How to get to Neuschwanstein Castle

Nestled in the Bavarian mountains stands the glorious Neuschwanstein Castle. I’m sure you’ve seen photos of the castle all over travel Instagram feeds, but if you’re like me, you may just be dreaming of the fairytale castle and not know how to get there. As it’s only a few hours from Munich and having been there myself, I have put together a guide on how to get to Neuschwanstein Castle.

I have dreamed of visiting King Ludwig II Neuschwanstein Castle since I first saw a picture of it on social media five years ago. I added it to my Before 30 list (#52) but never pursued the trip because the castle seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. I turned 29 this year and decided I had better start knocking a few things of my list so I knuckled down and did some research!

How to get to Neuschwanstein Castle

Turns out the castle is easy to get to from Munich and lies just outside the charming town Füssen. After a quick online search I booked an early flight for a Sunday morning from Dublin to Munich with a return late on Monday evening and reserved a room in Füssen. Three days after I turned 29 we were on our way!

If you’re like me and have always dreamed of visiting this fairytale castle but didn’t know where to start, fear not! Here’s my guide on how to get to Neuschwanstein Castle.

How to get to Neuschwanstein Castle

Book your ticket

You can book your ticket online here. The website only allows you to book more than 48 hours in advance, and I recommend booking about a week in advance if you’re on a tight schedule and need to guarantee your tour time.

If you want to witness the opulence of the inside of the castle, you have to book a tour as it is the only way to gain access. During the high season being spontaneous is extremely risky as tickets sell out very fast. We went in March and stayed locally so we could afford to be flexible and just show up, but in general it is recommended that you book ahead to avoid disappointment.

Get the train from Munich Hauptbahnhof (HBF) to Füssen

It was really easy to get to Füssen. At the airport we purchased a Bayern-Ticket – a transit day-pass for Bavaria. We were able to use the ticket from the airport to Munich Hauptbahnhof and then on to Füssen from there.

There are solid lines on the ticket where you need to write your name and the names of all other passengers traveling with you. The first time we bought a ticket the lady pointed this out to us – the second time a different salesperson failed to mention it. The conductor will check for the signature when he stamps your ticket.

At €31 for the two of us we were delighted. I’ve listed the pricing scheme below:

Price of the Bayern-Ticket 1 traveller EUR 25, for every person more additionally EUR 6,- (max. 5 adults). For example,
valid for 1 person EUR 25
valid for 2 persons EUR 31
valid for 3 persons EUR 37
valid for 4 persons EUR 43
valid for 5 persons EUR 49

How to get to Neuschwanstein Castle

Trains for Füssen were about every hour. Just check the departures board in the station for your platform number. The platforms for Füssen are at the far right when facing the trains. We didn’t realise this and ended up missing the first train we wanted by a minute. There was a couple of sit-in food options inside the station so we killed time and had some dinner.

The train ride takes approximately two hours. The journey is comfortable with great views, plenty of space, and washrooms on board. We got some snacks at the station and settled in.

How to get to Neuschwanstein Castle From Füssen

The Füssen station is small and easy to navigate. The busses and taxis are in the parking lot (right of the platform). If it’s a nice day and you have time to spare, you can walk the 5km to the ticket centre. Alternatively, take bus 73 or 78 and show the driver your Bayern train ticket.

The bus will take about 10 minutes.  When you arrive, walk uphill where the ticket centre is located and go through the reserved line if you booked ahead or queue up if you’re being spontaneous. You’ll need to pick up your ticket at least 90 minutes before your tour time, otherwise they cancel your reservation.

A tour ticket costs € 13.80 a person (under 18s go free!)

How to get to Neuschwanstein Castle
Fussen Train Station

How to get to Neuschwanstein Castle From The Ticket Centre 

Walk! You’re here for the day and it’s a lovely stroll with views of the castle. They say it takes 30-40 minutes but it only took us a maximum of 20 minutes, and that was with us stopping for a few photo ops. Regardless, if you’ve booked ahead you will collect your tickets 90 minutes early so you will have plenty of time to get to the castle.

How to get to Neuschwanstein Castle

I know walking isn’t an option for everyone, but don’t worry, there are few other choices:

– Horse carriage: €6 uphill and €3 downhill.

– Shuttle bus: €2.60 return trip. However the shuttles aren’t very frequent so you could be waiting awhile before you’re on the way.

From where the transport drops you off, it’s another 10 minute walk uphill. (There’s a bridge at this point where you can get the Instagram shot of the castle, however it was closed when we visited).

How to get to Neuschwanstein Castle: horse carriage

The Tour

You’ve made it to the top! After you’ve taken a few shots of the castle and maybe had a beer or mulled wine from the tourist kiosk, check the time and proceed to the castle gate. On your ticket is your tour number. At the entrance of the castle, there’s a gate with a screen showing tour numbers and you can enter ONLY once your number is called.

The tour itself is guided and now is your chance to learn the history of King Ludwig II and Neuschwanstein Castle. Lasting about 30 minutes, you only see a few rooms as a large portion of the castle is incomplete, but the grandeur is worth witnessing. You can’t take any photos inside the castle but there’s an amazing view from a terrace at the end of the tour where you can get a few stunning shots.

How to get to Neuschwanstein Castle
View from the Castle

If you’re heading back to Munich, just retrace your steps and you’re there! We chose to stay the night in Füssen and got to enjoy a great spa with a view of the castle (if you’re interested in spa holidays check out my post: Slovakian Spa Holiday.)

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the journey and managed to pack in a ton of activity into our one-night getaway.

I hope this post encourages you to check out this historic castle that inspired Walt Disney. Now you know how to get to Neuschwanstein Castle!

How to get to Neuschwanstein Castle

My time in Slovakia – Winter Spa Weekend

The most memorable moment of our time in Slovakia? “There’s a man rolling around in the snow with his bollocks out!” Intrigued? I thought so.

We were going to Slovakia for a spa holiday. Our Slovakian friend was visiting home for the weekend and asked us to join him. I never turn down the opportunity to visit a new country and I never say no to a spa! Since Roman times, spas have been recognized for their relaxation benefits and healing properties, a natural way for your mental and physical health to rejuvenate. We all work in customer service (a known head-wreck) and are on our feet all day, so our time in Slovakia was much needed.

Snow Covered Slovakia

The air was clean and crisp. The cold brightened my cheeks while the sun made my eyes squint and warmed my back. A sunny welcome in snow-covered Bratislava was the perfect way to start our two-day getaway.

We got the early fight from Dublin on Sunday morning after an exceptionally late night at work. Two hours after my head hit the pillow my alarm went off and I awoke to a Canadian dream – the smell of maple bacon wafting through the apartment. Breakfast sandwiches are always a good way to start a trip.

The flight was two hours and we settled in for another three-hour drive. Thankfully we got the music working in our cramped rental car and were able to enjoy the beautiful journey, climbing the Slovak mountains with ’80s throwbacks as our soundtrack.

There was six of us in total. Myself and my boyfriend Steve, an Irish couple Sorcha and Dan, our Slovakian pal Marik, and an Irish fella Jack. We found the Grand Hotel Permon at the end of an icy road set in the alpine village of Podbanské. Waking up to the view of the majestic Kriváň Mountain dominating the landscape and standing out amongst the peaks of the High Tatras was an amazing site.

Our time in Slovakia – The Spa

Slovakian Spa
Hotel Permon Spa Paradise, Photo credit: https://www.podbanskeresort.sk/en/

The spa itself was substantial, a maze of 33 different saunas/baths. We all planned to meet in the leisure centre at a certain hour and went our separate ways. After getting towels, wraps, and a bracelet key, Steve and I wandered into the spa with no idea where to go or what to do. Sadly the friendly woman at reception didn’t speak English so we weren’t able to understand any instructions she might’ve given us. Eventually, we figured out how to work the lockers, found the change rooms, and entered the pool area.

Lovely place, but it seemed to be missing a few facilities. There was a massive pool, one hot tub, and a small sauna. We went for a dip and argued amongst ourselves about where to find the rest of the attractions. I noticed a lot of people were only wearing the purple cloth wrap that was given out at reception, and they seemed to be disappearing down a mysterious staircase. We had a look and interpreted the signs. Staircase, fob key entrance, changing cubicle at the top, and no swimwear signs.

Au Naturel…

A little nervous, we knew what we had to do. We ditched our swimsuits, wrapped up in the purple cloth, and entered the promised land. Steve and I had been to a spa in Amsterdam where most facilities did not allow swimwear, but this was a little different. In Amsterdam, we knew no-one. This time in Slovakia, we were there with colleagues. Yikes.

Down the stairs there was a whole other world. Very dark lighting and the illusion of being underground, there was an abundance of saunas, aromatherapy rooms, tropical showers, and steam baths to choose from. I was in heaven. We came across a beautiful indoor “cave” pool, a dark space with star lights all across the ceiling. The perfect place for a leisurely swim.

“There’s a man rolling around in the snow with his bollocks out!”

There were a few hilarious moments on the trip. Sorcha and Dan didn’t realize until they were in the outdoor jacuzzi that swimwear wasn’t allowed. Dan thought he was being subtle and said to Sorcha, “Quick, take off your swimsuit!” He then proceeded to shimmy out of his shorts and ditch them over the ledge. Later in the evening we all got out of the hot tub and politely tried to cover up as quickly as possible, only to find our wraps had all completely frozen into tiny shapes. That was awkward.

Then there was the time Marik and Jack (also oblivious to the “No Swimwear” policy) wandered outside, stood on the porch and admired all the snow-covered facilities: a massive sauna, salt cave, jacuzzi, huge steam bath, and more. Suddenly Jack exclaimed: “There’s a man rolling around in the snow with his bollocks out!” That man was Dan. Everyone needed a few treatments to relax after the shock of that visual.

The infamous hot tub… Photo credit: https://www.podbanskeresort.sk/en/

Spa Etiquette

All joking aside, in the end the no swimwear policy wasn’t scary. Why the policy? The primary reason is hygiene. The point of using a sauna is to sweat out toxins from the body and clothing can block pores, trap sweat and carry bacteria. Everyone’s in the same boat and are too busy relaxing to notice others around them in an equally meditative state.

Our time in Slovakia - lava stone massage

Our time in Slovakia: The Numbers

Ryanair flight from Dublin to Bratislava: €71 return

Accommodation: We got a special all-inclusive package with Hotel Permon. Entrance to the spa, buffet dinner and breakfast, accommodation, €100pp/night.

Treatments:
Foot and leg massage (25 min) €14
Lava stone massage (45 min) €26
Whole body lymph drainage (90 min) €50
Full price list found here.

Thinking about visiting a European spa? Don’t be a Dan! Stay tuned for my top tips on spa etiquette.

Our time in Slovakia - spa weekend

Are you interested in 24 hour holidays? Check out 24 hour holiday: Top Five Ways to Spend Time in Edinburgh, Scotland

Best Speciality Coffee in Dublin: Top 8 Cafes

When I first moved to Ireland five years ago I wrote a post called ‘Mission Impossible: Finding the Best Coffee in Dublin’. The post is now so out of date it’s irrelevant, so I figured it was time for a new “Best Speciality Coffee in Dublin” guide.

Speciality Coffee

Five years ago the speciality coffee scene was just barely breaking in to Dublin. With a few trailblazers like Colin Harmon of 3fe and Karl Purdy of Coffee Angel, speciality coffee has become much more approachable and easier to locate. Five years ago I had to walk over 30 minutes to find a good coffee. Dublin locals and tourists alike are now spoiled for choice and are never more than 10 minutes away from a great coffee in the city centre.

I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite spots for a caffeine hit. I’ve chosen each cafe based on where I would grab a coffee when I’m in that particular part of the city.  You can expect to pay around €2.20-€2.50 for an espresso/americano, €3.00-€3.50 for a milk based coffee, and between €3.00-€4.00 for a single origin pour-over. If you like your coffee milky such as a flat white or cappuccino I recommend sticking with the full-fat milk option. The quality of dairy in Ireland is fantastic and the creamy full-fat milk is perfect for speciality coffee.

This list is just the beginning. Speciality coffee is now striving in the city and I’m sure you’ll come across many more places during your time in Dublin.

Best Speciality Coffee in Dublin

  1. Meet Me in the Morning, Pleasants Street, St Kevins (Dublin 8)

    This is my favourite place for a filter coffee around the Camden Street area. Bright white washed walls, quirky staff, and excellent coffee, this is the best place to grab a sunny caffeine kick. The lads source interesting coffee you’ll be hard pressed to get elsewhere Dublin, often featuring Danish roasters like La Cabra and Coffee Collective. Easily some of the best speciality coffee in Dublin.

    Best speciality coffee in Dublin
    Photo Credit: Meet Me in the Morning Facebook page
  2. Two Pups, Francis Street (Dublin 8)

    My go-to by St Patricks Cathedral, the barista’s here make a great flat white. Last time I was there they were brewing Square Mile Coffee from the UK. Big, bold, dark chocolatey flavour, Square Mile is a favourite of mine.

    Best speciality coffee in Dublin
    Photo credit: Two Pups Facebook page
  3.  Kaph, Dury Street (Dublin 2)

    Mentioned in my original post on coffee, since my time in Dublin Kaph has been an old reliable and an easy choice for “Best Speciality Coffee in Dublin”. Smack dab in the centre of the city on Drury Street, this small cafe is a great choice for take-away coffee when you’re strolling around the shops in the area. Kaph brews its own signature 3fe blend.

    Best speciality coffee in Dublin
    Photo Credit: Kaph Facebook page
  4. Clement and Pekoe, South William Street (Dublin 2)

    This is is my choice when I want to sit in and stay a while. They focus on tea and coffee (no lunch, just treats) and there’s plenty of space for guests to hang around and have a chat, read a book, or get a bit of work done. A little sanctuary from the chaos of the city centre, this cafe brews coffee from London based Climpson and Sons.

    Best speciality coffee in Dublin
    Photo Credit: Clement and Pekoe Facebook page
  5. Pot Bellied Pig, Rathmines (Dublin 6)

    I live in Rathmines, and to be honest I don’t normally have time to enjoy coffee in this area. If I fancy venturing out of the house on my day off and want to treat myself to a coffee I’ll grab one from Pot Bellied Pig before doing my groceries in the area. I like that they keep it local and brew beans from Dublin coffee roaster Cloud Picker Coffee.

    Best speciality coffee in Dublin
    Photo Credit: Pot Bellied Pig Facebook page
  6. Proper Order Coffee Co, Smithfield (Dublin 7)

    Smithfield is getting very cool. Now a popular area to live in, there are lots of new cafes and niche pubs popping up.  I haven’t been to many of the cafes in Smithfield as I rarely find myself on that side of town but Proper Order is my current recommendation for the area. Brewing the likes of London’s Square Mile and Barcelona’s Nomad, these guys take their coffee seriously and are an easy choice for my guide for the best speciality coffee in Dublin.

    Best speciality coffee in Dublin
    Photo Credit: Proper Order Coffee Co Facebook page
  7. Coffee Angel, Docklands (Dublin 1)

    If you happen to find yourself in the Financial District, the Coffee Angel NWQ kiosk is your best bet. Karl Purdy now has six locations across the city and a great team of friendly baristas.

    Best speciality coffee in Dublin
    Photo Credit: Coffee Angel Facebook page
  8. 3fe, Sussex Terrace (Dublin 4)

    The first great coffee I had in Dublin was brewed by 3fe on Grand Canal Street Lower. Colin Harmon’s 3fe is a leading Dublin coffee roaster. Their newest location outside of the Grand Canal on Sussex Terrace is a guaranteed good coffee. While they’re making your brew you can peruse the showroom of espresso machines, merchandise, and all the coffee brewing equipment you can think of. Without 3fe we’d be hard pressed finding the best speciality coffee in Dublin.

    3fe
    Photo credit: 3fe Facebook page

    Getting a delicious coffee is one of my favourite things to do in Dublin. What are your first-choice cafes in Dublin? Let me know in the comments!

Best speciality coffee in Dublin

24 hours in Edinburgh

Do you ever think about other lifetimes? I’ve been fortunate enough to have serendipitously met a few people in my life that I have instantly bonded with. Bosom friends. Sister from another mister. Love at first laugh. There’s that moment when you connect so quickly it feels like you’ve known one another your whole lives. You can go years without seeing each other and get along better than most of the people you’ve met in the same amount of time. Almost like you’ve done this so called life together before.

Ok, enough of the philosophy. If I go too far down the rabbit hole there’s no going back! After not seeing each other for seven years, my friend Elyse spontaneously decided to visit me in Dublin for a week. She’s never been to Europe before so we managed to squeeze in a quick two night trip in Edinburgh. Elyse is the first person I met at university. Some random “soph” (Definition: overly excited second year student trying desperately to relive their first year) pulled me out of the car at my new residence and proceeded to force introductions with a handful of other students who were pulled out of their cars at the same time. Thankfully, Elyse was the first person I met and we connected as soon as we discovered we were both in the same media program. We ended up spending way too much time together as we found each other equally hilarious (surprisingly, not many others shared this disposition). From thereonin we ended up living in a share house with three other hilarious girls. After spending time with each other nearly every day of the school year for four years, I decided to take off to Australia, then British Columbia, then Ireland, until suddenly we hadn’t seen each other for seven years.  We picked up exactly where we left off and made for great travel companions. Fast forward to an adventure in Edinburgh.

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Reunited and it feels so good!

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Edinburgh four times. Every time I go as soon as I get a glimpse of the city all I can think about is how amazing it would be to live there. Panoramic views of breath-taking Victorian architecture is a treat for the eyes and a boost to the creative soul.

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Edinburgh Old Town. Photo Credit: Elyse Booth

Edinburgh is a city that just makes sense. I’d imagine that the architects were inspired by the natural landscape and weather since the buildings are even more beautiful when it’s windy, cloudy and drizzling. Whenever I’ve gone I’ve only had one or two days to explore, so I’ve put together a little list of what to do in the city in 24 hours.

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Strolling around the city. Photo Credit: Elyse Booth

FIVE THINGS TO DO-3

  1. Walk the entire Royal Mile
    The Royal Mile is the name given to a succession of streets in the Old Town. The stretch between two significant historic locations, Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, is the ultimate place to imagine medieval life. You can walk right up to the gates of Edinburgh Castle, and if you can spare the time, tour the inside for £17. On the opposite end you’ll find the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II, who spends a week residing there every summer. You can visit the palace for £14.

    DSC_9419.jpg
    View of the Castle at the end of the Royal Mile. We. got this shot from the tower of the camera obscura. Photo Credit: Elyse Booth
  2. Arthur’s Seat
    A hill located at the end of the Royal Mile, climbing Arthur’s seat is a great way to spend a couple of hours when visiting Edinburgh. A relatively easy climb (my legs only hurt for one day after), you’ll get a chance to catch your breath while getting amazing panoramic views at the top. I’ve climbed Arthur’s Seat three times and would do it again next time I visit Edinburgh. Arthur’s Seat is the largest of three sites of the Arthur’s Seat Volcano site. Like the location of the castle, its formation is the site of an extinct volcano system.

    IMG_4365
    We made it to the top!
  3. Whiskey and Wine
    Head out to either the Old Town or the New Town and try a unique Scotch you’d never get to try elsewhere. There are so many to choose from it can be a bit overwhelming. There are lot of good whiskeys to try at affordable prices so just go for something you’ve never had before. Besides that, Elyse and I came across a couple of great wine bars. We especially liked Smith and Gertrude in the New Town. You can choose different artisan cheeses ranging from £3.50 to £4.50 and cured meats from £4.50-£5.50. Or you can do what we did and order a mixed board of cheese and charcuterie (three of each) for £16. So.Good. We also treated ourselves to a great bottle of  Langhe Nebbiolo, La Ca Nova for £30.

    IMG_4436
    Smith and Gertrude
  4. Camera Obscura
    If you’re short on time, visiting the camera obscura is a brilliant way of getting your bearings in the city. A Victorian style virtual tour, you are guided through the Unesco World Heritage site that is Edinburgh from a tiny dark room. Tickets are £15.50 for adults and they’re valid all day so you can come and go as you please. There are some great photo opportunities from the top of the building as well.
  5. Walk Princess Street (and Primark!)
    On the south side of Princess Street you get amazing views of the Castle perched atop the volcanic site, giving the illusion of the castle blending in to the rock as if it’s part of the earth itself. There’s also a massive gothic monument to Sir Walter Scott, the stunning Balmoral Hotel, and the Princess Street Gardens. On the other side, you’ve got your high street shops. Ladies and gents, there is some serious Primark action happening on this street. Sprawling over about 5 floors, if you fancy a bit of shopping you’ll find some stellar deals. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, there is always a ton of paraphernalia to choose from (pyjamas, socks, notebooks, etc).

    DSC_9237.jpg
    View of the castle at night from Princess Street. As soon as we got off the bus in the city we were greeted with this view. Photo credit: Elyse Booth
    DSC_9247.jpg
    Photo credit: Elyse Booth

    We did all five of the things on the list (but didn’t go inside the castle or palace) in 24 hours and had a great time. Next time I’m there I plan to check out the galleries, museums, and evening ghost tour.

The travel details:

  • Ryanair return flight from Dublin for €50
  • Two nights in a twin room at the Edinburgh City Hotel for £111 (£55.50/person)
  • Return air coach transport from Airport to Edinburgh City £7 (this bus leaves every 10/15 minutes. Great service).
  • The city is very walkable and we didn’t need public transit or taxis at all.

Edinburgh is wildly beautiful. In my opinion it’s an underrated gem in the United Kingdom. It seems almost unfair for so many gorgeous buildings to be located in such close vicinity, and it’s a pleasure to visit every single time.

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Walking through the Old Town on our way to breakfast at The City Cafe. Photo credit: Elyse Booth
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Photo credit: Elyse Booth
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Photo credit: Elyse Booth
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Photo credit: Elyse Booth
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Doesn’t it look like the castle is a part of the hill? Photo credit: Elyse Booth
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Photo credit: Elyse Booth

24 Hour Holiday – Top 5 Ways to Spend Time in Edinburgh Scotland

Do you ever think about other lifetimes? I’ve been fortunate enough to have serendipitously met a few people in my life that I have instantly bonded with. Bosom friends. Sister from another mister. Love at first laugh. There’s that moment when you connect so quickly it feels like you’ve known one another your whole lives. You can go years without seeing each other and get along better than most of the people you’ve met in the same amount of time. Almost like you’ve done this so-called life together before. Ok, enough of the philosophy. If I go too far down the rabbit hole there’s no going back! After not seeing each other for seven years, my friend Elyse spontaneously decided to visit me in Dublin for a week. She’s never been to Europe before so we managed to squeeze in a quick trip to spend some time in Edinburgh Scotland.

(If you don’t fancy reading a little story about university life, scroll down to my top five ways to spend time in Edinburgh Scotland).

Elyse is the first person I met at university. Some random “soph” (Definition: overly excited second-year student trying desperately to relive their first year) pulled me out of the car at my new residence and proceeded to force introductions with a handful of other students who were pulled out of their cars at the same time. Thankfully, Elyse was the first person I met and we connected as soon as we discovered we were both in the same media program. We ended up spending way too much time together as we found each other equally hilarious (surprisingly, not many others shared this disposition).

From thereon in, we ended up living in a share house with three other hilarious girls. After spending time with each other nearly every day of the school year for four years, I decided to take off to Australia, then British Columbia, then Ireland, until suddenly we hadn’t seen each other for seven years. We picked up exactly where we left off and made for great travel companions. Fast forward to an adventure in Edinburgh.

our time in edinburgh scotland, two females having a great time exploring edinburgh, scotland
Reunited and it feels so good! (Elyse on the left and Grace (author) on the right)

I’ve had the pleasure of spending time in Edinburgh Scotland four times. Every time I go as soon as I get a glimpse of the city all I can think about is how amazing it would be to live there. Panoramic views of breath-taking Victorian architecture is a treat for the eyes and a boost to the creative soul.

Edinburgh is a city that just makes sense. I’d imagine that the architects were inspired by the natural landscape and weather since the buildings are even more beautiful when it’s windy, cloudy and drizzling. Whenever I’ve gone I’ve only had one or two days to explore, so I’ve put together a little list of what to do in the city in 24 hours.

Our time in edinburgh, scotland - the view of the city streets in edinburgh
Edinburgh Old Town. Photo Credit: Elyse Booth
woman walking down the cobbled streets enjoying her time in edinburgh, scotland
Strolling around the city. Photo Credit: Elyse Booth

FIVE THINGS TO DO when you spend time in Edinburgh Scotland

My Top 5 Ways to Spend Time in Edinburgh Scotland

 

1. Walk the entire Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is the name given to a succession of streets in the Old Town. The stretch between two significant historic locations, Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, is the ultimate place to imagine medieval life. You can walk right up to the gates of Edinburgh Castle, and if you can spare the time, tour the inside for £17. On the opposite end you’ll find the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II, who spends a week residing there every summer. You can visit the palace for £14.

DSC_9419.jpg
View of the Castle at the end of the Royal Mile. We. got this shot from the tower of the camera obscura. We had the best time in Edinburgh Scotland! Photo Credit: Elyse Booth

2. Arthur’s Seat

A hill located at the end of the Royal Mile, climbing Arthur’s seat is a great way to spend your time in Edinburgh Scotland. A relatively easy climb (my legs only hurt for one day after), you’ll get a chance to catch your breath while getting amazing panoramic views at the top. I’ve climbed Arthur’s Seat three times and would do it again next time I visit Edinburgh. Arthur’s Seat is the largest of three sites of the Arthur’s Seat Volcano site. Like the location of the castle, its formation is the site of an extinct volcano system.

IMG_4365
We made it to the top!

3. Whiskey and Wine: Restaurants in Edinburgh Scotland

Head out to either the Old Town or the New Town and try a unique Scotch you’d never get to try elsewhere. There are so many to choose from it can be a bit overwhelming. There are a lot of good whiskeys to try at affordable prices so just go for something you’ve never had before. Besides that, Elyse and I came across a couple of great wine bars. We especially liked Smith and Gertrude in the New Town. You can choose different artisan cheeses ranging from £3.50 to £4.50 and cured meats from £4.50-£5.50. Or you can do what we did and order a mixed board of cheese and charcuterie (three of each) for £16. So.Good. We also treated ourselves to a great bottle of Langhe Nebbiolo, La Ca Nova for £30. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy our time in Edinburgh Scotland. Can you?

IMG_4436
Smith and Gertrude

4. Camera Obscura

If you’re short on time, visiting the camera obscura is a brilliant way of getting your bearings in the city. A Victorian style virtual tour, you are guided through the Unesco World Heritage site that is Edinburgh from a tiny dark room. Tickets are £15.50 for adults and they’re valid all day so you can come and go as you please. There are some great photo opportunities from the top of the building as well.

5. Walk Princess Street (and Primark!)

On the south side of Princess Street you get amazing views of the Castle perched atop the volcanic site, giving the illusion of the castle blending in to the rock as if it’s part of the earth itself. There’s also a massive gothic monument to Sir Walter Scott, the stunning Balmoral Hotel, and the Princess Street Gardens. On the other side, you’ve got your high street shops. Ladies and gents, there is some serious Primark action happening on this street. Sprawling over about 5 floors, if you fancy a bit of shopping you’ll find some stellar deals. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, there is always a ton of paraphernalia to choose from (pyjamas, socks, notebooks, etc).

DSC_9237.jpg
View of the castle at night from Princess Street. As soon as we got off the bus in the city we were greeted with this view. Photo credit: Elyse Booth
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Photo credit: Elyse Booth

We did all five of the things on the list (but didn’t go inside the castle or palace) in 24 hours and had a great time. Next time I’m there I plan to check out the galleries, museums, and evening ghost tour.

The Travel Details:

  • Ryanair return flight from Dublin for €50
  • Where to stay in Edinburgh Scotland: Two nights in a twin room at the Edinburgh City Hotel for £111 (£55.50/person)
  • Return air coach transport from Airport to Edinburgh City £7 (this bus leaves every 10/15 minutes. Great service).
  • The city is very walkable and we didn’t need public transit or taxis at all.

Edinburgh is wildly beautiful. In my opinion, it’s an underrated gem in the United Kingdom. It seems almost unfair for so many gorgeous buildings to be located in such close vicinity, and it’s a pleasure to visit every single time.

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Walking through the Old Town on our way to breakfast at The City Cafe. Photo credit: Elyse Booth
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Photo credit: Elyse Booth
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Photo credit: Elyse Booth
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Photo credit: Elyse Booth
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Doesn’t it look like the castle is a part of the hill? Photo credit: Elyse Booth
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Photo credit: Elyse Booth

Are you interested in travel? Check out my time in Slovakia – winter spa weekend. 

Crossing off the Counties: Wicklow

My sister recently came to visit me. I hadn’t seen family for 17 months so I was ready to burst with excitement.  We only had a couple of days so I had to be wise in planning our adventure. We had one full day together in Dublin and one day to get out of the city and explore some emerald hills. I chose Wicklow because of its close proximity to Dublin and its many claims to fame. Boasting film locations for movies such as Braveheart and P.S I love you, it’s a must-see on anyones Irish tour. This was my third trip to Wicklow, and believe me, there’s a reason why it’s referred to as the Garden of Ireland.   After taking a taxi from my house to O’Connell Street out of fear of being late, we arrived right on time, 8:50am. We grabbed a quick and necessary coffee and proceeded to wait for Irish time, departing a half hour late. Because we were so timely, we managed to snag some seats fairly close to the front. With an upbeat Dublin tour guide and an excessive amount of excited American women we were on our merry way. Joe, our tour guide, went above and beyond the call of tour guidance. He sang classic Irish tunes (sans any musical accompaniment), attempted teaching the Americans how to say a few Gailec words, and provided us with information about every place we went. I had done a very similar day trip to the Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough when I first moved to Ireland but I took a lot more away from this tour.

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sisters and sunshine

We got lucky with the weather. As we crawled up the winding roads deeper into the Wicklow mountains the clouds cleared and the sun paid us a visit. When we stopped at

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Ruth frolicking

the Wicklow Gap (P.S. I love you filmpoint) we left our jackets in the bus and Ruth frolicked ahead to capture the perfect photograph. A few clouds hung between the mountains, so close it felt like if you reached out you could touch them. The lakes nestled between the green hills were perfect. Even with the robust character from Virginia squacking in the background the Wicklow Mountains felt calm. Peaceful.

We also went to the Monastic City in Glendalough where we saw the remains of the famous early Christian monastic settlement first established by St. Kevin in the 6th century. The monks abandoned the settlement centuries ago but many of their hand-built stone buildings are still standing. The monuments built by the monks gave us a glimpse of their way of life. I found that the ruins represent the passion and absolute dedication these people had for their beliefs system. The Round Tower, built by hand centuries ago, is about 30 metres high. I can only imagine how long and how many injuries it must’ve taken to accomplish such a project.

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Monastic City

We finished the tour at the first ever Avoca store, an Irish staple, where we got to watch hand weavers in action. I was very impressed with the quickness and finnese required for handweaving, and was doubly impressed when shown the final product – beautiful multi coloured cashmere throws that make you want to veto clothes forever and just lie snuggled in those blankets all day.

The highlight of the trip was the fact that I got to experience Ireland, my current home, with someone I love from my permanent home. Spending time with family and traveling adventures are individual gifts. Getting the opportunity to do both at once is so incredible it turned me greedy. I want more.

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Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters

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Toasting 2013

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway

Seven countries, a serious romance, and a full belly. 2013, you’ve been good to me.

My mind was blown when I saw One Republic at The Olympia. I felt like a true local when I laughed at the Dublin jokes during the performance of Once at the Gaiety Theatre. I clapped and bopped along during the Jersey Boys Broadway production in London. I embraced summer while Glen Hansard and The Frames serenaded me at the Galway Arts Festival. With a glass or two of wine and bubbly I toasted Christmas with my love and wonderful friends at the National Concert Hall during the Baroque Christmas performance. I was frequently blessed by stumbling across great artist performances on Grafton Street. I stood in awe at Rodin’s sculpture of “The Kiss” in Edinburgh. I walked amongst glorious architecture in Barcelona, Paris, and Edinburgh.

2013 was the year I got a taste for traveling Europe. Here’s a quick summary of my travels:

Stockholm, Sweden was snowy and stunning, filled with warm memories in the hostel and laughter everywhere we went.

Brussels, Belgium indulged my taste buds, reunited me and my roommate from Gold Coast, and constantly surprised me at how wonderful a place it is.

Barcelona, Spain was sensory overload. We were shocked at how affordable wine was at restaurants, had a great night out on the hostel pub crawl, and were overwhelmed by Gaudi’s architecture.

London, England was a double trip destination. Both trips reunited me with old friends (one from Brisbane and one from university in Canada), both were filled with delicious coffee, never ending markets, an awe of how well the tube works, and leisurely strolls in Hyde Park.

Paris, France was a living dream.

Edinburgh, Scotland was also a double trip. Less than an hours flight and at about 20 euro round trip it’s too good to pass up. Edinburgh is an everything city — great food, beautiful hills, enchanting streets, art and culture. The variety of food was so good both times I was there it was like a trip for my taste buds. The Gothic architecture seems to be inspired by the natural landscape — the tall, dark buildings were made to stand amongst the black clouds and mist.

Sliema, Malta was the trip where I finally got my summer. Me and my wonderful 2013 travel partner gallivanted across the entire Island, drank a bottle of wine with each beautiful dinner, sunbathed just a little too much, and were mesmerized by the many colours of the crystal clear, sparkling Mediterranean Sea.

As for my token Before 30, here’s what I crossed off:

#19. Attend an orchestra performance

#44. Eat chocolate in Belgium

#61. Drink wine under the Eiffel Tower

#76. Celebrate St Patrick’s Day in Dublin

#77. Visit Stockholm

In 2014 I’m hoping to cross off a whole lot more items and also experience things that I never even knew should be on my list. I like to have goals because it makes me feel like I’m working towards something, however a lot of the most spectacular things I experienced this year I never could’ve planned. The best thing about New Years is hindsight. You’re given an opportunity to reflect, appreciate, and understand the things you went through during the year as a whole rather than dwelling on individual instances. And of course there is the beautiful promise of a New Year, destined to be whatever you decide to make of it.

I think this excerpt from my favourite post of the year “Not all those who wander are lost” summarizes 2013 for me,

“There are so many countries to explore, coffees to drink, songs to sing, and people to  learn from. I can’t wait. Life is thrilling and utterly unpredictable, and I’m enjoying every minute of it.”

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A quick trip out to beautiful Ballybunion, Kerry
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Beach side sangria in Barcelona
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Rooftop terrace in London
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Reunited with UWO friends in Dublin
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Being a tourist in London
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Drinking wine under the Eiffel Tower
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Smorgasbord at dusk on a summer date
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Rodin’s “The Kiss” in Edinburgh
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Wandering through Paris with a best friend from Canada
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Embracing summer in Malta
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Hours spent in this chair during summer days
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Swimming in the Blue Lagoon
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Feast upon feast at home
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“Once” at the Gaiety
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My 2013 travel partner
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Surrounded by long grass, rolling hills and persistent wind
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Markets in London
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Picnics in the park
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Attending an orchestra performance
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Edinburgh romance
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First Christmas in my first studio apartment
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Countless good coffees
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Barcelona
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Cheers, 2013. It’s been a slice.

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

I’m a contemplater, which means I often get really philosophical about life and simple realizations tend to blow my mind. I turned 24 on Saturday, and leading up to my birthday I was bombarded with feelings of awe and wonderment at life.

I had a moment of clarity while thinking about where I was a year ago and how I thought the next year of my life would look at the time. On my 23rd birthday I was living in Armstrong, BC, having just left Australia suddenly, and I had my first shift at a job that I quickly learned to hate. My “plan” was to live in Canada for three

My good friend Candice and I at Lake Louise last summer.
My good friend Candice and I at Lake Louise last summer.
I’m sure Banff is one of the most beautiful places I’ll ever see.

months while waiting for my new Australian visa to be approved then catch the first plane back to sunny Queensland. I never could’ve predicted what was in store for me, and in hindsight I’ve realized that life is truly what you make of it. I chose BC rather than move back to Ontario partially because I didn’t want to settle in too much and uproot my life and my relationships when I left Canada “in three months”. Eight months later, my current relationships deepened, I started a brand new, sure to be life long friendship, I was stunned daily by the glorious mountains surrounding me, and I discovered new passions. What started as a transition stage of life turned into a major chapter, a chapter where I learned to be more open minded, that I love to cook with alternative food, and that I’m obsessed with mountains. Most importantly, I learned to never sit still and let life pass you by. I learned to find something good about every day — whether it was going for a walk with my sister and brother in law, having a delicious coffee, reading a good book, waking up and seeing sunshine flood through the windows, or witnessing hoarfrost twinkle on the trees, there is always something good in every day. I had a regular customer at a restaurant that I worked at in Vernon, and without fail he would always say “every day is a good day, and some are better than others.” It’s those simple things that are what’s best about life.

Now I’m 24, I live in Ireland, and I have no idea where I’ll be in a year from now. It’s an exciting age, because I’m starting to figure out what kind of

Coffee time in Stockholm.
Coffee time in Stockholm.

person I want to be and what I want out of life, but I still have time to change my mind a whole lot. I could settle down at any time or I can keep globetrotting. I can party all night or I can stay home and read a book. I can wear my nose ring and still be taken seriously. I can dance like crazy or sip on wine while discussing philosophy and values. I’m finished my degree but could still get a Masters. The options or endless, and I’m so grateful.

I want to be the kind of person that follows through. If I say I’m going to do something, I’ll do it. I said I wanted to move in October, so when I was offered a job in Dublin I did some research and applied for a visa after five days. I said I wanted to travel Europe this year, summer specifically, and I have flights booked to Edinburgh, Brussels, and Barcelona, and plans to see many more countries in the warmer months. I’ve been talking about getting a tattoo, so I went for it. I said I wanted to be settled in Dublin in a week — I did it in five days. I’ve found my favourite coffee shops. I’ve seen Irish countryside. I’ve had a pint of Guinness and different kinds of whiskey straight. I can sing along to a few token Irish tunes. I say “half three” instead of “three thirty”. I live in Ireland, and after having Australia snatched out from underneath me, I feel a sense of urgency to enjoy each day and every cultural experience. I can’t waste any time.

The world is at our finger tips and all I have to do is seize the good opportunities, have some music ready to make the soundtrack to my life, and bring a water bottle and maybe an apple or two. There are so many countries to explore, coffees to drink, songs to sing, and people to  learn from. I can’t wait. Life is thrilling and utterly unpredictable, and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

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The amazing Wicklow Gap.