Sintra is one of those destinations which seems too magical to believe it’s real. It’s a charming town, full of fairytale castles, historic battlements and a rich tapestry of cutesy stores and gourmet cafes.
Lisbon is one of the most picturesque cities in the world. Steeped with history and painted with one of the most colourful palettes, there pretty much isn’t a single street you can walk down, without being wowed at all the fantastic hues and views along the way. For photographers and bloggers, this place is a dream! The “miradoures” (viewpoints) which you can find all over the city seem to open Lisbon up like a pop-up book. The intricate tiled walls and buildings are like a patchwork quilt across the city. Make sure you have a few extra batteries with you because you’re never going to be able to stop snapping! Below is a list of my favourite places I found in Lisbon and at the bottom of this post I’ve made a google map of where you can find these spots for yourself!
Bertrand Livraria is the oldest bookstore in the world. It was opened in 1732 and survived both the fire, earthquake and tsunami of 1755 which levelled much of Lisbon. Today it is standing like a quiet landmark in the middle of the busy city. There is only a small sign out front announcing its historic status. The blue and white tiles, which are so popular across Lisbon, are some of the most iconic and their tiled wall, from the 1700s is an incredible place to take a snapshot. I love the way they appear to bloom like flowers.
#2. Alfama District
Alfama was one of the only neighbourhoods to entirely withstands the massive earthquake of 1755. This district is littered with historic houses as old as the city itself, cobblestone streets which are so worn down the stones are almost indistinguishable from each other as well as some of the most vibrant personalities the city has to offer. The squares of Alfama are alight with colourful banners and decorations as there always seems to be some sort of party or festival happening here. Mixed in with the ancient stones and tiles, the colours and breathtaking backdrops here are unreal.
#3. Lavadouro Publico
In the Alfama neighbourhood, if you know where to look, you can step inside a historical public laundry facility. Inside are several large washing basins where adorable old ladies still wash and dry clothes, carpet and more for the neighbourhood. But what makes this place so neat, aside from the fact that it is a little piece of history frozen in time, are the colour block walls and the way the clothes which hang to dry create a pattern on the glass blocks separating the washing area from the drying racks.
#4. Parc Eduardo VII
One of the first places we visited when we arrived in the city was Parc Eduardo VII. We landed super early in the morning, well before we were able to check into our Airbnb, and needed somewhere to relax and the park was one of the only things open. Parc Eduardo is located at the north end of the central downtown area. Constructed in 1902 the garden stretches over 26 hectares and over looks the Avenida da Liberdade. From the top of the long stretch of green grass and manicured bushes, you have a beautiful view of the Tagus river, and the city stretched out around it. From here not only do you have a fantastic view, but have a better idea of the size and scope of Lisbon.
#5. Rua da Rosa in Bairro Alto
Bairro Alto is a neighbourhood which absolutely silent during the day, and yet at night, it explodes with life! It’s where you’ll find all the trendiest bars and the hottest night life. But during the day time, it’s a fantastically peaceful place to explore and admire the iconic Portuguese tiles and bright coloured apartment buildings. Walking down the streets you’ll hear only the sound of your footsteps and the occasion resident sweeping off their front steps.
#6. Bica Elevator
The Bica Elevator is one of the most popular spots for a photo is Lisbon. And while it might seem overly touristy during the day, in the early morning this part of the Bica neighbourhood is absolutely stunning and provides incredible photography opportunities. The old tram began running 1892 to help the residents of Lisbon get up the steep hills upon which the city is built on top of. Although these trams and the surrounding neighbourhood are always heavily graffitied, this somehow only adds to the vibrant nature of the town and doesn’t detract from it.
#7. Rua da Condessa
At the end of the Rua da Condessa, in Bairro Alto, you’ll find a long staircase, flanked on either side by dazzling buildings. In between the two buildings is framed on the most magnificent vistas in Lisbon. In the distance, high atop the hill is one of Lisbon’s old ruins, like the old guard looking down over the new city.
#8. Miradouro de Santa Luzia
My favourite Miradouro is the Miradouro de Santa Luzia! Not only does it have one of the most spectacle views across Alfama and the Tagus river, but is also has a lush garden, incredible tile work veranda and lots of rich, blooming trees. No matter which way you’re looking, there is something absolutely magical to see here. This place gets mobbed during the day time, but if you arrive early enough (especially at sunset) you’ll be in for a real treat!
#9. Carmo Convent
The Carmo Convent was once Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a Catholic convent located in the heart of Barrio Alto. Fires, earthquakes, political and religious upheaval all resulted in the convent falling to ruins, but thankfully no one had the funds to demolish it. In the later 20th century, it was converted into a museum and what was left of the structure was given supports to prevent its further degeneration. The interior of the convent, with it’s roofless view of the sky is breathtaking. If you’re lucky enough to be there at night or when there is an event, the interior is lit up to highlight the architectural details while the open rooftop provides stunning views of the stars above.
#10. Jeronimos Monastery
The Jeronimos Monastery was built in the 15th century by King Manuel who used money the realm gained from explorations around the world to fund its construction. Portugal was known for its explorers and as such, made a lot of money from its imports. This meant the architect had a virtually unlimited budget for the construction and it’s for this reason that we find this opulent, renaissance building we see today. No matter where you turn or where you look, there are exquisitely framed shots. Hidden in the details throughout the building are oceanic elements, reflecting this strong seafaring country, and are a joy to discover as you explore.
#11. Tower of Belém
The Tower of Belém is located along the scenic Tagus river. It was once a defensive system for Lisbon to help the military see any incoming ships into their harbour. The tower is both a military structure but also an architectural gem of the city. Standing in low tide, on the shores of the river, looking up at this tower is a magnificent sight to see. There’s no need to wait in the super long line and pay six euros to get inside. The view from the exterior is much prettier anyways and exploring it from all angles along the banks of the river is much more fun than waiting in a line.
#12. LX Factory
The LX Factory is located west of the city centre but easily accessible by Uber or metro. It’s a hipster mecca built in what used to be a 19th-century industrial site. This area has yet to be overrun with tourists and for now is a calm, peaceful stretch of trendy stores and cute cafes. One of the best places to visit here is Ler Devagar, a bookshop built inside an old newspaper printing press facility with some of the most adorable and whimsical little touches. It feels like a mix between abandoned factory and Belle’s library from Beauty and the Beast.
#13. Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara
My other favourite Miradouro is the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcantara. This stunning lookout also has a beautiful square, and nearby kiosk, where you can grab a Ginjinha to drink and sit watching the sunset. Often this square draws groups of musicians who preform traditional music for the crowds which gather. From here you can see across the entire city, over to St. George’s Castle and the surrounding hillside. Looking out at the view, drink in my hand and music in my ears, is honestly one of my favourite memories of the entire trip.
#14. Pink Street
Located along the Ruo Nova Do Carvalho is where you’ll find the insta-famous ‘pink street’. At night this area acts as Lisbon’s ‘Red Light District’, but during the day the charming pink painted road makes everything a little less sinister. People have had a lot of opinions about this street, some recommending to skip visiting it. I think some people expected a pretty and pristine roadway as it appeared on some people’s feeds (some of which I’ve noticed are highly photoshopped in order for the road to look cleaner and empty). So here is the real thing, no people photoshopped out or pink street made to look cleaner, here it is in the raw. I actually still thought it was super cute, as long as you know what to expect. I loved the way the colours on either side played off the road. It’s an adorable little spot to stumble upon when exploring downtown.
#15. Pastéis de Belém
The Belem Monastery was where the recipe for Portuguese egg tarts was invented. These are now popular the world over but nowhere more than in Lisbon. You’ll find these sweet treats everywhere but Pastéis de Belém is where it all began, and you’d be remiss not to take a million pictures of these delicious treats before devouring them all. The shop they are sold in is in itself a becoming maze of white and blue tiles walls and smells heavenly. It’s a great place to sit and enjoy those sweet treats along with an espresso in hand, soaking up the atmosphere of this historic bakery.
#16. Arco Da Rua Augusta
The entryway to Lisbon’s largest square can be found through the Arco Da Rua Augusta. The gateway opens up onto the Comercio Plaza which looks out over the Tagus River. This archway is located along one of the busiest streets in Lisbon and sometimes it can get annoyingly touristy. But if you arrive here early in the morning, you’ll be left only with the elegant scene of 18th century Lisbon.
#17. Lisbon Story Arch
Located down a quiet staircase just nearby a busy tourist lookout point you’ll find the Lisbon Story Arch. It’s a bright and cheerful series of funny cartoons representing the history of Lisbon. In a city which is brimming with street art and graffiti, this is one of the best pieces which is not only a work of art but also gives you a little bit of history lesson to boot!
Sintra is located just 45 minutes by train outside the city, and 30 minutes by car. This village is home to some of the most incredible castles and historical buildings around Lisbon, and it feels like living inside a fairytale. Pena Palace is the most fantastical of all the structures and whose colours seem to beam across Sintra’s skyline. It’s probably the most popular photographed spot in all of Portugal and as such is bursting with tourists. Get here as early as possible, a few minutes before opening if you can, and you’ll find it to be so much more enjoyable than only an hour or two later when you can barely move for the people. And who can blame them for all coming, it really is as amazing as you hear it is!
Hopefully this helps you out in your quest for finding the best Lisbon has to offer! Let me know in the comment what your favourite part of the city was or what you’re most looking forward to seeing.
Happy Travel Adventurers!
Having just returned from my trip to Lisbon, I wanted to put pen to paper right away to share all the things I learned when travelling to Portugal for the first time! Lisbon is just as wonderful as you hear it is, the streets are as vibrant as the personalities, and it’s a tremendously laid back and yet bustling city all at the same time. I was so busy leading up to this trip, so I felt more unprepared than usual and as such made a few blunders which I felt like needed to be shared for other, just as unknowing travellers, to learn from.
Kyoto has two extremely famous pavilions; Ginkakuji (The Silver Pavilion) and Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavillion). Kinkaku-ji is the most famous and striking of the two and as such it is OVERRUN with tourists, no matter the season. But The Silver Pavillion, close to the peaceful Philosopher's Path, is much less busy and slightly more accessible. Visiting this place early in the morning is the perfect way to find your zen in this amazing city. Inside Ginkakuji you'll find the great Silver Pavillion, half a dozen other small buildings, a moss garden, a reflective pond and the sand garden.
This Zen temple is located along Kyoto’s Eastern mountains. You can easily access the Pavillion by bus on #5, 17, or 100 from Kyoto Station. The ride takes about 35-40 minutes and costs 230 yen one way. The Silver Pavillion is located along the Philosopher’s Path so combining this visit with that one is a great way to spend a relaxing morning.
Hours & Admission
Ginkakuji is open from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm March till November and from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm from December to February. There are no closing days so even during the holidays you can still visit. Admission into the Pavilion is 500 yen.
The Silver Pavillion was built in 1482 for the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. It was made for him to spend his retirement, located inside a serene and relaxing environment. The architectural designs of the temple are significant as they are one of the best representations of Higashiyama architecture of the Muromachi period. Unfortunately, the Shogun only had the chance to spend a few years here as he passed away in 1490. After his death, the villa was converted into a Zen temple for the people of Kyoto.
Why is it called the “Silver” Pavillion
Although it is called the “Silver” pavilion, surprisingly enough, there was never any silver anywhere to be found. Initially, the main building was supposed to be coated in silver, just as its sister building, the Golden Pavillion, was covered in gold. But the Shogun ran out of money during construction and that great silver, architectural icon was never to be. But the designers would not give up so easily. They painted the main building with a dark coat of paint so that at night the black paint would reflect the moonlight, giving the building the appearance of glowing silver in the light.
The Silver Pavillion was built combining two distinct architectural styles, resulting in a seamless blend of Japan’s art history. Each shingle on the roof is made from Japanese cypress trees. Bamboo nails were used to secure the bark as metal nails would rust and ruin the wood. Inside the Pavillion, there is a precious statue of “Kannon”, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, to whom the Shogun would pray to each night.
Although this is not viewable to the public, you can imagine how important it would have been to be housed in such a grandiose place. Despite the pavillion's relative simplicity, there is a profoundly artistic aesthetic to be found here. The Japanese have perfected the ideology of grace in restraint, and this is one of their best examples.
When I arrived, I was one of the first people to get there. Only a few other couples were huddled outside the gates waiting to get inside. Right before letting people in, one of the caretakers sprinkled some water on the stones along the entry. This wasn’t to clean the stones, but to spiritually cleanse them. Just as people wash their hands before entering a temple, they do the same to the temple grounds themselves.
The Silver Pavilion is the first thing you’ll see when you come inside, as it is the largest building on the property. A circular path will lead you throughout the grounds, and as you go, you will have the chance to see the pavilion from all different angles. Discovering something unique, something new or something amazing as you do so.
The Sand Garden
The bright white sands of the Sand Garden is one of the first things you'll see upon beginning your tour around the grounds. It is better known as the “Sea of Silver Sands”. In the centre of the meticulously manicured rows of sand is a grey cone called the “Moon Viewing Platform” which symbolises Mount Fuji.
Since we were there so early in the morning, we had the chance to see the caretakers raking up the sand and placing it so carefully in pristine rows. They would gently pick up fallen leaves and find rogue stones out of place and delicately put them back where they belonged.
Beside the sand garden lies the “Hondo” (the main hall). Although this building cannot be entered, you can still admire the exquisite wood carvings, dainty sliding doors, and the paintings etched on the exterior walls. This building was where Yoshimasa studied the art of the tea ceremony. He was obsessed with creating the ideal setting and process for a tea ceremony and spent his retirement perfecting this performance. The tea room he designed would go on to become the prototype for all future tea ceremony spaces. The doors are often left open a sliver, enough to peek inside to see some of the greatness he created.
Beside the main hall is the Togudo. This was the Shogun’s study. The entire room was covered in tatami mats, to create a comfortable zen-like environment for people to come and meditate.
After the study, you head up the small hill which backs out on the grounds. This path will lead you to the moss garden. This garden was supposedly designed by the great Japanese landscape architect Sōami.
Inside the moss garden, you feel as you the world has disappeared. A little steam dribbles down the hill. Tiny bridges arch over the stream, and you can wander around, studying all the various plants which decorate the landscape.
The Reflective Pond
The reflective pond sits beside the moss garden. Manicured trees grow up around it, casting their reflections into the glass-like water. The bright green colours of the trees are so vibrant it’s hard to believe it’s real.
I was the first one to venture into this area, and one of the caretakers was still walking around the paths, cleansing the pathways with holy water.
From the back of the moss garden, there is a set of stairs which will lead you up to the hill towards a lookout point. At the top of the path, you can see over the tops of the buildings below and all the way out across Kyoto. The view is stunning, and even for people who might not be interested in the temple, this view will surely entice you to come and visit this magical place.
On the way down the path, you finish the circular walkway around the grounds and will once more pass by the Silver Pavillion. This is your last chance to look at it, this time a little more closely. See if you can spot any hidden details which the architects have littered the exterior with.
If you've never understood what 'zen' is then this is the place to find it. Zen is derived from the Chinese word 'Chán', which is itself derived from the Indian practice of dhyāna or "meditation". Zen is about self-control and finding insight into the nature of things. While it can be hard to make a quiet space in your hear when you're travelling, try your best when you're here to get in touch with that aspect of zen, sit in silence for a few minutes and reflect on the feeling of the world around you and be grateful for this amazing journey you are on.
What is your favourite place in the world to find Zen? Let me know in the comments!
Happy Travels Adventurers!
Scotland might be a small country, but its abundance of lakes, rivers, and fertile soils makes it the perfect place for incredible seafood, delicious meat and hearty vegetables.
The Gion district is one of Kyoto’s oldest neighbourhoods. The streets seem to surge with history but what makes this area so unique is because it is one of the last remaining places where you can see real Geishas in Japan. Up and down these streets you can keep your eyes open and see if you can catch a glimpse of a Geisha on her way to a tea houses where exclusive guests enjoy an evening of traditional Japanese entertainment.
This is my highlights tour to see the most important aspects of the La Sagrada Familia. It’s perfect for those who just want a short introduction to the church or who are on a time crunch!
La Sagrada Familia is THE MOST important sight to see when visiting Barcelona. Its history, design and the feeling you get upon stepping inside in unparalleled. The church feels like a summation of what Barcelona is all about and understanding it before visiting or while you tour it is so essential to better enjoying this fantastic monument.
Nowhere in Japan is more wild, bright and colourful as Harajuku. This neighbourhood is filled to bursting with amazing places to see! Below is my list of the best places get those iconics shots of Kawaii Tokyo! All the stops are located at the bottom in a handy dandy google map for you to follow and are in an easy to follow directional order.
Hakone is one of the most beautiful day trips you can take from Tokyo. It’s only a short 2-hour train ride away and transports you from the out of the metal metropolis of the city, into the lush green landscape of the Japanese countryside. Hakone is famous for their hot spring onsens, stunning view of Mount Fuji across Lake Ashinoko and unparalleled natural scenery.
Graffiti in Barcelona will always be part of the city. The city became a center of fashion, design, art and creativity after the Olympics in 1992. The new art expression became popular in Barcelona. As a consequence, many Graffiti artists visited the city just to paint a part of the city.
Barcelona is one of the most exciting cities to visit in Europe. But being one of the top tourist hotspots means there are plenty of activities which are overhyped and not worth your valuable travel time. From tourist trap restaurants to pickpockets along busy beaches, here are some things to avoid on your next trip to Barcelona.
In a city filled with incredible architectural masterpieces from Gaudi, there is another architect who often gets forgotten. And yet he is perhaps just as influential in terms of founding the Catalan art form of 'modernism'. His name is Lluís Domènech i Montaner and one of his best designs is the Palau de la Música Catalana. The Catalan style of architecture called 'modernism' was developed to support a new Catalan identity.
Anyone who hears the word "Budapest" will most likely immediately think of their iconic Parliament Building. The Hungarian Parliament Building is one of the most recognisable images of Hungary and a symbol of the country's talented artists who helped achieve this vision of architectural magnificence. Standing on the banks of the Danube, it flanks the city and greets visitors floating down the river with its bright white columns and staggering silhouette.
Exploring Harajuku is more than just walking down the famed Takeshita Dori Street. There are so many side alleys and hidden shops you need to explore to get a real sense of what Harajuku is all about and not just the touristy side of things. I’ve tried to make this list an easy to follow walking path from the station so you don’t have to backtrack too much!
Japan has the reputation of being unique, quirky and sometimes even flat out weird. But not weird in a bad, but weird in a good way. These unique experiences which are synonymous with Tokyo are the reason some people make the trip out there. While I would always advise you pair your adventures in Japan with some traditional experiences as well, I do completely understand those who want to find all the most bizarre activities this country has to offer. Here are my favourite weird and wonderful places and adventures to can find in Tokyo!
Known as the Venice of the North, Bruges is a medieval paradise replete with sweeping canals, quaint cobblestones alleyways, unique Gothic architecture and an utterly enchanting atmosphere. Bruges is truly one of my favourite cities to visit. It feels like you could walk endless along the streets and continuously find new discoveries. It’s a fairy-tale like village and I think far too many people just breeze through it on a day-trip from Brussels. I think to truly experience the city at it’s best you need to spend the night and dedicate a good 48 hours to explore every nook and cranny of the city.
As much as we might feel young at heart forever, there are apparent differences between travelling in your 20s and travelling in your 30s. While many of these changes aren't necessarily bad ones, if anything I've met travellers in the 60s who endlessly inspired and excite me, everyone grows old. And how your travelling experiences change are interesting to document and think about as you grow. I love learning from other travellers, especially those who are older than me. When I turned 30, it was a like a switch got flicked. Things took me longer, I was more tired and suddenly didn't feel like I could do everything. Other travellers who went through a similar change were super helpful to me in setting clear new goals and changing my expectations. So I wanted to document this for myself here so others can learn from me and my experiences with travel as I got older.
Travelling to Japan as a first timer is a daunting experience. Going to a city where they don't use the Roman alphabet, let alone speak the language, is just one more hurdle which can make those first few hours in the city all that more confusing and intimidating. But trust me, Japan is one of the most incredible cities in the world and the kind people you'll find there are always more than happy to help you out with any pickle you might find yourself in. That being said, after many "first times" in Japan, I've plotted my top tips to ensure your first few hours there go as smoothly as possible, and you've set yourself up for success for the rest of your trip to Japan!