Is Val d’Isere Worth Visiting For a Ski Holiday in France?

Is Val d’Isere Worth Visiting For a Ski Holiday in France?

Winter is finally here. Even if you’re a summer person, I’m sure you can’t deny how magical winter feels when it snows.

I’ve been living in Europe since 2017, I finally understand the seriousness of seasonal depression. And in my opinion, it can be avoided when you see snow instead of just gloomy winter rain, and move your body to release endorphins

So, in order to enjoy winter, how about you consider booking a holiday to a place where there’s snow so that you can enjoy the magic of winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating?

Just for that reason, let me introduce Val d’Isere, a popular ski resort town in France. It is nestled in the French Alps, offering stunning views and a picturesque alpine setting. The charming village with traditional alpine architecture adds to the overall appeal of the destination.

Val d'Isere ski slopes with lifts
Val d’Isere ski slopes with lifts via Unsplash

It is technically two connected independent mountains, Val d’Isere and Tignes (earlier called Espace Killy together), and is often called “Val d’Isere-Tignes“. Together this area has over 300 kilometers of ski slopes. The variety of terrain caters to skiers and snowboarders of all levels, from beginners to advanced.

No Language Barrier

France is known to be not the most English-friendly country, but things are different in Val d’Isere. It is because Val d’Isere has been a very popular spot in the Alps for British skiers for years, so it is prepared to handle English-speaking visitors.

Starting from supermarkets to restaurants, bars, ski gear rental shops to ski instructors there won’t be a language barrier in Val d’Isere.

Not just the UK but Val d’Isere resort attracts visitors from around the world, creating an international and cosmopolitan atmosphere. This diversity adds to the overall appeal of the destination.

Easy Access to the Slopes

Val-d'Isère, France skiing
Val-d’Isère, France skiing via Unsplash

There are many ski resorts in Europe like Interlaken, St. Moritz, and many more where you will need to figure out your commute to the ski slopes and sometimes it isn’t a small one.

In that sense, Val d’Isère is easier because the town is at the base of the slopes. Most of the accommodation options will be a ski-in/out or a short stroll away. Both Val d’Isere and Tignes have only one pass option that covers everything and it makes things simpler.

Challenging Slopes

For advanced skiers and snowboarders, Val d’Isère offers challenging slopes and off-piste opportunities. The resort has hosted numerous international ski competitions, including the Alpine Skiing World Cup, showcasing its challenging and world-class terrain.

Ski, Jump, Val d'isere, France
Ski, Jump, Val d’isere, France via Pixabay

If you are an intermediate skiier, then you probabaly know that Face de Bellevarde is one of the most famous slopes in the resort. Some of the slopes in Val d’Isère feature narrow passages, requiring precise control and technical skill.

Val d’Isère offers access to glacier skiing on the Pissaillas Glacier, with its own set of challenges, including variable snow conditions and crevasses, adding an adventurous element to the experience.

it’s important for skiers and snowboarders to be aware of their own abilities and choose slopes that match their skill level. Additionally, hiring a guide or taking advanced lessons can enhance the experience and safety when tackling the challenging slopes of Val d’Isère.

It is Also Beginner Friendly

Val-d'Isère, France is also beginner friendly
Val-d’Isère, France is also beginner friendly via Unsplash

There aren’t many ski resorts that are amazing for advanced skiers but also have beginner-friendly runs. But Val d’Isère is, thanks to its recent developments.

The new ski area on Solaise is beginer friendly. Beginers can travel up the mountain on the new Solaise gandola. If you are a first timer, then start on the green pistes (served by 3 magic carpets). When you feel more confident, then you can decide to move on to the surrounding blue pistes.

Picturesque Alpine Setting

View from a Ski Chalet in Val-d'Isère, France
View from a Ski Chalet in Val-d’Isère, France via Unsplash

Val d’Isère is widely regarded as a beautiful destination, known for its stunning alpine scenery. The village is situated in the French Alps, surrounded by majestic peaks and picturesque landscapes.

The high-altitude valley surrounded by snow-capped peaks, scenic views, has so much natural beauty that it will end up being your favourite skiing destination.

The charming village has traditional alpine architecture with charming chalet-style buildings. The use of wood and stone in construction adds to the quaint and cozy atmosphere.

Snow Reliability

Val d’Isère is known for its high-altitude location, ensuring good snow conditions throughout the winter season. The resort typically opens early in the season and closes late, providing a longer window for winter sports enthusiasts to enjoy the slopes.

Moreover, Val d’Isère has implemented advanced snowmaking technology to enhance snow reliability. This is particularly important for early and late-season skiing when natural snowfall may be limited.

Vibrant Après-Ski Scene (Fun Time)

Apres Ski in Val-d'Isère
Apres Ski in Val-d’Isère via Unsplash

If you are new to skking in Europe, then let me introduce the term Après-ski. It is a French term that translates to “after ski” or “after skiing”. It includes the fun times, social activities and entertainment that take place after a day of skiing or snowboarding. Who doesn’t want that?

Val d’Isère has a lively après-ski scene with numerous bars, restaurants, and clubs. After a day on the slopes, visitors can enjoy socializing and relaxing in the vibrant atmosphere of the resort.

Expect lively bars, pubs, live music, terrace parties, but also a super relaxed atmosphere in many places where you can sip a nice drink by the fireplace.

Family-Friendly Activities

Val d’Isère is not just for serious skiers; it also caters to families with activities such as sledding, ice skating, and family-friendly slopes. Childcare services and kids’ clubs are available to make family vacations more enjoyable.

Ski School and Lessons for All Levels

Whether you’re a beginner looking to learn the basics or an experienced skier aiming to refine your skills, Val d’Isère offers excellent ski schools and lessons for all levels.

World-Class Facilities

Skiing in Val-d'Isère, France
Skiing in Val-d’Isère, France via Unsplash

Val d’Isère has modern and well-equipped facilities for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter activities. The resort has invested in infrastructure to provide a comfortable and enjoyable experience for visitors.

The resort has invested in modern and efficient lift systems to transport skiers and snowboarders up the mountains quickly and comfortably. This ensures minimal waiting times and allows visitors to maximize their time on the slopes.

The resort is well-equipped to host international ski events, making it a popular choice for major skiing competitions.

Off-Piste Adventures

For those seeking off-piste experiences and backcountry skiing, Val d’Isère has plenty of options. Guided tours and heli-skiing are available for those looking to explore beyond the groomed slopes.

In summary, Val d’Isère offers a combination of excellent skiing conditions, a diverse range of slopes, a vibrant après-ski scene, and a picturesque setting, making it a popular choice for a ski holiday.

So Is Val d’Isere Worth Visiting?

Wether you’re an intermediate, advance or even a beginner when it comes to skiing or snowboarding, you will find your visit to Val d’Isere completely worthwhile because it offers so much. Moreover, it is an easy destination compared to many other ski destinations in Europe. So, the answer to the above question is a big YES.

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How to Spend 3 Days in Istanbul (Itinerary), Turkey + MAP

How to Spend 3 Days in Istanbul (Itinerary), Turkey + MAP

Epic sunsets, distant sounds of Namaaz, spectacular minarets, and adorable cats – this is Istanbul, one of the most exotic cities in Europe or Asia.

East meets West is such a cliché but no other destination fits this description as perfectly as Istanbul. There is an Asian side and a European side that’s divided by the Bosphorous Strait.

If I start writing an introduction about this historically, culturally, and artistically rich city, I’d never be able to stop typing.

Super quick history: Istanbul was once the ancient Roman colony of Byzantium. It was the imperial city of Constantinople in the early ages. The middle age of history started here when the Ottoman Empire took over this city in 1453.

The Stunning Landscape of Istanbul
The Stunning Landscape of Istanbul

I won’t go deeper into the history here in the introduction but of course, I will mention a bit of it in the itinerary for most of the Istanbul attractions. This will help you get a deeper perspective of the place that you’re visiting.

Oh and if you think Istanbul is the capital city of Turkey, you’re wrong. It is Ankara. Haha, gotcha!

Istanbul is built over hills, just like many other prominent cities like Rome and Lisbon. There are a total of 7 hills in Istanbul.

Many of those who visit Turkey just use Istanbul as a quick base before heading off to Cappadocia, Pamukkale, or Ephesus. I recommend at least 3 days in Istanbul to do this city justice. Check my detailed itinerary for spending 10 days in Turkey too!

To explore this city of Seven Hills within 72 hours is a formidable task, and those who love this city will shake their heads in disapproval. Still, this awesome 3-day Istanbul itinerary has been carefully designed so that you can get a taste of many different aspects of this city.

Istanbul 3-Day Itinerary

Planning a last-minute trip to Istanbul? I’ve got you covered with my recommendations to help you book quickly.

Istanbul Activities to Book

Istanbul Hotel Recommendations

Istanbul Itinerary Day 1 – Istanbul’s Historical Peninsula

If you are arriving in Istanbul by air then you could be landing in one of the two airports – Istanbul Airport (IST) or Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW). Back in 2016, I landed in Atatürk Airport but that is no longer operational. In November 2023, I flew from the new Istanbul Airport (IST) and I was pleasantly surprised to see how nice it is.

Istanbul doesn’t have a shortage of nice hotels and I like how you can experience luxury at a slightly lower cost. I enjoy the Middle Eastern standards of luxury because everything is even more luxurious than normal.

In 2023, I stayed in a hotel called CVK Park Bosphorus where I had a fancy room with a view of the Bosphorus Strait. The best part was that I could see the sunrise from my bed and it was epic.

Bathtub with a view at CVK Park Bosphorus Istanbul
Bathtub with a view at CVK Park Bosphorus Istanbul

Not just the bed but my suite at CVK Park Bosphorus also has a bathtub with a view of the Bosphorus. It had Roberto Cavalli toiletries too!

CVK Park Bosphorus is located close to the lively Taksim Square so in terms of location, this hotel wins. The buffet breakfast here had everything – traditional Turkish breakfast but also international essentials.

So check in, enjoy a good night’s sleep if you arrived the night before, eat a nice breakfast, and be ready to tackle your first day in Istanbul.

Istanbul City Card
Istanbul City Card

Tip: Forget about traveling by taxi in Istanbul because the traffic situation isn’t ever good. Get yourself an Istanbul City Card, and you can use it on metros, trams, buses & ferries. Istanbul’s public transportation is amazing so use it to your advantage.

I had so much fun exploring Istanbul with this city card in my pocket because it made it very easy and fun to move from one place to another and I hopped onto old red trams for fun and also metro.

1) Start at Sultanahmet Square

Obelisk of Theodosius at Sultanahmet Square, Istanbul
Obelisk of Theodosius at Sultanahmet Square, Istanbul

For your first day, you will start at the Sultanahmet District, which is on the European side of Istanbul.

Walking around Sultanahmet Square is perhaps one of the first things a traveler does when they visit Istanbul. This area has some popular tourist spots, all within a walkable distance from each other.

Moreover, just like any other “touristy” area, Sultanahmet Square also has a lot of cafes and restaurants – most of which I’d recommend you avoid.

The Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain or the German Fountain at Sultanahmet Square
The Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain or the German Fountain at Sultanahmet Square

Once upon a time, Sultanahmet Square was the hippodrome of Constantinople – the social center of Constantinople. During that time, this area also featured horse racing.

Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are of course the most obvious attractions here, but you should go look for the Serpent Column, the Obelisk of Thutmose III (Obelisk of Theodosius), the Walled Obelisk, and the German fountain. Most people who can spare just a day in Istanbul end up visiting Sultanahmet Square.

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2) Visit the Blue Mosque a.k.a. Sultan Ahmet Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque Courtyard, Istanbul's Sultan Ahmet Mosque
Inside the Blue Mosque Courtyard, Istanbul’s Sultan Ahmet Mosque

Sultan Ahmet Mosque is spectacular from the inside and it is also free. This iconic building of Turkey is definitely one of the most popular European landmarks. It is an imperial mosque and was built for members of the Ottoman imperial family.

Sultan Ahmet Mosque has been nicknamed “the blue mosque” because the inside features blue hand-painted tiles. You will see them on the walls and the ceiling.

The blue interiors look spectacular with a lush red carpet. The low-hanging lamps and many windows cast an amazing light and the result is spectacular.

Inside the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque) in Istanbul
Inside the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque) in Istanbul

The Blue Mosque has six minarets, 5 main domes, and 8 secondary domes. Fitting everything in one picture is impossible but you can move to the middle of the garden or the courtyard with a wide-angle lens to capture the visible minarets and domes.

The construction of this historical mosque ended in 1616. The best light for photographing the Blue Mosque from the courtyard is sometime around sunset. But hey, I recommend many other places for sunset photography in this article so decide accordingly.

Inside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul - Turkey Travel Tips
Inside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul – Turkey Travel Tips

The mosque has a very big courtyard and as you enter, you worshippers at their midday prayers. There is a separate section inside for tourists and another one for Islamic worshippers.

You’d need to cover your legs, shoulders, and your head when you’re inside so please respect and dress accordingly. I do remember seeing a sarong rental area at the entry point.

Entry to Sultanahmet Mosque is free.

Suggested Post: How to travel Turkey on a budget

3) Visit Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia is right next to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque and it is free to visit as of 2023. Moreover, it was once a Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal basilica, then it was turned into a mosque, then was a museum, but now has been redeclared a mosque.

Because it was once an expensive place to visit but is now free, you will see a massive line of people that are always outside the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque.

If you love admiring historical architecture, you’d love to know that Hagia Sofia is believed to have changed the history of architecture in the world.

Inside Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
Inside Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey – CCO via Pixabay

Constructed in 537 AD, Hagia Sophia has orange-colored exterior walls. It was a prominent landmark for Byzantine imperial ceremonies.

From 1453 to 1931, Hagia Sophia served as an imperial Ottoman mosque, and in 1935 it opened as a museum. It was named after Sophia the Martyr. If you’re interested to know more about the history of this place, I highly recommend you check out the timeline of Hagia Sophia here.

The entry fee for Hagia Sophia was earlier 20 TL but as of 2023 is FREE.

If you’d like to skip the lines and get an entry ticket from before for Hagia Sophia, then I have handpicked the below options for you.

There’s not much different between what both the tour guides are offering but it is always a good idea to read the latest reviews before booking your tour or experience.

4) Basilica Cistern

Inside Basilica Cistern in Istanbul
Inside Basilica Cistern in Istanbul

Less than 2 minutes walk away from Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque is the Basilica Cistern. It is the largest surviving Byzantine cistern that’s beneath Istanbul city.

It features in the famous old-school James Bond movie – From Russia with Love. If you’re a Dan Brown fan, you’d have surely read about this cistern in the book Inferno.

The entry point for Basilica Cistern is in Sultanahmet Square, close to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. There are 336 marble columns inside Basilica Cistern that are arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns.

Basilica Cistern, Istanbul
Basilica Cistern, Istanbul

I finally got a chance to visit Basilica Cistern in November 2023 and I saw a massive line outside even though it wasn’t the busiest season. If you’d like to see Basilica Cistern, then I highly suggest you buy a skip-the-line entrance ticket so that you avoid the hassle of standing and waiting.

Basilica Cistern has a very interesting history – I won’t tell you all of it but only the most interesting part as per me. It was built in the 6th century but was closed when the Byzantine emperors relocated but after that, it was completely forgotten.

It was rediscovered in 1545 when a scholar was researching Byzantine antiquities in Istanbul and the locals told him that they were able to obtain water by lowering their buckets in the dark space beneath their basements. The scholar – Petrus Gyllius eventually found it through one of the basements!

Walk inside underground and you will see many interesting sculptures. For me, the medusa heads and upside-down heads were the most interesting.

The entry fee for Basilica Cistern is 450 Turkish Liras per person. The ticket lines are massive so get a skip-the-line entrance ticket.

5) Lunch at Pudding Shop

Pudding Shop Restaurant in Sultanahmet Square - istanbul
Pudding Shop Restaurant in Sultanahmet Square – Istanbul

Pudding Shop is a historical restaurant/cafe in Sultanahmet Square that thrived during the 70s because it was on the hippie trail. If you want to have home-style traditional Turkish food you can select and pick things on your plate and pay at the counter before you eat.

My lunch at Pudding Shop
My lunch at Pudding Shop

I had a portion of salmon, kofte, mashed potatoes, salad, and caramel pudding. Overall, the meal was amazing and the view from the window was pretty decent since it faced the lively Sultanahmet Square.

My vegetarian friends tried chickpeas, okra, aubergine, and barley. I tasted that food and loved it too. Of course, they have the typical Turkish doner kebab too.

6) See Topkapi Palace (Optional)

View of Topkapi Palace from Galata Tower, Istanbul, Turkey
View of Topkapi Palace from Galata Tower, Istanbul, Turkey – CCO via Pixabay

After lunch, walk for 500 meters to arrive at Topkapı Palace, which was once the main residence for the Ottoman Sultans and administrative headquarters for the Ottoman Empire but is now a large museum.

This palace displays visions of true Turkish royalty. It is rather expansive and can take up to a few hours to explore in depth.

It features a stunning imperial gate, four massive courtyards at different levels that have their own set of sections inside, a harem, an outer garden, and many smaller courtyards. The harem also features a courtyard of the Eunuchs.

Inside Topkapi palace, Istanbul itinerary
Inside Topkapi Palace, Istanbul itinerary – CC0 via Pixabay

Some of the things that will stun you inside are the baths of the Sultans with golden grills, the imperial throne, the fruit room, and many stained glass windows.

You will also get an opportunity to see the panoramic view of the Marmara Sea from the palace. The garden area in the second courtyard has some really interesting trees, a few of them are hollow from the inside because of fungus.

The entry fee for Topkapı Palace is 750 Turkish Lira per person.

If you’d like to skip the lines and get an entry ticket from before for Topkapi Palace, then check out this tour that also includes a tour guide.

7) “Busforus” Sunset Tour

If you think this is touristy, please hear me out. Have you ever done a hop-on hop-off bus open tour? I did one ages back in New York City and I realized that it is the best way to see the sunset and all the amazing sights in Istanbul.

Considering how crazy the traffic situation is in Istanbul, it doesn’t make sense to get on a taxi. I highly recommend the local transport but during the sunset hour, you will miss the view.

I did a tour with Istanbul Tourism and I was laughing when we got onto Busforus because it felt so touristy. But I couldn’t help changing my mind as soon as the bus ride started since I had a higher-level view of all the attractions.

Sunset view from Bosphorus Bridge
Sunset view from Bosphorus Bridge

The tour started at Sultanahmet district, then Eminonu, Karaköy, and Galataport, went on the Galata bridge and I saw the Galata tower from the distance.

Just at sunset time, we went on the Bosphorus Bridge. I won’t forget the sunset view from here over the Bosphorus Strait. We also crossed Dolmabahçe Palace and I was surprised to see how pretty it looked.

Come Back to Your Hotel to Freshen Up

From your Busforus city tour, come back to your hotel using the metro transport and freshen up. Get ready to head to one of the liveliest parts of Istanbul to experience the street food for dinner.

8) Taksim Square and Istiklal Street for Streetfood

Taksim Mosque at Taksim Square
Taksim Mosque at Taksim Square

If you did follow my recommendation and book a suite at CVK Park Bosphorus, then you just need to walk for 5 minutes and you will arrive at the lively Taksim Square. This is the liveliest part of Istanbul and I was shocked to see how this area was totally on even on a Tuesday night.

Taksim Square and Istiklal Street
Taksim Square and Istiklal Street

Stand in front of the Taksim Mosque and see the buzz of street food carts, vintage red tram, and thousands of interesting shops all around. Walk from here to Istiklal Street and eat to your heart’s content.

Taksim Square and Red Tram
Taksim Square and Red Tram

Of course, the most popular street food to try in Istanbul is the world-famous doner kebab but I prefer kofte and veggie bulgur kebabs. Drink Ayran or sherbat, and finish off with something sweet like Turkish delight, Tavukgöğsü (milk pudding), Halva, or Baklava.

Istanbul Itinerary Day 2: Bazaars, Culture, and Food

If you thought your first day in Istanbul was fun, you will be pleasantly surprised when you experience your second day here. Your Istanbul city card will come in handy today too because we will be visiting some attractions that are easier to reach with public transportation as compared to taxis.

Download an offline version of Istanbul’s map on Google Maps so that you can use it on the go when you have to use public transport.

1) Spice Bazaar (Egyptian Bazaar or Misir Carsisi)

Inside Spice Bazaar in Istanbul
Inside Spice Bazaar in Istanbul

From Taksim Tünel, get on the yellow line metro and get off at Eminönü in order to arrive at Spice Bazaar. It is also known as Egyptian Bazaar and Misir Carsisi.

Enter the Egyptian Spice Bazaar through one of the high-arched doors to see this lovely market that’s indoors with interesting arched ceilings.

One of the shops in the Egyptian Bazaar (Spice Bazaar) - Istanbul itinerary
One of the shops in the Egyptian Bazaar (Spice Bazaar) – Istanbul itinerary

The spice market isn’t just about spices but also tea, nuts, dry fruits, and Turkish delight. It is smaller than the nearby Grand Bazaar, which is one of the next on the list.

Even if you spend 30-45 minutes, that is enough time to experience the lovely Misir Carsisi and its interesting shops.

2) Beta Yeni Han Cafe

Just at the end of the spice market is a pretty cafe called Beta Yeni Han. You have plenty of time today to explore the bazaars and the cultural points of Istanbul, so you can take a break here to sip Turkish coffee or tea.

While walking through the narrow streets of bazaars, the sudden open spaces of Beta Yeni Han come as a pleasant surprise.

3) Grand Bazaar & Lunch

Grand Bazaar Entry Istanbul
Grand Bazaar Entry Istanbul

Walk 650 meters through the narrow lanes and you will arrive at another arched entrance for a covered bazaar, it is Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and it is massive.

The Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s oldest and largest covered markets, beckons with its labyrinthine alleys and a kaleidoscope of goods. It’s a sensory journey through vibrant textiles, intricate ceramics, and the heady aroma of spices. The Grand Bazaar is not just a marketplace; it’s a cultural immersion where past and present collide.

Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is legendary and is a place that should definitely not be missed. It is a good place to escape the midday heat because it is covered.

Grand Bazaar - 3 days in Istanbul
Grand Bazaar – 3 days in Istanbul

Believe it or not, the Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest covered markets in the world with more than 4000 stalls and 61 streets. It also has 18 different entry points and was kind of like the “first shopping mall” of the world. The construction began as early as 1455/56.

The bazaar is so big that it may overwhelm you! But it may end up being one of the best places that you’ll visit in Istanbul because of the interesting sights, people, and things. Not only does it have historical significance, but it also will give you a lovely taste of Turkish culture.

The grand bazaar is in Istanbul’s Fatih neighborhood and is between the Nuruosmaniye and Beyazit Mosques. Walk around and explore as many streets here as you can and even eat some lunch here. Post that, leave for your relaxing hammam.

4) Beyazıt Square

Beyazit Square, located in the heart of historic Istanbul, stands as a bustling testament to the city’s rich history and vibrant present. Nestled amidst a tapestry of iconic landmarks and institutions, the square exudes an energy that reflects the convergence of the ancient and the contemporary.

At the center of Beyazit Square looms the historic Beyazit Mosque, an architectural marvel that dates back to the 16th century. Its distinctive Ottoman design, characterized by graceful domes and slender minarets, adds an air of grandeur to the surroundings. The mosque’s courtyard provides a serene retreat, inviting visitors to pause and soak in the spiritual ambiance.

Surrounding the square, one encounters a symphony of activity because of its close proximity to the Grand Bazaar.

Beyazit Square is also home to Istanbul University, a venerable institution founded in the 15th century. The university’s presence adds an intellectual vibrancy to the square, and students can be seen engaged in lively discussions or enjoying moments of respite in the nearby parks.

As the day unfolds, Beyazit Square transforms. In the evening, the square comes alive with the rhythm of daily life. Locals and tourists converge in the surrounding cafes and eateries, creating a lively atmosphere. The square, illuminated by the warm glow of streetlights, becomes a gathering place where the city’s heartbeat is felt.

In essence, Beyazit Square is a microcosm of Istanbul’s diverse identity. It seamlessly weaves together the threads of history, spirituality, commerce, and academia, creating a vibrant tableau that captures the essence of this dynamic city. Whether one is drawn to its architectural wonders, the allure of the markets, or the spirited energy of its people, Beyazit Square stands as a compelling invitation to explore Istanbul’s multifaceted soul.

5) Suleymaniye Mosque

Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul - view
Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul – view

Istanbul’s Süleymaniye Mosque is the grandest of them all and is on top of Istanbul’s third hill. It is the largest of Istanbul’s imperial mosques and many say it is the most beautiful one. In 2010, this mosque was renovated after the expense of 21 million Turkish Liras.

See the grand courtyard of Suleymaniye Mosque and the view of the Golden Horn and Bosphorus Strait from here. There is also a hammam inside and a restaurant in the mosque complex.

Come Back to Your Room to Freshen Up

6) Galata Tower for Sunset Panoramic View / Dinner

Walking on Galata Bridge is an experience because it goes over the Golden Horn. It is a symbolic link between the old city of Istanbul and the modern districts.

You will see locals fishing on each side of the Galata Bridge and is super interesting to observe.

Cross the Galata Bridge and you will see your next stop from far away. If you’re a sucker for viewpoints, then you will love this place because it is the best location for a great view of Istanbul from up above.

Galata Tower and the Observation Deck, Istanbul
Galata Tower and the Observation Deck, Istanbul – cc0 via Pixabay

Galata Tower is one of Istanbul’s most prominent landmarks because it stands proudly at a height of 16.5 meters (54 feet). It is a stone tower that was completed in 1348 A.D.

The tower has 9 floors and two lifts that can take you to the 7th floor and from there you have to climb up two floors yourself.

Please keep in mind that the queues outside Galata Tower at sunset time are very long, so keep a time buffer. Most of the time the queues move very fast even when they’re long.

View from top of Galata Tower, Istanbul, Turkey
View from the top of Galata Tower, Istanbul, Turkey – CC0 via Pixabay

There is a viewing deck on the top from where you can see a 360-degree view of Istanbul city, the Bosphorus Sea, the Golden Horn, the Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and many other landmarks. The viewing platform is very narrow and is just like a ring around the tower.

The viewing platform on top of Galata Tower gets very crowded so you may not be able to stay for long, but there are two restaurants on lower floors where you can sit and chill for long and admire Istanbul’s skyline.

There is also a flight stimulator – 3D Skyride which costs 25 Liras extra and is 10 minutes long.

Galata Tower closes at 8 pm, but the restaurants may remain open for longer.

The entry fee for Galata Tower is 650 Turkish Liras per person.

Nightlife in Istanbul – Galata District

After you’ve spent enough time at Galata Tower, you can enjoy this neighborhood’s vibrant nightlife. You can eat dinner in one of the restaurants that are under the Galata Bridge and then check out some clubs or bars.

Head to Beyoğlu and you’re sure to find a lot of bars with outdoor seating and live music. You can also find clubs here. In Beyoglu, go to Baraka for live music on the weekends. You can also check out Bizz Jazz Bar for Jass music, Riddim for alternative, rock or hip hop, or Mojo for strictly rock music.

When in doubt, you can always come back to Istiklal Caddesi or Taksim Square where you experienced your first night in Istanbul on day 1 of this itinerary.

Istanbul Itinerary Day 3

For your third and last day in Istanbul, I will give you two options. Either you can make a day trip to the nearby islands or explore Istanbul further. In case you’re not in the mood to spend your entire day on the Princess Islands, you can head to the below-mentioned places to fall in love with Istanbul a bit more.

1) Food Tour (5-6 hours)

Chee kofte kebab in Istanbul
Chee kofte kebab in Istanbul

Istanbul is a city of historical culture and the best way you can experience it is by food. I wouldn’t do a food tour in many cities but Istanbul is one of the few.

One of the best things that I did in Istanbul was a food tour and I highly recommend it to you too. There are many food tours and personally, I think it is better if these food tours start early so that you can chill and relax in the evening.

We had many different kinds of kebabs, meat on skewers, veggie kebab made with bulger, pide, mussels stuffed with rice, Turkish delight, sherbets, and many more interesting things. This was better than any five-star meal and was totally worth the cost.

I have shortlisted a bunch of food tours but I suggest you look at this one because it starts at a good time and covers both the European and Asian sides of Istanbul.

Otherwise, you can check this list of tours that I have shortlisted for you:

  • Taste of Two Continents food tour: A 6-hour food tour that starts at 9:30 am and has 9 stops. It goes to the Kadikoy market in the Asian side of Istanbul. It starts at Hobyar Mahallesi.
  • Guided Food Tour of Street Food and Markets: This 6-hour tour starts at Rüstem Paşa which is at one end of the Galata Bridge. You will cover both the Asian and European sides and visit Kadikoy. You can pick a start time of 10:30 am or 11 am.
  • Guided Food and Culture Tour: This is a 5-hour evening food tour that starts at 6 pm. It also covers both Asian and European sides with a visit to Kardikoy.

2) Turkish Hamam and Massage

Cağaloğlu Hamam in Istanbul
Cağaloğlu Hamam in Istanbul

A hamam is a traditional Turkish bath house, which features usually a sauna, a scrub, and sometimes also a massage. A few years back I read a hilarious article about someone’s first hamam experience and that made me very curious to try it out. Of course, my experience was very different than hers

You will see many hammams near touristy areas and some of them are as expensive as 100 Euros. Keep in mind that literally all areas have at least one historical hamam and the ones where locals go can be as low as 100 liras. Some of the cheaper hammams may not look very clean but there are no germs because of the heat and the marble.

The traditional Turkish hamam or bathhouse dates back to the Ottoman era. These were established for cultural, religious, and commercial purposes.

Inside Cağaloğlu Hamam
Inside Cağaloğlu Hamam

The fanciest Turkish Hammam in Istanbul is at Cağaloğlu Hamam, where even celebrities like Cameron Diaz, John Travolta, Kate Moss, and Ophrah Winfrey have visited. How do I know this? because they have a hall of fame inside with the photos.

Another option would be to head to Cemberlitas Hamami which is close to the Grand Bazaar (Çemberlitaş Hamamı) – it is a little high-end as compared to many.

You can spend a few hours in an elegant steam room and soak in the hamam after the initial thirty minutes of scrub and massage. Like most of the hammams, there are different sections for males and females, but the bathing rituals are almost similar for both sexes.

Affordable and Traditional Hamams

If you’re looking for something a little affordable and less touristy, try Çemberlitaş Hamamı in Fatih where the entrance is 25 Liras and the scrub is 10 liras. Alternatively, you can also try Büyük Hamam in Kasımpaşa or Gedik Ahmet Paşa Hamamı in Gedikpasa or Aziziye Hamam which is towards Istanbul’s Asian side.

3) Sunset Cruise over Bosporus (Option 1)

Sunset cruise over Bosphorous, Istanbul itinerary
Sunset cruise over Bosphorus, Istanbul itinerary – CCO via Pixabay

Yes, the Bosporus Cruise is a little touristy but it is a very good way to see some very interesting parts of Istanbul that you won’t be able to see in just three days. The several towering minarets of the mosques look spectacular from a distance and you will get many good photo opportunities.

You’ll see many places to buy tickets for the Bosporus cruise all around Istanbul’s touristy areas, but not all are good. I did an overpriced 2-hour cruise because I decided last minute to go for it while I was walking around Sultanahmet Square.

View from the Bosphorous Cruise with Galata Tower, Istanbul
View from the Bosphorus Cruise with Galata Tower, Istanbul – CC0 via Pixabay

Honestly, my overpriced cruise experience wasn’t bad at all and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though I was all by myself. I didn’t need to go anywhere special but was just in Sultanahmet Square and their office was right there.

Right before the cruise, their staff member took all of us to the pier that was just 5 minutes walking distance away.

If you’d like to check the details of your Bosphorus cruise for better options than I did, check out the below tours and tickets that I have handpicked for you:

All of the above tours are different in their own way. I did not have so many options to choose from while I was in Istanbul but I would have definitely picked a smaller boat or a yacht because mine was a little too full.

Luckily I was carrying my own water because the one on the boat was super expensive.

When you buy your ticket, keep in mind that there is no use in paying extra for a special seat. No matter where you sit, people will stand in front of you and block your view.

Spend two hours in the evening enjoying the sunset cruise on the Bosphorus straits. Opt for the small wooden boats as the guide can better explain the facts as you head to the Bosphorus Bridge and back to the Asian side.

As per my research, it costs just 120 Turkish Liras for 2 hours if you go through the state-run company called Sehir Hatlari, their cruise departs from Eski Kadıköy Pier. They also have a 3-hour option but in my opinion, that’s a little too much. Two hours are more than enough. Do check their website before going because they sometimes run sunset cruises only on Saturdays.

4) Dinner at Oligark

One of the fanciest and yummiest meals that I had in Istanbul was in a waterfront restaurant called Oligark, and it overlooks the Bosphorus Strait. It is a super luxurious restaurant and bar, but it actually is affordable when you compare the prices in Euros.

The view, service, and the food at Oligark are simply the best and the experience shouldn’t be missed. I had the most delicious Çiğ köfte (chee kofta), meat on skewers, lentils, lavash (lavaş), and many other things that tasted heavenly.

Suggested: Best Places to visit in Istanbul

Çamlıca Hil for a Sunset and Dinner (Option 2)

If you don’t want to do the Bosphorus cruise for sunset, then I have another option for you here. Camilca Hill is the highest hill and it is on the Asian side of Istanbul. From here, you can enjoy a panoramic view of Istanbul and see the Golden Horn and Bosphorus.

There are two Camilca Hills – Little Camilca Hill and Big Camilca Hill. This point is about Big Camilca Hill, which is in Üsküdar.

In order to reach the Çamlıca Hill from Taksim or Sultanahmet Square, take a tram to Eminonu docks. From here, get on a boat to Uskudar and then take the 9U bus to Camlica Hill. Of course, you can do the full or a part of this journey by taxi too.

Apart from just enjoying the panoramic view, you can also visit one of the cafes or restaurants here. They are not as expensive as the ones in the Sultanahmet area.

After spending the last two sunsets in comparatively crowded (yet lovely) spots – Galata Tower and “Busforus” Bus Tour, the sunset experience at Camilca Hill will be a refreshing change. Many visitors say that this is the best sunset experience in Istanbul, but I’ll let you decide.

Princes’ Islands Day Trip (Option 3)

Seagullls with Princes Islands in the background - Istanbul, Turkey
Seagulls with Princes Islands in the background – Istanbul, Turkey – CC0 via Pixabay

Many people incorrectly call them Princess Islands or Princess’ Islands but these are “Princes’ Islands” and are a group of 9 islands in the Asian side of Istanbul. They’re named so because, during the Byzantine and the early Ottoman times, the exiled princes and monks were sent here.

Don’t imagine these islands to be “resort-esque” and expect to sit on a beach here. Instead, these islands will give you a cultural or historical experience. You’ll feel that time stood still some decades back here and never moved ahead.

A very interesting part about visiting the Princes’ Islands is that motorized vehicles are banned here. Because of this, these islands are a good escape from Istanbul’s hectic life and sounds of the automobiles. Instead, you will see horse carts and Victorian bungalows.

In order to reach here, you will need to take a fast ferry operated by IDO or look for Istanbul Liners. These ferries depart from Kabatas or Eminönü near the Galata Bridge. You can book your ferry tickets for the Princess Islands and back here. Alternatively, you can book a tour that will pick you up from your hotel in Istanbul (if centrally located), and take you to the Princess Islands and back, including lunch, and sightseeing. The most popular island here is Büyükada, and the other major ones are Kınalıada, Burgaz, and Heybeliada. 

Tip: Make sure you find the timetable so that you don’t miss the last ferry out of the islands.

Istanbul Hotel Information

I have visited Istanbul twice and I have stayed in the Sultanahmet area during the first visit and near Taksim Square during the most recent one. I was pretty happy with both the locations, but I realised the second was a better option.

Here are some of my recommendations for different budgets:

The most popular hostel chain here is Cheers and they run hostels all over the city –

If you want more information than what I have specified, check out this post with information about places to stay in Istanbul.

Where to go after Istanbul

Istanbul to Cappadocia

Sunrise view - Sultan Cave Suites, Cappadocia, Turkey
Sunrise view – Sultan Cave Suites, Cappadocia, Turkey

My visit to Cappadocia was in 2016 and to this day when people ask me what’s the most beautiful place that I’ve ever seen, I always think of this place.

Cappadocia has an otherwordly landscape with weird formations, fairy chimneys, and hundreds of hot air balloons in the sky. My website has a lot of posts about Cappadocia, so head over the to main Turkey page to see all the posts.

Istanbul to Pamukkale

Blue Water and White Travertine - Pamukkale Thermal Pools
Blue Water and White Travertine – Pamukkale Thermal Pools

Pamukkale has been a spa destination since ancient Roman times because of its stunning limestone thermal pools. This destination is very blue and white and you’ll fall in love with it for sure. For information about how to reach, where to stay, and more, check my detailed guide to Pamukkale.

If you’ve been to Istanbul already and have tips to share, comment below and let us know.

3 Days in Istanbul Itinerary Closing Thoughts

This itinerary has been made keeping in mind Istanbul’s culture, attractions, and uniqueness. It is a tried and tested itinerary based on my two visits to this city, out of that the most recent one was at the end of 2023.

Don’t try to cover it all because Istanbul can be stressful. Remember to be spontaneous and to have fun.

Disclosure: My trip to Istanbul was sponsored as a part of the Istanbul Travel Influencer Summit 2023. However, all the opinions expressed in this article are my own.

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you.  We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

The Ultimate Portugal Road Trip: 2 Weeks in Portugal

The Ultimate Portugal Road Trip: 2 Weeks in Portugal

After five different visits to Portugal (one being a road trip), I have finally decided to pen down this post. Here’s all the information you need for the best 2 weeks in Portugal.

My first Portugal trip was in 2016 and it was love at first sight when I arrived in Lisbon. That time Portugal felt like a warm sip of a comforting caffeinated drink on a cold winter day. I did visit 4 more times after that and each time was special.

Starting Point for 2 Weeks in Portugal

Somewhere in Portugal - Van Life Europe tips
Somewhere in Portugal – Van Life Europe tips

Our road trip to Portugal actually started in Germany because we drove with our campervan from home. We crossed France, and Spain and then entered Portugal. We arrived in the North of Portugal near Coimbra.

I understand that not many will actually drive from their own country for a road trip in Portugal, but instead fly and rent a car.

For the sake of this itinerary, I suggest you fly to Faro, the south of Portugal. Faro is the gateway to the Algarve so you can start your trip with stunning beaches before you gradually make your way to the North. Another option would be to fly to Porto, the north of Portugal, and then make your way to the south.

At both Faro and Porto airports, you will find car rental booths but I always recommend you book a rental car in advance so that there are no last-minute surprises. For your 2-week Portugal itinerary, you could also fly to Lisbon, but then you have to do your road trip in a circle.

Keep in mind that Portugal is a small country, so a drive from Lisbon to Porto will just take 3 hours, or also Lisbon to Faro

Portugal Road Trip Itinerary + Map

Portugal Road Trip Itinerary Map
Portugal Road Trip Itinerary Map

If you see the map of Portugal, you will notice that the country’s shape is a bit like a long rectangle. So it makes it a perfect country for a road trip starting from the top end of the rectangle to the bottom (or vice versa).

That’s exactly how I have made this itinerary. You can start from the bottom or top, it depends on how you want to do it.

Faro, Algarve – 1 Day (Optional)

Faro Marina - view from Suites Aliança terrace, Portugal
Faro Marina – view from Suites Aliança terrace, Portugal

Our first stop on this road trip is Faro. If you have read my Algarve road trip post, then you know by now that Faro is the perfect place to start a road trip.

I’m in love with the Algarve. The beaches are sandy, the weather is pleasant, the rock formation is super stunning, and as a result, there are multiple viewpoints. Moreover, you can hike from one beach to another in many parts of the Algarve and that’s what makes the experience even more special.

You will land in Faro, pick up your rental car, and drive on the scenic route to explore the Algarve. It is up to you whether you want to stay in Faro for your first day, or just drive further to Carvoeiro (our next stop).

Arco da vila in Faro to Cidade Velha, the Algarve
Arco da vila in Faro to Cidade Velha, the Algarve

I have stayed the night in Faro on two occasions and I enjoyed this tiny city with a historical center. Everything in Faro is so close to each other. You can easily walk from anywhere in Faro to the marina and the old town.

I booked a place to stay near the train station the first time I was here but decided to stay right next to the marina on the second visit.

If you do decide to stay in Faro for a night, then the right place for you to spend your evening is the marina, and Cidade Velha (the old town). See the city walls in Vila Adentro.

Walk around in Cidade Velha and pick a restaurant with outdoor seating for dinner. I ate in Taberna Modesto in the old town and had a lovely meal. Sleep and rejuvenate after dinner to drive to the beautiful beaches of the Algarve the next day.

Carvoeiro, Algarve – 2-3 days

Praia de Carvoeiro, the Algarve
Praia de Carvoeiro, the Algarve

Wondering what’s the best place to visit in the Algarve? It is Carvoeiro.

The most famous spots of the Algarve are easy to access from Carvoeiro. I’m talking about the legendary Marinha Beach and Benagil Cave.

Carvoeiro is the reason why I went back to the Algarve within just 11 months instead of picking a new destination. There are beaches, caves, and stunning hikes.

Here’s what you can do in Carvoeiro for your 3 days here.

Vale de Centeanes Beach

Carvoeiro - Vale de Centeanes beach
Carvoeiro – Vale de Centeanes beach

Carvoeiro has a few beaches but the best one is Vale de Centeanes. Since you are in Carvoeiro for just three days, make the most of your time by relaxing on Vale de Centeanes.

Unlike Praia do Carvoeiro (the main beach close to Carvoeiro town center), Vale de Centeanes doesn’t get as crowded. We stayed very close to this beach at Rocha Brava Village Resort so we just walked and reached this beach.

There is a small bar/restaurant at Vale de Centeanes at the entry point. I suggest you walk a little further from there till the time you find the arch of a cave. Sit here because the water is cleaner next to it for a swim.

Algar Seco (Sunset)

"A Boneca", Algar Seco Caves, Carvoeiro
“A Boneca”, Algar Seco Caves, Carvoeiro

This is unmissable. If you arrive late in Carvoeiro, then skip the beach and just go for a walk to Algar Seco Caves.

There is an entire Carvoeiro Boardwalk that one can do, but for that, you need more time. The best part is the Algar Seco caves. Halfway on the Carvoeiro Boardwalk, you will find a sign for “A Boneca”. That’s a beautiful cave and there’s also a restaurant with the same name.

The entry for “A Boneca” cave is through the restaurant. Go inside “A Boneca” and see a magical sunset. There are two holes, that look like the eyes.

Algar Seco Cliff Walk - Carvoeiro Algarve
Algar Seco Cliff Walk – Carvoeiro Algarve

This cave is tiny so I suggest you be mindful of other visitors and leave when you are done admiring this pretty spot so that the queues don’t build up behind you.

There are more caves all around and the rock formations reminded me a little of Cappadocia. Walk around here and admire the beauty. Find a nice spot to sit on one of the rocks and see the beauty of the golden hour.

Benagil Cave

The empty Benagil Cave beach in the morning
The empty Benagil Cave beach in the morning

Your second day in Portugal (if you didn’t stay overnight in Faro) will start with a visit to Benagil Cave. It is a hidden beach inside a cave with a hole on top that filters the natural light.

I have visited the Benagil Cave twice. It is a stunning cave that has become very popular on Instagram. The only way to enjoy it is by getting to it by 9 am. So wake up early and arrive at Benagil village by taxi from your hotel at 8:45 am.

Inside Benagil Cave - June 2023
Inside Benagil Cave – June 2023

The only way to reach Benagil Cave is by kayaking or paddleboarding. If you haven’t done kayaking or paddleboarding, the easiest way to start is by joining a group tour. They will instruct you and guide you. Otherwise, you can always opt for a boat trip.

There are boat tours that go to the Benagil Cave too but the boats aren’t allowed to stop inside to offload people.

If you want to walk on Benagil Cave beach, then the only way in is by kayaking or paddleboarding. Forget swimming because it isn’t safe because of the rocks. Believe it or not, I did both. I kayaked to the Benagil cave in 2022 and Stand Up Paddleboarded to it in 2023.

You can do a tour like I did, or just rent a kayak or a paddleboard on Benagil beach as soon as you arrive. I did a tour because I wanted to be safe and didn’t want to collide with the rocks. Please read my details post about Benagil Caves here.

Seven Hanging Valleys Trail

A stunning spot at Seven Hanging Valleys Trail - Algarve itinerary
A stunning spot at Seven Hanging Valleys Trail – Algarve itinerary

The Seven Hanging Valleys trail actually starts from Vale de Centeanes in Carvoeiro to Praia da Marinha. This entire hiking trail is scenic but the best way to do it is to divide it into sections. The most scenic part of the Seven Hanging Valleys trail is from Benagil to Marinha.

After you are done with visiting the Benagil Cave beach, go up on the cliffs to start this hike and go in the direction towards the Marinha beach.

You will also be able to see the Benagil Cave from the hole on the top. It is fenced off but some people jumped the fence. It is dangerous because if you slip, you could seriously injure yourself.

Even though Portugal gets hot in the summer months, this hike is totally doable during the day because there are trees around.

Double Sea Arch at Sete vales suspensos OR the Seven Hanging Valleys trail, Algarve
Double Sea Arch at Sete Vales Suspensos OR the Seven Hanging Valleys trail, Algarve

Carry a hat and water. This hiking trail doesn’t have a boardwalk but a path over the rocks that has many viewpoints and each one is special.

We did a section of this hike each day and saw something new. There is a heart in the rocks that’s at the end of this hike right above Praia da Marinha beach near the elephant rock.

We came here to watch the sunset too and it was an amazing experience. Although we couldn’t really see the sun setting because of the direction. This is more of a sunrise spot than a sunset since it is east-facing.

Marinha Beach

The famous Marinha beach in Portugal - Algarve itinerary
The famous Marinha beach in Portugal – Algarve itinerary

Praia da Marinha is the prettiest beach in the Algarve and has won many awards. I won’t go into the details but to deep dive into more info, see my Marinha Beach blog post.

Now that you have arrived at Praia da Marinha, enjoy a swim in the clear and cold waters of this beach. Swim around the arch on the Marinha beach and enjoy the beauty.

Yes, the water here is cold because you’re swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, but it is super refreshing and fun, especially on a hot summer day after the hike.

Praia da Marinha beach in Algarve
Praia da Marinha beach in Algarve

Marinha Beach has a nice restaurant and bar that’s family-run and has affordable prices. I loved this little restaurant so much that I ate there twice. They also have amazing Sangrias.

We enjoyed Marinha Beach so much that we stayed here for a full day and visited it again the next day. It didn’t feel crowded even though we visited during the summer months.

Where to Stay in Carvoeiro

Rocha Brava Village Resort – This is where we stayed. It is a stunning resort with amazing villas, and apartments and is close to the beach. The Seven Hanging Valleys trail starts from right here.

Campsites Ferragudo – If you rented a van instead of a car, then it makes more sense to stay in a campsite instead of a resort. It is also called “CCL – Parque de Campismo de Ferragudo”.

Lagos, Algarve – 3 days

The arch at Praia do Camilo, Lagos, Algarve, Portugal
The arch at Praia do Camilo, Lagos, Algarve, Portugal

Your next stop in the Algarve is Lagos. It is so much better than other destinations like Portimão or Albufeira. Somehow most travelers visit Albufeira and that’s it.

I have suggested 3 days in Lagos for you but I stayed here for a week myself because I fell in love with its easy vibes. If you decide to stay here for a longer duration then see my post with things to do in Lagos which has more activities than what I mention here.

Lagos is just 42 kilometers from Carvoeiro and hence a short drive away. Honestly, if you hate packing and unpacking to move rooms, then it might make more sense for you to stay put in just one of these places.

For me, it made more sense to stay in these places separately so that some things that are done super early (like Benagil Cave) or late (like special sunset hikes) are easier to do when you’re sleeping close by.

Ponta da Piedade (Sunset Hike)

Sunset at Ponta da Piedade, Lagos, Portugal
Sunset at Ponta da Piedade, Lagos, Portugal

Ponta da Piedade is the best hiking trail in the Algarve, if not the entire Portugal. Unlike the Seven Haning Valleys hike that I mentioned before, this one is a fenced boardwalk so feels safer.

There are multiple viewpoints on this hiking route and there’s usually a gazebo for every nice viewpoint. You don’t have to do this entire hike.

Just go near the Ponta da Piedade lighthouse near the sunset and find a spot to sit on top of the rocks. The sudden drop below you will take your breath away.

Ponta da Piedade caves - Lagos, Portugal
Ponta da Piedade caves – Lagos, Portugal

We found a nice spot here that overlooked a hidden beach and faced the west, so perfect for seeing the sunset. I was in Lagos for a week and went back to this spot every single evening.

If you want to do the entire Ponta da Piedade hike, you can read my post about it. I did the whole route and split it over a few days. You can hike from one beach to another and it is totally worth it if you have time.

Camilo Beach

The stunning and empty Praia do Camilo in Lagos, Portugal
The stunning and empty Praia do Camilo in Lagos, Portugal

There are many beaches in Lagos, but the best one is Praia do Camilo. It is stunning but is tiny. The water is very clear and the sand is perfect. There are arches, rock formations, and also a cave.

Praia do Camilo tends to get crowded because it is so pretty, so the best time to visit it is at 9:30 am right after breakfast. I did that too and it was empty. The beach is divided into two sections and you have to go through a cave to reach the second part.

The beaches of Lagos, Algarve - Praia do Camilo, Portugal
The beaches of Lagos, Algarve – Praia do Camilo, Portugal

In order to reach Praia do Camilo, you have to go on the same path that goes to Ponta da Piedade, but just before it is a turn that points to Camilo restaurant. That’s the entryway for Praia do Camilo too.

You have to climb lots of steps to reach this beach, but trust me it is worth it. Unfortunately, it has no wheelchair or pram access. There are many spots to stop and admire the view as you climb down this wide staircase.

I also saw a tiny snack bar at Praia do Camilo, so you can buy your basics. There isn’t any WC here on this beach.

Dona Ana beach

Praia de Dona Ana is a massive beach that’s amazing for a swim. There are nice rock formations here and as a result, there are some shaded areas to sit on a hot summer day.

The first time I visited Dona Ana beach was from a hike from the nearby Pinhão beach, which is super tiny. The first view of Dona Ana beach from up on the rocks took my breath away.

There is a restaurant on Dona Ana beach with a bar. I didn’t go there but my friend did to use the WC. There is also a bus stop right at the entry point of Dona Ana so it is easy to reach with public transportation.

Dona Ana beach was empty at 6 pm
Dona Ana beach was empty at 6 pm

This beach was completely empty at 6 pm because the sun went behind the rocks and the entire beach was covered in shade. I loved the view of it from the top when the sun started going down.

Dona Ana is not far from the old town. Actually, the beaches that are closer to the main town are Praia da Batata and Praia dos Estudantes. You can read more about those beaches in my post about Lagos’ beaches.

Praia do Canavial

Praia do Canavial, Lagos, Portugal
Praia do Canavial, Lagos, Portugal

If you want to go off the beaten path in Lagos, I suggest you hike to Praia do Canavial. You have to go on the Ponta da Piedade hike and keep going on this trail for a long time to see this beach.

It wasn’t easy to find it but I got lucky and found someone on the hiking trail who just got out of this beach. It was kind of like an adventure to reach here.

This beach is very nice because it is empty. That’s why it is a nudist beach or FKK beach. The sand was a tad pebbly and the rock formations were pretty ok when compared to the other beaches. But the thrill of adventure made this visit memorable.

Lagos Old Town

Lagos Old Town center, Algarve, Portugal
Lagos Old Town center, Algarve, Portugal

Yes, Lagos is a beach destination but has an interesting city center. There are old buildings that are covered with Azulejos. The time I visited, there were Jacaranda trees, citrus trees, and bougainvillea all around the old town and everything was blooming and fruiting.

I like that Lagos is a stunning beach destination but also has a historical small-town vibe. This is why I feel that Lagos is an important spot in this Portugal road trip itinerary because it pretty much has everything.

Where to Stay in Lagos

B22 – Rising Sun 2 Bed Flat – Ideally suited for families and couples who are looking for an apartment with a view. I’d book this in a heartbeat if I was visiting with my husband and my little girl.

Lemon Tree Relaxing Guest House – Peaceful Place with a garden and a shared kitchen.

Safari Beach Guest House – Affordable private rooms and dorm beds in a quiet residential area. This is where I stayed and loved it.

Kampaoh Praia da Luz – This is a nice campground and it makes sense to stay here if you have a campervan.

Trindade Guest House and Camping – If you arrive in Lagos on a camper van, then you can consider this place since it has van parking and camping facilities too.

Lisbon and Sintra – 3 days

Lisbon view from the top
Lisbon view from the top

Ola Lisboa, you are just so beautiful!

I don’t like big cities but I make an exception for Lisbon because it is so pretty. It has loads of history thus one can find historical buildings, churches streets, and structures. Yes, a lot of big European cities have a rich history, but Lisbon has so much more.

Lisbon is built on seven hills and as a result, there are many viewpoints. These are called “Miradouro” and there are many. Some of the streets are slanted and you can see the Tagus River from a few of them.

Walking on Lisbon’s narrow streets with pastel houses all around and yellow trams, I felt I was a part of a Wes Anderson movie.

If you are driving to Lisbon, then consider parking your rented car or van at Lisboa Bungalows & Camping, which is a little away from the busy city center. Driving in Portugal’s busy cities is no fun, so avoid it if you can.

There are many things to do here, I recommend you spend at least three days here. You can get yourself a Lisbon card which covers the transport and historical buildings.

It is worth it only if you want to go inside historical buildings. I didn’t get the Lisbon card, but I still managed all right because I didn’t have plans to go inside more than 1-2 historical buildings.

Eat Pastel de Nata

Pastel de Nata - a must have in Lisbon
Pastel de Nata – a must-have in Lisbon

Pastel de Nata is a famous Portuguese egg tart pastry, which was invented in Lisbon by monks to use up leftover eggs. It became popular and the recipe was then sold to Pastéis de Belém. You don’t have to go all the way there but find any random bakery where you eat this amazingly filling snack that makes a good breakfast.

Alfama & Graça

Rua dos Remédios in Alfama
Rua dos Remédios in Alfama

Lisbon is pretty but Alfama is the icing on top. It is Lisbon’s oldest district and is mostly residential. The famous historical Castelo de São Jorge is on one side of Alfama and on the other is the Tagus River.

Walk on Alfama’s narrow streets and get lost in the labyrinth. Watch how the Yellow Tram 28 moves on these slanted streets. A notable old street in Alfama is Rua dos Remédios, which is just for pedestrians. I discover something new each time I walk in Alfama.

Lisbon View from Miradouro da Graça
Lisbon View from Miradouro da Graça

There are a bunch of free walking tours in Alfama but you can easily explore this adorable old town on your own at your pace.

Right above Alfama is Graça, which is Lisbon’s highest district. Be prepared to climb to the top of the hill to enter Graça and sit for a drink next to Miradouro da Graça, there’s an open-air cafe/bar here).

Follow Tram 28 Route

Follow Tram 28 Route in Alfama, Lisbon
Follow Tram 28 Route in Alfama, Lisbon

Lisbon’s historical trams are cute but tram 28 is special because it goes through Alfama & Graça. It isn’t easy to get on the tram 28 because of crazy long lines but you can just follow its path and photograph it.

Personally, I think standing in a long line would be such a time waste because Lisbon has so many amazing things to do and you can’t just get stuck on to one.

I have been to Portugal five times and still not got on to the tram 28. By the way, Lisbon has red trams too and they move around in Alfama as well.

Castelo de São Jorge

Walking to Castelo de São Jorge in Lisboa
Walking to Castelo de São Jorge in Lisboa

Let’s talk about the most famous historical building of Lisbon, the São Jorge Castle (or St. George’s Castle) which is perched on top of a hill overlooking Alfama. This castle is so old that the first fortification here dates back to the 2nd century BC.

In order to visit the São Jorge Castle, you have to arrive here super early because the queues are longer than you can imagine. If you arrive a bit late, you can forget about entering it and move on to the next place.

If you do manage to get inside Castelo de São Jorge, you will enjoy a panoramic view of Lisbon.

Torre da Igreja do Castelo de São Jorge, Lisboa instagram spots
Torre da Igreja do Castelo de São Jorge, Lisboa Instagram spots

If you don’t want to wait in line and can’t go inside Castelo de São Jorge, just walk a little further and you will arrive at the castle’s church tower – “Torre da Igreja do Castelo de São Jorge”. The line here was non-existent and I paid 5 euros to enter and went up to see the view. I also got a free glass of wine!

Miradouro de Santa Luzia and Portas do Sol

Miradouro de Santa Luzia viewpoint in Lisbon
Miradouro de Santa Luzia viewpoint in Lisbon

There are two viewpoints in Lisbon right next to each other and are totally worth the visit. Miradouro de Santa Luzia is on a lower level with a beautiful tiled sitting area and magenta bougainvillea growing on the arches on top.

Portas dos sol sunset cocktails - 2 days in Lisbon
Portas dos sol sunset cocktails – 2 days in Lisbon

Right above it is Miradouro das Portas do Sol, which is more open and also has an open-air bar, so you can grab a drink here and sit next to the railing to admire the view of Lisbon’s red-roofed buildings and Tagus river.

I suggest you see the sunset at Miradouro de Santa Luzia and then head to Miradouro das Portas do Sol for a few cocktails. Miradouro de Santa Luzia tends to feel more crowded because it is smaller and super pretty. If you can wake up early then come here for a sunrise experience.

Jerónimos Monastery & Belém Tower

Belem Tower in Lisbon
Belem Tower in Lisbon

Jerónimos Monastery & Belém Tower are historical buildings close to each other. They are a bit far from Alfama and Rossio, so you have to get on an Uber to visit them.

Visit Jerónimos Monastery early because the queues tend to get long. Lisboa Card will get you skip-the-line privileges but it isn’t always possible when things go out of control. This along with the nearby Belém Tower is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Belém Tower is a symbol of the Age of Discoveries and is a lovely landmark. Honestly, you don’t have to enter it to appreciate it but you can admire how it looks from the outside as well.

Rossio Square to Santa Just Lift

Geometrical flooring at Rossio Square Lisbon
Geometrical flooring at Rossio Square Lisbon

No matter where you stay in Lisbon, you will at some point cross the main Rossio Square. It is a big square with geometrical floor tiles, a fountain, and old buildings all around. There is also usually a long queue here for tram 28.

Rua de Santa Justa in Baixa, Lisbon
Rua de Santa Justa in Baixa, Lisbon

From Rossio, you can walk to Baixa and on to Rua de Santa Justa. This street is pretty and you will see a Neo-Gothic style tower which is a historic elevator building. During the high season in the summer months, the lines are very long and it doesn’t make sense to go up.

Arco da Rua Augusta

Rua Augusta in Lisbon
Rua Augusta in Lisbon

From Rossio, walk to Arco da Rua Augusta – the main shopping street of Lisbon which is very busy. It is lined with restaurants and shops. At the end of the street is the Augusta Arc.

Arco da Rua Augusta Lisbon Portugal
Arco da Rua Augusta Lisbon Portugal

You can stop on this street at Fábrica da Nata for Pastel de Nata. There are many touristy restaurants on this street that are overpriced. One place worth visiting is Imprensa Cocktail & Oyster Bar for amazing drinks.

Walk to the Augusta arc and admire it. Beyond it, you will see Praça do Comércio and the Tagus River.

Walk Along the Tagus river

Walk next to Tagus River
Walk next to the Tagus River

From the Augusta arc, walk along the Tagus River. There are marble sitting structures along the river where you can sit and spend some time. As you walk along the Tagus River, you will see some carts with cocktails for sale.

Time Out Lisboa / Mercado da Ribeira

Inside Time Out Market Lisboa
Inside Time Out Market Lisboa

Walk a little further along the Tagus River and you will see a building with “Mercado da Ribeira” written on it. It is an amazing place for food that was also featured on the “Somebody Feed Phill” show on Netflix.

Mercado da Ribeira also called Time Out Lisboa, is more than just a normal food court. It is a collection of carefully curated eateries with some of the best chefs from all over Lisbon. You will find not only a lot of traditional Portuguese food but also international food.

The middle part of Time Out Lisboa has cocktail bars and we had Aperol Spritzes from here. The all-around these bars were dining tables with shared seating. The atmosphere overall was super casual.

Bairro Alto or Pink Street for Nightlife

Pink Street with Umbrellas looks good at sunset time, Lisbon
Pink Street with Umbrellas looks good at sunset time, Lisbon

Just a few steps from the Time Out Factory is Pink Street. Just like the name, the street is actually pink in color with umbrellas on top. It is where you can start your evening and enjoy a few cocktails.

The main area for nightlife in Lisbon is just a bit ahead of Pink Street – it is Bairro Alto. That’s where a lot of locals and travelers go for a night of party and it sort of reminded me of Bangkok’s Khao San Road.

Where to Stay in Lisbon

If you are driving to Lisbon, then I mentioned Lisboa Bungalows & Camping already. It is a bit away from the busy center.

If you don’t mind driving in Lisbon’s narrow lanes, here are a few places I think you can consider in the old town of Alfama and Graca.

There is much more to do in Lisbon than what I have mentioned above. Even though most of these spots are just 100 – 200 meters away from each other, don’t underestimate the amount of energy you will need to walk in Lisbon. The city is built on hills, thus the streets are sloped and one needs to climb a lot.

There are more things to do here like LX Factory, Live Fado Shows, the Christo Rei statue, and many more viewpoints. See my Lisbon itinerary for more things to do here.

Pena Palace, Sintra

Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal
Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal

If you parked your car at Lisboa Camping, then Sintra is less than a 30-minute drive away. In that case, you can stay put in the same campground and see Sintra on a day trip from Lisbon.

Sintra has mountains, beaches, small fishing villages, and a technicolor fortress perched on top of a hill – Pena Palace. This UNESCO World Heritage Sita is also one of the seven wonders of Portugal.

The first thing you should do when you arrive in Sintra is to see Pena Palace. The palace itself is stunning and multicolored. It is unlike any building you would ever see. The view from Pena Palace is spectacular because there are mountains all around.


Boca do Inferno, Cascais, Portugal
Boca do Inferno, Cascais, Portugal via Unsplash

After visiting Pena Place, drive for 25 minutes towards the coast to reach Cascais, which is a beautiful seaside resort town with was earlier a simple fishing village. Take a break and relax on the massive sandy beach of Cascais. Go to Guincho Beach or Praia do Tamariz.

After Lisbon and Pena Palace, you might be bored of historical buildings so a breach break would be good for you. If not, Cascais also has historical buildings – Nossa Senhora da Luz Fort, the Citadel Palace, and Nossa Senhora da Assunção church.

If you are interested in nature, then see Boca do Inferno which means “Hell’s mouth” and is a rock formation. You have to walk along the water on the rocks and go a bit uphill to arrive here. Also, this is the spot from where you will get a nice waterfront view of Cascais.

Cabo da Roca

Estrada do Cabo da Roca, Colares, Portogallo
Estrada do Cabo da Roca, Colares, Portogallo

After seeing Cascais, drive for another 30 minutes to reach Cabo da Roca, which is the westernmost point of Europe. It is a viewpoint on a 140-meter-high cliff that looks out to sea where you can stand and wave at America.

There are many hiking trails that start here. There is also a small cafe with touristy prices. There is a lighthouse here too, Farol do Cabo da Roca.

It can get very windy up here so bring a jacket. If you are lucky, you will also see a musician or two here busking. Cabo da Roca is a part of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.

By the way, the parking at Cabo da Roca is free and sometimes there are people who try to scam visitors by asking for a parking fee.

This brings us to the end of Lisbon and Sintra as part of the itinerary. If you want to skip North Portugal, then you can catch a flight to the Azores Islands from Lisbon. Else, get ready for a short drive to the next destination.

Óbidos  – Stop for Sightseeing

Óbidos town and castle, Portugal road trip
Óbidos town and castle, Portugal road trip via Pixabay

The beauty of a road trip in Portugal is that none of the destinations are a long drive away. Everything is so close, so the drive from Sintra to your next top – Nazaré is just 1.5 hours.

Just towards the end of this drive, you will cross a historical small village called Óbidos. This is where you can make a small stop for lunch, coffee, or possibly quick sightseeing. Portugal has many interesting places but there’s something special about visiting the smaller towns.

Óbidos is located on top of a hill with fortified city walls around it. The medieval architecture of this little town is well preserved and that’s why it has been receiving attention recently.

With a medieval castle, old city square, and historic streets, Óbidos has enough that will keep you occupied for a few hours.

Compared to most of the destinations mentioned in this itinerary, Óbidos is tiny. It is one of the beautifully preserved medieval villages of Portugal.

Nazaré – 2 days

Praia da Nazaré, Nazare beach view from the cliff, Portugal
Praia da Nazaré, Nazare beach view from the cliff, Portugal

On my third visit to Portugal, I asked some of the locals and other travelers about other interesting places to visit in the country and most suggested Nazaré, a surf town on the west coast. So I went back after three months to see Nazaré, and it was my fourth time in Portugal.

Nazaré is world famous, but not because of the beaches but the waves. They are massive here. The highest wave that was ever surfed was recorded in Nazaré and was 26.2 meters high. The record was made by Sebastian Steudtner, a German surfer.

You know one of those small towns with a fun vibe that you visit and get too comfortable to leave? Nazaré is one of them. Here’s what you can do in Nazaré during your visit here.

Praia da Nazaré

Praia da Nazaré - Nazare beach
Praia da Nazaré – Nazare beach

Praia da Nazaré is the main beach of Nazare and is massive. It is a nice sandy beach where I enjoyed a swim on a day when the waves were calm. Just like most of the beaches of Portugal, the water here was very cold too because it is the Atlantic Ocean, but was fun nonetheless.

The time I visited Praia da Nazaré, it was pretty full and had a lot of families because it was the school vacation time in Europe. There were tented sitting spots that we could rent for a day, but we just put up our mat instead.

Ride the Funicular Railway to Sítio

Nazare Funicular from Nazaré to Sítio, Portugal
Nazare Funicular from Nazaré to Sítio, Portugal

Nazare is divided into two parts – Lower Nazare (Praia da Nazaré) and Sítio (Upper Nazare). You can ride the funicular to reach the top, it is just EUR 1.50 per way. When you reach the top, it isn’t just a viewpoint but an entire separate town center with everything.

Walk around in Sítio and you will see an amazing view from many different spots. For me, the best views are at the start of Sítio overlooking Praia da Nazaré.

The entry point of Sítio, or upper Nazare, Portugal
The entry point of Sítio, or upper Nazare, Portugal

Sítio is actually the place from where you can see the waves and the surfers during the high wave season, which is October to February.

If you are in Sitio, one of the must-see sights here is the 21-foot Veado statue, which is the body of a human, the head of a deer, and holding a surfboard. Right behind it is Praia do Norte (the North Beach) where all the surfing action happens.

Explore Nazaré Town

Nazare town with white houses, Portugal
Nazaré town with white houses, Portugal

I loved exploring the maze of narrow streets in Nazaré town. The streets looked whitewashed and with white laundry that was hanging from the windows to dry.

As you walk in the direction of the beach, the streets get busier with loud bars and restaurants. But if you walk in the other direction, you will only see simple residential buildings.

Where to Stay in Nazare

  • Vila Fidalgo – Cute apartments and ours had a view from the balcony. This is where I stayed.
  • Feel Nazaré – Boutique Apartments that are beachfront
  • Hotel Mar Bravo – Beachfront with a view

Coimbra or Aveiro – Stop for a lunch

Is Coimbra Worth Visiting, Portugal
Is Coimbra Worth Visiting, Portugal

After spending two relaxing days in Nazare, it is time to hit the road again for your last stop – Porto. The drive from Nazaré to Porto is just 2 hours, which gives you enough time to stop somewhere so I will give you two options.

Both small towns Aveiro and Coimbra are small towns where you can stop for lunch and a few hours of sightseeing because they are just midway on your drive from Nazare to Porto.

I have been to Coimbra, it is an interesting old city and has the oldest universities or Portugal. In fact, it is the oldest university in the Portuguese-speaking world and has a stunning library.

Aveiro is smaller than Coimbra and is situated along a lagoon called Ria de Aveiro. It has canals and colorful boats that are called barcos moliceiros. I personally haven’t visited Aveiro because I went to Coimbra instead.

Porto – 2 – 3 Days

Porto Cathedral views
Porto Cathedral views

Your last stop in your itinerary for 2 weeks in Portugal is the historical city of Porto. Please check the traffic situation before because I remember standing in a jam for 2-3 hours near Porto. I have learned to be patient with traffic jams but they aren’t fun when you are traveling with children.

Porto is smaller than Lisbon, but it still has a lot of historical buildings and viewpoints. I also have a post on my blog with a detailed comparison of Porto vs Lisbon. Porto is called Oporto in Portuguese.

I will give you a tip for exploring Porto. This city has a lot of historical buildings and landmarks. In order to enjoy your trip and relax a little during your holiday, don’t put pressure on yourself to see as many historical landmarks as possible. You will have more fun when you give yourself time to relax, explore a little spontaneously, sit at random open-air bars for a drink, and just chill.

Spend three days in Porto if you want to experience this city in a relaxing way. If you are short on time then two days are also enough. See my list of recommended things to do here:

Ribeira (Riverfront)

Ribeira Riverfront in Porto
Ribeira Riverfront in Porto

Ribeira is Porto’s old town and is also the historic center. But at this point I’m not talking about the entire old town, but just the waterfront area.

Porto’s Ribeira is one of the most beautiful riverfront areas that I have seen, with old buildings, boats, and interesting sights. This area looks its best at night when it’s dark and all the yellow lamps glow. Their reflection in water looks amazing.

Porto’s Historic Center

Porto is a beautiful city with historic buildings, churches, and streets. Along with Ribeira, the historic center of Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has more than 2000 years of history.

azulejos in Porto
Me admiring and photographing azulejos in Porto

Admire the old buildings covered with blue azulejos, dilapidated buildings that look very old, cute residential buildings with grandmas standing on the balconies – the beauty is in the details and you can actually lose yourself admiring all these little things because there are so many.

There are many buildings and landmarks that you can see here, I won’t mention them all but a few here and everything is a short walk away:

Igreja do Carmo

Igreja do Carmo's famous tiled side facade
Igreja do Carmo’s famous tiled side facade

Igreja do Carmo is perhaps the most photographed church in Porto because it has a side facade that’s covered with azulejos. You will see azulejos all over in Portugal but this particular wall is one of the most famous ones.

Torre dos Clerigos & Church

When you explore Porto’s Historical center, you will see the 75-meter-high Clerigos tower in the background. Torre dos Clerigos and Clerigos Church are very old Baroque structures that are interesting to look at.

Rua Santa Catarina

Rua Santa Catarina - Porto's shopping street
Rua Santa Catarina – Porto’s shopping street

This is a historical shopping street in Porto, walk here and enjoy the sights. You will find a lot of cork leather-based items and I bought a little backpack that receives a lot of compliments.

São Bento Train Station

São Bento Train Station
São Bento Train Station

More than any church or cathedral, my favorite building in Porto is the São Bento Train Station. The interiors are super splendid and there are high arched windows. There is intricate tilework on the walls – an amazing example of well-kept azulejos.

Livraria Lello

The crowded Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto
The crowded Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto

Yes, it is a bookstore but Livraria Lello is historical. It is one of the oldest bookstores in the world. It isn’t that big and sometimes gets crowded beyond imagination. Read my post if Livraria Lello is worth it or not.

I actually visited Porto during peak season so my experience wasn’t all that great. If you visit Livraria Lello first thing in the morning or during less busy months then you might just end up enjoying it.

Sé do Porto (Porto Cathedral)

If you decide to visit just one historical building, then it is Sé do Porto – also called Porto Cathedral. It is so beautiful that it looks more like a palace and less like a cathedral.

I happened to be here right before the sunset so the pictures came out really well. This is also close to Dom Luís I Bridge on which you can walk to reach the other side of Porto for an amazing sunset. We will talk about them right below.

Dom Luís I Bridge

Me on the windy Dom Luís I Bridge in Porto
Me on the windy Dom Luís I Bridge in Porto

Dom Luís I Bridge is iconic and is fun to walk on it to reach the other side of the Douro River because of the amazing views after every few steps. Even during peak summer months, it gets very windy and cold on this bridge so carry a jacket.

Be careful and watch out for the metro when you are walking on this bridge because it runs on this bridge without a protective barrier.

Jardim do Morro (Sunset)

Jardim do Morro Sunset view
Jardim do Morro Sunset view

When you cross the Dom Luis I Bridge, you will reach Vila Nova de Gaia – which is the other side of the Douro River. There are many spots here that offer great views, especially during the sunset time.

The closest spot to the bridge for sunset watching is a garden called Jardim do Morro. If you are here during peak season times, then forget about getting a good spot for sitting but just stand and enjoy the most beautiful show that the sky puts on every 12 hours – sunset and sunrise.

Eat Francesinha Sandwich

Francesinha at Café Santiago, Porto
Francesinha at Café Santiago, Porto

Just the way I told you to eat Pastel de Nata which was invented in Lisbon, I recommend you try Porto’s iconic sandwich – the Francesinha.

Francesinha sandwich has layers of meat, cheese, bread, egg, and more cheese. It is topped with Francesinha sauce and sometimes also french fries. It felt like more of a hangover meal and we couldn’t eat more than a handful of bites.

Douro Valley Wine Tasting

Douro Valley - Porto day trips
Douro Valley – Porto day trips

Going to one landmark to another and trying to see them all can be stressful. Take a break and get on a boat to see the beauty of Douro Valley, which is the Port wine region.

Sit back and relax as you experience the natural beauty of Northern Portugal on a guided tour that includes a traditional Portuguese lunch, the Pinhão viewpoint, a river cruise, and a wine-tasting session.

Where to Stay in Porto

Here are the places I suggest you consider booking in Porto. I stayed in an Airbnb and we didn’t like the location. After seeing Porto, I now know I’d want to stay closer to Ribeira so below are the places I have shortlisted for you.

If you don’t have time to do an entire Portugal road trip and you’re able to fly to Oporto airport for cheap, then consider doing just a Porto road trip with the nearby Douro Valley, Coimbra, and Aveiro. Personally, for me, any visit to Portugal is incomplete without the amazing Algarve coast.

Tips for driving in Portugal

If you aren’t able to get cheap flights to Faro, then consider flying to Seville in Spain which is close to the border. You can spend a day here to see this pretty city and then reach the Algarve by road. It is very easy to cross the Spanish border by car to enter Portugal. It never feels like a different country.

Portugal has toll roads and if you are renting a car, then you will pay the toll fee with the toll transponder which will be fixed in your rented vehicle. The toll transponder will be connected with your debit or credit card for the toll payments.

When you are trying to find the route using Google Maps, there is an option of avoiding toll roads. Use it if you must. But the toll fee isn’t expensive in Portugal the way it is in France.

Don’t try to cover it all and stress yourself by trying to see everything. Some of the best road trips are those where a part of the itinerary leaves room for spontaneity.

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25 Best Souvenirs from Amsterdam (Authentic and Very Dutch)

25 Best Souvenirs from Amsterdam (Authentic and Very Dutch)

Do you ever buy souvenirs when you travel? I sometimes do so that I can save a small memory of my travels. At times I also gift something meaningful to my family and friends.

I don’t like the “typical souvenirs” that you can buy in souvenir shops in most touristy destinations. I’m talking about fridge magnets, key chains, shot glasses, coffee mugs, coasters, or just some random items.

Instead, I look for unique souvenirs that perhaps tell a story. It could be something handmade from a flea market. I look for things that are unique to that specific destination. 

Inside Mechanisch Speelgoed, Amsterdam
Inside Mechanisch Speelgoed, Amsterdam

Yes, I did buy a key ring with the Amsterdam logo and a windmill fridge magnet for my parents when I first visited this city. But now I visit local markets to look for unique handmade things and authentic souvenirs.

I love going to Albert Cuyp Market which is pretty big. I also like the Waterlooplein Flea Market but I feel that it has become somewhat expensive. I make it a point to make a small trip to the local grocery stores and supermarkets like Albert Heijn (a.k.a. Appie) or HEMA for interesting things.

So with that, it took me multiple trips to Amsterdam to realize what the best souvenirs to buy from Amsterdam for everyone.

Canal Houses or Windmill made with Delft Pottery

Delft Pottery Canal Houses from Amsterdam
KLM Delft Pottery Canal Houses from Amsterdam by Sage and Lilly home

Let’s talk about the local handicrafts of the Netherlands. Delft Blue pottery is an age-old craft of the Netherlands. It is pretty and the delicate details will make you fall in love with the items.

Of course, you can buy a coffee mug, ceramic animals, or ashtrays but let’s go a step further and buy something that’s truly unique to Amsterdam. Get yourself a canal house!

The one depicted in the picture above is a limited edition from KLM that the airlines used for serving their Bols Genever gin. The Delft Blue Pottery Canal houses mania began because of this.

Canal houses are the narrow buildings of Amsterdam that look a bit lopsided and sometimes are called dancing gingerbread houses. I hardly ever buy decor since I’m more of a minimalist but these are truly adorable. They look very cute with Christmas decorations too.

Delft Blue Pottery windmill
Delft Blue Pottery windmill via Pixabay

Apart from canal houses, another thing you can buy is a ceramic windmill made with Delft Blue Pottery. Windmills are a common sight in the Netherlands, and traditional Dutch windmills are even better. You can truly bring the beauty of the country back home with something like this.

You don’t need to look in any special shop but you will find Delft Blue Pottery in most of the touristy souvenir shops in the city center.


Stroopwafels - Amsterdam souvenirs
Stroopwafels – Amsterdam souvenirs

Stroopwafels are a traditional Dutch cookie that looks like a small waffle. The taste is super caramel-ey because of the filling. The syrup-like filling is called Stroop, hence the name.

Just like a lot of other Amsterdam souvenirs, you can buy the Stroopwafels from literally anywhere – supermarkets, and grocery stores but the most famous ones are sold at Van Wonderen Stroopwafels. They aren’t the best at Van Wonderen Stroopwafels, but it is a matter of Instagram publicity.

In many high-end hotels in the Netherlands, a miniature version of Stroopwafels is included complimentary along with a tee and coffee.

I used to buy packs of Stroopwafels for my father before flying out to India each time because he loved them.

Fun fact: Stroopwafels were originally made in the city of Gouda. Yes, the same place from where Gouda cheese comes from.

Dutch Cheese like Gouda

Gouda Cheese and a bicycle - typical sight in the Netherlands
Gouda Cheese in the Netherlands

C’mon, you can’t leave the Netherlands without buying the Dutch Cheeses. I fell in love with all the Dutch cheese instantly.

Of course, there’s the world-famous Gouda cheese – young and aged. I prefer the aged one. I also love Maasdam cheese which has a bit of a nutty flavor and has usually holes in it like Emmental cheese.

My personal favourite is the Old Amsterdam Cheese which is an aged hard cheese and is full of amazing flavor. It pairs very well with red wine.

Old Amsterdam is a brand of Dutch Gouda cheese. You don’t really have to go to its main store to buy it but you can get it in any supermarket in Amsterdam (like Albert Heijn).

If you want to visit the Old Amsterdam cheese store, they are in 4 places – Damrak 62 (a touristy area near Amsterdam Centraal Train Station), Singel 490 (near Flower Market), Damstraat 17-19 (a super touristy area in De Wallen), and at Schiphol Airport.

Don’t miss the Farmstead cheese also called the farmhouse cheese. Yes, you need to buy them from farmhouses but they can also be found in supermarkets. Look for “Naturamel Cheese”, it is a brand that sells Dutch farmhouse cheese.

Cheese Slicer

Cheese Slicer for Gouda Cheese
Cheese Slicer for Gouda Cheese

If you do buy hard Dutch cheeses like Gouda, then keep a note to also buy a cheese slicer from a local grocery store.

Even if you already have a cheese slicer, take a look at the one that’s made just for Gouda cheese and you will want to buy it.

These aren’t expensive and can sometimes cost between just EUR 2 to 5, but they definitely make it easier to consume these Dutch cheeses. If you buy them from a souvenir shop, then they will be for EUR 10 and will have a fancy Delft Blue ceramic handle.

A cheese slicer is a great souvenir for cheese lovers, especially those who like hard cheese.

Tulip Bulbs from Bloemenmarkt

Floating Flower Market in Amsterdam - Bloemenmarkt
Floating Flower Market in Amsterdam – Bloemenmarkt

Do you know that the Netherlands is a major producer of Tulips? These blooms have been depicted pretty often in Dutch Golden Age paintings. The Tulip Mania began as early as the 17th century.

People visit from all over the world to see the tulips at Keukenhof Gardens in spring. You may not end up going there but you can buy yourself some tulip bulbs!

Tulip Bulbs are onion-like things that you can plant in your garden to grow tulips. Because they grow from bulbs, they are perennial – meaning they grow back every year and bloom. These are the best Souvenirs from Amsterdam to buy for that friend you have who’s into gardening.

Tulips inside Bloemenmarkt - Amsterdam's flower market
Tulips inside Bloemenmarkt – Amsterdam’s flower market

While you are in Amsterdam, go visit the Bloemenmarkt -the famous floating flower market along the Singel Canal. Bloemenmarkt is an open-air market and I always mention it in my Amsterdam itineraries.

Not only it is a great place to visit during your time in Amsterdam, but while you’re there you can buy yourself tulip bulbs so that you can try to grow these beauties in your garden back home.

You will see wooden tulips in many souvenir shops in Amsterdam, but from here you can buy cut Tulips. It is always a good idea to buy them on your last day. Yes, it is allowed to take them on the airplane and you will most likely receive a certificate from the seller.

Dutch Cocoa Powder

Dutch Cocoa Powder - Amsterdam Souvenirs
Dutch Cocoa Powder – Amsterdam Souvenirs via Pixabay

Did you know that Cocoa powder is a Dutch invention? If you or someone you know enjoys baking, then a pack of Dutch cocoa powder makes a perfect souvenir. It is smoother, darker, and usually richer than the typical cocoa powder. It has less caffeine than the normal cocoa powder.

If you are buying it for yourself as a souvenir, then keep in mind that you have to use it a bit differently in baking than other cocoa powders because the Dutch one isn’t acidic. If you’re not baking with it then you can use it like a normal cocoa powder.

In order to buy Dutch cocoa powder, just go to any supermarket and buy the cocoa powder that’s sold there. Of course, it won’t say “Dutch cocoa powder” when you’re buying it there but just look for “cacao” on the carton.

Bicycle Bells or Gear

Tiny bicycle repair kit from Haarlem, the Netherlands
Tiny bicycle repair kit from Haarlem, the Netherlands

Do you have a friend who loves cycling? Get them something useful for their bike from Amsterdam, after all, it is the bicycle capital of the world.

When you arrive in Amsterdam, you will notice an abundance of cycles even before you see the narrow buildings or canals. There are more bicycles in Amsterdam than people. (I talk more about this in my Amsterdam travel tips post.)

For that reason, the Netherlands is the perfect country from where you can buy something bike-related like a bicycle bell, a battery-powered headlight, a cell phone holder for the bike, or a tiny repair kit. Even better if you could find something with the Amsterdam logo or pictures of canal houses.

Go to small bike rental shops or local grocery stores and you are guaranteed to find some fun bicycle-related souvenirs.

The above-featured bicycle repair kit is a tiny box that was gifted to me by Carlton Square Hotel in Haarlem.

Sex Toys

Sailor with the nose vibrator in a Souvenir shop in Amsterdam
Sailor with the nose vibrator in a Souvenir shop in Amsterdam via Unsplash

I feel bad for mentioning sex toys right after wooden toys for children but the reality is that Amsterdam does have a massive sex tourism.

Amsterdam’s red light area is the perfect spot from where you can buy a kinky souvenir. Make it kinky and funny then you have got yourself a souvenir/gift that your friend will laugh about for ages.

Tony’s Chocolonely

Tony's Chocolonely from Amsterdam - top Dutch gift
Tony’s Chocolonely from Amsterdam – top Dutch gift via Unsplash

Tony’s Chocolonely is a Dutch chocolate company that isn’t old but their chocolates are super popular in the Netherlands and as a result, it is now one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the country.

If you have a friend who’d appreciate a sweet treat, then get them a chocolate from Tony’s Chocolonely. I highly recommend the Zartbitter chocolate and also the one with caramel and sea salt. These chocolates are so good that they’re addictive!

I did mention earlier that cocoa powder is a Dutch invention, and Dutch cocoa powder is a bit different than others. As a result, the chocolates taste smoother and richer in Holland.

Hagelslag – Chocolate sprinkles

Hagelslag - Dutch chocolate sprinkles
Hagelslag – Dutch chocolate sprinkles

When you go to Amsterdam, and if you befriend a local – you might get introduced to Hagelslag – an interesting Dutch snack that’s super simple.

Dutch Chocolate sprinkles are popular and sometimes the locals put them on toast for a sweet breakfast. Of course, the most famous Chocolate Sprinkles are by De Ruijter but you can look for more alternatives in other Dutch supermarkets too.

Klomp – Wooden Clogs

Try Dutch Clogs - Wooden Shoes - Itinerary for the Netherlands
Try Dutch Clogs – Wooden Shoes – Itinerary for the Netherlands

Now this isn’t for everyone but if you like croc clogs, then try the wooden clogs from the Netherlands. Of course, you can use them as decor but I’m all about functional items. So go to De Klompenboer, get a pair of wooden shoes that fit you, and use them as your gardening shoes.

Yes, some Dutch farmers and gardeners still wear them. The wooden clogs are safer than steel-capped shoes in some circumstances and are officially accredited as safety shoes with the CE Mark.

De Winkel van Nijntje for Miffy Themed Items

De Winkel van Nijntje - Miffy themed items in Amsterdam
De Winkel van Nijntje – Miffy-themed items in Amsterdam via Unsplash

If you visit Japan, you might just want to visit a Hello Kitty-themed store. Similarly, if you visit the Netherlands, you should visit this Miffy-themed store.

Go to De Winkel van Nijntje in Amsterdam, it is one of the most famous kids’ stores with Miffy bunny-themed items. Not just kids but there are Miffy-themed items for grown-ups too.

Miffy is a fictional rabbit that’s a famous Dutch creation and has its own book series too. So this isn’t just a random children’s store but the theme is very Dutch because Miffy is a Dutch character.

You can buy miffy-themed toothbrushes, night lamps, coffee mugs, Christmas tree ornaments, and of course books.

Cute Gifts from Mouse Mansion (Het Muizenhuis)

Het Muizenhuis - Mouse Mansion
Het Muizenhuis – Mouse Mansion

I mentioned Het Muizenhuis in my post about exploring Amsterdam with children. It is a one-of-a-kind store with a permanent exhibit of toy mice family and their elaborate house and village. It is like Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland but for mice.

They sell D.I.Y. kits that children can use and make their own miniature rooms – like classrooms, kitchens, etc. They also sell the mouse characters in plush toys.

Inside Het Muizenhuis - Mouse Mansion
Inside Het Muizenhuis – Mouse Mansion

Whether you have kids or not, I’m sure you know at least one. If you’d like to buy a small adorable gift for them, consider Mouse Mansion’s DIY kits.

These DIY kits from Het Muizenhuis aren’t exactly cheap but neither is traveling to Amsterdam. If you are here for a vacation, then I have to assume that you can afford a gift from Het Muizenhuis.

Wooden Toys and Wind Up Toys from Mechanisch Speelgoed

Mechanisch Speelgoed - Toy Store in Amsterdam
Mechanisch Speelgoed – Toy Store in Amsterdam

When I was a kid, I often played with wind-up toys. If you don’t know what I mean, I’m talking about mechanical toys with keys, where you turn the key a few times, and the toy moves. These kinds of toys aren’t easy to find anymore since toys with buttons have replaced them.

Guess what, I found the most amazing toy store in Amsterdam with such kinds of old-school toys. The shop is small and has two levels. I spent so long here with my friend and we fell in love with almost all the toys here.

Wind up toys with keys in Mechanisch Speelgoed
Wind up toys with keys in Mechanisch Speelgoed

Wooden toys are super famous in Amsterdam and you can buy them too at Mechanisch Speelgoed. My daughter is too old for simple wooden toys but I did get her other mechanical toys.

I bought a pink robot for my little girl with a key. When you turn the key a few times, the robot walks. I understand this isn’t an “Amsterdam-specific” souvenir but it was a perfect gift for my little girl.

Van Gogh Souvenirs

Van Gogh - Starry Starry Night tote bag
Van Gogh – Starry Starry Night tote bag via Unsplash

If there’s one touristy souvenir that you want to buy, then let it be this. Unless you are living under a rock, then you surely know who Vincent Van Gogh was. His extremely bright and colorful watercolor masterpieces are famous all over the world.

I highly recommend you visit Van Gogh Museum and get a nice souvenir from the museum shop. In case you don’t end up visiting the Van Gogh Museum Shop, you can still find a lot of souvenirs that depict his art pieces.

For example, you can buy Starry Starry Night tote bags, self-portrait socks, mugs, and many of his other artworks featured on backpacks, scarves, tee shirts, and whatnot.

You will also find Van Gogh souvenirs at Schiphol Airport. If you forget to buy them there too, you can also order them from the Van Gogh Museum shop that’s online.

From Hortus Botanicus Gift Shop

Dutch farmers and gardeners are world-famous, so you should try to visit Hortus Botanicus while you are in Amsterdam. It turns out that one of the best things that I bought from my daughter was from the gift shop here.

During my weekend in Amsterdam, I went to Hortus Botanicus and bought 3-D butterflies that we assembled together like a puzzle and hung them in her room with a transparent thread and they looked like they were actually floating.

Hortus Botanicus is somewhat off the radar for tourists but it is nonetheless historical and is truly Dutch. There is a butterfly room in Hortus Botanicus and the memory of that remains with me when I look at the 3-D butterflies that I bought from there.

Jenever (Gin) or Dutch Beer

Amstel Beer in Amsterdam

Do you enjoy alcoholic drinks? If yes then one of the best Amsterdam souvenirs for you is Jenever, a kind of Dutch gin. (Just like you’d pick Mezcal if you go to Oaxaca). Jenever is the juniper-flavoured traditional liquor in the Netherlands. If you think Jenever was inspired by British gin, you’re wrong – it was the other way around.

Amsterdam is known as one of the “jenever cities” or jeneversteden. It is made by is made by The Stillery, Van Wees, and Wynand Fockink. Traditionally it is served in a tulip-shaped glass.

If you enjoy beer then most likely you have already tried Dutch beer, after all, Heinekin is popular all over the world. But if you visit Amsterdam, look beyond Heinekin and try the craft beer. Of course, you can’t carry craft beer back home, instead buy Amstel and Grolsch.

The best place to buy Jenever and Dutch beer is at Schiphol Airport duty-free shops.

Inside a smart shop in Amsterdam
Inside a smart shop in Amsterdam

We all know Amsterdam has a cannabis culture and if you or any of your friends smoke then a truly authentic souvenir that you can buy from this city is something marijuana-related.

No, you can’t buy weed or joints and carry them outside Amsterdam – it’s not legal and not worth the risk. Instead, you can buy weed crushers, pipes, bongs, wooden crushing bowls, and many other things that depict Amsterdam’s liberal ganja culture.

Walk around Amsterdam’s city center and you will see many “head shops” or “smart shops” in the sinful neighborhood of De Wallen where you can buy cannabis-related souvenirs in Amsterdam. Read my Amsterdam Coffeeshops post to get more info about the city’s marijuana scene.


When you are in a smart shop or a head shop, a good thing to buy is CBD oil. These aren’t illegal in most countries and in Germany, one can buy and use CBD oil that has less than 0.2% THC.

The CBD Oil that is normally available in the Netherlands is 0.05% THC, which should work fine with most of the countries but please check the restrictions of your home country before you buy it and fly back with it.

I haven’t personally used CBD Oils but I have heard that they help people who have insomnia, chronic pain, etc.


Chocomel - Chocolate and caramel drink
Chocomel – Chocolate and caramel drink

Cocomel is a Dutch chocolate and caramel drink that is super delicious. It is a Dutch brand and is available everywhere in Amsterdam.

Chocomel is sometimes available in Germany, Belgium, France, and the UK too like other Dutch products, but it is an excellent souvenir to buy for someone who likes chocolate milk. You can buy the small tetra packs that are further packed together in a group of 6, and if you pack smart then it won’t explode.

Garden Art

I have mentioned over and over that the Dutch gardens and gardeners are world-famous. If you have a garden of your own or if you know of someone who does, then buy them garden art.

This can be something small and cute like LED-powered butterflies, pinwheels, and even small windmills that move when it is windy.

Amsterdam Rain Poncho
Amsterdam Rain Poncho

Do you know it can rain anytime in Amsterdam? So Amsterdam is a perfect place to get a rain poncho because they are sold everywhere.

If you want to buy a funny souvenir, buy one of those typical one-time-use rain ponchos that cost just between 3-5 Euros and they look like you’re wearing a trash bag. They come in a tiny pack so you can just put them in your backpack and forget about them. Thank me on a rainy day when you can finally wear it.

Honestly, you can definitely use them more than once and I have used them over and over again while cucling and I love how comfortable they are.

These rain ponchos are affordable and functional. So they are truly the best things you can buy for friends who like the outdoors.

Sinterklaas Items

Sinterklaas is Sint-Nicolaas – a Dutch depiction of Saint Nicholas that became the Christmas icon that we know today – Santa Claus. If you are traveling to Amsterdam during the holiday time in November and December, then you will surely find a lot of Sinterklaas souvenirs and some are really funny.

Sinterklaas has a white horse and a helper called Zwarte Piet. The day of the feast day of Sinterklaas is December 6th in the Netherlands (also in Germany). So right around this date, you will see a lot of cute Christmas decor that features Sinterklaas.

Buy your own Sinterklaas for home so that you can remind yourself of your travels when you open your Christmas decoration box back home.

Dutch Christmas Tree Ornaments

Another one for the holidays, if you are going to be in Amsterdam in November and December, then it is the perfect place to buy one-of-a-kind Christmas tree ornaments as souvenirs.

You will find cute wooden clogs, hanging canal houses, windmills, bicycles, and many other small things that depict aspects of this Dutch capital. Add these unique ornaments to your Christmas decoration box so that you get reminded of your travels to Amsterdam when you’re back home.

Amsterdam Puzzle

I’m all about buying functional and usable souvenirs and I hardly ever buy decor unless it is super special (like canal houses). So let me present to you one last souvenir idea – get a jigsaw puzzle with Amsterdam’s cityscape.

Unlike Dutch snacks or drinks, this is one souvenir that you will enjoy over and over with your family or friends. It also makes an amazing gift!

Closing Thoughts on Amsterdam Souvenirs

Bar Bukowski, Amsterdam Oost
Bar Bukowski, Amsterdam Oost

I have a tip for you – you don’t always need to spend money to buy a souvenir. You can save small mementos like your city transport card, or paper coaster in a bar where you had an amazing time.

I loved this simple coaster at Bar Bukowski and I carried it home as a reminder of my solo trip to Amsterdam. I stuck it onto my fridge with a magnet and voila – I have a perfect souvenir that tells a story.

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Differences Between Living in Germany and India

Differences Between Living in Germany and India

Do you know that I’ve been living in Germany since 2017? I grew up in India but moved to Germany at the start of my 30s. I got to experience life in India and now I’m experiencing what it is like to live in Germany.

I am a part of a few forums online where those living in India often ask how different it is to live in Germany versus India, and so I decided to write this post based on my experience, after all, I have lived in both countries.

Water and Air Quality

Germany is so green
Germany is so green

This is the most obvious one. Now don’t get me wrong, the air and water quality in India is not bad everywhere, but it is horrible in some cities like Agra, Mumbai, Delhi, Gurgram, Noida, Patna, etc.

Pollution is especially bad in the autumn months, not because of the Diwali fireworks but because of Paddy straw burning in Punjab and Haryana.

In comparison, the air and water quality in Germany is very good. No, Germany doesn’t rank in the top 10 countries for cleanest air but it is definitely cleaner than India.

Shopping on Sundays in India vs Germany

Everything is closed on Sundays in Germany, even the supermarkets. So if you didn’t buy your important items on Saturday already, then you’re in a fix. Sometimes when Saturday or the Monday after is also a national holiday the supermarkets are closed for two days straight.

In comparison, in India, one can go shopping on a Sunday because everything is open. Many shops are still open on Diwali, which is the biggest festival of the Indian subcontinent.

Work-Life Balance

Paperwork doesn't seem to end when you move to another country
Paperwork doesn’t seem to end when you move to another country [CC0] via Pixabay

Germany has one of the best work-life balance that I have ever seen. The paid time off from work in India is typically 15 days and not everyone has a 5-day week.

The paid time off in Germany is 20 days for those who work for 5 days a week and 24 days for those working 6 days a week. I often meet people in Germany who work for just 4 days a week and this isn’t something I ever saw in India.

So yes, the work-life balance in Germany is much better than the one in India and the research revealed that Germany is one of the top places to live for young professionals.

Job Security

The job security in Germany is much higher than in India. Overall I think it also comes to the culture. Indians work much harder than Germans because we have a lot of competition due to the high population.

In India, if you don’t do your job then another person can replace you and the employer will just compensate you for just a month. In Germany, if a person loses their job, their employer has to pay for 6-12 months and then the employment office pays a salary.

Customer Service

Germany has bad customer service
Germany has almost zero customer service

Ever heard of good customer service in Germany? I’m sure not because it doesn’t exist. I think it has a lot to do with the culture and job security but it appears that a lot of employees actually don’t care.

I had my first shock of German customer service when I had a simple request from a staff member and he shrugged and said “What can I do”. I got the same reply from many other customer-facing people in different places over the next month and it kind of became a joke between me and my husband.

In comparison, if you go anywhere in India and ask for help, people will usually go out of their way to help you. Even if it isn’t a part of their job, they will at least guide you and help you in some way.

Shortage of Doctors

Germany has a massive shortage of doctors, which came as a shock to me since that’s not the case in India. For example, my town has just one doctor who’s an ENT specialist, three child doctors and I’m not just a handful of family physicians. I did mention this in my post about life in Germany that it isn’t easy getting an appointment with a doctor.

I realized that many doctors all over the world are Indians. I never felt there was a shortage of doctors when I was living in Delhi and it was always easy to get an appointment on the same day.

Technological Advancement

Smartphones and Apps
Smartphones and Apps

As a person who lives in Germany and often travels to India, let me share my honest openion. You will get a shock, but when I visit India from Germany, I feel like I can do just about everything using technology.

You can do everything on apps because there is an app-based service for almost everything in India. Not just taxi or food, but you can use apps for beauty salons, plumbers and what not. I’m talking about apps like Zomato, BlinkIt, Big Basket, Urban Company, Ola – they make life much easier.

In India, you don’t even need to carry cash anymore because you can just pay within seconds using digital wallets like PayTM. Even the roadside vendors selling street food or random things on carts have smartphones and they accept online payments.

In comparison, Germany has the infrastructure – perhaps even better than India but it is the people’s acceptance or the lack of it. Shockingly in many restaurants or bars, you can’t even pay using cards, let alone digital wallets.

As of the last few years, you can do a lot of paperwork digitally in India without having to visit government offices. This isn’t the case in Germany with most things because I end up visiting their City Hall – Rathaus very often for work.

Culture in Germany vs India

Germany’s culture is way more liberal as compared to India in some ways but is strangely rigid in others. Germany is open when it comes to sexuality, nakedity and other things but super old school about other things.

For example, it is considered rude if you don’t clean your windows in Germany but honestly no one cares about that in India. You also have to clean the sidewalk next to your house in case of autumn leaves, snow and many more things.

On the other hand, I like how it is socially acceptable for people to live together and become parents without getting married in Germany. In India it is still still not openly accepted. Yes, more and more couples are choosing to live together in urban India instead of getting married but having a child out of marriage is still a big social tabboo.

I also like Germany’s FKK – Free Body Culture which celebrates himan body and there’s no shame in being naked at FKK beaches. Nakedity is still a very big deal in India.

Physical Fitness

Ice Skating Rink at Weihnacht Markt Bielefeld Mitte in Klosterplatz Bielefeld
Ice Skating Rink at Weihnacht Markt Bielefeld Mitte in Klosterplatz Bielefeld

If you are in India, you will perhaps hate me for saying this but not many people take physical fitness seriously in India as they do in Germany. People are overall more sporty and physically fit in Germany.

Movement and sports are important aspects of German culture. People actually get excited to go skiing in winter and swimming in summer. Children learn how to cycle and skate at a very early age and I often see grandmas and grandpas cycling with their grandkids.

I’m a Yoga teacher and I teach in Germany. I am often surprised to see how physically fit people are even in their 50s and 60s. It is sad that this fitness culture isn’t as widespread in India even though it is the land of Yoga.


Why should we care about the English language when we’re not in England or the USA? It is because it is one of the most widely spoken languages, internationally understood and accepted.

English is more widely spoken in India than in Germany. As a foreigner or an expat, you will have an easier time understanding people in India as compared to Germany. It isn’t because people don’t know the English language in Germany, but they won’t talk in it unless they are hundred percent confident that their grammar is totally perfect. That’s not the case in Germany.

Even if it comes to visiting government offices, English is widely accepted for official documents the officials will have no problem explaining things to you in English. This isn’t the case in Germany.

Traveling within the Continent

Kruger Naturecamping in Jasmund National Park
Kruger Naturecamping in Jasmund National Park, Germany

I love to travel and visiting new countries is a part of my quarterly dose of fun in a year. In that sense, it is so much easier to travel within Europe while living in Germany versus traveling within Asia while living in India.

If you live in Germany, then you hold a German residence card. With this card, you can travel freely without even thinking of visas within the EU and beyond. For example, if I’m visiting a country that’s not a Schengen state, I can just show my German residence card and enter.

In comparison, if you are traveling within Asia from India, you will have to do your visa even if it is visa-on-arrival in most cases. So in that sense, it is so easy to do a road trip within Europe as compared to within Asia.

Drivers’ Licence

Getting a driver’s license is super complicated in Germany versus in India. This is both a good and a bad thing.

In order to get a driving permit in Germany, one has to complete a particular number of hours in the driving school to learn the rules, clear the written test, and the practical driving test, and undergo first-aid training. This entire process is not just time-consuming but also very expensive. It can cost up to 2,000 Euros in many cases, if not more.

This is bad because despite living in Germany since 2017, I still don’t have my driver’s permit. This is a good thing because the system ensures that only those who know about every single rule can be trusted to drive legallly.

German Food and Indian Food

Nuremberg Bratwurst - food in Nuremberg
Nuremberg Bratwurst – food in Nuremberg

When we talk about food, India wins hands down in every way. This isn’t just a matter of personal choice but about the variety of food that’s availble and the cultures. It isn’t about spice versus non-spice.

Indian food had so many options for every kind of a person – there’s enough vegan food that tastes good, super flavourful food for those who like an extra kick, bland food for those who can’t handle spice, meats, seafood and much more.

I’m not talking just about the local food but also about food from other cultures. The international food scene in India is difinitely better than what it is in Germany. When you go to an international restaurant in Germany, you will notice that they dull down the flavours to match the German palate.

If you travel from Germany to the Netherlands (just a few hours away), you will notice that the food is a bit more flavorful and delicious. If you travel from Germany to Italy, the flavors are so much more intense because of the fresh produce.

Even if you are a good cook, from time to time you would want to visit a restaurant. If you are used to the restaurant and food scene of India, living in Germany will kind of make you cry everyday.

It is Easier to Become Rich in India

If you are educated, have done your bachelor’s degree then you will find it easier to be rich financially in India versus Germany.

Firstly, India is a growing country and the inflashion rates are high. As a result the interest earned on deposits is much higher in India and is literally non existant in Germany. Secondl;y, the taxes are much higher in Germany than in India so you will have less of your salary in your hand in Germany.

Third, there is a massive difference in incomes of those who are at a senior m anagerial positions in India versus Germany – it is normally not a good thing because it creates social inquality. But on the other hand, if you are looking to become rich financially, then Germany isn’t the right country for you.


Perhaps it is the most imporant point but I decide to discuss it at the end. Germany is a country that’s full of rules. Even though you are free, but you won’t feel as free as you do in other countries because the rules.

For example, you aren’t allowed to mow the lawn or through glass trash on a Sunday, because as a rule, it is a “Ruhetag” – a quiet day. It is generally a good rule except for those who don’t have time to do these things on other days of the week.

A few more seemingly weird rule in Germany are that you can’t run out of fuel on the autobahn (the highway), or can’t wash your car at home or can’t be naked in your car.

India has many rules too but Indians don’t love following the rules but most Germans are proud of their rules.

Closing thoughts about living in Germany versus India

So what’s better, living in Germany or India? Both. Living in Germany is so different from liuving in India – not one is better than the other but they both have their pluses and minuses. In a perfect world, I’d like to spend half my time in India and the other half in Germany to enjoy the best of both world.

Hamburg with Kids: What to do with Children in Hamburg

Hamburg with Kids: What to do with Children in Hamburg

Hamburg is my favorite city in Germany and is unlike any other. It has canals, bridges, and historical buildings. It even has the world’s biggest warehouse district that’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. Bonus: Hamburg has an insanely cool culture.

Hamburg isn’t close to Frankfurt, Munich, or Berlin. It is closer to Amsterdam than the other bigger German cities. The Hanseatic city of Hamburg is in Northern Germany and the River Elbe goes through it.

Having visited Hamburg a few times, one of the best times I had in this city was with my toddler. Surprisingly this city has a lot of kid-friendly attractions.

So, if you are looking for a fun travel destination or a city break with your kids, I highly recommend Hamburg. It can rain anytime in Hamburg so some of these children’s activities are indoors. Here’s what you can do in Hamburg with kids:

Chocoversum Chocolate Factory

Making chocolates in the chocolate factory - Chocoversum Chocolate Museum, Hamburg, Germany
Making chocolates in the chocolate factory – Chocoversum Chocolate Museum, Hamburg, Germany

So how to spend a rainy day in Hamburg with children and still have fun? Visit the Chocoversum chocolate museum and make your own chocolate at the end of the tour at the Hachez chocolate factory.

Chocoversum has toured in both English and German. Of course, there are more tours in German language so the tours in English sell out very quickly.

It is free for children under 5 years. Of course, at least one parent can accompany the children. But if your kids are older than 7, you can also let them do this tour without you and meet them at the reception when the tour ends.

Our tour was in English and lasted for 90 minutes. The tour started with a taste of Hachez chocolate and ended with a chocolate-making session where we could decide exactly what kind of chocolate to make and what to put inside.

I made a bar of dark chocolate with caramel and sea salt. I realized that “less is more” with chocolate making, so it comes out better if you put less toppings.

Hamburg Harbour

Rickmer Rickmers -0 Hamburg's Museum ship - 3 days in Hamburg
Rickmer Rickmers -0 Hamburg’s Museum ship – 3 days in Hamburg

Get to Landsbrücken building in St. Pauli and from there enter the walking path along the Hamburg Harbour. The harbor area is a fun place for a walk because you will see massive ships, containers, and some iconic buildings on the other side like the Elbphilharmonie.

Walking along the harbor is one of the top things to do in Hamburg. My daughter enjoyed it a lot because she got to see Rickmer Rickmers, a massive museum ship that’s permanently anchored here. Rickmer Rickmers is Hamburg’s iconic landmark and it is a sight your child will remember for sure.

Brücke 10, Hamburg - Hamburg Itinerary
Brücke 10, Hamburg – Hamburg Itinerary

There’s a famous kid-friendly restaurant here called Brücke 10, where my daughter ate fried fish. My husband and I ate Krabbenbrötchen – small shrimp in a bun, a German North Sea delicacy.

Miniatur Wunderland

Hamburg’s Miniature Wonderland (The Miniatur Wunderland)
Hamburg’s Miniature Wonderland (The Miniatur Wunderland)

So is it raining when you’re in Hamburg? In that case, I suggest Miniatur Wunderland, which is perhaps Hamburg’s most famous attraction and it is not just for children but for the whole family.

Miniatur Wunderland is an exhibit of miniature versions of different cities and geographical areas along with the detailing of their locomotives. It is the world’s largest model railway and you can see trains going through tunnels, along miniature Alps, and on tiny bridges. The beauty is in the details and your children will love them.

Even if your children don’t have any interest in trains or airports, they will develop it after seeing the world’s largest miniature railway with stations and airports at Miniatur Wunderland

Miniatur Wunderland is in the Speicherstadt district, which is the world’s biggest warehouse district and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Walk on the bridge that’s right behind the building where Miniatur Wunderland is situated. This spot as per me is Hamburg’s prettiest and it photographs well. I have also mentioned it in my Hamburg Instagram spots post.

Ice cream outside Rathaus

Ice cream outside Rathaus, Hamburg
Rathaus in Hamburg – top photo spots

No matter where you go in Hamburg, at some point, you will cross Rathaus – Hamburg’s iconic City Hall building which is in the city center (Hamburger Innenstadt).

I travel often with my little girl and I do know that famous buildings aren’t exactly exciting for children, but it is your job to make it exciting for them.

Show your children the big clock that’s on this building. You can take them inside and ask them if the interiors remind them of Harry Potter movies. Take them behind the building and show them the fountain.

When all of the above fails, let them enjoy a nice cone of ice cream that you can buy from one of the stands in front of Rathaus.

Hamburg Dungeon

This one is for slightly older children because the ones under 5 might get too scared.

Hamburg Dungeon is a place where you can take your children on a rainy day because it is indoors. It is not just a fun place for children but they will also learn about Hamburg’s history.

This same tour is on both GetYourGuide (GYG) and Viator, so you can book it from whichever website you prefer.

Actors perform a skit inside Hamburg Dungeon and showcase historical events such as the Black Plague, the Inquisition, and the Great Fire.

Don’t expect too much history because it is more of small bits here and there with some fun stuff. It is supposed to be scary in a fun way.

Elbe Tunnel

Inside the Elbtunnel in Hamburg - Photo spots in Hamburg
Inside the Elbtunnel in Hamburg – Photo Spots in Hamburg

Do you know that there is a tunnel that goes under the Elbe River? I found that fascinating and I’m sure your children will too. FYI: it requires a bit of walking, so if you are with small children then you can bring a pram or a cycle with a seat.

The entry for the Elbe Tunnel is from Landungsbrücke, where you will go on a lift to reach the tunnel. You can bring your bicycle with you on the lift.

Walk to the other end of the Elbe Tunnel and you will arrive at Steinwerder, which is on the other side of the Elbe River.

The Elbe Tunnel closes at 6 p.m., so please plan your time in a way that you can come back to Landungsbrücke before it closes.

Boat Tour from Landungsbrücken

Hamburg night boat tour - sitting on the deck
Hamburg night boat tour – sitting on the deck

Children love getting on boats and my little girl had a lot of them when we did a boat trip. There are boat tours that start at different times of the day but we picked a night boat tour to see the lights.

If you are going to Hamburg with kids in summer then keep in mind that the sun sets as late as 10 pm. So the night boat tours start at 9:30 pm in summer, which might be too late for small children. We did it anyway with our 4 year old and she somehow stayed in a good mood.

It was exciting for my little girl to see massive container ships, and how things lit up with warm lights. She also saw a theater entry area from the boat that was playing Disney’s Frozen or Die Eiskönigin.

Even if you are booking this tour on a hot summer day, please know that it will get very cold at night and Hamburg feels even more cold because it is a windy city. But the good thing is that the indoor sitting area was warm.

International Maritime Museum

International Maritime Museum in Hamburg
International Maritime Museum in Hamburg via Unsplash

I don’t recommend a lot of museums for children because I know that not everything would be interesting for little ones. The reason I’m recommending Hamburg’s International Maritime Museum is because there is an exhibit with one million Lego blocks inside. It is the Queen Mary II ship.

Apart from the famous Queen Mary II, there are 40,000 exhibits in the museum relating to Hamburg’s maritime history over the last 3000 years. Your children will also meet pirates and learn about many things.

There is an entire floor that’s dedicated to Marine Biology where your kids can listen to underwater audio samples.

The entry is EUR 17 and is free for children below 7 years of age. Just make sure to carry their ID proof. There is also a “family ticket” for EUR 20 for 1 adult and up to 4 children.

Planten un Blomen

Inside Planten un Blomen in Hamburg
Inside Planten un Blomen in Hamburg via Unsplash

Planten un Blomen means “Plants ‘N Flowers”, and is a relaxing park area near the University of Hamburg with different sections where children of all ages will have fun.

There is a play area for children, mini golf, and also a skate park. There are fountains, a Japanese garden, a rose garden, lakes, and restaurants. Planten un Blomen also has Große Wallanlagen, which is the remains of Hamburg’s city walls.

If you are visiting in the summer months then carry a picnic mat and a few snacks. You can put up your mat facing the lake. There’s something special here for every season.

In the winter months, you can also enjoy ice skating in Große Wallanlagen of the Planten un Blomen park.

Discovery Dock (temporarily closed)

Discovery Dock is temporarily closed, but I’d like to mention it as an option in case it opens up at the time of your visit. It is next to the iconic concert hall – Elbphilharmonie.

Discovery Dock is a one-of-a-kind interactive exhibit of Hamburg’s port. There is a 3D Port model where your children can see water traffic, wear VR headsets, and load the containers. The tours are for 50 minutes each and are in both English and German.

Harry Potter Musical

Mehr! Theater am Großmarkt in Hamburg
Mehr! Theater am Großmarkt in Hamburg via Unsplash

Most children (and adults) are Harry Potter fans and you will be happy to know that you can watch a musical performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in Hamburg at “Mehr! Theater am Großmarkt”.

The Harry Potter music in Hamburg doesn’t take place on Mondays and Tuesdays. The tickets aren’t cheap and they are the most expensive on Saturdays. It is worth noting that it is performed only in the German language.

If you’re going to Hamburg to celebrate your child’s birthday and would like to watch this musical with them, then it is a good idea to book the tickets from before because they do sell out on certain dates.

Disney’s Musicals

Die Eiskönigin at the Mehr Theater Hamburg
Die Eiskönigin at the Mehr Theater Hamburg

Not every kid is a Harry Potter fan but all children are definitely Disney fans. There is Disney’s Lion King, Frozen (Die Eiskönigin), and Hercules that are performed at Stage Theater an der Elbe in Hamburg.

Treasure Hunt through HafenCity (Children Over 12)

Hafencity - things to do in Hamburg, Germany
Hafencity – things to do in Hamburg, Germany

HafenCity is one of the areas of Hamburg that you would definitely want to explore. It is built on a river island of the Elbe River. The Warehouse district Speicherstadt and the Elbphilharmonie concert hall are both a part of Hambnurg’s HafenCity.

If you are in Hamburg with children over the age of 12, you can participate in a fun way to explore the HafenCity by participating in a treasure hunt. You will go on a puzzle-filled route in HafenCity and see the city’s landmarks.

This treasure hunt is for 2.5 hours, is top-rated, and can be booked on both GetYourGuide (GYG) and Viator. I normally use GYG but I understand that Viator is more popular amongst Americans.

When you book this tour, you will get riddle equipment and a guidebook, which will lead you through the game, and also a bottle of drinking water for the way.

I’m an adult and yet I love scavenger hunts. I’d love to do this with my little girl when she’s older.

Tierpark Hagenbeck

Tierpark Hagenbeck in Hamburg
Tierpark Hagenbeck in Hamburg via Unsplash

Tierpark in German means “Animal Park”, so Tierpark Hagenbeck is Hamburg’s zoo and aquarium where you can spend almost an entire day with your kids.

Tierpark Hagenbeck is owned and run by the Hagenbeck family and it was one of the first places where animals were kept in moated and open enclosures.

Expect to see crocodiles, seals, penguins, African lions, leopards, zebras, Siberian tigers, elephants, kangaroos, walruses, and orangutans to name a few. There is also a restaurant inside the Tierpark.

I will be honest, we didn’t visit Tierpark Hagenbeck on our 3 days in Hamburg but I’d still like to mention it in case you’d like to.

See the Swans of Alster Lake

Sunset By Alster Lake With Swans, Hamburg, Germany
Sunset By Alster Lake With Swans, Hamburg, Germany

Alster Lake is in the city center and you can arrive here from Rathaus very easily. There are two Alster Lakes and they are artificially formed by the Alster River.

Sit next to the lake on one of the benches to show your children swans. There are benches around the lake and many 20-somethings year old sit here with music and Astra beer.

You can also book a sunset boat ride on Alster Lake in case you didn’t book the boat cruise that’s from Hamburg Harbour. This tour is on the outer Alster Lake and occurs at sunset time. If you are going with small children, then you have to carry them on your lap on this boat.

Keep in mind that it is a small sailing boat and not like the massive boat that’s used for the harbor cruise, so it is more suited for slightly older children who can sit back patiently and enjoy.

For smaller children, pick this boat cruise instead of the sailing one.

How to move around in Hamburg?

Hamburg isn’t tiny so you can’t cover this city by walking, especially if you are there with children. Here are the top ways to move around in Hamburg.

App Based Scooters / Bikes

One of the easiest ways to move around in Hamburg with kids is by renting app-based bikes with child seats. For smaller distances, you can also use a scooter but don’t forget to carry a helmet. We used both Tier and Bolt app-based services. We often found bikes with child seats.

S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains

Hamburg has an amazing system of public transport and local trains play an important role. Both S-Bahn and U-Bahn cover more than 150 stations together and you can reach just about anywhere using just these trains.


The buses in Hamburg have bookshelves full of books
The buses in Hamburg have bookshelves full of books

My 4-year-old loved bus rides in Hamburg because these buses have bookshelves from where you can borrow books to make the journey fun. Back in 2017 when I first visited the city, I wrote a post about interesting things about Hamburg and buses with bookshelves featured in it.

Where to Stay in Hamburg with Kids?

Paradise Suite at Superbude Altona Hamburg
Paradise Suite at Superbude Altona Hamburg

Having stayed in three different Superbude rooms all over Hamburg, I’m in love with this chain of boutique hotels and hostels. All of the Superbude hotels are amazing and if you are visiting Hamburg with family then Superbude Altona will be the best fit because it is in a quieter neighborhood.

We had booked a “paradise suite” in Superbude Altona and they had put up our child’s bed right next to ours and the arrangement was very comfortable for us.

Is Hamburg kid-friendly?

Yes, Hamburg is surprisingly very kid-friendly with many outdoor play areas and indoor attractions for children for all the seasons. There are memorable things to do for children in Hamburg such as visiting a chocolate factory, seeing the world’s biggest model railway in Miniatur Wunderland, or just a boat cruise along the harbor.

Which area to avoid in Hamburg with children?

Hamburg has the biggest Red Light district in Europe and it is in Reeperbahn. If you are visiting Hamburg with kids then avoid this area. Hamburg is also a party city and Reeperbahn plays an important part in it. I also have a post about Hamburg’s nightlife on my website.

How many days are enough in Hamburg with kids?

In my experience one tends to travel at a slow pace with children and in that sense, book enough time and stay here for at least 2-3 nights to enjoy what the city has to offer.

Do people speak English in Hamburg?

Hamburg is a German city but has an international culture and more people speak English than in other German cities.

If you speak English and are going to visit a German city, Hamburg is one of the easier ones to navigate and understand because of its international culture.

Closing Thoughts on Visiting Hamburg with Children

Walking in HafenCity with my kid - Hamburg itinerary
Walking in HafenCity with my kid – Hamburg itinerary

Just the way I had mentioned in my Amsterdam with kids guide, I say the same for Hamburg that you should try your best to rent a bicycle or a bike with a child seat. I did lots of Bolt bikes with Kindersits (child seats) that were parked in the city center. Bolt is an app-based bike rental company that’s popular in Europe.

If you have bigger children then you will be able to travel easily on trains, buses and on foot. Take things slow and don’t stress about doing everything possible.

A pro tip for traveling with children is to let every special activity be a surprise so that if by chance it isn’t possible, they won’t be heartbroken. In my experience, children get very disappointed when we adults build up excitement for a fun activity for them and it doesn’t happen. When that happens they might have a tantrum or a sudden anger outburst.

Prepare a bag with enough snacks and water to keep them hydrated and full.

Hamburg with kids for Pinterest
Hamburg with kids for Pinterest

Disclosure: I collaborated with Superbude Hamburg in 2017 and 2022. However, all opinions expressed in this article are my own.

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