The Best Historical Sights in Vienna, Austria’s Cultural Capital

Vienna is a city full of culture and intriguing historical structures to explore. The baroque streetscapes are laced with beautiful architecture and imperial palaces are plentiful. With our short guide, we show you how to see the best of the city’s culture, which can be achieved in one long weekend.   

The majority of historical sights, grand architecture, art galleries and museums are located in the Museum Quarter, Museumsplatz, which is one of the largest cultural quarters in the world. Here, you will find abundant museums such as the Natural History Museum, the Leopold Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and not forgetting the stunning Hofburg Palace.

Below, is our short guide on how to soak up the best of the Viennese culture. You can easily explore the top cultural sights within one long weekend while also having time to indulge in the delicious cuisine. We recommend visiting during the Spring for beautiful weather so you can leisurely stroll around this beautiful city.

City Hall

IMG_1392The City Hall is located in the heart of Vienna in the Rathausplatz in the Innere Stadt district. Originally, the building was designed and built by former architect of the Cathedral of Cologne, Friedrich von Schmidt, and was considered the most important secular building in the neo-gothic style in the city between 1872 and 1883. To date, it is arguably one of the most stunning City Halls in Europe.

The Natural History Museum

IMG_1393The Museum of Natural History covers some square footage and comprises an extensive collection of world-famous and unique objects such as enormous dinosaur skeletons and both land and underwater creatures. It even has its own Digital Planetarium that shows full dome films and you can check out latest screenings here. A tour inside to explore the 39 exhibit halls will take you on a journey through the ages.

IMG_4647The National History Museum offers a great way to spend a long afternoon and we recommend allocating around 2-3 hours to cover the entire museum at leisure. Plus, you can take a short break at the café, which serves traditional Viennese coffee specialities, pastries and traditional snacks as well as main dishes during lunch hours.

Hofburg Palace

Stunning Hofburg, The Imperial Palace, was the residence and seat of government of the Habsburg emperors until 1918. Today, it is home to numerous museums with outstanding collections such as the Spanish Riding School, a congress centre, the seat of the Austrian Federal President as well as the historic Heldenplatz.

The Austrian National Library

The Austrian National Library is the countries largest library and central memory institution. As you can see from the photos, the interior is absolutely stunning and you will be amazed by the historical collections of unique artefacts, manuscripts, photographs, maps and globes.

IMG_4686The library is home to over 3.9 million books and besides attracting lots of international visitors, it is a great meeting place for researchers and students.

St Stephen’s Cathedral

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St Stephens Cathedral is a must for every visitor to Vienna. For more than 700 years, the cathedral has been the symbol of Vienna and today, it remains one of the most important and iconic Gothic structures in Austria. Inside, you can climb the 343 steps up the tower and enjoy breathtaking views of the city.

The National Theatre

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The Austrian National Theatre, also known as Burgtheater, is one of Europes largest theatres. Located opposite the City Hall, the venue attracts over 400,000 theatre-goers to over 800 performers each year. The stunning white building with marble features is adorned with statues of famous writers such as Goethe and Schiller. Inside, the theatre provides a great atmosphere for cultural events such as Austrian playwrights. It has a world-wide reputation for dramatic art and is proudly one of the first German-speaking theatres in Europe.

Other beautiful buildings around Vienna

IMG_4601It’s not just the wonderful historical buildings that are now home to museums and art galleries that have the most beautiful architecture, the city is laced with it. Almost every corner you turn will present you with a stunning sight, that’s why we recommend visiting in the spring or summer months so you can enjoy a stroll around the inner streets at leisure.

 

Have you visited Vienna before? We’d love to hear about your trips to one of our favourite European cities!

How to See the Best of The Lake District in One Long Weekend

Located in North West England, The Lake District National Park is one of the most stunning locations in the UK.  Here, you will find vast lakes, quaint villages and mountainous scenery and with that there are plenty activities and delicious eateries suitable for all the family. Having lived here for over ten years, we were super excited to put this mini guide together which allows you to see the best of the Lakes in one long weekend.

The Lakes is great to visit all year round. With its stunning landscapes, it really is beautiful come snow, rain or sun. However, the best time to visit the Lakes is dependent on the activities you want to take part in. Of course, the sunny weather is never guaranteed and especially in the lakes which is famous for its yearly downpours and floods.

Nevertheless, if you would like to do plenty of outdoor activities without the rain, plan your trip between April and September. If you enjoy the snow, your looking at January to March. Any other cold weather one might wish for, visit between October to December. This year, the weather has begun to look up over the Easter break with the mini heat wave so perhaps this is a great time to plan your future visits earlier on in the year too!

Day 1: Arrive in Ambleside 

There are many great places to stay around the lake district and South Lakes in particular. Ambleside is a great mid point where you can easily reach the main tourist areas including Grasmere, Keswick, Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere. There are many B&Bs, high-end hotels, budget hostels (e.g. YHA), static caravans, holiday homes and AirBnBs. If you fancy something a bit different, you can also find quirky accommodation such as sleeping pods and tipis, which can be a bit more affordable compared to the B&Bs and hotels depending on the time of year you visit.

Once you have settled into your accommodation, it’s time to boost your energy for the afternoon ahead. There are many great eateries around Ambleside including Zefferelis offering quality vegetarian cuisine at affordable prices. On the lunch menu, you can find filled jacket potatoes, goats cheese bruschetta, nut roast salad, sharing platters, sandwiches and a selection of other Mediterranean style dishes. 

If you are not keen on vegetarian food, you can find tasty pub grub at The White Lion. You could even grab a take-out sandwich, salad box or pastry from The Picnic Box or try the best Fish and Chips in town from Walnut Fish and Chip Shop opposite Zeffirelli’s. During the summer time, you can enjoy your take-out food in Rothay Park on Vicarage Road or Boran’s Park on MacIver Lane. Both parks are reachable by foot from Ambleside Town. 

After you have re-fuelled, it’s time for your first taste of the outdoors. From Ambleside town, head to Stockghyll force, which is just behind The Salutation Hotel & Spa, for a short and sweet walk around the waterfalls. The walk is suitable for most abilities and you can enjoy the 70 foot waterfall from the viewpoint. Once you arrive back in Ambleside, there are some lovely shops to explore such as the Rock Shop and Silver Moon on North Road. 

Take a break to refresh at your hotel and get ready for dinner. There are some great spots around Ambleside including The Lily and Lucy’s on a Plate, which are perfect for couples. Ghandi’s Café has a good selection of vegetarian and vegan options and is great for all the family. Zefferelis offer dinner and movie deals, which is worth checking out if you want to make an evening of it. 

The Log House offers fine dining and can be a bit more expensive. Towards the edge of town you will find one of the best spots, Wateredge Inn, offering delicious food from day to night at The Bar and Grill restaurant. Here, you can sit out in the garden which overlooks Lake Windermere, while indulging on locally sourced foods. 

Day 2: Take a Road Trip to Grasmere and Keswick 

From Ambleside you can easily reach Grasmere within 15 minutes. Grasmere is one of Cumbria’s most popular villages due to its link with William Wordsworth who lived in Dove Cottage with his sister Dorothy from 1799-1808. Having lived a stones throw away from the cottage for over five years, we can say it’s very popular with tourists to say the least! Many flock here throughout the year on coach tours to visit the place where Wordsworth composed some of his most famous and  best-loved poems and Dorothy kept her famous Grasmere journals.

Dove cottage dates back to the early 17th century while many other buildings in Grasmere date back to the 19th or early 20th century except for the Church  which is from the 13th century. Nowadays, gift shops and cafés are plentiful and the village provides the perfect location for a leisurely stroll around the shops. Here, you can grab a delicious lunch at Heidi’s Café or enjoy a hearty meal at Tweedies. Afterwards is the perfect time to enjoy a walk around Grasmere Lake.

From Grasmere, you can continue on the A591 to Keswick, which will take around 20 minutes. The drive to Keswick is one of the most stunning where you will be greeted with views of Thirlmere reservoir as you drop down the pass at Dunmail Raise. Before you arrive in the centre of Keswick, take a short detour to the stone circle at Castlerigg. Constructed as a part of the megalithic tradition, which lasted from 3,300 to 900 BC during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Ages, the stone circle is one of few stone circles in Britain. Here, you can enjoy the beautiful setting, which overlooks Thirlmere Valley with a backdrop of mountains including High Seat and Helvellyn.

Once you arrive in Keswick, you can wander around the quaint town and visit Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, which offers varied collections that feature Keswick’s landscape, history and culture. Located just a 15 minute leisurely stroll from Keswick town centre is Derwent Water, a 3 mile long, 1 mile wide, 72 feet deep water body known as “Keswicks Lake”. Here, you enjoy a scenic walk around the water on flat and easy paths. If you fancy a hike, Cat Bells is within three miles of the town of Keswick and is situated on the western shore of Derwent Water. At 451 metres high, Cat Bells is not for the faint hearted but will reward those who climb it with stunning views at the top. Once back in the village, re-fuel at one of the many eateries in Keswick town such as The Italian Casa Bella or the Wainwright Pub for local pub grub.

Day 3: Visit the Nearby Towns of Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere

Windermere is just a short 15 minute drive from Ambleside and is a small town just over a mile from the lake shore. From here, you can reach Bowness-on-Windermere, which is one of the busiest towns along the shoreline where you will find the main jetties for cruise boats. Windermere Lake is 10.5 miles long, one mile wide, 220 feat deep and is the largest natural lake in both the Lake District and in England.

The lake cruises allow you to spend anywhere from 45 minutes to a full day on the water, which is for sure the best way to take in the stunning Lakeland views. The voyage will provide you with views of the mountainous scenery, secluded bays and woodland areas. You can even add on attractions such as the Lakes Aquarium, Steam Train or the Lakeland Motor Museum.

If you are feeling more adventurous, you can even hire your own row or motor boat or try your hand at kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding at Brockhole or Low Wood Bay, which are both located between Ambleside and Windermere. Low Wood Bay also features a café open to all with one of the best views in the Lakes. Alternatively, there are many places to hire a bike where you can explore the woodland areas or take to the road, or simply grab an ice-cream and take a stroll down the bay at Bowness while enjoying the scenery.

After a fun-packed day its time for some food and Windermere and Bowness do not disappoint when it comes to delicious eateries. Located in Windermere town, Bodega offers a lively atmosphere where you can enjoy cocktails and traditional Spanish tapas, which is perfect for couples and groups. Similarly, located in the heart of Windermere in one of the towns most historic buildings, Brown Sugar offers the perfect location for relaxed dining and drinks.

For local seasonal produce down in Bowness, head to The Angel Inn, a restaurant welcoming of all the family including the dog. Enjoy a variety of dishes from steak and lentil chilli to burgers, curry and pizza. Alternatively, The Flying Pig is a traditional pub  situated a stones throw from Lake Windermere where you can enjoy high quality, fresh food at a good price while sipping on local ale. If you fancy a few drinks afterwards, The Fizzy Tarté cocktail bar serves some of the best cocktails in the Lakes.

The heart of the Lake District really does have something for everyone. Whether you are an adrenaline junkie or you simply want a weekend of relaxation, you will be sure to find it here in the beautiful Lakes.

 

8 Beautiful Photos of the French Alps & Chamonix Town

To show you the beauty of the French Alps and Chamonix town we have put together ten of our favourite photos from our trip here at the beginning of the New Year. If you are inspired to visit after viewing our images, read more about our trip from Geneva to the French Alps here.

The French Alps is truly breathtaking. We will take you on a backwards journey from the top of the mountains down to the bottom and into the quaint town of Chamonix in just ten stunning photos.

First, the view from the top. Even if you aren’t going to take part in any snow sports, it is definitely worth a trip up the ski lift to enjoy this incredible view and watch as the skiers and snowboarders breeze on by.

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Meanwhile, you can grab yourself a warming hot chocolate from this cafe featuring outdoor seating while you admire the view… img_8847

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Best spot for an authentic bite to eat? Perhaps. IMG_9129

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Back on the ground the views are unbelievable, and how cool is this pizza van!?img_9029

In Chamonix town centre you will find an abundance of quaint shops and cafes such as this. IMG_3047

Chamonix town centre is set in the heart of the vast mountains, it is hard not to be in awe of natures beauty here.

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The French Alps and Chamonix have so much to offer and not just for the adrenaline junkies and their snow sports. Check out some of the other activities you can take part in here.

From Geneva, Switzerland, to the French Alps in One Long Weekend

Known as the “smallest of big cities” or the “city of peace”, Geneva offers a great location for  a weekend away. The city is compact and easy to walk around so it is suitable for every traveler. There is plenty to see and do and you can see the best bits within a day or two, which is why it is perfect to head over to the Alps for a day. The lakes and mountains surrounding Geneva provide a beautiful setting to stroll around the cobblestone streets and dig into the cities history. This trip would not be complete without a trip to the picturesque town of Chamonix, set at the foot of Mont Blanc, Europes highest mountain at 16,000 feet, Chamonix is renowned as one of the most vibrant and cosmopolitan ski resorts in the French Alps.

GENEVA

WHERE TO STAY.

The Old Town is a great place to stay because its within walking distance to most of the attractions, shops, and restaurants and is ideal for art and antique lovers. Stroll around the cobblestone streets where you can discover the history of Geneva by exploring the sights and monuments and digging for medieval treasures in the old antique boutiques.

Our stay at Fraser Suites in the Old Town was not disappointing. Upon arrival, my parents were upgraded to the Deluxe suite as a birthday gift to my Dad from the hotel. Both our apartments were stunning and for approx. £250 per room per night we were spoilt with a stylish apartment with floor to ceiling windows in the lounge, a separate bedroom with en-suite, and a kitchen with all the equipment one could wish for including an amazing Nespresso coffee machine that I just have to buy now I’m home.

WHAT TO DO.

There are many sights to see in Geneva in the winter such as the famous Jet D’eau Fountain, St Pierre Cathedral, Frankenstein monument, and the Palais des Nations. The top sights around the city can be done in a day or two depending how long you wish to spend at each location. The Natural History Museum is also worth checking out and spending a long afternoon here. Geneva is also a great spot for shopping and it helps if you’ve got a bit of cash to splash as many of the shops are high end. If that’s up your street, check out the Old Town, and depending on the days you are there, you might stumble upon the local markets.

On our final day we visited CERN, the science and innovation centre in Geneva, which is a short 25 minute tram ride from the Old Town. We were lucky enough to book on a free two hour tour which take place on a daily basis throughout the week. Tours become available 15 days prior to the date of the tour, and then another batch of tickets are released three days before the date of the tour. Apparently they sell out fast so you have got to be quick to book, but its definitely worth it if you are intrigued on their ground breaking innovations. At CERN, there are many physicists and engineers seeking answers to some of the world’s most powerful particle accelerators. It is really impressive and worth a tour if you have the time.

WHERE TO EAT. 

Geneva can be pretty expensive compared with other parts of Europe so its best to plan ahead for restaurants so you don’t get caught out with a hefty dinner bill. I did a LOT of researching online checking out different restaurant reviews, comparing prices and ensuring quality food and a good atmosphere. Travelling with my parents over my Dads birthday meant that I just had to find the perfect spot serving quality food but wasn’t going to cost us an arm and a leg. Our first night was spent at Café du Soleil and was our favourite dinner here in Geneva where we devoured a selection of super tasty chicken burgers and veggie burgers.

On our second night, we headed to Chez Ma Cuisine which offers a sampling of Swiss fast food. Famous for its half a chicken, which my parents and boyfriend thoroughly enjoyed, Chez ma Cuisine offers a cheery and warming atmosphere with home cooked food that is simply perfect for kicking back with after a busy day exploring. Both restaurants were affordable and we paid around £15 for a main while cocktails and beers tend to be a bit more expensive than back home in the UK coming in at around £15 a cocktail and £9 a beer. If you are splashing the cash on dinner, check out Café Papon by St Pierre Cathedral that has many top reviews.

DAY TRIP TO CHAMONIX 

HOW TO GET THERE. 

After seeing the most that Geneva city centre has to offer within a day, it is most definitely worth the two hour coach journey to the quaint town of Chamonix in France. Tours can charge a hefty fee of around £250+ per person, however, it is easy enough and much more affordable to take the coach and travel with your group there and back. A return ticket costs as little as £35 return with coaches leaving at various times throughout the day and returning quite late. We arrived around midday and headed back at 5pm and found that was the perfect length of time to explore Chamonix and get back to Geneva with enough time to enjoy dinner.

WHAT DO DO. 

Chamonix is a stunning town wedged in between mammoth mountains that is bound to leave you speechless. The scenery as soon as you step of the coach is breathtaking and after a short five minute stroll from the bus station you will be in the heart of Chamonix town where you can wander the cobbled streets featuring an abundance of charming shops, cafés, and restaurants. Although Chamonix has been a popular ski resort since the 19th Century, there is plenty to do even if you aren’t hitting the slopes such as wine and cheese tasting and visiting the various museums.

If you are feeling more adventurous, head up the ski lift and enjoy the spectacular views of the snow-topped mountains from above. This will cost as little as £15 for a return trip depending on how far up you go. We went three quarters of the way up to Aiguille Du Midi and the view was spectacular. You can spend as much time as you like once you arrive and there is a spot to grab a warm hot chocolate while you watch the skiers and snowboarders pass through the slopes. There is also opportunity to go on hiking trails, husky sledging, ice climbing, snowshoeing, and helicopter tours and paragliding. If you are planning an action packed trip, it might be best to book an overnight trip here or even spoil yourself with a few days.