Paris: The Best Restaurants To Dine In This Year

When visiting a gastronomic restaurant, you may feel overwhelmed by the numerous food choices in front of you. On the other hand, you may already be well aware of the Parisian fine dining scene, but just not sure where to start. Fret no more, here are a few of Paris’s hottest restaurants for you to visit this year.

Daroco (6 Rue Vivienne) a former workshop space, serves modern Italian cuisine and has become one of Paris’s most sought after restaurants. The green marble table tops paired with designer chairs gives this restaurant a unique decoration. All the pizzas are cooked in a wood fire oven giving them an authentically rustique Italian taste, contrasted by waiters wearing typically Parisian Breton stripes. Try their grilled octopus as an appetiser or indulge in their ‘linguine alla carbonara’, before moving on to the homemade tiramisu if you still have room for dessert. This Italian eatery with modern crafted cocktails and fashionable dining will quickly become your go-to restaurant for special occasions or date nights.

For all seafood lovers who not only want fresh produce but also enjoy washing it down with innovative cocktails, head down to The Fish Club (58 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau). The name speaks for itself. The fish-focused menu of this previously ‘ceviche’ restaurant has been revamped, now offering a selection of seafood served in a minimalist restaurant. Amidst a selection of marine dishes, the appetiser assortment includes smoked eel, grilled lobster and grey shrimp. You can even order octopus with beetroot: the menu will surely tickle your fancy! If you’re feeling more romantic, or just want to treat yourself, why not order a glass of champagne to accompany their fresh oysters.

If, after a long day of shopping, or a night of dancing in Parisian clubs, you’re looking for something more casual to satisfy your hunger cravings, head to Big Corner (143 Avenue Jean Jaurès). With melted mozzarella, fresh french cheeses, pesto, and more, slathered on an oozing beef patty between two sesame buns, this New York-style burger joint will have any meat lover drooling. It’s an artsy, brightly-coloured restaurant serving only the freshest ingredients. If you’re not a burger addict but get dragged by friends, why not go for one of their club sandwiches, hot dogs, salads or even fish and chips? There’s nothing Big Corner can’t do.

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For those of you with a sweet tooth, La Crêperie Bretonne (56 Rue du Montparnasse) is the place to be. Aside from the fact that you can’t go to Paris without trying one of their world famous crêpes, this cosy little crêperie is typically French and its lovely staff will make you feel right at home. Their homemade salted caramel crêpe will leave you wanting more. In addition to crêpes, La Crêperie Bretonne also serves the Parisian speciality of ‘galettes’, which you can coat in jam, Nutella or whatever your heart desires.

To add to the Michelin-starred Parisian dining scene, Jacques Faussat, a famous Michelin-starred chef himself, recently opened what has been described as a little gem hidden away between the Parisian streets. His restaurant, aptly named Jacques Faussat (54 Rue Cardinet), has quickly become well-known for its exquisite dishes. Although very rarely discovered by tourists, this unique brasserie offers Parisian cuisine in a more luxurious environment to make your evening very special. Whether your adventurous side urges you pick the tasting menu, or you opt for ordering à la carte, the small yet carefully crafted fresh menu will not disappoint.

For a more relaxed but still exciting dinner, head to Mascotte Montmartre (52 Rue des Abbesses). The more laid-back bistro is perfect for an alternative Parisian night out and its extensive menu will satisfy all of your cravings. Though specialising in fresh seafood, choosing between their delicatessen sea products and their homemade ‘cassoulet‘, a beef stew marinated in red wine sauce, will prove a difficult choice. It is recommended to pair these dishes with a crisp French wine before topping off your meal with a selection of cheeses, or a delicious goat-milk yoghurt accompanied with sweet red fruit puree. For the chocolate addicts, try a slice of the chocolate and praline ‘love cake’, you’ll definitely love it!

Milan: Christmas Under The Duomo

Needless to say, Christmas (‘Natale’ in Italian) is a unique experience in Milan. The city enters into the holiday spirit early in December, due to the double celebration of the local patron saint, Ambrogio, on 7th December and the Immaculate Conception on 8th December. The cold, foggy air of the Po valley often provides a wintry atmosphere, in a pleasant contrast with the golden, glittering lights of shops and street lights.

Two Christmas-themed events in particular mark the Milanese December: the first is Mercatino di Sant’Ambrogio, the patron saint’s market, better known as Oh Bej! Oh Bej! (How nice! How nice!). The tradition dates back to the 16th century. This is an exquisite local event taking place from 7th to 10th December all around the Sforza Castle (M1 Cairoli or Cadorna, or M2 Lanza), displaying and selling craftwork, plants, food and beverages. In regards to this, we recommend caldarroste (roasted chestnuts, wrapped in a paper cone and served hot as they come from the ember) and vin brulé (mulled wine), sweetened with sugar and scented with cloves, cinnamon, spices and fruits, which will keep your hands and stomach warm.

The second major attraction is L’Artigiano in Fiera (3rd – 11th December this year). To get there, you’ll have to catch the M1 (red) line all the way to its last stop at Rho-Milanofiera (tickets available at all newsagents’ and ticket machines). One more option is to reach the fair with Turin- or Salerno-bound Italo trains; as for cars, the fair is equipped with a large parking lot, costing between €2.50 per hour and € 16.50 as the maximum fare. You might also want to park your car at M1 Lampugnano or Molino Dorino stations.
This fair might get quite crowded, especially on weekends, but it’s worth a visit to venture into the Christmas traditions from all over the world. The fair’s structure hosts a stand from nearly every country in the world and combines traditional arts and crafts with an embarrassingly wide variety of ethnic food stands, so rich and tasty you’d wish you could try everything. This is why we advice you get here at 10.00, wander around and think of a possible menu for lunchtime. What’s most important is to make sure you get a map at the entrance, it’s extremely easy to get distracted and lose track of each other!

More markets are set up in Piazza Duomo, where a tall Christmas tree is decorated, as well as in Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli (M1 Porta Venezia), where an ice-skate rink is opened to the public, occasionally hosting figure-skating performances. If you have children, bring them along: there are lots of interactive activities, and they could get the chance to visit the Natural History Museum and the Planetarium, located within the park. In the same area, the main shopping street in Milan, Corso Buenos Aires (M1 Porta Venezia  – Lima) opens up a Christmas Village, a temporary Christmas-themed shop. A similar project is hosted in the Ecliss store (Ripa di Porta Ticinese, 53), just a few steps away from the Navigli area.

For those interested in sustainable trade, instead, the Isola district (M3/M5 Zara, M5 Isola) is the place to be. Fonderia Napoleonica Eugenia hosts Green Market, displaying eco-friendly merchandise. Not far from there is the Alter Bej fair: a traditional Christmas market accompanied by performances of buskers.

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Except for markets, what else does Milan offer at Christmas time?


This year, Comune di Milano is offering a real treat to visitors by bringing Piero della Francesca’s famous Madonna della Misericordia (1445-1472) to the city, namely to Palazzo Marino (piazza della Scala, 2), from 6th December to 8th January, 2017. It will be possible to visit it between 9:30 AM to 8 PM every day (open till 12 PM on 7th Dec., till 6 PM on 24th and 31st Dec., and it will be closed on Catholic holidays – 8th and 25th Dec., 1st and 6th Jan.).
Attending a mass in Milan during the Christmas period is a very interesting experience, made all the more unique by the specific Catholic tradition of the city, introduced by Sant’Ambrogio and hence named rito cattolico ambrosiano.

On Thursday, 22nd December, Teatro alla Scala will be hosting its traditional Christmas concert, directed this year by Christoph von Dohnányi, and Bruno Casoni directing the choir. In addition, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony will be performed. Tickets, ranging from €30 to €180, are still available at the theatre’s website.

What do Milanese people eat on Christmas day?

Some prefer to celebrate at night, before, or most likely after, the Christmas mass, while others prefer to wait for lunchtime on the 25th.
Either way, while Northern Italians “keep it simpler” than they do in the South, they do enjoy a hearty Christmas meal, featuring several tasty antipasti. These appetizers include mostarda, spicy candied fruit in a mustard pickle, prosciutto and other cured meats, small savoury pastries, paté, vitello tonnato, which is cold veal in tuna sauce,  meat-stuffed ravioli and bollito misto, composed of boiled beef and poultry and served with parsley sauce (salsa verde)).

On Christmas Day, Italians indulge in spirits more than they usually do, as they are poured throughout their meals with nuts, almonds and dried dates served alongside, to be consumed between courses.
Make sure you don’t miss out on panettone, one of the most beloved Italian Christmas treats alongside its eternal “rival” pandoro (each has its own “squad” of aficionados, much like Inter and Milan football teams). Compared to its Verona-based nemesis, panettone is somewhat less fluffy and buttery, has a round shape, and is garnished with dried raisins and candied citrus zest. Apart from that, these two cakes are essentially similar, and are typically served together, sometimes with a mascarpone or zabaione cream to be dipped into.

Buon Natale!


Get Me A Second Suitcase, I’m Shopping In London!

Where to shop in London

Whether you’re shopping for Christmas gifts, an upcoming birthday, looking for the most trendy sustainable fashion designers or treating yourself, you’ll definitely find what you’re looking for in London. Your options for shops are so vast you’ll be stumped on deciding where to go.

Bond Street: Elegant and classy

If you’re the kind that enjoys shopping indoors and have more of a high end taste, head to Selfridge’s just up from Bond Street station where you’ll find anything and everything your heart desires. If you’re looking to bring back some sweet and savoury gifts, the ground floor offers endless possibilities of food, in designer packages that will impress just about anyone. Elsewhere on the ground floor, you’ll also discover the collection of designer handbags, and if you’re lucky enough, bags one on sale! Up the escalator, you’ll find menswear followed by womenswear and footwear. Mr Selfridges’ elegant yet affordable department store really does have it all.

Oxford and Regent Street: The luxury side

If you enjoy hopping from shop to shop in a busy and buzzing atmosphere why not explore Oxford Street and Regent Street. Somewhat busier than the average London shopping areas, especially on weekends, these two streets have all the high street shops you can think of. If you head down to the bottom of Regent Street, you’ll start to find more luxury British brands such as Burberry.

Knightsbridge: All you need is Harrods

For a more relaxed stroll without the madness of Oxford Street, take the tube to Knightsbridge just behind Hyde Park. Here you’ll find slightly smaller versions of all your favourite high street shops accompanied by designer brands such as Ted Baker. Walking through Knightsbridge, you’ll stumble upon London’s most iconic department store, Harrods. If you’re lucky enough to be there during the winter holidays, you’ll witness the breathtaking illumination of the whole store as soon as the sun goes down. For all you big spenders, definitely give Harrods a go. With excellent service and the newest collections of high end fashion brands, you’ll definitely need a second suitcase, or even a third.

Harrods in London shopping

Brick Lane: For the nostalgics

To the vintage lovers out there: don’t worry, there’s plenty for you too. Walk down Brick Lane in Shoreditch and discover a whole street dedicated to vintage and second-hand shops with iconic, affordable and certainly unique clothing. Shops like ROKIT house big collections of vintage clothes starting at prices as low as 5 pounds. These shops also offer designer items and hidden gems which can no longer be bought in stores.

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Camden Market: The wild side

If your wardrobe has everything it could possibly need, and you’re looking to bring back some little gifts for friends and family, take the Northern line to Camden Market, a uniquely individual market filled with stalls selling all kinds of quirky gifts. You can walk through the almost enchanted of pathways and quickly discover things you never even knew existed.

Liberty: The iconic London’s store

London liberty store old building

Don’t forget to pop into Liberty for a visit before you leave. It’s one of London’s oldest department stores. With its stunning exterior façade and its own collection of famous Liberty patterns, it has adopted and incorporated  famous brands such as Barbour.

All in all, whatever your taste, whatever your fancy, you won’t leave London empty-handed but you’ll certainly leave with a few extra suitcases and a few less pounds!

Brussels: Top Gourmet Restaurant Picks For 2016

Although Brussels is described by many as small, the capital of Europe houses many innovative, modern restaurants that experiment with new flavours and dishes, all the while keeping a certain Belgian style.

Head down town to the Belga Queen, a refurbished building dating back to the 13th century and one of Brussel’s most famous restaurants. Its modern adaptation of Belgian dishes at reasonable prices will leave you wishing you had left more room for desert. For after dinner drinks, head downstairs to the bar where you can enjoy craft cocktails in a bank’s old safe room.

If you’re looking for something a little lighter, enjoy a glass of wine accompanied by exquisite tapas at Etiquette-Wine in Louise. Their vast selection of wines and carefully thought-out Spanish tapas will certainly leave you with an appetite for more. Opt for their patatas bravas with a mildly spicy sauce and selection of hummus, aubergine and olive dips to pair with your wine.

For a romantic and more luxurious evening out, two-star Michelin restaurant Bon-Bon is considered one of Belgiums best restaurants. Highest quality ingredients combined with a surprise menu will certainly make your evening eventful. Let your waiter know if you have any food allergies or dislike any ingredients upon arrival, and your meal will be fully personalised to your taste. Don’t forget to reserve, the popularity of this place makes it hard to get a table on short notice.

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A dish at Bon-Bon (credit: passiongastronomie.be)

Visiting Brussels for the first time will probably mean you’re eager to try the Belgian speciality dish ‘Moule et Frites’, mussels and chips. Although many restaurants offer this seasonally, Chez Leon by the Grand Place is famous for this dish. Look for the green logo, located in a more touristy part of Brussels amidst many Belgian restaurants, is it offers good traditional food that makes it stand out from the crowd.

Walking around town sightseeing, shopping and exploring Brussels’s unique charm might leave you peckish and wanting a pick-me-up lunch. You’re not looking for anything too snazzy, something quick but tasty. A few places can satisfy those cravings : if you’re in the St Catherine area and in a mood for asian delicacies, head straight to Makisu, a small yet charming create-your-own sushi boutique with great value for money. For fish lovers, wrap up warm and stand outside on high tables at Mer Du Nord, the small yet diverse selection of fresh fish tapas are highly recommended by locals.

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For a more traditional yet stylish evening out with friends, book a table at Skievelat in the Sablon area. Their elegant decor combined with their selection of Belgian beers will add a certain charm to your dinner. Their menu is composed of classic Belgian dishes with a small modern twist, you won’t be disappointed.

Last but not least, if you’re looking for something classy but aren’t too sure what you fancy, book a table at La Quincallerie. A treat for the eyes and the palate, their seafood platter and oysters will make heads turn. If you’re a meat lover, don’t worry, their meat dishes are equally as appetising.

How To Enjoy Your Christmas In Barcelona

When you are spending your Christmas holidays in Barcelona, do not expect to find snow or frost like in many other European cities. Nonetheless, Barcelona has a unique Christmas spirit with its markets and its own traditions. It is a good option if you want to escape the darkness and cold of northern latitudes.

Christmas markets

If you want to buy some typical Catalan Christmas figurines for your nativity scene, go to Fira de Santa Llúcia and get the comical ‘caganer’,  a figurine of a person with their pants down, ready to go to the toilet. ‘Caganers’ can have anybody´s face, so might find Obama, Messi or even Trump ones. This market normally takes place in front of the cathedral between the end of November and the 23rd of December.

Another interesting market is Fira de Reis, where you can buy all kinds of toys for the little ones. This market is held on the one of the main streets of the city, Gran Via, and it usually runs from mid-December until the 6th of January.

Ice skating

You are reading this correctly. Barcelona has an outdoors ice skating ring named Bargelona which is open between the 25th of November and the 8th of January and held in La Farga. Although not in the city centre, it is easily accessible by metro. Locals go to practice their ice skating skills in enjoyable weather, making the rest of Europe rather jealous.

Christmas lights

Every European city is famous for their lights during this festive period, and Barcelona is no different. Enjoy walking through streets like Passeig de Gràcia or Portal de l’Àngel and getting carried away by the Christmas spirit.

A bit of sport before New Year´s Eve

If you want to take one last shot at embracing a healthy lifestyle before the end of the year, join the popular race “Cursa dels Nassos” on the afternoon of 31st of December. Some people take this race seriously, but others think of it as a way to start New Yea’s Eve celebrations by running in silly costumes. Expect to meet some real-life Pikachus this year.

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New Year’s Eve celebrations

Go to the magic fountain (or “font màgica” in Catalan) in Montjuïc Mountain to enjoy a marvellous, colourful display.  At 12 o’clock, join in the Spanish tradition of eating twelve grapes, representing luck for every month ahead. Concerts are also held here, but don’t expect them to finish late.

Wise Kings parade

The famous Spanish “Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos” parade takes place in the evening of the 5th of January. Adults and kids take to the streets of the city to welcome the Three Wise Men before they bring presents to  children at night. Contrary to most of the world, Spanish children receive their Christmas gifts the morning of the 6th of January. The parade goes through the main streets of Barcelona with loud music playing, sweets thrown from various floats. It is entertainment for all ages.

London’s Best Eats In 2016: From Cheap To Chic

Often seen as one of Europe’s most cosmopolitan capitals, London also houses some of the best restaurants. In this city, you can enjoy meals of all nationalities, in unique places, and ranging from low budget to fine dining. If you’re shopping around central London or taking a stroll through Hyde Park, you are usually faced with smaller chain eateries such as Prêt à Manger, ITSU, Chipotle, le Pain Quotidien or Scandinavian Kitchen.

But if you just dig just a little deeper, you’ll find that London has, frankly, some of the best restaurants around. From award-winning NOBU, offering upscale Japanese food in a classy and modern environment, to digging into a juicy, gourmet burger at London’s famous Honest Burgers, the eateries are dotted around the city and ready to be discovered.

If you’re looking to splash out, take the elevator up 39 floors above London’s skyline to enjoy a unique blend of Japanese and Peruvian food surrounded by music, impressive cocktails and Sushi Samba‘s iconic lit up tree. With the highest outdoor dining terrace in Europe, Sushi Samba‘s food is certainly no average joe. The carefully sculpted and decorated maki pieces are a treat for all the senses.

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If you fancy indulging in some asian cuisine, but your budget doesn’t quite allow extravagant expenses, head to The Drunken Monkey located 15 minutes by foot from Sushi Samba on Shoreditch High Street. A modern, up-beat dim sum eatery, The Drunken Monkey‘s relaxed New York vibes attract customers of all ages. Offering versatile dishes accompanied by vibrant music soundtracks, their upstairs sharing tables offer a party-like atmosphere. If you prefer a more quiet affair,  there’s a more intimate dining area downstairs.

Whilst walking around Oxford circus you may get peckish mid-shop. Head down to Gordon Ramsey’s recently opened restaurant Heddon Street Kitchen, conveniently located on Heddon Street. Enjoy some of the multi Michelin-starred chef’s meals in a modern, minimalist and classy restaurant that offers tasty lunch, dinner and weekend brunch at affordable prices.

In London, there’s always time for brunch, and if you’re the kind to enjoy a mimosa or two but don’t want to dish out the cash, there’s plenty of options for you. Head east to Bethnal Green where Resident of Paradise Row offers a 10am-4pm bottomless brunch with healthy, hearty, modern dishes. And all whilst spending less than 25 pounds per person.

The truth is, wherever you go in London, it’s hard to be disappointed. All in all, London is probably one of the most culturally diverse capital cities, with mouth-watering menus from all around the world, ready for you to try.

The Best Things To Do In London This Christmas

London is a city aglow with Christmas spirit at this time of the year. Whether you want romance, culture or just to admire some dazzling lights displays, here are our top tips for adding a touch of festive magic to your trip!

Ice skating

There are fewer Christmas images more romantic than gathering loved ones, wrapping up warm and swapping your winter boots for skates at a fabulous outdoor ice rink. London has a whole host of sites to choose from. Elevate the romance even further by choosing one in the shadow of a magnificent historic building like Hampton Court Palace (25th Nov – 8th Jan), the Natural History Museum (27th Oct to 8th Jan) or Somerset House (17th Nov – 15th Jan).

Admire the Christmas lights

London is beautiful all year round, but it’s utterly magical when garlanded with strings of lights. Regent Street will shine brightest with the largest display in London twinkling above shoppers’ heads, while Carnaby is the place to be for an eclectic, retro display. The street most famous as the home of ‘swinging’ London in the sixties is collaborating with the V&A museum this year and the lights are inspired by the exhibition ‘You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970.’

If your visit is in November, see if you can catch one of the switch-on ceremonies at Oxford Street (6th Nov), the Strand (10th Nov), Carnaby Street (15th Nov) or Regent Street (17th Nov). Also check out Trafalgar Square (1st Dec) for the lighting of the immense and beautiful Norwegian Christmas tree.

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Christmas shopping, markets and fairs

The decline in the value of the pound against foreign currencies means this is the perfect time for visitors to enjoy a London shopping spree! Seek out Christmas-themed trinkets galore at a Christmas fair or market – the Southbank Centre Winter Market, the London Bridge City Market and the brand new for 2016 Christmas in Leicester Square run for the majority of December. For a full day of winter-inspired fun, surrounded by arcade games, drinks and Christmas food, head to Hyde Park for the biggest Christmas event of the year: Winter Wonderland. Alternatively, experience London’s greatest department stores in festive mode – Selfridges, Harrods and Liberty all boast their own designated ‘Christmas shops’ in store, as well as offering an assortment of tempting, non-seasonal items from designer clothes and cosmetics to stationery and homeware.

Christmas Entertainment

For dance, take in an elegant and enchanting version of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker (English National Ballet, London Coliseum, 14th Dec – 7th Jan) or catch the family-friendly The Little Match Girl (Sadlers Wells, Lilian Baylis Studio, 10th – 30th Dec). Or do as the British do and revel in the raucous fun of a pantomime, a comedic theatrical take on classic fairy stories that involve plenty of audience interaction with the characters. Some great productions this year include Cinderella (Palladium) and Sleeping Beauty (Hackney Empire).

Last but by no means least, enjoying some carol singing is a quintessential Christmas activity. Trafalgar Square hosts a variety of carol groups raising money for charity throughout the advent period. There are many dedicated carol services and concerts too, including a programme of events at iconic locations such as the Royal Albert Hall, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.

Top 10 Tips On What To Do When Visiting Barcelona

Barcelona is much more than La Sagrada Familia, Las Ramblas and other sights that you see through a simple Google search. It is always better to try to see the city from the locals’ point of view. There is so much you can do and see off the beaten track

1. Must-see sights

Still, if you have never been to Barcelona before, don’t leave without visiting La Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell and La Pedrera, the three most famous landmarks of the city and the main sites of Gaudi’s architecture. Better to book the tickets for entry in advance if you want to avoid long queues (sometimes queues can be as long as two hours!).

2. Barcelona is not only the centre

The city is well-known for some of its iconic sights like Las Ramblas, La Sagrada Familia or La Pedrera, which are all located in the centre of town. Outside the city centre, there are other places worth visiting like Montjuïc mountain and its castle and the Turó de la Rovira and its breathtaking view of Barcelona.

3. Visit the markets of the city

Barcelona is a city of markets, where you can enjoy sampling fresh foods and the atmosphere of older times and often forget that you are in a vibrant 21st century city. Visit La Boqueria, the most popular, central and the oldest market of the city, but also go to the other markets like Santa Caterina or Sant Antoni.

4. Eat tapas

You need to try tapas at least once in the local bars. It is one of the most famous types of Spanish food. Tapas are small plates with shrimp, jamón, some meat, sea food, croquettes, patatas bravas or fish. You can choose one or a few at the same time

5. Be aware of local eating times

If you are in the touristic places it should not be a problem, but if you are off the tourist track, be aware that locals eat at specific time. Don’t expect to have lunch before 1pm (usually, the Spanish eat between 2 pm and 4 pm) and don’t go for dinner before 8.30 pm (locals eat between 9 pm and 11 pm). Some restaurants could be closed at other hours or just serve drinks.

6. Leave tips

There is no written rule, but Spanish people usually leave tips after meals. No one knows how much you have to leave, but think around the 5% to 10% mark of your meal’s bill.

7. Barcelona is a walkable city

One of the best things to do in Barcelona is to walk. Distances are not as long as in the other main European cities. Walking also allows you to discover the city as a local and enjoy its splendid architecture in some districts like Ciutat Vella or Eixample. The Mediterranean climate makes the walks enjoyable all year long.

8. Take the metro to go further

If you don’t have enough time to walk around the city, take the metro. The fast and convenient subway gets to every place of the city (starting this year, it also goes to the airport). The opening times are also very convenient, from Sunday to Thursday from 5 am to 12 am, on Friday from 5 am to 2am, and Saturday, it is open 24 hours!

9. Local fiestas

If you are lucky enough to be in the city when a local fiesta is taking place, don’t hesitate and just go along like the locals do. Some of the main festivities of Barcelona are: ‘Festes de Gràcia’ and ‘Festes de Sants’, both held in August, when both districts Gràcia and Sants decorate their streets following a set theme. There is also the ‘Festes de la Mercè’ in September, when all of Barcelona is full of music and activities of different kinds. Another favourite is ‘Diada de Sant Jordi’, when the city turns red because due to the small stands selling roses and books. This happens on the 23rd of April.

10. Football, football and more football

If you are a football fan, this is your city. If you are lucky and have got tickets, go to the Camp Nou to see Messi and his teammates playing. If you cannot get a ticket, go to a neighbourhood bar to see a game, the fun is also guaranteed. And if you are extremely lucky and Barça wins an important title, you will see the city transforming into craziness, so just out on the streets and celebrate it.

A Few Tips And Tricks When Visiting Brussels

In a nutshell:

Belgium is a country of 30.528 km² located in the centre of Europe between France, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany. Tourism ranges vastly here, from the English tourists that visit Bruges to Dutch bike tourists in Limburg to the  French and German tourists in the hills of the Ardennes. Belgium has everything you could need, from the seaside to long countryside walks and even cross country skiing in winter.

Transport :

The road network in Belgium is very easy with major highways linking most areas in the country. From Paris, London or Amsterdam, it is easy to take high speed trains that are not too expensive and will bring you to Brussels or Antwerp swiftly and comfortably. The main airport is Brussels International Airport but the 4 regional airports of Ostend, Antwerp, Liège and Charleroi also offer a lot of international fights.  Charleroi (Brussels South) is particularly interesting as it is home to several low-cost airlines that have various routes to most European countries. Although flights from Ostend to Dover no longer exist, you can also hop on a ferry daily from Zeebrugge to Hull, on the British coast. Even the French ports of Dunkerque and Calais aren’t too far from the Belgian border, offering a direct line across the seas from Dover. Furthermore, there are ferries in the Netherlands that are also easy to reach from Belgium with the most important being from Rotterdam to Hull (UK), Hoek van Holland to Harwich (UK) and  Ijmuiden to Newcastle (UK).

Where to go :

Though there is a lot of tourism throughout Belgium, Brussels is always a big draw. The city is well known for its mascot, the statue of a little peeing boy called Manneken Pis. He stands very close the second most known place in Brussels, the Grand Place, with its Gothic town hall and baroque guild halls. Just outside the city centre you will find the area that was used for the 1958 Expo. The biggest landmark was built for this purpose and is still standing today: the Atomium underwent a complete restauration between 2004 and 2006. The building represents one elementary cel of pure iron and 5 of the 9 spheres are open to the public, a must-see for anyone visiting Brussels.

Events :

Belgian people are known for their relaxed, no-stress lifestyle and this means that parties are organised everywhere. A few of the best known events are music festivals like Tomorrowland, which has now spread to America and South America, Rock Werchter or Pukkelpop. These open-air festivals attract big international artists and have thousands of visitors every year. Another great event is the ‘Carnaval’ which is celebrated most towns in the country though the best known one is in Aalst. This is an event where everyone dresses up in costumes from the classic clown to the most ridiculous fantasy character. People create big floats and then drive them around the village where people are lined up in the streets, catching the confetti and candy that the floats throw out. This is an event that is loved by kid, as they are still eating the sweets two weeks later. Smaller events such as jazz festivals, art festivals and concerts are organised throughout the year so visitors can enjoy culture, arts and music alongside Belgian beer and snacks all the time.

Food :

Belgium is a country of food-lovers and in summertime many people will light up the BBQ to grill some juicy meat and eat outside on the terrace in the sunlight. The 4 internationally known products that Belgium is famous for are chocolate, fries, beer and waffles. Belgium has been said to have the best beer in the world and many people travel to Belgium just to buy the real Belgian beer. Might I add the fact that there are over 300 different beers made in Belgium so you have plenty to choose from. Head to Delirium, a well-known bar that offers the largest beer menu in the world, featured in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Restaurants are also everywhere in the country. Brussels’s main restaurants are ‘brasseries’ where you can enjoy ‘vol-au-vent’, mussels and fries as well as fish and pasta dishes. Head to Skievelat, Chez Lola or Belga Queen for traditional upscale Belgian cuisine or to La Quincallerie for fine seafood dining.  Some more hearty Belgian specialities include ‘gegratineerd witloof’, a locally grown chicory with ham and a cheesy sauce grilled in a very hot oven. ‘Stoofles’ is a Belgian meat stew served with fries. And last, but certainly not least, Belgian ‘bloedworst’, a black pudding sausage traditionally accompanied by brown bread for breakfast or lunch.

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Advice :

I have one simple word of advice for those visiting Belgium: bring a raincoat! Although in general the winters are pretty cold and the summers are pretty warm, you can never be certain and a rain shower is never too far away. Spring and Autumn can be very interesting if you want to avoid the crowds but, in general, summertime is the best time to visit Belgium, mostly because it is full of interesting events. So now you know all of this, get on that train, plane, boat or hop into your car and visit Belgium where there is something for everyone to do!

How To Visit Brussels In Two Days

How to get there?

You cannot visit Belgium without visiting the capital, Brussels, which has much to offer people of all ages. If you arrive at Brussels Zaventem Airport, you can take the train into the city, one of buses or a taxi. If you arrive by car, it is best to park outside of the city (Parc du Cinquantenaire or Jubelpark, as these are some of the few free parking spaces in Brussels) and avoid driving in the busy city.

The city centre in one day

You should spend a full day in the city as this allows you to visit the most important tourist attractions like the Grand Place, or Grote Markt, with its typical guild houses and classic city hall. Walking around the city centre you will notice that many buildings are covered by our favourite comic characters giving the city a unique atmosphere. Not far from the Grand Place is the famous Manneken Pis, the small statue of a peeing boy and maybe the most visited tourist attraction of Brussels. The surrounding streets offer shops of all kinds and nice cosy restaurants and bars where you can sit and enjoy a tasty Belgian waffle or the famous mussels and chips dish. For dessert, shop around for the best chocolate in the world with brands like Neuhaus, Leonidas, Godiva or Côte d’Or all within walking distance. Mind you, after a few days of eating Belgian food, you may need to lose a few pounds!

Chocolate shops at the centre of Brussels

For all the nature lovers, there is the option of visiting the Botanique, the botanical garden of Brussels with its wonderful greenhouse. If you walk from Rue de la Loi through the Parc de Bruxelles, or Warandepark, you will be venturing through some lovely green spaces, and, upon exiting the park, you will be faced with the grand Belgian Royal Palace on the Place des Palais. This is still the official residence of the Belgian King Philippe, though he usually spends his time in his palace in Laeken (also in Brussels).

The Parc du Cinquantenaire, or Jubelpark, hosts the Military and Aviation museum for anyone with a passion for World War history and classic aircrafts. The automobile museum  can also be found there. But, most of all, the grand arch and the neighbouring park itself are worth the visit. If you are interested in war history, you can visit some of the memorials across the city like the National Infantry Monument as well as the Palace of Justice with the Congress Column in front of it. The monument for the unknown soldier is buried at the foot of this column, and the location also offers a marvellous view over Brussels.

What to do in Brussels eat mussels with fries

The outskirts on the second day

If you are an adventurer and explorer like me, you can easily spend a full day in the outskirts of Brussels and visit some interesting places that are less well-known. One of these places is an ancient forest called Zoniënwoud located close to the city, where you can stroll around and enjoy some peace and quiet. The next big thing just outside of the city centre is the area that was used in 1958 for the EXPO world exhibit. Some traces are still to be found in the area that is now home to Brussels Expo. In fact, the most famous building left has since become a big national landmark. The Atomium consists of 9 spheres connected by tubes and representing one single unit cell of an iron crystal. The building has recently been renovated and hosts a range of exhibitions. What’s more, the highest sphere contains a restaurant that gives people a fantastic view over the city of Brussels, from a height of 102 metres.

Sonian forest in the outskirts of Brussels

The Heysel area around this national monument also houses a few little surprises. You can delve back into World War  history here, as a short walk from the Atomium through the green Parc de Laeken, brings you to a stylish triangular monument for the Belgian Airmen who served in the RAF during World War II, aboard famous aircrafts like the Spitfire and the Hurricane.

If, by now, you are feeling a bit tired, you can go relax with a cold Belgian beer before venturing onwards to a place full of history. Napoleon Bonaparte was finally defeated on 18 June 1815 in the Battle of Waterloo, and the site of this battle is located 17 km from the centre of Brussels. The location is important: it was chosen to prevent Napoleon’s troops from reaching Brussels. The famous hill on the battlefield has been transformed into a major tourist attraction with 226 stairs that lead to a statue of a lion facing France. This is  called the Lion’s Mound and it was placed on the top of the hill back in 1826. Every year, there is a live reenactment on the day of the battle to give spectators an idea of what the actual battle would have been like. It is best to go there on a mild sunny day as the site is in wide open space and the climb is about 43m high.

To top it all off, why not enjoy a typical Belgian dinner like steak and fries. After all, you have to put the weight back on that you just lost walking around!