9 Things to Do in Valencia, Spain

By Sara | September 8, 2016

Valencia is a sea-side city in southeastern Spain just 3 hours from both Madrid and Barcelona. While most known for its futuristic City of Arts and Sciences complex, Valencia also has some amazing beaches and shopping centers. There are plenty of things to do in Valencia whether you’re an outdoors adventurer or history buff, so here’s a list of our top suggestions.

1. Explore the City of Arts and Sciences

The City of Arts and Sciences is arguably the most important modern tourist spot in Valencia. It has become a central piece of Valencia in recent years, and is truly a work of art. With an entertainment and cultural center, opera house, ocean world, 3-D cinema, and park, The City of Arts and Sciences is a great place to spend a few days. For a sneak preview of what’s inside, check out this vlog.

vlcsnap-2016-09-08-17h04m39s555 copy

2. Delight Your Senses at Mercado Central

Much like Madrid, Valencia has a central market with a variety of food and fresh goods. The Central Market has Valencia’s famed horchata and fartons as well as fresh meats and fruits. In the center of the market is a sit down eating area with a bar.

3. Climb to the Top of Serranos Gate

Twelve gates used to form a city wall and entry point into Valencia. Today, only one gate remains. Visitors can view the outside of the gate from several places, or can pay a small fee to climb to the top of the tower.
Tower Valencia

4. Fallas Museum

Once a year, the people of Valencia commemorate St. Joseph by creating paper and wax figures. The figures are burned in the streets during a non-stop, 5 day festival in March. After the festival the museum saves the remnants to put on display.

5. Find the Holy Grail at Valencia Cathedral

We’ve mentioned in other posts that every major European city has a prominent cathedral, but Valencia’s is special. Christian historians from all over the world have declared that the chalice in the Valencia Cathedral is the true Holy Grail. The cup inside this church is widely believed to be the authentic cup used at the Last Supper. Many Pope have used the cup in ceremonious events, making this cathedral a must visit place.
Valencia Cathedral

6. Take a Stroll in the Turia Garden

Valencia used to have a river running through the center of the city, much like the Thames in London. In the 1950’s, a massive storm flooded the river, and much of Valencia along with it, so the city drained and reconstructed the river to route out of the city. A park was built on the newly dried river beds, and still remains there today.

7. Watch a Bull Fight at Plaza de Toros de Valencia

Bull fighting is a common event to attend in Spain, and Valencia is no exception to this.  Inspired by roman architecture, Valencia’s bull ring stands tall in the heart of the city.
Bull Ring Valencia

8. Go For At Swim at Malvarosa Beach

The beaches in Valencia are wide, clean, and sunny. One of the more frequented beaches is Malvorosa. With sun beds, sand bars, and plenty of places to play volleyball, Malvarosa provides the perfect escape from Spain’s summer heat. Head here for a fantastic place to kick back, surf, and relax for a day.

9. Treat Your Taste Buds at Horchatería Santa Catalina

Valencia is the birthplace of horchata, a milkshake-like substance made with tiger nuts, water, and sugar. Often served with fartons, a thin powdered sugar pastry, horchata is the perfect treat on a hot day. Located right in the city center, Horchatería Santa Catalina specializes in this pairing.

horchata valencia

While it’s not the most action-packed city we’ve been to, there are enough things to do in Valencia that make the city worth seeing. Not to mention, it’s just a short bus ride away from Bunol, where the tomato throwing La Tomatina festival is held every year. We’d love to hear your favorite things to do in Valencia, so leave a comment below with your Spain experiences!

Top Things to Do in Madrid, Spain

By Sara | August 26, 2016

Madrid is not only one of our favorite cities in Spain, but in Europe as a whole. It’s the place where we began our travels and a city we’ve dubbed our “European home base”. As the third largest city in the European Union, there are plenty of things to do in Madrid.

Sights to See

What we love about Madrid is that it’s a great place to travel slow. There’s always an event going on in the livelier neighborhoods of Lavapies and La Latina, and there are plenty of shops and places to explore after seeing all of the tourist attractions. However, if you only have a few days in Madrid, here are the staple places to see.

1. Plaza Mayor

Madrid has two major plazas, one being the Plaza Mayor. The Plaza’s original use was to host celebrations, executions, and bull fights. Now, it functions as a major tourist square with shops, cafe’s and an information center.

2. Puerta Del Sol

The other main plaza in Madrid is Puerta Del Sol. Most of the metro lines run through Sol because it is in the center of the city. In the square are many higher end shopping areas, and the notable statue of the bear and the strawberry tree. This is a symbol of Madrid and is a good place to snap postcard photos.

3. Retiro Park

Madrid isn’t known for its abundance of parks, but the ones it does have are pretty amazing. Our favorite, and one of the most well known is Retiro Park. The 350 acred park has dozens of sculptures, walking paths, and even a lake with row-boat rentals. Retiro is a great place to spend an afternoon relaxing and listening to buskers play music.
Retiro Park Madrid

4. Cable Cars

To get the very best view of Madrid, it’s worth paying the €5 to take a ride on the Teleferico cable cars. The cable cars run to Casa de Campo, which is a large park with a zoo, amusement park, and walking areas.

5. Royal Palace of Madrid

Right next to the Almudena is the Royal Palace of Madrid. Though originally made to house the royal family, they now opt to live in a quieter part of Madrid. Spain has many beautiful castles, but this one is the largest royal palace in Europe with over 3,000 rooms, but is primarily used for major events.
Royal Palace Madrid

6. San Miguel Market

Foodies, this should be your number one item for things to do in Madrid. San Miguel is an indoor gourmet tapas market filled with food stalls. Whether you’re craving desserts, olives, traditional tapas, or fish, San Miguel has it all. Be warned, this has become a major tourist area and there aren’t many locals here, but the food is good! For those looking for a more local experience, try visiting the San Fernando market instead.

7. Temple of Debod

Those who visit Madrid can also visit a piece of Egypt! The Temple of Debod is an Egyptian shrine dismantled and sent to Madrid for safe keeping in the 1960’s. As a sign of gratitude, Egypt permanently gifted the temple to Spain a few years later.
Temple of Debod madrid

8. El Rastro Market

Every Sunday, El Rastro Market stalls pop up and cover several streets in Madrid. Locals sell a variety of clothes, bags, trinkets, and souvenirs. The market is open for a few hours in the morning and then shuts down, so plan ahead for this one!

9. Almudena Cathedral

When the capital of Spain was moved from Toledo to Madrid, the need for a cathedral arose quickly. Thus, the Almudena was constructed. It took over 100 years to build the Almudena, and the modern cathedral is a must-see when visiting Madrid.
Almudena Church Madrid

10. Gran Via

Gran Via is the shopping mecca of Madrid. Row after row of shops line the street and this area of town is bustling at all hours.

11. Santiago Bernabéu Stadium

Soccer, or “futbol” is very big in Madrid. The Real Madrid football team practices and plays at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. If you can plan a trip overlapping a game, it’s is an experience worth having.

Cool Cafe’s

Madrid is in the process of creating a coffee scene, and has many grab and go cafe’s that line the streets of Madrid. We did discover a few gems during our month stay there, and frequented the following cafe’s.

1. Bicicleta Cafe

This is the place to be for anyone who is working and traveling. Visitors can expect designated work tables, free water, free wifi, and a great menu of hot and cold drinks. Many people work from their computers while snacking and conversing.

2. Chocolateria San Gines

For a staple restaurant in Madrid, head to Chocolateria San Gines. This place is known for having amazing churros and chocolate, and is open 24 hours. Lines are long during mid morning, so come early or late to avoid a queue.
Chocolateria San Gines

3. Paneria

Mornings in Madrid are a little slow, and most shops and cafes don’t open until after 9am. An exception to this is Paneria. Close to Retiro Park, this cafe is the perfect place to go in the early morning hours before the city wakes up. Paneria’s croissants are perfectly fresh, and they have a nice breakfast menu with coffee and pastry combos.

4. Celicioso

Gluten free people, this cafe is for you. The cafe has an abundance of cakes, cookies, pastries, and of course, coffee. As one of the few all gluten-free places in Madrid, Celicioso does a great job catering to those with a gluten intolerance while still delivering excellent food and a nice atmosphere.

Tasty Tapas

One of the best things to do in Madrid is enjoy the tapa experience. Tapas are small plates of food served with beer or wine, and are the major cuisine in many Madrid restaurants. Quality and prices of tapas vary, and we’ve listed some of the ones we like below.

1. Taberna Las Brasas de Vulcano

This place rocks because of the size of their plates. A tapa and a drink only cost €1.50, and the portion sizes make the deal even sweeter. With cozy, rustic decor and more food than many can eat, Las Brasas is a great place to start an evening of tapas.

2. 100 Montaditos

Montadidos is a chain in Madrid and can be found almost anywhere throughout the city. Known for their inexpensive tapas, Montadidos has an easy order system. Visitors write down which tapas, desserts, and drinks they’d like, then turn it  in to the waiter and pay. The food is brought out all at once for an enjoyable tapas feast!

3. La Latina

For a more spontaneous and authentic experience, take the metro to the La Latina barrio. Those walking around La Latina at night will be hard pressed not to find an enjoyable tapas restaurant. La Latina has a bustling nightlife scene and plenty of streets lined with tapas restaurants. Come with a hungry stomach and try anything that looks good!

There are many places to eat and things to do in Madrid, and visitors on all types of trips will enjoy their time in the Spanish capital. Madrid’s main sites can be seen in a few days, though our biased opinion says to stay as long as possible! This list should give visitors a great starting point to understand the city, but the best way to explore is to try new places! What are your favorite things to do in Madrid?

12 Things to Do in Budapest

By Sara | August 11, 2016

While not originally on our list of places to visit, we traveled to Budapest to meet family and ended up staying an extra week. Budapest is a city packed with history and culture, and visitors could spend months here without discovering all of its gems. With a heavy World War 2 influence, fantastic food and nightlife scenes, and one of the prettiest skylines in Europe, Budapest is a great place to experience. Here’s our list of the top things to do in Budapest.

1. Gaze at the Hungarian Parliament Building

The Parliament Building in Budapest can be seen from almost everywhere, and is most prominent along the Danube River. It is one of Budapest’s oldest buildings and remains the tallest building in the city today. The incredible structure of the building is stunning to view from the outside, and visitors who desire a more in depth experience can purchase tickets to tour the premise.

Parliament Budapest

2. Soak in the Széchenyi Thermal Baths

One of the most relaxing things to do in Budapest is to visit a thermal bath house. Budapest sits atop of over 100 thermal springs, making it one of the best places to have this experience. There are many different types of baths to choose from, and each vary in atmosphere and variety of bath types. The Széchenyi Thermal Baths is the largest medicinal bathhouse in Europe, and is a great place to spend a few hours relaxing.

3. Sip Soup at Bors Gasztrobar

For those looking for a hole-in-the-wall establishment, Bors is the place to be. Located in the Jewish quarter among a number of great places to eat, Bors is unique on many levels. They specialize in soups and panini sandwiches, and have a huge variety to choose from. The guys working in the shop know what the best soups are and keep the atmosphere fun and fast paced.

bors budapest

4. Stuff Your Face at the Great Market Hall

Near the end of Budapest’s well known shopping street, Vaci utca, sits the Great Market Hall. Spread across three floors is a large variety of street food, clothes, souvenirs, and other goods. The ground floor holds all of the food stalls and is a great place for hungry travelers to walk around. With countless stalls of pastries, meats, spirits, and fruits, there’s a bit of something for everyone.

5. Drink a Latte at Madal Espresso and Brew Bar

Coffee lovers, get excited. Budapest has an exceptional coffee scene, and there are so many different cafe’s to visit that one could spend their entire trip tasting coffee. One of our favorites was the Madal Espresso and Brew Bar. With two locations in Budapest and a brilliantly classy cafe design, Madal is a great place to chat with a friend or work for a few hours. The latte’s look and taste amazing and the fresh croissant sandwiches are some of the best we’ve ever had.

madal budapest

6. Take Photos at Fisherman’s Bastion

On the Buda side of the city, Fisherman’s bastion is a white clad seven-tower structure that towers over almost everything else. The large terrace is one of the best spots to get views of the entire city. In the middle ages, Fisherman were tasked with guarding this section of Budapest, which is how it got its name. Today, the bastion is typically flooded with tourists checking it off their list of top things to do in Budapest.

7. Experience the Shoes on the Daube Bank Exhibit

Shoes on the Danube is one of the most vivid World War 2 memorials that we’ve seen. The memorial honors and remembers Jews who were made to stand at the edge of the Danube and were then shot into the water so their bodies would float away. The bank is lined with sculpted shoes and is a sobering and effective sight.

shoes on the danube budapest post

8. Eat Art at Gelarto Rosa

Gelato Rosa was a fun extra that we didn’t expect to find in Budapest. This ice cream parlor scoops their ice cream orders into edible flower petals. Visitors can choose to have two, three, or four layers of flower petals from a wide array of unique ice cream flavors. Located right across from Saint Stephen’s Basilica, this is a great place to pop into during a day of sight seeing.

9. Tour St. Stephen’s Basilica

Situated in one of the cities main squares is the roman catholic church, St. Stephen’s Basilica. Named after the first king of Hungary, this is the country’s most important church as well as a primary tourist destination. Entry to the Basilica is free.

st stephens basilica budapest

10. Meet a Local at the Chef Cafe

When looking for things to do in Budapest, one of the best ways to understand the city is to eat with a local. The Chef Cafe is a Hungarian family owned restaurant with top notch service. The owner creates an exclusive dining experience for all who visit and is incredibly knowledgeable about the cuisines and wine options. His family prepares the food and the meals are brought out in a beautiful presentation. We left Chef Cafe feeling very full and in high spirits based on the outstanding service provided.

11. Wander the Dohany Street Synagogue

Walking up to the Dohany Synagogue is an experience of its own, and visitors will need to tip their heads back to see the ornate gold capped domes marking the entrance way. Dohany is the largest synagogue in Europe, seating over 3,000 people. In 1998, the synagogue underwent a $5 million restoration project. The synagogue features a museum, temple, memorial, and cemetery.

synagogue budapest

12. Party at Szimpla Kert Ruin Pub

The old Jewish quarter is home to several ruin pubs, which are a big part of the nightlife scene in Budapest. This neighborhood was abandoned and left to decay after World War 2. A group of people had the idea to repurpose the abandoned buildings into a bar scene, and filled them with vintage furniture, graffiti, and drinks. One of the first ruin bars created was Szimpla Kert. It’s a great place to meet other travelers and enjoy an atmosphere unlike any other.

Budapest is a fantastically fun city with so much variety. This list provides an introduction to the different flavors that Budapest offers, but don’t be afraid to wander around and explore new places! What are your favorite things to do in Budapest? Comment below!