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Europe Archives - Air Canada Vacations

22 Mar

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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

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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.

musical

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.

dining-resize

©Disney/Pixar

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

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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

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

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

NYC

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

Orlando_option2

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

By

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:

Morning

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.

Afternoon

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.

Evening

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.

 

13 Feb

By

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

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.

Paris

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.

Barcelona

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.

Rome

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.

Nice

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.

Dublin

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.

Brussels

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.

Athens

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.

Munich

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.

Lisbon

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!

 

06 Feb

By

Free ZUCA When You Book a Trip to Europe

February 6, 2015 | By |

What's a ZUCA?

Featuring a convenient built-in seat and practical, removable packing packages, the ZUCA Ultimate-Carry-All luggage makes both travelling and packing your suitcase a breeze.

Book a pre-packaged vacation to Europe by March 31 and get a FREE ZUCA Ultimate Carry-All luggage!* Minimum 7-night stay for 2 adults required and only 1 FREE ZUCA offered per room. 

To get your free ZUCA, add it to your shopping cart. It will be priced at $0 plus $35 shipping and handling (taxes included). Alternatively, call us after you’ve booked your trip to redeem your ZUCA.

See all our Europe offerings.

*ZUCA Ultimate Carry-All must be booked and requested between Feb. 7 & Mar. 31, 2015. Valid for travel from Apr. 1 and completed by Oct. 31, 2015. Available while supplies last. Offer applicable on pre-packaged vacations made through a package search only. Not applicable to flight-only, hotel-only, cruises, groups or custom bookings. Applicable to items listed in the Best of Europe. Minimum 7-night stay required. Minimum 2 adults per booking. One ZUCA Ultimate Carry-All per room. Approximate retail value: $375. Shipping and handling fee of $35 applies and is non-refundable. ZUCA will be shipped 14 to 30 days after travel has been completed. Offer may be withdrawn at any time. Colour and style of luggage are subject to change without notice. Luggage does not meet the standards of Air Canada Carry-On policy. Shipping valid for Canadian addresses only.