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Europe Insider Tips

5 Unique, Romantic Dates To Have In Lisbon (Either Accompanied Or Solo!)

Ah, Lisbon… the city of tiled walls, sardines and Fado houses. As a local, I love to see people’s reactions to visit the city for the first time. From what I perceived throughout the years Portugal’s capital may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of “city of romance” (…hi, Paris!) BUT more and more people have described my dear Lisboa as their new lover. So, if you’re heading to Lisbon looking for unique date experiences, here are my five suggestions.

A Stroll Through Jardim Botânico

For those who are already getting butterflies in their stomachs my suggestion is the lovely Jardim Botânico.

Jardim is the Portuguese word for garden and Lisbon is full of them. This one is located in a picturesque area of Lisbon (Príncipe Real) and it’s the perfect place for an old-fashioned walk surrounded by palm trees and other equally stunning plants.

Once here, the “Borboletário” is a must-see. A 200 square meters area of colorful butterflies? It doesn’t get more romantic than this. 

The Perfect Sunset At Portas Do Sol

Grab your chair while enjoying the sunset from one of the most incredible viewpoints in Lisbon: Portas do Sol. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Lisbon is beautiful at any time of the day, but Alfama looks particularly gorgeous at the sunset.

The Book Nerd’s Dream: Ler Devagar

Now, you don’t need to be much of a reader to fall in love with Ler Devagar – a giant bookshop at LX Factory (one of the coolest markets in Lisbon), but if you are THEN this bookshop will fulfill all your book nerd dreams.

Here you can find millions of books, a very Instagram-friendly flying bicycle, as well as two cafés to have a bite. There are also live concerts and expos happening all throughout the year, so you can check on their website beforehand.

Dinner At One Of Lisbon’s Many “Esplanadas”

Esplanadas are the equivalent to the French terrasse. They’re basically al fresco dining areas where chairs and tables are laid out on the cobbled streets.

If you want to enjoy your romantic dinner at a “esplanada,” there are plenty of options available. For anyone dying to indulge in some Portuguese traditional cuisine make sure to taste bacalhau (cod) our national and much cherished dish.

Daydreaming Under A Starry Sky At Lisbon’s Astronomical Observatory

Finally, to the “fools who dream,” there is no better date than enjoying a beautiful starry sky.

Lisbon’s Astronomical Observatory/Planetarium holds the “Noites do Observatório” each month, a perfect opportunity to confess your love under the stars while pretending (and probably failing) to be Emma Stone in La La Land.  

What is an unexpectedly romantic city you’ve fallen for?


Europe Food

5 Places In The Douro Valley You Must See

5 Places In The Douro Valley You Must See

At the forefront of innovative and creative wines and ports, the Douro Valley in Portugal is the motherland of it all. The valley sprawls with spectacular landscapes while boasting unique sceneries of rolling hills and beautiful quintas along the way. The wine valleys of the Douro region are some of the most stunning views you’ll find in all of Portugal. Known as the “magnificent valley”, the Douro comes with a rich heritage. In fact, the whole valley has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

But the history of the Douro region is long and complicated. Their ancient roots of wine making have evolved over many years, making the region famously known for their rich port wines. And as talented and perfected as these ports are, it’s not all they are known for. 

In the last decade, many wineries have worked rigorously to showcase a different side of the Douro Valley wines. More and more wine makers have found themselves exploring the full potential of the terroir. Testing and trying for a new and different style of wine. Instead of high sugar and alcohol percentages…think a new light, refreshing wine to taking place. 

It’s all in great timing as the demand for this type of travel increases. Travel Market Report states that the number one emerging trend for 2018 is that of food and wine experiences. The Douro Valley itself has started to note high numbers in tourism in the last few years. As many more start to discover the hidden gem of the Valle, we are breaking down the top 5 places that should not be missed along the way.

Taylor’s Fladgate Cellar

Although not located in the Douro Valley region, Taylor’s Fladgate sits just before your trek into the Valley. In the town of Porto, Taylor’s Fladgate is a perfect place to start. The property lies perched up on a mountain overlooking the undeniably beautiful city of Porto. On the tour of the property, you’ll get a true understanding of the Portuguese wine culture. Everything from the education on the soil, the people, the taste, as well as the history behind it all. 

The best part is the tasting room. Filled with a plenty of port options to sip on, it’s just as impressive as the sweeping views of the city. Their Barão Fladgate Restaurant is home to a remarkable location and atmospheric setting in the grounds of Taylor’s Port cellars. The views sweep across the iconic Douro River to the old historic center of Porto. It serves up a modern twist of traditional cuisine where the emphasis lies on fresh local ingredients and how it pairs with Taylor’s ports. 

From classic white and red ports to their very own private collections, there is plenty to choose from. So sit back and order up a charcuterie plate and marvel at the incredible landscapes that truly characterize Portugal.

5 Places In The Douro Valley You Must See

Quinta do Panascal

This quinta is a great first stop on your must sees in the Douro Valley region. With wonderful views of Portugal’s countryside, you’ll find this vineyard along your twisty two lane adventure that curves in and out of the region.

At Quinta do Panascal, you’re eased into the world of Portuguese wine. Be sure to grab a refreshing “Siroptimo” (Siroco and tonic) or reserve one of their tailor-made tastings when you first arrive. From there, wander through the maze-like vineyards that are far and wide in between. 

The estate has cozy ambiance with a special lunch experience that feels quite opulent. You must book ahead of time as it’s reservation only. You’ll get to choose from dishes such as local specialties like cabrito (mountain goat) to their delicious bacalhau (cod fish). All of their ingredients are fresh and picked right from their own garden.

It’s truly an afternoon well spent after you’ve enjoyed a gourmet cooked meal while gazing over the Távora Valley vineyards. And if you are lucky enough to be here during the grape-harvesting season, you’ll catch a glimpse of the grape treading in the “lagares”, where Fonseca Port wine is still produced the traditional way. Now that…is something speculator. 

5 Places In The Douro Valley You Must See

Quinta da Nápoles

This quinta is home to the household name of Niepoort Wines. Over the past two decades, this company has led the way in what some now call the “Portuguese wine revolution.” Producers from Niepoort have turned their focus on producing lighter, elegant wines- rather than sweet fortified Port wine. (Although they still produce great ports). With all of this, Niepoort has become quite the wine trailblazer in this region.

Perched atop the undisturbed hills of the Douro Valley, this private quinta is one of the top wineries pioneering alower alcohol Douro wine. Through the technique of their “Niepoort Triangle” which uses three different terroirs: Schist (Douro), Limestone (Bairrada) and Granite (Dão), these wines produce a bold and robust, yet elegant taste.

Located along the banks of the Tedo River, the production here is rather impressive. The winery works with nature, using energy-efficient and sustainable methods and solar panels. Through using a gravity-system through holes in the ground line, the grapes slide in and fall down into the barrels for fermentation. Instead of pumping the grapes from one tank to another, this system allows the the grapes to travel from one floor to the next through the stages of the winemaking, maturation and aging. Through this intricate wine making process, you’ll find a more fresh, yet not shy taste on the palate.

A thing to note is that the heat in the Douro Valley reaches extremely high temperatures in the summer. By creating of a blend that produces vibrant fruits with low alcohol in this particular region is well….rather talented. Quinta da Nápoles is a great place to check out what these innovative wine producers are up to. As dedicated educators, these producers are keen on showing foreigners that the Douro region is capable of much more than just a port.

Our suggestion? 

Try their 2013 Bioma Tinto. It’s entirely made up with grapes from the vineyards at Quinta de Nápoles, where organic viticulture is practiced and certified. Made with younger vineyards, their idea was to have less intervention during the winemaking process. The aging process in then made in old wooden containers from port wine wood. They succeeded their goal in producing a pure wine without the oak character, but with elegant and firm tannins.


Quinta Nova

Ever wanted to ever stay on a vineyard? Turns out you can. Recently featured in Condé Nast, the hidden gem of Quinta Nova Nossa Senhora do Carmo is a luxury wine house. Showing off stunning views, amazing guest rooms, and an impressive wine selection, this place is unbeatable. And staying here is an experience unlike any other. You’ll find everything from sustainable gastronomy in the kitchen, to 5-star services and amenities.  It’s no wonder that Quinta Nova was recently rated as one of the must-see wineries in the world. 

Mornings on the quinta are spent are a leisurely pace. Most days, you’ll wake up to the site of horses plowing the vineyard lines of their steep terrain. Your days are found wandering through the vineyards, watching the golden light of the sunset fall on the Valley. Just at dust, you’ll most likely be curling up with a book near the fireplace, or enjoying a glass of wine in one of their welcoming living rooms. Each detail at Quinta Nova is intricately designed to make you feel as if the place was your home.

5 Places In The Douro Valley You Must See

Quinta da Roêda

Now it would be a shame to completely leave port out of the equation as this region is famous for it. Quinta da Roêda is home to Croft’s flagship vineyard estate in Pinhão in the heart of the Douro Valley.  Now resigned in the Roêda’s old stables, the quinta resembles the old traditional Douro Valley style. You can try some of Croft’s renowned port wines. Or taste some of the estate’s local homemade olive oil on one of their many lovely terraces. 

One thing not to be missed is Croft’s newest innovative creation, the Rosé Port. This port is created through a technique which extracts fresh, fruity flavors. This created a subtle and delicate pink color which appears from limited contact with the skins of classic port grape varieties. The result is a fresh and vibrant taste, filled with rich fruit flavors of port but with a distinctive appeal. And just as Rosé wine is the perfect summer, the Rosé Port is as well.

As we start to see the consumer of the wine market rise in numbers and the popularity for food and wine travel goes up, Portugal has become one of the top destinations for 2018. And with that, more and more food and wine enthusiasts are eager to explore Portugal.  And as people’s interest in the education of wine rises, the experiences in the places such as the Douro are now becoming specifically tailored to this type of traveler.



Sintra: The Can’t-Miss Day Trip from Lisbon

Sintra is a small resort town that’s just a 40 minute train ride from the Lisbon city center. I went there for the day and was blown away by all there is to do – it’s truly a destination in itself! While the actual town is rather sleepy (but still nice for a quaint lunch or coffee), there are several castles and palaces dotting the hills that guests can visit by bus. We visited Quinta da Regaleira and got lost in the fairy tale estate and its lush grounds (including the mysterious Initiation Well that is a mossy inverted tower, spiralling down into the earth).

Sintra: The Can’t-Miss Day Trip from LisbonThe Fonte Mourisca spring (that still provides drinkable water!)

Sintra: The Can’t-Miss Day Trip from LisbonSintra: The Can’t-Miss Day Trip from LisbonSintra: The Can’t-Miss Day Trip from LisbonSintra: The Can’t-Miss Day Trip from LisbonSintra: The Can’t-Miss Day Trip from Lisbon

I’d also recommend seeing the Pena Palace, the Castle of the Moors and the Monserrate Palace. This is a lot to do in just a day, but the bus system runs throughout the region and connects visitors between the several popular destinations. One other notable spot is the dramatic cliffs of Cabo da Roca –  a cape which forms the westernmost extent of continental Europe. We sat for hours in the sunshine on the edge of the huge cliffs, it’s a gorgeous landscape that cannot be missed!

Sintra: The Can’t-Miss Day Trip from Lisbon

Sintra: The Can’t-Miss Day Trip from LisbonSintra: The Can’t-Miss Day Trip from LisbonSintra: The Can’t-Miss Day Trip from LisbonSintra: The Can’t-Miss Day Trip from Lisbon

With Sintra being a quick, easy drive from the hustle and bustle of Lisbon and other cities… it’s the perfect day trip when visiting beautiful Portugal! Have you been to Sintra?

Budget Europe Food Hotels Insider Tips

Top 4 European Destinations for the Budget Traveler

A deep desire to explore Europe seems to be an aspiration embedded within most of us in our twenties. An overwhelming need for adventure and independence, combined with that momentary existence in a world semi-free from real responsibilities seems to cause this phenomenon. None of this would be a problem if we didn’t spent our twenties broke from our partying habits and measly casual jobs, hardly able to afford our rent, let alone an extravagant Europe trip!

Rest assured, we’ve got a solution. Going to Europe doesn’t have to mean spending 500 Euros a night on 5-star Parisian accommodation. The trick is to spend your time and money wisely by visiting the right places to suit your budget. So here we present to you a list of incredible European cities where you can stay, eat, and party without racking up your credit card bill… Too much.

1.    Budapest, Hungary
Budapest has to be one of the most incredible cities in Europe. A spectacular combination of quaint European architecture, hip cafes and vintage stores, artsy culture and a unique nightlife. Given the decadent feeling of this Eastern European city, it is a pleasant surprise to find the general cost of living here is remarkably low. Given the current exchange rate of the Hungarian Forint, eating out, transport and accommodation are very affordable in this beauty of a city. We’re talking giant slices of Pizza for 1 Euro. Now there reason alone to go to check this city out.

EAT: Gelarto Rose for delicious rose-shaped ice cream
DRINK: Szimpla Bar for a unique ruins bar experience
STAY: Avail Hostel chic, clean, central accommodation

2.    Prague, Czech Republic

Walking through Prague is like getting transported into a fairy-tale. Horse-drawn carriages, romanticised gothic architecture, cobblestone alleyways galore and the crème de la crème, a Bavarian castle that inspired the design of the Cinderella castle at Disneyland. The best part about the whole thing is you can make this fairy-tale land a reality, and do so on a budget! A hearty three-course dinner out included a pint of beer can cost you as little as 9 euros. Prague is also known for its fantastic nightlife, and now you can go out and enjoy yourself without the regrets when you look at your bank account the next day. With beer cheaper than water and cocktails that won’t cost you three dinners worth, this place is prime for the partygoers.

EAT: U Buldoka for an atmospheric pub lunch
DRINK: Propaganda Pub for a vast selection of vodka-based drinks
STAY: Czech Inn for modern stylish hostel accommodation

3.    Lisbon, Portugal

Whilst this Portuguese city might not be the top of everyone’s Europe list, Lisbon is slowly gaining exposure as people are beginning to realize what a unique and inexpensive city it is to visit. Lisbon is simply teeming with character. A massive castle on a hill centrepieces the city, colourful masterpieces of graffiti burst out over derelict buildings, and the ‘25 de Abril’ Bridge on the harbour reminisces the famous Golden Gate bridge in San Fran. With absolutely beautiful beaches and seaside towns just a short train ride away, it is well worth the visit. The best part? The accommodation is ridiculously cheap. Check out Airbnb to score yourself the best deal on a unique Lisbon apartment and you’ll be eating Portuguese chicken in no time. Yum.

EAT: Beira Gare for wholesome, tasty food at tempting prices
DRINK: Crew Hassan for a place with atmosphere, live music and unique decor
STAY: Airbnb for affordable apartment options

4.    Barcelona, Spain

Sunshine, shopping, siestas and… sangria. What more could you ask for in a city? The answer is nothing! Barcelona has everything you could every want and need, from its great expanse of beaches, the mind-blowing La Boqueria markets, fascinating Gaudi architecture and alleyways filled with cute places to eat and drink. Now, you would think all of this would come at a hefty price when booking accommodation, yet it is actually quite the opposite. Whilst eating out can get a little pricey, the cost of staying in a hostel can be beyond cheap if you do your research and book in advance. One night in the Casa Gracia was like staying in an upmarket hotel- it included a well-furnished room with proper beds, a private bathroom, and a full buffet breakfast for… Wait for it… 15 Euros for a night!  That means more money for shoppi… I mean, saving.

EAT: La Boqueria Markets for a wide selection of fresh produce and ready-made food
DRINK: Chupito’s Bar for a selection of over 100 shots
STAY: Casa Gracia for a luxury hostel experience