Paris, France

Paris, France’s capital, is a major European city and a global center for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture. Its 19th-century cityscape is crisscrossed by wide boulevards and the River Seine. Here is my recommended itinerary:

Tip: All the main sites are very walkable because there are always things to see along the way! So don’t be stuck in their chaotic underground system, just walk everywhere.

Day 1:

  1. Notre-Dam and Pont Neuf where you can see a few locks on the bridge which you can cross to get to the other side for the LourveIMG_20171208_180257_315
  2. The Lourve for its unique pyramid structure and of course, the Mona Lisa inside. Free entry for students btw. Might as well visit the Jardin Des Tuileries and the Ferris Wheel
  3. Stop by Pont Alexander III for its beautiful bridge and shot of the Eiffel from afarIMG_20171209_140720_422
  4. Carry on to the Champs-eleysee and walk its entire length
  5. Reach the Arc De Triomphe IMG_20171209_212850_787
  6. Walk to the Eiffel tower, its surroundings for photos from all angles, and the best view from Trocadero

Day 2:

  1. Moulin Rouge
  2. Sacre-Coeur 20171209_102809
  3. Opera20171210_0954491.jpg
  4. Galeries Lafayette, particularly beautiful during Christmas because of its decorations

Food:

My favourite snack: Definitey try Maxim’s crepe snack

My favourite macaroon brand: Pierre Herme

My favourite bakery – Le Grenier a Pain. Make sure you get their baguettes and croissants ( in between Sacre Coeur and Moulin Rouge)

Bologna, Italy

Bologna is the lively, historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, in northern Italy. Its Piazza Maggiore is a sprawling plaza lined with arched colonnades, cafes and medieval and Renaissance structures such as City Hall, the Fountain of Neptune and the Basilica di San Petronio. Among the city’s many medieval towers are the Two Towers, leaning Asinelli and Garisenda. Top recommendations:

  1. Climb the medieval leaning towers ( Due Torri- Torre deli Asinelli) to get a birds eye view of Bologna city, you have to buy tickets (3 euros) from Piazza Maggiore tourist information centre. 498 steps, spiralling up!
  2. Visit Piazza Maggiore, the center of Bologna’s political and social life since the 13th century when the square and the buildings surrounding it began being built. It is one of the biggest and oldest squares in Italy. The buildings that surround the square are Palazzo re Enzo and Toree Dell’Arengo, Neptune fountain, Palazzo D’accursio, Palazzo Del Pedestal and Basilica of San Petronio.
  3. Santo Stefano church20171128_113751
  4. Walk the narrow streets surrounding Piazza Maggiore where you can find various cafes, market stalls and shops20171128_105206
  5. Have plenty of pasta! 20171128_124508.jpg

 

Trento and Asiago, Italy

Trento is a city in the Trentino–Alto Adige region of northern Italy. I was lucky enough to have had a local friend take me around which also included visiting Lake caldonazzo and Asiago town. Catch the Christmas markets if you go in December! Top 5 recommendations:

  1. Visit Piaza Fiera where you can find the Christmas market selling local products and food stalls. You will have to try Goulash and plantain, a common dish here. Just outside Trento train station there is also a nice park (although I was told the park was created to try improve the safety of that particular area, so be careful).23915698_10157236784318849_1989658320170067178_n 

  2. Trento Cathedral, featuring a rose window and a baroque chapel, sits on Piazza Duomo and Neptune fountain right in front. And diagonal from the cathedral, behind the fountain, you can find Case Cazuffi-Rella, a Renaissance building with a frescoed facade (washed out painting on the building, bottom left image). 

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  3. Loacker cafe! Even though it’s an Austrian brand, they have a dedicated Loacker cafe in the city centre, great for breakfast.20171126_112225
  4. Lake Caldonazzo. In the Summer, a lot of people visit from Germany to chill here23844460_10157236784208849_4957956520050855077_n
  5. Asiago town centre – a minor township in the surrounding plateau region in the Province of Vicenza in the Veneto region of Northeastern Italy. It took about 1h to drive from Trento, passing by the lake along the way.23915626_10157236783463849_4248685400442187806_n23915680_10157236783518849_1867737988198450114_n23843552_10157236783603849_1755541038535597556_n

 

 

Verona, Italy

Verona is a city in northern Italy’s Veneto region, with a medieval old town built between the meandering Adige River. It’s famous for being the setting of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” A 14th-century residence with a tiny balcony overlooking a courtyard is said be “Juliet’s House.” The town feels very romantic and grand, and is very walkable in one day. Even though it was raining, I know this is a truly beautiful town! Top 5 recommendations:

  1. Visit Juliet’s Balcony which includes the love lock wall and golden stature of Juliet. You are apparently meant to take a photo with her, and cup one boob! Secret tip: to get the best shot of the balcony, there is a free upper viewing spot in the embroidery shop on the corner which no one seems to have noticed when I was there!
  2. Stand on a bridge to take in the views24129763_10157233530103849_5324088592873257583_n23905350_10157233530188849_1957372781712107191_n
  3. Try Venchi, you can find this chocolate brand across Italy.
  4. Visit the Verona Arena, which sort of looks like the colosseum in Rome! Although this was for Opera purposes rather than bull fighting.
  5. Have a meal at Osteria al Duca. You have to lunch between 12-2 if not you’ll miss out on food! Italian’s take a break after this time and close up. Also, this restaurant gets very crowded, so plan ahead, it’s a famous local place.20171125_140229

Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Yorkshire is a historic county in northern England. It’s known for its Roman and Viking heritage, as well as its Norman castles, medieval abbeys, Industrial Revolution-era cities and 2 national parks. My recommendations:

  1. Hike the Yorkshire Dales! I did a circular 20 mile loop from Grassington and stayed overnight at Grassington Bunk barn the day before to start early in the morning.
  2. Yorkshire Moors and Whitby day tour. This tour takes in the highlights of the area in including Goathland, the stunning seaside town of Whitby, Helmsley and the Vale of York.
  3. York Minster, Betty’s tea room, spot random cat sculptures and cute pubs throughout the beautiful town centre!
  4. York Chocolate story and the Shambles. I didn’t realise brands like Smarties, After Eight, Terry’s Chocolate Orange and Kit-Kat came from York! You get to make your own chocolate too during the tour. The Shambles is known for its timber buildings that look like they are going to collapse as they lean in towards the road.
  5. York Castle Museum and Cliffords Tower. I really enjoyed the museum with plenty of history to be learnt and remembered.

Accommodation recommendation in York: Air B&B YO1 9TJ Steve was my host. Probably the only AirB&B in the town centre!

Munich, Germany

Munich, Bavaria’s capital, is home to centuries-old buildings and numerous museums. In the Altstadt (Old Town), central Marienplatz square contains landmarks such as Neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (town hall), with a popular glockenspiel show that chimes and reenacts stories from the 16th century. Here are my recommendations:

  1. Neuschwanstein Castle, also famously known for inspiring Disneyland’s Castle. Make sure you book tickets in advance to avoid disappointment as they allocate time slots and are always very busy.  You can pay later (12euros per person) but just pre-book a slot! It takes 2hours from the central main station followed by a short bus ride. You get incredible views from here and can also consider visiting the castle next door called Hohenschwangau castle (the yellow one)

  2. Dachau concentration camp 5h half day tour where you will experience the memorial to the holocaust and learn about the history and workings of the camp. I don’t have any pictures to post here for sensitivity reasons, but would still recommend this insightful visit.
  3. BMW museum and world where you can test cars, see how designs have changed over the years and admire the architecture of the building.13240623_10155140864643849_318971308103394758_n
  4. Historic residence and treasury – see the collections and learn some history13265923_10155140865853849_4249492002833796793_n
  5. Marienplatzs is a central square in the city centre of Munich. It has been the city’s main square since 1158. Look out in particular for the New City Hall (Neues Rathaus) on the North side with a Glockenspeil in the tower. 13254649_10155140854698849_6015921144990356539_o

 

Zante, Greece

Zakynthos is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea and a well-known summer resort. The harbor city of Zakynthos is the capital and major hub, centered around waterfront Solomos Square. Popular beaches like Agios Nikolaos, Alykanas and Tsilivi offer swimming and water sports. Accessed by boat, Navagio beach is the site of a famed 1980 shipwreck resting in a sandy cove framed by cliffs. Your perfect beach getaway with crystal clear waters and sea turtles!

Note: There are no buses from the airport, you’ll have to take a taxi which won’t cost very much as all the main beaches and Zante town is super close. Kalamaki beach is the closest to the airport.

Here are my recommendations:

  1. Shipwreck Beach and Blue caves departing from Laganas beach. You can climb the ship but just be careful because it’s quite rusty and has many sharp edges. This tour was also suppose to include the famous view point to look down at Shipwreck Beach, but unfortunately there was a forest fire going on that entire weekend ><
  2.  Turtle Island (Marathonisi) and Keri caves departing from Keri beach. You’ll have time to swim in the caves and chill at turtle beach as part of the tour.
  3. Laganas (Party town at night) and Kalamaki beach. You can rent pedal boats, kayaks and all types of fun floats to relax in the sea. Plenty of restaurants to choose from as these two beaches are connected. Most people choose to stay here (in terms of accom)
  4. Xigia Beach, known as Zante’s natural spa as the water is quite sulphuric and you can smell it (like rotten eggs but not as strong as Iceland)
  5. Zante Town

Must try dessert: Frigania. Extremely sweet, kinda like a Banoffee pie. My photo isn’t great, but it was really yummy!

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Tenerife, Spain

Tenerife is the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, off West Africa. It’s dominated by Mt. Teide, a dormant volcano that is Spain’s tallest peak.  The island has many beaches (with sands from yellow to black) and resort areas, including Los Cristianos and Playa de las Américas.

  1. Hike Masca taking less than 3hours from the top of the mountain to the sea where you can then take a boat/water taxi back to Los Gigantes-  Beginning amongst giant agave spikes and prickly pear cactus, the terrain gives way to the valley floor where, fed by underground currents, mini forests of willowy cane and lush ferns frame gentle waterfalls and still ponds of emerald translucency. You can swim as you wait for your boat to arrive, so bring your swim stuff and towel.
  2. Go jet-skiing near where you get off the boat after your hike10900093_10153926628458849_2775179284665471745_o
  3. Tiede quad safari. The guide takes photos on the trip which you can then purchase after for memories and to support their business. Mount Teide is a volcano on Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain. Its 3,718-metre summit is the highest point in Spain and the highest point above sea level in the islands of the Atlantic11036498_10153926625273849_1789620945618698312_n17991_10153926625158849_7564016527436502834_n
  4. Siam Park – famous waterpark with the coolest almost 90 degree slide! Remember to keep your legs together, crossed at the ankle for safety. Pre-buy your tickets and online to avoid long queues, make sure you print it out and make sure you arrive well before opening hours.
  5. Los Cristianos Beach because it was closest to my hotel – The beaches are beautiful and it has a harbour that offers fishing trips, pleasure cruises, outings on glass bottom boats, diving excursions and ferries to the neighbouring island of La Gomera.

Extra note: Playa de las Américas is next to Los Christians beach where you can go to party the night away

 

Marbella and Malaga, Spain

Málaga is a port city on southern Spain’s Costa del Sol, known for its high-rise hotels and resorts jutting up from yellow-sand beaches. You can catch a bus or cab from Malaga to Marbella (50min journey) to enjoy its famous resort area of sandy Mediterranean beaches, villas, hotels and golf courses. West of Marbella town, the Golden Mile of prestigious nightclubs and coastal estates leads to Puerto Banús marina, filled with luxury yachts, and surrounded by upmarket boutiques and bars. Here are my top 5 recommendations:

 

  1. Puerto Banus marine Marbella
  2. 4×4 Ronda Tour by Monta Aventura eco tours where you will see Ronda, learn a lot about nature and also see the well-known Sony “Smurf Village” in Júzcar. I highly recommend this tour, it was really educational and covered a lot.

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  3. Visit Malaga bullring –  La Malagueta is a world-class bullring, seating as many as 9,032 spectators and holding the most important events of the bullfighting season, like the Easter bullfights, the Picassian Gala, the August Fair or the bullfight dedicated to Málaga’s Patroness.
  4. Walk along Malaga port or do a segway ride! You’ll pass by Centre Pompidou, a stand out colourful cube building.
  5. Visit the cathedral, Alcazaba and the Roman ampi theatre, all in close walking distance from one another in down town Malaga.

 

Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwan is a small island nation 180km east of China with modern cities, traditional Chinese temples, hot springs resorts and dramatic mountainous terrain. Taipei is it’s capital up North. I was in Taipei for over 2 months to learn mandarin, ended up falling in love with the place so visited a year later making it extremely difficult for me to narrow down my top recommendations! But here goes nothing:

In Taipei:

  1. Climb Xiang Shan for a view of Taipei, in particular of the 101 tower. Of course, why not do this and watch sunset! Tip: Don’t pay to go up the tower, book your place in Starbucks for a free view since you just pay for your drink. 

  2. Visit Yang Ming Shan both in the day and at night and have a meal up top, but be sure to book in advance as it always gets busy. Ride a scooter if you dare to, everyone has a bike in Taiwan! 

  3. Visit Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, National Palace Museum and Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. These are significant places and beautiful grounds. You can even see dancers practicing around the buildings if you’re lucky. I love how their government is extremely open about arts, culture and hip-hop. 

  4. Taiwan is extremely famous for its night markets, my favourites in Taipei being Shilin night market and Roehe night market. Enjoy all the hawker foods, different types of noodles and make sure you try their mango ice dessert. 

  5. Continuing on about food, try their most famous bubble tea found near Gong Guan station and have Ma La hotpot13439089_10155274884843849_2604827805510471771_n11781597_10154305216023849_3762681800303357996_n13533200_10155267507648849_4735290308080891108_n
  6. The Chinese course I did was through the mandarin learning centre at National Taipei Normal University. However, my mandarin improved by joining HRC dance school where I got to interact with the locals on a day-to-day basis. If you’re into dancing, I highly recommend their studio which has two locations in Taipei. And of course, catch all the dance related camps/festivals/competitions that go on! 

  7. Visit the upside down house in Hua Shan creative park which also has other exhibitions you can visit e.g. where is wally. 

  8. Visit Yi Lan beach where I first tried surfing!13557666_10155269511323849_597601209174748538_n
  9. Visit Ying Ge famous for its pottery 

  10. If you are into hiking, you’re visiting the right place. There are so many trails with amazing views and waterfalls in a lot of the places. 13615417_10155278469828849_3243686137910364284_n
    13584882_10155278470608849_380501687499313859_o
    绢丝瀑布, 冷水坑 & 擎天岗

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    Shifen Waterfall

Please see my other post about things to do outside of Taipei which are all accessible from Taipei, especially with their high speed rail system.