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Warsaw Old Town

Warsaw was never a city that was on my radar. Despite Warsaw being the capital, whenever someone mentioned Poland, I always imagined visiting Kraków or Gdansk. In my mind, Warsaw a big city. A city that had been rebuilt after WWII. And, therefore, it was a city that lacked character or charm.

Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

After spending one day in Warsaw, I was hooked. And knew I needed to come back because one day was not enough (I am also thankful for the super cheap flights that guided us there, because they are the reason that this city is now my radar). I can’t wait to go back again some day – let me tell you why.

So, you only have one day in Warsaw like I did? Here’s my guide on spending one day in Poland’s Capital.

See Also: A Complete City Guide Detailing Why You Need to Visit Kraków.


GETTING TO WARSAW

Warsaw Chopin Airport: The most convenient location to fly into is Warsaw Chopin Airport, located just 20-30 minutes from Warsaw’s city centre by car. From there, you can easily reach the city centre by shuttle, cab, or Uber.

By Train: Coming from another European city? Warsaw is very centrally located in Eastern Europe and is easily accessible by train from many major European cities. We travelled by high speed train from Kraków to Warsaw in only 2.5 hours.


WHERE TO STAY IN WARSAW

If you’re looking for the best hotel in Warsaw, PURO Hotel Warszawa Centrum is your spot.

I am obsessed with this hotel. It’s centrally located, very trendy, and has spacious rooms. The details were immaculate and I still swear I had one of the best sleeps of my life in this hotel room (shoutout to the super comfy bed and some top-notch blackout blinds!).


THINGS TO DO IN WARSAW

Warsaw Old Town

To be totally honest, I was hesitant to visit the Old Town in Warsaw, because I was it was going to feel artificially pretty and lack character. The original Old Town was bombed during WWII and completely destroyed. After the war, it was completely restored to resemble the town prior to the bombings.

When you visit the Old Town, it is hard to ignore how perfect it is – much more perfect than any other city I’ve visited. However, the newness does not take away how insanely beautiful it is. The way the architects were able to recreate what was completely destroyed in itself is impressive, and you can’t help feel a sense of happiness walking through the town. It is a definitive comeback story.

Climb to the Top of the Bell Tower at St. Anna’s Church

For the most spectacular views of the Warsaw Old Town, and Warsaw in general, climb up the winding staircase to the top of St Anna’s Church. I mean, just check out these views.

Łazienki Park

Łazienki Park is a huge park located right in the city centre of Warsaw. It is the perfect place to roam, especially in summer months when you can enjoy the patios and greenery.

In the park, you’ll find historical buildings, including my favourite: Palace on the Isle. This gorgeous bath house was built in the 17th century and was fortunate enough to survive the Warsaw bombings during WWII. It is a time capsule of what once was, in a city that was so brutally destroyed.

Stroll Down Nowy Swiat

Also known as “The Royal Route,” walk from the intersection at Aleje Jerozolimskie (Jerusalem Avenue) to the Old Town. You’ll pass many monuments and historical buildings along the way, as well as tons of shops and restaurants.

Nowy Swiat
Visit the Praga Neighbourhood

Located across the river from the Old Town, we fell in love with the Praga neighbourhood. Described as an “edgier” neighbourhood in Warsaw, this area used to be mostly off-limits to tourists, some would say even dangerous. But, in recent years, it has cleaned up it’s act and has rose in popularity.

The streets of Praga are lined with graffiti murals. If you love street art, make sure to check out 11 Listopada 22.

After venturing around the neighbourhood, along 11 Listopada, we stumbled upon a “parking lot” filled with tables and chairs, bars, live music, and surrounded by street art. Needless to say, this place was cool. We stop in, and ended up staying there for hours in the sun, drinking beers and listening to music. If you’re looking for this spot, type in one of the restaurants “Chmury” into Google Maps, and it’ll lead you there.


WHERE TO EAT & DRINK IN WARSAW

Best Brunch in Warsaw: Aioli

The food here was incredible, and affordable. And they have the most perfect outdoor patio seating, so you can enjoy brunch in the sun during the warmer months.

Aioli Warsaw
Best Pizza in Warsaw: Ave Pizza

If you’re looking for affordable and delicious pizza with all kinds of unique toppings in Warsaw, Ave Pizza has you covered.

Best Pierogi in Warsaw: Zapiecek

Zapiecek is a popular pierogi chain in Warsaw – and let me just say, it is popular for a reason. With options of several fillings, both boiled and fried, this places knows how to make a top-notch pierogi (and this is coming from a girl who has eaten more than her fair share of pierogi in her lifetime).

Zapiecek Warsaw Pierogi
Best Bars in Warsaw: Pawilony Nowy Świat

This is an area filled with over 20 small bars, outdoor seating, and other random vendors. It is a popular spot to grab a cheap drink in central Warsaw and offers a really cool atmosphere.


SO NOW YOU’RE READY TO VISIT WARSAW

You can find all my favourite spots in One Day in Warsaw on the map below.

Simply put: Warsaw should not be dismissed as “just another big city” when planning a trip to Poland. It deserves a lot more love then it gets. And I hope that you can find it in your itinerary to spend more than just one day in Warsaw.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to check out my Kraków City Guide.


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Simrishamn Beach in October

WOW. Nine months. I’ve officially spent nine months living in Sweden. But seriously… where has the time gone?

Before we dive into this I want to start by saying that I love Canada with all my heart. I am forever grateful for the ultimate lottery of being born in one of the world’s best countries. And for the endless opportunities growing up in Canada, and being a Canadian, has provided me.

But, even though Canada is great (and still #1 in my heart)…

I’m convinced that other countries could learn a thing or two from the Swedes. Life in Sweden is a bit slower, a bit more balanced, a bit more “lagom” (if you’re like whaaaat is that?… I explain it a bit more about it below).

And after living in Sweden, I have some takeaways. Here are the best things about living in Sweden.


1. LAGOM

You probably have heard the Danish concept of “hygge,” which has become synonymous with Danish lifestyle, and is being emulated around the world. Similarly, the Swedish concept of “lagom” is something that has been hyped internationally (I mean, even Vogue was talking about it). However, I had a difficult time actually understanding this concept until I began to immerse myself in Swedish culture.

Lagom |là:gom|: Neither too little, or too much; just right. Doing, being, and having just enough.

This principle is truly indicative of the Swedish lifestyle. Simple, balanced, and, above all else, contentment. It is about living life in moderation, and appreciating what you have in that very moment.

I think the outside world has this view of hygge or lagom as a bunch of Scandinavian’s sitting around cozy fireplaces eating kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) – this isn’t true. It is a principle that is ingrained in the culture of the locals, and not something that, in my opinion, can easily be mimicked.

However, I still think that many other countries can learn a bit from the Swedish lagom principle about being content with what you have, and being a little more selfless. Because, ultimately, the reason Sweden has been coined such a great place to live is because they focus on the common good, where hierarchy and status is not important, and everyone is living their own definition of “lagom.”


2. FIKA

Surely you’ve heard of the Swedish concept of fika. It is easily one of the most famous Swedish concepts. But what does it really mean?

Fika |fi:ka|: a Swedish concept meaning “to have coffee” or “coffee with friends,” is typically coffee accompanied by a sweet treat, and is a moment to slow down, and appreciate the good things in life.

Before I moved here, I was aware of the concept. But I was certain it was just a fun gimmick. Boy, was a wrong.

Fika is a way of life in Sweden. We have “Fredagskaka” or “Friday cake” at work. We get together with friends and family for afternoon fika on the weekend (or even after work). It is a concept dating back to the 19th century and is an integral part of Swedish culture.

And while I love a good cup of coffee and a sweet treat, fika is so much more than that. It is an opportunity to take a break from the nuances of your day to just be with the people closest with you. To catch up. To bond. To tell stories… and laugh. And I mean, how special is that?

See Also: My favourite spots in Malmö for fika.


3. SOMMARSEMESTER

Or, in English, summer holidays.

Taking time for yourself – and enjoying time with your families – is important. That’s why 5-6 weeks of paid vacation is standard in Sweden.

And to add to that, Swedes believe that vacation should be enjoyed for longer than one or two weeks at a time. In fact, in Sweden it is normal to take up to four or five weeks of vacation straight, especially during the summer.

After working at a global Swedish-owned company, I can confirm that Swedes live by the principle that work is important – but that in order to be the best employee, you need take care of yourself (and your family). And that means taking time off without questions or feelings of judgement, whether it be to take a mental break, spend time with family and friends, or see the world. And this is something that I think that countries around the world could learn from.


4. “DET FINNS INGET DÅLIGT VÄDER, BADA DÅLIGA KLÄDER”

Translation: There is no bad weather, there are only bad clothes.

This is easily one of my favourite Swedish sayings. Despite living in the north, Swede’s love to be outside.

In Sweden, the number of summer days a year is limited. Most days hover around 20 degrees, however it is not unusual for it to be 15 degrees and rainy in July. And let’s not even get started on the cold, dark winters.

What does this mean for the locals? They make the most of every single sunny day – and spend lots of time outside, even if it’s a bit chilly (or rainy… and it can be very rainy in Malmö). During the summer, it is not unusual, or frowned upon to leave the office early just because it is nice outside. The reason why: nice days are limited, and should be enjoyed. Especially when it is light out until 10:30 pm. As far as Swede’s are concerned, they can make up for it at the office during the cold, dark winter.

However, that doesn’t mean Swedes don’t make the most out of every day. It is not unusual to see Swedes bundled up on a sunny day in March, outside on a patio, having fika with friends (likely with a baby bundled up in a stroller next to them – because yes, the stereotypes are reeeeal. And on that note, the stereotype of fathers on a solo stroller walks with their babies are true too).

See Also: A photo diary of autumn in Skåne, Sweden.


5. SWEDE’S ARE MULTI-LINGUAL

Jag talar Svenska (“I speak Swedish”).

Okay, no I don’t. But I swear I’m working on it. However, learning Swedish is proving to be quite the challenge, because in order to live in Sweden, you really don’t have to speak Swedish.

Did you know that Scandinavian countries are home to some of the best English-as-a-second-language speakers in the world? I mean, after years of cheering on the Detroit Red Wings and their Swedish roster with perfect English, I already knew this. But I didn’t realize that there is some crazy statistic like more than 95% of the population is fluent in English.

This makes it very difficult for an expat like me to learn to speak Swedish – because locals love to practice their English with native speakers.

With that being said, many of the Swedes I’ve met speak more than two languages. They are taught English in school and movies and TV shows are not dubbed (which means they are also expert subtitle readers). Because of this, they have this inherent interest in learning new languages.

Needless to say, I’m totally inspired. And am hoping that in due time, I can add “proficient in Swedish” to my CV (but I am not getting to eager yet, because this learning Swedish thing is no joke).


6. YOU DON’T NEED A CAR

Living in Sweden? No car required.

Locals that live in the city almost exclusively travel by bike. In fact, Malmö is littered with bike lanes and is often considered one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world.

Alternatively, you can take public transit. You can get virtually anywhere you need to go by bus and/or train – even rural villages. And the public transit operates at nearly all hours of the day, which means you always have an option to get where you need to be.

After living for most of my life in a city where you need a car, never could I have imagined have a 30 minute walk/bus ride to work everyday. But, truthfully, I love my commute. It is a time to get fresh air and listen to my favourite podcasts – all while helping reduce the carbon footprint. Which brings me to my next point…


7. ENVIRONMENTALLY-FRIENDLY

Surely, at this point, everyone in the world has heard of Greta Thunberg (but in case you’ve been living under a rock, she’s the Swedish teenage environmental activist who has been actively advocating around the world for climate change).

However, after living in Sweden, it doesn’t surprise me that this young environmental trailblazer is a Swedish native – because Swedes are very conscious of the environment.

As I mentioned before, it is not unusual for locals to rely on bikes and public transportation (especially with the price of gas). Additionally, simple initiatives like recycling and composting are made very easy. And don’t even think about buying a disposable water bottle, or using a plastic bag, because you’ll surely be judged. And besides, Swedish drinking water is some of the cleanest (and tastiest) in the world!


8. HIGH TAXES, HIGH REWARDS

Daycare? Free. University? Free. Cleaning services? Subsidized. Healthcare? Mostly free (you’ll never pay more than 1,000 SEK or roughly 100 EUR per year). I could go on and on about all the fantastic government-incentivized programs.

And let’s not forget the parental leave. 480 work days, which is often shared by both parents (yes, you heard that right, it isn’t weird for new dads to take parental leave; in fact, 90 days are required to be used exclusively by the father). This parental leave can also be used until the child is eight years old, which means it also isn’t uncommon for parents to only work four days a week or take extended summer holidays to spend with their families.

Of course, these programs come with the stigma of being costly. And although some of that is true, my income taxes certainly aren’t any higher than they were in Canada (although, sales taxes are a hefty 25%). Despite the stereotype that the Nordic countries are expensive, I don’t feel like my cost of living is higher here than it would be in Canada.

With many basic everyday bills, like cellphones, internet, and education being very affordable, the only thing that is expensive are the “luxuries” like entertainment (going out to eat, or going to the movies), cars, and gas. And really, I’m happy to reallocate that 90% savings on my monthly cellphone bill to a night out with friends, anyways.

See Also: You can read more about my favourite spots for a night out in Malmo here.


9. JANTELAGEN

I know, another word you likely can’t pronounce. This is a Scandinavian principle that guides how Swedes choose to act, particularly in the workplace.

Jantelagen |jantɛˌlɑːɡɛn|: You are not to think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than anyone else.

Don’t boast. Don’t brag. Stay humble and grounded. Never make anyone else feel inferior to you. No one needs to know about your rank in the hierarchy of your company. Or your new, expensive car.

That, in a nutshell, is Jantelagen.


10. PROXIMITY TO THE REST OF EUROPE

For a travel bug like me, this is easily one of the best things about living in Sweden. I can travel, door-to-door, to Copenhagen Airport in 30 minutes. And Malmö Airport, also nearby, offers budget connections to many European cities for cheap weekend getaways.

Not to mention, there are so many cities accessible by train, including some incredible cities within Sweden (for example, you can get from Malmö to Stockholm in four hours by train, or 50 minutes by flights … which I’ll be doing in a few weeks, so stay tuned for that story!).


And those are, in my opinion at least, the absolute best things about living in Sweden.

Is there anything I missed? If so, add it to the comments below! And if you’re considering moving to Sweden, I’ve wrote all about the Swedish visa process here. You can also read more about expat life in Sweden here.


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Kronovalls slott in October

Autumn in Skåne is beautiful.

The cool, crisp temperatures. The changing colours. The prettiest little towns that look like they are straight out of an Astrid Lindgren fairytale (in case you’re like WHO? … she’s the famous Swedish author of Pippi Longstocking).

Over the past few weeks, I have spent my weekends exploring the Skåne region, which is the southernmost Swedish county that Malmö resides in. And it’s safe to say I’ve seen some of the prettiest landscapes since I moved to Sweden.


Here are some of my favourite autumn in Skåne photos.


ARILD

If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was walking around a movie set in Arild. It is so charming, that Travel & Leisure named this quaint fishing village it one of their “Top 25 Secret European Villages.” And for good reason – just look at how perfect it is.

Can’t Miss: If you’re in Arild, make sure to make a pitstop at Flickorna Lundgren. This spot is located in the countryside outside of Arild and was named Sweden’s best fika by Vogue. Here, you’ll be served their famous sweets and coffee while you sit in the most perfect garden setting. However, keep in mind that this spot typically closes for the season at the end of September, so make sure you check out their opening hours on their website.

After fika, don’t forget to head into the town of Arild to roam around the narrow cobblestone streets and admire the cutest little houses.


MÖLLE

Another picturesque fishing village, Mölle is a popular summer destination for both locals and Europeans, but it quiets down in the autumn months. This makes it the perfect time to visit, when you can enjoy the crisp fall weather without any crowds.


HÖGANÄS

Höganäs is home to Sweden’s famous BBQ spot: Holy Smoke. Situated again in middle-of-nowhere Swedish countryside, this BBQ spot is very popular amongst locals. They serve authentic southern BBQ that will surely make you feel like you’ve been transported to the American south, in the cosiest outdoor setting. At the end of the meal, you can even sit campfire-side and roast marshmallows.

Similar to many other places in this region, Holy Smoke isn’t open all autumn. Take a look at their website for their seasonal hours.

See Also: My guide to where to eat and drink in Malmö.


ÖSTERLEN

Österlen is a region in southwest corner of Skåne, comprised of all kinds of charming country villages. One Saturday during autumn in Skåne, we took a little trip around Österlen. We didn’t really have an itinerary, and we stumbled across some of the coolest sights.

First, was this Österlenchocklad, a little chocolate factory located in the middle of one of Österlen’s small towns. As we were driving by, we noticed the sign and made a split second decision to pull into the parking lot. And let’s just say, I am so happy we did because in this little award-winning chocolate shop, I had the best hot chocolate of my life (and lots of tasty chocolate, too!).

Österlenchocklad: The best chocolate store in Skane

Another stumble-upon location we made a quick decision to pull into was Kronovall Castle. This spot was tucked into the woods, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It featured the most beautiful castle, including acres of grounds with hiking trails and historic buildings, like a blacksmiths shop! And with the leaves being the perfect shade of orange, this place was purely magical.


KIVIK

Kivik, the famous apple region of Skåne, is home to acres and acres of apple orchards. The most famous spple orchard is Kiviksmusteri. Kiviksmusteri produces all kinds of different apple juice and cider, and other apple goods. We loved roaming around the groups, visiting the apple trees, and taking home lots of apple goodies.


SIMRISHAMN

Simrishamn is another community in Österlen. It is located on the water and home to the most beautiful beach (with sand that a really unique shade of orange). The town itself is charming and quaint, with zig-zagging cobblestone alleyways lined with beautiful historical homes.

My only regret is that we didn’t come here in the summer to take a dip at the beautiful beach.


MALMÖ

If you haven’t caught on yet, I love living in Malmö. And Malmö during the autumn season is no exception. As the colours of the seasons continue to change, I find myself non-stop snapping pictures. And can you blame me?

See Also: My full guide to Malmö Sweden.


I told you that autumn in Skåne is beautiful. I’m feeling pretty darn thankful to be living in this picturesque county, where these quaint towns and incredible views are only a short drive away.

Travelling the world is wonderful. But with all these special spots in my very own backyard, I’m feeling really content with staying home for a while. And with so much more to discover, stay tuned for more Swedish road trips coming at ya soon!


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And if you’re living in, or visiting, Skåne, make sure you check out my Malmö Sweden City Guide.

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How to spend 24 hours in Ghent

It’s no secret I love Belgium. After spending three days in Bruges and Brussels in 2015, there was no doubt in my mind I’d be back. I’d heard a lot about Ghent. Specifically, that Ghent is really cool. That it’s filled old historic buildings, beautiful canals, tons of cutesy shops, and a fantastic culinary scene (including the most unreal “loaded” fries – but more on that later). After spending 24 hours in Ghent, I can honestly say that I love this city and am convinced that it is one of Europe’s most underrated hidden gems (and Antwerp too – more on that here).

So why haven’t you heard of this charming little city? Often overshadowed by Brussels, Bruges, and Antwerp, Ghent should not be missed on your Belgian itinerary.

In this 24 hours in Ghent guide, I’m going to tell you exactly why I love this city. And why I would EVEN urge you to consider it as an alternative to the popular (and very touristy) fairytale town of Bruges (otherwise affectionally known as Europe’s “northern Venice.”). Although, if you have time for both, you should absolutely still visit Bruges.

See Also: Falling for fall in Amsterdam; An off-the-beaten path guide to one of my favourite European cities.

Graslei Ghent

HERE’S HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR 24 HOURS IN GHENT


VISIT GRAVENSTEEN

Also known as Castle of the Counts, Gravensteen is an iconic castle located in the centre of Ghent’s old town. You can visit this castle to learn about it’s very interesting past, or simply admire the structure from outside. No matter which you choose, this spot is a must-see in Bruges.

TAKE A STROLL DOWN WERREGARENSTRAAT (THE GRAFFITI STREET)

Ghent is a city bursting at the seams with creativity, and is filled with all kinds of incredible street art. The most famous is Werregarenstraat, a narrow alleyway that has been covered head-to-toe in graffiti.

INDULGE IN ALLLL THE BELGIAN FOOD

Beer, fries, chocolate and waffles – Belgium is the land of tasty treats. So, when visiting Ghent, forget the calories and indulge. It’s not everyday that you’re in Belgium, after all (and think goodness I’m not, or else I would surely weigh about 50 pounds more than I do).

Don’t forget to add Cuberdon to your list of foods to try. This is a cone shaped jelly candy that is native to Belgium. You’ll see street vendors selling them all over Ghent.

Cuberdon in Ghent

WALK ACROSS ST. MICHAEL’S BRIDGE (ST. MICHIELSHELLING)

St Michael’s Bridge connects both sides of the canal in central Ghent and is the perfect place to take in in the views and admire Ghent’s stunning old town charm.

Views from St. Michael's Bridge in Ghent

ADMIRE GRASLEI & KORENLEI

For the most recognizable views of Ghent, walk along the water and admire the facades of the Graslei and Korenlei.

GO SHOPPING IN PADERSHOL

This quaint neighbourhood is home to tons of cafes and shops, set in the most charming little buildings. I particularly loved how many shops sold goods made by local artists, fully embracing Ghent’s booming creative scene.


WHERE TO EAT IN GHENT


THE BEST MARKET IN GHENT

Holy Food Market is the coolest spot to grab lunch in Ghent. Operating inside an old converted church, Holy Food Market offers a huge selection of food and a really cool atmosphere.

Holy Food Market in Ghent

THE BEST FRENCH FRIES IN GHENT

If you’re looking for the best fries in Ghent, you must visit Frites Atelier. This popular spot serves french fries with all kinds of toppings. If you’re feeling daring, trying the Indo Peanut fries (that come topped with peanut sauce). I promise, it is SO MUCH better than it sounds.

Fries at Frites Atelier Ghent

THE BEST CHOCOLATE IN GHENT

If you’re looking to bring home a chocolate souvenir, you can find Leonidas chocolate shops all over Ghent (and Belgium in general). They have a variety of flavours to choose from, and offer their chocolates are a much more affordable price than many of the other chocolatiers.

THE BEST COCKTAIL BAR IN GHENT

Despite the name, which makes me feel mildly uncomfortable when I say it out loud, I loved Jigger’s cocktail bar. I know Belgium is the land of beer, but I promise this cocktail bar is worth checking out while you’re in town.


WHERE TO STAY IN GHENT: THE HOUSE OF EDWARD


The House of Edward is an easy choice if you’re looking for a place to rest your head in Ghent. We stayed in the Deluxe Queen room which was spacious, clean, and so incredibly cute. Located inside a renovated 18th century building, the rooms are an incredible value for your money, especially considering it is located right in the heart of Ghent.


OKAY, NOW YOU’RE READY TO SPEND 24 HOURS IN GHENT

Or more if you can swing it, because I really have just scratched the surface of everything there is to do. And while you’re adventuring through Belgium, don’t forget to check out Antwerp (you can find my 24 Hours in Antwerp guide here).


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Antwerpen-Centraal

I love Belgium. That’s probably not something you hear everyday, right? After all, it doesn’t seem to be a country that is high on most travel bucket lists. But Belgium has amazing culture and beautiful cities combined with some of the best fries, chocolate, waffles, and beer in the world – how could you not love this country? And spending 24 hours in Antwerp further solidified my love affair that began when I first visited Belgium in 2015.

On my first visit to Belgium, I visited two of the more popular cities: Brussels and Bruges. And after spending four days in the country, I knew I’d be back. So, when Sebastian was working in the Netherlands last fall, we went on a little Belgian road trip to Antwerp and Ghent (more on that here).

See Also: Falling for fall in Amsterdam; A complete guide to one of my favourite European cities.

Exploring Grote Markt Antwerp

THINGS TO DO IN WHEN YOU ONLY HAVE 24 HOURS IN ANTWERP


Let me just start my saying that it would be impossible to see everything Antwerp has to offer in 24 hours. However, if you only have 24 hours in Antwerp like we did, here’s a few highlights.

VISIT ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL TRAIN STATIONS

I had heard many times how the Antwerp train station is arguably the most beautiful in Europe. I first visited this train station back in 2015; however, my “experience” involved sprinting through the train station while narrowly missing my connecting train. So, needless to say, I was very excited to visit again … And it totally lived up to its hype. It is simply stunning.

Antwerpen-Centraal

EXPLORE THE ANTWERP DIAMOND DISTRICT

Did you know that roughly 80% of the world’s diamonds are traded in Antwerp? Which makes Antwerp the diamond capital of the world.

The diamond district is home to what seems like hundreds of diamond retailers. It is a fun place to browse, window shop, and experience the diamond trading culture in Antwerp. If you’re in the market for a diamond purchase, make sure you do your research. Many of the diamond traders in the city have a reputation of scamming tourists. That being said, there are still plenty of authentic spots worth visiting if you’re looking to make a special purchase.

PRO TIP: Many retailers are closed on one, or both, days on the weekend. Make sure you look at the hours ahead of time and plan accordingly.

VISIT MUSEUM AAN DE STROOM

Museum aan de Stroom is a really cool, modern museum that sits along the waterfront. We didn’t pay to explore all parts of the museum but instead made our way up to the top to take in the best views of the city.

If you have time, also spend some time exploring the picturesque harbour area around the museum.

Museum aan de Stroom

STEP BACK IN TIME: GROTE MARKT & THE OLD TOWN

Grote Markt is located in the beautiful medieval town area, located right in the heart of Antwerp. The Grote Markt square is filled with beautiful buildings, and often is home to a variety of different markets.

Spend some time exploring the streets around Grote Markt to see some quaint historic streets. And don’t forget to stop by Antwerp’s most iconic church: Cathedral of Our Lady.

GO ON A SHOPPING SPREE ON THE MEIR

Did you know that Antwerp is the fashion capital of Belgium? I sure didn’t. But upon visiting, it became very clear how fashionable the locals are. And you can indulge in the local retail culture while shopping along the most popular shopping street in the city: The Meir.


WHERE TO EAT IN ANTWERP


Now, I know you’re going to be busy trying to fit all these things into 24 hours in Antwerp, but don’t forget to eat. After all, the food culture is a huge part of the fun when visiting Belgium.

BEST BRUNCH IN ANTWERP

Cafématic hosted the best brunch in Antwerp. They had an extensive list with lots of different brunch options, a cosy inside atmosphere and a spacious outdoor patio.

BEST DINNER IN ANTWERP

Looking for incredible pub fair and a huge Belgian beer selection? Billie’s Bier Kafetaria offers it all. With roughly 100 carefully sourced craft beers to choose from, this popular spot is the perfect spot for dinner, drinks – or both!


READY TO SPEND 24 HOURS IN ANTWERP?

And if you’re on a trip around Belgium, check out my 24 hours in Ghent city guide (where I spill the details on where I ate the best loaded fries of my life – this alone is a reason to visit Ghent).


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Fall in Amsterdam

At the beginning of November 2018, I went back to one of my very favourite cities for week – Amsterdam! I first fell in love with this city in the summer of 2015, while at the tail end of a backpacking trip across Europe. I spent three days in the city, and left feeling like I could live there. So when the opportunity presented itself to return for a week, I jumped at the chance.

Given that most people will likely not have a week to spend here, I’ve condensed all my favourite things to do in Amsterdam into a ‘4 Days in Amsterdam’ city guide that highlights all my favourite things to do [and eat!]. The goal of this guide is to provide you with less touristy, more off-the-beaten-path Amsterdam suggestions so you can fall for the city from a more local perspective.


WHERE TO STAY IN AMSTERDAM

I have stayed in three different places in Amsterdam, catering to three different budgets.

Budget: Flying Pig Uptown Hostel

I feel like every young budget backpacker has stayed at one of the Flying Pig Hostel locations in Amsterdam. I stayed here in 2015 and had a great experience. The staff provides a great atmosphere for individuals looking to meet other travellers, and there are a variety of sleeping arrangements available.

Affordable: AirBnb in Amsterdam-Oost

If you’re a fan of AirBnb’s, you’ll love Ilana’s place. Located in Amsterdam-Oost, this location a little bit outside the city centre, but I fell in love with the neighbourhood. It had an amazing food culture and opened my eyes to an entirely new area of Amsterdam that I had yet to explore. The AirBnb is around the corner from the train station for a quick 10 minute train ride to the city centre. Or, if you’re like me and prefer to travel like a local, you can easily rent a bike and ride to almost anywhere you want to go.

Mid-Range: SWEETS hotel

Have you ever dreamed of having your own private bridge house all to yourself? Well, you’re in luck! SWEETS hotel is converting bridge houses all over Amsterdam into private hotel rooms and it is beyond cool. We stay at the Beltbrug location, which was conveniently located around the corner from the trendy Jordaan neighbourhood. If you happen to be travelling to Amsterdam, this is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience that I would not pass up. We can’t wait to go back and stay in another location!

SWEETS hotel Beltbrug

GETTING AROUND AMSTERDAM

The best way to see the city is the way the locals do – by bike! On both my trips to Amsterdam, I have rented bikes from various Black Bike locations and would highly recommend this rental company for great service and affordable prices. If the thought of biking is intimidating to you, I assure you there is nothing to be afraid of. After all, Amsterdam is the most bikeable city in the world!

Biking around Amsterdam

Still feeling a bit too scared to go on a two-wheeled adventure? Amsterdam offers an awesome tram and train system, with daily and weekly passes available for purchase.

Finally – you can walk! The city city is accessible enough that you can walk around and see many of the most famed sights. Just put on a pair of comfy shoes and fall in love with the canals by foot.


DAY 1 IN AMSTERDAM: THE MUSEUM CIRCUIT

Amsterdam is packed with some of the world’s most famous museums. I would pick a couple that interest you and spend your first day immersing yourself in the museum culture. My top personal favourite museums also happen to be the most popular in the city – I guess they are touristy for a reason:

  • Anne Frank Museum. You cannot visit Amsterdam and not go here. Make sure to book your tickets well ahead of time, as it is always sold out.
  • Rijksmuseum. Housing some of the world’s most famous paintings, this world-renowned museum should not be missed.
  • Van Gogh Museum. Everyone loves Van Gogh. What could be better than seeing all his most famous pieces of work in one location?

FUN TIP: If you happen to be in Amsterdam during the beginning of November, Museumnacht is an annual event that gives you after hours access to some of Amsterdam’s most famous musuems. During this event, we saw the Hortus Botanicus lit up at night, visited an Alice in Wonderland-themed party at the Museum of Bags & Purses, and danced the night away at a silent disco at the Rijksmuseum. This is one of the most popular events of the year in Amsterdam, so if you plan on visiting, make sure you buy tickets ahead of time.


DAY 2: SHOPPING & MARKETS

Anyone who knows me knows that I am always on the hunt for the best shopping districts in a new city, and there is no shortage of shopping in Amsterdam. So, on day 2 of your 4 days in Amsterdam, make sure you make some time for shopping. Here’s some of my favourite places to wander during your shopping day in Amsterdam:

  • De 9 Straatjes: In my opinion, the best area to shop in Amsterdam. Features unique vintage finds and trendy boutiques along some of the most picturesque streets in the canal belt.
  • Floating Flower Market: This market features tons of booths selling the most recognizable flower in the Netherlands: tulips.
  • Sunday Market Westergasfabriek: Located in the west part of the city, Westerpark is home to an outdoor market on the first Sunday of each month. This is the perfect place to find locally-made and vintage finds. If you don’t happen to be visiting during the first Sunday of the month, I would still recommend checking out the Westerpark neighbourhood.
  • Pieter Cornelisz (P.C.) Hooftstraat: Whether you’re interested in doing some window shopping, or splurging on the designer handbag of your dreams, this street is often referred to as Amsterdam’s Fifth Avenue, and is your spot for high-end finds.
  • Jordaan: One of my favourite neighbourhoods in Amsterdam, Jordaan features some of the most beautiful canals in Amsterdam, as well as many bohemian-inspired shops and studios/galleries. I could easily get lost for hours roaming around these streets.

DAY 3: FOOD TOUR

Full Disclosure: I am normally not a fan of organized walking tours. However, the Hungry Birds tour was quick to challenge this opinion.

I knew the food culture in Amsterdam was unique, and as a self-proclaimed foodie I was determined to make sure I visited all the very best spots. So after reading amazing reviews about the Hungry Birds food tour, I decided to take the plunge and join them. After spending nearly six hours walking around the city with a small group of fellow foodies, enjoying eats that included Surinamese cuisine, hot food from a vending machine, dutch beer, fries with peanut sauce & mayo, and Amsterdam’s most famous cookies, I knew I had made the best decision in joining this tour.

I’ll highlight some of my favourite spots from the tour in the ‘Food & Drinks’ section below.

If you love food as much as I do, this is a tour that you need to take in Amsterdam. 


DAY 4: EXPLORE DE PIJP

For your last day of your 4 days in Amsterdam, you need to explore my favourite neighbourhood in the city: De Pijp.

Why do I love this neighbourhood so much? Where do I begin!

  • Albert Cuyp Market: This is hands down the best market in the city. Open seven days a week, this market has been in operation for over 100 years, with many vendors owning market real estate for several decades. Here, you’ll find the best stroopwafels in Amsterdam, fresh herring, an assortment of Dutch cheeses, produce, clothing, flowers, and so much more.
  • Fashion: De Pijp is trendy and offers some of my favourite boutiques to shop in the city. If you love fashion, you’ll love exploring De Pijp.
  • Restaurants: There is no shortage of amazing restaurants in De Pijp. Check out the ‘Food & Drinks’ section of this city guide for more details.
  • Coworking Spaces: Need to get some work done on the road? De Pijp features one of my favourite cafes/coworking spaces I have ever visited: Coffee & Coconuts

All in all, De Pijp is just plain cool. If I were to move to Amsterdam, I would want to live in De Pijp. Spend a day taking in everything this neighbourhood has to offer and I bet you’ll feel the same way!


WHERE TO EAT IN AMSTERDAM

This is easily my favourite section of this city guide because Amsterdam has an incredible food culture! We didn’t even get to scrape the surface of what this city has to offer, but here are some of the best spots I visited on my most recent trip.

  • Coffee: Craving a warm cup of joe before you start exploring? You’ll find the best coffee in Amsterdam at Scandinavian Embassy. The owners have truly perfected the craft of coffee-making and the coffee is worth the lineup [even if it is out the door].
  • Famous Cookies: Have you heard of Van Stapele? This bakery is a tourist hotspot and for good reason – the cookies are just so damn good. This small bakery only makes one type of cookie and often has a line out the door. I would recommend going early in the day, because they have been known to close early once they have met a daily ‘cookie quota.’
  • Stroopwafels: I have tried a lot of Amsterdam stroopwafels and the best can be found at Original Stroopwafels in Albert Cuyp Market. I loved them so much I recently had my boyfriend bring 12 packages home from his work trip to share with friends and family [that’s 120 stroopwafels!].
  • Brunch: Bakers & Roasters offers two locations, and is described as a New Zealand-style cafe. If you’re like me and brunch is you’re thing, this is the place to go.
  • Lunch: Do you love avocado? If so, The Avocado Show is a must-visit! Every single item on the menu includes avocado. Not to mention, everything about this place is very insta-worthy.
  • Mid-Range Dinner: If you’re looking for a mid-range dinner, with high-quality, fresh food, Wilde Zwijnen is your place!
  • Asian Fusion: Vijfnulvijf Asian Kitchen Cafe was so good, we went there twice! It was right around the corner from our AirBnb, offered a large selection of small plates, and had several allergy-friendly options [for my boyfriend who often struggles at Asian restaurants due to his nut/seed allergy].
  • Vending Machine Eats: FEBO is a Netherlands staple, and a totally unique experience. If you want to visit the original location, it can be found in De Pijp. Here, you can often still spot the inventor/owner of this fast-food chain deep frying their famous croquettes.
  • Fries: For the best fries in Amsterdam, you may need to stand in line at Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx. But I promise, it will be so worth the wait. If you’re feeling daring, try this Amsterdam staple: fries topped with mayo, peanut sauce, and onions, as known as ‘War Fries.’ They are surprisingly delicious!

NOVEMBER WEATHER IN AMSTERDAM

Many people warned me that visiting Amsterdam in November was a gamble, with typical temperatures hovering around zero degrees Celsius, and high risk of rain and wind. However, after spending time in the city during the busy and hot summer months, visiting during the much quieter month of November was a welcome change. I arrived with an umbrella and waterproof gear and was ready to face whatever weather came my way.

I ended up getting very lucky. With mild temperatures and sunny days, the perfect fall weather was an absolute dream. However, this is not guaranteed and if you plan to visit Amsterdam in November, the unpredictable weather is something to be wary of.


I hope you enjoyed my guide to one of Europe’s best cities! The vibe of this city is truly special, and I can’t wait to spend 4 days in Amsterdam again (hopefully very, very soon!).


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And if you’re travelling around Europe this fall (or any season really), check out my guide to Malmo, Sweden – another super beautiful fall destination!

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