The Best Cities to Buy Property in Europe

There is no better time than right now to purchase property in Europe, especially if you’re looking to snag a hot deal. Whether you are looking to settle down in an Irish cottage where waves crash against the dramatic cliffs or you’re looking to earn rental income in the heart of Turkey, here are the top 15 cities to buy property in Europe.

15. Istria, Croatia

Head to Southern Europe to the super affordable corner that is Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula, where apartments and houses are cheap. Croatia borders the Adriatic Sea and offers two appealing retirement lifestyle options, whether you want to be on the coast or inland- where meadows, vineyards and olive groves are your backyards. The Romans invested in some of their best buildings here back in the day, as did the Venetians when they ruled. What that means for retirees here is a landscape full of fortresses, bell towers, and an architectural legacy.

Rovinj at sunset, Istra region, Croatia.

14. Athens, Greece

Greece took a big hit during the economic crisis which has created a great opportunity to purchase real estate now. Athens, the capital of Greece offers year-round entertainment and inexpensive flights from the UK. However, it’s important to be wary about where you buy, just as you would in any major city. It may be best to consider an apartment in the city center or invest in the Kolonaki and Plaka neighborhoods as these areas are far more affordable.

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13. Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb, Croatia’s capital is a gorgeous city that is rich in history dating back to Roman times. It’s predicted that Zagreb will see serious growth in the next couple of years which means this is a city you’ll want to have on your radar. In 2018, the country only saw an 8.5% increase in asking prices for condos, however, condos located in Zagreb saw a 20% increase. Further, in 2019 there was a 30% increase in Airbnb homes located in Zagreb which is a great indicator that the city is seeing a surge in vacation rentals. It’s evident that the city’s real estate market is booming and if you want to get in before the prices reach an all-time high, now is the time to buy!

Source: Shutterstock

12. Algarve, Portugal

Home to more than 100,000 resident expats, it is clear that for decades this place has been the hot place to buy. Luckily for those looking to experience the 3,300 hours of sunshine per year this place gets, the market is still affordable. The Algarve’s 100 miles of Atlantic coastline is full of jagged rock formations, lagoons, and sandy beaches. The waters are azure in color and the cliff-top vistas are spectacular, Add in 42 golf courses in the region, plenty of time for sailing and boating and you have yourself one heck of a place to live. Plus the average price per square meter for real estate is just $1,345 US, a pretty good bargain for a pretty special place.

Algarve, Portugal

11. Feldkirch And Bludenz, Austria

Austria is experiencing a real estate boom which is making the secondary cities more appealing. This is because property prices in secondary cities like Feldkirch and Bludenz are far lower than major cities like the country’s capital, Vienna. Feldkirch and Bludenz are both charming alpine cities that are surrounded by stunning forest mountains. Both towns saw a 20% increase in real estate prices in the last couple of years which is higher than the country’s capital which came in at about an 18% increase. These low prices won’t last for long, so now is the best time to buy.

Source: Shutterstock

10. Beara Peninsula, Ireland

There has been a strong surge in demand for family homes in desirable areas of Ireland’s main cities, but that shouldn’t discourage buyers who are looking to purchase in Ireland, it just means you need to go elsewhere. The buying place right now is on Ireland’s Southwest coast, that is if you are looking for a charming cottage or seaside house. This is not where you want to buy as an investor but instead, as a homeowner. The Beara Peninsula is the largest and most remote on this coast and houses here are quite inexpensive. Locals here are opting to buy new houses rather than renovate old traditional farmhouses and prices are rock bottom. Think $80,000 US for a typical Irish farm cottage that is steps away from the ocean and needs a little fixing up. Giant waves crashing onto cliffs, miles of sandy beaches, mountain range and warm air — there seems no good reason why we all shouldn’t be buying a second home in this beautiful country.

Beara Peninsula, Ireland

9. Istanbul, Turkey

Turkey’s property market wasn’t hit as hard as others in the world in the years 2008 and 2009, with recovery times only take about a year and a half. Despite that, Istanbul remains a bargain when it comes to real estate with starting market prices at about $1,000 a square meter. Turkey is a country of the future, with half of its population younger than 30 years of age, which means the time to invest, is now. With the economy growing and being diversified between Europe and Asia it is easier than ever for foreigners to invest here. A construction boom is also taking place in Istanbul as half the current housing stock in the country needs to be replaced or renovated, thus making it easy to get in on buying pre-construction apartments. Getting in early on a new build means discounted pricing and the expectation of price increase over the construction period. The time to invest in Turkey is now.

Istanbul, Turkey

8. Abruzzo, Italy

Abruzzo, Italy is a region that one may not think to consider when exploring properties in Italy but because it’s undiscovered it’s full of inexpensive properties. Abruzzo is full of charming ancient towns and has a landscape unlike anywhere else Italy from boasting hills to mountains. That said, you’ll still be able to indulge in all the things you love about Italy from delicious wine and food to stunning architecture and of course their hot summers. Purchasing a home in Abruzzo will cost you about $50, 000 US dollars, give or take depending on what town you choose to buy property in. Many of the homes are built of stone which helps to keep the homes cool in the summer and they’re also often equipped with open fireplaces to keep the home warm and cozy in the winter.

Source: leoks / Shutterstock.com

7. Rotterdam, The Netherlands

About an hour away from The Netherlands capital, Amsterdam is a quaint city called Rotterdam. Rotterdam is a port city and is full of hip art, plenty of shopping, and has a bustling nightlife. Most importantly, Rotterdam inspires so much innovation that it’s considered the architecture city of Holland. Rotterdam saw a 17% increase in home prices in the past year which far surpasses the country’s average of 10%. In 2019 properties sold in about 33 days which is 11% faster than in 2018. As you can see, the property demand in Rotterdam is growing at a fast rate, making Rotterdam a city you’ll want to invest in sooner rather than later.

Source: Shutterstock

6. Rennes, France

Rennes, France is rich in history, full of luscious green space, and has the appeal of a big city but on a much smaller scale. While there are 90 historic monuments in the old center, you will notice Rennes feels youthful. This is because over 200, 000 residents are students. Between the attractive property prices and the new High-speed rail that can get you from Rennes to Paris in about an hour and a half, there’s no wonder why Renne’s should be on your radar. But keep in mind the high-speed rail will continue to make this an attractive city so now the’s time to buy if you’re thinking of investing in property in France.

Source: lenisecalleja.photography / Shutterstock.com

5. Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in Europe and is the second-largest city in Bulgaria, right behind the country’s capital, Sofia. The town was built around seven hills which is a large part of the city’s history. In 2019, The European Union named Plovdiv the European Capital of Culture which made the city a big focus for the whole year. This title also sparked a number of urban revitalization projects that have caused the city to see steady growth in real estate sales that is consistent with the country’s capital. With the city holding the European Capital of Culture title for a full year now, it’s predicted that the real estate will sky-rocket even further making it a great city to buy into now.

Source: Shutterstock

4. Budapest, Hungary

There is great value to be found all over Budapest and the time to get into the market is now when others haven’t. From 2007 to 2014 the market in Budapest was in a major slump, causing housing prices to hit rock bottom, and it is only now that they are starting to recover. Budapest is truly a beautiful place, both to live and work and that is great for any investor when it comes to real estate as the demand for rental properties continues to increase. Budapest also happens to be a year-round tourist destination offering amazing bathhouses, dining options, and architecture; drawing visitors who often seek out private rentals to stay in. With good yields, low to moderate transaction costs and pro-landlord laws, it is easy to understand why buying property here is the right choice.

GTS Productions / Shutterstock.com
GTS Productions / Shutterstock.com

3. Seville, Spain

Spain is a popular destination, between the pleasant climate, and stunning landscapes there’s a lot to see and do. But for those looking to buy a piece of real estate in Spain now is the time to do so. Spain’s economy suffered immensely during the economic crisis, however, after 2013 the decline started to slow. Now, the demand in real estate is beginning to grow again making it a great country to invest in. If you’re looking to buy property in Spain, the city of Seville is where you may want to start. This stunning city is famous for flamenco dancing and is home to major landmarks from the ornate Alcázar Castle complex to the site of Christopher Columbus’s tomb and more. The markets have shown that Seville has great revenue growth and for those looking to invest in a rental property, the rental demand is high as this city experiences low seasonality.

Source: Shutterstock

2. Apulia, Italy

This is the region that forms the heel of the Italian boot, a region not always thought of when you speak of Italy. But it is here where you can find low-priced properties in a stunning setting. Trulli houses, beehived shaped rural houses are the norm around here and there are plenty on the market for less than $100,000 US. Apulia features numerous sandy beaches on two coastlines, country land overflowing with vineyards and olive groves, and a slew of historic towns worth exploring. Living costs are low, there is an abundance of churches and palaces, medieval streets beckon you and craftsmen line the streets. This laidback, eccentric area is perfect whether you are buying a second home or starting over in life. A true bargain for a slice of Italian history, loaded with incredible scenery and people.

Apulia, Italy

1. Lisbon, Portugal

Time and time again we hear that this is the most affordable capital in Western Europe and it’s a wonder how long this will last as foreigners start to grab up inexpensive houses. For now, though it is quite inexpensive to buy here. A 2-bedroom apartment in a charming neighborhood will set you back about $100,000 US. Lisbon is a city where you can enjoy a European lifestyle, complete with history, romance, astonishing hospitality, and a seaside location for Latin American prices. The climate here is mild, the amenities are plenty and the people are among the most polite and friendly. With a low cost of living, charming hilly narrow streets and the sea at your fingertips. This is the perfect place to scoop up a second home.

Lisbon, Portugal

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 11 Best Urban Beaches in Europe

Most European waterways are not suitable for summer, due to health concerns, but that hasn’t stopped cities from inventing some pretty amazing urban beaches. In order to beat the heat and celebrate the summer, cities have imported sand, created epic pools and decked out busy streets in beach huts and sun chairs. From the capital of Poland to the streets of Paris, these are 11 of the absolute best urban beaches in all of Europe.

11. Poniatówka Beach, Warsaw

The capital of Poland was severely lacking in beaches until only a few years ago and that’s when this beach popped into the spotlight. This wild and wide beach located right in the city offers everything from beach volleyball to nightly bonfires to sunbathing to wild nightly parties. Partying isn’t the only thing this beach offers though; wildlife is plentiful if you can find a quiet spot. Animals such as otters, elk, deer and boar have been known to show themselves to visitors. Make sure to check out Temat Rzeka, an epic beach bar that is home to thousands of customers a night and offers such activities as film screenings, beach volleyball and huge beach parties.

Photo by: Warsaw City Break
Photo by: Warsaw City Break

10. Tamariz, Lisbon

Just a half hour train ride away from Lisbon this urban beach is popular with both locals and visitors. The setting here is absolutely beautiful, with 350 meters of beach, sand and open sea. The waters here are calm and tranquil, and the beach is sandy which makes it the perfect family setting. The eastern edge of the beach actually features an ocean swimming pool with slightly warmer temperatures than the sea. Chair rentals can be expensive so many people choose to bring their own along. A beautiful medieval palace overlooks this beach, only adding to its charm and beauty. Plenty of cafes and restaurants are located nearby, making it easy to spend the entire day here.

Tamariz, Lisbon

9. Barceloneta, Barcelona

This exciting city got even better when the Olympics came here in 1992, as it was then that the coastline got a serious makeover. It was decided that the city would open up to the sea and restaurants and public bathhouses were torn down and replaced with first-rate beaches. These sandy beaches were created with beautiful hotels and incredible restaurants lining them and as the years go on, this area only gets better. Day or night, visitors will find the coolest crowds here. There are over 1100 meters of beach to enjoy, along with an abundance of sea activities. One can actually walk to the center of the city via a walkway lined with palm trees, cafes and modern landmarks.

Barceloneta, Barcelona

8. South Bank, London

This sliver of seaside charm is located beside one of the city’s busiest stretches of pavement. This corridor of sand skirts along Queen’s Walk, opposite the Southbank Centre and is full of sand, chairs and beach huts. This isn’t a beach you will want to visit if you are looking for a relaxing time but if you are looking to grab a few cocktails, build a couple sandcastles and take in awesome views of the Thames, this is the place to be. This beach is constantly buzzing all summer long with locals and visitors taking in the concerts, events and exhibitions that happen. Enjoy mingling with others, taking in live shows and soaking in the incredible and lively atmosphere.

Photo by: Southbank Centre
Photo by: Southbank Centre

7. Canary Wharf, London

The people of London and visitors to this city are in for a treat when it comes to urban beaches. The most popular may just be Canary Wharf, a sandy oasis hidden beneath the skyscrapers. The beach is loaded with volleyball courts and the famous KERB food market, where many city slickers head to grab a bite to eat during lunch hours. The beach here is dependent on what events are happening each summer and sand is brought in to create volleyball courts, beach rugby fields and more. Expect something different each time you visit here.

Photo by: Action For Kids
Photo by: Action For Kids

6. Vltava River, Prague

There may be no sea here but that didn’t stop Prague from creating one awesome urban beach on the banks of the Vltava River. With 500 tones of imported sand, over 200 pool chairs and a stunning pool; it’s no wonder locals and visitors flock to this beach. Not just for adults though, this beach has a kid’s playground located directly on it. If you are looking to get some activity in, try your hand at badminton or beach volleyball, with courts located directly on the beach. As the sun sinks and the stars come out this beach transforms into a party, with live music, dancing and special events running all summer long. Open from 10am-112pm daily, there is no bad time to visit this beach as long as the sun is shining.

Photo by: Travel for Senses
Photo by: Travel for Senses

5. Blijburg Aan Zee, Amsterdam

It is Amsterdam’s one true urban beach, complete with a sandy beach and swimming waters. The beach itself is 250 meters long and 40 meters wide and constantly hopping with things to do. The beach is open from June until September, Wednesdays through Sundays. Activities here include brunches on Sundays, kid’s events on the weekends and DJ’s and live bands throughout the months. The food here is absolutely wonderful and much of it is organic and vegetarian. At nighttime there is always a campfire to curl up around and visitors here will enjoy the laid back vibe of the locals. This beach also happens to host a ton of beach parties, windsurfing workshops and a monthly car trunk sale.

Photo by: Citinerary
Photo by: Citinerary

4. The Donauinsel (Danube Island), Vienna

This long narrow island in central Vienna is not just part of the flood protection system but also offers 42 kilometers of beach. In addition to awesome flat beaches with great bathing areas, there are extensive networks of paths for cyclers, joggers and walkers. Barbeque and picnic areas, playing fields, courts for beach volleyball and a variety of restaurants and shops also make up this urban beach stretch. There is no shortage of activities to do and many sports shops have set up along the beach to offer lessons in such water sports as scuba diving and windsurfing. Also located on Danube Island is a nature reserve, home to many plants and animals that depend on the protection.

Photo by: TriVienna
Photo by: TriVienna

3. Badeschiff, Berlin

This urban beach is actually comprised of a few different elements, including an old tug boat that has been converted into a pool during the summer months. Swimmers here can catch a great glimpse of the Berlin skyline and take part in some epic beach parties. The floating pool is connected by a wooden footbridge complete with hammocks to relax in. Beach goers can relax on the fine sand or play beach volleyball at one of the sand courts. The beach bar here is known for offering up a variety of summer cocktails and barbecued foods. Peaceful morning yoga classes are offered here twice a week and weekly open air concerts are a norm during the summer months. A separate area for kids to splash and build sandcastles is located just a stone’s throw away from the main area.

Photo by: Arena Berlin
Photo by: Arena Berlin

2. Paris Plages, France

For just shy of a month in the summer time, the right bank of the Seine from the Louvre to the Pont de Sully is converted into one of the best urban beaches in all of Europe. Sand gets imported into the area, beach chairs are set up, grass is laid down and boardwalk-style cafes and ice-cream sellers set up shop. When the temperature really soars sprinklers are put out as you wouldn’t want to swim in the Seine. Free summertime concerts take place; sporting events are in full swing and everyone who can’t go on vacation flocks to this area to enjoy some sand, sun and relaxation. Entrance to the beach is free and the only thing you will have to worry about is scoring one of the oversized umbrellas to curl up underneath.

Paris Plages, France

1. Brussels’ Beach, Brussels

Every year the banks of the Brussels channel are converted into a real urban beach, complete with imported sand, huts, sun chairs and fountains. This beach only lasts in the hottest months of summer, from July 15th to August 15th and the city goes all out to ensure visitors have the best of times. Activities here range from rowing to soccer to climbing to dancing while the kids will be entertained with magic shows and workshops throughout the day. The nights are meant for adults to kick back and enjoy with an offering of nightly concerts and parties. The city kicks off this month long urban beach with an impressive light and sound show and airs free films throughout the month on the big screen. Join locals and visitors alike at this urban beach, in our opinion, the best in all of Europe.

Photo by: City of Brussels
Photo by: City of Brussels

The Top Hostels to Stay (and Save) When in Europe

Despite what the movies may have shown you, hostels can be a great and affordable way to travel across Europe. They’re quick, efficient, and provide a no-thrills attempt at necessities. That’s not to say they’re rundown or dangerous, simply bare-bones, and only offering amenities at a fee. For instance, breakfast, towels, or a room that doesn’t share a bathroom. (Don’t worry, you still get your own bed and fresh clean sheets, as well as a place to lock up your belongings.)

By staying in hostels, many travelers have been able to afford longer vacations, while being able to see more sights. But aside from practical reasons, hostels serve as an interesting way to meet fellow travelers, to learn about the local scene, see what types of events might be taking place, and so on. In order to have your very own top-notch European experience, consider staying at any of these hostels:

6. Lavender Circus Hostel -Budapest, Hungary

Travelers can sleep in quirky vintage décor at this location. All while gaining access to some serious amenities on a budget. (Rooms average around 14 Euros per night, per person.) The well known stop hosts various common quarters, a kitchen (with free tea and coffee!), and doesn’t charge for towels. When traveling you can get a great night’s rest, get yourself clean, and even manage some relaxing time before heading back out to see the sights – which are located within walking distance of the Lavender Circus Hostel. Oh, and did we mention there’s free WiFi? Perfect for Skyping everyone back home and letting them know what a stellar time you’re having! Sounds like a win for anyone wanting to check out the beautiful Budapest sights.

Photo by: Lavender Circus Hostel
Photo by: Lavender Circus Hostel

5. The Babushka Grand Hostel -Odessa, Ukraine

Coming in with an even cheaper budget comes the Babushka Grand Hostel. (We’re giving them extra points for the name.) Guests can stay privately for 11 Euros, or share with others for only 7 Euros – a bargain in hostel terms, especially for such a clean and well-maintained facility. It also comes with air conditioning, board games, and a kitchen that’s fully equipped for cooking. A perfect combination for all your traveling needs – add in sightseeing to nearby stops, like the town’s main streets and a beautiful opera house. And there’s no curfew, so you won’t get locked out for losing track of time.

Photo by: Babushka Grand Hostel
Photo by: Babushka Grand Hostel

4. The Independente Hostel -Lisbon, Portugal

Known as a “luxury” hostel, The Independente offers up seemingly fancy décor, but without charging a fancy price. The service, stay, and experience is all said to be pretty fancy, too. The kind of combination budget travelers are constantly on the lookout for. Dorms can be rented for around 11 Euros per person, with suites coming in at 85 Euros per night. Visitors can tend to business at the fax and copy machine, or stick to touristy activities and hop on a nearby train. After all they’re only minutes away from sights like the Tagus river, downtown districts, castles, and more. It’s also set on the boarder between two popular living districts, giving visitors access to either without adding excessive travel time.

Photo by: The Independente Hostel
Photo by: The Independente Hostel

3. YHA St. Briavels Castle -Gloucestershire, England

This stop brings together the perfect mixture of old classics with new trends. Not only is it an affordable hostel, it’s an 800-year-old castle. And it’s even prettier than you imagined. Each room holds its own set of charm, some even with rumors of being haunted. Check out their free library, rent a bike and head to the nearby park, or order a meal at their on-site restaurant. Staying in a castle doesn’t come quite as cheap, however, stays start at 24 Euros, while private rooms come in at 74 Euros and above. However, it’s a rate that still comes in much cheaper than most castle visits.

Photo by: YHA St. Briavels Castle
Photo by: YHA St. Briavels Castle

2. Kadir’s Tree Houses -Olympos, Turkey

Yes this place is as cool as it sounds. With essentially cabin-like dwellings, guests can enjoy an adventure – and a comfy bed – all in one stop. Bonus: it comes with an awesome forest view, a perfect contrast to all that city walking, and is only a short trip away from Mt. Olympos, along with beaches and plenty of water. Kadir’s Tree House comes in at 12 Euros a night (or 22 for a private room) and accepts credit cards – a welcome amenity in the world of hostels. Guests can park without worry, lock their items away in safe storage, or cool down at the bar. And even though its views might suggest otherwise, it’s still close to the town’s shopping center.

Photo by: Hotels.com
Photo by: Hotels.com

1. Kex Hostel -Reykjavik, Iceland

This stop is the perfect hostel for anyone looking to get away from Europe’s traditional classic feel. Rather than its seasoned counterparts, the Kex Hostel comes with a modern twist, even offering up eco tactics, such as using recycled furniture. (Not that it looks it!) Its designer searched high and low (furniture came in from anywhere from Pittsburgh, to all across Europe) in order to create this incredible eclectic and modern mix. And it’s been a hit. Folks are traveling from all over in order to stay at the hostel (at 21 Euros per night), have a drink at the bar, work out in the on-site gym, or even have their hair trimmed at the barbershop. Yep, it’s on site too – which is a perfect way to catch up on your personal maintenance while on vacation.

Photo by: Kex Hostel
Photo by: Kex Hostel

The Best Urban Parks in the World

One simply cannot deny the convenience and often excitement that comes with living in the city, but for the most part these cities lack some serious green space. Luckily there are a few cities around the world that can offer a moment of peace and quiet in the midst of the urban jungle, whether you want to explore historic temples, picnic in open green spaces or discover thousands of beautiful species of plants and flowers. From the most famous park in the United States to one of the biggest parks in London to one of the most unusually landscaped urban parks in the world, check out these 6 awesome urban parks and what they have to offer.

6. Central Park, New York City

It is by far the most famous urban park in America, and maybe even perhaps the world, an iconic park that has been photographed millions of times from land and by air. It boasts over 800 acres, a space that is visited by over 35 million people a year. It is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, meander down the pathways, lounge in open meadows or take a break near the peaceful lakes. Walk through the woodland area of Ramble and spend some time bird watching, or take in a regularly scheduled concert or performance during the summer months. Art installations fill the green space and one of the most notable is a 2-acre area dedicated to John Lennon.

Central Park NY

5. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

One of San Francisco’s greatest treasures, this park is so big that one can dedicate entire days to exploring the many gardens, museums and attractions. The Conservatory of Flowers is a must visit, being the oldest building in the park and home to 1,700 species of aquatic and tropical plants, as well as an impressive Butterfly Zone and miniature garden railroad. Families with kids should head to the Koret Playground where a climbing wall shaped like waves, a rope climbing structure and many slides await, or head to the Herschel-Spillman Carousel where 62 colorful animals await riders. Or why not head to Ocean Beach for some incredible sunsets and dinner at the Beach Chalet where upstairs views are simply astounding.

Golden Gate Park

4. Hyde Park, London

It is visited by millions of locals and tourists every year, one of the largest parks in London and one of the Royal Parks. Hyde Park contains a number of famous landmarks and is the largest of the four parks that form a chain from the entrance of Kensington Palace through Kensington Gardens, past the main entrance to Buckingham Palace and to the Horse Guards Parade in Whitehall. Famous landmarks here include the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, the Speakers Corner and the State of Achilles. There is also plenty of opportunity for recreation here, row or pedal boat at Serpentine River, swim at the Serpentine Lido, get competitive at the mini-golf course or even go for a horse ride with the Hyde Park Riding School. If you happen to visit during the holiday months in the winter, enjoy the Winter Wonderland spectacle which sees the park dressed up in lights and festive activities.

Hyde Park UK

3. Beihai Park, Beijing

It is among the largest of all Chinese Gardens and since 1925 this park has been open to the public, containing numerous historically important structures, palaces and temples. The lake is the focal point of this impressive park, with Jade Flowery Islet laying smack in the middle of it and home to the imposing White Dagoba, the landmark of the park. Inside the Dagoba is the Buddhist Scriptures, the monk’s mantle and alms bowl and two pieces of Sarira. The Hao Pu Creek Garden is another popular area to visit in the park, an absolutely serene garden featuring a mountain-water structure that is designed to give seclusion from society. Don’t miss out on the Nine-Dragon Screen, a wall unlike any other where 424 seven-color glazed tiles feature 9 huge dragons coiling on each side. Interesting temples, a large beautiful lake and ancient alleyways make up this incredible park.

Beihai Park Beijing

2. Parc Guell, Barcelona

It is one of the world’s most unusual urban parks, featuring buildings designed by famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. The whimsical structures throughout the park were originally designed as a part of a housing development that was unsuccessful. These structures seem to give the park more of a theme park feel, although there is plenty of green space that covers the rest of the park. Climb to the top of the hill for a panoramic view of the bay, lounge on the serpentine bench along the main square, stare the at Art Nouveau gingerbread house or simply wander through the beautiful gardens teeming with colorful flowers.

Parc Guell Barcelona

1. Monsanto Forest Park, Lisbon

In the capital city of Lisbon lies this 2,400-acre park where visitors come for incredible skyline views of Portugal’s charming old city. The park is divided into several protected and leisure areas, along with numerous picnic areas, making it the perfect meeting spot for friends and family. The Ecological Park is one of the most noted areas, stretching 50 hectares and giving visitors the opportunity to learn about the environment through exhibitions, multimedia resources and an interpretation center. Alvito Park is also located here and is perhaps the most popular among families with kids. It is here they will find swings, towers, trains and several swimming pools, perfect for cooling down during those hot summer months. The park is dotted with historical mills, abandoned quarries and beautiful scenery, covered with vegetation and enough space to make all visitors feel welcome.

monsanto park lisbon

The 10 Fastest Growing Destination Cities in Europe for 2015

It’s little surprise that Europe is full of destination cities. From Rome to Paris to London, people love getting a taste of the “Old World” charm of various capital cities and cultural centers on the continent. But what do you do when you’ve visited some (or most) of the tried-and-true destinations? You can visit some of the up-and-coming destination cities the continent has to offer. Explore 2015’s 10 fastest growing destination cities in Europe—your next escape may be waiting for you on one of these slides!

10. Barcelona, Spain

Whether you consider Barcelona part of Spain or as the capital of an autonomous Catalonia state, the fact that tourism to the city is rapidly growing cannot be disputed. Long an important cultural center in Europe—medieval cathedrals spurred pilgrimage and the kings of Aragon had palaces in Barcelona—the city has been more recently overshadowed by Madrid, Spain’s capital. As Spain’s second-largest city, however, Barcelona has many sites and attractions—something more than 7.5 million people will experience in 2015 alone. Tourism to the city has grown over 6.5 percent since 2009 and is a major factor in the city’s economy. Barcelona’s location has also rewarded it with many world-renowned beaches. With eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, many museums and a fantastic climate, it’s little wonder Barcelona is receiving so much international attention.

Barcelona

9. Düsseldorf, Germany

Düsseldorf, the capital of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, might seem to be an odd destination for tourists, but the city is on track to receive nearly two million foreign overnight visitors in 2015—a growth rate of nearly seven percent since 2009. Düsseldorf has been a major economic hub since at least the 1960s; today, the city is well-known for its fashion and trade shows, which attract many visitors. The city also has a large number of museums, historic buildings and sites and art galleries, which lend credit to the idea that Dusseldorf is an excellent choice for tourists. Nightlife includes the famous Kom(m)ödchen cabaret and the city is home to several internationally known bands, including the avant garde Kraftwerk. The celebration of Karnevel, the “5th season,” is one of Düsseldorf’s biggest cultural events, and occurs from November until February.

Düsseldorf, Germany

8. Warsaw, Poland

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall almost 30 years ago, tourism to Eastern Europe has been increasing, which means that cities like Warsaw, the capital of Poland, are experiencing year-over-year growth in the number of visitors; Warsaw averaged seven percent growth between 2009 and 2015. While conceptions of places like Warsaw as underdeveloped and poor continue to exist, nearly 1.5 million visitors in 2015 will discover a vibrant (and growing) city with a rich cultural heritage. Warsaw’s historic city center was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980, and almost one-quarter of the city’s parks and gardens, meaning that there’s ample greenspace in this urban location. Warsaw has many museums, although collections suffered heavy losses during World War II; nonetheless, museums like the Museum of Posters—the first and largest museum collection of posters in the world—continue to have internationally renowned collections.

Warsaw Poland

7. Budapest, Hungary

Another city that’s benefited from increased tourism post-1989, Budapest is the capital city of Hungary and home to some 1.74 million inhabitants. Since 2009, tourism to the city has increased nearly 7.5 percent, and over three million people are expected to visit in 2015—and with good reason. Budapest is frequently cited as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, ranking alongside Prague. Although many of the buildings were gutted by the communist government after 1949, restoration work was undertaken more recently and sites, such as Buda castle have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. Budapest’s long history has resulted in a mix of almost every conceivable architectural style, from ancient Roman to the ultra-modern. Famous buildings include the Hungarian Parliament and the State Opera House, as well as many churches and basilicas.

Budapest, Hungary

6. Bucharest, Romania

The tourism industry in Romania is still relatively small, as exemplified in the capital city, Bucharest, being expected to receive just slightly over one million foreign tourists in 2015. Growth, on the other hand, has been by leaps and bounds: the number of visitors has grown almost eight percent between 2009 and 2015, making Bucharest one of the fastest growing destinations in Europe. While Romania may seem to be off the beaten path for many, the capital’s charms are many: The National Parliament, the seat of the Romanian government, is the largest parliament building in the world and the former royal palace now serves as the National Museum of Art. The city is also known internationally for its music scene and nightlife, and is home to some of Europe’s best electronic dance music nightclubs, including Kristal Glam Club and Studio Martin.

Bucharest, Romania

5. Berlin, Germany

As the capital city of a reunified Germany since 1990, you’d expect Berlin to receive a lot of international tourists—and it does; the city is on track to welcome just over 4.5 million international visitors in 2015, a growth rate of eight percent since 2009. Berlin, much like other cities on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain, benefited from the fall of the Eastern Bloc in 1989 and has witnessed a revival of tourism, both domestically and internationally, since then. It’s obvious why: the city has long been a central location in German territory. The result is that Berlin boasts a wealth of historical sites and significant cultural importance in the form of everything from museums to monuments, art galleries to theater performances. Although much of Berlin was devastated by World War II bombing campaigns, many monuments have been restored, such as Schloss Charlottenburg, the largest castle in Berlin.

Berline Germany, Spree River

4. Lisbon, Portugal

Portugal and its capital city, Lisbon, are often overlooked by travelers to Europe; with major centers like Paris, Rome and Madrid close by, Lisbon tends to get bypassed in favor of cities that are considered more “iconic”. Nevertheless, tourism to Lisbon has been increasing—the number of visitors grew 8.3 percent between 2009 and 2015, with over 3.5 million foreign tourists expected to visit the city in 2015. Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, predating even Rome by centuries. For that reason, Lisbon is famed for its especially rich architectural history. The Belem Tower, constructed in the 16th century, is one of the best-known monuments in the city. The city is also the birthplace of Portuguese pavement, which creates mosaic patterns through the use of stone; this unique form of art can be seen throughout Lisbon’s city streets.

Lisbon Skyline Portugal

3. Copenhagen, Denmark

Denmark’s capital city is expected to receive just over 1.5 million foreign visitors in 2015, but tourism has grown at almost 8.5 percent since 2009. The city, located on the Øresund Strait between Denmark and Sweden, has served as the Scandinavian country’s capital since the 15th century. Although Northern Europe may not be the first place you think of when planning a beach vacation, the city’s geography gives it many notable beaches. Landmarks include the Tivoli Gardens, the Christiansborg castle and the Little Mermaid Statue—the city was home to fairy tale writer Hans Christian Anderson. Copenhagen’s skyline is generally horizontal, broken only by church spires, giving it the nickname “City of Spires”. There are many parks and open spaces in the city as well. The restaurant Noma has been named as the best in the world by Restaurant magazine in four of the last five years.

Alt
Copenhagan, Denmark

2. Hamburg, Germany

While Hamburg is projected to receive just 1.32 million foreign tourists in 2015—less than many of the other cities on this list—growth of tourism to the unassuming Germany city has been well over 8.5 percent since 2009. Founded as part of the Hanseatic League of merchants, Hamburg has long had economic importance in Europe and remains one of the most affluent cities on the continent. Tourism is a major part of the city’s economy, although until recently, most visitors have been Germans. A typical city tour would include a visit to the old warehouse district and at least one of the city’s harbors, as well as a stop at city hall and St. Michaelis church. Reeperbahn is Europe’s largest red light district, while the Schanze neighborhood is noted for its numerous street cafes and laidback atmosphere.

Hamburg, Germany

1. Istanbul, Turkey

With over 12.5 million foreign tourists projected to visit in 2015, representing over 10 percent growth in visitor numbers since 2009, Istanbul is the fastest growing destination in Europe. Few would question why people want to visit the city: located along the Bosphorus, the city has been an important center of European civilization since the time of the ancient Greeks. The center of the Byzantine empire after the fall of Rome and then the center of the Ottoman empire until the early 20th century, Istanbul has a long and illustrious history—and one of Europe’s most multicultural, thanks to its unique positioning on the edge of both Europe and Asia. It was named a European Capital of Culture in 2012 and is the largest city in Turkey. The city boasts mosques and churches, bazaars and malls and a treasure trove of other attractions.

Top Cities 2013 - Istanbul

Top 10 Destinations Around the World for Homestays

A homestay can be an incredibly rewarding experience both for the homeowners and visitors. Typically, students use homestays as safe, affordable accommodations when traveling on a tight budget. But it’s also a great way to practice language skills in a comfortable environment and receive insider information on the best areas to explore in their travel destination—homestays are especially suited to solo female travelers. There are homestays all around the world to suit almost any type endeavor, from remote villages to vivacious cities, the following are 10 alluring destinations ripe with homestay options ideal for enjoying a fulfilling sojourn abroad.

10. Yuvacali, Turkey

In Turkey’s southeast region, in the village of Yuvacali, visitors receive a raw experience of what daily life is like for local Kurdish families. Traditional life means hard work for families living here, most only survive off a few dollars a day. Though struggling financially, these families offer a culturally rich experience for anyone interested in a unique holiday. A handful of families in the small village offer accommodation under the starry skies of Yuvacali in a nomadic canvas tent adorned with vibrant paintings or in a traditional, mud/brick house. Guests help out on the farm, learn to cook traditional dishes on an open hearth, and enjoy swapping stories with locals. This is no five-star hotel (in fact, it’s far from it) and families here, though extremely friendly, present an opportunity to work together, not offer hotel-like services. If you’re up for the challenge of helping out, Yuvacali has plenty to offer any curious, open-minded traveler.

Village in Turkey

9. Tighza Valley, Morocco

Throughout Morocco, there an abundant number of opportunities to experience a homestay with a local family. One particularly magical place is within the breathtaking Tighza Valley where many Berber families open their homes to foreign visitors, offering simple, clean rooms within family owned homes. The arid valley, dusted with cacti and leafy green foliage, is within the high-reaching Atlas Mountains, far from the turbid, bustling cities of Fez, Marrakesh, Casablanca, and Rabat. This is rural Moroccan life at its finest: simple and scenic. Within the valley, most guests take to the alpine trails, hiking throughout the valley and enjoying mountainous routes filled with endless snap-worthy scenes: Berber women cultivating fields, shepherds watching after flocks of goats and sheep, and boisterous children playing imaginative games. Life definitely happens at a slow pace, which is not for everyone, but the Berber people are exceptionally welcoming and on point with keeping guests occupied and well-fed.

Atlas Mountains, Morocco

8. Old Havana, Cuba

Becoming familiar with the words “casa particular” or “casa particulares” is a great advantage when traveling to Cuba for an independent holiday. The term means “private house”, and upon booking, will land you either a private home or room. The Cuban government issues special permits for renting out privately owned homes, or rooms in family homes, and they are advertised through bright blue signs out front with the words “Arrendador Divisa”, it’s a rental permit showing which casas are legal. Prices vary and depend on the travel season, area of Cuba, amenities offered, square footage, and so on. One of the best places for casas is in Old Havana, where friendly owners give a healthy measure of gossip and tips on the lay of the land. You’ll get great insider information on Old Havana’s top music clubs, festivals, and bars, and most often the owner will treat you just like family.

Old Havana, Cuba

7. Lisbon, Portugal

In Portugal, “Solares de Portugal” is an interesting idea introduced to bolster tourism within houses laden with charm and unique character, calledTurismo de Habitação”. The concept is aimed at preserving rich heirlooms of the country’s cultural and architectural heritage. This type of accommodation is not a guesthouse or hotel, but a genuine homestay. Accommodation comes in various forms such as rustic farmhouses, elegant estates, and grand country homes restored to their original luster for welcoming guests from around the world. Most homestays can be found in Lisbon, but others are in Porto, Faro, the southwest islands, and other small Portuguese cities and towns. The Solares exemplify hundreds of years of Portuguese culture and history (a large part of the magnificent 17th and 18th centuries manors are owned by descendents of the original owners). Taken quite seriously as a representation of their country, the Portuguese are dedicated to providing exceptional experiences to foreign visitors.

Breakfast in Lisbon Portugal

6. Amazon Rainforest, Brazil

If you’ve ever had the desire to explore the deepest reaches of the Amazon Rainforest, a Brazilian homestay could be an idyllic experience. Easily planned in Manaus, you can book a trip and be paired up with an indigenous family. You’ll score a room in an eco-lodge or camp under the forest canopy—it’s entirely up to you. Lodges are simply constructed from locally sourced, natural building materials and designed in traditional style. Think “fancy” thatch hut with some modern conveniences and you’re not far off. Ideal for intrepid spirits, planning a trek through the lush, magical landscape is authentic, eye-opening, and lands you where wildlife is richest. Friendly indigenous guides offer a healthy dose of insight on the rain forest ecosystem and teach guests survival tips in a natural environment. You’ll also be treated to some amazing local eats and be privy to some Amazonian cooking secrets too.

Amazon Eco Lodge

5. Lake Titicaca, Peru

Peru is home to some of the greatest archaeological treasures in the world and exhibits some truly fascinating history. The entire country has something to offer: the finest specimens of Inca ruins, Pacific Coast beaches, Amazon River rafting, sand-boarding, incredible national parks, and magnificent cross-country train rides. There are a host of options for budget accommodation in Peru, but a homestay experience offers more; enjoy a vacation with a ton of insight into one of the most culturally and historically prosperous countries in the world. There are several homestays around Lake Titicaca (the highest lake in existence) providing authentic accommodations with the added value of a tour of the floating reed islands, local dining and Andean musical evenings, and a look at pre-Inca ruins and centuries-old agricultural terraces. If city living seems more interesting, there are many host families in colorful Cusco and in the capital city of Lima.

Lake Titicaca, Peru

4. Brest Oblast, Belarus

There are a large number of homestays and farmstays in the Brest region of Belarus, a cosmopolitan town situated in the southwest bordering Poland. Here you’ll find historical monuments, war memorials, charming galleries, and Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park. If you’re traveling from the capital city of Minsk, prepare to disembark into a town far more influenced by its EU neighbors than the Soviets. Cozy, comfortable Brest homestays are run by friendly families eager to show guests surrounding attractions, cook traditional meals, and facilitate independent outings including hiking and fishing trips, cycling tours, and other outdoor pursuits. Visitors will find that Belarusians have an innate love for the natural world so expect to spend quality time exploring surrounding landscapes. Most homes are two stories and have anywhere from two to six bedrooms with shared bathrooms. Some sport saunas, outdoor fireplaces, canoes, and fishing boats so check amenities thoroughly.

Brest, Belarus

3. Brisbane, Melbourne & Sydney, Australia

Australia has scores of homestay organizations typically helping students find a safe and comfortable place to live while studying abroad. Many programs are government endorsed, aimed at helping students acclimate in a healthy and safe environment while providing a reliable place to practice their studies. Though those scenarios are typical, homestays are also an option for anyone wishing to travel in Australia while staying with local hosts. There’s a dizzying array of options in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney along the southeastern stretch and even more in the west and northern territories. Australian homestays are popular because of their relatively inexpensive rates compared to hotels while also offering an authentic local experience in the Land Down Under. If you’re using an organization to book accommodation, succinctly communicate your desired experience; some families offer more of a bed and breakfast whilst others set aside ample time to spend with guests.

Circular Quay Sydney Australia

2. Sa Pa, Vietnam

If Southeast Asian culture is appealing, there are Vietnamese families offering homestays across the country. From lively cities packed with people and an endless flurry of activity, to verdant farmlands and rice paddies where slow and steady is the pace, what’s up for grabs in Vietnam is fairly unique to many other countries. In the old town of Sa Pa in the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains there are stunning agricultural terraces that define the landscape where host families wait with open arms; Vietnamese people are extremely welcoming, hospitable, and chatty. Families embrace you, ply you with food and drink, introduce you to all the neighbors. They will even show you around the area. There’s almost no beating the incredible pride Vietnamese people feel when hosting foreigners. Enjoy Sa Pa’s beauty through climbing and hiking within the mountains, exploring hill tribe markets, volunteering at the local school—there are plenty of fulfilling activities available.

Sa Pa, Vietnam

1. Kerala, India

Tucked into the southwest tip of India is delightful Kerala, a world away from the typical, chaotic India. A lovely coastal town nestled on the shores of the Arabian Sea, Kerala is a laid back plexus of gleaming backwaters and flourishing tea and spice covered slopes. Tame your inner wild child with a hefty dose of Kerala, breathe in the salty air, gaze upon peaceful temples, and smell the endlessly spiced aromas. Festivals and celebrations, wild elephants, and exquisite boathouses will reel you in. Most accommodations are heritage homes, unique in architectural design with anywhere from one to twenty-plus rooms led by easygoing locals for nominal fees—choose a smaller abode for a more personal cultural exchange. Hosts are easygoing, offer rides to and from town and usually provide bicycles for exploring. Sanctuaries and synagogues, beaches and bayous; Kerala is an arresting blend of attractions with piles of things to do and see.

Kerala India

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

Top 10 Cities in Europe to Travel with Kids

From Amsterdam to Berlin to Iceland to Denmark, there are more kid-friendly places to visit then you have ever imagined. From fairy tale castles to the oldest zoo in the world, to amusement parks and boats ride, to family friendly restaurants and museums; you will discover that travelling to Europe with kids is easier than ever. Gone are the days where travelling with kids overseas is frowned upon and you will soon discover that more cities than ever before are becoming “kid-friendly”. For the parents with young babies to the ones with teenagers; there is something for all of you to do. Get ready to take your kids on the vacation of a lifetime. So sit back, grab a coffee, get that pen ready and read on to discover the top ten best cities in Europe to travel with children.

1. Copenhagen, Denmark

Fairy tale castles, inspiring landscapes, brilliantly coloured buildings and a culture where children and adults are treated as equals makes Copenhagen one of the first stops in Europe to visit with kids. Housing the two oldest amusement parks in the world, Copenhagen is a kid friendly city that will have you wanting to stay forever. The Blue Planet; Denmark’s national aquarium is the largest in Northern Europe and is sure to thrill kids and parents alike with their walls of water and over 20,000 animals. Not only does Copenhagen house a science center, zoo, children’s museum and one of the world’s largest open air museums but also offers carefully laid out parks throughout the city so the young ones can run wild and free.

Evikka / Shutterstock.com
Evikka / Shutterstock.com

2. Amsterdam, Netherlands

Kid friendly is not often the first thought that comes to mind when you hear Amsterdam but the laid back culture makes this city perfect for the family vacation. Filled with kid friendly food such as french fries and pancakes, this city offers more than Heineken tours and the red light district. A walk friendly city also offers Canal Tours for the weary feet and offers impressive sights. Bicycles are in abundance so it’s great to take the time to rent a bakfiet and peddle around town. Not to be missed is the Tropen museum where in the summer the roof is transformed into a beach. Vondelpark, the most famous park in Amsterdam is sure to delight the little ones with a paddling pool, playground and cafe.

hans engbers / Shutterstock.com
hans engbers / Shutterstock.com

3. Paris, France

The most visited city in all of Europe couldn’t be left off this list. From street performers at every turn to tasty treats in every window, your kids will take delight in this city. Not to be missed is the Eiffel Tower in which your biggest decision will be to take the stairs or elevator; kids will revel in the enormity of it, even more than you do. Luxembourg Gardens is a place to let the kids exercise their legs and participate in sailboat races, riding the famous carousel and visiting nearly 100 statues that line the park. With kid friendly museums, parks and galleries; the possibilities are endless. The ease of navigating the metro makes this destination a must go to.

pio3 / Shutterstock.com
pio3 / Shutterstock.com

4. Reykjavik, Iceland

A safe, compact city that welcomes kids of all ages should certainly top your list of important factors to consider when taking your kids to Europe. Fortunately Reykjavik offers not only that but so many other family friendly activities. In a culture where babies are often left sleeping in their buggies while parents shop inside this is surely a city you don’t want to miss out on. From thermal hot springs with specific children’s pool and slides to the Northern lights to whale watching and trying on Viking armour; this city has endless things to do for all ages. Climb to the top of Mount Esja, make friends with the wildlife at Tjornin Lake or try your hand at horseback riding through the valleys.

Patricia Hofmeester / Shutterstock.com
Patricia Hofmeester / Shutterstock.com

5. London, England

Harry Potter, Paddington Bear, Marry Poppins, Peter Pan; where else in the world can parents and kids alike discover the birthplace of such classic childhood characters but London, England. Castles, towers and real life guards are sure to thrill children of all ages. A great bonus when visiting London is the amount of free museums and great discounts on public transportation. For the park lovers make sure to pack a picnic and head to St.James park where you can walk to Buckingham Palace and through Green Park onwards to Hyde Park, finally ending up in Kensington Gardens. For those little ones interested in armory, be sure to visit the Tower of London for an impressive display of weaponry and crown jewels.

PlusONE / Shutterstock.com
PlusONE / Shutterstock.com

6. Barcelona, Spain

With vibrant colors lining the streets and a kid friendly culture, Barcelona begs to be discovered by adults and children alike. La Rambla, the most famous street in Barcelona is filled with street performers who swallow fire, juggle swords and delight the eyes of little ones. If you are feeling adventures, take a lift to the top of Mirador de Colom where you will have a bird’s eye view of the harbour. One thing you won’t want to miss is the Museum of Chocolate where you will have the chance to participate in the making and tasting of all things chocolate. Last but not least pay a visit to Tibidabo, the amusement park that boasts an old fashion Ferris wheel and other delightful sights.

Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com
Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com

7. Vienna Austria

Besides having one of the best public transit systems in the world, Vienna has gone above and beyond in making their city kid friendly. Schonbrunn Palace should be the first pit stop on your adventure through Vienna. Packed full with gardens, the world’s oldest zoo, a palace tour and the children’s museum you will find yourself spending an entire day here. The Belvedere is a museum must on this trip and you can easily keep children entertained by picking up a special art detective book that allows them to embark on a scavenger hunt of sorts throughout the museum. A trip to Vienna wouldn’t be complete without an ice cream and a carriage ride through the city. Sit back, relax and enjoy the sights.

JeniFoto / Shutterstock.com
JeniFoto / Shutterstock.com

8. Rome, Italy

Where the locals welcome children running around, pizza is the food of choice and the history is full of gladiators and battles; this city is a wonderland for kids. Although a lot of walking is involved while touring Rome there are a number of other alternatives such as the “hop on hop off” buses, pedicabs and the metro which make getting around much easier (and more fun)! With water fountains at every corner, steps to climb and the ancient Colosseum to be explored it is no wonder so many families travel here every year. A splash in the Trevi Fountain, a gelato on top of the Spanish Steps and a hotel near the beach for a place to unwind will make this the perfect holiday.

Marius GODOI / Shutterstock.com
Marius GODOI / Shutterstock.com

9. Berlin, Germany

Over the past decade Berlin has become a budget-friendly, kid-friendly vacation destination and was named Europe’s most family friendly city in 2014. Along with the always popular LegoLand and AquaDome is Kollwitz Platz; the most family friendly oasis in Berlin. Lined with wooden bridges, playgrounds and shops for the adults this is one place not to miss. The oldest zoo in Germany is also housed in Berlin and is proud to house the largest number of species in the world. The kids will find delight in all the wall art as Berlin is often known to be an urban canvas. If being named Europe’s best city for families isn’t enough to convince you; maybe the pop up museums, huge hotel rooms, miles of bike lanes and delicious street meat are.

lexan / Shutterstock.com
lexan / Shutterstock.com

10. Lisbon, Portugal

Where else can you go out to eat, have a peaceful meal over a bottle of wine while your children are happily occupied in a “children’s only” zone in the restaurant. Lisbon not only offers numerous restaurants where mom and dad get to enjoy quality time together but also offers so many other family friendly activities. To relaxing on one of the many beaches while the kids splash in the ocean to hopping aboard a tramcar tour to explore the city, Lisbon is full of adventure. The largest castle in the land encourages kids to dive deep into the world of dungeons, dragons, kings and queens. The aquarium and zoo allow for close up encounters with wildlife from all over the world.

Ververidis Vasilis / Shutterstock.com
Ververidis Vasilis / Shutterstock.com

10 Reasons to Visit Portugal

Anyone who has been to Portugal and experienced the marvel of the abundant nature, or the warmth and vibrance of the culture, will contest to the greatness of this country. Whether you’re a thrill-seeking daredevil, someone out to experience the tranquility of nature, or a social-butterfly out to enjoy new things, you will absolutely love the unique and quality activities that Portugal has to offer. Not many countries can offer such a wide variety of possible experiences and delights, especially with such incredible quality. Below you will find a summary of some of the wonderful features of Portugal both in reference to the mainland and the islands. Each feature contains enormous depth that you will want to fully experience in the flesh but these descriptions are a great place to start you on your adventure through Portugal and Portuguese culture!

10. History

Portugal has a rich and interesting history in many ways. Portugal was technically considered a country in 1143 after an array of power struggles and invasions until finally joining what is now known as the European Union in 1968. This move is largely responsible for the Portugal we can visit today. Particularly interesting features of Portuguese history are preserved in unique museums–  such as those of whale hunting; one of the country’s greatest sources of income for a time, and the beautiful religious artworks and churches that were frequented especially in times of great political struggle. On the geological side, the islands of Portugal were formed by volcanic activity dating back millions of years, giving it a unique and brilliant quality of exposing the ancient.

Bom Jesus do Monte Monastery, Braga, Portugal.

9. Caves/Geology

Although rocks are not necessarily exciting to most people at face value, it is pretty difficult not to appreciate the absolutely stunning formations and richness of the volcanic caves, ancient mountain-sides and brilliant sands of Portugal. You don’t have to be a geologist to enjoy the intricacy of the caves formed by lava and home to many different life forms. You’re bound to learn something new about the history of millions of years packed into the ripples of the rock and contour of the terrain from the Portuguese tours and guides that will peak your fascination in ways you may not have thought possible. If you do happen to be a lover of rock and volcanoes Portugal is an absolute must visit!

coastline of Cascais, The gates of hell, Portugal.

8. Serenity

The enormous power of the elements has given way to spaces of great peacefulness throughout many regions of Portugal. The freshness of the air, tranquility of the wildlife, and abundance of nature creates a widespread ambience of peace. Despite the marvels and unique highlights that Portugal has to offer, it is surprisingly quiet and neglected by tourists, especially in the most wondrous of areas! This allows Portugal to remain very cultured and unadorned lending to a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere both on land and at sea. This can certainly work to your benefit if you like the feeling of being immersed in another world without the business and intrusion of too many prompts. You can just relax and enjoy!

Breakfast in Lisbon Portugal

7. People/Culture

Highlighting the most interesting and lovable features of Portugal would be incomplete without giving credence to those who inhabit it. The Portuguese population gives rise to a number of cultural festivals that are immensely attended by fervent citizens who love to take part in the events that retell their history, express their roots, and come together as a community. The Portuguese are lively, warm, and adventurous. The folklore is vibrant and there is often traditional music played, home-made items for sharing, and elegant artwork – the signature of Portuguese art is beautiful blue paintings on white tile. The religious disposition among the people have inspired beautiful structures, art, and sentiments while also infusing the locals with bold personalities that can be very entertaining and fun!

Pecold / Shutterstock.com
Pecold / Shutterstock.com

6. Sea Excursions

Portugal offers water excursions like nowhere else. You will never forget the experience of absolute tranquility while watching the elegance of wild dolphins swim by in perfect serenity in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Nor will you be able to contain your excitement during the thrill of diving off of some of the most amazing peaks of land into the clear blue waters that are so powerful that they crash along the coastline in waves that reach colossal peaks. You can conquer your fear of scuba diving, or even gain the rare opportunity of catching sight of a whale. Simply swimming on the beaches of Portugal will give you a taste of what it means to experience the best of the best!

Portugal boat tours

 

5. The Hot Springs

Especially prominent on the archipelago islands off of the mainland, Portugal offers a vast amount of natural springs that you can view and explore. The hot springs consist of various areas in which water sprouts out of the earth and forms pools of different temperatures and sizes. In some of these areas you are able to bathe in the naturally heated pools, often rich with minerals used for facials or other health treatments. Some locations have been turned into public areas where you can have a spa day outside in these wild hot tubs and pools. In other areas the water is so hot that you must marvel from afar or enjoy some of the cuisine cooked by these amazing features of the Portuguese earth.

Furnas fumaroles, hot water spring in Sao Miguel, Azores

 4. Cuisine

There is no place in the world where seafood is more adored and masterfully prepared than on the coasts of Portugal. From fresh fish to octopus, you will not only find it all, but you’ll taste the sea like never before. Portuguese cuisine is fresh, authentic, and full of flavors that have been perfected over generations. The treat for your taste buds doesn’t stop at the delicacies of the sea but continues into vegetable dishes and fantastic desserts. The Portuguese will change your impression of potatoes forever in the best of ways and introduce you to the absolute wonders of passionfruit. Specialty desserts also include queijadas, a decadent pastry that you will have to experience yourself to understand!

Venus clams in tomato sauce

3.  Lisbon

Lisbon is the capital city of Portugal and the second-oldest capital city of Europe (after Athens!). The city is absolutely gorgeous with scenic vistas from every angle, saturated with rich history found everywhere from the roads to the marvellous architecture. The many treasures of Lisbon will captivate the historian and artist alike with a vintage feel and the charm of having survived many struggles. On the other hand, Lisbon is also home to some of the world’s most contemporary fashions, art, and entertainment! With Lisbon you get the best of both worlds (old and new) with the bonus of being in one of the least expensive capital cities in Europe – it’s geographical location also makes it an excellent base for further travel.

Lisbon Skyline Portugal

 2. The Landscape

The landscape of Portugal will amaze even those who maintain the highest appreciation for the wonders of nature. The contours of the earth construct gorgeous scenery constituted by mountains of velvet green and rippling countryside. The volcanic islands display unique profiles of land and beautiful natural formations such as waterfalls and caves. From many places, especially on the islands, everywhere you turn gives you a post-card like view. Immerse yourself in it all through hiking and traversing the lands or simply enjoy the beautiful view. Either way, if you enjoy being surrounded by large-scale natural beauty, you will love the experience of being in Portugal!

The lakes of Sete Cidades, Azores, Portugal

1. The Beaches

It cannot be contested that the beaches of Portugal are among the most incredible in the world and are among the country’s greatest highlights. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors with each one miraculously more beautiful than the next. Some are tame and exquisite, offering pure white sands and calm clear blue waters; others have a greater intensity, covered in black sands with specks of emerald green. The waters are always amazing whether it’s peacefully caressing the shore or crashing into the coast. You can experience moments of euphoria by jumping into or being forcefully swallowed by the waves before surfacing amidst the gorgeous lands surrounding you! Whatever your preference, you will surely fall in love with the beaches of Portugal.

Portuguese villa, Carvoeiro beach