It turns out March in Istanbul is the perfect time to visit. Actually, scratch that, I would say anytime is the perfect time to go. No wonder it’s been named the best destination to visit in 2014. Living in Athens, it was an easy trip for me and my friend across the Aegean for three days of exploring in the vast (trust me, it’s huge) sprawling Turkish City.
Ok, i’ll throw my hands up and say it was kind of a surprise to realise just how huge the city is. It’s spread across both sides of the Bosphorus. Since we had such a short time, we fancied seeing the obvious ones, this was a taster really, but here’s our highlights:
Next time you’re away on holidays and decide to whip out your camera to snap some pics of the area’s most famous attractions like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, or the Empire State Building in New York, remember you’re not alone. Sightsmap is a heatmap that charts the most photographed tourist attractions around the world. The images are collated by how ‘hot’ they are, based on the number of people sharing them via Google’s Panoramio. Here’s the top 10 of the world’s most photographed places in the world, with a few that might surprise you. Which one is your favourite?
It’s official, Trip Advisor the world renowned travel site has awarded a host of awards for best destinations 2014. The annual Traveller’s Choice Awards includes the vast city of Istanbul in Turkey which tops the poll, with Rome, London and Beijing following close behind. Each city or place earned its review through the reviews and opinions of visitors the site. “If you’re looking for trip inspiration, look no further than the Travelers’ Choice Destinations,” said Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor. “Our global travelers are the tastemakers for uncovering the best places to visit around the world.” The awards in its 6th year picks out 500 of the absolute best places to visit in the world.
But what are these places really like? I’ve asked some of the Purple Travel family to share their thoughts on the top destinations 2014. Some they loved and some… well, you’ll see for yourself. We’d love to hear what you think, good or bad about the official list!
1. Istanbul, TurkeyFantastic city full of sights and culture. The people are so friendly and eager to help. This place has it all. – Gary I think the best of the best way to taste the Turkish food, and experience the Turkish mentality, is to eat this giant hot dog with fish and cabbage at the Bosphorus coast on the Asian part of Istanbul. There are cooks on floating boats, preparing the grilled fish, that are then placed on these huge bagel and stuffed that with cabbage, fried potatoes and mustard. You cannot imagine! Also don’t miss the old guy outside the Blue Mosque who sells bagels and gives you for free La vache qui rit portion! – Soso
2. Rome, ItalyWhat can someone say about Rome, about the Italians, their food and their language? I think my best moments in Rome were when we were walking around from the Piazza di Spagna, to the Colosseum, and the Fontana di Trevi. Suggested hotels-the newly built Caravel hotel (just two stops by bus from Piazza di Spagna) with nice big rooms and a lovely receptionist and Hotel Trevi, with its traditional style in the very centre of the city!!! loved them both, love Rome! – Soso
3. London, EnglandMassive dump, ok for day trips but get out before it chews you up. – Gary
Treat him or her to a fantastic Valentine’s holiday with Purple Travel. We’ve got 10 of Europe’s most romantic cities for all types of couples. If It’s history that you’re mad about, incredible hotel rooms that you won’t leave for days on end or a sunshine getaway where you can relax hand in hand on a secluded beach, you’ll love our list of Europe’s most romantic cities. We threw the question out on Google + and Facebook and got some great responses. As always, anything we’ve missed, let us know in comment and already decided where you want to go on your next city break? Call Purple Travel on 02079939228 for low cost flights and hotels Europe’s Most Romantic Cities…
#1 Dazzlingly beautiful Italy’s Liguria Coast is filled with cost tucked-away romantic guesthouses and hotels. Sometimes known as the Bay of fairy tales the ancient ruins and old castles provide a stunning backdrop to sunset dinners on a terrace and balmy evenings walking hand in hand. Choose from ocean view hotels with high ceilings and don’t forget to visit the cocktail bars.
#2 Paris is perfect for traditional romantics. An obvious choice but that’s because it’s so good! We’re talking freshly baked croissants for breakfast in bread, the views from the top of the Eiffel Tower and long meals accompanied by the best red wine. Paris is filled with amazing hotels so you can treat him or her to a Valentine’s they’ll never forget.
#3 Just a couple of hours away, Rome is a hot choice for history and art lovers for couples who want to discover the Sistine Chapel or the Coliseum together. Stay in the The wide streets and incredible selection of restaurants make this one of Europe’s most romantic cities.
#4 It might not be the first city that pops into your head, but Copenhagen in Denmark makes a gorgeous romantic weekend away. The city renowned for its links to fairy tale writer Hans Chrsitan Andersen is a jusst 90 minutes from the UK. Stop for hot chocolates and a heart shaped cake in one of the city’s famous cafes after a visit to the Winter Garden, the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. In the evening cinema is one of the most popular things to do in Copenhagen and it’s easy to see why. Cinemas like the Empire and Falkoner have specially made seats just for two. Copenhagen image via @ Visit Denmark
#5 One of the most popular cities in Europe right now the Portuguese capital has it all. Lively Lisbon is all cobblestone streets, cosy cafes and bars and incredible hotels. All of those overlooked by an ancient castle. It’s hard to top Lisbon for most romantic cities. Lisbon image via @ Luca Sartoni
#6 The magical kingdoms in Game of Thrones might be familiar when you set foot in Dubrovnik. The hazy sun soaked pottery tiled roofs and shiny flagstoned streets are not only beautiful, but world-famous now too thanks to the filming of the George RR Martin books. The city’s old walls doubles as Kings Landing and the view from the top shows off Blackwater Bay. Dubrovnik is top of the romance charts as far as we are concerned. Dubrovnik via @ Branimal!
#7 Venice. A long established romantic hot spot, Barbara Hopley on our Google + page shared her thoughts about her favourite romantic city in Europe: “Venice definitely, a nice dinner then a Gondola ride – perfect! Highly recommend, I love Venice.”
#8 A stunningly well-preserved city, Prague is made for walking around hand in hand with the one you love. A sea of spires and statues awaits you by day, while at night, the famous Prague nightlife is sure to impress any party-loving couple. Sunset dinner in Prague via @ MadebyMark
#9 Holidays in Marrakech are made up of a couple of essentials: discovering the sights and sounds of the Medina, testing out your shisha smoking skills, eating incredible local food and maybe a bit of sunbathing thrown in. Marrakech couples city breaks are all about adventure and who better to share that with than your other half.
#10 Santorini has all the elements for the perfect couple’s holiday. Those incredible sunsets, the winding white washed streets where it feels like it’s just the two of you alone in the world. Book a room with a sea view and your own private swimming pool, just don’t blame us if you never want to leave.
Have something special in mind for Valentine’s Day? Call the expert travel team at Purple Travel on 02079939228 and surprise the one you love this year.
The Italians love being helpful. Even if you are only asking for street directions, you’ll end up listening to all possible options, which one the locals would take and precisely why. In the end, one thing is for sure, you’ll be changing your initial destination as their suggestion will always be better than yours! Well, what can you do… passionate, strong-minded and original, Italians are like this! After all that’s why they’re so much fun. But be careful! There are certain things you’d better be conscious about when visiting Italy!
Here’s a list of DON’Ts that’ll guarantee you a great holiday in Italy this year.
There is an incredible flower restaurant in France which is made completely of organic blossoms and greenery. It’s called Mas Provencal and we think it’s safe to say these pictures don’t even do it justice. Found near the beautiful city of Nice on the outskirts of Eze Village on the South of France, it’s more fairyland than regular restaurant and has more flowers than tables! Every inch is covered with hanging baskets, floating ivy, blooms of every type imaginable from roses to orchids and more, an unmissable destination if you find yourself on holidays in France near Nice.
Like something from Alice in Wonderland, customers are invited to pick some grapes or cherry tomatoes that hang from the ceiling as they enjoy a luxury meal. Wilting flowers are replaced every day to keep it sweet smelling. The menu includes roast pig on a spit, and veal cooked on coals. It’s hard to tell if this is a greenhouse you can eat in, or a restaurant that happens to be florally inclined! Either way, we love it.
Purple 10: Europe’s cheapest cities… as tracked by the European Backpacker Index
It’s official, the list of Europes cheapest cities has just been announced. These 10 cities definitely won’t break the bank, and a combo of cheap flights, transport, hotels and things to see and do, mean the likes of Bucharest, Krakow and Zagreb should feature for your next city break.
Getting there doesn’t have to be difficult with excellent prices for flights and accommodation from Purple Travel, while our guides to free stuff to do, means there are city breaks for everyone that won’t break the bank. Here are some of our picks for great city breaks this year.
Amsterdam is a great year to visit the Dutch city famous for its canals and cafes. The city’s stretches of canal make the ideal accompaniment to an afternoon stroll, a bit of window shopping, or a stop in one of the ‘brown cafes’ named for the cigarette stained walls, hmm! The centre of the city at Dam Square is a people watching paradise; while the Red Light District, well it is worth a look, just don’t take any pictures while you’re there or you might end up spending more than you bargained for.
If you time it right, Paris is far more cheap ‘n’ cheerful than you first might have imagined! The first Sunday of the month, sees the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay and Centre Pompidou open their doors for free. Street art is one of the most popular pastimes, with painters indulging their talents on the well worn boulevards. Finish up with a stroll through Parc des Buttes, Chaumont. It has some of the best and free (of course) views of the city. If you really run out of things to see, you could always visit the infamous Pere Lachaise cemetery where Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison are buried.
New York, well, we’ve covered the Big Apple in detail before, but our favourites are the High Line Park built up on a former freight rail line, free kayaking on the Hudson, lunchtime concerts at Trinity Church on Wall Street and free tours by the Big Apple Greeters.
The ultimate in cheap city and sunshine combos has to be Malaga. On the Costa del Sol, it’s long been a firm favourite with travellers from across the UK. The legendary sun drenched Spanish Coast is filled with great value hotels to suit every budget. You can have free fun in the Smurf village of nearby Juzcar, hit the beach of Benalmadena or the city’s own beach of Malagueta. Of course the nightlife is brilliant throughout the region, with plenty of drinks promos and free entry to clubs in Torremolinos or Fuengirola and it’s the top choice for a cheap stag or hen do.
You won’t want to say arrivederciRoma after a weekend in the gorgeous Italian City. It might not strike you as the cheapest city on earth, but there’s lots to see and do if you get a little research in first. Head for the Pantheon, the ancient Roman temple that once honoured the gods, it is free to visit. An ice cream at the Spanish Steps or an espresso by the Trevi Fountain are delicious ways to enjoy the city and many of the city’s museums are free on the first Sunday of the month, now that’s a great idea for city breaks that won’t break the bank.
So with all that action going on, for free, what are you waiting for? Talk to the experts at Purple Travel to book your next cheap city break.
The reopening of the Rijksmuseum. After ten years of extensive renovations and improvements, Amsterdam’s flagship museum is set to open its doors again on April 13th.
Van Gogh to Amsterdam. Arguably the city’s most praised artist, the Van Gogh Museum will reopen just days after the Rijksmuseum on May 2nd. It will celebrate 40 years with many major works by the artist on display.
Canals can age very well. In Holland anyway, where Amsterdam will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the architecture and importance of the city’s (UNESCO World Heritage Listed) canals with parties and events.
Music fans rejoice. Amsterdam is going all out to celebrate its musical heritage in 2013, with the famous Concertgebouw Concert Hall enjoying its 125th anniversary. There will be live performances, as well as special events by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
Artis Royal Zoo. One of the most fun places in Amsterdam, the zoo is also a playground and park. It will mark over 175 years with a riot of colour, as thousands of new plants are set to bloom. A great choice if you’re bringing the kids with you.
Royal watching. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands announced earlier this year that she would abdicate in favour of her son, Crown-Prince Willem-Alexander. You can be sure that the city will throw some kind of celebration for the event on April 30th.
The Felix Meritis. An historic house, where the wealthy citizens of the city would meet to talk about politics, the arts and science, it is still an iconic place to visit and reopens this year on April 18th to celebrate its 225th anniversary.
Pride in Amsterdam. Another celebration on the canals, Amsterdam will celebrate its Pride Festival with street parties, club parties and the famous Canal Parade. Most events take place around August 2-4th.
Frans Hals Museum. A selection of key masterpieces by the Dutch artist will be presented to mark the museum’s centenary year. Displayed side by side with amazing works by the likes of Rubens and Rembrandts, this is sure to be a feast for the eyes.
Summer in Amsterdam. It’s not just for city breaks, Amsterdam breaks out in blissful sunshine every summer, with many locals heading outside to their favourite roof terrace for a drink, to cinema under the stars, enjoy a visit to a canal side Amsterdam cafe, or head for the urban beaches.
Tell us your reasons to visit Amsterdam in 2013, and we’ll add them here.
For more details on city or summer breaks to the Netherlands, call Purple Travel on 0207 993 9228.
Planning your next city break, but looking for something a little more unique? Lisbon is just a couple of hours away from the UK and is all about relaxing over a coffee, dancing all night, soaking up the vibrant atmosphere and eating delicious food and maybe, just maybe indulging in a few bargains. Here’s our Lisbon Destination Guide.
Lisbon’s built up on seven hills, so it’s good to get your bearings first. Head up to the Castelo de Sao Jorge, or Saint George Castle to take in the spectacular sights. The extraordinary views over the whole city and the river Tagus offers an impressive introduction to Portugal. If you fancy staying on the move, then the Lavra Funicular is a relaxed route to the beautiful Torel Gardens. Over 120 years old, it’s a bit of a city treasure and is a wonderful and romantic afternoon jaunt.
If you’re taking the kids with you, don’t miss out on the Oceanario de Lisboa, the city’s aquarium or have a go at some experiments in the Pavilhao do Conchecimento, or science museum. There’s also Lisbon Zoo with over 2,000 animals as well as live shows. We reckon you’ll find something to impress kids of all ages in the city.
Portugal has a long history of art and culture and Lisbon has no shortage of fantastic museums and galleries. Contemporary pieces can be seen in the Chiado museum and Modern Art Center. The city’s churches are packed with history and can easily be seen on foot. Sao Roque and Carmo Church are two choices. The Tile Museum and Decorative Arts Museum are popular picks – and more interesting than you might think. Remember, these are just a handful of the wonderful museums Lisbon is famous for.
The Bairro Alto neighbourhood is made for Saturday strolling in the sunshine. If you’ve arrived on a Friday and checked in, head for the great atmosphere and traditional architecture to get a feel for the city. Its winding streets, lead to open terraces where you can sip on a coffee and soak up the sunshine. As a former red light district though, despite renovation, it might not have good vibes for everyone. The lower neighbourhood of Baixa is lovely for strolling around too. The beating heart of the city, it is a haven for foodies who can choose their own fresh lobster straight from the tank, or walk hand in hand in glorious sunshine.
Bars like Visita Virtual on Rua D Pedro V reflect Lisbon’s laidback atmosphere while cocktail friendly Bairrazza Bairro Alto offers some of the best Caiprinhas in town (so we are told!) If you want something quite different for a night out, head for art and culture space Arte & Manha, a hip (dangerously so!) bar/gallery/venue and restaurant. There you’ll find everything from Fado, jazz, samba and Latin nights, offering a place to lounge until 4am most nights. If you’re after gigs in Lisbon, visit Ask Me Lisboa for the latest updates on listings.
For something completely different, you could always visit the sexiest toilet on earth! In Terrerio do Paco via the very lovely PortugalConfidential blog.
The ultimate in city breaks, of course our Lisbon Destination Guide wouldn’t be complete without checking out some cool and trendy hotels. We like the 4* Turim Alameda, or the more budget friendly 2* Duas Nacoes Hotel. Both offer excellent service and great locations. For the ultimate in luxury you could always head for the 5* Epic Sana Lisboa in upscale neighbourhood Amoreiras. Epic by name, epic by nature! Finally the 3* America Diamonds, has a top notch top floor restaurant offering great views and a modern design at decent prices.
We love the laidback cool of Lisbon, whether you’re enjoying the best in delicious desserts or sipping on a freshly brewed coffee, it’s a city of wild contrasts not least in its food choices. Check out the Goan cuisine which is super hot and spicy at Restaurante Nau do Restelo, or grab some tapas in the gorgeous Adega Victor Horta. There’s always Largo Resutarant in Baixa offering a sophisticated experience or super trendy at Manifesto in Santos. For more on how to eat like a local in Lisbon, check our foodie guide here.
If you’re a caffeine addict, you’d be best to learn the word bica, which means coffee in Lisbon (thanks to a slogan when coffee first arrived in the city). But this is not your ordinary coffee, smoother than its Italian brother; it’s roasted in a lighter way too and can be thoroughly enjoyed accompanied by a little sweet pastel de nata, a famous Portuguese pastry. Cafe Nicola and Cafe Martinho de Arcada, both downtown are both great choices while, you could soak up the great outdoors with a bica at Quiosque Galveias on Rua do Palacio.