What are my two favourite things on the planet? Number one is definitely travelling. Second place is a tough call between food, my dog and Harry Potter. For the purposes of this post, let's go with the latter. So, you can imagine my excitement when visiting Edinburgh and getting to see all of the Harry Potter locations *insert squealing noises here*. There are plenty of tours  which enable you to pay someone to take you around the famous Harry Potter destinations of Edinburgh, but we saw the majority of them (or they were pointed out for us to explore later) on our free walking tour with Sandemans New Europe  (big shout out to Max the epic tour guide!). But if tours aren't your cup of tea, here's a nice little list for you to get your teeth stuck into and go find yourself! The Elephant House Even if you aren't a Harry Potter fan, please promise me that you will visit The Elephant House to experience their incredible freshly squeezed orange juice. It was unreal. The Elephant House is the cafe which proudly brands itself as "the birthplace of Harry Potter". This is the cafe that provided a nice warm cosy spot for  J. K. Rowling to begin writing the Harry Potter books in. You can expect fairly long queues to eat here, but it's well worth it for the juice and amazing range of cakes! Make sure you also check out the toilets as Harry Potter fans have taken to the walls and graffiti-ed their love for the wizarding world all over the walls! Never have I found myself taking pictures of cafe toilets before... The Balmoral Hotel
Image Credit: Booking.Com
Fast forward to the end of the Harry Potter series and Rowling suddenly had a few more pennies in the bank and decided to use the Balmoral Hotel (room 552 to be precise) as her writing grounds. On completing the novels, she decided to scribble ‘JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007' on a marble bust in the room. If you're willing to fork out a hell of a lot of money ((approximately £1,000) per night, you can stay in the Grand Suite that has since been named "The J K Rowling Suite" and it can be booked here. Greyfriars Kirkyard It's not often that a travel blog recommends you visit a graveyard, but here we go. Greyfriars Kirkyard is a short walk from The Elephant House and is said to be where J K Rowling went for a walk on her breaks from writing. The graveyard plays particular importance in naming a few of the books important characters - here you will find the graves of Thomas Riddle and William McGonagall (who we were actually informed on our Sandemans tour is known for being one of the worst recognised Scottish poets!) George Heriot's School Adjacent to Greyfriars Kirkyard is The George Heriot School which is known for being the inspiration for Hogwarts school (and it's not hard to see why). Unfortunately the school is very rarely open to the public and it's hard to see the entire building in all it's glory (unless you want to try and climb over the fence separating it from the graveyard). But apparently you can get a good view of the school from the observation deck at Camera Obsura - we didn't visit, so I can't comment! J K Rowling's Hands
Image Credit: Andy At College
One thing that I completely missed whilst in Edinburgh and have only read about since returning is the "Hollywood Walk of Fame"-esque  imprint of J K Rowling's hand-prints in the Edinburgh City Chambers floor. Go size up your hands - who knows, you could be the next biggest writer! Just Explore The City and It's Architecture Let's face it, the whole of Edinburgh feels magical. The buildings are old and whimsical. The city is also littered with ghost/horror stories (we took another tour with Sandemans New Europe called the "The Dark Side Tour" which explained all of the gruesome ancient stories that the city has to offer! There are so many other streets and buildings that apparently inspired J K Rowling, but who knows how truthful these accounts are! One story that I can believe to be true is Victoria Street inspiring Diagon Alley - take a look and you'll see why! Another favourite is the street "Potterrow" which alledgedly inspired the name for Harry! Glenfinnan Viaduct
Image Credit: Getty
Okay, this one isn't in Edinburgh, but if you are taking an extended trip to Scotland and you're a huge Harry Potter fan, you will want to know about it (it's still on my bucket list)! Glenfinnan Viaduct is the famous bridge that the Hogwarts Express takes its journey across. Trains still run across the bridge every day, so grab a ticket and pretend you're off to the land of Hogwarts!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

Day One (1/2 Day) Wahoo, after a very early morning, we were off to Germany! After taking a while to check in to the hotel and subsequently falling asleep for much longer than anticipated, we were off to explore the city for the afternoon! The Cathedral Our first stop was obviously the world famous cathedral which is definitely the best place to orientate yourself. There is one word for the cathedral - huge. Like, actually huge. Almost scary huge. I've seen a lot of European cathedrals and this one is definitely up there with the best! I took millions of photos of the cathedral during our time in Cologne and I can't believe how much the lighting affects one building, it looks different in each photo! Botanical Flora Gardens After searching for food, we headed to the Botanical Gardens as we thought it would be on route to our next destination but it was a much longer walk than we expected! Although it wasn't a bad walk by the river in the sunshine. The gardens are beaaaautiful and definitely worth your time if you're in the area on a sunny day! Free Walking Tour After spending some time in the gardens, we headed to the meet point of the Free Walk Cologne tour. I would definitely recommend this company, our guide (who's name now escapes me) was really informative and funny! Cologne has a lot of history and given the fact it was such an important hub in World War II. Among all of the mains sights of the city (including the cathedral), you will see lots of little bits that you may have missed while wandering the streets of the city unguided - including the narrowest house in the city (the 2nd narrowest in Europe!) & underground Roman ruins (actually located in an underground multi-story car park!). Moan A Lot Because You Wore Silly Sandals And Now You Have Blisters My least favourite activity of the trip. Day Two Take a Day Trip! We all know that I was using Cologne as a base to explore a nearby castle (standard Danielle behaviour). So on our second day in Germany, we headed to Burg Eltz and you can read all about our experience here. I'll shortly be writing a post on exactly how to get to the castle because the internet wasn't very helpful during my research, so let me know if there is anything you want to know! If castles aren't your thing, there are plenty of other cities/towns that are an easy train ride away including:
  • Dusseldorf
  • Frankfurt
  • Bonn
  • Aachen
  • Trier
Day Three We were hoping to go on another day trip on day three, but my feet had turned into two giant blisters, so we decided to spend the day in Cologne and try to do as little walking as possible! Chocolate Museum I'm normally a history/nature lover while I'm travelling, choosing to avoid more commercialised tourist traps but we LOVED our time at the chocolate museum! A lot of the reviews on TripAdvisor moaned that there weren't enough free samples - we only got 2 but they were bloody incredible! Eat Yourself Into Oblivion  With it being ridiculously hot, we spent some time in a small beer garden near the Chocolate Museum downing steins of cold drink and of course eating my favourite - CURRY WURST! National Socialism Documentation Centre Yes, that does sound like a really boring building. But I can assure you that it's not! The Documentation Centre was previously used as a Nazi prison and the information inside is a harrowing reminder of the holocaust. The above-ground floors of the building are used as a museum and do a good job of explaining what life in Cologne was like during the war (although I don't think the museum was quite as harrowing as places like Typography of Terror in Berlin and House of Terror in Budapest - both of which I would HIGHLY recommend). Make sure you ask for an English audio guide, many of the displays in the museum are written in German only. The audio guide makes the experience much more poignant with the most memorable aspect for me being the room which explains how minority parties were treated, namely anybody that was gay, disabled or had mental illnesses - really awful stories! The really harrowing aspect of this attraction are the underground prison cells. The wall carvings left my various prisoners have been preserved and notice boards translate the carvings into English - I've never seen anything like it and would highly recommend that you take a visit. Eat More Food and Do Some (Window) Shopping To get back to our hotel, we had to walk through a large shopping area (the mains streets being Schildergasse and Hohe Straße), so we spent some time window shopping (and actual shopping for plasters that would cure my broken feet) as well as getting dinner and exploring some more of the streets in the city centre. Day 4 (1/2 Day) Take A Stroll Across Hohenzollern Bridge Hohenzollern Bridge is the iconic bridge that can be seen in practically all photos of Cologne. The bridge is lined with love locks and it's lovely to stroll across here, taking a look at all of the locks and maybe leaving one of your own! Get a View of The City From Above After exploring all of the city at ground level, the best way to get a birds eye view is to head to Koln Triangle and pay the small 3 euro fee to reach the top of the skyscraper. This is where you will be able to get that iconic shot of the bridge, cathedral and city skyline! Take a Cruise Down The River  Rhine Our last activity of the trip was to take a cruise down the River Rhine. There are loads of different companies which line the Rhine and run at various times during the day, we picked the one that had people queuing up well in advance of the departure time hoping that they knew more about the reputation of these companies than we did! Tickets are cheap and it's a great way to spend an hour. We were a bit stupid however, leaving it to our last day in the city. Our first 3 days were 30 degrees and nothing but sun... our last day was rainy, dark and windy - you win some, you lose some! And with that, our trip to Germany was over and it was time to head back to the airport before flying back to England. See you soon Germany!

RELATED POST: Is Cologne Worth A Visit? 

Looking for some more great things to do in the city? Maybe try visiting during these times:
  • Easter - Cologne Carnival - Each year, Cologne is home to the largest carnival in the German speaking area and it sounds mental! If you take the free walking tour mentioned above, they will tell you all about it!
  • Winter - Christmas Markets - Cologne is known for it's incredible Christmas markets, so there's no better activity to get you in the Christmas spirit!
Have you ever been to Cologne? What was your favourite thing to do?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

If you've read this post about my recent trip to Germany, you'll know that my long weekend in Cologne  was booked because I was in search of one particular magical castle. So, I didn't really know what to expect from Cologne. I won't lie, it was never at the top of my list of cities to visit in Germany, let alone in the world, but I'll do anything for a castle. So Let's Start With The Pros... That Cathedral To say that I've travelled to a lot of European cities and seen a lot of churches and cathedrals is an understatement. I can't remember the last time I visited somewhere that didn't feature a grand cathedral. So you'd think that I have a bit of cathedral fatigue now (I've even got bored of writing the word in this post). But holy crap, this cathedral blows the socks off many that I've seen. It's. So. Big. And so imposing. There's something eerily beautiful about the exterior and the inside is pretty damn nice too. The Food I am obsessed with curry-wurst. So maybe I'd be happy with anywhere in Germany but Cologne definitely delivered the goods when it came to dining. Everything we ate was great - we even ate twice at the same Italian restaurant (not very German we know, but it was so damn good!). Throw into the mix that Cologne is home to the Lindt Chocolate Museum and you know that you're in for a treat! And oh my bloody god, that stuff is gooooood. Christmas Markets Cologne is famous for it's German Christmas Markets. Whilst I didn't visit in Winter, so I can't confirm nor deny how fab they are, I've hear from reliable sources that they one of the best in the country! A Great Transport Hub Cologne has a fantastic main train station and is close to some great places - day trips a plenty! If you're not a fan of moving all of your belongings around regularly, this would be a great base! We took an amazing day trip to Burg Eltz but there were so many other places that we wanted to try - Aachen, Trier, Koblenz, Dusseldorf, Bonn, Essen and Frankfurt to name a few! That Laid-Back Care-Free Vibe Germans have a stereotype of being very strict and organised (my kind of people). You can expect that attitude to go completely out of the window in Cologne! And On To The Cons... It's Not The Most Charming City In The World Don't come to Cologne expecting gorgeous rows of fancy old buildings or a charming Old Town city centre like many European cities. I think this is why I didn't click too much with the city. I love old architecture and charming cities/towns. Cologne is a relatively new city. It was was almost completely destroyed in World War II - the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force alone dropped almost 35,000 tons of bombs on the city. However, the laid back care free attitude of Cologne means that planning permissions/building regulations in the city's rebuild programme were very lax and you do stumble across some interesting buildings! On one walk along the river, we spotted a tiny house with a giant turret attached! A Rough And Ready Vibe With such higgly-de-piggledy building structures, the city has a much more "rough and ready" vibe than many European cities I've been to. And lets's face it, Cologne doesn't have the best reputation as of late given the New Years Eve 2016 assults and the more recent knife and gun attack of August 2016. We had absolutely NO reason to feel unsafe whilst in the city, but if you're of a nervous disposition, maybe stick to the uber-charming "nothing bad could ever happen here" looking cities. Things to Do  Whilst we didn't struggle to fill our time in the city, this is mainly because I made some bad shoe choices and ended up with horrendous blisters early on. I was in so much pain that sitting down and spending a lot of time eating seemed like a good idea! The freak heat-wave we encountered during our time there also slowed us down, we took a lot of time to stop and get a drink/try to cool down. With all of this taken into account, we spent near enough 3 days in Cologne enjoying the tourist attractions. We then took 1 day to visit Burg Eltz. Had I been on top form however, we could have explored the city much quicker and had more time to day those day trips I mentioned earlier! In Summary... If you're limited on time in Europe, maybe skip Cologne. Most people come to Europe to escape into our beautiful charming cities, and you won't find much of that here. It's ugly (by today's standards) but it's also a direct reminder of 20th century history (given that 95% of the city had to be rebuilt in the 50s). Therefore you may still find it worth visiting, because of course learning and understanding the history of the world is important. Unless you are only interested in fairytale-perfect postcard images. It's no secret that I find central European cities such as Budapest and Prague the most charming, and the South Eastern region of the Balkans the most beautiful area of Europe. Cologne is a modern city but if that's what you are after - go wild! On the other hand, if you're looking for a cheap weekend getaway, this could be the perfect place. If you're from the UK, Stansted Airport has RyanAir flights flying to Cologne multiple times every day and they are usually dirt cheap. Book in advance and see prices as low as £10 each way. Ours were around £60 return on the August bank holiday weekend - given the popularity of this weekend, this is still pretty incredible! What makes things better is that the flight is little over an hour long - a very easy getaway! Plus... Burg Eltz is TOTALLY worth it. Fancy a few more opinions? Britt has written a fantastic post about her not-so-fantastic time in the city which you can read here.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

Why Burg Eltz? You may have noticed from my Instagram account that I recently took a trip to Cologne, Germany. I'd be lying if I said that the idea of this trip didn't come about because of a castle... we all know how much I love castles! Burg Eltz first came onto my radar through the amazing Jacob's Instagram account. A few of my favourite shots of the castle taken by him are here, here and here. After seeing those pictures, I made it my mission to convince my boyfriend that a trip to Cologne was necessary and I succeeded, mwahahaha! How to Get to Burg Eltz  After a very slow start to our second day in Cologne (apparently we walked a little bit too far the day beforehand and then struggled to get out of bed... after one day in stupid footwear, I already had blisters #rookie), we set off to the nearest train station in search of my beloved castle! You can get the train from Köln Central Station, but we opted to begin our journey at Köln Süd which was only an 8 minute walk from our hotel and is on route (perfect!). The journey from Köln Süd to Koblenz takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes, you'll then be faced with a 20 to 30 minute wait at Koblenz station (snack time, duh) before jumping on a train to Moselkern for around 30 minutes. I probably should have started this story by saying that this region of Germany was experiencing a freak heat-wave and it was 35 degrees for the majority of our journey. THIRTY-FIVE BLOODY DEGREES. So I'm praising the lord (and I'm not even religious) that German trains have fab air-conditioning because our train to Koblenz was delayed by an hour! After arriving in Moselkern an hour later than expected, and it being midday at this point (thus even hotter), the fun began! Luckily, the 90 minute hike is very well sign-posted as big wooden arrows engraved with the words "Burg Eltz" line the path (just don't worry as much as I did. I think I got a bit annoying constantly screeching "WE HAVEN'T SEEN A SIGN IN A WHILE" when the only option was to keep going forwards since the last sign... Soz Callum, castles and heat make me cray cray). The hike starts in the town of Moselkern which is really charming, even the train station is a cute building. The walk from the town centre to the edge of the woods was the hardest part in the intense heat as there was zero shade. Once you get to the woods, things get easier in the heat (although it does start getting steeper) and it gets pretty damn beautiful! My favourite spot was by the stream just before you start the uphill accent, we sat here for a while, escaping the direct sunlight and attempting (read: failing) to skim stones on the water. Then BAMN, you catch sight of the castle and suddenly the hiking, the blisters and the potential sun stroke all feel worth it! What To Do When You Get There Well... We first decided to get drinks, sit in the cafe and sweat profusely for a while. After acclimatising, we headed straight into the main gift shop area to get our tickets into the castle (with much excitement). You can't always guarantee when the next English-speaking tour will be taking place. It appears that they only take place if there is enough interest for them, we were lucky that even though we arrived late, there were enough people wanting an English Tour. The tour was informative and took us through some lovely parts of the inside of the castle (unfortunately, no photos are allowed). The castle remains in it's natural state, it hasn't ever been destroyed and the same family have always owned the castle - perfect! The only downside is that the tour is a bit short, I would have loved to see a bit more inside the castle! Afterwards, we took our time exploring the grounds and capturing some photos - the location and castle couldn't be more picture perfect. And then it was time for the journey home! The 90 minute hike in slightly cooler temperatures and going downhill was much easier and luckily there were no train delays. All in all, through the sweat and blisters, it was actually a really perfect day. I finally got to visit the castle of my Instagram dreams! Have you ever visited? Do you recommend any other "off-the-beaten track" castles?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

Whats The Deal With Guided Tours? Guided tours are a controversial topic in the travel blog world because "if someone just shows you around, r u even travelling?!". But screw convention, I'm going to talk about one particular tour company here, because they definitely deserve some recognition & I'm a massive fan of a guided tours! I'm especially a huge fan of free walking tours, I find that they are the perfect way to orientate yourself when arriving in a new city. You get to know your way around, learn some history about the city, hear some interesting stories and best of all, if the tour guide was a bit pants, you aren't obliged to pay a penny! Having said that, I have never not tipped a guide! Another tour style that I'm a big fan of is a well structured day trip. As I have to plan my travels around work and study commitments, recently I have been going on a lot of city breaks rather than extended travels. Sometimes it's great to escape the city and take a day trip to somewhere new. You can read about a few of my guided day tours here:
  1. Alpine Fairytale - Slovenia - Roundabout Travel 
  2. Karst And Coast - Slovenia - Roundabout Travel
  3. Countryside & Windmills - Netherlands - Tours & Tickets

So Who Are The Hairy Coo? 

The Hairy Coo are a tour company operating from Edinburgh who take tourists around the Scottish Highlands in a manner that combines my two favourite tour structures. Yes, that's right, they offer whole day tours including transportation for FREE.

Our tour guide stressed the fact that The Hairy Coo company was set up to provide anyone, of any budget range, the opportunity to explore the beautiful Scottish Highlands. Something that I very much agree with - everyone should visit!

Is It Really Free?

You enter the coach without having paid a single penny. Of course, a tip to the tour guide is expected at the end of your tour, however, you are free to pay the amount that you believe the tour is worth.

I would highly recommend that you book your tour online in advance. When I booked our tour, we only had the choice of one day during our stay in Edinburgh as the others had all sold out. There were only 2 spare seats on our coach once all of the pre-booked passengers were on board, these were swiftly taken by two girls who had turned up hoping there would be spare spaces.

On booking, you are sent an email stating that your card will be charged £17 per person if you fail to turn up or cancel your place less than 48 hours before the tour is to take place. This is quoted as being the "cost" per person. Further to this, the website claims that the tour has a market value of £37, so bare these figures in mind when you determine your tip!

So What Was Our Day Like?

We were only in Edinburgh for 4 days and were dying to get a glimpse of the Scottish Highlands, so this seemed like the perfect way to do it. Ideally, of course we would have road-tripped the area over a few days, but time was not on our side!

We met at Deacon's House Cafe at 8.30am. We actually ate in this cafe twice during our stay in Edinburgh (once for lunch and one for breakfast) and would highly recommend it - great food in a cosy setting!

After being greeted by our tour guide Don (one of the founders of The Hairy Coo), we knew that we were in for a great day! Don was hilarious, well-informed and you could tell that he had a real love for Scotland. He wasn't afraid to give his stance on current affairs and since he grew up in the areas that we were visiting,  his anecdotes were funny and a great addition to an already great factual & beautiful tour!

You can view the entire itinerary for the trip on their website here. But I'll talk just explain the two highlights for me and let the photos do the talking for the rest of the trip (because those Highlands are blimmin' beautiful)!

Highlight #1) BABY HIGHLAND COWS

Yes, you read that right. You get to meet baby highland cows. The Hairy Coo have a "top secret" spot where you can feed a small herd (3 adults & 3 calves) and learn more about these gorgeous creatures.

Even the bus used by The Hairy coo is disguised to look like a Highland cow - it's orange and has a little fringe across the top of the windscreen - adorable!

Highlight #2) Loch Katrine

Many of the larger tour companies will take you straight to hunt for the Loch Ness Monster. Loch Katrine is lesser known, but it is beautiful and definitely shouldn't be missed! Enjoy a leisurely walk around the beautiful loch and spend lots of time taking photos!

Would I Recommend?

Without a doubt, yes. This tour was well constructed and I can't sing Don's praises enough - one of the best tour guides I've ever experienced! I've paid around £50 for similar style tours in other countries, and if the tour/guide was rubbish, that's £50 down the drain!

They also offer a paid tour (£45) which visits the Loch Ness, Glencoe and a Whisky Distillery. If I had longer in Edinburgh, I would have most definitely paid to take this trip too! After taking the free tour, I know I would have been in good hands!

The Hairy Coo are a small business and many of the larger companies would like to see them shut down as they are rightfully gaining more custom. When you book your tickets, you have to provide your debit/credit card details to ensure that you are a real person as other tours have been known to fill the seats with fake customers - it breaks my little heart!

So, if you're in Edinburgh any time soon and want to explore the Highlands (duh, who doesn't), give these guys a shout!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. I rightfully paid the tip that I felt appropriate for my tour like all other customers. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

All photography credit lies with the respective owners shown in the watermarks.
And finally, I am posting a bucket list that I have actually crossed some points off! I might be biased because I live in Europe, but I do think it is one of the most interesting continents. I love it here. I spend as much time as possible exploring close by European cities and I'm always amazed by how much there still is to see and do.

RELATED: Find out how I spend so much time in European cities when I work full time with my "Top Tips for Travelling and Working Full Time"!

Bucket List
  1. See the Northern Lights
  2. Visit all of the Balkan countries (my favourite area of Europe!)
  3. Explore the Norwegian Fjords
  4. Explore my family's history in war memorials in France (read: here)
  5. Hire a car and take a mountain side road-trip
  6. Visit Oktoberfest
  7. Get smashed with tomatoes at La Tomatina
  8. Visit Lapland at Christmas time
  9. Explore more of the UK and see what's on my doorstep
  10. Drive Iceland's Golden Circle
  11. See the beautiful Lake Bled, Slovenia (read: here)
  12. Visit the Scottish Highlands
  13. Eat my way through Italy
  14. Visit a Christmas Market
  15. Go Island Hopping in Croatia or Greece
  16. Take a cruise around Amsterdam's canals (read: here)
  17. See how history has formed today's world at Auschwitz (read: here)
  18. Spend some time living in London
  19. Drink Guinness in Ireland (I don't even like Guinness... but it has to be done!)
  20. Visit the Instagram perfect Hallstatt, Austria (read: here)
  21. Get lost in Istanbul
  22. Experience the fairy-tale medieval city of Tallinn, Estonia
  23. Take a French/German road-trip exploring all of the castles
  24. Visit "Dracula's Castle", Transylvania, Romania
  25. Finally visit Russia and not be put off by the expensive visa!
  26. Go husky sledging in Finland
  27. Soak up the  water's healing powers in a Hungarian thermal pool (read: here)
  28. Visit Eltz Castle, Germany
  29. Visit Ukraine's tunnel of love
  30. Visit the beautiful Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

Oh the beautiful land of Mozart and The Sound Of Music. When I first started looking into a trip to Salzburg, I'd be lying if I said I knew what there is to do there. In fact, the three of us were so busy at work before our trip, that even when we arrived, we weren't too sure on what there was to do in Salzburg! We actually wanted to go to Vienna but accommodation costs were extortionate at the time and Salzburg seemed like the next best fit! As soon as I started looking into it, I knew I would fall in love with the city. Fast forward a few months and here I am, an avid Salzburg fan, and with good reason! This is how we sent our 3 days in the beautiful city! Check Into Cityhotel Strumer Tube Upon our arrival in Salzburg, we hopped in cab and headed to our hotel City Strumer Tube, which I would definitely recommend! It's cheap and cheerful and the girls working on reception are some of the most friendly and helpful hotel staff that I have ever met! Explore the Old Town  After checking in, we were ridiculously excited to get into the city centre and start exploring! As with most Central/Eastern European cities, the "old town" is where you want to start your trip. Gorgeous buildings, amazing architecture and a beautiful river! Peak Into the Salzburg Cathedral  There are plenty of cathedrals and churches in Salzburg (particularly around the Old Town) but my favourite is the Salzburg Cathederal. Never before have I seen somewhere so pristine and white. The gorgeous facades inside the cathedral are so ornate and different to anything I've ever seen before! Pick Up a Salzburg Pass Whilst exploring the Old Town on our first afternoon in Salzburg, we picked up a Salzburg Pass from the Tourism Office - I would definitely recommend this if you want to see all of the main attractions in Salzburg.

RELATED POST: Find out how much money you can save by using the Salzburg Pass here!

Take Cruise Down the Salzach River The first thing we noticed in the Salzburg Pass brochure was a river cruise, and we just HAD to do it. It's not often that you get to do a river cruise for "free" - okay, technically it's not free because we paid for the Salzburg Pass, but you end up saving so much money, the pass pays for itself! Logic ;-). Pop Into Mozart's Birthplace If you don't have a huge interest or passion for Mozart / classical music, I'd maybe tell you to skip this attraction. Unless you have the Salzburg Pass and can therefore get in for "free" like we did! We had heard so many great things about this museum but left feeling slightly underwhelmed. But then again, it would probably be wrong to visit the land of Mozart without visiting his birth place! The one thing that I found particularly interesting to see were Mozart's original handwritten music sheets. Explore the Famous Graves and Catacombes of Petersfriedhof Whilst still in the main city centre, we headed over to St Peter's Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in Austria. It was so beautiful (is that strange to say about a cemetery...?). Whilst it might not sound like the most glamorous attraction, it is in the main city centre and is definitely worth a visit! Head Back to the Hotel and Attempt to Visit Mirabell Gardens After flying in and wandering around the whole of Salzburg in one day, sadly our first day was coming to an end. Our hotel was really close to Mirabell Gardens and Palace, so we decided to go there before heading back to our hotel and then going out for dinner. Unfortunately it decided to absolutely chuck it down with rain - it's safe to say that the gardens didn't look all that pretty in torrential rain! Queue spending the evening trying to find more places in our hotel room to hang up our soaking wet clothes.... Wake Up Bright and Early For a Trip To Hohensalzburg Fortress On our second day, we headed straight for Hohensalzburg Fortress. This is without a doubt, my favourite thing to do in Salzburg! I am an avid lover of castles and fortresses, as are the two girls I was travelling with. We spent hours here and probably could have spent longer! The Salzburg pass includes one ride up to the Fortress on the funicular, it's pretty steep, so prepare yourself if you are scared of heights (we let out a few girly squeals...).  But seeing as the fortress is high up, the views are incredible as you can imagine! The fortress is absolutely huge and we felt lost a few times - a great way to spend half a day! Take A Bus Over To Hellbrunn Palace & Trick Fountains Hellbrun Palace is slightly outside of the city centre, so catch a bus from Hohensalzburg Fortress (probably the closest attraction to the Palace). Hellbrunn Palace is absolutely lovely and the gardens are gorgeous in the sun. I'd also definitely recommend taking a tour of the Trick Fountains. The stories of the King who installed all of these "trick fountains" to make his guests jump are hilarious! Be warned, you will probably get a bit wet! Make a Quick Stop at the Zoo  Zoos aren't my cup of tea, but there is a zoo right next to Hellbrunn palace, so if you're thinking of doing both attractions, it makes sense to do it in the same day! We popped into the zoo quickly to see the goats in the petting centre - my friend loves goats! Otherwise, I wasn't overly impressed with the size of the enclosures and we left pretty quickly. Make a More Successful Visit to Mirabell Gardens!  On our way back to the hotel at the end of a busy day filled with fortresses and palaces, we tried to visit the Mirabell Gardens one more time! This time was much more successful, the sun was shining (just ignore the puddles on the ground) and it's a really gorgeous place to explore. And of course, this is another place where the fortress looks particularly impressive (my OCD tendencies absolutely love that the view of the castle is directly in the middle of the garden formation). Some Unsuccessful Day 3 Planning On the evening of our second night, we ended up doing some very unsuccessful planning for our third day in Austria. We wanted to make a trip to Hallstatt the next day and deliberated our options endlessly before booking a guided tour.

RELATED POST: You can read all about our decision making and the options you have on getting from Salzburg to Hallstatt here!

See the City from above using Monchsberglift  Given that our trip to Hallstatt wouldn't be taking place until the afternoon, we had to find a way to pass the morning away. We took a look at our trusty tourist map and saw that there was a "great view point" listed. As avid fans of "pretty places", we headed straight over to Monchsberglift! The lift takes you up to one particularly good viewpoint, you can then walk around the woodland area stumbling across other great sights - a lovely walk on a sunny day! To get to the Monchsberglift, you will probably need to walk down my favourite little street in the city (Gstattengasse). I thought that I was being a bit weird by really liking this street as there isn't really anything of note here, the buildings are just nicely painted... but apparently not, it's rated on TripAdvisor as the 47th best thing to see in Salzburg - knew I wasn't going completely mad! Shop On Getreidegasse Getreidegasse is a very traditional-looking shopping street, great for strolling through and having a quick window shop! There's lots of great shopping areas around the Old Town (including a lot of luxury high-end brands!). Take A Trip to Hallstatt! And finally we were off to Hallstatt for our final afternoon in Austria - there's plenty to see and do here, so the town has a whole blog post dedicated to it - you can read all about that here. After our lovely trip to Hallstatt, we headed back to the hotel to pack up all of our things ready to say goodbye to the lovely Austria in the morning. Austria you were fantastic and I can't wait to visit again!

RELATED POST: Want to know how much this whole trip cost? Find out how you should budget for Salzburg here!

The Things We Didn't get to do  As with all quick weekend trips, there are a few things we didn't get to do, these are:
  • Untersberg - This is probably the attraction that we were most upset about missing. The cable car up Untersberg mountain wasn't running when we visited Salzburg but the views look absolutely gorgeous (just have a quick google image search to see for yourself!).
  • Sound of Music Tour - Okay, I haven't actually seen The Sound of Music (shock horror!), so I would have felt like a bit of a phoney if I actually went on this tour - but hey, I should tell you that it exists!
  • Eagles Nest - My inner history nerd is a bit upset that we never did a day-trip to Eagles Nest (Hitler's former residence). Whilst this is technically in Germany, you can reach it within an hour when driving from Salzburg!
  • On a similar theme of crossing the German border, I would have also loved to have explored the Bavarian mountains or taken a trip into Munich (probably would have needed longer than a day to fully explore what Munich has to offer!).
  • Mozart concert dinner - yes, you read that right! If you have some cash to splash and want a Mozart concert while you are wined and dined, Salzburg is the place to do it!
  • Stiegl-Brauwelt - Also included on the Salzburg card is a brewery tour! I took the Heineken brewery tour in Amsterdam (read about that here) and I'm not a fan of beer, so felt like I could sit this one out!

    Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

    Danielle1

Let's not beat around the bush, you've all heard about Hallstatt by now. There isn't a day that goes by where I don't see Hallstatt proudly displayed on my Instagram feed, and rightfully so. If you're a lover of pretty places, you need to head here. So, after convincing my two lovely travel pals that we needed to take a trip to Hallstatt during our recent ventures to Salzburg, I was then left wondering "what actually is there to do in Hallstatt?!"

RELATED: Before you can explore Hallstatt, you'll need to know how  to get there! Read my article on accessing Hallstatt from Salzburg to find it all out! 

 Hallstatt Viewing Platform As soon as we arrived in Hallstatt, we rushed over to the Hallstatt Viewing Platform. This probably wasn't our greatest idea given that it was a seriously overcast day and later on the skies brightened up considerably. But hey-ho, you can't stop a girl who's obsessed with mountain views. I was getting on that funicular no matter what the weather. I can only imagine what the view would have been like on a sunny day. If you've read my post about visiting Lake Bled on the foggiest day known to man, you probably think that I am cursed with bad luck when visiting the current Instagram-favourite locations - I think you're right! I need to learn my lesson and give myself more than one day to explore these locations! Hallstatt Salt Mines If you're in Hallstatt for more than a few hours, after visiting the viewing platform, you should also visit the salt mines! Unfortunately we were only in Hallstatt for a few hours (we ended up having to take a guided tour), so we didn't have time to make a visit, but I've heard great things about it! We didn't mind too much as 2 out of 3 of us had recently visited the salt mines in Krakow (which are great and I would highly recommend)! Explore The Old Town Once we came down from the view point, we headed to the main town centre to see where all the action lies. As with any "old town", you can bet your bottom dollar that it is going to be stupidly beautiful. Hallstatt Old Town is filled with cute colourful decorated buildings and I could have easily spent more time just strolling around (and taking lots of pictures). The Catholic Church, Cemetery & The Bone Church (Hallstatt Ossuary)   One of the most interesting things in Hallstatt is "The Bone Church". Hallstatt isn't a huge place and burial plots are sparse. The Bone Church dates back to the 12th Century and skulls would be removed from existing graves once the grave was needed for a new burial. Skulls were then painted according to the family name and also a number of personality traits. Over 600 artistically painted skulls now lie on display. The majority of the skulls are from the 18th Century but there are a few from the 20th Century. The Bone Church is a really unique and interesting experience. The Catholic Church next door and the adjoining cemetery are also worth a visit - both very beautiful.

RELATED: If you can't get to Hallstatt, Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic has an Ossuray too! Much larger and much more ornate, you can read all about it here!

Various Other Churches After exploring the Bone Church, we explored the surrounding area poking our heads into various other churches and cute little shops. Everything is just so god damn cute! Take in the pretty views After racing around all the different sights, we spent the last portion of our short time in Hallstatt just enjoying the views. This is a ridiculously beautiful town and you'd be silly not to just spend time enjoying it's natural beauty. Now, for the things we didn't get to do:
  • Waldbachstrub Waterfall - How on earth did I not know that a waterfall existed in Hallstatt?! I would have been straight over to visit if i knew about it!
  • Take a boat trip across the lake
  • Experience the views from the "Five Fingers"
  • Dachstein hiking world
  • Dachstein Ice Caves
Have you ever been to Hallstatt? Did you enjoy it? Is there anything else  you would add to my list?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

Y'know that big shiny building affectionately referred to as "The Walkie Talkie"? The one that accidentally melted cars when it was first erected? Well... it turns out that on the top floor of this building (155m high!), there's a super cool bar set in a garden themed area. And best of all? It's free! The Sky Garden is a glass dome at the top of the building which spans 3 storeys and offers 360 degree views of this beautiful city. You can expect delicious cocktails, gorgeous views and funky tunes (yes, there is a DJ in amongst all the greenery!). How to Book Like I already mentioned, the Sky Garden is free to visit but you do need to make an online booking prior to arrival. Time slots are available online 3 weeks beforehand and can be booked up to 1 hour before your arrival. If you're planning on visiting on a weekday, the booking process should be easy peasy. However, the weekend slots are notoriously hard to get, so make sure you're online 3 weeks beforehand!

RELATED: Thinking of heading to the Sky Garden? Check out my "London Bucket List" to see what else you can do during your time in London! 

Why You Should Go
  • Let's not beat around the bush, London is an expensive city, so any free activity is a good one! Friends of mine have said that the Sky Garden is better than the Shard which you have to pay to visit - I can't comment as I've never visited the Shard! I feel somewhat reluctant to visit now that I've had such a great experience at the Sky Garden.
  • The cocktails are absolutely insane. Whilst they are slightly pricey at around £11 each, I've paid up to £16 for a cocktail in the city and given the fact that this is such a touristy attraction, I don't think £11 is too bad! Each cocktail takes a little while to make, so make sure you order as soon as you arrive (we had dinner reservations booked in Central London, so had to down our drinks super quickly and run out the door once they had been made - that will teach me for taking so long admiring the view and taking photos beforehand...).
  • If you're a fan of London, the view is a pretty damn good one.
  • There are also two restaurants to dine in being the Fenchurch Restaurant and the Darwin Brasserie. I've heard good things about both and would absolutely love to try one (or both!).
Why You Shouldn't Go
  • As you can see from my above photos, there's a big chunk of glass separating you from the lovely view, so my photos are a bit crap. But I suppose having crap photos is better than plummeting to my death from 155m... I suppose.
Have you been to the Sky Garden? What Did You Think? Do you have any other recommendations for free things to do in London?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

If I had to name one place that has captured the heart of travel Instagram accounts over the past year, it would be Hallstatt. I can't scroll through my Instagram feed without seeing at least one photo of Hallstatt per day. After booking a weekend away in Salzburg with two of my friends, I decided that we definitely needed to visit Hallstatt during our short stay in Austria  (lucky, they were easy to convince!). Getting to Hallstatt from Salzburg was one of our main stumbling blocks as we tried to travel on a Sunday. We asked the receptionist at our hotel (Cityhotel Trumer Strube) to explain the best way to access Hallstatt and she said that the Sunday train/bus service is limited, particularly on the day we wanted to travel as there was some construction work taking place. I found that the internet wasn't particularly helpful on this topic, so hopefully I can shed some light and make the trip a hell of a lot easier for you! Option A) Public Transport  Length of Journey: Approx 3 hours each way Price: 34.8 EUR for a return journey Overview: If you are looking to use public transport, I found this webpage very helpful. Broadly, from Salzburg, I would have taken Bus 150 to Bad Ischl, then the train from Bad Ischl to Hallstatt railway station and finally used the ferry  to cross the lake to the village. Pros: By far, this is the cheapest option. For an overview of costs and times, I would recommend this post by Travel Timo. You can also plan your day according to your own schedule, Cons: As with any public transport system, you can face delays or inconveniences such as limited services on a Sunday or construction works. Also, if you're looking to relax and catch up on some sleep (I wouldn't recommend sleeping as the countryside is so beautiful), you might end up missing your stop with 3 changes in your journey. This is also a lengthy  journey, you may therefore wish to consider an overnight stay in Hallstatt rather than a day trip from Salzburg. Option B) Use an organised tour  Length of Journey: Approx 1 hour 15 mins each way Price: 55 EUR for a return journey Pros: You get an insider's knowledge on Salzburg, the surrounding area and Hallstatt. There are also often chances to stop off at towns on the way to Hallstatt for photo opportunities, we stopped at St Wolfgang and St Gilgen (both gorgeous). If you're looking to relax, not have to use your brain and navigate public transport, this option is for you! Cons: Much more expensive than taking public transport and you only get a limited amount of time in Hallstatt (we had just over 2 hours). Verdict: We took a tour with Paramount and would recommend this option if you aren't worried about time or money restraints. Our tour guide was super knowledgeable and had a real passion for Austria and it's history. We learnt a lot and enjoyed our time with him immensely! He also took a different route home than on the drive to Hallstatt, so we got to see more of the gorgeous Austrian countryside! Option C) Use a Shuttle Service Length of Journey: Approx 1 hour each way Price: 50 EUR for a return journey Overview: When searching for options on how to access Hallstatt, we came across the company Shuttle Cesky Krumlov (which is also the same company as Bean Shuttle) .They offer a few shuttle services between Salzburg and Hallstatt throughout the day. Pros: Depending on what time shuttles you pick, you can spend a lot longer time in Hallstatt than you would on a guided tour. It is also a cheaper option (although not as cheap as using public transport). Cons: You need to book this service in advance. We were looking at our options the night before our trip and as such, we weren't able to book the service. You submit your request for the shuttles online and then wait for an email from the company confirming that those slots are available. Our confirmation email had a mistake (they had quoted Cesky Krumlov rather than Hallstatt)  and therefore we weren't happy to hand over a deposit before they corrected the booking information. As we were emailing them at around 6pm, the office soon shut and we were not receiving any responses to our emails. We therefore didn't complete our booking and can't comment on the reliability/professionalism of this service. Option D) Take a Taxi (If you're rich) And the final option is to take a taxi. Whilst I wouldn't consider this option due to how expensive it is (Rome2Rio currently estimates that it would cost £150 - £180 each way). But I should include it anyway as it is a feasible option if you're not travelling on a budget (I don't think there are many landing spots in Hallstatt for your private jet after all)!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1