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Europe, Montenegro, Museums, Travel

Visiting the Old Towns of Montenegro

September 18, 2017

Old Towns of Montenegro

When most people think of Montenegro, they think of the town of Kotor. However, Kotor is more than the just the town and includes much of the areas surrounding the Bay of Kotor. Montenegro also has so much more to see than just Kotor.

The highlights of Montenegro, for me, are the old towns or stari grads that dot the coastline of Montenegro. Three of these old towns are located on the Bay of Kotor the other two are located further south on the coast heading towards Albania.

Kotor

Kotor is the most well-known town in Montenegro. The region of Kotor itself is a UNESCO world heritage site and includes the old town. The old town dates back to the 13th or 14th century, although much of it was destroyed in the 1667 earthquake. Kotor has been held by many countries and seems to have changed hands back and forth many times even as recently at 1941 when it was part of Italy.

There are several entrances to the old town, and I suggest you explore the town from each one as it gives a different perspective. You can climb up to the walls in some sections as well. If you are ambitious, you can climb to the top of the mountain above to the fortress. If you want an amazing view of the fortress and walls at night, I suggest you eat dinner at the Hotel Hippocampus on their rooftop. It is not very big, so make reservations.

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Herceg Novi

Herceg Novi is the first town on the Bay of Kotor. It was founded in the late 14th century. The old town right on the water and it makes a difficult to reach as the new town has built up around it. You have to park and walk down a hill to the old town and then walk up some stairs into the town. There may be another way in, but I couldn’t find it.

Your goal is to get to the Forte Mare or Sea Fort to see the beautiful views. I definitely see why the people chose this spot. Herceg Novi’s old town isn’t as large as some others, but it has several beautiful churches to see.

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Perast

Perast is also located in the Bay of Kotor. The drive from Kotor to Perast is short. However, Perast is all old town, and you cannot drive into the town. There are parking lots at each end, which you have to pay to park.

However, Perast was my favorite old town in Montenegro. Perast was easily walkable since is flat. There is a small but good museum as well. Also, this is where the famous churches in the bay are located. Our Lady of the Rocks and Saint George Monastery are two island churches in the bay. Unfortunately, due to forest fires, I could never get a clear picture of them from Perast. You can take a boat to Our Lady of the Rocks. Saint George is private. Perast also has the highest bell tower on the Adriatic Coast.

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Budva

Getting out of the Bay of Kotor now we head to Budva. Budva’s old town is walled like Kotor’s. Budva is much older though and dates back to the 5th century. Another stunning location as Budva is right on the Adriatic Sea and has some great beaches even inside the old town and right outside as well. After you explore the old town, visit the Citadela inside the old town to see the old Citadel and have a delicious lunch with a view!

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Stari Bar

Further south, we come to Bar. Stari Bar or Old Bar is not in the new town. It is a short drive up the hill from modern Bar. Stari Bar is not as well preserved as some of the other old towns. However, because of its location, it offers stunning views of Bar, and you can see the Adriatic from Stari Bar. Some buildings have been restored, and you do have to pay a small fee to enter, but it goes to conservation.

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Old Towns of Montenegro

Sveti Stefan

Sveti Stefan make look familiar to you as it is a frequently used photo when people are writing about Montenegro. The secret is that this old town is now a resort and you can only go there if you have reservations to stay or restaurant reservations. Given the cost was over €800 a night, I wasn’t going to be staying there. However, if you are driving, you can stop at the bus stop on the hill above Sveti Stefan and get a great view of the whole island. You can also walk down the hill to the island and gawk at it!

Old Towns of Montenegro

Have you been to Montenegro? What was your favorite part?

Europe, Hungary, Travel

Guest Post: 48 Hours in Budapest

May 15, 2017

48 Hours in Budapest

This is a guest post from Jack at Find World’s Beauty

Budapest is an immensely beautiful, charming and diverse city that has risen to global prominence among travelers and expats alike over the last decade. Here are some suggestions on how to spend 2 days in the Hungarian capital.

Note as an introductory explanation that the Danube River divides the city into two main parts: Buda & Pest. Both parts offer an extensive array of sights while you should keep in mind that Pest is the most lively part where most of the actual residents live whereas Buda has served as the residence for the Hungarian kings for centuries and therefore contains the castle and fortifications.

Day 1: Dive deeper into the unique Hungarian culture while enjoying Budapest’s stunning architecture

Morning: Chain Bridge, Hungarian Parliament and Buda Castle

A morning stroll across the Chain Bridge will enable you to enjoy this wonderful feat of architecture in a peaceful manner before tourists invade the bridge in the afternoon. The bridge is furthermore an excellent place to take gorgeous pictures of the stunning Hungarian Parliament and the other architectural masterpieces that are situated along the Danube river.

48 Hours in Budapest

On the Buda side of the river, you will be able to take a funicular which takes you right up to Buda castle, the historical residence of the Hungarian kings. The hill moreover has some breathtaking viewpoints which offer fabulous views over the city and the river.48 Hours in Budapest

Afternoon: Hungarian National Museum and Market Hall

The Hungarian National Museum is a great place to learn about the unique place that the Hungarian culture and language (one of the oldest languages in Europe) occupies amid the European cultural landscape and is therefore definitely a good choice to get your annual history lesson in Budapest. Another afternoon activity would be a visit to the Market Hall where you can buy a wide range of local goods and delicacies if you wish to brush up on some Hungarian specialties.

Evening:  Enjoy a drink in the ruin pubs

Budapest has a buzzing ruin pub culture and the Szimpla Kert is the mother of those pubs which are like outside patios in rundown yet incredibly cozy buildings. When in the Hungarian capital, you should definitely not miss this typical nightlife scene and you will be pleasantly surprised by the amount of choice you have when it comes to ruin pubs and general nightlife options.

Day 2: Experience the beauty of Budapest from atop the hill and spend some time in the city’s trademark thermal baths

Morning: Hike up to Gellert Hill

One of the great nature related activities in Budapest is the hike up to Gellert Hill on top of which you will be rewarded with stunning views over the city. The path starts on the Buda side of the Danube close to Elizabeth bridge. The viewpoint can get crowded in the afternoon, which is why early birds will have the better experience.

Afternoon: Relax in the Thermal Baths

After having ascended to the top of Gellert Hill you will want to relax and there is no better way to ease your bones and chill your mind than to spend an afternoon in one of Budapest’s legendary thermal bath complexes. The Gellert Baths are situated close to the hike up the hill and offer various saunas, a large swimming pool and lots of comfy outdoor areas Szechenyi Baths are located in a stunning ancient complex which is an architectural gem but therefore also much more touristy. Note that huge parties are organized in Szechenyi Baths on special occasions if you happen to be in Budapest on one of those occasions you should definitely experience a thermal bath party, something Budapest does better than any other city in Europe.

48 Hours in Budapest

Evening: Enjoy an ice cold drink in the Ice Bar

Ice bars have become common in the world’s great cities and Budapest is no exception. Dive into this freezing drinks temple and taste one of Hungary’s strongest delicacies, Palinka (to enjoy with moderation). Budapest’s nightlife scene is varied and the Ice Bar is one of the more international alternatives. Like many attractions in Budapest, the Ice Bar suffers a bit from the huge tourism influx but it is still a unique place to enjoy a drink in the Hungarian capital.

48 Hours in Budapest

I hope you enjoyed this guest post by Jack on 48 Hours in Budapest as I did. Have you been to Budapest?

Please check out Jack’s Blog, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest to keep up with his travels.

Driving, Europe, Italy, Travel

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence

May 8, 2017
5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

For the past two summers, I have rented a car in Italy. Not only do I feel a little more local when I do this, but it also allows me to see the smaller towns that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Don’t worry driving in Italy isn’t as scary as people make it sound and Italian road trip is one of the best road trips!

Renting a Car

Renting a car in Italy is easy. I would recommend using Auto Europe, click here to check rates. I used them the last time I rented a car in Italy for the month, and they offered the best rates.

Rome is my starting point for renting a car because I cannot drive a manual transmission and there are more automatic cars available in Rome. Also, the rental desks are open till midnight. If you want to spend time in Rome, then I recommend renting the car after your time in Rome as parking in Rome is difficult and expensive.

Day 1 – Rome to Amelia

Once you arrive at the Rome Fiumicino Airport and rent your car, get on the road to your first stop or stay the night to rest up. If you come late in the day or are jet lagged, I recommend spending the night at the Hilton Rome Airport, check rates here. It is a short walk to the terminal and will allow you not to have to rent the car right after getting off the plane.

The first stop is the Parco di Monstri in Bomarzo, about one hour and a half from the Rome airport. This historic park is full of scary and wacky sculptures. Built by Pier Francesco Orsini in memory of his wife, Giulia Farnese in the 16th century. Both from well known Italian families.  The park is only accessible by car, so it is a must do while on a road trip in Italy. Allow 1-2 hours to explore the whole park.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence

The next stop is Amelia, which is only about 45 minutes away from the park. Amelia is one of my favorite towns in Italy, and some say it is the oldest city in Umbria. The walls are ancient and in fantastic condition. There is an archaeology museum and many beautiful churches to explore. For dinner, I recommend La Locanda del Conte Nitto, which has beautiful food and views of the ancient streets of Amelia.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence

Day 2 – Amelia to Assisi

Spend the morning finishing exploring Amelia and then head to the town of Assisi. If Assisi sounds familiar, it is because it is where St. Francis of Assisi was born. At the end of the town is the famous Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. The Basilica is stunning with views outside of the surrounding valley and colorful frescos inside. I recommend going early to beat the crowds.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence

After that walk, through the town to the other side and head to the Rocca Maggiore. The Rocca Maggiore is the town’s ancient defense fort and overlooks the whole area. If you head to the top of the tower, you get an even better view.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence

Stay the night in Assisi. You will want to, after all that walking. There is a public car park near the Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum hotel, which is the hotel I recommend in Assisi, check the rates here. Not only are the rooms located in a historic nunnery, but the hotel has a spa located in the Roman baths below. You can get a massage till eight at night, which is just the cure for you aching feet. Not only that you can eat with great views at the in-house restaurant of Eat Out, where the menu is seasonal and local.

Day 3 – Assisi to Gubbio

After enjoying your breakfast in Assisi, take the short drive to Perugia. Perugia is the capital of Umbria. It is known for its celebration of the arts. The highlight here is seeing the underground fortress, Rocca Paolina. The fort was started in 1540, and most of it was destroyed by the 19th century. Now you can explore the cellars and basements that are still standing.

Find more history in the short drive to Gubbio. Gubbio is a town built into the side of a small mountain and makes for stunning views of the city and the valley below. Due to it being integrated into the side of the mountain, you can take elevators from different levels of the town. There are tons of things to see in this city, but the architecture of dark gray stone buildings is intriguing and makes you fee like you have stepped back in time.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to Florence

Make sure you make it to the top level of the town to see the Cathedral of Gubbio. It has a stain glass window that is gorgeous. The views from up here are almost a must see. If you are really brave, you can take the funicular up to Basilica of Saint Ubaldo.

Day 4 – Gubbio to Siena

Spend a few hours in the morning exploring the things you didn’t get to see yesterday in Gubbio. Don’t forget to see the Palazzo dei Consoli built in the 14th century with running water. Then make a long drive to Siena. You are now in Tuscany! The entire historic center of Siena has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The highlight of this is the Siena Cathedral with its amazing gothic architecture.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to FlorenceThen make a long drive to Siena. You are now in Tuscany! The entire historic center of Siena has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The highlight of this is the Siena Cathedral with its amazing gothic architecture.

If you go to Siena in the summer, try to be there around the historic Palio di Siena. It is a medieval horse race that takes place in the Piazza del Campo. Who doesn’t want to see men ride horses through an ancient town in costume!

Day 5 – Siena to Florence

Given the short drive from Siena to Florence, you can spend the morning in Siena before heading to my favorite city in Italy, Florence. You will begin to see the rolling hills of Tuscany on this route. Driving through Umbria has you driving through the mountains, but now you will drive between them.

In Florence, you will return your rental car as driving in the historic center of Florence is limited to residences and can carry hefty fines if you do. Parking is also expensive. You will most likely have to return the car at the Florence airport. You can then take a taxi or the “Vola in Bus” shuttle, which takes you to the Florence train station.

There is so much to see in Florence, so you will need a few days to see it all. But on this first day, I recommend finding a museum that interests you and only do that on the first day. This way you won’t wear yourself out and can enjoy Florence to the fullest. I recommend the Hotel Plaza Lucchesi in Florence. I have stayed here on every trip I have had in Florence, check rates here.

5 Day Road Trip from Rome to FlorenceBook tickets in advance and see the Uffizi Gallery on the second day. You will avoid the long lines to get in this way. The Uffizi Gallery has something for every art lover. Be sure to see Botticelli’s Birth of Venus while you are there.

Have you gone on an Italian road trip, what was your favorite place? Share with us in the comments.

England, Europe, Travel

London from the River: A Photo Essay

May 1, 2017

London from the RiverThis last weekend in London, I spent much of my time on or near the Thames River. Viewing London from the river gives you a different perspective of the city, especially at night. Many of these photos were taken on a river cruise from the Thames barrier to Westminster, but you can also enjoy walking along the Thames to enjoy the same views by walking on the Thames Path.

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

London from the River

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