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Europe

5 Historical Dutch Cities Beyond Amsterdam – An Insider Guide

The Netherlands is known for its historical cities with canals, brick houses, gothic churches and locals on bikes. But it’s not just famous Amsterdam I’m referring too. There are many more lesser known cities equally or even more characteristic than our capital. These Dutch off the beaten track cities are all in short distances from Amsterdam – as is pretty much anything in the Netherlands actually – and make the perfect daytrip. Make sure to visit at least one of them to enjoy the typical Dutch city vibe without the crowds.

Haarlem

Let’s start with a close neighbor of Amsterdam. Haarlem is only a 20 minute train ride away from our capital. The city is concentrated around its historic market square and church. Close to the central market square are the ‘Gouden Straatjes’ (Golden Streets) with boutique stores, concept stores and small shops. Two highlights of Haarlem are the Teylers Museum for historical science and the Hals Museum with works of the Dutch painter Frans Hals. One of the best parts of Haarlem are the small courtyards – ‘hofjes’ in Dutch –, most of these green city oasis are open to the public.

Delft

One of our favorite Dutch cities is picturesque Delft. Delft is perhaps one of the most visited cities in the Netherlands, tough it won’t get as crowded as Amsterdam. This small town is famous around the world for its Delftware porcelain, or Delft Blue. We’d recommend you to skip the souvenir shops and porcelain workshops though and go for a walk around the historic canals. You might notice that Delft is quite small for a city with this many churches. One of them – Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) – is famous in the Netherlands for having the Royal Crypt. The first member of the Dutch royal family buried here, is known for liberating the Netherlands of its Spanish occupier. He was murdered in Delft and afterwards buried in the nearest church, starting a family tradition. But there are more churches in Delft, as well as canals, small streets, cheese shops, local boutiques and museums.

Leiden

Leiden is one of the most characteristic cities of the Netherlands – and only a 35 train ride away from the capital. The canals, bridges, brick houses and monumental gates make Leiden one of a kind. The best part of this open air museum is the old fortress on top of a hill overlooking the city. It is free to visit and offers nice views of the city. Leiden is packed with interesting museums as well. One of them has Egyptian mummies on display, another one a huge dinosaur skeleton. Leiden is also a popular place for vintage shopping; our favorites are Flamingo, VNTG and Hartendief. The best espresso bar is small Chummie, Logica serves vegetarian and vegan food and ROOS is known for its instagrammable breakfast.

Utrecht

Utrecht is the fourth city of the Netherlands, but still has a cozy atmosphere. You can stroll around the small streets along historical houses from one canal to another. The biggest one is the Oudegracht where you can rent a kajak to explore Utrecht by water. For quite a different view we’d recommend you to climb the famous Dutch icon the Domtoren. This church tower is actually not connected with the church itself since  a big storm 300 years ago. Utrecht has just as many coffee bars, restaurants, concept stores and hotspots as Amsterdam. We’d recommend Meneer Smakers for burgers, Rachmaninoff for interior shopping, Cupp for coffee and Gys for healthy comfort food.

Amersfoort

This historic city is more to the east of Utrecht and almost one hour by train from Amsterdam. It has one big canal, surrounding the old walled city. Amersfoort didn’t have an actual wall though, but it created houses around the city to make it easier to defend. These so-called Wall Houses are still in place and make you feel like back in the old days. But there are more monumental buildings, ancient churches and old gates. If you’re done with all these brick houses and that Dutch history, you might like to walk to an upcoming part of Amersfoort with new restaurants and bars. It’s called ‘De Nieuwe Stad’ (The New City) and even has a small river beach.

 

Europe Guides

The Ultimate Guide to Ljubljana, Slovenia

Warning, within five minutes of stepping into Ljubljana’s historic city center, you will be completely under its charm. Its colorful, Baroque buildings radiating from the Ljubljanica River create a picturesque, fairytale city that whisks you to another time. And it’s that time machine feel that is the main attraction of Ljubljana.

A city of dragons, Ljubljana is said to be founded by Jason (of golden fleece fame), who came upon a dragon in a nearby lake and slaughtered it. Since then, the dragon has been intricately linked to the city. Now, the dragon stands as a proud protector of the city and its people. You’re never far from a dragon when exploring Ljubljana. A fun game to play is seeing how many dragons you can find.

As Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana is a city that’s safe to walk around. And Slovenians are very friendly people. Named the European Green Capital in 2016, Ljubljana is ahead of many European cities in its sustainability initiatives. It’s easy to find recycle receptacles in town. Don’t forget to bring your reusable water bottle to Ljubljana. There are drinking fountains throughout, too and that water tastes good! Though vehicle traffic has been greatly limited within the historic city center, you still need to watch out as many locals bike to work.

Top Sights in Ljubljana

One of the most wonderful things about Ljubljana is that you don’t need a map to get around. It’s compact that just by strolling around, you will find all the major attractions. The city is so inviting, that you’ll find yourself wondering down every street anyways. So, enjoy the thrill of stumbling upon something rather than planning the day. Here are some of the highlights of Ljubljana that you can look forward to experiencing.

Ljubljana Castle

One sight you can’t miss is Ljubljana Castle. It stands above the historic city center, a symbol of Ljubljana. This medieval fortress goes back to the 11th century, when it was the main defense of the city. Now it’s a museum showcasing Ljubljana through the ages as well as history of the castle.

There are two ways to get to the castle, walking or taking the funicular. If walking, there are several trails up the hill. They do get a little steep, but in less than 10 minutes you’ll be enjoying the views from the top. You can also take the funicular up for an additional cost to the admission to the castle. The ride is less than two minutes.

Prešeren Square

 

The heart of the city center is Prešeren Square. Its star attractions are the Baroque Church of the Anunciation (also known as the Pink Church) and the Triple Bridge. You can sum up the character and beauty of Ljubljana in this one square. It gets crowded as the day progresses.

Town Hall

This stunning building originates from the 15th century. The best way to see the inside of the Town Hall is via a free guided tour that must be booked in advance at the Ljubljana Tourist Center (just opposite the Triple Bridge).

In front stands the Robba Fountain, which is reminiscent of the Four Rivers Fountain in Rome. But for this fountain, it’s three men pouring water from jugs, each representing a river of the region.

Dragon Bridge

Flanked by four dragons, it’s easy to see how Dragon Bridge got its name.These dragons are synonymous with Ljubljana, making it the city’s most iconic site. This delicate bridge was built in the early 1900s.

Central Market

Every European city has at least one good market and Central Market in Ljubljana cannot be missed. It sprawls between several buildings and a square. On the weekends, the square is full of pop up stands offering freshly made food from every region in the world. The building lining the river features small cafes and souvenir stands. The lower level of the building opposite has fresh meats and dried nuts and fruits vendors. If you’re looking for some fresh food to take on a day trip, this is the place to be.

Another market is found near St. Nicholas’ Church. This market features some of the most beautiful and massive looking fruits and vegetables. The smell from the fresh produce overloads your senses and may make your mouth water.

St. Nicholas’s Church

Squeezed into the heart of the city, St. Nicholas’s Church (also known as Ljubljana Cathedral), with its burnt yellow towers, cannot be missed. A church has stood on this sight since the 13th century. Though the church is small, it’s still worth a visit inside to see the Baroque architecture.

Congress Square

Another popular meeting space is Congress Square. Surrounded by stunning buildings including the Ursuline Church of the Holy Trinity and the Slovenian Philharmonic (one of my favorite buildings), the square also features a small park. You can also see fragments of the ruins of a monastery that once stood on the site.

Not-to-Miss Buildings

As I said, Ljubljana oozes incredible buildings. Some are complete works of art. Popular buildings to admire are the Parliament Building, with its sculptured entrance located across the Republic Square, and the exterior of the National University Library. A special shout out goes to the Art Nouveau buildings on Miklošičeva cesta near the Pink Church.

Ljubljana Sculptures

All around Ljubljana, with most close to the river, are bronze sculptures. Honestly, they are a bit weird, but they do make you pause and have a think. Most of these sculptures are the creative work of Jakov Brdar, a Slovenian sculpture. While wandering around town, keep a look out. Some are quite small and others are tucked in alleys.

Tivoli City Park

Less than a 10-minute stroll from the river is the sprawling and lovely Tivoli City Park, the largest park in Ljubljana. You can spend hours exploring this beautiful green space. Inside the park, you will also find the Tivoli Castle (a mansion), the Cekin Mansion which houses the Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia, a large pond, rose garden, and countless sculptures.

Metelkova Mesto

After the classic beauty of the city center, Metelkova Mesto may be a shock. Full of graffiti and street art, this offbeat haven is a must visit. Walking around in daylight, you can appreciate all the different art (and some of it is truly stunning). In the evening, it’s a hopping joint. It may not be for everyone, but it’s still a place that should be seen.

Take Time to Just Walk Around Ljubljana

The best way to truly appreciate Ljubljana is walking around town. As the historical center is compact, you can cover a lot of ground quickly. However, you don’t end up covering much ground because every building begs inspection. Each new curve in the river provides a different perspective that must be admired.

Strolling along the cobblestone streets, you can appreciate the atmosphere of the city. There are tons of unique and quirky shops that are fun to either window shop or browse. It’s something you don’t expect from a town that feels of the past, but it’s just another reminder of how modern the city is too.

Don’t forget to take in the different view points of the river and city from the many bridges. Not only is each view different, but each bridge is unique too.

Where to Eat in Ljubljana

There are countless cafes and restaurant options in Ljubljana. Many of them are found along the river banks providing you with lovely views as a backdrop to your meal. Price ranges vary. My personal favorite was Ljubljanski Dvor, right on the banks of the river near the university. They have an extensive selection of handmade pizza and it is delicious! Even better, it’s one of the cheapest meals you’ll have (the small pizza is still pretty big, so come with an appetite). Next door, dessert awaits at the Romantika Gelateria. And who doesn’t love gelato?

If your lodging comes with a kitchen, there’s a small, but good grocery store located next to the Intercontinental Hotel near the train/bus station.

Day Trips from Ljubljana

Ljubljana makes for the perfect base for exploring other destinations in Slovenia. If you don’t want to do a road trip of your own, Slovenia has a great bus system that takes you to much of the highlights of the country. The fairytale beauty of Lake Bled is only a 1.5 hour bus ride away with Lake Bohinj just 20 minutes past Lake Bled. Both are fantastic day trips from Ljubljana.

You can also visit one or more of the many caves around Slovenia. My personal favorite is the Škocjan Caves with its other worldly Murmuring Water Cave. There are also the popular Postojna Caves, and in summer Predjama Castle, which is built into the mouth of a cave. Taking a break from nature, there’s the popular seaside city of Piran with its Italian influence.

If you do take the bus, regardless if you’re purchasing the ticket at the ticket booth at the bus station or on board the bus, tickets are cash only.

Getting to Ljubljana

If you’re already in Europe, the easiest way to Ljubljana is via bus or train. The train and bus stations (right next to each other) are an easy walking distance to the center of town (roughly 15 minutes to the Pink Church). So, you can either walk to your accommodation or take a short taxi ride.

If arriving by plane, the Joze Pucnik Airport is 25km from Ljubljana. There is a bus service to the city center that runs every hour. Or, a taxi will run you about €35.

Ljubljana completely took me by surprise in the best possible way. It’s now one of my favorite cities in Europe, and one I cannot wait to go back and visit. Give yourself one to two days to leisurely explore the city because once you’re under its charm, you won’t want to leave.

 

Insider Tips North America

Washington, DC: An Insider’s Guide

Every inch of Washington, DC fills up with tourists every spring because of its iconic cherry blossom season… and there’s no doubt why. The pink blooms, beautiful weather and seasonal events are a treat after a cold winder in the north east. But I truly believe a visit to Washington, DC in the fall is a real delight! The area isn’t packed with travelers and visitors, and the quaint and historic quarters of the city feel colorful and alive.

As an American citizen who’s traveled far and wide, making the trip to our nation’s capitol feels like an important chapter to honoring my home country. Today, I’m excited to share with you all my seasonal discoveries I experienced this fall in DC. Here is my insider’s guide to autumn in Washington!

Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide

What To Do

Washington, DC is filled with many, many historic sights and relics, so it’s important to do your research before you hit the city! American history buffs will revel in all of Washington’s monuments, statues and museums. As a culture-seeking traveler myself, I’m always on the hunt for a healthy balance of historical places with local, authentic neighborhoods (and, of course, some delicious eateries in between)!

DuPont Circle

One of my favorite nooks of Washington was the residential neighborhood of DuPont Circle. Filled with eclectic eateries, warm coffee shops, shops and bookstores (always one of my favorite pit stops no matter where I am!), mansions and historic homes… DuPont Circle had my heart within minutes of exploring it. It’s the perfect blend of local/residential and urban liveliness!

Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Dolcezza Gelato
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide

Lincoln Memorial

A classic historical sight that had me speechless! The Lincoln Memorial is at the very top of every Washington bucket list you’ll find, but it’s for a good reason. Sit beside the Reflection Pool, especially at sunset and soak in the powerful message of Lincoln – “In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.”

Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide

Union Station

Train stations feel so nostalgic to me, and as an old soul, I feel like I’m constantly drawn to them. Union Station’s towering architecture is almost like the gateway into America’s capitol… and I loved photographing its beauty.

Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide

Capitol Hill

The historic Capitol Hill neighborhood of the city is scattered with some of the most important political meeting places in the country (the United States Capitol, Senate, Houses of Representatives and Supreme Court buildings)… just to name a few! It’s a bustling part of the city that’s also home to many 19th century row homes and markets too.

After exploring the iconic political buildings, get a taste of local life underneath the changing fall leaves! While exploring, I stopped at Peregrine Espresso for a warm cup of coffee while walking through the brisk autumn weather and loved it! I’d also highly recommend exploring Capitol Hill Books and the neighborhood’s Eastern Market too.

Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide

Library Of Congress

In between crunching the newly fallen fall leaves of the Capitol Hill neighborhood, be sure to take a stop into the Library Of Congress’s hallowed halls. Simply, utterly stunning – aren’t they? This research library serving the US Congress is the national library of the US and is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States… making a must-do in my eyes!

Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide

National Mall

The iconic, long stretch of the National Mall is flanked by some of the most important monuments and memorials in Washington… making it one of the most-visited sight in the city. You’ll find school groups, military groups, local workers, international tourists and people from all walks of life here. It’s a buzzing section of the city that cannot be missed!

Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide

Chinatown

I always like to explore smaller, immigrant-historic neighborhoods when possible… so I had to add Washington’s Chinatown to my autumn visit. The area is filled with such amazing markets and restaurants! The giant arch was also one of the largest in the world when it was built back in 1986!

Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide

Adams Morgan

In Adams Morgan, neighborhood charm meets monumental grandeur. Adams Morgan is DC’s only 24-hour neighborhood with live music seven nights a week, all night diners, early morning coffee shops and midday shopping at local bookstores, shops and vintage boutiques. Area restaurants showcase DC’s diverse cultural population with a focus on Ethiopian, Salvadorian, Barbecue, Vietnamese, West African, Middle Eastern, Japanese and Peruvian fare. We recommend having coffee at Tryst and dinner at Afghani restaurant, Lapis.

Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide

Where To Stay

Washington is the perfect getaway during those cozy, chilly fall months… especially if you choose a hotel that feels like a home away from home. As a last minute planner, I’m a huge fan of Hotel Tonight for finding the perfect place to rest your head, especially for last minute trips. I’m always completely inspired by the carefully curated properties they offer (and the Daily Drop prices that show a special deal every day).

The Line DC

Chic, un-stuffy and perfectly situated in the Adams Morgan neighborhood (a lively area of the city any season of the year) – The Line DC is an eclectic hotel I simply adored staying in. The hotel pays homage to its building’s 110 year history with every detail, from its full service radio broadcast hosted live from the lobby, its restaurant’s diverse American inspired-international menu and many seasonal, cultural events hosted on sight. The Line DC really felt like a place to rest and recuperate and meet up with friends and locals.

Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide

The Adams Morgan neighborhood (where The Line is located) was the perfect walking distance from everything I had on my list to see and experience!

Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide
Autumn In Washington, DC: An Insider's Guide

If you’re looking for a cozy weekend in the Northeast, I couldn’t recommend Washington, DC more! It’s filled with historic relics and lovely restaurants, museums, and quaint neighborhood gems.

Stay sponsored by Hotel Tonight.

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. All opinions are my own.

Beaches Guides Insider Tips North America

An Insider’s Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Name a tropical holiday destination more iconic than Hawaii. Oahu, the capital of the Hawaiian islands, welcomed me with such warmth and loveliness. It’s hard to imagine a better place to recuperate! Upon landing, I knew I was ready to dive deep into the relaxed lifestyle the islands are most known for. But to my surprise, my time in Oahu showed me a different side to the iconic Hawaiian vacation we’re all familiar with. Certainly its beloved beaches are gorgeous, but in my short time exploring I discovered Oahu’s excellent food scene influenced from both east and west (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filippino and Thai), nature trails, historic culture, street art, boutique hotels and more. Today, I’m excited to share an insider’s guide to Oahu, Hawaii.

But to my surprise, my time in Oahu showed me a different side to the iconic Hawaiian vacation we’re all familiar with. Certainly its beloved beaches are gorgeous, but in my short time exploring I discovered Oahu’s excellent food scene influenced from both east and west (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filippino and Thai), nature trails, historic culture, street art, boutique hotels and more. Today, I’m excited to share an insider’s guide to Oahu, Hawaii.

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

What To Do

Unlike the unspoiled smaller Hawaii islands, Oahu’s positioning is the perfect place to kick back while also getting the perks of a larger city. (As a New Yorker, you know I loved that!) The easiest way from the airport to the city center is through Speedi Shuttle. So often, when I get to a more remote, tropical location – it feels completely disconnected from modern conveniences. This is definitely not the case here! Here are some of the must-do activities I’d recommend first timer’s experience when exploring Oahu!

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Take A Helicopter Tour

To get a completely new perspective of the island, take the Complete Island Oahu helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. I loved seeing the epic landscapes unfurl below! It’s a total bucket list experience.

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Book A Sunrise Photo Walk

Wake up for sunrise and join Oahu Photo Tours for a full day tour around the island, catching some of the most photogenic spots. There’s nothing like the crisp air of a new day and seeing the most loved spots of the island before the crowds settle in.

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Baydo-In Temple

The Baydo-In Temple is a non-denominational temple nestled at the ​​​​​​​base of the Ko’olau Mountains in Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. Come for a meditative walk around its gorgeous koi ponds and some simple, solitary moments enjoying its endless beauty.

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Waikiki Aquarium

The Waikiki Aquarium on the end of the Waikiki Trolley line is one of the most popular tourist attractions to do! It’s actually perfectly situated next to a living coral reef, too.

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Walk Along Kalakaua Ave

Kalakaua Avenue is where you’ll find tons of cool, boutiques, shops and malls edging right up to the beach. It’s a shopper’s Hawaiian paradise!

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Kapi’olani Farmer’s Market

If you’ll be in Oahu during on a Saturday (or a Tuesday), check out the Kapi’olani Farmer’s Market! Hawaii’s agricultural industry has really zeroed in on the benefits of locally sourced foods – this is the place to try some of the freshest foods, local honey, coffee, fruits and flower bouquets!

Snorkle at Hanauma Bay

What’s a Hawaiian vacation without snorkling? Even if you’re not the most proficient swimmer, I’d highly recommend taking a dip and seeing the colorful, tropical fishes in Hanauma Bay. It’s so spectacularly beautiful!

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Dole Plantation

Although it may be a bit touristy, the Dole Plantation is a must-do! The pineapple soft serve and everything else pinapple that you can imagine is lifechanging. Guinness calls it the world’s largest maze, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s a massive space! The plantation itself is beautful and you can take an express train to explore it. 

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Visit the Brooklyn of Oahu, Kaka’ako

This hip, up and coming neighborhood has a ton of street art murals. I loved soaking in all the unique art! Plus, this neighborhood is home to Paiko and the popular Avocado Toast Aussie cafe, Arvo. 

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Hike Diamond Head – Sandy Beach

Escape the crowded shores and head to Diamond Head, around the bend from Hanauma Bay and the Blowhole (a favorite of Pres Obama!). ​​​​​​​The south facing views are simply stunning.

Where To Eat

With a dynamic range of cultural influences, Oahu’s food scene is incredible. You’ll find flavors from all parts of the world, fresh fruits and drinks in incredibly designed spaces. Here are some of my favorite foodie discoveries in the city!

Waikiki​​​​​​​

Beachhouse at the Moana

If you’re looking for an ocean front view with noshing on fresh seafood, look no further. Kona Lobster bisque, amazing Ahi tuna? Count me in!

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Duke’s

This is a fun spot for drinks! The atmosphere is super lively on the beach. I’d imagine it would be a great spot to hang out with a gaggle of girlfriends over great cocktails!

Mahina & Suns

Located in the iconic Surfjack Hotel, Mahina & Suns does home cooking with a twist. All their dishes are inspired by the local food customs and use only the very best, fresh ingredients.

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Steak Shack

Steak Shack is just what it name states – a shack right on a stunning beach that serves the most delicious steak with rice for under $10! Can’t beat it. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Waiola Shave Ice

If there’s one place you MUST go in Oahu… it’s Waiola Shave Ice. It’s a MUST. The best shave ice on the island. There’s seriously nothing more refreshing!

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Diamond Head

Ono Seafood

Ono Seafood has the best poke in town! But heads up -they’re closed on Monday and Sunday… so plan accordingly.

Leonard’s

Head over to Leonard’s for an incredible malasadas (Portugese fried doughnut). It’s the perfect treat to start your day with.

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Ars Cafe

This artsy cafe celebrates the art of the local area while also serving up some delicious coffee from around the world, gelato and sweets!

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Where To Stay

I obsess over lodgings that are committed to fun, luxurious or quirky details, while also giving visitors a cozy place to call their own. So, you can imagine my excitement when booking some of the coolest hotels filled with colorful island touches in well connected areas. Hotel Tonight is my go-to resource to find these stellar places, as they always do a great job listing each establishment’s unique qualities – including its architectural beauty or how photogenic the spaces are. (P.S. If you’re a meticulous hotel-lover like me, you can use the code “nyakoub” for $25 off your next stay!)

Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club

A true homage to the Waikiki spirit, the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club is a vintage-inspired, visionary hotel. From the mid-century architecture and art bedecking the walls, their creative take on a local “swim club” and their perfect location on the island – there’s no aesthetic like it. Each room is totally unique and absolutely vintage inspired, making you feel like you’re inside an episode of Mad Men. Their commitment ​​​​​​​to celebrating artists was an awesome bonus too. I also loved that each evening there was some kind of cool event going on within the space, including movie screenings. It really feels like a space both visitors and locals alike love to meet up in!​​​​​​​

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach

The Alohilani Resort is an absolute serene oasis. The design of the interiors and exteriors are pristine, fresh and totally relaxing. Cabanas, shallow water pools, open air lobbies, steps from the shore… heaven, I tell you! There’s a reason it was named after the last queen monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom. I could totally see honeymooners loving this space to call home for a few days!

Alohilani’s Longboard Club and daily scheduled activities also had me completely smitten. I loved coming to their space to grab a light bite – whether it was for something to get me going in the morning or an afternoon snack – as well as dabbling in their scheduled activities, like sunset yoga, live music, Lei making and exercise classes. Not to mention, the hotel also offers two restaurants by critically acclaimed chef, Morimoto.

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii
An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu showed me a new side to Hawaii‘s delightful culture… and I’m so grateful for it. I can’t wait to return again soon!

Stay sponsored by Hotel Tonight.

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. All opinions are my own.

Insider Tips North America

Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada

Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada

Toronto is one of the most amazing cities in the world. With its stunning architecture, very clean streets and friendly people, you could not have picked a better vacation destination. Full of diversity, many different cultures and foods, along with so many tourist attractions, flying in to Toronto will be full of excitement and anticipation to explore.

Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada

Where To Eat

Toronto has many different eateries, catering for everyone and every palate. This means there is so much to choose from, and this could prove to be quite difficult. However, there are a few places that you should definitely try when you’re in town:

Bugigattolo Kitchen

Serving Italian dishes and located in Liberty Village, Bugugattolo Kitchen has a nice modern feel with a friendly atmosphere. If the sun is shining seat yourself at one of the tables on the patio and get ready to enjoy some freshly prepared dishes that taste delicious!

Bar Reyna

This atmospheric Mediterranean restaurant is in one of the most timeless and cool Victorian houses in  in Yorkville. Enjoy its energetic staff and eclectic mix of table snacks, large plates and more in Mediterranean style cooking.

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Café Colette

This classic and chic French bistro has an amazing outdoor terrace and serves up modern twists on traditional French cuisine. It’s also basically a little slice of Parisian heaven just awaiting for you to savor Elegant, delicious and beautiful… what more could you want in a cafe?

Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada

Her Majesty’s Pleasure

This award winning salon/spa and cocktail bar is located in the King West Village Fashion House. Bartenders serve up creative, inventive cocktails, champagne and sweets in between beauty bars and chats with styling and beauty experts. It’s a perfect date to have with yourself, or with a group of girlfriends!

Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada

Cocktail Emporium

Talk about a place to grab a drink! The Cocktail Emporium is colorful, lively and filled with some fantastic vintage-inspired cocktails. It’s like a playground for cocktail enthusiasts!

FIKA Coffee Shop

Famous for its book-covered wall, FIKA Coffee Shop is guaranteed to give you all the hygge -Scandinavian vibes.

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Kiin

This incredible Thai restaurant has a super artsy feel. The chefs aim to celebrate the traditions from all across Thailand, which gives visitors a great learning experience while tasting some savory and unique flavors from the country!

Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada

La Palma

The cutest café! Coffee, cocktails, meet ups, lady dates? This is a great place to do all of the above. La Palma’s relaxed vibe is a great spot and sure is photogenic! Their murals are just simply too cool for school and no detail goes unnoticed.

Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada

Oretta

This super chic Italian restaurant is perfect if you’re looking for a little savory goodness in the form of pizza, pasta, or some aperitivo treats. Oretta’s decor feels like a backdrop of Mad Men doesn’t it? So effortlessly cool and art deco!

Your Insider Guide To Toronto, CanadaYour Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada

Roselle

If you find yourself craving some amazing soft serve ice cream… this is the place! Look at how adorable their little dishes are.

Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada

The One That Got Away

A fish ‘n chips spot that’s perfect for a quick lunch! This place is a Toronto staple. It’s history within the city is a big enough reason to visit for a meal. Hunker down into the pure battered deliciousness of their fried fish served up in authentic manner!

Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada

Bar Raval

Bar Raval is a lovely place to eat, serving good food with a touch of class. Reservations are not needed, so you can turn up when you please and enjoy the sophisticated atmosphere that’s coupled with a relaxed and friendly feel. The food here is nothing short of glorious, so get here if you can!

Where To Stay

When you’re planning a vacation in Toronto you’ll know that you’ll need to stay somewhere stylish so you can enjoy all that this city has to offer. Here are a few hotels that you should consider staying in:

The Ritz-Carlton

With 260+ rooms and views of Lake Ontario and the majestic CN Tower, this hotel is well worth staying in. With marble bathrooms, one of Toronto’s best restaurants, and the DEQ Terrace and Lounge that serves cocktails, this is the place to stay.

SoHo Metropolitan

A contemporary hotel that is moments away from the local restaurants and stores, this hotel is a luxurious one. With deep tubs, floors that are heated and blinds, lights, and even a ‘Do not disturb’ sign that is remote controlled. If you’re looking to stay somewhere that has a touch of style, you need to book a room.

Thompson Hotel

The Thompson Hotel is situated in a nearly perfect location in the city. It also boasts some stellar views of Toronto’s cityscape and offers decent rates!

Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada

Where To Shop

Toronto is home to many different stores, but there are a few that are well worth a visit:

Bloor-Yorkville

A shopping district that’s coupled with many different restaurants, Bloor-Yorkville is the only place to be. With beautiful sidewalks, parks and many different stores that are internationally known, you can browse as much as you like, or shop ‘til you drop. You may also appreciate the surrounding back streets that are full to the brim of art galleries, boutiques and antique dealers. Visit Bloor-Yorkville for the only shopping experience you’ll need.

There is so much to do in Toronto that it can be hard to know where you need to begin. If you use this insider guide to help you, you should find that you’ve made the most of your time in this incredible Canadian city without feeling like you’ve missed out.

Where To Shoot/Photograph

Casa Loma Castle

This majestic castle is a jewel in Toronto’s skyline. This Gothic Revival style mansion with sprawling gardens in midtown is a historic museum worth capturing. The architecture is stunning and feels like a little bit of Europe in North America!

Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada

Helicopter Tour

Booking a helicopter tour allows you to see the panoramic beauty that is unique and exciting. Most tours will take you past Toronto’s tallest buildings and show you the city’s major attractions as well as Toronto Islands and the harbor from a unique perspective. It’s a great photo opportunity!

Your Insider Guide To Toronto, CanadaYour Insider Guide To Toronto, CanadaYour Insider Guide To Toronto, CanadaYour Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada

Scarborough Bluffs

Toronto’s waterfront is filled with nine parks of “The Bluffs,” as locals call them, above the shoreline. These natural wonders are so gorgeous. Be sure to go to Bluffers Park since it is the only one to have beach access!

Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada

Commerce Center

Smack dab in the center of Historic Toronto and close enough to most sights downtown, the Commerce Center is a great place to snap some great photos of the old architecture the city boasts!

Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada

Distillery District

The pedestrian-only Distillery District is lined with quaint buildings stemming all the way from the 1800s… all of which housed a large whiskey distillery. This area now draws crowds because of its cobble stoned streets, unique restaurants, boutiques, galleries and performances. It also fills up with a very picturesque Christmas Market around the holidays!

Your Insider Guide To Toronto, CanadaYour Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada

Kensington Street

Toronto’s most vibrant and diverse neighborhood. Stop by the market, do some shopping and get snap happy!

Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada Your Insider Guide To Toronto, Canada


Whatever you end up exploring in Toronto, we hope you enjoy Ontario’s capital and one of Canada’s gems! 

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