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!

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!

London: Why It’s Still The Best Place To Be

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London has a way of charming people from every walk of life. It is, by turns, sophisticated and laid back, traditional and diverse, classic and vibrant. Here are just a few reasons why London is still the coolest capital in 2016.

Enduring iconic locations

Whether you want to admire Tower Bridge, walk the zebra crossing at Abbey Road, catch a black cab or pose for a photo beside Platform 9¾, London is full of iconic buildings, scenery and traditions that have to be seen in person.

Entertainment and shopping

London arguably has the best theatre scene in the world, offering an enormous variety of shows. There are almost 40 venues in London’s West End alone, making it the perfect place to brighten up your evening with a musical.

The city is also heaven for fashion and shopping lovers. Head to Knightsbridge for top designers, browse high street flagships on Oxford Street or hit one of London’s varied markets to browse through vintage clothes, antiques and bric-a-brac. In city which is home of the British Royal Family, you can also shop where the Royals do by visiting companies with a Royal Warrant. Some London brands on the list include Fortnum and Mason’s for groceries and produce, Floris of London for perfume and Smythson for stationery.

World-class cuisine

From fine dining in Michelin-starred restaurants (try Gordon Ramsay’s offering in Chelsea for luxurious dining or Gymkhana in Mayfair for superb curry) to hearty Sunday roasts (try Blacklock in Soho or The Albion in Islington), just thinking about the diversity and quality of the food scene in London is enough to set your mouth watering. Don’t forget to indulge in an elegant afternoon tea – the most quintessentially English of meals – at one of London’s stylish and historic hotels (The Ritz, Claridge’s and The Dorchester are all excellent choices). You can even combine delicious food with spectacular city views at restaurants like The Shard’s TĪNG or Hutong, or the Sky Garden’s Darwin Brasserie or Fenchurch Terrace.

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Rich in culture for all ages

With some of the world’s best museums and galleries, London has culture in abundance. Best of all, most offer free entry. Take advantage of this in order to marvel at the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum, as well as pieces of Ancient Greece’s Parthenon or masterpieces by Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Turner, Monet and Van Gogh (to name but a few). Or please the younger crowd with a trip to see colossal dinosaur skeleton casts at the Natural History Museum or the Apollo 10 command module at the Science Museum.

Beauty from the streets to the skyline

Wandering the streets and relishing the city’s sights is a joy in itself, whether taking in the view from the Southbank or strolling through pretty neighbourhoods like Notting Hill or Covent Garden. Vantage points like the Shard take this to another level, with stunning panoramic views of the metropolis, while the city’s many parks and gardens provide an idyllic counterpoint to city life.