoration. Besides the Grote Kerk there is the Catholic Sint-Bonifatiuskerk, which is also worth a visit with its beautiful leaded windows. The whole of the city centre has many beautiful buildings to discover.

How to get to Leeuwarden
The nearest airport is Amsterdam, from which you can go by train directly to Leeuwarden. You can find hotels all over the city: most are located near the main railway station, and from there everything is within walking distance. The climate is mild, with average high temperatures around 20C to 25C (68F to 77F) during the summer months.

The beautiful beaches of Lefkada, a Greek island to cherish

Lefkada is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea, famed for its endless golden beaches and pure emerald waters. It’s the perfect place for a relaxing holiday suitable for families and couples, but also for young people who love the beach life.

The daily temperature during summer is 20C to 26C (68F to 79F),  perfect for any activity: tanning, swimming, sightseeing or yachting.

Besides being a great holiday retreat, the windy coasts and sunny skies create the ideal weather for kiting and boating.

Accommodation
One big advantage is that Lefkada is one of the few islands you can get to by car from mainland Greece, and you’ll need a car because the beaches are located outside of the towns. There are many hotels and apartments throughout the towns, and in the neighbouring villages, offering tourists accommodation at a very affordable price.

Depending on your budget, you can find rooms for a price as low as 25 euros per night in private motels in the villages, or as high as 500 euros per night in the luxurious hotels located along the coastline.

Although most of the hotels are in the cities of Lefkas and Nydri, the beaches are only a 15-minute drive away. However, it can be better to find accommodation in the villages between the towns and the beaches to save on time, since most of the best beaches are in the unpopulated south of the island, whereas the towns are north-east.

Beaches
The coastline of Lefkada is rich in natural splendour, with picturesque beaches and high rocky coasts. One of those beaches is Porto Katsiki, often thought of as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, which attracts millions of tourists throughout the year.

Other beaches like Egremni, Kathisma, and Kavalikefta are renowned for their picture-perfect and breathtaking scenery, with endless golden sand and emerald water.

All the beaches are accessible by car and have their own parking, so renting a car is ideal if you want to visit as many beaches as possible. There are also daily boat cruises you can go on for 25 euros that go around the island and stop at famous tourist locations, beaches, and neighbouring villages.

Sightseeing
Lefkada isn’t all about the beaches. There are many other recreational and historical spots you can go to that will offer you a unique Greek experience. From ancient churches to mountain tops, there is something for everyone’s taste.

One place worth visiting is the Nydri Waterfalls, which you can get to by walking through a green forest, perfect for people who love outdoor hikes and activities.

Like any other place in Greece, the island plays host to many historical sites. The Castle of Santa Maura, a medieval castle located at the entrance of the town, is the go-to place for history-lovers. There are also many caves that were used by the Greeks throughout history, including their use as secret hideaways in wartime to hide submarines.

There are many churches and monasteries across the island, some a few centuries old. These are a great place to meet the locals and find out something more about the island and its history.

Food
Seafood restaurants, tavernas, fusion restaurants, gelaterias, bars: like any other tourist location, the local cities offer a variety of food you can choose from.

The best food is the local food. So, when you visit Lefkada make sure to order yourself a Greek salad, olives, souvlaki, or fish specialities. Then you can experience the true authentic flavours for yourself.

The best travel planning apps for your next holiday

Travel planning apps can make travelling a lot easier by creating itineraries and keeping information in one place. Use one, and you won’t be rummaging through hundreds of bits of paper every time you need your flight details or passport number.

These days, even the most disorganised travellers use travel apps, so which one should you go for?

TripIt
TripIt was one of the first travel planning apps, and it’s one of the simplest to use. The app combines information from your booking and confirmation emails into one itinerary. You can share this itinerary with other people and access it online or offline. The app also encrypts and stores your passport details and vital information. TripIt has around 13 million users and is one of the most popular travel apps, but it costs $49 per year to access most of the facilities.
https://www.tripit.com – Download for iPhone – Download for Android
Basic – free / Premium – $49

TripCase
Like TripIt, the main feature of TripCase is an itinerary tool, collating the information you forward from your email account. However, unlike TripIt, TripCase is free. TripCase can also access real-time flight alerts and update your itinerary with the latest times and changes. It’s easy to use and many people love it: in 2016, Forbes named it their best travel app.
http://travel.tripcase.com – Download for iPhone – Download for Android
Free

Google Trips
Like TripIt and TripCase, Google Trips creates an itinerary from information sent from your Gmail account, but it also does a lot more. Google Trips also functions as a guidebook, giving you information on things to do each day at your location. With this information, you can create an itinerary for each day by placing markers on the Google Map. Google Trips then tells you the travel times to each location. Ideal for city breaks, all your information can be accessed offline if there’s no wi-fi where you are.
https://get.google.com/trips – Download for iPhone – Download for Android
Free

Kayak
Kayak is a travel app that does everything. Not only can you record your itinerary, but you can also book your trip via the app as well. Kayak searches for the best hotels, flights and car rentals for you. You can then store all the information in their trips facility. A multi-award-winning app, Kayak has all kinds of other features too, including flight status alerts and online travel guides.
https://www.kayak.co.uk  – Download for iPhone – Download for Android
Free

Halkidiki: The best-kept secret in Greece

We asked Greek writer Emmanouil Sakalidis for his tips on where to go in Greece. Here are his top tips:

Halkidiki is a region located in northern Greece, that brings together all the best parts of a Greek island: lovely beaches, luxury resorts, interesting cultural heritage, and classic Greek culinary delights.

Things to know about Halkidiki
Halkidiki is a popular destination made up of three large peninsulas. The peninsula of Kassandra, mostly famous for its beaches and the local taverns and restaurants; the peninsula of Sithonia, the ideal place for travellers who want to try boating, hiking or diving; and the Mount Athos peninsula, with its many monasteries – only men are permitted to visit this territory.

Halkidiki has 340 miles of coastline and contains 72 beaches with the blue flag certification.

The climate of Halkidiki is ideal for beach holidays. During summer, the temperature ranges between 25C to 35C (77F to 95F), while in May, the weather is even more pleasant, with temperatures no more than 25C (77F).

Things to do in Halkidiki
As you’ll find in every part of Greece, Halkidiki has many historical and archaeological sites. The best places to visit here are the world-famous cave of Petralona, the folklore museums of Arnea, Athitos and Nikiti, the Krouna tower and the tower of Prosforios.

If you are a nature lover, Halkidiki is the perfect place for you. With more than a thousand beaches with crystal-clear water, this region offers you plenty of activities like swimming, sunbathing, kayaking, diving or boating. There are also 17 cycling routes and 20 hiking routes to help you explore the natural environment.

If you love ancient Greek history, there is a hiking root that explores Stagira, the birthplace of Aristotle, the greatest Greek philosopher.

The Festival of Kassandra is a well-known festival that takes place on the peninsula of Kassandra, between July and late August. During this time, you can enjoy theatrical shows, folk music and dance, Greek food, and many traditional events. It has hosted world-famous artists such as Ray Charles and BB King, as well as many Greek musicians.

A day trip to Mount Athos is another extraordinary activity that you can do in Halkidiki. Mount Athos, known as the ‘Holy Mountain’, is the capital of Greek-Orthodox Christianity and consists of 20 monasteries, hundreds of hermitages, and more that 2,000 monks! Following the protocol of the state, women are not permitted into this territory. Although women are not permitted to enter Mount Athos, all visitors can admire the magnificent landscapes and the breath-taking monasteries from the small traditional boats that depart daily from Ouranoupoli, a small village that is the last settlement before Mount Athos.

What to eat in Halkidiki
Halkidiki offers you an amazing Mediterranean food experience. As it has plenty of high-quality ingredients, the culinary tradition of this region is unique. Honey, wine, sweets, pastries, herbs, table olives, extra virgin olive oil, and many different kinds of cheeses are only some of the local and pure ingredients that you can taste. You can also enjoy the fresh fish and seafood at the local restaurants and taverns.

Eating out in Halkidiki is cheaper than in the UK. On average, you will pay around £12-15 per person for a full meal.

Where to stay
The Greeks are very hospitable people, and the roots of Greek hospitality are even older than Parthenon. Halkidiki offers a big selection of affordable apartments, luxury resorts, cosy hotels or villas.

How to get to Halkidiki
The closest airport to Halkidiki is Thessaloniki. You can get direct flights on easyJet, Ryanair, or British Airways. From there, you can rent a car, take a taxi or a bus, and you can reach the destination of your choice in less than half an hour.

So come to Halkidiki this year: a voyage of true discovery awaits!

Budapest: The Paris of the East, and why it deserves the title

Budapest is often dubbed the Paris of the East, mainly for its spectacular architecture and its rich culture that puts good music, food, and wine at its centre. Fortunately, it’s far cheaper to visit than Paris, making it a popular destination for travellers.

Budapest is made from the joining of two former cities, the hilly Buda on the west side of the Danube, and the much flatter Pest on the east.

Sightseeing
The city is known for its architectural landmarks. There are a lot, so it’s good to plan ahead if you want to fit everything in!

The Hungarian Parliament Building is a must-see. The building is breathtaking, and you can’t help but feel insignificant standing next to it. Tours in English, to view the inside, take place daily and cost around £11.

Other popular attractions well worth checking out are the Citadel and its Liberty Monument, Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion, Buda Castle, Heroes Square, and St. Stephen’s Basilica. And yes, it’s absolutely worthwhile to head up the tower of the Basilica. That gorgeous 360 degree view of the city is priceless!

Activities
If you are looking for a bit more structure and guidance during your trip, you will see many of these sights on a Budapest Free Walking Tour. It’s in English and the friendly tour guides are walking information stands who will give you some insights into Hungarian history, tips for travelling in Budapest, and even a mini language course with all the basics like ‘Cheers’, ‘Thanks’, and ‘Hello’.

If you’re not up for much walking, try the sightseeing cruise up the Danube. The best time to go on a cruise is after dark, when the whole promenade, including the Parliament Building, is lit up.

It would be a crime to leave Budapest without having tried out one of its famous thermal baths. The most popular baths are Széchenyi Baths and the Géllert Baths, which are a great spot for relaxing.

Food
After all that exploring you’re guaranteed to have worked up an appetite, so make sure to fill up on some of Budapest’s best cuisine. You’ll find everything here, from traditional Hungarian dishes to food from all over the world. If you’re craving something sweet, you’ll find pretty cafes, doughnut shops, and ice cream parlours around every corner.

Make sure to try the Lángos and Goulash at the Central Market Hall. You should also try the Chimney Cake and rose-shaped ice cream at Gelarto Rosa.

Editor’s note: A highlight from my own visit to Budapest was Central Cafe, a beautiful Art Nouveau traditional and historic cafe where writers used to hang out. There’s a large array of tempting cakes in a large glass stand; order the classic Hungarian Esterházy torte!

The Jewish Quarter is a great spot for restaurants that serve great food and offer great service at an affordable price. Many of them, for example, Mazel Tov, also have outdoor gardens so you can enjoy the sunshine while gobbling down your food.

Ruin bars – a unique experience
For a fun and bizarre experience that you won’t get anywhere else, visit some of Budapest’s famous ruin bars. These popular bars are unique to Budapest, and are built into abandoned and dilapidated buildings! The furniture and decor are usually eclectic and crazy. Do a bit of internet research to find a ruin bar near you.

Beyond the city break
Taking a quick break from the city is easy in Budapest. You can explore the hills that surround the capital, as they are only a stones-throw away. The Elizabeth Lookout Tower is a popular destination with a stunning panoramic view of all of Budapest and its surroundings.

Craving a beach day? Fear not. The stunning Lupa Beach is only an hour from Budapest, and with its white sand beaches, palm trees and beach bars you get the best of both worlds.

The best time to visit is always now!
Budapest has something for everyone so what better time to pack up your bags and decide for yourself whether it truly is the Paris of the East, than now?

With summer fast approaching, the average temperature will be between 21C (70F) and 27C (80F). There are also plenty of great hotels and Airbnb’s on offer in the city, suitable for whatever your budget may be.

Travel tips: Travel light, travel smart!

Today, many people travel light, taking only a cabin bag. With good planning, you can have all you need for a great holiday, without the hassle of a large unwieldy suitcase!

Advantages of only taking a cabin bag
The biggest advantage is cost: all the ‘no frills’ airlines charge for the privilege of taking a checked-in suitcase in the hold.

Speed is the other big bonus, with no need to wait for the luggage carousel. In fact, a small cabin suitcase on wheels will prove easier throughout your holiday as it is highly manoeuvrable and easy to lift in and out of coaches, minibuses, and taxis.

Essential information on cabin bags
A sturdy cabin suitcase with retractable wheels, or a comfortable travel bag or rucksack, is the key to success!

It is essential to check what size restrictions are imposed by the airline you are travelling with, because the maximum dimensions do vary between the airlines.

For example, the easyJet maximum size is 56 x 45x 25 cm, whereas Ryanair only allows a tiny bag of 35cm x 20cm x 20cm, with a larger size being forcibly checked into the hold (free of charge) if you take it to the gate.

Here’s an airline industry secret: airlines are massively struggling with cabin bags, because the aircraft simply don’t have enough overhead locker space! Many airlines are starting to either charge for cabin bags, restrict them to very small sizes, or forcing you to check them into the hold. An unwelcome trend!

It is important to check whether ladies are allowed to carry a handbag plus cabin bag, as it is a frequent sight at departure gates to see female travellers trying to squeeze their handbags into their already over-full cabin bags so that they can board the flight!

Tips for packing your clothes
Pack clothes that colour coordinate, can be worn in layers should the weather be cooler than expected, and can be ‘dressed up’ for the evening.

For ladies, packing plain tops that can be ‘dressed up’ with a pretty scarf or coloured necklace is the perfect solution for turning daywear into evening glamour!

A golden rule is to wear your heaviest/ bulkiest clothes when travelling; these can include a light jumper or sweatshirt plus, bulky shoes or trainers and a light jacket.

An extra layer could be beneficial if you have early morning or night flights, when it might be cold at your destination.

Clothing that doesn’t crumple easily is a bonus, but hanging any creased clothing on a hanger in a hot, steamy shower room is a great remedy!

If you are planning to visit churches, monasteries, or more formal places, it is a good idea to have one pair of long trousers and a top with sleeves.

You often only need to pack four or five outfits, as you can pack a small amount of hand-washing laundry liquid, often sold as “Travel wash”, confident that everything will dry quickly in warmer countries!

As for toiletries, you can often pack very light, and just buy things at a local shop when you arrive.

Technology for your travels
There’s no need to pack heavy reading material these days, as you can load your Kindle or smartphone with all your holiday reads and music. At the airport there are often free newspapers and magazines that can be enjoyed during the flight and handed in as you leave the aircraft.

Write a large reminder to pop on your packing pile to remember to pack your mobile charger – and a plug adaptor! The World Standards website can show you which type of plug adaptor you’ll need.

Sadly, many people damage their gadgets on holiday. This is sometimes covered by your travel insurance, but for extra peace of mind you might also want to consider a policy like our Premier Gadget Insurance.

Helsinki: A capital city with warmth

When asked about Finland, the first thing most of us will say is “It’s cold!” Although that may be true of the long winter months, it could not be more wrong about the people: they are smart, resourceful and friendly. (Although surprisingly there is no direct translation of the word “please” into Finnish.)

They invented the sauna to stay warm, and have an education system that tops the world, making communicating in English very easy.

So what does Helsinki have to offer travellers on a city break?

What to visit
Suomenlinna is a huge fortress that was built by the Swedes to protect the city in the 1700s. It is so huge, in fact, that it spreads across six islands! Since the Russian invasion in the 19th century it has been left largely untouched, making it a real trip back in time. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To visit all you need to do is hop on the ferry, which takes about 20 minutes.

Temppeliaukio Church, also known as the rock church, is one of the most iconic and most photographed buildings in Helsinki. The circular church is quite modern, opening in 1969, and has been carved out of the rock and topped with a copper dome. When approaching it looks more like a UFO than a church!

The Sibelius Monument is one of Helsinki’s must-visit locations. It is dedicated to the great Finnish composer Jan Sibelius. Not only is it one of the most breath-taking sculptures you will see, it is interactive too. By placing your head into one of 600 different pipes you can make your own music.

Helsinki Cathedral is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. It was built to honour Russian Tsar Nicholas I in the 19th century. The steps leading up to the cathedral are a popular meeting place for locals, and make a great place to take some holiday snaps.

The sauna is an integral part of Finnish society, and a must-do activity when in Finland. It is so popular that for a population of 5.5 million people there are estimated to be over 3 million saunas, one per household! This means that wherever you choose to stay you will more than likely have a sauna you can try. If not, don’t worry, there are some great public saunas around the city.

For other unusual entertainment, the Formula 1 Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen part-owns a karaoke bar in Helsinki called Wallis (probably named after the 1976 F1 world champion James Simon Wallis Hunt).

Eating Out 
Eating out in Helsinki is more expensive than in the UK. On average you will pay around £15-25 for a main course. However, there are some great restaurants to choose from.

To try traditional Finnish food made with fresh in-season local produce, head to Grön. If you want to treat yourself, Helsinki has four Michelin-starred restaurants to choose from.

When to visit
The best time to visit Helsinki is during June and July, when you can enjoy the near 24 hours of sunlight, with temperature highs of around 20C (68F).

Want to know more? Visit My Helsinki and see what you can find!

The delights of Porto: foodie culture and wine cruises

Fabio Mendes has travelled extensively in Porto, so we asked him to give us his very best tips and advice for a great holiday.

There are plenty of reasons why Porto won the award for Best European Destination at the World Travel Awards in 2017. If you enjoy history, excellent food and wonderful views, you will agree that Porto deserves this title.

Porto is the largest city in Northern Portugal, and gives its name to the famous dessert wine, port. The city combines its historical roots and modern aspirations, in a setting which at first seems similar to its famous southern sister Lisbon, but feels quite different.

Placed at the margin of the river Douro, Porto represents an entire region proud of its uniqueness.

When to go, and how to reach Porto
Due to its more northerly location, Porto is spared from the typical Portuguese heat. Average temperatures between 20C (68F) in May and 25C (77F) in August, and almost no rain at all, offer perfect conditions to explore the city.

The airport of Porto is served by easyJet, Ryanair, British Airways, and TAP Portugal. Upon arrival, you will easily find public transport to the city centre right in front of the terminal.

To move around the city, you can buy a Porto Card day pass for six Euros, with discounts if you want a card lasting more than one day. This price includes the rechargeable card. With this pass, you can even use the public elevators, which bring you from the lower to the higher parts of the city. Make sure you always activate the ticket upon entering all transport and that a green light flashes afterwards.

What to see and do
If you arrive by train, the São Bento Station is a good first sight to behold. The impressive hall, completely covered with the famous Portuguese blue tiles, gives you an incredible first impression!

Walk down the narrow streets towards the river. You will reach Ribeira, the part of the city right by the river and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can stroll along the promenade until you reach the Dom Luis I. Bridge, designed by Gustav Eiffel, or just enjoy the scenery sitting at a café and drinking port.

If you are up for learning more about the Age of Discoveries, head to the Casa do Infante. Nowadays, this antique building houses a museum about the history of the city, but it is also the birthplace of Henry the Navigator, the famous mastermind behind the Portuguese discoveries of the New World. I can also recommend visiting the Palacio da Bolsa, a building that took 30 years to finish; its main purpose was to impress visitors to the city!

What to eat
Not many cities can claim to have such a vast offering of delicious restaurants as Porto. Typical Portuguese dishes are quite simple, and that means that plenty of places will offer you good food. In Porto, it’s actually difficult to stumble upon a restaurant where you will be unhappy.

The most famous dish in Porto is the Francesinha. It’s a sandwich made of different types of meats and sausage, with a fried egg and molten cheese on top. The secret is the sauce, and every single restaurant is proud to announce that their sauce is the best in town. The servings are usually so generous that many people can’t even eat it all.

Another creation of Porto is Tripas, which is a tripe stew that has been eaten in the city since the 15th century. Probably not the tastiest option, but surely one to tell your friends at home about!

Seafood and fish dishes are highly recommended too. Restaurants easily source fresh and high-quality fish at the local markets. You can try the local octopus salad almost everywhere, and it’s perfect as a side dish! Usually, lunch for two, with a bottle of house wine included, should not cost you more than 35 to 45 Euros.

The Port Wine Experience
It’s impossible to escape the sweet wine in Porto. Made world-famous by the British, you can have a small glass everywhere in the city for less than the equivalent of £2. To get the full experience, cross the river to the south side and visit the Port Wine cellars. Most of them offer guided tours, including a Port Wine tasting at the end. Graham, Sandeman’s and Cockburn are just some of the most famous names where you can learn all about the wine.

Another highlight is the river cruise offered by several operators. You will sail upstream, out of the city and into the heart of Northern Portugal to see where the grapes used for Port grow. It’s possible to visit the actual vineyards, sometimes with the guide being the owner himself.

In June, the Douro Fair is an excellent opportunity to taste the specialities of the region, not only the wines.

For the return to Porto, use the historical train for a memorable trip back in time!

Apps to find Europe’s best landmarks and natural wonders

Is there anything more exciting than discovering something unknown and special when travelling? Perhaps a quality restaurant popular with locals, a culturally significant monument tucked away on a back street, or a natural wonder, those hidden gems can make a trip extra special.

But how do you find the best places to see? Although Google Maps will show you monuments, eateries, and attractions, you have to find them yourself. Instead of that, you can remove the burden and download these dedicated apps that will help you find hidden treasures both in the city and in the country.

GuidePal city guides
Platforms: Android/iOS, Cost: Free

GuidePal is an extremely useful application that puts important locations at your fingertips. The Android and iOS service provides detailed city guides that you can also use offline: perfect for when you’re in an area without data coverage, or you don’t want to use your often-expensive mobile data. GuidePal features 57 cities, including 26 in Europe, so you can pull up your app on your next visit to Athens, Rome, Paris, and many more.

While users can see city locations on other mapping services, GuidePal has some tricks up its sleeve. The city guides aim to be more informative and dynamic than a normal mapping service. Guides are curated from local sources, including professional journalists, tourist experts, and members of the public.

The result is an app that delivers authentic guides to major cities. Each location is carefully researched and presented in clear detail, helping you find great things to do. The information is complemented by images showing you exactly what you can expect to see at each destination.

One of the best features of GuidePal is its ability to show you locations that might not be a first port of call for tourists. The app is excellent at finding hidden gems, whether it’s a neighbourhood coffee shop or a local art gallery.

As you would expect, the app also delivers concise information on world-famous locations.

Download GuidePal for iOS
Download GuidePal for Android

ViewRanger
Platforms: Android/iOS, Cost: Free (premium version available £14.99)

Europe’s most visited and beautiful cities are located on the doorstep of some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the world. After exploring city treats with GuidePal, why not head out to the countryside with ViewRanger as your guide?

ViewRanger is an application that supplies mapping for topographic maps, trails, and hiking routes. Perfect for the adventurous spirit, the app supports offline mapping through GPS and offers detailed information about nearest locations.

Depending on your level of activity, you can customize ViewRanger to meet your needs. Whether you want a leisurely trail through a forest or to find the nearest peak to ascend, ViewRanger is the app to get you there.

An exciting feature of this app is its integration with a smartphone camera. When in ViewRanger, you can hold your camera up to the scenery, such as mountains, rivers, or other landscapes. The app scans the area and interactively names locations seen on the camera! This feature is called Skyline, and uses augmented reality to name natural wonders you capture on your device.

Download ViewRanger for iOS
Download ViewRanger for Android 

In summary
Whether in the city or exploring the countryside, GuidePal and ViewRanger provide a personalised experience. Both apps give you the tools to find the places you want to see, and maybe even discover some hidden gems.