Girona has a genuine spirit, quiet atmosphere, beautiful city centre, with a distintive ‘soul’, typical of this area of Spain, with a peculiar mix of mediterranean and pireneus influences.
The compact old town can be visited in one day, but spending few days here is a pleasure and it will let you discover the original catalonia region, far away from the massive number of tourists that you will meet in Barcelona.
Girona has an international airport wih many low-costs flights. From the airport there is a bus every hour (ticket costs 2,30Euro), in 20 minutes you will arrive at the main train/bus station, not far from the city centre.
My first suggestion is to stay at Equity point hostel.
This is the best and cheapest accomodation available in town.
Location is perfect, in the big and central Placa Catalunya, directly in the city centre and not far from the train/bus station.
The hostel has a friendly staff, clean rooms and nice common areas, with a wonderful roof terrace, where you can enjoy the view of the city.
Breakfast is included in the price.
Girona has a well preserved city walls, in the northern part of the city.
A walk along the walls will give you a perfect view and understanding of the city, you can also appreciate the natural environment that surround the city, green land and mountains.
The old town has a medioeval architecture, with narrow streets and houses built with stones. The Cathedral of Santa Maria de Girona is also a beautiful landmark and symbol of the city.
Girona has a small river and many bridges with scenic and coloured houses along it.
If you are staying more days there is also a beautiful city park, on monday with a vegetables and fruits market.
The streets have been completely renovated over the last years, bringing life and charm back to this city.
Since then a multitude of cafes, bars, restaurants, fashion stores have opened. On warm days almost every cafe has an outdoor seating zone in the streets, giving the city a unique cozy feeling. A beautiful hill-top castle, with a stunning view of the city and the river Danube, is one of the landmarks you should enjoy while visiting Bratislava.
The city has an airport with many low-cost flights, from the airport a public transport bus (nr. 61) will bring you to the centre in 30 minutes (ticket costs 0,90 Euro). Bratislava is also very close to famous cities like Wien (60 km far), Prague (320km far) and Budapest (200 km far), connection by bus and trains are frequents.
First of all, if you are planning to spend some day in the Slovak capital city, I would strongly recommend to stay at Hostel Blues.
It was my second time there and it gets, if possible, better and better!
Elena and Eliska are fantastic front desk staff, always smiling and willing to chat and help. All the staff is kind and friendly. Location is perfect, few minutes walking to the city centre. Kitchen is big, tidy and well equipped with all you might need for cooking. Common room is warm and relaxing, best place to get to know other travellers, the hostel organize even a blues concert once a week.
Bratislava is not only about the city. There are several places to visit just around the city:
– Devín Castle (hrad Devín) – ruins of the large castle next to the confluence of the Danube river with the Morava river. It is about 20 minutes from the SNP Bridge with bus no. 29. The place is nice for walks and there are many monuments and statues.
– Hike in the Small Carpathians mountain range. Bratislava lies on the southeast slopes of these mountains. Hiking routes are well indicated. The entire country is covered with hundreds of miles of extremely well-marked hiking trails, that especially in the national parks lead though gorgeous landscapes
The castle Červený kameň is located about 30 km north-east of Bratislava; it can be reached by bus from Mlynske Nivy bus terminal.
Slovak are proud of their traditions and cuisine is part of it. Local specialties mostly involves (smoked) meat, cheese, potatoes and flour. Soups are quite common either as an appetizer or as a main dish.
Bryndzové halušky, similar to small dumplings with sheep’s cheese and topped with pieces of meat, is the national dish of Slovakia and are recommended.
Another specialty in Bratislava (and Slovakia) is treska. It is a cold salad made of Codfish with mayonnaise and vegetables like onions and carrots. Treska tastes very good with rolls.
For a great typical dinner, the two must to visit restaurants are: ‘Slovak pub’ and the ‘Bratislava flag ship restaurant‘. the second one has wonderful interiors.
Bratislava has a popular club, HC Slovan Bratislava and locals are very proud of it. The club plays the international Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), the second most important hochey competition in the world, after the northern american/canadian one.
The ice hockey arena (official name is Ondrej Nepela Arena, known in slovak as Zimný štadión Ondreja Nepelu, and nowadays as Slovnaft Arena) is brand new, rebuilt and reconstructed to host the ice hockey world competition in 2011, is full of bars, restaurants and other premises. It is easily reachable by public transportation.
Finally, suggesting to drink beer would be to easy 🙂
I will try, instead, to suggest two ‘off the beaten track’ places:
–Kelion. Is a tea room, not only. It is in a quiet city area, far from traffic and noise, in a nice family house. If you want a proper relax and cosy atmosphere it is the place for you!
–Bistro St. German. Is a cafe’ nearby the Hostel Blues. Good food and organic drinks available. Beautiful interiors. Great to chill-out. No smoking inside!
Belgrade (Beograd in serbian language) is one of my favorite destinations in the whole Europe. Belgrade is not an ordinary city, you will not be amazed by its beauty but you will remember the days spent here, because in Belgrade you really feel the city’s life, by easily getting in touch with locals.
You will understand how unique is the city, when you will discover that it lies on the confluence of two rivers, the Sava and the Danube. The city itself, like all the Balkan region, has a recent base of communist elements, a mix of Austrian and Slavonic cultures with Turkish influence and a Mediterranean flavor in its architecture and view of life (café culture, nightlife). Belgrade has been destroyed many times, its history is fulfilled with battles, changes of political powers and bomb attacks (the last, in 1999, by the criminal nato forces). Do not expect an old historical centre, the old Belgrade’s spirit is however well preserved by the citizens…
– Join the Free Belgrade walking tour
Probably it’s the best walking tour available in Europe, and you will fully understand about the city and its incredible history.
Everyday, starting at 11, from the republic square, the young guide will wear a yellow t-shirt. It will take 3 hours but you won’t get bored!
The tour will show you the very city centre, with many interesting, funny and historical details.
A friendly shot of local rakia will make the tour even more interesting…(in the picture, the guide Zeljko, was incredibly prepared, lots of info about the city)
Serbs are very proud of their food, based on grilled meats and sausages, local cheeses and bread. Local produce is fresh and organic. Most Serbian restaurants offer roštilj, a large plate of various unseasoned grilled meats. Serbian cuisine is famous for its heavy use of varied vegetables, fresh or cooked.
Snacking and eating on the go in Belgrade is easy and cheap. Local hamburger are called cevapcici, available in many parts of the city for a very cheap price. Bakeries (pekara) are everywhere and you will find a wide assortment of breads, sandwich, sweet and savoury pastries. The most common is called burek, a light snack and meal to be consumed together with a drinkable yoghurt (similar to kefir). Some of the bakeries are open 24 hours.
– Sleep at El Diablo hostel
The hostel is a clean apartment turned into a cozy hostel, with a roof terrace where to chill-out.
The owners, Nigel and Dragan are incredibly nice and helpful, always happy to talk and give suggestions to guests. You will feel like at home.
Location is probably the best you can have in Belgrade, in the heart of the former bohemian quarter, skandarljia, where famous restaurants for tourists are (expensive though), many other affordable restaurants and bars are close by. The biggest city market, where you can buy their organic veggie, meat and cheese, is only 2 minutes walking, same for 24hrs a mini market and local fast food stands.
At night, there are plenty of bars, cafés and discotheques that are open, selling cheaply priced drinks. Belgrade is reputed to have some of the best night life in Europe.
Part of local culture are kafana (in the picture of of the oldest in town), a cafe’/pub with serb music and drinks. ‘Kafana is a place where sad lovers cure their sorrows in alcohol and music, gamblers squander entire fortunes, husbands run away from mean wives while shady businessmen, corrupt local politicians and petty criminals do business’. Usually you get in sober and get out drunk and happy…
In summer nightlife moves to the splav, river boats turned into restaurant/bars/disco located along the Sava and Danube rivers.
Best way to enjoy the city is to make a friend, a local one, that will show you the best places and things to do. So I did! 🙂
Since many years I’m lucky to have met and known so many wonderful people in this city. This summer I was even invited to a serbian wedding and, believe me, it is something that I will remember for long…!!!! 🙂
Serbians are naturally welcoming and warm-hearted people, full of nice sense of humor, together with brave and proud attitudes.
If you are going with a local friend, be sure that you will visit/see/eat/drink the best…
Serbs are crazy for sports, not only, they are VERY good at sports! Tennis, basket, water polo…are only few of the sports where this little country is at the top.
The local football derby, between Partizan and Red Star Belgrade (Crvena Zvezda, my second favorite club, after Napoli) is also known as the ‘eternal Derby’ and it’s considered to be one of the most intensive football events in European football, for the incredible supporting atmosphere, despite the poor quality of football. Due to the intensity of the rivalry, it is not recommended to wear either team’s colors outside the stadium during match days between the two sides.
The two clubs have teams in other sports, basket for instance is very popular too. If you have time visit the Belgrade Arena, New Belgrade. It is the second largest arena in Europe and the largest in the Balkans. You will definitely be impressed by the architecture.
In summer is usually very warm and humid, enjoy Ada Ciganlija, a river island on Sava River with an artificial lake.
The lake has an 8 km long gravel beach, which is visited by thousands of bathers during the summer. This is a great place for sports (area for football, basketball, beach volley, golf and tennis) and picnics.
It also contains a lot of cafes and restaurants. In summer, it is swamped with people wanting to cool down in the water; Another option is the great War Island (Veliko ratno ostrvo), a river island at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, for picnics and bird spotting.