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

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.

Tallinn: the medieval marvel of the north

Mark Taylor is a British expat who now lives in Estonia. We asked him to give us an insider’s view of the beautiful city of Tallinn.

There is a reason that the entire old town of Tallinn is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site: it’s jam-packed full of history that has been impeccably preserved. Being the son of an archaeologist, it’s probably one of the main reasons I made Tallinn my home eight years ago.

It’s hard to compress so much history into so few words, while also giving you a guide to the best places to see. So here’s a little taster of some of the most important places in the city’s history.

Wherever you stand in Tallinn you will be able to see Toompea. The hill lies at the heart of the city and can be seen for miles around. It’s why the Danes built a castle there in 1219 and why the Houses of Parliament are there today.

However, the origins of the hill date back much further than even the bronze-age artefacts that have been found there. Estonian folklore tells that the hill was created by the mythical Linda piling rocks on to the grave of her husband Kalev.

St Olaf’s Church
With the Danes and the subsequent arrival of the Teutonic knights, Christianity arrived in the city and hence St Olaf’s church was built. As the city grew in prosperity and power from its membership of the Hanseatic League, so did the church.

Between 1549 and 1625 it is believed to have been the tallest building in the world at around 124m (407 feet). It has the best views of the city too, and at only around £2 to go up, it’s somewhere I always take visitors.

Kadriorg Park
After some 500 years of Danish, Swedish and Teutonic Knight rule, 1710 saw the arrival of the Russian empire under Peter the Great. To mark his victory he built a grand palace with grounds. Those grounds now make up the beautifully kept Kadriorg park, which is just a ten minute tram ride from the city centre.

As well as the palace you will also find the national art museum KUMU and the residence of the President of Estonia in the park.

There is a reason Estonians are referred to as the singing nation, and it’s not their successes at Eurovision! Lauluvaljak, which simply translates into English as “Song grounds” played host in 1988 to the singing revolution, where more than 300,000 people gathered to sing patriotic songs.

The unique thing about the song grounds is the stage, which can hold up to 15,000 singers, a Guinness World Record.

When to visit
When having friends and family come to stay, I almost always recommend they visit in June, July or August (unless they like snow!). This is when the weather is at its most settled and pleasant, with average daily temperatures around 20C (68F).

It very rarely goes above 30C (86F) too, meaning that it never gets unbearably hot. The long summer nights are another great plus, including one month around the summer equinox when it never truly gets dark.

It’s Estonia’s 100th birthday
This year Estonia will celebrate 100 years since it first gained independence from the rule of various other countries. Therefore there are many events taking place in Tallinn throughout the year to mark the centenary.

[Editor’s note: from my own visit to Tallinn, the Museum of Occupations, detailing Soviet and Nazi influence, including huge communist statues, was a very powerful exhibition, not to be missed.]

To learn more about events happening in Tallinn when you visit, see the Visit Tallinnwebsite.

Malta: the perfect holiday for beaches, culture, and history

Malta is one of the most pleasant places in the Mediterranean to spend a holiday. It will suit you if you’re looking for beautiful beaches, plenty of things to do, an excellent climate, and affordability.

Malta is packed with interesting attractions, including medieval castles, incredible 17th-century architecture, and several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It has over 7,000 years of interesting culture and history to explore, spanning from the Neolithic period, to the Crusades, to the island’s role in World War Two.

You will also find miles of beaches, where you can relax and frolic in the warm waters of the Med.

Things to know about Malta
Malta is just south of Italy, so the climate is great for a beach holiday. During the summer months you can enjoy up to 12 hours of beautiful sunshine, with temperatures that range from 24-28C (75-83F) during May and June, with peak summer months at a consistent 31C (88F).

When you arrive you will be delighted with the easy access to almost all of the main island’s attractions and beaches. With Malta covering only 122 square miles, you can travel from one end of the main island to the other in about an hour. You can decide to rent a car, but other forms of transport are readily available, such as a public bus system which will take you directly to several of the fabulous attractions around the island.

You won’t have to worry about a language barrier. The island has two official languages, Maltese and English. This will make your holiday more enjoyable when conversing with the local residents.

There is no need to worry about currency either. Malta is part of the European Union and uses the Euro. You will find plenty of places offering competitive exchange rates.

Where to stay in Malta
Most people on holiday in Malta stay in or near Valletta, the capital city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to the 1560s. The neighbourhoods around Valletta offer holidaymakers a wide assortment of places to stay. Prices can range from £56 to over £200 per night depending on your preference for budget versus luxury.

Areas such as Paceville are lively, with plenty of dining, entertainment and shopping options within walking distance. Other neighbourhoods of interest include Sliema and Gzira which overlooks the Grand Harbour.

If you prefer to stay outside the city, in a more relaxed atmosphere, the Corinthia Palace Hotel, located within a renovated 19th-century Neo-classical mansion, is a fantastic choice. The hotel is situated a 15-minute drive from Valletta and many of the beaches, as well as being adjacent to the lush San Anton Gardens.

Beautiful Maltese beaches
The variety of beaches you can experience in Malta will provide you with plenty of opportunities for relaxation and swimming, along with numerous watersports activities. Most of the beaches are within around 20 miles of Valletta, and you can easily access them by car or public transport.

The Mellieha Beach, also known as Ghadira Bay, is an ideal choice if you want multiple on-site amenities. Beachgoers at Golden Bay can also enjoy a wide array of services as well as excellent sunsets. Pretty Bay is a short distance from Valletta with a superb promenade.

Other attractions in Malta
You can take an interesting tour of Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site loaded with baroque and medieval architecture. When you visit the Upper Barrakka Gardens you will have panoramic views of the Grand Harbour, and you can learn about the Knights of St. John as well as the 1565 Great Siege of Malta.

Other magnificent sites include St. John’s Co-Cathedral, the ancient capital city of Mdina, and you can take a ferry north to the neighbouring island of Gozo. You can relive the perils of the bombing raids during World War Two within several renovated bomb shelters, and there are unique museums that cover World War Two.

Overall, travellers who have holidayed on Malta come away feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Where else can you go to the beach, then walk through a Neolithic temple and a medieval city all in one day?

Could Malta be your perfect holiday getaway?