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Why You Need to Visit Kraków: A Complete City Guide

Kraków, and Poland in general, is a place that has been on my radar for a long time, but never at the top of my list. I knew it with be beautiful, full of history, and affordable – but for some reason (that I can’t pinpoint) it was never a top priority to visit. After spending three days here, and a day in Warsaw, I can’t believe I waited so long experience Poland. If it’s not on your radar, or priority list, it should be. And I”m going to tell you all the reasons why you need to visit Kraków, why I wish I hadn’t waited so long to go, and why I already can’t wait to go back!


GETTING TO KRAKÓW

Kraków sits in a very accessible location and is connected to many other major European hubs by plane or train.

Kraków Airport: The most convenient location to fly into is Kraków Airport, located just 30 minutes from Kraków’s city centre by car. From there, you can easily reach the city centre by shuttle, cab, or Uber.

Katowice Airport: Katowice is a city located roughly an hour and a half from Kraków by car. We chose to fly to this airport because they were a Wizz Air hub and we were able to find a cheap direct flight from Malmö to Katowice. I was skeptical at first given the distance from the city, however it was very painless and I would absolutely recommend it if you can get cheap flights (I’m talking less than 20 euros one way). You can also book an affordable shuttle from Katowice to Kraków (as low as 3 euros per person).

Warsaw Airport: If your local airport doesn’t fly directly to Kraków or Katowice, Warsaw is a fantastic alternative option. The high speed train that connects Warsaw to Kraków can transport you between the two cities in about 2.5 hours. And the best part – it’ll give you an opportunity to stay a night in Warsaw and explore the Polish capital like we did.


WHERE TO STAY IN KRAKÓW

There aren’t very many hotels in Kraków, but there are plenty of apartment rentals.

We loved our stay at Boom Apartments, which offers five modern and clean apartments in the heart of the city. We stayed in “Moneyless,” which had all the amenities you could ask for – fresh towels, a coffee maker with coffee pods, complementary water, extra bed linens, a small kitchenette with dining area, and more.

And, with affordable apartments in a variety of sizes, there is an offering for every budget!

Planning a trip through eastern Europe? See Also: A Guide to the Perfect 3 Days in Budapest.


THINGS TO DO IN KRAKÓW

VISIT THE OLD TOWN

Kraków’s Old Town is super pretty, and definitely worth roaming around. Unlike many other parts of Poland, Kraków wasn’t destroyed during WWII and maintains its old world charm. St Mary’s Basilica stands tall in the square and I’ve been told the interior is beautiful! Unfortunately, we ran out of time and didn’t manage to see it – but I plan to next time I visit Kraków.

WANDER AROUND WAWEL CASTLE

Wawel Castle is another landmark in the city that deserves a visit. You can do a tour of the inside of the castle, but it was such a nice day we just decided to explore the castle grounds. It is absolutely beautiful – you can wander around the gardens, visit the popular fire breathing dragon, and just enjoy the views of the city.

EXPLORE KAZIMIERZ (THE JEWISH QUARTERS)

Kazimierz was easily my favourite area in Kraków. It is the perfect place to roam around, and is home to some of the best food and drink spots in the city (see all my recos below!). Make sure you visit both of Kazimierz’s lovely squares: Plac Nowy and Plac Wolnica. I particularly loved the patios along Plac Wolnica.

HUNT FOR STREET ART

Street art is everywhere in Kraków – you’ll find yourself constantly stumbling upon it. Here’s some of my favourites:

VISIT AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

I am not going to say much about Auschwitz-Birkenau, because quite frankly there is nothing I can say to describe this experience or do it justice. It is easily one of the most sobering experiences of my life. I think it is incredibly important for anyone visiting Kraków to take a day trip to honour the victims to make sure that this horrible event is never forgotten, or repeated.

If you’re looking for the best Auschwitz-Birkenau tour, we visited with Get Your Guide, specifically on this tour. I would highly recommend the early morning option, because it minimizes the number of crowds (we left Kraków at 6:30 am and it took just over an hour to get to the camp). I believe that although it felt a bit rushed at times, Auschwitz-Birkenau is best visited with a guide to truly make the most of your time there.

BIKE TO BENEDICTINE ABBEY IN TYNIEC

This was one of my favourite things we did during our time in Kraków. Benedictine Abbey, a lovely abbey tucked into the side of a hill in the Polish countryside, is located roughly 45 minutes away from Kraków by bike.

We rented bikes from Starbikes, which is located near the beginning of the beginning of the bike path. I can’t stress enough how important it is to go to a rental location near the start of the river-side bike path, because Kraków is not bike-friendly. Thankfully, we only had to bike a couple blocks through the city.

Fields by Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec

The Polish countryside was beautiful, and easy to navigate. There is a bike path alongside the river that leads to Tyniec and the views are spectacular! Once you arrive in Tyniec, there is an option to take a boat tour on the river. This is the best way to get views of Benedictine Abbey (and something I wish we had time to do).


WHERE TO EAT IN KRAKÓW

Kraków is a foodie paradise. It offers a range of choices from local Polish cuisine, to modern Western dishes, and virtually everything in between. It is also incredibly affordable, which means it’s a great opportunity to indulge in those “splurge” meals for only a fraction of the price that they would be at home.

He’s some of my favourite spots and must-tries in Kraków.

Premium Dining: Restauracja Pod Baranum

The perfect date night spot if you’re looking for traditional Polish fare. Restauracja Pod Baranum was the most “premium” meal we had in Kraków, at a “whopping” 60 euro price tag. This included appetizers, mains, dessert, and a bottle of wine.

Must-Try: I highly recommend the cabbage roll appetizer and Sebastian loved the beef strogonoff with dumplings.

Mid-Range: Old Town Restaurant and Wine Bar

This restaurant was recommended by friends, and it absolutely lived up to the hype. Also serving Polish food, however with a bit of a modern twist. This is your spot for the perfect mid-range meal.

Must-Try: The spinach-stuffed pierogi appetizer. OMG.

Milk Bars

Chances are if you have done any Kraków, you’ve heard of the famous Polish milk bars. Essentially, these milk bars are ex-socialist era canteens that were established as government-subsidized restaurants in the late 1800s where workers could purchase affordable Polish food. If you’re interested, you can read more about the history of Polish milk bars here.

We visited two of the best milk bars in Kraków: Milkbar Tomasza, which is near the city centre and very popular with tourists. And Bar Mleczny “Pod Temidą,” which was a bit more traditional and authentic.

We ate pierogi at both milk bars, and both were great (I mean, how can you go wrong?). These spots serve as the perfect spot for a really cheap lunch (a huge place of pierogi is around 3-4 euros).

Fun fact: Did you know that “pierogi” is already plural? I learned that calling them “pierogis” is a western thing, and something I’ve been saying incorrectly for years.

Cafe: Via Caffe

This is the best cafe in Kraków. Located in Plac Wolnica in Kazimierz, this spot has a perfect little patio and is a great spot to stop for a coffee pick-me-up.

Must-Try: The lavender latte is incredible.

Breakfast/Brunch: Handelek

A local favourite, Handelek has the best brunch in Kraków. The restaurant uses all locally-sourced ingredients, specializing in an array of spreads in so many different flavours.

Brunch at Handelek Kraków

Must-Try: If you’re fan of rose (which just so happens to be my favourite flavour), the Cravcovian plait served with rose jam is to die for.

Food Trucks: Skwer Judah

Located in Kazimierz, this is your spot for all the best food truck eats in Kraków. With seven or eight trucks serving a variety of food and plenty of outdoor patio seating, we opted for this spot as a quick and cheap dinner option on our last night in Kraków.

Must-Try: The baked potato food truck! *insert heart eyes*

Judah Square Food Truck Park
Ice Cream: Good Lood

Good Lood is a small local chain of locally-sourced, 100% natural ice cream. They have a few locations scattered through the city and is easily the best ice cream in Kraków.

Must-Try: I’m still dreaming about the Polish Strawberry flavour.


BEST BARS IN KRAKÓW

There is no shortage of drink spots in Kraków. Just wander around and you’ll find so many patios to grab some of the cheapest beers in Europe. If you’re on a budget, venture away from the old town and drink where the locals do. Here are some of my favourite spots:

The Cutest Patio: Eszeweria

Looking for cheap drinks and the cutest little courtyard patio in the heart of Kazimierz? This is your spot!

The Best Outdoor Drink Spot: Club Re

This massive outdoor green space is a great spot if you’re looking for a patio drink. It’s located close to the Old Town and is very popular, especially in the evening.

The Best Hidden Cocktail Bars: Mercy Brown and Z Ust do Ust

Have you heard of Kraków’s hidden bar scene? Well, there are a number of bars scattered through the city that are not advertised and operate on the “if you know, you know” principle. We scouted out, and successfully located, two of them – I really couldn’t recommend these spots more if you’re looking for a really unique cocktail experience.

Mercy Brown: When you arrive at the address, you’ll be welcomed into what seems to be a typical restaurant – this is not the bar. You’ll notice a man sitting at a concierge desk – Ask him to take you to Mercy Brown. He’ll walk you through a dark hallway, up a random set of stairs and through a door that looks like a janitor’s closet. On the other side: a REALLY COOL speakeasy-inspired cocktail bar. The drinks were great, the staff offered us so many suggestions of things to see and do in Kraków (including tips on how to get to the second cocktail bar we visited). I would highly recommend visiting, just make sure you make a reservation if you go on the weekend – this place is small and I was told it can get very busy.

Z Ust do Ust: The following evening, we went on another adventure to find this cocktail bar, which proved to be a bit trickier than the first one. We arrived at the address, and tried to locate the entrance. After wandering around, we made our way up a stairwell to a billiards club. At the top of the stairs, at the entrance of the billiards club, there was a bathroom with an “out of service” sign. We went in, pulled the flush string on the toilet, which activated a door to open. There, we were welcomed into a tiny 70s-inspired bar. To make the whole experience even cooler, the drink menu featured pictures from local artists, and you picked your drink based on the picture that resonated with you (they had a menu too in case you aren’t feeling brave). Needless to say, this experience was just plain cool and should be at the top of your list for a night out in Kraków.


WHEN TO VISIT KRAKÓW

Our trip to Kraków in early June was perfect. The weather was warm, the sun was shining, and it wasn’t too busy yet with summer travellers. With that being said, shoulder season is always my favourite time to travel in general, and I am confident that Kraków would be lovely in May or September.

I’ve also heard that they have some pretty epic Christmas markets, if you happen to be travelling during the holidays.


UNTIL NEXT TIME, KRAKÓW

I mean it when I say that I will absolutely be back, because there are still so many things I want to see, do and eat in this city. And I hope I’ve made it clear why you need to visit Kraków too.


PLANNING A TRIP TO KRAKÓW? PIN THIS FOR LATER.

And don’t forget to subscribe for more updates coming soon, including a guide to spending a quick 24 hours in Warsaw.

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Douro Valley Views

Before I started developing my itinerary for Portugal, I knew there was one activity that belonged at the top of my list: visiting a port winery (or two, or three…).

One of my favourite summer activities is wine tasting. Back in Canada, this was an easy afternoon outing, with my hometown quite literally surrounded by dozens of wineries. However, Sweden and wine don’t really go hand-in-hand. This means I’ll be spending a lot less time sipping wine in vineyards this summer. For this reason, I knew that I wanted to take full advantage of Portuguese wine country while I had the opportunity.

When I began researching the best way to visit the Douro Valley, most itineraries only detailed day trips from Porto and I really struggled to find the information I was looking for. After lots and lots of research, I’ve put together this two day guide to visiting the Douro Valley that will guarantee you the best visit.

Seriously, prepare to be amazed by one of the most drop dead gorgeous locations I’ve ever visited.


THE TOWNS OF THE DOURO

The first choice you need to make when considering visiting the Douro Valley is which towns to visit.

After doing lots of research, we settled on staying near the town of Pinhão. We ultimately made this decision based on its distance from Porto, and its location within the Douro region.

Pinhão is a lovely little town, surrounded by vineyards and offers plenty to do. Additionally, the drive from Peso da Régua to Pinhão along the N-222 has be voted the be drive in the world! Based on this, we knew Pinhão would make the perfect resting point.

Douro Valley

WHERE TO STAY IN THE DOURO VALLEY

Two words: Casa Cimeira.

Once we settled on a town, we began scouring surrounding properties for the perfect place to rest our heads. We wanted to stay at a popular ‘homestay’ [often affectionately referred to as a wine hotel, because these family-owned properties often also make their own wine]. When I came across Casa Cimeira, I knew I had found the spot.

Casa Cimeria is located just outside of Pinhão in Valença do Douro, a small village located amidst the rolling hills of wineries. Casa Cimeira is an immaculate family-owned property. It features spacious rooms, a pool, and the most spectacular views of the Douro Valley.

The owner and host Miguel is very welcoming and helpful. He offered us lots of tips to help you make the most of your time in the region.

And perhaps the most special part of the Casa Cimeira experience are the family dinners each night. We enjoyed an amazing home cooked Portuguese meal amongst other guests from around the world, sharing stories and bottles of Miguel’s homemade wine. This experience only costs 20 euros per person and was a highlight of our time here.

See also: The trendiest hotel in Porto.


GETTING TO & AROUND THE DOURO VALLEY

BY CAR

Driving is easily the best way to get to the Douro Valley. Plus, it is the only way you’ll be able to experience the ‘best road in the world’ from Peso da Régua to Pinhão along the N-222. And let me tell – for this reason alone, the drive is worth it. I must have said “wow, look at that” at least 100 times.

Valenca de Douro Views

To get to Pinhão, we rented a car in Porto. For the most part, the drive was seamless. The roads were well paved, there was very little traffic, and they had two wide lanes. Getting to Pinhão was easy; however, getting to Casa Cimeira in Valença do Douro was not as straightforward. If you choose to stay in a neighbouring village to Pinhão [or any other Douro Valley town] be aware of the very steep, narrow, mountainside roads that you may have to navigate to get there. Sure, there are guard rails. But the roads are VERY narrow, and the locals do not drive slow.

However – I would argue that the ten minutes of white-knuckle driving was absolutely worth these views [although Sebastian might argue otherwise, since he was the one driving LOL]. Plus, I think I have been numb to all risky driving experiences ever since we braved some seriously scary roads in the Greek Islands.

See also: You can read all about our single-lane, cliffside, no-guard-rails driving experience in Naxos here.

BY TRAIN

The main towns of the Douro Valley, including Pinhão, have train stations, and you can take the train from Porto. I have heard from other people that this is a pleasant experience if you’re hesitant to drive. However, I would argue that it would be difficult to see everything the Douro Valley has to offer without a car, unless you want to hire a car/shuttle service to some of the local sights and wineries once you arrive in Pinhão.


THINGS TO DO IN THE DOURO VALLEY

EXPLORE THE TOWNS & VILLAGES OF THE DOURO

During our time in the Douro Valley, we visited Pinhão and Peso da Régua.

Peso da Régua is a charming town nestled into the mountains, where we stopped for lunch and took in the most beautiful views along the lake. We didn’t spend a lot of time here, but we did have one of my favourite meals in Portugal at Churrasqueira Rio Douro. Here, we were greeted by this fiery little Portuguese women, who was running around the tiny restaurant serving all the diners. We were told to pick a meat, which was served alongside plates of fries, rice, bread, and salad. The food was incredible, and the service was amazing. This massive meal only cost 16 euros!

Lunch at Churrasqueira Rio Douro

Pinhão is a larger town, and a popular hub for visitors to the Douro Valley. We spent an an afternoon wandering around Pinhão, having ice cream by the waterfront, visiting the local shops, and going on a boat ride along the Douro Valley. In town, there are a variety of tour operators that you can walk about to and book a boat ride [it only cost us 10 euros per person]. I really loved this experience because it wasn’t a tour – no history, no stories. It was just a relaxing time where I was able to sit on the bow of a small boat and admire the beauty of the Douro Valley.

DRINK ALL THE WINE

Shocker: we drank lots of wine in one of the world’s most popular wine regions.

A short distance from both Pinhão and Valença do Douro is one of the Douro Valley’s most popular wineries: Sandeman. The wine estate was, simply put, STUNNING. We visited their tasting room where we sampled a few of their wines, and admired the views of their vineyards and gardens. We didn’t book a winery tour at Sandeman; although based on the grandeur of the location I can imagine it would be impressive.

Located a short [very steep] 15 minute walk from our homestay in Valença do Douro was a much smaller, lesser known, winery called Quinta da Côrte. This spot is home to some of my favourite wines I had in Portugal. It also offers a “casa” where you can stay overnight if you are visiting the region. Here, we toured the facilities, learned how port wine is made, and tasted some of their signature wines – I couldn’t recommend this winery, and this experience, enough.

Quinta de Corte Winery

See also: The best food and wine tour in Porto.

ADMIRE THE VIEWS

I don’t know if I have ever been to a place as serene as the village of Valença do Douro. With not a person in sight, we felt as though we had the world to ourselves. We hiked around, took lots of pictures, and sat on benches and just admired the views. I had a few serious “pinch me” moments, feeling so grateful that these locals had welcomed us into their little, tiny community.

If you are planning on visiting the Douro Valley, I highly suggest taking a day or two in your itinerary to slow down and admire this agricultural masterpiece. Far too often travel can feel fast-paced and hectic. Visiting the Douro Valley was the perfect reminder that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Views of the Douro Valley near Pinhao

FEELING READY TO GET YOU WINE DRINKIN’ ON?

Before visiting the Douro Valley, I knew almost nothing about port wine [aside from the bougie-ness factor]. And I assumed that the highlight of my time in northern Portugal would be spent drinking wine on terraces and roaming through vineyards. Don’t get me wrong, we did a whole lot of that – but the Douro Valley is SO MUCH MORE. And it should be at the top of everyone’s bucket list.


PLANNING ON VISITING THE DOURO VALLEY? PIN THIS FOR LATER!

And check out some of my other Portugal posts, including my guide to all the things to do, see, and eat in Porto!

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A Two Day Guide to Porto: What to See, Do & Eat

It’s safe to I fell head over heels during my two days in Porto. The city is so much more than just Lisbon’s little sister and offers to so much to do and see – and [perhaps most importantly] EAT.

As a relatively new player to the tourism scene, the vibes of the city are organic and raw. In fact, many of the popular tourist areas were quite unsafe a mere two decades ago. The architecture isn’t perfect, but that’s what makes it so beautiful. It is easily one of the most charming cities I have ever visited, and I already can’t wait to go back.

I’m dishing all the deets that are guaranteed to make you have the best two days in Porto. Are you ready? Let’s go!

GETTING TO PORTO

By Air: Porto has a small airport, with direct inbound flights from select European cities, and is located roughly 20 minutes outside of the city centre. We flew direct from Copenhagen to Porto and found the process to be very seamless. If you’re headed to Porto and there isn’t a direct flight from your hub, you can book a flight through Lisbon. There are several flights from Lisbon to Porto daily.

By Train/Bus: If you’re heading to Porto from another city in Portugal, it is well connected by train and bus to other popular cities, like Lisbon. We didn’t use this method, but I know many people who have who have said that the experience was very positive.

By Car: If you’re openminded to driving, the best way to get to Porto – and travel around Portugal – is by car. We opted to rent a car in Porto, and drive it down the coast to Lisbon. We made stops along the way, and saw things that we never would have been able to if we were not driving. Driving in Portugal was very easy. The roads were well maintained and paved, and there were very few drivers on the road. The only downside is that there are several tollbooths along the way. However, the cost of these tolls are marginal.


GETTING AROUND PORTO

Walk: Porto is a fairly small city, and is easy to navigate by foot. If you’re capable, I suggest this option because you can see so much more by just wandering around.

Uber: Uber in Portugal is cheap. We used Uber to get to/from our hotel when we had luggage, and the couple times that our destination was not within walking distance


WHERE TO STAY IN PORTO

We stayed at the absolute best hotel in Porto: ZERO Box Lodge. In fact, I loved it so much that I wrote an entire blog post about it. Click here to read all about it.

See Also: The best hotel to stay and play at in Lisbon.


THINGS TO DO IN PORTO

Cais da Ribeira

This waterfront district of Porto is so incredibly charming. Filled with waterfront patios and the most perfectly imperfect buildings – you’ll feel like you’re sitting in a postcard.

Take some time to explore the narrow surrounding alleyways and stairwells. Here, you’ll find so many unique shops, architecture – and of course, TILES. I loved this region because it felt so authentic. It wasn’t perfectly maintained like many other European cities, and you could often spot the locals wandering around amongst the tourists, picking up groceries at the local shops, and hanging their laundry out to dry.

Luís I Bridge

This industrial structure stands tall along the Porto waterfront, and features two layers that you can walk across. I would highly recommend heading up to the top layer for the best experience.

Tip: For the best views of the picturesque Casa da Ribeira, walk across the Luís I Bridge and snap a few pictures.

Port Tastings

Once you arrive on the other side of the bridge, you’ll be greeted by winery after winery… after winery. This is the best place to spend an afternoon indulging in Porto’s namesake beverage: port wine.

There are dozens of wineries to choose from. We opted for a tasting at Ramos Pinto, where we were educated on the different types of port wines offered by the winery. If you have time, I would suggest doing a tour of the facilities to learn about how the wine is made. We didn’t do one in Porto, because we had tours planned on the next stage of our trip in the Douro Valley. But, if you’re not able to make it out to the Douro Valley, you should definitely do a winery tour in Porto.

After a port tasting, sit along one of the many patios along the waterfront, sit on a glass of wine, and enjoy the views of Cais da Ribeira.

Eat Your Heart Out

One of the best things about Portugal is the food. Pastel de nata, francesinha, and SO much seafood – need I say more?

We wanted to make sure we had the best foodie experience during our time in Porto, and so we took a tour with Secret Food Tours Porto. If you want to know more about this amazing experience, I wrote all about it here.

Visit the Douro Valley

On our trip, we opted to spend two days in the Douro Valley [you can read more about that here].

If your itinerary doesn’t allow for an overnight visit, you MUST take a river cruise day trip to the Douro Valley from Porto. There are a variety of tour operators along the Porto waterfront to choose from. Book a trip and I can guarantee that you’ll see some of the most beautiful views you’ve ever seen.

Clérigos Church and Tower

For the best views from the top of Porto, visit Clérigos Tower. Here, you can walk through the most beautiful church and climb up the (very narrow) winding staircase to the top of the church tower. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most beautiful views of the city.

São Bento Railway Station

You’ll find beautiful tiles everywhere in Porto, but some of the prettiest hand painted can be found inside the São Bento Railway Station. This spot is absolutely worth a stop when you’re wandering around the city.

Tip: If blue tiles are your thing, my absolute FAVOURITE are located at All Souls Church. Here, you can take an iconic Portuguese picture – just like this one.


WHERE TO EAT & DRINK IN PORTO

Porto Food Tour

I already mentioned my tour with Secret Food Tours, but I truly can’t stress enough how great this experience was! You can read all about it in my Secret Food Tours post here.

O Carniceiro / Big Bad Bank Bar

This restaurant-bar combo was located inside of our hotel, ZERO Box Lodge and it was EPIC. O Carniceiro was hands down our best meal in Porto, and the cocktails at Big Bad Bank Bar we so well done. Not to mention, the ambiance was just so cool. You can read more about it here.

Mercado do Bolhão Market

A favourite sopt for locals, you could wander around this market for hours, tasting all the best local foods. And don’t be afraid to try the sardines – they were actually very tasty!

Capa na Baixa

For the prettiest terrace in Porto, check out this place. I would highly recommend this stop if you’re looking to indulge in the classic Portugese favourite: francesinha.


BEST TIME TO VISIT PORTO

I loved visiting Porto – and Portugal in general – in April. The weather was warm, but not too hot. And it wasn’t swarming with tourists yet. The only downside of visiting Porto in April is the potential rain. Although we were (mostly) lucky, we did experience a couple wet days, which is pretty typical for this time of year.

For the optimal weather, Porto is best visited during the shoulder season of May and September.


Okay, seriously. How beautiful is this city? If you’re headed to Portugal, you CANNOT MISS this place. I mean it – add it to your itinerary, right now.


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Porto’s Trendiest Hotel: ZERO Box Lodge

The city of Porto is seriously cool. It’s gritty. Charming. Inviting. And perfectly imperfect in every single way.

Coincidently, I would use all these same adjectives to describe one of my favourite hotels, ever: ZERO Box Lodge.

This spot is definitely not your typical hotel, and quickly challenged all my expectations of what I typically expect from a hotel: because it is so much more than just a hotel. A trendy hub in the centre of Porto where you can sleep, eat, drink – and be amazed (seriously, this hotel was definitely designed with Instagram in mind).


ABOUT ZERO BOX LODGE

ZERO Box Lodge describes their hotel design as a new way of sleeping. And suggests that their model could be the future of tourism.

The hotel was the brain child of Gonçalo Carvalho, who had a vision to transform an old t-shirt factory from the 1800s into a revolutionary hotel concept. It was a one-stop-shop where visitors could feel like they have entered a different world.

In short, in every single way this place is the complete opposite of an ordinary hotel. ZERO Box Lodge is…


A PLACE TO REST

The room concept at ZERO Box Lodge was inspired by the Japanese “capsule hotel” and features rows of simple wooden boxes with plenty of room to move around, stand, and sleep. Each of these boxes features it’s own private, very modern bathroom.

Although the rooms were small, we rarely spend time in our hotel room when travelling. And found it was spacious enough to relax after a long day, with a very comfy bed and a large welcoming bathroom and shower (with huge towels, which I find are ALL TOO RARE when travelling – it’s all about the little things, you know?).


A PLACE TO EAT

Would you believe me if I said that the best dinner we had in Porto was at our hotel?

I never eat at hotel restaurants. I typically find them generic, overpriced, and lacking any sort of culinary creativity. O Carniceiro at ZERO Box Lodge challenged every single one of those opinions.

The concept was simple: look inside the glass refrigerator, pick a cut or two of meat, and they will prepare it for you. Pick a side dish (or two or three). And ENJOY.

We opted to share a couple different cuts of beef (they do have veggie/fish options if meat isn’t your thing). Indulged in two sides. And were totally blown away.

I was so full, but the food was SO good I knew I had to get dessert. And the sweet/spicy mix of the blackberry and green pepper chocolate cake was easily one of the best desserts I’ve had in awhile.

And the best part: this meal was so affordable.

See Also: The Best Food Tour in Porto


A PLACE TO DRINK

Why leave the hotel when you have one of the coolest bars in the city onsite? The Big Bad Bank Bar not only looked cool, but the cocktails were so on point. We enjoyed our pre-dinner cocktails so much on our first night in Porto, that we returned for another drink before our dinner at Big Bad Bank Bar the following night.


A PLACE TO BE AMAZED

Bank Vault

Inside Big Bad Bank Bar, they have designed their very own bank vault, complete with thousands of bills behind bars and traditional Portuguese tile patterns. It is easily the most Insta-worthy spot in the hotel.

Free Room

Yes, you heard that right – FREE HOTEL ROOM. This unique feature helps you answer the question: how far would you go for free accommodations?

Located in a highly visible location between the reception and bar is a glass-enclosed “free room.” The catch – zero privacy. And I mean literally zero. In fact, when we were going to breakfast in the morning we walked by the room to witness the occupant passed out in the midst of all the commotion around him. And we came home from a busy day in the city to see him playing video games in the room.

Personally, I’m adventurous, but not THAT adventurous. However, if you are ready to put yourself on display, this is the perfect opportunity to stay in Porto for free!


A PLACE THAT HAS IT ALL

Welcome Beer

Cold beer? Yes please. When I walked into the hotel and was offered a cold beer, I knew were in for a special stay. And the hospitality didn’t stop throughout our stay. The staff was friendly, helpful, and really rounded out the whole experience.

Breakfast

We also opted for the breakfast, which was served at O Carneceiro in the mornings. For only 8 euros per person, you were given a choice of four breakfast options, which included coffee and freshly squeezed juice. The portions were generous, making this option an incredible value and one I would absolutely opt for so you get up and start exploring early.

Watertank & Sauna

The “watertank,” or rooftop pool, wasn’t opened yet when we visited in April, and it still says that this feature is “coming soon” on the hotel website. But, once it is opened it will be a fantastic amenity with views overlooking Porto; it’s something that I can’t wait to return to try.


LOCATION

ZERO Box Lodge is located in a fabulous location, right in the city centre. Porto is a small city, and virtually everything is accessible by foot. This spot is perfectly situated to help you make the most of your city exploration.


PRICES & BOOKING

ZERO Box Lodge is super affordable, and offers an incredible value for your money. Check out the latest prices and book your stay: click here.


In short: ZERO Box Lodge is JUST PLAIN COOL & if you’re visiting Porto, you NEED TO STAY HERE.

I really couldn’t recommend this spot enough. The concept was so unique, and absolutely contributed to making our stay in Porto that much more special. And if sleeping in a box isn’t your thing, you can still stop by and enjoy the bar and restaurant. Because this spot is so much more than just a hotel.

See Also: The Chicest Boutique Hotel in Lisbon


ARE YOU HEADING TO PORTO?

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Pena Castle, Sintra

Sintra, Portugal is a place I had heard a lot about – a “must visit” if you are spending time in Lisbon. However, aside from the infamously colourful Pena Palace, I didn’t know a whole lot about Sintra and the surrounding Cascais region.

For many, Sintra is just a daytrip from Lisbon to visit the popular castles. And while that is a totally reasonable option, once I began to research more about the more largely unexplored Sintra and Cascais region, I knew settling on a day trip to bump elbows with other tourists at Pena Palace and head back to Lisbon was not what I envisioned for my time here.

Once I began exploring my options, there was only one tour company offered everything I was looking for: Greenwalk Tours.


WHO IS GREENWALK TOURS?

Greenwalk Tours is a small private tour company, local to the Sintra and Cascais region, that specializes in nature, history, and cultural sightseeing. They operate a wide variety of tours to cater to many different interests, and are known for their intimate off-the-beaten path approach to exploring Portugal. The tours are provided by seasoned tour guides, who have studied geography in school, and who pride themselves on providing exciting and educationally accurate tours.

Greenwalk Tours offers a wide variety of tours, including hiking, biking, and Jeep tours. In the interest of time and seeing as much as possible, we opted for the most popular “Romantic Views Jeep Tour,” which includes the perfect blend of both popular sights and beautiful natural sights that can only be accessed by off-road paths.


OUR DAY IN SINTRA WITH GREENWALK TOURS

After looking into the process of getting to Sintra, we opted to stay locally at Chalet Saudade the night before our tour in order to avoid the busy train crowds, which I’ve heard can get quite chaotic heading from Lisbon to Sintra in the morning.

See Also: The Chicest Boutique Hotel in Lisbon [with a rooftop pool!]

Our day started bright and early with the perfect breakfast at Cafe Saudade, which was right across the street from the Greenwalk Tours head office. We then proceeded to go meet our guide João, and headed toward the castles to get a head start on the crowds.

Pena Palace & Moorish Castle

We drove up toward the castle and parked at a secondary entrance, away from the main entrance [and crowds]. The grounds surrounding Pena Palace deserve as much credit as the castle itself, and contain greenery that has been imported from countries all over the world. João told us about the origins of the various plants, and why they were selected. We learned about the exciting history of the gardens and the two castles – Pena Palace and Moorish Castle. João was very engaging, and kept the content exciting.

Even at 9:30am, Pena Palace was busy. But we still managed to beat most of the crowds, and opted not to take the tour inside in palace as the line was already quite long. I can’t begin to describe how critical it was to have a tour guide during this time, as we were able to avoid the busy bus crowds, park away from the main entrance, and walk through the beautiful, and largely desolate, castle grounds on our way to the castles.

The Sintra-Cascais Coastline

Just as the castles started to get really busy, we jumped back into our car and headed for the coast. Along the way, we drove through narrow streets with some of the most lush greenery I have ever seen. This was a general theme through our time driving through various regions of Portugal. The whole country is SO HILLY and SO GREEN.

Sintra Views

We rolled through small, beautifully maintained villages along the way, and learned about life for locals in the villages. From there, reached the coast, where we explored a couple of the local beaches, including Azenhas do Mar and Praia Grande. Praia Grande is a very popular beach to visit in the summer months, and is known to get very busy. So busy, in fact, that locals have been known to sleep on the beach the night before to secure their spots in the morning. It was very clear how much Portuguese locals love the beach considering it was barely 20 degrees in April, and there were locals swimming in the water.

Next, we were off to the most remote location of our adventure. The only way to get there: a winding off-road path. Thank goodness for 4×4! Here, we reached my favourite coastal location with the most incredible views of the ocean. The sky was the perfect shade of blue, the clouds were so fluffy, and the only other people in sight were João and Sebastian. It was such a special moment of complete serenity.

Our final coastal stop was the most western point in Europe: Cabo da Roca. It was also only spot along out coastal adventure that we ran into other tourists – and there were a lot of them. Even still, it felt pretty cool to stand on the most western edge of the continent, admiring the views of the Atlantic.

Convent of the Capuchos

After we finished exploring part of Portugal’s breathtaking coastline, we headed inland, where to drove through as maze of greenery, and stops at a couple more historical landmarks. The final of these landmarks, a 500 year old convent called Convent of the Capuchos was a huge highlight.

Joao told us all about the life of the monks who inhabited this convent over 500 years ago, and we toured the very tight living quarters [these monks must have been SO tiny]. We saw everything from their well-preserved kitchen, to their sleeping quarters, and their chapel. There were, again, no other visitors around, and we walk around and explored this incredible historical treasure.


WHY GREENWALK TOURS?

Because they are the best! But seriously, I can’t imagine a better tour company. This is a team of pure professionals. They love Sintra, and are committed to showing visitors the REAL Sintra.

And they are affordable. For 65 euros per person [for a group of two; price per person goes down with larger groups], you can spend an entire day cruising around Sintra & the Cascais.

Plus, they cater to your interests. Do you have something you are dying to see? They will alter the itinerary to suit your interests. And they provide the best recommendations.

I truly can’t say enough about this experience; It was easily one of the top highlights of our time in Portugal.

If you’re currently planning your trip to Sintra and the Cascais, click here to see all the amazing tour packages offered my Greenwalk Tours. And be prepared to make the best memories.


PLANNING A TRIP TO SINTRA?

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Rooftop Pool Lisboa

When travelling, nothing is more important than having a place that I’m excited to relax at after a long day of exploring. A little home away from home where I can take a hot shower, get cosy under the covers, and catch some much-needed ZzZz’s.

That’s why, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of a big city like Lisbon, I was so excited to find my little oasis: Hotel White Lisboa.

Hotel White Lisboa Bed

ABOUT HOTEL WHITE LISBOA

Hotel White Lisboa is a boutique hotel located near the centre of Lisbon, offering 41 rooms, a rooftop pool, and amazing breakfast spread to help you fuel up for your Lisbon adventures. And it’s name is no coincidence – the hotel has a very minimalistic, modern design and is virtually all white.


GETTING TO HOTEL WHITE LISBOA

From Lisbon Airport: The location of the hotel is near Lisbon airport, roughly 15 minutes away by Uber or taxi. We opted to take an Uber to the airport, as this option was a much better value than taking a taxi (cost: ~7 euros).

From the Train Station: When arriving in Lisbon, we took the train to the ‘Entrecampos’ station, and then transferred to the metro system. The closest metro stop is ‘Saldana’ which is located literally right in front of the hotel.


HOTEL HIGHLIGHTS & AMENITIES

Breakfast

Hotel White Lisboa offers a ‘Bed & Breakfast’ rate, which includes a buffet-style breakfast served from 7 until 10 am. We indulged in the breakfast during our stay, which included a wide spread of options including a variety of bread, fruits, Portuguese pasteries (you can never eat enough pastel de natas), juices, coffee, tea, and yogurt. It was the perfect way to begin our day and saved us the hassle of finding a breakfast spot, so that we could get our day started.

Hotel White Lisboa Breakfast
Rooftop Pool

Admittedly, this was my absolute favourite part about my stay at Hotel White Lisboa. The rooftop infinity pool felt so refreshing after a long, hot day wandering around Lisbon, and the lounge chairs offered the perfect vantage point to take in the most beautiful views.

If you’re looking for a hotel with a pool in Lisbon, this is your spot.

Hotel White Lisboa Portugal Sunset

TIP: To avoid the crowds (and expensive drink prices) in the city centre, head up to the rooftop with your favourite drink at sunset and watch the planes glide across the skyline.

See Also: The trendiest hotel in Porto.

Front Desk Staff

The front desk staff was available 24/7, and offered us some great tips on how to make the most of our time in Lisbon. Additionally, they provided an all-day drink service that definitely came in handy (sometimes a girl just needs a pre-dinner espresso pick-me-up).

Spacious, Modern Rooms

I truly can’t saw enough about our hotel room at Hotel White Lisboa. It was incredibly chic and modern. Very spacious (which was so welcomed after staying at a string of small hotel rooms throughout Portugal). And most importantly, SO CLEAN.

It offered all the amenities that I typically look for in a hotel room including a large, modern shower, and toiletries including shampoo, soaps, and other vanity items.

For when you’re looking to unwind before bed, the room also featured a large TV that was mounted to the wall and disguised as a mirror.

And we loved our window views overlooking some of the most beautiful Portuguese architecture.

Personal Touches

Our room was stocked with a large spring water bottle, chocolates, and fresh fruit. This hotel seriously thought of everything. And was so committed to making sure their guests have the best possible stay.


LOCATION

I can’t say enough about the location of this hotel. Located just north of the busy city centre, Hotel White Lisboa is located in the business district of Lisbon and right on the metro line. And I truly mean RIGHT on it – the ‘Saldana’ stop is located outside its front door.

During our time in Lisbon, which purchased 24 hour unlimited metro passes each day for only 6.40 euros, which meant getting virtually anywhere in the city was a breeze.

What I loved most about the location of this hotel was that even though it was on a main street near the city centre, the neighbourhood was away from the heart of the most touristy locations, and as a result was very quiet at night. It was the perfect escape from the busyness of Lisbon.


PRICES & BOOKING

Prices for a basic room begin at 102 euros a night, which is quite the bargain in a large city like Lisbon. I would recommend adding the ‘Bed and Breakfast’ option for grab and go convenience.

For the best rates, you can book on the Hotel White Lisboa website here.

And in case I haven’t convinced you to stay here yet (which I find incredibly hard to believe)…

Fodor’s Travel named Hotel White Lisboa the #4 hotel on their ‘9 Best Value Hotels in Lisbon’ list.

It’s no secret like Lisbon is a trendy travel destination. And for good reason – the city is so cool. But with trendiness comes rising hotel prices, and Hotel White Lisboa provides the perfectly affordable little home away from home oasis you’re looking for in Lisbon. I’m so thrilled that I was able to spend three nights here, and would urge you to book this hotel in Lisbon if you’re planning a trip to the city.

If you’re heading to Porto: check out the trendiest hotel in Porto.


Are You Planning a Trip to Lisbon?

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Porto Sardines

Without a doubt, experiencing different food cultures is one of my favourite parts of travelling [if you ask my boyfriend, Sebastian, he would say that it is his favourite part of travelling]. With that being said, we often spend a lot time prior to our travels researching restaurants, polling our friends, scouring the internet, and making reservations at all the best places to eat in the cities that we’re visiting. As you can imagine, this process takes a lot of time – which is why it is sometimes easier, and more fun, to let the locals guide you to those decades-old, hole-in-the-wall treasures that many tourists will never find.

Cue: SECRET FOOD TOURS PORTO.

Before I travelled to Portugal, I was so excited to try Portuguese food and wanted to make sure I got the very best experience. So, when I heard about Secret Food Tours Porto, it sounded like a great opportunity to explore some of Porto’s hidden food gems.


ABOUT SECRET FOOD TOURS

Secret Food Tours is an award-winning company that hosts food tours in cities all over the world. They employ local foodie enthusiasts that guide you to all the best spots to eat, drink, and indulge.


SECRET FOOD TOURS PORTO

After having unparalleled successes in many other cities around the world, Secret Food Tours has recently added the northern Portuguese city of Porto to its tour offerings, and they invited us along to taste our way through Porto.

It was our first day in Portugal and we met our tour guide, Alexandra, bright and early, eager to start tasting. Alexandra, a Porto native who has lived all over Europe, greeted us with a warm smile and was excited to show us all her favourite spots in her hometown.

First stop: breakfast. And most critically, coffee. Alexandra explained that the typical coffee culture in Portugal involves a small cup of espresso in the morning [often with an entire package of sugar poured into it]. We partook in this Portuguese tradition, and got to know our guide over coffee and a traditional Portuguese sponge cake in a small intimate café.

Portuguese Sponge Cake and Espresso
Portuguese Sponge Cake and Espresso

Next, we headed out to a popular indoor market, both with locals and tourists, to try a Portuguese delicacy: canned sardines. When I was first told that this would be the second stop of the day, I admittedly hesitated. However, the sardines were, dare I say it, TASTY. They were perfectly salty, paired with fresh local bread, all washed down with a big glass of local Portuguese ‘green wine’ [don’t let the name fool you – the colour of the wine is white]. Not to mention, the sardines were packaged in the most beautiful, colourful cans.

After lunch we explored the market, bought some local bread, and headed to our third stop for a Portuguese sandwich, called a bifana. This sandwich is made with thinly sliced pork, marinated in a chili sauce, and according to Alexandra, this small local restaurant has the best bifana in Porto! Let’s just say I could have easily eaten five of them, they were so darn good.

After the bifana, I was already beginning to feel full, but there was SO MUCH more to eat. Thankfully, I was able to walk off some of the food between restaurants. Along the way, we made stops at some of the most popular spots in Porto and Alexandra told us stories about Porto’s culture and history.

Bifana
Bifana with Local Pineapple and Orange Juices

Our fourth stop was a plant-lovers dream, with a terrace covered floor-to-ceiling in greenery. Here, we tried another popular Portuguese dish called francesinha, which is a sandwich stuffed with a variety of meats, coated in cheese, toasted, and covered in sauce – also known as a heart attack on a plate. We washed this down with Super Bock, a local beer that you will find everywhere in Portugal. Again, we were reassured that we had just indulged in the best francesinha in Porto. And I totally believe it.

Okay, after that cheesy-meaty goodness I was seriously getting full. But, little did I know, that we were about to have our biggest meal yet. We ventured to a small local restaurant on the most unsuspecting street and feasted on a traditional Portuguese white bean stew, complete with a ‘secret’ ingredient that you must taste for yourself. It is something I would have never tried on my own, and again was a bit hesitant to try, but the flavours were incredible.

Last stop: port tasting. This is absolutely one of the me popular things to do in Porto [and Portugal in general] and something we did a lot of through the entire trip. Port wine is native to the Porto region, and the tasting featured port samples from local wineries. Here, we learned more about the different types of port wines, and heard the origin stories of this type of wine in Portugal. It was absolutely the perfect way to cap off a perfect day with Secret Food Tours Porto.

Port Tasting in Porto
Port Tasting with Dried Figs

HOW MUCH WILL THIS TOUR COST ME?

The best part of this tour: the incredible value. You can spend four hours stuffing your face on the best Porto food and drinks tour for only 64 euros per person. And, if you’re in the mood to drink your way through Porto, you can add the “Upgraded Drink Package,” which includes three extra drinks, in addition to the ones I already mentioned, for only 7 euros more per person.


FEELIN’ HUNGRY YET?

I want to disclaim that in the interest of not spoiling some of the ‘secrets’ of this experience, I’ve been asked not to include all details. However, I want to add that what makes this tour so special and fun is not only the places we visited, and the dishes we ate, but the local guide who massively contributed to my love for the city of Porto, its history, and its food culture.

I’ve taken food tours in a many cities and let me tell you, this tour was among the best. I can’t recommend Secret Food Tours Porto enough, and based on this experience I would feel so confident spending another day with Secret Food Tours wherever my travels lead me next. It is an experience I will never forget.

As one final note, I must warn you: be prepared to EAT A LOT. This Porto foodie experience is worth every single bite.

If you’re ready to book your trip with Secret Food Tours Porto, click here.

See Also: The trendiest hotel in Porto.

Porto Food Tour

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View of Budapest from Gellert Hill
Budapest Itinerary // 3 Days in Budapest // Budapest Food Guide // Budapest City Guide

Budapest is a city that I have longed to visit for awhile. It was a city that I have almost visited so many times, but never quite got there. So when we started planning our first weekend away since I moved to Sweden, spending 3 days in Budapest seemed like the easy choice.

And our weekend in Budapest certainly lived up to the hype.

Szechenyi Baths, Budapest
Szechenyi Baths, Budapest

The sunny weather reached over an unexpected 20 degrees [in late March!], and the city felt so alive. Coming from a chilly, grey Sweden, we felt like we might as well have been in the Mediterranean. And, because it was March, the city lacked the bustle of tourists that it typically experiences in the warmer months.

This set the stage for a truly perfect weekend away.

We had the best 3 days in Budapest, and I want to give you the all the details so that you can have the best time too. As we always aim to do, this itinerary offers the perfect mix of must-do touristy and off-the-beaten-track Budapest – and A LOT of amazing food recos.

So, here it is: A guide on how to spend the perfect weekend in Budapest.


Where to Stay in Budapest

Pal’s Hostel

Confession: I have always loved a good, cheap backpacking hostel, where I shared a room with a bunch of strangers and made friends with other travel-lovers. But since Sebastian and I met and started travelling together, our travel preferences have changed a bit. And consequently, I haven’t stay in a hostel in a couple years.

However, this trip was extremely last minute, and the price of booking a last minute hotel was expensive. We were looking for something simple, but clean, with a private bathroom, and in the city centre – all at a good value. That’s when I stumbled across Pal’s Hostel and knew that I had found the perfect place.

However, nothing could have prepared me for just how nice this spot would be. Located in the most gorgeous historical building right across the street from the popular St. Stephen’s Basilica landmark, this hostel is in the perfect location, within walking distance of all major sights. Not to mention, the hostel has the most friendly and helpful staff who went out of their way to ensure that we had the best stay!

We opted for a private room with private bathroom, and to say the room was huge would be an understatement. It also featured the most beautiful high ceilings, comfortable bed, kitchenette with dining room table, and the biggest surprise – the private balcony overlooking St. Stephen’s Basilica. This was a feature that I was not expecting, and it absolutely blew me away. I mean, look at those views.

Pal's Hostel, Budapest
Views from our private balcony at Pal’s Hostel

If you’re looking for a no-frills, affordable, perfectly-located private room in the heart of Budapest – this is your spot. And if you can, request this room and take in the breathtaking basilica views.


Things to Do in Budapest

Visit a Historical Castle

Buda Castle, which sits atop the Buda side of the Danube River, is worth spending time to explore. Walk across the famous Széchenyi Chain Bridge and enjoy the riverfront views.

Once across the river, you can either enjoy a leisurely walk to the top of the hill, or take a tram, and explore the Buda castle grounds. Here, you’ll also find some beautiful views of the city.

Once you’re done at the castle, make your way to Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion. We opted to not tour the church, or pay to walk along the top of the Bastion, but these are both options. Instead we explored the ground area, and again admired the views.

Hike to the Highest Point in Budapest

Gellert Hill offers panoramic views of Budapest. Take a 15-20 minute uphill walk to the Citadella at the top, and admire Pest from an entirely new perspective.

I have been told that the best time to visit Gellert Hill is at sunset to take in the most beautiful views. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to do this and instead visited in the morning, but it is something I will definitely do when I next return to Budapest.

Explore the Famous Budapest Pub Culture

Scattered throughout the Jewish Quarter, you’ll find tons of ruin bars offering cheap drinks in the most eclectic, unique atmospheres. Our favourite was the most famous ruin pub, Szimpla Kert, but other really popular options include Instant [which has turned into more of a night club], Csendes, and Yellow Zebra.

Szimpla Kert, Budapest
Patio at Szimpla Kert, Budapest

Soak in the Famous Thermal Baths

One of the most popular things to do in Budapest is undoubtedly visit their famous thermal baths. We decided to visit the most popular bath, Szechenyi Thermal Baths, because we were really interested in an outdoor bath experience. Although a bit expensive, this was an awesome experience. With 18 indoor and outdoor pools, this place is huge! We spent most of our time outside in the thermal pool, taking in the beautiful surrounding architecture and enjoying the sunshine.

Szechenyi Baths
Szechenyi Baths

Tip: If you plan to visit Szechenyi Thermal Baths, the earlier in the day the better. We arrived around 10am on a Sunday and it was already fairly busy. And by the time we left, there were several people queuing outside for tickets.

To get to the Szechenyi Thermal Baths from the city centre, I recommend hopping on the Budapest Metro. Tickets are cheap, and taking a ride on the yellow line will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

There are tons of thermal baths all over Budapest. I would have loved to visit others, but we simply didn’t have the time. Other local and tourist favourites include Gellert Spa and Rudas Baths.

Go Shopping at an Indoor Market

Central Market Hall is a massive indoor market that offers a variety of different vendors. Here, you can find local souvenirs, tons of handmade goods, fresh produce and meats, and a variety of food vendors.

Central Market Hall, Budapest
Central Market Hall

Experience Budapest at Night

Budapest is beautiful at all hours of the day, but it’s charm is a little extra special at night. Walk along the banks of the Danube at night, and watch the city sparkle. Buda Castle and and the Hungarian Parliament Building are especially beautiful when lit up at night.

Many people recommend taking a Danube River cruise at sunset or in the evening to truly appreciate the glow of the city. We didn’t end up having time to do this, but I’ve heard that it is a fantastic experience.

Hungarian Parliament at Night
Hungarian Parliament
Buda Castle at Night
Buda Castle at Night

Shop In The Jewish Quarter

We stumbled upon Gozsdu Udvar in the Jewish Quarter, which is an eclectic narrow alleyway filled with street vendors, restaurants, and bars. We bought a few souvenirs, including some handmade leather goods, and really enjoyed the overall vibes of this district.


Best Restaurants in Budapest

It’s safe to say that one of my favourite things about Budapest was the food culture. Before visiting, the only Hungarian food I had heard of was goulash – and I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Verdict: Hungarian food is delicious [and cheap!].

Here’s all the places to eat – and the restaurants I would avoid – in Budapest.

Cirkusz

Located in the Jewish Quarter and coined the ‘ruin pub’ of breakfast joints, Cirkusz offers a diverse and tasteful breakfast menu, complete with staples like eggs benedict, as well as Hungarian-inspired breakfast options.

Things to Try: I indulged in the french toast, which was perfectly cooked and flavourful, and Sebastian opted for in one of the seasonal delicacies – a pulled pork eggs benedict. Delicious!

Hungarikum Bisztro

We had the best Hungarian food at Hungarikum Bisztro. It was so good, in fact, that we ate there twice for lunch.

This place serves authentic Hungarian food, and has super generous portions at a very affordable price. It is super popular with both locals and tourists, so if you plan to visit for lunch or dinner, make a reservation in advance.

Things to Try: Goulash Soup with Mini Noodles, Dumplings with Sausage and Sour Cabbage, Hungarian Gnocchi with Sour Cream and Roasted Bacon Cubes, and Pork Loin with Paprika Sauce and Bacon-Sour Cabbage Dumplings.

Tip: The goulash portion is huge. However, you can ask them to split it into two bowls to split for an appetizer.

Belvárosi Lugas Vendéglő

Another traditional Hungarian option located nearby our hostel, Belvárosi Lugas Vendéglő is affordable and has great food if you’re looking for traditional Hungarian fare.

Things to Try: Goulash Soup, Hungarian Ratatouille with Smoke Sausage, Hungarian Deer Stew, and for dessert, “Bird Milk” with Baked Foam and Caramel Sauce.

Central Market Hall

At Central Market Hall, go upstairs to explore a variety of vendors with traditional Hungarian options. Here, we indulged Langos, which is Hungary’s most popular street food, and spicy sausages.

HILDA

HILDA is visually beautiful, and offers a menu to match. Here, you can find modern twists on Hungarian favourites, an extensive cocktail menu, and lots of local Hungarian wine options.

Things to Try: Goulash [can you tell that we loved goulash?] and Chicken Paprikash with Dumplings.

HILDA is also open for brunch/lunch, and I wish we would have known about it earlier because we would have definitely visited again to try the daytime menu.

Gelarto Rosa

For the most beautiful gelato you’ll ever eat, head to Gelarto Rosa. Here, you can sit outside of St. Stephen’s Basilica and eat gelato in the shape of a rose [talk about insta-worthy!]. I loved the Basil Lemon and Rose flavours!

Tip: This place was located outside our hostel, and every time we walked by it always had a very long line. However, we went in the late morning, shortly after they opened, and only had to wait a few minutes.

Gelarto Rosa, Budapest
Gelarto Rosa

Street Food Karavan

Street Food Karavan is just what it sounds like – a marketplace full of food trucks! You can find a variety of Hungarian street food staples here, such as langos, kolbice, and sausages. We stopped in and grabbed a cinnamon chimney cake, which is essentially a cylinder of citrusy dough covered in cinnamon, and a definite must-try in Budapest.


Restaurants I Wouldn’t Visit Again

In the interest of transparency, I also want to share the restaurants we visited that didn’t live up to their hype. These places came highly recommended, and weren’t total misses, but it’s safe to say I won’t be returning.

Our first dinner at Fricska Gastropub was good, but not great, which was incredibly disappointing because it had such outstanding reviews and was recommended by several notable food blogs. The food lacked a lot of flavour, and despite the more premium price point, paled in comparison to other meals we had in Budapest.

Additionally, Café Gerbeaud came highly recommended but was absolutely over hyped. The interior was beautiful, but they charge you a premium to eat there, as well as an additional service charge. The sweets were yummy, but we paid over 30 euros for two pieces of cake and two coffees – which, quite frankly, is just plain robbery in Budapest. If you want to indulge in these popular sweets, I would recommend going inside, snapping a couple pictures, and taking the desserts to-go for a third of the price.


Best Drinks in Budapest

Szimpla Kert

There are a ton of ruin pubs in Budapest. Just wander around the Jewish Quarter and you’re bound to find a few to stumble into. However, the first, and most iconic one, is undoubtedly Szimpla Kert.

Filled with a mix-match of just about every kind of repurposed ‘junk’ you can think of, including bathtub planters and old cars, this is a must-visit. We opted to visit during the day and sit on the patio, and it was the perfect place to drink beers in the sunshine.

Warmup

If you’re looking for cocktails, Warmup is your place. This is a speakeasy-style cocktail bar where the friendly bartenders come sit at your table, ask you what you like, and then craft a unique cocktail aimed to satisfy your favourite flavours.

Personally, I am a huge fan of a floral cocktail, and the bartender delivered me arguably the best rose-flavoured cocktail I’ve ever had. I really can’t say enough about this spot.


It’s Safe to Say That I Fell In Love with Budapest

Exploring Budapest

With the friendliest locals, spectacular sights, and some of the most delicious food that I’ve had in all of Europe, this city is so easy to love. And I’m confident that you will love it too.

If you have any questions about spending 3 days in Budapest, send me a message. And you liked what you read, don’t forget to pin it below!

xx,

Madeline

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Iron Fist Detroit
Detroit Itinerary // Detroit City Guide // Things to Do in Detroit // Best Restaurants in Detroit

The Motor City gets a bad rap. And understandably so if you know anything about the notoriously unstable history of Detroit.

But Detroit is so much more more than it’s past.

Native Detroiters are dreamers, believers, and some of the hardest working, most passionate people I have ever met. They mercilessly defend their city – and for good reason. Because I must say, this city is pretty darn special. And it is filled with some of the most incredibly resilient, inspiring people I have ever encountered in all my years of travel.

Detroit Quote

If you want to be inspired, spend a weekend in Detroit.

Growing up across the river in Windsor, Canada, I’ve seen the city blossom in recent years, paving the way for creatives and entrepreneurs alike who wholeheartedly believed in Detroit. Despite this rebirth of the city, the characteristic grit that has defined it hasn’t left. You can see it in the unique architecture. Taste it in the world-class culinary scene. And feel it in the creative instalments scattered throughout the city.

If Detroit isn’t currently on your bucket list, trust me when I say it should be. And I’ll tell you exactly why in this Detroit city guide.


Where to Stay in Detroit

The Detroit Foundation Hotel: This is undeniably one of the best, and coolest, hotels I have ever stayed at. Located inside of the former Detroit firehall, this boutique hotel is beautiful and is home to one of Detroit’s coolest restaurants and cocktail bars: The Apparatus Room. It is centrally located, across the street from Cobo Center, and close to many main attractions.

Aloft Detroit: Located inside one if the most architecturally beautiful buildings in Detroit, the Aloft features huge, clean rooms and is centrally located at Grand Circus Park [and around the corner from District Detroit if you’re in Detroit to watch a sports game].

Interior of the Aloft Hotel in Detroit
Interior of the Aloft Hotel in Detroit

Shinola Hotel: This hotel is brand new to downtown Detroit, and I haven’t personally had an opportunity to visit yet. I have, however, seen the lobby which is gorgeous, and have heard from others that the rooms and service are top tier. It is centrally located along Woodward, near lots of great shops and restaurants.


Things to Do in Detroit

Catch a Game in District Detroit

Home to all four of Detroit’s major sports teams, the newly developed District Detroit makes it easy to get in on the action. My personal favourite is catching an afternoon game at Comerica Park, home to the Detroit Tigers. However, the brand new Little Caesar’s Arena, which hosts both the Detroit Red Wings and Pistons, is quite the sight to see! And the Detroit Lions’ Ford Field is also closeby.

If you happen to be in Detroit during the warmer months, you don’t necessarily have to buy game tickets to experience the sports culture of the city. You can still tailgate in parking lots, and at bars, with fans before and after Lions and Tigers games.

Eat, Shop & Explore in the Cass Corridor

The Cass Corridor is a great little neighbourhood just north of the city centre, with so many shops worth exploring. Here’s a few of the highlights that can be found on W Canfield St.

Shinola: This is the original flagship store, and a serious pride of the city. Even if you’re not planning on buying anything, it is still very cool to visit and browse. They always feature really cool popups, and even have a coffee shop located inside.

Third Man Records: Founded by Jack White of The White Stripes, this record shop is a must-see. They sell an assortment of records, along with other music merchandise.

City Bird: If you’re looking to bring home some unique Detroit or Michigan souvenirs, this place offers the cutest merchandise. I’ve bought so many interesting gifts in here that my friends and family have LOVED.

Coffee Shop Popup
Coffee Shop Pop Up Outside City Bird

Learn About Detroit Architecture

There are so many architecturally beautiful and unique buildings scattered around the city. Curbed offers a great resource to help you discover the best buildings in Detroit here.

My personal favourites are the Guardian Building, the David Whitney Building [home to the Aloft hotel I mentioned above], and the Fox Theater.

Guardian Building, Detroit
Guardian Building, Detroit

Take a Walk Down Music’s Memory Lane

The Motown Museum is a must-see for music lovers. Just north of the downtown city core, it is easily accessible by Detroit’s QLine and offers museum tours.

Enjoy One of Many Detroit Festivals

Campus Martius Park, located in the city centre, is the home to many cultural events and festivals. Here, you’ll find attractions including a spectacular Christmas markets in the winter, and a manmade beach in the summer [complete with tiki huts and a drink bar].

Take a look here at their official website for a calendar of events highlighting seasonal attractions in Campus Martius Park, Capital Park, Grand Circus Park, and more.

Go Shopping at Detroit’s Open Air Market

As one of the oldest markets in the US, Eastern Market is open every Saturday year round [and other select days during the summer months; you can check out the event calendar here]. I absolutely love visiting this spot for fresh local produce, and other cool locally-sourced products. Plus, the Eastern Market neighbourhood is super cool, and offers lots of restaurants and shops.

Graffiti at Eastern Market
Graffiti at Eastern Market

Immerse yourself in Detroit’s Art Culture

The Detroit Institute of Arts is a spectacular building, hosting many famous paintings from artists all over the world. If you’re looking for a premium cultural experience, look no further than the DIA.

Take Instagram Pictures in a Alley Filled with Graffiti

The Belt is an alleyway in downtown Detroit that offers floor-to-ceiling commissioned graffiti. At night, it lights up and hosts some of the most popular bars and nightlife in the city. It is a great spot to stop and take a few pictures.

Stroll Down the Detroit Riverwalk

Detroit has some beautiful riverfront parks and pathways that you can walk along in the warmer months. Here, you can look across the river and see Canada [my hometown of Windsor!], grab an ice cream at a local shop, take a river cruise tour down the Detroit river, or just sit and enjoy the sunshine.

Detroit Riverwalk
Riding a Bird Scooter on the Detroit Riverwalk

Best Restaurants in Detroit

Perhaps my favourite thing about Detroit is the food culture. So many talented chefs have flocked to Detroit to take advantage of the booming culinary scene. The only downside is trying to prioritize which restaurants to eat at first!

I have had some of the best meals that I have ever had in Detroit. It was so hard for me to narrow down my top picks, because there are so many good restaurants. So, if you have a question about a restaurant that I haven’t included in my list, feel free to message me about it.

Brunch

Gold Cash Gold: Unique, well-made dishes. Beautiful ambiance. My boyfriend said this is in his top two favourite brunch spots – ever. And has become an absolute go-to for me.

Pie at Gold Cash Gold
Gold Cash Gold, Detroit

Folk: If you’re looking for a vegan/vegetarian place, go here [although there is some meat on the menu too, and is definitely suitable to all dietary preferences]. I am totally obsessed with this place. After brunch, head next door to The Farmer’s Hand, a really adorable local market.

Rose’s Fine Food: Located just outside the city centre, this is another one of my brunch favourites. The restaurant is so unassuming, and has the most tasty food. If you decide to head here for lunch, keep driving out toward one of Detroit’s most historically affluent neighbourhoods, Indian Village. Here, you can make your way to my next recommendation, Sister Pie.

Sister Pie: Located on the border of The West Village and Indian Village, this bakery is a must-visit if you love pie [or any other baked goods]. I promise, you’ll have the best pie of your life here.

Sister Pie Detroit
Sister Pie, Detroit

Detroit Institute of Bagels: If you love bagels, go here. Fresh, homemade bagels, and all the toppings/fillings you can imagine.

Detroit Institute of Bagels
Detroit Institute of Bagels

Lunch & Dinner

Grey Ghost: I love this restaurant. The food is high quality. The cocktails are well thought out and perfectly executed. And the ambiance is gorgeous. They also offer an incredible Sunday brunch [complete with the perfect brunch cocktail menu]. If you want visit Grey Ghost, book a reservation well in advance – it is very popular, and for good reason.

Wright & Company: Another Detroit favourite. I love the tapas-style small plates and very tasty cocktails. Not to mention, the interior is gorgeous. Wright & Co doesn’t take reservations, so you may have to wait for a table. Luckily, they have the most beautiful bar you can grab a cocktail at while you wait to be seated.

Wright & Co Cocktails
Wright & Co Cocktails

The Apparatus Room: Located in one of my hotel recommendations, the Detroit Foundation Hotel, this is easily one of the most beautiful restaurants in Detroit. But, it doesn’t stop there – the food and cocktails are on par with the interior aesthetic. You’ll likely need a reservation here too, so plan ahead.

Lady of the House: Offering a variety of experimental small plates, this charming restaurant is tucked away in the heart of Corktown, and offers unique tasting dishes.

Ima: Looking for ramen in Detroit? This is your spot! Also located in Corktown, along Michigan Avenue, Ima satisfies all your noodle-craving needs.

Ottava Via: Easily the best spot for Italian in Detroit. The ambiance and food at this spot is so on point. I especially love to go here in the summer, sit out on the back patio, and play bocce ball with friends.

Best Drinks in Detroit

Cocktail Bars

I love a good cocktail. And let me tell you, Detroit has some of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. Here’s a few of my favourite spots.

The Sugar House: This Corktown cocktail bar is an easy favourite for me. In fact, I have had cocktails all over the world and this remains one of my favourite spots to visit. Order from their seasonally-changing cocktail menus. Or sit at the bar, tell the extremely talented bartenders what you like, and they will surely craft you something amazing.

Sugar House, Detroit
Sugar House, Detroit

Standby: Tucked away in the Belt Alley, this is a local hotspot and is always guaranteed to be busy. This small, cozy bar has amazing cocktails, and also offers appetizers if you’re looking for a late night bite.

Two James Spirits: This is my favourite cocktail bar to go to in the summer months. When it’s nice outside, they open up the garage doors of the distillery, and you can sit at the wrap around bar, listen to live music, and enjoy cocktails from their extensive drink menu with the sun shining in. They also offer distillery tours and tastings.

Two James Spirits

Bad Luck Bar: Another must-try in the city, the cocktails at Bad Luck Bar are a bit more premium in price, but the experience is so worth stopping in for [at least] one drink.

Craft Beer

Disclaimer: I am not a huge beer drinker. However, I’ve been to the following spots and really enjoyed them.

Motor City Brewing Works: Great beer, great beer garden. This is an awesome spot to enjoy some patio craft brews in the summer months.

Motor City Brewing Works
Motor City Brewing Works

Founders Taproom Detroit: The Grand Rapids favourite has recently opened a taproom in Detroit. Founders is an established brewery and offers a ton of beer options, so there is bound to be something for everyone.

Jolly Pumpkin Brewery: A long-running Detroit favourite, this place offers craft beers and pizza. What more can you want? And to add to its clout, it was even good enough for Barack Obama.

Jazz Bars

Baker’s Keyboard Lounge: A Detroit legend. This jazz bar has been in continuous operation since 1933 and has hosted some of the worlds most famous jazz musicians over the years. Pay it a visit and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time; and then just sit back, indulge in some traditional southern cooking, and enjoy the live performances. [Note: this is in a Detroit suburb, not near the city centre. To get here, I would recommend hiring a cab or an Uber/Lyft].

Cliff Bell’s: If you’re looking for a jazz bar in the city centre, this is your spot. Amazing music, drinks, and food. It’s perfect for a night out, or weekend brunch.


Getting Around Detroit

Walk: If you’re staying in the city centre, you can get most places you want to go by foot. The Detroit core isn’t very big, and is very walkable.

QLINE: If you’re staying downtown and want to get up to the Cass Corridor, Midtown, or New Center, your best option is the QLINE, Detroit’s newly-developed street car that runs up and down Woodward.

Cab/Uber/Lyft: These car hire companies offer a relatively affordable option to get around the city. These will be especially helpful if you’re venturing out to Corktown, where there are less transit options to get there.

Scooter: There are electric scooters everywhere. Just make sure you download the Lime and/or Bird apps ahead of time.


The Most Common Question I Get: Is Detroit Safe?

YES. Absolutely, it is. Like almost any large American city, Detroit has its good areas and bad areas. However, if you know where to go and focus your trip around the city centre, and other areas that I have recommended, then I can assure you that Detroit is as safe as any other major American city.

In fact, I have spent a ton of time here, at all hours of the day and night, and have never once felt my safety was compromised.


It’s Time For YOU To Enjoy The Motor City!

Nothing Stops Detroit

Detroit is truly an underrated gem. It is the perfect cocktail of charm, grit, passion, and innovation that will leave you speechless – and wanting more. Everyone who visits the city falls in love with it, and I am confident that you will too. It is easily one of my favourite cities in the world.

I hope this Detroit city guide is helpful in your planning. If you have any questions about Detroit or the surrounding areas, leave them in the comments or message me.

And if you liked what you read, don’t forget to pin it to your Pinterest boards below.

xx,

Madeline

Detroit City Guide
Detroit Itinerary
Detroit Food Guide
Things to Do in Detroit
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Streets in Malmö
Sweden Visa // Sweden Sambo Visa // Sweden Working Holiday Visa // Applying for a Visa to Sweden

When I was researching about moving to Sweden, I had a really hard time finding the information I was looking for online. For that reason, I’ve had so many people reach out to me over the past couple months about the process of moving to Sweden. Mainly, about how to get a Swedish visa.

The more time I spend here, and the more I talk to fellow expats, I have realized that the Swedish Migration Agency isn’t very clear in their rules and regulations. So – I wanted to put together a post highlighting what I’ve learned so far, in hopes that it may help someone in the same situation as me.

Disclaimer: I am by no means a migration expert, and I am not claiming to be. Additionally, the migration agency in Sweden has been known to have some [err, a lot of] grey area in their rules, so my experience may not be the same as other migration cases. If you have any questions, email me and I’ll try to help [or I may know another expat in your situation that you can reach out to].


The Swedish Visa Process

As a Canadian under 30 years old, I was able to apply for a Swedish Working Holiday Visa [WHV]. However, I realize that places me amongst a small minority. So here, I’ll highlight my experience with the Swedish WHV, as well as some other visa alternatives.

Swedish Working Holiday Visa [WHV]

The Swedish WHV is available for young people between 18 and 30 years old, from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Korea or Uruguay. To apply, you just need to provide a copy of your passport, a bank account statement showing 15,000 SEK in available funds, and a valid health insurance policy [I purchased mine from an insurance broker in Canada here]. Additionally, they want to see proof of a return plane ticket, or enough funds to purchase one.

Once you submit the application, you’ll expected to receive your response within 3 months. It took me about 8 weeks to get a response. The whole process was very quick and easy.

Now, here is what they don’t tell you about the Swedish WHV [and what I wish I would have known].

You aren’t given a Swedish personal number on this visa, which means you can’t do very basic things like get a gym membership or open a bank account. This makes it particularly difficult to find a job, because you can’t get paid if you don’t have a bank account. In order to open one, you need to obtain a letter of employment, and then apply for a coordination number with the tax agency. From there, you’ll get a very basic bank account.

Additionally, I’ve heard from fellow expats that their places of employment weren’t particularly helpful in getting them the materials they needed to open the bank account. Based on this, you need to find specific employers who are experienced with WHVs. They exist, and I’ve had a very pleasant personal experience, but it is just something to be wary of.

This is in no way meant to deter anyone from getting a WHV, it is the perfect quick and easy way to just get here. However, just be wary that some serious limitations exist.

Swedish Sambo Visa

The ‘Sambo Visa,’ or cohabitation visa, and is granted to expats who are looking to move to Sweden to be with a Swedish citizen. The reason we didn’t choose this visa is because it often takes 12-18 months to process. Additionally, they prefer that you have lived with your partner for at least six months prior to applying, and at the time Sebastian and I were in a long distance relationship, so taking this route was risky. However, if you meet the basic requirements and have flexibility to wait, this is the best visa to have, as it is the most secure.

I’ve talked to many expats like myself who came here on a WHV and applied to – and transitioned to – a Sambo visa while within Sweden; however, the Swedish Migration Agency is making it much more difficult to do this.

I am part of a couple ‘support groups’ on Facebook for people applying for a Swedish Sambo Visa [I’ll link them below], and the general consensus is that other expats are being required to leave Sweden to apply for their Sambo Visa. As a result, after spending time here, often on a WHV or student visa, they are being mandated to leave the country for extended periods of time. Many of these people have resorted to applying for temporary WHVs in other countries, like Denmark or Germany, because they don’t have to be in their home country, they just need to be out of the county.

As a result, just be cautious if you’re planning to come here on a WHV and transition to a Sambo Visa. This may not be as easy as you hoped.

  • If you are waiting for a Sambo Visa within Sweden, I would recommending joining this Facebook group: click here
  • If you are in Sweden on a WHV and applying for a Sambo Visa, this Facebook group is very helpful: click here

Swedish Work Visa

Now, a Swedish Work Visa is a great way to get to Sweden. However, this will require getting a job offer before you move, which isn’t always easy.

I’m super happy to share that I received an exciting job offer from a large international company within three weeks of arriving to Sweden. This company has employees from all over the world, and has the resources to help me with everything visa-related, which has been such a relief.

There are a few things I wish I would have known before moving here that helped me land my dream job.

Here’s a few tips for you:

  1. Know your skills, and be ready to convince an employer why you would be a better fit for the job than a Swedish employee. If they are going to invest the time, and money, to sponsor you, they need to be convinced that you can possess a unique skill set that makes you best suited for the job.
  2. Focus your search on large, international companies [specifically ones with English as corporate language]. There are many companies in Sweden that operate primarily in English, and they are more likely to have the resources necessary to facilitate a visa sponsorship. Additionally, if you get a job from a Migration Agency ‘certified’ company, you can get a work visa in as little as two weeks. If you’re looking to work in Malmö/Lund, message me for details on some of these local companies.
  3. Use your network – join support groups, reach out to other expats, and get an understanding of the employment climate in the city you’re hoping to move to. In Malmö, I found this ‘Expats in Malmö‘ Facebook group particularly helpful and eager to give advice. If you’re Canadian, you should join the ‘Canadians in Sweden‘ Facebook group.
  4. Look into teaching English. I have been told by locals who are teachers that there is a serious shortage of English teachers in Sweden. Therefore, many of the international schools are no longer requiring a traditional teaching degree; if you have a degree, or some form of expertise, they may hire you to teach. Get in contact with local schools and see if they are willing to work with you [these institutions also have the resources to support a visa application].
  5. And finally, reach out to employees at companies you’re interested in. And connect with recruiters. This was the most critical step for me. I essentially landed my dream job by subscribing to LinkedIn Premium and personal messaging the manager of a position I was very interested in. In that message, I explained that I was already in Sweden [likewise, you can explain why you are motivated to move to Sweden]. I was told by the hiring manager that they often get applicants from all over the world, and that had I not personally messaged to explain my situation, I would have likely been overlooked as ‘just looking for a visa.’

I was already in Sweden when I was invited for my first interview, despite applying to jobs for months before. And it was also once I was in Sweden that I started getting the attention of local recruiters. With that being said, I do not think it is impossible to find a job beforehand, and I am confident that had I networked a bit better, targeted the right companies, and known my resources, that I could have landed a job prior to arriving. And that means you can too!


What Else Should I Know?

When I made the overseas move, I was following my heart to be with my boyfriend, who is a local. Therefore, I just simply had to arrive and everything was set up for me. I had an apartment to move in to, a partner with a local bank account, and a network of locals that I had already met, and who were eager to introduce me to their city.

Here’s a few things you should know before moving to Sweden.

Swedish Housing Market

This is perhaps the biggest challenge, because to say the housing market is hot would be an understatement – it is basically on fire. I only have experience with the market in Malmö, where there are brand new apartments going up all over the suburbs. And yet, they can’t seem to keep up with demand.

If you’re planning to move well ahead of time and are looking to get first-hand contract, sign up on Boplats Syd here. By paying a subscription fee you get placed in a queue, and from there you express interest in apartments. The interested person who has been in the queue the longest will be offered the apartment. For older apartments, there are applicants that have been in the queue for years. However, if you’re able to pay a bit more, there are options available for brand new units. We were recently able to sign a lease for a brand new apartment fairly close to the city centre after only six months in the queue.

There are also a ton of second-hand contracts available. Although these are a bit more risky, they are definitely the easiest option.

Where to Live

Sweden is exceptionally safe. However, even the safest cities have their not-so-safe areas [even still, despite what the media says, remember that everything is relative and Sweden doesn’t have many ‘no-go zones’]. It may seem ‘easy’ to get an apartment in certain neighbourhoods; but, this also may not be a suitable place to live. Do your research, and reach out to local expat communities. They should be able to provide you advice.

Cost of Living

While this absolutely varies depending on the city and I can’t speak to all regions of Sweden, I don’t personally find Malmö to be much more expensive than life in Canada. Most day-to-day necessities are comparable, and despite being hot, the housing prices in southern Sweden aren’t anywhere close to major Canadian cities, like Toronto or Vancouver.

I’ve also found huge cost savings in not having a car. In Sweden, driving is quite unaffordable. Insurance and parking in major cities is expensive. And don’t get me started on gas. In Malmö, you can bike or take public transit everywhere. I can honestly say that not once have I missed not having my own car.

Making Friends in Sweden

The common consensus that I’ve heard amongst is that Swedes don’t like to make new friends. And while this may be true for locals, the expat community is amazing. I’ve only been here for a few weeks and I’ve already had several fika and drink dates with other expats. I’m starting to feel like I’m finding my community.

The key: Don’t be shy. Join groups. Message fellow expats. And all in all, embrace and be open minded to change.


Resources

I have called out these resources throughout this post, but here is everything I referenced consolidated into one section.

  • Waiting for a Sambo Visa within Sweden Facebook group: click here
  • In Sweden on a WHV and applying for a Sambo Visa Facebook group: click here
  • Expats in Malmö Facebook group: click here
  • Canadians in Sweden Facebook group: click here
  • Boplats Syd Website for Apartments: click here
  • Information on the Swedish Working Holiday Visa: click here

Any Questions, Message Me!

I had SUCH a hard time finding the Swedish visa and migration information prior to moving here. After spending a lot of time talking to expats, I wanted to consolidate all my newfound insights into this [hopefully] helpful little tool to help you get a Swedish visa.

And if you want to see more of what day-to-day life in Sweden looks like, follow me on Instagram. And if you like what you’ve read, don’t forget to pin it below!

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