Top Five Places To Visit In Austria

Top Five Places To Visit In Austria

It’s tough to have a short list of my top 5 places to visit in Austria. For me, it’s the perfect destination. Austria is known for many things including its history, natural beauty, and Alpine terrain. It’s a perfect vacation destination for travelers in search of a new adventure in Europe. Winter sports enthusiasts regularly visit to ski and snowboard on the iconic Austrian Alps. But there is much more to Austria than snow. In fact, Austria has some of the most historic architecture in all of Europe, and a myriad of towns and cities with their own unique cultural feel. Here’s my short list:

Vienna

Vienna is widely considered to be a cultural haven for music, fine art, and architecture. Known for many diverse architectural styles throughout the city, travelers can expect to find many well-preserved examples of Romanesque, Baroque, Classicist, and Art Nouveau styled structures. Vienna is also celebrated for its rich performance-art tradition, hosting over 200 balls a year. It also hosts a variety of classical music concerts featuring many of the famous composers who once called Vienna home, including Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and others. Christmas in Vienna is a magical time with its many Christmas markets. No visit to Vienna is complete without a visit to one of their outstanding cafes. Austrian cakes, like the “Sacher Torte” are world famous. Why not try a cake and coffee at a famous landmark like the Demel.

Top Five Places To Visit In Austria - Vienna

Salzburg

Situated near Germany’s southern border with Austria, the city of Salzburg, like its capital counterpart, is famous for its long-standing musical traditions. Salzburg is the birthplace of Wolfgang Mozart and features the Mozart Museum, his former home. Beyond the numerous examples of historic architecture and artistic attractions, Salzburg is surrounded by a breathtaking Alps mountain range. A visit to Salzburg allows you to explore the experiential contrast of rich history and stunning natural beauty simultaneously. Take the funicular to Hohensalzburg Fortress for a breathtaking view of the city and surrounding countryside. It is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe, dating back to 1077.

Top Five Places To Visit In Austria - Salzburg

Salzkammergut

Salzkammergut – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is an Austrian resort area surrounded by serene blue lakes, verdant hills, and snow-peaked mountain ranges. For over a century, it has served as one of the countries prime tourist destinations. Salt production started the area (“salz”) and dates to the Bronze Age. A tour of the salt mine in Halstatt is well worthwhile. Outdoor recreational activities abound including mountaineering, horseback riding, swimming and cycling. The Salzkammergut region is also famous for the many luxury spas and hotel resorts inhabiting the area. If you are visting in the summer months, a slow boat ride on Lake Halstatt will be serene and provide gorgeous views of surrounding towns and mountains.

Top Five Places To Visit In Austria - Salzkammergut

Innsbruck

Famous for hosting the Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976, the city of Innsbruck is widely considered to be one of the best winter sports destinations in the world. Visitors not so keen on skiing or snowboarding, or those visiting during the summer months, can find plenty to do in the historic city as well. Explore the Innsbruck Cathedral, the bell-making museum, or one of the city’s many local restaurants. Innsbruck is nestled in the heart of the Alps and is one of Austria’s most scenic cities. A 20-minute train ride takes you up the mountain to Seefeld, where you can then take a funicular and cable car to Rosshutte. On a clear day, you’ll see the mountain tops of 4 countries- Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

innsbruck-506820_640

Zell Am See

For travelers who are looking for the ultimate in natural scenery, and wilderness adventures, the town of Zell am See is a ‘must-visit’ destination in Austria. Surrounded by majestic alpine mountains, world-class ski slopes, and tranquil blue lakes, Zell am See hosts numerous outdoor recreation events throughout the year. During the winter, it hosts a number of ski and snowboard competitions. The driving here is also out-of-this-world, be sure to take the Grossglockner Alpine Road from here for some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in the country.

Top Five Places To Visit In Austria - Zell Am See

I’m a fan of most European countries but Austria has my heart. If you haven’t been, you must get there. You’ll go back again and again, like I do.

Visiting Spain: Visit the Essentials First

visiting spain

It doesn’t matter what your travelling preferences are, we all love a fiesta, and what better place to have a fiesta than by visiting 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 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 24/7 Ibiza parties, spring days in Valencia, visiting the tomb of Christopher Columbus, walking across the world’s scariest bridge, seeing the Museum of Funeral Carriages, or eating at the world’s oldest restaurant in Madrid. 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

There’s nothing better than going to a “new” destination, and experiencing it like a local. I had been to Paris before (through the airport and in the city when I was all of 7 years old) but 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 really immerse yourself like a 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.

5 Exquisite Wine Routes in France

As Europe’s peak travel season winds down and most people are returning to work and school refreshed from their summer vacation, the sleepy vineyards sweeping the French countryside awaken for the annual harvest. Foliage begins to turn, days and evenings become pleasantly cooler. And the picturesque back roads call out to be traversed, beckoning in one of the best times to visit France. There’s no better time than autumn to channel your inner wine connoisseur and rent a car in France. The following list is a compilation of five lovely wine regions and scenic routes fringed with vineyards that beg to be explored. Each of these destinations is sure to make for an unforgettable experience.

Alsace Wine Route

Alsace Wine Region

The Alsace region is situated along a narrow plain, which is bordered by the Rhine River to the east and the Vosges Mountains to the west. Why not rent something special for your trip, like a Mercedes SLK Roadster in Strasbourg? Put the top down and leisurely make your way south along the Route des Vins d’Alsace (Alsace Wine Route). This 170 km stretch of roadway begins in Marlenheim and ends in Thann. Take your time and discover the Alsace vineyards, castles, and charming villages that dot the way.

Bordeaux Wine Route

Bordeaux Wine Region

Six distinct wine producing territories branch out from the heart of the Bordeaux region. The beauty of visiting this location is that you can create a unique tour of the wineries based on your specific taste. Sample the fine red wines north of Bordeaux, and the sweet or dry white wines south of the city. Offering an excellent array of grape varietals, colors, and tastes, you won’t be disappointed when visiting this southwestern area of France.

Provence Wine Route

Provence Wine Route

South of the Alps and north of the cliff-lined Mediterranean Sea is the Provence region, a part of France that is celebrated for its rosé wine. Start your journey by driving west along the coast with your rental car in Nice and making frequent stops to appreciate the villages and scenery, follow the 200 km course to Camargue, a town just east of Montpellier. The Provence vineyards are divided into eight appellations, and there are about 350 winemakers along the way.

Burgundy Wine Route

Burgundy Wine Route

A two hour car-ride southwest of Paris leads into the rolling hills of France’s Burgundy region. Renowned for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the vineyards here yield some of the country’s finest wines. Burgundy has five territories, and Route des Grands Crus (road of great wines) takes you through Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. It is the area’s most popular drive and is close to 60 km. Clearly marked road signs make this itinerary very easy to follow.

Champagne Route

Champagne Wine Route

Only 160 km east of Paris, yet seemingly worlds away from the city of light, is the highly regarded Champagne region. Sparkling wine can’t claim the name Champagne unless it originates from here. There are five circuits that wind their way through each of the appellation territories. The Coast Bar route is the longest at 220 km, and the shortest courses are Montagne de Reims and Massif of Saint Thierry, each of these is 70 km.

Before setting off on any trip in France, it is important to note the country’s new driving law, which requires every vehicle to have a breathalyzer on hand. Avoid the possibility of needing to use one of these devices by staying at a lovely Chateau when choosing to indulge in a few glasses of regionally produced wine.

Enjoy the wine and enjoy France!

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Best Museums in Amsterdam

Amsterdam Museums

Amsterdam is known for many things, but one thing you may not think of when dreaming of this Dutch city is Museums. Few people realize that Amsterdam is actually home to over 50 museums, many of which are very interesting and thought provoking. Some of them are strange. Here is a list of some of the interesting ones you might want to check out the next time (or first time) you travel to Amsterdam.


BEST MUSEUMS IN AMSTERDAM

Het Grachtenhuis Museum
This is a special museum located on one of the most beautiful and upmarket Herengracht canal. It explores the history of the canal district (a world heritage site) with 3D animation, models, projections and an interactive multimedia exhibition. A very modern look at Amsterdam’s history and a great way to start to your visit.

Tulip Museum
The tulip is often used as a symbol of the Netherlands, so this museum is quite popular with locals and tourists alike. If you love botany, history, or tulips in general, this is the museum for you.

Anne Frank House
The hiding place where Anne Frank wrote her famous diary during World War II is now a museum and is one of the biggest attractions in Amsterdam. See how hard it was and view the original diary on display while at this location. Book a rental car at Schiphol Airport and take the 20 minute drive to the historic museum. This is a must do but get there early because the lines can be long.

Amsterdam Museums - The Anne Frank House

NEMO Science Museum
A hands on museum, NEMO is very popular among children. Science and technology are the themes here, so it’s a must visit if you’re with kids on vacation. Get a Museumkaart or I Amsterdam City Card for free admission. Ask about discounted group rates!

Torture Museum
This place brings out the macabre in everyone. View a collection and learn about some of the oldest cruellest torture methods of the past. Thankfully most of these methods are no longer in use. The fact that most of what’s on display are actual artifacts is particularly disturbing.

Museum of Bags and Purses 
To me, being surrounded by this many handbags and purses seems like a scene from the previous museum!

National Maritime Museum
The museum is dedicated to maritime history and contains many artefacts associated with shipping and sailing. The collection contains, paintings, scale models, weapons and world maps. Moored directly outside the museum is a replica of the Amsterdam, an 18th-century ship which sailed between the Netherlands and the East Indies.

Van Gogh Museum
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Amsterdam, explore the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh work. A must-see for any traveling virtuoso, see his work and learn about his life story. You won’t be disappointed!

The Rijksmuseum
This is the Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam. It showcases national treasurers and artifacts from over 800 years of Dutch history. The museum is located at the Museum Square in the borough Amsterdam South, close to the Van Gogh Museum. Again, a must visit!

There are of course more museums, including the Museum of The Canals, the Costume Museum, the Heineken Experience, the Houseboat Museum and more. They make for an interesting day and a way to quickly immerse yourself in Dutch culture and history.

Can you think of any interesting or strange museums that are in Amsterdam?

10 Things To Know When Traveling In Italy

Traveling to another country is always exciting! Not only do you get to taste the region’s food, have fun at their festivals and meet local people, but you also get to learn more about the culture. Cultures across Europe differ greatly, particularly from North America. Many countries speak their own language and foster their own traditions that date back centuries. This is especially true of the beautiful ancient country of Italy.

One of the most impressive cultural centers of Europe, Italy was the birthplace of the Renaissance and home to some of the world’s most loved food. Millions of people visit the country every year, exploring its wonderful cities, towns, and villages. So to prepare you, here’s ten things you should know before you go:

1. BE PREPARED TO SPEND TIME TALKING ABOUT AND EATING FOOD

Be prepared to spend time talking about and eating foodFood is in the make up of Italians. Not only do they love to cook and eat it, more than most people, they also love to talk about it. In Italy, it is certainly more about the quality of the food than it is about the quantity; they value flavor and home-cooked traditions. In Italy they make time to cook a meal and there is no excuse for not spending time enjoying it. Meals, even in the middle of the day, can last hours and include neighbors and friends for a truly special experience. Enjoy this magical foodie culture by eating with locals or in local restaurants.

2. GET READY TO EXPRESS YOUR EMOTIONS

Visitors who can’t speak the language often think that Italians argue all the time. They always appear to be so expressive and loud. However, their gestures and actions are often not what you think. Most Italians love to talk about their emotions, and so the conversation is most likely a way of resolving an issue – talking it out – rather than arguing about it. Very therapeutic!

3. FOOD IS FRESH AND USUALLY LOCAL

Food is fresh and usually localMost large grocers and almost all of the local stores you will come across in Italy will sell mostly fresh, local produce. Not only will it be organic and high-quality, but it will also be affordable. While you can find some processed food, it is not common in the Italian diet in the way that it is in the U.S. Expect to find fresh fruit and vegetables that are in season alongside local butchers and bakeries.

4. EXPECT TO HEAR THE TRUTH

Italians prefer not to hide their feelings. In the same way that they prefer to talk about a problem they also prefer to express how they feel about people, good or bad, to their face. This is a great thing on some levels as it means they rarely talk about people behind their back. Bit it can also mean hearing the truth (even when you don’t want to). Most often visitors will hear that they should be eating more, especially the slim visitors!

5. DON’T RUSH

Don't rushItalians rarely rush. They live a slow, relaxed lifestyle that really does make them happier. There is no rushing to get to work or rushing to serve people when they are at work. Expect to wait longer, but expect the people you meet to be extremely happy! What would you rather be?

6. YOU CAN SPOT THEIR IMPECCABLE DRESS SENSE

Italy has always exported some of the world’s greatest fashions – with a clear edge over the rest of the world. As you explore the country’s stunning cities and even smaller towns you will notice that style is a very important part of life. Most Italians will always make an impressive effort to look great. If you want a piece of the action head to the shopping capitals of Milan and Rome, where you can find all of Italy’s most famous designers on offer.

7. YOU WILL OFTEN SEE ROMANCE BLOOMING

You will often see romance bloomingNot only is Italy a romantic country for visitors, with its ancient buildings, cobbled streets and exceptional food, Italy is also inherently romantic. Most Italians value courting and spend time and effort wining and dining “the one” for months. For ancient romance visit Verona, the setting for Shakespeare’s timeless play Romeo and Juliet.

8. YOU MAY FEEL A LITTLE CLAUSTROPHOBIC

Italians are very affectionate and do not worry as much as Americans about personal space. Their towns and cities are more compact, with winding alleys and petite plazas that are the places of parties and restaurants. Expect to touch a few people a day and don’t expect to hear a “sorry”; it’s not worth it as it happens all the time. Don’t even worry about it!

9. YOU CAN’T LEAVE WITHOUT AN APERITIVO

You can't leave without an aperitivoNo other country in Europe truly celebrates the aperitivo (the afternoon drink and snack) like Italy does. Try to get into a place at around 6pm to take full advantage of the evening buffet and be ready for a late night dinner, Italian style.

10. FORGET ABOUT ICE

It may be common to include ice in almost every drink in the U.S. but this is simply not the Italian way. Ice isn’t always served in cold drinks, and if you do want some you will probably only get one or two cubes, not a whole glassful… Think of the positives, you are certainly getting more of the drink you ordered – the Italian way!

ENJOYING ITALIAN CULTURE AND TRADITIONS

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Use our helpful list of 10 Things to Know When Traveling in Italy to get a better understanding of what to expect during your next vacation. Blend in, and get local insider info about the best off-the-beaten path attractions, restaurants, and hidden gems, when you show respect and understanding to Italian customs and traditions.

(This post provided by Auto Europe)

Plan The Perfect German Road Trip

Munich is a city known for Germany’s traditional Bavarian culture and the ideal starting point for the perfect German Road trip. It’s new and spirited population have filled the old city with modern technologies and exciting new cultures. Before you drive off, spend some time getting to know one of Germany’s great cities. Explore the bustling beer halls, historic buildings, and enthralling museums.

When you have had your fill of Munich’s exceptional sights, why not explore the surrounding region by jumping in a rental car and going on some adventurous Munich day trips. By driving through the brilliant Bavarian countryside, you’ll experience some of the German towns, villages, memorials, and castles that many travelers don’t get to see when they visit Munich. You also get to explore the locations in your own time – taking as little or as long as you want.

Get planning with our Munich day trip guide as you follow Neuschwanstein Castle tours from Munich:


MUNICH

Munich Downtown

Start your journey in the thriving city – with its lush green city parks and regular festivals, there’s always something to do in Munich. Lined with buildings that are centuries old, Munich is ideal for history buffs who love tasty beer and delicious local food. What’s more, the large cosmopolitan city is also a modern mecca with a world-famous nightlife and plenty of modern art galleries to explore, as well as a connection to its surrounding Alpine landscape. Try to visit the city around its most famous festival, Oktoberfest, the beer-toasting super festival that consumes that city and fills it with fun and games! (Honestly, everyday is Oktoberfest in Munich – head to Marienplatz in the centre of Munich and grab a beer or 2 and a sausage).

DACHAU CONCENTRATION CAMP MEMORIAL SITE

Dachau Concentration Camp

The concentration camp at Dachau was Nazi Germany’s first ever concentration camp. The prison held over 200,000 people during its 12 years, but since 1965 the site has been a memorial to the devastation of that era and the lives that were lost. Dachau is located close to the city and 30-minute long or two-and-a-half-hour long walking tours are available as well as audio guides. (It’s not an easy tour but well worthwhile).

LANDSHUT

Landshut Day Trip

The picture-perfect town of Landshut is bright and beautiful – with stunning multi-colored houses and a very famous castle. It hosts the Royal Wedding Festival every four years to celebrate the companionship of Bavaria and Poland. Discover the town’s differing architecture, from the Middle Ages to Renaissance-Baroque. There are Bavarian beer halls, delicious local restaurants, and Trauznitz Castle, which dates back to 1204.

HERRENCHIEMSEE NEW PALACE

Herrenchiemsee New Palace

This impressive palace was the incredible vision of King Ludwig – precisely his idea to build an exact replica of Versailles Palace in Paris. The stunning complex of royal buildings is located on an island in the region’s large lake – the Chiemsee. Explore the majestic interior of this fairytale palace, which features marquetry floors, carved panels, stucco marble, and ceiling frescoes. (King Ludwig is also responsible for the ultra famous Neuschwanstein Castle- below).

WENDELSTEIN MOUNTAIN

Wendelstein Mountain

Wendelstein Mountain is probably one of the easiest access points for exploring the Alps in Bavaria. Drive to the base of the mountain, before taking the cable car or train to reach the 6,000-foot summit. Revel in the spectacular Alpine views from the top, where you can also enjoy a warming coffee or hot chocolate in a delightful cabin restaurant or cafe. If you are more of an adventurer take the hiking trails to the top – although you might want to allow more time for this option.

LANDSBERG AM LECH

Landsberg am Lech

Just half-an-hour from Munich, Landsberg am Lech is yet another shining example of a stunning and traditional Bavarian city. On a first glance Landsberg am Lech looks as though it hasn’t changed at all since its creation, with buildings dating back to the Medieval period – including the impressive Mother’s Tower and the Schmalzturm Tower. Visitors can trace the ancient lines of the city by walking the old city walls or learning more about its intriguing history at the Herkomer Museum.

NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE

Neuschwanstein Castle Road Trip

The absolutely mesmerizing Neuschwanstein Castle is the moment that those fairytale dreams truly become a reality. The breathtaking 19th century palace is something to behold – and is known for being the real life inspiration for Disney’s fairytale classic “Sleeping Beauty”. Originally built for Ludwig II of Bavaria, the castle has been open to visitors since his death and offers its guests unique views across the Bavarian landscape. Be sure to spend some time exploring the beautifully landscaped gardens here, too. (Allow most of a day for your visit. The parking lot is busy and a 10 minute walk from the base of the mountain. You can walk up to the castle (minimum 30 minutes) or pay to ride in a horse drawn wagon. You’ll also wait and pay an admission to get inside the castle).

Travel Freely and At Your Own Pace

When you are looking to experience the best Germany has to offer, you’ll need a reliable means of transportation. Book an affordable car rental in Munich and you’ll have access to endless touristic opportunities and sites! Compare rates, shop names you recognize and find the best deal. Save time and money with my link to Auto Europe.