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Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden


Where to stay: Stockholm is a beautiful and vibrant city with a ton of different types of neighborhoods to choose from.  Gamla Stan, the Old Town, is one of the most prestigious places to live in the entire country, so naturally, staying there as a tourist will cost you a pretty penny.  I opted to stay in the neighborhood called Sodermalm, which is on the island south of Gamla Stan, but along the same metro line.  I found this area to be bustling with chic bars and great restaurants, as well as plenty of boutique shops that didn’t make you feel like you were walking and breathing tourism every minute of the day.  Add to the fact that some of the best views in the city are on this island, and I’d say this is the place to be if you really want to experience all that Stockholm has to offer, and not just the touristy old town.

Hostels have weird policies in much of Sweden, which often include a requirement to bring your own linens and towels.  It may not seem like such a big deal, but when you have to pay upwards of $30 or $40 USD per night for the privilege of staying in a shared room, I believe that you should have a sheet on your mattress that you didn’t have to bring with you.  Because of this, I opted to stay in an Airbnb since I was able to find one to split with my friend that worked out to roughly the same price as a dorm room in a hostel (here).

Where to eat: There are a ton of great restaurants of almost all cuisines in Stockholm, so the trick is just finding the ones that look most interesting!  Unfortunately, nothing in Stockholm is super cheap, but there are certainly options off the beaten tourist path that are less expensive than in the old town near the attractions.  For example, try visiting Lisa’s Cafe in Sodermalm.  It’s an adorable little café where it’s clear that the servers know everyone who walks through the door, or will by the time the customer leaves.  Eating breakfast at Lisa’s feels like eating in your grandmother’s kitchen- warm, cosy, and friendly; the perfect way to start the day!


I recommend visiting the Nya Carnegie Bryggeriet, a brewery in a suburb accessible by tram, bus, or ferry.  I especially recommend visiting for lunch, as they have excellent lunch specials (and beer) that aren’t too expensive.  The neighborhood where the brewery is is also really nice to walk around- it’s clearly in a more modern part of the city, so if you have some extra time, it’s worth a wander.  If you’re looking for something distinctly not Swedish, I have two recommendations that came on good authority from locals.  First, The Holy Cow, is a great Indian restaurant located in Sodermalm with relatively inexpensive food and a great atmosphere.  While it isn’t exactly local cuisine, it is clearly a local “spot”, which counts for something!  Secondly, I recommend a restaurant called Moso Jamrock.  Also located in Sodermalm, but slightly closer to Old Town, this is an excellent Caribbean-style restaurant with delicious food and staff that are incredibly friendly and welcoming.

There are also some cultural food traditions in Sweden, which I really think we should all respect.  My favorite of these traditions is something called “Fika”, which is essentially a mid-day break to have coffee and a pastry.  You’ll find Fika menus and special pricing all over the city, and when you can no longer feel your hands because of the cold, you’ll find that it will always be a good life choice.

For more food and food tour recommendations, check out Passion for Hospitality’s post!

What to do: Stockholm is a really incredible city to explore at any time of year.  Of course, visiting in the summer gives you certain advantages, as some sites and attractions are only open or have extended hours between May and August.  If there’s something specific you want to see in Stockholm outside of the summer months, you should definitely do some research to see if it’ll be open when you’re there, otherwise you might be sorely disappointed.  If you’re just visiting Stockholm to take in its history, beauty, and culture, you’ll have plenty to see all year round!


Start by taking a walk in Montelilsvagen, which is a path above the water across from Gamla Stan (old town).  This path will give you absolutely INCREDIBLE views of the city (above), and is a great way to take in the atmosphere and architecture before heading over to the tiny streets of the old city.  If you’re looking for the opposite view, head over to Riddarholmen, which is a small island connected to Gamla Stan.  You’ll find a gorgeous cathedral, interesting food trucks, and a beautiful waterfront on this island.  I found that sitting and looking at the brick facade of city hall from Riddarholmen was one of my favorite places to be in the city.


To orient yourself to the city, try a free walking tour of Gamla Stan with Stockholm Free Tour.  There is so much history packed into those little streets, and so many ways to get lost, it’s really nice to have a guide giving you some ideas and suggestions for what to visit later.  This company also offers tours of the more modern part of the city, so if you’re more interested in the current culture and architecture, you can check that out, too!

If you’re going to visit one museum in Stockholm, and there are many to choose from, I would definitely recommend visiting The Royal Palace.  This is the former residence of the Swedish royal family, but is still used for visitors, and is a central landmark in the middle of the city.  The great thing about a ticket to see the Royal Palace is that it will also give you access to the Treasury, where the crown jewels are now kept, which is a cool place to check out.  Keep in mind that if there are royal visitors in town, access to the inside of the palace will be limited, so if that’s important to you, be sure to check their website in advance.  If you have some time to get outside the city, you can also visit Drottningholm Palace, where the royal family currently resides.

And last but not least, if you’re looking to splurge and spoil yourself, you can have a Swedish spa experience!  The spa at the Grand Hotel (across the water from the Royal Palace) is absolutely incredible, and while it is a bit pricey, it’s worth every penny.

Overall Opinion: Stockholm is a truly incredible city with a rich history and beautiful culture.  Despite its notoriously chilly weather and dark winter days, you’ll likely find that the city is one of the warmest and coziest that you’ll visit.  Even though there is often more to do in the summer months when there’s plenty of daylight and warmth, there are also far more tourists during these months than there are between September and April.  Visiting Stockholm anytime through October will give you the opportunity to experience beautiful fall weather, empty streets, and an incredible atmosphere, so don’t be afraid of heading to Sweden after the summer ends!  I would absolutely visit Stockholm again, it’s really an amazing place to be.


Porto, Portugal

Porto, Portugal


Where to stay: There are a ton of inexpensive and highly rated hostels in Porto, so I really think that’s the way to go in this city.  Porto also really lends itself to social life, and staying in a hostel will make it easier for you to meet people to do things with during the day and at night!  Staying in the historic center is really important in Porto because it will give you the opportunity to walk almost anywhere you need to go (if you don’t mind walking up and down hill A LOT).  I think that anywhere in the center between the Clerigos Tower and the river would give you great access to anything you’d want to see or do, and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg!

Where to eat: Cuisine in Porto is really more of an art form than it is a basic human necessity.  With that being said, it’s really easy to fall into the trap of eating at one of the outdoor cafés by the river and never actually experiencing good Portuguese food.  I recommend wandering around near the university (also near the Clerigos Tower) to find some more out-of-the-way spots for your meals.  You may also opt to get a bottle of wine and some snacks and sit under the olive trees next to the tower, it’s clearly a local hangout, and it’s completely beautiful.  I also recommend the restaurant RomeoGiulietta, which I stumbled upon while wandering around.  The food was delicious, as was the wine, and for what you get it wasn’t crazy expensive.  The service was excellent, and the atmosphere was great- a nice hidden treasure.  Fortunately, if you plan it right (read: stay away from tourist traps), none of the food in Porto is very expensive, so this is the city to treat yourself to a nice meal!

What to do: There is an absolute ton to see and do in Porto, aside from soaking up the sun in the summer!  I recommend checking out the Pancho Free Walking Tour on your first day, as the tour guides are truly incredible, and it will give you a great look into the city and an idea of where to go or what to see.  My tour guide was Graca, and I couldn’t possibly have better things to say about her, so if you have the chance, hop on her tour!  After you’ve had a good look at the city on the free walking tour, I’d recommend heading up to the Clerigos Tower for a beautiful view of the old town and gorgeous architecture and rooftops.

It’s likely that you’ll spend most of your time down by the river drinking wine and eating delicious tapas, but I strongly recommend heading across the river to try some port wines in the cellars.  Port wine is actually made in the valley east of Porto, but it’s aged in the cellars across the river from the old town.  I recommend heading to the Croft Port wine cellars, which is the oldest in Porto.  They given an excellent tour of a truly remarkable cellar space, and the tastings are much better than some of the other big names closer to the river.  I wouldn’t recommend going on a wine tour because you’ll have essentially the same experience just visiting Croft as you would if you were on a tour, but you’ll spend a lot less.  If you have your heart set on a tour, the Pancho Wine Tour is a good choice because it’ll bring you to Croft, and then to several wine shops where you’re served tapas, taught about other kinds of wine, and given the chance to chat with your tour-mates.  If you’re just looking for a good glass of wine or a cocktail outside, the Sandeman cellar has an outdoor bar which has great port wine cocktails.  The sangria, in particular, is incredible, so hop on over to drink some Sandeman port mixed with other delicious things.  There are some beaches close to Porto, although if you’re in the city for a few days, I recommend sticking by the river and soaking this gorgeous city’s atmosphere- it’s truly unique and incredible!


Overall Opinion: My visit to Porto was my first visit to Portugal, and I must say, Porto has stolen my heart.  The city is a beautiful mix of perfectly imperfect architecture and city-scape mixed with amazing wine and food, as well as just an incredible and artistic atmosphere.  The key with Porto is staying in the non-touristy neighborhoods, and you’ll easily be able to find a “local” experience.  I truly loved how this city seemed so perfect in its imperfections; it feels “lived in” and loved.  I highly recommend spending a few days in Porto, it’s hard not to love!


Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey


Where to stay: I visited Istanbul while traveling for a weekend with my students, and we stayed in the Zeynep Sultan Hotel, which was absolutely lush and beautiful.  I recognize that this wouldn’t exactly fit into my budget had I not been traveling for work, so I will instead recommend that you find a place to stay in the Sultanahmet neighborhood of Istanbul, which is the Old Town.  Staying in this neighborhood will put you within walking distance to essentially everything in the city, and it’s a great way to walk around at night and enjoy kebab shops and tea rooms, or beautiful and serene evenings gazing at the Blue Mosque.

Where to eat: Grabbing cheap food in Istanbul is actually the best way to get an authentic experience.  If you’re looking for decent food in the touristy old town of Istanbul, there are some great kebab shops on Caferiye Sokak, which is the road that runs parallel to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia.  You’ll be able to find different meat kebabs, like chicken, beef, and lamb, but also falafel and other various dishes that will be delicious and inexpensive!  Another must-try in Istanbul are Turkish Delights.  They’re indescribably wonderful treats that often have different fruit and nuts in them, and they’re small square pieces that are covered in white powder on the outside (otherwise impossible to describe).  The best ones that I was able to find (and I did a thorough taste-testing in the city) were again on Caferiye Sokak, and the shop is called Hafiz Mustafa.  You can buy pre-boxed ones or just fresh from the counter, and they’re great!  They also have a tea room and other traditional treats, so it’s worth a stop.  Going to a tea room is the way to spend an evening in Istanbul, rather than going out to bars (which you’ll have trouble finding in Sultanahmet).  There’s a great tea room just near the Blue Mosque (if you follow the signs for the Mosaic Museum to the left of the fountain between the Mosque and Hagia Sofia, facing the Mosque, then you’ll find it), and they offer dancing and music performances as well as authentic tea and shisha.  Definitely try the apple tea- it’s sweet, delicious, and inexpensive!

What to do: Istanbul is a city with thousands upon thousands of years of history, so it’s certainly challenging to know where to start!  I absolutely recommend buying a Muze Pass if you plan to go to the Hagia Sofia museum, the Topkapi Palace and Harem, and one or two other museums, as this will allow you to bypass ticket lines, and will cover all of those places for a certain number of days (one entry per site).  You can buy the Muze Pass at any ticket counter where they accept the passes, or at stands near the Hagia Sofia/Blue Mosque, and many hotel receptions will also sell them.  With that being said, I highly recommend a visit to the Hagia Sofia, as it’s one of the oldest cathedrals in the world with one of the most interesting histories.  The juxtaposition of Christian and Muslim decor, fixtures, and architecture absolutely blew my mind.  Directly facing the Hagia Sofia is the Blue Mosque, and again, I strongly recommend a visit.  The best part of this one is that the Blue Mosque is free to enter, but there are restrictions on when you can enter based on prayer times.  It’s best not to be there within a half hour to an hour in each direction of each prayer time.  Be especially cautious of Fridays, as the restrictions on entry for tourists will be stronger.  Also note that if it’s raining, the Mosque may be closed all day to avoid getting the carpets wet for those who will later be praying.  For women, remember to bring your own head scarf if you don’t want to borrow one of theirs, and for all, be sure to wear clothing that covers your legs and shoulders, as these things are required when entering the mosque.


The Topkapi Palace is an absolutely beautiful place which deserves at least a full afternoon.  The Muze Pass will give you entry to the Harem as well, which was honestly my favorite part of my visit to the palace, as it shows what the life of the Sultan was really like, and furthermore, it dispels myths about the Ottoman royalty which are often perpetrated by the “West”.  The architecture and tiling inside the Harem is absolutely breathtaking, and worth a visit on its own.  The Underground Basilica Cistern is a really neat place to check out, particularly if you have a rainy day.  Note that the Muze Pass does not cover this site, as it’s run by the municipality, rather than by the organization which runs the pass.  The other place that’s not to miss, particularly if you’re looking to bring home souvenirs, is the Grand Bazaar.  This is the main stage of the art of haggling in the city, so walk in expecting not to ever pay the first price offered, and it’s possible to get some great deals.  Just remember which entrance you walked into, because it’s quite easy to get lost inside the giant labyrinth of shops.

I certainly recommend a walk from Old Town over the Galata Bridge and up the hill to the Galata Tower.  Aside from this being a beautiful walk with amazing views, the neighborhood near the Galata Tower is really great.  There are much cheaper restaurants and shopping opportunities over there, and it’s a really nice place to spend an evening.  Similarly, for an off-the-beaten-track place to visit, hop a 20-minute ferry from the port near the Galata Bridge to Kadikoy, which is the Asian side of Istanbul.  Not only is the ferry ride absolutely stunning, visiting the Asian side of Istanbul is a really cool experience that many tourists either opt out or don’t even consider.  The ferry is also only 4 TRY round-trip making it a very cost-effective thing to do if you’re on a tight budget.  Be forewarned that this side of the city is much more chaotic and crowded than Sultanahmet, but it’s still a really great way to immerse yourself into the vibe of the city.  There are far less touristy shops, but you can certainly buy much cheaper clothing and food here, and it’s a nice place to spend an afternoon.

Overall Opinion: Traveling to Istanbul was an absolutely amazing experience, and I would go back in an instant.  The city offers so much in terms of variety of sites to see, things to do, and great shopping.  It’s also extremely unique culturally because it’s such an interesting mix of European, Middle Eastern, and Islamic styles and customs.  I found that visiting Istanbul gave me much more of a culture shock than most of the other places I’ve visited in Western, Central, and Eastern Europe, as it’s so vastly different than almost any other country in Europe.  Certainly travel to Istanbul, and Turkey in general, with an open mind and willingness to go with the flow, and I’m sure that you will thoroughly enjoy your experience.


Milan, Italy

Milan, Italy


Where to stay: ​I wasn’t particularly thrilled with any of the hostel options in Milan, so I opted to go with Airbnb instead.  I found this apartment, which was a short walk away from the city center, and the hosts were really great!  The listed host wasn’t there when we were, but his roommate was still really cool to hang out with, and even invited us out with his friend one of the nights we were there.  Staying directly in the historic city center can be very pricey, and I truly didn’t think it was necessary since Milan is so walkable and well-connected with public transportation.  This Airbnb was located in the Chinatown area of Milan, which was actually a great neighborhood to explore as well.  There are many fantastic restaurants in this area that are cheaper and significantly less touristy than almost anything you’ll find in the historic center, so staying out a bit may actually work to your advantage.

Where to eat: I spent a lot of my time in Milan eating excellent food and drinking wine, and I can’t say that I was disappointed with my decision.  I found that it was difficult to run into bad cuisine, even in the touristy areas.  The only problem with those touristy restaurants is that they’re significantly more expensive for the same food, so it’s definitely best to stay away from them.  I found a restaurant called La Crota Pimunteisa which was AMAZING.  It was one of those meals that truly changes your life, and the atmosphere of the restaurant itself made me feel like I was truly eating somewhere special.  We entered the restaurant, and the waitress asked if we needed the menus in English, and when we said that we did, she said, “Well, I’m the English menu!” and then spent the next 10 minutes sitting with us and going through each and every dish to explain what they had.  It was such a warm and comfortable place, I would highly recommend a visit.  Beyond that, I just recommend that you start walking down side streets either in the historic center, or surrounding it, and you’re bound to run into something delicious!

What to do: ​There aren’t a ton of “sites” to see in Milan, although there are a couple that you won’t want to miss.  The first that I definitely recommend is the Terrace of the Duomo.  You can buy tickets in advance, which I highly recommend, in order to skip the typically long line.  Being on top of that cathedral on a nice day is unlike anything else, it’s absolutely gorgeous and the views are wonderful!  If you want to visit the inside of the cathedral, be sure that you’re dressed appropriately; sleeveless shirts and non-floor length skirts/dresses (even when you’re wearing tights) are not allowed, and you will not be granted access- so choose something a bit more conservative that day.  If you want to visit Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, make a reservation for tickets as far in advance as possible.  You have to purchase tickets to see the refectory where the fresco is along with tickets to an art museum, it’s not possible to just visit the fresco, and the tickets are on the pricey side.  These reservations all book up very quickly, so if you don’t book ahead it’s likely that you won’t be able to go.  Aside from that, I highly recommend walking through the streets with the designer fashion labels just to see how beautiful the stores are!  There are also beautiful historic side-streets in Milan just waiting to be discovered, and there surprisingly aren’t a ton of tourists because they’re not super centrally located.  Walk around the small streets that surround the historic center, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised!


Overall Opinion: I was honestly not expecting a whole lot from Milan, but I was very pleasantly surprised.  I guess it isn’t fair to say that I wasn’t expecting anything, but it certainly wasn’t high on my Italy list- and I am SO glad that I spent a weekend there.  Milan is a great city to visit for a spring weekend when you just want to have delicious pasta and wine, and relax surrounded by beautiful architecture.  I had always heard that Milan was such an industrial city that it isn’t very pretty, but this is so far from the truth!  The historic center is gorgeous, and just as you would expect from many other Italian historic centers, but even outside of the center the city is beautiful with lush parks and landscapes.  The shopping in the city is also on point if you’re into that sort of thing.  I found that even the chain fashion stores like Zara and H&M had better stock than they do in other European cities, and it’s obviously more feasible to shop there than at Versace. No one needs to know where in Milan you got that outfit!  I would definitely recommend giving Milan it’s fair chance over a weekend, it was just a lovely place to be.


A Guide to New Orleans, USA

A Guide to New Orleans, USA

New Orleans is a cultural center of America. It is a unique blend of Caribbean, Spanish, and French cultures in one incredible resilient city. While the people of New Orleans have had their overwhelming share of catastrophe and challenges, the city and culture remains one of the most interesting places to visit in the US. For a traveling foodie, New Orleans is the place. to. be., but there’s so much for any type of traveler to fully enjoy themselves in this Creole/Cajun town.

What to do in New Orleans: 

The very first thing I recommend you do in New Orleans is take a free walking tour. It’s the best way to learn the layout, history, and culture of the city before you dive in to do your own exploring. I took the French Quarter Food and History tour by Free Tours by Foot, and it was likely one of the best free walking tours I’ve ever had. The guide, David, was absolutely fantastic and explained the historical and culinary intricacies of New Orleans in a fun and easy-to-understand way. He also made a ton of great restaurant and food recommendations, making it a great way to start your trip so that you know where to eat during the rest of your stay! Just be sure to make a reservation for the tour online as far in advance as possible, as there are a limited number of spaces that do fill up.

I also highly recommend taking a day or afternoon outside of the city and visiting the Oak Alley Plantation. If you don’t have access to a car while you’re in New Orleans, you’ll probably need to take a tour out there, but it’s well worth the trip. I took the Gray Line tour, and generally had a great experience. My only issue was that they didn’t leave a ton of time for us to explore the plantation on our own after a walking tour of the plantation house, so if you want to spend the day or afternoon there enjoying the grounds, you’ll probably want to go with a longer tour and more independent tour company.

I highly recommend spending a day walking around the French Quarter and Garden District, as these are probably the two most beautiful neighborhoods of New Orleans, and there are small streets and beautiful spots just waiting to be discovered! In terms of nightlife, of course there is a lot happening on Bourbon Street, but I actually found this area to be quite touristy and overpriced. Although I didn’t have the opportunity to go, I’ve heard on good word that the better place to be is Frenchmen Street where there is a ton of jazz and other great live music to check out.

Looking for some more things to see and do in New Orleans? Check out this local’s guide from From East to West with RMS.


Where to eat in New Orleans: 

Going to New Orleans means going to one of the culinary capitals of America (if it isn’t already, I just deemed it to be), so you really need to allow yourself to enjoy all of the types of cuisine that New Orleans is world-famous for.  I spent that large majority of my time in New Orleans eating (no shame), so I have a running list of some excellent options:

First, you’ll definitely want to go to Willie Mae’s Scotch House for some of the best fried chicken you’ll ever have in your life.  There will probably be a line outside of the restaurant, and it definitely won’t look worth it from the outside, but it really is!  They batter the chicken fresh to order, so the food takes about 30 minutes to come out, but you can truly taste the difference.

If you’re looking for some fancier fare, try Nola, a true piece of culinary art.  You’ll pay for what you get at this restaurant, but for a nice night out it’s a great spot to be, and in my opinion, better than Commander’s Palace in terms of quality of food and experience.

If you want a fancy Creole dining experience without the fancy restaurant price, I’ll let you in on a New Orleans secret. The famous restaurant Antoine’s (the oldest Creole restaurant in New Orleans), where you could feasibly spend upwards of $100 per person at dinner, has a $20 lunch menu. For $20 you get three courses (appetizer, entree, and dessert), and they also have 25¢ cocktails as a part of this special lunch menu (limited to three per person).  The cool thing about Antoine’s is that they have 14 beautifully decorated and historic dining rooms that you can tour after you finish your lunch, and the food was really quite good!

If you want to eat in a historic building within the French quarter, but don’t want to spend a ton of money, I would definitely recommend Napoleon House. This building was once designed to be Napoleon’s home in exile after he escaped, but he died before he was able to escape and make it over to New Orleans. The building is now a somewhat eery but really interesting restaurant with paint-chipped walls and excellent po’ boy sandwiches.  Pretty much everything on the menu is under $10, so you can’t go too wrong.

There is also a street-food market called the French Market where you can get all sorts of produce and craft products, but there are also some highly-rated restaurant counters as well. If you have a nice day and want to try a bunch of different things, I highly recommend checking this area out.

And last but not least, a trip to New Orleans would not be complete without a stop a Café du Monde. This is a cafe in the heart of the French Quarter that serves almost exclusively beignets and coffee with chicory (a traditional New Orleans take on coffee). You’ll notice that the line for the cafe will be insanely long, so if you want a table without waiting at least an hour, go inside! All you have to do is stand in the doorway of the inside room of the cafe under the awning, wait for a table to open up, and grab it even before its bused. People move in and out of the restaurant very quickly, so you’ll probably be able to get a table within 10 minutes this way if there isn’t already one available.



I truly enjoyed my stay in New Orleans! The city and culture are a great blend of Southern American, French, Spanish, and Caribbean cultures, meaning that the food and music are absolutely out of this world. It’s truly amazing to be able to visit a city that’s been thriving since before the United States existed, and despite much adversity, continues to thrive. I loved when my tour guide said that the people of New Orleans eat what they do, drink what they do, and live like they do because they are in a unique position to be able to truly appreciate that the next day isn’t a guarantee, so if a storm surge gets over the flood walls again, at least they can say that they had an amazing day. As morbid as that can potentially sound, it’s a truly refreshing notion of living that I personally feel I forget sometimes when I get into the grind of every day life. The energy, happiness, and passion of New Orleans is truly contagious, and you can’t help but feel reinvigorated after you leave.

Tenby, Wales

Tenby, Wales


Where to stay: ​Tenby is a really small seaside town in a really small country, so finding an inexpensive place to stay is a challenge.  There aren’t any hostels listed in Tenby on Hostelworld, and there is only one Airbnb rental listed (which, for $79 per night, actually looks great).  Tenby is the town of bed and breakfasts, which is definitely a more expensive route to go.  Because of all of this, you might want to consider a day trip to Tenby from another Welsh city like Swansea or Cardiff, as you’ll definitely be able to find cheaper accommodation and simply book a train or coach to Tenby.

Where to eat: Going to Tenby is quite similar to visiting some seaside towns on the East Coast of the US.  It has a bunch of small take-away type places where you can get fish and chips and burgers right on the beach, and that’s the way to go if you’re looking for cheap food!  There are also a couple small cafés and restaurants in the town centre where you’ll find cheap seafood options  if you’re looking for something better than a chip shop.

What to do: ​Tenby is a fabulous place to visit during the summer because it’s the quintessential British beach town with a ton of great summertime activities to do.  Definitely plan some time to explore the beach areas, there are some interesting castle-like buildings to walk around, plus a couple of nice beaches to relax on if the weather is nice.  I also highly recommend taking a “Seal Safari“.  I realize that this sounds unbelievably lame, but it was actually a really incredible boat tour of the islands off the coast of Tenby, and they’re able to get you extremely close to seals playing and sunbathing around those islands.  Definitely worthwhile!  There are also some great hiking trails near Tenby in Pembrokeshire, so if you’re interested in seeing some beautiful natural scenery, you might want to check some of those out.

Overall Opinion: Tenby is a great little town to visit on a day trip in Wales.  It truly showcases some of the beauty that Wales, particularly the Welsh coast, has to offer.  On a sunny day, almost nothing is better than enjoying an afternoon strolling along the colorful buildings at the coast in Tenby, truly a slice of British heaven!


Cardiff, Wales

Cardiff, Wales


Where to stay: ​Cardiff is a great city because it isn’t very touristy, but that also brings about its own challenges, as there aren’t a ton of hostels in the city.  There are, however, a few decently priced Airbnb options in the city center, so you might be better of sticking to that.  If you do choose to go the hostel route, I’ve had friends have good experiences at the Bunkhouse, and this one is in a really great location.  No matter which option you choose, be sure to stay in the center of the city near Queen St.  If you’re in this area, you won’t ever need to take the bus or a taxi anywhere, as almost everything you’ll ever want to see or do will be walkable.

Where to eat: There are so many great food options in Cardiff, despite the UK reputation for awful food.  If you’re looking to have a traditional tea experience, you will definitely need to head to Pettigrew Tea Rooms located at the entrance to Bute Park near the Castle.  It’s a seriously perfect little tea room with outdoor space in nice weather, amazing loose leaf teas, and fabulous homemade cakes, scones, sandwiches, and soups.  Perfect for afternoon tea or lunch!  If you’re more into the café experience, head over to the Castle Arcade for a trip to the Coffee Barker.  They have awesome coffee beverages, but also good soups/sandwiches for lunch as well as non-traditional breakfasts.  They have a sister shop called the Barker Tea House which is good (especially if Pettigrew’s is full!).  If you’re interested in a nicer meal, check out The Potted Pig (be sure to make reservations!).  This is a bit of a nicer restaurant that can be pricey for dinner (on a student budget), but has a good lunch menu which will give you a great taste of traditional Welsh and British food.  They also have a delicious Sunday Roast, which is a must-try if you’re going for traditional (and this isn’t terribly pricey, especially considering how much food you’ll get).  My last city center recommendation is Café Citta– an excellent Italian restaurant in the heart of the city.  Café Citta is a very tiny restaurant, though, so be sure to book as far in advance as you can if you want a table!  In the UK, food can get a bit pricey, so if you’re looking for just a sandwich shop that’s cheap and easy, take a 5 minute walk from Queen St. to go to Dough.  It’s a little local sandwich shop with excellent breakfast and lunch sandwiches, and it’s totally worth the walk over.  There’s a café across the street from Dough called Tucker Lounge, which is a great alternative if you don’t want to be in a busy café in the city center.  They have great breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, but they also have alcoholic beverages, so it’s a good spot for a chill day or evening!  And finally, what would a British city be without a good pub?  The Pen and Wig is definitely the place to be!  It has good food options which lean towards the fancier gastro-pub route, but it has a great selection of beers and ciders on tap, and a cozy atmosphere with a big outdoor patio for when it’s nice out! Cardiff Bay also has a good selection of restaurants, although many are chains that can be found all over the UK.  If you’re already at the bay, though, there are some good spots with great views over the water (try Pizza Express for good and fairly cheap pizza, or Nando’s for an interesting British chain restaurant experience)!

What to do: ​Cardiff is a really interesting city because it’s both historic and modern-feeling at the same time.  To understand the history of Cardiff, you should start by visiting Cardiff Castle.  It’s in the middle of the city center, and provides you with a great history of the city, as well as good views over the city.  Your entry to the castle comes with a free audioguide, and you also have the option of purchasing a guided tour of the Bute Mansion.  I think the tour is worth taking, as it isn’t very expensive, and it brings you into rooms of the house that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.  Be sure to climb to the very top of the castle in the center of the complex, as that’s where you’ll get those great views of Cardiff!  If you’re interested in sports, particularly in rugby, you should also book a tour of Millennium Stadium.  It’s the home of the Welsh Rugby Union, and the tour brings you into the press room, the locker rooms, to field level, the Royal Family’s seats, as well as some other spots in the stadium- it’s super impressive.  While you’re in the area, I’d recommend taking a walk through Bute Park, especially if you have a nice day.  You can even take a boat ride down the River Taff to Cardiff Bay, which will give you a good look at the park and the waterfront.  Another park to check out is Roath Park- it’s a super beautiful garden and park that has a café and boat rentals, a great way to spend a sunny day!  Cardiff Bay is great to check out, especially if you’re a Doctor Who fan, as this is where the Doctor Who Experience is located.  The Millennium Center is down at the Bay as well, so if you’re seeing a show, that’s where you’ll find it!  There’s some good restaurants and cafés down there, so it’s a great spot to grab a glass of wine or an ice cream on a nice day.  Any trip to Cardiff wouldn’t be complete without a stroll down the city center streets to do some window shopping.  Try wandering through the arcades spread throughout the city center, they each have special little shops or cafés, and are super charming.  I don’t think it’s necessary to take a tour of Cardiff because it’s fairly small and easy to do on your own.  There also aren’t any free tours of this city, so there especially isn’t a reason for you to purchase a walking tour ticket or the bus tour- enjoy walking this charming little city!

Overall Opinion: I truly love Cardiff, even though I never really thought that I’d fall in love with it.  I spent a year living there while doing my Master’s degree, and had the best time.  It has a great nightlife, good shopping, surprisingly great restaurant options, and the vibe of the city is just so special.  The people in Cardiff are also incredibly friendly, especially considering that Cardiff is a capital city.  Take some time to meet some local Welsh folks, and you won’t regret it.  Cardiff is only a few hours from London by bus or train, and you can usually get a round-trip bus ticket for around £10, so if you have the time it is absolutely worth the trip for a weekend!


Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain


Where to stay: ​When I traveled to Barcelona, I stayed in the Alberguinn Youth Hostel, found on  The hostel was in a great, fairly quiet location, but really close to the bus stop and a metro, so it was super easy to get around the city from there.  It wasn’t particularly close to the centre of the city or the beach, but I wasn’t bothered at all by that, especially since you will pay for the privilege of being in those places.  The hostel was very clean, and it felt really secure despite the fact that we were staying in a 14-bed mixed dorm.

Where to eat: I don’t have any specific restaurant recommendations for Barcelona, but I will suggest staying far away from the restaurants that target tourists on the main pedestrian street.  They’re extremely overpriced, and in my experience, a total rip off.  I think I paid something like 14 euros for a glass of Sangria, which was very big, and mostly water.  I would definitely recommend finding a side street and searching out a tapas bar in this city.  Or anywhere on a side street.  Stay away from tourist areas!

What to do: ​I absolutely loved visiting Gaudí’s buildings when I was in Barcelona. They’re so unique compared to any other architecture I’ve ever seen, and there are so many things to see! An obvious stop is the Sagrada Familia, which I really don’t think anyone should miss. Although it isn’t technically complete, it is still totally awe-inspiring. I also really enjoyed Park Güell, it’s definitely a must-see, especially if you have good weather! The park sits basically above the city, so you’ll get great views, and you’ll also be able to see the famous mosaic lizard and the gingerbread-looking buildings. When I visited, there were also a lot of musicians around playing, so that was pretty cool as well. The last piece of Gaudí’s that I saw was Casa Batlló, mostly because it was raining that day and we wanted to see something that was inside. Well, it was a really good choice, because this house is one of the most unique structures I’ve ever seen! I’d also recommend checking to see which markets are running while you’re there, because market crawling is also a really great thing to do, especially in that part of the world. We went and saw a flamenco dance performance in Barcelona, and it was really incredible. A bunch of different shows are advertised, so I would definitely recommend seeing one; flamenco has long been a cultural symbol of Spain, and it’s seriously beautiful. There are great free walking tours around the city that give you a good feel for what there is to see, so be sure to check those out!

For more tips on great things to see and do, check out Wendy’s list here!

Overall Opinion: Barcelona is a seriously incredible city, it was once the cultural capital of Spain, and is now the cultural and political capital of Catalonia, and you can tell as soon as you step foot on the streets.  My only regret about my visit to Barcelona is that it rained during the first day and a half we were there, so I don’t feel like I got to properly experience it!  This is one city that I’m going to be sure to keep on my list to visit again, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to experience a very special place in Spain and Catalonia.

Geneva, Switzerland

Geneva, Switzerland


Where to stay: There aren’t very many options for budget hostels in Geneva, and the ones that the city does seem to have are overpriced.  Your better option will likely be renting a room on Airbnb, and hopefully sharing it with a friend to cut down on costs.  There are several great Airbnb options in this city, and many are priced $60 or less, which isn’t bad if your sharing.  Geneva is a fairly small city, so it doesn’t matter a whole lot where you’re staying.  I did not stay in the old part of town, and didn’t have any problems getting around.  There are trams and buses throughout the city, so even if you’re on the other side of the river you’ll have easy access to everything that you’ll want to do!

Where to eat: ​Geneva, like many Swiss cities, is a fairly expensive place to eat.  Many of my suggestions for this one are dessert-related, and I’m not even ashamed.  Swiss chocolate is just unbeatable (tested theory), so make sure to stop in at least one chocolate shop to grab some homemade chocolates.  You don’t have to spend a ton of money on them, even the cheap pieces will be good!  I also wanted to be sure to try some Swiss fondue while in Geneva, but found that it’s actually quite expensive to have a fondue meal.  My solution?  Chocolate fondue for dinner!  I went to a restaurant called Restaurant Edelweiss, where I ordered a pot of chocolate fondue (not terribly expensive if it’s also going to be your dinner…), and it was so worth it!  There are yodelers in the restaurant, and the staff are dressed in costumes, but the touristy nature of the experience didn’t ruin the fondue.

What to do: ​The first striking thing about Geneva is how beautiful the scenery is.  This is a unique city because it’s surrounded by beautiful landscapes, mountains, and is right on a gorgeous lake, so you’ll be able to get the best of both worlds here!  I would recommend starting your time in Geneva by headed to the cathedral.  You can enter for free, but the really great experience is to climb to the top of the bell towers.  It’s not very expensive to do, and it’s so worth the views at the top!  You also have the option of purchasing a combined ticket that will give you access to the archeological dig under the cathedral, the climb up the towers, and the theological museum next door.  The area where the cathedral is located is really beautiful with small cobblestone streets, and is worth exploring!  You’ll also want to be sure to take a walk down to the lake and enjoy the views and the spectacle of the Jet d’Eau (a massive water feature in the lake).  There are several museums to visit in Geneva, but I particularly enjoyed the Red Cross Museum.  I found it to be a very interesting museum that gives much insight into the history of the Red Cross, and the role that both the Red Cross and Switzerland have played in major historical events.  The United Nations offers tours of The Palais des Nations, which gives an interesting look into modern international politics.  The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, is also located in Geneva, and they offer individual and group tours.  Group tours are very hard to book, and there is a very long waitlist, but you can book an individual tour 15 days in advance of your visit.  I definitely recommend booking as early as possible, as the tours fill up quickly.

Overall Opinion: Geneva is a really spectacular city, as it has an incredibly unique combination of beautiful Swiss landscapes and small city atmosphere.  This is the type of city that you should visit with the expectation of having a relaxing weekend.  There are many students in the city, but I found the nightlife to be much more quiet than many other European cities.  I would absolutely recommend spending a few days in Geneva, it’s a great taste of Switzerland!

Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava, Slovakia


Where to stay: ​Bratislava is a pretty inexpensive city, so your accommodation options are plentiful and cheap!  I stayed in an Airbnb that was absolutely lovely for location purposes, but there are some incredibly inexpensive hostel options that you might want to consider if budget is more of a concern.  Bratislava is a fairly small city, so no matter where you stay you should be in a fairly good location.  My Airbnb was right next to the old city center, which was really nice.  There is also a street that’s full of hostels and bars that’s fairly close to the city, so it seems that many hostels are concentrated in one spot.  Bratislava is also a great city to visit for a day or two from Vienna, as it’s super close and the trains are cheap and run frequently!

Where to eat: There are some great, inexpensive restaurants in Bratislava that are really nice.  In the old town square there is an excellent bagel shop that’s a great place to grab breakfast in the mornings, or coffee in the afternoon!  There are outdoor tables almost everywhere in the spring and summer, so take advantage of the outdoor seating options.  There are some spots that are more touristy than others, so try to avoid the fixed price menus (that are much more expensive than regular menu items), as they’re a bit of a rip off, and really are just made to attract tourists.

What to do: ​This is the type of city where just wandering around the small side streets is the absolute best way to experience it.  Be sure to take a walk up to the castle, as there are some really excellent views from the top of the hill, and the walk up is also a beautiful little hike, even if you don’t want to go inside of the castle.  The one thing you definitely should do is climb up St. Michael’s Tower.  Although it isn’t a very tall climb, it’s one of the tallest structures in the old town, and the view from the top is well worth the climb.  In my experience, many tourists don’t realize that you can actually climb to the top, so you may have the look out point all to yourself!

Overall Opinion: I spent a couple of days in Bratislava, and they were incredibly relaxing and wonderful days.  Wandering around this charming city was absolutely delightful, and I would certainly go back to visit.  Bratislava isn’t the type of city you go to visit to see a ton of “sites”, because it simply doesn’t have that many well-known sites.  It does, however, have super friendly people and beautiful architecture.  If you’re in the area, it certainly isn’t to be missed!