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Your Trip to Edinburgh – Eight Things You Need to Know About the Scottish Capital

Your Trip to Edinburgh – Eight Things You Need to Know About the Scottish Capital

Are you going to Scotland by any chance? You’ve picked a great destination. But there are things that you need to know about Edinburgh. For starters, it’s not your average capital city.

Edinburgh is the most-visited city in Scotland for many reasons. It’s a busy city with the sort of scenery you’d only expect to find in books. Even though the city is small for a capital, there’s a lot that you can see and do.

Before you visit Scotland, though, it’s best to map it all out. Here are some facts  about Edinburgh that might interest you that will ensure you’ll make the most out of your trip

  1. It’s a Very Crowded City

Next to London, no city in the UK sees as many tourists as Edinburgh. The problem is that the town is small. It’s so tiny that you can pretty much ditch the public transportation and walk to wherever you want to go.

Add to that both the local and tourist populations and you can expect big crowds. The shopping centers are usually packed, as well as the bars and parks.

Getting around in a taxi or a rental car may not be a good idea. It’s because many of the popular locations often have bottlenecks. You can also expect many students in the city’s pubs and clubs.

  1. Check the Festivals Schedule

Although many refer to it as the Edinburgh Festival, there’s no such thing in reality. It’s because the city hosts a series of festivals throughout the year.

If you plan on spending more than a few days in Edinburgh, planning around the festivals could enhance your experience. It’s one of the best things to do in Edinburgh for free after all.

Keep in mind that in some cases, there can be close to 1,000 shows in a single day. So don’t be surprised to see comedians and actors roaming the streets.

Whisky, poetry, and a smoky city against a gothic backdrop – that’s what you can expect in certain months. Another reason to plan your trip around the festivals is so that you can have access to reasonable accommodations.

For example, visiting Edinburgh in August can be tough. It’s one of the busiest times of the year and can be difficult to find a bed if you don’t book your trip early enough in advance.

  1. It’s Not Perfect

Some tourists visiting Edinburgh don’t appreciate parts of the city. In particular, they complain about the often strong smell. And the west side of town where you can also find the distillery can be harsh.

The smell circulates in the often windy city. Most of the time, it’s a typical scent that you get when you’re near the sea. But when combined with roasted malt and barley from the many breweries, it can get overpowering at times.

Keep this in mind when you decide which part of town you want to visit on foot.

  1. Take Advantage of the Pubs and Restaurants

There are a lot of choices in Edinburgh. You can find anything, from the cheapest sports pubs to Michelin-starred restaurants. At the same time, the prices are lower than in London. So there’s no reason to skip going out for food and drinks.

One thing you must know about the whisky bars in Edinburgh is that they rival the number of Starbucks in some major cities. As for the food, Edinburgh is a haven for seafood lovers.

  1. Learn Drinking Etiquette

Everyone knows that the Scottish can drink with the best of them. But don’t expect to find a city of drunks. Manners maketh man, remember?

Edinburgh has serious drinking etiquette. For starters, it’s not polite to crowd the bar in groups. Or to wait around in pubs for someone else to clean out your empty glasses.

If you socialize with groups of locals, you may have to expect to pay some rounds yourself. Also, avoid pushing the line at the bar. And be mindful of which sports pub you end up in on an important game day. Most things you can pick up quickly and even ask about when you’re there. 

What’s really great is that most of the pubs stay open a lot longer than in other parts of the UK.

  1. The Old Town and New Town

There are two sides to Edinburgh – the Old Town and New Town. The Old Town is the oldest region of the city. In contrast, the construction of the New Town only began in 1765.

The latter is the posh side of the city. It’s not as crowded and may feel more relaxing and quiet. It’s also where you can find the city’s notable neighborhoods, college campuses, and fancy restaurants.

But, if you want a more authentic experience, the Old Town deserves your attention. That’s where you can find all the hustle and bustle in the city.

  1. Don’t Expect a Quiet Visit to the Castle

Tourists arrive at Edinburgh all year long. One of the main attractions, the Edinburgh Castle, is hard to visit quietly. It’s because masses of tourists and even locals flock to admire the view.

After all, the castle stands on top of an extinct volcano. It offers a breathtaking view, whether it’s sunny outside or foggy. And you can even hear cannon fire every 1 pm from Monday to Saturday.

Although it remains one of the busiest attractions in the city, it’s still worth the trip.

  1. There Are Many Shortcuts

If you look at any generic Edinburgh map, it may seem like there are just two roads you can take. In reality, the city has a staggering number of shortcuts in the form of alleyways and courtyards.

Many alternative routes only accommodate pedestrians, which is great. But you may have to ask about a few of them before you head off exploring. The city is small but you can still waste a lot of time walking from one attraction to another.

Rose Street and Thistle Street are two narrow alleys of note in the New Town. On the other side, the Fleshmarket Close and Advocate’s Close in the Old Town can save you some time walking around.

A Smoky Gothic City with a Lot to Offer

Do you want to see how the blue-collar locals live? Do you wonder what high-society looks like in Scotland? Edinburgh is the city that lets you see and experience both sides of the coin. What’s even better is that everything you want to see is within walking distance.

It may not be the biggest city or have the best weather, but Edinburgh is a truly unique European city. The gothic architecture alone attracts thousands of tourists. And it’s not just that. There are so many more reasons to book a trip to this wonderful city.

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Trip Ideas

The 9 Essential Madrid Sights for Art and History Lovers

Madrid Sights Art and History

The 9 Essential Madrid Sights for Art and History Lovers

Go beyond sports and Mediterranean cuisine. Madrid is a top destination for art and history enthusiasts, too.

Spain’s capital city is elegant, expansive, and very busy 24/7. It also holds some of the largest collections of European art and weaponry. And there are many museums, historic landmarks, and other repositories that you can visit. When you’re tired of taking in Spanish history, the scenic parks await.

Check out some of the most popular tourist attractions in Madrid.

1.   Tour the Prado Museum

What is Madrid known for? It’s many museums, one of the most famous being the Prado Museum. It opened in 1819 and now features over 2,000 paintings and hundreds of sculptures. And the exhibits have Spanish, Italian, and Flemish artist signatures.

It’s also one of the busiest museums in all of Spain. So, make sure you get your ticket early in the day. But if you’re on a tight budget, you can try to get in for free during the last two hours of the schedule.

It’s truly one of the essential Madrid sights for art and history lovers.

2.   Visit the Royal Palace and Gardens

Sometimes referred to as the Spanish Versailles, it’s a royal court with impressive statues and lavish gardens. You can even take your own photos of the statues of Spanish kings and visit the apartments of King Charles the Third.

It has breathtaking interiors and features just about everything you could think of – from marble flooring and silk wall hangings to chandeliers and famous paintings. The palace walls feature works made by the likes of Goya, Rubens, Caravaggio, and other masterful artists.

The Royal Armory is also a nice stop for history buffs. The 3,000 exhibits tell the story of the Spanish military. And some of these pieces date back to the 16th century.

3.   Stand in the Puerta del Sol

You can’t go to Madrid without standing in the heart of the city. It’s a big town square that acts as a central hub of transportation and occupies a unique position. That’s in reference to the sun.

But this is not just a place with gorgeous architecture and geography.

It’s also the site of many historic events. The most important being the site of where Spain made a stand against Napoleon in 1808. And it’s also the site of the Second Republic proclamation of 1931.

Aside from being rich in history, it’s known to be lively both day and night. It’s also a great place to grab something to eat or drink. And if you’re interested in the local nightlife, in and around the square are some of the hottest locales in the city.

4.   Grab Your Dose of Contemporary Art

The Contemporary Art Museum is a must-see if you’re looking for something more modern. It opened in 1986, making it one of the newer, and yet highly popular, museums in the world.

It’s where you can also see the works of Picasso and Salvador Dali, among many other famous artists. The building itself has three glass towers around the elevators and a beautiful garden in its courtyard that has a variety of quirky sculptures.

The exhibit occupies over nine acres. It will take you a while to take it all in, but there are also a cafeteria and a restaurant for when you need a break.

5.   Visit Spain’s Egyptian Monument

The Temple of Debod is a gift from Egypt to Spain back in 1968. It’s an ancient temple located in La Montana Park and is one of the city’s most intriguing spots.

The temple has original decorations, peaceful gardens surrounding it, and impressive shrines. A visit here’s considered as one of the most unique things to do in Madrid.

6.   Tour the Archaeological Museum

Visiting the Archaeological Museum is a must if you want to learn more about Spain’s history. In fact, it has an impressive collection of artifacts that predate the Romans.

Here you’ll find pieces over 2,500 years old that still look amazing and even almost new. The restoration and preservation work on this collection is most impressive and, as an art lover or history enthusiast, you won’t want to miss it.

7.   Step Into the Oasis of Buen Retiro Park

This park offers 296 acres of lush scenery away from the busy streets. While the park is still part of the town, it acts as an oasis for those seeking peace and quiet and clean air.

It’s also one of the most elegant public parks you’ll see, as the park has many fountains and reflecting pools. From time to time, you can even catch an art exhibit right here. Like any other park, you can also relax in shade here or drink a cup of coffee at an open-air café.

And for nighttime travelers, the park’s historic observatory is the place to be on a clear night.

8.   Experience Street Performances at the Plaza Mayor

Madrid is a hotspot for art lovers from around the world, but it doesn’t just offer museum exhibits. There are also some lively spots that are a must-visit.

The Plaza Mayor is a large open square that’s thriving with life. It’s also convenient, as there are many cafes where you can sit down and watch street performers. It’s also a great place to visit when on holiday if you want to sample holiday markets.

The place definitely has a touristy vibe to it. Yet it has an authentic ambiance that offers a unique experience. It even comes with a guided walking tour where you can learn about the history of the square from 1617 to the present.

9.   Visit the Old Royal Hunting Grounds

What was once the Spanish hunting grounds for the royal family is now a great park to spend time with the kids. When you’re done taking in the scenery, architecture, and works of art, you’ll want to stop here for a while.

For starters, you can go on a walk and have a picnic. But you can also go kayaking on the lake or hop on one of the dozens of theme park rides. Casa de Campo is also home to the Zoo Aquarium where you’ll find a dolphin show, giant pandas, and many other unique displays.

Visit One of the Best Places to Live in the World

Madrid has a lot to offer for tourists of all ages. While many may see it as a destination for sports fans, perhaps even more people visit for its many art, history, and architectural gems.

This city is teeming with life and gorgeous exhibits and it’s worth a longer stay.

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Brussels

Brussels Isn’t Just About Sprouts – 12 Gorgeous Sights in Belgium’s Capital

Brussels Sights

Brussels Isn’t Just About Sprouts – 12 Gorgeous Sights in Belgium’s Capital

Brussels is the seat of today’s European politics. And it’s also a city with gorgeous and unique landmarks.

Brussels has two parts – the old part of town and the new part of town. As such, it is a very diverse tourist destination that makes it Belgium’s most visited city. What’s even better? The city is small enough for you to easily visit all the important landmarks and monuments.

When you’re done munching on Belgian fries and sampling the local beers, here are some places you might want to visit.

1.   Take a Grand Tour of the Grote Markt

The Grote Markt, or Grand Place, is the center of Brussels Old Town. This main plaza is well-preserved and features unique architecture. Don’t forget to check out the stonework – it’s amazing and everything is highly detailed.

Most of the buildings and sculptures here date back to before 1700. While there is some Flemish influence in the style, everything is predominantly Baroque.

The town hall building still looks great for a building commissioned in 1402. But then again, so does everything else in the Grand Place.

2.   Tour the Saint-Michel Cathedral

Construction on the Gothic Saint-Michel Cathedral started in 1225 but was only finished in the 15th century. And over time, numerous artists contributed to the cathedral’s artwork and stained-glass windows.

A majestic building with twin high towers and a lavish interior, it’s a top Brussels attraction for anyone, especially architecture students and history buffs.

3.   Photo Shoot at the Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is still the official residence of the Belgian royal family. That’s why the iconic Changing of the Guard event still happens here at 2:30 pm every day.

You can also take photos of various Neoclassical buildings surrounding the palace. Don’t forget to walk around the garden. It looks perfect all the time and makes for a great photoshoot location on a sunny day.

Here’s an interesting fact: if you see the flag flown up on the roof, it means that the sovereign is home.

4.   Enjoy Some Pop Culture Exhibits

Brussels isn’t just about the old part of town and historic buildings.

The Comic Strip Center, commissioned in 1906, is a different kind of attraction. This spot hosts some of the largest cartoon and comics exhibits around. In fact, many Belgian and French artists have rotating exhibits here.

Don’t forget to check out original artwork, drafts, and manuscripts of various artists. It will leave you in awe at their talent.

5.   Tour the Royal Museum of Fine Arts

The first collection in this museum dates back to 1797. And today, it hosts not just one of Belgium’s greatest art galleries but also the world’s.

Most of the paintings on display here are by Flemish and Dutch painters. There’s a good selection of classic pieces here, as well as artwork mainly from the 19th century and 20th century.

6.   Take in a Surreal Landmark Attraction

One of the most popular things to do in Belgium is to check out the Atomium. This unique building, designed after a molecule of iron, is made of steel and aluminum. It stands 334.6ft tall and is very unusual from an architectural standpoint.

What surprises people the most is that the building is fully functional. You can go inside in four of the nine existing spheres. That’s where you can catch the show known as Biogenium. And it’s an interesting presentation, particularly if you’re interested in biology, chemistry, and human life.

7.   Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Belgium is famous for its chocolate and beer. And for chocolate lovers, a tour of the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate is a must.

It’s also one of the most intriguing museums in Brussels, featuring sculptures, exhibits, and demonstrations. The small entry fee and free samples make it worth your while. But if you’re not interested in history, go here at least for the spinning wheel that pours melted chocolate.

8.   Look at More Weird Attractions

Interested in more unique attractions in Brussels? Belgium has no shortage of weird landmarks. A case in point is Manneken Pis. This little bronze statue of a boy “filling up” the fountain underneath gathers huge crowds.

What makes it most interesting, and hilarious, is that the statue gets dressed for various occasions, depending on what events are taking place. While it is a bit weird that it gets so much attention, it’s also a free tourist spot.

9   Relax and Take in the Scenery

While many know Brussels for its majestic historic buildings, it’s also home to a huge park. The Bois de la Cambre spans 247 acres and is an ideal place for anyone to relax.

You can go on a bike ride through the park, have a picnic or enjoy a boat ride while enjoying the view and fresh air. You don’t even have to pay an entrance fee to enjoy the park.

There aren’t any cars allowed on the weekends, which makes it even better.

10.   Tour the Cinquantenaire Park

Dating back to the 1800s, its construction marked Belgium’s 50th year of independence. And this park is host to amazing gardens and fountains. But, it’s not the only attraction here.

The park houses several museums, too. These include the Royal Military Museum and the Autoworld museum, which are among the most popular. Various events also happen here throughout the year, so it’s best to plan ahead.

11.   Enjoy the Winter Festivities in Brussels

Summer is not the only time to visit Brussels. Because if you go during the winter you can experience the Christmas markets, which are famously known as Winter Wonders.

During this time, the Grand Place turns into a Christmas-themed location where you can get your trinkets, drinks, light shows, and more. There are even live performances and traditional carnival rides, not to mention parades, that you don’t want to miss out on.

12. Check Out the European Union’s Headquarters

Believe it or not, the European District is one of the most unique places to visit in Belgium.

While it’s undeniably an important district for European politics, economics, and social rights, it’s also a very lively spot in the evening. There are many parks and bars around where you can spend some time while feeling the culture and history of the EU around you.

Brussels – Go for the Food and Drinks, Stay for the Scenery

Many visit Brussels to sample some of the best beers, fries, and chocolates in the world. But the city is more than that – it’s also rich in history and art. And given the size of Brussels, you can easily see a lot of everything even with limited time here.

There is plenty to do in the summer and winter. Whether you want to see a car museum, military exhibits, or take a boat ride, nothing is off-limits.

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Best Cities

Glasgow-Bound – The 11 Places You Need to Visit in Scotland’s Second City

Places to visit in Glasgow Scotland

Glasgow-Bound – The 11 Places You Need to Visit in Scotland’s Second City

Glasgow embodies Scotland’s rich history in every step. It’s a hot tourist spot not just for history buffs, but also for architecture enthusiasts and even plant lovers.

Glasgow may be Scotland’s second city, but it might be the most important tourist attraction in the country. It’s rich in history, art exhibits, and gorgeous buildings and views.

Everything is on display in such a way that the famously terrible Scottish weather shouldn’t ruin your trip. Check out some of the most popular tourist attractions in Glasgow.

1.   Visit the Glasgow Cathedral

There’s a good reason why any Glasgow sightseeing list starts with the 12th century Glasgow Cathedral. It’s the city’s most important landmark and historic site.

What makes it eye-catching is its clear lines and having no unnecessary ornamentation. Yet, it’s gorgeous and complex, truly an architectural gem.

You can go on a guided tour or visit it on your own. Either way is great. as it’s also free of charge. What makes your visit even better is that it’s right next to another top Glasgow attraction.

2. Tour the Necropolis

If you’re a fan of Victorian gothic scenery, the Glasgow Necropolis is a must-see. This garden cemetery spans some 37 acres featuring gorgeous memorial stones and buildings. Not only that, but it also features various sculptures by famous local artists.

Walking tours are available here, too. And the view goes beyond Celtic motifs, as there are paths with open views of the city and the cathedral.

3. Visit the Museum of Religious Life and Art

The St. Mungo Museum is another top Glasgow destination. It’s near Glasgow Cathedral so it’s easy to add to your itinerary. Along with exhibits of world religions and various related practices, there are other exciting things for you to see here.

The museum displays Hindu statues and Egyptian mummies, among others, and also has an outdoor Buddhist garden. Commissioned in 1989, it’s a rather new building. Yet, it’s also close to the oldest house in Glasgow, the Provand’s Lordship. As such, it also offers a nice comparison of architectural styles.

4. Visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, open since 1901, is another one of the top tourist attractions in the city. It’s even as popular, if not more so than the cathedral.

This museum looks amazing from the outside and hosts many impressive galleries on the inside. The majority of the paintings are French impressionism, but there are plenty of other unique art displays as well.

It’s no wonder art lovers flock to Glasgow each year.

5. Tour the Science Centre

Once you’re done with taking in the history in the old part of town, a trip to the Glasgow Science Centre provides a great contrast. It’s located on the waterfront area and boasts a hull-style construction.

The museum offers many exhibits of technology, human health, and even laboratory stations. It’s a hands-on experience that not many other museums offer, making it great for educational purposes and recreation.

Furthermore, you can also take a trip to the nearby planetarium. The Glasgow Tower, a freely-rotating tower, is also found nearby. However, it’s not open as often as other attractions.

6. Visit the Glasgow Botanic Gardens

If you get tired of architecture and museums, the botanic garden should offer a nice change of pace. The garden is home to the Kibble Palace, which is a massive glasshouse. It’s also among the biggest in the UK and it houses many rare orchids, as well as other exotic African, South American, and Eastern plants.

The garden has outdoor trails and also many greenhouses with unique environments. You can also see Victorian sculptures surrounded by plants here, which make for amazing sights. And if you’re tired of walking, you could always relax and take it all in while on the tearoom’s patio.

7. Check Out the Winter Garden Conservatory

The conservatory is part of the Glasgow Green. This park is a historic spot, as it’s one of the oldest parks in the city. It’s also very close to the city center and makes for a nice stroll.

You can see many subtropical and tropical plants in the conservatory. Not only that, but the park also features some historical exhibits from the 18th to the 20th century.

8. Take a Loud Ride

If there ever was a time when you could learn more about the bagpipe, this is it. Glasgow is home to the National Piping Centre and houses the Museum of Piping. It also hosts lessons and courses, as well as the venue for the World Pipe Ban Championship in August.

You can learn the history of the instrument, listen to different samples, and look at very old memorabilia. And if you’re a performer, it’s a great place to buy modern supplies.

9. Take a Tiny Tour of the Lighthouse

This is not your traditional lighthouse attraction. While it offers two great panoramic views of the city, it also houses art and design exhibitions all year round. And there is even a historic exhibit at the Mack Centre.

The tower is easy to access for everyone, as you can take either the helical staircase or the lift to reach the top.

10. Get Your Dose of Soccer

Soccer, the king of sports in Scotland, is well represented. The National Stadium down at Hampden features tours of the stands and, on some days, you can step onto the pitch.

This stadium also has a museum where you can check out a massive memorabilia exhibit. Part of their collection includes the old Scottish Cup. It’s known as the oldest surviving trophy of the sport in the world.

11. Watch a Movie at the Glasgow Film Theatre

The Glasgow Film Theatre is Scotland’s first true arthouse cinema. The city’s last movie theater of its kind, it’s worth a trip and a movie ticket if you like foreign-language flicks and documentaries.

But it’s also worth paying a visit just for the experience. That’s because the old retro interior and exterior architecture are well-preserved and truly one-of-a-kind.

12. Sample Some Whiskey

You can’t end a trip to Glasgow without sampling some fine whiskey.

While the Clydeside Distillery is one of the newest in the city, it’s also a facility that you can tour. Here, you’ll see how whiskey and artisan chocolate go from factory to shelves.

Best of all, you can sample a bit of both to end the tour on a high note.

Don’t Forget Your Umbrella

Scotland sees plenty of rain, so definitely start your tour with an umbrella. That said, many of the tourist hotspots are indoors so bad weather shouldn’t ruin your trip.

The city has many historic sites and architectural gems for you to see, as well as premium accommodations at the best Glasgow hotels.

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