Travel Guide: Rome, Italy

If you are reading this blog post, I would guess that you are planning trip to Rome or you are already there but don’t know what to do. Or then you are just interested what I have to say about this Italy’s ancient city. I have to start by saying that during my visit to Rome I didn’t fall in love. The city is nice, there is a lot of things to see and Vatican was amazing. But I didn’t fall in love. That doesn’t change the fact that Rome is still one of those places everyone should see at least once in their life time and so here is travel guide to Rome for anyone interested!

ancient_rome

Basic facts of Rome:

As the capital city of Italy Rome is also the fourth largest city in EU when compared by the population. Inside of Rome there is also Vatican, the smallest country in the world by population and area. Here some more basic information about Rome:

Population: 2,8 million
Language: Italy
Currency: euro
Time zone: UTC+1
Summer weather: dry and warm, average day temperature of 30°C
Winter weather: humid and cold, average day temperature of 12°C

rooftops_rome

Should I travel to Rome?

The short answer? Yes.
Rome is like a big museum so if you are not someone interested in history, museums and old buildings, going to somewhere else may be a good idea. But even then Rome is travel destination you should experience once in your lifetime. Walking around the old narrow streets takes you straight back to Europe’s ancient city and there is something to see literally everywhere.

summer_rome

When to travel to Rome?

The right questions would be when is not the right time to travel to Rome. We made the mistake everyone should try to avoid making. July and August are just inevitable death so don’t travel at that time. The average temperature of those months is about 26°C. What this means? Sunny days are impossible to get around in the heat of over 30°C. Especially if you are from a northern country like me and not used to over 30 degrees.

On the other hand, January can be quite cold if you are used to warmth. The best time to visit Rome would be late autumn, early summer or late spring. 

rome_history

How long should I stay in Rome?

Whatever you stay for a weekend or two weeks, you won’t have enough time to see everything. Rome is big, full of historical attractions and place that makes you quickly bored. In the end, you can get an overdose of all the history and cool places so I don’t recommend making the trip just to see everything possible. Take your time and be ready to miss some of the major attractions. Decide beforehand what you want to see.

The shortest time I would stay in Rome is for three full days. Think it this way: You will need one full day for Vatican, one day for Colosseum area and one day for just walking around, doing shopping or going for a day trip outside of the city. But the more time you have the better.

tourists_rome

Is Rome expensive?

Once again short answer is yes.
If you are not careful in Rome, you will end up paying too much for the things locals can get a lot cheaper. Main areas of this capital city are made for tourists and so also the prices are high. Check out the prices of attractions beforehand from the internet and see should you book online or buy tickets in Rome. When eating, go for the smaller side alleys and compare prices of different restaurants.

rome_colosseum

The most important tourist attractions

  • Colosseum, Forum Romanum, and Palatine Hill: These are maybe the three most important landmarks and tourist attractions in Rome. You can access all of them with the same ticket valid for two days. Just remember that you should start from Palatine and buy your ticket from there. We got inside with no waiting at all because there was literally no queue. After that, you can go to the shorter line in Colosseum.
  • Spanish Steps: It’s long tradition for tourists to take a break and sit on these steps while writing postcards to send back home. Perfect place for people watching (Following those vendors who try to sell everything touristy is too much fun!) but also amazing opportunity to see the beautiful view to Rome if you just have the patience to climb up.
  • Piazza Navona: Souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants. Piazza Navona is one of the most popular places to hang out for tourists. Wander around the small streets, visit churches and just enjoy the atmosphere this plaza offers.
  • Capuchin Crypt: One of the most unique attractions in Rome. This crypt has remains of 3 700 humans. Their skeletons make out most of the crypt and its decorations. Definitely part of Rome’s history but a little different take on it. Not for easily scared people!
  • Vittoriano: Huge white monument honors the first king of Italy. It’s nice to see from outside but mentioned on my Rome travel guide for a totally different reason. What many people don’t know is that you can take lift up to the top part of this monument and see beautiful panorama view to the city.

vatican_museum

Vatican

Vatican is small country inside of Rome and one of those places you shouldn’t skip at any price. It is worth of using one full day so it also deserves its own post in my blog. Next Wednesday I will publish small post full of information about Vatican and all the travel tips I learned while visiting there. For nor I can just say a few things…

  • Buy your tickets beforehand or you will wait in line for hours.
  • Take a guided tour to their gardens! It’s totally worth it.
  • There are too many people everywhere.
  • Read the map before exploring Vatican museum. You won’t have enough time and willpower to see everything as well as you want so pick out the most important ones to see for you.
  • Don’t trust the “Vatican” sign in the metro! It’s a trap. Or well not really but it may be sign for the wrong entrance.
  • If you try to find the Vatican’t entrance and decide to ask help from local, they may not know the right way. We even asked help from a military person but he didn’t even know in what direction the country is. So, have a map and read street names.

Street art Rome

I have seen too much history… What to do?

  • Markets! Campo de’ Fiori, Borghetto Flaminio Market, Fontanella Borghese Market and Campo de Fiori are just a few markets you could wander around in Rome. Visiting at least one market is must to do thing for every travelers. Pick your favorite from flea markets, food markets or markets selling literally everything.
  • Go to see the sea and spend day on beach. Follow the locals on train and spent nice relaxed day on beach. You have deserved one day of rest between all the sightseeing in Rome. The ride only takes about 30 minutes.
  • Jewish Ghetto is always one of those places you should check out in bigger European cities. It has its own atmosphere and style when compared to the rest of the city. Rome’s Jewish quarter has many attractions for travelers from Tiber Island to synagogues and from small cafes to bohemian shops.
  • Roman Cat Sanctuary aka Torre Argentina may be historic attraction. To be exact it is the place where Julius Caesar was murdered. So, why should you visit here is your brains got overdose of history? The ruins are taken over by about 250 cats and animals always make everything better, right?
  • Testaccio is one of the local neighborhoods in Rome. You don’t see many tourists here and so it is good place to escape the too packed historic areas. Visit at least local food market and Macro Museum of Contemporary Art (even if you don’t go to the museum, their yard is old slaughterhouse and super cool). And don’t skip partying because there is several clubs and bars in interesting buildings all found side by side from same street.
  • Nothing wins shopping! Rome is historic city but also paradise for shoppers. If you are on budget go to the cheap flea markets and if money isn’t problems the area around Spanish steps and Piazza di Spagna is full of high-end shops. There is also some cheaper shops if you start from the Piazza del Popolo and continue along Via del Corso street. Basically Rome is full of shopping areas so just use Google and find the nearest ones.

streetart_rome

Rome + Low budget = no problem?

Rome is often seen as expensive tourist destination that isn’t fit for those traveling with small budget. This isn’t the whole truth. Even if you don’t have a lot of money, Rome has many free things to do and some of them also happen to be must things to do in Rome.

  • Spanish steps: Spanish steps is also included as one of the major tourist attractions in this blog post. As long as you don’t end up buying something from the vendors walking amongst tourist it should be 100% free.
  • Churches: Rome is the city of churches and most of them are totally free to enter.
  • Pantheon: This old temple is the most influential building in Rome. It is best-known from photos of beautiful light coming inside of the hole in its roof. Definitely worth of seeing and free.
  • St. Peter’s Basilica: This is free part of Vatican if you don’t have the money to go for tour inside. However be ready for long queues and waiting before getting in the crowded basilica.
  • First Sunday of the month: This may surprise you but first Sunday of every month is day when you can see Colosseum, Forum Romanum and Palatine Hill free of charge. You just have to wait in line for long time but hey, it’s free! Also many Romae’s museums are free on this same Sunday.

rome_spanishsteps

Beware of scams!

As super touristy city Rome is the paradise of scammers and shady people. Be always on your toes and if something feels too good to be true or just not right, get away. It’s not worth the risk of getting robbed. Here is list of some of scams or dangers you may encounter in the ancient city:

  • Help is not free. You will probably encounter this scam if you are buying tickets from the main touristy metro stations. There is someone standing between two ticket machines “helping”. In reality you could just turn the machine to English and buy your tickets cheaply. After you have bought the tickets this person helping you will snatch the change you get back from the machine as tip for helping. Tip: Pay the exact amount of your ticket price or make sure you are ready to lose the change you would get.
  • Fake tours, guides and tickets. Only buy tickets from official people. Someone may offer you possibility to skip lines or get cheaper tickets but remember to always think: Why would this guy get any special tickets if anyone else doesn’t have? Remember also ask the price always before buying anything from anyone.
  • Rose for beautiful lady. This tourist scam is getting popular around Europe. This usually happens for couples or families, not as often for solo travelers. Man offers you rose because you are so beautiful just to demand high payment after you have taken the flower. If you are girl traveling with boy, they ask the price from man traveling with you because what kind of guy doesn’t buy flowers to his girl, right?
  • Fake products. This should be clear thing. Be always careful when buying brand products and especially if the price seems to be off.
  • Photo with pigeon. I saw this a lot when traveling in Italy and around eastern Europe. Someone will throw food around you or take your hand and put food to your hand just for pigeons appear to eat around you. What any tourist would want to do in this situation? Take photo of course! Just be aware that it will cost… a lot.

rome_metro

Useful tips to remember

  • Water fountains can be found around Rome and you can get free drinkable water from them. Yes, I know this sounds suspicious but it’s the truth. Locals drink from them, tourists drink from them and even my mom ended up drinking the fountain water (before our trip she was totally against it). Just check carefully that the fountain you are using is truly for drinking and not just for decoration. If others drink from it, there is big possibility that you can too.
  • You can skip the longest lines if you are clever. Traveling to Rome means waiting in queues for too long whatever you do. However with small research and clever thinking you can skip the longest lines. We mentioned these things already but here is two examples: For Vatican buy your tickets beforehand and there is almost no waiting. When visiting Colosseum go first to Palatine hill where you can buy the ticket right away. Instead of few hours of standing in line in front of Colosseum you only have to wait for about half an hour.
  • Always carry big scarf with you. No, this doesn’t have anything to do with chilly weather or covering yourself from the sun. Churches and other sacred places in Rome have strict dress-code. You can’t enter if your knees or shoulders are showing. During the summer months top and shorts seem like luxurious choice but it means churches are off limit for you. Except if you follow my tip and cover yourself with scarf when needed.
  • Some locals enjoy “siesta”. This means that there is shops and restaurants closed during afternoon hours but it depends a lot from area to area and even from shop to shop. People in Rome usually eat later at evening so you should too.
  • Use metros or trams and save yourself from terrible bus journey. Streets in Rome are narrow and often full of traffic. We didn’t use any buses during our trip but that was because many people warned us about them before we left. Metros and trams are easy to use and don’t get stuck to bad traffic!

airplane

I saw Rome, what now?

Have you spent more than enough time exploring Rome but still feel like you could continue your adventure to somewhere else? Don’t worry! I am expert at making long and difficult travel plans so here is a few possible ways you can continue your trip from Rome to somewhere else in Italy or Europe.

  • Train: Taking a train from Rome is maybe the easiest and fastest way to get Around Italy. Some tickets are a little expensive so it’s good to buy your trip beforehand. However there is some cities you can reach with only using ten to twenty euros. I recommend cities like Nice, Florence and Pisa.
  • Long distance bus: This is slower alternative for trains but also often cheaper when we talk about longer distances. Remember always check the current rates for trains and buses so you will know which one to pick. Taking night bus is easy way to move between two cities but it’s good to know that Rome’s main bus station is kind of shady and chaotic. I recommend using buses for places like Venice, Milan or Verona. If you want to go outside of Italy, Zurich or Ljubljana are interesting destination accessible by cheap buses.
  • Airplane: Rome is big centric city in Europe so many low-cost airlines fly around the continent from there. At least right now you can get flight to many countries only with 20€. (This is not advertising in any way but I use SkyScanner to find my cheap flights. Currently they are the only website I know with working “Fly Anywhere” option.) Those twenty euros flights I found were destinations like Bulgaria, Malta, France and Romania.
  • Cruise: Many cruises visit Rome or leave/end up in Rome. So, what would be better way to continue your holiday than board luxurious cruise ship? Some of these cruises sail around Mediterranean Sea visiting France, Spain, Greece and other cities in Italy while some ships sail even further.

colosseum_rome

So, this was my Rome travel guide for anyone who is planning their trip. It was first time I write guide like this so any feedback would be nice. Do you want to see more guides like this? I had fun writing so whatever your answer is there will be probably more posts like this coming. Sorry! Have you ever visited Rome or do you have any tips I forgot to mention? All comments are welcome like always.

Also don’t forget to follow my InstagramFacebook and Twitter!

With love,

Lost Viivi

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10 Things To Do In Finland During Summer

I get quite often asked for things to do in Finland and especially things to do in Finland during summer. So as promised here is list of 10 things you should do during summer in Finland. Some of these are more specific while others can be done almost anywhere.

Before listing all the things I have in mind I just want to mention that if you have only time to do one thing in Finland you should just walk around the nature and enjoy our fresh aired green forests. These tips are mostly something we locals do during summers. Totally normal for us but something foreigners may not try without encouragement. Enjoy and all Finns feel free to share your own tips on comments!

 

10. Day trip to Suomenlinna

Travel Blog Things To Do In Finland

Suomenlinna (Finland’s castle) is sea fortress and small island that is part of Finland’s capital Helsinki. If you are looking for perfect day trip destination in Finland, Suomenlinna is just perfect in every way. Idyllic small city, historic castle (that isn’t really castle but hey at least it sounds cool!) and of course perfect picnic spots with sea view. Lucky ones may even wave for cruise ships sailing right next to the island or take part to interesting events happening during summer.

Suomenlinna has earned its place on our ’10 Things To Do In Finland During Summer’ list. In addition to beautiful walking trails and cool cafes you can find handful of museums. If history isn’t your thing I recommend visiting toy museums. It’s not too expensive and I live for the small cafe they have. Try their matcha tea, I would die for it!

 

9. Free tours around churches

Travel Blog: Things To Do In Finland

Finland has this thing called Roadside churches that are open every summer. Basically you can enter these churches freely during their opening times. There is usually guide who is ready to tell you about the church, Finnish culture and near by destinations. Even if you are not one to get interested about history, religion or things like that roadside churches are still fun places to take small break from your busy day.

I have myself worked in roadside church and I can tell you that it is definitely interesting place to visit. Finland has a little over 200 churches open every summer and visiting at least one of them is definitely must thing to do in Finland during summer. Because Christianity as religion has been in Finland for quite short time many of the roadside churches have many interesting stories (and not only religious ones) behind them.

 

8. Swim in lakes and visit Finnish sauna

Finland summer, lake, forest, blue sky

You may have heard about Finnish saunas aka hot steamy rooms we go to relax. You should add this experience to your must to do things in Finland during summer list. When during winter we like to visit sauna and roll in snow afterwards, summers are dedicated for days on the beach. Colorful water toys, swimming in the still chilly lake water and then warming up in sauna. What would be better way to spend summer day in Finland?

As visitor in Finland you should look for the closest public sauna you can find. You can find them almost every city in Finland. Go there bravely and if you don’t know what to do you can always ask help from locals. In Helsinki good choice is sauna restaurant Löyly standing next to the ocean.

 

7. Visit outdoor museum

Travel Blog: Finland

If you want short look to the way Finns used to live, local art or even have picnic among statues, find the closest outdoor museum. Because Finns love to spend our limited summer days outside outdoor and open-air museums are popular places to visit. In Helsinki Seurasaari Open-Air Museum is perfect example of traditional Finnish outdoor museum. Old buildings, people dressed in national costumes and of course cute animals. If statue parks are your thing, I have heard many good things about Parikkala’s Sculpture Park.

 

6. Colorful old towns

Travel Blog: Things To Do In Finland

If you have been reading my blog for some time now, you may have realized that I am totally in love with old towns and colorful cities. That’s why my top 10 things to do in Finland during summer list wouldn’t be complete without sunny trip to pastel colored old town. Don’t get me wrong. These are good places to visit even at winter time but during summer Finnish old towns come to life. Small cafes, art galleries and of course locals having fun. My favorite ones are in Kokkola, Naantali and Mariehamn.

 

5. Day trip to Moominworld

Travel Blog: Moomins

Moomins are adorable fairy tale characters from Finland. These cuddly and friendly characters are well known from cartoons and comics. Every Finn knows them but surprisingly in the last few years Moomins have taken over Asia and more specifically Japan. Tourists around the world come to see Moomins in Finland but also locals love these characters. Most of us grew up watching these magical stories.

From pretty Finnish seaside city, Naantali, you can find theme park dedicated for Moomins. Moominworld is popular among local families and tourists. Even if you have never before heard about Moomins it is definitely worth of visit and good place to get know something more of Finnish culture. Remember to take bikinis with you because they also have idyllic beach!

 

4. Hike around national park

camping

Nature and Finland walk hand in hand. There is only under 6 million of us but we have a lot of area. One of the best sides of Finnish national parks: you can go there, hike and use everything freely. Just respect the nature, don’t litter and keep on trails when asked to. All national parks in Finland have good hiking trails that are well taken care of. There is even outdoor toilets, places for campfires and shelters to sleep in.

So, how can you do your perfect overnight trip to Finnish nature? First get tent, or hammock, or just sleeping bag (because like I said there is shelters you can use for sleeping). Step two: go to internet, find the closest or the most interesting national park and get free map. And finally take bus or tax or lift to your destination. Then walk. That’s it. Easy, right?

 

3. Enjoy the sun with cold drink on terrace

drink_summer
Photo from Unsplash

Finns are known for heavy drinking but even if you are not one of those party animals drinking cold beer (or glass of fine wine) on sunny day while watching people passing by is almost perfect moment to have. It is something locals do. When it gets warm and days get longer every place from bars to restaurants and small cafes open their terraces. And at the same time those terraces get full of Finns enjoying our short summer warmth.

 

2. Crazy festivals

Travel Blog: Finland Festival

Because summers in Finland are short we love to enjoy them as well as we can. This is why visiting festival is one of my must to do things in Finland during summer. We have everything from music festivals with world class names to small village happenings with local musicians and events varying from family olympics to dance performances.

Maybe the most popular celebration of summer in Finland is for midsummer (juhannus). Midsummer fest is also event to celebrate our nightless night. Traditional ways to spent midsummer are burning a huge pile of branches, drinking and doing summer magic like try to find out your future husband through dream. Just find out from internet where the closest festival is and go. A little alcohol and warm summer day makes even us Finns friendly and talkative. You will fit in perfectly.

 

1. Enjoy peaceful Finnish summer cottage life

cottage_summer
Photo from Unsplash

Maybe the most Finnish thing you can do here during summer is to spend weekend living in cottage. You will get bonus points if the cottage is next to lake, has wooden sauna and no water toilet. It’s like escape from city to just be peacefully with yourself, your friends and family. You can play traditional Finnish summer games like Mölkky, boot throwing and of course board games. There is nothing as atmospheric as playing game of Uno in candle light chocolate as price while listening radio.

Other important cottage (in Finnish ‘Mökki’) activities are swimming and eating. Barbecues are normal things and especially eating sausages and as dessert traditional Finnish pancakes made on campfire. But in reality there is no rules for cottage life. Just enjoy and have fun with your closest ones.

 

Have you any summery things to do in Finland you would like to recommend? All comments are welcome like always. It’s already June so I just want to wish good summer and happy holiday for everyone! And thank you for 2 000 readers. I don’t know what your are still doing here but you are highly appreciated. This writing thing would be super boring without you. 🙂

With love,

Lost Viivi

10 Things To Do In Stockholm

Stockholm is interesting northern city divided to idyllic old town and modern city full of shops, culture and tourist attractions. For me the best 10 things to do in Stockholm would be mostly museums BUT I know not everyone is as art freak as I am so this list tries to contain also other things you can experience in Stockholm. I hope you enjoy and feel free to leave your own tips to the comments section.

(I will add more images afterwards because I am busy now…)

10. Skeppsholmen

Stockholm has many small islands and Skeppsholmen is one of them. Skeppsholmen is best known as home of interesting museums. Modern art museums Moderna Museet, Bergrummet museum in old tunnels, Asian art museum Östasiatiska museet and Arkitektur och designcentrum museum that has information about Swedish architecture.

In addition to these museums (most of them free) Skeppsholmen is beautiful island full of nature so I recommend walking around it. There is also old Af Chapman ship that works as hotel and restaurant. From its deck you can see beautiful view to central Stockholm.

 

9. Canal Walk

stockholm_city

Stockholm has several bridges and canals and that’s why walking among them is one of the must things to do in Stockholm. I recommend starting in front of Royal Palace where you can feed birds and take cool photos. Then continue your trip among the water. Another good place to start is from Stockholm City Hall and walk among Klara Sjö. It may be a little more remote but you get to see real Stockholm.

If walking isn’t for you, taking canal cruise is also good option. Sit in boat while sailing through beautiful Stockholm. However some of the smaller, more remote and in my opinion more beautiful canals may be better places to visit and offer you more authentic Stockholm experience.

 

8. Moderna Museet / Modern Art Museum

yayoi kusama moderna museet

I already mentioned this place when talking about Skeppsholmen island being one of the must things to do in Stockholm. However, Moderna Museet is definitely my favorite place in Stockholm and deserves its own recommendation section. (I think I would write its own post for this place if I wasn’t this lazy… Seriously, visit here even if you hate art!)

Moderna Museet has world class modern art exhibitions and in addition to that totally free huge permanent art collection. If you don’t want to pay to see art, consider at least giving quick visit to that free side of this museum. When you fall in love with it, because I surely know you will, visit their expensive changing exhibitions. I have seen everything from Yayoi Kusama’s colorful infinity rooms to Marina Abramovic’s questionable raw films. Definitely one of the best modern museums I have visited.

 

7. Kulturhuset

The name ‘Kulturhuset’ already tells why it’s on my ’10 Things To Do In Stockholm’ list. Who wouldn’t like culture? If I tell the truth I fell in love with Kulturhuset, because of its amazing rooftop cafe/restaurant. Those views are just amazing and one of the must things to do when you come to Stockholm. I always start my city trip from observation deck and Kulturhuset fits that purpose perfectly.

I have visited Kulturhuset every time I have went to Stockholm (and that’s a lot). However my solo travel to Stockholm earlier this year was the first time I did more than just had coffee at the rooftop cafe. Kulturhuset has huge tourist information center that is the best place to start your trip. They have a lot of free guides, maps and friendly staff that is always ready to help you. If you need free internet, they also have that.

In addition to these more touristy things, Kulturhuset has libraries and theater. If you have extra time, try visiting one of the libraries. It’s not just a normal books but real media center full of new experiences and interesting settings. Kulturhuset also arranges several design, art and fashion exhibitions every year.

 

6. Royal Palace

sweden sky and sea

Sweden is lead by royals so of course Royal Palace is one of the must things to do in Stockholm. I feel like bad tourist because I don’t have that much information about this place. I only saw changing of guards (one of the major things to see in Sweden) for the first time this year. So, I don’t have much to say except visit here or at least take some cool photos.

 

5. Djurgården

Djurgården or Kungliga Djurgården (Royal Park) is one of the island in central Stockholm. If you want to see nature in city, this place is for you. Its touristy place but also locals like to spend sunny summer days here. Walk around, drink coffee and enjoy fresh Swedish nature. Djurgården is easily accessed either by foot or by ferry from old town. There is also several museums like ABBA: The Museum, Vasa Museum, Thielska galleriet, Junibacken and Biological Museum.

One of the most popular museums (and the one I recommend for everyone coming from somewhere far away) is Skansen open-air museum. It has zoo and it displays traditional Swedish way of living. So, if you want to learn something about this Nordic country you have just visited, Skansen should definitely be on you must things to do in Stockholm list.

 

4. Fotografiska Museet / Photography Museum

I don’t know why I haven’t visited here before the trip I did to Sweden this year. This photography museum made its way to my favorite things to do in Stockholm right away after I stepped inside. Firstly, who doesn’t love photographs? Secondly, the atmospheres in different exhibitions were perfectly created with right lighting and correct layouts. I have nothing bad to say (except maybe the expensive admission but I can understand why…) This place is a little walk away from the most central area of Stockholm but it only fits well with the nature of this museum.

 

3. Stockholms Stadshus

Stockholms Stadshus (or in English Stockholm’s city hall) gets place three from my 10 Things To Do In Stockholm list because of the view you will see from its garden/yard. Old town and the colorful buildings reflect beautifully from the water and create perfect place to take photos for tourists and those loving photography. They also have interesting shop with cool souvenirs and you can visit the city hall itself.

 

2. Shopping

 

Stockholm is like northern shopping paradise. You can find everything from world-class brand stores to old small local vintage shops. My favorite is Gallerian shopping mall (that was apparently the first shopping mall in Stockholm’s central area and is still one of the most popular ones). You should also visit Åhlens because even if it may be a little expensive for traveler’s budget it definitely has its own charm. Newer place I haven’t had change to try but that I have heard a lot of good things about is Mall Of Scandinavia. It has many brand stores and is truly shopping PARADISE.

 

1. Gamla Stan / Old Town

sweden_photo

Like I have said million times: I love old towns. Stockholm’s Gamla Stan (Swedish term for old town) is one of my favorites. Narrow streets, colorful buildings and -of course- cute little cafes. They have nutella waffles everywhere so I recommend tasting those. I spent most of my time in local book shop but if you want to see something more touristy try Kungliga Slottet / Royal Palace and go see the changing of guards. Also royal shop near Royal Palace is something worth of seeing.

 

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I am traveling to Stockholm with my family this weekend so I thought now would be good time to publish this ’10 Things To Do In Stockholm’ article that has been waiting for too long. I mean I have traveled to Stockholm at least two times during the last year I have been writing this blog. So, do you have any new recommendations for me? All tips, tricks and opinions are welcome like always.

Have an amazing day!
With love,

Viivi Severina

10 Things to do in Kyoto, Japan

To my own surprise after  wondering what would be my top 10 places to visit in Kyoto most of them were free things. It’s not only because I’m broke and cheap (okay, maybe it has something to do with that fact…). Kyoto just has many free and beautiful attractions!

So here is my top 10 list of things to do when visiting Kyoto (most of them free or cheap). I spend almost two months in Kyoto so I visited most of them several times. If I had only a one day in Kyoto these are the ones I would be considering to visit.

10. Philosopher’s Path & Ginkaku-ji

 Whatever you were deep thinker or just doing touristy things around Kyoto Philosopher’s Path is something you shouldn’t skip. I recommend visiting during fall (the colors are BEAUTIFUL) or during cherry blossom season. Philosopher’s path follows small canal for two kilometers.

There is cute small cafes, shops and small temples to visit during your walk. Or if you are deep thinker you may want to follow the foot steps of Nishida Kitado who is one of Japan’s most famous philosophers and who used to walk this route and meditate. Philosopher’s path starts/ends to Ginkakuji temple that is place worth of visit on its own.

 

9. Kyoto Aquarium

Kyoto, japan aquarium

It may seem stupid to include aquarium in this list because you can find them from anywhere in the world. Fortunately I am not one to follow general opinions. I think I have said this before but if you want to make me fall in love with you just take me to the aquarium. Seeing colorful fishes, sharks, etc. is amazing what ever country you are currently.

Penguins, jellyfishes and pet a sea animals corner made me spend too many hours in this dark huge aquarium. There was also dolphin music show and a lot of souvenirs to buy. I recommend this for all fellow aquarium lovers!

 

8. Train Station

happy_terrace_kyoto

This may sound lame but Kyoto’s train station was one of my regular places to wander around. There is three shopping centers, countless restaurants and city’s best tourist information. One of my favorite things to do in Kyoto was to eat evening snacks in the free observation deck after I had bought them from the basement floor’s food stalls. (BTW. free food samples are offered there if you go on the right time.)

You can use hours after hours just getting to know all the shops and trying different foods. Get your the best city tips and current events from tourist information. And like I said that observation deck and its Happy Terrace are one of the secret wonders of Kyoto.

 

7. Manga Museum

My plan was to visit here on my last week in Kyoto but then I didn’t have a time. I can however recommend it for everyone because I did hear so many good reviews of it by the other hostel guests. Manga museum is just what it sounds like… building full of mangas you can read! Majority of the books is in Japanese but there is also section for other languages.

Manga museum is located in old elementary school so in addition to all the mangas you can experience the atmosphere of Japanese school life. Admission costs 800 yen (and special exhibitions have their own prices). However there is “special” days when the admission is free for everyone.

 

6. Gion

gion

Let’s play association game once again! When I say Japan what do you think? I would guess that at least some of thought beautiful geisha. If that is what you wait from Japan then going to Gion is your best bet of succeeding in ‘geisha hunting’. (Don’t hunt geishas please… They are working so if you see them be considering).

Gion is often referred to be the old district of Kyoto. The buildings are photogenic and the shops offer free food samples of traditional Japanese snacks. There is one ‘main street’ but don’t be scared to part from it and wander around the smaller streets. I don’t recommend eating here even if the restaurants seem tempting (the prices are totally touristy/expensive).

 

5. Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)

Travel Year 2016: Japan Kyoto

The Golden temple is one of the most touristy places in Kyoto. It is still worth of visiting. The main thing to see is the gold-colored temple in water. Just to take pictures with that temple is worth of paying the 400 yen entrance fee. -That however is just my opinion…-

Be aware that there will be a lot of people and possibly waiting to get in. In the end of this walk through the area you can find small food and souvenir stalls. Don’t just run past them even if I don’t recommend buying anything (the prices are high). Try the free food samples because they have some options that aren’t so popular in other parts of Kyoto.

Read about my adventure to Golden Pavilion

 

4. Kiyomizu-dera

kiyomizu

I tried to not put too many shrines and temples to this list but with Kyoto it is impossible. I would do own list for those because I visited so many on my time in this historical city. Kiyomizu-derra is place I hope I could have found earlier during my stay. It’s not even the temple that charmed me but the area around it. All the small shops, tiny alleys and old buildings. 

Even if you feel like paying the 400 admission fee is too much for you to handle I recommend visiting the area. You can’t see the main temple but there is a lot more for this place. There is also many pop culture (and kpop culture) shops for those who share my interest in this area.

 

3. Arashiyama

bambooforest

Arashiyama is area in western Kyoto. There is located two must to go places: Bamboo forest and Monkey park. Also the area of Arashiyama alone is fun to explore. There is a lot of souvenir shops, temples/shrines and free food samples. Just be careful or you will get hopelessly lost…

When you see cool Japan travel photos with bamboos I would bet they are taken in Bamboo forest. It is one of the places Kyoto is popular for. Warning: Its popularity means too much people and if you go wrong time you probably can’t take that perfect bamboo photo without dozen tourist heads disturbing you. I recommend morning or just before sunset. 

 

2. Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art

At first I was surprised that Kyoto doesn’t have that many museums. But after visiting the ones this traditional city has I didn’t have any more complaints. Municipal Museum of Art was amazing and I didn’t even go inside the museum. Unfortunately when I meant to visit I hadn’t checked the timing correctly and it was already closed. However you can always visit the museum’s garden and let me tell you it was enough art for me. There was countless amount of modern art pieces during my visit.

And when you are at it Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art is located perfectly. It is separated from Kyoto’s National Museum Of Modern Art by huge torii gate (see photo above). Close to the museum is also Kyoto zoo and popular Heian Shrine.

 

1. Fushima Inari

torii

My favorite place in Kyoto, Japan and maybe even in the whole wide world! If you have learned about Japan and/or about it religions you have probably seen photos of Fushimi Inari and its endless rows of torii gates. Fushimi Inari, Fushimi Inari Taisha or Mt. Inari is mountain dedicated for fox god. The mountain paths are surrounded by thousands of red gates that are donated by Japanese businesses.

Hike up the mountain is going to be tough so I recommend good shoes and a lot of snacks. Don’t be scared to take the not so beaten path because this mountain is full of surprises and secret wonders.

Read about my adventure to Fushimi Inari

 

I know, I know… Once again I was late with post. Sorry, but I think you are already used to me not following my own rules. I’m waiting excitedly the day when I can write all my posts on the right days. We are going there (slowly) so please bear with my laziness for a little while longer.

Like always comments are welcome! Have you visited Kyoto and what were your favorite places? Or would you like to visit there some day?

With love,

Viivi Severina

10 Things To Do in Montpellier, France

When you think France you automatically think love and Paris. That’s pity – not the love part but that only city we let define our image of France is its capital. I love Paris and its cultural touristy things but there is a lot more to see in this huge European country. Paris may have Eiffel Tower, Louvre and dozen of other attractions popular among tourists but other parts of the country have as much if not even more to offer for those loving adventures.

Today we are going to take peak to France’s south coast and list 10 things to do in Montpellier.  I was privileged to visit this charming city last year. Montpellier is more known among the local travellers and families who come to spend their holidays to the beautiful beaches. Everyone who prefers old town atmosphere, street art varying from graffiti to magicians or relaxed days on beach will fall in love with Montpellier.

 

beautiful beach and seashell

10. Day trip to the beach

Take the scenic tram or bus to the beach and enjoy the soothing sea. At winter you will be solely by yourself whereas summer brings all the local tourists to take their part of the sunbathing and swimming. Both seasons are worth of visit and maybe pick up some pretty stones or seashell as souvenirs.

Maybe this is because I’m Finn and not used to visit endless white sand beaches but this really made me fall in love with southern France. Not many things are as epic as walking around empty endless beach and picking up beautiful seashells. 

 

9. Roam around the old city

Start from the place de la Comedie and be ready to get lost (and to shop cheap shoes…) Stop for Nutella pancakes or to drink bear. Maybe visit some of the small galleries or drift to remote patio. Be ready to take photos because the old city is full of charm!

 

Montpellier Graffiti

8. Graffiti Hunting

There is two ways of approach graffiti hunting… First one is just go for it. The old town and literally every other place in Montpellier is full of street art. Just keep your eyes open and remember to look up and down. Because some of the art is on ground while some of it is up on the roofs. You will never know what you can find.

The second way of graffiti hunting is more systematic. Go to the tourist information (or use Google) and take map with marked graffiti spots. Then just look like a real tourist and use the map to locate some of the best street art there is.

One of the specialties of Montpellier are the huge murals taking over the whole wall of buildings. These may be hard to find at first because often they are made to look real and as part of the city. However after a little searching you will get amazed.

 

7. Guided Tours

Montpellier is full of tours from free ones to pricey longer ones. Just go on the city’s tourism website or use google. I didn’t go to any while in Montpellier but heard a lot of good feed back of them. You will get to go in places normal tourist can’t get in. You can also try driving segway around the old city! I think there is tours for any kind of people so you will definitely find one perfect for you.

 

Wanderlust Wednesday: Travel Montpellier

6. Musée Fabre

This huge museum has something to offer for everyone. Mainly “older” art works, known artists and local masterpieces. It will take hours to wander around and see everything. When I visited Fabre the art works at the end of museum didn’t get a lot of my attention because of the tiredness. Visiting here in two different days would be the best option.

 

5. Rockstore & Gazette

Concert place and club in the downtown Montpellier. I didn’t go inside while in the city because I’m not huge fan of indie music or partying. However even just seeing the door is must thing to do. Unfortunately I have lost my photo from this place but it’s easy to recognize. Half of car comes out of the wall above their front door.

Gazette is another place to spend your evening and find interesting nightlife. I fell in love with this cozy restaurant, cafe, bar right after stepping in for the first time. Everyone from babies to elderly people can spend time together and have fun. There was literally people from every age group. And at one point of the evening there was free dance lessons for anyone wanting to take part.

 

Wanderlust Wednesday: Montpellier Travel Guide

4. Streets

With this I mean a lot of things. The street arts filling up every free wall space you could possible imagine being in city like this. Colorful decorations and small boutiques. The performers playing instruments, dancing and entertaining passersby. Endless possibilities to get lost and never find your way out.

Don’t forget to look out for the graffiti and artsy bikes coming out of the walls. And don’t be scared to visit the small galleries and shops that you can find everywhere from the city’s small streets. Montpellier’s charm is hold in these places.

 

Wanderlust Wednesday: Travel Guide Montpellier

3. Tram, Tram, Tram

If I had to say my favorite thing from Montpellier it would be the colorful trams! Also if I had to share one surviving tip for Montpellier: never cross the tram lines… This is not for your own safety but rather tip to not get lost. The trams circle around the old town so if you never cross the tram lines you will never exit the old town. This way even if you get lost you won’t be totally in trouble.

There is several tram lines that have all their own design. For example blue tram with bird design and colorful one with funny images. The stops are always styled similarly to the trains passing through it. In addition of looking cool trams are cheap way of going around and see more than just the centre of Montpellier.

 

2. La Panacee

I live for free museums and modern art. La Panacee combines those two (and amazing buffet restaurant.) It may be hard to find and at least for me it took several tries to exploring around the old streets before spotting this small museum. Definitely worth of taking your time and trying to find it. The changing exhibitions are interesting and something different from the more normal museums. And did I already mention that it is FREE! 

 

Wanderlust Wednesday: Montpellier Urban Travel Guide

1. Wine & Cheese picnic

The last but not the least on my list is picnic. Go to local super market, buy some cheap cheese, wine or sweets and find beautiful place to have picnic. Maybe you should go to the beach or some of the lively parks. Where ever you decide to make your home, Montpellier won’t disappoint you. This city is full of life, funny people and charm. (Disclaimer: Don’t picnic on tram tracks like my photo seems to suggest…)

 

So have you ever been to Montpellier? Or have you even heard about this charming city? Any comments you have are appreciated like always…

So this was the first post of my returning Wanderlust Wednesdays series! I hope you liked it because there is more posts coming soon.

With love,

Viivi Severina