Athens

The birthplace of democracy, Athens is at once a tantalizing blend of antiquity, modernity and the natural world. Ancient structures and monuments tower over a modern city interspersed with mountains and rocky hills, and striking views of the Saronic Gulf just a few kilometers to the south. Foodies and oenophiles rejoice, the food and wine is phenomenal!

Summers in Athens are hot, searing and touristy. We recommend visiting in spring (Greece in bloom is divine!) or fall to avoid the crowds.

There are a few options for getting to and from Athens International Airport. The easiest and most direct way is via taxi with a flat rate of €38. Alternatively, take Metro line 3 from the airport to Syntagma Square Metro Station. It takes about 40 minutes and will drop you right in the heart of the city.

EAT

Dióskouroi Cafe Tavern This taverna next to the Agora is popular with the locals. The house salad is a MUST try. Great for lunch.

Esperides A taverna in the adorable Anafiotika neighborhood situated right at the top of a dreamy, cobble-stoned staircase. The roof has views of the Acropolis and live music. Go for lunch or stop by in the evening for a tipple and mezes.

Karavan This teeny, tiny sweet shop is tucked (literally!) into the side of a doorway but is known for its incredible baklava.

To Kafeneio One of our most memorable meals in Greece, this tiny taverna was empty of tourists and perfectly delicious. They have their own vineyard and winery in Nemea. Definitely try the housewine and meatballs with sauce!

The Old Tavern of Psarras Local restaurant perfect for lunch near the Acropolis or for a sunset dinner with their lovey terrace overlooking the Ancient sites.

DRINK

Couleur Locale This hip drinking hole is located on a third floor roof deck overlooking the Acropolis. Go for sunset and stay for dinner. It’s a little tricky to find - walk inside the No. 3 building, head to the back, and the go up the stairs.

Dos Gardenias This Cuban-style tapas bar in the trendy Monastiraki neighborhood is a great spot for a drink before dinner or at the end of a long, dusty day.

Oinoscent Awesome wine bar near Syntagma Square with over 50 wines available by glass. Bustling with a PYT crowd on a Friday. If you like reds, try the local agiorgitiko varietal from Nemea.

Taverna Acropoli This taverna is next door to the Roman Forum and overlooks the ruins. Stop here to refuel on Greek coffee and take a break from the sun before heading to the next archaeological site.

PLAY

Anafiotika This charming neighborhood rises above the Plaka against the walls of the Acropolis rock. It’s blue and white buildings and winding walkways are reminiscent of the Greek islands. Awatara is a cute shop featuring world clothing, jewelry and accessories.

Archaeological ruins These should be at the top of your Athens list. Purchase a €30 three day entrance pass from any of the major archaeological sites to gain access into all the sites you’ll want to see. The “do not miss” list includes the Acropolis and its museum, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Forum, the Temple of Zeus, Kerameikos (the ancient, “seedy” part of town) and Hadrian’s Library.

National Parliament Building Worth a stop by to observe the ezone guards in their traditional wear.

Lykavittos Hill Hike or take a cable car to the top of this hill just north of Syntagma for spectacular views.

Monastiraki Flea Market The go-to spot for tourist shopping. Pick up Greek wine, olives, jewelry and decently priced leather jackets.

The Pynx This hill towers above the ancient Agora and was an important gathering place for the Athenian democratic assembly. It is an important place in the birth story of democracy, and a great viewpoint overlooking the city.

Syntagma Square and Syntagma Metro Station Syntagma is the heart of Athens today and its Square is surrounded by the shopping district. Check out the Syntagma Metro, also a celebrated archaeological site! Looking for local gifts to bring home? Check out Greek skincare company Korres Natural Products.

STAY

Nearly all the major archaeological sites in Athens are within walking distance of the Old Town, Plaka. While lovely and a great place to stay, Plaka is also touristy. For something a bit hipper, younger, or just slightly quieter, look for an AirBnb in either Psiri or Monastiraki.

Alternatively, we enjoyed staying at the three star Athenian Callirhoe Hotel just south of Plaka. It was well-priced with large rooms, breakfast included and was a 10 minute walk to Plaka.

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Budapest

The capital of Hungary is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway with friends. The city is split by the Danube River and offers plenty to see and do between the hilly Buda and Pest neighborhoods. This Eastern European city is known for its spa and wellness culture, rich history and Ruin bars. It is a fairly cost-friendly option compared to most Western European cities.

The most efficient way into the city from the airport is via taxi. There is no Uber in Budapest, but you can use an app called Bolt to ensure fair prices and traceable rides in the city.

EAT

Traditional Hungarian food is über heavy. While visiting be sure to try the national dish, Goulash soup, or Lángos, a deep fried flatbread topped with cheese and garlic butter! 

Central Market Built in 1897, this grand hall houses everything and anything you may want to eat, drink or buy. Have a stroll around lunch, try some local bites and admire the impressive architecture (closed on Sundays).

DRINK

Budapest is known for its Ruin pubs, derelict industrial style bars found in the Jewish quarter of the city. Our advice is to explore the 7th district and find your favorite, here are a few of ours:

Instant The largest ruin pub in Budapest with 8 different bars inside. You will find a variety of music, vibes, and unique styles throughout the club.

Mazel Tov This outdoor courtyard boasts the perfect atmosphere to start any evening. It also serves Mediterranean food for those who come hungry.

Szimpla Kert Original Ruin bar, not to be missed.

PLAY

Buda Castle Stroll around and admire this historical palace. The inside of the castle houses the Hungarian National Museum (open daily).

Castle Hill With views overlooking the Danube, this entire area is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Don’t miss the Matthias Church and the Fishermans Bastion. Arrive via the funicular or take one of the many paths leading up to the Hill.

Chain Bridge Connects the western and eastern sides of the city, Buda and Pest. A beautiful (short) walk at any time of the day, views from both directions are picture-worthy.

Hungarian Parliament Building An iconic symbol of the city, this building is the third largest in the world and worth visiting for its unique architecture.

St. Stephens Basilica A beautiful Roman Catholic Church. Take the stairs for a rewarding view at the top!

Széchenyi Thermal Bath Budapest is known for its thermals, and this is one of the most famous. A relaxing way to spend an afternoon.

Vaci Street Main street with shopping, cafes and restaurants. The street starts at Vörösmarty Square.

STAY

Stay on the Pest side of the Danube. This is the heart of the city from an eating and drinking point of view, while the Buda side is more residential. We recommend Airbnb as there are loads of options available. We stayed near the Jewish Quarter.

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Prague

Prague is a fairy tale. The City of a Hundred Spires is home to an ancient castle on a hill, a magical clock tower, absinthe and a storied history of famous astronomers.

From the airport, one option is to take the Airport Express bus to the Prague Main Station and then walk 10-15 minutes into the Old Town. The bus takes about 35 minutes and runs from 6:30am to 10:00pm every 30 minutes. Alternatively, a cab or Uber will take 20-25 minutes.

The euro is not widely used in the Czech Republic. Upon arrival take out Czech crowns (also known as krones).

EAT

Ferdinanda Traditional Czech cuisine and beer in a cozy setting in Mala Strana. Recommended by a friend

Mansson’s Bakery Delicious Danish bakery just north of Old Town.

Piknik Park An Italian enoteca located on a quiet side street in Mala Strana. Outdoor seating, live music, great pizza and wine!

DRINK

The Czechs invented the Pilsner in 1842 and there is no better spot to try this light, golden-colored beer than straight from the source. Ask for a Pilsner Urquell, the original Bohemian beer. If you needed any more convincing, beer is literally cheaper than water here.

Double Trouble This cassic “cave-bar” and underground nightclub is a great spot to start the night.

Fat Cat Brewery & Pub Hip, contemporary bar and restaurant serving local brews in Old Town.

Hemingway Bar Cocktails.

Mecca Dance club for deep-house and techno lovers.

Strahov Monastery Brewery Beer has been brewed on this site near the Prague Castle since the medieval ages, but the current building dates back to the 17th century. Recommended by a friend.

PLAY

Charles Bridge This 15th century bridge connects the heart of the city and is lined with statutes of saints, artists, performers and musicians.

John Lennon Wall This colorful memorial pays homage to John Lennon and his ideals of peace and free speech.

Karlstejn Castle This beautiful, gothic castle was founded in 1348 by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV. It is an easy half day trip by train from Prague, and one of the most admired castles in Bohemia.

Mala Strana Prague’s Lesser Town is slightly less touristy than Old Town but just as magical. This neighborhood lines the left river bank and is just south of the Castle. Several good pubs and restaurants are located here.

Old Town Square A must visit.

The Powder Tower One of the original city gates to the Old Town, this gothic tower’s construction began in the fifteenth century.

Prague Castle largest castle (area) in the world dating back to the 9th century.

Prague Astronomical Clock This 600 year old clock face is the heart and soul of the Old Town and puts on a show every hour.

Day trips

Terezín Take a day trip one hour outside the city to this former ghetto, concentration camp and Gestapo prison. A sobering but education experience to learn about the Czech-Jewish history, World War II, and the Holocaust.

STAY

Stay near the Old Town or Mala Strana to be within walking distance of the main sites and nightlife. Mala Strana is perhaps a bit less touristy and quieter in the evening. We, however, enjoyed the four star Hotel Caruso, just north of the Old Town Square.

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Naples

Basking in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, Naples is a quintessentially southern Italian city. It’s grittier, livelier and certainly rougher than its more refined, northern cousins. While here do not miss trying a classic, Neapolitan pizza.

After landing into the Naples Airport, take the airport bus to Napoli Centrale, the main train station.

Naples is a gateway to the beautiful Amalfi Coast, the towns of Positano, Amalfi, Sorrento and the lovely isle of Capri. All within a few hours drive. Hire a private driver.

EAT

Gino e Toto Sorbillo The BEST pizza in Naples. There is another restaurant called Sorbillo, so make to go to this one. Order a pizza a person.

DRINK

Piazza Bellini Lots of bars line this street.

Via dei Tribunali The bustling, albeit narrow, main street that runs through the city center and comes alive at night.

PLAY

Chiaia The area just south and southeast of the Stazione Napoli Piazza Amedeo. It is filled with cute boutiques and restaurants.

Lungomare Stunning views of Mount Vesuvius, Capri and the city itself from this promenade running alongside the coast. Also a great place to sunbathe. Stay for sunset.

Pompeii Archaeological Park Spend a day touring the remains of this ancient city preserved in volcanic ash. Pompeii was destroyed in 79 AD by a devastating eruption from Mount Vesuvius. It is an easy, 40 minute train ride from Naples.

Vesuvius National Park Hike up to the crater of Mount Vesuvius. It is possible to take a bus or taxi to the volcano from Pompeii.

STAY

We enjoyed staying just south of the Museo subway station, the old tower quarter, which was a 15 minute walk from the Napoli Centrale. To get the full experience, go for an AirBnb in a local home.

Paris

The City of Lights and Love is truly special. There is so much to do, see, and taste in Paris and often too little time, making it easy to feel overwhelmed when planning. Besides the major sites, our favorite way to enjoy the French capital is just walking around the different neighborhoods, stopping in a café to just enjoy the moment.

Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly are the two nearest international airports. Orly is smaller and offers the Orlybus shuttle from the airport to Paris Denfert-Rochereau Station in the city center. The bus costs about €8, takes roughly 30 minutes, and departs every 15-20 minutes. It is also possible to take a bus from de Gaulle into the city but may take longer due to traffic. Uber is also in the city and an efficient option.

If you are coming from London, take the Eurostar from St. Pancras Station direct to Paris Gare du Nord. The trip takes about 2.5 hours total.

While Paris is magical any time of year, we love it best in spring and fall. The weather is milder and the tourists that descend upon the city in summer have long gone home. Try visiting during the first weekend of October, when Parisians celebrate Nuit Blanche. “White Night” is an all-night festival when museums, art galleries and other cultural institutions are free and open all night. The city also celebrates special installations and performances which are hosted in public spaces throughout the city.

While in France attempt to speak French! Parisians are friendly but even friendlier if you dust off your rusty high school French.

EAT

Derriere A fun and funky spot for dinner. Good for groups.

Ellsworth Casual spot where the Parisians take on some American classics

Le Comptoir du Relais A well-known bistro in St. Germain.

La Jacobine A tiny, adorable and affordable restaurant in St. Germain. Make a reservation for dinner.

Le Marais Boulangeries (bakeries) Wander around the neighborhood and treat yourself to the local specialities: croissant, pain au chocolate, baguette tradition, and chausson aux pomme.

La Petite Perigourdine Quintessential French restaurant in the Latin Quarter. Try the steak and aligot, a smooth, buttery potato side.

DRINK

Bar du Marché This St. Germain bar is open late and a great stop for a night cap.

Candelaria Not far from Le Marais, this taqueria features a hidden, speakeasy in the back. Good for cocktails.

Chez Jeannette Hip bar between the 3rd and 10th arrondissements with a PYT crowd.

Les deux Maggots Hemingway is rumored to have frequented this old world, St. Germain cafe. Stop here for a coffee or beer and watch the world go by.

Le Syndicat An amazing cocktail bar in the 10th.

Lockwood Relaxed and understated cocktails in the 2nd.

OChateau Wine + Cheese tasting lunch Lunch and learn!

Prescription Cocktail Club Posh cocktail lounge in St. Germain. Recommended by friends.

PLAY

Eiffel Tour Paris’ most beloved icon. Sit on the lawn and admire the view with a picnic.

Jardin du Luxembourg A lush sanctuary in the heart of the 6th arrondissement.

L'Arc de Triomphe Stop to admire this monument built to honor Napoleon before strolling down the posh Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

Le Marais One of Paris’ coolest neighborhoods, go for the delicious French pastries, medieval cobble-stoned alleys and trendy boutiques. We especially love Blue Lemon Paris, Merci and Sézane.

Louvre Home to da Vinci’s timeless Mona Lisa, plan to spend at least a half day at the world’s most famous museum. While here, check out the nearby Tuileries Gardens. Bring some cheese, wine, baguettes, and enjoy the views.

Montmartre This village-esque art enclave on a hill is one of our favorite neighborhoods in Paris. Stop by the Sunday Brocante des Abbesses market, admire the Sacre Coeur church, observe the street artists and musicians, and look out across the gorgeous city view. The Moulin Rouge is also nearby.

Musée d'Orsay Internationally recognized for its Impressionist art, including works by Monet, Manet, Degas, Cézanne and more. The museum is closed on Mondays.

Notre Dame Cathedral A must see. Truly beautiful architecure inside and it. Aside from your day visit, we recommend an evening walk along the river to photograph the illuminated cathedral.

Saint Germain and the Latin Quarter The 5th and 6th arrondissements are traversed by the ghosts of literary and artistic legends who flocked here in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today these bohemian, student neighborhoods are excellent for a mosey around.

Seine river cruise A bit touristy but offers amazing views of the city from a different vantage point. Go at sunset.

Day Trips

No trip to France is complete without a visit to the Champagne region. Home to Moet, Veuve Clicquot, and Dom Perignon, this region is a must see. Rent a car for a self-guided trip or book a tour through Ô Chateau.

Palace of Versailles The opulent, former seat of the French monarchy is an easy day trip from the center of Paris. About an hour by train, go in the morning to tour the chateau before spending an hour or two in the gardens. For a little insider tip, rent a golf cart to explore the full extent of the gardens. Buy tickets online in advance.

STAY

Our favorite neighborhoods to stay in are Le Marais (3rd arrondissement), the Latin Quarter (5th) and Saint Germain (6th). Airbnbs are generally the best value for money. Friends have also recommended the four star Hôtel Atmosphères near the Sorbonne in the 6th arrondissement.

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