Thursday, February 7, 2013

What To Do In Florence - Italy

What to do in Florence? Michelangelo, renaissance, art and architecture, leather clothes, gold, Chianti wine can all be found in one place, and that is Florence.

The capital of the Kingdom of Italy between the years 1865-1870, Florence is the jewel of Tuscany and also one of the most visited cities of the Italian peninsula. Millions of art lovers step here each year and enjoy history which occurs at each corner of the street.

You can get to Florence cheaper by choosing a low cost flight from Pisa or Bologna (prices starting at 40 euros round trip) and further regional train for 6 euros and an hour travel time. A flight to Florence starts at 200 euros.

Accommodation in Florence is quite expensive, a double room starting from 60 € per night. Hostels have prices starting at 15 euros per night but none is located in the Centre of the city. If you want to relax more than to visit, you can choose to stay in one of the many hostels located in the hills surrounding Florence, between the plantation of vineyards and wonderful views. In general these hostels are available to customers from the bus connection to Florence.

Below are a few ideas on what to do in Florence.

The most important sights of Florence are located in the Centre, at short distances from each other. In fact, all of the Center is declared a historical monument and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Duomo in Florence is one of the "three great monuments of Italy”, next to the leaning tower of Pisa and the Colosseum in Rome. It was built in about 150 years and belongs to the neo-Gothic style. The interior is rich in drawings, paintings on the dome. If you wish, you can climb the 463 stairs up above the Cathedral to see the whole Center of Florence.

Another architectural symbol of Florence is the Ponte Vecchio. Crossing the River Arno from Palazzo Gentile to Palazzo Pitti, Ponte Vecchio is famous for gold jewelry shops built on it. The stores were originally butcher shops but in the 15th century the Medici family banned the sale of meat and gold jewelry took their place. Most are family businesses, passed down from generation to generation.

Although yon the streets of Florence you will see many copies of the famous statue "David" of Michelangelo, you should know that the original one is at Academia di Belle Arti. Here you'll find a small collection dedicated to Michelangelo containing several unfinished sculptures of the great artist.

Uffizi Gallery is one of the oldest art museums in Europe and is located inside the Uffizi Palace. Here you will find a lot of works of art belonging to Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Giotto, Raphael and Caravaggio. It's best to come early if you want to visit the gallery because in summer you can sit in the queue even five hours.

Pitti Palace, another architectural jewel of Florence, was the family residence of the Medici and now houses numerous museums and exhibitions, among which: the modern art gallery, Royal Apartments, the Museum of silver, porcelain Museum. The palace garden is called Boboli and is very large, with a collection of statues, dating from the 16th-18th centuries.

If you get tired after you walked a whole day in Florence you can buy an ice-cream from Bar Vivoli (near Santa Croce, famous for its great ice cream) and you can climb in Piazzale Michelangelo to admire the sunset over the city.

Even after sundown, Florence is a city full of life, with many clubs with live music, where you can party until late at night, or early morning.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Top Destinations in France

France is one of the most visited countries in the world. Thanks to the diversity of its tourist attractions, France attracts millions of tourists every year: modern cities, luxury resorts, historic monuments, works of art, natural beauty, an internationally famous gastronomy, fashion, shopping, etc. Below are listed some of the top destinations in France.

1. Cities in France

The most interesting cities to visit in France are Paris, Lyon, Cannes, Bordeaux, Avignon, Dijon, Marseille, Nice, Strasbourg, Toulouse and Saint Tropez.

The main city to visit is Paris, but others should also be visited on long trips all over France or in the gastronomic holidays such as tours to wine cellars.

2. Mont Saint-Michel

A special destination in France is Mont Saint-Michel. It is subject to half-day excursions or a full day for those passing through Normandy. The island is particularly attractive for tourists due to its rich history, beginning in the 6th century BC and especially due to its spectacular panorama.

3. Notre Dame de Reims

The Cathedral of Reims is one of the most important religious buildings in the world, being visited by approximately 500,000 tourists a year. Declared UNESCO World Heritage site, the Cathedral is known especially thanks to the crowning of the Kings of ceremonies that have taken place here.

4. Monaco

Principality of Monaco is a temptation for all tourists who cross the coastal zone of France. Its rich and famous inhabitants, civilized and groomed places, and its natural beauty are just some of the attributes of the Principality.

5. The French Alps

In the French Alps is Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe, with an altitude of 4808 meters. Many tourists come to mountain resorts here to ski and to enjoy a holiday in nature. Valleys, lakes and forests here are particularly beautiful. The most known mountain resorts have pretty high prices, but well worth it.

6. The Castles of the Loire Valley

The castles of the Loire Valley can be visited only partially, but there are many tourists who choose to spend their vacation here. Chambord is the best known of these.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Cities To Visit In Portugal

Tourist Cities to visit in Portugal

Lisbon is located on the West of the country, on the Atlantic Ocean, where the river Tejo spills into the ocean.The heart of the city is "Baixa" or "Lower Town", where you will find the castle of São Jorge and Santa Maria Maior Cathedral. The oldest district of the city is Alfama, close to the river Tejo. Other important monuments: the Belém Tower, military construction for monitoring entry into the city's port, the Jerónimos Monastery, built to the desire of King Manuel I, Castelo São Gamar (the castle of St. George), the highest hill of the city, the Convento do Carmo.

Porto is second in size and importance in Portugal. The inhabitants of Porto called themselves tripeiros, name that’s in use today too. One of Portugal's popular products worldwide is Porto wine. Its name comes from the fact that it was closed in the cellars of the sister-city of Porto, Vila Nova de Gaia, across the River. Italian architect Nasoni designed a tower which was built in the central areas of the city, becoming its icon: the Torre dos Clérigos.

Sintra has become a major tourist attraction, with many tourists a day, coming from the surroundings of Lisbon. Sights include the fabulous Pena Palace (19th century), and the Castelo dos Mouros, with splendid views over the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, and the summer residence of the Kings of Portugal-Palácio Nacional de Sintra. The Sintra Mountain Range, one of the largest parks in the Lisbon area, is also a significant tourist attraction.

Braga – with an interesting and attractive historical center, where you can visit: Casa dos Crivos (18th century), the Church of Santa Cruz (16th-18th centuries), the Cathedral (12th-18th centuries), City Hall (18th century), the Archiepiscopal Palace (14th-18th centuries), the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden, Staircase (18th century), the Tibaes Monastery, Ponte de Lima and Viana do Castelo.

Fatima-one of the most popular places of pilgrimage for Christians.

Coimbra-the birthplace of 6 Kings of Portugal, you can visit: University, Library of University of Coimbra. In the medieval area of the city it’s worth visiting the Church of Santa Cruz (the famous sculptures of Nicolau de Chanterrena) and the monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Budapest Bridges

Bridges that unite Buda with Pest:

The Chain Bridge
The first permanent bridge over the Danube River. Count Istvan Szechenyi was forced to wait a week to be able to cross the River to be able to bury his father. When it was decided the construction of a permanent bridge over the River, architect William Clark oversaw the construction. The bridge was completed in 1849. Now it is a magnificent symbol of the city, lit during the night. In 1999, a grand ceremony marked 150 years since the construction of the bridge and then new reflectors were installed.

Elizabeth Bridge
The bridge carries the name of Queen Elizabeth, the beloved of the people. Originally built in Eclectic style, the bridge was destroyed so much by the German troops in 1945 that the rebuilding was out of the question. A new bridge was rebuilt later in its place trying to emulate the original.

Liberty Bridge
The bridge was built in 1896 as part of a series of monuments, built on the occasion of commemorating the 1,000 years of the arrival of the Hungarians in the Carpathian basin. The third bridge over the River, it was originally named after Francis Joseph: the King himself personally assisted when the last bridge post was put in place. Helpless in the face of destiny, the bridge was also destroyed during the war, but was later rebuilt.

Margaret Bridge
The second permanent bridge of Budapest, it was built between 1872 and 1876. It was based on the plans of a French architect. The bridge is supported in the middle by a pillar located on Margaret Island, the only section of the bridge that has been preserved from the original structure.

Margaret Island
The green patch of Budapest is called Margaret Island, located in the middle of the Danube between Margaret Bridge and the Arpad Bridge. Originally there were three islands, but the tides of the river joined them into an island of only 2, 5 km in length. The island has been inhabited since the Roman period. In the middle ages the monks have preferred it for the silence here and the Kings used it as an ideal hunting place. The island took the name Margret (Margaret), after the daughter of King Bela IV (Adalbert), who gave up the world and joined the monastery of nuns on the island after he survived the invasion by Tartars in the 13th-century. The Ottoman occupation from the 15th century put an end to the flourishing period through which the island was going through. After centuries of decline, the island was reborn in the 19th century when it became a park and recreation area, open to the public. Building the Margaret Bridge made it possible for those riding horses to come to the island.

Now here you can take walks or bike rides along the healthy island. It is also preferred by those who are running in the morning. Tourists can admire the Japanese, English and French gardens, which alternate with the ruins of the ancient monastery of nuns, and admire the old water tower. Here is also the largest pool discovered in Budapest-Palatinus, and a theater.

In the North of the island lies the hotel Margaret Island, surrounded by the modern Thermal Baths with the same name.

What To Do In Budapest

What To Do In Budapest

The metropolis of about two million inhabitants is divided by the Danube in two cities: Buda, with medieval houses, churches and cathedrals, and Pesta, with boulevards and elegant and impressive buildings, linked together by the 8 bridges. Attractions: the Parliament Building, Chain Bridge, the Opera House, Bastion, thermal baths and more. Danube is part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites; it is easy to understand if you have a chance to admire it during the evening when everything is lit up.

Budapest looks like this:
* Roman amphitheaters
* Turkish baths 400-year-old,
* 237 national monuments
* 223 museums and galleries, 40 theaters, 54 cinemas, concert halls,
* Over 200 venues with varied entertainment.

Here are some suggestions on what to do in Budapest and have a great time! 

Danube River cruises, day and night
The most beautiful panorama over the city is offered by taking a ride on the Danube. You can choose a cruise during the day and you will be able to enjoy including the island of Margarita, or you can choose to cruise the endless night when lights offer a unique show. During the cruise you can listen even in English (along with 29 other languages) legends of the Danube and of the attractions besides the passing ship. The hosts will serve you, of your choice, with a glass of wine, beer or juice. Ships are waiting for you in the Hotel Marriott and cost 3,600 forints for the day cruise, and 4,200 forints for the night cruise.

Budapest Card
It is a kind of "open Sesame!" to museums, transport, and other cultural events. Budapest Card Motto is "you have the whole city in your Pocket", because with it you have free and unlimited public transport, free entry to 60 museums and sights, city tour at half price, with price tickets reduced to shows and folklore programs, discounts in restaurants and thermal baths, car renting discounts, gymnasiums and other places. The card is valid for 48 hours for a cost of 4.350 forints or 72 hours and cost 5.450 forints. Each card is valid for an adult and a child up to 14 years old.

Sights in Buda:

The Royal Palace
It is located in the southern part of the Hill of the Castle as it is commonly referred the hill on which stand the main sights of Buda. The medieval Palace that was originally built here was destroyed during the Turkish invaders fights, only the walls of the fortress remaining to this day. These have been completed by a new and grand Palace in baroque style by Maria Theresa which was then expanded in the 19th century. The Palace itself was destroyed during the Second World War. "Unfortunately there is no place today in the Palace to allow visitors to take a look at the Grand apartments in the interiors of former Kings. Today, it functions as the headquarters of culture institutions and museums: the Hungarian National Gallery, the national Szechenyi Library, Museum of contemporary art and the Museum of the history of Budapest.

Matthias Church
The Church carries the name of King Matthias, who has been engaged twice in the altar. The Cathedral is almost as old as the Royal Palace and was the place of many crowning ceremonies. Each King and every era has left traces on the building of the Church before the Turkish invasion and the occupation of Buda in 1541. Then the Church was transformed into a mosque, and the chalk covered the medieval frescoes. Matthias Church took the form of the current at the end of the century when a lot of small buildings that were attached were demolished, and the Church was rebuilt in a neo-Gothic style. Besides the biblical scenes, the frescoes depict the most important passages in the history of Hungary. The magnificent acoustics makes it for many concerts to take place here.

Tourist attractions in Pesta:

The Parliament
Built at the end of the century, the building of the Parliament quickly became a symbol of Budapest and of the Danube Panorama. A typical Eclectic building, patterned with many small statues made of stone, is one of the most decorated buildings of the capital. It is one of the largest buildings in the world. Majestic stone lions flank the main entrance, followed by a staircase that leads into the City Room, where they keep the most elegant receptions. Two wings open up here, for the two chambers of the Parliament upper House and the lower House.

Budapest is proud to have one of the most beautiful Opera buildings in the world. The Renaissance-style building was completed in 1884 after nine years of construction. The main stairs were decorated with frescoes ny three great Hungarian painters: Seema Szekely, Die Than and Károly Lotz. The composer Puccini himself conducted the premieres of two works here.

It's worth a visit even if you're not a big fan of this musical genre.

Vaci Street(Vaci Utca)
This was the first street in Budapest that banned cars, becoming the most popular commercial Street. This is the shopping street and the promenade in Budapest. In the middle of the day and of course the evening, walking on the Vaci street has become the most fashionable trend of the last century, shopping here have become more expensive, and over time, only the top fashion houses opened stores here.

Find out more about what to do in Hungary

Sunday, January 6, 2013

What To Do In Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a miniature capital when compared with other European capitals. It's not even the biggest city in Scotland (this status is reserved for Glasgow).

The advantage, however, of having only 500,000 inhabitants, the capital is small enough to allow quick access to all major attractions.

Edinburgh sets itself apart from other European capitals and big cities - -not in terms of number or grandeur of its attractions, but in the unique and varied scenery from different heights which tourists can enjoy. For those who love nature and landscapes, and especially for photographers, Edinburgh, known as the Athens of the North, it's a dream come true, definitely worth visiting on your Great Britain holidays.

In conclusion, no other European capital is so compact and offers views of both the varied and different as well as Edinburgh.

Main tourist attractions in Edinburgh:

1. Old Town

Most of the attractions of Edinburgh are in the Old Town, the medieval center of the capital. All the places and monuments tell the story of a turbulent past and the mysterious legends of the Old Town.

Edinburgh Castle
The main attraction of the Old Town is, of course, Edinburgh Castle, the most visited Castle in Scotland. Following is the Royal Mile, the historical Street 1.5 km long that connects the castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official residence in Scotland.

The Royal Mile is the backbone of the city, many of the main attractions being located here. The street has on both sides very narrow side streets, known as closes and wynds. The most beautiful of these is the Advocate's Close, where you can see the Monument of Scott, but the most visited is Mary King's Close. The Royal Mile is also sprinkled with numerous churches, the most imposing being the Cathedral of St Giles.

Walking on the narrow streets of the old town you will find:

The story of Deacon Brodie, a respected citizen of the city by day and burglar by night whose double life inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
About Burke and Hare, serial killers who have exploited the growing demand of corpses from the students of the medicine so they committed 17 murders.
The story of Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye Terrier dog whose loyalty of his master, from whose tomb he didn’t split up until his death. His story impressed so much that he was raised a bronze statue in front of the Greyfriars cemetery.
Much of the Old Town consists of high-rise buildings of 6-7 floors of at least 4-500 years old. They are the first skyscraper in Edinburgh (due to lack of space, the municipality decided to develop vertically).

Other famous attractions of the Old Town are: Ramsay Gardens, the most expensive residential area of Edinburgh, Holyrood Park and streets Victoria Street and Greyfriars Cemetery Street, Candlemaker Row (the resting place of the famous Skye Terrier, Greyfriars Bobby).

Calton Hill, Edinburgh
2. Calton Hill

Calton Hill offers, without doubt, the most beautiful views of Edinburgh. Located in Waterloo Place, a few hundred yards from the East end of Princes Street, on Calton Hill you find: Nelson's Monument (you can climb to the top), Dugald Stewart Monument, and the National Monument.

From Calton Hill one can admire the whole historical center of the city, the River Forth estuary with Inchkeith Island, extinct volcano Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags, the Palace of Holyroodhouse and in the distance, to the East of the Pentland Hills.

The views are great at sunset, in the evening, and in the morning till 10 am.

3. Holyrood

The entire Holyrood area is located at the East end of Royal Mile. The main attraction is the Palace of Holyrood House and the new building of the Parliament of Scotland, whose vanguardist architecture and budget which was exceeded many times have sparked strong controversy.

Palace of Holyrood House 
Once these attractions are visited, many tourists turn to the center, where the main attraction arises, in fact, behind these buildings.

From Holyrood you can go on a winding climb to Salisbury Crags, the cliffs perfectly vertical and distinctive, an image one can see from anywhere in the city. The path goes to the base of Arthur's Seat, the extinct volcano in the shape of a camel image seen from dozens of miles away.

Walking is pleasurable, but the views are superb. From here you can see the Edinburgh Castle and the main monuments of the city, Calton Hill, Firth of Forth, the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the new Parliament of Scotland.

After the pass of Salisbury Crags, you can take a path that takes you up to Arthur's Seat, the highest point in the city, with incredible views in all directions, or on the plateau above Salisbury steeps. The most beautiful sights are early morning and evening, at sunset.

4. New Town

Princes Street and its adjacent Gardens split Edinburgh into Old Town (to the South) and New Town (to the North). In the New Town are some of the most beautiful examples of residential architecture in Europe. This area is often neglected by tourists in favor of the Old Town.

New Town is not new, not by our standards. It was built in the 18th century when the Old Town had become so crowded, dirty and noisy, that the rich, which at the time used to live in the same building with the poor, pressured the city to expand the city to the North. Thus was born the New Town with its wide streets, large buildings and private green spaces where they moved the families of wealthy individuals.

Princess Street from Nelson's Monument
Princes Street is the main street in this area; however, commercial interests have ruined over the years its architectural facade. At first, though, here lived the richest citizens of the city who have used influence to prevent the construction of buildings in Princes Street Gardens. The Reason? It would have screwed up the view towards the Castle.

The main attractions in the area are: Charlotte Square, where is the residence of the Prime Minister of Scotland; St Andrew's Square, at the other end of Princes Street, where is the Royal Bank of Scotland; Rose Street, the street full of pubs and terraces, beautifully adorned with flowers; Moray Place and Ainslie Place, two residential areas in the form of a perfect circle; St Mary's Cathedral and the adjacent streets, Grosvenor's Crescent and Glencairn Crescent, both excellent examples of Georgian architecture; Belford Road and Dean Gallery.

5. Leith

Leith is the docks area in Edinburgh, an area with a fascinating history. Sadly, many tourists come here just to visit the Royal Yacht Britannia, the yacht docked permanently in Leith, where Prince Charles and Diana spent their honeymoon, or to do shopping at Ocean Terminal.

Beyond the period of decay after the Second World War, Leith has become in recent years an area attractive for both tourists and locals, with many pubs, terraces and restaurants. It’s worth to take a stroll through the port and nearby residential neighborhoods.

Shopping in Edinburgh

Aside from Princes Street, Edinburgh's main shopping street where you can find big names like H & M, Debenhams, Next, Marks & Spencer, HMV, Clarks, Gap, Burton, Dorothy Perkins and others, there are many shopping malls and outlets where you can spend your pounds: Fort Kinnaird (Lothian bus No 30), Straiton (Lothian bus No. 37/47), Gyle (Lothian bus No. 22), the Ocean Terminal (Lothian bus No. 22).

Find out other places where to visit in Scotland

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What To Do In Kiev

Kiev, is the largest city and the capital of Ukraine, is considered to be the city with the oldest places of worship in the former Soviet space, some of them dating from the 11th century.

The most beautiful sights of Kiev are old churches, most of them being the most important in the Orthodox religion, as in Kiev began the christening of Russia and the Orthodox religion.

Chernobyl Museum, set up on April 26, 1992, tells the story of the accident at Chernobyl that remains the most severe radiological disaster in the history of humanity.

The House with chimeras, characterized by sophisticated architectural forms, pipes shaped as elephant horns, giant sea, mermaids and other figures which are built of cement, by Wladislaw Kyivite Horodecki, is considered to be the most unique structure in Kiev.

At the National Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War you will be able to see over 300,000 exhibits.

The statue of Mother Motherland, with a height of 60 meters, and war memorials, which is located in the center of the National Museum of the history of the Great Patriotic War, is Soviet era-specific statuary.

Golden Gate
Through the Golden Gate, Zoloti Vorota, you can enter the city. The Golden Gate was built in the 11th century by Prince Yaroslav the Wise and reconstruction of the Golden Gate of Kiev described by Mussorgski, which currently serves as a Museum, but the ruins of ancient Kiev Golden Gate are included on the list of UNESCO World objectives.

TV Tower (vezha Televiziyna), which is not accessible to tourists, is the tallest Tower in metallic grating in the world.

The monastic complex Pecherskaya Larva (Lavra Cave) comprises of more than 100 buildings, workshops of painting and tailoring for priestly, museums, caves, and in the center you can visit the Cathedral of St. Sofia and St. Michael's Cathedral, built by Prince Sviatopolk in 1108.

St Sophia Cathedral
Independence Square (Maydan Nezalezhnosti) is important because of the political events of the 2004 Orange Revolution to Yuschenko's supporters. In the Independence Square is the Ukraine Shopping Center, a giant underground mall.

Mariyinsky Palace, built in neoclassical style, is the official ceremonial residence of the President of Ukraine.

The Aviation Museum, which is located within the airport Zhulyany, exhibits impressive war planes.

Other tourist attractions of Kiev: Kiev Opera House, the National Museum of art, the National Museum of history, St. Michael's Cathedral, St. Andrew's Church, Botanical Garden Gryshko etc.

Read What To See In Ukraine if you plan to travel to this European hidden treasure.