Staying in the different areas of Rome

There’s about a million and one different hotels, B&Bs and apartments in Rome which you can stay in, meaning that deciding where to rest your weary head after a long day travelling can become something of a complicated decision. To help make life a best easier for you, here’s an explanation of what staying in the different areas of Rome is like.

Central Rome

The centre’s undoubtedly more expensive than other areas of the city, but has the advantage of having all the biggest tourist attractions at your doorstep – you’ll definitely spend less on transport. Although it can be somewhat crowded, the area is also a charming place to stay, especially if you’re visiting Rome for the first time. The most sought-after places to stay in Rome’s old quarter can be found around the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and the Piazza Navona. If you fancy spending a little less, as you move over towards the Coliseum, you’ll find that prices tend to fall.

The Vatican

Surprisingly, the area around the Vatican is a quiet zone, slightly out of the tourist crowds, which will allow you to discover Rome in a slightly different, more authentic way. Take into account, however, that to see many of Rome’s different sights and attractions, you’ll have to spend more time travelling, although the city offers very good public transport.

Trastevere

Also slightly out of the centre, the district of Trastevere has become very fashionable of late. This area is a warren of bars and restaurants, is as charming by night as it is by day – an excellent choice for those who wish to experience the nocturnal, as well as the diurnal, sides to the city.

Termini and San Lorenzo

If you’re on a tighter budget, one of the most wallet-friendly places to stay in Rome, is the area of Termini and San Lorenzo. This part of the city is also still fairly close to the centre, and it’s very well connected to other areas. It has a slightly dodgy reputation, but despite the fact that it’s not the safest area in the city, it’s not particularly dangerous either if you use a bit of common sense.

There’s also other areas of Rome you can stay in, of course. These, however, are the main ones, which offer the greatest amount of options when it comes to experiencing the city.

The area of Beyoglu in Istanbul

We wrote recently about the different areas of Istanbul, but came to the eventual conclusion that there’s so much to see in the city, it would be impossible to write about all of them in one post. This week, then, we’ve decided to look in more detail at Beyoglu.

Although you might be more likely to do the serious sightseeing in the district of Fatih, when you’re done Beyoglu is very likely to be where you’ll come to let your hair down afterwards. Running down from Taksim square (one of Istanbul’s main transport hubs), Istiklal Avenue, a famous pedestrianised street full of theatres, cafes and a historic tram, is Beyoglu’s backbone. All the smaller neighbourhoods of Beyoglu run out of Istiklal Avenue like brooks and tributories: of these, Galata, Cihangir and Taksim are possibly of greatest interest to tourists.

Galata, Beyoglu

galata-tower-istanbul First through Galata, in the south of Beyoglu. Galata was originally its own walled city, and the presence of Greeks and Jews here makes it culturally diverse and open to this day. With stunning old houses and architecture from various eras, it’s a very popular place, especially among the city’s intellectuals. Its most famous landmark is Galata Tower, one of the oldest towers in the world, and originally a lighthouse.

Cihangir, Beyoglu

cihangir-istanbul Cihangir is a very popular place to live in, which, despite its location in the big city, retains a small-town feel. It’s bohemian vibes make it a great place to hunt for the perfect tiny cafe, restaurant or shisha bar to hang out in and see how people in Istanbul live their daily lives. A real residential neighbourhood, this district of Istanbul is nevertheless very close to many of the major tourist attractions.

Taksim, Beyoglu

taksim-istanbul In the north of Beyoglu, Taksim is predominantly known for its famous Taksim Square, a crucial transport centre of the city. Taksim Square is full of chain stores which are recognisable all over the world, and although it might not have the charm of other areas of Istanbul, you can find everything here, including clubs, live music and influences from all kinds of cultures, making it a fascinating area of Istanbul to visit.

Areas of Istanbul

areas-istanbul Istanbul is a huge city. With over 13 million inhabitants, it’s very easy to get lost if you can tell one district in Istanbul from the other. Here, we look at the most popular parts of the city, so you can make an informed choice if you’re looking to buy or rent an apartment in Istanbul. Bear in mind that each of these districts is like a city in its own right.

Beşiktaş

ortakoy-mosque One of the oldest areas of Istanbul, Beşiktaş has become the city’s latest hotspot. An influx of fashionable shops and cafes have contributed to this change, along with various trendy nightclubs in Ortaköy and expensive mansions in Bebek. The Ortaköy Mosque is a thing of wonder, and you street vendors selling everything from handmade goods to baked potatoes give the area a real vibe.

Fatih

fatih-istanbul Fatih contains many of Istanbul’s most historical monuments, including the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar. It’s also one of the more conservative areas of Istanbul, so make sure you dress the part if you want to fit in. Eminönü in particular is the centre of the ancient walled city of Constantine, and monuments such as the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapı Palace draw in large amounts of tourists.

Beyoğlu

beyoglu-istanbul Beyoğlu contains Taksim Square, one of Istanbul’s focus points. Beautiful, cosmopolitan and full of theatres and art galleries, the main street is the pedestrianised İstiklal Avenue. Its elegant passages house Turkish restaurants, fast food chains and nightclubs for all tastes.

Üsküdar

maiden-tower-istanbul On the Anatolian shore, Üsküdar is full of beautiful mosques (over 180 of them), as well as some very swanky houses in some parts. The promenade in Salacak has excellent views of the tourist sights of Fatih across the Bosphorus, leading to a decent crop of cafes and restaurants.

…and all this is just a fraction of what the city has to offer. Have you ever visited any of these districts of Istanbul? Why not let us know what your experience of this amazing city has been like?

Districts in Downtown Manhattan

Downtown Manhattan is known all over the world for its film appearances, its vibrant nightlife, its sense of fashion and generally for being New York’s greatest catalyst for cutting-edge cool. Here, we look at some of the different districts in Downtown Manhattan.

greenwich-village Greenwich Village – A bohemian district, full of artists, students and writers. Greenwich Village offers a fun nightlife at affordable prices, and has a large gay district around Christopher Street and the Stonewall Inn, famous for being the place where movements for the fight for gays rights began after a series of disturbances in 1969.

little-italy Little Italy – Originally populated by Italian immigrants, who flocked to New York at the beginning of the c. 20th. Little Italy gives you the strange sensation of discovering a completely different culture in the heart of the USA, due to its restaurants and traditional celebrations. The north part has become very fashionable of late, and the area contains several attractive older buildings.

chinatown-new-york Chinatown – World famous Chinatown comes ever closer to absorbing Little Italy. Although large amounts of people you’ll see in Chinatown are of Asian origin, this is home to many immigrants in New York. A day out in Chinatown is a journey past signs written in Mandarin, the scent of markets, and into traditional Chinese restaurants to sample some lip-smackingly good Chinese food.

soho-new-york Soho – Despite coming from bohemian origins, Soho has become an expensive district, and home to some of the wealthiest citizens of New York. It’s full of art galleries, luxury apartments, lofts and other things typical of New York. Soho is a great place for high-end shopping – you’ll find outlets such as the Tiffany & Co. flagship here.

lower-manhattan Lower Manhattan – right at the bottom of Manhattan Island, underneath Chinatown and Tribeca, lies the sadly infamous area of Ground Zero. The most well-known aspect of this area, however, are the amazing views it offers of the Statue of Liberty. Lower Manhattan also offers easy ferry access to Staten Island.

tribeca Tribeca – Originally an industrial area, TriBeCa (or “TRIangle BElow CAnal Street”) originally grew up to house the overspill when Soho became fashionable and prices went up. Today, it’s full of fashionable restaurants, prosperous businesses and is the home to various celebrities. The Tribeca Film Festival, founded by Robert de Niro, is also held here.

Best beaches in Europe

Just as we’ve begun to count down the hours until we can pack our bags and head down to the beach, this list of the top 10 beach destinations in Europe has arrived.

Voted in by the popular online travelling community TripAdvisor, these beaches have been voted on by thousands of travellers who’ve genuinely been there, done that and got the bikini.

Without any further ado, the best beach destinations in Europe according to TripAdvisor are…

Turkey

best-beaches-europe Oludeniz beach: has some incredible views and is situated in the Aegean sea, with the clear blue waters that entails.

Icmeler beach: relaxed, calm area where you can enjoy the sun and the beach in peace.

The Antalya beaches: beaches with excellent facilities for children next to the stunning city of Antalya, which has a fascinating old quarter and where you can see Hadrian’s Gate.

Spain

beach-beach-spain Port d’Alcudia beach: one of the most beautiful and best beaches in Mallorca, which has eight kilometres of fine white sand.

Benidorm: a classic resort in Spain, known for its sun and beaches. It can often get pretty crowded in summer, but offers many different leisure options.

Playa del Inglés: all the qualities the island of Gran Canaria offers come together in this beach: beauty, leisure and high-class installations.

Corralejo: in the island of Fuerteventura, paradise-like beaches with white sand reign. Corralejo is the most touristy zone, ideal for acuatic sports like windsurfing, fishing and diving.

Puerto del Carmen: set in Lanzarote, this is one of the main destinations of the Canary Islands. Great beaches, varied leisure options and incredible sunsets.

Englandbeach-england

Bournemouth: England’s not particularly known for being a beach destination, but there’s always the exception to the rule, and this zone has a microclimate ideal for enjoying the beach.

Portugal

quiet-beaches-europe Albufeira: somewhat surprisingly Portugal’s only entry in the list, this attractive, historical town in the Algarve contains more than twenty beaches and a vibrant nightlife.

Open Garden Days in the city of Amsterdam

Have you ever wondered what is hidden behind the closed doors of the canal houses in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam is famous for its canals, museums and ancient streets. At first sight, it might look like a city without many open green spaces, but don’t believe it…

open-gardens-day-amsterdam

As well as the famous Vondelparl, perfect for a bike ride, and the beautiful gardens of Begijnhof, behind many walls and closed doors of the city of Amsterdam you’ll find hidden flower gardens.

Amsterdam-open-garden If you’re in Amsterdam during the dates of the 15th, 16th or 17th of June 2012, the unique chance to visit some of these gardens is on offer: the Van Loon museum is organising “Open Garden Days” (Open Tuinen Dagen). This annually held event offers tourists and locals the opportunity to visit more than thirty gardens which, during the rest of the year, would remain closed off inside private land in the City of Canals. This year, the theme is “Coach houses and garden houses”.

During the three days the garden open Day event takes place, you can access all participating gardens between the hours of 10am and 5pm. The price of a three day ticket for open day in the gardens of Amsterdam is € 15.

You can find more information about routes and participating gardens on the official webpage.

Beaches in Mallorca

If you’re looking for a handy paradise from which to enjoy your summer holidays without going overboard in terms if price, a destination which will surely have run through your mind is the idyllic island of Mallorca. This naturally well-endowed island, with charming countrysides, tasty food and interesting traditions also has some truly exceptional beaches.

In fact, more than anything, it’s the golden sands, tepid waters and secret coves of this area which attract visitor after visitor each year. One of the most attractive things about the beaches of Mallorca is their natural diversity. With a total of 208 beaches and coves, there’s a lot to chose from and it can be difficult to decide which are the best.

Cala-s'almunia calo-des-monjo playa-es-trenc

Best beaches in Mallorca

Some of my favourite beaches of Mallorca are the following:

  1. Cala S’Almunia (Santanyí) – A picturesque corner of the world, where you can enjoy some sun, sea and sand. In this small cove, some old cabins constructed by fishermen are beautifully conserved. This cove is small and rocky, however, so those looking to lie in the sand for hours should look elsewhere.
  2. Playa Es Trenc (Salobrar de Campos) – One of the best virgin beaches in Mallorca, with a strip of more than three kilometres, beautiful white dunes and transparent waters. Be prepared for the fact that this popular beach is also a nudist beach.
  3. Caló d’es Monjo (Calvià) – Calm waters and attractive countryside are some of the main attractions of this cove of rock, sand and stones hidden in the Mallorca coast. You have to walk around 1 km down a coastal track to get there.
  4. Playa Camp de Mar (Andratx) – An urban beach, whose main attraction is a small island in the middle of the bay, which is joined to the beach with a wooden bridge. This beach benefits from white sands, easy access and various facilities available.
  5. Cala Murta (Pollença) – A beautiful small stone cave, close to Formentor. An idyllic corner for a trip out. Take your sandwiches and enjoy a dip with your family!

These, for me, are some of the best beaches in Mallorca. Do you have any to recommend?

Go scuba diving in the crystalline waters on the stunning Costa Brava

buceo The stunning Costa Brava, comprising the north-eastern region of Catalonia is a very popular tourist destination, and this comes as no surprise given that they are allured by lush green landscapes, crystalline waters, typical white Mediterranean houses and a rich historical and monumental heritage for an authentic experience.

illes_medes__l_estartit_369gAmongst the many activities on offer in the Costa Brava, this coastal region is perfect for doing a spot of scuba diving, and now that the warm weather has well and truly arrived, it is an ideal summer activity.As you can imagine, the Costa Brava offers some of the best diving experiences in Spain thanks to its abundance of interesting sites dotted along its rugged coastline. In addition, at this time of year the water temperature can reach up to a pleasant 24ºC, therefore divers with all levels of training and experience will happily be able to enjoy this sport all summer long thanks to the many dive centres along the coast.

delfinesParticularly worth seeing are the submarine nature reserves of the Medas Islands and certain spots in the Cap de Creus nature park near Cadaqués where the rough seas on the Costa have claimed many ships over the centuries.

islasmedas

In addition to teaching summer courses, and organising daily excursions, many diving centres also rent out equipment, all at very reasonable prices.L’ Estartit, on the Costa Brava is particularly great for scuba diving as it has one of the best beaches on the coast, the Medas Islands with its marine conservation area, fascinating ship wrecks and the chance to see salt water fish such as the Barracuda and Grouper.A perfect family activity on the Costa Brava this summer!

The famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, a magnificent example of groundbreaking 20th century architecture

guggenheim_bilbao

Designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, the Guggenheim comprises a modern and contemporary art museum in Bilbao. It is easily one of the most admired works of contemporary architecture, has been dubbed one of the most important works completed since 1980 and is a magnificent example of some of the most groundbreaking architecture to have appeared in the 20th century.

Guggenheim-dog inside

The building features radically sculpted, organic contours i.e. random curves, which were supposedly designed that way to capture the light. Seeing as Bilbao is a port town, the museum was intended to resemble a ship (you can make your own mind up about that one), and it has reflective titanium panels resembling fish scales, amongst other structural, but fascinating oddities.

 doorThe Guggenheim is home to a permanent collection of 20th century art, more often that not highlighting Avant-garde art, 20th century abstraction, and non-objective art. The temporary exhibitions held there are usually thematic focusing on for example, Chinese or Russian art and changing on a regular basis. The centrepiece of the permanent collection has to be “The Matter of Time” exhibit featuring a series of weathered sculptures housed in Arcelor Gallery, which is more commonly known as the Fish Gallery. The aim of the museum is to collect, conserve and study modern and contemporary art, in addition to make it accessible to everyone hence why the permanent collection in displayed in such a way as to provide the public with different perspectives.

Truly a unique space, where art and groundbreaking contemporary architecture join hands for the fascinating museum that is in today, in Bilbao.

Vintage Festival at the Southbank Centre, London with a whole host of vintage related events

vintage 2011

This July 29th to the 31st, the Southbank Centre is hosting a Vintage Festival. Devised by Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway, the fashion duo behind Red or Dead, this event will feature an array of vintage goodies and retro music, fashion of course, film, art and design. In addition, there will be a market for you to bag a vintage bargain, dance lessons to take part in, workshops and makeovers for an authentic experience.

This year’s edition of the event, which forms part of the Festival of Britain, will also be featuring 10 nightclubs including the Soul Casino, Let It Rock, the Torch and the Leisure Lounge, which you can enjoy from the end of this month. There will be a different theme every evening, thus on the 29th of May visitors can enjoy “An electronic Phuture” with sounds from the 80s, “Soul Review” the following night, and “Hit Parade” with pop tunes and an orchestral accompaniment, all taking place in the Royal Festival Hall.

vintage-3

Award winning vintage will be transported from the Goodwin festival to the Southbank Centre for one exclusive weekend during the summer promising vintage lovers and fashion fans live music, DJ sets, film screenings, more than 200 vintage fashion stalls, dance lessons and interactive workshops. Watch out for a Thames boat party too, makeovers and festival-goers dressed up in their best, as well the chance to strut your stuff and show off your own personal style on the Vintage Catwalk.

All this and more in the Vintage Festival held at the Southbank Centre, London this July.