Saturday, 8 December 2018

Christmas Markets to visit in Berlin

Berlin has many Christmas Markets and it’s nearly impossible to see them all in one weekend. On the 30th of November we headed to the German capital for a festive weekend and during the 48 hours that we were in Berlin, we managed to tick off 4 of the markets. Both Stuart and I thought that this was an ample amount of markets to visit in one weekend, leaving us enough time to also visit some museums and the spectacular Reichstag Dome during the daytime whilst we were in Berlin. In today’s post I’m going to summarise the different markets that we visited and share what makes each of them unique. That way, you should hopefully at least be able to tell which of the markets would be right for you and plan your Christmas Market trip accordingly.

Food stall at the Potsdamer Platz Christmas Market in Berlin


Ferris wheel at the Alexanderplatz Christmas Market in Berlin

Let’s start with the big one which is next door to the Museums on Museum Island. Alexanderplatz provides a huge open space for a market and in contrast to the other markets that I’m going to talk about, there is room for much more stalls, a ferris wheel and an ice rink. There are food, drink and gift stalls and groups of people gather around high tables, drinking ‘glühwein’ and eating bratwurst. We visited the Alexanderplatz Christmas Market when the sun started to go down and even at 3-4pm in the afternoon on a Saturday, the market was packed. A top tip for Alexanderplatz would be to visit earlier in the day as I can imagine that the crowds would quickly become unbearable later on.


Friedrichstrasse Station Christmas Market during the late afternoon, Berlin

Far smaller in comparison, we stumbled across the Friedrichstrasse Station Christmas Market as we were walking to the Reichstag. The Market has cosy undercover seating, filled with long benches where you can sit, enjoy your food and shelter from the cold (or rain) on a Wintery night. There are gift stalls, a musician playing a traditional German instrument and a large Nativity scene. It’s not as lively a market as Alexanderplatz, but if you’re near Friedrichstrasse, you should definitely stop by for a traditional German snack.


The Christmas Market at the Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin

The Christmas Market at the Gendarmenmarkt is my favourite market in Berlin. It’s located near Stadmitte U-Bahn station and a queue forms down the street when the market is open, as the market is a ticketed event and it gets very busy! In the evening dancers and carol singers perform on the stage, whilst guests are shopping and eating to their heart’s content. Wherever you turn at the Gendarmenmarkt you will smell festive favourites such as glühwein (mulled wine) and hot chocolate, and if you choose to purchase one of these drinks it will be served to you in a souvenir mug which you can take home. Mine has the year and the name of the Christmas Market on it, making it the perfect keepsake from our time at the Gendarmenmarkt.

Potsdamer Platz

Potsdamer Platz Christmas Market at night, Berlin

Outside the Potsdamer Platz train station, you will find a sprawling Christmas Market that surrounds the entrances of some of the skyscrapers in the square. Full of charm during the day and at night, the market at Potsdamer Platz is popular because of it’s central location and proximity to the city’s shopping malls. There is a toboggan run at the market so it’s not just an area for food and shopping; you can take part in some Winter activities too! Out of all of the markets that I’ve mentioned, Potsdamer Platz was definitely the most open market as the stalls were positioned on the walkways leading out of the square and not in one enclosed area.

Each of the markets that I have discussed in today’s post are easily accessible from central Berlin by foot or train. There are many Christmas Markets across the city and I have only mentioned a handful of them, but it’s important to not cram your weekend too much so I’d suggest visiting 5 at most during your time in Berlin. Make sure you plan your time carefully and arrange your trip so that you get to visit the markets and also see some of Berlin’s history too. Berlin is a fantastic city that becomes so festive during December.

Have you ever been to Berlin? Did you visit the Christmas Markets?

Thanks for reading my blog today.


Thursday, 6 December 2018

Cruising down the Danube in Budapest

When I think of Budapest, the Danube is the first thing that comes to mind. The river is the core of the city as it runs through the two sides of the Hungarian capital and it's covered in spectacular bridges that locals are exceptionally proud of. Boats sail up and down it daily, carrying Budapest tourists who want to see the city from the river and tourists travelling from further afield on international cruises. We boarded one of these boats on the Saturday night of our trip and joined a Legenda evening sightseeing cruise: an hour cruise on the Danube, taking in all of Budapest's spectacular sights. With it being October, it was almost pitch black outside when the cruise started at 7:30pm and the banks of the Danube came alive with lights as soon as we departed the boat dock.

Nighttime view of the Parliament Building from our boat on the Danube, Budapest

Dock 7 was the starting point for the cruise and it was a 10 minute walk from Vigadó Square in the center of Pest. The tour followed a loop, heading South of the boat dock to begin with and then going back up to the Parliament building and Fisherman's Bastion towards the end of the tour. This route meant that we could see the prestigious sights at the very end of the tour when the sky was completely black; the contrast with the lit up buildings was spectacular!

Legenda Cruises boat dock, Budapest

Whilst we were on the boat, we listened to an audioguide all about Budapest and the banks of Danube. We were also served a complimentary drink which made the evening river adventure feel even more luxurious. For a fee you can actually have dinner on one of the evening cruises, but it was a bit out of our price range this trip.

The Chain Bridge and river at night, Budapest

The cruise seats are very comfortable and there are plenty of them indoors. On our evening cruise we didn't get cold once and that was lovely considering we were visiting the city in Autumn.

After an hour we were back at Dock 7, ready to disembark and enjoy an evening stroll back through Pest. We vowed to come back at some point when we have more money and upgrade to the evening dinner cruise.

Have you ever been to Budapest? Did you go on a Danube River Cruise?

Thanks for reading my blog today.


Thursday, 29 November 2018

Must-do experiences in Budapest

In early October we went to the Hungarian capital for a long weekend of sightseeing. It wasn’t my first time in the city as I’d previously visited when I went interrailing in 2016, but it was a chance to take Stuart to Hungary and show him the city on the Danube that I always rave about. It was an action-packed 2 days full of sightseeing and strolls along the banks of the Danube and I tried to cram in lots of Budapest ‘must-dos’ into the short time we had there (lessened by airport delays on the Saturday morning). This ultimately leads me onto the theme of today’s post: my short list of must-dos for a city break in Budapest.

Parliament Building, Budapest

Go up to the top of the St Stephen’s Basilica.

Kat Last looking out at the rooftops of Budapest from the St Stephen's Basilica observation deck

For 300-600 forint (£1-2), you can take the lift up to the top of St Stephen’s Basilica for tremendous views of the Budapest skyline. You get to see the Parliament building on the edge of the Pest side and highlights of Buda in the far distance, as well as look down at the cafe and restaurant street culture in the squares beneath the Basilica. It’s the best value attraction in Budapest in my opinion and a great place to get photos of the city from above; just remember that it closes early so you won’t be able to get a nighttime view from the Basilica observation deck.

Take a river cruise down the Danube.

The boat dock for Legenda Cruises on the Danube, Budapest

The Danube river is the heart and soul of Budapest. The river divides the city geographically into Buda and Pest and hosts some of the city’s major historical buildings on its banks. To really experience the city and get fantastic views of both sides, I recommend booking a spot on a Danube river cruise. You will see so much in your time slot whilst sipping on a complimentary beverage and listening to Budapest city history on your audio guide headset.

Walk along Fisherman’s Bastion.

Fisherman's Bastion in Autumn, Budapest

One of the architectural wonders of Budapest, Fisherman’s Bastion should be top of your sightseeing list. You can take a walk up the hill on the Buda side to reach it or catch the funicular and be at the top of the hill in seconds, before continuing up the path through Buda old town to the Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. The Bastion architecture is absolutely fascinating so make sure you put some time aside to wander around it and properly explore. The arches are probably some of the most photographed in Budapest as they look out onto the Danube and the bridges below.

Try rose-shaped ice cream near the Basilica.

Gelarto Rosa's rose-shaped ice cream in front of the St Stephen's Basilica, Budapest

If you like having unique food experiences, stop in at Gelarto Rosa near the Basilica for rose-shaped ice cream. These ice creams are so clever that they’re basically an art form in themselves and almost everyone that visits the shop leaves with their phone or camera in hand so that they can get that perfect photo before their ice cream melts. The ice creams look too good to eat, but trust me they taste delicious and should be a food priority for your time in Budapest.

Take in views of the city at the Citadel site.

Views of Budapest from the Citadel site

I recommend getting a bus to this location as it’s quite high up on the Buda side, but head to the Citadel site to see the Liberty Statue which overlooks the entire city. There are food stalls and a craft market on the grounds of the Citadel so you don’t have to rush back down the hill if you want to see the statue and then make the most of the incredible views over the city. It is the highest point in Budapest and visiting the Citadel gives you a real sense of perspective of where everything is and how the city is laid out.

This list is only a starting point for visiting Budapest. I have tried to pick a mixture of historic, tourist attraction and food recommendations seeing as all of these things are important to me when we travel. If you visit Budapest anytime soon, make sure you dedicate some time for the Danube and looking at the city from both sides of the river. Budapest is a Central European metropolis which should be high up on your city break bucket list. There is just so much culture and history in the city!

Have you been to Budapest? What are your must-dos for any trip?

Thanks for reading my blog today.


Thursday, 22 November 2018

5 restaurants to visit in Canterbury

For a small city, Canterbury is full to the brim with restaurants and foodie places. We live inside the city railway route and in Canterbury that means you're only 10 minutes away from the high street and city centre on foot, so we can easily wander into town for dinner and not have to think about parking. Canterbury is a foodie city that attracts locals wanting to try all of the independent places, as well as tourists who want to visit the Cathedral and get enticed by the restaurants nearby. From the pubs to the more sophisticated gourmet restaurants, there are restaurants for everyone in Canterbury.

Old buildings on Canterbury high street

1. Cafe Des Amis

Cafe des Amis, Canterbury

If you like Mexican food, make sure you book a table at Cafe Des Amis. It's only a small place but it's incredibly popular and if you manage to get a table on a Saturday or Sunday, treat it like gold dust. They serve Mexican classics such as fajitas, burritos and tacos, as well as some lighter salad-based options too. If you can visit at lunchtime, their 'lunch specials' menu is very affordable.You can get a portion of quesadillas for 6.95 which in the grand scheme of things isn't a huge amount more than some cafes charge for paninis.

Nachos for starter at Cafe des Amis, Canterbury

2. The Ancient Raj

Starters at The Ancient Raj, Canterbury

The Ancient Raj is by far my favourite curry house in Canterbury. The restaurant is situated in a very old building on the outskirts of Canterbury town centre and the place is always packed. Starters and main courses are on the slightly pricier side, but the quality of food and service make the price forgivable. The Ancient Raj is popular with evening diners because it's a little bit fancier than your local pizza place and if you dress up, you don't feel out of place. The dimmed lighting and old interior make it a really nice place to visit for a curry night out with friends or family.

3. Oscar & Bentleys

Decorations inside Oscar & Bentleys, Canterbury

A little gem just off the high street, Oscar & Bentleys is an independent bistro that serves British food along with some further afield cuisine. I found out about the restaurant when they were listed on Groupon earlier this year and after visiting with friends, I can definitely recommend it. When you walk inside you notice their attention to detail as there are fairy lights and floral decorations up on the walls. There isn't a huge amount of tables but this is part of the fun, as the place feels like your typical small 'continental bistro'.  I ordered the vegetable dhal curry for my main course and the Chocolate Fudge sundae for dessert and neither were a disappointment!

Ice cream sundaes for dessert at Oscar & Bentleys, Canterbury

4. The Old Weavers

Outside The Old Weavers, Canterbury

The oldest restaurant in Canterbury and hugely popular with tourists, The Old Weavers does some of the best roasts and pies in the city. We went there in July and I enjoyed it so much that I dedicated an entire post to our meal. In the Summer you can sit outside in their terrace area overlooking the River Stour and during the colder months you can sit inside in the cosy dining area.  If we ever go out for a Sunday roast, The Old Weavers is my first choice.

5. Cafe Du Soleil

Cafe du Soleil, Canterbury

Pizzas are the specialty at Cafe Du Soleil: the sister restaurant to Cafe des Amis. Cafe du Soleil offers Mediterranean food in a beautifully lit setting that is perfect for Winter meals out. Cafe Du Soleil is located right next to the Westgate and a car park, so it's a great place to go for dinner if you're driving into the city centre.

Pizza for dinner at Cafe du Soleil, Canterbury

These restaurants are only a handful of the ones on offer in the city. We have almost every type of cuisine here, so if you visit you'll easily find somewhere special to eat. 

Thanks for reading my blog today.