A Sintra Day Trip – Why You Have to Go

If you’ve ever dreamed of being a prince or princess living in a palace, then a Sintra day trip from Lisbon is a must!  Our day spent here brought all of Bettina’s princess dreams true. To skip ahead to our top 5 tips on how to prepare for a daytrip to Sintra, click here.

 

What is Sintra and Pena Palace

 

Sintra is a small city on the outskirts of Lisbon, only 30km (19 miles) away, and is surrounded by natural parks and the Sintra Mountains. There is a lot of history in this area of Portugal as Sintra was a playground for royalty, the rich, and the famous throughout much of history. This means that there is not only the Pena National Palace, which we visited, but also the National Palace of Sintra, the Castle of the Moors, and many others all located in and around Sintra. We drove through Sintra, stopping for a quick coffee, but decided to focus our time on Pena Palace.

 

A Sintra Day Trip View of Pena Palace

 

A Sintra Day Trip View of Castle of Moors

 

How to Get to Sintra

 

We already had a rental car as we were completing a short road trip through Portugal from Porto (you can read about our time in Porto here and Coimbra here). Our drive from Cascais to Sintra was about 20 minutes, and it is only 10 minutes more from Lisbon.  We appreciated having a car to get up through the hills to Pena Palace.  The road was steep and narrow, but there was lots of parking when we arrived.

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

Alternatively you can easily reach Sintra by train from Lisbon.  There are numerous bus and tuk tuk options to take you up the hill to Pena Palace, or you can hike! Of course plan a lot of extra time if you plan to hike through the hills.

 

Pena Palace

 

The main attraction! Pena Palace is perched at the top of a hill, and is considered one of the seven wonders of Portugal. This is a Romanticist castle, and we couldn’t agree more. It is one of the most romantic castles we've visited so far. Pena Palace has a number of different sections and design elements, reflecting the tastes of its prior owners through the ages.

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

Top from Chicwish / Skirt from Chicwish / Shoes from Mi.iM (Use beingbettina20 to get a 20% discount)

 


 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace
A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

Explore Pena Palace

 

One of the great things about Pena Palace is that you are allowed to climb up a number of the bastions, parapet walls, and ramparts. As a result, this makes for great pictures! You will have to be patient and wait your turn in line though. Unfortunately not all tourists we encountered were so considerate!

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

Definitely make sure to explore all around Pena Palace so that you get views of this truly impressive building from all angles.

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

Inside Pena Palace

 

To truly live out your prince/princess dreams, be sure to take the time to walk through the interior of Pena Palace.  The inside of the palace is set up to serve as the summer residence of the royal family, and is full of period appropriate furniture, paintings, and other artwork.

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Inside Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Inside Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Inside Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

Usually when exploring European palaces you only get to see the fancy sitting rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms of the royal elite. However Pena Palace also allows you to see the working kitchen of the palace, which is a unique perspective and makes you appreciate our modern appliances.

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Inside Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Inside Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

Best Views of Pena Palace

 

Once you’ve completed your tour of Pena Palace, take the time for the 20 minute walk through the peaceful surrounding gardens and forest up to the Cruz Alta monument.  With a little bit of flexibility you can climb up to the monument and will be rewarded with impressive views of Pena Palace from afar.

 

A Sintra Day Trip - View of Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip - View of Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip - View of Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

This view was worth the walk! In addition, this monument had very few tourists, compared to Pena Palace, which was bursting with selfie-stick wielding crowds in the early afternoon.

 

How Long Does it Take for a Sintra Day Trip?

 

We spent a full afternoon exploring the Pena Palace as well as walking some of the pathways in the surrounding park. Arriving just before lunch, we had about a 5 minute wait to purchase tickets and enter the palace grounds, but otherwise could access everything within and around the palace as we liked.

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

You could easily spend a week exploring the hills around Sintra and the many palaces as there are walking trails all throughout the region allowing you to explore as much or as little as you would like, however it also works perfectly as a day trip.

Check our top tips below to help plan your Pena Palace and Sintra Day Trip!

 

The Next Trip Top 5 Sintra Day Trip Tips

 

  1. Get there early! Like as soon as they open or even earlier. As the day goes on there will be more and more tour buses full of tourists arriving, so get arrive at the palace as early as you can to have the palace to yourself (more or less).
  2. Take some creative photos. Pena Palace is breathtaking from almost any angle, and with almost all of the walkways and areas of the palace open, you are free to get creative and take more than your standard tourist photos. This is your chance to make your princess fantasies come true!
  3. Bring your best walking shoes. Pena Palace is located at the top of the hill and requires at least a 10 minute walk up the steep cobblestone paths. Further, the surrounding park grounds are full of pathways to explore.
  4. Pack some water.  While there is a cafe in the palace, you’re going to want to pack some water if you are exploring on a hot day as there are no other stores near the palace.
  5. Go for a hike. Take the extra time to walk to the Cruz Alta monument to get the perfect photos of Pena Palace from a distance – no drone required! In addition, if you have the time as part of your Sintra day trip, you can also walk and hike all over the Sintra Mountains for other unique views of Pena Palace and the beautiful Portugal Riviera.

 

Have you been to Pena Palace? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

 

Pin this blog post to your Portugal and Sintra Pinterest boards to save all your ideas and don't miss out when you're there!

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Why You Have to Go - The Next Trip

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you for supporting the brands that support us.

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Top 5 Things to See in Chicago

We have been lucky to be able to call Chicago our home for the past 4 years. During this time, we have been able to explore the city and all its beauty and we truly love everything it has to offer. Our favorite thing to do is to show our out of town guests around the city and share the top things to see in Chicago while they are here.

Kyle and I have been getting a lot of questions about what to see and do while visiting Chicago and thought we would round up our 5 top things to see in Chicago in a blog post for you!

We hope this helps you plan your next trip to Chicago and explore some places that may not have been on your list yet. If you're looking for the most Instagrammable indoor spots in Chicago, check out this post.

 

1. Top Things to See in Chicago: Architecture Tour with Shoreline Sightseeing

 

Chicago Skyline from Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Cruise

 

We have taken all of our out of town guests on the Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Tour and it has easily been everyone's top thing to see in Chicago! It's a 75 minutes boat tour on the Chicago River where you learn all about the history of the windy city, and get some of the most beautiful views of the skyline.

 

Chicago Skyline from Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Cruise

 

Chicago Skyline from Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Cruise

 

Chicago Skyline from Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Cruise

Outift: Two Piece Set from Chicwish / Earrings from H&M

 

The boat tour has two different starting points: Navy Pier or Michigan Avenue. Both are really easy to get to and close to downtown Chicago. Shoreline Sightseeing will take you along the river through downtown,  underneath the iconic bridges, all the way to the North Branch of the Chicago River and will then turn around to share one of the most recognized buildings from the opening scene of The Dark Night: the post office!

 

Chicago Skyline from Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Cruise

 

Chicago Skyline from Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Cruise

 

In addition to getting incredible views of the city and great photo opportunities, Shoreline Sightseeing shares some interesting facts about the city and I learn something new every time I join my guests on the cruise - probably also because I'm always so focused on taking pictures, I forget to listen!

 

Chicago Skyline from Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Cruise

 

You can get your tickets online here or buy them at the booth on Navy Pier or Michigan Avenue before the tour. If you're visiting in summer, I would recommend you get your ticket a few days in advance as their tours will sell out.

 

Chicago Skyline from Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Cruise

 

Thank you Shoreline Sightseeing for treating my friend Vivian and me to your Architecture River Cruise!

 

2. Top Things to See in Chicago: Have A Drink at the Signature Lounge

 

Top 5 Things to See in Chicago - View from Signature Lounge

 

If you are looking for incredible views of the city from above, without standing in line or paying admission fees for the Willis Tower, I can highly recommend going for a drink or two (or three!) at the Signature Lounge. The lounge is located on the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower in River North. While their cocktail prices might be a bit higher than what you're used to, you don't pay admission to get to the 96th floor. And the views certainly make up for the prices. A tip for all the female readers, by far the best view of downtown is from the ladies room in the Signature Lounge! You read that correctly, plan some extended time to powder your nose! 🙂

 

Top 5 Things to See in Chicago - View from Signature Lounge

 

If you're in town for a few days, try to visit the Hancock tower on a clear day right before sunset so that you get the best of the daytime views and nighttime city lights. You might have to wait in line to access the elevators on a busy weekend night, but I personally never waited longer than 15 minutes.

 

Top 5 Things to See in Chicago - View from Signature Lounge

 

Top 5 Things to See in Chicago - View from Signature Lounge

 

If you're looking for a unique place to eat, check out Machine Engineered Dining and Drinks and 3 Arts Cafe.

 

3. Top Things to See in Chicago: Take a Selfie at the Bean

 

The Cloud Gate, also known as the bean, is one of my favorite landmarks and probably one of the most well-known things to see in Chicago. You haven't truly seen Chicago without taking a selfie at the bean. The Cloud Gate is beautiful in its simplicity and I love the way it reflects the city and blue skies on a clear day. It is so iconic, it's easy to see why it's surrounded by tourists on any given day. You can find it in Millenium Park, off Michigan Avenue, between Washington and Madison Street and it is easily accessible if you take the "EL" (Elevated Train) to Washington and Wabash.

 

Top 5 Things to See in Chicago - Selfie at the Bean or Cloud Gate

Outfit: Top from Zara / Jeans from Mint Julep Boutique / Shoes from Aldo / Purse from Nordstrom

 

The best time of day to visit the bean if you want to avoid the crowds is early in the mornings around 7am. Kyle and I managed to get it all to ourselves on one Friday at 7am. During the cold and harsh Chicago winters, getting a reflection selfie in the bean without interruption is easier but you will still have the odd tourist suffering through the cold as well.

 

Top 5 Things to See in Chicago - Selfie at the Bean or Cloud Gate

 

Outfit: Top from Zara / Skirt from Chicwish / Shoes from Aldo / Purse from Nordstrom

 

 

While you're already there, you might also stop by the corner of Michigan and Adams, which marks the beginning of the historic Route 66. Route 66 technically started on Jackson Boulevard but because Jackson Boulevard is now a one-way street East, the landmark sign was moved one block north to Adams Street.

 

4. Top Things to See in Chicago: Enjoy the Skyline from the Adler Planetarium

 

The first time I visited Chicago in 2013, I was determined to find the best place to take pictures of the Chicago skyline and I stumbled upon a forum which talked about the view from the Adler Planetarium. Little did I know that a few years later, I would move to the city and live in the South Loop, biking past the Planetarium on my way to work almost every day.

 

Top 5 Things to See in Chicago - Chicago Skyline from Adler Planetarium

 

If you love skylines and observing the city from a distance as much as I do, you may not want to pass up this opportunity. On a warm sunny day, bring a picnic basket and enjoy the sunshine, the skyline, and the ocean-like Michigan lake.

Getting to the Adler Planetarium using public transport will involve a fair bit of walking. We recommend renting a Divvy bike and take the lakefront trail to get there (more on the trail below).

 

 

5. Top Things to See in Chicago: Bike Along the Lake Front Trail

 

Most people are surprised by the fact that Chicago has sand beaches and bike and pedestrian dedicated lake front trails. On a warm sunny day, rent a Divvy bike and bike along the lake front trail, and spend a few hours exploring the city starting at the Adler Planetarium, biking north past Navy Pier, North Avenue Beach, all the way to Lincoln Park. You'll get a completely different feel of the city - being away from the hustle and bustle and able to absorb its beauty from a distance. And to cool off after a lengthy ride, join the many Chicagoans on the beach dipping their toes in the lake.

Have you been to Chicago? What was your favorite thing to see? If you end up taking my advice and share your trip on social media, please tag me (@thenexttrip) in your picture! I would love to see how you enjoy the city and maybe share that drink or two!

 

Top 5 Things to See in Chicago - Chicago Skyline from Signature Lounge Hancock Tower

 

Pin this blog post to your Pinterest board to save all your ideas about the top things to see in Chicago!

 

Top 5 Things to See in Chicago

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you for supporting the brands that support us.

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How to Spend A Day in Coimbra, Portugal

To be honest, we hadn’t even heard of Coimbra prior to researching destinations for our Portuguese road trip, which is probably why it was the most surprising destination of our trip.  We had no expectations and absolutely loved the 24 hours we spent here and can’t recommend it enough! To skip ahead to our top 5 tips on how to spend a day in Coimbra, click here.

 

A Day in Coimbra: Getting There and Around

 

We arrived in Coimbra after a weekend in Porto (read about it here) during rush hour, and since we didn’t know much about the city, we were just following the directions of our GPS to get to the hotel. However, the closer we got, the steeper and narrower the streets became.

 

Narrow Streets in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

Tight narrow roads do not phase us after all of our European road trips, but these were some of the tightest and steepest we had ever driven on within a city. Even though our rental car was relatively small, we ended up taking a different route to our hotel as we were not confident that we could make a turn without scratching the car.

 

A Day in Coimbra: Where to Stay

 

We spent our one night in Coimbra at the Solar Antigo Luxury Coimbra which has very luxuriously designed hotel rooms.

 

Hotel Solar Antigo Luxury Coimbra | The Next Trip

 

Hotel Solar Antigo Luxury Coimbra | The Next Trip

 

Our room was on the first floor but because the hotel is on a hill, we had an amazing view of the city. The room was small but very unique and they even included free of charge champagne and cake in the evenings as well as breakfast in bed in the mornings.

 

Hotel Solar Antigo Luxury Coimbra | The Next Trip

 

We didn’t spend much time in the hotel though as we hit the streets as fast as we could due to the rapidly setting sun.

 

How to Spend A Day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

A Day in Coimbra: What to See

 

Coimbra is a very old city, dating back to the Roman era and is anchored by the University of Coimbra, established in 1290, and perched on top of the hill. The university buildings include the jaw-dropping Pátio das Escolas. This historic square alone is worth the visit to Coimbra as there just isn’t a bad angle to take a picture.

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 


 

 

It was particularly beautiful at dusk and includes a view of the surrounding valley.

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

The next morning we headed back to the University of Coimbra area to see the Biblioteca Joanina, a famous historic library.  The next visiting time was in one hour, so we spent the time taking more pictures in Pátio das Escolas square and checking out the nearby chapel and palace.

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

My dress is sadly already sold out but I linked some of my favorite turquoise and teal dresses below.


 

 

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

The palace tour had an outdoor terrace, which provided great views over the city.

View from the Palace, University Square, Coimbra | The Next Trip

 

View from the Palace, University Square, Coimbra | The Next Trip

 

We eventually made it into the library, the Biblioteca Joanina, and it was definitely worth the wait! This is one of the most impressive libraries that we have ever been to, and a definite must-see if you are in Coimbra. You’re not allowed to take photos inside, so check out their website to get an idea of what it looks like inside here.

 

Biblioteca Joanina, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

Heading back down the hill, we explored the streets of the old town more and fell even further for this quaint city.

How to spend a day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

How to spend a day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

How to spend a day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

How to spend a day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

How to spend a day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

Because we only had one day in Coimbra, we did not have enough time to see the aqueduct, botanical gardens, and waterfront. From the quick views we saw from afar, they definitely are worth a visit as well!

 

A Day in Coimbra: Where to Eat

 

While in Portugal, we were on a mission to try natas in each city. Pastel de nata’s are custard filled tarts, and worth eating at any time of day.  A few locals recommended we stop by this café for a coffee and some natas. The natas were some of the best we had tried with incredibly flaky pastry and were only surpassed by the slightly more lemony natas we had at the Largo da Portagem square.

We both truly believe that calories don’t count when you are traveling!

What to eat in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

For dinner, we can highly recommend Zé Manel dos Ossos. This restaurant was recommended to us by some locals we had met the day before, and they advised arriving half an hour before the restaurant even opened at 7:30pm! We arrived on time, and were second in line, with a few other groups arriving only a few minutes later. This restaurant is considered one of the best in Coimbra for traditional Portuguese food. As there are only seven tables inside you’ve got to be early, or prepared to wait.

 

Zé Manel dos Ossos, Coimbra, Portgual | The Next Trip

 

Zé Manel dos Ossos, Coimbra, Portgual | The Next Trip

 

Zé Manel dos Ossos, Coimbra, Portgual | The Next Trip

 

The time went by quickly, and soon enough we were inside the eclectically designed restaurant.  The owner is super friendly and since we didn’t know what to order (nor could we read the menu) he chose for us. We ended up sharing a starter of mushrooms and pork, which had such a rich flavour and were absolutely delicious.

 

Zé Manel dos Ossos, Coimbra, Portgual | The Next Trip

 

Next up was the main course, seared pork with rice and beans.

 

Zé Manel dos Ossos, Coimbra, Portgual | The Next Trip

 

Portuguese food is hearty and filling, and this was the best we had on our trip to Portugal. The pitcher of wine helped wash it all down. And there is nothing like a digestive evening stroll around the city after a heavy meal.

 

How to spend a day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

Can't get enough of Portugal either? Check out our blog post on Porto here or get planning your own trip with our free top 10 tips on how to save money on traveling!

 

The Next Trip Top 5 Tips on How to Spend a Day in Coimbra

 

  1. Pick a hotel in the historic old town. There are numerous small hotels in the historic old town that are reasonably priced. The location will allow you to easily reach all sights by foot, and will be close enough to rest your feet in the middle of the day if you need it. We stayed at the Solar Antigo Luxury Coimbra and can highly recommend it!
  2. The first stop when you arrive should be to get tickets to see the Joanina Library. They only allow 60 people at a time into the library, and so times are reserved. Get your tickets early so that you don’t miss out! There are so many beautiful photo opportunities all around the University of Coimbra and the square, that even if you have to wait a bit, it is no problem.
  3. Bring your best walking shoes, i.e. comfortable and preferably closed flats. While flip flops might be comfortable, they will hurt your feet after walking up and down these steep cobble stone streets for hours. Walking is absolutely the best/only way to explore Coimbra. This seems to be a common tip in Portugal!
  4. Try the natas – all of them!  We indulged in natas almost every day of our trip in Portugal.  The best ones that we had on our whole trip were in Coimbra. We can highly recommend these two cafes, here and here. We also had The World Needs Nata recommended to us, but it was closed when we were visiting.
  5. Eat at Zé Manel dos Ossos. This is not your typical restaurant and already seems to be gaining a lot of popularity through word of mouth only. Be prepared for a hearty meal of traditional Portuguese food and entertainment written all over the walls. If you decide to stop by, make sure you get there a 10-15 minutes before they open for dinner. The place has only a few tables and often lines up out the door.

 

Have you been to Portugal? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

 

Pin this blog post to your Portugal Pinterest board to save all your ideas and don't miss out when you're there!

 

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you for supporting the brands that support us.

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Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drink

If you’re looking to get an incredible and unique Chicago restaurant experience and a bouquet of flowers at the same time, I have the perfect place for you. Yes, you read that correctly, Machine Engineered: Dining & Drink is an experience, not just a place where you get great food. 

 

Machine Engineered: Overview 

 

The restaurant is brand new to Chicago and combines the two concepts of a flower shop and a restaurant in one. It was one of the 10 most anticipated restaurants to open in Chicago and I can see why. It is easily one of the best-designed places in Chicago and I featured it in my post on the 10 Best indoor Instagram Spots in Chicago.

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Immediately as you step in, you are greeted by the most welcoming host Mikey and a gorgeous display of flowers.

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

 

In addition to including a flower shop within the establishment, it features flowers throughout the entire space. As much as I love flowers,  the highlight of Machine Engineered: Dining & Drink are their uniquely designed drinks.

 

 

Machine Engineered: Space

 

Three uniquely decorated dining rooms make up the space of the restaurant. You can choose between dining in a small European town right next to a flower shop,

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

in a modern American restaurant,

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

or in a luxurious dining hall with blue suede chairs, chandeliers, and walls covered in white roses.

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

 

Machine Engineered: Bars

 

The heart of Machine Engineered: Dining and Drink are the two bars – I call them the ballerina bar and the library bar.

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

The ballerina bar is the light marble counter bar decorated with a beautiful tulle skirt and floating leaves. In stark contrast is the second bar which reminds me of a library with its green lamps and leather chairs.

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

 

Machine Engineered: Flower Shop

 

Next to the European-style street cafe corner and the ballerina bar is the flower shop. (If you're anything like me and love flowers, this corner alone will make you very happy!) Their flower selection includes everything you could possibly wish for.

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

You can build your own bouquet by selecting your favorite flowers from the cart and have them arranged by the florist. (This is during the Florist hours only.)

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

If you'll be dining there late, you can order a pre-assembled featured bouquet which changes weekly. Last, if you're looking for something to go, the bottle & bouquet might be your choice which combines a bottle of wine with one of the featured bouquets.

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

This gorgeous lace dress was gifted to me by Chicwish and makes the perfect spring cocktail party dress or bachelorette party dress for all brides.

Shop My Brunch Look

 


 

Machine Engineered: Drinks

 

The drinks served at Machine: Engineered Dining & Drink are just as beautiful and thoughtful as the décor. After a quick chat with the bartender, we quickly decided that the Aviation is the drink of the hour  - a very unusual drink choice for me, as I'm not a big gin lover. However, Dine Machine takes their Aviations to the next level by infusing gin with blue butterfly pea flower, lemongrass syrup. It is served with a dome made out of spun sugar which you crack with a little hammer.

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

The dome does not just serve as an eye-catcher, it is meant to be cracked with this little hammer. Once mixed with the drink, it enriches the flavor of the Aviation. I was ready to order another round!

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

The aviation is not the only spectacular drink on their menu. Machine Engineered: Dining & Drink is just as inventive with their clear Bloody Mary's,  Cage Old Fashioned, and their gin-based Breakfast at Tiffany's which is served in a diamond!

 

Machine Engineered: Experience

 

I met a friend for brunch at this unique restaurant and had a taste of their deliciously fresh and healthy power bowl with avocado dressing. To all my vegan and vegetarian friends, there are a few options on the menu which could also make your heart beat a little higher.

What started as a quick brunch with coffee, ended up being an hours long experience in this incredible space and has me wanting to go back ever since! You can review my experience on my Instagram stories here.

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Next time you're looking for a place for brunch, a drink, or a place to make your own flower bouquet, check out Machine: Engineered Dining & Drink. You will definitely be impressed!

 

Pin this blog post to your Pinterest board to save all your ideas about the Dine Machine experience in Chicago!

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you for supporting the brands that support us.

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10 Best Indoor Chicago Instagram Spots

Winters in Chicago can be long and cold. Even though it's April, we are still experiencing temperatures only just above freezing. To help you stay warm while you're taking pictures, I rounded up my favorite 10 indoor Chicago Instagram spots for you. These instagrammable coffee shops, stores, and restaurants are all free to access, although I recommend always asking the owners or staff if they are okay with you taking pictures. Also, while you’re there, why not try that new featured coffee or a delicious snack?

I hope this guide helps you pass the time until the temperatures are high enough to roam the streets. Make sure to tag me in your posts if you end up going to any of these places! I would love to see your content and connect with you.

If you’re looking for more beautiful indoor spaces in addition to the below, don’t miss my blog posts of Restoration Hardware and The Peninsula.

 

1. Left Coast

 

Situated in River North, this coffee shop has everything you need for a great picture: cute décor, a pretty stair case, lots of natural light, and let’s not forget, delicious coffee and bites.

717 N Wells St
Chicago, IL 60654

 

Left Coast - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

Outfit: Shirt / Jeans / Shoes (Similar) / Purse (similar)

 

2. Limitless Coffee

 

Only a block away from Left Coast is Limitless – a coffee shop famous for their glitter coffee. I’m a big fan of the charcoal latte which comes with a colorful swirl and is topped with eatable glitter.

675 N Wells St
Chicago, IL 60654

 

Limitless - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

 

Limitless - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

 

While you’re in River North and if you have time, make sure to stop by the Flamingo wall on N Wells and W Ohio to capture the ultimate spring feeling.

 

Flamingo Wall - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

Outfit: Dress from Tyche / Purse / Shoes (similar)

 

3. Machine: Engineered Dining and Drinks

 

Brand new to Chicago and located in Wicker Park, this restaurant has everything an Instagrammer’s heart could desire. From beautifully decorated bars, to flower walls, Instagram-worthy drinks (which also happen to be delicious), and a flower shop – Machine: Engineered Dining and Drinks has it all. Check out this post to get a full tour of the restaurant.

1846 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60622

 

Machine Engineered: Dining and Drinks - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

 

Machine Engineered: Dining and Drinks - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

Outfit: Dress / Purse / Earrings

 

4. Sweet Mandy B’s

 

Just as sweet as their treats is the interior of this bakery and coffee shop. Step into a world of pastel tones, striped walls, and colorful furniture. You can’t help it but take a few pictures here, and their cupcakes will make your visit even sweeter.

The space at Sweet Mandy B’s is limited and I recommend going early in the morning to ensure that you have time to take pictures before the crowd arrives.

1208 W Webster Ave
Chicago IL, 60614

 

Sweet Mandy B's - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

Outfit: Top / Skirt (Similar) / Shoes (Similar)

 

Sweet Mandy B's - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

 

5. Le Macaron French Pastries

 

Speaking of sweet, if you’re looking for a hue of pink, you can’t miss Le Macaron. It’s a French bakery owned by Jeanne and Julien, specializing in, you guessed it, macarons. Their macarons are directly imported from France and are the perfect combination of a firm shell with a soft center that make your taste buds melt away. Aside from their treats, the highlight of the bakery is certainly their bright pink wall.

958 West Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60614

 

Le Macaron French Pastries - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

 

Le Macaron French Pastries - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

Outfit: Dress / Boots

 

6. Garfield Conservatory

 

Situated a 30 minute drive from the Loop, the Garfield Conservatory is a botanical conservatory and transports you to a tropical mood as soon as you enter those doors. There are a variety of rooms at the Conservatory, each of which are home to different fauna and flora. Make sure you stop by the mosaic fountain which was a present from Chicago's sister city Casablanca, providing the ultimate Moroccan feeling.

Note that professional photography is restricted at the Garfield Conservatory and you need a permit prior to taking pictures there. I was allowed to take pictures for my personal Instagram account, but no outfit changes were allowed. To request a permit, you can give them a call: 312 742-4786.

300 N Central Park Ave
Chicago, IL 60624

 

Garfield Conservatory - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

 

Garfield Conservatory - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

Outfit: Wrap Top from Tyche / Skirt / Shoes (Similar)

 

7. La Bodega

 

Where La Bodega lacks in space, it sure makes up in instagrammable drinks and décor. Their churro hot chocolate makes every blogger heart melt and is only topped by the churro cone with customizable toppings. Did I mention that they also serve delicious tacos?

355 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654

 

La Bodega - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

 

La Bodega - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

 

8. Maison Marcel

 

If you’re looking for some shabby chic spring vibes paired with delicious brunch or afternoon tea, Maison Marcel is your place! Originally from Marseille, the owners brought the French je ne sais quoi to Chicago and paired it with a cozy ambiance, wicker furniture, turquoise accents, and a bright space.

Maison Marcel is just as popular as you might think. I suggest you go early in the morning or mid-afternoon on week days to get as much space as possible.

3114 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657

 

Maison Marcel - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

Outfit: Coat / Sweater (Similar) 

 

9. Serena and Lily

 

Easily one of the most beautiful furniture and home décor stores I have ever been to is Serena and Lily. Their new location right on Armitage is exquisitely decorated and transports you into spring even on the coldest or rainiest winter days. I could not help but dream about decorating my future home with their blue and white pillows.

Serena and Lily is a store but they were not opposed to me taking pictures while the store itself wasn’t busy and as long as I did not interfere with any customers. I’d recommend giving them a call before going to ensure that they know you will be there.

853 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60614

 

Serena & Lily - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

Outfit: Jeans from The Mint Joulep Boutique / Sweater (Similar) / Bralette / Shoes (Similar) / Earrings

 

Serena & Lily - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

 

10. Harold Washington Library

 

Last but certainly not least is the atrium at the Harold Washington Library. The skylights and the large windows provide a lot of natural light and together with the open space and turquoise/light blue are a blogger’s dream come true. The atrium is on the 9th floor of the library building and free to access. Note that Harold Washington Library is exactly that, a library. The atrium is frequently used as a space to study and for events. Make sure to check their event schedule prior to planning your photo shoot there.

400 S State St
Chicago, IL 60605

 

Harold Washington Library - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

Outfit: Dress from The Mint Joulep Boutique / Clutch (Similar) / Shoes (Similar)

 

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These are the 10 Best Indoor Instagram Spots in Chicago! The Next Trip

 

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How to Spend A Weekend in Porto

Porto may be the second largest city in Portugal, but it is easily accessible and perfectly set as a great weekend destination.  Bettina and I can’t believe that we haven’t made it to Portugal until now, and fell for Porto as soon as we had our first taste of the Portuguese life. If you enjoy cobblestone streets, great food, great wine, and great weather, then Porto is for you! Keep reading for how to spend a weekend in Porto!

Click here if you want to skip to our 5 Top Porto Travel Tips. If you'd like to watch our Porto experience on video, check out Bettina's Instagram stories here.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

With the city being very walkable, a central hotel location is great so you can drop back in at any time of the day if needed. We arrived on a Friday and stayed at the Porto Royal Bridges Hotel. The location was perfect for our stay, as was the fantastic breakfast and friendly staff!

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Bettina ambitiously decided we should wake up early to catch some of Porto’s famous blue-tiled buildings before the crowds set in. We started at Capela das Almas de Santa Catarina, which didn’t disappoint.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

The azulejo tiles are striking and found on buildings throughout Porto, certainly adding to the charm of the city.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

The historic center has a number of iconic buildings, including the Porto Town Hall and Porto Sao Bento train station.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

From the train station head downhill, exploring the many side streets along the way.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Eventually, you will be greeted with a fantastic view of the Douro River and surrounding city!  The North side of the river contains many of the famous colourful houses in Porto as well as a lot of the best restaurants in the city.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

{Bettina:} My shoes were gifted to me by Mi.iM and they quickly became my favorite travel sandals. I was wearing them all day, every day, walking through the streets of Porto and was comfortable and fashionable all the time.

 

 

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

This was our favourite part of the city. While it is a bit touristy, it has a great vibe, and in March wasn’t overly crowded, but buzzing with the right amount of energy.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

A weekend in Porto would not be complete without a glass, or two, of some fine port wine, which the city gave its name to. Your best bet is to cross over the Douro River to the city of Vila Nova de Gaia, the riverfront stretch on the south side of the river with breathtaking views of the historical center as well as some of the best port wine cellars in the city.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Porto Cruz came recommended to us and didn’t disappoint. We were able to snag a seat on the rooftop to rest our weary feet and relax with a glass of port wine and some tapas. Other port wine cellars which were recommended to us but we didn’t try were Ferreira and Graham’s. If you haven’t tried it before, port wine is produced exclusively in the Douro Valley of Portugal, and is typically a sweet red, often served with dessert.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Did we mention the stunning views of the old town from the Porto Cruz rooftop? This is a great place to spend an afternoon tasting wine in the sun.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Before you cross the river again, make sure you stop by Jardim do Morro for the most incredible sunset views. Depending on the number of glasses of port wine you’ve had, you can either walk or take the cable car to the top of the hill at Jardim do Morro.  We opted to walk and zigzagged our way up the narrow streets to the top.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

The views of the city are breathtaking!

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Walking across the bridge back to the historical center leaves you with just as many beautiful impressions of the city. Watch out for the trams along the bridge as you will need to share the space! If you didn’t enjoy dinner at one of the port wine cellars, head back to the historical center to find your new favourite dinner spot.

 

 

 
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Early Sunday morning head to Livraria Lello, one of the world’s best bookstores to beat the crowds just before opening. This bookstore has impressive architecture, but is probably most known for being an inspiration for Flourish and Blotts of Harry Potter fame, when JK Rowling lived in Porto and began developing ideas for the Harry Potter series.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

You can also see into the bookstore from the outside, which may be enough for some. We opted not to wait in the 50+ deep line and pay the 5 EUR per person entry fee, and instead settled on gelato next door!

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Just a bit further up the street is a beautiful square with Porto’s famous twin churches. Igreja dos Carmelitas and Igreja do Carmo are famous for having the narrowest building in the city between them and having a beautiful outside wall with azulejo tile.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

The buildings can easily be mistaken as one church, but each has a very unique history, along with the narrow building in between, which was created to ensure no contact between the nuns and monks at any time.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Continue the neighbourhood tour of Porto with a requisite tourist photo at the ‘PORTO’ sign nearby and while we’re into cheesy tourist opportunities, why not get a sardine can with your birth year printed on it? Or try the local cod cakes which are hand-made cakes shaped like a potato, filled with cheese and fried.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

While you’re in the neighborhood, snap a picture of the iconic Tram 28 which winds its way through the steep and narrow cobblestone streets.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Because no weekend in Porto would be complete without shopping, make sure you head to Porto’s Rua de Santa Catarina which is the main shopping street. Bettina definitely spent some time here and contemplated the limits of her hand luggage and how many clothes she could buy and still fit in.


This is how we spent our weekend in Porto and we loved it so much, we can't wait to go back. Check our top tips below to help plan your weekend and sign up for our 10 money-saving travel tips to save on your next weekend getaway!

 

The Next Trip Top 5 Weekend in Porto Tips

 

1) Uber from the airport to the city center.

We used Uber to and from the airport as well as a few times within Porto and every time the car was there within 2 minutes, was clean, and had a good driver. As a bonus, it is cheaper than a cab, our rides to and from the airport were just under 15 EUR each way. There is a bus and metro option, which can definitely save you money, but for our location it was also over an hour vs. 20 minutes in an Uber.

 

2) Drink the wine!

As this is what they are (rightly) famous for. Without a doubt, sampling the many kinds of port wine the city has to offer, is a great way to spend your afternoon. If port wine is not your thing, no worries, vineries offer all kinds of other regional wines as well. Our favourite wineries, or those recommended to us by locals are Porto Cruz, Ferreira and Graham’s.

 

3) Eat the seafood.

Portuguese food is typically quite hearty, and we found it heavier and greasier than we expected, however the exception is seafood and Porto has that in abundance.  There are so many great places to try, just get out there and start eating and remember that fresh sardines in Portugal are far better here than that old can in the cupboard of your grandmother’s house.

 

4) Bring your best walking shoes.

The city is small enough that you can easily see all of the major sites by foot in a weekend.  There is no need to use the metro, buses, or trams, unless your hotel is slightly off the beaten path. That being said, the streets are cobblestone and there are a lot of hills! Bettina wore her Mi.iM shoes and this was probably one of the first trips she didn't have sore feet or blisters.

 

5) Do search out your favourite azulejo tile.

The blue tiles are on all sorts of beautiful and very average buildings, but taking pictures of the tiles you come across and searching for the one that speaks to you is a fun challenge we enjoyed while walking the streets.

 

Pin this blog post to your Pinterest board to save all your ideas about Porto!

 

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A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

It's a well-kept secret that there is a rivalry between Bern (the capital of Switzerland) and Zurich (the largest city in Switzerland). Growing up in the outskirts of Bern, I was always biased towards the city named after bears and never spent much time exploring Zurich. After having spent a day exploring the city with family though, I might have to give it more credit. But first things first...

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

Being right on the Limmat and Lake Zurich, the city is surrounded by water and offers beautiful views.

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

We spent our day in Zurich wandering through the old town, admiring old fountains,...

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

Shop My Look

 


 

 

... explaining old buildings to my niece (she may more likely have been fascinated by the birds) ...

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

... walked past one of the oldest hotels in Switzerland, Hotel Storchen (established in 1357), which has its own ferry terminal ...

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Storchen

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

... and found ourselves in front of the Oro De Cacao store.  We couldn't resist the idea of some hot chocolate and had to check it out.

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

Oro De Cacao is a brand new Swiss chocolate producer - and it's so much more than that. I am a firm believer that Swiss chocolate is the best chocolate in the world (I'm also slightly biased, being Swiss and all). However, this store takes the chocolate experience to an entirely new level.

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

Dieter Meier revolutionized the chocolate production process by using cold extractions to break cocoa beans into cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and the parts that give chocolate its bitter taste. In the end, you're left with a very intense and flavourful piece of chocolate which is not bitter at all and is also not overly sweet.

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

Completely in awe with this new technology, I had to get a sample of every variation they offered!

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

And of course, we couldn't leave without trying their home-made hot chocolate which was beautifully rich. I also took some chocolate bars home and love to treat myself after a long day at work. Given the intensity of the chocolate flavor, you only really need a small piece to satisfy your cravings.

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

Thank you Oro De Cacao for having us and providing us with a wonderful chocolate experience!

 

We spent the rest of our day in Zurich raving about the chocolate we just tried, and enjoying the beautiful Christmas decorations everywhere.

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

Although we were only there for a day, Zurich impressed me with its old-town flair and international spirit. Have you been to Zurich? What did you like best about the city? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 

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A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go

A few months ago we stumbled across an article from late 2017, saying how the Northern Lights were going to be decreasing for almost the next decade! While we did catch a brief glimpse in Lapland (northern Finland) when we first met almost nine years ago, we didn’t get to see the full sky filled with a beautiful display of aurora. This would be our last chance, so to speak, to try to catch the Northern Lights for the next few years.

Click here if you want to skip to our 5 Top Iceland  Travel Tips. If you'd like to watch our Iceland experience on video, check out Bettina's Instagram stories here.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

How We Got To Iceland

 

Soon after we read that article, WOW Air came out with a great fare sale from Chicago to Iceland, which allowed us to pick up round trip tickets for the two of us for only $220 each. You can’t beat this kind of price for a direct flight to Iceland! We left Chicago late on a cold Friday in January and flew overnight. The beauty of over-night flying is that you don't need to get a hotel and you have the entire arrival day to explore. Check out this blog post for tips on how to get over jet lag.

 

Weekend In Iceland Itinerary and Story

We left Chicago on a cold Friday in January and were actually heading to warmer temperatures up in Iceland, the land of ice and fire! Arriving around 5:30am, our first stop was Joe and the Juice, a great coffee shop in the airport, and then to Avis to pick up our rental car.  We then had a 3 hour drive in front of us, to our destination: Vík.

We passed by top sights such as Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss but unfortunately, at this time in the day, it was still pitch dark and we couldn’t see them. It wasn’t until we closed in on Vík closer to 10:00am that the sky started to brighten. We were lucky to have done a complete Iceland road trip back in 2015 and have seen most of the main sights already. We were thus able to focus on one of our favourite areas of Iceland: the South-East coast.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

When we were in Vík in 2015, it was late August and lush, green, and almost warm. Things were slightly different today, with temperatures hovering around 0C (32F) combined with wind and snow. That did not stop us from getting out and capturing some amazing photos at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Shop Bettina's Look

Chicwish gifted Bettina this gorgeous dress. It also comes in black and white. It's the perfect dress for a wedding guest!


 

The combination of wind and snow meant we ran back to the car quickly to warm up. The clouds had also moved in, and it began to rain, putting a bit of a damper on our moods. However, one thing to know about Iceland is that the weather changes quickly, is unpredictable, so you just have to expect the unexpected!

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

We began our drive back towards our hotel in the direction of Reykjavík and did take the time to stop at the Dyrhólaey lighthouse and both Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss for more pictures despite the continuing rain.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

The sheer power of the waterfalls is absolutely amazing every time you see it.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

During the winter months, Iceland does not get a lot of daylight. With 5 hours of daylight, the sun was already setting as we were heading towards our hotel.

 

 
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Since we really only had one night in Iceland, this was now our chance to see the Northern Lights. Unfortunately, the aurora forecast was not great. It was also a cloudy night, so our chances were slim at best. It was however supposed to be clear skies in the early morning, so we decided to get up at 6:00am and see what we could see. We drove a few minutes out of town to get away from the surrounding lights and stared out at the pitch black sky.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

After fiddling with the camera a bit in the bitter cold, we were able to capture some reflections of the Northern Lights off in the distance. Not quite the epic full sky pictures you see in the travel brochures, but we were happy to have seen something – our trip had not been in vain!

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

After heading back to the hotel to freshen up and have breakfast we were off again, but this time under blue skies and shining sun, exceptionally rare for this time of year, made all the better by the light dusting of snow from the night before.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

We drove south towards the ocean and stopped for pictures at Strandakirkja. The views here were absolutely incredible and made us so thankful for our decision to actually do this weekend trip.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Continuing through the Reykjanesfólkvangur Nature Preserve, we came across even more awe-inspiring views.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

We were a bit pressed for time at this point to head back to the airport and catch our flight. After a brief stop at the local Costco for a cheap snack and fuel – off we went back to the airport!

 

Costco in Iceland - 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Costco in Iceland - 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 


Despite having only about 30 hours on the ground in Iceland, we had experienced so much in such a short amount of time that it felt like we had been gone for days. If you have the chance to spend a weekend or longer in Iceland, we highly recommend – it is one of our favourite places!

 

 

Top 5 Iceland Travel Tips

 

1) Expect the unexpected when it comes to weather.

You could easily experience weather from all four seasons, so be prepared and take it in stride! Make sure you bring warm and water-proof clothing. We wore Sorel boots and Fjallraven jackets to keep us warm.

2) Find meals at the local Bónus or Krónan grocery store.

Eating out is really expensive. We’re talking $20 to $25 for a basic entrée excluding drinks, starters, or dessert. However, you can find a good selection of food for somewhat reasonable prices at the grocery store. If you can, bring some snacks with you. Trail mix and protein bars travel really well.

3) Rent a car no matter how long your trip.

Iceland is all about getting out and seeing nature, and there’s no better freedom than having your own car to explore. We rented a car with Avis and everything went smoothly.

4) Bring your Costco card!

The store is relatively new in Iceland and you will save big time on fuel, groceries, and snacks from their restaurant! We got gas at Costco right before returning our rental car, and even snuck in the Icelandic version of the famous Costco hot dog.

5) You don’t actually need cash.

As long as you have a chip and pin credit card, you won’t need to exchange for any Icelandic Krona. We used our cards everywhere without problem and saved the time and hassle of exchanging currency.

 

5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Would you visit Iceland just for the weekend? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 

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Skiing in Switzerland

Growing up in Switzerland, I never understood what everyone's fascination with the Alps was. Being surrounded by mountains was all I knew and I wanted to experience the big city life instead.  Things changed very quickly though, once I moved to Illinois - the flattest state in the U.S. I miss mountains a lot! Every time Kyle and I go back to Switzerland, we like to spend some time in the Alps and go skiing if there is snow and the weather conditions are reasonable.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

I have been to a few ski resorts in Switzerland but grew up exploring the hills of Crans-Montana, a ski resort in the French part of Switzerland, in the canton Valais. It's a two hour drive to get there from Bern and you can either drive via Lake Geneva and stop in gorgeous Montreux and visit Chillon Castle on the way, or you can drive through the Bernese Alps and take the Lötschberg car train which is a fun experience by itself. If you have never heard of the car train before, check out this video. The first time I took Kyle there, he was stunned.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Crans-Montana is 1,500m or 4,920ft above sea level and from there you can access the glacier Plaine Morte which is 2,927m or 9,600ft above sea level. Because the ski resort faces south, you often get the sunniest skiing conditions and best views of the Alps and the Valais.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

You can even see the Matterhorn from Crans-Montana, although you'll only see the backside of it which makes it difficult to recognize.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

After a bumpy ride up in the cable car, Kyle and I couldn't wait to finally hit the slopes and go skiing in Switzerland for the first time in 4(!) years.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Shop My Skiing Outfit

 

Many of the items I'm wearing, I've had for years. My jacket is from H&M and I linked similar ones below. My goggles are by Arnette and you can get them on Amazon still.


 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

The morning was a bit foggy but it cleared up soon and we were lucky to get the most beautiful views and blue skies!

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

We were happy to notice that skiing is like riding a bike, although our legs were starting to get sore. After a few runs, we even had enough confidence to go down a double black diamond run but regretted our choice as soon as we looked down the hill. Check out my Instagram stories if you're curious to see the run!

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Arguably, the best part about skiing is getting away from the busy city life to enjoy a day in the snow and sun.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

And while you're out there enjoying your day, make sure you stop by one of the slope bars and restaurants and enjoy a glass of gluhwein and local charcuterie.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

For all the non-skiers amongst us, I can still highly recommend a visit to Crans-Montana. You can take the cable car to the slopes to enjoy the views or stay in the resort town, to go ice skating ...

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

... go on a walk around the lakes ...

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

... and enjoy the holiday decorations.

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

Have you been skiing in Switzerland or would you like to go? Where is your favourite place to go? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Skiing in Switzerland - My favorite resort and views of the Alps
Skiing in Switzerland - My favorite resort and views of the Alps

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Visions of Zanzibar

Just hearing about Zanzibar evokes visions of an exotic bustling city with winding streets packed with houses, spice markets, bazaars, and mosques with a fusion of cultures and people. We were quite unprepared for Zanzibar, having done virtually zero research. We arrived with no cash and no idea how to get to our hotel! The official taxi cab stand had reasonable rates to Stone Town, the main city on Zanzibar, and so once we had exchanged more USD for a couple hundred thousand Tanzanian Shillings (we felt super rich with all those 000’s!) we were on our way.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Tembo Hotel

 

The Tembo House Hotel is one of the few hotels in Stone Town that offers beach access but also is right in the heart of the city. Wasting no time once we arrived, we were off to explore the city!

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Stone Town is an important historical and artistic city for Eastern Africa due to its diverse mixture of influencing cultures from Arab, Persian, Indian, European, and local Swahili. But don’t just take our word for it. This has led the city to reach UNESCO World Heritage status for it’s ‘outstanding material manifestation of cultural fusion and harmonization.’

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar - St. Joseph Cathedral

 

Visions of Zanzibar - St. Joseph Cathedral

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

The majestic House of Wonders, a former palace of the Sultan of Zanzibar, Bait As-Sahel, another former palace, and the Old Fort, built by the Omani Arabs over 300 years ago when they expelled the Portuguese, stand proudly facing the harbor, though are many decades past their prime, which adds to the unique appeal of the city.

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

After meandering our way through some of the narrow streets we found ourselves back at our hotel, where we cooled off enjoying the luxury of air conditioning compared to our safari tent (read about our safari experience here and here)!

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Feeling luxurious, we walked next door to the beautiful Park Hyatt Zanzibar for drinks and dinner, with another incredible sunset view.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Park Hyatt Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset at Park Hyatt Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset at Park Hyatt Zanzibar

 

The beach seemed to come to life at sundown and was full with fishermand and tourist boats coming back to shore (and taking the boat motor with them), as well as kids playing and swimming.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

For our next day we had visions of taking a boat to nearby Prison Island, or complete a spice tour at one of the many spice farms on the island, however, the weather had other stories.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Tembo Hotel

 

A couple of thunderstorms came rolling through Stone Town during the first half of the day so we instead decided to relax in our hotel room and around the pool – with our trip so far being pretty jam-packed (you can read about our safari here and here) this was our day to sit back and relax, especially through the heat of the afternoon sun.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Tembo Hotel

 

We still managed to spend a few hours wandering around the hotel and the beach right out front once the storms had passed.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

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Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 


 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

In the early evening we ventured back out to explore the streets, finding the Darajani Market which was chaotic...

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

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Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

... and full of some the best smells (think local cinnamon, cardamom, and currys) ...

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

... and worst smells (think of raw fish, raw meat, and rotting vegetables) all combined into one bombardment of the senses.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

We spent dinner at Lukmann Restaurant, which we can highly recommend. They have a massive selection of local fare for a reasonable price, and the place was full of both tourists and locals alike, eating like it was their last meal.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Stone Town at Night

 

Haggling or bartering is not exactly our speciality, but we were getting better throughout the trip. Talking to a Danish couple at our hotel that used to live on Zanzibar, we soon realized we had been duped at the airport two days before! The ‘Official Taxi Prices’ listed, 30,000 Shilling, there were about double what the going rate should be if you can barter appropriately. We are ashamed to admit our mistake and naivety at paying the listed price. We learned our lesson though and drove a hard bargain with a talkative taxi driver, getting him down to half of what we paid from the airport.

Tip: A cab ride from downtown Stone Town to the airport is about 10,000 - 15,000 Shilling. If you arrive in Zanzibar and are being quoted 30,000 Shilling to get to downtown, mention that you got it for 10,000 Shilling last time (or your friend got that price) and the drivers will likely meet you at 15,000 Shilling. 

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

We absolutely loved Stone Town.  There is a very unique blend of Arab, Moorish, English, and African architecture with grand buildings and décor all in various states of disrepair.  The streets are tiny, and crisscross the city in no discernable pattern, but Stone Town is small enough that you can walk until you are lost but can’t really get more than 20 minutes off course. The people are friendly and talkative, and the streets are full of energy.  We can highly recommend spending a few days in Stone Town, and will definitely be doing so again when we return to explore the rest of the island of Zanzibar. Have you been to Zanzibar? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.