What to See in Beautiful Brittany

What to See in Beautiful Brittany (Bretagne), France

Let’s start with Saint-Malo, a port town famous for Intra-Muros., which translates to “within walls”.  Intra-Muros is a medieval city next to the English Channel surrounded by tall walls. It’s quite picturesque and worth a visit when in Brittany. It is also the most centric area, so it’s best to book lodging here, especially if you don’t have a car since St. Malo lacks public transportation, besides a few buses that run during the day.

This area is also famous for the small “disappearing” islands that you can only visit when the tide is low. The tide changes so dramatically that if you are in one of the islands during high tide, you’ll be stuck there for about 6 hours until the tide comes back down. One of the memorable spots near Intra-Muros was Le Velvet, a cozy and vintage-looking bar that serves delicious mulled wine in the winter.

low tide
Saint-Malo during low tide

Another historical landmark to visit when in St. Malo is Solidor Tower, it is beautifully light at night. I loved walking around it and listening to the beach waves. 

Dinard is another Bretonne beach town. It is right next to St. Malo. I recommend visiting during the day and checking out the Market. Here, you’ll find many places to try delicious Bretonne goods such as cider, cheese, and pastries. After this, I strolled along the “boardwalk” that surrounds some rocky hills. There some outstanding views of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as from my “future home” aka really beautiful and large houses by the beach I will never be able to afford,  but I’m a dreamer.

Dinard
“boardwalk” in Dinard
gallete
Gallete du St- Jacques (Scallop crêpe)

After the walk, I found myself at a local pub that had the best thing to eat in both St, Malo, and Dinard, the Coquille St. Jacques, aka Scallops. They are served in a crêpe, with pasta or in their shells. I lost count of how many I had during my visit to Bretagne. That’s where most of my money went. I also spent it in Kouign-amanns (buttery cake) aka Bretonne Cake pronounced “Queen Aman”. Another thing to try while in Bretagne. The server at this local pub called Le Skipper was so nice and patient with my “baby French”. She was mainly intrigued since it seemed I’m the first Mexican they had ever seen in that town. At least, that they know of.

 

 

 

The most curious thing about the Northern French,
is the way they drink coffee.

Coffee bowls are a thing! Their excuse is that they have to get the energy from somewhere else due to the lack of sun. Sounds legit. 

My reaction to coffee bowls

I noticed the trend when I saw the bowls with names on every souvenir shop. I thought there were for dogs. Later, a local explain the logic behind them. Quite a contrast from the rest of Espresso drinking Europe. My thought was “and they saw Americans supersize everything”, but then again… to each its own.

A curious rumor about Dinard is that the house from Hitchcock’s Psycho was inspired by a house along the coast of Dinard. This explains the random Hitchcock statue with birds, that ironically was covered in bird poop.

Hitchcock

There are many beautiful cities and towns to visit while in Britanny besides the mentioned above, such as Rennes and Nantes. Pays de la Loire is also very near and worth a visit. Remember to bring an umbrella, even when visiting in the summer, since the weather changes drastically. No matter where you stay, enjoy the delicious French wine, cheese, and bread. Give seafood and Kouign-amann a try when in Bretagne, walk it all off with a stroll around the coast (during low tide please) and always BE PRESENT! Follow me on Instagram @joyzcortez to check out more photos of this and other trips.

 

 

Nantes, The Best of This French Hidden Gem

Nantes left an impression on me despite its gloomy weather so much so that I’ve been here both during Christmas time, as well as summer. This college town offers so many attractions as well as good public transport. I’m a sucker for Belgian beer and Nantes’ Delirium Cafe was never as crowded as the original in Brussels. Surprisingly, Nantes is the sixth biggest city in France, yet it does not have many international tourists.

What to Eat in Nantes

The center is pretty walkable with plenty of restaurants where to try the famous Gallete Bretonne (salty crêpe), as well as the Kouign-amann (buttery cake) aka Bretonne Cake, pronounced “Queen Aman”. Don’t forget to pair your Gallete with the Bretonne cider. A small but great spot in the center is Crêperie Au Vieux Quimper.

L’Epicerie is a cozy and delicious tavern looking restaurant that is opened late and serves delicious and local food. A good option for a cute date night. I can’t even remember what I had, but I do remember it was cheesy and damn delicious. Sorry for the blurry pic, but I also remember being really hungry after the first spot we stopped by had no tables available on a Saturday night. Always a good idea to try to make reservations!

L'Epicerie
L’Epicerie

What to See in Nantes

 stunning and colorful images are projected to the beat of the music

Cathédrale Saint-Pierre et Saint-Louis is beautiful and has an amazing show during Christmas season. The front of the cathedral serves as a canvas where stunning and colorful images are projected to the beat of the music. Not that it was related to Christmas, but I saw exotic birds flying in a forest, among other landscapes. You can get a glimpse of this odd but beautiful show in my Instagram Highlights.

Catedral
Cathédrale with Christmas light show

Another beautiful landmark in the center of Nantes is the Castle of the Duques, shown as the Feature Image on this post. There’s an entrance fee but if you have the time, I truly recommend exploring this Château (castle). It is not far from the train station, so definitely worth a visit, if you have an hour to kill.

One of the most visited areas in Nantes apart from the castle is the Passage Pommeraye. This Renaissance-inspired mall is quite fancy. I personally do not care for high-end brands, but walking through this mall was free and offered many great selfie corners. It is beautifully decorated during Christmas as well.

Passage 2
Passage Pommeraye


Last but not least, my favorite place in Nantes, even more so than Cafe Delirium, is
Les Machines de l’Île, The Machines of the Island. This place is hard to describe, but it’s basically a steampunk paradise. There’s a gorgeous and sophisticated carousel with a variety of mechanical creatures. You can also ride through the center in a larger than life-size mechanical elephant. Or if you decide to pay the museum fee, you are also able to drive a mechanical spider and look at other mechanical animals such as hummingbirds. Even if you’re not into steampunk, this place is worth a visit when in Nantes. You don’t need to pay the entrance fee to appreciate most of the machines.

 

Where to Shop in Nantes

After living in a small town (Saint-Brevin-les-Pins) and riding horses every day for two weeks during my Workaway experience, I was in dire need of a new pair of jeans. Passage Pommeraye is not an option for my unemployed self, so I had to resort to the well-known chains such as H&M, Zara, Bershka, etc. You can find these stores, as well as some small locally own boutiques near the center on Rue de Calvaire. It leads to other small streets like Rue de Budapest. It’s all very walkable.

Where to party

I was drawn into the “Canadian pub” out of curiosity and because of

Bar Tabarnak
Bar Tabarnak

Being that Nantes is a college town, some bars are more affordable but crowded with college students, especially on weekends. I was drawn into the “Canadian pub” out of curiosity and because of their “vin chaud”, hot wine or mulled wine. One of my FAVORITE winter drinks!  Bar Tabarnak was quite spacious, with outdoor seating and friendly staff.

Le Chait Noir (The Black Cat) is a cool speakeasy type bar with live music and a good wine selection #France.

Delirium Café is always a good idea if you’re a beer fan. It’s a good spot to go as a group or start the night, maybe even a pre-dinner drink, or even after dinner, why not? I could have Belgian beers any time of the day (no judging please). If cocktails are your thing, La Ribouldingue, which is a way of saying “party” is a cool spot with a terrace and a DJ on some nights.

Whatever your reason may be for visiting this jolie ville of Nantes, you are guaranteed a memorable time. Enjoy your visit, bring an umbrella or raincoat and always BE PRESENT! Follow me on Instagram @joyzcortez for more pics and other travel ideas.

Beautiful Adventures at Pays de la Loire

I had the privilege of doing volunteer work through Workaway at an equestrian center in Pays de la Loire where I also got to explore a bit of Bretagne. Check out this post where I write about towns like Saint-Malo, Dinard, and Nantes. As always, I’ll list my fave food spots and what I ate in beautiful (and butter covered) Brittany, Bretagne in French.

Horsey
Bae doesn’t like selfies

Workaway is for travelers who want to live, work, and eat like a local. My work at the center included teaching English to teenagers, helping with the stables, assisting in the kitchen, as well as supervising and entertaining the campers. In exchange, I received free lodging, all 3 meals a day (including plenty of French cheese!), beach trips, private equestrian lessons, and most importantly, I practiced French every day. Also, my amazing host was gracious enough to drive me around to explore the surrounding towns.

I arrived at the St. Nazaire train station and my lodging was located at Saint-Brevin-les-Pins. My work schedule was so flexible that, some mornings, I could run to Plage L’Ermitage, a beach next to a small forest, or to Plage de Saint Michel. Neither beach was ever overcrowded despite it being the middle of summer. Not even on Bastille Day where we had an evening picnic and watched the fireworks.

Pornic (1)
Pornic and la femme enjoying her strawberry ice cream

What to See in Pays de la Loire

Among some of the most memorable towns I visited were Pornic, Le Croisic and La Roche. Each town has its own water views, landmarks, boutiques, cafes, and ice cream shops. These places are best exploring on foot since the summers are pretty tempered due to its northern location. You’ll find delicious strawberry ice cream everywhere as well as affordable Belgian beers at the bars and cafes. Pornic was bustling with Parisians during the summer making it a bit more expensive, but still beautiful. Le Croisic is famous for its WWI US Naval base and Le Roche is a bit more local and small, a hidden gem.

Being that I am the product of the Disney generation, I’m a fan of castles, especially medieval looking castles. Guérande is a medieval town next to Le Croisic where you’ll find several castles and old churches, mostly used for events such as weddings but open to the public when there are no events. Here is a list of several castles in Guérande.

Guérande 2 (1)
Les Remparts de Guérande

Best Pastries in Pays de la Loire

My Workaway host has a sweet tooth and I’m grateful because French pastries quickly became my addiction. Cheese already was, I totally adored that French people have cheese for dessert! If it wasn’t for my horrible pronunciation, I could so fit in with this culture.

If you’re craving some sweets or damn tasty bread, I recommend Fournil du Pays Blanc and Christophe Roussel. On Sundays, we also visited the market where you can find every local product imaginable such as bread, pastries, jams, all kinds of cheese, coffee, cider, hand made jewelry, and much more! Definitely visit and bring cash to the Marché de la Pierre Couché. I have videos of the market and the pastry shops in my Instagram Highlights of Pays de la Loire.

Pastry
Pastries from Christophe Roussel

There’s so much to see, do, drink, and EAT in North Western France. I’m sure no matter where you go, you’ll have a delicious time. When visiting, keep in mind that even though this area of France is not too far from the UK, don’t expect locals to speak English but do bring an umbrella, even in the summer. I found the weather would change dramatically one week from the other. En fin, also remember to always BE PRESENT! And follow me on Instagram @joyzcortez for more travel pics and ideas!

 

 

 

 

How to Make the Best of a Few Days in Copenhagen

Copenhagen has something for everyone, street art, craft beer, beautiful views, colorful neighborhoods, a themed park that leaves Disneyland in the dust, a sense of community, and even, good ‘ol Mary Jane 🌿.

I list the coolest neighborhoods and landmarks, tell you how to get there and for how much, as well as share some of the best places to eat and drink, which were recommended by locals. And last but not least, you’ll read about how to legally get marijuana in Copenhagen (but technically not Copenhagen).

Famous Neighborhoods in Copenhagen

Nyhavn

When I first moved to Madrid from Los Angeles, I had a 5-hour layover in Copenhagen. I saw how easy and quick it would be to go from the airport to the city, so I went for it, suitcase and all! I took the metro to Nyhavn, which translates to New Port. This area reminded me a bit of Amsterdam because of the canal and numerous cyclists, but Nyhavn’s canal is much wider, surrounded by colorful buildings and flooded by tourist boats. Definitely check out this area but beware that the bars and restaurants along the canal are tourist traps, in other words, overly expensive. Drinking in public is legal so it’s a good idea to get a beer from literally anywhere (souvenir shop, food market, train station…) and enjoy it while overlooking the canal.

You’ll find a few cafes, restaurants, and shops in Christiana

including the sale of marijuana.

Christiana
Front of a shop in Christiana

Two years later, I’m back in Copenhagen with more time to explore. My first stop is the neighborhood with the most street art! Christiana is only a 15-minute walk from Nyvhan and a MUST when visiting Copenhagen. “Christiana is an autonomous society where each individual can freely develop under the responsibility of the community.” There’s a palpable sense of community when you walk in. I enjoyed strolling around this neighborhood and taking in the diverse and large amount of impressive art, including murals and sculptures.

You’ll find a few cafes, restaurants, and shops in Christiana including the sale of marijuana. Yup, totally cool since this is an autonomous community with its own rules. The restaurants, bars, and shops vary from more affordable than the rest of Copenhagen to more high-end places. All the money spent here stays in the community and serves its residents. Something worth noting is that there are no pictures allowed, except for a few shops which will have a sign posted allowing you or not to take pictures. Be respectful of this when visiting Christiana.

The Meatpacking District is in the district of Vesterbro and next to Central Station. This neighborhood is very centric. I recommend lodging in this area, especially if you’re only visiting for a few days since its home to the trendiest bars, restaurants, and cafes. Some are actually affordable and there’s a wide variety of places for all types of tastes.

Where to Eat in Copenhagen

I recommend Vesterbro Chinese Food (that’s the restaurant’s actual name) is quite, quaint and surprisingly for a Chinese Restaurant, it has offers good cocktails. Hyggestund has a great brunch menu and outdoor seating for summer days and it’s right next to Mikkeller Bar.

Mikkeller is a microbrewery founded in Copenhagen that has become internationally popular. I first tried it in San Diego, California, but have also visited their branches in Los Angeles and Madrid. You’ll find that they have MANY different types of beers. Do not feel overwhelmed, you can ask the bartender for a taster or get a small glass to start with to allow yourself to try different kinds. Beware of the high alcohol percentage, it will be written on the board.


For the freshest, most legit Mexican restaurant in Copenhagen, you have to visit La Neta. The rumor is that the founder of Mikkeller visits Mexico so often (makes sense since he was breweries in California) that he hired a chef from Oaxaca to open La Neta in Copenhagen.  The tacos and quesadillas are sooo good, just like they would be at home (remember I’m Mexican). The best part is the salsa bar! It has many different types of salsas ranging from what I called the “no pica” (mild) one to “no mames” (spiciest). La Neta also offers delicious vegan options.

The decorations also brought me home, along with the cumbia playing in the background. Of course, they only difference from taquerías back in Mexico is the price per taco. Converting from DKK they’re around 3 EUR each. Still, that’s a price I’m willing to pay for good Mexican food while living abroad.

The Best Landmarks in Copenhagen

Little Mermaid
Apretando la sonrisa, because I can’t keep a straight face.

The Little Mermaid statue is not in the center, but not far from Central Station. It’s about a 20-minute metro ride. You can take any line (metro or train) 2-3 stops (2 for train, 3 for metro) to Østerport then walk towards the port. There’s not much to see in this area, but the statue is in a park facing the ocean, so a picnic is a good idea if the weather allows for it. Be mindful that the statue is small but the crowds might not be, especially if there are tour buses parked nearby. You’ll have to be patient if you want a picture with the statue, or of the statue with no one around.

The Royal Library is locally known as “The Black Diamond” since its Copenhagen’s new pride and joy. It’s a very modern and beautiful glass building by the river. I definitely recommend this place to watch the sunset. Check out their website for visiting hours.

Børsen has one of the trademarks that makes Denmark’s architecture stand out and it’s what I call the “unicorn horn”. A twisty and pointy tower erected from almost every building. Turns out that it’s a spire representing 4 intertwined dragon tails. You’ll also find dragons everywhere since it’s a symbol of the city.

 

 

Church_of_Our_Saviour_-_2013
The Church of Our Savior

Vor Frelsers Kirke (The Church of Our Savior) is a small church with an incredibly tall tower that is only open when there’s good weather since it goes really high up. Unfortunately, it was drizzling when I went so the stairs were closed. I’ve heard that the views are unreal from up there, definitely worth the 35 DKK (about 4.60 EUR) or 25 DKK with a student card. You can see if they’re open on their website.

Rosenberg
Rosenberg Castle in King’s Garden

Another good place to have a picnic is at the King’s Gardens. This is a pretty large park where to get lost in and admire unique sculptures, as well as the Rosenberg Castle. The castle is guarded off with a fence and soldiers, but you can pay to visit the inside of the castle, its gardens, and the museum where you can see the crown jewels. If you’re interested in visiting you can find details on their website.

Last but not least,one of the most gorgeous places in Copenhagen…

the Tivoli Garden

Last but not least, in my opinion, one of the most gorgeous places in Copenhagen is the Tivoli Gardens. I might be biased since I visited in spring when the gardens were in full bloom. I saw enormous and beautiful tulips and lilies everywhere. Some flowers were in colors I’ve never even seen before! I avoided paying the entrance fee (about 12 EUR) until my last day in Copenhagen when my brother persuaded me to go in a rollercoaster with him for all time’s sake. I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to scream my heart out in a socially acceptable environment.

Tivoli Gardens
Entrance to Tivoli Gardens

Rumor has it that Walt Disney was inspired by Tivoli when creating Disneyland and I can certainly see the resemblance. For starters, the mascot at Tivoli is a monkey with red overalls and big yellow buttons. The park itself is divided into different sections, including a type of “tomorrow land” and every Saturday night, the park closes with a beautiful fireworks show that can be appreciated from the surrounding neighborhoods. Tivoli retaliates by selling Disney character merchandise.

Surprisingly, the prices inside the park are quite affordable compared to the city’s. Although the ride prices add up, food, drinks, and souvenirs are the cheapest I saw during my trip. There are also packages you can buy if you intend to go on many rides with the additional benefit of reentering the park as many times as you’d like.


You can find the entire list of places I’ve mentioned here, including some beautiful and peaceful cemeteries with cherry blossoms, which I believe bloom around February but the petals are quickly blown away by the Danish wind. Remember, you can download Copenhagen’s map on Google maps to save data. For instructions on how to download offline Google maps in your phone check out my The Essentials post. Follow me on Instagram joyzcortez for more pics and travel ideas.

Copenhagen is a beautiful city with so much to offer so I hope you enjoy every moment despite what the weather might offer.  Even when exhausted from walking all day remember to look up and take everything in… always BE PRESENT.

The Best of Helsinki, on a Budget

Spring in Finland was a beautiful experience despite the cold. Although it’s known for being an expensive city, my private tour guide (aka my Finnish friend) showed me there are many inexpensive and even free places in the city. I’ll list all you can do in Helsinki while on a budget and how to get around this stunning city.

Finnish Tradition

If you’re visiting when it’s cold, which statistically you will unless you visit in the heart of summer, you need to join in the Finnish tradition of sweating your butt off in a sauna. I’m lucky enough to have known a local who invited me to share in her apartment building’s sauna. There are many public options available. A famous one is Kotiharjun, keep in mind that it’s closed on Mondays.

How to Get Around in Helsinki

The metro and bus tickets can easily be purchased from your cellphone with the HSL app. You only need to show the online ticket to the bus driver or ticket controller in the metro. Honestly, I never got asked to show my ticket in the metro, but my local friend mentioned that the fines are quite high, so I rather pay the €2.80 one way or €8 for the full day and be on the safe side.

The more days you include in your ticket, the cheaper it is. The one-way ticket includes transfers since it’s valid up to almost 2 hours from purchase. Helsinki is divided into zones A, B, and C. For transport to and from the airport you need an ABC ticket. You can also map your route using the HSL app and it will show which is the quickest way to get there with public transport along with up to date time tables.

“Free” is my second favorite word.


FREE Places to Visit

“Free” is my second favorite word. The first one being “food”, of course.
If you travel loads or you’re on a budget here are some great ways to explore Helsinki.
There’s a small but cute botanical garden in Helsinki known as the Winter Garden with no entrance fee. You’ll find diverse flora, such as succulents that transported me back to Mexico, palm trees which reminded me of California, beautiful orchids, lilies… etc. This seemed to be the place where locals get their wedding photos taken since rain or shine, it’ll be safe in the greenhouse. Also, it’s worth noting that there is a free and clean restroom available inside. A very important note when you’ve been exploring the city all day.

If you’re in Helsinki on the first Friday of the month,

you can enter any museum for free!

Iiu
Iiu Susiraja, Finnish artist

If you’re in Helsinki on the first Friday of the month, you can enter any museum for free! I chose to check out Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art, where I immediately became a fan of the amazing Finnish artist Iiu Susiraja. Her self-portraits are so thought and laugh provoking, I was truly inspired by her boldness and colorful portraits.

There are many other museums to choose from such as the National Museum of Finland where you can learn about Finland’s history, including the civil war from where the bullet holes in certain monuments come from. There’s also the Finnish Museum of Natural History, famous for the sculptures of the coffee drinking-sun bathing giraffes on the balcony. Here is a list by Culture Trip of the best museums in Finland. If you’re undecided, you can see the current exhibits on display on the museum’s website or simply, flip a coin.

Island hopping in Finland is a thing!

How to Visit the Islands in Helsinki

When in Helsinki, a day trip to Suomenlinna island is a must. The ferry is not technically free but it is included with the metro day pass. You also have the option of going island hopping for €10, a good idea on a sunny day. Suomenlinna is a world heritage and an old army fortress where you can explore the old tunnels and touch the huge cannons (pun intended) facing the Baltic Sea. It also has some beautiful views and beaches where you can chill. Above all. we happened to pass by a pirate ship on our way back to land. Anything can happen in Helsinki.

There are two places that stayed with me from my visit…

Unforgettable Landmarks

There are two places that stayed with me from my visit: the Uspenski Cathedral and Sibelius monument.

cathedral
Uspenski Cathedral

After exploring so much of Europe, cathedrals rarely impress me anymore, but Uspenski was a breath of fresh air… literally, it’s next to the port.

This beautiful brick, turquoise and gold cathedral sits on top of a hill surrounded by boulders. The interior has a very minimalistic decor, definitely not what I am used with Spanish, Italian, French or Belgium cathedrals. It is easy to locate since it’s next to the port with the ferries departing for the islands, and also near the market.

Sibelius
Sibelius monument from behind

It’s hard to believe that the Sibelius monument was built in the 60’s since the design looks so modern and it’s 600+ metal pipes look shinning new.

It gives a magical feeling because it seems to be floating above the water when seen from a distance facing the lake. Jean Sibelius is a Finnish classical music composer during the romantic era. The monument was built by Finnish sculptor Eila Hiltunen. A smaller version of the monument sits in the United Nations building in NYC.

The Best of Finnish Food

Cinnamon buns! These are not as sweet as the American version since they’re less glazy and more cinnamony, which I adore. Cinnamon is life for me, especially in coffee, so few things are better than Finnish coffee with a cinnamon pastry…. except, of course, for tacos.
Another must-try are the potato and rice cakes. Imagine open-faced empanadas filled with either mashed potatoes or rice. The best way to have them is with the eggy butter, which is literally melted butter mixed with mashed hard-boiled eggs. You can find these cakes in the market near the port, but they are much more affordable at supermarkets, although you’ll need to make the eggy butter yourself. Definitely an easy recipe.

Salmon and Reindeer are very common in Finland. You’ll even find reindeer kebabs in the market, as well as their antlers for sale at the outdoor market. I didn’t have the heart to try the reindeer meat but I did have an amazing salmon burrito worth the €12 at Soma Sushiburrito. I also remember seeing a huge salmon sandwich in the market for only €6.

 

Alcohol is restricted in the city


Where to Drink in Helsinki

Helsinki is known as an expensive city, so expect to pay up to €8 or €9 for a beer. Also, alcohol is restricted in the city. Hard liquor, wine, and high percentage alcohol beers can only be bought at bars or in liquor stores which have limited opening hours.

If you’re into craft beers, I recommend B-Side Bar. It has a very chill vibe, friendly bartenders and it’s in an artsy square that holds concerts in the summer. Another artsy and lively area in the summer is Kulttuuritehdas Korjaamo (cultural center). It is an old tram hall that is now used for outdoor drinking, music, art exhibits, food and it even has a movie theater. Definitely worth checking out during the summer or warmer days.

Another artsy and chill bar, despite the name, is Bar Molotov. The walls are covered with random stuff and you could spend the whole evening exploring all the knick-knacks used as decoration in this bar or you could also relax after a day of touring the city while playing board games and enjoying a long drink. This is a local specialty cocktail with gin and different flavors such as cranberry and grapefruit. Don’t expect anything fancy since it’s premixed and comes from a tap, still pretty good.

There’s quite a few bars, restaurants, and cafes you can check out on Vaasankatu street (where Bar Molotov is). It’s a hip area with some cool street art, worth exploring during the day or night.

For more activities in Helsinki, you can visit the city’s website. You can also save in Google maps all the list of all the places I’ve mentioned above. If it’s too cold to explore the city, I recommend taking a break in one of the many malls in the city. There are some underground ones with loads of restaurants and shops, including the famous Moomins stores. Follow me on Instagram @joyzcortez for more travel pics & ideas. Enjoy your time in this beautiful city and always BE PRESENT.

The Authentic Side of Brussels

Everyone knows to try Belgium chocolate, waffles and fries. But you might me surprised by how multiculturaly rich is Brussels, especially when referring to food. I was amazed to find such an open community, as well as unforgettable art at every corner. I’ll share how my perception went from fearful to this being one of my favorite cities. It was overwhelming at first, but it’s so easy to get around and meet people in the capital of the European Union.

Brussels at First Glance

I looked to the window next to me and saw a big, beautiful butt.

My first perception of Belgium was culture shock. I arrived in Brussels at Gare de Nord (North train station) and stepped into a gray sky, looked to the window next to me and saw a big, beautiful butt. First I thought it was a mannequin, but IT MOVED! I wish I knew before going to Brussels that it has a red light district. I was standing in the middle of it! I’ve been to Amsterdam before, but I was well aware of the existence and location of the red light district. This time, it took me by surprise.

The second thing I noticed were the mothers and little girls begging for money to eat. They didn’t speak French, nor did it sound to me like Flemish (native tongue in parts of Belgium) so I suppose they were refugees. I, unfortunately, had not a dime of cash nor a bite of food with me since I had been traveling in Germany for about a week and I had recently lost my debit card, BUT that’s another story.

I was tired, sweaty, carrying my luggage and trying to find my hostel with a broken heart. I wish I had at least some snacks to give these people, but then again, that wouldn’t even be close to solving the problem. During my stay in Brussels, I met other immigrants who also arrived in Belgium as refugees and can now share success stories. That definitely changed my perspective of the city, as well as the beautiful Grand Place.

If you think that Grand Place is beautiful during the day, wait until you see the lights of the baroque building reflected into the dark-shiny floor at night, turning the Place into a beautiful dark sea of lights. Absolutely breath-taking.

Grand Place at night
Grand Place

Surrounding the Grand Place were several narrow streets brimming with souvenir and chocolate shops, as well as mediterranean restaurants, waffle and frites (aka french fries) stands and bars with a wide variety of Belgian beers.  Despite all this deliciousness, one of my main reason for visiting Bruxelles, besides Belgian beer, is Le Boutique de TinTin. I’m a nerd for comics and I absolutely love TinTin, but no more than I adore his pup Milou, the true hero in the stories. The shop is more of a museum, unless you’re willing to spend about €70 in a figurine. I did get a €2 postcard as souvenir that is now pinned to my wall.

Bruxelles, land of TinTin and Delirium beer.

If you’re a fan of beer, Delirium alley is a must! In this alley you’ll find Delirium Cafe, Monasterium, Taphouse and even a Tequileria. People drink their beers in any of the bars or even in the alley on hot days (or nights). Delirium has a wide selection of beers from wheat, stouts, IPAs, sours and lambics. You also have a choice of size or beer flights if you want to taste a few. Remember, Belgian beers tend to be stronger. Keep an eye on the alcohol % so they don’t sneak up on you. The bartenders are friendly and speak English so don’t be a afraid to ask for a taster before deciding on one.

beers.jpg
Just a few beer to choose from at Delirium Cafe


How to Get to Brussels

Something important to know is that Centraal Station is the closest to the city centre (closest to the Grand Place), there’s also Midi and North station. Most trains stop at all 3 stations which are about a 20 minute walk from each other. If you’re coming from Charleroi (south airport), the first station is Midi, then Centraal, followed by the North station (opposite if you’re coming from the northern airport). The shuttle bus to the southern airport (Charleroi) departs from Midi Station.

What to See in Brussels

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Pissing Boy Statue

There are many famous monuments, parks and historical buildings to see, such as the pissing boy statue known as Manneken Pis and the pissing dog Zinneke Pis.

Just to mention a few more:

Brussels is definitely one of those cities where no matter where you turn or which street you take, you’ll find something interesting. Defintely a good idea to have your camera ready and charged at all times.

TInTin Mural
If like me, you’re a fan of street art, you’ll find a beautiful mural by Okudart right outside the North station. There are also many murals based on comics around Brussels. My favorite is, of course, the TinTin mural, shown above. You can also see the Smurf’s passage, leading to Centraal Station, as well as the Caroline Baldwin and the Broussaille mural.

A perfect way to end the day at Brussels is by enjoying the sunset and the live music performer at the steps in Mont des Arts (featured image on top). This is a very picturesque and romantic area with a beautiful sight in every corner. I was on my own (#foreveralone) but didn’t mind all the embracing couples around me because I was in love with the moment and the colorful sky. I also had a delicious chocolate covered waffle to keep me company ❤

Where and What to Eat in Brussels Center

You’ll never taste french fries the same way, since you’ll soon realize they’re actually from Belgium and they’re called Frites! Waffles with maple syrup will no longer suffice either, it’s strawberries, chocolate and chantilly or dead!… ok, maybe I’m taking it a bit to the extreme but there’s a reason why Belgians take great pride in their food.

Gofre
Frites and waffles are musts in Belgium. I also found mediterranean food to be very popular in Brussels. Here are a few inexpensive and delicious places with great customer service, as well as English speaking staff:

Here is the Google mpas list of every place mentioned in this post. Don’t forget to download the Brussels map in Google maps so as to save data and time when roaming around Brussels. This city is a great place to just walk around and get lost. You’ll find wonderful things to see or places to eat and drink everywhere you go. Follow me on Instagram joyzcortez for more travel pics & ideas. I hope you make the best of your time in this amazing city and always, BE PRESENT.

 

The Ultimate Itinerary for the Captivating Island of Mallorca

Explore Mallorca in a weekend! This captivating island has everything you need for a relaxing getaway or unforgettable party crazed adventures. You can also feel like a true explorer when traversing the many caves hidden between breath-taking beaches.

Mallorca is a small and beautiful island in an archipelago in Spain called, Balearic Islands. The other Balearic islands are Ibiza, Menorca, Formentera, and Cabrera.
What I found to be the most intriguing thing about Mallorca is that it’s a truly multi-lingual island.

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Despite it being petite, the locals working in the tourist sector speak at least 3 languages, sometimes more! Some of the spoken languages are Spanish, English, German, French, Italian, and of course, Mallorquín. Yes, Mallorca has its own language, which I learned is a dialect deriving from Catalán, the language spoken in Cataluña (where Barcelona is).

Most street signs were written in all these languages. I was amazed by how many polyglots I met during my short stay in Mallorca. This is very uncommon for Spain, which makes this island stand out even more. As if the clear, blue Mediterranean ocean wasn’t attractive enough, now you know you won’t have any issues with communication when traveling on this island.

Where and What to Eat in Mallorca

Markets are the best way to try local food in Spain.

As expected on an island, seafood is fresh and everywhere. Markets are the best way to try local food in Spain. There are a few markets where you can choose fresh fish and have it grilled it right there and then. The most popular one is Mercat de Santa Catalina which is in Palma, near Plaza Mayor. It closes at 5pm every day and it’s closed on holidays. Another market in my list, that I, unfortunately, did not have a chance to visit is Mercado Gastronómico de San Juan. It seemed like the perfect place to try different types of food.

In the town of Sollér, I had a delicious and authentic meal with a breathtaking view of the mountains in a hidden alley. Service was outstanding at Bar Molino but I arrived for a late lunch/early dinner and had no problem finding a table outside. It got busier in the evening, so best make a reservation, especially during peak season.

Nightlife in Mallorca

There are plenty of cocktail bars to choose from in Palma. I had the chance to try a few, including Brassclub which had amazing cocktails and a very chill vibe. Havanna is also a cool cocktail bar in Palma. I especially loved the corky art in this bar but my favorite one is an Italian bar in Santa Catalina named Ventuno. I’m not a huge Aperol fan, I find it too bitter but Italians are such experts at mixing it that I absolutely loved the cocktails here. The food looked delicious as well but I did not try it. My only complaint is that I wish there was a dance floor or at least more space. Music was too good not to move but there was hardly any space to even stand in this bar.

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Potato quality selfie @ Havanna

Sometimes, it’s best to go with the flow, you’ll be amazed by where the night takes you. I found myself dancing the night away at an Irish pub! Right around the corner of Ventuno you’ll find Molly Mallone. Definitely not the place where I expected to listen to Latino and 90’s music but if you rather not pay the cover for a club, know you can party it up here, at least on a weekend. From here, we walked to a club in the area but I cannot recall the name (it was that kind of night). Never be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and meet new people. I ended up singing my heart out to THE Spice Girls song with a Dominican friend I made that night and following an Italian group of friends to the next club. C’est la vie!

Catedral
Cathedral in Palma

Lodging in Mallorca

If you want the Historic Centre to be within walking distance I recommend staying in Palma. There are quite a few bars and restaurants in the area, the Cathedral and beach boardwalk are within walking distance as well. If you’re worried about staying in a loud neighborhood, Palma is actually pretty calm and quiet at night. A downside is that if you’re looking to lay out at a beach, you’ll need to rent a bike or take the bus since the nearest beach is a small boat port.

Another popular area is  Santa Catalina which is a 30-40 minute walk back to Palma. There are also plenty of taxis and a bus that ends its route around 9pm. Portopí is next to the port, so the beach is not as beautiful as other ones in Mallorca, but it’s surrounded by restaurants and night clubs if you’re planning on partying it up.

I wish I would’ve stayed at least one night in either Port Sollér or Porto Cristo. These beaches are unrealistically beautiful but both locations are far from the action. So it really does depend on what kind of vacation you’re looking for and if you have a car since everything is a short drive away but buses are not as regular as in a big city.

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Porto Cristo

Best Day Trips in Mallorca

Sollér & Port Sóller are definitely worth the trip if you have at least one whole day to visit. The small and charming town of Sollér hosts the beautiful Església de Sant Bartomeu (Church of St. Bartomeu) designed by Joan Rubió, an Antoni Gaudí follower. Gaudí is best known for the Sagrada Familia, an enormously impressive church in Barçelona. I’ve become difficult to impress by churches in Europe, but the one in Sollér is so unique since it has Baroque, Gothic and even Modernist elements.

An easy and scenic way to get there is the Palma-Sollér train which departs from the historic center in Palma and arrives in the town of Sollér. The stop is right next to the church. You can find the timetable and prices here

The Caves are a must-see when in Mallorca!

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Mediterranean sea entering the Caves of Drach

Porto Cristo is a small yet beautiful beach next to the Caves of Drach. The Caves are a must-see when in Mallorca! They were formed from the entrance of the Mediterranean ocean. Their discovery dates back to the Middle Ages but they have been conditioned with en easy entrance and exit, as well as lights and stairs for visitor access.

I was at awe with the naturally made stalagmites from hundreds, possibly thousands, of years of water dripping from and onto the rocks. These rocky spikes went in all directions causing a perfect reflection in the calm Martel lake.

The tour includes a live classical music concert, as well as a boat ride along lake Martel, which is inside the caves. There’s a limited amount of tours available per day so make sure you plan ahead. You can arrive by bus, the cost from Palma as of 2019 was €8.65 one way. You can find the bus time table here. There are also tours departing from Palma that include transportation and entrance, they range around €40.

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Boat ride in the Caves of Drach

Here’s the list of all the locations I mentioned in this post, along with some other restaurants that were referred to me but I did not get a chance to try.

I visited during March, and even though it was sunny it was also windy, so it wasn’t perfect beach weather. The humidity made it quite chilly at night. On the other hand, it wasn’t peak season so I was able to enjoy Mallorca without being overwhelmed by other tourists. Whenever you visit, even if things don’t go as planned (as they rarely do) remember to appreciate the breathtaking views, delicious food, and friendly locals. Mallorca is a beautiful place and I’m sure you’ll agree, so always… BE PRESENT!

Follow me on Instagram @joyzcortez for more travel pics & ideas!

How to Have an Epic Vacation in Porto

It is one of my favorite cities in Portugal, perhaps even in Europe. Oporto, or Porto in English, has become increasingly more popular, almost as much as Lisboa (Lisbon). You can easily see the main attractions in a weekend if you don’t mind the hills. I’ll give you a breakdown of what to see, eat and where to party in Porto.

There’s a unique charm in the neighborhoods and their decayed buildings. Porto is not as metropolitan as Lisbon, but the views from Dom Luís I Bridge are breathtakingly stunning. The main reasons I fell in love with this city are because of its friendly people, delicious food, breathtaking views, and peculiar street art.

Must-See Landmarks in Porto

Most memorable landmarks are the Dom Luis I Bridge, Lello Library,  São Bento train station, and the fanciest McDonald’s you’ll ever see. But as always, I recommend a walking tour. They’re between 2-3 hours long and they’re free! Simply Google “Porto Free Walking Tour”. These tours are tip-based where you pay what you consider appropriate or however much you can afford.

Another J.K Rowling inspiration and an unforgettable sight.

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Lello Library, aka “Harry Potter’s Library”

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll have a familiar feeling when entering  Livreria Lello. It is said that J.K. Rowling was inspired by Oporto after living in the city back in the 90’s. In the books, she describes the library, where Harry buys his books before attending Hogwart’s, as a place similar to this Lello.

Lello is a small library that charges €4 as an entrance fee, which can be used towards a purchase. There will most likely be a line of people waiting to get in, which moves kinda fast, but don’t expect to take any pics inside without people in the frame. It gets pretty busy in there since this is such a popular destination in Porto.

Something else you’ll see if you’re in Porto during graduation season, is that the University’s graduates wear a very similar black cloak to the one Hogwart’s students wear. Another J.K Rowling inspiration and an unforgettable sight. The main difference is that the graduates tend to have a bottle in hand instead of a wand.

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São Bento Train Station

São Bento train station is beautifully decorated with hand-painted blue tiles. There are about 200,000 blue tiles dating back to the 1900s. The art in the station tells the city’s story. I remember the tour guide mentioning that one of the walls is about a foreign princess who arrived in Porto to marry the king. The Portuguese covered the roads in rose petals so the princess wouldn’t realize that the streets were actually covered in horse shit. And if you look at the images carefully you’ll notice small mistakes such as the foot of a horse pointing backward. These elements make this art even more unique and prove that it was hand-painted.

Around the corner from São Bento, you’ll see the fanciest Mc Donald’s ever. This building used to be the Imperial Café in the 1930s. It was restored by the city but no local business owner could afford it. Porto’s administration agreed to sell the building to the well known fast-food franchise under the condition of maintaining the building as is. The food and prices are the same, with a few Portuguese pastries included. If you’re into beautiful cafes, don’t skip a visit to Majestic Café or Café Guarany, both really close by and also totally worth a visit.

Portuguese Food

An important dish in Porto is the Francesinha, a calofrancesinharie overload type of sandwich layered with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça (smoke-cured pork sausage seasoned with garlic and paprika), fresh sausage like chipolata (thin and short sausage), steak or roast meat, and covered with melted cheese and a hot-thick tomato and beer sauce similar, in regards to consistency, to gravy. It is typically served with french fries and a fried egg on top. The flavor of the sauce varied since every restaurant had its own recipe. An affordable restaurant near the river and the Dom Luís Bridge is Restaurante Verso Em Pedra. Expect huge portions. Big enough to share one Francesinha between two people since it’s such a rich dish.

Another typical Portuguese dish is the Bifana, basically a pork sandwich. The pork steak is slowly marinated and heavily seasoned, making it a bit spicy. The bread is a simple white bread roll, that ends up being moistened with the pork steak sauce. Apparently, the south of Portugal has a different recipe, where the pork is less spicy and tastes more of mustard. I personally detest mustard but love spicy food, so the version I tried in Porto was not only delicious, but the meat was oh so tender and the bread was so soft and freshly made. It paired great with a Super Bock, a great Portuguese beer you’ll find anywhere. Pictures don’t do this sandwich justice, so I suggest you try it before judging it by its basic appearance. A great place to try out this simple, yet very tasty sandwich is Casa GuedesCafe Piolho also serves this delicious sandwich and other typical Portuguese dishes like the green vegetable soup served as a popular side dish.

“I found this hilarious and so typical of Portuguese people”

Portugal, in general, is also famous for its fresh seafood. Codfish (Bacalao) is the region’s fish and is also quite affordable. I tried in several Portuguese towns, including Cascais, and always asked for Mediterranean style, which is grilled in cult in the middle for easy eating.  Once, a waiter told me “I’m sorry but our fish is not too fresh today.” So I asked “Why? How old is it?” and his answer was “It was caught yesterday.” I found this hilarious and so typical of Portuguese people wanting to offer you the best, always.

Porto’s Nightlife

Drinking in public is legal in Portugal! Locals start and end the night by drinking next to the fountain with the two lions, Fonte dos Leões. You’ll find plenty of bars near this fountain. I recommend starting the night at Porto Tónico. I am not a fan of the Porto wine, since I find it to be too sweet for my taste, but Porto Tonics are delicious! They’re so refreshing, just the right amount of sweet and something you won’t find anywhere else. If you prefer craft beers, you’ll find a great place a 5-minute walk away called Catraio.

If you feel like dancing, I had a lot of fun at Plan B Club where I danced my butt off to electronic and Latin music. Even if you don’t enjoy dancing, you’ll be entertained by the laser show displaying several images, a very unique touch in my opinion. Although, a bit busier, I also had a lot of fun at The Wall. None of these clubs charged a cover and they have a mixed crowd of locals and tourists. This made for a very interesting and fun night where I got to dance with people from different parts of the world. If you’re a day drinker, I recommend you enjoy a cocktail at the garden in Base Porto on a sunny day.

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View from Gaia

Wine tasting in Gaia

Across the Duoro River you’ll find Gaia. You must hike up the Miradouro da Serra do Pilar. This is one of the best viewpoints where you can appreciate the bridge and most of Porto. When you cross the Dom Luis I Bridge, be mindful that you’re sharing the “road” with the tramway. Tourists stop anywhere along the bridge to take pictures without realizing how narrow the pedestrian path actually is once the train passes by.

Gaia, is known for its vineyards and wineries along the river. As I mentioned, I personally do not enjoy Porto wine. I realized this after a 3-hour long wine tasting tour in Gaia but I truly enjoyed visiting the wineries. They’re all so different, some have terraces next to the river and one even had a rooftop bar and Virtual Reality set where you could “fly” above Porto. Some of the most famous are SandemanCalemOffley, among others.

No matter what time of the year you visit, I have no doubt you’ll enjoy your time in Porto since it’s such a beautiful city with so much to offer. Even if the rain is pouring down, there are plenty of cozy cafés and restaurants to enjoy the local delicacies. Have fun and remember to always BE PRESENT. For updates on travel pics and tips follow me on Instagram @joyzcortez.

 

 

 

 

How to Make the Most Out of Your Visit to Dublin

There are a few options of day trips from Dublin, but the most popular ones are The Cliffs of Moher and the Game of Thrones shooting locations. The roads in Ireland are narrow, windy, and foggy so renting a car is not advisable unless you are accustomed to driving in these conditions. There are plenty of companies offering bus tours that include a brief visit to small towns along the way.  The prices range from €40-60.  Below is the research I did before going to the Moher Cliffs.

Get Your Guide

Viator

Finn McCool

  • Moher Cliffs
  • Moher Cliffs
  • Kilmacduagh Monastery
  • Doolin Village
  • Wild Atlantic Way
  • The Burren
  • Galway City
  • Galway City
  • Galway City

12 hours, 50 EUR

14 hours, 40 EUR

45 EUR

The differences between tours are minimal. I opted for the Viator tour, which turned out to be the same as Finn McCool since our buses had the Finn McCool logo on them, and the itinerary was the same as their website.

What You Need to Know Before Visiting The Cliffs of Moher

No matter when you go, take a windbreaker or a raincoat. Umbrellas are practically useless against the strong winds nears the cliffs and beaches. If you go in the winter, there are not enough layers to keep you warm. Make sure you carry a beanie, gloves and boots. Your tennis shoes/sneakers/trainers, or whatever you want to call them, will get wet. Your chances of slipping in rocks or along the cliffs are larger with shoes that have no grip on the sole.

Now, onto the fun part… the itinerary.

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Kilmacduagh Monastery

The first stop was a quick one at the Kilmacduagh Monastery. It is an impressive and small cemetery next to the road towards The Burren. I personally enjoy visiting old cemeteries, especially medieval-looking ones. This place is eerie and wonderful at the same time. It has a small stone church made out of stone which is surrounded by medieval crosses. We were here for 15-20 minutes since we had a bit of a storm. You can read about the monastery’s story here: http://monastic.ie/history/kilmacduagh/

 

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Fighting against the strong wind at Cliffs of Moher

About four hours from departure, we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher. The bus was already shaking from the strong December wind. We waited out the rain and wind inside the museum where you can take a green screen picture “in front” of the cliffs. Pretty useful since we didn’t get to spend much time outside admiring the cliffs. When we finally stepped out of the building and head towards the cliffs, I truly feared for my life. At first it seemed like a nice challenge to venture against the wind, but there were times when I thought that I would fly away. The wind pushed back even the strongest person. Imagine a 5 foot (1.5 meters) woman, fighting against mother nature for the sake of an adventure. The rain slapped our faces repeatedly, still, we laughed at this situation and were grateful for a fogless day which allowed for some pics.

I was warned about the biggest risk of visiting the cliffs, the fog. It can impede the visitor from seeing anything at all on certain days. So, I’ll take strong winds over fog since admiring those 300-million-year-old cliffs was more than words can describe.

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Three strong Latina warriors against that Irish wind

On our way to Galway City, we stopped by The Burren where the sun graced us with its presence. This beautiful place is a region in the southwest of Ireland known for the view shown in the pic below. The Burren is a beach paved by limestone dating back to the ice age. Mind your step when walking in this bedrock of cracked limestone and when crossing the highway from the bus to the beach. I almost got run over since my hood blocked my peripherals.

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The Burren

Not far from The Burren you can visit either Doolin Village or Galway City. I wish I would’ve chosen the tour stopping by Doolin Village since it’s known for its folklore and cute pubs. Galway is also a charming small town but seemed to own more city vibes when its biggest attraction being the mall. We spent most of our time there due to the weather but there was a small Christmas market in December. We explored it within 30 minutes or less. Here, I finally got to taste some authentic Irish coffee!

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The Christmas Market at Galway

 

If you’re spending time in Dublin, check out my post on a quick trip to this amazing city. No matter where you go, no matter the weather I hope you enjoy every sip of that Irish coffee (or Guinness). Take a deep breath of that crisp Irish air and remember to enjoy every moment of your trip. It’s up to you to make the most out of this adventure which you’ve decided to embark on. Always, BE PRESENT and follow me on Instagram @joyzcortez for updates on travel pics & tips.


irish coffee

The Magic of Dublin at Christmas Time

I somehow convinced my friends to join me on a trip to Ireland in December. I had a long weekend and the flight from Madrid was short and affordable. I’m not sure if my Mexican/Californian blood is getting used to real winters or I overly prepared with a coat that barely allows for movement, but the cold Irish winter seemed bearable. Going to the Cliffs of Moher, of course, was a different story which I shared in a separated post. Here, I share with you my notes on this weekend getaway so you can take advantage of your time in Ireland.

Transportation in Dublin

The airport is not too far from the city. The Airlink express (747) bus leaves every 15 minutes from the airport and will take you 30 minutes to arrive at the Gardiner Street stop, where most hostels and B&B’s are. This bus costs €7 for a single trip or €12 for a roundtrip. The last bus departing from the airport leaves at 12:30am (00:

Bus number 41 and 16 lead to O’Connell Street, which is near Dublin One Mall, a good centric point of reference. These buses cost €3.30 for a single journey and the driver accepts exact change only. Another option is the Aircoach, which runs 24 hours a day. It costs €8 for a single journey.

As of December 2018, a taxi roughly cost €25 to the city center. Lynk is a popular company and their phone number is 00 353 14600000. Uber is not commonly used, therefore, there aren’t many drivers out there. All information and timetables can be found on each company’s website.

The Best Landmarks in Dublin

As always, I recommend a walking tour. This time I chose the popular SANDEMANs. They have free tours departing at 10am, 11am or 2pm (14:00) from Barnardo Square which is right in front of City Hall. Check their website for updated times and departing locations.
Dublin is very walkable but be prepared for rain and wind, especially during the winter.

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Dublin Castle

Dating from 1204 it has two small museums and gardens. One of the gardens is a small, cute and patio-like located on the rooftop. It’s a perfect place to chill over the summer. Inside the castle, you can also find the Chester Beatty Library with cushions where you can seat and relax. I went here to warm up and rest after the walking tour.

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Temple Bar

Temple Bar, is not only a famous bar among tourists, it is also a popular neighborhood along the river. Its cobble stone streets give Dublin such an old timey and distinctive vibe along with the crowded pubs hosting live music almost every night.

Trinity College

Trinity College

This beautiful college is located in the center of Dublin and it’s surrounded by many shops and restaurants. Trinity College is a notorious tourist destination because of its library holding the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin dating back to the 9th century. I personally opted for not visiting the library despite hearing good things since I only had one day to explore the city. Another reason being that I’m on a budget and the €14 (€11 for students) entrance fee was not feasible. You can still appreciate the beauty of the campus for free.

Best Places to Eat and Drink in Dublin

You’ll find delicious food in any pub. An important thing to remember though is that kitchens close at 9pm (21:00). Pints range from €5-7 depending on the beer and most pubs have a good selection of draught beers.

Cornucopia is famous amongst locals for its big portions of delicious and healthy food. You can choose from several mouthwatering vegetarian and vegan dishes. The restaurant is large and homey. It has several dining areas and is decorated as if you’re having lunch or dinner at a relative’s home. Definitely my favorite place for lunch in Dublin.

Another popular place isBunsen, which has a simple menu and delicious burgers. There are alsomany kebab places in Dublin, but Zaytoon is the most popular one. It’s not the cheapest option, but it has the freshest ingredients. They even have a salmon kebab! There’s a branch in Temple Bar.

For dessert, Murphy’s  is a must try while in Dublin. This ice cream parlor is known for its extravagant flavors, such as salt, gin, brown bread, etc.

The Reason for Visting Ireland… Irish Pubs

Porterhouse ended up being my go-to pub. It’s a three story pub with a good selection of home-brewed craft beers, good service, decent prices and great live music. It’s right around the corner of City Hall, which is also near Temple Bar.

The Brazen Head claims to be the oldest pub in Ireland, dating back 1198. I only drank a pint of Guinness but the food looked amazing. A reservation is recommended for dinner time. Although it was not my favorite pub, I did enjoy relaxing by the fireplace. There’s live music every night at 9:30pm (21:30).


The Wild Duck an expensive but gorgeous pub in Temple Bar. It’s quite big so you have a bigger chance of finding a seat. As in any pub, the decorations are plenty and random, but, in my opinion, Wild Duck had the best decor out of all the pubs I visited. I was especially attracted to the entrance which was covered with lights during Christmas. It made it hard to miss the pub despite it being located in a small alley.

Mulligan’s is an 18th century riverside pub frequented by an older crowd of locals, hence  making it a chiller vibe. The decorations are simple, unlike the bars on Temple Bar but without lacking a good selection of draught beers.

McNeill’s is also frequented by locals since it has the cheapest pints at €4, but keep in mind they only accept cash. There’s live music on Thursdays at 9:30pm (21:30).

Copper Face Jacks was recommended by a local as THE club to dance in Dublin. Also serving lunch.

Museums are free in Dublin!

All of the national museums are free! These are the National Gallery (next to Trinity College), the Irish Whiskey Museum, the Archeological Museum, which is next to the National Library, and the Collin Barracks Museum, exhibiting military uniforms and replicas of weapons.

In general, Dublin is an expensive city, but it has so much to offer in return. In other countries, you normally pay a cover at a bar if there’s a local band playing while running the risk of them not being any good. In Dublin, there’s no such risk. Not only are the shows free, but the musicians are also talented, at least, in my experience. I really loved the random decor in most pubs, the beer variety, the amazing food and portions, as well as the friendliness of the local islanders. Remeber to dress for the occasion since Dublin will most likely be rainy and chilly at any season. Despite the weather, remember to always BE PRESENT during your trip and follow me on Instagram @joyzcortez for updated travel pics & tips.