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Europe Archives - Air Canada Vacations

14 Sep


The Best Time to Visit Portugal

September 14, 2018 | By |

It’s impossible to resist the many charms of Spain’s friendly coastal neighbour. Perpetually sunny, rich in culture and history and naturally breathtaking, Portugal paints a pretty picture year-round. Check out our breakdown of the best times to go to Portugal.

Spring & Summer

It’s no secret that hotter days and warmer waters bring in bigger crowds. That being said, the numerous outdoor festivals and balmy beach weather welcoming you between May and July deter shrugging off a spring or summer Portugal vacation.

Festival Frenzy

Portuguese people honour their saints in very interesting ways. Case in point: the Festa de Santo Antonio in Lisbon. It pays homage to Lisbon’s patron saint with feasts of grilled fish, street parties to rhythmic fado music and…free weddings! Meanwhile, you might want a hard hat for Porto’s Festa de São João, an eccentric tribute to Saint John the Baptist. Festivities include the odd tradition of banging revellers on the head with colourful plastic mallets, as well as more typical goings-on like fireworks and dancing.

If you worship a more modern set of idols, Portugal attracts some of the best musicians and bands in the world with top-notch summer music festivals cropping up near its main cities, from the indie sounds of NOS Primavera Sound to the rockin’ rythms of Super Bock Super Rock and the eclectic star-fueled lineup of NOS Alive.

The Portugal’s Delightful Duo rail tour brings you to Lisbon and Porto during any of these events!

Beach Time

Praia de Rocha

A spring or summer trip to Portugal calls for soaking up the sun along the country’s dreamy coastline. A prime place to do so is the sunny southern region of The Algarve where spectacular rocky cliffs surround golden beaches varying in size and popularity:

  • Praia de Rocha buzzes with high-rise beach resorts and lively bars and restaurants to entertain the hotels’ inhabitants.
  • The smaller, secluded Praia do Camilo serves up a postcard-perfect setting with the gorgeous Ponte da Piedade also just a short walk away.
  • Don’t skip out on iconic Praia da Marinha, aptly named one of the best beaches in Europe and located down a dramatic cliff side.

We could keep listing our favourites, but taking a tour of the Algarve, like our Portugal City & Coast rail tour, will let you discover yours, from the surfing paradise Praia do Amado to the adventurous Praia de Benagil and its sea cave.


We love fall travel to Portugal: cooler climate, quieter cities and…wine harvest season! Sure, the Atlantic isn’t as sizzling, but it’s often still warm enough for a dip, plus all popular sights have cleared of their summertime crowds.

Take a Hike


A drop in temperature makes this season perfect for hiking Portugal’s many trails without breaking a sweat.

Near Lisbon, the fairy tale-like, UNESCO-listed village of Sintra sits a day-trip away. Wander up romantic forest paths leading from the town’s Moorish Castle to the colourful, Disney-like Pena Palace, surrounded by gardens and the rugged landscape of the Serra Mountains. Take on the coastal trails of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, home to continental Europe’s most westernly point, Cabo da Roca, and mystical monuments like the Convent of Capuchos or the Hermitage of Peninha.

Turn your trek into a pilgrimage by climbing up all 686 steps leading to the Nossa Senhora dos Remedios sanctuary in Lamego. Shrouded by dense woodland, it offers quite the view of the town and surrounding hills once you’ve made it to the top. Elevate the experience by timing your visit with the Festival of Nossa Senhora dos Remedios, the annual pilgrimage to the sanctuary’s shrine. Join thousands of religious devotees in pious processions, including one that carries the statue of Our Lady of the Remedies on an oxen-lead cart.

Wine & Dine

Douro River

We kept the best for last: food and wine!

The scenic and charming Douro Valley lures you in with its rolling green hills and aromatic vineyards, including those specializing in the region’s famous Port wine. Douro’s a breathtaking sight any time of the year, but wine harvest season really steals the show with its landscape coloured in autumnal shades. Many of the area’s wineries will invite you to participate in the harvest, from grape picking to stomping and the inevitable taste testing. That glass of vinho tastes even better once you’ve worked for it.

Fall’s cooler nights prompt heading indoors and trying all of the country’s culinary delights. Savour everything from traditional bacalhau to pork-based dishes, spicy piri-piri chicken and creamy Serra da Estrela cheese. Of course, complete any meal with one of their famous (and delicious!) custard tarts, pastéis de nata. For a seasonal treat, hunt for sweet Portuguese Rocha pears, freshly picked from the Oeste region.

For a fall trip, Lisbon Your Way or Porto Your Way tours lead you to the best of both cities and their surrounding regions, including the Douro Valley and Sintra.

What’s Next

Keep an eye out for all our tours to Portugal! They run from spring to fall and are the best way to take in all the sights or experiences mentioned. Hot travel tip: while some of our tours, like the Fly & Rail tour Sunny Portugal or our Fly & Drive tour Highlights of Portugal, operate as early as April or May, others like Portugal North to South only take off in June. This might influence when and how you decide to travel to Portugal! You can always opt for our year-round option, the Lisbon Your Way Urban Getaway.

07 Sep


Sea Italy: Italian-Style Cruising

September 7, 2018 | By |

The best view of Italy? Standing starboard, floating on the Mediterranean! Costa Cruises carries you to top spots on the incredible Italian coast with a departure from France and stops in Spain. All aboard!

Cruisin’ with Costa

What’s better than sailing to Italy? Sailing to Italy on an Italian-helmed ship! The Italian cruise line offers a unique nautical experience in an authentic setting inspired by its cultural heritage. Think festive ambiance, delicious Mediterranean cuisine and elegant decor inspired by Italy’s most awe-inspiring Renaissance masterpieces. Hop aboard their Costa Diadema ship, nicknamed the Queen of the Mediterranean and named after the Italian word for “tiara.” With a reputation like that, expect royal treatment for the whole family. We’re talking fine dining, a bar-lined terrace, luxurious spa and every form of sea-bound entertainment you could possibly want. Plus, enjoy Italian-style extras like lessons in Venetian mask-making, indulging in a Roman steam bath or sipping excellent espresso in the ship’s lounge.

Set Your Course

Costa Cruises goes overboard with their 7-night Western Mediterranean cruise. Departing from the buzzing French port city of Marseille, it sets sail to beautiful Barcelona for a taste of tapas and a gander at Gaudi’s architecture. Next day, anchors aweigh as you make your way to Palma de Mallorca, a sunny city set on a Spanish island and your last stop before being Italy-bound. Then, you’ll answer the call of Cagliari, on the southern coast of sublime Sardinia. Think glorious beach dips and walks around historic landmarks. Day six is all about Rome—its romance, its ruins, its architecture…its pizza. Before setting back to Marseille, soak in Savona, a gorgeous seaside city on the Italian Riviera.

What’s Next

Interested? Who wouldn’t be! Get your sea legs ready for this maritime journey across the Mediterranean. Plus, when you cruise with us, expect nothing but smooth sailing with our Cruise Promise. Hot travel tip: The travel dates for Costa Cruises’ new itinerary departing from Marseille are from September 2 to 23, 2018 or from May 12 to September 29, 2019. Plan accordingly!


25 Apr


The Best Greek Islands for Every Type of Traveller

April 25, 2018 | By |

So many islands, so little time!

We found pieces of paradise scattered across the Aegean Sea and we’re here to help you pick the perfect one (or ones! Island hopping, anyone?).  If you’re dreaming of a Greek island vacation, but aren’t sure where to start, keep calm and read on. Here’s our breakdown of our favourite Greek islands for every type of traveller!


For Lovers & Sun Seekers: Santorini

If you’re looking up Greek islands, chances are you’ve stumbled on Instagram-worthy images of the island of Santorini, home to one of the most photographed, most spectacular sunsets in the world. If not, picture this: iconic, whitewashed houses overlooking volcanic cliffs, with the sun dipping into the horizon above cerulean waters, painting the sky in sumptuous shades. Shall we go on?

With its sweeping stairways and idyllic hillside villages, there’s no wonder stunning Santorini is a go-to spot for honeymooners and romantic revellers and one of the most popular islands to visit. If you’re not falling in love with the caldera views, then the colourful beaches and historic sites like the Museum of Prehistoric Thera might just seal the deal. Stop in Santorini with this Best of Greece tour!

For Party Animals: Mykonos


Oh, mythical Mykonos –the place to party in the Aegean since the 1960s! It’s where your sunset cocktails last till sunrise and stylish hotels spruce up a rugged and rocky landscape. Pose for dramatic pictures next to the island’s traditional windmills in Mykonos Town before jetting off to decadent dance clubs or all-night parties on Paradise Beach.

For less glitz and glam, stroll through Little Venice to take in the charming architecture of buildings built right on the waterfront. Occupying its narrow streets are chic shops where you can stock up on breezy island fashion before your next escapade. Alternately, you can opt to redeem yourself within the bright, white walls of the uniquely shaped Church of Panagia Paraportiani. Hop on the Mykonos and the Aegean tour to move it in Mykonos.

For Peace Pursuers: Patmos


Here comes your moment of zen! Named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the gorgeous Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, perched atop the island’s central hill, brings a calming spirituality to Patmos, appropriately nicknamed the ‘Holy Island.’ This is where Saint John imagined the end of the world and hey, it might not be the worst spot to find yourself if it does come.

Start at the Cave of the Apocalypse, a strange sacred site hewn into the rock and guarded by a monk to ensure total tranquility. Of course, once you’ve soaked in the spiritual atmosphere, countless beaches welcome you for some much-needed serene swimming. Find peace in Patmos with the Classical Greece & Cruise option.

For History Buffs: Crete


Time travel? It exists! Or so it seems when you land on the shores of Crete, the cradle of Minoan civilization about 4,000 years ago.  Admire the remnants of one of the first major European societies at the archeological site of Knossos, the former capital of Minoan Crete. Highlights include the countless courtyards and chambers of the palace and the impressive frescoes colouring the ruins.

If you’re mad for mythology, venture to the alleged birthplace of Zeus, king of all Greek gods. Two caves make that claim, including the mysterious and gorgeous Dikteon Cave near the village of Psyhro and the Ideon Cave, located on Mount Psiloritis, the highest mountain on Crete.

We’d be lying if we said Crete is all about the past. Travellers seeking more modern indulgences can always happily convene on sun-soaked sands for happy hour. Our Island Delights tour allows you to take in the best parts, past and present, of Crete, largest of the Greek islands.

For Hikers & Beach Explorers: Naxos


More beaches, please! With multitudes flocking to famous Santorini or Mykonos, many overlook the smaller, just-as-picturesque, Greek islands, like heavenly Naxos. The island’s mountainous lands and green valleys create all kinds of natural nooks and crannies for you to discover. Various hiking trails take you through this changing scenery, from the village of Filoti to the peak of Mount Zas. Naxos’ agriculture will please the most ardent foodie’s palate with local produce served up every which way in typical tavernas.

What about the beaches, you ask? We’re getting there! The southwest coast of Naxos is basically one long beach leading you to wilder sandy shores that range from secluded havens like Plaka to windy spots ideal for windsurfing like Mikri Vigla. Discover them all during our Cycladic Discovery tour!

What’s next

Map of Greek Islands

Set your watch to island time! Hot travel tip: Air Canada Vacations offers a variety of island hopping tours to take you from Athens to every island we’ve mentioned here and more. These usually last between 10 and 14 days to give you plenty of time to discover Greece’s capital, as well as several of the best Greek islands.  All of these tours stop in the two must-see islands, Mykonos and Santorini, and take place between May and October.

Plan your tour of Greek islands now!

28 Mar


6 Reasons You Should Cruise with Princess

March 28, 2016 | By |

Princess Cruises is a true original. They’ve built their success on one simple premise: you ask, we deliver. That’s why on a Princess cruise, you’re bound to discover the unexpected onboard, at the table, and on shore.

1. The Itineraries

Let your floating resort take you to the fun and sun of the Caribbean. Or perhaps Europe is more your style with a unique perspective of some of the most fascinating destinations like Rome, Barcelona, and the Greek Islands, with special emphasis on UNESCO World Heritage Sites and late night departures. If nature and wildlife is your cup of tea, how about a cruise to Alaska where you’ll explore pristine waterways, glaciers and humpback whales. And with Princess’ newest enrichment program, “North to Alaska,” you’ll get a deeper sense of the history and culture of Alaska through presentations from lumberjacks, an Iditarod champion, National Park Rangers and signature authentic Alaska cuisine.

2. The Excursions

White Pass Railroad, Alaska, Skagway

White Pass Railroad, Alaska, Skagway

Princess delivers an unbeatable experience on shore with immersive shore excursions for every interest, from wildlife to culture and culinary traditions. They’ve even partnered with Discovery Communications™ to offer Discovery and Animal Planet Recommended tours that bring hit shows to life, like Deadliest Catch and Gold Rush. There are also Discovery and Animal Planet Exclusive tours that have experiences you can only get through Princess.

3. The Dining

On board everything is fresh, authentic and delicious but you asked for more so Princess delivered. Award-winning Chef Curtis Stone serves up SHARE, a new concept in dining, based around the connection between people, food and stories. Be sure to check out the exciting Salty Dog Gastropub, and to take a sip or two of Princess’s own brew, the Seawitch Craft Beer.

4. The Activities

There’s always something to do on board day and night. With Princess@Sea you can use your phone to plan your day’s events and activities, review the ship’s itinerary and port guides, browse restaurant menus, even access your stateroom account! Be sure to check out Festivals of the World that recreate all the splendor of Mardi Gras, Rio Carnival, the Carnival of Venice and many, many more.

5. The Fun for Kids and Teens

Fun for Kids

Princess has activities for every age. Their Youth Centers offer lots of supervised activities for ages 3 to 12. And their Teen Lounges, for ages 13-17, are packed with Play Station games, movies, karaoke, and more. Be sure to drop your kids off for a fun-filled kids-only dinner. They’ll have a blast and you can enjoy a few quiet moments to yourselves.

6. The Luxury Beds

Luxury beds2

Princess has thought of everything, including your wellness. They’ve partnered with leading experts in both the science and beauty of sleep to develop the new Princess Luxury Bed. You’ll enjoy the ultimate sleep at sea and come back from your vacation feeling refreshed, renewed and rejuvenated.

Ready to choose your cruise? Get started today!

22 Mar


8 Things You Probably Don’t Know about Hungary

March 22, 2016 | By |

Hungary may not be on the tip of your tongue when you think of where to go in Europe, but it should be. For centuries, this amazing country, and especially its capital, Budapest, were the heart and soul of Europe. Here are 8 things you probably don’t know about Hungary:

1. Incredible Architecture

Hungary’s artistic heritage survives in its architecture, from Roman ruins, medieval towns, baroque churches and Art Nouveau bathhouses. One of the grandest buildings of them all is The Hungarian Parliament in Budapest. Completed in 1904, this palatial building is the largest in Hungary and the highest in Budapest. Its construction included half a million precious stones and 88 lbs of gold. Hungary also boasts the second largest synagogue in the world.

2. The Year of Gastro Adventure

Year of Gastro Adventure2

2016 is a yearlong celebration of the variety and quality of the Hungarian culinary tradition. Hungary is the host country of the Bocuse d’Or European culinary championship. There are festivals throughout the year where you can taste traditional and international dishes, meet the farmers and craftsmen, and sample world-renowned wines, like the honey-gold Tokaj. The largest of these events is the Festival of Folk Arts in Budapest in August.

3. Over 1,000 Thermal Springs

Hungary has over 1,000 thermal springs and a rich spa culture to go along with it. From the Romans through the Ottomans to the present day, these baths have been developed, celebrated and preserved. Budapest alone has over 300 thermal springs including spectacular Turkish baths. Hungary also contains Héviz, the second largest thermal lake in the world, and Miskolctapolca, Europe’s only cave bath.

4. 200 Caves Under Budapest

The labyrinth of caves and tunnels under the streets of Budapest is rumoured to be more than 120 km long. Guided tours take you to the vast, museum-like Szemlő-hegyi cave, a WWII underground hospital and parts of the subway system (the 1st on the continent). For the more adventurous, caving expeditions are available.

5. 8 World Heritage Sites

World Heritage

Historically fascinating, culturally rich and vibrant, it’s no surprise that Hungary has 9 World Heritage Sites, from caves to abbeys to the Hortobágy National Park. The Banks of the famous Danube are recognized heritage and so is the delicious Tokaj Wine Region, well worth a trip. On the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, you’ll find the Busó festivities at Mohács in southern Hungary that mark the end of winter with fearsome masks and costumes.

6. The Danube

Immortalized by Strauss’s The Blue Danube Waltz, Europe’s second-longest river has long held a special place in our collective consciousness. From its source in Germany, it winds through 10 countries before finally reaching the Black Sea. Many river cruises, starting or ending in Budapest, trace its journey.

7. Budapest Loves the Nightlife

Szimpla Kert is the most famous of a unique kind of nightspot found only in Budapest, the “ruins pub.” These pubs all share a few main ingredients: usually in an abandoned building, a bit of thrift-shop décor, and some of the best people you could ever ask for. At the other end of the spectrum is A38. Voted the Best Bar in the World by Lonely Planet, this multi-disciplinary institute lives on a reconstructed Ukranian ship on the Danube.

8. Classical Music Adventure

Hungary has always been celebrated for its classical music. Be sure to attend a performance and the beautiful Opera House, or a fascinating piano concert at the 150-year-old Liszt Academy of Music. And if you’re travelling in the spring, be sure to check out the Budapest Spring Festival.

Interested in learning more about Hungary? Click here to find out more or to start planning your trip to Hungary today!


18 Jan


6 Fun Facts About Your Next Disney Cruise Line Vacation

January 18, 2016 | By |

With the winter blues creeping in, it’s time to experience something truly magical. We’re talking about a holiday on the high seas, a Disney Cruise Line vacation in fact.  With sailings to exotic destinations in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Alaska, and Europe, your whole family can delight in the comfort and service aboard a Disney cruise. Here are 6 fun facts to get you started:

1. Kids love Disney cruises and they’ll be entertained for hours.

kids activities

© & ™ Lucasfilm Ltd

In addition to special moments with Disney characters, kids can look forward to exciting clubs with Disney-themed activities and entertainment. There are also immersive, private clubs for tweens and teens, so there won’t be a single sullen teenager in sight! All included in the price of the cruise!

2. Parents enjoy Disney cruises because they can relax too.

While the kids are busy having fun in supervised clubs, grown-ups can let loose in exclusive adult areas. From a nighttime entertainment district to a fine dining restaurant, peace of mind is convenient and possible. And for those worried about missing a gym workout – don’t worry, there’s a state-of-the-art fitness centre, too.

3. A Disney cruise includes only the best entertainment.


There’s never a dull moment, thanks to Broadway-style Disney musicals (found only on board) and first-run films (some in 3D!). We also love the themed deck parties and most voyages even have fireworks.

4. A Disney cruise features unique Rotational Dining: a mouth-watering experience with impeccable service.



Throughout the cruise, guests rotate through 3 restaurants while accompanied by the same servers at each dinner. It’s a welcome, personal touch, and there’s never an up-charge for sumptuous menu items, like baked lobster tail and roasted rack of lamb.

5. A Disney cruise means convenience, comfort and legendary Disney service.

Guests are lodged in spacious staterooms (designed especially for families) where they can order 24-hour complimentary room service. And that’s not all – complimentary soda, coffee and tea are always available on the pool deck.

6. Most Bahamian and Caribbean sailings include a stop at a private island.

Castaway Cay is a Disney exclusive and a favourite among guests for its soft sand beaches and swaying palm trees.

If you’re ready to leave those winter blues behind, start planning your magical Disney Cruise Line vacation today!

As to Disney artwork, logos and properties: ©Disney Ships’ Registry: The Bahamas

21 Sep


5 Destinations You Have to Visit at Least Once

September 21, 2015 | By |

Whether you’ve travelled a little or a lot, these five places have got to be at the top of your list. They’re fun, lively, exciting and definite essentials for all world-travellers. And if you’ve been to them before, try them again. These places are always full of surprises.

1) London


Everyone loves to wander the banks of the River Thames, taking in the most famous landmarks like Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace and more. For a great view of the whole city, try the London Eye; it’s a 30-minute ride that takes you up 400 feet. For something different, try a pre-show drink on Carnaby Street in the busy West End, a great street market in Portobello, or the spectacular Victorian Kew Gardens.

Where to stay: 

The President Hotel is a London classic with an attractive combination of location and style right on Russell Square. Enjoy easy access to The British Museum and a live jazz pianist every Friday and Saturday night.

The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge is a beautiful, modern hotel within 10 minutes’ walk of London's key attractions, including Big Ben, the London Aquarium and the London Eye.

2) Paris


This city really is all about sidewalk cafés, good wine, and incredibly stylish people. The classic view from the Eiffel Tower is a definite must. The Louvre has an enormous collection of masterpieces, and when people tell you that it’s too big to do in one day, believe them. And be sure to visit Versailles. Amazingly, when it was built it was a day away by horse-drawn coach. Now, it’s half an hour by train.

Whatever you choose to do in Paris, just remember this one rule. Make time to sit back and enjoy being Parisian, if only for a little while.

Where to stay:

The Quartier Latin Hotel is right in the heart of the city giving you easy access to the Pantheon, the Sorbonne, Luxembourg Garden and Notre Dame Cathedral. This is a great choice for the traveller on the go.

The Auteuil Tour Eiffel offers a stylishly modern experience in a fantastic location, close to the Eiffel Tower. You’re right in the middle of everything with easy access to river cruises and public transport. 

3) Hawaii

Waterfall at the Blue Pools. Hana, Maui

Colourful, unforgettable and full of adventure, the islands of Hawaii are a must if you’re looking for great beaches, culture and fun. Plan a few days on each island; inter-island flights are so easy.

The Big Island is famous for its Volcanoes National Park where you can walk across lava fields and see lava boil into the Pacific. There is no end to the watersports, dining, and events in Honolulu on the island of Oahu where famous Waikiki Beach definitely lives up to its reputation. Maui, known as the Valley Isle, is often called the most beautiful island. It has an abundance of natural experiences but also offers great bars, shops and galleries. It’s a fusion of Polynesian charm and a modern vacation. 

Where to stay:

The Hilton Hawaiian Village is one of the best hotels in Hawaii. This iconic landmark offers a true island experience with fireworks every Friday, a Starlight Luau, and the longest stretch of beach along a hotel in Waikiki.

The Hyatt Regency Maui & Spa is part of the expansive Ka’anapali Resort complex giving you an unbeatable island vacation. Enjoy restaurants, lounges, free-form pools and an easy walk to the Whaler’s Village for shopping and lots more.

4) New York


It’s amazing that so much life, so much history and so much fun can fit onto the island of Manhattan, but New York manages it somehow. From Central Park to Wall Street, from the MoMA to street artists, and from a pretzel on the street corner to Michelin-star gourmet, whatever your New York looks like, you’ll find it in spades. And now that Brooklyn is enjoying a spectacular renaissance with a new authentic artisans’ movement, the sky’s the limit. Just stroll across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge for the newest New York experience.

Where to stay:

The Row NYC, just one block from Times Square, gives you a truly New York experience. The unique design is inspired by the city’s famous neighbourhoods. Plus, take advantage of Times Square’s first indoor food market, City Kitchen.

The Night Hotel Theatre District offers a truly contemporary boutique experience. Each of the 73 rooms at the Night Hotel brings the best kind of fun back into travel with trend-conscious design. 

5) Orlando


The most famous theme parks on earth are all in Orlando, like Walt Disney World® Resort, Universal Orlando® Resort, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, SeaWorld® and Legoland® Florida. The choices are endless. For something a little more off beat, try Gatorland, or the famous Kennedy Space Centre, where you can actually see the launch pads and vehicles that have taken people into space.

Where to stay:

The Ramada Plaza Resort & Suites International Drive is perfect for a theme park vacation. Wet ‘n Wild is only two blocks away, and there’s free scheduled transportation to Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort.

The Liki Tiki Village is great for families. Located in Kissimmee, a quick drive from Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort, this Polynesian themed resort offers an extensive water play area and lots of other great family-friendly features.

22 May


How to Fall in Love with Paris in 24 Hours

May 22, 2015 | By |

Across the City of Light, the grey shroud of winter has lifted, replaced by the welcoming embrace of spring. Shopkeepers mill around their stalls, cyclists purposefully whizz through traffic and best of all, glorious sunshine lifts the heart and soul.

Spring time fuels romance in Paris too. Here’s how to fall in love with Paris in 24 hours:


At your hotel, fuel up on croissants, jam and a grande cup of café au lait, then pack yourself a light lunch from your previous day’s shopping escapade before you set out on your Paris day tour.

Head to the nearest metro station and purchase the Mobilis Pass (7 euros) that gets you in and around central Paris in this full-day traveller’s extravaganza.

Make your way to the Notre-Dame Cathedral on the Île de la Cité. Get off at Cité station (line 4), stop at the Palais de Justice for a photo op of the ornate gates and ask a friendly local to point you in the right direction of the esteemed Notre-Dame.

Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

As you wander around, you’ll also discover a spectacular park called Square Jean XXIII in a spring symphony of floral colours and fragrant blossoms.

Cross the love lock- laden bridge known as the Pont de l’Archevêché to La Rive Gauche (the Left Bank). Not too far away is an extraordinary book store that has been a magnet for artists and writers-in-the-making ever since its first opening.  Pass by the locked-in-time streets in the Latin Quarter with their narrow passageways until you reach the René Viviani Square. Again, more beautiful florals with bouquets of daffodils and a fully blooming magnolia tree spur on the quest to find perhaps the most famous book store in the world: Shakespeare and Company.

There it is. Across from the park on 37 Rue de Bûcherie is this shrine to books, an iconic landmark with its green-painted facade laden with bookstands and postcard racks by the entrance. The store is a well-known hangout for literature buffs, and little has changed as you spot book lovers comfortably finding their existential moment leafing through copies of Sartre and Camus. Spot classic chapbooks like The Hunchback of Notre-Dame too.


Lunch time is here and the clock is ticking. Still there’s still so much to see. Return to Notre Dame, find a bench overlooking the cathedral, and enjoy that boxed lunch you packed earlier. People watch and gaze at the historic place of worship that has inspired writers and artists for centuries.

With romance in the air, track down France’s famous writer of love letters, Madame de Sévigné, who longingly and lovingly wrote reams of letters – many from her private city residence in the Marais district. The historic mansion is home to the Carnavalet Museum, devoted to Paris’ rich history from its bygone era to present day.

Pass by the Paroisse St. Paul-St. Louis, another stunning church (Hunchback of Notre Dame author Victor Hugo’s daughter Leopoldine was secretly married here), and amble along the Rue de Sévigné, a narrow winding street lined by historic facades that now house eclectic shops and boutiques.

For an afternoon pick-me-up, the Swedish Institute on 11 Rue Payenne is a great find for coffee, homemade cakes and light snacks. Near the Carnavelet Museum, the popular coffee house is tucked inside a private courtyard rife with café drinkers enjoying the outdoor terrace. Inside, there’s a fun cue of repeat patrons from every age group waiting to place their orders.

Once you’ve finished your coffee, you are ready to resume your Parisian love affair. Next stop is the most iconic monument of them all: the Eiffel Tower.

By the St. Paul Metro, you proceed to Bir-Hakeim Station (line 6) to the Eiffel Tower. Paris’ symbol seems to change every time you see it. The changing light from the clouds sets off dramatic shadows as the glistening sun gives a moody effect, a perfect backdrop for all the canoodling couples.

Eiffel Tower

For a grand view, it’s off to the Trocadero. Tip: Every evening on the hour, the tower lights up for 5 minutes – best to get there 15 minutes in advance.

Late afternoon

It’s impossible to visit Paris without a bit of shopping – the next quick stop is to Haussmann Boulevard, home to the Printemps department store and the renowned Galeries Lafayette.

Galeries Lafayette

Galeries Lafayette

Inside both retail landmarks, attentive staff offer their assistance. By the acclaimed parfumerie counters, sales reps squirt the latest Chanel and Guerlain fragrances as you glance around to admire the grand interiors with the lavish-domed glass ceiling, an Art Nouveau classic.

Next, head inside a brasserie (your choice) and linger on a fixed prix, 3-course dinner but don’t enjoy the surrounds too long. There’s a not-to-be-missed boat to catch for an amazing night river cruise along the Seine.


Hop aboard the Vedettes de Paris with its evening champagne river cruise that departs at the foot of the Eiffel Tower by Port Suffren. The night sky is blazing in stars and so is the Eiffel Tower, all lit up in a whimsical pattern of diamond-like lights. As the boat sails past Paris’ iconic landmarks, you sip your champagne and smile to yourself.

And that’s how you fall in love with Paris in 24 hours.


16 Mar


8 Amazing Landscapes in Ireland

March 16, 2015 | By |

There is something almost mystical about Ireland’s landscapes. From giant cliffs and stunning coastlines, to isolated villages and castles, the Emerald Isle offers plenty of enchanting scenery. Here are 8 amazing landscapes you must feast your eyes on in Ireland.

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

To say that the Cliffs of Moher are breathtaking is a complete understatement. This landscape is so awe-inspiring that it has served as the backdrop to several Hollywood movies, including Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and The Princess Bride. From here, you can see as far as the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, as well as Connemara.


Connemara Ireland

Driving through the coastal roads of Connemara on the Wild Atlantic Way is full of pleasant surprises. Hidden beaches, small bays and secret coves mesmerize along the way. After all, the word “Connemara” is Irish for “Inlets of the Sea”. The majestic Twelve Bens mountain range is another focal point, as are the sheep that you can spot grazing around the surrounding rolling green hills.

The Giant’s Causeway

Giant's Causeway

Located in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, The Giant’s Causeway is a series of hexagonal basalt rocks that formed 50 to 60 million years ago as the result of a volcanic eruption. Due to The Causeway’s resemblance to a set of stepping stones, legend has it that they were used by giant Fionn mac Cumhaill to cross over into Scotland for a battle with a rival giant.


Cushendun Village

Cushendun Village – Photo by David McSpadden (Flickr)

If you’re a fan of HBO’s Game of Thrones, then the seaside village of Cushendun may look familiar to you for the nearby Cushendun Caves where Melisandre gave birth. Other highlights of the area include the village’s seaside paths, its quiet beach, and Loughareema, also known as the Vanishing Lake due to the fact that it’s actually a chalk sinkhole that sporadically fills up with water and then drains.

Slieve League Cliffs

Slieve League Cliffs

Though the Cliffs of Moher garner more attention, the Slieve League (Grey Mountain) Cliffs in County Donegal are just as spectacular, if not more so. At 600 metres (1,968 feet), they are Ireland’s highest seaside cliffs and among the highest in Europe. From the top of the cliffs, look down to see the so-called Giant’s Desk and Chair, a rock formation shaped like its appropriate nickname. Imagine a giant jotting down his homework and continue on your way.

The Burren

The Burren

The Burren – photo by Nicolas Raymond (Flickr)

The Burren means “great rock” in Irish to describe an epic landscape of limestones, sandstones, mudstones and siltstones. Stretching from the Atlantic coast to County Galway, this unique spot was formed by a geological cataclysm millions of years ago and is now crossed by wild, walking paths perfect to take in the fantastic flora, fauna and geology. In spring, the arid setting comes alive with an assortment of colourful wildflowers.

West Cork

West Cork

Running from the town of Kinsale to the tip of the Beara Peninsula, West Cork is an area known for its rugged beauty, beckoning you to deserted beaches and pretty towns. Must-see highlights include the Old Head of Kinsale, a large headland that juts into the wild Atlantic and features the ruins of a fort, a lighthouse and one of the most stunning golf courses in the world.

Donegal’s surf spots

Surfing in Ireland? You better believe it. County Donegal is home to Ireland’s most beautiful beaches where surfers brave the cold of the Atlantic to surf its wild waters. Break waves in Bundoran, Ireland’s surf capital which even hosts a summer surf festival every summer. Make sure to see the shores of Ballymastocker Bay, a stunning and secluded strip of golden sand.

Ready to see these amazing landscapes for yourself? You can opt for a multi-day tour of Ireland, day tours from Dublin, or rent a car if you wish to plan your own itinerary.


13 Feb


30 Must-Have Experiences in Europe

February 13, 2015 | By |

There are literally thousands of reasons to visit Europe. Each country has its own unique personality and charm, and to sum it all up in a blog post is a very tall order. Though we could go on forever about why to visit Europe, we’ve shortlisted 10 popular European cities and identified 3 must-have experiences in each one. Here are 30 (of many) must-have experiences in Europe.


London Tube Underground

The Tube (aka The Underground) in London

1) See London from the Thames Cable Car: Take in views of landmarks such as the Thames Barrier, the Canary Wharf and the Olympic Park, before ending your journey near the O2 Arena entertainment complex. 2) Kensington Gardens: Stroll through one of London’s 8 Royal Parks and spot famous attractions like Kensington Palace, the Peter Pan Statue and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground. 3) The Tube: Not only is the Tube an essential part of getting around the UK capital, it is also the world’s first underground railway system. A few words of caution before use: Plan your Tube journey out beforehand and avoid using it during rush hour if you can.


4) Sunset at Montmartre: For the best sunset in town, take a seat somewhere on Montmartre hill or on the steps of the Sacré Coeur Basilica that sits at its summit. 5) Parc de la Villette: The third largest park in Paris offers plenty of things to keep you busy, including museums, theatre, concert halls, live performances and 26 architectural follies (decorative monuments). 6) Berthillon ice cream on Île Saint-Louis: Berthillon’s artisanal ice cream and sorbets are iconic in Paris and come in flavours like lavender and strawberry daiquiri. In summer, get a taste of the real deal at the manufacturer’s original location, La Maison Berthillon, on Île Saint-Louis.


Gaudi's Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

7) La Boqueria: Walking along Las Ramblas in the Ciutat Vella, you will eventually stumble upon the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (aka La Boqueria), one of Europe’s largest food markets. Its grand iron entrance leads to a colourful world of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and seafood stands, as well as popular tapas bars like El Quim. 8) Gaudí: Antoni Gaudí, a famous architect who practiced Catalan Modernism, left his mark absolutely everywhere in Barcelona. His most famous work consists of the Gothic and Art Nouveau-style La Sagrada Familia, as well as Park Guell. 9) The Beach: Any cosmopolitan city with a beach is a winner in our books. Two of Barcelona’s most popular beaches are bustling La Barceloneta Beach and Nova Icaria Beach.


10) Eating a wood-oven pizza in a piazza:  A piazza, Italian for public square, is a place where people convene, socialize and dine. One of the best things to eat in a piazza is a thin, crispy Roman-style pizza. They are sold al taglio (by the slice) and popular options include the margherita (tomato, mozzarella and basil) and the capricciosa (a sort of all-dressed pizza). 11) Colosseum: It would be a crime to go to Rome and not see the Colosseum, a place that housed public spectacles, gladiator contests and re-enactments of famous battles. 12) Vatican Museums: These museums within the Vatican City house some of the most renowned Renaissance artwork in the world and are a must if you are in Rome. The Sistine Chapel ceiling, the Raphael Rooms and the Borgia Apartments are among highlights.


Villefranche-sur-Mer Beach near Nice

Villefranche-sur-Mer Beach near Nice

13) Promenade des Anglais: Offering exquisite views of the Bay of Angels and lined with several cafes, this stunning promenade is best experienced by either strolling, jogging or cycling along. 14) A day at the beach: While Nice’s pebble beaches may not be easy on the feet, they are definitely a pleasant sight for the eyes and are a must when on the Côte d’Azur. Nice is also home to sandy beaches like Villefranche, as well as private beaches like Lido Beach. 15) Day trip to Monaco: Just 20 km from Nice is Monaco, the French Riviera’s glamourous sovereign city state. Browse ritzy boutiques, awe at expensive yachts and make a stop at the Monte Carlo Casino.


16) Pour the perfect pint of Guinness: If you find yourself drinking a pint of Guinness in a Dublin pub, you’ll quickly realize that pouring the stuff is considered a local art form. The Guinness Storehouse is an excellent place to master the pour and you’ll even receive a certificate once you’ve successfully done so! 17) Stroll through Trinity College: In addition to admiring Trinity College’s awe-inspiring architecture and gardens, you must pop into the Old Library to see the Book of Kells, a world-famous illuminated manuscript from 800 AD that contains the four Gospels of the New Testament. 18) Abbey Theatre: Also known as the National Theatre of Ireland, this theatre was the first state-subsidized, English language theatre and was home to many writers of the Irish Literary Revival. It remains active to this day and is a fantastic place to see a play.


19) See Grand Place at night: One of the prettiest sights in Brussels is the Grand Place, when it is lit up at night. This is the city’s central square that houses gothic-style guildhalls, Town Hall and the Breadhouse. 20) Eat Belgian waffles and fries: Waffles and fries are staples in Belgian gastronomy. Waffles are best eaten with Belgian chocolate drizzled on top and come in 2 variations –the Liege waffle (a dense, rounded waffle) and the Brussels waffle (a lighter, rectangular-shaped waffle). Fries here are well-loved for their extra crispiness (they are fried twice) and for the variety of sauces you can dip them in (the sauce andalouse is a local favourite). 21) Brussels’ Comic Book Route: As the birthplace of comic strips, Brussels is home to a Comic Book Route, a series of murals that feature characters from popular Belgian comics like Gaston and The Adventures of Tintin.


The Acropolis in Athens

The Acropolis in Athens

22) The Acropolis: You can’t go all the way to Athens and not see the famous ancient citadel of a powerful civilization. In addition to seeing the remains of buildings like the Parthenon and marvelling at the skilled use of marble, you must experience the view of Athens from the top of the hill. 23) Lounge around at Thissio Square: For even more outstanding views, head to Thissio Square. From here, you can sip a coffee at an outdoor café while gazing at the Acropolis and Lycabettus Hill. 24) Browse the farmers’ markets: Each neighborhood in Athens has its own farmer’s market (or laiki) which takes place once a week. Get your pick of the freshest fruit, veggies and fish, or other things like kitchenware and flowers.


25) Beer Gardens: As soon as temperatures warm up in March, Munich residents flock to the city’s large chestnut gardens to socialize over beer. These gardens are set up with tables and benches and typically seat a few thousand people. You can try one that is affiliated to a restaurant or find a BYOB garden. 26) Starnberger See is the closest lake to Munich city centre and offers activities like swimming, sailing and surfing. 27) Sleeping Beauty Castle: Neuschwanstein Castle is a nineteenth-century castle nestled on a hilltop, which was used as inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty castle. It is best done as a day trip from Munich and for something extra magical, take a horse-drawn carriage up the surrounding hillsides.


Tram in Lisbon

Tram in Lisbon

28) Take the trams and elevators: This is one of the best and easiest ways to navigate through the narrow, cobblestone streets of Lisbon. Make sure to take tram number 28 through the historic district and the Santa Justa Elevator, which offers a fantastic view of Lisbon up at the top. 29) Awe at world treasures: If there are any two monuments you should see in Lisbon they would be the Jeronimos Monastery and the Belem Tower, which date from the time of great Portuguese explorers like Magellan and Vasco da Gama. 30) Listen to Fado: Fado music is considered the soul of Portugal and the best places to hear it are in the historical district of Alfama. Popular casas de Fado (Fado houses) include Casa de Linhares and Pateo de Alfama.


Ready to have one of these European experiences or create one of your own? Check out our Welcome to Europe page for more inspiration or to start planning your own European escapade!