Once again Istanbul has been a great place to stay. The culture the atmosphere and the people have been kind and gracious. If you are considering a trip to Turkey, then I would say without any hesitation, “do it!”
As Australian’s, we’ve been to Turkey for the last couple of years. Last year, we experienced the pilgrimage to the Gallipoli peninsula, which is considered a rite of passage for many Australian’s. Here we paid our respect to the fallen heroes of WWI.
Then we visited Istanbul and had an incredible meal at Mehmet Gürs marvellous Mikla. Both times have come away with the same impression of Turkey. “What a remarkably friendly place!” Although the tensions of the regions have affected Turkey we have found it to be a safe place to go. I assure you, you won’t be disappointed in the amazing history, culture, markets and food.
Therefore, why not dip your toes into Turkey? And if you only decide to visit Istanbul, there is a remarkable little place that showcases all of the major attractions within Turkey called Miniaturk.
Miniaturk, is park consisting of miniature models of the sights of Turkey. It’s located alongside a stretch of the Golden Horn and is a nice place for families and backpackers to discover what Turkey has to offer. If you haven’t finalised your itinerary whilst backpacking in Turkey, stop by at Miniaturk and discover which cities contain some of Turkey exquisite architectural history.
See places like the Galata Tower, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Green Tomb of Bursa, Cappadocia or the white terraces of Pamukkale all in the one park.
The models contained are a remarkable re-creation of these attractions and you can’t help but marvel at all the places to available to see. During our visit, we constantly commented about going to see certain attractions.
Spend some time walking up and down the walkways, it takes a good one and a half hours to traverse the entire site.
There is also plenty of things to entertain you and your family. Miniaturk also has a large playground, games arcade and a small train that the kids can ride on. For the older kids and adults, you can also try the helicopter flight simulator. Who’s the best pilot in your family?
Additionally, Miniaturk has multiple food stalls scattered around the park and a nice restaurant if you prefer something more substantial.
To finish the day, stop into the souvenir store and take home a memento of your time in Turkey.
Overall Miniaturk is a fun and amazing place to visit. Get some inspiration of other attractions around Turkey. At an inexpensive cost, Miniaturk is an ideal place for a young family to experience some of Turkey’s attractions without actually having to visit them. Of course, it is always better to see them up close and personal. But if you don’t have the time, this is the next best thing. So, if you are in Istanbul visit Miniaturk and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
In all our travels, Sarajevo would be one of the top 10 cities that has intrigued me the most in the Balkans. A city still rebuilding. Trying to ensure their past mistakes don’t erupt again. When speaking to its residence you can see their frustration from their “scars and smiles”. Yet, those frustrations aren’t directed towards the different ethnic groups, they are directed towards their over-governed parliament. With unemployment rising, Sarajevo is becoming more reliant on tourists visiting and understanding the beauty, culture and pain of this remarkable city.
During our stay here, we base ourselves at two completely different accommodation options. For the first part of our visit, we stay outside of the city centre at the four-starred Hotel Emiran. Then for the remainder of our stay we head into the old town and experience what hostel living is like at Hostel Franz Ferdinand. It is here that we organise the Scars and Smiles, Urban Adventures tour online. Urban Adventures offer two quality tours, the Story of Sarajevo and Scars and Smiles.
The Scars and Smiles tour starts at 9:00 a.m and our meeting point for the tour is the impressive city hall/ national library building. Our friendly helpful guide for the tour is Almedin, who you cannot miss due to his 205cm height. Almedin is the tallest tour guide we have ever had. No need for an umbrella or a sign, because if you can’t see him, then he’s not there!
Group sizes vary from day-to-day and on our tour, we only had one other guest. Almedin spoke excellent English and was a toddler during the Sarajevo siege, so has an honest family perspective of life during wartime.
During our tour, Almedin speaks passionately about the scars and smiles of the Bosnian people. He talks about why the war occurred, how it ended and specific tragedies that had befallen its residents at the time.
We are taken on a 3 hour journey around the city of Sarajevo and visit important places like the Sarajevska brewery, the only source of fresh water in Sarajevo at the time. Almedin then speaks about the importance of the Sarajevo roses, shows us a memorial for the children and takes us for Bosnian coffee.
An intriguing and at times moving tour, Almedin speaks about life after the conflict and finishes the tour at the Sarajevo National Theatre.
Once the tour is completed, guests can either join Almedin for a drink at a local pub or state their farewells. I suggest having a drink with this kind gentleman and learning more about Bosnian and Herzegovinian hospitality.
Overall for the price, the Scars and Smiles tour is a fantastic way of getting to understand Sarajevo and its tragic history. So, book your Urban Adventure tour today and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
Additional Information for Urban Adventures: Scars and Smiles
If you’ve had the chance to visit Skopje in the Republic of Macedonia, you would know it’s the city of statues. But if you haven’t had the chance to go, then what’s stopping you! Skopje, has statues everywhere! In the squares, in the parks, on the bridges, in the buildings and on top of the buildings. That’s right, Skopje has run out of places to put statues on the ground so they put them on top of their buildings. It is an amazing phenomenon, and one you shouldn’t miss.
For our second part of our stay in Skopje we are staying in the family run Hotel 7. Hotel 7 is a two star hotel with seven rooms available. The rooms are clean with private bathrooms and come with breakfast included. Being a small hotel, they have a coffee station in the hall, so everyone can help themselves. Comfortable and excellent value for money the hotel is only a 15 minute walk from the city or a quick bus trip. The closest bus stop is across the road next to the hospital.
Breakfast is available from a little bakery next door to the hotel. They have a range of delicious Byreks and other baked goods on offer. I enjoyed the meat Byrek, which tastes a lot like an Aussie pasty.
The staff is happy to advise about what there is to do in Skopje and where to go. In total, we spent 7 nights in Skopje and was able to fill in our time well. So, here’s a few things we did.
Join a walking tour
Skopje Walks offers a free walking tour in the city centre of Skopje daily from 10 a.m. This is a terrific way to get your bearings in this quirky city and learn about the trials and triumphs the Macedonian people have faced. The meeting point is the Memorial House of Mother Teresa.
Head up to the Millennium Cross
Skopje is home to the largest cross in the world, standing at 66 metres and looking out across the city, it’s either a day hike or a ride on the local bus. Once there, capture some stunning photos of the city and landscape. To get there, catch the number 25 bus from the bus station to the cable cars. Alternatively, you can grab a map and hike up to the top.
Visit Matka Canyon and Cave
Not too far out of the city is picturesque Matka Canyon. Catch the number 60 bus to the last stop and walk to the Matka Canyon Hotel. Here you can either hike the walking path, catch a boat or kayak down the river. Visit the limestone cave and take in the tranquility.
Hop on the Skopje City Tour Bus
If you’d rather ride the Skopje City Tour Bus, and see Skopje in comfort. The bus runs from 11 a.m – 5 p.m daily. Visit there Facebook page for more information.
Explore the Old Bazaar
Whilst in the city centre, it is a must to explore Skopje’s old bazaar. Walk through the cobbled stoned streets and browse the selection of goods on sale. The bazaar contains museums, bars and restaurants serving traditional Macedonian food.
Watch a game at Philip II Arena
If you are an avid fan of sport, then check out if the main stadium is hosting any games. The home of teams FK Vardar and FK Rabotnički, visit their websites to see if a game is being played. Otherwise visit the popular park alongside the oval and have a drink or ice cream.
Play Spot the Statue
With so many statues scattered around the city, play a game of I-spy with friends spotting the quirky and intriguing statues. Can you find the begging statue, or the girl playing the harp?
Skopje is one of those fun cities that puts either a confused look or a smile on your face. With not many major hotels present in the city, you might find it easier to obtain accommodation at the family run hotels like Hotel 7. Although rated as a two star this little hotel is excellent value for money. With a private bathroom, coffee facilities and breakfast included, you can’t go wrong. Close to public transport, with friendly helpful staff. Book your stay today, and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you.
Albania is making inroads into becoming the Balkan Peninsula’s next big tourist destination. A country which was isolated from the rest of the world by its brutal dictator, is now modernising and accepting foreign investment to improve its attractiveness as a tourist destination. Our first stop in this developing country is where most travellers will start their journey in Albania. The thriving capital city of Tirana. Whilst here for five relaxing days, we stayed at the luxurious Sheraton Tirana Hotel.
To be honest with you when we initially talked about Tirana, we had no idea about the history or culture of Albania. Of course, we knew it was in Europe. Somewhere! But pictured a more rural and rustic type of lifestyle. You know, horse and carts, with farmers and their families working the land and living in little mud-brick cottages. What we didn’t expect was for the city to be a modern metropolis, with many other new buildings under construction. I know that sounds a little sheltered, but we didn’t know that much about Albania.
To set the record straight. Tirana is a modern city, with a vibrant cafe, bar and restaurant culture. Experience this by heading into the old communist quarter. You will find the youth of the city, sipping coffee and chatting about life in modern coffee shops and bars.
Our accommodation, the Sheraton Tirana Hotel is the only major branded hotel in Albania. Its facilities and staff are exactly what you’d expect from a Marriott/SPG grouped hotel. Quality. The hotel has hosted many famous dignitaries like Hilary Clinton and the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Therefore, you never know who you might bump into during your stay.
The hotel is located an easy ten minute walk from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Yet, somehow the hotel feels secluded from the rest of the city. This might be because it backs onto Tirana’s popular Grand Park, with Mother Teresa square and the University of Arts and Polytechnic buildings next door.
On arrival to the hotel we are welcomed by the hotel’s concierge and directed to the reception desk. From first impressions, you immediately feel relief as a wave of comfort washes over you. The lobby area is large and well decorated which leads to the hotel’s superb Infinity Bar and business corner.
The Infinity Bar is a great place to relax and have a beer, a cocktail, coffee or glass of wine. For those food and wine connoisseurs, I suggest trying their small tasting plates with matching wines.
We are quickly checked in, and make our way to our Deluxe King-sized room on the fifth floor. The room is large with an extremely comfortable King-sized bed. In fact, it was so comfortable, one day we wanted to stay in bed all day. Alas, that didn’t happen, because we had so much to do, but we wanted too!
The luxurious room also has a single lounge seat, glass table, a decent sized desk and chair, telephone, a fully stocked mini bar and television offering various channels. In-room security is also available with each room having a small safe. WiFi is also available in all rooms with excellent connectivity.
The separate bathroom contains a shower, toilet, basin and a decent sized bath. Rooms are serviced daily and although there are clean, the multi shaded tile colour inside the shower makes the shower area look less than flattering. Sheraton Hotel supplies its own brand of toiletries to use which are restocked daily or on request. An environmental conscious hotel, the Sheraton gives guests the option of foregoing servicing of their rooms in return for 450ALL (Albanian Lek), 500 SPG points, or a donation to a charity per day.
The Sheraton Tirana Hotel has approximately 150 available rooms, from standard rooms to luxury suites. All are homogeneously decorated and look as comfortable as our deluxe room. The two roomed suites are perfect for families as extra beds or cots can be added to keep everyone together.
With summer temperatures in Tirana reaching between 36 and 40 degrees Celsius, you will come to love the Sheraton Tirana Hotels pools. We spent two afternoons cooling off and relaxing by the outdoor pool. It would be easy to waste a day or two relaxing by the pools ordering food and drink from the O2 pool bar. The crystal clear pools were so refreshing with sunbeds strategically placed for the best rays.
If fitness is more up your alley, the Sheraton Tirana Hotel has a manned fitness area available. Let the instructor help you with a program or work out by yourself. They have a variety of exercise equipment at your disposal. Alternatively, if you’re feeling some muscle tightness the hotel has a Thai masseuse contracted to help their guests recover.
The hotel isn’t short of food options for its guests. Breakfast is served daily in the Metropolitan restaurant. Other food options are available to be purchased from the Infinity Bar, O2 pool bar or Il Pomodoro restaurant in the hotels mall area.
In the evenings, let Head Chef, Davide Concas inspire your palates with his standard or special seasonal menu. Once again, match your choices with some of the quality wines available. I couldn’t go past his roasted leg of lamb with wine braised spring onion and mint yoghurt, matched with a beautiful Cadet D’OC Cabernet Sauvignon.
We also ordered a succulent beef fillet with baby potatoes, glazed vegetables and a red wine sauce, grilled octopus and herbed falafel. For dessert, we tried Davide’s homemade vanilla ice cream and his Winter Pudding. The meal was delightful and sated our appetites.
For SPG Platinum members the Club Lounge looks like a wonderful place to spend a few hours. With access to premium internet services, snacks and drinks throughout the day and dinner served at night. This peaceful area is a good place to catch up on some work or with each other.
Overall, the Sheraton Tirana Hotel is a terrific place to stay whilst in Albania. The quality of the SPG/Marriott product and service levels are excellent. The concierge is always helpful with tips on places to visit and the best way to get there. They have an AVIS car rental office on site which offers day tours to other Albanian cities. Or stop at the souvenir shop to buy some presents for relatives back home. The hotel is connected to a small mall area with a few stores, a bank, coffee shop and cinema complex. Alternatively, relax by the pool, or take a walk through the Grand Park. There is always something to make you feel like you’re on holiday.
With plenty of things to do and visit in Tirana, the Sheraton Tirana Hotel will look after you and make your stay worthwhile. Although, a little more expensive than other hotels in Tirana, you can’t go past the quality and luxury of the hotel. So, make Albania one of your stops in Europe. Book your stay at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
Additional Information for the Sheraton Tirana Hotel
I must admit Sofia has surprised us. A city with diversity and culture, which has been conquered and ruled by various Empires over its amazing history. A city whose people have lived in harmony alongside each other for generations. A country with different religions, different ethnicity’s, and different political mindsets, Bulgaria has had to whether it all. From the Byzantines, the Ottomans, the Nazi’s trying to deport the Jewish community during WWII and Communism, the Bulgarian people have shown their tenacity and pride and Sofia reflects that to its visitors.
During our stay in Sofia we’ve stayed in a variety of accommodations available for tourists. For our last days, we were lucky enough to stay in the Novotel Sofia.
The Novotel Sofia has 178 rooms available and is located approximately 7 kilometres from the city and 5 kilometres from Sofia International Airport. With us already being in Sofia, we decided to see if it was possible to travel to the Novotel Sofia via the Metro. This proved to be a bit of a task. The Metro in Sofia has only two interconnecting lines. Therefore, the closest Metro station to the Novotel Sofia was Druzhba Station which proved to be a difficult 2 kilometres walk to the hotel.
I would recommend not pursuing this option to get to the hotel, unless the city creates a closer Metro line. Alternatively, the hotel runs a shuttle bus to and from the International Airport. So, the best option would be to take the Metro to the airport and organise the hotel to pick you up from there. This option would be ideal, especially if you arrive into Sofia via the central bus or train station. Alternatively, a taxi would also be an option.
After seeing the profile hotel during our walk we immediately knew we would appreciate our stay at the Novotel. On entering the hotel, you have the reception and Europcar desks to the right and the Novo 2 bar and restaurant to the left with the hotels elevators facing the entry turnstile. On first impressions, the hotel looks modern with comfortable seating in the lobby and a nice lounge bar area to relax in.
The friendly staff quickly checked us in and we make our way to the 15th floor, and our room for the next two nights. I must say the view from the 15th floor isn’t too bad!
The Novotel Sofia boasts three types of room available to its guests, the Executive room, the Superior room and a Suite. For our stay, we have been allocated a Superior room, which is a decent size. It contains a Queen sized bed, television, coffee facilities, fridge, a long desk and comfy day-bed. The room continues the modern theme of the hotel, with the guest information and in-house dining menu via the smart television and “My Menu” app.
Our bathroom is clean and uncluttered, with a large shower and semi enclosed toilet. The wash basin area has some hotel toiletries and enough space for your personal items. A surprise novelty, is that the bathroom and sleeping area are separated by frosted glass, which can be defrosted by a push of a button in the shower. So, be careful, or not, each to their own :-).
A family friendly hotel the Novotel Sofia caters well for those travelling with children. There is an excellent range of children’s television channels in the room and located on the first floor is a kid’s zone with an electronic dart board and a X-box station with a variety of cool games.
For the parents, the Novo 2 bar on the ground floor is a comfortable place to have a drink and watch some sport on the television. For wine, try the Minkov Brothers or Four Friends, and the Zagorka for beer. All are good Bulgarian wine and beer brands.
If you’d rather book a relaxing massage, have a sauna or a workout, go to the In-Balance Fitness room. Turn on some music and exercise to your heart’s content. They have a limited selection of equipment but I didn’t have any trouble accessing the machines and weights.
For those on business or looking for a place to meet, the hotel has some meeting rooms and a small business corner on the first floor, to do some work.
Meals can be taken at Novo 2, with an excellent range for breakfast items commencing at 7 a.m. Whilst lunch and dinner can be served at the bar or formal dining area. Head Chef, Penko Neshev has created a wholesome menu with classic hotel food and traditional Bulgarian dishes. We had a decent meal selecting a range of foods to try.
If you opt to go out for something to eat, the Shopping Centre called “The Mall” is about 50 metres from the hotel and has a few restaurants and food outlets inside. Additionally, if you decide you want to indulge in shopping, then there are plenty of stores here that will happily accommodate.
Overall, the Novotel Sofia is a little outside of the city centre, but still a lovely place to stay. With access to the shuttle bus and the Mall nearby, you should have no trouble in getting around the city or access to shopping. Alternatively, if you decide you’d like to explore the city and surrounding areas by yourself the Europcar desk on site can organise a car for you. A family friendly hotel, the children will love the X-Box, the dart board and the broad range of television channels if stuck indoors.
So why not book your stay in Sofia today and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
If you were to tell me before we started this trip that I’d be going to visit a salt mine, I may have laughed. That would be because in Australia when I think about salt mines, I picture a stark salt pan. Therefore, when we were looking for another tour to do in Krakow we wanted something less emotionally draining than the Auschwitz and Birkenau tour we did the day before. The Krakville tour operator suggested for us to go to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. So, after a bit of umming and ahhing we decided why not?
The Wieliczka Salt Mine was listed as a UNESCO heritage site in 1978 and consists of 300kms of tunnels. The mine has been in operation since the 13th Century (that’s an old mine) and is open for visitors daily from 07:30 a.m to 07:30 p.m. The mine can be visited without a tour group, but you may have a long wait depending on the number of visitors and tour groups.
The tour starts mid-morning and our meeting point for the start of the tour is the Krakville office building in the Old Town Krakow. Once again, we are given identification stickers to ensure we aren’t separated from our group. This straight away tells us that the mine is busy. We all climb into mini vans and are driven approximately half an hour to the town of Wieliczka.
It’s not long before we are at the mine and climb the steps to the mines entrance. On arrival it is raining, but that hasn’t stopped the crowds from showing up. There is a large number of tour group already here and a fair contingent of lone travellers negotiating the throng of people. The mine has some additional souvenir shops and a cafe outside if you must wait for a while.
After a short wait, we are guided past the crowds and into the mine. We are given radio receivers so that we can hear the guide as she explains the enormity of the mine. First, we descend down 350 steps to the entry-level of the mine. Like a column staircase you’d find in a hundred-floor building we descend down and down. It is quite a work out and if you make the mistake and go to fast down, you can get quite dizzy.
At the bottom of the stairs the guide checks to make sure we are all alive after the workout and explains the ground rules of the tour. Like don’t wander off, as there are so many tunnels, therefore getting lost is quite easy.
As we walk through the tunnels we encounter open chambers within the mine providing a visual aid about the construction and operation of the mine. In total there are 20 chambers available to be visited. The guide explains that the workers would construct churches, halls, theatres and specific carvings as they were down in the mine for large amounts of time.
We walk through various places of worship and are shown some of the incredible wall fresco’s etched by the workers. Photos are allowed to be taken at a small additional cost and there are photo permit places along the route. The mine also has an underground souvenir store and a large restaurant and cafeteria area.
Overall, the Wieliczka Salt Mine is a worthwhile attraction with the website stating that tourists should allow three hours to visit the site. The temperature of the mine averages 14 degrees Celsius so warm jackets are handy. You will be amazed at the chambers and carvings done by the workers. Photos are a must so my advice is pay for the permit. So, book your tour today and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
Additional Information for Krakville Wieliczka Salt Mine
What are the first things that come to your mind when someone mentions Transylvania? If you are like me you think of Dracula, vampires, dark nights and scary castles. Through the popularity of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, Transylvania has always had an intrigue for travellers. With many fans doing the trek to visit Bran Castle, commonly known as “the home of Dracula”.
During our travels, we always had Romania pencilled in as a possible country to visit and after some investigations we decided to base ourselves in Sighișoara and do a day trip to Bran Castle. Although Bran Castle is the home of Stoker’s Dracula, Sighișoara is the actual birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration behind the character.
Arguably, one of the prettiest villages in Romania, this picturesque village is home to one of the oldest medieval citadels in Romania. With its many Church’s, restaurant’s and residences located on top of a hill the colourful town oozes character.
For our day tour to Bran Castle we opted to go with someone who knew Transylvania well. After a quick internet search about tours from Sighișoara, we came across, Emanuel Enache. Emanuel is the owner and primary tour guide for tour business, YourGuidein Transylvania. Emanuel offers his customers personalised tours throughout Transylvania, so we booked him to take us to Bran Castle. Booking was easy through his website, and he responded back quickly to organise morning pick up’s and inclusive tour information.
The tour commences at 10:00 a.m with Emanuel picking us up from our hotel during our stay the Doubletree by Hilton Sighișoara. After introductions Emanuel places emphasis on us becoming friends from the start. His point of us meeting possibly only once in a lifetime is a good excuse for us to be friends from the outset. It’s not hard to like him, with his bubbly character and charm.
The drive from Sighișoara to Bran Castle takes two hours, which fly by as Emanuel provides us with the history of the Transylvanian region, economy and life. This insight gives us an appreciation of the Romanian people and its culture. Emanuel has no set schedule to his tours, he allows his guests to dictate when they would like to stop for lunch or rest breaks along the way.
Once in Bran, Emanuel allows us to walk around the souvenir tents and food stalls whilst he organises skip the line entry into the castle. The various stalls show off their Dracula inspired souvenirs, from magnets, coffee cups and T-shirts. There is something for everyone!
Bran Castle is one of the seven castles of Wallachia, and although Vlad the Impaler ruled the region during his reign from 1448. It is unknown if he used Bran Castle. This doesn’t take away from the breathtaking visual of this castle on the hill. Today it is mainly a museum to Queen Marie of Romania, who lived in the castle during her lifetime.
The three level castle is impressive, like many castles throughout Europe, so if you like castles then have a visit, the picture of Bran castle on the hill is a good photo to show your friends. Emanuel is excellent explaining the rooms, and the history of Queen Marie and the royal family, there is some rooms dedicated to the vampire myth, but they aren’t that interesting.
Overall, Bran Castle by itself is something I wouldn’t do by myself. It is a nice drive but the castle is just another castle, if you don’t have the story about it. What made this tour especially worthwhile was Emanuel’s information and conversation about Transylvania, the castle, Dracula and the vampire myth. Emanuel’s engaging personality makes is tour worthwhile. Emanuel offers plenty other tours throughout Transylvania and will pick you up from your accommodation.
So you have some holiday’s coming up and are looking for options that are historically interesting, have a night life and hopefully won’t break the bank. Then have you considered the Czech Republic? It has an impressive history. I’m sure you have heard about King Wenceslas. He is the King mentioned in a popular Christmas Carol. The capital, Prague is a usual stop for many tourists, but I also encourage you stay in the beautiful city of Brno.
Brno, is a vibrant university city about three hours from Prague with some quirky stories and hidden intrigues. After a few hours exploring the sights, you will soon become invested in this lovely city. Brno is mainly known for its conferences, festivals and being the current home of the Czech MotoGP race. Each week there is usually something going on in this happening city. For our four days stay here we are at the impressive Holiday Inn Brno.
Located outside of the old town the Holiday Inn Brno is situated alongside the largest convention centre in the Czech Republic. Although approximately 2.5 km’s from the city centre the city has a good public transport system. Hourly tickets are available from reception for Kč25czk each. Therefore, this proximity to transport easily alleviates the distance from the city centre.
A courtesy bus to and from the old town is provided on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between the times of 7 p.m -11 p.m. This is handy as you can have dinner in the city and then have the bus transport you back to the hotel. As we don’t mind a walk, it was only 20 minutes to and from the centre. This allowed us time to casually enjoy the walk and discover the surrounding areas. Don’t worry if you’d prefer a car. Europcar have an office onsite so you can book a vehicle prior to your arrival at the hotel and have it waiting for you in the car park.
The Holiday Inn Brno is a part of the InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG), and offers quality four-star service and accommodation to its guests. When arriving at the Holiday Inn Brno you are immediately impressed by the outdoor eating area attached to the superb Prominent Restaurant and a lawn area used for general relaxation and yoga. Entry through the automated turnstile brings you into the hotels immaculate lobby.
The hotel lobby is quite large area. Comfortable chairs and tables and a business area are available to meet people and catch up on work. The reception desk is manned 24 hours with the friendly staff always there to assist. Other areas accessible from the lobby are the Restaurant Brasserie, the incredible Prominent Restaurant with its remarkable food and the Lobby Bar for enjoying a drink and a game of billiards.
The Holiday Inn Brno offers three core types of accommodation, a standard room, an executive room and an executive suite. All option are available from their website or through Booking.com.
The Holiday Inn Brno, prides itself in taking care of its guests and the rooms are no exception. Each room is elegantly decorated with one of the most comfortable beds I’ve been in. They either have a single, queen or king bed depending on your booking with a well stocked mini bar. Each room also has a safe, coffee facilities, ironing board and SMART television. The SMART television controls the rooms Wi-Fi, multiple television stations in various languages and the hotels guest directory.
Each room has a good-sized bathroom which is stocked with various toiletries and accessories. The rooms are serviced daily, so as expected the bathrooms are clean with excellent water pressure.
Being so close to the exhibition centre the hotel offers visiting business groups excellent accommodation option. Meeting rooms are also available daily, for workshops, functions and business meetings. Additionally, if you are considering organising an event, then the 400-person Congress Hall with reception area and bar would be the ideal place.
For the health and fitness conscientious the hotel has a small but modern gym on the sixth floor open from 06:30hrs. The health spa called the Relax Zone is open from 17:30hrs with free access to the sauna. Massages, and the whirlpool spa are available via bookings at reception. Access to the gym is via the stairs from the fifth floor.
The Brasserie Restaurant caters for breakfast daily. If you desire, fruit, cereal, toast, cold meats, salads or a hot breakfast the Holiday Inn Brno will not let you go hungry.
For your evening meal, I encourage you to eat in at the Prominent Restaurant. Everything about this restaurant is impressive, from dining areas, service and especially the food. It is so good, I cannot do it justice with a brief description here. So, to give it the exposure it deserves, we have opted to give the Prominent Restaurant its own separate review. So, stay tuned!
Overall the Holiday Inn Brno is an excellent option to stay at when visiting Brno. The hotel staff are professional and if you need any help they will go out of their way to ensure you enjoy your stay. The rooms are extremely comfortable, the breakfast is abundant, and the health and fitness areas are welcome encouragement to keep fit. The lobby bar is a good place to chill out and have a drink and if you appreciate decent food then the Prominent Restaurant is a must.
Brno is a fantastic university city, full of culture and history. In my opinion, you’d be doing yourself an injustice if you didn’t visit whilst in the Czech Republic. So, book your holiday today and stay at the Holiday Inn Brno and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
If you have had the pleasure of travelling with children, you would know that sometimes it’s hard to keep them happy. In their minds, Museums and Art Galleries can be boring. That’s because most young children don’t appreciate looking at the ancient pottery from Pompeii or the subject and detail of Rembrandt’s The Nights Watch. Basically, unless there are dinosaurs or places with amazing interactive fun, children become disinterested quickly. They want to go to places like Disneyland, Sea World or the other major amusement parks. But, at times we all become those little kids and desire that entertainment. Feeling in a fun and happy mood we head off for a day at the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium.
After a lovely breakfast at Cafe Clave, we decide to walk the 1.1 km from our Scandic hotel to the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium.
Now, if this is your first trip to Berlin, you may want to think about purchasing the Berlin Welcome Card. This transport tourist card lasts up to 6 days and covers all your public transport options. It also comes with a booklet containing discounts to many of the major attractions, including the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium. Additionally, it comes with that all important city map, so you can see the various tourist sites and construct your touring itinerary accordingly.
If you are short on time, you can do the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium separately. We opted to combine the two at a discounted price (See below). Since the zoo is the larger of the two complexes we do the zoo first.
As mentioned the zoo is large, exhibiting a wide range of animals from around the world. Our recommendation is to examine the zoo’s map provided and work out a plan of attack. That way you won’t be backtracking and possibly missing some of the animals. Of course, the information is in German so have your translating app available if you can’t read German.
The zoo has set times for feeding and information on the animals (again in German), but it was still interesting seeing them being fed. From wolves, elephants, gorillas, rhinos, lions, zebras and giraffes it was amazing to see the children’s young faces light up in awe of these magnificent creatures.
Finding food is not an issue at the zoo as they have a large cafe, a restaurant and many food carts scattered around the park.
Once you’ve finished in the Berlin Zoo make your way to the Aquarium. Here you will find an arrangement of diverse types of fish, amphibians, reptiles and creepy crawly insects.
This three-story building holds a vast quantity of fish species of assorted sizes and incredible colours.
There is a warm, humid, central forest area that has some crocodiles, which was inviting on a cooler Berlin day. Like the zoo the aquarium has a cafe, in case you want a snack or coffee.
Overall, both the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium are wonderful places to visit in Berlin. By using the Berlin Welcome Card, we had a 25% discount on the combined price, so great value for money. There is enough fun and intrigue for children to enjoy the day. The zoo also has a large playground area, so your children can burn off some extra energy if required. Visit the zoo and aquarium today and tell them, Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
Additional Information for the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
Since the girls left we have been travelling around Italy with no real plan. I know it sounds a bit unusual, living and organising accommodation on the fly. We always knew we were going to wing it and see where the tide takes us. This way we are not tied down. If we meet someone on the road who says “You have to go to this…. place”, then we could book it the next day and we’re on our way. The beautiful town of Lucca was just one of these places. A good friend said since you’re in Italy, you must visit Lucca. So, we did. In doing so we had to organise a place to stay and luckily for us we stayed at the Terrace of Perfumes.
The Terrace of Perfumes is an agent run apartment available through Booking.com and AirBNB. Located just outside the old city the Terrace of Perfumes is close to supermarkets and local restaurants. Being an apartment they do prefer stays 3 days or longer.
We were met at the apartment on check in by the apartments owners Mauricio and Valeria and their apartments agent Alessandro. The apartment is situated on the first floor and upon entry you notice how clean and beautiful the apartment is.
This one bedroom apartment consists of a large bedroom which overlooks the street, a lounge area, a fully functional kitchen, bathroom and a balcony area which has that all important washing machine and clothes line. They have thought about everything to make your stay as carefree, relaxing and enjoyable as possible.
Mauricio and Valeria are exceptional hosts and ensure we are settled and welcomed with a basket filled with some produce and a bottle of delicious Chianti. They have a compendium about the apartment and helpful information about Lucca and its must see places and things to do.
We really enjoyed our time in Lucca, walking the thin cobbled streets surrounded by hundreds of year old buildings. Visiting the home of Italian composer Giacomo Puccini and indulging in some of that Italian cuisine. International tour hosts, Urban Adventures offers four incredible tours around Lucca for you to try. So, take a trip to Lucca, experience a tour and book the Terrace of Perfumes. Don’t forget to tell them Simon from Ourworldineview sent you!
Additional Information for the Terrace of Perfumes
Via Borgo Giannotti 389, 55100 Lucca, Italy
Website: Nil Available
Check in: 15:00 hrs
Check out: 10:00 hrs
Book your stay at the Terrace of Perfumes now with Booking.com
Prices of accommodation:
Ranging from AUD$90 – AUD$110 per night
Terrace of Perfumes Rating: 1-10 (1=very poor, 10 = excellent)