Tag Archives: #lonelyplanet

Somedevi Residence – The place to stay in Siem Reap

Siem Reap is the gateway and home to the ancient Khmer kingdom of Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat has been listed as a UNESCO heritage site since 1992, and consists of 162 hectares of ancient structures and temples. The heavily touristic city of Siem Reap is the stepping stone and the home base for many tourists to this remarkable kingdom. But with so many hotels and accommodation options available, where do you stay? Let us help you out with that decision and tell you about the fabulous Somadevi Residence.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Good Hotel in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | 5 star hotels in Siem Reap
No introduction is really required. But this is Angkor Wat.

After searching through the different hotel booking sites we were stunned by the amount of accommodation options available. From hotels, hostels, guesthouses and homestays there are so many types to choose from. The fabulous 5 star and 52 roomed Somadevi Residence provides modern facilities to make your stay perfect and relaxing.

Urban Adventure Tours

Like many tourists we arrive into Siem Reap via the airport and take the $10 USD airport taxi to the hotel. It takes about 30 minutes depending on the traffic. Check-in is quick and efficient, although this was possibly the only time we were a little worried we were in the wrong place. This is due to the Somadevi Residence and the Somadevi  Angkor Boutique and Resort using the same reception desk. So, don’t panic, you are in the right place.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat
The reception desk for the Somadevi Residence and Somadevi Angkor Boutique and Resort

Our Executive Deluxe room for our stay is on the third floor and is spacious with a King sized bed, mini bar, television, coffee-making facilities and small balcony overlooking the next property. The bed is comfortable with complimentary water and tea and coffee.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat
One of the fifty executive deluxe rooms at the Somadevi Residence

Each room has a spacious private bathroom with a shower area and a bath. The bathroom is clean and the room is serviced daily, with the hotel supplying fragrant toiletries and other amenities.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat
Each Somadevi Residence has a large serviced bathroom

All rooms overlook the large refreshing swimming pool, which we spent some time relaxing around. The swimming pool has comfortable day beds scattered around the edge and the Blue Bar offers food and beverages to be taken whilst relaxing.  The pool is open until 8pm and is popular for a majority of the guests.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat
The swimming pool is open until 8pm.

The Somadevi Residence can assist you with just about anything during your stay with them. From organising tours and transport to Angkor Wat and other fascinating sites close by. My favourite activities were the incredible cooking class and the invigorating beauty spa. The Somadevi cooking masterclass would be in my top 10 things to do whilst travelling, with Executive Chef Mr. Siep Bunna taking you on a journey to cooking perfection. The class includes a market tour, access to producing a four course menu and of course being able to eat what you produce all for $30 USD. Incredible value and incredible fun. Look out for our upcoming post on this sensational experience.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat
A top 10 activity. A masterclass with Mr. Siep Bunna

After long days of walking and exploring Angkor Wat and Siem Reap, it is always good to come back to your hotel and be pampered. I recommend going to Somadevi’s, Aloe Spa and Fitness Centre. We let their trained masseuse massage away our tired muscles. With a range of beauty treatments, hair styling and massages available it is just what the doctor ordered.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat
Pamper yourself at the Aloe Spa and Fitness Centre

Alternatively, if you feel like you haven’t exercised enough you can head to their gym and run on the treadmill. The gym isn’t large and has no weights, but you can get that cardio workout going. Once you’ve exercised, spend some time in the steam room, spa or sauna.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat
The small gym at the Somadevi Residence

If you are starting to get hungry, don’t worry, because the Somadevi has some beautiful food options for you. You can head to the Palm Cafe for a light lunch, snacks by the pool or a fine dining experience in the Champagne dining room. All hotel guests receive a discounted price on food and drinks. In comparison to other 5 star major hotel brands the Somadevi Residence food prices are less expensive and the food served is excellent. Especially in the Champagne Dining Room.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat
Have a cocktail, health drink or snack whilst relaxing around the pool.

The Palm Cafe is situated in the front of the hotel and provides coffees, cakes, ice creams and light meals. We made sure we tried the homemade ice cream and the coffee is quite good for Cambodian standards. During our stay we also had one of their pizzas and although plain-looking the flavour was good.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat
The Palm Cafe’s Banana Split
Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat
Three scoops of homemade coconut ice cream

After those warm humid days walking around Siem Reap, it was always great to cool off in the hotels swimming pool. Whilst relaxing try out the cocktails, health drinks and light snacks available.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat
There’s nothing like relaxing with drinks by the pool

If you are looking for something more substantial than don’t miss the Champagne Dining Room. Executive Chef Mr. Siep Bunna has created an excellent seasonal menu. Choose from the Khmer degustation menu containing three courses or order from the a la carte menu. Having already experiencing the cooking masterclass we made sure we tried Mr. Siep Bunna’s degustation menu.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat
Dine in the Champagne dining room for a superb choice from the a la carte or degustation menus

The three course degustation menu consisted of a Plear Trei, a Khor Joerng Chrouk and a Sangya L-Pov. A Plear Trei is a Khmer style fish ceviche with fresh crunchy vegetables and a mild chilli dressing. The dish was beautifully constructed, and the taste and texture was exquisite.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat | Where to eat in Siem Reap
First Course is Plear Trei a Khmer style fish ceviche with fresh crunchy vegetables and a mild chilli dressing.

Our second course was probably something I wouldn’t normally try. But in the spirit of providing an honest review the Khor Joerng Chrouk is braised pork trotters with bamboo shoots and lotus nuts, served with sauteed bok choy and steamed jasmine rice. The pork trotter was a little fatty for my liking, but beautifully cooked and the sweetness from the sauce was gorgeous.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat | Where to eat in Siem Reap
Second Course. Khor Joerng Chrouk is braised pork trotters with bamboo shoots and lotus nuts, served with sauteed bok choy and steamed jasmine rice.

Finally, the Sangya L-Pov was steamed pumpkin with egg custard, served with Pandan sauce and seasonal fruit. Now, I must admit that pumpkin is my least favourite vegetable. Yet the balance of the pumpkin and the sweet egg custard made the whole dish work perfectly. And although I’m not too keen on pumpkin, I would happily eat the Sangya L-Pov again.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat | Where to eat in Siem Reap
Third Course. Sangya L-Pov is steamed pumpkin with egg custard, served with Pandan sauce and seasonal fruit.

If you like to have a nightcap after dinner then head into the White Lounge and have a cocktail, beer or glass of wine. Sit and relax or mingle with other guests. Every night from 6 p.m the White Lounge plays a feature film on their big screen. So settle in, get comfortable, and watch a new release film.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat | Where to eat in Siem Reap
The White Lounge shows a feature film every day from 6 p.m. So have a drink, sit back and relax.

Breakfast is also served daily from 6 a.m – 10 a.m in the Champagne dining room or the outside courtyard. Select your breakfast from the buffet styled options or if you like something not available, order it and the chefs will make it especially for you.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat | Where to eat in Siem Reap
Either select from the breakfast buffet or get the chefs to make something especially for you.

Somadevi Residence is an excellent hotel to stay at in Siem Reap and if you’d like a souvenir of your stay, they have a gift shop in the White Lounge to pick up that cherished memento.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat | Where to eat in Siem Reap
Pick up a souvenir from the souvenir shop in the White Lounge

Siem Reap is a must see city in Cambodia, and the Somadevi Residence is a superb place to base your stay. No matter what your schedule is, the Somadevi Residence is the place to stay. The hotel staff are incredibly helpful, and will organise transport and tours for you and your family. If you decide to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat the hotel will provide you a take away breakfast to enjoy as the sun comes up.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat | Where to eat in Siem Reap
Are you keen to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat?

The Somadevi Residence enhanced our stay in Siem Reap. The care they show for their guests, from welcome fruit baskets, printing out travel reservations to ensuring you get to the airport on time. There is nothing that I can fault during this perfect stay. So, when you are booking that holiday to Cambodia, make sure you book a stay at the Somadevi Residence and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you.

Where to stay in Siem Reap | Somadevi Residence | Where to stay in Angkor Wat
Pin Me!
Additional Information for the Somadevi Residence

Address: Oum Chhay St, Krong Siem Reap
Ph: +855 63 962 666
Website: www.somadeviangkorboutique.com

Book your stay at the Somadevi Residence with Ourworldinreview to help us maintain our site.

Prices of accommodation per night at the Somadevi Residence

Ranging from $92.50 USD (AUD$115)  – $110 USD (AUD$140)

Check in: 1400hrs Check Out: 1200hrs

Champagne Dining Room:

Main Dishes prices range from $5.00 USD (AUD$6.25) to $25.00  USD (AUD$31.00)

– The serving hours:  6:00 am till 10:00 pm.

The Palm Cafe

– The leisure coffee hours: 08:00 am to 08:00 pm.

The Blue Bar

– 08:00 am to 08:00 pm.

The White Lounge

– 11:30 am to 10:00 pm.

Book an Urban Adventure tour in Siem Reap

*This post contains affiliate links. Please help us maintain this site by booking through the links. Thank you.

Cosy Houseboats in Kerala

If you are going to spend some time in the south of India, you may have heard that it is quite popular to spend a day or two on a houseboat. After a busy two weeks travelling around India we decided to spend three nights cruising the backwaters of Kerala from Alappuzha near Alleppey, Southern India with Cosy Houseboats.

Things to do in Kerala | Cosy Houseboats
A houseboat travelling along the backwaters in Kerala

After days or research, trying to select an affordable houseboat operator was becoming a painful task. To alleviate this we logged onto booking.com to check out what houseboats were available. This made the task a lot easier and in the end we choose to book a Cosy Houseboat cruise for three nights, departing from Alappuzha.

Prior to our cruise we stayed in Alleppey for a night in a little backpackers called Artpackers.life which turned out to be a godsend. They were so helpful that as Cosy Houseboats weren’t replying to any of our previous emails, the receptionist found the correct number (wrong on booking.com) for their offices and found out our check in time and meeting point.

Urban Adventure Tours

Thank god, we decided to spend a night in Alleppey before boarding our cruise, otherwise we would have had enormous issues trying to contact the operators. Once everything was settled and we left the backpackers it was a quick auto rickshaw ride (INR100) to the Cosy Regency Hotel, the meeting point for the houseboat cruise.

After check in, it was explained that although we booked for a shared three night cruise we would be following the same itinerary for the three days. This meant we had to check out off the boat each day and head back to the meeting point before boarding the next boat at check in time. This important information should have been communicated to us after booking and was a little frustrating to say the least.  Whilst at the office they did try to encourage us to pay extra for a private houseboat. Once price negotiations broke down, as we weren’t going to pay their optimum price, they advised that they didn’t have a boat available and we ended up staying on the shared boat.

Things to do in Kerala | Houseboats in India | Cosy Houseboats
The initial mooring point for the Cosy Houseboat at Alappuzha

Our next issue was that we were unable to pay using a credit card as their EFTPOS machine was faulty. Cosy houseboat management then insisted we withdrawal the daily limit for international cards (INR10000) to make a down payment. Then they would try an EFTPOS payment the next day. The manager ended up transporting us to 6 ATM machines that all had no cash available. In the end they allowed us to board and try paying the next day.

With the wedding season fully underway in India, we spent our first shared night with three other couples. Two couples were newly weds and the third couple were on their one year anniversary. All were nice and we ended up chatting away with a couple from the North of India for most of the cruise.

Things to do in Kerala | Houseboats of Kerala | Cosy Houseboats
The sunset in Kerala

The four berth houseboat was a little rundown and in need of a little maintenance. The room was small but thankfully the bed was comfortable. Being a wooden vessel, it does get extremely hot in the cabins during the day. There is a ceiling fan to circulate air, but the air conditioning only comes on between 7pm and 7am. My advice is to stay out of the cabins until evening when the air conditioning kicks in.

Things to do in Kerala | Cosy Houseboats
Although the cabin a a little rundown, the bed was comfortable.

The bathroom was……”fit for use”, nothing special, a bit dirty with a shower that sprayed everywhere but on you and no hot water. If you are looking for hotel quality, than this is not the place for you.

Things to do in Kerala | Cosy Houseboats
The cabins private bathroom, is nothing to call home about.

The rest of the boat is “well used”. Our boat has a dining table, eight single seated lounge chairs and a small television mounted to the wall.

Things to do in Kerala | Cosy Houseboats
The main dining and lounge area on the four berth houseboat

The boat has three crew members aboard, the helmsman, a cook and a waiter, who keep to themselves so you can enjoy the slow cruise through the river system. All meals, water, and tea and coffee are included in the price and are quite good. The cruise itself is casual, calm and relaxing as we traverse along the waterways.

Things to do in Kerala | Houseboats in Kerala | Cosy Houseboats
The tranquil waterways of Kerala

We stop for lunch, moored to a riverbank and are encouraged to leave the boat to visit some shops or massage parlours. Then it’s back onboard for a final cruise around before we moor up for the night alongside the Cosy Lake Villa. Although the advertising states free wi-fi for your time on the houseboat, you actually only get limited poor wi-fi access when you berth in the evening.

Things to do in Kerala | Houseboats in Kerala | Cosy Houseboats
The houseboat moors up for the evening at the Cosy Lake Villa

It is here we have a candlelit evening meal, before heading to our cabins for an early night. The operators do allow you to have a shower in one of the villas hotels rooms, which is a little more pleasant. Unfortunately, yet again it is without hot water.

Things to do in Kerala | Houseboats in Kerala | Cosy Houseboats
Cosy Lake Villa is our mooring point for the night

The boat starts up again at 8:00am and heads back into Alleppey for a 9:00am check out. Once berthed you are picked up by car or auto rickshaw and taken back to the Cosy Regency Hotel. We then have until 12:00pm before we are required to board our next vessel. Since, the Cosy Regency Hotel has average wi-fi coverage we decide to stay to book ongoing travel arrangements. Then I do the whole payment thing again, this time the Internet connection is working and I’m able to pay the total amount.

Our second boat, ends up being the boat we remain on for the next two days. It’s a smaller two cabin boat, whom we share with two more newly weds on the different days. This boat has an upstairs viewing deck but again is in serious need of maintenance. Once again the cabin is small but the bed is comfortable. It has its ceiling fan and air conditioner, which again only comes on at 7:00pm.

Things to do in Kerala | Houseboats in Kerala | Cosy Houseboats
Cabin on the two berth houseboat is a lot like the four berth cabin.

The bathroom is awful, and in serious need of renovating. Plus we are lucky enough to have two large cockroaches, who I meet in the middle of the night and a small lizard living in the air conditioner. Additionally, the power point in the room doesn’t work so we end up charging phones etc. on the upstairs deck.

Things to do in Kerala | Houseboats in Kerala | Cosy Houseboats
The two berth bathroom was awful.

Although, initially we were told we would follow the same route on each day, we ended up being around the same area but each day we went down different canals. Once again the actual cruising was relaxing, the company was nice and the food was very good.

Things to do in Kerala | Houseboats in Kerala | Cosy Houseoats
Some of the food available onboard the houseboat

Overall, Cosy Houseboats offers a cheaper affordable cruise to experience the houseboats of Kerala. Is there better boats? Yes! Are they more expensive? Yes. So depending on your budget and if you don’t mind roughing it a little, than this could be the houseboat company for you.

Cosy Houseboats has a lot of work to do to improve their product. The boats are in need of a good overhaul. The bathrooms are awful, but the silver lining is they allow you to use the Cosy Lakeview Hotel if you’d like a better shower. Communication is a huge issue. We sent two or three emails to them and received no reply and if it wasn’t for the help of Artpackers.life hostel, we would have struggled to find out any information. The staff at the hotels and on board the boats are friendly but they do try to push you to write a good review on TripAdvisor. And although it is stated you have access to wi-fi, it is very limited and rarely works.

The cruise itself is peaceful, relaxing and nice. Travelling up and down the canals is pleasant with beautiful scenery for good photos. The waterways are at times full of houseboats, so you can see how popular these cruises are.

Things to do in Kerala | Houseboats in Kerala | Cosy Houseboats
The beautiful Indian countryside as seen from Cosy Houseboats

Look, I must admit, although the houseboat was a little rundown, I really enjoyed cruising along the Kerala waterways. And although Cosy Houseboats was a little disorganised, they ended up providing what we paid for, a fully catered, three-day cruise around Kerala. So, if you don’t mind roughing it, and can put up with a few minor disappointments and a couple of creepy crawlies, than Cosy Houseboats may have the cruise for you. If not, then book somewhere else, although I can’t guarantee it will be any better.

Things to do in Kerala
Pin Me!
Additional Information for Cosy Houseboats

Cosy Regency, Finishing Point, Alappuzha, Kerala 688013, India
Ph: +91 477 225 5555
Website: www.cosytours.com

Cost of our three day cruise as booked on booking.com

Total: INR25000 (AUD$500)

Check in: 1200hrs Check Out: 0900hrs

Other Accommodation available in Alleppey

*Post Contains Affiliate links

It’s a small world at Miniaturk. Well in Turkey anyway!

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!”

What to do in Istanbul?
The Galata Bridge on the Golden Horn

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.

What to do in Istanbul
A monument in Eceabat Turkey, depicting trench warfare between Australian and Turkish troops

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.

What to do in Istanbul?
The amazing colours in the spice Bazaar

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.

What to do in Istanbul?
Miniaturk, is a miniature version of all the sights of Turkey.

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.

What to do in Istanbul?
Miniaturk  is alongside the Golden Horn. It’s on the right in this picture, behind the white tent.

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.

What to do in Istanbul?
Look at the detail they have put into the model of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia

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.

What to do in Istanbul
It looks like I’m on the roof of a football stadium. Alas it’s only the Miniaturk Stadium model.

Spend some time walking up and down the walkways, it takes a good one and a half hours to traverse the entire site.

Urban Adventure Tours

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?

What to do in Istanbul?
How about testing your helicopter piloting skills at Flyride?

Additionally, Miniaturk has multiple food stalls scattered around the park and a nice restaurant if you prefer something more substantial.

What to do in Istanbul?
If you are starting to get hungry! Take a break at the Miniaturk restaurant before continuing.

To finish the day, stop into the souvenir store and take home a memento of your time in Turkey.

What to do in Istanbul?
On the way home, pick up a souvenir from the gift shop.

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!

What to do in Istanbul?
Pin Me!
Additional Information for Miniaturk

Address: Sütlüce Mahallesi, İmrahor Cd. 7/1, 34445 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Ph: +90 212 222 28 82
Website: www.miniaturk.com.tr

Cost 15 TRY per person (AUD$5)

Trading Hours:
  • Monday 9am–7pm
    Tuesday 9am–7pm
    Wednesday 9am–7pm
    Thursday 9am–7pm
    Friday 9am–7pm
    Saturday 9am–7pm
    Sunday 9am–7pm

Available accommodation in Istanbul

Looking for something else to do in Istanbul, try these tours available through Urban Adventures!

*Post contains affiliate links

Sarajevo Scars and Smiles, an Urban Adventure

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.

What to do in Sarajevo?
Miljacka River, Sarajevo from the Yellow Fortress

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 Adventure Tours
Urban Adventures offer two quality tours, the Story of Sarajevo and Scars and Smiles.

What to do in Sarajevo?
The Scars and Smiles Meeting point – City Hall & National Library

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!

What to do in Sarajevo
At 205cm, Almedin would possibly be the tallest tour guide. He’s holding a homemade weapon used during the Siege of Sarajevo.

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.

Where to stay in Sarajevo
One of the many mortar and bullet riddled apartment buildings in Sarajevo

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.

What to do in Sarajevo?
Sarajevo has multiple cemeteries scattered throughout the city, highlighting the toll of the war.

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.

What to do in Sarajevo?
Sarajevska Brewery was the only source of fresh water in Sarajevo during the war, due to its underground spring.

An intriguing and at times moving tour, Almedin speaks about life after the conflict and finishes the tour at the Sarajevo National Theatre.

What to do in Sarajevo?
The end point for the tour is the 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.

What to do in Sarajevo
Trying a Sarajevska beer with Almedin after the tour.

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!

What to do in Sarajevo?
Pin Me!
Additional Information for Urban Adventures: Scars and Smiles

Cost: Adult –  €24 (AUD$36.50) Child – €13 (AUD$20)

    • Tour Highlight
      • Learn how Sarajevo has rebuilt itself since the war
      • Experience the startling contrast of war times and peaceful times, and see how locals are honouring the past
      • See important sites such as the National Library and Central Bank, and hear about the history that haunts them
      • Visit the Sarajevo Brewery, which provided the city with drinking water during the siege
      • Visit the marketplace that was the site of the 1994 massacre, and see it as it is now, with locals going about their day-to-day

Inclusions: Local English-speaking guide, entry fees to sites, food samples in the market, drink (glass of wine, beer, or soft drink) at the last stop.

Exclusions: Additional food and drinks, souvenirs and items of a personal nature, tips/gratuities for your guide.

  • Schedule details
    • Duration: 3 hours
    • Meeting point:City Hall/National Library (at the stairs), Obala Kulina bana, Sarajevo
    • Starting time: 9.00 AM
    • Ending point:Sarajevo National Theatre, Obala Kulina bana 9, Sarajevo

Book your accommodation in Sarajevo here!

Book another Urban Adventure tour here!

*Post Contains Affiliate Links, by booking via our link allows us to continue providing reviews for you.

Hotel 7 and another side of Skopje

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.

Why you should go to Skopje
Skopje has so many statues, they are staring to put them on top of the buildings

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.

Hotel 7 in Skopje
The two starred Hotel 7 is excellent value in Skopje. Private room with bathroom and breakfast for under 50 euro per night.

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.

Hotel 7 breakfast option
Hotel 7’s breakfast is available from the bakery next door

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.

Urban Adventure Tours

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.

Why should I visit Skopje?
The Memorial House of Mother Teresa is the meeting point for the free walking tour.

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.

What is there to do in Skopje?
The 66m Millennium Cross is the largest cross in the world.

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.

What's to do in Skopje?
Jump on the public transport bus to Matka Canyon. Then take a boat or kayak down river.

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.

What's to do in Skopje?
Hop onto the Skopje City Tour Bus and visit Skopje’s sights.

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.

What's to do in Skopje?
Visit the old bazaar, try some local food and browse the goods on sale.

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.

What's to do in Skopje?
Watch a game at Philip II stadium.

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?

What's to do in Skopje?
Can you find the girl with the harp statue?

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.

Looking for value for money accommodation in Skopje/ Why should you go to Skopje/ Copy&Paste Syndrome
Pin Me!
Additional Information for Hotel 7

Address: blvd. Vodnjanska 28, Skopje 1000, Macedonia (FYROM)
Ph: +389 2 317 6905
Website: www.hotel7.com.mk

Book your stay at Hotel 7 now with Booking.com

Urban Adventures offers fun tours in Skopje. Book Here!

Prices of accommodation per night at Hotel 7

Ranging from €25(AUD$37) – €75 (AUD$110) 

Check in: 1400hrs Check Out: 1200hrs

*Post Contains Affiliate links

Relaxing in Luxury at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel

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.

Staying at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel
The Sheraton Tirana Hotel taken from the Sky Tower.

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.

What does Tirana look like?
Tirana’s city centre, with classic Italian architecture, an ancient mosque and new construction.

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.

Why should I visit Tirana?
Tirana has a vibrant cafe, bar and restaurant culture.

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.

Urban Adventure Tours

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.

The Grand Park of Tirana next to the Sheraton Tirana Hotel
Families playing at one of the many equipment stations in Tirana’s Grand Park

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.

Sheraton Tirana Hotel
The business corner at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel

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.

Sheraton Tirana Hotel's Infinity Bar.
The comfortable Infinity Bar. Try their small tasting plates and matching wine combination.

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!

What are the rooms like at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel?
The spacious and extremely comfortable Deluxe King Sized Room

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.

What are the rooms like at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel
Other features found in the Deluxe King Room of the Sheraton Tirana Hotel

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.

What are the bathrooms like at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel?
The bathroom of the Sheraton Tirana Hotel.

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.

Places to stay in Tirana/Tirana accommodation/Tirana hotels/Sheraton Tirana Hotel
A standard twin room at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel. How comfortable do those beds look!

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.

Does the Sheraton Tirana Hotel have a swimming pool?
One of the crystal clear pools at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel.
Pool bar at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel
The O2 pool bar has food and drinks available.

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.

Sheraton Tirana Hotel's fitness centre
The fitness area has a variety of equipment available on the first floor.
Sheraton Tirana Hotel
More equipment from the gym.

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.

Breakfast at the Metropolitan restaurant in the Sheraton Tirana hotel
Breakfast is served daily in the Metropolitan Restaurant

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.

What's the food like at the Metropolitan Restaurant.
A roasted leg of lamb with wine braised spring onion and mint yoghurt sauce
Sheraton Tirana Hotel/ Metropolitan Restaurant/ Beef Fillet/ Tirana / Albania
Beef fillet with baby potatoes, glazed vegetables and red wine.

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.

What's the food like at the Metropolitan Restaurant.
Grilled Octopus
What's the food like at the Metropolitan Restaurant.
Herbed Falafel
What's the food like at the Metropolitan Restaurant.
Homemade vanilla Ice cream. Yum!
What's the food like at the Metropolitan Restaurant.
Winter Pudding with panna cotta, sour cherry sauce and mixed nuts.

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.

What benefits do platinum members receive at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel?
SPG Platinum members will enjoy the hotels Club Lounge

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!

Where to stay in Tirana, Albania
Pin Me!
Additional Information for the Sheraton Tirana Hotel

Address: Sheshi Italia, Tirana 1000, Albania
Ph: +355 4 227 4707
Website: www.sheratontiranahotel.com

Become a SPG member and reap the rewards.

Book your stay at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel now with Sheraton Hotels or Booking.com

Prices of accommodation per night at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel

Ranging from €103(AUD$150)  for a standard  deluxe room– €2255.00 (AUD$3350) for the Presidential suite per night.

Check in: 1200hrs Check Out: 1200hrs

Breakfast daily in the Metropolitan restaurant

  • from 6:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m daily

Metropolitan:

Main Dishes prices range from 850ALL (AUD$9.50) to 2200ALL (AUD$24.50)

Opening hours: Monday – Sunday 6:30 AM – 11:00 PM (last order 10:30 PM)

*Post Contains Affiliate links

Two Nights at the Novotel Sofia

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.

Urban Adventure Tours

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.

Novotel Sofia
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.

What's the best way to get to the Novotel Sofia from the Airport?
The best way to and from the hotel is by catching the courtesy bus from the Airport terminals .

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.

Novo 2 at the Novotel Sofia
The Novo 2 bar and lounge areas are the perfect place to relax and have a drink or two.

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!

What's the view like from the Novotel Sofia
Not a bad view from the 15th Floor of the Novotel Sofia
Novotel Sofia
Watching a rain cloud rolling in over Sofia in the afternoon.

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.

What does the Novotel Sofia Superior room look like?
The nicely decorated and modern superior room of the Novotel Sofia

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 :-).

What do the bathrooms at the Novotel Sofia look like?
The bathroom is large and clean with a frosted glass separator. Be careful of the defrost button.
What toiletries do they use at Novotel Sofia
Novotel Sofia’s Fair Trade bathroom toiletries

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.

What can kids do at the Novotel Sofia?
Children will have hours of fun, playing X-Box at the Novotel Sofia

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.

Relaxing in the lounge bar of the Novotel Sofia
It’s time for a refreshing Zagorka and a Four Friends Rosé

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.

What the gym like at the Novotel Sofia
Looking for a workout. Try the In-Balance Fitness centre at the Novotel Sofia

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.

Breakfast at the Novotel Sofia
Breakfast is served daily from 7 a.m

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.

Novotel Sofia food
A traditional Balkan Platter
Novotel Sofia food
A standard Novo2 beef burger with a side of wedges
Risotto at the Novotel Sofia
Novotel’s Risotto with mushrooms, parmesan cheese and a melted cheese biscuit

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.

The Mall near the Novotel Sofia
The Mall shopping centre is close by with all your shopping needs.

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!

Novotel Sofia
Pin Me!
Additional Information for the Novotel Sofia

115 N Tsarigradsko Shosse Blvd, 1784 Sofia, Bulgaria
Ph: +359 2 904 3000
Website: www.accorhotels.com

Book your stay at the Novotel Sofia now with Accor Hotels or Booking.com

Prices of accommodation per night at the Novotel Sofia

Ranging from €85.00(AUD$125) – €145.00 (AUD$215) per night

Check in: 1200hrs Check Out: 1200hrs

Breakfast daily in the Novo 2 restaurant

  • from 7:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m daily

Novo 2:

Main Dishes prices range from 9.00BGN (AUD$7.00) and 45.00BGN (AUD$34.00)

Opening hours Lunch 12:00 – 14:30pm & Dinner 19:00 – 23:00pm

*Post Contains Affiliate links

Wieliczka Salt Mine Tour

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?

Urban Adventure Tours

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.

Auschwitz and Birkenau
The small office of the Krakville Tour Company in the Old Town

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.

The waiting crowds have some shops to buy food before entering the Wieliczka Salt Mine
An outdoor shop at the Wieliczka Salt Mine

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.

Staircase in Wieliczka Salt Mine
Some of the flights of stairs going down, but these aren’t the first 350 steps.

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.

Wieliczka Salt Mine
One of the many places of worship in the Wieliczka Salt Mine

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.

Wieliczka Salt Mine
The story of the Hungarian Princess and the lost ring.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
The main hall is hired out for special occasions.

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.

Wieliczka Salt Mine
A formal dining area in the Wieliczka Salt Mine
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Food is available at the cafeteria in the Wieliczka Salt Mine

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!

Wieliczka Salt Mine
Pin Me!
Additional Information for Krakville Wieliczka Salt Mine

ul. Mikolajska 8, Krakow
Ph: +48 607 750 901
Website: www.krakville.com

Cost 109PLN (AUD$38)

Trading Hours
  • Daily from 9 A.M. to 9 P.M.
  • Price includes:
  • transport by bus to and from Salt Mine
  • tour attendant
  • guide in Salt Mine
  • admission fees
  • duration 4 h

Available accommodation in Krakow

Other tours available through Urban Adventures

*Post contains affiliate links

Bran Castle the home of Dracula

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”.

Urban Adventure Tours

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.

Vlad Dracul
A portrait of Vlad the Impaler in Bran Castle.

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.

Sighisoara, Romania
Beautiful Sighișoara, with one of the many church’s in the medieval citadel.

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 Doubletree by Hilton Sighisoara
The Doubletree by Hilton Sighișoara, our base for our stay in Transylvania

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.

Transylvania and Bran Castle
The Transylvanian countryside.

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!

Some of the souvenirs available at Bran Castle
If you are looking for a Dracula souvenir, then the Bran Castle stall’s will have something for you!

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.

A bedroom in Bran Castle
One of the bedrooms inside Bran Castle, the furniture was all donated back to the Castle.

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.

Inside Bran Castle
The interior of the three-levelled Bran Castle

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.

Inside Bran Castle
The view from the third floor of Bran Castle

Transylvania itself is a beautiful part of Romania and a definite place to go with its history and pretty towns like Sighisoara and Sibiu. So, contact Emanuel and YourGuideinTransylvania and book your Transylvanian tour today. And tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!

Do a day trip from Sighisoara with Emanuel, YourguideinTransylvania to visit Bran Castle the home of Bram Stoker's Dracula
Pin Me!
Additional Information for YourGuideinTransylvania’s Bran Castle Day Tour

Strada Ilarie Chendi 35, Sighișoara 545400, Romania
Ph: +40 745 501 861
Website: www.yourguideintransylvania.com

Tour Information
  • Duration/Distance:

    7 – 8 hours / 282 km

    Price: 79 euro/person*

    * minimum 2 pax

    Included:

    – Pick up / drop off at your hotel

    – Transportation

    – English licensed guide

    – Permanent assistance

Available accommodation in Transylvania, Romania

*Post contains affiliate links

Heavenly stay at the Holiday Inn Brno

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.

Holiday Inn Brno
The beautiful city of Brno with the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul

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.

Holiday Inn Brno
The front entry into the 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.

Urban Adventure Tours

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.

Holiday Inn Brno
Trams are available from Mendel Square and the bus stops just outside of the Holiday Inn Brno

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.

Holiday Inn Brno
The outdoor eating area of the Prominent Restaurant. It’s also a great place to rest and have a coffee.

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.

Holiday Inn Brno
The Lobby Bar of the Holiday Inn Brno

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.

Holiday Inn Brno
A standard room with twin beds.
Holiday Inn Brno
An executive room with a king bed. One of the most comfortable beds I’ve had the pleasure of sleeping in.
Holiday Inn Brno
An executive suite comprises of two rooms a large bathroom and walk in wardrobe.

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.

What's in the mini bar at a hotel
A well stocked mini bar…. Hmm. I wonder what I’ll have?

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.

Holiday Inn Brno
The bathroom in the executive room. A lovely clean and well maintained room.

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.

Holiday Inn Brno
The meeting rooms are located on the ground and first floors.
Holiday Inn Brno
The lobby and bar area of the Congress Hall
Holiday Inn Brno
Seating available for 400 people, makes the Congress Hall an excellent place for a work or personal function.

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.

Holiday Inn Brno
The modern mini gym with a view over Brno. Access to the gym and the Relax Zone is 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.

Holiday Inn Brno
The breakfast buffet available in the Restaurant Brasserie
Holiday Inn Brno
The colourful table setting in the Restaurant Brasserie

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!

Holiday Inn Brno
A fine dining experience at the Prominent Restaurant in the Holiday Inn Brno

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!

Holiday Inn Brno
Pin Me!
Additional Information for the Holiday Inn Brno

Křížkovského 20, 603 00 Brno-střed, Czechia
Ph: +420 543 122 111
Website: www.hibrno.cz

Book your stay at the Holiday Inn Brno now with Booking.com

Prices of accommodation per night at the Holiday Inn Brno:

Ranging from  3744 czk (AUD$211)  5472 czk (AUD$309) 

The Brasserie Restaurant caters for breakfast daily

  • from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on weekdays
  • from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at weekends and on holidays

Prominent Restaurant opening times:

Opening hours 12:00 – 23:00
Reservations by phone at: +420 543 122 002/4

*Post Contains Affiliate links