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.

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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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Split

Split is Croatia’s second largest city and a jewel along the Dalmatian coast. It is celebrated for its cheerful red-tiled roofs, Old Town labyrinth, and the ruins of the 4th century fortress and palace lying within it. Spit is also a gateway to the rest of Dalmatia and the many islands sprinkled off its coast. We recommended spending a few days in Split at the start or end of a longer Croatian adventure.

Split has an international airport just a few miles and short drive from the city. Taxis and ubers are an easy option.

Split is also a three hour drive from Dubrovnik. Renting a car and driving in Croatia is fairly easy, as long as you making a booking in advance. We started in Split, drove 2.5 hours into Bosnia for an overnight in Mostar, and then continued south another 2.5 hours back into Croatia toward Dubrovnik.

While this seaside town would be gorgeous any time of year, it is especially incredible in the warmer months. Avoid the height of the tourist season by visiting during late spring or early fall (May, late August or September).

EAT

Bokeria Don’t miss this restaurant and wine bar serving up Croatian dishes and wines. Make a booking in advance.

Teraca Vidilica Stop at this on your hike back down the hill in Marjan Forest Park. It’s a great place for a snack, beer and view of the city and coastline.

DRINK

Croatian wine is incredible but not yet well known on the international market. According to a wine guide we met, the winemaking industry suffered greatly under the Soviet block, as all grapes produced were used to make one style of house wine. No individuality, creativity or experimenting was allowed or encouraged. However, the industry has more than recovered today and while in Croatia be sure to try the local varietal plavac mali. This small blue grape is the most planted grape used for red wines in Croatia, and it produces the most deliciously smooth rosés and reds.

PLAY

Bell Tower of St. Domnius Cathedral Perhaps the most touristy thing to do in Split, the (somewhat) perilous climb up the steps of the tower is worth it for the view at the top. Go early to beat the crowds.

Diocletian’s Palace This UNESCO World Heritage site is whats left of a Roman emperor’s palace. Today the ruins are the heart of Split’s Old Town, forming a labyrinth of shops, restaurants and bars. Hire a tour guide or use a guide book for a self-guided walk. Major sites within the Palace include the Peristil, the Cathedral of St Dominus, the Vestibule and the palace substructures which today form a marketplace leading down to the Riva. In summer go first thing in the morning, as this area becomes packed with tourists and Game of Thrones fans.

Klis Fortress This ancient fortress sits in the hills above the city. Hire a car or take a local bus to visit. Game of Thrones fans will recognize Klis as Meereen. Recommended by a friend.

Marjan Forest Park This hilly nature reserve rising above the coast is home to medieval chapels and caves, and a lovely walk through pine forests. A hike up offers vistas of the city and ocean below. Bring snacks and water.

Riva Split’s waterfront and harbor area is bustling with boat tours, restaurants and shops.

Sunset Cruise Organize a sunset cruise along the coastline with one of the many kiosks adorning the Riva. Short cruises are approximately 90 minutes to two hours and cost between €20-30. For those with more time, book a half day trip to Hvar or elsewhere.

Zapadna Obala This promenade connects the Riva to Marjan Forest Park and is worth a walk.

STAY

Stay within walking proximity of the Old Town and Diocletian’s Palace. We highly recommend Prima Luxury Rooms, a boutique hotel just minutes from the Old Town.

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Munich

The capital of Bavaria is a charming city and the perfect base for exploring southern Germany. The city offers the chance to experience traditional Bavarian culture through its renowned museums, beautiful gardens, restaurants and, of course, the classic beer halls

When to travel? If you are looking for the traditional Oktoberfest (Wiesn) experience, check the official dates here. The world’s most famous beer festival typically takes place over three weeks between mid-September to early October. Book a table in advance or arrive early to obtain a spot. Our favourite tents are Hacker-Pschorr and Armbrustschützenzelt!

Munich is well connected to other European cities and arriving via train places you directly in the city center. If arriving by plane, the Munich airport is located approximately 30 kilometers from the city. We recommend taking the S-Bahn train which is the fastest and cheapest option at €12. A taxi will take over an hour and cost about €45.

EAT

While visiting Bavaria try some of the local specialities: sausage (wurst), sauerkraut, freshly baked pretzels, Schweinshaxe and Knödel. The food is heavy food but worth trying for at least one meal, guten appetit!

Most of the big beer halls listed below also have on-site restaurants serving traditional dishes.

Sophia's Restaurant & Bar Upscale lunch spot near the botanical gardens. A nice break from the heavy Bavarian dishes.

Viktualienmarkt Stroll around the city's largest and most famous outdoor marketplace. Grab a beer and sample some traditional German bites

DRINK

Munich is known for its long-standing beer culture. The city has no shortage of beer halls and gardens with lively atmospheres. Explore the city in the mornings and head to the beer gardens in the afternoon to kick off happy hour. Prost!

Augistiner Keller This noteworthy beer garden and Bavarian restaurant is one of our favourites with its authentic feel and delicious food. It is located near the main München Hauptbahnhof train station.

Hofbräuhaus München The most recognizable of them all, this 16th century beer hall is the ultimate German experience with dirndls, lederhosen and steins (maß) of beer. If time permits, we suggest visiting during the week to avoid long wait times as this location can be a touristy and crowded during the weekend. Reservations are not taken for the Beer garden and the Haus has a strict no seat, no service policy.

Paulaner Bräuhaus Excellent beer and a modern take on traditional Bavarian dishes.

Schumanns Over the beer? Head to this spot for an upscale cocktail bar experience. Recommended by a friend.

PLAY

Englischer Garten A large beautiful park in the center of the city. Plenty to see and do as the area spans over 900 acres. Check out the surfers near the south side of the park and the Chinese Tower/ Biergarten.

Frauenkirche One of the most notable sites in Munich, this Cathedral distinctively marks the Munich skyline. Climb the tower for unbeatable views of the city.

Leopoldstrasse Less touristy, this cool street offers cafes, restaurants and boutique shopping.

Marienplatz The largest public square in Munich, this Platz is the heart of the city. Plenty of restaurants, cafes, shops, and people watching opportunities. Check out the Glockenspiel cuckoo clock.

Day Trips

Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Dachau opened in 1933 and was the first of the Nazi concentration camps. It is not a light hearted stop but this memorial is very powerful and the history is well documented. Plan to spend 3-4 hours here. Open daily.

Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein Castles Not to be missed if you are in the area and have time for this fairytale visit. Tickets for both castles are not needed to wander the grounds, but if you are looking for the full experience we recommend booking tickets in advance to tour the castles! Make sure to visit the MarienBrücke suspension bridge for the best views of the Neuschwanstein castle. Trains depart hourly from München Hauptbahnhof and arrive at Füssen train station via a two hour journey. From here take a bus to the castle (20 minutes). Going by car is the most direct and should take approximately 1.5 hours.

STAY

If you are only visiting for a weekend, we recommend staying in the Altstadt (Old Town) for easy access to all the sites. Looking for something less touristy? Try an Airbnb or hotel in the Schwabinger Tor neighbourhood, which is home to many cafes, bar, and restaurants found on Leopoldstrasse.

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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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Porto

Clinging to the steep banks of the Douro River, Portugal’s second largest city is filled with medieval intrigue, historic bridges, beautiful views, delicious seafood and port wine! Portugal’s famous port takes its namesake from the city itself, as the wine passed from the hands of its Dourvo Valley producers on its way to England and beyond. Both the Porto and the Douro Valley are UNESCO World Heritage sites in their own right.

Fall is lovely time to travel to Porto. The sun is shining, the days are warm and the Douro Valley wineries are wrapping up harvest!

Uber and taxis are widely available in Porto and its an easy 20-25 minute drive to the city center. It is also possible to take the Metro do Porto light-rail system from the Airport station into the city where it makes various stops.

The Douro River Valley is a one to two hour drive from the city and a very easy day trip.

EAT

Cafe Progresso Great brunch spot just north of the Universidade do Porto and Livaria Lello bookstore.

Fábrica da Nata This bakery serves up this most exquisite pasteis de nata, delicious Portuguese custard tarts.

Jimão Tapas e Vinhos Small tapas-style restaurant and wine bar in Riberia.

The Wine Box Hip, bustling restaurant just a few blocks north from the Riberia. The sommelier is incredibly friendly and happy to make recommendations.

Vintage Theory This boutique port winery in the Douro River Valley has a lovely restaurant with a stunning view.

DRINK

Bar Ponte Pensil A small cafe at the base of the Luís I Bridge on the north bank. Go at sunset for a glass of vinho verde to admire the stunning views of the city and river.

Douro Valley Wine Tour No trip to Porto would be complete without a visit to this world renowned wine-making region. We especially loved this full day tour with eFun Tours which included lunch and wine (and port!) tastings at three different wineries.

Quinta do Beijo Small, family owned winery in the Douro with many vintage ports. The winemaker gives tours himself.

La Boheme entre Amis Bright and airy bar near the Universidade do Porto. Stand at the bar and sip a glass of port.

Letraria Craft Beer Garden This hole in the wall craft beer garden has a large outdoor area and decent selection of craft beers and lunch foods. Pop by before dinner or on Sunday before heading to the airport.

Majestic Cafe This art deco cafe, just down the street from Fábrica da Nata, was a favorite haunt of JK Rowling’s when she taught at the Universidade.

Xico Queijo Hip bar and restaurant near the Universidade. Great spot after hours and the surrounding bars and restaurants will all be busy well into the night.

PLAY

Cedofeita One of Porto’s trendiest neighborhoods. Take a stroll down the Rua de Cedofeita and pop into cute boutiques, restaurants and bars.

Livraria Lello The historic book store that inspired JK Rowling’s Hogwarts. Purchase entry tickets from the Armazéns do Castelo or in advance online.

Luís I Bridge Walk across the Douro River and admire the splendid view.

Muralha Fernandina A medieval castle in the center of the city whose ancient walls, staircases and watch towers remain intact today.

Porto Cathedral

Ribiera Walk along the river and winding streets of Porto’s medieval Old Town.

South bank wineries There are tons of wineries and port tasting rooms on the south bank side of the city and around the Castelo area.

STAY

Stay within walking distance of the Ribiera or Universidade to be close to all the sites. We enjoyed this AirBnb near Bolhão, which was a 15 minute walk from the riverfront.

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