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.

Basilica Cistern is unique and is an interesting spot for clicking unique photos. I did mention it in my Istanbul Instagram spots post.

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 the “Busforus” tour 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 (check my Istanbul food tour post) 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. Also, make sure to wear the most comfortable pair of shoes that you have because these walks aren’t always so easy. (Here’s what to wear in Lisbon)

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. In case you are planning on spending just a day here, then read my itinerary for spending one day in Lisbon.

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.

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.

Hamburg Instagram Spots: 13 Photo Spots in Hamburg + MAP

Hamburg Instagram Spots: 13 Photo Spots in Hamburg + MAP

Here are the exact locations of some of my Instagram reels and posts from Hamburg. It took me multiple visits to find some of the most amazing photo spots and to compile this list of my favorite Hamburg Instagram spots.

Hamburg made me fall in love with Germany. There are canals, bridges, a stunning warehouse district with Dark Academia aesthetics, massive ships on the Elbe River, a tunnel, and loads of street art. There is also a narrow street with the whole Harry Potter Diagon Alley vibe.

Hamburg is where even the subway stations look gorgeous, bus interiors look adorable with a tiny bookshelf, and even the town hall is an interesting place to photograph. Is the rest of Germany also like this? Umm, no. (Yeah, Berlin sometimes but it is a moody city)

If you’re visiting Hamburg and you’d like to create some memorable photos too, then here’s my list that’s specifically curated for that purpose. Here are the top Instagram spots in Hamburg.

1) Brooksfleet, Speicherstadt

View of Brooksfleet in Speicherstadt, Hamburg

Speicherstadt is a German word that means “warehouse district”. It is super special because Hamburg has the biggest warehouse district in the world. And it is stunning!

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is my favorite photo spot in Hamburg because all the buildings are red. The icing on the cake is that there are intersecting canals, that make the photos look stunning.

Something about the red buildings and Hamburg’s gloomy cloudy weather give me massive Dark Academia vibes on this particular spot.

Brooksfleet Canal in Speicherstadt, Hamburg photo spots

Speicherstadt is within the HafenCity quarter. You will find many photo spots but the best ones aren’t on top of the big bridges. Get on one of the narrower bridges that go over the Brooksfleet Canal and click a picture. You won’t be disappointed!

The Brooksfleet in Speicherstadt t is the extension of the Kehrwiederfleet. I found this spot randomly in 2017 while I was getting out from Miniatur Wunderland, and I revisited it in 2022 for a few photos and reels. Yes, it definitely is one of the most Instagrammable places in Hamburg.

Exact location: the narrow bridge right behind VLET restaurant in Speicherstadt that goes over Brooksfleet.

Click Here for coordinates on Google Maps.

2) Nikolaifleet & Deichstraße

Nikolaifleet - Hamburg’s Prettiest Canal
Nikolaifleet – Hamburg’s Prettiest Canal – I photographed this in June 2017

Oh Hamburg, stop pretending to be Amsterdam! Just kidding. But yes, this spot will remind you of Amsterdam because the buildings along the canal are narrow.

Nikolaifleet is the name of a canal that is in Hamburg’s old town. What makes this photo spot special is that it is along Deichstraße, a pretty street with historical narrow buildings.

If you are there on the weekend, the place can get a little crowded. The issue can also be easily resolved in post-processing: there are modern editors that allow erasing objects and removing people from photos in a very natural way.

Nikolaifleet canal in July 2022, Hamburg Instagram spots

First mentioned in 1304, Deichstraße is the oldest remaining street in Hamburg’s old town – Hamburg Altstadt. The historical canal-side houses here are from the 17th – 19th century. This photo spot is right opposite Speicherstadt. 

There’s also a bench here so that you can sit down and take a break. If you have something nice to sip while you wait here, then that is even better. If not, then just admire the view, click a few photos, and move on.

I have mentioned this photo spot in my Things to Do in Hamburg post already. To get to this spot, arrive at Haus der Seefahrt and walk a few steps further and you will see this view. 

Click here for location coordinates on Google Maps.

3) Wasserschloss (Water Castle), Speicherstadt

Wasserschloss (Water Castle), Speicherstadt via Unsplash

The most photographed spot of Speicherstadt is the Wasserschloss, which means “the Water Castle”. It is at the end of the historical Holländischfleet-Brücke. This photo spot is interesting because of two intersecting canals – Wandrahmsfleet & Holländischbrookfleet with the Wasserschloss building in the middle. 

The Wasserschloss building was the home and working space of those who maintained the warehouse district’s rope winches. Not many were privileged to live inside the warehouse district, but they were.

Speicherstadt at night - Hamburg's Warehouse District
Speicherstadt at night – Hamburg’s Warehouse District

How to photograph the Water Castle (Wasserschloss) in Hamburg? You don’t get too close to it but find a bridge that overlooks it. In order to see it, you will have to get on to the Poggenmühlen-Brücke, which is close to the Schmidtchen Speicherstadt cafe.

Click here for location coordinates on Google Maps.

A lot of elaborate townhouses in Speicherstadt that belonged to the merchants from Holland along the Holländischfleet-Brücke were demolished to make room for new warehouses. Also, many historical buildings were destroyed during World War 2 but some were restored brick by brick.  

As of 1991, the warehouse district is under monumental protection, and since 2015 the entire Speicherstadt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Other interesting buildings in Speicherstadt are:

Cafea GmbH, Am Sandtorkai 2 

Building along St. Annenfleet, Speicherstadt, Hamburg via Unsplash

The stunning building at Am Sandtorkai 2 next to St. Annenfleet canal is Cafea GmbH, which was a coffee store that’s permanently closed. This building is stunning and is definitely worth photographing. 


It means the Warehouse District Townhouse and is the head office of HHLA transport and logistics.


This is a cute small building that you will see from the bridge as you walk around Speicherstadt.

Café Fleetschlösschen

This building was once a customs booth on Brooktorkai but is now a restaurant. 

4) Elbphilharmonie, HafenCity

The Elbphilharmonie, HafenCity or Elbphi, Hamburg, Germany via Unsplash

The Elbphilharmonie or just the Elphi is a massive concert hall in Hamburg’s HafenCity. It is an iconic glass building that you should try to photograph if you visit Hamburg.

Some people say that the Elbphilharmonie shape resembles the top of the sail. Others even say that it looks like an iceberg, or a wave, or a quartz crystal – but I will leave it to you to decide.

As per the architects (Herzog & De Meuron), the Elbphi gives the impression of a giant crystal that reflects the town, Elbe River, and the sky differently from any position and at any hour of the day. You guessed it, it isn’t a historical landmark. The Elbphilharmonie was inaugurated in January 2017.

If you want to explore the HafenCity and Elbphi, check out this 3 Hour Bicycle Tour with Elbphilharmonie that goes through many famous landmarks here and also Elbphilharmonie, where you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the city.

Because it is massive, it isn’t a good idea to get close to it to photograph it. Instead, get to a place from where you can photograph the Elbphi over the water.

In my opinion, the Pedestrian Bridge Opposite Haus der Seefahrt is an excellent spot for photographing the Elbphilharmonie.

5) Alsterarkaden & Otto Liss Gedenktafe

Otto Liss Gedenktafe overlooking Vleet restaurant, Hamburg

There is a spot right after you get out of the Rathaus complex where cars can’t go but you can stand on the bridge that’s called Schleusenbrücke. Go on the bridge to look at the water and the restaurants along with it.

If you walk 150 meters further and cross the VLET restaurant, you will find a spot that’s marked on Google Maps as Otto Liss Gedenktafe. That my friends is where I clicked the above picture.

Otto Liss Gedenktafe viewpoint overlooking Rathaus and Vleet restaurant, Hamburg

I really like this photo spot in Hamburg because you can see the iconic Rathaus building in the background with the canal and restaurants. 

The best time for this photo is at night because that’s when you can capture the romantic vibe of the canal-side restaurants because of the warm lamps.

Alsterarkaden in Hamburg with Rathaus in the background

The canals here are Kleine Alster and Alsterfleet.  This photo spot overlooks the VLET restaurant. Yes, I have mentioned them already in the first point and no, they aren’t paying me to mention them. But it seems that this chain restaurant is all over the famous Instagram spots of Hamburg.

Click here for location coordinates to click the main evening photo at the top of this section.

6) Rathaus – inside and outside

Rathaus in Hamburg – top photo spots

Rathaus is the city’s iconic building and will be a part of every single Hamburg itinerary. Now that you’re near the Rathaus, you will notice that it is an interesting building with Neo-Renaissance architecture.

The building is wide, so you have to find a way to fit it properly in a 5×4 frame that’s a preferred photo frame for Instagram. Of course, you would need a wide-angle lens but nowadays all good cell phones have that too.

Hamburg Rathaus – top IG spots in Hamburg

Don’t just stay inside the Rathaus, but go inside too and you will love the photo possibilities. The water fountain and the Hygieia sculpture behind the Rathaus also make a nice photo background.

Behind the Rasthaus when you cross the fountain and look towards the road, there is an arch. That makes a good photo spot too. I did not click a photo there but shot an Instagram reel.

As you get out of the Rathaus, walk around to see different photo possibilities. The Handelskammer Hamburg is building next to it that’s also worth photographing.

Click here for photo coordinates.

7) Stintfang for Landungsbrücken Station, St. Pauli 

View of Landungsbrücken from Stintfang, Hamburg Insta Spots – July 2022

How can a train station look so stunning? But of course, Hamburg has it all.

Landungsbrücken is a set of bridges that connect the floating landing stations for the ships to the land on Hamburg docks. But at this point, we are talking about the Landungsbrücken station in St. Pauli.

The Landungsbrücken station building is very interesting because there are certain inscriptions and also a clock tower that is used to measure the water level. This entire complex is a protected monument.

The best place for photographing Landungsbrücken is from a spot called Stintfang. It is an observation deck that’s across the road and you have to climb up. From here you will also see the Elbphilharmonie, the famous Rickmer Rickmers museum ship, and the busy Hamburg dock.

Landungsbrücken Station, St. Pauli viewpoint – June 2017

I remember I visited this spot in 2017 from a park where a lot of people were sitting with beer to watch the sunset over Landungsbrücken. This time in 2022, I saw a lot of those sitting spaces on the grass were closed off for people and instead there were just benches.

You can also arrive here directly from Landungsbrücken station as you go on the bridge that crosses the road and then climb more steps to reach on top.

Click here for photo coordinates.

8) Elbe Tunnel & Steinwerder

Inside the Elbtunnel in Hamburg – Photo Spots in Hamburg

You must have noticed that I have mentioned the Elbe River a few times. Yes, it is a major river in Central Europe and it goes through Hamburg. A lot of things and places in Hamburg have the word “Elb” because of this river.

The Elbe tunnel (or Elbtunnel in German) goes under the Elbe River and is the longest river tunnel in the world. The entry point is located in the Landungsbrücken complex, so pretty close to the previous point on this list. 

The Elbe Tunnel, Hamburg – top photo spots

There is a lift that will take you to the starting point of the tunnel. The lift doesn’t operate after 6 pm. It gets very close un this tunnel so I hope you carry something warm to wear.

On the other side of the Elbe River through the Elbtunnel – Steinwerder

You can walk from one side to another in less than 10 minutes. If you want, you can also explore the area on the other side of the harbor. It is called Steinwerder, and it is a maritime industrial area.

Click here for the entry coordinates for the Elbtunnel.

9) Strand Pauli at Sunset

StrandPauli, Hamburg – top photography spots

Strand Pauli means Pauli beach – but this isn’t a beach spot but is a bar that’s a good photo spot because of the location. I visited it while exploring Hamburg with my kid.

Like most of the spots on this list, this place also looks good at sunset. But I understand that you can’t be everywhere at sunset time. In that case, I’d recommend you arrive here before or just after sunset to capture a reddish hue before the purple hour of the photography begins.

To make things better, there is a frame of an old van here that makes a lovely photo frame. We saw it in 2022 and I hope it is still there when you visit.

Click here for the photo coordinates.

10) St. Michael’s Church (Hauptkirche Sankt Michaelis)

St. Michael’s Church Clock Tower, Hamburg via Unsplash

St. Michael’s Church is Hamburg’s most famous church and is one of the five main Lutheran churches. The building is iconic because of the 433-foot-tall clock tower that hovers over most of the background pictures of Hamburg from many directions.

St. Michael’s Church interiors – Hamburg Instagram Spots via Unsplash

The clock tower of St. Michael’s Church was once used to navigate the ships on the river Elbe. Today this tower features an observation deck with panoramic views of Hamburg from every direction. The clock on this tower has faces on four sides and these are the biggest clock faces in all of Germany.

Click here for the photo coordinates.

11) Hamburg Street Art: St. Pauli & Schanzenviertel

St Pauli Street Art, Hamburg

If you want to capture different perspectives of Hamburg, then you can’t miss St. Pauli & Schanzenviertel. This is where several artists began their journey, including the Beatles. (Yes, the band is from Liverpool but St. Pauli is where they were when the rise of Beatlesmania began.)  

To see the street art, get to the skate park in St. Pauli and walk around. Explore the area around Pauli U-Bahn station and Schanzenviertel. The walk from St. Pauli to Schanzenviertel won’t take more than 15 minutes but will take longer if you stop often for photos.

Street art St. Pauli Skate Park Hamburg
Hamburg’s Red light district – Reeperbahn is also a part of St. Pauli. For obvious reasons, you can’t click photos in that part of the city. I just wanted to make sure that you’re aware of this.

I know that the street art in Berlin is famous, but I enjoyed Hamburg too. In my opinion, it was certainly more vibrant. Get to the skate park in St. Pauli and you will find an interesting spot to photograph. 

12) Hamburg Skyline From Boat

Night view of Hamburg's skyline from the boat tour
Night view of Hamburg’s skyline from the boat tour

Hamburg’s skyline looks amazing at night, so where should you go to photograph it? Get on a night boat tour. The boats leave a little before it gets dark so that you can see the buildings along the water and massive ships that are lit up.

Hamburg Evening Tour with Lights

As the night darkens, you will see how the color changes. I have personally done this tour and many people have booked it on my website over the last many years. It is a popular tour and is one of the best ways to see the skyline in a romantic setting.

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

This tour lasts around 60 minutes and is totally worth it. There is an outdoor deck that is rooftop and tends to get full. It offers excellent photo spots.

Hamburg can get a bit chilly because of the winds so not many people want to stay on the rooftop for long. You can also sit indoors because there are plenty of levels and a lot of seats. The view from indoors is also lovely.

13) Alster Lake

Alster Lake in Hamburg

In my Hamburg Things to do post, I mention Alster Lake as a good spot for watching the sunset. I still say the same, so if you have time on your hands then definitely include this on your list.

If you like photography then you know already that the colors right before and after the sunset bring out the best in every landscape and as a result, the photos turn out amazing. This time is called “the golden hour of photography”.

There is a walking path that goes along the main road that’s next to the lake. You can walk on it and stop for photos. There are spots for going down the steps so that you are closer to the lake.

There are spots where you will see swans. You will also see a lot of locals sitting on the benches next to the lake. Opposite the Alster Lake is the Hamburg University. You will also see a TV tower in the background here.

Where to Stay in Hamburg?

Paradise Suite at Superbude Altona Hamburg

There’s just one answer – Superbude. This chain has the most stunning rooms that aren’t just hostels but also “paradise suites”. We stayed in the Superbude Altona with our toddler and loved it. The location was amazing and it was a quieter part of Hamburg. 

The room was very interesting for not just my toddler but also for us. This is how they design the rooms in all the Superbude chains with interesting elements and small interactive art pieces. I remember our room in Superbude St. George had a singing fish!

We have also stayed in Superbude St Pauli and Superbude St. George in 2017. They are all amazing in terms of location, breakfast, and comfort. More than anything, it is the design element that sets Superbude apart from all other hotels.

If you are looking to explore Hamburg with your family then I suggest you book a room at Superbude Altona. If your motive is to party and explore Hamburg’s nightlife, then you should consider Superbude St. Pauli. If you don’t mind being in a busy area and would like to be close to the central train station and the Hafencity, then consider Superbude St. Pauli.

Yes, I love the Superbude chain so much that I even have a post about them based on my trip in 2017. Maybe it is time to update that post with new information about Superbude in Altona. 

Final Thoughts about Hamburg Instagram Spots

I hope you find my list of Instagram spots in Hamburg useful. I wanted to compile this list for people like me who are always looking for the best photo spots in a destination but maybe don’t have time to do their research. 

You must have noticed that I love photographing the same spots, so I clicked some in 2017 and others in 2022 at the same place.  If you come across some more interesting Insta spots in Hamburg then please leave a comment and let me know since I’d love to add more to my list for my next trip.

Disclosure: I collaborated with Superbude Hamburg in 2017 and 2022. However, all 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.

How to Reach Benagil Cave in Algarve, Portugal (Tours + Kayaking + tips)

How to Reach Benagil Cave in Algarve, Portugal (Tours + Kayaking + tips)

Information about how to reach Benagil Cave, Tips, and Practical Travel Info. I have visited the Benagil Cave twice and had a different experience each time.

Imagine a beach that’s hidden from the rest of the world because it is in a cave. A perfect beach with soft golden sand that’s partially lit because of the hole on the top of the cave. That’s Benagil Cave in the Algarve.

Beaches are special but hidden beaches are more than just extra special. I am happy to say that I have visited quite a few because I always try to find one such beach when I visit a beach destination. When I do, I feel like a character out of The Beach movie.

The empty Benagil Cave beach in the morning
The empty Benagil Cave beach in the morning – June 2023

Algarve’s Benagil Cave beach is one of those extra special ones. The only way in is by kayaking or paddle boating, which obviously adds a more elusive touch to this already amazing place.

If you didn’t know already, the Algarve region is in the South of Portugal and is a lovely coastal area. The thing that makes the Algarve coastline unique is the stunning rock formations.

There rock formations are everywhere in the Algarve and are mindblowing. I spent a week in Lagos and then a week in Carvoeiro – both these places are in the Algarve and are stunning.

In Portuguese, the Benagil Cave is called Algar de Benagil. The holes in the rock formations are called algares (or holes) and there are many of them. I did mention in my Seven Hanging Valleys post that there’s a hike that goes on top of the cliff inside which this cave is situated. You can see the holes in these cliffs from the top.

This post is about the best way of getting inside the cave from the water. Actually, there are many caves in this short stretch and they are collectively called the Benagil Caves, but in this post, we will mostly talk about the most famous Benagil Cave one with a hidden sandy beach. This one (below).

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

Benagil Cave has a hidden beach, where a little light falls dramatically because it has a hole on the top. Most of the cave is dark but gets lit up as the sun rises.

The shape and the direction of the light that falls from above keep changing as the day passes. It is like a natural skylight within a natural wonder adding to the wow effect of this already beautiful cave.

Where is Benagil Cave?

Benagil Cave is near Carvoeiro, which is a cute little resort town in Portugal’s Algarve region. It is between Portimão & Albufeira. It is 55 km away from Faro, which is the Algarve’s entry point because of the airport.

As mentioned before, Benagil Beach is a part of the Seven Hanging Valleys trail of the Algarve, which is a famous hiking trail that ends at Marinha Beach.

Benagil Beach comes just about in the middle of this hiking trail. Benagil Beach is the main beach of the Benagil village, and shouldn’t be confused with the Benagil Cave Beach. The cave beach is obviously the one that’s inside the cave!

Where to Stay to Visit the Benagil Cave

If you visit Algarve, then most likely you will set up your base in Albufeira, Lagos, Tavira, Sagres, or Portimão.

In order to visit the Benagil Cave, the best nearby destination to stay is Carvoeiro, where I stayed in June 2023. Another option would be the Benagil village. It is a small fishing village but I found it to be very boring because the main Benagil Beach is tiny and was full of seaweed.

Whereas Carvoeiro has amazing beaches, rock formations, and Algar Seco caves and it isn’t as touristy as other destinations of the Algarve.

So that’s why I suggest Carvoeiro because it is next to Benagil village and you can easily move between the two using Uber. From Carvoeiro to Benagil was EUR 7 on Uber for us, and it was just a 10-15 minute drive.

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

My first time in the Algarve was in 2022 and I picked Lagos because it is seriously stunning, has a low-key vibe, and historical old town. These three should be included in every Algarve itinerary.

If you want to be close to the Benagil cave, then you should pick Carvoeiro for your base. It is a little upscale in terms of hotels but I did find an amazing resort with an affordable apartment, it was at Rocha Brava Village Resort.

Carvoeiro Town in Algarve, Portugal near Benagil Cave
Carvoeiro Town in Algarve, Portugal near Benagil Cave

I did not want to stay in Carvoeiro in 2022 because I wasn’t looking for a resort destination but a place that had a bit of everything – beaches, hiking, viewpoints, restaurants, history, and a certain vibe, and Lagos is a bit solo traveler friendly.

In 2023 I visited the Algarve with a friend so for us Carvoeiro made total sense. Carvoiero is pretty and also has the stunning Algar Seco caves, which reminded me of Cappadocia.

If you don’t want to stay in Carvoeiro too, then you can easily make a day trip to see the Benagil Cave with a rental car or a tour.

Starting Point for Reaching Benagil Caves

Drive to Benagil Beach, or arrive here on a bus. Car rental is cheaper in Portugal as compared to the other nearby European countries as I mentioned already in my Portugal road trip post.

Based on my experience with how busy it gets here, arrive on Benagil Beach by 8:45 am to start the next step mentioned in the point below.

How to Get into Benagil Cave?

Inside Benagil Cave, near Carvoeiro
Inside Benagil Cave, near Carvoeiro

Let’s finally talk about how you get into Benagil Cave. As mentioned before, there are only two ways:

  1. Kayaking (I did this in 2022)
  2. Paddleboarding (I did this in 2023)

Do not swim to the Benagil Cave or the nearby caves that are collectively called Benagil Caves.

The swim looks easy but it is surprisingly difficult so there are often accidents. Each year at least two tourists die while attempting to swim to Benagil Caves. Please visit with a kayak instead.

Paddleboarding to Benagil Cave, Algarve
Paddleboarding to Benagil Cave, Algarve in 2023

Kayaking to the Benagil Caves is not only the most popular way to reach inside but also the easiest way. Stand-up paddleboarding is fun but it isn’t the easiest. I kept on falling from my SUP because of the waves but kayaking was a breeze.

Boats bigger than paddle boats and kayaks aren’t allowed to offload people near the cave anymore, so if you visit these caves on a big tour boat, then you won’t be able to swim to the cave and walk on the beach.

Kayaking with my friend to Benagil Cave, Praia da Marinha in the background – Algarve, Portugal

In order to reach the Benagil Cave beach, you will either need to pick a tour or drive to Benagil Beach and try to find a way to rent a kayak from there. I will talk about these options in detail below.

Can you reach the Benagil Cave with a Boat Tour?

Yes and no. Yes, you can reach the Benagil Cave on a boat but no you won’t be able to walk on the beach. The boats are not allowed to bring people on the beach – this is something a tour operator in Lagos told me. She mentioned that the only way to go inside is by getting on a kayaking or a SUP trip.

That’s true for even tours on small boats – they aren’t allowed to let people out of the boat to walk on the small beach inside the Benagil cave.

How to Pick Your Benagil Cave Tour?

Picking the tour to see the Benagil cave, Algarve, Portugal

Depending on where you will stay in the Algarve, you should pick a tour based on the departure point.

When you arrive in any part of the Algarve – be it Albufeira or Lagos or Portimão, you will see lots of shops in the main center or near the train or bus stations or in the Marina where they try to sell you a tour to see the Benagil cave.

The thing is, 95% of those tours will take you on a big boat, and big boats can only see the Benagil cave from outside. So, you will technically not visit the beach. You can’t leave the big boat so you won’t get to walk on the beach.

Me in Benagil cave and the kayak next to me (behind the rock) in 2022

The only way you can go on the beach is if you pick a tour with kayaks, paddle boats, or SUP. After a lot of research and reading reviews on hundreds of sites that we found on the internet, we found this perfect tour for us. It wasn’t from Lagos but from Portimão. During my second visit, I did Benagil Cave Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) tour instead.

We were staying in Lagos but we reached Portimão in just 20 minutes with our bus. Portimão is easy to reach from anywhere in Algarve by bus or train.

Book Benagil Cave Kayak Tour

This tour was excellent. Not only did we visit the Benagil cave, but we also visited some of the other caves around and they were all good. We also saw the famous Praia da Marinha, which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe.

Praia da Marinha, Algarve, Portugal

We had a very comfortable catamaran with a toilet. We had a staff of four people with us on the board who were our guides and kayaking lifeguards.

Other Benagil Cave Kayak tour options

If the above tour is booked out or if you’re not going to be in Portimao, then I have handpicked a few more tours for you:

  • Benagil Cave Guided tour: It is a 2-hour kayaking tour that leaves from Benagil Beach.
  • Benagil Kayak Rental: If you have enough kayaking experience, then you can rent the kayak and do it yourself. But be careful of the rocks at the entry of the cave.
  • Benagil Cave Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP): For me entering the Benagil Cave on a paddleboard was a lot of fun. Try it.
  • Benagil Cave Sunrise or Sunset Kayaking: It is different from the others because it has super early or late start times so that you can avoid crowds. This also costs EUR 35 per person and starts from Benagil Beach.
  • Algarve: Benagil Caves Guided Kayaking Tour: This is pretty similar to the first one on this list and costs the same – EUR 35. But they have 5 different time slots so that you can start super early or late to avoid crowds. It also leaves Benagil Beach.

Is it difficult to kayak to Benagil Cave?

SUP and Kayaking near Marinha Beach and to Benagil Cave
SUP and Kayaking near Marinha Beach and to Benagil Cave

Kayaking isn’t difficult because it is intuitive. You don’t need to know if from before to do it. I normally hate watersports but for me, kayaking is actually fun.

During my first visit in 2022, I did a kayaking tour with a bigger number. There were many kayaking newbies on the tour and they did pretty well when they kayaked the first time. And some of them didn’t even know how to swim! Yes, they all had life jackets on – whether you are a pro or a newbie, a life jacket is a must.

But I understand if you are nervous about it, I can sometimes be too. In 2023, my friend took a kayak and I took a paddleboard. She isn’t very experienced with kayaks but she did a good job.

Paddleboarding to Benagil Cave, Portugal
Paddleboarding to Benagil Cave, Portugal

If you do a tour then they will already give you instructions for kayaking. They will help you arrive on the beach by kayak, which in my experience is the moment when most people fall. Falling in the water isn’t something you should be scared of by the way.

The entry area of the Benagil cave is rocky (of course), so the only thing you should be scared of is falling out of your kayak and hurting yourself with the rocks. But, don’t let fear mess up your experience. A little bit of fear is okay for awareness so that you can keep yourself safe.

Kayaking vs Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP)

Honestly, I prefer SUP over kayak because I find it much more fun to balance while standing. Kayaking is easier and is something I have done many times.

Benagil Cave Guided tour: It is a 2-hour kayaking tour that leaves from Benagil Beach.
Benagil Kayak Rental: If you have enough kayaking experience, then you can rent the kayak and do it yourself. But be careful of the rocks at the entry of the cave.
SUP to Benagil Cave Beach
SUP to Benagil Cave Beach in 2023

The only reason I booked a kayaking tour and not SUP is that I didn’t find a tour that started from Lagos or Portimão. Also, SUP tours are more expensive. But if I didn’t have any money or commute restrictions, I would have picked up this below tour.

Book Benagil SUP Tour

If you’d like to do stand-up paddleboarding to visit the Benagil cave, then check out this tour. This is a 2-hour tour that starts from Benagil beach and you can find one as early as 7:30 am, which is way before most people start to arrive here.

Not into Kayaking or Stand-Up Paddleboarding? Try a Boat Tour

Getting to Benagil Cave beach near Carvoeiro, Algarve
Getting to Benagil Cave beach near Carvoeiro, Algarve

Ok, I get it. You don’t want to kayak or go on a SUP or even swim to the cave. You would rather experience the beauty of the cave from the water and the comfort of your boat.

No worries, I get you and I can help you with a few boat trips where you can do just that:

Please note: that you won’t be able to leave the boat, make swimming stops or enter the beach inside the Benagil cave. If you want to go to the beach or swim, then book a kayaking or SUP tour.

The Best time to do the Benagil Cave Tour

Inside Benagil Cave in 2022 (afternoon time)

As a person who has done a morning tour and an afternoon tour, I’d say do the morning one. We started at 9 am from Benagil Beach and we were inside the cave pretty early before anyone else was there. And it was the high season – June.

Most of the tours leave in the morning at 10 am and 2 pm in the evening. Of course, most people opt for the 2 p.m. one. I did too the first time because I was all the way away in Lagos. The 2 p.m. tour that I did was also in the month of June.

Now that I have done both a morning tour and an afternoon tour, I’d say that the experience is completely different and a hundred times better when it is early.

The month of August is even busier so you should definitely pick a morning tour if you are visiting during the high season. Personally, I’d say that early summer is the best time to visit the Algarve.

Can You Visit the Benagil Cave without a Tour?

Visiting Benagil Cave, Algarve

This is something that isn’t advertised but is definitely possible. Why should it be? After all, if you are an experienced kayaker or SUPer, you can enter the cave on a kayak or a paddle boat without a guide. Just arrive at Benagil Beach and rent a kayak or a paddleboard.

When in doubt, carry your own inflatable paddleboard – they aren’t expensive anymore and are around EUR 100 – 150.

Actually, I didn’t want to do it because I wanted a guide to be around me in case there was a danger of me smashing my head against the rocks.

Book a Rental Car

This option may make sense if you are already going to rent a car to travel within Portugal. So get a rental car, drive to Benagil Beach super early, and rent a few kayaks or a stand-up paddleboard.

Visiting Benagil Cave, Algarve, Portugal

But if you rent a car just to visit the Benagil Cave, then do check the weather conditions in advance and the timings of high tide and low tide.

Pro tip: If you are doing this without a guide, then notice the people on a tour and which cave entrance they are taking. There are two cave entrances. The tour guides do this every day and know which entrance to take.

The cost of our tour from Portimao was 40 euros but the cost of the tour from Benagil Beach was 35 euros. So the difference is just 5 euros and if you rent a car just for this, then you will probably pay a minimum of EUR 30 per day and add EUR 35 for a kayak tour from Benagil Beach per person.

If you are driving to Benagil Beach and doing this tour on your own, then the advantage is that you get to spend a longer time inside the Benagil Cave and can also explore the other nearby beaches at your own pace. There’s of course the famous Marinha Beach nearby which is worth all the hype but also Carvalho Beach which is also on the Seven Hanging Valleys hiking trail.

Can You Swim to Benagil Cave?

Even if you are a strong swimmer, please don’t swim to Benagil Cave. As mentioned above, the swim is surprisingly difficult even though it appears to be easy.

Each year minimum of two travelers die while they attempt to swim to Benagil Cave. That’s why I feel it is my duty to inform you about the risks and discourage you from risking your life.

Where to Rent a Kayak for Benagil Cave?

I did a tour but you can rent a kayak from Praia de Benagil to reach Benagil Cave. The rental stand is right there on the beach and it opens up at 8:30 am during the peak season. They will give you life jackets too and some also have an optional add-on rental “dry bag”, which comes in handy while kayaking or SUPing.

If you aren’t confident about kayaking to Benagil Caves on your own, then here’s one of the tours that you can look at. For more tour options, look at the section above that’s named “Benagil Cave tour options”.

Final Thoughts on Visiting the Benagil Cave in Algarve Portugal

Inside Benagil Cave – the kayaks and paddle boards

Visiting Benagil Cave may sound complicated but it isn’t. If you want to visit it then you shouldn’t let anything stop you. After all, there aren’t so many such places in the world. If you visit Portugal’s Algarve region then you should definitely do everything you can to visit the Benagil cave for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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 Italy Road Trip: 2 Weeks Itinerary (with Amalfi Coast)

The Ultimate Italy Road Trip: 2 Weeks Itinerary (with Amalfi Coast)

How can anyone not fall in love with Italy? Not only is it picturesque, but there’s so much more to it than just the visual beauty. It is the feeling one gets when they visit this country that makes it special. Italy is romantic, culturally beautiful, and offers delicious food.

There is a reason why some of the most famous books and movies are set in a backdrop of famous Italian towns. Rome, Venice, Florence, Naples – some of the most famous historical cities and towns in the world are in Italy. Not just that, Italy also has the Italian Alps, the Dolomites, and a massive coastline on three sides! Yep, it has it all.

The Stunning Positano on Amalfi Coast, Italy via Unsplash

The first time I visited Italy, it was just North Italy. We landed in Venice and drove to Trentino in our rental car. The second time was in South Italy where we spent one entire month in Puglia. We actually drove from Germany to Puglia but realized it would have been easier to just fly to Bari or Brindisi and drive a rental car from there.

For the purpose of travel, it is important to understand about the regions of Italy. You can pick and choose some of them or get a taste of them all. Here are the regions in Italy that you can visit –

  • Northeast Italy, (the Dolomites, Trentino, Venice, and Bologna)
  • Northwest Italy, (Cinque Terre, Milan, and the Alps)
  • Central Italy, (Tuscany region and Rome)
  • Southern Italy, (Naples, Puglia, Amalfi, and Capri)
  • The islands – Sicily and Sardinia.

If you ever see the list of the most visited countries in the world, Italy usually is in top 5 year after year. It is because there is so much to see & experience in every single region of Italy.

Keep in mind that to properly explore each region of Italy, you would probably need at least two weeks each. However, this itinerary focuses on the entire Italy, so I will help you move from one region to another and tell you the best of each. That’s the difference between a region-specific itinerary and a country-specific itinerary.

Matera in Puglia, Italy road trip two weeks itinerary – via Pixabay

If you think you will get to visit Italy multiple times, then by all means pick just one region or maximum two for each trip. If you’re going to visit Italy just once or twice in your life then I suggest you visit more than just 2 regions because they all have something to offer.

Don’t try to cover it all, it isn’t possible to do so. Instead, pick a few destinations and spend some quality time in each place that you visit so that you don’t feel rushed or drained out.

Starting Point for Italy Road Trip:

So where should you start your epic Italian road trip? It depends on a few things. The starting points will change based on how you enter Italy – flying or driving.

Italy road trip itinerary Map for Pinterest
Italy road trip itinerary Map for Pinterest

Italy has many airports from the North to the South. If you want to start your trip in North Italy then I suggest you fly to Venice or Verona and rent a car from there. You can also fly to Naples or Bari to start your trip from South Italy and make your way to the North. Or fly to the middle – Rome, Florence, or Pisa and just do the North or the South for your Italy road trip 2 weeks.

Alternatively, you can also pick a section of Italy and do a smaller road trip that focuses on just that area. For example, the North Italy road trip would include the top three points that I have mentioned below, the middle would include Tuscany and Rome and the South Italy road trip would include Rome and below like Puglia and Amalfi Coast.

For ease of understanding, we have created this route that starts in Venice. It is very easy to rent a car from Venice airport and drive from there. We did that already!

Circular Italy or Straight Route for Italian Road Trip?

If you’re driving to Italy, then it will make a lot of sense for you to follow a straight route. You can enter Italy from the North and move to the South. Or the other way around.

If you are able to rent a car from one place and return it to another, then I highly recommend you go for a straight route. It will save you a lot of time. However, this option isn’t usually available, so most of you will end up following a circular itinerary.

How to approach this itinerary?

This is a fast-paced itinerary that includes a lot of destinations within Italy. Some of them are optional, so you can figure out which ones to leave and skip. For example, you can pick one out of the Cinque Terre or Amalfi Coast and spend a long time in other destinations.

Hotels in Italy are expensive but if you’re a seasoned road tripper, then you most likely have a tent with you. All the below destinations have camping spots. Park your car and pitch your tent there. You can take the public transport to explore the cities.

1) Venice (and Burano) – 2 Days – the Canals of Italy

Grand Canal in Venice - Northern Italy by Train
Grand Canal in Venice – Northern Italy by Train

You can’t drive inside Venice, so why is it a part of this itinerary? Because Venice is the most romantic city in Italy and it needs to be a part of this epic itinerary.

If you’re flying to Italy and renting your car, then I suggest you rent your car on the day you leave Venice to save money. You can check for prices here or book one and pick it up from Piazzale Roma. However, if you’re driving to Italy from another country then you will have to park your car in one of the below options.

In order to visit Venice, you will drive to the entrance of the city Piazzale Roma or Tronchetto, and park your car there. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of space and it is Europe’s largest car park. Yes, it is expensive to park here because it is EUR 30 per 24 hours.

[Box] Want to save some money? Park your car near Mestre Railway Station and take a 10-minute train ride to Venezia St.Lucia. This way, your parking costs, and journey will be less than 5 euros. [/Box]

There aren’t any roads beyond Piazzale Roma, so you will have to continue by walking or by getting on a boat.

A bridge over a pretty canal in Venice, Italy
A bridge over a pretty canal in Venice, Italy

I have included two days in Venice but if you want, you can take half a day to explore Burano. It is smaller, colorful, and very close to Venice. Here’s what to do in Venice:

Walking is the easiest way to explore Venice. The most popular spots in Venice are around St. Mark’s Square and Rialto Bridge. However, I suggest you get lost on purpose and explore the narrow alleys. Here you will find the best photo spots because of fewer tourists. If it gets sunny, cover your head and eat gelato to beat the heat.

Sunset Gondola Ride:

Gondola Ride in Venice- Italy road trip via Pixabay

You can’t visit Venice and not do a Gondola ride. Yep, Gondola rides are super expensive so you make the most of it by doing it at the most romantic time – the sunset. The point of a gondola ride isn’t transportation but enjoyment.

You can save money by doing the Gondola ride with 1 or 2 other people and doing it before the sunset time. Here are the options I have handpicked for you:

Find a restaurant with a view:

Most of the restaurants with nice views are going to be very expensive but I can help you find a moderately affordable one. To actually get a table with a view, you need to always book in advance. Once you’re here, try the squid ink pasta. Try one of the following:

  • Trattoria Altanella in Giudecca,
  • Gianni in Giudecca,
  • Da Fiore in Campo S. Polo,
  • Osteria Enoteca Ai Artisti in Dorsoduro.

See Scala Contarini del Bovolo

The view from Scala Contarini del Bovolo, Venice via Unsplash

Climb the spiral stairs and click a few photos of the view from the top. It is a famous building that was once a gothic palace.

Visit Rialto Food Market

Venice is touristy but visiting a famous food market will give you somewhat a local experience. The locals come here to buy fresh fruit, veggies and fish. It is best to arrive here early because the market hours are 7:30 am to 1 pm.

Campo Santo Stefano

Find an outdoor cafe on Campo Santo Stefano and enjoy your afternoon or evening with cicchetti & Spritz. Cicchetti is a small snack plate. You don’t need to order cicchetti, but the servers will bring it for you if you order your drinks (Spritz).

See Doge’s Palace

the Chamber of the Great Council in Doge’s Palace Venice via Unsplash

Doge’s Palace is an important historical landmark in Venice. This was once an official residence for the Doge of Venice (the elected leader of the historical Venetian Republic). It was originally designed to be a residential palace for Nepolean.

Doge’s Palace is an interesting spot for those who like history, but it is also a photographer’s dream because of its stunning interiors, especially in the Chamber of the Great Council. Believe it or not, the world’s largest canvas painting is located in this room. But remember, you can’t use flash when you photograph this.

Book Your Entry for Doge’s Palace

While inside the Doge’s Palace, you should also walk on the iconic Bridge of Sighs, which is located here. You will also see St. Mark’s Square and Correr Museum.

I have handpicked two entry ticket options for you for Doge’s Palace:

  • Doge’s Palace Entry Reservation Ticket: This is the official ticket and costs EUR 28 in May 2022. It is a “skip-the-line” ticket.
  • Doge Palace with Terrace Access: This is also a “skip-the-line” ticket but it also includes an expert guide, who will not just take you to Doge’s Palace but also St. Mark’s Basilica. Please be aware that the entry to St. Mark’s Basilica is free but this tour includes the access to the terrace of the Basilica for the views. The cost is EUR 79 in May 2022.

Scuola grande di San Rocco

See the interiors of Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Your jaw will actually drop when you see the grandeur and the arty details.

Day Trip to Burano

Burano (Italy)
Burano (Italy)

Burano is a cute little canal-side town with stunning colorful houses. It has become popular over the recent years because of Instagram.

You can prebook your boat ticket for Burano for a day trip from Venice and the boat will also take you to the nearby Murano and Torcello.

How to save money in Venice?

Eat in Pizzeria ae Oche – a chain with affordable pizzas. Don’t eat or drink in the main touristy areas, head to Dorsoduro for cheaper eateries and buy your own supplies from bakeries and supermarkets to save money. Another way to save more money is by skipping the Gondola ride.

2) Cinque Terre – 2 days – the Colorful Fishing Villages

The colorful houses of Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy
The colorful houses of Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy – CCO Image by heidi_ziller from Pixabay

Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso are five colorful fishing villages that are collectively called the Cinque Terre. The entire Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In order to arrive at the Cinque Terra, you can drive to Riomaggiore, Manarola, or Monterosso and park your car there. If you’re nervous about driving in this hilly terrain, then park in La Spezia and take a train from there. In any case, if you want to move from one village to another, the best way to do it is by train. It is easy and affordable.

Remember – don’t get your car inside the Cinque Terra. Leave it outside and take the train.

Five villages at on cliffs and little hills, so there’s a lot to do in the Cinque Terra. Don’t get overwhelmed by the list of things that you can do. Just pick 1-2 villages and enjoy your time there.

Here’s a bit of an introduction about the five villages, so that you can pick the one that suits you and book a room there.


Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre - Northern Italy by train
Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre – Northern Italy by train

It has a fun vibe for nightlife, unlike a few others on this list. Riomaggiore is closest to La Spezia so it can sometimes feel crowded. It has budget accommodation options. It is as stunning as Manarola.

There’s a lot to do in Riomaggiore – you can do cliff jumping, enjoy the bar scene or just go for a stroll and get lost. The main street is called Via Colombo, and that’s where you will find everything. You can also check out the ancient Castello, which is one of the monuments of the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre.

If you’re into hiking, then hike to Monte Nero, which is right above Riomaggiore. This hike takes around 50 – 60 minutes. Here’s some information about it.

You can also hike from Riomaggiore to Manarola – these two are actually the most famous villages of the Cinque Terre. This hike should take you normally 15 minutes but check the information because sometimes this path is closed.


Manarola, the Cinque Terra Italy via Pixabay

Manarola is quieter and is normally visited by couples and photographers. Out of them, the one the most photographed one is Manarola because of the above-pictured sunset spot. But don’t underestimate the beauty of the other 4.

Make sure you click epic sunset photos while you’re in Manorala. No, I don’t mean photos of the sun when it is setting, but the golden hue on Manorala’s pastel houses on the cliff. You will find this spot as soon as you’re there. Photographers line up here with their fancy gear and tripods at sunrise and sunset time.

If you like swimming, then you can find some caves and swimming holes on the Blue Trail in Manarola. To access all of it, you will need a swimming pass. But there are some you can do without the pass too.


Corniglia, the Cinque Terra, Italy road trip via Pixabay

It is the highest village and is therefore famous for its views. You need to climb 365 steps in order to reach Corniglia – yes one for each day of the year. There’s a bus that’s run by the Cinque Terre National Park that takes people up to Corniglia and back. 

Corniglia is less visited as compared to the other four but is popular amongst hikers. It is possible to find budget accommodation here.

While you are in Corniglia, hike the Blue Trail, and you will find a stone beach with easy access to water. Doing the entire Blue Trail can be challenging but if you do, you will arrive in Vernazza.


Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italian Road Trip itinerary via Pixabay – road trip Italy 2 weeks

Vernazza is often called the most beautiful of the five Cinque Terre villages. It is also visited by a lot of photographers and couples. If you visit Vernazza then spend some time enjoying the stunning views that this village is famous for.

If you arrive in Vernazza from Corniglia by hiking, then you will cross Prevo – it has a stunning viewpoint that overlooks Guvano Beach. At 208 meters above sea level, it is the highest spot of Sentiero Azzurro.

You will be surprised to know that Vernazza has a great bar scene. It also has a small sandy beach, which makes sense for family travelers to visit since it is comfortable for children. There are two clock towers in the town and the maze of small streets will be a delight to anyone who loves getting lost in small places.

While you’re in Vernazza, visit Franco’s Ristorante “La Torre”. It is in a castle on the trail to Corniglia.

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare, Italy – via Pixabay

Monterosso has a proper big sandy beach and fancy hotels. It is a bit flatter compared to the others so is a good option for those who have mobility issues and families with small children.

Monterosso is actually two towns – Old Monterosso and New Monterosso (Fegila). The big sandy beach is in New Monterosso. The new town is flatter but the old town has that typical Cinque Terre looks and vibes.

You can walk from one village to another – check the list of walking trails here + useful information.

Where to stay in Cinque Terra:

3) Tuscany – 2 days – Art, Culture, and the rolling hills

Sunset in Florence, Tuscany, Italy
Sunset in Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany is romantic, arty, historical, and naturally beautiful. But wait, isn’t most of Italy? True but Tuscany is special because the Renaissance art movement began and flourished before it moved on to most of Europe.

Being a nature lover, I’m also interested in the other side of Tuscany – the rolling hills. So, when you visit Tuscany, drive around here and see the small villages because here you can truly admire the natural beauty of Tuscany. Get yourself a nice villa, see the vineyards and castles.

Tuscany's famous rolling hills - Italy by train
Tuscany’s famous rolling hills – Italy by train

Honestly, if I were visiting Italy for the first time and I wanted to just focus on one area, I’d do a Tuscany road trip. There’s everything in Tuscany that Italy is famous for – historical buildings, art, nature, castles, and vineyards. On top of that, Tuscany is a little laid back.

Here’s what you can do while you’re in Tuscany. You can pick and choose some of the activities that I have mentioned below.

Visit one of the Old Cities – Florence / Lucca / Siena

Florence, Tuscany – Italy Road trip itinerary

Tuscany’s old cities are stunning for art lovers because of the Renaissance art and sculptures. Out of all of them, I suggest you pick just one to keep your itinerary easy. For that purpose, I suggest Florence.

See the Statue of David by Michelangelo in Florence

Michelangelo’s Statue of David is a Renaissance masterpiece and shouldn’t be missed while you’re in Tuscany. This 17 feet marble statue is the star of Florence, the way Mona Lisa is to Paris.

Michelangelo’s Statue of Liberty is located in Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. This museum also has some other pieces by Michelangelo and many other Florentine artists.

Art lovers would enjoy Leonardo Da Vinci Museum, Uffizi Gallery, and Museo Galileo

Val d’ Orcia – the Rolling Hills

Val d’ Orcia, Tuscany, Italy – via Pixabay

Tuscany’s most famous landscape are the rolling hills and one of the best way to see them is by driving to Val d’ Orcia. The rolling hills landscape is not just Instagram famous but also depicted in many Renaissance paintings.

Val d’ Orcia is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is a 2 – 2.5 hours drive from Florence. You can stay in Florence during the entire time of your time in Tuscany, or split your time between Val d’ Orcia and Florence.

Pienza is the place that you would want to check out in Val d’ Orcia. This village is situated very high so you can get a good view of the rolling hills from here.

Saturnia Hot Springs or Terme di Saturnia

Saturnia Hot Springs in Tuscany via Pixabay

While in Tuscany, visit the stunning thermal springs of Saturnia. They are actually 3 hours away from Florence city, so it makes sense to visit this place on your way out of Tuscany but before you arrive in Rome. Alternatively, if you decided to stay in Val d’ Orcia, then Terme di Saturnia is just 30 minutes drive.

Believe it or not, there is no entry fee and these thermal springs are open 24 hours a day every day. It can’t get better than this. Just find the parking spot and put it on your navigation system to arrive here. Spend half a day here or more, depending on how much you love being in the water.

The best time to reach Saturnia hot springs is before 9 am so that you can miss the majority of crowds.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy via Pixabay

Visiting the leaning tower of Pisa is on many people’s bucket lists because of the Leaning Tower. Yes, it is a very touristy thing to do and there’s nothing else to do in Pisa BUT that shouldn’t stop you from visiting it if you really want to. After all, it is just 45 minutes from Florence by car or train!

Pisa is a small city, and you can cover most of it by walking. Most of what you would want to see is situated in Campo dei Miracoli. It is a student town and as a result, the nightlife is fun.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is called Torre Pendente in Italian. Go ahead and click a super silly touristy picture here. Believe it or not, you can actually climb the tower but you need to reserve your tickets in advance.

If you’re in Pisa in the middle of June, you can actually stay to watch the stunning Luminara festival. Thousands of candles are lit at sunset time along the Arno River. Watch this spectacle if you can.

Hike to Lake Calamone

If you’re not visiting Terme di Saturnia, then you can consider visiting Lake Calamone. It is located in the TEA National Park, at the base of Mt. Ventasso.

To start your hike to Lago Calamone, park your car at Bar il Faggio. The walk from there to the lake is just one hour. For more information, check this page.

4) Rome – 1 day

The bejeweled Rome in Italy
The Bejeweled Rome in Italy

Rome can’t be fully explored in a day, but also Italy can’t be explored in 2 weeks!

Honestly, it makes more sense to do Rome properly on an entirely separate trip. It isn’t the best Road trip stop because of the parking, so if you want to skip Rome, then you should. I just wanted to include Rome for those who would want to do it anyway, considering it is on the way when you move from Tuscany to Amalfi.

Rome is high-priced in terms of stay and food, therefore it gets expensive to stay here longer. But if you can afford it, extend your trip by all means. Did you know there are more than 900 churches in Rome?

View from the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican, Rome viewpoints
View from the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican, Rome viewpoints

Honestly, I wouldn’t even include the Vatican City and the churches in this itinerary because of time constraints. But just so you know, the most famous one is St. Peter Basilica. To enter this, one has to walk up to the Vatican and stay in a long security line.

Like many other famous cities (Lisbon, Moscow, Porto, Pula, Istanbul, San Fransisco, Edinburgh, etc.), Rome is built on seven hills. It means, there are plenty of viewpoints that can be found. Also, unlike most touristy European cities, Rome is massive. The entire historic center of Rome is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also one of the fashion capitals of the world with an amazing shopping scene and buzzing nightlife.

If I were to spend just one day in Rome, I’d forget about the top things to do, and just walk around because there are interesting sights everywhere.

Trevi Fountain 

Trevi Fountain in Rome
Trevi Fountain in Rome

This is probably the busiest part of Rome and yet it is a legendary landmark. This fountain is in modern Rome, right next to the main train station. Walk around here but keep your belongings close to yourself because Rome has many pickpockets.

Explore the ruins of ancient Rome – Colosseo & Forum

Inside the Colosseum in Rome
Inside the Colosseum in Rome

The most obvious thing to do in Rome is to explore ancient Rome, it is the area around Colosseo. For this, get via dei Fori Imperiali Street and everything you would want to see is on both sides of this street.

Start with the Colosseum, then move on to the Roman Forum (same ticket for both), Trajan’s Forum, Arch of Constantin, and Flavian Palace. See Piazza Venezia too which is nearby for a nice view of these ruins.

Old Rome – Pantheon

Feel free to skip Pantheon because the queues are usually very long. Pantheon dates back to 125 AD. Of course, if you’re a Dan Brown fan then you would have probably read about all these places in the book called Angels and Demons. Yes, the book does make sightseeing more interesting but remember, it is just fiction.

There are other attractions that are nearby, like Castel Sant’Angelo – but I don’t want to include too much in the list because it will just overwhelm you.

South Rome

You can skip South Rome but if you have time, then you can check out the Baths of Caracalla, Rome City Walls, and the Circus of Maxentius.

Viewpoints in Rome

Pincio Terrace - Rome viewpoints
Pincio Terrace – Rome viewpoints

Since this eternal city is built on seven hills, there isn’t a shortage of viewpoints. I have a post about Rome’s viewpoints, check it out. You can look for Janiculum Hill in Western Rome, the Pincio at the end of the Borghese Gardens, Vittoriano in Piazza Venezia, and Zodiaco in Monte Mario.

Campsites Near Rome

Let’s face it, you shouldn’t enter Rome in your car because of parking problems. Instead, find a camping spot that’s just outside Rome and then explore the city by public transport. Here are two camping spots that I recommend:

  • Happy Valley
  • Camping Tiber

Check this post for a list of places to stay in Rome.

Optional: Stop in Naples for a pizza on your way

Pizza quattro formaggi – Napoli style in Puglia, Italy – road trip Italy 2 weeks

The Pizzas of Naples are world-famous. If possible, try to stop here for a meal or a snack on your way to the next spot to experience a legendary Neapolitan pizza. It is essentially Margarita Pizza that’s made with a particular kind of tomatoes and mozzarella.

The Napoli Pizza follows the guidelines of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. It has the protected status granted by the Italian Standardization Body.

I won’t go into the technicalities but keep your mind open and embrace the simplicity of this pizza. The beauty of the taste of this pizza lies in the best quality ingredients and an amazing base.

5) Amalfi Coast – 3 days – Positano

Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy via Unsplash

How can you visit Italy and not see the most praised coastal area – the Amalfi Coast? Keep in mind that it tends to get very busy even during the shoulder months because of its popularity. Amalfi Coast is an expensive destination because it attracts mostly high-income travelers.

The Italian road trip itinerary is designed in such a way that you can skip a part of it. If you think Amalfi Coast is blowing up your budget, then feel free to skip it because the other destinations are equally stunning too! Honestly, if you are visiting the Cinque Terre or Puglia, then you can safely skip the Amalfi Coast.

Ever seen pictures stunning coast with colorful houses, bougainvillea flowers, and low-hanging lemon trees all around? That’s Amalfi Coast. It actually is a group of 13 fishing villages, all of which are collectively UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Whether you decide to stay here or not, make sure you experience driving on the “Amalfi Drive”, which goes along the coast from Vietri sul Mare to Positano.

In order to explore the Amalfi Coast, we suggest you make your base in Positano. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to see even half the villages, just focus on one or two and enjoy your time there.

See my post about exploring Sorrento and Pompeii on a day trip from Amalfi.


Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy road trip via Unsplash

Positano is situated horizontally on the face of cliffs that face the sea. It is a better idea to find a place to stay here instead of in Amalfi Town. From here, you can visit Amalfi Town by ferry.

The two beaches of Positano are Spiaggia Grande and Fornillo. Spend some lazy hours here to enjoy the landscape.

Do the Path of the Gods hike that is from Bomerano to Positano with stunning views. You can reach Bomerano on a bus from Positano to start the hike.

While in Positano, try the Limoncello. It is a locally-produced lemon liqueur.

Where to Stay in Positano?

Consider booking the picturesque Villa Rosa in Positano, which is 150 years old. This luxurious villa has epic views of the sea and lovely terraces.

Amalfi Town

The World Famous Amalfi in Italy via Pixabay

Amalfi Town is the heart of Amalfi Coast. Take a ferry from Positano and spend a few hours here to see what the buzz is all about. The main Amalfi town beach gets crowded but you can spend some time here to enjoy the vibe.

Where to Stay in Amalfi Town

Amalfi is expensive but if you can afford it, then you should consider Locanda Costa D’Amalfi, which is a seriously stunning hotel with a private beach.

This property faces the sea and some rooms also have a view of the water. The rooms feature terraces with panoramic views.

6) Puglia – 3 days – Bari, Matera, and Polignano a Maren

The stunning Sant’Andrea beach in Puglia, Italy

Having spent a month in Puglia last summer, I can claim that this is a place that you wouldn’t want to leave. There are stunning beaches, old cities, the Instagram-famous Alberobello village, and Florence of South – Lecce city. The seafood in Puglia is mind-blowing!

Puglia was once Italy’s secret but has come up with a bang in recent years. It has risen to prominence in popular culture.

The 2021 James Bond movie (No Time to Die) was shot in Puglia’s stunning Matera. Moreover, the Red Bull cliff diving championship took place in Polignano a Maren. Of course, people googled the location for the next days and Puglia went high in Google searches!

Honestly, 3 days are not enough for Puglia, but if you want to include it in your Italian road trip itinerary, then I will tell you exactly where to go.

You can’t do them all, but pick just 2-3 places and enjoy your time well.


The Streets of Bari, Puglia via Unsplash

Bari is Puglia’s largest city and it has a stunning old town. Sure, this itinerary already has many old towns but this one is very different because it is in South Italy.

Bari’s old town is called Bari Vecchia. It was the heart of the city even in pre-Roman times. Explore the maze of narrow streets here and enjoy the sights.

Many people make Bari their base as they explore the nearby destinations of Puglia. But I don’t suggest Bari as your base, check the next point.

Polignano a Maren

Polignano a Mare, Puglia, Italy

Instead of Bari, I suggest you make Polignano a Maren your base. It is a stunning beach town with historical buildings that are situated on the cliffs. You can just cover almost the entire city on foot because it is small.

Polignano a Maren, Puglia, Italy road trip itinerary via Unsplash

Almost every restaurant or bar in Polignano a Maren faces the sea.


Trulli Village – Alberobello, Puglia in Italy

Alberobello is just 30 minutes from Polignano a Maren. It is a Trulli village and is a UNESCO world heritage site. So what’s a Trulli? It is an architectural feature of Puglia, a unique way of building temporary or sometimes full-time houses.

You won’t need a lot of time for Alberobello. Just arrive here and spend 1 hour walking around to see the Trullo. You can combine Alberobello with 1-2 other places that are in your South Italy road trip itinerary, like Matera or Lecce.

Alberobello is unique! You won’t see a place like this in all of Italy, so try to include this in your Italy road trip itinerary if you can.


Matera, Puglia, Italy itinerary via Unsplash

If you thought Alberobello was unique, wait till you see Matera. It has rock-cut settlements and they are well-preserved. These settlements are a UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Matera’s cave houses are called Sassi, and they are dug into limestone rocks. Yes, a little like Turkey’s Cappadocia. They are believed to be some of the first settlements in the Italian peninsula because some of them date back to 7000 BC.

While in Matera, see Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano. This is where you will see the loveliest landscape. Matera was the main shooting location for the James Bond movie – No Time to Die.


The Arche and Rock Formations of Sant’Andrea – I Faraglioni di Sant’Andrea – Puglia

Drive to Sant’Andrea from Bari or Polignano a Mare to visit my favorite beach in Italy. The drive will take you around 1 hour 45 minutes so leave early.

Torre Sant’Andrea beach is stunning and it has many sections. There is a nice sandy part that’s perfect for families and several rocky parts that are super stunning.

Make a day trip here and spend a few hours here exploring this area. You can also cliff jump here.


Exploring the Historical Lecce city in Puglia, Italy

Lecce is called the Florence of the South. It is an ancient city that I absolutely fell in love with! All the buildings here are beige and it is amazing to walk in Lecce’s old town. It definitely isn’t as busy as Florance.

Lecce has its own style of Baroque architecture, it is called Barocco leccese (Lecce baroque). Be sure to see Basilica di Santa Croce. It looks like it is right out of a Dan Brown book, and as per Marchese Grimaldi it looked like a lunatic was having a nightmare. Makes you curious to see it?

I have an entire post about visiting Lecce, be sure to check it out.

If you do end up visiting Lecce, walk around here and enjoy the stunning old town. Get a table outside in one of the restaurants and enjoy Lecce’s famous foods – Cozze Gratin, Frutti de Mare Pasta/risotto, or Pizza and Pasticciotto.

Tips for Italy Road Trip:

  • Keep a small overnight bag ready in your car for places where you need to park your car and move further by train, like the Cinque Terre or Venice.
  • You will find free water in designated water fountains in every single town or village in Italy. Make the most of it and drink this water.
  • Parking can get very expensive in famous cities like Rome, Venice, etc – so feel free to skip them. More than just difficult, sometimes it isn’t possible to find a parking spot at all.
  • Observe the traffic rules, even if the locals around you aren’t doing so. The fines are heavy and sometimes people also receive a 1-3 day driving ban.
  • The alcohol limit is 0.50g/L and is zero for those who are under 21 or have a driving license that’s not older than 3 years.

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NDSM Amsterdam: How to Reach + What to do in NDSM Werf (Wharf)

NDSM Amsterdam: How to Reach + What to do in NDSM Werf (Wharf)

What’s that one place in Amsterdam that’s different than all others? It is NDSM.

NDSM Werf (or NDSM Wharf in English) is in Amsterdam-Noord. It is unique because it is unlike any other neighborhood in Amsterdam. You won’t see the typical narrow buildings or canals but don’t be disappointed – there’s something else here.

What is NDSM Werf (or NDSM Wharf)

Riverside Pllek in NDSM Amsterdam

What was once an industrial shipyard is now a space with art installations, graffiti, beachside bars, vintage markets, environmentally conscious cafes, and an amazing creative hub with contagious creative energy. In short, it is an edgy, arty cultural hotspot.

Sounds a bit too much? Well, that’s the best way to describe Amsterdam’s NDSM Werf.

The word Werf is Dutch and it translates into “wharf” in English. A wharf is a quayside area in which a ship may be moored to load and unload.

Kunststad Entry – NDSM Amsterdam

It was once the Nederlandsche Dok en Scheepsbouw Maatschappij (NDSM) shipbuilding company, which existed till 1984. When it closed, companies like Red Bull, Greenpeace, MTV, ViacomCBS, and Pernod Ricard took up the buildings for offices. That’s why in the 2000s, the NDSM area turned into a cultural incubator zone.

When you visit this former shipyard, expect to see a lot of strange-looking old shipyard tools that are transformed into something arty or beautifully functional in another way. 

Technically NDSM Plein is a neighborhood of Amsterdam. The word “Plein” means a square or a plaza. Honestly, NDSM isn’t just a typical neighborhood or a square, it is a vibrant social space.

If you’re traveling to Amsterdam, then make sure you include NDSM in your itinerary. No matter how long or short your Amsterdam trip is, try to spend at least half a day in NDSM for a change of scenery. I have visited NDSM Werf on most of my Amsterdam weekend trips or even the longer ones.

How to reach NDSM Amsterdam

Ferry from Amsterdam Centraal to Noord - Amsterdam Itinerary
Ferry from Amsterdam Centraal to Noord – Amsterdam Itinerary

In my numerous posts about Amsterdam, I have mentioned over and over again that the best way to explore the city is on a bicycle.

Even though Amsterdam’s tram, ferry, and metro network is great, you probably won’t need a bicycle. Nonetheless, having one while you visit NDSM will give you much more freedom to explore. 

There is a free ferry that goes from the city center, from Amsterdam Centraal Station to Amsterdam-Noord, and another one directly to NDSM-Yard. (In Dutch, central is “Centraal”). The ferry leaves from the other side of the Amsterdam Centraal train station, the exit that’s not towards the main city but the river. 

The ferry point is just outside the central station and you won’t miss it because you will see people waiting with their bicycles or scooters. Yes, you can take the bike on the ferry.

Look for ferry 906 towards the NDSM yard. The ferries leave after every five minutes and they cost nothing. It can’t get better than this.

Remember, if you don’t have a bicycle then don’t get on the ferry that goes to A’dam tower because that’s 3 km away. Instead, take the ferry that’s going directly to NDSM Werf. 

Ferry 906 will leave you near NDSM but if you want to check out other spots in Amsterdam-Noord, like the A’Dam lookout tower then you can ride your bicycle there, it is just 3 KMs, so will take you 15 minutes on the bicycle.

If you’re scared to ride a bicycle in Amsterdam city, then you should know that riding it in Noord is super easy because of the wide empty spaces. So maybe rent one from the city centre or just near the ferry point, and ride it in Noord. My friend who didn’t have enough biking experience did this while I was with her and it worked!

Things to do in NDSM

Cycle Around NDSM Werf + Top Sights

NDSM Werf on bicycles and admiring street art
San and I exploring NDSM Werf on bicycles and admiring street art

When you arrive in NDSM, then the first thing you’d want to do is to explore the area on your bicycle. This will give you a sense of this space and will give you an idea of where everything is. This way, you can also keep a lookout for a brand new cafe or bar that looks interesting and is not on my list.

Here are some spots to look at while you cycle around NDSM Plein. These are the spots where you don’t have to necessarily stop, unless you’d like to click a photo. They can be enjoyed as you cycle around them too.

Let me be Myself” mural of Anne Frank by Eduardo Kobra

The Iconic Let me be Myself – Ann Frank Mural in STRAAT, Amsterdam NDSM

While Cycling in NDSM Plein, you will come across a massive face of Ann Frank smiling at you. It is called “Let me be Myself” and is by Eduardo Kobra. 

I spent a long time looking at this mural because it has so many interesting bits that collectively form one face. The giant scale of this work of art is magnificent and it is not easy to photograph it unless you have a wide-angle lens.

Let me be Myself mural of Ann Frank is actually the entry part of STRAAT – a museum dedicated to street art. I will talk more about that in one of my next points.

Spot the Faralda Crane Hotel

Amsterdam’s Crane Hotel Feralda in NDSM, Amsterdam Noord

Imagine a big old crane that’s converted into a high-end bed and breakfast. Yes, that’s what Faralda Crane Hotel is all about. There’s even a hot top on top.

The rooms in Faralda Crane Hotel aren’t cheap and cost at least 800 euros per night for a crazy unique experience. I did mention this place in my earlier post about Amsterdam-Noord and I still say that this is a super interesting sight. 

If you are looking for a luxury hotel in Amsterdam that’s one of a kind, then consider staying here. It would be my dream to stay here with my family.

See Alternative Housing – Trams and Containers

Old Tram Converted into a house in NDSM Amsterdam – Anthony da Cruz via Unsplash

NDSM takes recycling to another level by using up old trams and old shipping containers. It was interesting to see some of them converted into houses. 

Cycle around and hopefully, you will find even more interesting things to see that I didn’t notice. If you do, then please let me know too so that I can include the information on my website.

Head to Kunststad to see the Art Installations

The most obvious thing to do in NDSM Werf is to check out the art installations. They are mostly situated in a huge hall with a high ceiling, which is called Kunststad (meaning Art City). It is also known as NDSM Kinetisch Noord.

San with his bicycle admiring the artwork inside NDSM Werf in Amsterdam
San with his bicycle admiring the artwork inside NDSM Werf in Amsterdam

Kunststad is a massive industrial building and you won’t miss it. You can take your cycle inside this hall. Kunststad features the works of 250 artists. Some of the art installations are super interactive and will blow your mind.

Some art installations change over time and others stay here for a while. I saw something unique in 2017 here which was still in the same spot in 2021. It is called the Barbie Peep Show and is hilarious.

NDSM Werf in Amsterdam-Noord – my favorite Amsterdam photo spot

The Barbie Peep show is all about putting a coin in the slot and seeing naked Barbies. Once you put a coin, then a peephole opens and you can peep for some time.

I mean, no one ever needs to see naked barbies but it is a funny concept for collecting money. Moreover, with its pastel pink wall, it makes an amazing photo spot and is on my list of top Instagram spots in Amsterdam.

Cycling inside NDSM Werf in Amsterdam
Cycling inside NDSM Werf in Amsterdam

IJ-Hallen Flea Market

IJ-Hallen is a flea market that occurs in the same spot as the art installations in the first point. However this market takes place just once or twice a month, so make sure you check the website to plan your visit.

They say IJ-Hallen is the biggest flea market in Europe with 400 stands, I’m not sure because I have definitely seen massive flea markets in Puglia and another one near the Germany-Poland border. Yes, it may be one of the largest flea markets but I’m not sure if it takes the top spot.

Honestly, because this market occurs just once or twice a month, I always ended up missing it. I did visit Waterlooplein, one of the other flea markets in main Amsterdam. Just because I didn’t get to visit it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. I still want to recommend this one-of-a-kind flea market in Amsterdam to you.

Head to Pllek – Beach Bar, Movie Night, Yoga

Sipping Beer on the beach in Pllek, Amsterdam-Noord

I have mentioned Pllek in many of my Amsterdam posts. It is a lot of things combined in one. It is a restaurant, a bar that faces the IJ river, and a spot for movie nights and Sunday morning Yoga sessions.

Pllek is a Dutch word that means “the spot” or “the place”, it is my favorite place in Amsterdam to relax and drink. Pllek is more than just a place, it is a vibe.

Pllek by the IJ in Amsterdam-Noord

While you’re in main Amsterdam, you may not realize but the city can sometimes get stressful because it is busy. This part of Amsterdam has somehow managed to stay under the radar of tourists and is the perfect place to relax the mind. 

Pllek is fun, it is colorful and perfect for couples or solos alike.

Sitting by the water in Pllek, Amsterdam-Noord – 2021

If you’re looking for a spot to enjoy the sunset, Pllek is actually the best place because the beach chairs face the west side and you can see the magical sunset colors as you sit by the water. It is one of the most romantic things to do in Amsterdam.

I love Pllek’s contactless ordering service. You can just scan a QR code that’s displayed everywhere here, see the menu online, and order. You can also pay online. When the order is ready, they will call your name, and then you can enjoy your food and drinks.

Pllek by the IJ - Amsterdam Noord
Live music in Pllek by the IJ – Amsterdam Noord – 2017

Pllek gets a bit busy in the evenings so try to get here early. Be prepared to share a table if you get here late, but that’s not a bad thing because Pllek is a social spot.

Relax at Café de Ceuvel

An old houseboat transformed into a sitting area in De Ceuvel - Amsterdam
An old houseboat transformed into a sitting area in De Ceuvel – Amsterdam

Pllek definitely is an interesting spot but another one that stole my heart was De Ceuvel. It is arty, interesting and beautiful. 

Cafe De Ceuvel is one of those places where you can chill for hours and would not want to leave. There are interesting places to sit around the water and streams. If you’re lucky then you can get a houseboat table on the water.

Delicious salad at De Cuvel Café, Amsterdam-Noord
Delicious Nutty salad at De Ceuvel Café, Amsterdam-Noord

Vegans would love De Ceuvel because of the variety of food options. The food isn’t Dutch but a fusion of many different cuisines. As an Indian, I can say that Cafe de Ceuvel is one of the few places in Europe that get “Dhaal” right. Dhaal is an Indian preparation of lentils. 

Apart from eating and drinking, De Ceuvel is a spot for many workshops that are focused on sustainability. In fact, the whole restaurant is sustainable with their kitchen waste going into the garden.

Cafe de Ceuvel in NDSM Amsterdam

For me, eating at Cafe de Ceuvel was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience. All the tables looked different and some sitting areas were truly unique. The space was beautifully used and it had a very airy, free kind of vibe.

So, if you are getting off the beaten part and visiting NDSM, then eat a meal at Cafe de Ceuvel too.


Remember “Let Me Be Myself”, the Ann Frank mural that I mentioned in my earlier point about cycling in NDSM werf? Well, that’s actually a part of STRAAT – a museum that’s dedicated to street art.

Near the entry of STRAAT Museum NDSM Amsterdam – Anthony da Cruz via Unsplash

Amsterdam is famous for its museums and STRAAT is truly one of a kind. It is the largest street art museum in the world. So, if you are into street art then give this place a visit.

STRAAT is kind of like Kunststad but is much more intense. It isn’t free and it features some of the most famous artists from all over the world. In STRAAT you will find the works of Banksy, Keith Haring, etc.

The art in STRAAT is divided into 5 themes. Expect to learn about the stories, the art form, the history of graffiti, street art, and NDSM Werf. Moreover, it also features different international street artists from time to time.

If you’re visiting STRAAT with your children aged 6 – 12 years, you will be happy to know that they can take part in a treasure hunt – just ask at the entry point about it.

Where to Stay near NDSM Werf

Inside ClinkNoord - a fun place to stay in Amsterdam-Noord
Inside ClinkNoord – a fun place to stay in Amsterdam-Noord

I normally stay in the main Amsterdam city but the only time I stayed in Amsterdam-Noord was in a hostel called ClinkNoord. It is near A’Dam Tower, which is 2.5 – 3 km from NDSM Werf.

Even though I don’t like hostels as much anymore because I love my own personal space, I had a decent experience in ClinkNoord. The bunk beds were private and every bunk had its own plug socket, reading light, and whatnot. The buffet-style breakfast was perfect and I couldn’t have asked for more.

Final Thoughts about NDSM Amsterdam

Pin It – NDSM Amsterdam

If you think this list contains information about too many places to visit in a small square called NDSM, you will be surprised to know that it has even more.

I include NDSM in every single of my Amsterdam itineraries and every time I visit Amsterdam, I notice many interesting things to do in NDSM and a few new cafes and bars.

Amsterdam main has an old-school charm but NDSM has a contemporary new look (and vibe).  Spend a few hours or days here for a change of scenery and you wouldn’t want to leave.

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