Tips for travelling solo

Travel writer Julia Hammond has been travelling solo for three decades. Here, she shares her top tips.

Solo travel is a fast-growing trend. According to ABTA, one in nine holidaymakers has travelled alone in the last 12 months. Hotel booking sites and Airbnb have reported a large increase in solo travel too, and cruise companies have started building more solo cabins with no single supplements.

Figure out whether you’re suited to going away on your own
Knowing yourself is a big part of having a successful solo holiday. While some relish solitude, others find it lonely and isolating. Test out how you’d cope with a big trip by first booking a weekend away in a familiar location. 

Punctuate your itinerary with opportunities to connect with fellow travellers. For instance, try a Free Tours by Foot walking tour—they operate in a number of European and North American cities. Alternatively, book a place on an activity-based break where you learn a language, cook, or paint. Once you’ve got this trial under your belt, you’ll be better equipped to decide whether you’d prefer the safety net of a group tour or if you’re ready to spread your solo travel wings and go it alone.

You only have to please yourself
Embrace the chance to make this holiday all about you. Pick a place you’ve always wanted to explore but that your usual travelling companions would hate. Perhaps this solo trip could be the opportunity to volunteer with a charitable organisation overseas. Another idea is to set yourself a physical challenge such as climbing Kilimanjaro. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing the complete opposite. 

If you’ve danced until dawn and find yourself lounging around in your pyjamas late into the afternoon, there’ll be no one around to nag you to get dressed!

Select your kind of accommodation
Hostels, with their communal kitchens and common room social activities, are a great way of meeting people. The days of being forced to endure smelly dorms are long gone, and many hostels now have ensuite private rooms which are as comfortable as a hotel. 

However, solo travel doesn’t have to mean backpacking. Airbnb offers a good selection of both shared and single occupancy units, with the advantage of having a local host on hand for insider tips. Boutique hotels with their ‘home away from home’ ethos can be a real treat. 

Why not pick a good value destination where your money will stretch further and indulge yourself with a suite or room with a view? For example, I stayed at Hostal Plaza Santa Cruz in Seville in an absolutely enormous suite right in the heart of the old town for 57 euros.

Be savvy about safety
It’s a sad reality that the world isn’t always as safe as we might like, and some novice solo travellers might feel vulnerable without the safety net of a tour guide or travel partner. Before you book, you can ask questions internet forums such as Lonely Planet’s well-established Thorn Tree network. Use it to work out the safest neighbourhoods in your intended destination. 

Once there, make use of social media to ensure someone back home knows your plans. Pre-book airport transfers if you’re arriving late; check locally if it’s safe to flag a taxi down off the street. Keep your phone charged and your wits about you. But trust your instincts: remember, it’s often those unexpected encounters with welcoming strangers that make the longest lasting memories.

Exploring the fortress at Salzburg

Freelance writer Maria John explains how she discovered Salzburg to be her favourite place in Europe.

I’ve travelled to many cities in Europe, including classics like Prague and Zurich. Yet everyone is surprised when I say that my favourite city is Salzburg.

The old town
To get to the fortress, you first have to go to the old town, where everything likes to remind you of its famous alumnus, Mozart. Live music accompanies you as you venture into the main square, filled with mini-attractions.

Shadow portrait.

There’s a man who’ll craft a shadow portrait of you: he cuts black paper into the silhouette of your face, replicating an 18th century style, then pastes it onto white paper as you can see in the photograph I’ve included here. You’ll also find souvenirs to be purchased, and a fantastic giant chess board painted onto the ground along with giant chess pieces.
The fortress sits on a hill and is accessible by the Festungsbahn, a 325 foot high funicular railway that can hold 50 people. The ride is just under a minute, but you’ll wish it was longer as you enjoy the views of the city as it drags you up the side of the hill.

It was around 3pm by the time I was at the top, when the sunlight was at its best. The view takes your breath away as you gaze at the greenery and trace the river as it runs between the tiny colourful houses that are a testament to Austrian architecture.

Marionette Museum
In the vaulted former gun deck of the fortress you’ll find the Marionette Museum. A few of the puppets are strung up, while the pretty ones are kept inside glass cages. Some depict characters from the Sound of Music, others tell you of past peasant wars, one to help enjoy your own little puppet show, and another for laughs: a skeleton with a long beard who pops up behind a coffin door with a maniacal laugh.

A glass pane lets you peek into the room beneath you that’s filled with millions of coins of varying degrees of gold and silver.

Hohensalzburg Fortress
The Regency Chambers or State Rooms have a lot for you to talk about. The Golden Hall looks like something straight out of a film, with its four large marble columns leaving you in awe, especially when you see the amount of space set aside for an orchestra. The wooden floors creak as you take each step, as you take in the rare gothic architecture.

Although us peasants couldn’t possibly have had such an extravagant bathroom at that time, the toilet in the bedchamber is simply a hole carved into a wooden ledge—a shocking contrast to the opulence of the main room!

Regiment Museum
You’ll still be impressed when you head off to the Rainer Regiment Museum, allowing you to uncover just how prominent Salzburg was during the wars. Room after room recreates these times. One particularly impressive room recreates a war station from WW1, others recreate the battleground with life-size statues and barracks, with music from that time playing in the background.

Other rooms include relics of the past, including musical instruments, large paintings, and furniture from the Middle Ages: tapestries, elaborate trunks, jewellery boxes, and dining room essentials. The kitchen has a 16th-century table stove and utensils hanging from the wooden ceiling frames. Its long-handled frying pans, mortars, and large jars are preserved for viewing, impressing upon you the strength the kitchen staff would have needed for their work.

Taking a break
When you get out after a couple of hours, you’re back in the 21st century, a little jarred from the time travelling that you just did. If you need a break after all that walking, I recommend the entrance cafe where you can try a slice of Sachertorte, a decadent Austrian chocolate cake filled with apricot jam that you can wash down with some beer.

So why not make 2019 the year you visit Salzburg and experience all of this for yourself?

Haarlem: The Brooklyn of Amsterdam

Touring stand-up comic Terry Norman tells us about his recent visit to Haarlem in the Netherlands.

As a somewhat successful stand-up comic, I’ve been to a lot of places. This past December, I gigged in Haarlem, often jokingly described as the Brooklyn to Amsterdam’s Manhattan.

While Brooklyn and Manhattan are boroughs of New York City, Haarlem is a city in its own right. However, being a mere 15-minute train ride from the capital means it is generally written off as part of Amsterdam. This is a common source of frustration for the locals. By the time I left the city, I shared this frustration, along with the belief that it is Haarlem, and not Amsterdam, that is the jewel in the Dutch crown. 

Why Haarlem?
When Haarlem was pitched to me as a possible stop on my European tour, it was presented as historically and culturally rich. Like Brooklyn, independent cafes line its corners and are themselves lined with poets and painters. I was sold. I had performed in Amsterdam enough times by this point to have tired of its nightclubs and stag parties. Haarlem sounded like the antidote.

Getting there
Travelling to Haarlem from Britain means flying into Schiphol Airport. A train from the airport to Haarlem takes 30 minutes and costs about £10. If you want to see some of Amsterdam before remembering why you chose Haarlem instead, you can take an airport train to Amsterdam Centraal, where trains to Haarlem run until 1am.

Accommodation
For my stay, I chose the Hotel Carillon, a modest establishment where I paid just under £70 per night. The Hotel Carillon is pretty basic, so if your trip lasts more than a weekend you should consider somewhere like the four-star Carlton Square, where rooms are about £150 per night.

Things to see and do in Haarlem
Among the most notable of Haarlem’s sights is the Grote Kerk. A breathtaking 15th-century church, the Grote Kerk sits at the centre of Grote Markt, its grand attraction being a 5,000-pipe Müller organ on which recitals are regularly performed.

Constructed all the way back in 1355, the Amsterdamse Poort is the last remaining gate of Haarlem’s 12 city gates. I saw it as part of a walking tour, but canal and bike tours are also available. The canal tours are particularly popular among older holidaymakers. 

Haarlem boasts a selection of museums, with Teylers Museum being my personal favourite, largely owing to its variety. A museum of art, science, and natural history, Teylers is firing on all cylinders.

Come and see for yourself
Haarlem is a city of many sights and sounds, all of which combine to create a truly marvellous atmosphere. The locals play their part in this too: Haarlem residents are obliging and eager to show newcomers around, ensuring you experience the full charm of their hometown.

We’re changing to Europe Plus: more benefits, same great prices!

We’re changing our name to Europe Plus, to avoid any potential confusion caused by Brexit. 

If you’re an existing EHICPlus customer, rest assured your policy is not affected by the re-branding and will remain in force for the period of insurance as per your policy schedule.

We’ve been hard at work, putting the finishing touches to our new Europe Plus website, and it’s now live!

We’ve kept our prices the same, but we’re now including a choice of three levels of cover, including a lower-priced option called ‘Essential’, and a higher level of cover called ‘Platinum’ for those people that want to have something extra. 

What does Europe Plus cover?
We still allow you to tell us about your pre-existing medical conditions, and we offer cover for travellers up to the age of 85.

Europe Plus covers EU countries and some non-EU countries. (We have a full country list.)  We now offer medical cover up to £10 million, along with increased sums insured for your valuables.

You’ll get a renewal discount!
When it’s time to renew your EHICPlus policy, your renewal discount will now be valid on Europe Plus. Many of you have been extremely loyal customers and have been with us for many years now. We’re extremely grateful, and to thank you for your loyalty we will send your renewal reminders as usual with along with your discount code.

We want to assure you that your existing EHICPlus policy is not affected by our rebrand. It is also not affected by Brexit, likewise our new Europe Plus policy will also not be affected by the Brexit situation.

We’re really happy that we can make these changes for you, and we really hope that you’ll take advantage of the new Europe Plus policy.

We would like to welcome you all at our new Europe Plus website, any queries please call us as usual on 08450 555 222.

Robert Ince, Director.
PS – Don’t forget, if you have an existing EHICPlus policy it’s not affected by the re-branding and will remain in force for the period of insurance as per your policy schedule.

The easiest ways to learn the basics of a new language

Do you want to navigate the streets of Madrid with the ability to ask for directions in Spanish? How about being able to bond over a beer in perfect German with a local? Perhaps you want to impress your friends by ordering a petit croissant with a flawless French accent?

Whatever your reason for wanting to learn a new language, it can be a rewarding and fun experience. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Act like a child
When learning a new language for the first time, it’s easy to imagine yourself as a child learning to talk. Children don’t understand the basics of grammar, and they certainly don’t use perfect tenses first time around. 

When learning a new language, it’s important to try and forget what you already know about English. That knowledge won’t come in useful here as every language has its own grammatical structure that is often different from your own. 

Act like a child and start from the beginning with the basics. And, like when talking to a child, speakers of other languages won’t get upset or angry if you make mistakes: they’ll be pleased that you are making an effort!

Do your homework regularly
Studies show that learning a new language for ten minutes every day is more effective than going to a class once a week. This does not mean that your language class isn’t valuable, it simply means that you have to do your homework and put in the extra work.

Language learning online
There are a number of apps available for you to use when studying. Duolingo is a fun, free app that treats language learning like a game. You can set up reminders every day at a certain time, and you can even set how many minutes a day you’d like to practice.

If you want lessons over the internet where you talk one-on-one with a native speaker, try italki. Lessons there start from around US$10-20 (around £7-15) per hour.

You can also use Google Translate, a free website which also has a free mobile app, to translate phrases and hear them spoken by a computer voice. It’s not perfect, but it can help to get you started or help you if you are struggling.

Keep it fun!
Staying motivated to learn a language is difficult when you’re not excited about it. Learning a new skill doesn’t always have to mean textbooks and memorising vocab words all the time. One way to stay engaged is to keep it fun. Watch foreign films and TV programmes with English subtitles; you’ll be amazed at how many are available on streaming services such as Netflix. 

Buy foreign magazines at your local airport and see how many words you recognise. If you love cooking, you could attempt following a recipe in another language by searching for one online. Why not start listening to music in the language you’re learning? There are so many creative ways you could incorporate your new language into your everyday life, ready for your trip to your chosen country.

Never give up!
Sometimes learning a language can become overwhelming. If you find the process boring, change your methods and make it fun again. If you find it too difficult, give yourself a break and go back to the basics. 

If you’re struggling to stay motivated, remember why you embarked on this journey to begin with. The important thing to remember when learning a new language is never to give up. You’ll get there eventually if you stick with it, and once you do, an entirely new world of conversation will be open to you.

Madeira: the Hawaii of the Atlantic

We asked Pearl, a retired teacher, about her favourite holiday moment of last year. Could this inspire your summer holiday in 2019?

Madeira is a Portuguese island in the Atlantic, near the Canaries. A friend told me Madeira was always sunny and the water always warm (he may have exaggerated a little!) Although it is pretty warm year-round, from 16C to 23C (61F to 73F), getting into the sea even in June is a lot like England. Having said that, it didn’t disappoint.

I started by seeing the island. Although many tourists rent cars, I took a local bus instead up to Porto Moniz to see the natural seawater swimming pools. The hotel I found overlooked the pools and cliffs, so I was able to hear the sea crashing at night.

Levadas – unique to Madeira
Travelling on the buses gives you a close-up view of the mountain forests and flowers, which definitely made me feel like I was in Hawaii. There are walks you can take along what they call the levadas: woodland areas alongside channels of water. These are unique to Madeira, and as you’ll see if you look them up online, they can be very beautiful. However, as my ankle wasn’t up to it, and as they warn you not to go alone, I was glad of the bus. 

The lighthouse
My next stop was Ponta do Pargo to visit the lighthouse, where my room was a little scary: when the mists came in it was like I was at the edge of the world! In the morning my host made me one of the best breakfasts of my stay, and even drove me to the bus stop.

Luckily I hadn’t decided on where to stay in Funchal, so even though I was tempted by a cheap apartment rental I chose a Pestana hotel instead for a soft bed.

Seeing dolphins
I’d heard you can see dolphins on the cruise to Porto Santo, a nearby island with an incredibly long beach. Although I didn’t see any dolphins there I did enjoy my day trip, although the water was still pretty cold. The best part was seeing the young children playing football on the beach barefoot. I felt like I was in Rio, but perhaps a little bit safer and a whole lot cooler!

On my last day I wandered the harbour. I’d never been on a catamaran before, so thought I’d try a whale and dolphin spotting trip on one. I took my seat on the net right at the front, even though the crew warned I might get splashed!

The captain explained they don’t recommend trying to swim with wild dolphins, simply because as soon as you get in the water they swim away! Before long we found a pod of spotted dolphins with their young. They swam right underneath us, jumping under the raised front of the boat. The captain was right, this was so much better than swimming with dolphins; this was like flying with them!

Sadly our few minutes were up and legally we had to leave the pod, even though they seemed to be enjoying our company. Then we spotted grey dolphins. The crew warned us that greys are not as friendly, but they were just as happy to bring their young dolphins right up to swim with us and once again, we were the ones who had to leave.

It was one of the best days of my life, even though, as I was warned, I got completely soaked on the way back!

Editor’s note: The author travelled independently, and it sounds like she had a great time!

Nature’s most inspiring sight: chasing the Northern Lights in Norway

Sometimes you have to stray a little outside your comfort zone to truly be inspired. Continuing our series of more personal experiences, travel writer Julia Hammond headed to Tromsø in Norway in search of the Northern Lights and wasn’t disappointed.

This was a holiday with a difference. Even getting dressed to go out was a mammoth undertaking. It wasn’t enough simply to pull on a winter jacket and some boots. Visiting Tromsø in December required thermal base layers, numerous fleeces, thick ski trousers and enough socks to kit out a football team. Walking with any dignity inside so much fabric was a herculean effort. Ice, skulking beneath packed snow on the pavements outside the hotel, added an extra frisson of excitement. At least with all that padding there was little risk of broken bones, never mind a bruise or two from the inevitable falls. 

It’s a little bit chilly!
The temperatures by day hovered between -8C and -10C (14-17F), cold enough to be taken seriously, particularly as the sun didn’t quite manage to make an appearance above the horizon at that time of year. Instead, the night would dissolve into a lilac twilight which would hang around for a few hours before fading into an inky blackness. 

You could be forgiven for wondering what kind of person would think this kind of place ideal for a winter break. I thought that too. The idea of seeking out the aurora borealis had seemed a whole lot more sensible in a mild British autumn!

A sledge pulled by huskies
Nevertheless, we were the wrong side of the Arctic Circle to be worrying about that now, and there was no point in staying inside the hotel. A packed itinerary awaited: first up, the chance to mush huskies. My husband and I drew lots for who would mush and who would get the comfy seat on the sledge. He did well, managing to steer the dogs with increasing aplomb, even when fording streams hidden beneath three-foot-high snow drifts.

At the lavvu, a tent used by the native Sami herdsmen, we were served reindeer stew and steaming mugs of hot chocolate. But the lights from within the tipi made it hard to see a dark sky and the flicker of green from the Northern Lights was too fleeting to satisfy us.

Sleigh ride with reindeer
The following evening we decided to try again. This time, we opted for a sleigh ride through the snow, pulled by reindeer. The reality was somewhat less romantic than we’d envisaged. The sleigh, covered with the silky fur of reindeer skins, was as hard as a board—it pretty much was a board—and through it we felt every jolt from the rutted ice beneath. 

To achieve a modicum of comfort we sat back-to-back, barely fitting within the confines of the sleigh. Though it helped having something to lean against, it was my turn to draw the short straw. How I wished I’d been kinder about my husband’s mushing skills, I thought, my face just inches from the reindeer’s backside! The aurora was bolder, though, and commenting on its breathtaking beauty punctuated the grumbling about the discomfort of our ride.

Photographing the Northern Lights
Ironically, it was the evening we ditched the tours that the Northern Lights really came out to play. Packing a flask of hot chocolate, we boarded a bus bound for a schoolyard on the outskirts of town. Trudging across the snowy yard, we set up a tripod and camera by the side of a fjord and waited. The last bus was due at 11pm; if we missed it, we’d have a long cold night ahead of us. 

For two wondrous hours, the sky danced before us, curling into ribbons and swirls of emerald and amethyst, more precious than any gem. It was hypnotic, and we lost track of time, mesmerised by the display. A couple of faint headlights grew brighter as they rounded the fjord. It was the bus! Grabbing our tripod, we half ran, half slid to the bus stop, making it with seconds to spare. “It’s OK,” the driver said, “I’d have waited.” 

As we pulled away in the direction of Tromsø, the only passengers, our fingertips and noses thawed. What didn’t change were the grins on our faces.

Editor’s note: The author travelled independently, flights were with Norwegian Air from Gatwick via Oslo, and accommodation was at the centrally located Radisson Blu. The Northern Lights tours were booked with http://www.lyngsfjord.com

How to plan a trip the grandchildren will love

Spending time with your grandchildren in this day and age can be tough at times. With the rise of social media and the advancements in technology in general, it can be hard to spark their interest and hold their attention for long before they’re drawn back to their phone screens. 

But that doesn’t mean you should give up. At the end of the day, kids are still kids, and they want to have fun! It’s important for them to make memories that they can reminisce on in later life, and what better way to do that than with their loving grandparents? 

So, how do you plan that perfect getaway to have with your family? One that captures your grandchildren’s imagination? 

Europe is a great region to visit with youngsters because the flight times are quite short, so there’s less time to get bored on the plane!

Capture their imagination by exploring their interests
It can be pretty easy to figure out a way to make a trip align with your grandchild’s current interests. 

For example, a child that has an interest in the Vikings—whether school, TV shows or books—would probably love a trip to Norway! The Viking Ship Museum in the Bygdøy area of Oslo might be a good place to start. Of course, you might want to avoid Norway in the winter if you’re not a fan of chilly snow-covered winters. 

Italy may be a sunnier alternative in the colder months if you want some exciting history to explore with the grandchildren. A trip to the Colosseum could link in well with the Romans, and Italian food always goes down a treat with the youngsters!

If your grandchildren like taking photographs, think of places with brilliant photo opportunities, great for the budding photographer or Instagram enthusiast. For older classic buildings you’ll do well in Tallinn (Estonia) or Prague (Czech Republic). If classical palaces and grandeur are their thing, Vienna is hard to beat.

Older children will be learning a language at school, and visiting a country that speaks the language can really bring the lessons to life. [Editor’s note: I spent five years at school learning German, which seemed like a total waste of time until I visited Germany and Austria in my 30s and had an amazing time. I suddenly wished I’d paid more attention at school!] The most common languages taught in schools these days are French, German, and Spanish, so there are plenty of choices for places to visit for practice.

Sport can be a wonderful thing to bring the generations of a family together. If your grandchildren are football fans, how about a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the home of Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, A.C. Milan, or Bayern Munich? 

For motorsport fans, a trip to a Formula 1 Grand Prix will be unforgettable. You can often combine the race with a visit to the host city: the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest (2nd-4th August 2019) is great for this. And of course, every Ferrari fan must go to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza at least once in their lifetime (6th – 8th September 2019).

If your grandchildren like cars, BMW World in Munich is fantastic! Formula 1 fans who follow Lewis Hamilton might also like the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. 

The classics
For younger children with an interest in Lego, how about Legoland? Their oldest park, in Denmark, was built in 1968, but there is also a Legoland in Germany.

Disneyland Paris continues to be well-liked by people of all ages, and you can get there directly on Eurostar if you’re not keen on flying.

We’re also hearing good things about First Choice Holiday Villages. They have a great Kids’ Club for younger children, along with activities and a pool. There are several of them across Europe, all in nice warm places, including Ibiza and the Costa del Sol.

Planning the trip
Planning what to do on the trip is important, but don’t be so strict with your timetable of events that you forget to allow those beautiful spontaneous moments to occur.

Create a list of activity options that you could do or places you could visit—remembering their selling points—and let your grandchildren have a say on which sounds the most interesting. It might not be the most organised way to plan a trip, but having a flexible itinerary can be better when it comes to family fun.

And it might have to come down to a vote, but it will be a family decision, and that means that you won’t be dragging along disinterested kids. They’ll be engaged and enthusiastic about the family adventure! This is something that they also wanted to see, not what their grandparents insisted on seeing. 

Worldwide cover for pre-existing medical conditions with Go2 Travel

We have now put together an exciting new travel insurance policy that will offer cover for most pre-existing medical conditions for travel on European and worldwide holidays.

We also offer three levels of cover, for those that want to travel on a budget and those that want a more comprehensive policy. Hundreds of sports activities are covered as standard, and there are plenty of optional extras from Winter Sports to Pet Care and Wedding cover.

Visit Go2 Travel Insurance and get a quote today.

Travel Diary: there’s more to Athens than epic ancient ruins

Hannah Champion recently visited Athens for the second time and discovered some little gems that she’d love to tell you about.

Having lived on the island of Kos in Greece for the past two years, on and off, I thought it was about time I got back to the capital to learn more about the country’s history. As it was my second time visiting, I didn’t just want to see the main sights (Plaka, the Acropolis Museum, and Syntagma Square), I wanted to discover some new corners of the city too.

Sights and museums
I think it’s pretty much a given that any trip to Athens will involve a visit to Acropolis Hill and the mammoth Parthenon that stands proudly atop it. I will personally visit time and time again as I feel exploring at different times of the day and year give you a completely different experience. This time I visited later in the day, and after wandering around the ruins I went over to the Areopagus Hill, an area where locals head to watch the sunset. This was something new for me, and it was great to feel more like a local than a tourist!

Another new sight for me was the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum housed on the south side of Acropolis Hill. I love all that glitters, even if it is not gold, but luckily for me much of Ilias Lalaounis’ work ticked both of those boxes! The jewellery here is absolutely exquisite, and you can see the small workshop at the bottom of the museum where many of these fine pieces were made. Having not heard of Lalaounis before, it was fascinating to learn that he was world-renowned as pretty much the Greek equivalent of Cartier!

Cool bars and cafés
Introduced to me by a local, Six d.o.g.s is a quirky teepee bar located on a side street near Monastiraki. Open pretty much all day (and night), it’s a great place to stop for a coffee or cocktail when you need a sit down from all your sightseeing. While it doesn’t offer the views of rooftop bars like A for Athens or Couleur Locale, it has a welcoming, warm atmosphere, and with roaring heaters in winter it’s an ideal place to warm up. 

A fantastic spot for brunch is Harvest Café in Psiri. With a range of delicious breakfast options and some top-class coffee and teas, this is a wonderful place to fill up before heading to Syntagma Square to see the changing of the guards. I know London’s Beefeaters have interesting outfits, but seeing guards with pom-pom slippers is something else!

Hidden gems of Athens
Now, here’s what you’ve been waiting for: my hidden gems of Athens!

Anafiotika is a hidden scenic neighbourhood on the slopes of the Acropolis that looks like it has been picked up from the Cyclades (a group of Greek islands southeast of mainland Greece) and dropped in the city. 

Anafiotika is still relatively unknown by tourists, and because it’s so difficult to find it’s not hard to understand why! I tried three times to find this secret village in the city and was really glad I persevered when I finally found it. With its quaint white houses with painted shutters, pristine pot plants and rolling terracotta roofs, this area looks nothing like the rest of the bustling city. 

As there are no signs, you may want to search on Google Maps for ‘Agios Georgios church Stratonos’. Look out for small winding paths that head uphill and keep your eyes out for a small church with a terracotta roof and a Greek flag. Once you’ve found this, you’re in the right place (even if it feels like you’re not!). As an extra tip, if you switch Google Maps to the satellite view, you’ll see the red roofs.

Take your time wandering back and forth between narrow sloping streets taking in the quaint island-style life in the city. This area also has some fantastic street art too!

Finally, if you want a bit of peace and quiet, you can’t beat a walk up Philopappos Hill. This is a tranquil spot (again, conveniently close to the Acropolis) that is especially quiet first thing in the morning. The trails wind up and around the hill, allowing you to find your own sacred spot or to explore The Prison of Socrates or The Pnyx en route. 

I will no doubt be back to Athens again sometime soon, and I hope to discover some new sights to share with you!