Buildings in Lisbon

Going To Portugal: Things You Need To Know

Buildings in Lisbon

Portugal is a popular holiday destination for travellers from across Europe and further afield, the country’s rich history, combined with a savvy travel and tourism industry and spectacular natural attributes make this a great choice of destination at any time of year.

What to do in Portugal

There is a holiday to suit everyone in Portugal – from family fun breaks to cosmopolitan city stays to golfing getaways you are sure to find something on offer that suits your own personal style.

The most popular region of the country for visitors is the Algarve and breaks are easily attainable – offering access to all the best that the area has to offer from manicured fairways to wet and wild water parks, with a range of comfortable accommodations on offer in the area.

Things to Know Before You Go

As part of the European Union, Portugal offers unlimited access to visitors from other EU nations, while those planning to travel from outside the area will want to check visa requirements in advance of departure.

While coastal resorts are used to catering for visitors from a broad spectrum of cultures, if you are travelling to the city or indeed enjoying the hospitality of Portuguese natives you will want to ensure you stick to local customs, some things to note include:

  • Dress conservatively for social occasions – in Portugal people make little distinction between business attire and what they wear for going out.
  • Table manners are important – even fruit and cheese should be eaten using cutlery, and no one should take their seat at a social meal before being invited to do so by the host.
  • Napkins should not be placed in the lap, rather left on the left hand side of the plate until the end of the meal when they can be moved to the right.
  • Tipping is not mandatory – in Portugal a tip is only offered after a meal in the event of good service and amounts are minimal, even in exclusive establishments. Round your bill up to the next whole Euro, or, in the event of exceptional attention from staff, a few extra Euros at most.

Top Destinations in Portugal

Visitors to Portugal can choose from a range of destinations – with options available to suit everyone. Consider the following:

  • Lisbon – Portugal’s capital city sits astride the river Tagus and is steeped in history, with cobbled streets and castles aplenty. The modern city enjoys a great cafe culture, while it is also home to a wide range of museum and art galleries – making it a great choice of city break destination.
  • Algarve – The southernmost region of the country is a holiday favourite, offering stunning beaches and varied entertainments, from family days out to superb sporting facilities, the Algarve truly has is all.
  • Azores – off the mainland visitors will find the North Atlantic islands of the Azores, offering an exciting sub tropical holiday destination, with great beaches and beautiful scenery.
Edingburgh's famous castle in the skyline

5 Fun Travel Facts about Edinburgh

Edingburgh's famous castle in the skyline


Edinburgh city is a fantastic place to visit for all ages. There is period architecture, plenty of history, guided tours, a Military Tattoo and of course a castle so, along with many other things to do, there are lots of fun travel facts about Edinburgh.

Here we’ve listed our top 5 fun travel facts about the 2nd most visited city in the United Kingdom:


1. The Edinburgh Dungeon

If you want to visit somewhere that offers fun, excitement and a bit of horrible scariness then the Edinburgh Dungeon is a great place to go. Visit in groups, as a family or on your own and you will experience a frightening fast drop ride, regular shows, a torture chamber and much more. A great day out for the family and wonderfully un-scary food to delight everybody in the Hard Rock Cafe.

The Edinburgh Dungeon is situated next to Waverley Station on Market Street. Online discounts are available when planning your day in advance.



2. The Edinburgh Experience

Situated in the City Observatory, the Edinburgh Experience showcases vibrant images of the city, has a 3D film of the city and its attractions – a multi-media show spectacular, and takes visitors on a journey through Edinburgh’s history from its origins. A fun way to take an hour two to explore history, architecture and experience the city from within the Observatory. Find the building next to Caltron Hill. Entrance is around £1.20


3. The Jelly Club

For families that prefer to have an afternoon or morning off sightseeing, The Jelly Club is a fabulously fun indoor activity centre which is great for those rainy days, or simply for the adults to take time out while the little ones wear themselves out.

A toy village, climbing wall and inflatable assault course – there’s nothing more the parents need after a busy sightseeing day than to relax with a coffee whilst the kids have fun and frolics in a safe environment. Find it on Peffermill Road.


4. Bus & Boat Tours

Explore Edinburghs historical streets and discover its majestic buildings and cobbled streets with a guided tour. Usually humorous and interesting, the tours will take you around the Royal Mile, through the new town and across to see the Forth Bridges.

Lasting from an hour to a half day, the tours are a great way to spend time learning about the historic city.


5. Fun and Free

Loads to do for free – save your pennies to spend in one of Edinburghs fantastic restaurants. Take a climb up to Arthurs seat (in Holyrood Park), visit the Museum of Childhood or go and find the sculpture of Greyfriars Bobby – sweet, and you can tell the kids his history and why he’s so famous.

Delicious fresh olives

Great Restaurants in Barcelona

Delicious fresh olivesBarcelona is recognised as one of the great food cities of the world. Mediterranean cuisine is famous the world over; and with good reason. Fresh ingredients served up tapas style is a tradition that has been leaked out and enjoyed by people the world over. When travelling abroad, it can be difficult to know where to dine out. Unless you’re familiar with an area, eating out is generally potluck (this is not necessarily a bad thing on holidays in Spain!). That’s why we’ve put together a simple guide to Barcelona’s top eateries.

Cal Pep

The reputation of Cal Pep reaches far beyond the city walls and you’ll see why if you’re lucky enough to eat here. Here you’ll fid an up-tempo, traditional tapas restaurant with a fun and fresh tapas menu to choose from. The fish is famously good, fresh from the market, and there is an extensive list of local wines. Remember to book. Cal Pep can be extremely busy, but if you don’t mind waiting you can queue for a seat at the bar and do tapas the traditional way.


Moo is one of Barcelona’s more contemporary restaurants located on the ground floor of the Omm Hotel. Head Chef Felip Llufriu applies a fresh approach to Spanish cuisine. Taking traditional recipes and adding a modern twist, Moo has become renowned as one of the better up-market restaurants. Prices are reasonable considering the luxurious décor and first class service. The extensive list of cocktails comes highly recommended.

Vinya Roel

For a traditional taste of Catalan cuisine, recommend Vinya Roel. The traditionally Mediterranean décor sets the perfect ambience to enjoy a diverse range of Spanish culinary excellence. Popular dishes include the liver stuffed cannelonis and the black rice fideus. Book early as the diary does tend to fill quickly.

El Quim

This family run restaurant is located on La Rambla and offers guests a traditional tapas dining experience. Take your seat at the bar and choose from the exciting tapas menu. For a more relaxed experience, tables are available, but we recommend a seat at the bar to chat to local regulars to find out more about the food. There is a great atmosphere at El Quim due to its location in the heart of the Boqueria market.

This is but a handful of the many excellent restaurants to be found in and around Barcelona. Sampling the food is one of a range of fantastic things to do in Barcelona If in doubt, talk to the locals and find out where’s good to eat. If you want to get the most out of Spanish cuisine, Barcelona is certainly the place to be.

10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Italy

Italy is famed for its culture, its cities, its glorious food and drink and its iconic family values. The list of positives for visiting this Mediterranean country is almost endless, but if you’re thinking of exploring Italy, these are ten of the best reasons.


1. Mediterranean Food

If you’ve ever enjoyed a pizza, a cappuccino or an ice cream then you’ll know of the wonders of Italian food. Italy provides you with a first hand experience of how true Italian cuisine should be. The Mediterranean diet is rich with fish, herbs and olive oil, and can be very healthy. Meanwhile gelato, Italy’s healthier version of ice cream, is creamy and comes in all manner of flavours to enjoy.


2. Italian Wine

Any wine connoisseur will know of the fantastic drinks created by the vineyard industry in Italy. Tuscany’s Chianti, grown in Castello Vicchiomaggio, is a fantastic wine. And with both red and white wines coming in exceptional quality, enjoying some of Italy’s finest beverages is a must.


3. Shopping

Italy is famed for its shopping, and is home to many iconic designer names. Even though you may not be able to afford it, window shopping can be a huge pleasure as high streets always go out of their way to create as beautiful displays as possible. You’ll find Fendi, Armani, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana as just a few top high-end shops to explore. Milan is its fashion capital.


4. Fountains

If you love water and fountains then Rome is a number one spot as it boasts 280 fountains. Including the iconic Trevi Fountain, La Barcaccia and the Fountain of Triton are two great fountains to see.


5. Cities

Italy has no shortage of stunning cities to explore, and if you’re using the cheapest car rental deals to get around then there’s nothing to stop you discovering lots of different locations. Rome is of course a number one spot to explore for its history. Meanwhile Florence has beautiful art, and Venice will offer a city like none ever visited before.


6. History

Rome has some magnificent historical remains to explore, including The Colosseum, The Forum and Palantine Hill. Elsewhere, Pisa will offer the iconic view of its leaning tower.


7. Walking Tours

The beautiful region of Cinque Terre has been kept free of cars and motorcycles. This UNESCO World Heritage site contains five villages, and its ideal for exploring on foot.


8. Family Values

If you ever wanted to visit a nation where family values are held as a priority, then Italy is it. You’ll notice families enjoying life together as you travel around, adding inspiration for your own life.


9. Exploring by Scooter

Whilst Italy is known for its fantastic car brands, exploring places like Rome by scooter or moped offer a great alternative. And with beautiful countryside also awaiting discovery, you can enjoy walking and cycling through the hills.


10. Sports

Italy is a great country for sports, and as well as cycling’s Giro d’Italia, skiing, winter sports, football and motorsports can be enjoyed.

Designer shops along a street in Lisbon, Portugal

Shopping In Lisbon

Designer shops along a street in Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon is famous for its fantastic shopping opportunities. The city centre is host to an array of different shops, from low-cost clothing options to vintage shops, but better known are Lisbon’s designer boutiques.  But begin your holiday first by finding a great Lisbon apartment.

The city is renowned for offering tourists streets of globally-recognised designer labels. Travellers can find this high-end shopping experience scattered throughout the city, but in particular Avenida Da Liberdade offers tourists Louis Vuitton, Dolce and Gabbana, Armani, Escada and Prada. Alternatively, Rua Garrett offers Hugo Boss and Hermes as well as many more.

Designer Ana Salazar

While this fantastic European city offers globally recognised designer labels, it also offers designer creations from traditional Portuguese designers such as Ana Salazar, who is one of Portugal’s leading designers creating elegant and stylish designs for both men and women. Salazar has three boutiques in Lisbon including a shop on Rua do Carmo that offers tourists the opportunity to purchase one of her famous original designs.

Other designer shops within the city’s centre can be found in Bairro Alto’s Rua Do Norte, this area of the city offers tourists high quality alternative pieces, for example Sneakers Delight offers an array of colourful sneakers which cannot be purchased in any other city. Lisbon has nothing to envy Milan when it comes to designer labels it seems.

Traditional shops

More impressive however are the traditional shops located around the city centre which offer unique and specialist items which you would not be able to find anywhere else. In particular Lisbon’s Chapelaria Azevedo Rua was founded over 120 years ago and continues to produce some of the finest manufactured hats. Tourists can personalise and treasure these classic items as they will quickly become an invest. Travellers can also enjoy purchasing a pair of gloves created by the established Luvaria Ulissess Company. Located on Rua do Carmo Luvaria Ulissess was founded in 1925 and remains a leading Portuguese glove designer.

There is no doubt that Lisbon is a shopper’s dream. The city centre hosts a variety of different shops, from globally-renowned designers to local, traditional companies offering quality products which cannot be found elsewhere. There are very few other cities in the world that compare favourably to Lisbon’s eclectic assortment of shops.

Places to visit in Poland

Poland is a former communism country and you can still see a few relics from the communist era: some shop assistants in small shops still behave as if they were in communist times. If you are interested in Polish history you should consider visiting Auschwitz and taking the communism tour with a guide in Krakow.

If you are a religious person or you just would like to see places where many people are going to pray you should visit Zielona Góra and Częstochowa.

If you would like to see nature at its best, climbing mountains and walking a lot, go to Zakopane where you can see some of the most beautiful places. One of them is Morskie oko (Sea eye). It takes about 4 hours to get there but the view is really worth it.

Other places to visit are Polish castles and lakes.

Places of interest in Poland

  • Kraków for its many cathedrals and Wawel Castle of course;
  • The salt mines of Wieliczka;
  • Będzin Castle, Olsztyn Castle and Siewierz Castle;
  • Castle ruins in Ogrodzieniec;
  • Wooden sacral architecture in Małopolska.

Must-see places

  • The Tatra Mountains in the south on the border between Poland and Slovakia. A good place to start is the town of Zakopane.
  • Gniezno for its ancient Polish history, in particular the legend of the 3 brothers Lech, Czech and Rus;
  • Częstochowa, where pilgrims converge to see the Black Madonna;
  • Słowiński National Park;
  • Białowieski National Park;
  • Warsaw, capital of Poland;
  • Gdańsk, its shipyard and where the Solidarity Movement started;
  • Malbork for its Gothic Castle;
  • Wrocław, 4th largest city of Poland, historically the capital of Silesia and only part of Poland since 1945;
  • Świdnica for its history and architecture.

Polish waters to explore

  • The 2000 lakes of Masuria;
  • the Soliński Dam in Solina;
  • the turquoise water of Wapnica lake in Międzyzdroje;
  • white water canoeing in Rawka river.

Individual trip or organized tour?

An individual tour is better for people who do not like to organise their time because of the timetable; they will be able to visit interesting places by themselves or are just happy to see a few places near by. Some people think also that organized tours are boring because of too talkative guides and being restricted to the group’s pace.

If you are very interested in knowing the real history of Poland and seeing many places a guided tour would be recommended.

A few hints about Poland and Polish people

Poland may be a rather modern country but there are a few things which are still done in the old-fashioned way. Make sure that you have money in your purse as in many places bank cards and any other means of payment apart from hard cash are not accepted! People are rather friendly but few will speak English.

Travelling across Poland

Public transport is quite well-developed so you should be not afraid to take a bus, tram or train but it would take you obviously much more time than if you would travel in your rented car.

Places to stay

You can find very cheap and comfortable apartments which will make you feel at home. It is also popular to rent rooms with self-catered facilities or with breakfast, lunch and dinner included in Zakopane or in cities close to the sea.

Geographical London

The great city of London is often divided into the 4 cardinal points and each described, correctly or by assumption, in various ways. If you plan to visit London, it pays to know how Londoners describe their city.

East London

Historically known as the poor side of London, it is only barely changing nowadays, and much of that is due to the upcoming 2012 London Olympics which will take place in and around Stratford. In fact, the poverty of the area was one of the main factors for having the games there, the other being of course availability of space – this is provided by the previously neglected Lee Valley, now turned into a busy building site near completion where the stadium will be. Before the Olympic Games came to town, the only other prosperous area was part of Tower Hamlets, one of the most run-down area of London. This sounds contradictory but part of this borough is home to designers and artists, this is where Pete Doherty lives. If his drug habits are anything to go by, the rest of the borough is not much better!

The City of London is geographically on the east side. It is also known as the financial district and as its name describes, home to the head office of many high street banks, investment banks and other financial institutions such as Lloyds of London. This used to be the historical heart of London, where money changed hands, merchants prospered more often than not and business was made. The area is about 1 square mile in size but it is very compact and dense. The names of the streets themselves are historical, such as Threadneedle Street and just outside, Whitechapel Road where Jack the Ripper used to roam. St Paul’s Cathedral lies in the City of London and its roof, designed by Sir Christopher Wren in its modern form, is a feature of the rooftops of the city.

West London

Over to the other side, this is where the news are made. At the heart of West London is Westminster Parliament overlooked by this worldwide icon of London, the Big Ben. If you want to visit this area, the quickest way to reach it from the suburbs of London is by tube – get off at Westminster Station which is next to the Thames. Next to the Parliament building is Westminster Abbey. The abbey is over a thousand years old and is traditionally the venue where new royalty is crowned. The king is dead, long live the king! Sir Isaac Newton is buried there, with a globe on his tomb to symbolise his theory of gravity.

If money is made on the east side in the financial district, there is but a short distance for it to cover to get quickly spent on the west side, namely in the West End, the place where night never sets. This is because the place is crammed with theatres, night clubs, pubs and shops. It’s a hot spot for tourists and Oxford Street the mecca for shopaholics.

But the west is not all glimmer; parts of it are decaying as much as the east side. Further out west is Harrow, a place well-known for its multi-ethnicity and Indian food. It is rivalled in terms of ethnicity on the east side by the borough of Newham where the white British form in fact a small minority and the ethnic minorities are the majority. What contradictory terms.

Here flows a river

While the divide between east and west is not clear geographically, north and south of London are clearly separated by the largest river in the UK: the Thames. Famous bridges span this river such as Chelsea Bridge, London Bridge and Tower Bridge, another icon of London. Many hundred years ago, when the city was still weak and subject to attack from the mighty Vikings, the bridges were made of wood. The Vikings would tie their ships to the bridge and row furiously down river to bring the whole structure down. They didn’t earn their fearsome name for nothing!

North London

North London is neither rich nor poor yet houses both. The Islington area is now priced out for many people, this is where Tony Blair used to live before he became Prime Minister. The area around Hampstead Heath is a favourite among celebrities. Perhaps drugaddict George Micahel brings the area into disrepute but if you are a fan of his, you may find him there slumped at the wheel of a vehicle in the early hours of the morning. Camden town and its market is popular for its clothes and gothic shops. Beware the pickpockets operating on Sundays though.

South London

If you can forget about Lewisham and especially Brixton, a crime spot to rival America, then south of the river is a very pleasant place to be. The further west you travel, the brighter and more open it gets. As the east side of London used to be a port, it was crowded with people and buildings. The port eventually moved to Tilbury and factories moved up north where land was cheaper but the high density of buildings didn’t change much. Thus as you move from Greenwich and Lewisham, jumping over Elephant & Castle in the centre over to Streatham and then Wandsworth, Wimbledon and Richmond, streets open up and trees pop up either sides. Greenwich is famous for its observatory on top of the hill in the park of the same name. You will have an excellent view of London, canary Wharf and the Gerkin from there. Be sure to visit the observatory, it’s free. Down the hill is the Royal Maritime Museum, if you are into replicas of ships. And if you enjoy nature, Wimbledon Common, Richmond Park and its deers and of course Kew Gardens are all on the south side of the Thames.

Each quadrant of London cannot really be defined distinctively from its neighbours but Londoners living in their respective area love to set themselves apart from others – thus the north-south and the east-west divides. Now you can take part in that too.

London tube travel: mastering the ticket system

What is the tube? Many people new to London might not know that the tube is just another name for the metro, subway or underground train system. London’s underground train network is one of the oldest in the world, the oldest being probably Moscow’s.

You need a ticket before you get on the train. You can buy tickets at the ticket office or at the machines. On Sundays and bank holidays, ticket offices in smaller train stations are closed and if the ticket machine is out of order, you will be unable to buy a ticket before getting on the train. Fortunately, in these circumstances, you can buy a ticket at your destination before crossing the barrier.

There are usually guards at the barriers but again, in smaller stations, sometimes the guard is elsewhere, smoking a cigarette or on a platform. When they leave barriers unattended, they usually open these in case some people have a problem with their ticket and are unable to get in or out.

This means that if you cannot buy a ticket before getting on the train because the station is unmanned and the machine is down, the barriers will be open and you will be able to board your train. At your destination, if you are getting off at a quiet station outside central London on a Sunday or bank holiday, chances are the barriers will be open and unmanned. In this case you will be able to get out without needing a ticket, thus having travelled without having bought a ticket. For this reason, there are ticket inspectors operating.

There are ticket inspectors on board the trains but these are very very rare and you might never encounter them. Most often, ticket inspectors are within the station doing spot checks and during rush hours in order to catch most people. If you are travelling without a ticket on a Sunday and a ticket inspector stops you, then it is not your fault if you haven’t been able to buy a ticket at the ticket office because it was closed.

Oyster card

Prior to the introduction of oyster cards, it was easy to pass on a day or weekly ticket to someone else or buy a ticket at your destination and pretend that you got on just one stop before in order to pay less. There were also many ticket touts taking tickets from passengers who no longer needed them at the end of the day and selling these on for a profit to other passengers unwilling to pay full price for a ticket. London Underground was losing a lot of money that way and pushed hard for the introduction of Oyster cards.

Oyster cards are plastic cards with an embedded microchip which records all details of travel journeys. When you buy a season ticket, you have to hand over your personal details. London Underground is then able to track all the journeys that you make and also has your personal details to match them. Despite this massive breach of privacy, it was allowed to go ahead with the Oyster card system. The UK government also has a vested interest in this to combat terrorism, especially after the tube bombings of the 7th July 2005. With the Oyster card tracking all passengers’ movements, they can no pick the closest station as their point of entry when buying tickets at the gates.

Get a ticket receipt

The most important thing to remember when using the Oyster card is to get a receipt of the money you have put onto the card. If there is ever a mistake and the money doesn’t appear on your card, you cannot see it unless you go to a machine or the ticket office and get your card checked. Previously, when you handed over your money, you would get a paper ticket with the value on it. With an Oyster card, nothing shows whether there is money on the card or not. This is why it is very important to get a receipt when putting money on the card, even if it is for £1. That way, if someone inspects your card and says there is no money on it, you will be able to show the receipt and not have to pay a £50 fine because of £1.

Read more: Stratford transport hub