City breaks are commonly seen as the preserve of couples, HouseTrip conducted the research to help parents find the city that is most welcoming to families, so that they too can enjoy the city break experience and for a little while at least credibly say “Ich bin ein Berliner”.
The research examined a number of factors important to families both living in a city and visiting for a holiday in 15 different locations across Europe. Areas analysed included pollution and greenery, safety and crime levels, cultural attractions and prices, in order to crown an overall winner which scored the highest across all of the categories. Continue reading
Ernest Hemingway once said “…it is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” The same is true for cities, you get to cover more ground quickly, feel the shape of the land you peddle over. With recent years seeing more and more urban areas around the world introducing public bike-sharing schemes and miles of brand new bike paths to encourage exploring on two wheels, there are so many amazing urban bike routes out there. Here are just a few of my favourites you should coast along one day. Continue reading
Happy New Year! (just getting ready, don’t worry you haven’t drifted off and skipped December)
It might be a bit early to be hurling streamers and kissing complete strangers, but New Year’s these days is all about preparation. Because, at some point in the past couple of decades, the mysterious ‘cash in on anything’ crew spotted New Year and thought, kerching!
It started small: a few bands, a few fireworks, a few clubs, a few dj’s then it just grew and grew. Now there isn’t a city on the planet that doesn’t have a New Year party. And most of them are ticketed in some way, hence our kindly advance warning – leave it too late to decide what to do at New Year, and you’ve got more chance of getting a taxi at 3am on January 1st than finding a place to party.
Naturally everyone says they’ve the ‘biggest and best’ event but, despite tireless efforts, we couldn’t come up with a reliable benchmark. So we’ve based our choice of New Year Celebrations 2013/14 on budget – from low to high (ish) – missed out the parties that start crowd-herding at 2pm on New Year’s Eve and there isn’t a single one that’s only low-cost because it’s you, three crofters and an illegal Still.
Bulgaria’s capital might be Europe’s best value travel destination 2013 but it certainly doesn’t come across as cheapskate, especially not at New Year. Turning the entire city centre into a ‘people only’ zone would be inspired enough even if Sofia didn’t score 100% on our ‘TRANSPORT PUMPKINOMETER’ (based on Cinderella’s cautionary tale of carriage woe, this is an official measurement of late night/early morning transport for revellers who didn’t think they’d ever be too tired to walk). Not only is there public transport in Sofia for New Year party people until 3am, it’s free and plentiful. The importance of this might only become truly apparent after you’ve spent 12 hours with the live music, fireworks, dancing and general Bulgarian-style New Year carry-on. Almost every nightclub in the city is partying but the main celebrations (crowds of 80,000 last year) take place in Batenberg Square and Knyaz Aleksandar I Square. No tickets needed but get there early it gets busy!
It’s plenty cold in Budapest in December, so a rule of ‘eat lots and keep moving’ is liberally applied to the 3-Day Party the city hosts to celebrate New Year. Starting on 30 December and running through to midnight on the 1st of January, everything centres on the fireworks, music and outdoor events at Nyugati tér and Vörösmarty Square. Cafes, bars and restaurants on Liszt Ferenc Square are teeming with locals on the 31st December. And if you want to take a step back and quietly observe the old year’s demise, New Year’s Eve Danube cruises are very traditional and very romantic.
The annual Hogmanay Street Party in Edinburgh promises the biggest ‘Midnight Moment On The Planet’ this year. 80,000 plus are expected to descend on Scotland’s capital on 31st December 2013 with Street Party tickets clutched in their excited little hands. It’s no ticket, no party for this huge event but just £20 gets you hours of live music, fireworks, lots of people to kiss at ‘the bells’ and one of Europe’s most gorgeous cities all gussied up and looking amazing. Edinburgh’s also the venue of the UK’s largest outdoor ceilidh ‘The Keilidh’ – buy tickets for that and you get into The Street Party too.
Apart from the strange worship of all things sausage, Berlin is pretty much always given to achingly cool and New Year is no exception. The Brandenburg Gate is where you’ll find the fireworks and kissing crowds at midnight on the Eve itself. DJ’s love Berlin so if you love DJ’s this is your place to party. And there’s obviously some unwritten club code in the city with high scores given for endurance, so be ready for some long, long, long nights of New Year partying – stoke up on sausages is our advice!
Dublin’s not a city known for restraint so you won’t be surprised to find it celebrating New Year as if the end of the world was nigh and the best partyers were the only ones with a chance of salvation. Getting down to business as soon as darkness falls with the traditional city-wide Torchlight Procession, Dublin then goes all out with as many fireworks and projections as it can manage for as long as it can manage. And, for the big midnight moment itself, it’s over to College Green and the massive, annual Countdown Party with live music, dancing and all sorts until all-hours. College Green Countdown Party is tickets only.
Venice is one of the most romantic cities on earth, so naturally it bids farewell to 2013 with a celebrated ‘Group Kiss’ on St. Mark’s Square, accompanied by fireworks, champagne, live music and thousands of beautifully dressed people. But if you’re looking for the ultimate, splurgy, extravagant, once-in-a-lifetime New Year in Venice, you want tickets to La Fenice Theater on December 31st for the Concerto di Capodanno. Not cheap (tickets live on another continent that hasn’t heard of cheap) the Concerto di Capodanno is part of one of the city’s most celebrated New Year traditions and worth every penny for the outrageous theatre alone.
Bagpipes and reels, DJ’s till dawn and beyond, classical Venice, over the top everything Dublin, generous Sofia and eat all you can Budapest – that’s our pick for New Year this year. But, wherever you go, whatever you do and whoever you’re with, have a great time and don’t do anything we wouldn’t do – which leaves the field wide open!
Featured image: Torchlight procession in Edinburgh, credit deradam…
When landing in a new city for the first time, it can feel overwhelming. Where do you start? What should you do next? How do you make the most of your limited time? When my husband Dave and I travel, we always feel a little anxious when we get off the plane. We don’t want to miss a thing, but then again, we don’t want to pack our schedule so much that we never find any time to relax.
Budapest is one of the most beautiful and oldest cities in Europe and it is made for relaxation and enjoyment. Its waterfront is a fairytale setting with castles, palaces and a grand parliament lining the banks of the Danube. It has fine dining, luxurious spas, tranquil parks a lively theatre district. But it is the beauty of Budapest that stands out and it’s impossible not to feel awe and wonder as you gaze out from the Chain Bridge connecting the two centres ‘Buda’ and ‘Pest.’
We had the chance to visit Budapest as HouseTrip Video Blogger Diplomats and we put together some ideas to help you settle in easier and make your vacation more enjoyable right from the moment you arrive.
Getting Started on the Right Foot.
The first thing we always do when we arrive at a new city is to visit the Tourist Information centre, pick up some maps and start planning. It helps to know where you want to go and how you need to get there. When trying to communicate in a foreign language, things can get confusing, so if you have a clear understanding of how to get where you are going and how to get back to your accommodation, you’ll feel more comfortable venturing out on your own and taking a walk around town
Once we are armed with our maps and guidebooks, we go back to our HouseTrip apartment, turn on some music, make some hot tea and figure out what sites we want to see. Being able to sprawl across a coffee table is so much better than having to try to plan on a bed in a tiny hotel room. We set our computers up at the desk, put our tea on the table and have plenty of room to plan out our routes.
Another advantage of staying in an apartment as opposed to a hotel is that we are almost assured to be near a metro or bus stop. Downtown apartments are made for using transportation and public transport is a great way to get around and save money.
If you’re feeling worried about the language, take a course. Fungarian.com offers introduction courses to the Hungarian language in a relaxed and fun setting. While you enjoy a coffee, you’ll learn the subtleties and nuances of this unique and difficult language. Knowing a few phrases like “hello,” “where is the…,” “How much is…” “I’ll have the…” and “My name is…” can be amazing ice breakers and will make you feel more comfortable when entering any shop or business and people will love you for giving their language a try.
So what are you waiting for, when are you going to start planning your European vacation? There’s plenty of HouseTrip apartments waiting for you to book them. Check out more Budapest Apartments with HouseTrip.
In this weeks Flickr Friday series we’re in Budapest. A city famed for being one of the most beautiful in Europe, the Hungarian capital is a vibrant place; alive with art, culture and history. A fusion of old and new, it’s quite easy to find oneself stepping from beneath the vaults of a neo-gothic church to a beautiful square speckled with trendy gay-friendly bars and modern art.
Enjoy the photography and have a great weekend.
Palace of Arts cafe - Image © Istvan
Image © Brian Colson
Across the Danube from Pest to Buda - Image © Joiseyshowaa
Image © Magdalena
Millennium Monument - Image © Dennis Jarvis
River cruise on the Danube - Image © Dennis Jarvis
The Széchenyi Thermal Bath - Image © Alex Proimos
Széchenyi hot baths - Image © Éole Wind
Image © Allen Skyy
Széchenyi Chain Bridge - Image © Dennis Jarvis
Image © Zsolt Halasi
Image © Sam Javanrouh
Image © Leoplus