The Best Staycation Destinations in the UK 2021.

The UK is counting down the days until lockdown restrictions are completely lifted so we can all look forward to sunny summer holidays again. However, recent research has shown that more than half of the UK would rather vacation in this country than go abroad. Luckily, the UK is packed to the brim with stunning landscapes, bustling cities and relaxing coastlines, with plenty of great things to see and do. After taking a staycation in the UK, you will soon realise how much this diverse country has to offer – it will definitely give those abroad holidays a run for their money!

There are plenty of UK staycation destinations just down the road that can provide a truly satisfying break from your everyday life. And, as a bonus, you’ll be saving plenty of pennies and minimise your carbon footprint – it’s a win-win! Whether you’re looking for a relaxing countryside getaway, a coastal vacay, an action-packed outdoors holiday or a sophisticated city break – you can find all the best staycation destinations in the UK in the list below. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and take a look!

The Top UK Staycation Destinations:

Brecon Beacons, Wales

The Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales has long been considered one of the most beautiful British staycation destinations. Rolling hills, striking mountains, historical stones and castles, elegant waterfalls and lively communities, this UK National Park has so much to offer those who have been locked down in a town or city. In particular, you should make sure to visit the incredibly picturesque Waterfall Country, a southern pocket of the National Park where you will find the Four Falls Trail which consists of four astonishing waterfalls along a 5-mile hike. The Brecon Beacons are also recognised for their remarkable night skies which have earned this staycation destination an International Dark Sky Reserve label.

Where to stay:

Where to eat/drink:

  • The Bear Hotel: this hotel is famous for its welcoming atmosphere, historic character and delicious food.
  • Castle Hotel Llandrovery: located in the ancient and historic market town of Llandovery which translates to ‘Church amongst the water’, here you can enjoy incredible food made with local ingredients.
  • Penderyn Distillery: produces award-winning single malt whiskies and spirits in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons.
  • Black Mountains Smokery: a family-run artisan smokery located in Crickhowell. Their award-winning smoked foods are cured and smoked in their own smokehouse.

What to do:

  • Star gazing: head to Use Reservoir or Hay Bluff to gaze at the first Dark Sky Reserve in Wales.
  • Bushcraft & foraging: this staycation offers the perfect opportunity to hone your wilderness skills.
  • Rock climbing & abseiling: the Brecon Beacons has plenty of natural climbing opportunities, from sheltered crags to old quarries and rocky escarpments.

Brighton, England

Forever cool, the city of Brighton is a truly iconic seaside destination. It has everything you need for a successful staycation in the UK – whether you’re looking for sea, beach, bars, clubs, restaurants and brilliant shopping opportunities. Perfect for a staycation with the family, Brighton makes the ideal break to entertain the kids after months locked in the house. Head to the famous Royal Pavilion and pier and enjoy a ride on a giant Ferris wheel for incredible panoramic views of the city and south coast.

Where to stay:

Where to eat/drink:

  • Franco Manca: for the ultimate soft and doughy sourdough pizza at an affordable price.
  • The Foragers: A cosy community-based pub in central Hove, best known for their middle-eastern inspired menu and fabulous selection of beers, spirits and wine.
  • Stock Burger Co.: a vibrant bar and restaurant set against the stunning backdrop of Brighton’s seafront, serving the crème de la crème of burgers.
  • Hand in Hand: recently awarded Brighton’s best pub in 2019 and 2020, this historical watering hole has been serving locals and holiday-makers alike since 1830.
  • Riddle & Finns: watch your food being prepared in this trendy seafood restaurant, located in the vibrant Lanes of Brighton.

What to do:

  • Brighton Toy & Model Museum: founded in 1991, this attraction is full of childhood dreams and nostalgic memories.
  • Theatre Royal Brighton: presenting a sensational programme of West End drama, musicals, comedy and a spectacular annual Christmas show.
  • Sea Life Brighton: an astonishing underwater emporium filled with a dazzling array of fantastic otherworldly creatures.

The Cotswolds, England

The Cotwolds is a truly magical staycation destination. Running through five counties (Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire), this little pocket of quintessential England makes for an ideal short break. Weave through the bustling market towns, gawk at the huge country houses, eat at the many excellent restaurants and take in the splendid scenery of luscious green rolling hills.

Where to stay:

Where to eat/drink:

  • Lygon Wine Bar: a relaxed wine bar with a focus on Italian and European wines by the glass, carafe and bottle.
  • The Blue Boar: serving a seasonal, Mediterranean-inspired menu in a cosy, rustic dining room with open kitchen.
  • Sheep on Sheep Street: a trendy soho-style restaurant and bar, with wood-fired oven, open kitchen, garden and patio area.
  • No.131: combining traditional Georgian architecture, elegant modern design and all-day dining, this trendy restaurant serves delicious, seasonal and local food.

What to do:

  • Blenheim Palace: marvel at the wonders of Baroque architecture, wonderful collections of art, tapestry and antiques, as well as exploring the park and gardens.
  • Kelmscott Manor: the country home of William Morris – poet, craftsman and socialist – this is an essential experience for anyone interested in the Arts and Crafts movement.
  • The Roman Baths: wonder round the steaming Great Bath, marvel at the ruins of the temple of Miverva and explore the fascinating museum.

Jurassic Coast, England

As England’s only natural World Heritage Site, the Jurassic Coast stretches from Exmouth in East Devon to Studland Bay in Dorset, and is arguably one of the most astonishing coastlines in the world. This unique staycation destination has so much to offer anyone wanting a short getaway. A hugely diverse and beautiful landscape, the Jurassic Coast is underpinned by its incredible geology. In fact, in 2001, it was recognised by UNESCO for the outstanding universal value of its rocks, fossils and landforms.

Where to stay:

Where to eat/drink:

  • Bliss Food Co.: a unique and welcoming restaurant that specialises in homemade, locally sourced and seasonal food.
  • Tawney’s Wine Bar: delivering fine wines and hearty food in a relaxed and family-friendly atmosphere.
  • The King’s Arms: visit this quintessentially British pub for an incredibly warm welcome and delicious food.
  • The Pink Goat: delivering incredible breakfasts, lunches and evening meals, this cafe/restaurant puts a unique twist on everyday favourites.

What to do:

  • Lulworth Fossil Forest: wonder at the evidence of the existence of the Jurassic Period, created from falling sea levels.
  • Spyway Dinosaur Footprints: created by Jurassic giants 145 million years ago, visiting these impressive fossilised tracks is a journey back in time.
  • Beer Quarry Caves: discover the history of the village of Beer which revolves around these quarry caves that have been worked by hand since the Roman times.

Padstow, England

More than just a British seaside town, Padstow has firmly established itself as a famous foodie hangout, making it the ideal staycation destination for anyone who loves to eat! Situated on the northern coast of Cornwall, explore its trendy town and popular harbour. Perhaps you want to trek a little further afield and walk or cycle the Camel Trail toward Wadebridge, Bodmin and beyond. Or, take a relaxing stroll along the Southwest Coast Path towards one of the several sandy beaches or catch the ferry across the river to Rock.

Where to stay:

Where to eat/drink:

  • Burgers & Fish: a trendy gourmet restaurant which specialises in creating magnificent burgers and unique fish dishes.
  • The Tasting Room on Duke Street: a large and airy space serving the best craft draught beers in town.
  • Trevisker’s Kitchen: serving up lovely homemade food in a modern, friendly environment.
  • Prawn on the Lawn: a fully licensed fish monger and restaurant near Padstow’s buzzing quayside, delivering the freshest seafood and tapas-style fish dishes.

What to do:

  • Harlyn Surf School: improve your surfing skills or try out coasteering, stand-up paddle boarding or sit on top kayaking.
  • National Lobster Hatchery: meet baby lobsters and see them through different stages of their life cycle.
  • Camel Creek Adventure Park: with a huge range of rides, Camel Creek provides fun and thrills for all the family.

Isle of Skye, Scotland

If stunning scenery is your thing, the Isle of Skye should definitely be on your staycation destination list. One of Scotland’s top visitor destinations and home to some of its most incredible landscapes, it’s like being in another world. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights during your trip. But the Isle of Skye has so much more to offer than just good views – it’s also a great staycation destination for history, wildlife, walking and climbing.

Where to stay:

Where to eat/drink:

  • The Three Chimneys: one of the most famous restaurants in Scotland, this fish and seafood restaurant sits on the shore of Loch Dunvegan in north west Skye.
  • The Old School: a mid-range option, this family-run eatery serves up proper hearty meals in a refurbished school.
  • Edinbane Lodge: Dating back to 1543, it is reputedly the oldest inn on Skye. Using the best island and highland produce, the multi-course menu has everything you could want.

What to do:

  • Skyefari: join a wildlife safari to see the ‘Skye Five’ – Otters, Golden Eagles, White-Tailed Eagles, Red Deer and Seals.
  • Fairy Pools: swim in the Fairy Pools of Glen Brittle, filled with crystal blue water from the Cuillin.
  • The Old Man of Storr: walk up to the large pillar of rock that dominates the landscape in the north east of Skye.

York, England

There is no need to leave the UK to find fabulous history, culture and food – picture-perfect York has it all. York is exactly when comes to mind when you think of a postcard English city. Surrounded by medieval walls and ancient castles dotted throughout, but with modern chic shops and trendy restaurants, cafes and bars – York is the ideal blend of history and contemporary sites. Plus, the stunning Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors are just a short drive away.

Where to stay:

Where to eat/drink:

  • Shambles Food Court: Offering delicious street food every day of the week, it makes the ideal spot for a lunchtime treat.
  • Ambiente Tapas: This relaxed Andalucia-inspired Tabancos-style bar is the perfect spot for a tasty lunch or a glass of wine overlooking the street.
  • Spring Espresso: Re-fuel from a long day roaming the streets of York with a delicious artisan coffee from this cosy little coffee shop.
  • The House of Trembling Madness: Offering a huge collection of beers and rich history, this medieval ale house features quirky taxidermy and proper good-quality grub that embodies the true spirit of Yorkshire.

What to do:

  • York Minster: One of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals, marvel at the stained glass masterpieces and intricately carved stone.
  • The York Dungeon: Discover 2000 years of history as it is brought to life in this immersive York experience.
  • Jorvik Viking Centre: Marvel at the unique collection of 1000 year old artefacts and take a trip on the world-famous ride that takes you through the sites, smells and sounds of Viking-age York.

Bristol, England

A lot of UK towns and cities are often referred to as ‘up-and-coming’ these days, but Bristol really is the cool new city that well and truly deserves a spot on this staycation list. While one of the lesser-known UK staycation destinations, more and more people are recognising Bristol as the place to be. In fact, between 2015 and 2017, over 13,000 people left London to move to the city, making it even more popular than Brighton. From magnificent museums and art galleries to trendy eateries and bars – you certainly won’t be bored during a weekend in Bristol.

Where to stay:

Where to eat/drink:

  • The Milk Thistle: set over 4 floors in one of the city’s finest historic buildings, here you can taste the best cocktails in town.
  • The Ox: a seductive steakhouse, hidden away in an old-school basement in the old city, with wood-panelled walls and dim lighting.
  • Bar 44: an opulent tapas bar in Clifton Village, where you can choose from a selection of seasonal and classic tapas dishes to enjoy with a glass of wine or a G&T.
  • Asado: a funky burger joint, with bright decor, a banging soundtrack and consistently great burgers, of course!

What to do:

  • Aerospace Bristol: tells the incredible story of Britol’s world-class aerospace industry and gives you the opportunity to board the iconic Concorde Alpha Foxtrot.
  • Bristol Cathedral: the centre of Bristol’s history, civic life and culture, this magnificent building is a must-see.
  • Banksy Walking Tour: see some of Banksy’s most famous works combined to make for a fantastic self-guided walking tour.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is a constant hive of activity and fun, making the ideal UK staycation destination for those who love the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan city. With its recognisable city skyline, colourful, cobbled streets and lively characters as the backdrop, Edinburgh is the perfect place to make some holiday memories. From the zoo to the whisky and, of course, the yearly Fringe Festival.

Where to stay:

Where to eat/drink:

  • Burgers & Beers: serving up the best burgers and, obviously beers, try their famous 8oz burger hand-crafted on-site from locally-sourced ingredients.
  • The Cauldron: a 1 hour 45 min immersive class where you wield a magic wand and use molecular mixology to create drinkable elixirs.
  • The Voodoo Rooms: known for its classic cocktails, unique mixes, rums and tequilas, this bar and restaurant is a true hidden gem.
  • The Whiski Rooms: with a bar, restaurant, bistro and shop, the Whiski Rooms captures a unique food and drink experience, with stunning views over the Mound and Princes Street.

What to do:

  • Edinburgh Castle: set at the top of the Royal Mile, on top of Castle Rock, this is the number one visitor attraction in the whole of Scotland.
  • Edinburgh Zoo: a great day out for all the family, the zoo is home to over 1000 animals, including the UK’s only giant pandas.
  • Camera Obscura: the oldest visitor attraction in Edinburgh, get immersed in this attraction’s incredible illusions.

Lake District, England

No list of top staycation destinations in the UK would be complete without the breathtaking Lake District National Park. Probably one of the best-known holiday destinations for people across the UK and further afield, the Lake District offers a wide range of activities and attractions, as well as some incredible natural beauty. Featuring glassy lakes, surrounded by luscious greed rolling hills.

Where to stay:

Where to eat/drink:

  • Mortal Man Inn: with stunning views of the rugged fells of Troutbeck Valley, Mortal Man serves up true pub classics, along with delicious special dishes.
  • The Old Stamphouse: a welcoming restaurant, located in the heart of the village of Ambleside, housed in the former office of William Wordsworth.
  • Harry’s Cafe: found in Yew Tree Barn, this cafe and bar is a family-run business that serves up great food and coffee.
  • The Wild Boar: set in the Gilpin Valley, this friendly pub features crackling log fires, a fabulous seasonal menu and a great selection of ales and wines.

What to do:

  • Scafell Pike: take a trip up the highest mountain in England if you’re into the outdoors.
  • Grasmere: thanks to Wordsworth, Grasmere is probably the area’s most famous village, being where he wrote most of his poetry.
  • Lake Windermere: you can’t visit the Lakes without an actual visit to a lake.

A Guide to the Best Islands in Hawaii 2021: Which Hawaii Island is Right for You?

Hawaii is a dream holiday destination for many and tourists are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to stunning island destinations. Each Hawaiian island has its own unique charm and beauty that draws people to visit. However, all six of the main islands that make up Hawaii are incredible and have so much to offer anyone who visits; this can make it almost impossible to know which island is right for you.

Hopefully, this detailed guide to the best islands in Hawaii 2021 will give you some insight into which island destination will suit you and your vacation needs the most. So, go ahead and explore what each Hawaiian island has to offer you.

How Many Hawaiian Islands Are There?

In total there are a whopping 137 islands that make up Hawaii; most, however, are really tiny and uninhabited. When people refer to Hawaii, they are generally referring to a group of 7-8 main islands. Yet, the smallest of this 8, Kahoolawe, doesn’t have any residents and access is restricted due to the risk of unexploded ordnance given that it used to be a training ground and bombing site for the US military. As well as this, one of the remaining 7 Hawaiin islands, Niihau, is privately owned and so is also largely off limits to visitors.

So, this leaves us with just 6 main Hawaiian islands to choose from (we’re slowly whittling it down). These islands include Maui, Kauai, Big Island, Oahu, Molokai and Lanai. Each one of these islands has something wonderful and unique to offer and makes for an incredible vacation. However, given the stunning beauty of every single Hawaiian island, it can be super tricky to decide which one to visit (I doubt you have the time or the money to visit them all – unfortunately).

The Best Hawaii Islands to Visit

Oahu

Photo by Jess Vide on Pexels.com

Referred to as the “Gathering Place”, Oahu is Hawaii’s most populous island, primarily defined by the state capital of Honolulu, which is a hotspot for endless activities, shopping trips, delicious dining, surfing, nightlife and much much more. It is also the home of the world-famous Waikiki Beach, making it the ideal Hawaiian island for those looking for beach action in a big, bustling city.

However, the island of Oahu is so much more than Honolulu or Waikiki – in fact, it may be the most beautiful of all of the Hawaiian islands, often being considered the closest place to paradise. There are so many diverse sides of this island to explore that you are sure to be kept busy during your entire Hawaiian stay. Venture to the east side of the island for pristine, unspoiled beaches, with stunning views of the Mokulua islands, crystal clear blue waters and flawless white sand. This side of Oahu it ideal for outdoor lovers; you can rent a kayak and discover the twin islands off the coast of LaniKai beach, go surfing, snorkelling, swimming or even paddle boarding. Alternatively, if you prefer dry land, why not trip into Kailua town for a spot of shopping and to try some delicious food.

Meanwhile, the north shore of Oahu has just as much to offer. Home to the famous surf break, Bonsai Pipeline, you can enjoy watching the incredible surfing spectacles at Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach or Turtle Bay. You can also keep active yourself by taking one of the many waterfall hikes on this side of the island, giving you a chance to appreciate its lush green scenery. The north side of this Hawaiian island provides a more relaxing, laid-back retreat relative to its counterpart location of Honolulu and Waikiki.

The west side of this Hawaiian island is rapidly growing in popularity among tourists, with new shopping centres and resorts cropping up all along the shore. The resort community of Ko Olina is equipped with an expansive golf course, private beach coves, fine dining restaurants and sea-view cocktail bars. Right next door is the town of Kapolei, where you will find everything from shopping and movie theatres to restaurants and bars. If you want to venture a little further west, you can explore the local parts of Nankuli, Waianae and Makaha Beach; these areas offer out-of-this-world white sandy beaches, surrounded by dramatic mountain ridges.

So, Oahu is the best Hawaiian island for those who like to have the best of both worlds. Whether you’re looking to shop in a big, bustling city, party until dawn, relax on a beach or get active – Oahu has it all.

Big Island

When it comes to travelling on a budget, Big Island is by far the best Hawaiian island to visit. In particular, Big Island seems to have the greatest range of affordable accommodation options for budget travellers to choose from. As well as those looking to travel on the cheap, Big Island is also a great option for lovers of nature and anyone looking to experience a variety of astonishing landscapes.

What sets this island apart from the rest? Big Island stands out from the other Hawaiian islands for its incredible natural diversity – find everything from white sandy beaches, black lava fields, lush green rain forests, dramatic mountain ridges and even snow-capped mountain peaks. This ongoing battle between contrasting landscapes and sceneries means that Big Island is constantly breaking the norm of what you would typically expect from a tropical island.

Big Island is definitely the best Hawaiian island for travellers who like adventure. On this island you should always expect the unexpected; there is always a new surprise around every corner when it comes to Big Island. You can sink your toes into one of the world’s few green sand beaches, snorkel with Manta Rays in the Kona area or tour the island’s many volcanoes.

Molokai

Although much smaller, Molokai does give Big Island a run for its money in the competition for best island in Hawaii for outdoor enthusiasts. It is certainly the best Hawaiian island for independent travellers and those who enjoy a more authentic experience. Unlike Oahu and Big Island, Molokai lacks the major resorts, with a more ‘local’ vibe where you can travel off the beaten path much easier. However, this absence of large tourist resorts can make finding decent affordable accommodation a little trickier than on some of the other islands in Hawaii.

Molokai also represents a much quieter and less crowded option for travellers to Hawaii. Kaunakakai is the biggest town on Molokai, but with a largely native population of just 3000, it isn’t exactly a hive of action and energy. Yet, this is probably your best bet for finding a room on a budget and it does provide a good base for exploring the rest of the island.

Molokai is the best Hawaiian island for those who are looking to escape the high-speed pace of modern life. You can get the benefit of beautiful scenery and stunning beaches, without the hustle and bustle of a big city or commercialised tourist resorts. While its neighbours have taken full advantage of and cashed in on mass tourism, Molokai remains unusual in that is has largely remained the same, sitting right in the middle of the Hawaiian island chain. However, this lack of a tourist industry is reflected in the island’s fairly negative attitude towards tourism which can often leave some visitors feeling a little uncomfortable.

Kaua’i

Often referred to as the “Garden Isle”, Kaua’i is the best island in Hawaii for those who want to experience the true iconic representation of what people think Hawaii really is. With seemingly endless lush, foliage-covered mountains and tree-lined dirt roads that wind on for what seems like forever, this Hawaiian island offers a paradise retreat like no other.

The south side of Kaua’i has experience rapid development in recent years, with a shoreline packed with hotels and resorts, including world-famous destinations such as the Grand Hyatt Kauai and the suave Koa Kea Hotel. Despite its newly tourist-centred approach, on the south side of this Hawaiian island you will also find the secluded beaches, dramatic mountains, clear blue waters perfect for snorkelling and sunny beach weather that is typical of Hawaii. Although you might expect the south side of the island to be largely crowded given its well-developed tourist industry, it has a surprisingly small population. This makes it one of the best islands in Hawaii for those who like to explore in some peace and quiet, while benefiting from the luxuries of up-market hotels and resorts.

The west side of the island offers a more authentic experience, with plenty of quaint local towns to discover. Take a trip to the small towns of Hanapepe, where you can weave in and out of art galleries, independent shops and local restaurants. You can also visit the popular Banana Patch Studio where you can watch local artists hand-paint Hawaiian tiles and pottery. This side of the island is also home to Kauai’s longest stretch of beach, Polihale, which translates to “house of the dead”. This beach is one of the most beautiful on the island and is a great place to get some good snaps.

Kauai’s main town is Lihue, where the island’s only airport is located. This town is where most of the activity is centred, with plenty of shopping malls, river kayaking, dining experiences, nightlife, hikes and more to keep you busy. Kauai is one of the best islands in Hawaii for vacationers who are looking to enjoy a little bit of everything. Whether you’re looking to stay active in the outdoors, get a tan on the gold sandy beaches or eat and drink to your heart’s content – the east side of Kauai can offer all this and much more.

Creating another mesmerising contrast is the north shore of Kauai, where rainforests border beaches and trickling streams hurry across roads. The north shore of Kauai is much more secluded and quiet than the other sides of the island. With incredible snorkelling sites and unbeatable hiking trails, this is the side to visit if you’re looking for a relaxed, laid-back tropical retreat. It is especially ideal for honeymoon getaways, when you require maximum peace and quiet. However, there are only a handful of hotels and resorts on this side of the island, so most visitors look into home rentals instead.

Maui

Maui is the queen of tropical paradise when it comes to the Hawaiian islands. With so much to offer, from relaxing days at the beach, adventurous waterfall hikes, lively nightlife, stunning coral reefs and luxurious resorts, this Hawaiian island is hard to beat. Most first-time visitors to Hawaii travel to Maui to take advantage of its massive diversity and justified popularity. Often referred to as the Valley Isle, this island in Hawaii features mind-blowingly stunning scenery alongside an abundance of friendly guided tours to aid your sightseeing. Enjoy taking in vistas of lush green rainforests, volcanoes as well as long stretches of golden beaches.

Many of Maui’s most popular tourist hotspots are divided between the west and south sides of the island. On the west coast of Maui are the very popular Kaanapali and Lahaina where you will find an ideal blend of luxury and tourism. The west side of this Hawaiian island is where you want to be if you like your home comforts and a touch of glamour. Kaanapali Beach has a resort community vibe, with endless hotels, resorts and condos that are all within walking distance of each other. The beach itself is superb, offering a load of cool activities for couples and families. You can go snorkeling, surfing, swimming or even shipping at the Whalers Village shopping centre. Lahaina is another popular town amongst tourists but for different reasons – this town is rich in history and culture, so is a great escape from the more built-up area of Kaanapali.

Meanwhile, on the south side of Maui, you will find the towns of Kihei and Wailea. Here, the resorts and hotels tend to be much more spread out, creating a much quieter and relaxed feel. Oneloa Beach is a huge stretch of sand that is ideal for a range of activities, including body surfing, swimming and snorkelling. With portable toilets and picnic tables, this is a great destination for families with kids.

Along the east side of this Hawaiian island is the famous Road to Hana, a major attraction that boasts some of the island’s most jaw-dropping scenery. The snaking Road to Hana winds its way around mountains with dramatic cliff edges that slice into the ocean and lush green rainforests that are bursting with life. Here you will also find black sand beaches, cascading waterfalls and the stunning Haleakala National Park. If you’re one for taking in impressive scenery and soaking up nature, then Maui might be the Hawaiian island for you.

Conclusion

So, there you have it – he best Hawaiian islands to visit in 2021! Hopefully this Hawaiian island guide has given you some more insight into what each island in Hawaii has to offer. Although each island has similarities and differences, they are all incredibly unique. One thing is for sure though, you won’t be disappointed whichever Hawaiian island you choose to visit.

15 Hidden Gems in Amsterdam You Won’t Want to Miss: Amsterdam’s Best Kept Secrets.

With its wealth of infamous museums, art galleries, historical monuments, winding canals and misshapen houses, Amsterdam has plenty to offer culturally-inquisitive sightseers. However, if you look really closely, you will find that there are an endless collection of secrets and hidden gems tucked down every alley and under every bridge. You just need to know where to look; that’s where this fabulous list of Amsterdam hidden gems comes in.

These lesser-known sites and attractions in Amsterdam rarely attract the footfall of more popular sites like Vondelpark and Anne Frank Huis. If you’re someone who despises crowds and likes to learn about a city in peace and quiet, these hidden gems in Amsterdam are the perfect city break options for you. So, go ahead and take a look at our list of Amsterdam’s best kept secrets and enjoy a unique trip, exploring places truly off the beaten track.

Amsterdam’s Best Hidden Gems:

The Symmetrical House of the Trip Brothers

This unique house was built during a period in Amsterdam when people were taxed on the width of their house. This meant that the wider the house, the wealthier its owner tended to be. Based at Klovenierburwall 29, the Symmetrical House of the Trip Brothers is often considered to be the widest house in the whole of the city. In fact, this house’s flawlessly symmetrical facade disguises two adjoining symmetrical houses, built in the early 1600s for the affluent Trip brothers, who had inherited their wealth from arms factories and forges.

A Secret Hiding Place During World War II

While the Anne Frank Huis is the most well-known and by far the most visited World War II attraction, the Corrie Ten Boomhuis, situated in Haarlem, is another location where Jewish stowaways were housed during this disastrous time period. The Ten Boom family, along with other members of the resistance, hid behind a false wall in the house. Unfortunately, they were eventually arrested and sent to concentration camps. Only Corrie Ten Boom survived the ordeal – her release was actually due to a supposed clerical error. Today, the house has transformed into a museum that teaches about World War II and the Jewish faith.

An 18th-Century Herbalist Shop

Take a unique step back in time when you enter this original 18th-century herbalist’s shop, situated near Nieuwmarkt. Opened in 1743 by a 21-year-old sailor’s son, named Jacob Hooy, this historic shop still retains much of its original decor, including barrels, wooden drawers and an intricate set of scales. This old little herbalist shop goes all the way back to the days when both tobacco and opium were considered remedies for a wide range of illnesses.

Cuddle a Cat Onboard de Poezenboot

Everyone needs to get their cat fix while travelling; this is the ideal hidden gem in Amsterdam to do just that. de Poezenboot is a floating cat sanctuary that has been housing stray and abandoned cats and kittens for over four decades. The shelter is moored to the northern banks of Singel canal, in central Amsterdam. The boat features a large lower deck where its feline inhabitants are given free reign to do as they please. Today, the shelter is open to visitors most days of the week and you will find all kinds of cats here – some are super friendly and love any human attention, while others aren’t that fussed and will keep to themselves. While you don’t have to pay to interact with these cute kitties, de Poezenboot always welcomes donations and they also sell some cool merchandise in their gift shop; make sure to have a browse before disembarking.

Explore Westergasfabriek

If you’re looking for something to keep you busy for hours at a time, this is the ideal Amsterdam hidden gem for you. Westergasfabriek is a ginormous cultural hub situated in the centre of Westerpark and has been built inside of the a huge gasworks facility that dates back to the late 19th century. This expansive area has a trendy industrial vibe that perfectly compliments its cultural leanings. You could easily spend entire evenings meandering between this cultural hub’s endless list of attractions, including laid-back restaurants, hip music venues, an arthouse cinema and the largest coin-op arcade in the city.

The Oldest Jewish Cemetery in the Netherlands

The Beth Haim cemetery is the oldest in the whole of the Netherlands and is filled with hauntingly ornate gravestones, featuring inscriptions in Duth, Portuguese and Hebrew, carved in marble. The graves in this cemetery belong to Spanish and Portuguese Jews who fled the Netherlands in the 17th century, along with their descendants. Just a short trip outside of the centre of Amsterdam, this hidden gem is well worth a visit.

Amsterdam Under Water

It is widely known that the city of Amsterdam lies below sea level, but it is quite hard to actually imagine what this looks like without seeing it demonstrated. Not to worry! This collection of giant water-filled tubes is the perfect hidden gem in Amsterdam to demonstrate this phenomena and let it really hit home. Located at the NAP visitor centre, visitors can see three glass tubes showing the sea level in different areas of the region.

An Ancient Prison Under a Bridge

A true Amsterdam hidden gem, the Torensluis (tower lock) is Amsterdam’s widest bridge, measuring around 40 metres in width. In fact, completed in the mid-17th century, it is also one of the oldest in the city. The size and name of this bridge reflects the tower that originally stood on the site until its demolition in the mid-19th century. The foundations of the original tower can still be seen in the paving of the bridge itself and in the dungeon below. The barred windows and arched entrance to the prison cells are nestled underneath the bridge and are now open to the public. These old prison cells now tend to be used to host events and exhibitions.

7 Countries in 7 Houses

A truly unique attraction and by far one of Amsterdam’s best kept secrets, this row of seven houses reflects the growing fascination with travel during the 19th-century. The collection of houses was commissioned in the 1890s by a prosperous banker and politician called Samuel van Eeghen. Drawing inspiration from the range of architectural styles across Europe, van Eeghen had architect Tjeerd Cuipers design him a row of houses that represented seven different countries. The final result was a magnificent, eclectic mix of 19th-century European architectural designs on one compact stretch of Amsterdam street. Take a tour of these unique houses and see touches of Moorish influence from Spain, England’s cottage charm and the French Loire Valley romanticism, among more recognisable styles from Russia, Germany and the Netherlands.

A Buddhist Temple in the Heart of the Old Town

This Amsterdam hidden gem is made even more fascinating by its contrasting surroundings. Located in the historical heart of the city, this incredible Buddhist temple is tucked away amongst a selection of traditionally Dutch buildings. Placed slightly back off the road, behind an arched gateway, this golden-tiled Buddhist temple is a delicious slice of Shanghai in the middle of the very European feeling Amsterdam. While the exterior will likely cause your jaw to drop, the interior is just as impressive and, thankfully, is open to the public on Saturdays, along with guided tours and even some meditation session you can take part in.

De Ysbreker

De Ysbreker, located on the Weespersijde (quay), has forever been utilised by the hospitality industry in some form. The building was first referenced to as an inn, called Icebreaker, in 1717. The inn’s name reflects the icebreaker that was operated by the beer breweries of Amsterdam that kept the Amstel river open in the cold weather. This was important because the river was required for the transport of pure drinking water from the River Vecht.

While the purpose of the building has changed many times throughout its lifetime, the exterior facade has largely remained unchanged since it was built in 1885. However, in 2010, the interior underwent a drastic renovation. Today, the building is home to a cafe which consists of one large open space, with three contemporary lead glass windows that depict an icebreaker to honour its long history.

GASSAN Diamonds

Amsterdam has been famous for its diamonds since the 16th century and is still seen as the trading centre of the diamond industry worldwide. Established by Samuel Gassan in 1945, just after WWII, GASSAN has played a pivotal role in Amsterdam’s diamond history. Set up as a business specialising in the import and export of raw and cut diamonds, the diamond cutters at GASSAN Diamonds have been working to perfect the brilliant ‘Amsterdam-cut’ for generations.

Today, GASSAN Diamonds is housed in a stunningly restored diamond factory built in 1879. Open to visitors, you can watch the diamond polishers still work at their craft and listen to multilingual guides explain the process of turning rough diamonds into dazzling brilliants.

IJ-hallen

Ij-hallen is an expansive industrial-style building that hosts one of the largest and greatest flea markets in Europe. Unfortunately, the market is only held once a month, so you will need to time your visit just right. However, this is one of Amsterdam’s best kept secrets for anyone who loves a bargain. The cavernous building is located at NDSM-yard; just take the ferry service 906 and a 5 minute walk from the stop at the other end. You have to pay a small entrance fee to get in but you’re sure to bag yourself an absolute bargain from its vast collection of vintage gems and antiques to make up for it.

REM Eiland

Dine at this Amsterdam hidden gem for an exclusive and unique gastronomic experience. REM Eiland is an unusual, waterborne restaurant, housed in a renovated offshore platform that once stood 9 kilometres off the coast of the Netherlands. In the 1960s, the platform was originally owned by a group of pirate radio broadcasters. This group were forced to abandon the platform when the Dutch government raided their operation in 1964. Today, around 4 decades later, the structure was towed further inland to Amsterdam’s Houthaven harbour and transformed into a classy restaurant unlike any other. You can access REM Eiland from a nearby jetty and dine inside its impressive upper decks.

Het Spinhuis

Another fascinating secret site in Amsterdam is Het Spinhuis. Founded in 1597, the Spinhuis is the old spinning house and was used as a penitentiary for women. Women who has been convicted of crimes such as fornication in brothels and inns, drunkenness or adultery were put here and forced to sew garments day in and day out. Women who were convicted of theft or crimes that were considered more serious were kept separate from other inmates and were required to read the Bible over and over again. Above the entrance to the Spinhuis reads “to shun paltry girls, maggots and women, beggars, this spider house was founded here”.

Today, Spinhuis is a squatted social space located underneath the Multatuli Bridge, right along the stunning Amsterdam Canal Belt. The non-profit collective hosts a variety of activities, including lectures, debate and discussion events, workshops, theatre, music and arts exhibitions. They even hold weekly film screenings, dining experiences and yoga sessions among many more exciting activities.

TOBACCO Theater

TOBACCO Theater is a cultural jewel located right in the middle of a vibrant neighbourhood of Amsterdam. This Amsterdam best kept secret is an incredibly remarkable venue that hosts a whole range of exclusive and extraordinarily beautiful events, including theatre dinners, international productions and other colourful events. All this takes place in super unique surroundings; a former tobacco auction, this building has been converted into a modern, industrial theatre. The event location features a sturdy theatre hall and eight remarkable rooms that differ from each other completely. This is the must-visit Amsterdam hidden gem for lovers of creative passion and grand gourmets.

Amsterdam Travel Guide: The Best Things to See and Do on an Amsterdam City Break.

Amsterdam doesn’t require much justification for why it is one of Europe’s top city break destinations. A conveniently compact city that is stunning to look at and pleasant to walk around. Golden Age canals, lined with misshapen buildings create the idyllic backdrop for Amsterdam’s many museums, trendy coffee shops, craft beer hotspots, a hip art scene, historic architecture and vintage-filled independent shops.

This Amsterdam travel guide will provide all the information you need to know to plan and experience a fantastic city break in Amsterdam. From when to visit, where to stay and what to see and do, to where to eat and how to make the most of the city’s nightlife. So, let’s get started!

Amsterdam City Break Travel Guide

A Brief History of Amsterdam

The Early History of Amsterdam

Amsterdam was founded as a fishing village around the 13th century. The city was built around a dam in the Amstel River, hence the resulting name Amstelledamme, which first occurred in the toll concession of Floris V, Count of Holland in 1275. During the late 14th and early 15th centuries, Amsterdam underwent a period of rapid development, which laid the foundation for the coming Golden Age.

The Golden Age of Amsterdam

The Golden Age (1585-1672) represents the hey-day of Amsterdam’s commercial success. During this booming period, the characteristic cityscape that we know today developed. Many of the city’s most important historic buildings date back to this period, including the town hall in the Dam Square, the Westerkerk, Zuiderkerk, as well as a large number of canal houses.

The Recession & Decline of Amsterdam

Unfortunately, this period of growth and prosperity didn’t last too long. In 1795, the government of the patrician oligarchies was overthrown and the old Republic ceased to exist. As a result, from 1795-1813 Amsterdam suffered from an economic recession. Many houses in Amsterdam were vacant and some even collapsed due to a lack of maintenance.

The Recovery & Expansion of Amsterdam

The period between 1813 and 1940 was marked by economic recovery and, from 1870 onwards, the city benefited from expansion. Increasing wealth within the city ultimately led to rapid population growth. This period of development was largely triggered by the Industrial Revolution that began a New Golden Age. Not only did the city expand in wealth and population, but in size too. Amsterdam started to stretch into the area beyond the Singelgracht, where large, poorly built working-class neighbourhoods sprung up.

When to Visit Amsterdam

Amsterdam is ideal for a short city break all year round, but the city’s peak season is during July and August. However, this is also when the city is at its busiest and most expensive.

The weather in Amsterdam is always fairly mild (even during the winter months), and visiting during the off-season or shoulder season makes for a much more budget-friendly trip. Mid-April to mid-May is a great time to visit Amsterdam as you’ll get to see the iconic tulip fields in bloom just outside of the city. Alternatively, Christmas season is another lovely time to visit the capital of the Netherlands as the city lights up and markets and festivals are frequent.

Where to Stay in Amsterdam

Unfortunately, accommodation in Amsterdam is on the steep side. If you want something centrally located (which you probably do) you should expect to be paying between 20-40 euros per night for a bed in a hostel dorm with eight or more beds. However, if you’re not keen on sharing, then a basic private room with an ensuite bathroom can cost anything from 90 euros per night during peak season. If you visit in the off-season, private rooms will cost around 68-77 euros per night.

If you want something a little more luxurious than a shared hostel dorm room, then your next option is probably a budget hotel. Nightly rates for a budget 2-star hotel room start at around 115 euros in peak season. While in the off-season, budget hotel rooms can start from 95 euros. Perhaps a better alternative would be an Airbnb apartment which Amsterdam has plenty of. A shared Airbnb room will cost you around 53 euros per night, while a private room will be around 75 euros per night. If you’re lucky, you might manage to find a whole apartment for under 145 euros per night.

What to Do & See in Amsterdam

With over 800 years of exciting history to discover, Amsterdam is rich with fascinating attractions and sites to see. From ancient castles to unique museums, secret courtyards to narrow cobbled streets, and of course the city’s world-famous canals. No city break to Amsterdam is complete without visiting the obvious classics, but I have also included some of the lesser-known attractions on this list of things to see and do in Amsterdam. Go ahead and take a look!

The Van Gogh Museum

Now, the Van Gogh Museum is an absolute must-visit in my opinion. I found my experience of visiting this museum incredibly moving as it traces Van Gogh’s life and development through the world’s largest collection of his magnificent works. Here, you will be lucky enough to see both well-known and familiar paintings along with wonderful lesser-known pieces that are definitely worth discovering. I found it fascinating to see his work change from tentative beginnings to outlandishly bright sunflowers, and on to his wild frenzy of creative brilliance as he neared the end of his life.

Canal Tour

Besides providing a brilliant backdrop to the city’s historical centre, leisurely floating down Amsterdam’s famous canal network is one of the most memorable ways to discover what the city has to offer. The history of Amsterdam is intimately connected with water – in fact, its 165 canals were built over centuries to stimulate trade and transport and reclaim land to expand the city. Today, the maze of canals continues to define the city’s iconic landscape and, in 2010, Amsterdam’s canal ring was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One thing is for sure, Amsterdam’s tourist industry certainly takes full advantage of its canals, employing a veritable fleet of glass-topped cruise boats shunting along the city’s waterways. You can hop on board for a quick hour-long excursion or even go all out with a fully-fledged dinner cruise.

The Jordaan

The Jordaan is probably the most famous neighbourhood in the whole of the Netherlands. A former workers’ quarter, this once working-class bastion was renowned for its tight community feel, radical politics and heavy drinking. However, decades of gentrification has attracted a whole host of atmospheric galleries, restaurants, speciality shops and cosy pubs, all crammed into a grid of scenic streets.

This trendy neighbourhood begins at Brouwersgracht, just west of the Amsterdam Central Station and loops around the western side of Canal Ring before ending at Leidsegracht.

The Anne Frank Huis

The Anne Frank Huis is one of the most popular visitor attractions in the whole of Amsterdam, drawing around 1.25 million visitors each year. Any visit to the Anne Frank Huis is going to be a powerful one – with Anne’s melancholy bedroom and her actual diary sitting along in a glass case. Yet, the main focus of the museum is the achterhuis (rear house), also known as Secret Annexe. This is a dark and airless space where, for over two long years, the Frank family and others observed complete silence and read Dickens novels before being arrested by the Nazis in 1944 to be sent to concentration camps. Only Otto Frank, Anne’s father, survived the ordeal.

Vondelpark

Vondelpark was a private park for the wealthy up until 1953. Today, the park occupies a special place in Amsterdam’s heart. It offers a magical escape, but also a busy social scene, with pristine cycle paths, well-groomed lawns, swan-filled ponds, quaint little cafes, footbridges and winding pathways. On a warm day, you will experience an open-air summer party atmosphere as tourists, cyclists, skaters, pram -pushing parents, playful children and hungry picnickers all get together. If you’re looking for a tranquil park to relax or read your favourite book, then this probably isn’t the place. The Vondelpark attracts over 12 million visitors each year, so it is rarely quiet, but always a lot of fun.

Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is amongst the world’s finest art museums. The works of many local heroes, including the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh, span the walls of this 1.5km gallery. Intimate paintings by Vermeer and De Hooch expose every day life in 17th-century Amsterdam, while Rembrandt’s The Night Watch (1642) is the real showstopper. Other must-sees include the Delftware (blue and white pottery), intricately detailed dollhouses and the Asian Pavilion. Make sure you also leave time to wonder through the sculpture-studded gardens that surround the museum – they are free to visit and just as much of a masterpiece as the artwork inside.

The Tulip Museum

Located in a canal house in the charming neighbourhood of Jordaan, and set amidst a collection of intimate shops and galleries, restaurants and hip cafes, the Tulip Museum offers approximately 2,200sqft of exibition spaces. These include exhibits by local artists that trace the iconic flower’s journey from its origins in the wild highlands of the Himalayas to its arrival at the court of the Ottoman Sultan Süleiman the Magnificent to its popularity in many household gardens today.

The Waterlooplein Flea Market

Waterlooplein is not only the oldest flea market of Amsterdam but also in the whole of the Netherlands. Established a whopping 133 years ago, this outdoor bazaar is open six days a week, comprises around 300 stalls and is run by some of the friendliest people you will meet. Take all the time in the world to wonder through all the uniquely magnificent stalls and marvel at all the things you can buy there – you’re sure to find something you didn’t even realise you needed. From vintage cameras and used books, to handmade jewellery, trendy t-shirts and posters galore.

Cycling

Where better to get back on your bike than the city of Amsterdam. With around 515km of dedicated cycle lanes, Amsterdam is routinely rated as the world’s second most bike-friendly city, just behind Copenhagen. In fact, cycling is truly deeply ingrained into the Dutch psyche at each and every level of society. The Netherlands has a population of 17.1 million people and of those, 4.25 million cycle every single day.

Thanks to Amsterdam’s love of cycling, there are plenty of bicycle rentals and bike tours around the city for you to make the most of. A bike tour provides the ideal opportunity to explore the city and see what other sites and attractions you might want to see while you’re there.

Where & What to Eat in Amsterdam

You will find every kind of dining experience in Amsterdam, from mid-range and high-end restaurants to budget-friendly fast-food spots and even specialities served straight from a vending machine. While Amsterdam has a diverse culinary scene that is a treat to explore, I would definitely recommend trying to sample as many Dutch specialities as you can.

Bitterballen

Bitterballen are essentially Dutch meatballs and serve as a very popular bar snack in Amsterdam. These delicious, deep fried crispy balls of goodness are the ideal snack for when those 8% Belgian beers are beginning to take their toll. Traditionally served with mustard for dipping, they’re the ultimate in Dutch pub snacks and can be found on the menu at most of Amsterdam’s drinking establishments.

Stroopwafel
Stroopwafel

The famously delicious sweet treat in Amsterdam. If you have a sweet tooth, then make sure you try this tasty snack. Consisting of two super-thin waffles stuck together by a layer of sweet syrupy goodness, these delectable delicacies are best enjoyed straight out of the oven from a street market or bakery. For the best stroopwafels in the city, take a trip to Lanskroon or Rudi’s Original Stroopwafels.

Thick Dutch Fries
Dutch Fries

These Dutch fries aren’t like other fries. These super-thick cut fries are traditionally served in a piping hot paper cone, slathered with all kinds of tasty toppings. Whether you like to pair your fries with mayo and onions, dip them in peanut satay sauce or to drown them in a delicious mixture of curry ketchup, mayo and onions, Amsterdam won’t disappoint. For the best fries in Amsterdam, visit Grizzl, Vleminckx de Sausmeester or Freddy Fryday.

Dutch Pancakes

Unlike the thick and fluffy version you might have tried in America, Dutch pancakes are much thinner – a bit like crepes. This means they have more surface area to heap on more of all your favourite pancake toppings. Order yours covered in fruit or laden with cream and syrup. For some of the best Dutch pancakes in Amsterdam, head to The Pancake Bakery or, for a slightly more unique pancake experience, why not head to Carousel Pancake House or The Pancake Boat.

Apple Pie

The Dutch version of apple pie is deep – very deep! This deep-dish Dutch take on apple pie is infused with cinnamon, dotted with raisins and served with a generous helping of whipped cream. While this treat tends to top the dessert menu at most Amsterdam restaurants and cafes, Winkel 43 is said to serve one of the best.

Raw Herring

Raw herring might not sounds that appetising at first, but every visitor to Amsterdam should give it a try. You’ll spot haringhandels (herring carts) serving up this Dutch delicacy all across the city. You can even ask for ‘broodje haring’ to get the fish served in a small sandwich with pickles and onions. The herring is said to be at its sweetest between May and July so if that’s when you’re visiting Amsterdam then you’re in luck.

Vending Machine Croquettes

We’re not talking about Michelin-starred cuisine here, but these vending machine croquettes are the utlimate in convenience – and they don’t taste too bad either. These hole-in-the-wall cafes make it onto this list of must-try Dutch snacks on novelty alone. All you have to do to get your hands on one of these tasty balls of deliciousness is put some coins into the slot and bingo; dinner is served!

Oliebollen

Literally translated as ‘oil balls’ it’s quite easy to let the name alone put you off trying this Dutch snack. But, don’t judge them too soon; they are essentially deep-fried sweet dumplings, dusted with powdered sugar. These tasty snacks tend to come out around New Year’s Eve, just in time for when the January diet kicks in.

Cheese
Dutch Cheese

Cheese is serious business in the Netherlands and it is definitely worth sampling while you’re in Amsterdam. You will find all the best cheeses at Amsterdam’s many ‘kaas’ shops or markets, where you can taste some Gouda, Geitenkaas or Maasdammer. For a great introduction to a range of the most popular Dutch cheeses, stop by one of the Henri Willig Cheese and More shops.

Nightlife in Amsterdam

You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to nightlife in Amsterdam. Take your pick from trendy bars, dance festivals and club nights of all kinds. DJs get the crowd going with everything from techno, dub-step and trance to hip-hop, funk and deep house.

Bars in Amsterdam

Visitors to Amsterdam have been taking advantage of its thriving bar scene since the 1600s, when sailors would drop by for a goodbye shot of jenever before taking to the seas once again. Some of the bars they frequented then are still around and running today. But, there is also an ultra-cool, modern side to some of Amsterdam’s best bars. The city offers everything from upmarket lounges and world-class cocktail bars to cutting-edge craft breweries.

Hiding in Plain Sight

Entering this classy speakeasy-style bar is like walking into a secret clubhouse. Conveniently close to the city centre but tucked away enough to avoid the crowds of tourists, Hiding in Plain Sight is a treat for anyone who walks through its doors. With its creative cocktails, wise bartenders and luxurious lounge-style seating, this bar truly is a delightful place to spend an evening after exploring Amsterdam.

Hannekes Boom

Taking a seat at this waterfront hotspot will instantly make you feel like you’re on holiday. With bright picnic-style tables, boats pulling up to the dock, swimmers jumping in to cool off and locals meeting up for drinks as the sun goes down, this is a relaxing place to spend any evening. But don’t worry, if you’re visiting Amsterdam in the winter, you can still experience Hannekes Boom from a cottage-like space made from salvaged materials and heated by a large fireplace.

Bar Bukowski

Named after writer Charles Bukowski, this trendy hangout is dedicated to both liquor and literature – what more could you want? When it comes to drinks, this neighbourhood hotspot serves up classic, no-fuss cocktails and a well-rounded selection of beers. As for literature, there is a typewriter-inspired light installation above the bar and plenty of Bukowksi quotes on the menu.

Nightclubs in Amsterdam

Being one of the world’s greatest exponents of dance music, Amsterdam’s vibrant clubbing scene covers all bases. From glitzy nightspots to raw warehouses, industrial buildings and tucked-away basements, Amsterdam is overflowing with places to dance the night away.

Chin Chin Club

Music, drinks and dancing are serious business at the Chin Chin Club. It is a true social clubhouse, complete with a karaoke room, arcade games, a restaurant and an impressive events lineup. Three distinct bars shake up signature cocktails infused with flavours inspired by Hong Kong, London and Amsterdam.

De Marktkantine

Home to a theatre, a restaurant, a club and creative worksplace all under the same roof, there’s always a lot going on at this Amsterdam club. Enjoy a mouth-watering meal at Graceland BAR-B-Q restaurant before dancing until dawn.

Depot Amsterdam

This Amsterdam nightclub adopts a truly inclusive approach to clubbing, with affordable club nights and raw, industrial-style decor. This warehouse club strips clubbing right back to the basics, with a focus on good music and even better times.

Tokyo Travel Guide: The Best Things to Do and See in Tokyo.

Visiting Tokyo is akin to experiencing an extreme adrenaline rush into a neon-bright future world. Entangled in a rather messy web of overhead cables, characterised by the seemingly constant noise of people and traffic and roads clogged with bumper-to-bumper vehicles, this futuristic conurbation of steel and concrete could, at first, appear like an urban nightmare. However, taking a step back from the frantic main roads and bustling centres are tranquil backstreets and peaceful parks. Wander beyond the hi-tech facade and discover charming fragments of the old city; see temples and shrines wreathed in wisps of incense, wooden houses fronted by manicured bonsai trees and parks filled with flourishing cherry blossoms.

It is an unpredictable metropolis fuelled by a blur of largely conflicting images, and it is amazing! As the world’s largest city, the heart of which is home to over 8 million people, Tokyo is a uniquely magnificent metropolitan environment. A centuries-long battle of organising itself to cope with the incessant demands of millions of inhabitants has made Tokyo something of a model metropolis. Trains are reliable, always running on time and to every corner of the city, crime barely even exists and shops and vending machines provide everything your could ever need, 24 hours a day.

With so much to take in, first-time visitors to Tokyo should be prepared for an impactful assault on their senses – visiting Tokyo certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted. The city’s incredible wealth and relative lack of planning restrictions has provided architects almost unprecedented freedom to experiment. Likewise, within the many uber-chic bars, restaurants and clubs, you will get to experience today what the rest of the world will see tomorrow.

This Tokyo travel guide aims to give you all the hints, tips and advice needed to make the most of this astonishing city. From what to see and do, when to go, where to stay, where to eat and where to party – make sure you are fully prepared to take full advantage of your trip to Tokyo.

Tokyo

Tokyo Travel Guide

A Brief History of Tokyo

No visit to Tokyo is complete without being even slightly aware of its brilliant and rich history. As soon as you step foot in this densely-packed urban metropolis, you will certainly see signs of its intricate past, whether it is in it’s beautiful temples and shrines or it’s narrow, winding backstreets. So, I couldn’t write a Tokyo travel guide without touching on the history of this very future-oriented, forward-thinking city.

1457 is largely considered to be the city’s founding date, when minor lord Ōta Dōkan built his castle, overlooking the Sumida-gawa and the bay. However, perhaps a more accurate founding year is 1590, when the feudal lord Tokugawa Leyasu decided to obscure the castle-town for his power base.

The Edo Era

By 1640, Edo Castle had become the most formidable in the whole of Japan, complete with a five-story structure, a double moat and a spiralling maze of canals. In order to snare unwelcome intruders, a bewildering network of narrow, undulating lanes, sudden dead ends and unbridged canals were built.

The daimyō (lords) were required by the shogun to spend some of the year in Edo and were granted huge plots for their estates on higher ground to the west of the castle. Meanwhile, artisans, merchants and other members of the lower class were confined to Shitamachi, a low-lying, overcrowded area to the east that was prone to flooding. Although much less distinct, this striking division between the ‘high’ and ‘low’ city is still visible today. During two centuries of peace, Edo grew to be the most populous city in the world and life down in Shitamachi flourished with a wealthy merchant class and a vigorous subculture of Geisha and Kabuki. Yet, inevitable was also the squalor, poverty and violence that was prevalent during this era.

The Meiji Era

In 1868, just a year after the Meiji restoration, the emperor took up permanent residence in the city, now renamed Tokyo. Japan started to quickly embrace Western technologies which rapidly caused the face of Tokyo to transform: the castle lost most of its grounds, canals were blocked up and Shitamachi’s wealthier merchant population decamped to more desirable Yamanote. However, unfortunately, the city still attracted disaster; in 1923 the Great Kantō Earthquake devastated half of Tokyo and killed 100,000 people.

The 20th-Century

Yet, that wasn’t the end of the trauma; more devastation was set to arrive during World War II. In just 3 days of sustained bombing in March 1945, hundreds of thousands of Tokyo residents were killed and great swathes of the city was burnt down, including Edo Castle and most of Shitamachi. As a result, Tokyo was reduced from a significant population of nearly 7 million to around just 3 million. This time, city regeneration was mainly fuelled by an influx of American funds and food aid under the Allied Occupation, as well as a manufacturing boom sparked by the Korean War in 1950.

When Emperor Hirohito opened the Tokyo Olympic Games in October 1964, Tokyo was returning with a vengeance as visitors were stunned by the brand new Shinkansen trains running west to Ōsaka. The economy continued to boom well into the late 1980s, when the city’s land prices reached astonishing heights, matched by an excess of all kinds – from gold-wrapped sushi to mink toilet-seat covers. However, this luxury didn’t last too long; in 1991 the financial bubble finally burst. Along with the revelations of political corruption, financial mismanagement and the release of deadly Sarin gas on Tokyo trains by the AUM cult, this led to a more sombre Tokyo throughout the rest of the 1990s.

Tokyo Today

Progressing into the 21st century, the economy slowly began to recover and so did the city’s vitality. The new millennium saw events such as the 2002 football World Cup and the 2019 rugby World Cup, plus a rapidly growing interest in Japanese pop culture and its delicious food scene. All this helped contribute to curious overseas visitors choosing to visit Tokyo.

When to Visit Tokyo

In my opinion, the best time to visit Tokyo is in the spring, from April to early May. At the start of this period (hanami), flourishing cherry blossoms give the city a soft pink hue mixed with pleasant temperatures. Yet, October and November are also excellent times to visit Tokyo as the pretty blossoms are transformed to a firey colouration of autumn leaves in the city’s parks and gardens.

I would advise trying to avoid the sweltering height of summer (late July to early September), when the humidity sees Tokyo’s citizens scurrying from one air-conditioned building to another. By contrast, during the months from January to March, temperatures can drop to freezing. While the temperatures are cold, the crisp blue winter skies are rarely disturbed by rain showers. However, make sure you carry an umbrella if you’re visiting Tokyo during tsuyu, the rainy season in June and July.

Where to Stay in Tokyo

Unfortunately, overnight accommodation in Tokyo is super expensive. Living space in the city is scarce and the tiny hotel rooms reflect this. You will probably struggle to find anything fairly reasonable for under 100 euros per night. However, don’t lose hope! One fantastic alternative to an overpriced hotel room is one of Japan’s famous capsule hotels. These are a great inexpensive option for those who are travelling to Tokyo on a budget.

I would advise booking your Tokyo accommodation as far in advance as possible in order to get the best value for money – the best hotels get snapped up very quickly. While hotels outside the centre of the city are quite a bit cheaper, it can be tricky getting in to see all the sites. It means joining Tokyo’s working population on their daily commute into the city centre and back again every morning and evening. Taking a trip on the metro certainly isn’t very fun when it is overcrowded at rush hour.

What to See & Do in Tokyo

When you first start planning your trip to Tokyo, you will more than likely be increasingly overwhelmed by the incredible size of the city and how much there is to see and do there. To help you plan your Tokyo visit as seamlessly as possible and find your way around this vast city, I have grouped the best attractions in Tokyo into neighbourhoods.

To Do in Shinjuku

The neighbourhood of Shinjuku is situated in western Tokyo and is one of the most exciting areas of the city.

Piss Alley – Omoide Yokocho

Charmingly referred to as ‘Piss Alley’ this small, narrow alleyway is actually called Omoide Yokocho and is situated just around the corner from Shinjuku Station. At just over a metre wide, this teeny tiny alley does look a little out of place in neat and tidy Tokyo, but it is just a interesting and exciting to visit. On both sides of the alley sit rows of small restaurants offering delicious Japanese delicacies, from soups, fish and grilled meat.

Kabukichō – The Red Light District
Tokyo Nightlife

Kabukichō is a vast amusement district that stretches from right in front of Shinjuku Station. Although it is still a nice place to visit during the day, especially if your go on a daytime photo walk, this district comes alive at night. As the dark draws in, neon signs light up and the hustle and bustle of nightlife begins. As well as red light establishments, this area is home to countless restaurants, clubs, bars and arcades.

Golden Gai
Golden Gai Bar

Golden Gai is a small area, located within Kabukichō, that comprises lots of tiny bars. The tiny, uneven streets make for some great edgy pictures during the day. It tends to be quite quiet during the day, when the bars are still shut, so you can get some greats pics in peace. In the evenings, tourists begin to swarm in to the teeny tiny bars and taking good photos can be more of a challenge. Most of the bars here are no bigger than a living room, with just enough space for around 6-8 people.

Robot Restaurant

The Robot Restaurant is actually a slightly misleading name given that it isn’t much of a restaurant at all. In fact, it is more of a show, and a rather wacky one at that. It is a completely one-of-a-kind experience – it’s loud, it’s dazzling and it’s completely crazy. Although admission to the Robot Restaurant is pretty steep at over 60 euros, I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Tokyo.

Metropolitan Government Building
Tokyo Government Building

Tokyo has some outstanding viewpoints across the city, but if you wanted to see them all, the cost would soon stack up. So, if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to see the great views of Tokyo, the Metropolitan Government Building is completely free. The building consists of two towers, both of which have an observation deck. I would suggest going to both towers because you get a different perspective of Tokyo from both.

Harajuku
Harajuku

Harajuku is a neighbourhood, located in the district of Shinjuku, known for its vibrant youth culture. On Sundays you can see the lively cosplay scene meeting on the bridge between the train station and Yoyogi Park. Cosplay is a popular subculture in Japan and involves, mostly young people, dressing up in the style of manga and anime figures. The area also has a lot of stylish shops and plenty of trendy bars and cafes.

To Do in Shibuya

Shibuya is a neighbourhood located east of downtown Tokyo and is especially popular among younger crowds, packed with shops and other sources of entertainment.

Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing must be the most famous pedestrian crossing in the entire world. At this intersection, all pedestrian lights turn green at the same time, causing hundreds or even sometimes thousands of people to cross at the same time. This spectacle is an absolute must-see on any trip to Tokyo as it is so characteristic of this crazy, overcrowded and hectic city.

Where to Eat in Tokyo

When it comes to gastronomic experiences, there are few places that compare to Tokyo. This city is one of the world’s leading gourmet capitals, where eating and drinking is an art form. No where offers you a better selection of exhilarating culinary experiences than Tokyo’s many bars and restaurants. Whether you’re looking for award-winning restaurants, authentic local eateries or fancily-prepared cocktails on the top floor of an even fancier skyscraper, this gastronomic metropolis has you covered.

The city comprises an insane number, range and quality of restaurants, serving practically any world cuisine you could think of available alongside all the more traditional Japanese dishes. And, to make it all even better, eating and drinking in Tokyo doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, it tends to be significantly less expensive than other popular foodie capitals across the globe. Even Michelin-starred restaurants offer good-value set-meal specials that you can take advantage of. There is also an abundance of fast-food options and cafe’s offering cheap, light meals. A great option is to head to the restaurant floors of department stores and shopping malls, where you will often find a wide choice of cuisines under one convenient roof. So, make sure you pack a big appetite when you travel to Tokyo.

Japanese Cuisine

You won’t have to look too hard to find restaurants serving up iconic Japanese dishes, including sushi, ramen noodles and tempura throughout Tokyo. Yet, certain neighbourhoods are better-known for particular types of cuisine. For the freshest fish, you should try one of the sushi restaurants in Tsukiji, Ginza or anywhere else around the Tsukiji Fish Market. If it’s ramen you’re looking for, then head to the busting business district of Shinjuku. Otakibashi-dori, the street stretching from the west exit of Shinjuku Station toward Okubo Station, has a particularly large selection of ramen spots. Or, in Tokyo’s more traditional districts, like Kanda, Nihonbashi and Asakusa, you will find plenty of family-run restaurants that have been handed down through multiple generations. These are the best places to visit for lightly battered tempura and soba buckwheat noodles. Once you’ve tried these Japanese classics, make sure you sample the rest of Tokyo’s exciting cuisine options, including udon noodles, yakitori and kushikatsu.

Gourmet dining

With over 200 Michelin-starred restaurants, Tokyo is a world-leader when it comes to gourmet deliciousness. There are an endless number of undiscovered fine-dining options across the city – many in the least expected of places. However, for the stand-out, super-swanky high-rise dining options, the skyscraper districts of Otemachi and Marunouchi are your best bet.

Only in Tokyo

While Tokyo offers all kinds of Japanese delicacies, the city has its own local specialities that are difficult to find anywhere else in the world. These include dishes such as monjayaki, fukugawa-meshi and dojo-nabe. Manjayaki is a kind of comfort food that consists of a multi-ingredient flour-based batter cooked on a hot place. Fukagawa-meshi is a rice dish topped with a miso-based stew of clams and leeks. Dojo-nabe is a freshwater fish dish topped with chopped leeks and spices. All these Tokyo-specific dishes are incredibly delicious and definitely worth the try.

As well as unique local dishes, Tokyo is packed full of one-of-a-kind dinner entertainment venues. Many of these unique dinner venues are themed like Alice in Wonderland. Alice in Magic Land is an Alice in Wonderland-themed restaurant in Shinjuku.

Eat and Drink Like a Local

Want to really immerse yourself in the local Tokyo culture and experience? Go ahead and follow the suited and booted masses as they clock off work – you are sure to stumble upon drinking districts under trains tracks and labyrinth-like alleys, called “yokocho”, lined with hole-in-the-wall bars and eateries and lit with paper lanterns and retro neon signs. In more recent years, trendy new train-track venues have emerged in up-and-coming areas of the city. The atmosphere in these trendy spots tends to be very laid-back and friendly and the narrow alleys are a great way to experience Tokyo drinking culture alongside the locals. If you really want to fit in with the residents, try sake, a distilled spirit called “shochu” or a fruity mixed drink called “chuhai.”

Nightlife in Tokyo

As the Tokyo sun sets, the neon lights begin to flicker on, and the city’s after-dark alter ego kicks in. More relaxed and care-free than its bustling, conformist daytime counterpart, nighttime in Tokyo is time to let your hair down and have fun. From the bright lights and crowds of downtown Shibuya to the skyscrapers and dazzling allure of the Marunouchi and Ginza districts to late-night art galleries, fine dining and alfresco chilling, Tokyo’s nightlife scene is like no other you will ever have experienced.

As you can probably imagine by now, Tokyo has a lively event schedule, with many either held exclusively in the evening or running through until late at night. You should definitely try to do some research before you visit to see what’s going on while you’re there. In winter, you can think light-up events and Christmas markets, while cherry blossom season is the time to party in the park until sunrise. Other events throughout the year include sake festivals, beer festivals, live music events, traditional summer festivals and firework displays.

Rooftop Bars

With hot, humid summer days and sometimes unpredictable weather being prevalent in Tokyo, open-air rooftop bars are a great option to have. Given their popularity, you might think that they’d be quite hard to find. However, Tokyo has your back with an endless supply of city-view bars and restaurants on the top floors of most skyscrapers in the city. As you might expect, these bars tend to be a little pricier than your average alleyway venue but they are definitely worth experiencing.

Karaoke Bars & Boxes

It has often been claimed that karaoke, literally translated as ’empty orchestra’, was invented in an Ōsaka record store in the early 1970s. Today, the mainstay of this lucrative business is the karaoke box, a building jam-packed with cushioned booths, kitted out with a full karaoke system. You can rent one of these boxes by the hour and they prove particularly popular with youngsters, woman and families.

The Top 10 Best Hotel Hacks to Improve Your Stay.

A business traveller spends countless nights across different hotels rooms, across multiple different times zones. When they wake up in the morning it is usually laying in a slightly uncomfortable hotel bed in a fairly dingy hotel room to a disappointing hotel coffee.

Those who often travel for business will be all too familiar with this routine and will certainly have become accustomed to flipping from one hotel to another. However, the savviest of business travellers also know exactly how to get the most out of their hotel experience. They know how to choose the best hotel for the price, how to get upgraded to a better room and how to utilise the hotel facilities in the most efficient way possible. Here are the top 10 best hotel hacks that business travellers use to improve their stay.

The Best Hotel Hacks of All Time

1. Iron out those creases

No iron, no problem! If you’re going out for a nice meal and want to dress up a little then there is nothing worse than taking your crumpled up shirt or dress out of your suitcase only to remember that you don’t have an iron. Well, there is no need to worry – to get rid of those creases, simply hang them up in the hotel bathroom while take a long, hot and steamy shower. Those unavoidable suitcase creases will drop out in no time.

2. Power up

We’ve all made that classic travel error of forgetting an adaptor plug for your iPhone charger. Whether you’re on a business trip or travelling for leisure, staying powered up is crucial. So, instead o f having to trudge down the hotel reception to ask to borrow an adapter plug, you could be really inventive and use the USB port in the back of the TV to charge all your devices.

3. Do not disturb

A great hotel hack to ensure you stay safe while travelling is to hang your ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door. This gives the impression that you’re still in the hotel room so that people are less likely to go in. This is especially useful when staying in an inner city hotel where the risk of burglars is a little higher.

4. Utilise the shower cap

The trusty shower cap is perhaps the most underestimated of all the hotel bathroom items, available to be used for a whole range of hotel hacks. One way you can utilise your shower cap (other than in the shower) is to keep your clothes clean by placing your dirty shoes in the cap before packing. Or, you could wrap your shower cap around the hotel TV remote to avoid any germs that might be sitting on it. You can easily see the remote control buttons through the transparent plastic.

5. Make use of those sugar sachets

If you’re anything like me, when travelling, you end up requiring a whole other bag just for your toiletries. Or, you manage to squeeze them all into your main luggage only to find that they have all leaked onto your clothes while travelling. If this sounds like you, then this hotel hack will change your life.

When you get to the hotel, all you have to do is stop off at the kitchenette and pick up some sugar sachets. Once you get back to your hotel room, mix the sugar crystals with the facial cleanse that is usually provided by the hotel. Wallah! You have yourself a homemade exfoliator. This is definitely one to add to your list of hotel tips, tricks and hacks.

6. Cancel out the noise

When staying in a hotel, it is often the case that your neighbours aren’t quite as quiet as you might have hoped. This can be super annoying if you’re trying to get to sleep or even just watch the TV. You could complain to the hotel reception and get moved to a different hotel room. But this isn’t always possible. However, there is no need to worry with this handy hotel hack. Instead of just trying to cope with the noise, you can simply roll up one of the hotel towels and wedge it under the hotel room door to block out the noise.

7. Order in

Most hotel rooms don’t have the required amenities to cook up your own meal when you get hungry. As a result, business travellers and other hotel-stayers are often forced into paying excessive amounts for room service. However, this hotel hack offers a superb solution to this issue. Just like at home, you can easily order food for delivery to your hotel from a nearby restaurant of your choice, especially if you’re staying in a major city.

8. Cook for yourself

Another alternative to room service is cooking for yourself. Even if your hotel room doesn’t have the range of amenities needed to cook a decent meal, you can easily hack the few that you do have. At its most basic, you can use the kettle to boil up some water for a cup of instant noodles or even to boil some pasta. Or, you could take advantage of some portable appliances and make some proper, high-quality meals in your hotel room.

9. Watch what you want

Often when you travel to another country, the television doesn’t have channels in your native language. This can be really annoying as it takes precious leisure time away when relaxing on vacation of making the most of some down time on a business trip. However, there is no need to pay a fortune for on-demand videos with this hotel hack. All you need to do is hook up your laptop. From there, you can easily watch Netflix or any of your other favourite streaming shows on the TV. Just make sure you remember to bring a HDMI cable so you can connect everything up.

10. Store your toothbrush

Most hotel rooms don’t even have a cup for you to put your toothbrush in. This can be really annoying if you have to rest it on the sink, especially when you don’t know how clean the hotel room is. With this hotel hack, you don’t have to worry. All you need to do is take a paper cup from next to one of the water machines, cut a hole in the middle and put your toothbrush in. Now, you don’t have to worry about your toothbrush bristles touching a germ surface before you put it in your mouth.

How to Travel the Maldives on a Budget: Cheap Maldives Travel Guide.

The Maldives is a dream destination for many. Whether it’s for a romantic honeymoon, a beach wedding or just a relaxing holiday, the Maldives is unbeatable on many levels. White sandy beaches. Over-water bungalows. Towering palm trees. What more could you want?

Well, there is one thing that the Maldives is missing and that is low costs. While it might be the epitome of romantic luxury, this South Asian archipelago costs an absolutely fortune to visit. Resorts cost hundreds, sometimes thousands, per night, the food isn’t exactly cheap and it isn’t the easiest destination to get around either. As a result, travelling to the Maldives will remain just a dream for many.

However, what if there was a way to visit the Maldives on the cheap? What if you didn’t have to stay in overpriced hotels, eat overpriced food and pay loads just to get around? Well, today is your lucky day! I only realised that it was possible to travel to the Maldives on a budget when I impulsively booked a trip. Just because this paradise is known for its luxury resorts and OTT pampering, doesn’t mean that it’s the only option when visiting.

And, it is becoming increasingly easier to visit the Maldives at an affordable price. Changes to the tourist industry in the country are starting to enable a small but growing budget travel industry to emerge. Guesthouses are starting to spring up on local islands, offering budget travellers an affordable base to see the country from.

I would even go as far as to say that travelling the Maldives on a budget is the best way to travel it. When staying in a luxury resort, you are largely isolated from the rest of the country as they each tend to be built on their own island. Exploring the Maldives on a budget allows you to properly gain experience of authentic local life.

Read this travel guide to see how to travel the Maldives on a budget.

How to Travel the Maldives for Cheap

Tourism is relatively new to the Maldives, with the first resort only opening in 1973. Given this slow development of a tourism industry in the country, the only option for tourists visiting the Maldives has largely been via these super expensive island retreats. As a result of the lack of competition has led to an overpriced travel experience.

This is starting to change, however, thanks to new regulations brought in 10 years ago which allowed guesthouses to open on the local islands. For the first time, tourists could choose to stay with locals for a cheaper price and a more authentic Maldivian experience. Yet, given the relatively recent emergence of this affordable travel option in the Maldives, most budget travellers remain unaware of this option. As an independent traveller in the Maldives you tend to feel like the only one. This might all soon change though as more and more people become aware of the ability to travel the Maldives on the cheap.

How to Get to the Maldives on a Budget

Just getting to these stunning islands in the first place used to cost an absolute bomb and take a lot of time! Flights could cost upwards of £1000 and involved layover after layover. Today, however, increasing numbers of regional airlines are offering much more reasonably priced flights to the Maldives. For example, cheap flight tickets to the Maldives can be found from Dubai and Sri Lanka, starting at around £250.

So, you can basically fly to the Maldives from most major hubs in the Middle East and Southeast Asia on very affordable, direct flights. For budget travellers, this means that you can quite easily combine the Maldives into a backpacking trip around the Middle East or Southeast Asia. If you want to fly to the Maldives from the UK or any other western country though, you can certainly expect to be paying more and you definitely won’t have any hope of getting a direct flight.

Getting Around the Maldives on a Budget

Getting around the Maldives can be a bit tricky considering that it is an archipelago of different islands. This means that to get anywhere in the Maldives you have to take a ferry or a domestic flight. The ferries operate every day, except for prayer times which occur 5 times a day, and leave when full.

You can get a 20 minute ferry ride from the airport to Malé for close to £1. Upon reaching Malé, you can then take a taxi, which will cost around £5, to the main ferry station to access the other islands.

To get around the islands during your stay in the Maldives, you can take the public ferry. However, you should make sure to check the ferry timetables because they don’t operate every day of the week. The ferry prices range from around £5-£25. Given that the ferry system runs so infrequently, island hopping can be a real pain. If you want to avoid spending time in Malé, which can be very expensive, then you should try to ensure that your flight into the Maldives arrives on a day that the ferry operates and several hours before it leaves.

Yet, if the ferry isn’t running on a day that you need it or if the island you want to visit is too far away to be accessed by ferry, you’re only other options are a very expensive speedboat (around £300) or a domestic flight (around £200). You should also try to avoid the seaplanes if you’re travelling the Maldives on a budget as these can cost upwards of £500 for a 20 minute return journey.

Budget-Friendly Accommodation in the Maldives

First thing’s first, you shouldn’t expect to find any super cheap accommodation options in the Maldives. Unfortunately, there aren’t yet any dorm rooms or hostels offering affordable shared spaces, like in Europe or incredibly cheap bungalows on the beach like in Southeast Asia.

In 2009, the Maldivian government passed regulations that allowed locals to start their own guesthouses on the islands. This provided an opportunity for the emergence of affordable, locally-owned establishments to welcome tourists travelling on a budget.

Private rooms can be found for as little as £40 per night and if you’re travelling with a friend or partner, then your cost per night drops to just £20. Airbnb is the perfect method of finding a shared room in a guesthouse in the Maldives because it allows you to directly communicate with the host. The room I stayed in was super clean and comfortable and the hosts couldn’t do enough for me.

If you want to save some money and are looking to experience the true local life of the Maldives then staying in a local guesthouse is the perfect option for you. This cheap accommodation option gives you the unique opportunity to get to know the lovely locals and experience this beautiful part of the world without forking out extortionate resort prices.

How to Eat Cheap in the Maldives

If you do stay in a guesthouse, most hosts will cook authentic Maldivian cuisine which you will eat with the owners themselves and their family. This is a great cheap option for food in the Maldives as the price of these meals tend to be included in the overall price of the guesthouse. This is also extremely useful given that many of the local islands don’t have a lot of restaurants.

Yet, if your guesthouse doesn’t provide meals, local restaurants are super affordable. There are also a number of coffee houses around the island which serve coffee all day long for around just £2 per cup. Most of these cafe-type spots also serve snacks, sandwiches and noodles for only around £4-£5.

Another really cheap way of eating great fresh food in the Maldives is through the local fishermen, who dock and sell their catch on a daily basis. Go ahead and join the locals, haggling for some fresh fish straight from the sea for very affordable prices. Take your catch back to your guesthouse and throw it on the grill.

As well as fresh fish, typical Maldivian cuisine also includes a breakfast of sweet and thick milk tea, canned tuna mixed with onion and lime juice, and roshi (flatbread). For lunch and dinner, Maldivian cuisine tends to deliver delicious curries, more roshi and buttered rice. In general, the smaller islands tend to have fewer food options to choose from and your best bet is probably to stay and eat at your guesthouse. Whereas, for larger, busier islands, there are plenty more restaurants, offering more reasonably priced meals (£5-£10).

Cheap Excursions in the Maldives

Depending on the guesthouse you choose to stay at, many hosts are super helpful and willing to advise you on the best excursions and where to find them for the cheapest prices so you don’t get ripped off by the more commercial tourist-trap companies.

If you’re lucky, your host might even be willing to take you out on an excursion themselves, for small price of course. Most guesthouses list their prices for different excursions on their websites and Airbnb listings so you know how much you’ll be paying before booking. Options for guesthouse-offered excursions tend to include activities like snorkelling, diving,

If your guesthouse doesn’t provide tours, the local resorts might provide something instead. These resorts might let you join their excursions even though you’re not staying with them. However, this option might turn out to be a little more expensive.

Other Top Tips for Travelling to the Maldives

The Maldives is a Strictly Muslim Country

If you choose to travel the Maldives on a budget, don’t expect to be swanning around in a bikini, drinking Margaritas. Given that the Maldives is a Muslim country, alcohol is forbidden from entering the country or being consumed by locals. Women are also expected to cover up their shoulders and legs.

However, alcohol and bikinis are allowed at most island resorts. You won’t be able to find any alcoholic beverages anywhere outside of the resorts. So, you have to decide whether you’re willing to compromise on price or cocktails and a tan.

What to Wear in the Maldives

Given the strict Sharia Law in the Maldives, there is a dress code for both men and womenshoulders and thighs must be covered at all times, even when on the beach. This means that men can’t go shirtless or wear budgie smugglers (probably for the best) and females can’t wear bikinis or swimming costumes.

To be on the safe side, I would tend to swim in board shorts and baggy t-shirt. For walking around the islands, I would stick to flowy trousers and a t-shirt. On evenings, I would opt for a longer dress and wrap a cardigan or shawl around my shoulders.

There are options for being more liberal with your clothing in the Maldives though. Some of the local islands have beaches especially designated to tourists, where you can take off some of your clothes. If tanning is an important part of your holiday then you might want to check that the island you’re staying on has a tourist beach. Both Maafushi and Fulidhoo do have beaches designated to tourists.

If you go on an excursion away from the islands, you can also wear whatever you want once on the boat. Meanwhile, on the more expensive resorts, women can wear bikinis and men can go shirtless. Alcohol is also available in the resorts but expect to pay extortionate prices (£8 for a beer, £15 for a cocktail).

Choosing Which Islands to Visit

Deciding out of the many islands that make up the Maldives can be tricky. Searching Google Images to determine which islands look the most visit-worthy, you will be met with many stock photos of resorts, satellite images of islands and standard sunset pictures.

Before arriving in the Maldives, I naively expected each island to be fairly alike. But, I couldn’t have been more wrong. With 1200 islands making up the Maldives, 200 of them inhabited, you will find a hugely diverse range of scenery. Of the 200 islands that are populated, you will perhaps find guesthouses on around just 50 of them. Searching for any detailed information regarding the different islands is a real challenge though. Finding information about the main, tourist islands is much easier, but to find the places that remain untouched you will have to dig much deeper.

Maafushi is most popular tourist island, with more guesthouses there than on any other. There are also plenty of restaurants to choose from, as well as souvenir shops. Despite being slightly more built-up than other less-visited islands, this is great for travellers who feel more comfortable surrounded by locals who are used to tourists.

Fulidhoo is a quieter island, slightly off the beaten track. Perfect for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of other tourists. However, the compromise for this peace and quiet is a lack of eating options. There are only around 3 restaurants on the whole island and no one speaks any English which can make ordering food rather difficult. Because of the lack of competition when it comes to food, you will also be charged a lot for a meal.

The Maldives is Great for Digital Nomads

When I travelled to the Maldives, I expected to spend my whole time offline due to poor internet connection. However, the internet speeds were surprisingly fast and stable.

Getting a sim card in the Maldives is also promisingly simple. It costs just £3 for the sim card and around £14 to top it up with 1.2GB of data. I was pleasantly shocked to discover that I received data signal all across the country. As a result, working and travelling in the Maldives is super easy, with faster WiFi speeds than most other places I have been in the world.

3 Day Lisbon Itinerary: Top Things to Do and See on a Lisbon City Break.

Over the past few years, Lisbon’s popularity among travellers has boomed and it isn’t difficult to see why. The Portuguese capital offers an ideal combination of relaxed surfer-dude culture and a vibrant cosmopolitan city feel. From it’s intricate hand-painted tiles to it’s trendy cafe culture and coloured rooftops, Lisbon should be on the top of everyone’s city break list.

While Lisbon isn’t the largest European city, it certainly has plenty of cool things to see and do as part of a quick-stop city break. In fact, there is so much to do that visiting for just a few days can be quite daunting. It can be really difficult to choose what to visit in the limited time available. We’ve put together this handy 3-day Lisbon city break itinerary to give you some inspiration of how to fit in all the best things to see and do in Lisbon. So, what are you waiting for? Lets go!

When is the Best Time to Visit Lisbon?

If you ask me, Lisbon is great for a city break at all times of the year. Its all-year-round sun and constant mild climate mean that the temperatures never get too low in winter (lowest around 10°C) or too high in summer (highs of around 35°C).

So, if you’re looking for a city break destination that allows you to take full advantage of the sun then August is the best time to visit. However, you have been warned that this is almost the most busiest time of year, when the city is super crowded and accommodation prices shoot up. For those who aren’t as bothered about getting a tan but want to see all of the sights in peace, winter is the perfect season to visit Lisbon for an unhurried atmosphere.

For those looking for something a little in between melting sun and total peace and quiet, then the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn are also great times to visit Lisbon on a city break. During these times of year you can benefit from fewer crowds, lower accommodation prices and a mild climate.

How to Get Around Lisbon?

One of the first things you do upon touch down in Lisbon should be purchasing a Metro card. You can buy one of these cards from any machine in any metro station in the city. Costing just 0.50EUR, they are excellent value as they can be used on any of Lisbon’s buses, trams or metro systems. You are sure to get plenty of use out of your Metro card throughout your 3-day city break in Lisbon.

The Metro card pretty much has you fully covered for public transport across the city. Given that Lisbon is a fairly small and compact city, most of the time you can get by on foot. However, please note that Lisbon it known for its hilly landscape and so expect a good workout for the legs.

Accommodation in Lisbon

When it comes to booking a city break, the most difficult task is always finding accommodation. It can be really challenging to strike that perfect balance between close proximity to sights and not paying an absolute fortune for just a couple of nights. Thankfully, Lisbon is teeming with great affordable hotels and hostels in all areas of the city. However, for a truly unique Portuguese city break experience, I would recommend browsing through the endless Lisbon Airbnbs that are available to rent. With so many different options to choose from, you can get the full authentic Lisbon experience and feel like a proper local.

Once you have decided on a type of accommodation, the next big challenge is deciding where about in Lisbon you want to be. This is no small feat considering the number of diverse and unique neighbourhoods throughout the city. One thing is for sure – you want to be near the city centre. I would recommend starting your accommodation search in Baixa, Bairro Alto or Alfama as these are always safe bets for a good time.

3 Day Lisbon Guide

Day 1 in Lisbon: Alfama & Old Town

Alfama is Lisbon’s most emblematic neighbourhood, with its picturesque labyrinth of narrow streets and small squares and buildings with more personality than the next. The area trickles down from the São Jorge Castle to the River Tagus, and is packed to the brim with fado bars playing traditional Portuguese music, along with plenty of romantic al fresco restaurants and hip cafes.

As the oldest quarter of Portugal’s capital city, taking a stroll through this medieval neighbourhood is like taking a step back in time. Essentially, Alfama is a village within a city, made up of narrow alleys, tiny squares, ancient churches, and whitewashed houses with tiled walls and wrought-iron balconies decorated with flower pots and drying laundry. This district has an unearthly quality about it that deserves to be experienced to be appreciated to its full extent. The best way to see this traditional neighbourhood is to slowly wander through its picture-perfect streets and walking up to the castle for the most impressive panoramic view of the city.

While the scenery in Alfama is astonishing in itself, what makes this neighbourhood even more visit-worthy is the people. Most of the area’s older residents have lived there all of their lives and still maintain a strong sense of community which is truly apparent throughout. Yet, there is a sense that an increasing number of more wealthy people are investing in properties there, with many traditional buildings being transformed into charming apartments and many renovated buildings below the castle being converted into some of the city’s most unique hotels.

Breakfast: Café Tati

Located just behind the Ribeira Market, Café Tati offers a welcoming, laid-back environment for breakfast or brunch before a long day sightseeing in the Alfama district of Lisbon. Surrounded by old decorative artwork and antique furniture, this cafe puts on live jazz music to create a relaxed atmosphere perfect to fuel up in the morning. Make sure you arrive with a big appetite; Cafe Tati serves up big hearty breakfasts that consist of all the necessities, including eggs, croissants, fruit and yoghurt.

Early Morning: São Jorge Castle

Once you’re all full up from breakfast, start your 3-day Lisbon itinerary at São Jorge Castle. Dramatically towering over the city, this mid-11th-century fort is an iconic staple of every Lisbon snapshot. Take a stroll through its rambling walls and pine-shaded courtyards for the best views over the city’s red rooftops. A true display of how old this city really is, São Jorge Castle has survived through Visigoths in the 5th century, Moors in the 9th, Christians in the 12th, and royals from the 14th to 16th centuries.

While the castle’s exterior is truly magnificent, inside the fort is also a sight to behold. Inside the Tower of Ulysses, a camera obscura (a darkened room with a small lens at one side through which an image is projected) provides a spectacular 360-degree view of Lisbon. There are also a number of galleries that display relics from the past centuries, including traces of the 11th century Moorish neighbourhood at the Archaeological Site.

Late Morning: Church Of São Vicente De Fora

Next, grab a top-notch cup of coffee from the Copenhagen Coffee Lab and Bakery before entering the Church of São Vicente de Fora. Named after the patron saint of sailors, this imposing church is a defining feature of the Lisbon cityscape. It is a church with an adjacent monastery, which was badly damaged during the 1755 earthquake and took nearly a whole century to restore to its present state.

While the church itself is impressive, the monastery next door is the true showstopper. The interior of the monastery is elegantly decorated with blue and white hand-painted tiles which portray the story of St. Vincent. You can also take a trip up the bell tower to see the humongous bells that can be seen from the front of the church. For some reason most people choose not to traverse the narrow staircase up to this attraction which means that it is usually pretty quiet. From here, you get a stunning view across the city to the River Tagus.

Lunch: Pois Café

Whilst exploring hilly, busy Alfama, you will certainly need regular refuelling and there are plenty of cool spots to pick from for a light bite. Pois Cafe is a trendy lunch spot that will immerse you in a warm and cosy atmosphere. Open every day, serving up plates for every appetite, Pois is a cafe that guarantees a smile. The ideal place to curl up with a book on one of their couches, or start up a conversation with friends on the wooden tables, Pois provides a rustic and friendly environment to refuel for your first afternoon in Lisbon.

Early Afternoon: Graca’s Campo De Santa Clara

Now onto the next site: Graca’s Campo de Santa Clara. During the weekends, a massive flea market, Feira da Ladra covers Alfama’s streets. A city break to Lisbon isn’t complete without a trip to one of its famous open-air flea markets, including this one which is one of the most well known. Feira da Ladra or ‘Thieves Market’ is thought to have been in Lisbon since the 12th century and offers a hugely diverse range of bits and bobs.

If you wonder through the market-filled streets you are certain to find something that you never even knew you needed. The market sells everything you could ever think of, from old rotary phones, rustic photo frames, broken mannequins, home-made artisan goods, coins, antique furniture and pre-loved vinyl records. The traders here are perfectly legal and many simply display their stalls on blankets laid on the ground. You can find the market on these streets every Tuesday and Saturday, from dawn to early afternoon.

Late Afternoon: National Palace & Lisbon Cathedral

Next, stroll through the tightly packed streets of Alfama and make your way past the quaint independent stores and chic bars to the impressive fortress that is Lisbon Cathedral. This ancient cathedral was built in 1150 by Portugal’s first king for the city’s first bishop, the English crusader Gilbert of Hastings.

The exterior of the Cathedral resembles a medieval fortress, with two large bell towers and a spectacular rose window, while the interior appears predominantly Romanesque, with a Gothic choir and ambulatory. To the left of the entrance is a baptismal font that was used in 1195 to baptise Saint Anthony who was born nearby. In the 14th-century cloisters once were gardens but now you will find that they are the sites of excavations that have revealed Roman and Visigothic remains. Yet, amongst all of the Cathedral’s treasures, the most important sacred object is the casket which contains the remains of St. Vincent, the official patron saint of Lisbon.

Once you’re done discovering the treasures of the Cathedral, head to The National Palace of Queluz and its stunning gardens. This truly magnificent scenery is one of the best examples of the remarkable link between landscape and architecture in Portugal. These grounds display the surroundings and lifestyle in which the Royal Family and the Portuguese Court spent their time during the second half of the 18th-century and the early 19th-century. At the same time, the Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassic architecture highlights the transition from the Ancien Régime to Liberalism.

Dinner: Boi-Cavalo

Most restaurants in Alfama are either small or incredibly popular or both. As a result, to be safe, I would recommend booking a table, particularly during the high tourist season (April to September).

Tucked away down a cobble stoned alley in Alfama is this unexpected little restaurant. A slight contrast to the rest of this traditional, fado-obsessed neighbourhood, Boi-Cavalo screams contemporary cooking at its very finest. A nice respite from your first day in Lisbon exploring one of the oldest areas in the city, this trendy, hipster-magnet is a breath of fresh air that provides a stark contrast as your day turns into night. Located in an old butcher shop, this modern restaurant has been transformed into a cool bistro adorned with Scandi-inspired wooden furniture.

As for the food, the menu changes each week, but know that you are in for a treat no matter what. Past menu highlights have included suckling pig with kale, horseradish and shrimp dust, as well as desserts like tofu custard with toffee bits.

Nighttime: The Sweet Sound of Fado

With its winding streets, ancient fortresses and intricate tile-work, Alfama by day is one of the most charming districts in Lisbon. However, as dark draws in, the neighbourhood acquires an altogether different mood. There is no tradition that encapsulates this romantic atmosphere than Fado, a style of music that is truly integral to the Portuguese experience. Combining raw passion with fun and excitement, the Fado music that flows through Lisbon’s cobbled streets often amounts to being one of visitors’ most treasured travel memories.

Tasca Do Chico is one of the very best Fado hot spots in the whole of Lisbon. Featuring flag-draped ceilings and portrait-lined walls, this trendy bar oozes nostalgia and offers an intimate Fado experience. Just one block north you will hear the sweet jazz sounds drifting from Páginas Tanta. Here, a diverse crowd, of both young and old, can be found enjoying live pop music. Even better, at both of these great spots, entrance is free and the drinks are super cheap.

Day 2 in Lisbon: Belém & West Lisbon

The original birthplace of the world-famous pastel de nata, Belém lies right at the centre of Portuguese history. Located west of Lisbon’s city centre, this district is the home of many of the country’s most prominent cultural institutions, museums, architecture and award-winning restaurants.

It was from Belém that the explorer Vasco da Gama set sail for India in the 15th century, returning with rich treasures that helped to fund the area’s extravagant buildings and went on to build a global empire. Many of those stand-out buildings have now become crucial symbols of Portuguese culture. Today, Belém is not only a testament to its colonial past, but also a must-visit tourist spot for those who want to know more about modern Portugal.

Breakfast: Pastéis de Belém

No 3-day Lisbon itinerary would be complete without a visit to where the delicious custardy pockets of goodness that are pastes de nata, were first invented: Pastéis de Belém. Starting out in an early 19th-century monastery in Belém, this traditional pasteleria first began cooking up its ‘top-secret recipe’ after the 1820 liberal revolution witnessed all convents and monasteries in Portugal shut down. In order survive after the revolution, monks started selling sweet pastries in order to survive, and the recipe hasn’t changed since.

Selling around 20,000 pastries every single day, Pastéis de Belém is one of the most popular destinations for these tasty delights, and for good reason. Each and every pastry that is sold is lovingly made by hand, using traditional methods, and following the secret recipe from the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.

Early Morning: Jerónimo’s Church And Monastery

After demolishing as many pasteis de nata as you can, head to Jerónimo’s Church and Monastery. As one of the most important monuments in Portugal, this church us the country’s most visited heritage site. The 16th-century monastery is a true architectural masterpiece, packed with artistic elements that have been admired for many centuries.

The monument was built in dedication to the Order of St Jerome as a serene place for prayer, meditation and leisure for the Order’s monks. It is a magnificent example of Manueline, or Portuguese late Gothic, architecture, featuring an impressive vaulted ceiling that is held aloft by intricately carved stone pillars. The inside of the monastery is brightly illuminated by beams of sunlight cascading through the colourful stain glass windows. The interior of the church is a fascinating site and the view of it from the upper choir is certainly not to be missed.

Late Morning: Museu Coleção Berardo

End your second morning in Lisbon at Museu Coleção Berardo, the main collection of modern and contemporary art in the whole of Portugal. The permanent collection, assembled by José Berardo, offers a history lesson in the development of modern day art.

You can enjoy pieces by both contemporary and 20th-century artists, from various different cultural backgrounds, who have contributed to the history of art. Well-known names include Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Piet Mondrian, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman and Marcel Duchamp, among many more. These incredible artists are presented within the context of the art movements that they helped define. The works are neatly organised in chronological order which allows you to truly feel like you’re travelling through time and gaining knowledge of each period as you go.

Lunch: Santa Catarina

Hop on tram 15 to the quaint neighbourhood of Santa Catarina which sits atop the hill. Santa Catarina is a traditional neighbourhood with narrow, winding streets and pastel-coloured houses. Before you properly start exploring this pretty neighbourhood, take a trip to Pharmacy where you can experience a perfect combination of tasty sharing plates and laid-back atmosphere. To get to this top-notch restaurant, its quite a climb up a steep hill, so go ahead and take the easy way up, on Elevador da Bica.

Once you’ve fuelled up at Pharmacy, visit Miradouro de Santa Clarita for an incredible view of the Tagus estuary, the bridge and the city’s rooftops. Whilst taking in the amazing views, enjoy the unique atmosphere of the music, good conversation and beer in the evening.

Early Afternoon: LX Factory

On your way back towards the city centre, on the tram 15, quickly jump off to visit LX Factory, one of Lisbon’s newest and coolest, but most understated hang-out spots. Originally an old textile factory, the building has now been transformed into a modern, creative and innovative space situated directly below the 25th of April Bridge.

Occupied by professionals of the creative industry, LX Factory serves as a stage for a whole host of happenings related to music, arts, fashion and architecture, among others. This trendy hub features eye-catching street art on the walls, indie shops, a really cool bookshop and some of the best tasting coffee in the city. First taken over by a number of small businesses and creative professionals, LX Factory houses a great range of innovative start-ups, ranging from hip restaurants to sleek work spaces for artists and designers. Soon after, cafes, bars and shops joined the scene to cater to the many professionals hard at work in its surroundings.

Hopefully, with this being your third day of your weekend city break, it will be a Sunday. If so, LX Factory holds a weekly flea market each Sunday in its main street, where vendors sell vintage and local designer clothes, old vinyl and CDs, handmade jewellery, and everything else you could ever need.

Late Afternoon: Jump on an Old Fashioned Tram

The LX Factory is located a fair walk from your next stop, so you have the perfect excuse to jump on one of Lisbon’s old fashioned trams. The Number 15 Tram goes all the way back to Rossio, and if you purchased one, you can even use your metro card.

No Lisbon city break is complete without a nostalgic roller-coaster ride on an elétrico, one of the capital’s infamous old yellow streetcars that are constantly screeching through the city’s narrow streets. Small and surprisingly nifty, these 100-year-old trams rumble along narrow gauge tracks through a maze of ancient residential districts.

Dinner: Chinatown

Although Lisbon doesn’t technically have a Chinatown like many other major European cities, the Martim Moniz area is widely regarded as being the heart of the city’s Asian community. You can’t visit this self-made Chinatown without taking a trip to the Illegal Chinese restaurant – don’t worry, it isn’t actually illegal!

The reason this restaurant is inconspicuously named ‘illegal’ is because of how well-hidden it is. The fairly dodgy looking apartment building doesn’t exactly beckon strangers to come in off the street. After walking through the doorway you will walk up a narrow stairwell, largely devoid of light. Once you reach the top, you will find a door featuring a neon pink stamp of a blurry Chinese character. Most Chinese restaurants in Lisbon tend to serve up the same culinary delights: fried rice, chow mein and fried pork dumplings.

Nighttime:

Day 3 in Lisbon: Bairro Alto, Baixa & Chiado

Bairro Alto is the picturesque central area of Lisbon, dating back to the 1500s. Traditionally, Bairro Alto has been regarded as Lisbon’s bohemian haunt of creative minds, including artists and writers. During the day, this neighbourhood’s maze of criss-cross shopping streets and tiny alleyways tends to be fairly quiet; it is when day turns to night that Bairro Alto really comes out of its shell. As the dark draws in, this Lisbon area is transformed into one of the city’s most thriving nightlife quarters. Behind a facade of graffiti is a host of traditional and international restaurants, Fado Houses and a range of trendy bars filled with locals and tourists alike. During a weekend break to Lisbon you will find people of all ages, backgrounds and lifestyles bar-hopping through Bairro Alto.

Baixa is considered the main shopping and banking district in Lisbon, stretching from the riverfront to the main avenue, where streets are named according to the shopkeepers and craftsmen who traded in this area. The district is relatively new given that it was completely rebuilt after the Great Earthquake of 1755. Its streets are flanked by neat neoclassical buildings, being Europe’s first great example of neoclassical architecture and urban planning of its age. On visiting Baixa, you will find expansive, elegant squares, pedestrianised streets, hip cafes and glamorous shops.

Breakfast: Cafe Janis

For a tasty breakfast on the final day of your 3-day Lisbon itinerary you’re going to head to Cafe Janis, a vibrant all-day cafe that serves anything, anytime (literally). This fun breakfast spot has a day-long cafe-restaurant concept, which means that it serves everything from breakfast to dinner at any time of the day – if you really want to, you can order porridge for dinner and cocktails for breakfast with no judgement.

Situated in the Cais do Sodre of Bairro Alto, you can claim a spot on the outdoor terrace for the perfect breakfast or brunch in the sun, looking over this central area of Lisbon.

Early Morning: Tram 28

After filling up with tasty delights from Cafe Janis, head to Praça Martim Moniz to board the infamous Tram 28. This old tram winds its way up the hilliest, narrowest and most-scenic streets in the city, where you can admire Lisbon’s historic heritage and typical neighbourhoods. The tram route goes all the way from Martim Moniz to Campo de Ourique/ Prazeres, which takes approximately an hour.

It is best to try to get an early start on this day in order to avoid the queues. As well as being an incredibly popular tourist attraction in Lisbon, Tram 28 is also used by locals as their main mode of transport around the city. Even if you do get there early, you can expect long queues and it’s likely that you’ll be standing the whole way.

Late Morning: Praça De Principe Real

Jump off the tram at Praça De Principe Real, essentially the older, sophisticated sibling of the more well-known Bairro Alto. Packed to the brim with trendy restaurants, grand mansions, quaint antique shops and tiny gardens, Príncipe Real is a must to explore on your 3-day Lisbon city break. This cool little Lisbon area is located right next to one of the best viewing platforms in the city, the Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara, and it is well worth the walk. From here you will get a stunning view of the Castle of São Jorge, Sé Catedral, and the River Tagus, as well as the many 18th century buildings of Avenida da Liberdade.

If you love a little shopping spree, then you are in for a treat with Embaixada, a luxurious shopping centre housed in a magnificent 18th century neo-Moorish building revived with a range of beautiful Art Nouveau details. Inside this glamorous shopping mall, you will find over a dozen shops with different themes and serving different purposes. However, each of these shops has one thing in common; they are all dedicated to the preservation of tradition, creativity and innovation within the fashion and design industries. Alternatively, if you prefer a slightly more laid-back shopping experience, then simply stroll down the street poking your head in and out of the many small antique shops along the way. These shops sell a great range of souvenirs and gifts that are ideal for taking home to family and friends.

Lunch: A Cevicheria

Situated between Bairro Alto and Principe Real is A Cevicheria. Run by chef Kiko Martins, this signature restaurant serves up mouth-watering Peruvian cuisine, specifically ceviche (the technique of macerating raw fish and meat in vinegar, citrus and spices). The chefs deliver fabulous variations of this traditional Peruvian dish, such as tuna with beetroot and white fish with sweet potato puree. With an incredible blend of Portuguese, Asian and tropical flavours, A Cevicheria delivers an unforgettable gastronomic experience in an inviting setting.

These bold flavours and adventurous recipes are all served within a small restaurant that features eye-catching decor. Sit at the counter under a giant octopus as you enjoy your seafood, cooked to perfection. Superbly decorated in blue and white tones, this restaurant is a true tribute to the sea.

Early Afternoon: Elevador da Glória

After lunch, take the Elevador da Gloria funicular, one of three in Lisbon, links Bairro Alto and Baixa. Opened in 1885, as the second of its kind in the city, this funicular train was only electrified in 1915 but still retains its original charming characteristics.

While the Elevador da Gloria is a must-do in Lisbon, you also have the option of walking down to Rossio and Baixa, alongside the tram tracks to admire some of the coolest and most unique street art in the city.

Late Afternoon: Igreja de São Domingos & Convento do Carmo

Now you will find yourself in Rossio and Baixa, which are much newer areas of Lisbon, built after the 1755 earthquake. The first must-see attraction in this district is Igreja de São Domingos church, which has played a huge role in many of the city’s tumultuous historic events. From earthquakes and fires to pogroms and royal weddings and christenings, this atmospheric church has seen it all. Today, this fascinating past gives way to a palpable sense of history, drawing tourists who are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Next, you might want to take the Elevador de Santa Justa up to Convento do Carmo, but if you want to avoid the long queues and the fairly average views, take the free supermarket lift to Rua Garrett instead. Wander through the shops before arriving at Covento do Carmo, a medieval convent that was ruined in the 1755 earthquake. Looking down over the city below, the skeletal remains of this once great Gothic church are a haunting reminder of Lisbon’s devastating past. The chapel, located at the rear of the convent, now contains a peculiar collection of fascinating artefacts, such as tombs of the famous, a 2nd-century Egyptian sarcophagus and two mummies of Peruvian children.

Dinner: A Typical Portuguese Dinner

After a long day roaming the streets of Bairro Alto, Chiado and Baixa, there is nothing better than a hearty Portuguese dinner to perfectly finish off your last day of your Lisbon itinerary. Visit Chiado’s 1º de Maio, a basement restaurant, perfect for anyone wanting to get a taste of classic Portuguese cuisine.

Nighttime: Bairro Alto Bar Crawl

If you ask the locals where the best night out in Lisbon is, the answer will surely be Bairro Alto. This dark horse of a neighbourhood has been the city’s hub of nightlife for the past 40 years, with a diverse range of authentic bars lined up along the quaint cobbled streets.

Bairro Alto is famous for its tiny bars, which only seem to reveal themselves when night takes over. You could grab a takeaway beer from one of the many bars to have on the move, just like the locals. Or, head to Tasca do Chico, a staple bar in Bairro Alto, known for its impromptu fado. With an incredibly authentic feel, with walls decorated with posters and photos of famous singers who have graced the bar, there is no better place to finish off your Lisbon city break.

Where to go next: 3-Day Copenhagen Itinerary

The 15 Best City Breaks in Europe 2021.

Whether you want a quick whistle-stop weekend away or a long leisurely stay, Europe has a whole selection of beautiful and exciting cities to visit. Combining some of the old European city break classics, along with some more offbeat and up-and-coming destinations, this list of the best city breaks in Europe aims to give you some fresh ideas of where to go.

Some of the destinations on this European city breaks list are packed with cultural splendour, while others are famous for their shopping and world-class fashion scenes. Some have top quality cafes and restaurants, while others have expansive golden sands. No matter the kind of Europe city break you are looking to take, you are sure to get some great inspiration from this guide.

For more information on where to visit in Europe, check out my Backpacking Europe Travel Guide.

Top 15 Best European City Breaks

Florence, Italy

Where to stay: Antica Torre di Via Tornabuoni – centrally located, yet discreetly tucked away on Florence’s most fashionable shopping street.
Flight time: 2 hours 10 mins from London.

Florence is one of the world’s most beautiful cities, packed with iconic art and architecture. Since former mayor Matteo Renzi ordered a clean-up of the city, banning motorised traffic from and sprucing up large areas of the city centre. The constant buzz of vehicles has been replaced by cheerful chatter, while the scruffy, run-down piazzas have been revamped to create a funky-fresh vibe across the city.

Today, Florence has a peaceful rural-urban vibe about it, with the outskirts of the city feeling like you’re in the middle of the Tuscan countryside rather than 30 minutes away from the thriving centre. This means that Florence gives you plenty of options when planning your city break. You can opt to be right in the middle of all the action or head for the peaceful hills on the city’s fringe.

If you choose the more traditional city break option of staying in the centre of Florence then you won’t be short of things to see and do. The city’s many hot spot sights attract millions of selfie-taking tourists every year, which can make it difficult to avoid the crowds. Stroll through the plazas and gawk at the exquisite marble statues, visit the host of museums that are filled with world-famous, pricless Renaissance art and soak up the stunning views of red-tiled roofs from the Duomo’s bell tower. Opera also plays a significant role in Florence’s culture – even if opera isn’t your cup of tea, it is worth taking a trip to marvel at the breathtaking architectural wonder of Cascine Park, a soaring, asymmetrical cubic 1800-seat theatre that hosts an impressive line-up of opera productions.

As well as the sights, Florence’s food scene is out of this world. The city is home to the 19th-century iron-and-glass Mercato Centrale, now a sprawling marketplace that showcases the region’s best artisan producers, selling everything from cured meats, freshly made mozzarella, pasta and fried fish.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Where to stay: Ambassade Hotel – decorated with antique furniture and modern paintings, this canal-side hotel combines the old and the new in the most perfect way.
Flight time: 1 hour 15 mins from London.

Amsterdam used to be well-known for its stag-do image. However, these days, this quaint city is all about creative minds pedalling around on their bicycles and eating atisanal bread and cheese in trendy little cafe’s by the canal. For a European city break, Amsterdam offers everything from art galleries and museums, independent fashion boutiques and buzzing cafes. Yet, the true showstopper on any Amsterdam city break is its maze of 200-year-old canals lined with picturesque townhouses and covered by pretty little bridges.

Shedding its reputation as stag-do capital of the world, Amsterdam has come alive with style, class and creativity in more recent years. With cyclists whizzing wildly through the city’s stony streets and well-dressed locals ordering their morning coffees at trendy cafes, Amsterdam now has the feel of a playground rather than a busy party-goer vibe. While you can still enjoy the many intoxicants available throughout the city, you can also have a great time just sticking to the more PG stroopwafels and apple pie.

Porto, Portugal

Where to stay: Canto de Luz – hidden behind the traditional facade of a Portuguese townhouse is a beautiful modern entrance ready to welcome you to Porto.
Flight time: 2 hours 25 mins from London

Often referred to as Portugal’s second city, Porto certainly isn’t the second best. Perhaps suitably regarded as Lisbon’s quieter sibling, this underrated Portuguese city is undergoing a fabulous moment of rejuvenation. With a distinctly different character to its counterpart of Lisbon, Porto is hugely atmospheric in its own way. The city’s narrow streets and stepped alleys spread up the angled slopes of the Douro River to a centre brimming with luxurious squares, Neoclassical buildings and intricately tiled Baroque churches.

On top of fascinating history and culture, Porto has a lively nightlife scene, hip cafes and restaurants and a refreshed art selection, making it the perfect place for a long weekend away. Nowadays, the city’s river banks are bustling with trendy new bars and cool pavement restaurants. In more recent years, the city has seen a huge boom in tourism which is clearly reflected in the many hotels on offer across Porto. However, what Porto is probably most famous for is its port-wine cellars on the south side of the Douro River. Make the most of your Porto city break with a guided tour of the cellars, followed by a tasting, before wandering back over to the picturesque streets of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ribeira Old Town.

Porto is a city that is best seen on foot, making it ideal as a city break destination. Getting around on foot is made easy in Porto – but be aware that steep slopes and stone cobbles proliferate in this hilly city. To ensure you’re properly fuelled up for the pavement pounding ahead, make sure you take a well-deserved trip to Manteigaria for the best pastéis de nata in the city.  

Budapest, Hungary

Where to stay: Hotel Moments Budapest – located on the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage site of Andrássy Avenue, just a few steps away from the best sights of Budapest.
Flight time: 2 hours 30 mins from London

Since emerging from behind the Iron Curtain, Budapest has become one of Europe’s most popular city break destinations. And it’s not hard to see why. Hungary’s capital is broken into two distinct sides – Buda and Pest – with the stunning Danube River flowing right through the middle. The hills of Buda surround the western bank, home to the cobbled streets of the medieval quarter with its grand palace and colourful Matthias Church. Meanwhile, across the river sits the splendid Parliament building and the elegant 19th-century mansions that now contain hip shops, bars and cafes.

If you want to be in the tick of all the action, then Pest, on the east side of the River, is where you want to be. Here, you’ll find a whole host of classy restaurants, trendy street-food spots and cool, gilded cafes. If you want to immerse yourself completely in the Hungarian culture and way of life, take a trip across the landmark Chain Bridge to the more authentic side of Buda. Here, you can see the magical Buda Castle and some of the city’s best thermal baths.

Budapest also features a well-developed cultural scene, including world-class festivals, theatres, museums and concert halls. With regards to Budapest’s food scene, you must try the celebrated creations of Hungarian cuisine. From goulash soup and pörkölt (stew) to Fisherman’s soup and Lángos (fried dough) – your taste buds will be truly spoilt. While these traditional staples are still largely prevalent across the city, there is a whole new culinary revolution that has taken over Budapest. From delicious street-food made from all-natural ingredients to haute cuisine creations.

Stockholm, Sweden

Where to stay: Downtown Camper – ideally situated for all the sites and restaurants, this is the ultimate base camp to take in Stockholm.
Flight time: 2 hours 25 mins from London

Stockholm is a classy and sophisticated city with a fabulous selection of great shopping, restaurants and hotels to keep you occupied. Spread across a total of 14 islands all connected by bridges, the best way to explore the city in the spring and summertime is by boat. Alternatively, make us of the city’s 57 bridges by touring Stockholm on foot or by bicycle. Stockholm makes for one of the best European city breaks.

Swedes are passionate about coffee, with the act of spending time in cafes having its very own verb: fika. There are incredible chic cafes and bars all over the city, so you won’t miss the opportunity to relax in true Stockholm style. Two great coffee shops that I would recommend for breakfast, brunch, lunch or even a light dinner are CAFE FOAM and STORTORGETS KAFFESTUGA. But, it’s not just all about the coffee! Stroll through the cobbled streets of the historic old town, Gamla Stan, then venture to the green oasis of Djurgården island.

Bratislava, Slovakia

Where to stay: Loft Hotel Bratislava – within walking distance to the historical old town, this hotel has a fabulous view to the garden of the Presidential Palace.
Flight time: 2 hours 12 mins from London

Bratislava is a modern city situated on the Danube River. One of the best destinations for a European city break, this capital city combines centuries-old history with a refreshing and thriving present. If you are looking for a city break in Europe brimming with culture, good food, exclusive experiences, a thrilling atmosphere and affordability, then Bratislava is the perfect pick for you.

Bratislava is a city that is very easy to get around, with its historical centre being incredibly compact. You can conveniently walk between the many heavy-hitting museums and art galleries across the city centre, while stopping on your way at traditional restaurants and cosy cafes and bars. All year round you can experience plenty of significant social and cultural events where the residents remember and appreciate the city’s extensive history and traditions. This is a great way to immerse yourself in the real atmosphere of Bratislava.

Yet, Bratislava is not just a European city break destination for culture and history. Just a hop away from the city centre is an abundance of green forests and parks to explore. Along the bank of the River Danube sits the oldest public park in central Europe, Sad Janka Kráľa. In fact, Bratislava has been ranked the third greenest city in the world, making it the perfect short-stay destination to recharge your batteries.

Oslo, Norway

Where to stay: Scandic Byporten – one of Oslo’s most central hotels, located under the same roof as Byporten shopping centre.
Flight time: 2 hours 10 mins from London

Oslo is often overshadowed by its more well-known Scandi neighbours of Stockholm and Copenhagen, but this laid-back city deserves to be noticed. Although it is a fair bit pricier than most of the European city break options on this list, it’s kind of worth it to take advantage of its superior blend of top restaurants, beautiful architecture, flourishing art scene and fantastic museums. But that’s not all, this compact capital city is surrounded by mountains and sea so, even though there’s plenty to do in the centre, for those who enjoy staying active, visitors can hike in the summer, ski in the winter and stroll through the region’s lush fjords.

Given Olso’s diverse scenery and newfound confidence, it is no surprise that the city has been ranked number one in terms of quality of life among large European cities. While many Norwegian folk venture out of Oslo when they can to enjoy the stunning scenery encasing the city, there is also a new generation of creatives who are staying put.

Berlin, Germany

Where to stay: 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin – where half of the rooms look out over the ape and elephant enclosure in Berlin Zoo, and the other half enjoy a view of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
Flight time: 1 hour 50 mins from London

Berlin is a city of fascinating history that should be on every traveller’s list of the best places for a city break in Europe. In 1989, the Berlin Wall was dismantled, yet the divide between the East and the West still shows in political, cultural and physical elements of the city. Yet, the capital in no way lets this extraordinary past stifle its lively atmosphere – embracing the future unlike any other European city, Berlin now hosts an extensive selection of hip bars and an unbeatable party scene, smart hotels, classy restaurants and interesting art galleries.

Berlin’s lively past has led to the remains of plenty of things to see and do for today’s tourists. Since the Wall’s demise, Berlin has kept itself busy with transforming itself into one of the most stimulating and creative cultural centres in Europe. From the graffiti-covered remnants of the wall itself to Hilter’s bunker, the New Synagogue and the Berlin Zoo. This city is one that truly has something to offer everyone – whether you’re a party-goer, pleasure-seeker, hipster or history buff. Budget backpackers are catered for with the city’s wealth of quality hostels, while luxury travellers will be spoilt for choice with the grand selection of five-star hotels and Michelin-starred dining spots.

Athens, Greece

Where to stay: Electra Metropolis Hotel – the ultimate stay for luxury living, this hotel is located in the very heart of Athens and features an eye-catching sky-light Atrium at the centre.
Flight time: 3 hours 40 mins from London

As the birthplace of so many prominent concepts, the city of Athens was always bound to be a perfect European city break destination. Philosophy, democracy, drama – no other European city has been so influential on our society today. Named after the Greek Goddess of wisdom and inspiration, Athena, this historic city has always been a big player when it comes to culture. Yet, Athens is not only an expanse of world-class cultural heritage attractions but also a modern-day urban metropolis.

Athens beautifully merges the past and the present to create a stunning city of great contrasts. This Greek city is a sophisticated cosmopolitan hub with top-class restaurants, a thriving nightlife and a booming art scene. From the showstopping Acropolis that shadows the city to characteristic neighbourhoods and contemporary art galleries, you certainly won’t be bored during your Athens city break. With a recorded history of 3,500 years, Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world and so is constantly undergoing urban renewals to keep up with the ever evolving demands of time.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Where to stay: Eden Locke – both stylish and sophisticated, this aparthotel is located in Edinburgh’s New-town, just a 20 minute walk from Edinburgh Castle.
Flight time: 1 hour 30 mins from London or 4 hours 20 mins by train from London Kings Cross

For a European city break that is a little closer to home, Scotland’s cultural and political capital is also one of nicest. Take a stroll down the abundance of small cobbled lanes, climb one of the city’s seven hills for expansive 360-degree views of the turreted skyline, and marvel at the blend of Georgian and medieval architectural designs. From the medieval walks of the Old Town to the grace of the Georgian New Town, Edinburgh is thoroughly deserving of its reputation as one of the best city breaks in Europe.

I would recommend visiting Edinburgh in the summer, when the largest arts festival in the world – the Fringe – gives the city a whole new sense of life. But Edinburgh is not just a city for the summer – as the cold draws in, the city lights up for Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations. While there is a lot of culture and history to behold this Scottish city, it has transformed itself into a must-visit cosmopolitan metropolis too. With a whole host of Michelin-starred restaurants, a brilliant cafe culture, a diverse and vibrant nightlife, as well as great shopping and a strong arts scene.

Barcelona, Spain

Where to stay: Seventy Barcelona – a homage to Meditteranean hospitality, this classy hotel is situated between the refined Passeig de Gràcia and the timeless charm of the Gràcia neighbourhood.
Flight time: 2 hours 5 mins from London

While Madrid is the capital of Spain, Barcelona is wins for art, culture, leisure and nightlife. Drawing in huge crowds from all over the world, this Spanish city is unlike any other, combining Modernist Gaudí architecture, Michelin-starred restaurants and traditional barrios, with a pinch of sandy beaches thrown in for good measure. On one side of the marina, Barceloneta buzzes with locals in the summer months, while the other side offers emptier stretches of sand for a more peaceful place to soak up the sun.

In Barcelona, you don’t have to choose between culture, history, shopping and partying – you can have it all, neatly packed in one of the best European city breaks you will ever go on. Visit the plethora of museums to see Egyptian mummies and contemporary works of art, admire the window displays of the city’s modern designer and traditional shops, and dance the night away to Barcelona’s unrivalled electronic music scene and some of the world’s top DJs.

Prague, Czech Republic

Where to stay: Hotel Pod Vezi – situated in the heart of the city, right next to the famous Charles Bridge, this hotel is oozing with classy charm.
Flight time: 1 hour 55 mins from London

Very few of Europe’s most popular cities have as much to offer as Prague, with its unbeatable roster of attractions that really are a true treat for each one of your senses. Its stunning skyline is scattered with medieval church towers, while its cobbled streets are packed with eye-catching Gothic and baroque architecture. Within the UNESCO World Heritage Old Town is a torrent of uneven lanes and secret courtyards, magnificent cafes and quaint townhouses. But there is so much more to the city than what you usually see. The other, less-known side of the city features offbeat cultural venues, trendy bars and bustling markets all tucked away in hip neighbourhoods.

Prague is one of the most visited cities in the entire world and it’s not hard to see why. The Czech capital has so much more to offer than attractive architecture and a good brew. The city has impressively evolved along with other European trends in art, fashion, gastronomy and more, creating an alluring contemporary sheen that covers the entire city, merging perfectly with its historical talent. While you could spend days admiring the wealth of fascinating Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance buildings, it is almost impossible not to be equally impressed by the city’s hip boutiques, sleek hotels, cosy cafes, chic cocktail bars and trendy microbreweries that are dotted throughout the streets.

Vienna, Austria

Where to stay: Hotel Schani Wien – combining Viennese tradition with the modern way of life, you can experience the past, present and future of Vienna at this trendy hotel.
Flight time: 2 hours 30 mins from London

If you’re looking for the perfect winter European city break destination, then Austria’s capital might just be the one. Vienna really comes into its own when a crisp layer of snow covers the streets and glowing coffee shops light up the cobbled lanes that are lined with magical Christmas markets. Yet, with its enchanting blend of old and new, Vienna is one of the most outstanding city breaks in Europe and is astonishing at any time of the year.

Known for its imperial palaces, immaculate gardens and gilded ballrooms, Vienna is grand on all scales. Come enjoy the opera or listen to the world-famous Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Vienna’s musical diversity spans that from the past and present – to this day, people are still dancing in three-four time to Johann Strauss’ renowned Blue Danube Waltz. Strauss’ golden statue still stands in the Stadtpark and remains one of Vienna’s most popular photo opportunities. Meanwhile, the Vienna Philharmonic has been captivating its audiences for 175 years. City festivals such as Wien Modern, Voice Mania and Gürtel Nightwalk display the huge diversity of music that can be enjoyed in Vienna.

It is not just about the music, traditions are rooted in other cultural aspects of the city too. From young people developing their artistic and creative talents to the culinary delights enjoyed across the city. During the Music Film Festival that is held on City Hall Square in the summer, twenty restaurateurs deliver specialities from all over the world. As the biggest culinary event in the whole of Europe, this unparalleled foodie event is accompanied by operas, ballet and concerts.

Riga, Latvia

Where to stay: Grand Poet Hotel – the perfect romantic environment to spend your time in Riga.
Flight time: 2 hours 40 mins from London

In my opinion, Riga is a hugely underrated city break destination in Europe. As a crossroads of various nations and cultures, with more than 600,000 inhabitants, this European city is like no other on this list. Being so incredibly compact, you can easily get around on foot and see everything worth seeing in just a few days. But, that doesn’t mean to suggest that there isn’t much worth seeing in Riga – you will be spoilt for choice with everything from stunningly lush nature, a thriving urban centre, a unique blend of architecture and a hipster vibe.

Riga is well-known for its admirable cooperation with nature, with most of its residents incorporating their love of the environment into their daily lives. With its many public parks, forests, squares, lakes and the city canal, hills, islands and beaches, it is not difficult to see why nature plays such a huge role in the Riga way of life. You will also find an enchanting combination of architectural designs in the historical centre – from Baroque to Classicism, Renaissance to Art Deco, and Romanesque to National Romanticism. The city centre of Riga is also incredibly glamorous, brimming with creative energy from innovative start-ups, an excellent music scene, contemporary art and a dynamic gastronomic experience.

Venice, Italy

Where to stay: Hotel Canal Grande – a charming boutique hotel located in Ca’ Polacco, characterised by the furniture of Rococo style, typical of 18th century Venice.
Flight time: 2 hours 10 mins from London

Venice was always expected to be on this list of the best European city break destinations, with its obvious must-see landmarks, including the outstanding St Mark’s Basilica, Gothic Doge’s Palace and the Rialto Bridge. However, beyond these tick-box must-do’s there lies a peaceful labyrinth of cobbled streets and narrow canals to explore, and probably get lost in.

With 150 canals, 400 bridges and plenty of stunning 16th- and 17th-century palaces and piazzas, there is no surprise that Venice is considered by many as one of the most beautiful cities in the whole world. This city has become so popular as a European city break destination that there are many days when visitors to Venice outnumber locals two-to-one. While this extreme popularity can mean that the city gets fairly busy, Venice never loses its ability to captivate and it is definitely worth dealing with the crowds.

Even during peak tourist times, the huge crowds can easily be avoided and you’re never far from a secluded section of Venice with its quiet squares, churches and Gothic palazzi. And, despite being a historic city with a centuries-old past, it is also a hive of contemporary activity that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Locals are working hard to keep the city’s dwindling population and the city itself as creative, productive and vibrant as possible.

The Best Places for Breakfast in Copenhagen: Top 10 Best Copenhagen Breakfast Spots.

Whether you like to rise early and dive into a refreshing breakfast, or have a sleep-in and savour a big brunch, there are plenty of incredible spots to satisfy your morning cravings in Copenhagen.

Known for its Scandi-vibe cafés and considered by many as having the world’s best coffee, Copenhagen has a breakfast scene like no other. From warming bowls of porridge, traditional smørrebrøds, fresh-from-the-oven Danish pastries, plant-based breakfast bowls and or even just a great coffee – these are the best places for breakfast in Copenhagen.

For a full Copenhagen city break guide, take a look at my 3-day Copenhagen itinerary.

Top 10 Best Copenhagen Breakfast Spots:

Mad & Kaffe

Address: Sønder Boulevard 68 1720 København V

Ask most local Copenhageners and they are sure to have Mad & Kaffe on their list for best Copenhagen breakfast spots. Situated in one of Vesterbro’s thriving hotspots, this versatile brunch spot took the city by storm in 2015 when it first opened and it has been popular amongst locals and tourists alike ever since.

Mad & Kaffe’s diverse breakfast menu allows you to create your very own delicious plate by ticking off the list of endless morning delights. The café is an infamous insta-worthy foodie destination with its colourful, aesthetic morning plate being plastered across all kinds of social media channels. Crispy fried Danish bacon, cold-smoked Danish salmon, sourdough bun and rye bread and cheese sausage are just some of the small dishes you can choose from the menu.

Located in a classic Scandi café, with industrial style decor and friendly staff, there is no better place to start your day. You can even take a seat outside if the weather permits and enjoy a glimpse of sunshine as you tuck into your organic breakfast banquet.  Do not, however, that you could expect to have a fair wait as Mad & Kaffe don’t take table bookings and the café is extremely popular.

Wulff & Konstali

Address: Isafjordsgade 10 2300 København S

Wulff & Konstali is the perfect Copenhagen breakfast spot for those who struggle to make up their minds. At this trendy little café, you can order a little bit of everything. Choose the dishes that appeal to you and enjoy all of their flavours in one big plate.

Located on Amager, Copenhagen South, Wulff & Konstali is a bakery that sells everything from freshly baked bread, delicious cakes, sandwiches and quiche, hand-squeezed juices and unbeatable coffee. However, the most popular option is to mix your very own breakfast or brunch from the menu. Choose a combination of 5 or 7 different breakfast components to make up your custom breakfast plate. It may sound simple, but it’s not – not when you have 21 different food items to choose from, including pastries, eggs, bacon, waffles, granola, avocado, porridge and many more.

Feel at home amid Scandi interiors of bare wood and blue tiles and dive into your smorgasbord of delicious breakfast delicacies. Like Mad & Kaffe, it isn’t possible to book a table at Wulff & Konstali – you just have to stop by and cross your fingers that they’re not too busy. Also note that the menu is seasonal and changes throughout the year.

Bowl Market

Address: Gasværksvej 3 1656 København V

The go-to place for healthy breakfast lovers. If you’re looking for a refreshing bowl of breakfast goodness, then Bowl Market Copenhagen will not disappoint. Offering super tasty, healthy food made with premium quality ingredients, sourced locally when possible, this contemporary little Copenhagen breakfast spot is definitely deserving of a place on this list.

Specialising in gluten free porridge, acai smoothie bowls, nutritious soups and a selection of freshly baked goods, this breakfast café tastes of comfort. Order one of their melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and a cup of The Coffee Collective coffee – some of the best in Copenhagen.

Situated at Gasværksvej, between lively Vesterbrogade and the bustling Meatpacking District, this café is ideally located for enjoying the sites in Copenhagen. Service is exceptional at Bowl Market Copenhagen and the atmosphere is incredibly warm and friendly. Opening early everyday, make this your first stop for superb coffee and comfortable surroundings.

Café Norden

Address: Østergade 61 1100 København K

Café Norden is the best Copenhagen breakfast spot for fancy surroundings, located on a fully pedestrianised street in the Strøget neighbourhood, the best area for shopping. This classy multilevel café makes for the perfect pit stop for a post-spending brunch.

Mainly serving Nordic-inspired dishes, including smørrebrød topped with frikadelle (meatballs) and rice porridge sprinkled with cinnamon, is the perfect place in Copenhagen to satisfy your hunger. As well as Nordic classics, this café serves pretty much anything else you could possibly want. Feast on a breakfast buffet of bread, cheese, pancakes, bacon, eggs and yoghurt. To wash down your post-shopping breakfast, order a class of freshly squeezed orange juice and a delicious cup of coffee.

Mirabelle Bakery

Address: Guldbergsgade 29 2200 København N

Mirabelle is the new neighbourhood hangout for trendy coffee drinkers and locals looking for a simple breakfast. This artisan bakery serves the best freshly baked bread, pastries and cakes, all served in typically Scandi surroundings.

Serving top coffee from The Coffee Collective (considered the best coffee in Copenhagen), this Copenhagen breakfast spot is the place to go for coffee-connoisseurs. Fill up on carbs and caffeine to fuel your long day sightseeing in Copenhagen. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it so much that you’ll want to go back to their neighbour for lunch too. The Mirabelle bakery is connected to Bæst, where head baker Carol Choi produces the naturally leavened pizza dough.

Situated in a quaint little building, wooden tables and geometric tiles decorate the interior for a rustic but tranquil feel, perfect for enjoying your brekky. Yet, while the bakery’s decor is rather idyllic, I’m sure your attention will be drawn away from the interior design to the incredible menu and what it has to offer your taste buds.

Grød

Address: Jægersborggade 50 2200 København N

Grød is the best place in Copenhagen for breakfast for those who like to rise early and can’t wait for a later brunch. Offering exactly what it says on the tin, Grød serves all kinds of porridge all day long. As the first porridge bar in the world, Grød is the must-visit Copenhagen breakfast spot for those who like their oats.

Head to the flagship store on Jægersborggade to sample their big, tasty porridge bowls. No where does porridge like Grød! Forget bland, sticky oatmeal – Grød gets creative when it comes to porridge. From the ‘Apple Chia Special’ to the ‘Mushroom Barley-Otto’, Grød serves up sweet and savoury porridge alike.

Hija de Sanchez

Address: Torvehallerne 1360 København K

For something a little different, Hija de Sanchez serves up a unique kind of breakfast. Far from the usual bread, pastries and porridge of your usual Copenhagen breakfast, this Mexican food stall offers the very best when it comes to breakfast tacos, filled with fresh and delicious ingredients.

Ranked Euope’s best street food, you can be guaranteed some good food from this tiny Mexican street food stall. Sanchez is located on the former red-light district, amongst the porn shops, strip clubs and a host of hip bars and restaurants – a breakfast destination like no other. Mexican-American ex-Noma chef Rosio Sanchez creates authentic Mexican delights, using both responsibly sourced Mexican produce and local Danish ingredients.

The Union Kitchen

Address: Store Strandstrade 21 1255 København K

The Union Kitchen is for the hip and trendy of Copenhagen’s visitors. Just around the corner from touristy Nyhaven, enjoy excellent coffee and quality breakfast picks served by friendly inked staffers in a chic, industrial environment.

The clipboard menu is packed to the brim with brunch-friendly grub that will keep you full throughout your day in Copenhagen. From yoghurt and granola to waffles, meatballs and seasonal salads. Expansive, diverse breakfast platters are also a huge hit among visitors. Choose the ‘Brunch Plate’, with organic scrambled egg, sausage, bacon, smoked salmon, yoghurt and granola, waffles, croissants and bread, to make sure you don’t get peckish later on. Enjoy all of this deliciousness in the surroundings of heavy iron chairs, wooden tables and retro-style lamps.

Lille Bakery

Address: Refshalevej 213 A 1432 København K

One of my all-time favourite places in Copenhagen for breakfast is Lille Bakery. Serving perfect freshly baked bread, pastries and cakes made from the highest quality ingredients.

Located in the old industrial area of Refshaleøen, Lille Bakery is situated in an old shipyard. Although this little bakery isn’t in the centre of the city, their baked goods are well worth the trip across the harbour. From cinnamon rolls to croissants and donuts – you will find the very best breakfast bakes here. What makes their bakes even tastier is the fact that, where possible, all of their produce us sourced from local farmers.

Next Door Café

Address: Larsbjørnsstræde 23 1454 København K

Next Door Café is a fun, hip and tasty breakfast spot in Copenhagen. Serving healthy food that is very reasonably priced, this is the place to go for laid-back vibes and a chilled breakfast experience.

Located at Larsbjørnstræde, all of the food is prepared fresh on site and served by the friendliest staff you’ll meet. Sample their breakfast pastries and coffee while listening to great music and relaxing in the homely surroundings. Skyler and Klaus are the proud owners of Next Door Café and live just next door. This might explain the super cosy atmosphere that turns this café into a home away from home. Underneath the glass plates on the tables, find notes, drawings and pictures from grateful customers.