I decided to go to Rome for Christmas to eat yummy food and enjoy some of the sites. Rome is an easy place to visit, as you can pretty much just walk anywhere and stumble upon ancient Roman monuments and great gelato spots.
Trevi Fountain: I wanted to visit the Trevi Fountain which recently reopened after a huge restoration. I knew it was going to be busy, so I arrived early and beat the selfie crowds – definitely worth it.
Colosseum: I’d been to the Colosseum before, but not for many years, so decided to visit again. As expected the place gets packed, so the best option is to buy tickets at the nearby Roman forum and arrive early (tickets for €12). The place is huge and impressive as you’d expect.
Maxxi: this modern art museum is a great place to spend a few hours, as it’s full of interesting displays. It is a bit far from the city centre (but only a few stops on the tram) which means that not many tourists are around (tickets for €12).
Testaccio: I heard about this neighbourhood in this Instagram account. It’s away from the centre, so you can join the locals at the pretty piazza Testaccio to enjoy the winter sun, where kids in scooters play around. There is also a cool local market. Stop for potato pizza at Forno Assoluto (a generous slice for €3.65) and try the yummy desserts at Pasticceria Barberini (two small desserts and a cappuccino for €3.60). It’s a great area to get a few for local Rome.
Christmas Day: when I was deciding where to go for my Christmas trip, I did plenty of research and was reassured that in Rome most places are only shut on Christmas day itself. In fact, in the most popular areas there are plenty of restaurants and shops open, as there are always plenty of tourists around. A good plan is to stick to the beaten path.
Stay: I stayed at Exe in Monti. The area is super convenient, located within walking distance of most sites. Monti itself is a nice area, with plenty of nice restaurants and cafes in each of the little backstreets.
We arrived in Tirana tired from a long bus journey, but the city was quickly appealing. Interesting architecture, busy cafes and loads of interesting places quickly piqued our interest.
Tirana’s town centre is pretty and easily covered on foot. Stop at one of the many cafes, or join the locals at the Great Park of Tirana. We were lucky to stay around Blloku, a cool neighbourhood full of nice bars, which is the hotspot for Tirana’s nightlife.
Bunk’art2: a museum set in a bunker with displays about Albania’s recent history. Worth a visit. Tickets for 500 Lek.
Salt: we went to Salt because they had some vegan options on the menu, but this place was just perfect. Located on a street full of cool bars and restaurants, Salt is a stunning place with great service and delicious food. Lunch for two including drinks and tip for 2,500 Lek. Highly recommended!
Brauhaus: a local brewery where you can have a beer right next to the brewery tanks. Two beers and tip for 320 Lek.
Spaghetti Western: one of the many places around Blloku, serving Tex-Mex food. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for 1,500 Lek.
Charl’s: a large bar with a cool decor. Beers for 350 Lek.
HOW TO DO IT:
Go: we took the bus from Ohrid. The journey takes 5h30 and buses leave at 9am, but they are usually late. Tickets cost 700 MKD. The bus journey does a massive detour, so a taxi for €60 is probably a better option, as it would take half the time. There are flights from London too.
Stay: we stayed at Hotel Hermes which is a comfortable hotel in a great location. Efficient service and yummy breakfast.
We took the bus from Prizren and headed to Macedonia, where we arrived at the capital.
Skopje is a monumental city, full of statues and landmarks. You can explore the grand squares and walk by the river to get some photos.
Old Bazaar: the old part of Skopje is a great place to wander around. The narrow roads and local shops are a nice contrast to the newer part of the city.
Star Grad Brewery: this popular bar is a great place to try some local beer and nibbles (with lots of veggie options). Lunch for two with plenty of beers for 1,000 MKD.
Kolektiv: this is another place serving local beers (from the same brewery). It’s a cool bar at Alexander the Great Square. Drinks and snacks for two including tip for 1,100 MKD.
HOW TO DO IT:
Go: we took the bus from Prizren at 9am which took 3h30. Tickets are bought on the bus and cost 9€.
Money: you can change money around town and conveniently at the bus station, always with good rates. Macedonia is not as cheap as its neighbour Kosovo, but it’s still much cheaper than London.
Ohrid is the highlight of any trip to Macedonia. Lake Ohrid is massive, and mountains create the impressive backdrop. The town is small, hilly and pretty.
You can spend the day leisurely exploring the narrow streets and stopping for breaks at the many cafes and restaurants.
Ohrid Old Town is full of houses in traditional architecture and plenty of places to get a good view of the lake. There are many Orthodox churches, and St John Theologian has the most picturesque setting by the lake.
Via Sacra Pizzeria: a popular place in a great location where you can try delicious Macedonian wine. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for 1,200 MKD.
Dr Falafel: this is a cheap but friendly place serving a range of veggie falafel dishes. A big plate of falafel, hummus and salad plus a drink for 200 MKD.
HOW TO DO IT:
Go: Buses leave hourly from Skopje station, and tickets can be booked in advance at the station. The trip takes 3h30 and tickets cost 500 MKD.
Stay: We stayed at Villa Kale, which had a great location and great views over the lake.
It was a sunny weekend in Paris. With temperatures over 30 degrees, the weather was ideal for hanging out in parks and cooling off in cafes, so that’s what we did most of the time.
I’ve been to Paris many times, so I mostly enjoy wandering around local neighbourhoods finding new cool places.
These we my favourites from this trip:
La Buvette: A great find south of Montmartre. This local bistro has an amazing selection of wines and serves yummy light bites. We had the best sparkling wine, a selection of small dishes and chocolate mousse. 100€ for three including tip.
Atelier des Lumieres: This new museum in a converted warehouse creates immersive art displays by projecting famous artworks all over the walls. Their first exhibition focused on Klimt (tickets 13.50€). It’s also a good area to explore, as there’s a beautiful canal nearby and a chilled atmosphere.
Angelina: a famous patisserie popular with tourists. They serve delicious dessert and the best drinking chocolate. Lunch for three for 110€ including tip.
We went to Berlin for the weekend with the intention of sampling all the vegan food – and that’s exactly what we did! We found lots of cool places:
Markthalle Neun: This is a cool indoor market with lots of independent shops. Stop for organic gelato at Rosa Canina then follow it up with craft beer from Heiden Peters.
Brammibal’s Donuts is a popular stop with lots of different donut flavours. Everything is vegan and they have two convenient locations.
Backbord: This vegan place serving street food is a great place to try some traditionally meaty German snacks. We had currywurst, schnitzel and sweet potato fries. Yum!
Bamerang: This rock bar in Prenzlauer Berg has a simple vegan menu of pub food. Relaxed atmosphere and friendly service.
Ataya Cafe: A popular vegan place with a buffet service for brunch. The food is a good mix of Italian and Northern African.
Kaschk: A craft beer bar with a relaxed atmosphere and a good selection of beers on tap.
Chay Viet: A popular Vietnamese place serving delicious veggie dishes.
We also spent some time exploring the city off the beaten track:
Mauerpark is an old favourite and a great place to visit on Sundays, when they have lots of stalls selling anything from handmade artwork to local souvenirs. There’s always a crowd and plenty of musicians keeping things lively. Follow that with the nearby Berlin Wall memorial, which is a good place to see the wall far from the tourist crowd.
South of the river Spree, Neukolln is a cool neighbourhood full of bars, cafes and independent shops. It’s a great place to explore for a few hours on a sunny day.
HOW TO DO IT:
Stay: It’s not the usual type of accommodation we choose, but H2 Alexanderplatz had a good deal. Comfortable rooms and great location (close to Prenzlauer Berg which is my preferred area).