Western Europe’s Best Kept Secrets: 10 Places For Girls Who Travel Solo

Western Europe is perhaps the most visited part of the world today. Truth be told – I have always been wary of a region where almost every tourist flocks. This is one of the reasons why I have largely avoided travelling to western European countries. The closest I’ve been is to Germany. But I’m discovering how a trip to mainstream Europe does not have to mean seeing the done-to-death cities. Here are 10 offbeat locations which solo travellers will love:

Glattalp – Switzerland

Glattalp (Courtesy: Michael Gerber)

Glattalp (Courtesy: Michael Gerber)

Recommendation by Michael Gerber – MscGerber

“When people think about Switzerland there are usually the same destinations they try to visit: Zermatt, Lucerne, Interlaken, Zurich and many more. However, there are still some hidden gems in the Swiss Alps that are not even known by the Swiss people. One of those is the Glattalp, which is not only a perfect place for hikers and adventurers but also for solo female travellers.

To get there, you will have to drive a car or take public transportation – to then be able to take a (pretty old) cable car up to the Glattalp, which seriously offers some of the most breathtaking views I have ever witnessed. What I personally loved the most about the Glattalp was its lake (Glattalpsee), which offers incredible reflections of the mountain peaks around it.”

Kildare – Ireland

St. Brigid's Cathedral in Kildare (Courtesy: Roxanna Keyes)

St. Brigid’s Cathedral in Kildare (Courtesy: Roxanna Keyes)

Recommendation by Roxanna Keyes – Gypsy with a Day Job

“The village of Kildare, in County Kildare, Ireland, is a perfect place for a solo woman traveller. Kildare was actually founded by a woman, St. Brigid, the Patroness Saint of Ireland. Her cathedral and round tower still stand near the town square, making interesting exploration for those interested in Catholicism or Celtic religions, as Brigid figures largely in both.

Horse and garden lovers will enjoy National Stud, the training centre for championship steeds, and home to two renowned gardens. The Japanese gardens are among the loveliest I have ever seen. The village also boasts a prestige store outlet mall, and the Silver Screen Museum in nearby Naas is a surprising treat. Along with these things that are unique to Kildare, there are also castles, ruins, holy wells, pubs, and the gorgeous Irish countryside to see. Kildare is charming and safe, a village many women may fall in love with.”

Bayeux – France

Bayeux (Courtesy: Shobha George)

Bayeux (Courtesy: Shobha George)

Recommendation by Shobha George – Years Of Therapy Ahead

“Bayeux is a small city in Normandy, France – a must-see for history buffs. The city’s location near the English Channel means it has played a pivotal part in world history. For example, one of its museums holds the UNESCO-recognised Bayeux Tapestry which depicts William the Conqueror’s conquest of England in 1066. The British crossed the English Channel in the opposite direction in 1944 at nearby Gold Beach during the D-Day landings. Bayeux was the first city liberated from the Nazis by the Allied Forces on the day after D-Day.

The city has a museum dedicated to the Battle of Normandy as well as a large British war cemetery dedicated to the fallen. Luckily, the city itself escaped any damage from World War II because British engineers created a bypass road for their soldiers and tanks. Bayeux is still a charming town of historic houses, cobblestones and canals, unlike some neighbouring cities like Caen which were heavily damaged after World War II. There are direct trains from Paris that run to Bayeux, making it an ideal small city from which to explore both the D-Day beaches and other attractions in the rest of Normandy such as Mont St. Michel.”

Rostock – Germany

Rostock (Courtesy: Dhara)

Rostock (Courtesy: Dhara)

Recommendation by Dhara – It’s Not About the Miles

“Rostock is a pretty Hanseatic town on the north coast of Germany. It has a picturesque old town and a lovely harbour. Rostock would make for a lovely solo travel destination for women because it is easy to get in and around and there is plenty to see and do, albeit at a relaxed pace. You can wander around, shop for amber, and tour the local university.

The Neuer Markt, the main square, has six beautiful gable houses from the 15th and 16th centuries as its focal point. The town has two beautiful old churches: St. Nicholas, and St. Mary’s. St. Mary’s contains an astronomical clock and a Baroque organ. You can climb up to the top of the tower for beautiful views. The old city wall remnants and the Town Hall are other major attractions. Rostock is about two hours from Berlin by fast train, and there are several trains that run every day.”

Llandudno – Wales

Llandudno (Courtesy: Lavina Dsouza)

Llandudno (Courtesy: Lavina Dsouza)

Recommendation by Lavina Dsouza – Continent Hop

“Great Britain is usually considered a safe bet when it comes to solo travel, but travellers typically tend to stick to the usual when they visit – London and the Burroughs and Edinburgh. However, if you venture a little to the west, Wales is a great option to explore. Liverpool has good connectivity, and once you get to Liverpool, Llandudno is an hour’s drive from there. It’s got a great beach, numerous activities including hiking and bars too but what sets it apart is you can experience all of this within a short area till late without feeling out of place.

There are beautiful bed-and-breakfasts, most of which have someone at the reception to help out, there are clear directions put around, and a quick Google search will tell you timings for almost all activities so that you can plan in time and not get stranded. The locals are always happy to help with a smile on their faces, and it’s a great place even if you like to take a stroll late at night!”

Leiden – The Netherlands

Leiden (Courtesy: Constance)

Leiden (Courtesy: Constance)

Recommendation by Constance – The Adventures Of Panda Bear

“Everyone knows about Amsterdam being one of the safest large cities for solo female travel, but did you know that Leiden is also an amazing spot to travel alone? Located only a 30-minute train ride away from Amsterdam, Leiden is a historic Dutch city with a quaint city centre full of canals and a laundry list of museums and sights to be explored. Check out the Leiden Street Market for cheap and amazing eats and don’t forget to take a stroll along the canals to walk off the food!

Some of the best museums in the area include the National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden) and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center. The Molen de Valk working windmill museum is picturesque and also worth visiting. Even though Leiden is a smaller city, it’s got a lot to offer any solo female traveller and is perfect for a getaway trip from Amsterdam.”

Luxembourg City – Luxembourg

Luxembourg City (Courtesy: Rachel Brown)

Luxembourg City (Courtesy: Rachel Brown)

Recommendation by Rachel Brown – Rachel On Route

“Back in the spring, I travelled to Luxembourg City as a solo female traveller and I would go back in a heartbeat. The city has a wonderfully European ‘cool’ vibe, was clean, bright and felt exceptionally safe. It was only my second solo trip, so still a new concept for me, but I found that because the city wasn’t crawling with tourists, I was more comfortable wandering around and exploring alone. I felt like I didn’t need to constantly watch myself, and was able to relax.

I found it quite surprising the city wasn’t busier though. It has some beautiful cobbled streets, lovely green spaces (the park is beautiful) a great city museum, cute coffee shops and the views from the Casemate du Bock over the river were pretty romantic. The city has a long and fascinating history and the people I met were friendly and kind. Everything I could possibly ask for! To my mind, as cliché as it may sound, it’s a hidden gem.”

Newcastle upon Tyne – England

The Swing Bridge, spanning the River Tyne between Gateshead and Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England. The Norman castle keep and Quayside area of Newcastle stand beyond the bridge.

The Swing Bridge, spanning the River Tyne between Gateshead and Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England. (Courtesy: Stuart Forster)

Recommendation by Stuart Forster – Go Eat Do

“Newcastle-upon-Tyne is a vibrant city in the north-east of England. The locals, nicknamed Geordies, tend to be friendly folk who make visitors feel welcome without overstepping their boundaries. The nightlife is renowned as being among the best in Europe, with dozens of bars and clubs to visit. Looking for things to do during the daytime? The Great North Museum and Discovery Museum count among tourist attractions that help put the city and region into context. The Centre for Life is an ideal place to while away a few hours if you are interested in science. The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art is a renowned exhibition space on the far side of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. On Sundays Newcastle’s Quayside hosts a market, meaning opportunities to snack on street food or purchase souvenirs to take home.”

Flims – Switzerland

Flims (Courtesy: Arzo)

Flims (Courtesy: Arzo)

Recommendation by Arzo – Arzo Travels

“I was positively surprised by one little place that isn’t very famous amongst international tourists though it is one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland. Flims, in the canton of Graubünden, has won my heart. While it is not as busy as places like Zurich or Lucerne, there are a few attractions that are mind-blowing and which you can see within one day (actually, you can hike that area in a few hours). On a hike, you can see three natural attractions – Lake Cauma, Lake Cresta and the Rhine Gorge. These three attractions make you feel awestruck. Here you will find nature at its best – and as it is not very famous yet, you will not have to share that place with too many other tourists. It is mostly locals who hike there.

Swiss people are not necessarily fans of small talk, so if you are looking to have some chats you will appreciate the few Americans you will meet along the way. But if you like calm and serenity, this is the perfect place to visit as a solo traveller. Switzerland is very safe, so you can spend your vacation there without having to worry about safety.”

Lyon – France

Lyon (Courtesy: Noel Morata)

Lyon (Courtesy: Noel Morata)

Recommendation by Noel Morata – Travel Photo Discovery

“For travelling around Europe solo, I think Lyon, France is really a wonderful place to visit. Less than a two-hour train ride from Paris, Lyon showcases everything you can dream of in Paris but on a much smaller and doable scale for a short visit. For those looking at historic or cultural interest, foodie inspired venues, wonderful shopping and a safe place for solo travel, Lyon offers all that and more. It’s very easy to get around the city by walking or taking public transportation and the historic district is very compact and easy to manoeuvre. Beautiful squares, old town vibe combined with hip new venues and hangouts, make this an easy city to meet and greet locals or even new people visiting the area. Check out my Visiting Lyon post here for more inspiration of what to see and do in this fabulous city.”

What are your thoughts on Western Europe as a travel destination?

Have more ideas for my solo-travelling gal-pals?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

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Italy Beyond The Usual: Calling All Women Who Love To Travel Solo

Italian cuisine is one of my favourites and the country also ranks quite high on my list. It has been more than 7 years since I last visited Italy. However, my naive old self had only done all the touristy things (read – What Not to do in Venice). Before heading out to that country again, I wanted to be sure to steer clear of tourist traps. So, I asked my travel pals to share some of their recommendations on offbeat places for solo female travellers. Here are 5 Italian destinations that are surely beyond the usual suspects:

Bologna

Bologna (Courtesy: Kate Storm)

Bologna (Courtesy: Kate Storm)

Recommendation by Kate Storm – Our Escape Clause

“Hoping to explore Italy’s beautiful architecture and cuisine without the overly romantic environment of places like Venice and Tuscany? Look no further than Bologna. As the capital of the Emilia Romagna region, Bologna offers a fantastic mix of offbeat experiences, delicious food, and beautiful streets to wander… all with an easy-to-use travel infrastructure and a much less romance-focused atmosphere than nearby Tuscany and Verona. While you’re in Bologna, consider joining a food tour to indulge in some of the best food in Italy (Emilia Romagna is the original home of delicacies like mortadella, tagliatelle al ragu, and more), climb the Asinelli Tower for epic views over the city, and take yourself on an informal scavenger hunt to find the hidden canals of Bologna.”

Modena

Modena (Courtesy: Ayngelina Brogan)

Modena (Courtesy: Ayngelina Brogan)

Recommendation by Ayngelina Brogan – Bacon Is Magic

“Although most travellers tend to stick to Rome and Florence, I love to recommend smaller towns in Italy for solo female travellers. Modena is just a short 30-minute train ride from Bologna and so many people miss it. Most famous for its balsamic vinegar, it’s also home to great prosciutto and many Parmigiano Reggiano cheese producers. As a town, it’s perfect for women travelling alone as the downtown core is walkable, yet there is a hop on hop off bus to reach all the factories and producers on the outskirts. There is no tourist section of the city, so you don’t need to worry about being targeted by pickpockets as you’ll see locals everywhere and it’s well lit at night. Modena really is a food lover’s dream and you can do it on your own.”

Favignana

Favignana (Courtesy: Leanne Scott)

Favignana (Courtesy: Leanne Scott)

Recommendation by Leanne Scott – The Globetrotter GP

“Favignana is a tiny island just off the coast of Sicily. Often compared to the Caribbean, this should be a must-see on any Sicily itinerary. For me, it was a tranquil haven. I spent a wonderful, peaceful day cycling solo from one stunning beach to the next. I have truly never seen an ocean so bright blue and crystal clear. I felt completely safe on this island as a solo female traveller. On mainland Sicily, I occasionally worried about being pickpocketed but on Favignana, life was so laid back, this didn’t even cross my mind. An easy day trip from Trapani on the west coast, it takes just 30 minutes to reach Favignana. Tickets can be purchased on the same day from booths opposite the ferry company. With only a handful of tourists and barely any traffic on the roads, the only way to get around this tiny island is by bike.”

Ortigia

Ortigia (Courtesy: David Angel)

Ortigia (Courtesy: David Angel)

Recommendation by David Angel – Delve Into Europe

“Ortigia is an island which was the historic centre of Syracuse, on the south-east coast of Sicily. For a time in the 5th century BC, Syracuse – originally a Greek colony – was the most powerful city in the known world. It’s fair to say it has retreated to the backwaters since then. Ortigia is just a few minutes’ ride from the main bus station in Syracuse, but it’s only served by a tiny electric bus that carries eight people every twenty minutes. The island itself is absolutely stunning, a maze of crumbling romantic 17th and 18th-century houses, with many of the streets pedestrianised, so there’s very little traffic.

We loved the walk along the island’s seafront, passing a medieval castle, a street of restaurants, several churches and a couple of tiny beaches. The backstreets are also beautiful, many lined with lovely little trattorie. We chose Ortigia because we were travelling with our two-year-old son who loves to run and explore, and this is a safe place to do so. But it would work just as well if you’re travelling solo. Ortigia’s highlight is the Piazza del Duomo, a large ‘square’ centred around the stunning Baroque cathedral. We went there every night for gelato and coffee around dusk, just as the lights came on. It’s one of the most beautiful squares in Italy – at a fraction of the price you’d pay in Venice or Rome.”

Porto Venere

Porto Venere (Courtesy: Christina Román)

Porto Venere (Courtesy: Christina Román)

Recommendation by Christina Román – Explore Now or Never

“Everybody loves the Cinque Terre, but just 15 minutes south is UNESCO World Heritage site Portovenere without the crowds! A soul-satisfying European destination for solo women. Begin by exploring the ruins of the Church of St. Peter, a 13th-century Catholic church high on a cliff overlooking the sea. Then wander the shops. (Great deals on linen clothing and tablecloths in sun-drenched colours.) While we were enjoying a lovely al fresco lunch dockside, a white Rolls Royce with newlyweds came zooming past, heavy on the horn. As everyone stood and applauded, we were reminded why we love locals-only destinations best. In the evening, you’ll have the Cinque Terre mostly to yourself. Here are more tips on how to see it and where to eat.”

Been to other offbeat places in Italy?

Got some solo travel tips for my readers?

Let us know through your comments below. 🙂

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Northern Europe For Solo Female Travellers – 5 Stunning Recommendations

When I first ventured into the northern parts of Europe (read – Running in Lithuania – My First Half Marathon Abroad), I did not realize how delighted I would be with its intrinsic beauty, the lack of crowds and the simplicity of the inhabitants. Even though I’ve explored a bit of the Baltics (read – The Romance of Riga), I still have to see most of northern Europe. Sometime back, I asked my solo travel pals for their recommendations, and here is what they suggested:

Reykjavik – Iceland

Reykjavik (Courtesy: Natasha & Cameron)

Reykjavik (Courtesy: Natasha & Cameron)

Recommendation by Natasha & Cameron – The World Pursuit

“Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world, meaning it is fantastic for all solo female travellers. Its capital, Reykjavik, doesn’t feel like your typical capital at all. It’s small, charming, and quiet with no skyscrapers ruining the view. Iceland was one of the first countries I ever travelled to by myself, and I have fond memories of its people, landscapes, culture, and my time in Reykjavik.

Only 120,000 people call this place home. Its small size means you won’t feel nervous or unsafe walking around here – even at 2 am. Honestly, with a country so beautiful, the main danger is Mother Nature, so it’s important to hike and venture out with some knowledge of the land and its conditions. Reykjavik is also such a fantastic capital city because there are so many things to do just outside of it! It still blows me away that only 10 minutes from Iceland’s capital you can find yourself deep in the heart of beautiful nature.”

Vilnius – Lithuania

Vilnius (Courtesy: Nicola Lavin)

Vilnius (Courtesy: Nicola Lavin)

Recommendation by Nicola Lavin – All About Rosa Lilla

“I was blown away by Lithuania’s capital city and the breathtaking design of its medieval Old Town – the largest in all of central and eastern Europe. With its bustling cafe scene, hip pub culture and beautiful architecture, it is not hard to completely fall in love with Vilnius. Despite its turbulent history, Lithuanians are proud of the independence they achieved in 1990 – the first Soviet republic to do so. It was so heartwarming to see the flags hung so proudly, and at night, to watch the buildings lit up in red, yellow and green. Not too touristy, this is the perfect place to be a solo traveller. Nearly everything is within walking distance. I felt completely safe walking the streets here. Also, Vilnius is one of the cheapest European capitals I’ve travelled in, so your Euro goes a long way.

There is so much to see and do in this wonderful city, even if it is just wandering the streets to check out the cool street art. I used to think that graffiti makes a city look messy but I’ve completely changed my mind since visiting Vilnius. They take street art to a whole new level. Think Putin and Trump sharing a joint! There are many beautiful pink baroque churches, and if you fancy something completely different, visit Užupis. Užupis is a self-declared Republic within the city of Vilnius, often compared to the Montmartre region of Paris. Here you will find the funniest constitution that residents follow as you spend the day enjoying the laidback boho vibes of the area. There is plenty to love about Vilnius and I really hope you consider visiting for yourself.”

Dragør – Denmark

Dragør (Courtesy: Anjali Chawla)

Dragør (Courtesy: Anjali Chawla)

Recommendation by Anjali Chawla – Travel Melodies

“A sleepy little cute old town near the sea coast, virgin forests and meadows, -Dragør is a delight to visit. Just 12 km southeast of Copenhagen, this old fishing town is historically, culturally and naturally vibrant. The town offers the taste of authentic Denmark and the best views of the Øresund Bridge as it spans across to Sweden. Its narrow cobblestone streets and colourful low thatched roof houses from the 1700’s seem like a perfect setting for a slow stroll. The cottages adorned beautifully with vibrant flowers add romance to the whole experience.

Denmark has been ranked as one of the safest countries for solo women travellers in the world. Safety-index ranking, friendly and helpful locals, intimate vibe, and its small size (13,000 inhabitants) make Dragør a perfect choice for solo-female travellers. The public transport system is easy to navigate and one of the best in the world. It takes 30 minutes by bus line 350S from Copenhagen and 12 minutes by line 35 from the airport to reach this charmingly quaint town of Denmark. Bicycling around the town and along the coast is the best way to feel the essence of Dragor.”

Tallinn – Estonia

Tallinn (Courtesy: Allison Green)

Tallinn (Courtesy: Allison Green)

Recommendation by Allison Green – Eternal Arrival

“If you’re looking for an offbeat travel destination in Northern Europe, you should consider visiting the Baltic States on your next trip. Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is a great place for solo female travellers. It’s incredibly safe and there are plenty of hostels with nice, modern design where you can easily meet other fellow travellers. Street harassment is very uncommon in Tallinn (and in Northern Europe in general) so you are able to let your guard down a bit, compared to bigger Western European cities.

There are countless things to do in Tallinn that are perfect for solo enjoyment, such as exploring the local coffee shops, window shopping at Telliskivi Creative City, checking out the street art in Kalamaja, browsing the KGB Museum or the KuMu art museum, or just wandering around and photographing the stunning Old Town which has been preserved extremely well from its medieval roots. Tallinn is easily walkable and the public transportation infrastructure is excellent for a city of its size, making it a great choice for solo travellers.”

Vik – Iceland

Vik (Courtesy: Kristin Addis)

Vik (Courtesy: Kristin Addis)

Recommendation by Kristin Addis – Be My Travel Muse

“Vik in Iceland is one of my favourite places for solo travel. It is absolutely beautiful, with several waterfalls nearby. Easy to access along Iceland’s Ring Road, Vik is not too far from Reykjavik if you don’t have a full week to explore the full Ring Road. Besides, Iceland is the safest country on earth right now! That ticks all of my boxes for the perfect spot to travel solo. It is easy to reach on a tour, by public transport, or my preferred method – a camper van.”

Ever been to the Baltics or the Nordic countries?

Have more suggestions for solo female travellers visiting Northern Europe?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

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A Quick Guide To Budapest – The Capital Of Hungary

Budapest had long been on my travel wishlist and I was glad to be able to visit this Eastern European gem when it was still relatively uninundated by tourists. This city is perfect for budget travellers as the Hungarian Forint makes all things affordable. Cost-effectiveness aside, the place has plenty of history, culture and natural sights that deserve at least one visit in a lifetime. Here’s my easy guide to exploring Budapest on foot:-

Gellért Hill And The Citadella

Gellért Hill in Buda offers panoramic views of the city

Gellért Hill in Buda offers panoramic views of the city

Wake up early and begin your exploration from Gellért Hill in Buda. This hill which was once full of vineyards is named after a bishop who was forced into a wine barrel and rolled down from the top. There are several hiking trails along Gellért Hill that lead to various points of interest which also provide sweeping views of Budapest from great vantage points. The Citadella – a fortress complex, Sziklatemplom – a chapel-cum-museum inside the natural cave structure of this hill and St. Gellért Monument are not to be missed!

Tram It Out If You’re Not Into Walking

Trams connect most of Buda and Pest and even cross over the Danube!

Trams connect most of Buda and Pest and even cross over the Danube!

Budapest is little enough to be covered entirely on foot (especially if you are a fast walker like me) and yet large enough to warrant public transport and cars. Whatever your level of physical fitness, the city requires a lot of walking. So, if you think you’re going to tire out, hop inside one of their cool trams that run all across the cobblestone streets in Buda and Pest, and also across the Danube River that separates the two parts of Budapest! The locals often joke that the Pesti are not as sophisticated as the residents of Buda, but to discover if there’s any truth in that generalization, you’ll have to explore both the parts of the city. 😉

Buda Castle And The Underground Cave Network

Hiking up the Buda Castle, I wondered what lives the kings of the 13th century must have led.

Hiking up the Buda Castle, I wondered what lives the kings of the 13th century must have led.

One of the most iconic structures of Hungary is the Buda Castle. This gorgeous baroque palace built on Castle Hill is among Budapest’s World Heritage Sites, along with the embankments by the Danube. The palace complex also houses the Budapest History Museum. The funicular that leads to the palace usually has a long queue and it helps to do the trek instead. There’s also a lift inside that shortens your walk by a couple of floors. The Castle Hill has many more historical attractions which have been carefully maintained for centuries. Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church are important for their intricate architecture and viewing galleries. However, the site that most moved me was the Hospital In The Rock Nuclear Bunker Museum (Sziklakórház Atombunker Múzeum). This underground museum is a complex of interconnected caves right below the Buda Castle. I took one of their hour-long tours to learn that the fortified caves were used as shelter against air raids during World War II and then as an emergency hospital to treat casualties during the 1956 Revolution. A couple of years later, the place served as a nuclear bunker as people feared chemical attacks during the Cold War.

Across The Danube

Cross over to Pest from the old Buda and watch the ships go by.

Cross over to Pest from the old Buda and watch the ships go by.

Once you have had a taste of Buda, cross the Danube to Pest. There are many bridges that run over this river, the prominent ones being Chain Bridge, Liberty Bridge and Elizabeth Bridge. The river is a nice way to tour the entire stretch of Budapest’s embankments. There are countless cruises that have live commentary, food and entertainment onboard. An evening cruise lets you marvel over the glittering banks as you pass by famous buildings and go under the bridges.

St. Stephen’s Basilica – Budapest’s Largest Cathedral

St. Stephen's Basilica is the tallest building in Pest.

St. Stephen’s Basilica is the tallest building in Pest.

The Budapest Cathedral or St. Stephen’s Basilica is just as tall as the Hungarian Parliament Building at 96m. This is to signify that the country considers the spiritualism of the church and the laws of the world to be of equal importance. Even if you are irreligious, visit this church which took over 50 years to be built. The spiral stairways inside lead up to an observation deck that offers views that are spellbinding!

See The Rooftops Of Budapest

I watch the Old Town from the viewing gallery of St. Stephen's Basilica.

I watch the Old Town from the viewing gallery of St. Stephen’s Basilica.

It is from the observation deck of the Budapest Cathedral that I saw my life’s very first double rainbow! 🙂 The rains had just stopped when I had finished climbing the 364 steps to the dome to watch two beautiful rainbows in the clearing sky. From up there, you can see a lot of Pest and Buda – the magnificent royal palace, the tall spire of Matthias Church, all the way to the Tatra Mountains in the distance.

By The Pesti Bank Of The Danube

Attila Jozsef's statue sits by the Hungarian Parliament building, this Hungarian poet's lines from one of his poems raised on the steps below.

Attila Jozsef’s statue sits by the Hungarian Parliament building, this Hungarian poet’s lines from one of his poems raised on the steps below.

An evening walk along the riverside of Pest will take you to the third largest parliament building in the world. Guided tours are available inside the Hungarian Parliament Building. Some distance ahead, there is an art installation called ‘Shoes By The Danube’ which displays iron statues of 60 pairs of shoes permanently installed to remember the victims of the holocaust who were shot there.

The Great Market Hall

Central Market Hall - Budapest's grand marketplace for shopaholics and foodies

Central Market Hall – Budapest’s grand marketplace for shopaholics and foodies

The largest indoor marketplace in the city – Central Market Hall has numerous stalls that offer fruits, vegetables, chocolates and countless Hungarian specialities. I loved munching on a strudel from one of the stalls here which comes with assorted and unusual stuffings such as pumpkin-poppy-seed. The second floor has eateries and shops which sell clothing and interesting artefacts among many other things.

Jewish Quarter And The House Of Terror

House Of Terror - Budapest's war museum

House Of Terror – Budapest’s war museum

Hungary has a lot of Jewish history, most of it heart-wrenching. The largest synagogue in Europe, Dohány Street Synagogue, has heavy security and employs strict screening of all its visitors. The complex also has a museum, a cemetery and a Holocaust memorial – a weeping willow tree which has names of the Hungarian Jewish victims inscribed on its leaves. Terror tourism is emotionally painful for spectators, but an important way to sensitize the public on the horrors of wars, racism and anti-semitism. You cannot do without a tour of Terror Háza Múzeum (House of Terror Museum) where thousands of people were tortured and imprisoned by the Nazis. The voice recording of a former prisoner describing how they were abused chilled me to the bone as it played in the lift.

Along Andrássy Avenue

Hősök tere (Heroes' Square) recognizes the founders of Hungary

Hősök tere (Heroes’ Square) recognizes the founders of Hungary

Andrássy Avenue, a World Heritage Site, is an important and long stretch of road in Pest that leads to the Heroes’ Square – the largest square in Budapest. Along the street, you come across a number of shops, squares, museums including Terror Háza, the State Opera House and many commercial and residential buildings and villas.

In Case You Have More Time

I smile after a couple of hikes in Buda

I smile after a couple of hikes in Buda

There is so much to see and do in Budapest that you need a long holiday to fully enjoy all of its attractions at leisure. I was able to spend a day in Margaret Island which sits in the middle of the Danube. This city also has a handful of thermal baths which promise to relax your nerves and cleanse your body with their medicinal properties.

Have I convinced you to visit Budapest yet?

Let me know by commenting below! 🙂

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Precious Jewels From Around The World

Every time I step out of my house, whether to explore a new country or a new place within my land, I mostly think about what my eyes can see. And, most of that is above the ground – the buildings and monuments, the streets, the mountains and valleys, the lakes and rivers, the trees, animals and the culture of the locals, and then, the sky. What I often overlook is what lies under the earth. I am not talking about tubers or roots or the exotic dishes that are made of those, but what lies further below – several feet under, formed by immense heat and pressure – precious stones.

Austria – Emerald Waters And Emerald Rings

The beautiful country of Austria is also a major producer of emerald.

The beautiful country of Austria is also a major producer of emerald.

When I went solo to Salzburg a couple of years ago, I was busy admiring the lovelock bridge that spans River Salzach, connecting the modern world full of gardens and courtyards to the Old Town paved with cobblestones. I gazed at the lime green grass carpeting the banks on either side of the emerald river and longed to hike on the moss-covered hills in the backdrop. But not once did I think about Austria’s prominence as an emerald producer and exporter to the world. Even my journeys back home yielded similar results…

Diamonds In Golconda?

Golconda (Hyderabad) is popular not only for its fort but also for diamond mining and trading.

Golconda (Hyderabad) is popular not only for its fort but also for diamond mining and trading.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have visited Hyderabad – both when it was a part of Andhra Pradesh and after it became Telangana’s. I have even climbed all of the steps that lead to Golconda Fort, and spent a lot of money buying Hyderabadi pearls. It is only now that I see Golconda differently after my mum inquires why I never brought back any diamonds from this place that has one of the world’s most famous diamond mines.

“Czeching” Out Garnet

Czech Republic might be famous for Kafka, but it stores some of the world's best garnet, topaz and opal.

Czech Republic might be famous for Kafka, but it stores some of the world’s best garnet, topaz and opal.

3 years ago, I was exploring central Europe, and my journey had brought me to Prague – the capital of Czech Republic. Over days of checking out the most vibrant Old Town, its cathedrals, sailing over the Vltava river, being surprised over Kafka’s fame and buying copper rings, I discovered Czechia is also popular for its gemstones such as garnet, topaz and opal. But I asked myself how far and wide I’d have to travel to collect beautiful stones from different parts of the world. Could I not get all such precious stones from the comfort of my home? Would expensive gemstones always be too expensive for me to own? I’ve recently found an answer to my quest:-

Jewel On Fire – Gemstone Jewellery In Your Budget

Did you know Germany's Alps could have gemstones such as beryl, topaz and emeralds under them?

Did you know Germany’s Alps could have gemstones such as beryl, topaz and emeralds under them?

I came across the online jewellery store Jewel On Fire which lets you buy precious stone ornaments priced up to 90% lower than their retail cost. This is possible only because they cut out the middlemen and source jewellery directly from jewellery craftsmen and manufacturers. And their online presence means you can shop without having to spend a bomb on travel. They have a splendid collection of low-cost genuine diamond jewellery and those of other precious stones. I have a sweeter information for you! When you use my promo code “OINDRILADE” to make a purchase on their site, you get an additional discount on their already amazingly priced items! 🙂

Won’t You Travel Differently Now?

It's not only Sri Lanka's lakes that are associated with aquamarine!

It’s not only Sri Lanka’s lakes that are associated with aquamarine!

When I told my mum about this, she was elated. She won’t have to worry about lugging heavy jewellery back from her trips now. And travel would only be about the sights and experiences, not the expenses associated with shopping of gemstones. I will again be able to visit Germany for its castles, and not think about beryl or topaz or emerald. I will again be able to enjoy the forests and lakes of Sri Lanka without hunting for good quality yet affordable aquamarine. “Aquamarine” would only make me think of the water bodies again, and not the stone on my ring finger.

Still, You Should Know…

Hungary's creamy white skies know that that this country has a lot of creamy opal stones as well.

Hungary’s creamy white skies know that that this country has a lot of creamy opal stones as well.

Even though you will mostly shop online, lounging in your sofa, it helps to know a little more about the things you buy. It is the stories behind each earring, pendant and bracelet that makes the gemstones more precious!

Do you ever wonder where each of your jewels come from?

Write your comments below! 🙂

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