The Safest Cities For Women to Travel Alone in Europe

There has never been a better time than now to be a solo female traveler looking to explore Europe. Cities are becoming safer, female-friendly hotels are popping up and it is getting easier to meet other solo female travelers around the world. Here are 20 safe European cities for female solo travelers.

20. Vienna, Austria

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Austria is ranked number 4 on the Global Peace Index, making it an excellent and safe country for female solo travelers to visit. Vienna, the capital of Austria has earned the name of “city with the highest quality of life” several years in a row.

Vienna is full of stunning architecture, music, and history. There are plenty of museums to visit, such as Sigmund Freud’s house. This museum will help you understand why Vienna is known as the “city of dreams”.  You may also want to make a stop at Prater park to see the iconic Riesenrad Ferris wheel landmark. Finally, be sure to head to a local restaurant and try authentic Austrian food such as Wiener Schnitzel (a thin, breaded, pan-fried veal cutlet), Sachertorte (chocolate torte), or an Apfelstrudel (apple strudel).

19. Edinburgh, Scotland

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Between the breathtaking landscapes, ancient castles, and rich history, Scotland has a lot to offer. Scotland, a region of the United Kingdom ranks 45 on the Global Peace Index and is considered safe for female solo travelers. There is so much to do and see in Edinburg, the capital of Scotland. To begin, if you visit in August, there is a month-long arts festival called Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This festival offers theatrical performances, comedy shows, and many other activities that would be perfect for a female solo traveler, especially if you’re hoping to meet new people.

Moreover, consider taking a guided tour of Edinburgh Castle and take in the medieval architecture. After visiting the castle, be sure to head to Calton Hill which is a high point in the city that allows you to catch a full view of Edinburgh. Finish your day at a local pub and indulge in authentic food while meeting the locals.

18. Berlin, Germany

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Berlin, Germany’s capital is home to 3.5 million residents. Berlin is rich in history and full of culture and would be an excellent place to explore on your own. There are many restaurants, markets, and cafes in Berlin that will make you feel comfortable dining alone.

Discover what this city has to offer by taking a free walking tour, use the bike-sharing program, or hop on public transportation. Be sure to check out the Brandenburg Gate, and the Holocaust Memorial, and the remnants of the Berlin Wall.

17. Bruges, Belgium

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If you are a solo female traveler looking to immerse yourself in a fairy tale this would be the city to visit. Straight off a postcard, the city of Bruges is loaded with cobblestone streets, historic houses, and canals. It is here where you will be inspired to take long strolls throughout the streets and enjoy Belgian pints of beer by street-side cafes while people watching.

This city is extremely safe, for all travelers and welcomes visitors, especially in the summertime when it becomes peak travel season. There is a range of good hotels along with budget hostels that will meet any traveler’s budget, and English is widely understood throughout. Female travelers will feel safe as locals are willing to lend a hand if needed and are more than happy to give advice on where to go, what to see, and where to grab the next pint of beer.

16. Santorini, Greece

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If you want to see jaw-dropping scenery, be sure to add Santorini, Greece to your travel wish list. The emerald Mediterranean Sea is enough to take your breath away, but also the picturesque white villas are a sight to see too. Many people travel to Santorini with a partner or friend but that doesn’t mean you can’t travel there solo.

With friendly locals and an affordable bus system, you’ll be able to navigate your way across the city.

15. Paris, France

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Paris, France is known as the city of love. So it may seem ironic that one would travel there alone. However, exploring this beautiful city alone means that you don’t have to abide by anyone else’s opinions or plans. Further, exploring this city is easy and best to do either on foot or by taking the metro.

There are so many amazing things to see and do in Paris, France. Be sure to check out the iconic Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the Arc de Triomphe. You should also enjoy a bottle of wine and a baguette all to yourself during your stay too.

14. London, England

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London, England is an excellent destination for solo female travels. Traveling through this city is easy from the amazing public transportation system to the remarkable hostels, hotels, and Airbnb’s. Not to mention English is their first language in this city of England.

During your stay, be sure to visit Buckingham Palace, take a tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and visit one of the many museums London has to offer. You should also dine at a local pub to indulge in traditional British food such as fish and chips, or a Toad in the hole. Further, dining at a pub will also help you meet the locals as well as other solo travelers too.

13. Oslo, Norway

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Oslo is a dream for female solo travelers, alas a bit expensive at times. It is Norway’s largest city and a great cultural city destination that is overflowing with things to see and do. Female solo travelers will feel safe no matter where they stay but may feel some extra comfort if they choose to stay on the women-only floor of the 130-year old Grand Hotel. Here they will find rooms stacked with books, magazines, a yoga mat, toiletries, and a female room-service menu, without the room service charge!

Wandering around the Vigeland Sculpture Park, which is 80 acres and feature 212 bronze and granite sculptures, you are sure to meet other solo travelers who will become quick friends. Head out to one of the many vibrant nightclubs or theaters with new-found travel friends for an unforgettable experience.

12. Dublin, Ireland

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Ireland is a very safe country. According to the Global Peace Index, Ireland ranks number 12 in the world. Further, as a female solo traveler, you will feel comfortable dining alone and you may even run into another solo traveler during your stay.

Dublin, the capital of Ireland, is laden with historic buildings including the captivating Dublin Castle. Some other great places to see are the St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the National Museum of Ireland, and other must-see historic Attractions in Dublin.

11. Lisbon, Portugal

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Lisbon, Portugal is a wonderful place for female solo travelers. To begin, there are many safe and affordable hostels to stay in where you will meet many other solo travelers too. Secondly, Portugal ranks 3rd on the Global Peace Index.

Lisbon is full of rugged yet wonderful architecture and overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. Consider having a beach day all to yourself, or explore the Castelo de S. Jorge or the Jerónimos Monastery. Exploring this beautiful city is easy and can be done either by public transportation, on foot, or on a bike.

10. Stockholm, Sweden

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Built over 14 islands and connected by over 50 bridges this lovely cosmopolitan city is home to more than two million people. It is known for its gorgeous modern architecture, friendly people, and captivating waterways. Women are treated equally like men here and solo female travelers will face no issues in terms of harassment, drink spiking, or pickpocketing.

There is a slew of budget hostels throughout the city that are both affordable and safe, and a great way to connect with other travelers. This is a great city to experience Nordic culture in its modern and multicultural avatar, as well as dine on delightful local food. English is widely spoken here, and the locals are often teased for speaking a mix of Swedish and English-nicknamed Swinglish. Women will have no trouble finding people to talk to, tours to take and culture to experience here in Stockholm.

9. Cardiff, Wales

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Cardiff is the capital and largest city of Wales. This city is also considered one of Britain’s safer cities and for that reason, it is Wales’s most popular tourist destination. Along with being a safe city, Cardiff is full of culture, has many captivating castles and if you meet the locals they’ll surely share some of their ancient Welsh legends.

Further, students make up about 10% of Cardiff’s population which means younger female solo travelers will surely be well taken care of. There are many things to see and do in Cardiff. During your stay be sure to check out the National Museu, Cardiff Bay, and Cardiff Castle.

8. Helsinki, Finland

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The capital of Finland is one of the best cities for female solo travelers, thanks to its friendly locals, its reputation for being safe and beautiful. This walkable city is loaded with lovely parks, free city events, music, and shopping. Solo travelers will delight in the 20th-century architecture, the Helsinki Cathedral and the National Museum of Finland, which are always, home to other visitors.

One of the best things to do when you first get into the city is to take a walking tour, in order to fully appreciate the city’s cultural heritage, then move on to the shopping and dining. One cannot travel here without taking a dip in the Yrjönkatu Indoor Swimming Pool, (the oldest pool) built-in 1928. Recently renovated to house three pools and wonderful saunas, this is where women meet after work and have a sauna and swim followed by a drink, all done without any clothes on.

7. Prague, Czech Republic

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Immerse yourself in the alluring culture of the Czech Republic by visiting its capital, Prague. There is an abundance of things to see and do in the wonderful city of Prague.

Prague is not only a beautiful place to visit but the country, the Czech Republic ranks in the top 10 of the Global Peace Index. Consider meeting other solo travelers by taking a walking tour, or keep to yourself and explore one of their many museums, or even check out a show at the State Opera.

6. Copenhagen, Denmark

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The capital of Denmark is a vibrant and colorful city, which still manages to maintain a small-town feeling. New meets old in this fairytale-like city that features ancient buildings and towering glass and steel skyscrapers. Many of the state-run museums in this city are free admission, making it easy to save on spending and you can’t miss out on visiting the world’s oldest amusement park- Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park.

This city offers a unique experience that is perfect for female solo travelers called ‘Meet the Danes.’ This service arranges home-dinners with a Danish family or a single woman and her friend. Expect a traditional Danish meal and plenty of conversation with your new-found friends. Don’t miss the goddess Gefjun fountain that depicts the mythology of Denmark’s creation and magic within the Norse religion.

5. Barcelona, Spain

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Barcelona, Spain is known for its captivating architecture and art and would be a great destination for female solo travelers. For starters, the public transportation system is excellent. You’ll have the option of taking a bus, metro, trains, or trams, however, you will also be able to see a lot of the attractions on foot too. While Barcelona is generally safe, it’s always important to still take precautions such as keeping your personal belongings close by to prevent pickpocketing and don’t flash around money or expensive belongings.

During your stay be sure to check out the Sagrada Familia church, designed by Antoni Gaudi, and the Picasso Museum.

4. Zurich, Switzerland

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Zurich is an extremely safe city and therefore traveling alone as a female here is also incredibly safe, and downright breathtaking. Snow-capped Alps loom in the background, museums and art galleries line the streets and the nightlife is something to speak of. Female travelers will find no shortage of shopping to do here, cobblers, tailors, metalsmiths, candle makers, jewelry makers, and watchmakers fill the streets.

Choices of accommodations are endless here and if you feel nervous at all in this city we suggest heading over to Lady’s First Design Hotel, which was built especially for female travelers. The ancient center is the perfect place to stroll through the winding lanes and look up to the tall church steeples, stopping for coffee at sidewalk cafes. Further, Zuri-West is where to find the hottest nightlife in the city, just in case you are looking to meet new friends that want to dance the night away.

3. Sorento, Italy

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Sorento is a coastal town located in the southwestern part of Italy. This charming town faces the Bay of Naples on the Sorrentine Peninsula. Be sure to make your way to Piazzo Tasso, a central square in Sorrento that offers plenty of restaurants and shopping. Here you can try their famous Gelato, or drink a cup of delicious coffee.

Not only is there a lot to see and do in Sorento, but it’s also a popular vacation spot for Europeans. This means that you’ll hear a lot of English in both the restaurants and in the streets of Sorento which will only make traveling by yourself even easier. Further, you’ll find that it is easy to navigate around the town which will only add to a stress-free experience.

2. Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Amsterdam received the nickname “Venice of the North” because it has many beautiful canals. This charming city has something for every type of female traveler. Whether you enjoy history, are a party animal, or prefer to simply take in the scenic view, Amsterdam has it all.

According to the Global Peace Index, the Netherlands ranks in the top 20 in the world.  There is plenty to see and do in Amsterdam and you will most likely run into other solo travelers too.

1. Reykjavik, Iceland

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It has been rated as the number one safest country for women to travel to alone and Iceland has been beckoning female solo travelers for as long as it can remember. This is the ultimate travel adventure for the traveler who loves the outdoors. Think glacier hiking in the Pingvellir National Park, skiing at Blafjoll, and Viking horse riding at Thingvellir.

If you aren’t the outdoorsy type, don’t worry there is plenty for you to do here including the chance to relax and de-stress in one of the many thermal pools and spas across the city. If you’re lucky you may even get to witness the famous Aurora Borealis. This city happens to be famously expensive though and we highly suggest staying at a hostel instead of a hotel to save money. This city is notoriously safe, even at night and as a female solo traveler, make sure you put Reykjavik on your bucket list.

The Top 8 Pet-Friendly Vacation Destinations in Europe

For many people, pets are more than just a companion—they’re like family. That means many of us like to travel with our pets. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same opinion of our four-legged friends and, in many places, you’ll find that Fido isn’t welcome to join you. Things are a bit a different in Europe: many countries are incredibly pet-friendly, which makes them perfect destinations for pet lovers from around the world. Here are 8 pet-friendly stops in Europe.

8. Norway

The Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Denmark and Norway tend to get a bad rap with travelers who want to bring their pets with them on holiday; these 3 Northern European countries are considerably less pet-friendly than other European countries. Still, that doesn’t mean pets are never welcome. A good example is Norway’s famed fjords, which you can tour via cruise liner. Your dog is more than welcome to join you on the trip and will be treated as a guest too. Oslo, Norway’s capital, has many pet-friendly hotels, so finding accommodations for you and Fido shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. Norway also has plenty of open space, meaning travelers and their dogs can get their daily exercise. Shops, restaurants and public transit pose more of a challenge to four-legged travelers, who may not be welcome inside most establishments.

dogs in Norway

7. United Kingdom

With the introduction of the (PETS), the United Kingdom has become an even friendlier destination for you and your four-legged friend. More and more visitors are bringing their pets with them on holiday, most notably those from other EU countries; cats and dogs arriving from North America and other places are still required to enter quarantine on arrival. Once quarantine is over, however, the U.K. opens up to four-legged travelers. The National Rail system allows dogs of all sizes, provided they’re leashed, which means you can travel anywhere you want, whether it’s Cornwall in the south or north to the Scottish Highlands. The British Isles also offer plenty of green space with lots of national parks to visit, which makes for ideal dog-walking conditions. Pet-friendly accommodations are available throughout the U.K.

puppy on a train

6. Ireland

Some parts of Ireland are pet-friendly, while other parts are not so friendly toward four-legged travel companions. Dublin is often considered very pet-friendly, and many restaurants and cafes are quite happy to have your pup accompany you on outdoor terraces and patios, provided that they’re leashed. Hotels and other accommodations are often pet-friendly as well, although you want to call ahead and ensure that Fido is welcome. While dogs are often unwelcome on walking trails, particularly because they cut through sheep country, a few trails welcome leashed dogs: Killarney National Park admits four-legged friends, as do some of the trails in the Wicklow Mountains (although not the Wicklow Way). Your best bet in Ireland is to take a cottage vacation—a popular option with pet owners, since you’ll be in the countryside.

killarney national park with dog

5. Netherlands

The Netherlands are perhaps most famous for being incredibly cyclist-friendly, but Dutch cities like Amsterdam are also rather pet-friendly. Much like other parts of Europe, many restaurants are pet-friendly, often allowing diners to bring their leashed pet with them to outdoor dining areas. Hotels are often pet-friendly, and shops may allow dogs inside (although it’s best to ask). Amsterdam in particular recommends itself as a great pet-friendly destination for those traveling with dogs, thanks to plentiful parks. Vondelpark, the largest and best-known in the city, is a great location, while Oosterpark is divided into 2 zones: a children’s zone that is dog-free and the other where dogs are welcome. This park is well-known to the locals and is becoming more popular with tourists traveling with their pooches.

dog and windmill

4. Switzerland

Think of Switzerland and you’ll probably think of Bernese mountain dogs and St. Bernards bounding through the snow to rescue stranded skiers in the Alps. Given dogs’ importance, it should be little surprise that the Swiss are fond of dogs—and of four-legged travelers. Most restaurants are more than happy to welcome you and your furry dining companion (even if Fido won’t be ordering off the menu). Like other places in Europe, dogs are also welcome in most shops and hotels, although you might call ahead to ask about specific pet policies. Public transit is also pet-friendly; all cats and dogs are allowed on trains, although you’ll often need to purchase a half-price, second-class fare for animal companions. Smaller animals may be required to sit in a purse or basket for travel—but it’s still better than boxing your friend up in a carrier.

dog in engadine switzerland

3. Italy

Italians love their furry friends and most of the time, you’ll be able to bring your dog with you into stores, hotels and even restaurant dining areas. Northern Italy is usually considered to be more dog-friendly than the south, but Rome is also cited as one of the most dog-friendly destinations in Europe. Yes, even in a big tourist center, dogs are more than welcome. Public transit also welcomes furry travelers, often without a carrier, although a muzzle may be required during your ride. Some places may also ask you to purchase a fare for your four-legged travel companion—although often at a discount of 50% or more. Most hotels will welcome pets, although some charge extra fees. Good practice is to call ahead to to a restaurant or hotel before you make your reservations.

cat in Italy

2. Germany

While Germany isn’t the most pet-friendly place in Europe, the country is pretty friendly toward your four-legged friends. Much like other parts of Europe, pets are welcome on public transit, so long as they are on a leash; a muzzle may be required, but there’s no reason to put your pup in a carrier. Small dogs are often welcome in the dining areas of restaurants, although larger breeds may not be as welcome. Dogs are often welcome in shops as well, and you can expect most accommodations to be pet-friendly. Of course, it’s always a good idea to call ahead and ensure that Fido will be welcome—and to suss out if there’s any additional fees for having him tag along with you to dinner or to your hotel.

dog at octoberfest

1. France

If you’ve ever wanted to visit Paris and lunch at a bistro, but can’t bear the thought of leaving Fido out of the experience, don’t fret. France is consistently rated as the most pet-friendly country in all of Europe—and that’s saying something, considering how pet-friendly most European countries are. Dogs are more commonly permitted into dining areas than not; in fact, it would be strange to see an owner leave their dog outside while they went into a shop or restaurant. As a result, many hotels are pet-friendly, as are other establishments. If you plan to travel about, public transit is also pet-friendly, allowing you to take your pet with you on the train, often on a leash rather than in a carrier. So go ahead and make your dream trip to France a whole-family affair!

yorkie at paris cafe

Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Cities to Visit in 2016

The ever popular publisher of travel guides has come out with their ‘Best of Travel 2016’ guide which lists the best of the best for the next year of travel in all sorts of categories from best budget travel to best family travel experiences. If you’ve been planning ahead for next year’s vacations here is the list of the best cities to visit in 2016 to get your imagination running wild. All cities were reportedly chosen for their “topicality, unique experiences and ‘wow’ factor”.

10. Rome

Is there ever a year that it’s not a good idea to visit Rome? We say no, and Lonely Planet agrees saying that the Eternal City “never goes out of fashion.” But in 2016 there are a few special events happening in addition to the myriad of usual reasons why Rome deserves your time; for starters, Pope Francis has declared the coming year as The Year of Mercy, a global celebration which is sure to attract people to the city to celebrate their faith. The non-religious spotlight shines on Rome as well, the city is featured in the soon to be cinematic blockbusters Spectre -the latest installment in the 007 series and the upcoming remake of Ben Hur.

collesseum rome

9. Nashville

Nashville aka ‘Music City’, has been synonymous with country for as far back as we can remember, and while the city will still meet these expectations of boots and spurs, it will also surprise you. Lonely Planet says that this Southern city is booming, thanks to a rapid gentrification by a new crop of residents attracted to the city’s relatively low cost of living and expanding job opportunities. So you can still get your fix of country crooners on Broadway, but elsewhere you can enjoy new galleries, coffee shops, craft breweries and independent clothing retailers.

Nashville downtown skyline

8. Manchester

Lonely Planet says that the #8 city on this list, Manchester is the “UK’s cultural boomtown” so if you’re at all interested in The Arts, you might want to take note of this former industrial city for your 2016 travel plans. The government has committed £78 million to build a new, multi-purpose arts space called ‘The Factory’. The space will be home to a 2,200 seat theater and host the Manchester International Festival. There were several other openings this year including the re-opening of the Whitworth art gallery after a £15 million revamp, and the newly opened HOME multi-artform center. And let’s not forget the stunning Central Library, the city’s official public ‘living room space.’

Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester

7. Fremantle

Anyone familiar with Australia knows that the West has been on the rise for years now, so it’s not surprising to see the city of Fremantle make this year’s list. This Western port town is situated on the Swan River, about 14 kilometers from the Western Australian capital of Perth. It’s a far cry from Sydney, both in geography and in vibe, but don’t underestimate ‘Freo’, because if you do you’ll be missing out on a lively and thriving counterculture of hipster bars, live music rooms, craft breweries, alternative book stores, seafood shacks and beach buskers.

MEzairi / Shutterstock.com
MEzairi / Shutterstock.com

6. Mumbai

You may be thinking to yourself “India, booming? Really?” Well, yes. In fact, in 2016 India is predicted to overtake China as the fastest growing economy in the world. A fact that makes the city of Mumbai seem a little more worthy of its nickname ‘Maximum City’. With rapid reinvestment of its wealth in development and expansion, you’ll find everything in Mumbai is getting an upgrade. From the creation of a shiny new terminal at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, to the new air-conditioned commuter monorail to old cotton mills finding new life as shopping centers, one thing is for sure, Mumbai will surprise and delight you in 2016.

silentwings / Shutterstock.com
silentwings / Shutterstock.com

5. Rotterdam

One look around at the landscape and scenery of Rotterdam tells you this city is cutting edge. Futuristic architecture and contemporary construction are on display everywhere including the Markthal Rotterdam, a public food hall and residence which opened in 2014 and still has people talking, or the Netherlands largest building; De Rotterdam. In 2016 we’ll see the opening of the Museum Rotterdam inside the Rem Koolhaas-designed Timmerhuis building, this and a slew of new bars, restaurants and nightlife venues prove that life in Rotterdam is anything but ordinary.

VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock.com
VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock.com

4. George Town

Malaysia hasn’t exactly seen a lot of recognition for modern arts and culture and the city of George Town in Penang state is probably more well-known for its UNESCO World Heritage-listed streetscape than anything else. While any UNESCO designation is nothing to glaze over, Lonely Planet says it’s not the only reason to head to George Town in 2016. It’s a city that’s setting the pace for modern arts and culture in the country and visitors can experience this while visiting the Hin Bus Depot Art Centre, a re-purposed formerly abandoned transportation hub or checking out the Urban Xchange: Crossing Over festival which features funky street art throughout the city.

manzrussali / Shutterstock.com
manzrussali / Shutterstock.com

3. Dublin

It’s estimated that currently, 40% of the population of Dublin is under the age of 30. As such, the vibe of this city right now is one that’s youthful, vibrant and on the rise. A stroll along the bustling banks of the River Liffey will convince you of this fact for sure. In 2016, the Irish capital will be celebrating the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising -a brutal insurrection against British Rule that ultimately led to the formation of the Irish Republic. Lonely Planet says you can be sure that celebrations throughout the city will be loud and they will be long.

Dublin bridge

2. Quito

The #2 entry on this years top travel list is another city steeped in history and old world charm, after all the entire city of Quito, Ecuador is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a fact that many are already familiar with and has long been a reason to visit, but Lonely Planet says it might just be the addition of some new along with the old, that might convince you of its worth. Tourists who prefer things easier than the backpacking travel lifestyle will enjoy the city’s new metro system which will open in 2016 as well as the refurbished train station and the shiny new airport. Everyone will enjoy the city’s old town architecture and towering mountains that have had adventure-seekers heading here for years.

Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com
Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com

1.  Kotor

What’s an up-and-coming travel list without at least one city that you’ve probably never heard of? Well Lonely Planet insists that this one is worthy of their #1 top city to visit in 2016 spot. Kotor is a secluded coastal city on Montenegro’s Gulf of Kotor. According to Lonely Planet, it’s amazingly beautiful from every angle and “is one of the most photogenic spots in all of Europe.” That’s certainly saying something considering the kind of places it’s up against for that title. Unlike other coastal cities in the same region, the cruise ships haven’t touched Kotor, leaving the city’s maze of alleys, plazas and cafe’s all for you. But don’t say Lonely Planet didn’t warn you, the cruisers will discover this piece of European paradise soon enough.

Kotor Montenegro

7 Places Where You’re Among Friends in Ireland

Ireland is a country that exceeds the expectations of everyone who visits. The town’s really are that colorful, the land really is that green, the landscapes that spectacular, the food that good and the people that friendly. It is a land of juxtaposition; the harsh climate and rugged coastline combine seamlessly with the sprawling farmland, gently rolling hills, and the pristine lakes leading up into the dramatic peaks. No matter where you are in Ireland though, one aspect remains constant: the people. The locals are truly some of the friendliest and welcoming people you will come across in your travels. Their prime objective is to help you fall in love with their country as they once did. They are a proud people, but joyful and happy; the locals in Ireland are what makes this country such a wonderful place to visit at any time of year!

7. Aran Islands

If you want to step back in time, to a place where the animals far outnumber the people and cars are almost non-existent, then come to the Aran Islands. Named for the cluster of three islands that makes up this archipelago, (Inishmore, Inishmaan, Inisheer) the Islands in the Atlantic Ocean are a place where locals are friendly and welcoming while the food is home cooked and delicious. The best way to see the islands is by bike; all three have rental companies with plenty of options. Inishmore is the largest and the most often visited by tourists on day trips from Galway or Dublin; if you want the whole island to yourself, plan to stay overnight – almost no one does, and you are treated like royalty by the locals if you do. Explore the historical landmarks, like the Dun Aonghasa and the Worm Hole and marvel at the Cliffs of Aran, a spectacular and dramatic 300ft coast, not unlike the Cliffs of Moher (but with fewer crowds). The beaches are beautiful, clean and uncrowded, but almost always freezing! Before you catch a ferry back, wander some of the local shops for your chance to buy some traditional Aran Wool alongside some beautiful and handmade products that make for a perfect souvenir!

Aran Island, Ireland

6. Galway

In a country famous all over the world for its music, the city of Galway is probably home to some of its best. Located on the west coast of Ireland, Galway is a small and colorful seaside town overwhelmed with music and culture. You could spend all day wandering the streets and listening to the locals; most of them are looking to make a living and “be discovered”, but they all love what they do, and that joy is evident when you stop and listen to them play. The atmosphere in Galway is toxic, but in the best way; the music on the streets enters your body and warms your entire soul.  If you weren’t outside walking on a busy street, you could just as easily be listening to a musician playing in their home at Christmas time – it is that special and intimate. The rest of Galway is beautiful, the food is delicious, the buildings are unique and the landscape is beautiful, but it is the music you hear that you will forever remember.

littleny / Shutterstock.com
littleny / Shutterstock.com

5. Dun Laoghaire

The first stop for many tourists visiting Ireland is usually Dublin; the Guinness Storehouse, the Book of Kells, pubs and the nightlife are all excellent reasons to visit. But because of its popularity, it is almost always busy and jammed with tourists. Lucky for us, we know of a secretly quiet spot. Located just 13 km southeast of Dublin is Dun Laoghaire, a beautiful seaside town with plenty of historic and scenic locations, on a much smaller and intimate scale. Because Dun Laoghaire plays host to fewer tourists each year, it seems that the locals are much more willing to open their doors and share their culture (that’s not to say the people in Dublin aren’t friendly!) One can relax and enjoy one of the many local pubs, or take an early morning stroll along one of the piers to watch the local fishermen bring in the catch of the day. Dun Laoghaire is underrated, but shouldn’t be; there are plenty of walking trails where you can take in the brightly colored houses, local history and small town Irish charm.

Dun Laoghaire, Ireland

4. The Island of Skellig Michael

Although not an Irish town, Skellig Michael is such an important Irish landmark it had to be included on this list. Listen to a local talk about this landmark, and their faces light up – you can hear the pride in their voices. These two small islands, located 11.6km off the coast of County Kerry in the Atlantic Ocean, have captivated tourists and locals for hundreds of years. Skellig Michael, the larger of the two, is the site of a well preserved monastic outpost of the Early Christian period. In order to become closer to their God, Christian monks decided to completely remove themselves from civilization and today it is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The second island, Small Skellig, is famous in its own right: it is the home to nearly 27,000 pairs of gannets (the second largest colony of gannets in the world). Step onto Skellig Michael and you can’t help but be awestruck and overwhelmed with a sense of spiritualism and beauty; with the solitude and surroundings it almost invokes a sense of magic. The islands can only be reached via ferry (most commonly from Portmagee) and the ride over is usually quite rough. But if you can stomach the ferry, as well as the near 700 jagged steps straight up to the monastery, it truly is one of the few sights that will take your breath away.

Island Skellig Michael, Ireland

3. Glendalough, County Wicklow

Glendalough, in County Wicklow, is one of Ireland’s most beautiful visitors’ destinations and receives thousands of visitors a year. Commonly referred to as “the valley of the two lakes” this area is home to some spectacular scenery that is overflowing with unique flora and fauna and important archeology and history. The Christian monastery on site, dating back to the 6th century, is unique and not to be missed, but it is the Glendalough valley located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park that attract the tourists. Plenty of walking and hiking trails are all over the area, as well as many lakes and valleys; pack a picnic and head out for the day to be amongst what is quintessential Irish landscape – one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.

Glendalough, Ireland

2. Kinsale, County Cork

Kinsale offers all the Irish charm and culture of Cork City, but on a much smaller scale. A popular resort for both Irish and overseas tourists, Kinsale is known for its water activities, especially yachting and sailing. The town is quaint and colorful, with plenty of historical buildings and interesting architecture to satisfy everyone. The food here is especially good and the locals are proud of their cuisine – the town even holds an annual “Gourmet Festival”. This small port town is distinctly Irish: from the locals who go out of their way to make you feel welcome, to the brightly colored doorways and the prominent fishing community, a visit to Kinsale will leave you with a clear feeling of happiness.

gabriel12 / Shutterstock.com
gabriel12 / Shutterstock.com

1. Dingle, County Kerry

Picture old Irish men in tweed hats walking down the cobblestone path and cute Irish women ushering you in from the cold – this is what you will find in Dingle. Quintessentially Irish, this peaceful, colorful town is a popular stop in County Kerry. As the only town on the Dingle Peninsula, is often visited by those driving along the spectacular Ring of Kerry. The beaches along the coastline are safe, beautiful and world class. If you can brave the cold, you won’t find a better place for swimming and surfing. After the beach, head back into town, where you will for sure be ushered in to a cozy room with a fireplace, and be treated with a home cooked Irish meal that will warm your soul, and your toes!

Dingle, Kerry County, Ireland

15 Amazing Libraries for Literature Lovers

Libraries are those unique cultural institutions that combine art, history and innovation to create a space for people of all ages and backgrounds to indulge in the pursuit of knowledge and exploration of literature. For book lovers, there are few things that compare to wandering amid stacks of a historically or culturally significant building and finding a rare volume of their favorite author or an ancient text pertinent to human history. Luckily, the major libraries of the world that house such exquisite collections work hard to keep them preserved and accessible to the public, and out of the hundreds of worldwide options, we’ve narrowed down the 15 institutions all literature lovers must visit at least once in their lives.

15. Royal Grammar School Chained Library, Guildford, England

The headmaster’s study in Guilford’s Royal Grammar School is home to one extremely unique feature—an original chained library. The custom of chaining books originated with the idea of providing public access to valuable and important texts by affixing them to shelving in public places, an idea that eventually became the predecessor for the modern library system. This particular one in Guildford, England is one of the last remaining chained libraries in the world and houses a collection with works dating back to the 15th century, and most notably, two early editions of Newton’s Principia.

Royal Grammar School
Photo by: The Despectacled Librarian

14. Austrian National Library, Vienna, Austria

As the country’s largest library, the Austrian National Library is found within Hofburg Palace in Vienna and houses upwards of 7.4 million items. The acquisition of holdings dates back to the Middle Ages, with the permanent home at the Hofburg Palace constructed in the early 18th century, and now containing the largest collection of contemporary literature and research materials in Austria, as well as several unique collections, archives and museums. The most notable of these is the collection of Maps, one of the most comprehensive in the world, which today includes 295,000 maps, 45,000 geographic-topographic views, 700 globes and over 80,000 atlases and books of a technical nature. Also impressive is the library’s holding of manuscripts and rare books, a collection comprised of over 500,000 printed materials organized into incunabula (pre-1500s), works from the 16th to 19th centuries and items of rare, valuable and bibliophilic importance.

Radiokafka / Shutterstock.com
Radiokafka / Shutterstock.com

13. Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, Toronto, Canada

This library houses the University of Toronto’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, the acquisition of which started in 1955 under the direction of Chief Librarian Robert H. Blackburn (largely sourced from the University’s main library). The department didn’t have a permanent home until 1973 when Thomas Fisher’s descendants donated their personal collections of Shakespeare and various 20th century writers, accentuating the growing collection’s need for a designated space. The building is now home to Canada’s largest publicly accessible selection of rare books and manuscripts, consisting of over 700,000 volumes including several medieval manuscripts and a set of Pyne’s Royal Residences which was presented to the University by Queen Victoria.

Photo by: Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto
Photo by: Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto

12. Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland

Located at the University of Dublin, the Trinity College Library holds Ireland’s largest collection of literature and is home to one of the country’s  biggest attractions—the incomparable Long Room. Built between 1712 and 1732, the Long Room measures over 65 meters in length and contains the institution’s 200,000 item collection of rare and early edition manuscripts and novels, including the world-famous Book of Kells  and one of the last surviving copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. Also interesting to see are the marble busts of famous writers and philosophers that adorn the room, the highlight of which seems to be the one of Jonathan Swift created by Louis Francois Roubiliac.

VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock.com
VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock.com

11. Royal Portuguese Reading Room, Rio de Janiero, Brazil

Brazil’s Real Gabinete Portugues de Leitura, known in English as the Royal Portuguese Reading Room, must be visited as much for its unbelievably stunning interior as for its extensive literary collection. Housing the largest collection of Portuguese literature outside of Portugal itself, the library was built from 1880 to 1887 in the Neo-Manueline style (Portuguese answer to Neo-Gothic architecture) designed by lead architect Rafael da Silva e Castro. Today, the library houses over 350,000 rare volumes spread over three levels, topped with a wrought iron chandelier and stained-glass skylight, making it a must see for anyone who appreciates both literature and 19th century architecture.

T photography / Shutterstock.com
T photography / Shutterstock.com

10. Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Connecticut, United States

Currently closed for renovation (it will reopen in September 2016) the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University houses one of the world’s largest rare book and manuscript collections. Completed in 1963, the building’s geometric architecture and innovative translucent marble “windows” allow a unique method of filtered lighting to illuminate the interior of the building while protecting its precious contents—thousands of rare manuscripts, papyri and early edition novels. The library is also home to various other literary collections acquired by the University, as well as several temporary and permanent exhibits; amid these treasured displays you can find an early printing of the Gutenberg Bible and Audubon’s Birds of America.

LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com
LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com

9. St. Catherine’s Monastery Library, South Sinai, Egypt

This Greek Orthodox Monastery, officially known as The Holy Monastery of the God-trodden Mount Sinai, and unofficially as Santa Katarina, is the oldest inhabited monastery in the world with origins predating the Middle Ages. Though it is worth the visit just to admire and stand in a structure that has witnessed 17 centuries of history, exploring the monastery’s cultural inheritance is a truly unique experience. Housing an extensive collection of Christian art, the site is also home to a library of over 16,000 ancient texts, including hand-written manuscripts on papyrus and scrolls, early printed books and an archive of ancient documents. While the majority of the works found here are written in Greek and are religious in nature, the library also houses a number of educational works such as lexicons, medical texts and travel accounts. Most notable holdings include several pages of the Codex Sinaiticus (4th century manuscript of the Holy Scriptures) and especially of interest for classical literature lovers, first editions of Homer, Plato and the Comedies of Aristophanes.

Photo by: Nathan Hughes Hamilton via Flickr
Photo by: Nathan Hughes Hamilton via Flickr

8. Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, United States

Planned, funded and brought into being by Henry and Emily Folger, the Folger Shakespeare Library currently holds the world’s largest collection of William Shakespeare’s work, and is a must see for anyone who is a fan of Renaissance literature. Up until the building’s opening in 1932, the Folgers worked tirelessly to provide the American people with the best possible selection of the poet’s works, and personally took on all of the responsibilities involved with bringing their dream to life, including acquisitions, location scouting and structural planning. Today, the couple’s gift continues to expand, and now (in addition to the Shakespeare) houses an impressive collection of other Renaissance books, manuscripts and art, as well as being home to a world class research facility and numerous public outreach programs.

Photo by:  NCinDC via Flickr
Photo by: NCinDC via Flickr

7. Alexandria Library, Alexandria, Egypt

Opened in 2002, this new Bibliotheca Alexandrina on Egypt’s northern coast is committed to replicating the ancient versions legacy as a universal center for culture and learning. While this was originally regarded by many as an impossible task, the library has managed it, becoming a hub in Alexandria not only for literature, but for performances, art, and special events. A stunning example of modern architecture, the library complex consists of a main reading room (which has the capacity to shelve eight million volumes) and four smaller libraries—a children’s library, youth’s library, multimedia library and braille library. Also on the premises are a planetarium and several museums that exhibit everything from ancient artefacts to antiquarian texts, including a copy of the only known scroll that remains from the city’s ancient library.

RiumaLab / Shutterstock.com
RiumaLab / Shutterstock.com

6. National Library of St. Mark’s, Venice, Italy

This beautiful library in Venice’s Piazza San Marco was constructed in the mid 1500’s after Cardinal Bessarion 1468 literary donation demanded a designated library building. The two level structure, officially called the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana was designed by Jacopo Sansovino and features Doric-style arches on the ground floor and Ionic friezes and sculptures on the second, as well as decorative artworks by Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto, among other. The library is also among the oldest in the country and houses one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of classical literature and historic works. With holdings that comprise upwards of a million total items, among the library’s most treasured pieces are two manuscripts of the Iliad (5th and 6th century) and opera scores and sonatas by Francesco Cavalli and Domenico Scarlatti, respectively.

Photo by:  Iain Cameron via Flickr
Photo by: Iain Cameron via Flickr

5. Russian State Library, Moscow, Russia

With a history dating back to 1862, The Russian State Library is the country’s national library and houses the 5th largest literary collection in the world, containing over 17.5 million books. The institution also holds a renowned collection of maps, as well an extensive amount of specialized items such as journals, sheet music, sound recordings and dissertations. While obviously home to the largest selection of Russian literature in the world, the library also houses foreign works represented in over 247 languages, which comprise approximately 30 percent of the building’s 43 million item collection. The building itself is also an interesting site, with construction more or less completed by 1945, it is a perfect example of Soviet Neo-Classical architecture and offers an insightful contrast to other libraries of this magnitude.

Russian State Library

4. New York Public Library, New York City, United States

Not only is the New York Public Library a city landmark and popular tourist attraction, it is also an extremely important part of the worldwide literary family. With a collection of over 53 million items, the library is the 4th largest in the world, drawing around 18 million annual visitors. Originally founded in 1895, today’s main branch at Bryant Park was opened in 1911 with over one million volumes consolidated from the Astor and Lenox Libraries. The institution has since expanded to include 88 neighborhood branches and four resource centers, servicing approximately 17 million people and offering over 67,000 free programs yearly. Visitors to the main branch, located in Manhattan`s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, can admire the beauty of the building’s Beaux-Arts architecture and interiors and explore the collections in the General Research, Manuscripts and Archives, History and Genealogy and Rare Books Divisions (among others). This building is also home to some of the country’s most significant historic documents, including Columbus’s letter about the New World (1943) and George Washington’s original Farewell Address.

Photo by: Jeremy Keith via Flickr
Photo by: Jeremy Keith via Flickr

3. Vatican Library, Vatican City

Among the many culturally significant things to see in Vatican City, the Vatican Library is no exception. Officially established in 1448 (though acquisition began much earlier) in the Vatican Palace, the current collection tops 1.1 million items and includes ancient manuscripts, codices, classical Greek and Latin texts, and perhaps the most impressive selection of incunabula (text printed in Europe prior to 1501) in the world. Though holding a vast amount of religious texts, the library’s holdings are actually extremely diverse in scope, with notable pieces ranging from the oldest known Bible (Codex Vaticanus) to letters from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn.

Photo by: Anna & Michal via Flickr
Photo by: Anna & Michal via Flickr

2. Library of Congress, Washington DC, United States

Established in 1800, with the doors of the current building opening to the public in 1897, The Library of Congress in Washington DC is the 2nd largest library in the world, housing upwards of 158 million items. Now a national monument, the building is one of the world’s foremost research centers home to 36 million printed materials in over 460 languages as well as over 69 million manuscripts. It is also here that you will find the world’s largest selection of films, sound recordings, sheet music and maps, in addition to the most extensive holdings of rare books on the continent. Along with this amazing collection of literature, the building itself is also worth the tour, showcasing magnificent Beaux-Arts architecture with interiors and reading rooms featuring fine art, marble halls, carved hardwood, and of course, the incomparable central stained-glass dome.

Photo by: m01229 via Flickr
Photo by: m01229 via Flickr

1. The British Library, London, England

This jaw-dropping institution contains an astounding 625 km of shelving to house its 170 million+ item collection which includes over 300,000 original manuscripts (both ancient and contemporary) and 60 million patents. With figures such as these, it is no wonder that the British Library is the largest in the world, and attract over 16,000 daily visitors. The main building, located in St. Pancras in London, is England’s largest public building constructed in the 20th century and consists of over 112,000 square meters spread over 14 floors. Along with the unparalleled collection of books, maps, newspapers and musical scores, the library is home to one of the world’s most comprehensive selections of literary treasures, including the Magna Carta, The Times first edition and the audio recording of Mandela’s Rivonia trial speech.

Photo by: Andrew Gustar via Flickr
Photo by: Andrew Gustar via Flickr

The Dublin Pub Crawl: 10 Historic Pubs for Food, Spirits, and Legends

For the Irish, pubs are more than a place to meet friends for a pint after work. Over the centuries, Dublin pubs have served as the setting for legendary shootouts, watering holes for luminaries like Oscar Wilde, and a hotbed for British spies during the War of Independence. In the best of times and the worst of times, this is where it all went down, the tumultuous history of the fighting Irish in all its Guinness and whiskey soaked glory. Follow in the footsteps of Irish legends and walk along cobblestoned streets that date back to the days of medieval kings and Viking warriors. With such a rich saga, there is a page out of history around every corner.

10. The Old Stand

For an authentic pub experience, The Old Stand on Exchequer Street at the St. Andrews Street junction does not disappoint with its preserved Victorian décor and rugby fans drinking pints and shouting at the television screens. The pub has been around for about 300 years and within its walls, some of the most important events of Irish history took place. For Michael Collins, it was the meeting place where he gathered intel on British Secret Service agents and informants during the War of Independence. Some came to take the edge off with a pint after a long day at work, but for the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), it was a base camp for gathering information and plotting to take out high-ranking British officials. Today, the place is a lively spot for locals and tourists who enjoy the friendly atmosphere, traditional Irish food, and of course, the beer and whiskey.

Two cups of beer in a pub in New Zealand

9. The Porterhouse

On the edge of the popular Temple Bar District is The Porterhouse, another pub with its own legends. It’s a favorite spot for locals and tourists for its live music on the first floor, plus plenty of space for dancing, drinking, and catching up with friends with three additional floors. It was also a meeting place for the infamous Cairo Squad, a special force commissioned by the British government to wage a reign of terror on the streets of Dublin during the War of Independence in the early 20th century. The legendary showdown between Michael Collins and his special forces happened in this very pub, a massacre known as “Bloody Sunday”. Today, the pub is owned by The Porterhouse Brewery Company, Ireland’s largest independent brewery known for handcrafted small-batch beers and old-style Irish food.

Photo by: Andrew Bowden via Flickr
Photo by: Andrew Bowden via Flickr

8. Palace Bar

Situated on Fleet Street just outside of the Temple Bar District is one of Dublin’s most highly regarded Victorian era pubs. With old photos on the wall, original dark wood interior, and antique books on the shelves, it still retains its former 19th century charm. During the 40s and 50s, the editor of the Irish Times, RM (Bertie) Smyllie, used the Palace Bar as his social home away from home, or what newsman and correspondents referred to as the Fourth Estate. In the cozy back room, journalists would use it as their office to write articles, meet with sources, and ease the stress of deadlines with a few pints. Today, it is still a popular spot among the literary and intellectual set and with the same décor as when it opened in 1823. The pub was bought by the Halls in 1946 and is still a family owned and operated establishment.

Photo by: Meg Marks via Flickr
Photo by: Meg Marks via Flickr

7. Café en Seine

After a quick walk through the Temple Bar District and past Trinity College, you’ll reach the popular upscale shopping area of Grafton Street and Café en Seine on nearby on Dawson Street. In the heart of Dublin, embrace your inner Parisian flair at Café en Seine, Dublin’s premier French café and bar. When you step inside, you’ll get swept away to a time of exotic art nouveau mixed with the allure of the ancient orient. With its domed ceilings, blue glass panels with intricate detailing and giant palms, you’ll feel like a star in a French noir film, but in this version, you get to hobnob with Irish intellectuals and young working professionals. It’s also a popular spot for lunch with its fresh baked French bread, classic Irish dishes, and Provencal cuisine. On Friday nights, it turns into a dance club, so put on your dancing shoes for a wild night.

Photo by: SloopRiggedSkiff via Flickr
Photo by: SloopRiggedSkiff via Flickr

6. Kennedy’s

Dating back to 1850, Kennedy’s–formerly Conway’s–has been a favorite watering hole for professors and scholarly types from Trinity College around the corner. Although Trinity College started out as a school of divinity, it was also where students honed their drinking skills. But it wasn’t just drinking they got up to, it was where the genius of such luminaries like Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, and Brendan Behan was cultivated and inspired. It was also part of a grocery store where Wilde got his first job as a stock boy. Follow in the same footsteps and drink the same pints of great minds like Behan who claimed to be “a drinker with a writing problem”. With that much literary history, come prepared with your copy of Dubliners and get ready to discuss the fall of the Irish aristocracy in the early 20th century, which was James Joyce’s trademark genre.

Photo by: William Murphy via Flickr
Photo by: William Murphy via Flickr

5. McDaid’s

Around the corner from Trinity College and other traditional Irish pubs like Kennedy’s and Palace Bar is McDaid’s, another popular watering hole among Ireland’s most revered writers. In fact, legend has it that it was one of Brendan Behan’s favorite spots. With its well-preserved dark wood interior and stained glass panels, the atmosphere and décor is typical of traditional Irish pubs from the 19th century. It was also the old stomping grounds of Oscar Wilde and is featured in the opening scene of James Joyce’s story “Grace” from his 1914 collection Dubliners. Originally the City Morgue, the building was converted into a chapel for the Moravian Brethren, which left behind high ceilings and Gothic-style windows. Known by locals for its friendly vibes and rich literary history, McDaid’s is a must-see for both Dubliners and tourists.

Photo by: Jessica Spengler via Flickr
Photo by: Jessica Spengler via Flickr

4. Brazen Head

Keep walking past Trinity College and Dublin Castle to Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Dublin that dates back to 1198. Step back in time to the days of Vikings and medieval kings who enjoyed the same pints and traditional live music in the days of the Old World. Today, the Brazen Head is all about tradition, one that has lasted for centuries, making it one of most celebrated pubs in Dublin. Situated a few blocks from Temple Bar and steps away from the Guinness Factory, you’ll know you’re close when you smell the hops in the air. When locals and tourists aren’t dancing a jig to a live performance, they’re catching up with friends over a pint in the cobblestoned courtyard on sunny days. In the winter, people keep warm with shots of whiskey by the fireplace, which is sometimes the only thing that can chase away the chill.

Elzbieta Sekowska / Shutterstock.com
Elzbieta Sekowska / Shutterstock.com

3. Horseshoe Bar at the Shelbourne Hotel

After meandering through St. Stephen’s Green, a city park dating back to the Victorian era, it would be worthwhile to stop in at the stylish and sleek Horseshoe Bar across the street for a few pints or something more decadent like oysters and champagne. Located in the posh Shelbourne Hotel, the bar still boasts its glory days from the 19th century with its antique chandeliers and well-preserved Victorian detailing, making it a classy detour from the more traditional pubs in the area. It was also the setting for George Moore’s Victorian novel “A Drama in Muslin”, an Irish classic that represents the Naturalist movement in literature and paving the way for legends like Samuel Beckett and James Joyce. The Horseshoe Bar is like walking into a museum with its walls full of original artifacts and memorabilia from the time of top hats, corsets, and carriages.

Photo by: William Murphy via Flickr
Photo by: William Murphy via Flickr

2. The Bleeding Horse

Like many pubs in Dublin, the Bleeding Horse has almost as much history as the Brazen Head, minus a few centuries. Established in the mid 17th century, the medieval pub still has the original façade from its 1871 renovation and an interior that was renovated in the 1990s. Legend has it that the pub was named after an incident at the Battle of Rathmines in 1649 when a wounded horse fled from battle and sought refuge on the streets of Dublin. Located in the city center and a short walk from Stephen’s Green and the popular shopping area of Grafton Street, the Bleeding Horse is a hotspot for young Irish professionals who work in offices nearby and tourists meandering through the city.

Photo by: William Murphy via Flickr
Photo by: William Murphy via Flickr

1. Johnnie Fox’s

After exploring the pubs surrounding the center of Dublin, hop on a booze bus or hire a cab for a half hour ride to Johnnie Fox’s, a traditional pub up in the Glencullen Mountains, the highest spot in the city. Tucked away from the bustling metropolis, enjoy a pint of Guinness and take in the traditional ambience steeped in history. The pub is also a favorite among Irish rock stars like The Corrs and Bono of U2 looking to get away from tourists and paparazzi. Established in 1798, one of Dublin’s oldest pubs, it was a favorite watering hole for storytellers and poets like Samuel Beckett and WB Yeats, who were known to spin tales of Celtic folklore until the wee hours, or at least until the snow melted or rain stopped. Today, locals, tourists, and celebrities like Meryl Streep and Brad Pitt are drawn to the original charm of Dublin’s most revered pub.

Photo by: SloopRiggedSkiff via Flickr
Photo by: SloopRiggedSkiff via Flickr

The 8 Most Overrated/Underrated Attractions in Big Cities

Big cities are often at the top of the list for any traveler and there always seems to be a check list of “Major Attractions” that tourists are expected to experience; despite long line ups for tickets, crowds of people and more often than not disappointing results. Cities such as Paris, New York, Hollywood and London harbor less known attractions that are not only just as awesome but much less crowded and often much less expensive.

8. London, England

Overrated: London Eye
Starting off with the great city of London, England it doesn’t take a genius to identify The London Eye as one of the most significant tourist spots in the city. With its two long lines; one for tickets and one for rides it’s easy to identify this giant Ferris wheel as a tourist hot spot. Passengers travel in capsules that fit up to 25 people circling in a giant loop high above the city offering 360 degree views. It is considered one of the best places to view the city from above. The downfall to this attraction is not just the ridiculously long lines that you have to wait in but the high price of admission. Currently in early 2015 the cheapest price is $22 euro’s which gets you a standard ticket, the option for fast tracking the line will cost you a whopping $30 euro’s with no discount for children over the age of 4. The length of the ride is about 30 minutes in which you will be stuck with 20 or so strangers and depending on your luck could be good or bad.

London Eye

Underrated: Parliament Hill
The alternate to the London Eye is to head to the top of Parliament Hill for amazing views of the city. This view has the WOW-factor, the price is free and it is the perfect setting to fly a kite, have a picnic or share a romantic glass of wine with your partner. The city’s skyline is best seen on a sunny day or head to the top nearing sunset and watch as the glowing orange sun sinks slowly and the city turns into a dazzling display of lights. The best parts; no lines, no crowds of tourists and a chance to experience the view like a local.

Parliament Hill

7. Hollywood, California

Overrated: Walk of Fame
Hollywood, California; a place that is best known for anything and everything celebrity related. It’s no surprise that tourists here come to see the infamous Hollywood Walk of Fame. Instead of the star lined street you expect to see full of celebrities and hip trendy shops; visitors are hounded to buy souvenirs, take pictures with characters in costumes and give to the homeless. The garbage floats endlessly down the streets due to uncaring tourists, the crowds are thick with tourists all gasping for the chance to spot a star and the only reason you should really visit is if you have an unhealthy obsession with celebrities and “need” that picture of their star.

littleny / Shutterstock.com
littleny / Shutterstock.com

Underrated: Runyon Canyon
Instead head to Runyon Canyon where you might actually have a better chance of spotting a celebrity. Many celebs head here to walk their adorable collection of dogs, burn off some calories and grab a fabulous view of the city. With sightings including Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, Jessica Biel, Mathew McConaughey and Ben Stiller this is one hot spot to not only get a great workout but to work out those eyes feasting on some major celebs. You can thank us later when Ben Affleck runs by you shirtless.

Runyon Canyon

6. Rome, Italy

Overrated: Colosseum
The Colosseum is not only a gigantic piece of Roman history but it is one impressive structure where you can imagine the battles that were won and lost by ancient gladiators. It is also extremely HOT, overcrowded and surrounded by plenty of locals looking to make a buck off the unaware tourists. Admission is expensive, the interior is HUGE and it seems to be constantly under renovation; with many areas closed off to tourists. We don’t recommend skipping this attraction entirely as the outside of the Colosseum is almost as impressive as the inside and can be seen from the street where excellent pictures can be taken.

Colosseum Rome

Underrated: Bath of Caracalla
Instead of fighting the crowds inside the Colosseum head to the Baths of Caracalla; an impressive complex of structures that were built as the second largest public bathing complex in the ancient empire. The ruins are simply magnificent and although the structure is now a modern day concert theater (which is just another reason to head here and watch an opera) the site remains true to its history offering visibly exquisite mosaics and objects that were once found here. The underground museum in the tunnels below is particularly interesting. This site is usually deserted making your time here peaceful and at a quarter of the cost; this is one underrated Roman attraction that shouldn’t be missed.

Bath of Caracalla

5. Cairo, Egypt

Overrated: Pyramids of Giza
When we say Egypt you think pyramids; let’s be honest as does everyone. Specifically we think of the pyramids of Giza; the great pyramid that is the oldest of the seven wonders of the ancient world and is still largely intact and the great sphinx. What we don’t think of is littered streets of garbage, tourist traps and never ending harassment from the hawkers that fill the area around the pyramids. A heavy use of armed guards and police seem to put a damper on the whole experience.

Pyramids of Giza

Underrated: Pyramid Fields of Dahshur
These are not the only pyramids in Egypt to discover though and just a short drive away is the Pyramid Fields of Dahshur where the pollution and crowds are much less. Still a well kept secret it seems that visitors are too focused on Giza to explore this beautiful site. The 2nd largest pyramid in Egypt; The Red Pyramid is here and visitors can climb all the way down to the bottom into the royal chambers. The Bent Pyramid and the Black Pyramid are also here and within three miles of each other. Do yourself a favor and stray from the beaten path and explore these unbelievable structures in a place where you can truly appreciate the beauty in silence.

Dahshur

4. UK

Overrated: Stonehenge
One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is the remains of a ring of standing stones set within earthworks. The mystery around how these stones came to be is what draws visitors from all over the world. Unfortunately this tourist attraction is laden with expensive souvenirs, a steep admission price and over eager crowds of tourists all trying to snap a “selfie” with the stones. The barriers that are put in place prevent visitors from touching the stones and a large amount of staff are in place to make sure everyone stays on designated paths. Although a visitors center is now up and running with a video on the history or should we say ‘story’ of this site, that cannot make up for the ulterior motives of  trying to sell anything and everything Stonehenge related; they even make you walk through the gift shop before you enter the outside stone area.

Stonehenge

Underrated: Callanish Standing Stones
As a pleasant alternative to this historical site you will want to head to the Callanish Standing Stones. Although these two attractions are quite a distance apart if you are heading to the UK for the stones we highly suggest going for the later. Not only can you get up close and personal with the Callanish Standing Stones as the crowds of tourists are not present but you can touch them and even hug them. The visitor’s center does a great job explaining the history of the stones and a small café offers local cuisine. Did we happen to mention that the admission price is free? If you are looking for history, energy and a well-preserved mystical place Callanish Standing Stones should be #1 on your list.

Callanish Standing Stones

3. Dublin, Ireland

Overrated: Guinness Storehouse
Home of the infamous Guinness Beer, the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin is one of the most widely known attractions in the city. The fabulous building and the promise of “the best Guinness you have ever had” lures visitors from all over the world. Over the years the working factory has been turned into a “Disney World” for Guinness fans with lights, lines and loud and rowdy people. The Storehouse, as it’s named now is completely self-guided and takes you through various floors that explain the history and brewing process through a series of plaques, objects and photographs. The tasting room and the gravity bar are where you will end up with your pint of Guinness, which is highly debatable as to whether it’s “the best pint ever”.

Brendan Howard / Shutterstock.com
Brendan Howard / Shutterstock.com

Underrated: Smithwick’s Experience Kilkenny
For a real working factory tour visitors will want to head to Smithwick’s Experience in Kilkenny. A historian will guide your small group (reservations encouraged) throughout the brew yard, into the actual brew rooms all the while talking about the history of this 300 year old brewery and the incredible town. The full pint that is poured with such balance and pride is a welcome treat at the end of the tour. It’s well worth the drive to the charming medieval town of Kilkenny where the passion for the beer truly shines through above all else.

Photo By: Marc O'Sullivan (Diageo) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo By: Marc O’Sullivan (Diageo) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

2. New York City

Overrated: Times Square
Times Square, either you love the thrill of the bright lights, huge billboards, numerous smells and sounds and the seemingly endless crowds of people or you hate it for the very same reasons. Crowded with throngs of tourists both day and night with a dizzying amount of lights, advertisements and costumed characters this is one of the most visited places in all of NYC; but not by the locals that is. They tend to stay away from the sewer smells that often take over, the con artists that prey on tourists and the sky high prices on everything from food to merchandise.

Underrated: Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood
An alternative to this crazy overcrowded tourist trap is to head over to Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood; located within Midtown. Here you will find cinema worthy streetscapes, theaters, fierce independent local businesses, thriving restaurants, local hang outs and plenty of green space to explore. Whether you are on a budget or looking for fine dining this area is loaded with options so visitors can enjoy a true authentic NY experience.

ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com
ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com

1. Paris, France

Overrated: The Louvre
Imagine going to Paris and not spending a day in The Louvre where the infamous Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is housed. Imagine not having to show up first thing in the morning because the line to get in is stretched out for miles and imagine not having to fight crowds of tourists to view the art you want. The Louvre is an incredible museum; the architecture, the works that are housed in it, we aren’t debating that. But it is often severely overcrowded, expensive to eat at and is large and has a somewhat complicated floor plan (be sure you can confidently read a map before you head here).

Tnymand / Shutterstock.com
Tnymand / Shutterstock.com

Underrated: Musee d’Orsay
For those art lovers who can’t bear the thought of visiting Paris without going to the Louvre; head to the Musee d’Orsay for a beautiful building that houses gorgeous impressionist works and will delight fans of Van Gogh and Paul Cezanne. This train station turned Museum is a little cheaper in price, much less crowded and full of art that even the less experienced art lover will recognize. The layout is simple and easy to follow with plenty of places to sit down and appreciate the art. The building in itself has an amazing history and makes this museum twice as breathtaking. If you have a chance, head outside to the terrace by the restaurant for some beautiful views.

pio3 / Shutterstock.com
pio3 / Shutterstock.com

The 10 Cheapest Cities to Touchdown in Europe

A trip across the Atlantic Ocean over to the Old World of Europe may only be a fantasy for a number of North Americans. With airfare, accommodations, food, spending money and all the other little things that add up it can be an exceedingly costly trip. Though many people may dismiss the thought of a European getaway as just a fantasy that isn’t fiscally obtainable, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. One may be surprised to learn that certain cities are much more affordable to visit than others and the reasons for this can range from lower airport taxes to economic struggles. Below is a look at 10 of the best places in Europe to visit by cost:

10. Athens, Greece

Athens International Airport is the obvious international hub of Greece, though that may not be the best plan of arrival for potential visitors. In bound flights to Greece are rarely cheap, and it usually makes more sense for travelers to land elsewhere in Europe and make a short land trip into the country instead. Due to recent economic struggles in the country, hotel prices have dropped quite a bit in the past few years.

Tourism is a major industry and a key part of the Greek economy. Greece ranks as the 10th most visited country in Europe, and saw over 15-million visitors in 2012. Major attractions in Athens include: the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Agora and the National Archaeological Museum. For travelers on a budget, Greece is an ideal candidate to visit on a trip through a number of countries as prices for hotels and other amenities have dropped from the aforementioned economic struggles.

Athens, Greece

9. Milan, Italy

The choice between Milan and Rome is a difficult one, but Milan comes out slightly cheaper in comparison for tourists. Milan is one of the most important tourist destinations in all of Europe, and will never truly be a bargain destination for visitors. The addition of Emirates flights to Milan, however, means that there are more reasonably priced flights to a destination considered to be truly first class among travelers.

The city is home to two professional soccer clubs that share the famous San Siro stadium, considered a Mecca of sorts to traveling fans that are as vocal as they are loyal and exist all across the globe. Milan is also home to Pinacoteca di Brera, Piazza del Duomo, and the Milan Cathedral. Italy ranks as the 3rd most popular European destination behind only France and Spain, and Milan provides an opportunity to experience a cultured city for a relatively reasonable price.

Milan, Italy

8. Prague, Czech Republic

A country known to savvy travelers as a little-known gem, the Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague is where visitors land. The country has started to gain notoriety for being a great place to visit, and has experienced a major boom to its tourism industry. The secret is starting to get out, however, as prices have started to rise in the past few years as more and more people become aware of the beauty of the Czech Republic.

Younger travelers may be interested in the nightlife offered in Prague, as it is known for being low cost, and home to a large number of bars and clubs that are in close proximity and open late. There are a number of castles, breweries, and quaint towns to visit throughout the Czech Republic, but potential visitors should act quickly as prices are expected to continue to rise in this historic and unique Eastern European nation.

Prague, Czech Republic

7. Madrid/Barcelona, Spain

Though the two cities provide a vastly different experience, both cost travelers an almost identical price. Madrid is home to Barajas Airport, while Barcelona has El Prat Airport. For those with an interest in the “beautiful game” both Madrid and Barcelona provide an opportunity to catch some of the best soccer players in the world plying their craft in the confines of the magnificent stadiums.

The Spanish economy has become fairly reliant on tourism as an industry, which has seen a decline due to economic issues. Luckily for potential tourists, this means costs will be less for a very popular destination. Each city provides a unique experience, with the high-tempo Madrid contrasting perfectly to the quieter Barcelona. Take advantage while the opportunity is there, as Spain is still the 2nd most popular destination in Europe. If possible (and if desirable), visit Ibiza for a crazy night or two, as it is recognized as the party capital of the world.

Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com
Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

6. Budapest, Hungary

Much like Prague in the Czech Republic, Budapest in Hungary is another less-obvious tourist haven that has started to become more recognized. The cheapest tickets for a flight into Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt International Airport usually involve a stopover in Moscow or Helsinki, though a stop in Zurich is not much more in terms of cost and saves a great deal of time. Similarly, like Prague, prices for Budapest have begun to climb in 2014.

Popular attractions in Budapest include Buda Castle, which includes: the Hungarian National Gallery, the Matthias Church, the Parliament Building and the City Park. Thermal baths are another popular tourist destination, and the Danube River passes through the city providing for great scenery. While Budapest may not be top of mind in terms of European cities to travel to, take some time to learn about its great history before crossing it off a list of places to visit.

Budapest, Hungary

5. Lisbon, Portugal

The westernmost large city and capital in Europe, Lisbon has been on the rise as a popular and affordable tourist destination. Tourism has started to become an increasingly important industry in Portugal, with Lisbon becoming one of the most visited cities in all of Europe. Flights to Lisbon Portela Airport, the international airport in Lisbon are reasonably priced, and the city is known to be much less expensive than other premier destinations in Europe.

Some of the more popular destinations in Lisbon are the Sao Jorge Castle, Belem Tower, Lisbon Oceanarium and the Church of Santa Engracia. Potential visitors should aim to get to Portugal before the tourism industry truly takes off in the country, while flights and local prices are still more accessible for travelers. Take in some soccer before leaving, and maybe get a chance to witness world-famous Cristiano Ronaldo as he continues his quest to break long-held records.

Lisbon, Portugal

4. Paris, France

The dream vacation for a number of North Americans is a trip to the world-class city of Paris. The popularity of the city has led to Charles de Gaulle Airport being one of the busiest hubs in Europe. Because of this, travelers can find surprisingly competitive prices for a flight to Paris. As of 2014, costs have even slightly improved for tourists as well.

Paris is home to a number of France’s most famous attractions, starting of course with the Eiffel Tower. The Arc de Triomphe is another famous monument built to honor those who fought and died for France during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. The world-renowned Louvre Museum is also in Paris, home to the Mona Lisa and many other iconic pieces of art. The diversity of sights in Paris also features the iconic Notre Dame cathedral, a gothic-style church that is as gigantic as it is awe-inspiring.

Top Cities 2013 - Paris

3. Istanbul, Turkey

Despite the significantly further distance to travel to Istanbul in comparison to the rest of Europe, Istanbul can offer some reasonable prices for airfare. Turkey ranks as the 4th most popular destination in Europe, and 10th most popular in the world. With tourism in mind, the government in Turkey has undertaken the development of what will be the world’s largest airport in Istanbul, with the first (of a four part plan) being completed in 2017.

Due to the historical significance of Istanbul, the city is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world. Some of the major tourist sights in the city include the Haiga Sofia, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Topkapi, Basillca Cistern and Galata Tower. Istanbul is also home to Cevahir Mall, the biggest shopping mall in all of Europe (and 7th largest in the world). The city is also home to a number of museums, sports teams and cultural events.

Istanbul, Turkey

2. Dublin, Ireland

Ireland is a remarkably cheap country to visit in comparison to the rest of Europe. Though Dublin is the capital of the country, the airfares for flights landing at Dublin Airport are less than that of Shannon Airport, Ireland’s other international hub. Tourism provides a significant amount of income for Ireland’s economy with more than 6-million people visiting the country in 2012.

Destinations in Dublin include St Patrick’s Cathedral, the National Museum of Ireland, Trinity College, Christ Church Cathedral and of course the Guinness Storehouse. While at the Guinness Brewery, taste brews that are only available in Ireland, and take a break in their famous lounge. In 2010, the United Nations even awarded Dublin the title of UNESCO City of Literature due to the number of famous writers who are from the city. Travelers should also be pleased to know that Ireland also has no departure tax or comparable fees for air travel.

Bridge Dublin Ireland

1. Moscow, Russia

Even though the distance to Russia is quite far, travelers shouldn’t be intimidated by the fear of an expensive trip. Russia’s national airline, Aeroflot, is one of the cheapest tickets in Europe, and many cheap flights to other countries stop over in Moscow. Russia has seen a rise in tourism likely as a result of the previous Winter Olympics, but the current economic landscape in Russia benefits potential tourists right now.

There are a number of world-famous tourist destinations in Moscow, most notably the Kremlin and Red Square, the political heart of Russia. The city also features the impressive architecture of Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the Winter Palace and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The city is also home to the iconic Mausoleum of Lenin. It is important to note the cultural differences between Russia and the west, so it is best to read up on recent political and legislative changes that unfortunately may deter some travelers from wanting to travel here.

Moscow Russia Red Square

10 Must See Historic Attractions in Dublin Ireland

Dublin, Ireland is a land of natural beauty, rolling landscapes, and picturesque hillsides. The temperate weather and frequent foggy patches give the land an almost mystical effect. Scores of tourists flock to the region each year to learn about the rich history and enjoy all the attractions that the land has to offer. There are literally hundreds of ancient artifacts, famous landmarks, and monuments of historical importance that people add to their must see lists. The striking combination of ancient structures and modern architecture make Ireland an ever popular tourist attraction. Since it would be nearly impossible to see everything worthwhile in one brief visit to Dublin, these are some of the top spots that should be a priority on the list of exhibits and attractions.

1. Dublin Castle

Since construction completed in 1204, this original Celtic settlement structure has been in continuous use. Today, the city center enjoys a prominent location that is used for important conferences, events, and fine dining for the elite. If these walls could talk, they would spill secrets of invasions, espionage, famine, and the occasionally peaceful and wealthy rule. The elaborately decorated and internationally notorious state rooms are open to the public for guided tours and give visitors a glimpse into the past and an idea about how royal families may have managed their daily lives. In a land full of historic landmarks and stone castles, the Dublin Castle is considered an original.

Dublin Castle

2. National Museum of Ireland

The national museum features four total branches, three of which are located in Dublin. Archaeology, Decorative Arts and History, and the Natural History Museum buildings are within walking distance of other major Dublin attractions. The collections found here are entertaining, enlightening, and awe inspiring. Dedicating an entire day to these sites provides visitors with a thorough understanding of the interesting history of Ireland, as well as the sometimes dark side of Irish politics, and a lighthearted look at the age old customs, rituals, and cultural aspects that still have significant impact on every generation of Irish decent.

National Museum of Ireland

3. St Patrick’s Cathedral

Founded in 1911, the National Cathedral and Collegiate Church of Saint Patrick, Dublin has been a staple of the history and religious affiliations of the country since Saint Patrick baptized the first Christian convert in the makeshift outdoor baptismal. This historical landmark played a significant role in the history of Ireland and is still the largest cathedral in the country. Daily tours permit visitors to walk through hallowed hallways and discover the history of a building that withstood storms, fires, neglect, and even persecution over an 800 year period. Visitors are also welcome to stay for one of the daily worship services and experience an authentic period of devout worship in the traditional stained glass chapel.

St Patrick’s Cathedral

4. Trinity College Library

In 1592, by way of a royal charter, the Trinity College Dublin was formed in an effort to educate professionals, mostly clergymen. The trend throughout much of Western Europe at the time was away from conquering and on to civilization. Royal families believed that territories with sufficient educational resources would appear wealthy and superior to surrounding countries. Now considered part of the University of Dublin group, many of the buildings from the Trinity College Dublin still stand today. The library rivaled those found in Oxford and Cambridge, and offers an innovated place for students to study for their undergraduate exams and graduate level entrance exams. The library is open to the public most days, but restricts visiting hours for non-student visitors during periods of final exam preparation.

VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock.com
VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock.com

5. Ardgillan Castle

Situated just about 20 miles from the city of Dublin, the picturesque Ardgillan Castle is an absolute must see for any tourist or resident of Ireland. Building began in 1738 by the Robert Taylor family, and continuous construction of the estate produced the meandering country home that spans nearly 200 acres. The country style residence was used by the family for many generations and today represents one of the most popular public parks and playground facilities on the island. The breathtaking views of the Irish Sea and Mourne Mountains make the facility a famous location for weddings and business conferences.

Ardgillan Castle

6. National Gallery of Ireland

Art lovers must make a stop at Merrion Square to take in all the culture and fine art establishments, especially the National Gallery of Ireland. The decidedly modern architectural structure was founded in 1854 and opened to the public in 1864. The gallery is famous for its world renowned collection of Irish and European art, namely some of the only Dutch masters paintings. The national collections include permanent pieces and famous exhibits from around the world that are displayed randomly while on loan from other galleries and museums. The gallery is open to the public and admission is free.

National Gallery of Ireland

7. Kilmainham Gaol

The infamous former prison built in 1796 represents a period of history in Ireland that is unpleasant but formative. Many prisoners housed here were part of the various rebellious movements and some were executed under British and Irish Free State rulers who wanted to squash the independent rebellions. Today, the facility is still in use as a government agency building and a museum that is open for public guided tours. Visitors can view in eerie detail the way prisoners roamed through hallways and metal staircases under the watchful eye of prison guards. History and political buffs will definitely want to make a stop at the Kilmainham Gaol.

Kilmainham Gaol

8. Christ Church Cathedral

Originally founded in 1028, the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity contains one of the oldest structures in all of Great Britain. Commonly known as the Christ Church Cathedral, the property houses the famous underground crypts which have been an important pilgrimage site since medieval times. The mysterious monuments and resting places far below the surface of the foundation are still one of the most popular tourist attractions for people who love the historical, religious, and cultural aspects of Ireland. Both the cathedral and the crypts are open to the public for worship services, event rentals, and public tours.

Christ Church Cathedral

9. Malahide Castle

The Malahide Castle and Gardens recently underwent restoration to preserve the natural history and architecture of the world famous tourist attraction. Situated along the north coast of Dublin, the castle was home to the Talbot family for centuries before the land was donated to the country for public use. The traditional stone structure and drafty rooms are reminiscent of ancient times, while the beautiful courtyards and gardens offer visitors a chance to stop and enjoy the scenery. More than 5,000 plant and flower species can be found in the gardens, and visitors are invited to admire their beauty while enjoying afternoon tea and refreshments from the courtyard.

Malahide Castle

10. Irish National War Memorial Gardens

Located in Islandbridge, Dublin, the National War Memorial Gardens is a beautiful but somber memorial. The property is dedicated to the nearly 50,000 Irish soldiers who sacrificed their lives during The Great War from 1914-1918. The First World War had such an earth shattering impact throughout Europe that various countries sought a suitable way to pay homage to those who lost their lives. The Central Lawn, Sunken Rose Garden, The Avenues, and The North Terrace are each expertly designed and painstakingly maintained by the Office of Public Works in an effort to provide the world a chance to salute the lost soldiers and quietly reflect on the recent past.

Photo by: Paul Bourke
Photo by: Paul Bourke

9 Most Unique European Cities

Europe is an amazing continent that features a rich history, varied cultures, breathtaking landscapes, and exciting attractions. It is the second smallest continent, but it is the most visited continent in the world. It is a great place to visit as there is so much to see and do in Europe. If you are going to the continent, here are 9 unique European cities to visit.

1. Venice

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Nicknamed The Floating City, this Italian city is just stunning. You can take a tour of the Grand Canal in a gondola, or you can tour the Doge’s Palace. You can also see the stunning Basilica di San Marco or just wander around St. Mark’s Square. The cuisine is excellent in this romantic city, so enjoying a lavish meal will be easy.

2. Berlin

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Located in Germany, Berlin is home to numerous historical sites, interesting museums, and fascinating art. The city possesses vibrant nightlife and unique restaurants. One of the most sobering places to visit is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

3. Amsterdam

Stanley Chen Xi, landscape and architecture photographer / Getty Images

This charming city in the Netherlands contains a unique culture and friendly people. You can take a scenic bike ride, or you can visit one of the iconic windmills. The city is also home to interesting museums and stunning canals. You will want to make sure you visit the home of Anne Frank.

4. Brussels

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This interesting European city in Belgium is home to amazing chocolates and great beer. You can enjoy a river cruise, view an opera production or visit the Grand Palace. If you enjoy music, you will not want to miss seeing the Musical Instruments Museum. The people of the city speak French, Dutch, and German.

5. Dublin

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This Irish city contains cultural diversity, scrumptious cuisine, historical sites, and excellent shopping opportunities. You can taste a pint of Guinness at the top of the Guinness Brewery that looks over the city. The city also is home to historical statues, bridges, and monuments. You can even take a tour of the city by train.

6. Copenhagen

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Situated in Denmark, Copenhagen is known as one of the cleanest and safest cities on the continent. Water surrounds the city, so you can enjoy cruising down the canal. One of the most popular attractions of the city is Tivoli Gardens. While in the city, you can also visit the Hans Christian Anderson statue, and you can see the magical Rosenborg Slot castle. Copenhagen is home to fascinating museums, magnificent palaces, and stunning scenery.

7. Budapest

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This unique city possesses a worldly charm that will make you feel right at home. The city offers relaxing thermal baths that have been known to possess healing powers. While in the city, you can also enjoy great wine and excellent cuisine. The architecture in Budapest is exquisite, and you can buy home-grown produce at one of the markets. The city features savory sweets if you enjoy desserts, and it is home to some of the most unique hotels in the world.

8. Edinburgh

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Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is home to one of the most unique castles in the world. You can also visit Arthur’s Seat, a summit that sits on top of a volcano. Other Edinburgh attractions include Calton Hill, Museum of Scotland, and Scott Monument. The National Gallery of Scotland is also a great place to visit.

9. Sarajevo

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The city of Sarajevo has had to endure many hardships, but it has survived and is one of the most unique cities in Europe. You can visit Bascarsija Market, and you can browse the National Library. Other attractions include the Romeo and Juliet Bridge, the Sarajevo History Museum, and a fascinating mosque. Regardless of what you choose to do, visiting Sarajevo will be a unique experience.