Visiting Spain: Visit the Essentials First

visiting spain

It doesn’t matter what your travelling preferences are, we all love some fiesta, and what better place to have a fiesta than Spain itself? Located in one of the warmest parts of the European continent, Spain does not only offers long sunny days, but also a rich history and culture. This country can cater to anyone’s taste. Partying all night, visiting museums and researching the rich Spanish history or eating their delicious cuisine until your heart pops out. The only thing that you should know is where you’re heading, and this is where we step in. Look at the list below, and try to find the best Spanish ciudad for your holiday, especially if it’s your first time:

Madrid: The heart of Spain and capital of flamenco

It doesn’t do to visit Spain and not see the capital of the country, does it? As any other European capital, Madrid has everything to offer – bars that are open until late at night, great shopping centers and some of the most amazing parks in Europe. One such is the El Parque del Buen Retiro, or simply shortened to El Retiro. It was once a royal ‘’hangout’’, and it staged many concerts and garden plays. Nowadays, it is a great tourist attraction (even though greenery might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Madrid), as people can rent one of the many rowboats and paddle in the huge man made lake in the center of the park. However, Spain is the only place in the world where you can see a live performance of flamenco dances, and Madrid is the best place to do this.

madrid

Barcelona: The diamond of Catalonia

You’ve no doubt heard of Barcelona. There are numerous tourists who hit the road to Spain and decide to visit this place only. And it doesn’t matter how many days you stay, Barcelona is a city which you can never fully explore. If you really want a European holiday of your lifetime, you should find one of the best Barcelona holiday packages that are offered, and see the home of the extremely impressive pieces of Gaudi’s architecture such as the legendary La Sagrada Familia. Moreover, taking a walk-through Las Ramblas and having a cup of coffee in one of its many cafés is definitely something that you should experience at least once in your lifetime.

barcelona

Seville: From bullrings to beautiful barrios

To all the animal rights activists out there – no, we don’t agree with this either, but we must agree that this is one of the symbols of Spain and an inevitable part of Spanish history. Even though bullfighting originated in Ronda, Seville is its spiritual home. So, is it a form of art or simply animal cruelty? Well, it would be best to visit one of Seville’s many bullrings and see for yourself. However, don’t you think for a second that Seville is only good for this. As the heart of Andalusia, this magical city has many other things to offer – such as the Barrio Santa Cruz, one of the most beautiful barrios of Spain, or Alcazar (perhaps better known as Dorne from HBO’s Game of Thrones).

seville

Granada: The place that’s the richest in Spanish history

First and foremost: you’re visiting Spain and you want to try tapas. Since Granada is one of the rare places in Spain where you get tapas for free alongside your drink, it should be on the must-visit list. Moreover, this is a place where you’ll see the most important historical monuments of this country. It is a paradise for every history buff. One of the best things you can see here is the Alhambra fortress – a fortress so huge that you will need a whole day to explore it to the smallest detail. If you want to imagine what it looks like, it’s said that you must imagine the world’s most beautiful gardens, add a fortress and multiply the whole image by ten. Alhambra overlooks the whole city of Granada, offering a most breathtaking view. And it’s also an excellent place to take amazing Instagram photographs! The ticket is around 13 euros, and it’s open from March to October, so make sure to plan your stay there accordingly.

granada

And these are only the essentials. Spain has so many other things to offer, such as the 24/7 Ibiza parties, the spring days in Valencia, visiting the tomb of Christopher Columbus, walking across the world’s scariest bridge, seeing the Museum of Funeral Carriages, eating at the world’s oldest restaurant in Madrid or simply eating a paella. Spain should be your next destination. And maybe even the one after that, because you can go there as many times as you want, and you’ll still have more things on your bucket list.

The Paris Series (Part 1) – Like A Local

Although I had been to Paris before (through the airport and in the city when I was all of 7 years old) neither time really counts. In spite of the considerable travelling that I have done, Paris was a new destination. While it’s great to see the tourist sights like everybody else (i.e. the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre,  Notre Dame Cathedral), it’s also great to “get local”. Find the food stands, small shops, cafes and squares where the locals go. While you can find some great guide books, maps and apps to help (Rick Steves immediately comes to mind),  why not actually have a local take you on a tour and show you the neighbourhood favorites?

So I linked up with a local food tour called the “New Parisian Palate” (formerly “Bobo Palate”) with Context Travel. Context is a network of specialists and scholars who act as private guides and lead small groups on walking tours through some of the world’s greatest cities. Tours include archaeology, art history, cuisine, history, urban planning, environmental science, and classics.

Our small group met outside of a bistro in upper Marais. We began our tour with a walk and talk through the iconic “Marche des Enfants Rouges” (the oldest covered market in Paris dating back to the 1600s).

Our walking tour continued for the next 2 1/2 hours and included various stops in the market, a bakery, butcher shop, prepared food and foie gras shop, a cheese shop, a wine and Armagnac shop and a chocolatier. All along the way, the small bites and samples never stopped.

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The French are proud of their history, culture and country. And so they should be. Our guide explained how French food tastes were slowly changing, becoming more modern and incorporating flavors and food ideas from around the world. She pointed out new shops and even food trucks to support the “new Parisian Palate”. With most stops, our guide either purchased samples or gathered food in a bag for our end of tour “party” (wine, cheese, pate, baguette).

446  If you’re thinking of a walking tour, here’s 3 bits of advice:

  1. Take a Context Tour. They are immersive and well worthwhile and get you feeling like a local (and less like a tourist). The group is limited to 6 and led by a local expert.
  2. If you take a Context food tour, don’t eat a meal beforehand (nor will you be able to eat a meal after).
  3. Take your tour in the first few days of your trip if you can. You’ll get a better feel for the city, culture, local area and the places that you’ll want to return to later.

I want that local perspective wherever I go. I want to dive into the destination and its culture. And I want to get local.

Favorite 5 American Inspired Restaurants in Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of the world’s great destinations and particularly well known for its food. You’ll visit new and exotic places and indulge in everything it has to offer. You’ll experience a different culture; visit historic monuments; see nature; and of course, try local cuisine. If you’re visiting Hong Kong, you’ll want to try dim sum. There are of course many places where you can find dim sum and other Chinese food in Hong Kong. If you feel more like an America-inspired meal, here’s 5 American inspired restaurants where you must go.

1. Butchers Club Burger

If you crave real burgers, don’t go to Burger King or McDonald’s on this trip. Try a Butchers Club Burger. Here, you’ll find authentic and delicious American burgers – arguably the very best burger that you can find in Hong Kong! Even though it seems very simple, making the perfect American burger is a tricky process. This restaurant has been Michelin-listed since 2016 and is one of only two burger joints with a Michelin listing in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong - Butchers Club Burger

2. Big Sur

If you want to inject a dose of California into your Hong Kong restaurant experience, Big Sur is the perfect restaurant for you. You can choose from contemporary barbeque cuisine including ribs to healthy salads and tacos, and even delicious seafood dishes. Big Sur also has a perfect bar as well, where you can drink cocktails and craft beer. It’s an oasis in the sea of Hong Kong street restaurants. Check it out and take a break from HK food, and go to this California inspired spot for at least one meal. They are open from noon on weekdays so a perfect place for lunch; on weekends and holidays, you can opt for a brunch at 10 am.

Hong Kong - Big Sur

3. Beef and Liberty

Another place for great burgers, or other American-inspired dishes, is the Beef and Liberty. This is the second burger restaurant in Hong Kong (after Butchers Club Burger) to be Michelin-recommended. The magnificent burgers here are made from hormone-free grass-fed beef. The Beef and Liberty is also well known for delicious chicken wings and offers other American dishes to suit different tastes. Desserts include a warm skillet cookie and cream, which is basically a huge cookie filled with chunks of great chocolate, and with cream on top!

Hong Kong - Beef and Liberty

4. BLT Steak

This restaurant is from the chain of BLT Steak restaurants in America, and is medium priced compared to other restaurants in Hong Kong. Apart from the delicious steaks and lunch buffet, the best thing about this restaurant is the fantastic view. It’s located just a couple hundred of meters from the pier and overlooks the water. The restaurant is spotless, and the service is impeccable. The lunch buffet is available from 12 and 3 pm on weekdays. On weekends from 12 to 4 pm, there is a great brunch buffet with all-you-can-eat roast beef and lamb, and a large selection of salads.

Hong Kong - BLT Steak

5. Grassroots Pantry

If you are a vegan or you require (or want) gluten-free meals, then this is the place for you. Grassroots Pantry is extremely authentic. By far the favorite thing of everyone who steps inside this restaurant are the hand-drawn menus which look fantastic. If you’re vegan, there’s nothing you won’t like; and each dish is a generous portion. You can choose vegan pancakes or salads for a starter, then move onto the delicious potato tofu croquettes, and finish off with caramelized apples or coconut brown rice pudding.

Hong Kong - Grassroots Pantry

People think that New York City is hectic, and it is. But you should visit Hong Kong – as one minute in New York is one second here. You can find literally anything to eat here. But eat smart! You can’t go wrong by choosing one of these five excellent Hong Kong restaurants!