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Early morning in Hoi An Old Town

Hoi An is a place that has be high on my list for a long time. I dreamed of seeing the iconic yellow-painted walls with bright pink bougainvillea hanging over them, the famous lanterns that are strung through the city, and the river filled with small wooden boats that cuts through the old town. That’s why I knew that this stop needed to be my longest in Vietnam – And so, I began planning my itinerary to spend five days in Hoi An.

When I began planning I realized there are endless things to do in Hoi An that you could spend weeks there. But since our itinerary allowed for five days in Hoi An, I was determined to make the most of it. And I came up with this comprehensive guide of all the things to do in Hoi An (and eat!).

See Also: A Complete City Guide to Hanoi.

how should you spend your five days in hoi an? read on to find out!

but first...
where is hoi an located?

Hoi An is in central Vietnam, about 45 minutes outside of Da Nang, along Vietnam’s eastern coast. Located close to the coast, it is also surrounded by mountainous terrain and you can easily see the mountains in the distance. This make for some seriously beautiful views.

how to get to hoi an?

Most people arrive in Hoi An via Da Nang. Depending where you are coming from, there are many ways to get to Hoi An. Here are some tips on how to get to Hoi An from some of Vietnam’s largest hubs:

How to get to Hoi An from Hanoi: We arrived to Hoi An from Hanoi by plane (via Da Nang). Because we only had two and a half weeks in Vietnam, we opted to fly because it was the most efficient way to get from Hanoi to Hoi An. We arranged for a driver to pick us up at Da Nang airport and drive us to our hotel in Hoi An for roughly 275,000 VND or 12 USD. Hotels are often eager and willing to help arrange these services, so reach out to your hotel to arrange it prior to arriving in Da Nang. Alternatively, you can take the bus or the train from Hanoi (it takes about 12-14 hours, so many people opt to take this journey overnight and sleep on the way – and you save on accommodations for a night!).

How to get to Hoi An from Ho Chi Minh City: You can arrive from Ho Chi Minh City the same way as Hanoi – by plane to Da Nang, bus, or train.

Between these major hubs, you can also hop on buses or trains (and in some places, planes). Generally speaking, with transportation in Vietnam, I have found that it is always best to consult your hotel or hostel to help you make these arrangements and to make sure you don’t get scammed when booking private cars, buses, or trains.

A note on taxi scams: I would advise against using taxis in Vietnam, especially with airport pickups, because they have been known to scam tourists. If you’re looking for a safe taxi service, download the Grab app (Vietnam’s version of Lyft or Uber). You can confirm your ride through the app to ensure you are getting a fair price for the service.

things to do in hoi an

wander through the old town

Let’s start with the most obvious one because reality is, you’ll likely spend tons of time in the Hoi An Old Town. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the epicenter of Hoi An is straight out of a Vietnam postcard. Wander around the yellow-walled streets, down the alleyways… and just get lost. Stumble upon temples and browse the shops. My favourite shop is Sunday, where they have the most perfect handmade goods (and very Instagram-friendly walls, shown below). If you’re interested in shopping, I also love Mui the Label. Make sure you stop to grab a Vietnamese coffee at one of the charming cafes, and just people watch. Hoi An Old Town is the perfect place to do it.

Where is the From Hoi An with Love Wall
Hoi An Vibes Only Wall

Price to Visit Hoi An Old Town: 120,000 VND or 5 USD per person. At the entrances to the Old Town, you’ll notice ticket booths. While they don’t enforce ticket sales, they will check that you have a ticket if you want to visit the temples scattered throughout the Old Town. Even if you don’t intend to visit temples, be a responsible traveller and buy a ticket. It is a very small price to pay that goes back into the preservation of the Old Town so others can enjoy it for years to come.

Yellow Walls in Hoi An Old Town
Hoi An Old Town
Boats along river in Hoi An
Bougainvillea in Hoi An Old Town

gets clothes tailored

My custom tailoring experience was one of my favourite memories in Hoi An. Because we were visiting during the Lunar New Year, many tailors were closed, and our options are limited. I decided to connect with Bebe Tailor, the most famous tailor in Hoi An. I was a bit skeptical to work with Bebe Tailor because they have been known to be a bit expensive versus other tailors. But, I decided to try it out and got two dresses made.

In the end, I am so happy I chose Bebe. They were true professionals and their attention to detail and level of craftsmanship was first class. They were able to create both dresses in 24 hours (with two fittings in between), using premium materials, they turned out perfect. Never have I ever had such perfectly fitting clothing before and they truly understood my vision.

The price tag wasn’t “cheap” at 200 USD for both dresses (Sebastian also got a custom shirt made for 40 USD). But compared to the cost of a custom service at home, this was still very reasonable. And the experience itself was so special. I’ve never loved a vacation souvenir more!

If you’re looking for cheaper options, here’s a few that others recommended to me: Yaly Couture, Ca Li Tailor, and IZI Wear.

Wandering Around Hoi An Old Town
Dress from Bebe Tailor
Shown: The two dresses I got made at Bebe Tailor (note the photo on the right was taken in Tam Coc, not in Hoi An)

visit the best hoi an temples

There are loads of beautiful temples scattered throughout the centre of Hoi An. They weren’t particularly busy while we were there in January (with the exception of the Japanese Bridge), but I have been told they can get really crowded during peak season… So make sure to head there early. Here’s a few of my favourites:

  • Cantonese Assembly Hall
  • Phuc Kien Assembly
  • The Japanese Bridge
  • Pháp Bảo Temple
  • Chùa Long Tuyền

Don’t forget that these are places of worship and please dress appropriately (that means covering your shoulders and knees).

Price to Visit Hoi An Temples: You will need to buy a ticket at the entrance to the Old Town for 120,000 VND or 5 USD per person. With this, you can visit five attractions.

Japanese Bridge in Hoi An

bike around the hoi an rice fields

Biking around the Hoi An rice fields was so fun – in fact, we did it twice. The rice fields outside of Hoi An are beautiful, with paths zig-zagging throughout them so you can easy navigate your way through. We spent so much time biking through the lush green fields, stopping frequently to admire the horses, water buffalo and locals working in the fields – while rarely ever running into anyone else. It amazed me that this seemingly hidden gem, where locals lived their very normal lives tending to their rice farms, existed only a short bike ride from the busy city centre.

Take a look at this map below for suggested where to bike in the Hoi An rice fields, as well as marked locations of some of my favourite spots to capture photos. Note: If you put directions in Google Maps, they will lead you down the busy Ha Bai Trung street. Avoid this street and cut up through the rice fields through the entrances marked.

Biking Hoi An Rice Fields
Cow in Hoi An Rice Fields

visit the best beach in hoi an

On the other side of the Hoi An rice fields, you’ll find the best beach in Hoi An: An Bang Beach. By bike, you can easily reach the beach, where you’ll be able to rent a chair. We opted both times to rent our beach chairs at Seaside (we paid 60,000 VND, or less than 3.00 USD, and the spot also offered full-service beach side drinks and food, wifi, and a bathroom). 

An Bang Beach swing
An Bang Beach

While you’re at An Bang Beach, make sure you check out Sound of Silence Coffee Shop. I had heard a lot about this spot prior to visiting An Bang Beach, and this cutesy little coffee shop was a fantastic beach side escape for iced coffees. If you’re looking for a good photo spot on An Bang Beach, you can find the swing shown above outside the Sound of Silence beach entrance.

Note: I wasn’t able to locate Seaside on Google Maps, but I have pinned the location of it in the map at the end of this article. However, the easiest way to get there is to head to Sound of Silence Coffee Shop, and head down the pathway to the right side of the shop toward the beach.

Sound of Silence Coffee Shop

visit the hoi an night market

The Night Market in Hoi An is where the city comes alive. Here you’ll find stalls lit up with the famous Hoi An lanterns lining the side of the street. There are tons of vendors selling all kinds of souvenirs and many street food joints, too.

We bought a few souvenirs for friends and family here (make sure to haggle – we were typically able to knock 30-40% off the starting price). My only real regret is that I couldn’t fit a lantern in my backpack to bring home with me (if you’re travelling with a suitcase, buy one – they are beautiful).

While you’re visiting the Hoi An Night market, you can take a ride on the river in one of the beautifully decorated boats. I was skeptical to do this, because it looked very touristy. But then on our very last night this Vietnamese women followed us around for fifteen minutes trying to convince us to get into her boat. We were so impressed by her hustle game that we gave in and went for a ride (for roughly 100,000 VND or just over 4 USD). Seeing the river lit up at night was beautiful, but I honestly wouldn’t be quick to do it again. It was just as pretty looking at it from the shoreline.

take a class at the best cooking class in hoi an

One of my absolute favourite mornings in Hanoi was spending a morning with Hoi An Eco Cooking Class. The experience was hands-on and immersive. And I am still dreaming about the food! We’ve tried to recreate it at home… but it just isn’t the same (guess that means I need to book a flight back to Hoi An).

But seriously, I couldn’t imagine a more fun morning and it was an easy highlight. We made our own rice paper over a burning hot fire, rolled fresh spring rolls, fried sizzling pancakes, and just had so much fun. This was also an allergy-friendly cooking class in Hoi An for anyone travelling with nut allergies in Vietnam. If you have any allergies reach out and ask if they can accommodate. I was so impressed by their hospitality.

Important Tip: Use the correct link to book the class (there are some imitations out there that hotels will point you toward because they earn commissions). Make sure you FOLLOW THIS LINK to book directly with Hoi An Eco Cooking Class on their website (feel free to tell them that I sent you).

Hoi An Eco Cooking Class

get lost in the hoi an central market

We loved Hoi An Central Market. It was chaotic and fun and full of so many delicious smells. Walk up to any stall, ask them to cut open a piece of fruit for you, and just wander around admiring the sights, sounds, and smells. It’s a serious sensory overload.

If it were up to me, I would have made a pit stop for fresh dragon fruit and mangoes here every single day. Unfortunately, we were travelling in Hoi An around the beginning of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, and World Health Organization was strongly urging travellers in Asia to avoid visiting open markets. So, after the first day we listened to WHO’s orders and (albeit reluctantly) stayed away.

Fruit in Hoi An

get a taste of local life at tra que vegetable village

Right outside of central Hoi An lies Tra Que Vegetable Village where locals tend to their immaculate gardens. These farming village was so cool to see, with locals using traditional Vietnamese practices to harvest the land. We only had time to ride our bikes around the village and admired daily life. But, if I were to do it again, I would have opted for a more immersive experience at the farm by taking a tour.

If you’re interested in getting a full hands-on agricultural experience with the best Tra Que Vegetable Village tour, I’ve heard awesome things about this tour with Backstreet Academy where you get to be a farmer for a few hours. You even get to eat a meal made from the locally grown organic ingredients.

Tra Que Vegetable Village

visit the my son sanctuary

We loved the My Son Sanctuary, which is located roughly an hour from Hoi An. The ruins were spectacular. And while many have been kept in good condition, evidence of the Vietnam War was apparent in damage. In fact, there were craters surrounding the ruins from bombings. It is UNESCO famed cultural landmark in Vietnam that, in my opinion, should not be missed.

What is the best time of day to visit My Son Sanctuary? Most tours leave Hoi An or Da Nang around 8:00 in the morning, which often means that My Son Sanctuary is very crowded by 9:00 am. We originally planned to visit when it opened for sunrise, at 6:00 am, but I had heard that it has begun to get busier in the morning as a few tour providers have begun to offer sunrise tours. Based on this, we opted to visit in the mid-afternoon, before closing. We arrived at My Son Sanctuary at around 2:00 pm and it was not busy at all. JACKPOT. The only downside to this plan is that it is very hot at My Son Sanctuary. While the heat was tolerable for us in January, I am not sure I would feel the same way during the warmer months. If I were to return to Vietnam in the spring or summer, I would opt to visit My Son Sanctuary at sunrise.

How to get to My Son Sanctuary? We opted to pay for a private driver drive us to/from My Son Sanctuary because we weren’t interested in having a tour guide and wanted to explore at our own pace. This service cost us about 35 USD. Alternatively, you can book a group tour (this is by far the cheapest option). I wouldn’t recommend taking the morning tours that leave around 8:00 because the sanctuary will likely be very busy. In my opinion, sunrise is your best option for a tour. If you’re interested in a sunrise tour, check this one out. Alternatively, there are many people who ride scooters out to the sanctuary. After passing by many amazing local villages and wishing I could make a pit stop, I was envious of the people brave enough to make this journey by bike. But, we weren’t feeling personally confident enough to make this trek by scooter (maybe next time?).

Visiting My Son Sanctuary

hop around to the best coffee shops in hoi an

It’s no secret that my coffee obsession is REAL. And Vietnamese coffee sits at the top of my list for some of my favourite coffee ever. That’s why I was so excited to visit Hoi An, which is really a coffee-shop-lovers paradise. Take some time to slow down and enjoy the best coffee shops in Hoi An. Here’s a few of my favourites:

  • 92 Station: For the best views of the city, 92 Station is your spot. Head up to the patio on the third floor and be welcomed by the best rooftop views paired with a Vietnamese coffee or fresh juice (or both!).
  • Faifo Coffee: Faifo is a very popular spot in Hoi An for rooftop views, but if you ask me, my previous recommendation (92 Station) is better. Not only did 92 Station have better coffee, but it is a lot less busy than Faifo, which has been known to have people literally lining up to take photos on the roof. Even still, the rooftop patio here is great if you can manage to stop when it isn’t busy like we did.
  • Sound of Silence Coffee Shop: Located along An Bang beach, you can enjoy coffee next to beach at this cutesy spot. I highly recommend the mango-infused cold brew for a unique and refreshing coffee flavour.
  • Mot Hoi An: Not coffee, but Mot is home to Hoi An’s most popular iced herbal teas. Seriously – this iced tea is the real deal. You’ll probably notice groups of people lined up to grab a famous tea for only 10,000 VND (less than .50 USD), beautifully garnished with a leaf, rose petal, and bamboo straw.
  • Wake Up Coffee: Another great little coffee shop with big open windows, perfect for people watching alongside the busy Hoi An streets.
  • The Espresso Station: MY FAVOURITE COFFEE SHOP IN HOI AN. This spot is a bit hidden down an alleyway, and offers such a cool patio ambiance and really unique coffee and drinks that are seriously works of art. We spent a couple hours on the patio sharing four drinks between the two of us (because we couldn’t make our mind up about what we wanted). My favourite drink was ice cubes made of frozen coffee topped with cacao powder, and served with hot creamy milk that you pour overtop.
  • Reaching Out Teahouse: Also not a typical coffee spot, but I love Reaching Out Teahouse so much we went here twice. This traditional teahouse is operated by deaf workers and all communication is done through writing and the use of small blocks with words like “thank you” written onto them. The ambiance of this place is beautiful, and the tea is fantastic (and served with delicious homemade cookies and biscuits). I also loved the fresh juices here – you must try the lime juice and add a bit of liquid ginger to it.
Faifo Hoi An
92 Station Hoi An
Reaching Out Teahouse Hoi An
Shown here (clockwise from top left): Faifo Coffee rooftop; Reaching Out Teahouse; Views from 92 Station Rooftop; Espresso Station

take a trip to the Tam Thanh Mural Village

Full disclosure: We didn’t go here. But I really wanted to after hearing so many wonderful things about it. Since were in Hoi An during the Lunar New Year (Tet), it meant that many drivers and tour operators were taking time off with their families. So when we tried to arrange time to visit this village, it became too complicated to fit it into the schedule.

But, based on what I’ve heard, I would highly recommend visiting this spot. The local town is covered in murals and I’ve also heard the nearby beach is beautiful and not touristy. Located roughly an hour away, you can arrange a driver through your hotel, ride a scooter, or take a tour. Here’s a link to a tour that will take you out to the village (cost is only about 16 USD per person for a five hour excursion).

The Best Hotel in Hoi An

Maichi villa

Looking for the best hotel in Hoi An? How about a hotel in Hoi An with a pool? Or a hotel in Hoi An with free breakfast?

Well, I’ve got the perfect spot. MaiChi Villa was easily our favourite hotel (errr, should I say homestay?) we stayed at in Vietnam for so many reasons. It had a beautiful pool, massive rooms, and a huge breakfast all included in the price. The hotel only opened a few months ago, and it was brand new in every way. The facilities were beautiful, and the host family could not have been more sweet and helpful.

Finally, MaiChi Villa is also so optimally located, a quick 8-10 minute walk from the Old Town. And they provide free bikes so you can easily bike everywhere else you need to go. I seriously cannot recommend this hotel enough.

MaiChi Villa Hoi An Review
The Best Hotel in Hoi An: MaiChi Villa

Where to Eat in Hoi An

Hoi An is quite literally full of hidden gem restaurants and has so many must-local dishes that I couldn’t get enough of. Here’s a few of my favourites (and things you should try at each).

Mot Hoi An: famous for the herbal tea described above, but we loved the food here too!
Madam Khanh - The Banh Mi Queen: get the classic banh mi with pate - yum!
Banh Mi Phuong: anthony bourdain said this was the best manh mi in the world
LeFe dining place: mid-range but so good with accommodating sebastian's nut allergy that we went twice; try the "shrimp lettuce wraps" and fresh spring rolls, shown below
ganesh: if you're looking for something different, they have some of the best indian food ever
ben bi bubble tea: didn't eat here, but loved the matcha bubble tea
sea crab: looking for a lunch spot near an bang beach? this is a good spot for cao lau
Com Ga Ba Minh: a local favourite for the popular hoi an chicken and rice dish
white rose restaurant: for famous white rose dumplings
dingo deli: all day brunch and western food (like pizza)
rosie's cafe: very popular/trendy brunch spot searching mostly western brunch options

LeFe Dining Place Hoi An

find all my favourite spots for the perfect five days in hoi an.
check out the map below.

pro Tip: Google Maps does not pin locations in Vietnam with 100% accuracy.
Therefore, you should note the exact address of the location. Use Google Maps to Help you find the street, and then follow the street numbers until you find the exact address. also, google maps will often "auto-correct" the street name and lead you in the wrong direction. before you start walking, make sure you double check that you have the right street name (or else you might end up 15 minutes late for a food tour like us, lol).
Boats in Hoi An

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5 Days in Hoi An City Guide
Tips for visiting My Son Sanctuary
Things to Do in Hoi An Itinerary
The Best Beach in Hoi An
The Best Restaurants in Hoi An
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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 spend 4 days in Amsterdam, I jumped at the chance.

While I’ve spent a lot more time here over the past few years, I’ve condensed all my favourite things to do in Amsterdam into a 4-day guide that highlights all my favourite things to do in Amsterdam [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.

Here’s a complete guide to spending 4 days in Amsterdam!


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 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.

Now, that you know how to get around we’re answering the most important question: What to do in Amsterdam in 4 days.


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!).

Also, if you’re looking for fall day trips near Amsterdam, local Red As Velvet has some great tips!


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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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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.


WHERE TO STAY IN THE DOURO VALLEY

The first choice you need to make when considering visiting the Douro Valley is which towns to visit. And where to stay in the Douro Valley to make sure you’re close to everything you want to see.

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

THE BEST DOURO VALLEY WINE HOTEL

Looking for the best Douro Valley wine hotel. 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 on the property of the wine hotel 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

GETTING 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.

TAKING A TRAIN TO THE DOURO VALLEY

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

ONLY HAVE TIME FOR A DOURO VALLEY DAY TRIP?

Check out some of the best Douro Valley day trip options with Get Your Guide.


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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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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Ice Cream on Halifax Boardwalk

I have to admit, I’m a pretty terrible Canadian. To be clear, I absolutely love my country and am SO PROUD and thankful to be Canadian. But I say that because until recently, I really hadn’t explored much of my own backyard. I mean, I’d travelled all across my home province of Ontario, and to Quebec. But considering I’ve been to over 15 US states, and countless countries in three different continents, my Canadian travel experience was downright embarrassing.

That is until 2018, when my sister got married in Nova Scotia and moved to Alberta. I was finally being “forced” to see two more Canadian provinces.

We spent six days total over a long weekend in Halifax and surrounding areas.

However, much of this time was devoted to the wedding. Even still, I had plenty of time to explore – and let me tell you, I fell in love with the east coast of Canada.

Beautiful landscapes in Nova Scotia, Canada
Nova Scotia, Canada

In Nova Scotia, life moves at a different pace. The people are easily the most friendly people I have encountered in all of my world travels. Not to mention, the province is just down right BEAUTIFUL. Seriously, I can’t wait to go back.

Have a convinced you that you should be visiting Halifax, Nova Scotia yet?

YAY. Great. Now here’s everything you need to know to get the most of your long weekend in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Things to Do in Halifax

Halifax Boardwalk

Ice Cream on the Halifax Boardwalk
Ice Cream on the Halifax Boardwalk

There is so much to do along the Halifax waterfront, especially during the summertime. The city is just so alive. There are people walking in the sunshine, musicians busking Celtic tunes in the streets, and patios everywhere.

Normally, waterfront restaurants in cities like this are super touristy, overpriced, and unauthentic; however, Halifax is truly the exception. Even the locals congregate on the many waterfront patios in the summer, drink beer, and soak up the sun.

And if patios aren’t your thing, you can grab an ice cream and sit in one of the many Adirondack chairs along the water and just take in the views. You’ll probably see a really long lineup for ice cream at Cows, and I promise it’s worth the wait.

If you’re interested in tours, there are boat tours departing along the boardwalk. You can learn all about what Halifax once was, because the city really does have so much history. I personally didn’t do a tour, but I have heard from people who have that it is a really cool and educational experience.

Halifax Public Gardens

The Halifax Public Gardens are beautiful! And when in full bloom during the summer months, it is definitely worth exploring. Bring a picnic blanket and have lunch in the gardens.

Alexander Keith’s Brewery Tour

Do you love beer? Why not do a tour of one of Canada’s most popular breweries. We personally didn’t have time to do this tour, we intended to and simply ran out of time, but I have heard from so many people that the Alexander Keith’s Brewery Tour is a super fun experience. If you love beer, you can’t miss this.

Halifax Day Trips

Lunenburg

Waterfront in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
Waterfront in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

My sister got married in her husband’s hometown of Lunenburg last summer, so I had the privilege of spending a few days in this picture perfect little town. If you have time while in Nova Scotia, I highly recommend you spend a night or two in Lunenburg. My sister was married at the Boscowen Inn, which is a charming little bed and breakfast, perfectly situated in the heart of Lunenburg. I couldn’t recommend staying here more.

If you’re in Lunenburg, there are a long list of incredible restaurants [if you like seafood, you’ll have some of the best in this town]. I would recommend Grand Banker, The South Shore Fish Shack, and Salt Shaker Deli, which all offer amazing waterfront views. We also loved Kate’s Sweet Indulgence for breakfast and coffee.

Fish Shack, Lunenburg
Bridal Party Drinks at Fish Shack, Lunenburg

If you’re headed to Lunenburg from Halifax, I would strongly suggest taking the lighthouse route. This route takes a bit longer, but it includes so many stops including the popular Peggy’s Cove and the beautiful Mahone Bay.

Peggy’s Cove

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia
Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

A true Canadian landmark, Peggy’s Cove looks like a postcard. And the town surrounding it is equally as picturesque. spend some time taking in the views, and then indulge in a lobster dinner at one of the local restaurants for a quintessential eastern Canada experience.

Local Hike: Duncan’s Cove Hiking Trail

Duncan's Cove Hiking Trail
Duncan’s Cove Hiking Trail

After my sisters wedding in Lunenburg and the crazy Canada Day we had in Halifax, I was craving some fresh air. We drove about 30 minutes to Duncan’s Cove Hiking Trail for just that. The head of the trail is located on private property, so be mindful of the locals. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the other cars parked along the side of the street. There is very little parking, so you may have to just pull over on the side of the street to park.

The hike is easy, mostly flat with some elevated elements, and is definitely suitable for beginners and children. The true gem of this hike is the ocean views. Bring snacks, or lunch, and take a break along the hike to eat and breathe in the fresh ocean air.

We loved that this hike was mostly unexplored, there weren’t a lot of people, and was a quick driving distance from Halifax.

Where to Eat in Halifax

So much of what I loved so much about Halifax was their food and drink culture. The restaurants were fantastic.

Coffee in Halifax

The Old Apothecary: If you’re looking for coffee and a quick breakfast pastry, this is your place. There is a cool seating area upstairs and the coffee was great. I highly recommend the Vietnamese coffee.

Brunch

Black Sheep Halifax: this place had some incredible reviews, and for good reason. The brunch was unique, well thought out, and just overall exceptional. If you’re looking for a truly Canadian experience, try the breakfast poutine!

Lunch/Dinner

Lot Six: This place was so good, we went there twice – for both lunch and dinner. Our first night in Halifax, we had dinner here. The food lived up to its hype and its cocktails were fantastic. We especially enjoyed the oyster appetizer [a must-have while in Nova Scotia], and even went back the next day for oyster happy hour at their bar. With six oysters for $12 or twelve for $20, this is the perfect place to indulge in this delicacy.

Pub Food

If you’re looking for a quick pub meal, there are tons of pubs along Argyle Street. We had lunch at Durty Nelly’s Irish Pub while we took in some World Cup action, and it is a solid choice for drinks and pub food.

Where to Drink in Halifax

It is no secret that Haligonians like to have a good time. So it’s no surprise that there are bars everywhere in Halifax. Here’s a few places to look.

The Lower Deck: A Halifax staple along the waterfront, you have to visit this place if you’re in the city. If you’re there over the weekend, Sunday night is the most popular night to go because popular local band Signal Hill plays every Sunday night. In the summer months, they have a huge party every Sunday night on the outdoor stage, and it is something you absolutely do not want to miss [we were there for Canada Day and it was a highlight of our trip]. Check out the schedule for other weekday performances, they have a variety of bands performing.

Canada Day at the Lower Deck with Signal Hill
Canada Day at the Lower Deck with Signal Hill

Argyle Street: There are tons of bars along this street if you’re looking for a local party.

Halifax Boardwalk: Along the Halifax Boardwalk there are tons of restaurants and bars serving patio drinks. Stop by at any of these for a guaranteed good time.

Where to Stay in Halifax

We chose to stay in the most perfect AirBnb just north of the downtown core of Halifax. It was affordable, clean, and super trendy. Click here for the listing.

And if you’re new to Airbnb, you can use my referral code to get $45 CAD off your first booking when you sign up: click here.

If you prefer to stay in a hotel, I would try to choose a hotel as close to the waterfront as possible, as this is likely where you’ll spend most of your time in the city.

Getting Around Halifax

By Foot: If you’re planning to spend the entire weekend in the Halifax city centre, you can absolutely get around by foot. The city isn’t very big, and is very accessible. We spent our two full days in Halifax walking everywhere.

By Car: If you’re planning on visiting the surrounding areas of Halifax, you’ll need to rent a car. We drove to and from Lunenburg by car, as well as to our hike, and all the roads were well-paved and easy to navigate. In fact, when driving through rural areas, we rarely saw other drivers on the road.

Uber/Lyft/Taxi: Halifax does not currently have Uber or Lyft, however I have heard that they are reconsidering the option of offering these services in the city soon, so take a look when you’re planning your trip. We did use a taxi once while in the city, which was quick and reasonably priced.

Are you feeling ready to book that flight to Halifax yet?

Colourful Halifax
Colourful buildings like this one can be found all over Halifax

What makes this city, and Nova Scotia in general, so special is something I could never articulate with words. It’s wrapped up in the spirit of the locals, the easygoing vibes of the city, and it’s deep-rooted history. The city is just so cool. If you visit, you’ll understand exactly what I mean. And then you’ll want to visit again – and again, and again.

If you have any questions about, or recommendations for, spending a long weekend in Halifax or Nova Scotia, drop them in the comments below or shoot me an email.


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Long Weekend in Halifax
Halifax Itinerary
Halifax Food Guide
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