Travel apps: Cheap rooms with Roomer and good food reviews with Zomato

Roomer: Buy a cheap room, or sell your hotel room!
Picture the scene: you’ve booked a hotel, and then something comes up and you can’t travel on the day you expected to. For most people, this would likely mean paying at least a cancellation fee, or at worst losing your whole deposit on a nonrefundable booking.

Issues like that can often dissuade people from making plans too far in advance, despite the cost savings of booking in advance.

We have good news for you if this is one of the conundrums you have faced or are concerned about.

Roomer is a travel app that gives you the opportunity to sell your booking, or buy someone else’s booking, at close to half the cost.

There are two important caveats on hotel reservation sales: you can only sell your reservation if it is non-refundable and prepaid.

If you’re looking to purchase a hotel reservation at a lower cost than a standard booking you will be happy to learn that Roomer recommends sellers mark their selling price at least 50 percent lower than the original price.

Essentially Roomer creates a win, win, win, situation, providing the buyer with a great price, the seller with at least half their funds back, and the hotel with a filled room. Just be forewarned that Roomer verifies and approves each posting, which can take a little over 24 hours.

Download Roomer for iPhone
Download Roomer for Android

Food reviews with Zomato
Travelling can be extremely expensive, and one of the biggest expenses is eating costs, if you’re not a street-foodie of course.

Have you noticed that more and more restaurants are opting to put their menus on their websites without pricing? This is frustrating when you’re trying to make plans in a new city.

Of course, when you’re in a new city and checking out new authentic places, it’s not just about the pricing, it’s about food taste and the ambience of the place. And we all know that the photographs on a restaurant website are shot by professionals, edited to perfection, and are about as believable as those shots belonging to a fast-food joint.

Now, thanks to a handy app called Zomato, you can check out menus, prices, diner reviews and photos shot by diners too. You can also see actual photographs of the menu that diners have taken and posted to Zomato.

You can read the reviews and get an overall idea of the positives and negatives of dining in a place, as well as recommendations on what to eat.

The app will also give you suggestions for restaurants that are similar to the one you’re looking at.

Essentially Zomato is like your personal restaurant reviewer, so if you’re looking for an alternative point of view to that provided by TripAdvisor, take a look at Zomato.

Download Zomato for iPhone
Download Zomato for Android

Cruises: Making the most of a day in port

A day in port makes for a pleasant change to the regular shipboard routine. Crowds of passengers disembark and pile into coaches for excursions to some or other top attraction.

But with only five or six hours available, how do you squeeze in as much as possible without things getting hectic?

Researching and planning the day
A bit of up-front planning can make all the difference to your holiday.

You could form a small group of two or three other people, as you are far less likely to be bothered by street vendors, and you have people with you whom you know.

In this case, an itinerary becomes essential, so you more or less agree on what you want to do. Some research beforehand is paramount. You can even start planning your days in port while you are still at home, before you set off for your cruise.

Take a look at the ship’s library, since they make a point of stocking resources relating to their current schedule. Published travel guides are often well-researched. By contrast, articles on the internet can be excellent, but many simply rehash what others have said.

A good place to look online is the town’s official website, since it is run by people who live in the place and know it well. They cannot afford a bad report by a visitor. Their motivation is to create passionate enthusiasts for their town who praise them on social media. They also do not have a direct financial interest in directing visitors to a particular restaurant or attraction.

Choosing a few things to see and do
Since you cannot do more than scratch the surface in a single day, it makes no sense to try to do everything. Agree a basic plan with the group before starting research. Are you going to have breakfast on board first, or head out early to somewhere authentic where the locals dine?

You will probably want a top-up midday snack, so make sure to be seated and eating before the lunchtime crowds arrive. If you are having dinner back on board in the evening, you might choose just to get lunch quickly, unless there is a particular restaurant you wish to visit. If you can get a big breakfast on board, you might not need lunch at all, which will give you more time to look around.

This leaves morning and afternoon spaces of a few hours each to do something different. Consider staying away from hackneyed destinations like famous palaces and churches unless you like crowds!

Your stay in port comes alive on the day
A day in port comes alive when you visit lesser-known points of interest that tour buses avoid. This could be because parking is difficult, or the driver does not get a kickback. They may even be so peaceful you get the feeling you discovered them, as you potter through soaking up the local atmosphere.

If you plan in advance, your day will flow smoothly because you have time to relax. You may not even see your fellow passengers for a couple of hours; spare a thought for them in buses chasing tight deadlines! You will have a different story to share over supper.

Malaga city: more than meets the eye

Malaga is a Spanish city underestimated by many travellers, who just see it as the place their plane lands before they head for the coast! However, with history, culture, real Spain, great shops and wonderful food, it is growing in popularity.

We asked Tracy Morgan, who lived in Malaga and knows it well, to give us an insider’s view.

Malaga city offers a wealth of culture, nightlife, sightseeing, and beaches. There is something for everyone in this trendy and vibrant city. Malaga Airport is very well located, just a short train or bus ride away, but offers everything you would expect from an international airport, including car hire.

Climate
During winter, Malaga reaches a pleasant 17C (63F). Springtime temperatures rise to 21C (70F) and the summer months are on average as high as 30C (86F).

City sightseeing
Architecture is a huge part of Malaga’s history. Visit the cathedral, Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica de la Encarnación, known as “La Manquita” (“the one-armed lady”.) The cathedral took 250 years to build, and is one of the highlights of Malaga.

The Alcazaba is a Moorish fortress, built in the 11th century. City tourist buses offer reasonably-priced 24-hour tours, which take you to the top of the Alcazaba, where you can use the hop on/off facility to relax and take in the 360-degree views across the city.

Remains of an ancient Roman theatre lie below the Alcazaba, dating back to 1st century BC. Unearthed by construction workers in 1951, it took many years of restoration to fully reveal this stunning piece of history, and it is well worth a visit at night when it gets lit up majestically.

Beaches
Malaga has over 14 kilometres (8.5 miles) of stunning Mediterranean coastline. Stroll along the promenade to discover inviting “chiringuitos” (beach bars) offering fresh, local cuisine. Many rent out sun loungers and umbrellas, a perfect way to spend the day. Malaga beaches are very clean and have great facilities including showers, toilets and play areas for children.

Shopping
Walk around the vibrant and colourful Calle Larios, a broad pedestrian avenue with street entertainment including mime artists and flamenco. Take a detour and explore the narrow side streets to find artisan boutique shops and bars.

When you have shopped enough, mingle amongst the trendy Malagueños, and enjoy a cold drink or a tapa.

The Malaga Marina has a great deal to offer, with green parks and the Muelle Uno shopping complex with its trendy shops and restaurants.

Nightlife
When it comes to nightlife, Malaga is a vibrant city all year round, and in the summer months most people don’t venture outdoors until after dark. This is when Malaga comes into its own, when the streets and squares are filled with families having fun.

Malaga has many restaurants, bars and bodegas (wine bars), from smart and modern lounges, flamenco bars, to the traditional “spit and sawdust” bars.

The must-visit places are the amazing Antigua Casa de Guardia, the oldest bar in Malaga, and El Pimpi where you can mingle amongst the ancient barrels, sip the famous sweet fortified wine, and gaze upon the interesting old photographs that adorn the walls.

Culture
Apart from the very popular Picasso Museum and birthplace, there are over 100 art galleries and museums in the city, with something on offer to satisfy everyone.

Malaga is a truly wonderful city – you should give it a try!

Disneyland Paris – not just for kids!

Much closer to home than its big brother in the USA, much easier to reach, and so much more affordable too, Disneyland Paris really isn’t just for the kids.

While it’s true that Disneyland is a magical haven filled with fun and wonder for young children, there is also plenty to keep an adult couple – or a group of adults – entertained too.

Of course, if you have children or grandchildren to take along with you, you’ll get so much pleasure from seeing their little faces light up at the sight of all their favourite Disney characters coming to life through the various rides, shows and other attractions the park has to offer, but even if you are travelling without children, your own inner-child is sure to find plenty to captivate it!

Two parks: which will you choose?
The Disneyland Paris site is made up of a selection of themed hotels, the Disney Village which hosts numerous shops and restaurants, and two theme parks: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park.

If you are travelling without children, and certainly if you are limited to only a day or two, Walt Disney Studios Park will be the park for you to make your way to first.

Disneyland Park caters very much for young children – think rides for toddlers and over-excited Disney characters appearing for photo opportunities around every corner! However, Walt Disney Studios Park is much more suitable for adults, with its theme focused on the history of “the movies”, with adult-friendly shows and more intense rides (for those that are brave enough!).

If you’re interested in the history of Disney and how it all began, including how Walt made his movies and revolutionised the animated film industry, the Art of Disney Animation attraction within the Toon Studio area of the park should be your first stop. Here you’ll find lots of interesting information, presented in a genuinely fun-for-all-ages format of cinema presentations, lively demonstrations and fascinating exhibits. There is even the opportunity for some interactive experiences if you fancy getting involved yourself!

Attractions
Petrol heads (or anyone who appreciates a good stunt show, and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) should head on over to the Backlot area of the park to see the Moteurs…Action! Stunt Show Spectacular as this is definitely one not to be missed by the adults! A thrilling 45-minute long live show of fast cars swerving, sliding, and even jumping through fire as they race around in hot pursuit of each other, this is a real jaw-dropping show which never fails to impress even its repeat visitors.

As for rides, these include to name a few, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, themed around a spooky abandoned hotel; the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith for those that like a bit of rock music while they are traveling at 62mph along a track of hairpin turns, steep drops and loops (not for the faint-hearted!); or the slightly more subdued, although still considered a thrill ride by most, Crush’s Coaster where you ride on the back of the friendly turtle from the Finding Nemo movie.

Avoid queues with FASTPASS
All three of the above rides are eligible for FASTPASS. This is a free service offered by Disney where you can get a ticket from a booth outside the ride entrance of certain attractions which regularly have long queues.

This gives you a time to return and enter through the special FASTPASS entrance and either walk straight on the ride, or only queue for a few minutes, depending on how busy the park is when you visit.

Unbelievably, many visitors to Disneyland don’t take advantage of this time-saving FASTPASS service, either because they simply do not know about it, or because they mistakenly believe you have to pay for it. That’s a shame, because guests who are not in-the-know waste valuable time queueing for rides when they don’t need to.

The park is open year-round and if you are travelling without children you have the luxury of being able to visit outside of school holidays, which will help you avoid the worst of the crowds.

Where to eat
And of course, no discussion of Disneyland Paris would be complete without mention of the mouth-watering dining options available throughout the resort. Within Walt Disney Studios Park itself you will find “Bistrot Chez Rémy” an excellent Parisian bistro serving mouth-watering French cuisine in the themed surroundings of Disney’s “Ratatouille” movie.

Over in the Disney Village, situated conveniently between the two theme parks and the various resort hotels, you will find an abundance of tempting dining options. These include The Steakhouse where you can tuck into steak and chips in a Chicago themed setting; Annette’s Diner a 1950’s themed eatery where your servers whizz around on roller-skates; or for something extra special there is Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, where you can watch a live action-packed Cowboys and Indians show whilst chowing down on some hearty Texan fare!

Reservations can be made up to two months in advance, and money-saving Disney Meal Plan pre-paid vouchers are also available for purchase.

How to get there
The nearest airport is Paris Charles De Gaulle, which is approximately 45 minutes away and is well-served by easyJet. Disneyland Paris offers a complimentary shuttle servicefrom the airport to most of its hotels, of which it boasts several, suiting most budgets.

There are also various park entrance ticket options depending on which parks you wish to visit and for how long you wish to stay, but prices start from £38 for an adult and £32 for a child. You can start planning your trip by looking at Disney’s own Disneyland Paris offers.

Bon Voyage!

Island of Brac: the hidden gem of Croatia

You know we like to get a local’s view of the places we write about, so we asked Valentino Jaksic to tell us more about Croatia. He was born on a Dalmatian island in a tourism-oriented town, and lived there for 18 years before moving to Zagreb.

The Croatian Adriatic coast has become a popular holiday destination for British tourists in recent years. However, there are still some undiscovered parts, since most tourists usually only visit Split, Dubrovnik and Hvar. The real gem lies between Split and Hvar: the island of Brac.

Location
The island of Brac is the largest island in Croatian region of Dalmatia. It is easily reachable by a pleasant 50-minute ferry boat ride from Split or via Brac Airport. Even though Brac is the closest island to the Croatian mainland, it remains relatively uncrowded.

History
The island lies at the crossroads of important trade routes between the Croatian mainland and Italy. The abundance of olives and pine trees, and distinctive white stone used for building, ensured early human settlement. This led to the Greek and Roman colonisation of the island.

The Roman colonisation laid the foundation for the tradition of stone excavation on the island. Numerous quarries on the island produce stone of the highest quality: the quality of Brac building stone is famous all around the world.

Interesting fact: Brac quarries provided the stone for the construction of the White House in Washington and Diocletian’s palace in Split.

Climate
The island’s mild climate means that the average temperature on the island is around 25C (77F) during summer, although it often approaches 30C (86F). Sea temperatures reach 24C (75F) and allow swimming in the Adriatic Sea from May to September.

The mild climate has resulted in an easy-going lifestyle and unique cuisine. Cooler evenings are perfect for exploring the towns. Besides various festivals and rich nightlife, strolls along the waterfront are the most popular activity. Restaurants, cafes and bars typically stay open until 2 am.

One of the most popular destinations on the island is the Vidova Gora peak, the highest island point in the Adriatic Sea (780m). Due to its height, the temperature is usually a few degrees lower than on coastline. The highlight of the peak is its incredible panoramic view of the islands of Hvar, Korcula and Vis. The peak is accessible by car or via hiking trails.

Beaches
With a coastline of 175 km (110 miles), the island offers a vast number of different beaches, both public and in private camps. All public beaches offer a wide variety of activities such as boating and surfing.

Zlatni Rat beach is one of the most beautiful pebbled beaches in Europe. It is a highly popular beach located on the southern side of the island.

However, if you value privacy, there are numerous isolated beaches along the road all around the island. A great example is Lovrecina, a sandy beach near the town of Postira.

Summer festivals
Nearly all towns on the island take pride in their culture-oriented summer festivals. Usual events include exhibitions, theatrical performances and folklore evenings. Coastal towns organise Fisherman Feasts every week. During those feasts, local fishermen serve organic fish while singing traditional a cappella klapa music.

The city of Supetar’s summer festival also includes the traditional Brac Film Festival and an urban music festival called Voi’Sa.

Special events in Europe during February and March 2018

During winter, the summer holidays can feel like a million years away. As you’re reading this newsletter, you’re probably daydreaming of beaches, sunloungers and sangria, but let me interrupt you for just one second!

Maybe the remedy for the dark nights isn’t a time machine to transport you to summer. Maybe, it’s right on your doorstep…

These ten European festivals are just a short flight away, and will get you over your winter blues in no time!

Carnival of Binche 
Binche, Belgium, 11th to 13th February 2018
The tiny Belgian town of Binche comes alive on the days leading up to Lent, for the Carnival of Binche. During this time, Gilles take to the streets dressed up in elaborate costumes and take part in a variety of events including a confetti battle and orange throwing. The festival dates back to the 14th century and has been declared a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO.

Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin
Berlin, Germany, 15th to 25th February 2018
Berlin has long been regarded as one of the most important cultural cities in Europe. It should come as no surprise, then, that their International Film Festival is held in high regard all around the world.

Carnival in Bern 
Bern, Switzerland, 15th February to 9th March 2018
Bern Carnival is one of Switzerland’s most famous festivals, dating back to the 15th century. The city is filled with jesters and performers who take to the street with one particular aim: to awaken the imprisoned bears from their 11-day long winter sleep!

Taste Florence Food Festival
Florence, Italy, 10th to 12th March 2018
Let’s be honest: no trip to Italy is complete without sampling some of the country’s famous cuisine. So why not make it the focal point of your trip? The Taste Florence Food Festival features some of the region’s most famous chefs and producers and is a fantastic place to explore the city’s culinary traditions.

Carnival of San Remo
San Remo, Italy, 11th March 2018
The Mediterranean city of San Remo comes awash with colour during the annual Carnival. This is one of Italy’s most popular yearly events, with TV viewers in their millions tuning in to catch some of the action. The highlight of the celebration is the exquisite flower parade, which features imaginative floats made entirely from flowers.

Medieval Discovery Fair
Palos de Frontera, Spain, 11th to 12th March 2018
Palos de Frontera is a historical town in Andalusia with a rich maritime culture. The Medieval Discovery Fair celebrates the town’s involvement in the discovery of America and the life of Christopher Columbus. Visitors looking for full immersion can take to the cobbled streets fully clad in traditional clothing. It’s just like being taken back to the 15th century!

Saint Patrick’s Day Festival 
Dublin, Ireland, 15th to 19th March 2018
It seems like three-quarters of the world is half-Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day, so why not join them? Dublin is, undoubtedly, the heart of the world’s Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations. Expect parades, dancing, and of course plenty of pubs. Don’t forget to pack your green hat!

Las Fallas 
Valencia, Spain, 15th to 19th March 2018
Every March, Valencia goes up in flames for Las Fallas Festival. Visitors can watch as huge, intricate dolls take to the streets before being burned on the bonfire. Traditionally, the local people believe that everything bad is then burnt and can be reborn from the ashes.

Barcelona Beer Festival
Barcelona, Spain, 16th to 18th March
“Una Cerveza por favour!” (a beer please!) is a favourite phrase of most holidaymakers in Spain. To put it to good use, pay a visit to the Barcelona Beer Festival. The festival has more than 300 beers to choose from, coming from all around the world. Guests can also enjoy live music and a huge array of street food to line their stomachs!

Keukenhof Tulip Festival
Lisse, The Netherlands, 23rd March to May 2018
Spring is the perfect time to see Holland’s famous tulips in full bloom. During Keukenhof, visitors can enjoy 79 acres of vibrant and colourful flowers, making it one of the largest flower gardens in the world!

Amazing winter events in Europe during January and February

When the temperature drops, you may be tempted to just stay inside with a cosy blanket wrapped around you, doing nothing fun or adventurous. Oh, what a mistake!

Winter in Europe sets the perfect stage for numerous amazing events and festivals, giving you the opportunity to enjoy this magical season.

We’ve chosen nine incredible events that will take place in January and February 2018 in Europe; we’re sure you will find something you will enjoy!

If you are a carnival and music lover…
The world-famous Carnival of Venice will take place from 27th January to 13th February 2018. During the carnival city comes alive with its magical atmosphere – there are masks of different colours, shapes and designs everywhere you look, lively dresses and elegant costumes. Music and entertainment will follow you wherever you go in this town during the carnival, and it’s a unique opportunity to feel like you time-travelled back to another century, where everything is mystic and beautiful.

If you want something more wild, join the thousands heading to Carnival de Santa Cruz, Tenerife from 7th February to 18th February 2018. This festival is traditionally held every February on this stunning Canary Island, and it’s the source of immense entertainment for all generations. There are amazing costumes everywhere, and for a good reason: costume competitions and election of the Carnival Queen. You’ll enjoy the show, parades, beautiful and bizarre costumes, music concerts, jaw-dropping performances, street parties and much more!

Nice Carnival is a big thing in France. In 2018 it will take place from 17th February to 3rd March. This lively and colourful festival lights up the winter mood; people dress up in costumes, enjoy the show and the music, and have fun. You’ll love it for its happy feeling, as well as costumes, street performers, and clowns.

For a more calm and easy atmosphere, where you will relax and just enjoy the great jazz music, Winterjazz in Denmark is a perfect event. This music festival is held in several cities across Denmark: Copenhagen, Aalborg, Aarhus, Odense and Esbjerg, from 2nd February to 25th February 2018. You can hear hundreds of Danish and international jazz artists all across Denmark, so if you find yourself in this stunning country in February, don’t miss this great festival.

If you put great food and drink as your priority…
You’ve heard of wine tasting, but what about chocolate tasting? Amsterdam gives you the opportunity on 24th and 25th February to taste numerous different kinds of chocolate on its Amsterdam Chocoa Festival. Besides discovering and enjoying new flavours, you will learn about chocolate making and different kinds of chocolate, and more sweet stuff!

For all you beer lovers out there, Bruges Beer Festival in Belgium is exactly what you need for a perfect holiday! This festival will take place on 4th and 5th February 2018 in the historic centre of Bruges. You will have the opportunity to taste more than 300 different beers from more than 70 breweries. What’s more interesting: there are new beers launched at the festival every year, so it’s a great opportunity to try something new and exciting.

If you’re a visual type and enjoy winter lights…
Amsterdam Light Festival, which is held from 30th November to 21st January 2018, will amaze you with its beauty. As the day turns into night, this city turns into a fairytale, with its glowing artwork lights above the water, and it inspires everyone lucky enough to see it at this time of the year.

Closer to home, 30th January 2018 is a special day in Scotland because of one unique traditional event: Up Helly Aa in Lerwick, Shetland, is all about fire, burning torches, Vikings, and glory! If you want to see hundreds of people dressed up as Vikings with fire torches, burning a wooden Viking ship in honour of their history, and then dance all night around the fire, you have to see this one-of-a-kind event!

If the fire is not so much your thing, there is something completely different for you in the ice of Sweden’s Lapland: Jokkmokk Winter Market from 29th January to 4th February 2018. With over 400 years of tradition, people from all around the globe gather to enjoy Swedish food specialities, music and dance, and of course the beautiful, glowing decorations.

And there you have it! These are just a few of the events and festivals Europe has to offer in the winter months, so get out of that blanket and experience a new adventure! We’ll look at some more next month.

Hidden Zagreb: five secret spots you won’t find in a tourist guide

We asked a true local, Dorotea Albertina Knezevic, who was born and brought up in Zagreb, for her top tips.

Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, has become an increasingly popular destination in the last couple of years. It’s received an award for the best European Christmas Market last year, and it keeps attracting more people by continually improving what it can offer to travellers like you.

That means one thing: Zagreb can be swarming with tourists! If you want to visit Zagreb, but you want to avoid overcrowded tourist sites, here is a special treat for you: five hidden places in Zagreb to make your trip a truly unique experience.

Savica Lakes
Only five minutes car ride from the industrial part of the city, in the southeast outskirts of the town, you’ll find the perfect water oasis. The Savica Lakes is a complex of twelve lakes, surrounded by greenery, the chirping of birds, and serene swimming swans. You can take your picnic basket and a blanket and enjoy the view.

Medvedgrad Fortress
Medvedgrad, a medieval fortress built in the 13th century, watches over Zagreb from the southern slopes of Medvednica mountain. This picturesque but formidable castle defended the city from the Tatars, who often raided two ancient settlements of Zagreb: Gradec and Kaptol.

Through the years, the castle was the residence of many aristocratic families. One of the most infamous owners were the Counts of Celje, with the ill-famed countess Barbara “The Black Queen” as a head of the family.

Solar System Model 
Did you know that Zagreb has its very own solar system? That’s right! Most of the locals know about the “Sun” in Bogovićeva Street, but even they are not familiar with the existence of the other planets in this fascinating scale model art installation that is spread all over the city.

So, if you’re up for a little walk – put on your adventurous shoes and start your planet quest.

Grič Tunnel 
The tunnel that served as both a rave party venue and a bomb shelter in World War Two is located in the very centre of Zagreb. This 1,150-foot long tunnel is open to the public from 9am to 9pm. You can enter it from one of three entrances – Mesnička Street, Tomićeva Street or Art Park. I encourage you to walk through the tunnel and try to make an echo!

Zagreb’s First Traditional Teahouse 
After visiting all those places, a good cup of tea would be much appreciated! Jing Yuan – a teahouse in the centre of Zagreb, is a perfect place for it. It’s a traditional Chinese teahouse where you can enjoy a true tea ceremony and rejuvenate your body and mind. You can’t miss it – it’s in Ilica Street right after British Square.

Enjoy your secret Zagreb tour!

What should you buy at a Christmas market?

Visiting a Christmas market can be exciting, but once you’ve absorbed the fairy-tale surroundings and sampled the glühwein, it is easy to get lost among stalls full of novelty items and souvenirs.

However, you can find locally-made products and traditional gifts worth spending your money on. Here are some of the best:

Stollen
Stollen is a luxurious fruit bread made with candied fruit, raisins, and spices and rolled in icing sugar. It is thought that the first Stollen was made in Dresden as a Christmas offering to the Saxony rulers of the time. Known as Christstollen, the medieval version was less appetizing, containing only flour, oats, and water.

To this day, Dresden Stollen must be made by a registered baker. On 3rd December every year, an enormous Stollen is pulled through the streets of the city by horse and cart.

You can find versions made with rum, champagne, marzipan, and almonds. Buy it early, as traditionally, it should be stored before being eaten.
£2 – £50

Herrnhut Star
The Herrnhut Star is an iconic Christmas decoration used all over the world. Historians believe the 26-point stars were first made in a school in Herrnhut as part of geometry or math lessons in the late 1800s.

Herrnhut was the birthplace of the Moravian Church and so the stars appeared in local churches before being commercially produced a few years later.

They are still made by hand at the original factory in Herrnhut. In the markets, plastic and paper versions are common. Buy a bulb and light yours up inside.
£8 – £175

Lebkuchen
One food you will find at every Christmas market is Lebkuchen, a gingerbread made with honey, spices and candied citrus peel. Records exist of Lebkuchen being made in Nuremberg as early as 1395. Honey was in abundance because local forests were full of bees, which were kept by the Zeidler, or Bee-keeping Guild.

In the 1600s a guild of Lebkuchen bakers emerged, creating their own recipes and intricate designs.

Today, you will find Lebkuchen inscribed with messages in icing, packaged in decorative tins, or baked into heart-shaped cookies.

Different kinds of Lebkuchen are distinguished by the proportion of nuts they contain – Elisenlebkuchen, named after the daughter of one of the original bakers – must contain at least 25 percent nuts.
£2 – £110

Wood art
When tin mining declined in the Ore Mountains in Saxony, local miners took to carving wooden kitchen implements and toys to make a living. The miners also made decorative candle holders, known as Schwibbogen, which were placed in windows around Christmas-time to guide the miners home, and Christmas pyramids, which they made to hang in their houses.

Today, you will find these German folk art pieces at all Christmas markets. The authentic versions are made by hand. Look for the label saying, ‘from the Erzgebirge.’
£2 – £4,500

Glass baubles
In Lauscha in the late 1500s, poor glass blowers who could not afford the traditional fruit and sweets to hang on their Christmas trees created versions out of glass, and the Christmas bauble was born.

Early baubles were shaped like apples, pears, and pine cones, but the glass blowers got creative, and between 1870 and 1940 a huge variety of different ornaments were made and exported around the world.

Today, there are still around 20 small glass blowing businesses in Lauscha. You will find all kinds of baubles at Christmas markets – just make sure to pack them carefully!
£8 – £50

Prune figures or Zwetschgenmännle  
According to folklore, when a Nuremberg resident could not afford gifts for his children, he made them figures out of prunes from the tree in his garden. Now, the ‘prune man’ is given at weddings, Christmas, and New Year, and brings good luck and wealth to those who keep him in the house.

Hundreds of different versions are available, but all have arms and legs made with prunes, heads made from walnuts and bodies made from figs.  Despite their components, they are not supposed to be eaten!
£2 – £20

Travel apps review: Monument Tracker and TripLingo

Monument Tracker 

This app will guide you to all the important monuments in the city you are visiting, and will provide you with useful information about them.

Sounds boring and like all the other similar apps you’ve seen out there? You’re wrong.

Monument Tracker lists different monuments based on your location, putting the closest ones on top of the list. By clicking on a monument, the app gives you the exact location of it and how to get there, as well as information on its history and cultural significance.

The maps you choose are downloaded to your phone, so they are available to you when you don’t have an internet connection, which can save you money on data roaming fees.

You can add different monuments on your “must-see” list, and some of them even have the option for a guided tour or a 360º view.

An interesting feature of this app is that you can walk around the city and explore it at your own pace, and the app will notify you if you are near a significant monument, so you don’t miss anything.

Besides important sights, this app offers info about different activities and events in the city which you can participate in.

What’s addictive about Monument Tracker is that you can gain points by visiting different sights, reading about them, taking photos, recommending places, etc., and move from “beginner” level where you started to a more advanced level. You can also share your profile with your friends to show them where you visited, what you liked the most, and what you would recommend.

There are additional, fun options, such as quizzes to test your knowledge about the city after all that exciting sight-seeing.

Monument Tracker is free, and it’s available for Android and iOS.
Download Monument Tracker for iOS
Download Monument Tracker for Android

TripLingo 

One of the most challenging things in a foreign city is communicating with locals if they don’t speak English. Triplingo makes this more comfortable and headache-free.

The app provides you with a wide range of useful phrases and expressions for everyday communication at your travel destination.

Besides phrases and expressions, the app has a built-in offline dictionary with more than 10,000 words per language. Additionally, it has audio lessons, so you can prepare yourself before your trip.

It also includes one very helpful feature that makes communication smoother and faster, especially if you’re listening to someone speaking in another language: voice translator. It instantly translates your, or someone else’s voice into another language.

Another useful feature is the image translator: it lets you take a picture, for example, a sign or a menu, and translates it instantly. Never get a wrong dish in a restaurant because of the language barrier again!

If that is not enough, the app also has so many other helpful features, such as tip calculator, safety tips (emergency numbers, medical terminology, etc.) and lots of other info about the country you are visiting.

Overall, TripLingo is an impressive app that makes sure you’re fully prepared for your trip.

TripLingo is free, and it’s available for Android and iOS.
Download TripLingo for iOS
Download TripLingo for Android