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

Pintai Suchachaisri / Getty Images

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

John and Tina Reid / Getty Images

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

Harald Nachtmann / Getty Images

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

Photography Aubrey Stoll / Getty Images

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

Sylvain Sonnet / Getty Images

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

Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

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

Sylvain Sonnet / Getty Images

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

Artie Photography (Artie Ng) / Getty Images

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

David Soanes Photography / Getty Images

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

Carol Yepes / Getty Images

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

K’Nub / Getty Images

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

ChrisHepburn / Getty Images

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

Miemo Penttinen – miemo.net / Getty Images

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

Miguel Sanz / Getty Images

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

Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

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

Pol Albarrán / Getty Images

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

AleksandarGeorgiev / Getty Images

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

Francesco Riccardo Iacomino / Getty Images

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

ElOjoTorpe / Getty Images

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

Travelpix Ltd / Getty Images

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

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

The Top 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

10 Things to See and Do in Iceland

Iceland, a land where fire and ice co-exist, home to the best free education, the best life expectancy and the world’s biggest hot tub. An under-populated island marooned near the top of the globe that offers awe-inspiring landscapes, creative locals and breathtaking natural phenomenons. It is hard to imagine living though a lifetime without experiencing this magical place and from geothermal hot pools to soak in, to powerful waterfalls to a rainbow of colorful mountains, one must simply travel here to believe it. There is an abundance of epic experiences in Iceland to have, and here are just 10 things we think you should see and do, whether it’s your first trip or your 50th.

10. Experience the Northern Lights

Getting to see the Northern Lights is one of the biggest draws for travelers coming to Iceland and certainly one of the most unforgettable experiences a person can have in their lifetime. The best time to view the Northern Lights in Iceland is from September-April as those are the months with full dark nights. Unfortunately, weather can play a huge role in whether or not you can see the lights and its actually recommended you stay for at least 7 nights in Iceland to have the best shot in seeing them. Make sure to get out of the city and into the countryside for the best viewing, where there is no light pollution. There are many country cottages and hotels to book where you can see the lights from your front porch, or join a guided tour whether by land or even by boat. Remember to bundle up, bring your camera and prepare for an unbelievable light show.

Reykjavik, Iceland

9. Go Cold Water Snorkeling

It is one of the most extreme things you can do in Iceland, snorkeling or diving Silfra, also known as The Rift. It is home to astonishingly clear waters, fed by glaciers with an average temperature of 2 degrees C. Silfra is the rift between the American and Eurasia tectonic plates, meaning you can literally snorkel right between America and Europe. What you won’t find here are any fish, they tend to stay put in Thingvellir Lake, instead you will be treated to a dazzling display of color. Different types of algae provide a color-scope unlike anything you have seen before, ranging from all shades of blues to purples to oranges and yellow. Outfitted in thermal clothes plus a dry suit, snorkelers will not feel the icy water nor will you have to swim, as the dry suit’s buoyancy keeps you afloat. Discover the world’s clearest waters in Iceland.

Silfra Iceland

8. Go Whale Watching in Husavik

Whale watching is extremely popular in Iceland and there is no better place to experience this adventure than in Husavik. It is internationally recognized as one of the best locations in the world to see whales, and there is a higher chance of seeing whales here than any other place in Iceland. Although there are 23 species of whales that have been recorded in these waters, the most typical visitors are Humpbacks, Minke and Blue. Visitors are privy to the playful nature of the Humpbacks as they jump out of the water and slap their fins against the water. There are four companies to choose from when it comes to whale watching in this area and all of them offer something different. Choose from a wooden boat, speed boats or singing tours. Bundle up, remember your camera and take to the sea on an incredible adventure.

Photopictures / Shutterstock.com
Photopictures / Shutterstock.com

7. Take a Dip in Askja

It wouldn’t be a complete trip to Iceland without experiencing Askja Caldera where you can take a dip in the volcanic crater, but getting there is far from easy. The uninhabited interior of Iceland is only accessible for a few short weeks during the summer and making your way to this crater involves a long drive over some serious bumpy roadways. Viti is actually the name of the warm geothermal lake that is formed at the bottom of one of Askja’s craters, and it is here where you can swim in the stunning blue waters. Make sure to pack your hiking boots as it’s a trek to Viti through the Askja caldera, across black sand dunes. The water is warm, somewhat bubbly and slimy all at the same time, and certainly one of the most unforgettable experiences you will have.

Askja Caldera Iceland

6. Join a Runtur

The residents of Reykjavik like to party, every weekend, until the sun comes up and when in Iceland visitors should make it a point to join them at least once. Essentially the runtur is the weekend pub crawl when parties make their way around town and drink at multiple bars and clubs, but be prepared, the Icelanders know how to drink. In summer they drink to celebrate the long sunny days, in winter they drink to make it through the cold dark days. Warning: it’s not cheap to drink in Iceland so we suggest stocking up at the duty free store in the airport, you’ll thank us later. The runtur is a dressy affair so dress to impress and don’t dare step foot into the bars until after 9pm. Most activity takes place around Laugaveguy Street where quiet restaurants have been transformed into clubs and bars. 5am is when the bars start to empty and its now when you can indulge in one of the much loved street hot dogs and join in with your new friends in the main square until the sun comes up.

Polarpx / Shutterstock.com
Polarpx / Shutterstock.com

5. Explore Snæfellsjökull National Park

It is known as the jewel of West Iceland and it is one of the most visited parks in Iceland, home to Snaefellsjokull Volcano, the most famous volcano in Iceland. Visitors to the park will want to explore by driving or hiking, depending how much time you can spend here. Other options include joining a tour that will take you to the top of the glacier, a place said to be one of the seven great energy centers of the earth. We recommend staying at Hotel Budir, located on the edge of the peninsula overlooking the sea, mountains and waterfalls. Walk along the coast, stop at one of the many cafes, take in the spectacular colors and understand why this place is simply magical.

Snaefellsjokull Iceland

4. Explore Landmannalaugar

This remote encampment is a popular destination in the summer when it is accessible due to its incredible hiking opportunities and the steaming hot springs. It also happens to be the starting point of Laugavegurinn, a 2-4 day hike that is thought to be one of the best hikes in the world. Huts and campsites are on-route but require advance reservations. The hot spring here runs right past the campsite and bathing in the geothermal pool is a favorite activity. If you aren’t wanting to camp or spend a few days hiking, join a tour which will bring you here for the day where you can still enjoy the rainbow-colored mountains and hot springs.

Landmannalaugar Iceland

3. Visit Gullfoss Waterfall

It translates to Golden Waterfall and it is certainly the busiest and most famous of all the waterfalls here in Iceland. The waterfall is actually two separate waterfalls, the upper one has a drop of 11 meters while the lower one has a drop of 21 meters. On a sunny day there are tons of shimmering rainbows that hang over the water and the water can actually turn golden. You can hear the falls before you can see them as the wild water tumbles into the dramatic deep crevice. Visitors can stand at the top or walk down the path to the bottom. This natural wonder was almost lost when there were talks of harnessing the power of the river but luckily local land owner Sigridur Tomasdottir stopped those thoughts and is credited with actually saving the falls.

Gullfoss Waterfall Iceland

2. Explore Reykjavik

The world’s northernmost capital deserves to be explored, whether you only spend one night here or a whole week. Start off by going on a free walking tour that is accessible for everyone and takes about two hours, leading you around the center of Reykjavik. The best view of the city comes from the top of Hallgrimskirkja on Skolavorduhaed hill which can be reached by taking the elevator. If you happen to be in the city on a weekend, check out the flea market where you can buy yourself a hand knitted wool sweater, dine on local delicacies and mingle with the locals. End your night off at one of the local pubs, always teeming with hospitality and awesome live music.

Polarpx / Shutterstock.com
Polarpx / Shutterstock.com

1. Swim in the Blue Lagoon

It is hailed as one of the 25 wonders of the world and a trip to Iceland wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Blue Lagoon. Open every day of the year, reservations are required in advance to experience these geothermal waters. The warm waters are rich in minerals and bathing in them is reported to help people suffering from skin diseases. The lagoon is actually man-made, fed by the water output of a nearby geothermal plant and bathers are required to shower before getting in. Along with soaking in these healing waters, there are a variety of spa treatments available to guests including in-water massages, steam rooms, waterfalls and mud masks to try. Stunningly blue in color, healing in nature, you’ll never feel better after leaving this lagoon.

SurangaSL / Shutterstock.com
SurangaSL / Shutterstock.com

The Best Places To Spend New Year’s Eve in Europe

New Year’s Eve is a time most of us look forward to putting the old year behind us and starting with a fresh slate in the new year. Many people believe that how we ring in the new year also has bearing on what the year will bring us. For travelers, what could be better than celebrating with friends new and old in a far-flung locale, experiencing local traditions and creating new ones? These 10 European cities know how to ring in the new year; get your year started on the right foot by visiting one of these parties.

10. London

More than 250,000 people will crowd along the banks of the Thames to ring in the new year. Big Ben performs countdown services and the stroke of midnight marks the beginning a spectacular 10-minute display of lights and fireworks. The London Eye, the Shard and Parliament are among the iconic buildings lit up to welcome the new year. Looking to stay out of the cold and rain? Head to the soiree at the London Sky Bar, where you’ll find food and a live DJ, plus fabulous views of the revelry in the streets below. Free public transport all night will help get you to one of many after-parties around the city. Visit the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park and, on New Year’s Day, take in the annual parade, which features a procession of the Queen’s horses, among others.

London New Years Eve

9. Dubrovnik

Croatia may not be a top destination for New Year’s revelers, but the city of Dubrovnik gets extra points for managing to host an almost intimate party, despite the number of people who come out to celebrate. Less claustrophobic than parties in Zagreb and Split, the festivities in Dubrovnik center on Stradun, the city’s main street, where you’re likely to bump elbows with locals on their way to bars and restaurants filled to bursting with celebrating crowds. The city also hosts a number of Croatian performers, offering up a rich program of music and entertainment for the evening. Start with a cozy meal with friends or family, or, if you’re traveling with your honey, consider splurging on a meal at one of the city’s upscale establishments. Join the crowds in Stradun for the stroke of midnight, then keep the party going by stopping off at a local bar.

Photo by: Eventfully Croatia
Photo by: Eventfully Croatia

8. Stockholm

The Swedes celebrate Christmas in a relatively subdued style, which means they’re all the more ready to let loose and party on New Year’s Eve. Revelry is the order of the day in the nation’s capital, with parties becoming raucous and celebrations pouring into the streets. Fill up on a seafood at a restaurant before moving your party to Skansen, which has been the center of Stockholm’s celebrations since 1895. At the stroke of midnight, a well-known Swede will read the poem “Ring Out, Wild Bells,” as streamers fill the air. Party trumpets and fireworks erupt all around the city. After midnight, participate in some club-hopping and keep the party going late into the night; bars and clubs are often open until 3 or 4 in the morning, giving you plenty of time to celebrate the new year.

Stockholm New Years Eve

7. Paris

It should be little wonder that one of Europe’s most iconic cities makes the list as one of the best places to spend New Year’s. The Eiffel Tower is lit up to mark the occasion and crowds of revelers swarm the Champs-Elysees, which provides fantastic views of the tower. The area turns into a massive street party, with both champagne bottles and fireworks popping everywhere. If you’re looking for something a little different, try Montmarte for excellent views of fireworks without the crowd. If you want something romantic, book a dinner cruise along the Seine and listen to a live orchestra as you sail through the City of Lights. Restaurants and nightclubs also hold soirees so you have no shortage of options for how to ring in the new year. On New Year’s Day, the Grande Parade de Paris caps off the celebrations.

Paris New Years Eve

6. Vienna

Vienna, once the center of empire and a beautiful city beloved by intellectuals and artists, is perhaps the best place in Europe to experience an “Old World” New Year’s celebration. The city’s most famous party is the Grand Ball held at the Hofburg Palace, but there are plenty of other opportunities for revelry in the Austrian capital. The city’s famous Christmas markets transform into fairs and the New Year’s Eve Trail will lead you through the Old City. The party begins at 2 in the afternoon and continues long after the clock has struck midnight. Mulled wine is the drink of choice for this crowd. A spectacular fireworks display highlights the Wiener Prater fair at midnight. On New Year’s Day, join the crowd gathered outside City Hall to watch the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s concert on a giant screen.

Photo by: Room Suggestion
Photo by: Room Suggestion

5. Amsterdam

Amsterdam is known as something of a party city for North Americans, and on New Year’s Eve, the city shows that it deserves that reputation, with impromptu street parties filling the spaces between large, organized revelry in public places like Rembrandtplein, Nieumarkt, Museumplein and Dam Square. Outdoor concerts are complemented by indoor parties at bars. Fireworks go on sale the day before the celebrations, so you can be sure to see plenty of displays. Grab a perch on one of the city’s many bridges and watch the colors explode across the nighttime sky, mirrored in the water below. Grab a glass of champagne and some fried treats (like oliebollen, viamse frites and bitterballen) from the street vendors, then head to the club to keep the party going.

Photo by: Amsterdam
Photo by: Amsterdam

4. Reykjavik

Reykjavik receives only 4 hours of sun on New Year’s Eve, which means the locals are more than ready to celebrate with a festival of light. They start with community bonfires, meant to burn away the troubles of the old year. There are no official fireworks displays organized by the city; rather, there are numerous displays put on by private citizens. Fireworks will often start about half-an-hour before midnight, lighting up every corner of the city as almost 200,000 people get involved. Head to Perlan or Landakotskirkja church for the best views of the city. Plenty of small, private parties keep things hopping, and bars and clubs remain open well after midnight. Since Icelanders tend to go out late anyway, you’ll often find revelers up until the wee hours of the morning, dancing the night away.

Photo by: Guide to Iceland
Photo by: Guide to Iceland

3. Istanbul

Istanbul has been on the rise as a must-see destination for travelers, and what better time than New Year’s? While visiting this vibrant European capital is an experience and a half at any time of year, Istanbul one-ups itself on New Year’s Eve. Start your evening with a traditional Turkish meze dinner in a restaurant in Bebek or Istiklal Caddesi, where celebrations are a little tamer. Afterwards, join the jubilant crowd in the streets of Taksim or another part of the city, where revelers will organize impromptu street parties. If the crowded streets aren’t your scene, you can always book a river cruise along the Bosphorus and watch the celebrations from afar as you sail through the city. The best part is that you’ll have one of the best views for the stunning fireworks at the stroke of midnight.

Istanbul new years eve

2. Prague

Prague is known as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities and one of the most beautiful in the world. The “city of a hundred spires” comes alive on New Year’s Eve, which is also known as Silvestr. The streets will be packed with a rag-tag crowd of revelers, and bars, clubs and restaurants will be filled with party-goers. Much of the fun takes place at Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square. Fireworks are set off all around town (and perhaps with a bit of dangerous abandon), with one of the best displays occurring at Letna Gardens, which can be watched from nearby bridges and embankments. Champagne bottles are smashed during the celebrations, which means you might want to bring a helmet to this party, but who could resist ringing in the new year in the heart of Europe?

Prague New Years Eve

1. Berlin

Germany’s capital has something of a reputation as a party city throughout the year, so it makes sense that the city has a go-big-or-go-home attitude toward New Year’s festivities. The highlight is undoubtedly “Party Mile,” a 2-km stretch between Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column, lined with bars, food stalls, music stages, party tents and laser light shows. The fireworks begin promptly at midnight, as do the toasts to the new year. Many people then hit the dancefloors of the city’s clubs, partying until well after sun-up. The Berliner Silversterlauf, the infamous New Year’s Eve “pancake run,” is another tradition in the city. Some people run the free 4-km race on New Year’s Day. Berlin expects to welcome approximately a million revelers to help ring in 2016—maybe you’ll be one of them.

Berlin New Years Eve

 

10 Interesting Facts About Iceland

In recent years, Iceland’s gained a reputation among backpackers, hikers and travelers seeking a little bit more adventure. From the outside, it can be hard to understand the attraction: what’s so great about this island in the North Atlantic, battered by rough seas and inhabited by fewer than 350,000 people? Talk to anyone who’s been to Iceland, though, and you’ll discover an entirely new perspective: Iceland is one of the most unique experiences available to travelers precisely because of its small population, harsh climate and northerly latitudes. These 10 interesting facts will help you get to know Iceland a little better.

10. A Land of Extremes

Perhaps the first thing anyone will note about Iceland is its harsh climate. The island lies in the North Atlantic, off the coast of Greenland. The island is battered by rough seas and the northerly clime make Iceland less than forgiving. The island was formed by a volcanic hotspot beneath the ocean, and, due to its age, most of the volcanoes are still active. Glaciers also cover much of the island; visitors flock to see some of the more famous ones. Iceland also has fjords and some of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe, as well as geysers. In the south, rocky basalt formations and black sand beaches appeal to tourists. The northern lights are visible during the long winter nights and in the summer the sun sets for just a few hours. The small population means much of the landscape is still wild, making for great hiking and camping.

Iceland waterfall

9. Powered from the Inside Out

Icelanders have had to make do with their surroundings since they arrived on the island over a millennia ago. Often, that has meant being relatively resourceful. One of the things Iceland is abundant in is geothermal heat, as evidenced by continued volcanic activity on the island. Since the island sits over an ocean hotspot, there’s plenty of energy to be harnessed. These days, pretty much the entire island is run on geothermal energy (although hydroelectricity is also generated from some of the island’s waterfalls). A full 85% of Iceland’s energy is renewable and the country is also the world’s largest energy per-capita producer. Iceland is also one of few nations that has hydrogen filling stations for cars powered by fuel cells, lessening the transportation industry’s reliance on imported fossil fuels. Iceland’s energy sector could continue to expand, as many resources have yet to be developed.

Iceland Volcano

8. Viking Heritage

Iceland was settled by Norse explorers traveling west from Norway and Denmark. While the climate wasn’t exactly forgiving, what with the volcanoes and whatnot, the vikings settled permanently. For a long time, Iceland wasn’t a very attractive prospect for people looking to emigrate from Europe, with the result that today, the Icelandic population is still very homogenous—and almost everyone on the island can trace their family history back to one of the original viking settlers. Since the population is also relatively small—just over 300,000 people—many Icelanders have personal ties that have been maintained over generations. You can even look up the phone numbers for the prime minister and the president in the phone book. Iceland’s viking heritage is evident in other ways too: many historic sites show evidence of Norse cultural practices and modern Icelandic is very closely related to Old Norse.

Iceland monument

7. Keep Warm with Icelandic Wool

One thing Iceland is known for is its wool industry. While cultivating crops on the island is difficult thanks to the harsh climate, there is plenty of grazing land for herbivores like the Icelandic sheep. Sheep were brought with the first settlers and have been bred for over a millennia now. The sheep has a dual coat: a long outer coat and a fine inner coat. When processed together, the 2 coats make lopi, a type of wool only produced from Icelandic sheep. Lopi is used to make lopapeysa, traditional Icelandic sweaters, which are renowned for being light and warm—even when wet. Lopapeysa are popular souvenirs for visitors—and they can be a great investment at the start of your trip if you plan to backpack around the country. Other products, such as mittens, hats, scarves, socks and even blankets can be made of lopi.

iclandic sheep

6. A Cuisine Like No Other

Few people would laud Icelandic cuisine; in fact, many people have no idea what Icelanders eat. Unlike countries with world-renowned cuisines, Icelandic fare has its roots in survival and is more likely to seem like homey comfort food than a five-star gourmet meal. Fish, lamb and dairy products feature prominently in the traditional Icelandic diet. Potatoes, pickled cabbage and green beans are often served, along with hearty rye bread. If you’re brave, you can try harkarl, fermented shark that is considered by some to be Iceland’s “national dish.” Wash it down with brennevin, a potent type of vodka flavored with caraway seeds or angelica. If you happen to be in town in January, you can enjoy Þorramatur, a buffet meal of traditional dishes served during that month. Not feeling quite as bold? Try skyr, an Icelandic dairy product similar to yogurt, but with a milder flavor.

fish sandwiches

5. Influential Music

Iceland may be a small country, but the effect of their music industry has been felt far and wide. While Iceland doesn’t produce many stars, Icelandic music itself is known around the world, thanks to performers like Björk, Of Monsters and Men and Sigur Rós. Other Icelandic artists have made contributions to the international jazz scene and you know that, with strong viking heritage, viking metal is also a popular genre. The independent music scene is strong in the country and the country’s most important music festival is Iceland Airwaves, an annual event that sees homegrown and international artists take to the clubs of Reykjavik during the course of a week. One reason for music’s importance in Icelandic culture may be its roots in rimur, rhyming ballads that can be traced back to the tradition of skaldic poetry of the 12th and 13th centuries.

Christian Bertrand / Shutterstock.com
Christian Bertrand / Shutterstock.com

4. Internet Culture

Icelanders have wholeheartedly embraced the internet. Given the relatively limited geography of the island and the fact the population is less than 350,000, it might not be surprising that 95% of Icelanders have internet access, the highest proportion of any country in the world. Iceland has consistently improved their rankings on development of their telecommunications sector, ranking 12th on a Network Readiness Index and 3rd in the UN International Telecommunication Union. CCP Games, the developer of the MMOs EVE Online and Dust 514, is based in Iceland, and almost all Icelandic businesses use the internet to conduct their activities. Five submarine communications cables connect Iceland to the rest of the world, and almost all internet connections in the country are broadband, with most using DSL. Iceland has exceptionally strong protections for freedom of speech, which extend to the internet, and were strengthened by the 2010 Icelandic Modern Media Initiative.

telecommunications tower iceland

3. Drivers’ Nation

It’s easy to imagine that Iceland, like other European countries, relies heavily on public transportation, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Given the small size of the island and the relative lack of urbanization, along with the small population, there just isn’t the demand. In fact, Iceland currently has no railways and personal car is the way to travel; car ownership is approximately 1.5 vehicles per person. Outside of Reykjavik, there are relatively few urban areas; much of Iceland remains rural, with small towns and villages scattered around the shores of the island. Further inland, the interior of the island is practically uninhabited. About two thirds of the island’s 8,000+ miles of road remain unpaved, as the great majority are little-used rural roads. Route 1, or Ring Road, is paved and traverses the island’s perimeter, making it easy to hop in your car and tour the country.

Iceland roads

2. Nightlife in Reykjavik

As Iceland’s capital and, really, its only major city, Reykjavik is the de facto center for all cultural happenings in Iceland. Bars and clubs are a major part of the vibrant Icelandic music scene and nightlife is centered on Reykjavik. We’ve mentioned before that Icelanders tend to go out late and stay out even later; clubs often don’t fill up until around midnight, even on weekends, when bars and clubs will stay open until 4:30 a.m. Many bars and clubs function as cafes during the day, then transform in the evening. One reason Icelanders may not head out until late is that most people “predrink” at home, enjoying a drink or two (or several) with friends before heading out to the clubs where alcohol is a good deal more expensive. The Iceland Airwaves music festival takes place each fall in local venues.

Iceland nightclub
Lindsay Douglas / Shutterstock.com

1. Coastline Lives

Although it’s the largest city in the country, Reykjavik isn’t the only place Icelanders live; a good many of them (almost 1/3 of the population, actually) live outside of Reyjavik and the Capital Region. Outside of this region, however, most of the places people live are small towns and villages; Iceland is highly rural. For many villages, fishing is the main industry, which helps to explain why so many establishments are located near to the ocean, leaving Iceland’s interior rather uninhabited. Many of Iceland’s “biggest” population centers have fewer than 30,000 people; depending on the region you’re in, some of the “biggest” towns have around 2,000 to 3,000 inhabitants! Fishing has been a more reliable source of food and income for Icelanders than agriculture, which helps explain the apparent preference for coastal locations.

Vik Iceland

5 European Fall Festivals to Beat the Winter Blues

Summer is over, thus the days are shorter, the air is colder, and the hats and gloves are out…but, just because the snow is coming does not mean we should go into hibernation! With all the rocking fall festivals in the lineup across the pond, now is the perfect time to head to Europe (and make your summer vacation last just a little bit longer)!

5. Oktoberfest, Germany

Beer lovers and partiers rejoice! Munich is the stomping grounds for Oktoberfest, an all-you-can-drink beer festival from September 19th to October 4th, 2015.  While Oktoberfest is held all over Germany, Munich is where all the real action is. This event is worth planning a trip to Europe, and although the festival has already passed, it books up quick, so get ahead of the game and start planning! This festival is all about pounding back a pint (or several) with the locals, who are up at the crack of dawn drinking, celebrating, and loving life. What better time to join in on the fun! Das Boot anyone?

Intrepix / Shutterstock.com
Intrepix / Shutterstock.com

4. Festes de la Mercè, Spain

Year round is a giant street party in Barcelona, so for there to be a festival at the end of September claiming to be the city’s greatest party, you know it has to be epic. From the 18th to the 24th of September, the festival is the official send-off of summer, and the city bids adieu with a bang. The streets literally come alive with fire during the Correfoc (there is a slightly less intense fire run for kids earlier in the day, while the event for adults waits until dusk), and many parades and street vendors invade the city with music, dance, great food and delicious drink. You’ll see street performers, human pyramids, projection shows, and all the fun you can possibly imagine. It is not just for the tourists, the locals anticipate this event all summer. But come to Barcelona for this festival and you can’t help but be thankful that summer has gone. It’s an unforgettable festival sure to keep you energized for the coming winter.

Photo by: La Merce Barcelona
Photo by: La Merce Barcelona

3. Iceland Airwaves, Iceland

From November 4th to 8th this year, nearly 9,000 people will take over the island of Iceland. Downtown Reykjavik is overrun with eager festival goers and partiers looking to take in the latest and greatest musical acts. The setting couldn’t be more perfect for this festival. The music seems to seep into your soul and extend into the vast wilderness surrounding the capital. People who attend are eager to party, Reykjavik is a small town, so if you are looking for peace and quiet, maybe avoid Iceland during this time. But, if you are looking for great music, fun locals, new friends, and memories you won’t forget, head to Iceland!

Photo by: Iceland Airwaves
Photo by: Iceland Airwaves

2. Wine Festival, Moldova

In one of the most underrated countries in Europe is one of the most underrated festivals of the year. The Moldova Wine Festival, held every year during the first weekend of October. The Moldovan’s are proud of their wine, as they should be. Moldovan’s wine is rich, delicious, and, consumed in large quantities over the weekend of this festival. Their wine is celebrated all over the country, but the main events are held in the capital, Chisinau. Sponsors set up booths all over the main square for taste testing, while locals provide tons of entertainment like dancing and music.  The locals welcome travellers to their festival, and are eager to have a great time. Moldova is the perfect place to extend your summer vacation!

Photo by: Moldova Wine Day
Photo by: Moldova Wine Day

1. Lollapalooza, Berlin

Two straight days of non-stop, heart pounding music, friends, and awesome vibes in one of the most eclectic cities in the world is what you sign up for when you head to Lollapalooza. Some of the world’s best and most well-known artists from a plethora of genres take over Berlin and lead you in a massive, city wide, 48 hour party. And being the first European edition of the festival, you can be sure that the city will be pulling out all of the stops. Being an international city, expect amazing food and drink, unbelievable music, and an art and social environment unlike any other. Berlin is the place to be in September, so pack your most colorful clothes, party shoes and get ready to tear up the streets for Lollapalooza!

Photo by: Lollapalooza Berlin
Photo by: Lollapalooza Berlin

10 Things to Know About Iceland’s Blue Lagoon

Chances are you’ve heard about Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon. Even if you weren’t aware this was an actual place you can visit, you may have seen some of their products available for sale in spas or beauty salons. Blue Lagoon isn’t just a great place for a getaway, it’s an economic powerhouse. But that’s not the only reason Iceland’s Blue Lagoon has become the leading attraction in the island-nation. The Blue Lagoon is a must-see if you’re visiting Iceland; here are 10 things you should know about it before you go.

10. Geothermal Power

Iceland is a tiny island nation located in the north Atlantic, parallel to Greenland and between North America and Europe. The island was formed by volcanic forces and there are still active volcanoes today. That means that Iceland has abundant geothermal energy, which the nation uses to power pretty much everything. The Blue Lagoon is actually a result of those two features—the volcanic formation and the use of geothermal power—coming together. The Lagoon is actually man-made: it’s a retaining pond for “waste” water from the nearby geothermal power plant. Once the water has gone through the turbines, it can’t be reused in energy production, so it’s released into the pond. Don’t worry though—the water is anything but dirty or polluted. The unique, naturally occurring mix of minerals mean it can only be cycled through the turbines once.

OSORIOartist / Shutterstock.com
OSORIOartist / Shutterstock.com

9. Minerals in the Water

Iceland’s volcanic nature means that some minerals and elements occur more frequently in the soil. Volcanic ash spewed out of the volcanoes and the presence of lava contributes to high incident rates of some minerals. The water that passes through the geothermal power plant and then flows into the Blue Lagoon is also heavily mineralized; it contains high concentrates of silica, which is what gives the water its characteristic milky-blue color. The mineral content is also the reason the water can’t be recycled through the turbines in the power plant. Instead, the water is allowed to reabsorb into the ground, while the minerals are left behind as a deposit. This process eventually renders the ground impermeable, thanks to a thick layer of mineral deposits, which means the power plant has to continually dig new ponds.

Andrzej Fryda / Shutterstock.com
Andrzej Fryda / Shutterstock.com

8. Healing Properties

When the Svartsengi power plant opened the retaining pond that would become the Blue Lagoon in 1976, nobody envisioned it becoming the major tourist attraction it is today. Word soon got round, however, that the water in the “lagoon” had medicinal properties for people suffering from skin diseases such as psoriasis. Since the water is rich in minerals like silica and sulfur, people still maintain that the water of the Blue Lagoon has medicinal properties, even for people who aren’t suffering from skin ailments. By 1981, people were flocking to bathe in the Blue Lagoon and reap the benefits of the richly mineralized water. In 1992, the Blue Lagoon company officially opened to the public. Today, the area has hotels and spa amenities, but the waters of the Lagoon itself remain the main draw for many people.

dmitry_islentev / Shutterstock.com
dmitry_islentev / Shutterstock.com

7. All-Inclusive Luxury

The Blue Lagoon isn’t just a thermal spa; it’s grown to become an all-inclusive luxury resort. The LAVA restaurant is built into the side of a cliff, while the Blue Café provides ready-to-go snacks and refreshments. You can order drinks from the Lagoon bar without even leaving the water. The resort also offers a range of spa services, such as an in-water massage and beauty treatments like the silica mud mask. Saunas, steam rooms and a relaxation area are all available. There’s even an exclusive lounge and the onsite Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel is only a 10-minute walk from the main pool. The hotel has its own private pool—and you can even book a doctor’s appointment if you’re seeking relief from a skin ailment like psoriasis. With all of this, it’s little wonder why a trip to the Blue Lagoon has a hefty price tag.

Arseniy Krasnevsky / Shutterstock.com
Arseniy Krasnevsky / Shutterstock.com

6. Support for Research

Since the waters of the Blue Lagoon are purported to have healing properties, it’s not exactly surprising that the Blue Lagoon company has some research interests. The company operates a research and development facility that explores how skin disease, such as psoriasis, can be cured or helped by mineral-rich water. Of course, given Blue Lagoon’s line of spa products, it’s also likely that the company wishes to promote products it can create from the waters of the Blue Lagoon, even if the health benefits aren’t proven. The Svartsengi power plant is involved in research of a different kind: a small, nearby station monitors how quickly mineral deposits form, thus keeping a close eye on the environmental impact of geothermal energy production in Iceland. As our knowledge improves, we both better understand how mineral deposits form and how we can make geothermal energy cleaner.

Photo by: Blue Lagoon Iceland
Photo by: Blue Lagoon Iceland

5. Hot Lava Nearby

The Blue Lagoon is situated over an active lava field in Grindavik, on the Reykjanes Peninsula on the southwest of Iceland. It is about an hour’s drive outside of Reykjavik, the capital city. The Svartsengi power plant vents superheated water from the ground near a lava flow, which runs first through the turbines to generate electricity, and then through a heat exchanger to power municipal water heating. The water is then fed into the lagoon and refreshed every two days. The lava field is permeable, allowing the mineral-rich water to filter back into the earth, leaving behind its mineral deposit. The lava field ranges in thickness from about 20” to 3.3 feet. The lava is what allows for the geothermal energy plant and why the water in the Blue Lagoon stays steady at a temperature of around 38 degrees Celsius.

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

4. Iceland’s Most Visited

Despite not even having been around for a quarter-century yet, the Blue Lagoon spa has emerged as Iceland’s most visited attraction. It’s hard to say which came first: increasing tourism to Iceland, which then resulted in the popularity of the Blue Lagoon, or the Blue Lagoon being revered as a place to visit, thus resulting in a boom in Iceland tourism. It’s difficult to imagine that, on an island with so many natural wonders and gifts, this man-made spa would become the premier attraction, but every year, thousands upon thousands of people discover the Blue Lagoon for themselves. In fact, the spa is so popular that you need to book your tickets in advance. While you can still purchase tickets “at the door,” Blue Lagoon doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be admitted when you arrive if you haven’t pre-booked with them.

People Bathing at Blue Lagoon

3. Tickets in All Shapes and Sizes

Speaking of tickets, in addition to pre-booking, you’ll find that there are different ticket packages available. The most popular package, according to Blue Lagoon’s website, is the “premium” package, which includes a bathrobe, a skincare trial pack, slippers and a towel, as well as a drink. The package sells online for 75 euros in the summer and 65 euros in the winter. Yes, that’s right—the package prices vary depending on the season you’re booking. Two cheaper packages—the standard visitor and the comfort package—are available, while the luxury package is the most expensive and expansive package. Walk-ins are charged an extra five euros per person. Children, aged two to 13, are admitted free, and discounted prices are available for teenagers (ages 14 and 15) and disabled persons.

Spa

2. Movie Star

Did you know the Blue Lagoon is a movie star? That might be stretching the truth a little bit—but the Lagoon has been a set location for a number of television and film productions. It has been featured in reality TV series such as the Amazing Race, when it was used as a pit stop during the first leg of the 6th season, and Britain’s Next Top Model, when it served as a photo shoot location during the 5th cycle. The film Hostel: Part II filmed all its thermal spa scenes at the Blue Lagoon, and the Lagoon was featured in the documentary Look Alive, about the band Incubus. Given the spa’s world renown, it’s little wonder that filmmakers and television producers would look to it to lend authenticity to a film or to provide an “exotic” locale for audiences to experience.

Photo by:  Britain & Ireland's Next Top Model
Photo by: Britain & Ireland’s Next Top Model

1. It’s Beautiful

Perhaps the number one reason filmmakers have picked the Blue Lagoon as a set location is the awe-inspiring beauty of the area. Nestled between outcrops of black volcanic rock, the milky-blue pool of water is picturesque. The spa has cultivated an image of luxury as well, with exclusive lounges and well-appointed hotel suites onsite. Located on the lava field, there isn’t much in the way of flora or fauna around, but the dark rocks provide a breathtaking antithesis to the blue of the pond. In the evening, the Lagoon takes on ethereal colors as the sun goes down, lights reflecting on the water’s surface and the sky mirroring the surface of the water (or perhaps vice versa). It’s not hard to see why people would flock here, medicinal benefits or no, when the landscape is just another testament to why Iceland is an amazing place to explore.

SurangaSL / Shutterstock.com
SurangaSL / Shutterstock.com

10 Gorgeous Pools You Won’t Believe Are Public

Lose the notion that public pools are just a concrete chlorine-filled square in the ground or a hot and humid indoor pool and let yourself imagine swimming underneath a beautiful arched glass ceiling, or soaking in geothermal waters with healing properties. Although there are some stunningly beautiful pools that are for hotel or resort guests only, there also happens to be incredibly gorgeous public pools, all over the world. From Hungary to Texas to Iceland, here are 10 gorgeous pools you won’t believe are open to the public.

10. Bondi Icebergs Club -Bondi, Australia

The famous Bondi Baths have been a landmark of Bondi Beach for over 100 years and are widely known for being absolutely breathtaking. The Olympic sized swimming pool was actually built into the rocks and is naturally filled with saltwater that rolls in on the ocean tide. Be warned however though that because of the concrete nature of the pool, the water is actually slightly colder than the ocean. Most visitors like to visit in the summertime when the water temperature reaches the high 70’s. Overlooking the Tasman Sea while doing laps in this pool is something everyone should experience once in a lifetime. You may even find yourself swimming next to a couple fish or picking up seashells from the bottom. There is even a smaller kid’s pool located right beside the main pool for the wee ones to have a dip.

PomInOz / Shutterstock.com
PomInOz / Shutterstock.com

9. Krapfenwaldbad Pools -Vienna, Austria

The neighborhood of Krapfenwaldlbad is one of the loveliest in all of Vienna and just happens to be the home of the beautiful park that features some of the finest swimming pools. There are a total of four heated pools and the main one is perched on a hill overlooking the city. It looks more like an infinity pool that is surrounded by Vienna’s skyline and that is exactly why this pool makes the list. Amenities are in abundance here and include a restaurant with a bar, table tennis, soccer, beach volleyball and a children’s playground. While the pool itself may not be the best looking on this list, the views over the city and vineyards while being surrounded by beautiful people that make it gorgeous.

Photo by: Wien Info
Photo by: Wien Info

8. Venetian Pool -Coral Gables, Florida

What was once an old rock quarry has been transformed into a beautiful pool overflowing with waterfalls and caves. Located in Coral Gables, the Venetian Pool is fed by spring water from an underground aquifer. This historic pool has actually been around since 1921 and surrounded by palm trees and nothing else in sight; you will forget you are actually at a public pool and instead feel like you are on a tropical island. Roaring waterfalls, a sandy beach, nooks carved into the coral and fresh chemical free water are all found here. You will find lots of families enjoying these waters as there is a shallow kiddy area that is connected to the main pool by an island and stone bridge. Feel free to bring your own picnic in here and spend the day away from reality.

Venetian Pool, Coral Gables

7. Thermae Bath Spa -Bath, England

One of the city’s main attractions has always been its famous hot water springs, as they are the warmest geothermal springs found in the UK. For 28 years residents and visitors didn’t have access to these waters and finally in 2006 the Thermae Bath Spa re-opened. Part spa, part pool, this bath house is breathtakingly beautiful, combining both new and old architecture. The open-air rooftop pool shines a brilliant blue and gives visitors views of the historic city, both day and night. But inside it may be the Minerva pool that is even more gorgeous, and futuristic looking. Bright white columns stretch down deep into the pool creating flowing curves and unusual shapes. This pool also happens to feature a lazy river, massage jets and a whirlpool inside. It is not just about the gorgeous public pools here, the building itself is often enough to stop people in their tracks to take a second look.

Eddy Galeotti / Shutterstock.com
Eddy Galeotti / Shutterstock.com

6. Kastrup Sea Bath -Kastrup, Denmark

This award winning open-air pool is located just south of Copenhagen and is conceived to be a sculptural dynamic form that can be seen from the beach, air and sea. The circular structure is meant to provide swimmers with shelter from the winds and to provide washrooms and changing rooms. Reaching the sea bath is as easy as walking out on the long wooden pier which extends from the shore. Once reaching the sea bath, visitors will find a diving platform, springboard, and a variety of benches, plateaus and nooks. Give that the structure is over 100 meters away from the shore, the water is deep enough to try and dive as far down as you dare. When designers created this pool they made it accessible for anyone, creating ramps and other features that allow the less mobile population full access to it. Free to everyone, anytime, this is one amazing public pool.

Photo by: Visit Copenhagen
Photo by: Visit Copenhagen

5. Yrjonkatu Swimming Hall -Helsinki, Finland

It is the oldest public swimming hall in all of Finland and the architecture of the building is both historically and artistically noteworthy. On the main level you will find the impressive pool in the massive hallway with its tiled floors and arched columns. With high ceilings, balconies looking over the pool and looking more like an ancient bath; you will feel transported back in time. Men and women have different swim days here as most people choose to swim nude, and it was actually law until 2001 that no one could enter the pool with a swimsuit. The upstairs in this building has private cubicles with day beds, your choice of sauna and a place to get a drink and snack. Although built in the 1920’s, this pool remains impeccably clean and the perfect way to immerse yourself in the Finnish culture.

Photo by: Inside Out Helsinki
Photo by: Inside Out Helsinki

4. Badeschiff -Berlin, Germany

This floating swimming pool is actually located right in Berlin, in the East Harbour section of the River Spree. It was designed so that citizens could swim in a sanitary environment near the river as the Spree itself is too polluted for safe swimming. The pool shines a brilliant blue and was actually converted from the hull of a vessel. In the summertime the area is packed full of hammocks, sunbathers on the sand, visitors playing beach volleyball and a beach bar. During the winter this pool actually gets a roof and becomes an epic sauna experience. Two Finnish Saunas and a roofed pool attract all sorts of locals and visitors alike to visit here in the winter, mainly in the buff. Insider tip, visit at night when it is all lit up either during the summer or winter for a romantic escape from reality.

Photo by: H. Fuller via Flickr
Photo by: H. Fuller via Flickr

3. Barton Springs Pool -Austin, Texas

This public pool is absolutely humongous, sitting at over three acres in size. It also happens to be unique in that it is fed from underground springs, keeping an average temperature of 70 degrees all year round, perfect for those hot Texas days. This pool is open to the public six days a week and varies in price throughout the months, ranging from free to a mere three dollars. The depth of the pool ranges from 0-18 feet and is surrounded by an abundance of grassy areas. Diving boards, lifeguards, rock walls and the beauty of nature are all present here. Thought to be more of a swimming hole than a pool, Barton Springs has drawn visitors from all over the world. Perhaps it is the enormity of it that makes it so gorgeous, perhaps is the turquoise color of the water, or maybe it is the grace they have taken to ensure it fits right into the landscape. Whatever the reason is, make sure to put this on your list of public pools to swim in.

Photo by: City of Austin
Photo by: City of Austin

2. Gellert Baths -Budapest, Hungary

From the moment you enter into the bathhouse you are transported a hundred years back in time where art and architecture played such an important role in society. This gorgeous public bath house was built in the early 1900’s and has since undergone extensive renovations, making it even more beautiful than before, if that is even possible. Towering columns line both the pools, one an open air outdoor wave pool, the other an effervescent swimming pool. The indoor palace pool may just be slightly more gorgeous with its arched glass ceiling and two-story balconies. The painted windows, the architecture, the adorning fountains and the warm therapeutic waters make this a must stop on any trip to Budapest.

Botond Horvath / Shutterstock.com
Botond Horvath / Shutterstock.com

1. The Blue Lagoon -Reykjavik, Iceland

It is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland but that certainly doesn’t take away from its beauty. Not so much of a public swimming pool and more of an oasis of relaxation, this man made lagoon is stunningly beautiful. The waters are rich in minerals and stay at an average of 99-102 degrees all year round. The water color itself is enough to rave about; a brilliant blue accompanied by white steam that often blows off the extremely hot spots. An interesting fact about the water here is that it is actually white and it is in fact the sun that makes it look blue. These geothermal waters are thought to have healing powers and while you won’t find any diving boards or kids splashing around, you will find plenty of people rubbing their faces with mud and relaxing in the serene setting.

SurangaSL / Shutterstock.com
SurangaSL / Shutterstock.com

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

8 Cities that Have Public Transit Figured Out

Remember the days when you couldn’t catch a bus past midnight, the days where the sun and rain wreaked havoc on the faded schedule taped to the post at the bus stop, and the days of the graffiti filled subway stations? When we think about public transportation these are often the memories we recall but we are here to show you that public transit systems have been taken to a new level. Replacing these memories are those of clean stations, touch screen kiosks, 24 hour service, and robots helping you on the way. These systems are fast, efficient and cost effective and most of them even have Wi-Fi. With subways, buses, trams, streetcars and bicycles; the possibilities for getting around are endless. Welcome to the new world of public transit. Sit back, relax and read on to discover the eight cities that have really excellent public transit.

8. Melbourne, Australia

Boasting the largest tram network in the world and the innovative bike share program it’s no surprise Melbourne makes the cut. The bike share program was initially affected negatively by the introduction of a mandatory helmet wearing law. Since that law, Melbourne has offered free helmets and helmet rental opportunities that has increased the use of this program. The myki card is an added bonus to this transit system. Easily purchased at over 800 retail locations, stations and ticket offices, this card calculates the lowest fare available to you every time you “touch on touch off” a train, tram or bus. Melbourne is also home to the City Circle Tram; a free historical tram experience taking you past many of Melbourne’s landmarks.

melbourne tram

7.  Vienna, Austria

Surprised to see Vienna pop up on this list? After you’ve discovered one of the most affordable, cleanest, efficient, safe and rarely overcrowded public transit systems you will change your mind. Vienna boasts a system that is made up of subways, local trains, trams and busses. Flat fare tickets that can be used for any of the above modes of transit makes it just that much easier. Tickets are easily purchased throughout the stations, at stores or even on the bus and tram. Rarely waiting more than five minutes for service and a late night bus that runs throughout the night and into the wee hours of the morning is why Vienna is the model of so many public transit systems in Europe.

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

6. Paris, France

In a city designed for exploring the “hidden” nooks and cracks, Paris does a fine job of providing ways to do exactly that. One of the greatest public transit methods Paris has put in places is Velib; the biggest bike sharing program in the world. Free for the first 30 minutes, self-serve, available 24/7 and ease of access all contribute to this overwhelmingly popular choice of transport in the city. For those non-bikers, Paris also offers the 16 line metro, commuter rail, buses, boats and the RER. Along with being one of the world’s safest and most efficient transit systems, Paris takes their public transportation very seriously and is adding to their tram with the opening of four new lines in the past two years.

paul prescott / Shutterstock.com
paul prescott / Shutterstock.com

5. Munich, Germany

The U-Bahn and the S-Bahn are both run by the Munich Transit Authority which might explain the cleanliness, safety and on time performance this public transit system prides itself on. Ease of access along with only having to validate your ticket once rather than at every transfer or stop reduces congestion on this busy system. With the central train station located next to historic downtown it’s easy to connect to the rest of Europe in a timely fashion. Not to be forgotten is the amazing fact that trains in the central area depart every two minutes. With a fare that won’t stretch your wallet, this city has truly made it easy to get around.

s-bahn and u-bahn munich

4.  Tokyo, Japan

Known as having one of the best public transportation systems in the world, Tokyo uses a combination of trains, subways and buses. It is important to note that during rush hour, Tokyo subways are often packed full, being a testament to how efficient the rail system is. Once in the station, one will notice not only the cleanliness of it but the ease of where to go with floor markings to tell you where to stand. Once on the train you will sink into your heated seat and read the digital message in both Japanese and English on what the next stop is. Tokyo’s rail system in uncanny in its reliability and punctuality. Exactly what one wants in a public transportation system.

Stephen Bures / Shutterstock.com
Stephen Bures / Shutterstock.com

3. Hong Kong, China

With approximately 90% of all travel in Hong Kong being done by mass transit it is imperative that this city has public transit figured out. Luckily for all those transit users, Hong Kong has gone above and beyond with their system. The subways system is responsible for most of this travel and their trains travel on time, every time. While on the train, don’t fret about losing that phone call because 3G cellular network is available on all commutes, even underground. The Automated People Mover in Hong Kong’s airport is also a futuristic transportation method we just have to mention. Designed to take passengers to gates, immigration, customs, baggage claim and the SkyPier; this driverless people mover is a lesson in efficiency.

Alan49 / Shutterstock.com
Alan49 / Shutterstock.com

2. Taipei, Taiwan

The Taipei MRT subway system in not only one of the most expensive systems in the world but has been voted the safest and most reliable for numerous years in a row. LED screens offer passengers times of trains in both Mandarin and English while announcements are made in four different languages. The cleanliness is unchallenged by the prohibition of eating, drinking or gum chewing in any of the stations and cars. An honorable mention must go out to the high speed train aka “the bullet” which can reach upwards of 300km/hr and connects passengers to some of the bigger cities in the western part of the island. Make sure to eat before you board as eating is also prohibited on the bullet train.

Wayne0216 / Shutterstock.com
Wayne0216 / Shutterstock.com

1. Seoul, Korea

Bigger subway cars, cleanliness, and the fact that it moves 8 million people a day is something to boast about. Coupled with the LED screens that tell passengers when the next train is coming and announcements in both Korean and English, this system is way ahead of the times. Going even one step further are the heated seats, digital touch screen kiosks in stations and colour coded buses. Free Wi-Fi in the underground stations and cars plus the addition of digital TV’s in the subway cars just seems like an added bonus. And there is one more thing that pushed them into first place; Robots that help passengers find information in the underground stations. Robots….can you believe it?

meunierd / Shutterstock.com
meunierd / Shutterstock.com