Rome: NON-touristy guide

In the beginning of August my two best friends from middle school and I spontaneously decided to pack our suitcases and go on a low-budget trip to Rome. Since we all had visited the city before, we really wanted to experience Rome in a more local way and do things off the beaten touristy track. Although it was a bit hard to avoid all the touristy sights, we still managed to see the city in an entirely new light.. In this blog post I am going to share with you my favorite things we did in Rome and I would strongly recommend you doing at least a few if visiting the Italian capital.

1. Explore the local districts of the city – Apart from its beautiful center, Rome has many other neighborhoods such as Trappicino, San Lorenzo and etc.. They are often underestimated or unknown by most tourists. My personal favorite district was Trastevere. Situated on the other side of the river, Trastevere is full with small boutiques, local restaurants and bars, and breathtaking historical buildings. While we were there we also walked around the Botanical garden, which unfortunately didn’t have such a wide variety of plants, but was still a nice place for wandering around and taking cool pictures.

Botanical Gardens

2. Do your sightseeing at night – As you know Rome has become one of the most preferred and common tourist destinations in the world. Due to its many historical sights the capital is filled with tourists all year round. If you are a person who dislikes crowded and hectic places, but still want to explore the ancient sights, then going on a night trip through the city is your savior. After sun dawn, at around 11/12 at night, most of the tourists are already exhausted from their long day of sightseeing and go back to their hotel rooms. At this time the streets get emptier and you can really get a close look of some of Rome’s most famous sights. All the buildings and monuments are lit up nicely and in my opinion look even better than during the day. If you are not a night owl and care about your good night sleep, another good time to avoid the touristy crowds, is really early in the morning.

National history museum

3. Simply wander – The city is full with small streets and hidden corners, so don’t be scared to get lost. When wandering in the small streets without a guided way you never know what you might find. What my girls and I loved to do was to sneak in some of the buildings when the door was open and sit at the patio of the building, if of course there was one. And even if at some moment you feel too lost, don’t worry about asking a local to show you the way. Italians are known to be very friendly and warm, so I am sure that they would love to help you.

hidden patio we found

4. Eat – You already are aware that Italian cuisine is awarded to be one of the best and most adored in the world. When staying in its capital, you shall forget about dieting and truly enjoy all the food choices you have. Wherever you turn around you can smell and taste amazing and reasonably priced pasta, pizza and gelato.

5. Start your morning at a local cafe – Another very common thing you will find everywhere around Rome is good coffee. To be honest, the best coffee is not at a fancy cafe or at a hipster trendy café. If you really want to sip on some real Italian espresso, go to your next door cafe and enjoy your 80 cent coffee alongside some delicious homemade pastry.

Pizza from Bonci Pizzarium
Dinner at Obicá

6. Grab a drink and hang out in Piazza Madonna dei Monti – Rione Monti is a very trendy neighborhood among young Romans. There, the locals like to shop in the alternative boutiques or hang out with their friends after work or on the weekends. After the sun sets down, the small square turns into a vibrant meeting point for creative and stylish people. My girlfriends and I decided to walk around Monti and eat some pizza and pasta at local Italian restaurant. After fulfilling our stomachs with delicious Italian goodness we went to buy some ice-cream from “Fatamorgana”(outrageous flavors) and sat with a bottle of wine at the piazza. While drinking my wine and chatting with my girlfriends, for just a moment I felt as if I was living in some kind of parallel perfect world.

7. Rent a bike – my best friend is a really big fan of biking in general, so when she heard that we have a bike rental place just a few blocks away from our airbnb, she just couldn’t miss that opportunity. At first I was a bit skeptical to ride a bike in Rome, because most of the streets are very small and crowded and also there aren’t many special biking routes. Surprisingly, at the end of the day, I was actually happy with the whole biking experience. Not only that it saved us time and money from going to one point to another, but we also rode along the river, where there were not as many people and you could get a beautiful look of the city. If you don’t feel sure in your biking skills, you could also sign up for a guided biking tour!

View from the river

Places we ate at: Frigidarium – Rome’s first gelateria

Ginger – great place for a healthy meal

Fatamorgana – extraordinary and non-traditional ice-cream flavors

Bonci Pizzarium – most famous pizza place in Rome and a definitive must on your foodie list

Obica – mozzarella bar – great place for cocktails and finger food

That’s all from our small vacation in Rome. Hope this non-touristy tips really help experience the city in a whole new and exciting way.

Moroccan adventure. (part 1) – 24hours in Marrakech

Two days ago I came back from one of the most exciting and unforgettable trips in my life. For my 18th birthday I wanted to do something special. My best friend Rumi, my parents and I wanted to experience what the country of Morocco hides. We stayed in the oriental paradise for a week in total and traveled more than 600km. For me Morocco was a journey to discovering a whole new world full with vibrant culture and enriched history. Every day we stopped at a different city or town in order to make the most of our short stay and fill it with as many fun activities and beautiful sights as possible. The first stop of our Moroccan route was the famous city Marrakech or as otherwise known the pink city (since all the buildings are in pink). Marrakech is the perfect mix between authenticity and modernism and that’s why it is the country’s most preferred city by tourists and locals. With just a 2 day stay planned for our visit there, here is how our 24 hours in Marrakech looked like.

11:00 – Le jardin Majorelle – We kick started our day off with this beautiful green paradise from the 1920s. Planted with more than 300 different plants and trees from all around the globe, this breathtaking oasis left me in awe. Honestly I had never seen something as stunning and aesthetically pleasing for the eye in my life. All the colorfully painted buildings contrasting with the different nuances of leafy green make this whole garden a magnificent piece of art. You could never guess that such a hectic and loud city as Marrakech can hide an entire hidden oasis behind some walls. I really do recommend you booking tickets in advance since Jardin Majorell is one of the city’s most famous sights and the wait can get pretty annoying.

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12:00 – After walking and enjoying our time in the calming gardens we headed next door to the well-known museum of one of the world’s best designer brands-YSL. For those of you who are not aware, the fashion designer spent a lot of time in Marrakech and that was his influence for many of his most successful fashion pieces. 50 years after his first visit in 1966 this modern house has now been turned into a museum, dedicated to the  work of the fashion legend. Looking carefully you can notice that the outside is supposed to evoke weft and wrap fabric, while the inside evokes the lining of a couture jacket. The rooms in the house are filled with inspiring design pieces and explain a more about the life and career of YSL himself. Even if you are not a fashion guru, the museum by all means is a sight worth seeing, even if it is just to admire its mesmerizing architecture and breathtaking interior.

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a dress from the exhibition

the entryway

13:30 – After doing some cultural sightseeing in the more civil part of Marrakech we headed to the old town (the medina). Surrounded by crowds of people, shops with cheeky traders, bikes and mopeds, we wandered in the streets for a few hours. Thanks to our awesome tour guide we even got the opportunity to visit some of the local firms and learn how carpets and cosmetics are being made. Since Morocco is known for its craftsmen and handmade goodies I was very intrigued to see how all those things were actually made. We also bought a bunch of small souvenirs, spices and for a second almost a carpet, so I warn you to keep in mind that you easily may end up buying a lot of unnecessary things. Also don’t hesitate to bargain since most of the traders will probably give you a higher price just because they recognized you are a tourist.

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spices sold at the medina
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carpet firm

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bread stored at the local bakery

15:00 – Around that time we realized we were starving, so we sat at Terrasse des épices . Since it was a roof top restaurant we enjoyed our incredibly delicious Moroccan lunch while looking at the medina from above. Following getting full with all the oriental dishes from the menu we still wanted to go somewhere and try the well known drink of Moroccan – mint tea. The perfect place for sipping on some tea and escaping a bit from the hustle and bustle of the old town are the so called “Riads”. Translated from Arabic it means a large traditional house built around a central courtyard. However in the last few years most of the Riads left in the medina are turned into hotels, guesthouses or even shops. First we went to Jurdin Secret – a very big Riad renovated in the 20th century and works as a museum now. The courtyard holds two big stunning gardens and is perfect for taking nice pictures. Afterwards we headed to Riad Palais Sebban to relax for a bit and finally drink some of this magical tea. The space has actually three Riads inside with a shared pool and restaurant. It even has a big rooftop where you can sunbath and are gifted with a panoramic view of Marrakech.

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le jardin secret

17:00 – Palais de la Bahia – Our next stop was Palais de la Bahia(the kings palace), which is now turned into a museum and is open for visitors all year round. There we really felt what it feels like to be a royalty in the monarchy. Probably the thing that I liked the most there was the calming blue colors of the walls inside and the several spacious courtyards.

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19:30 – Before going back to our hotel we had only one last stop left and that was Jemaa el-Fnaa . We wanted to experience the city at night as locals, so that is why we headed to the main square for dinner. We went there at sunset in order to see how the market changes during the day compared to the night. Same as in the medina it was full with all kinds of people. Despite the surrounding chaos I found the whole experience very entertaining. All around us there were locals dressed in traditional costumes, ladies insisting on painting your hands with Henna. There were men holding monkeys and snakes and then putting them on a random walking tourists’ head, just for a picture. Keep in mind that most of the Moroccans at the market are poor, so keep your belongings close to you at all time and don’t forget that even a picture with a monkey costs money. After fooling around with the locals we finally went to my favorite part of the day – the food market. There you can find everything from fresh fruit and veggies to food stalls offering all sorts of traditional and exotic meals. I was even brave enough to try snails, which honestly tasted better than they looked.

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the snails

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me and my new best friend

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Well, after our day full with activities we went to bed exhausted and got ready for the early morning call.

To be continued…

Where we ate? –

Moroccan feast at the terrasse

p.s hope you liked the post, part 2 is coming up next Thursday

First time in Copenhagen: what you must see and do

Two weeks ago two of my dreams came true. I did a girls trip with my favorite person in the whole world – my cousin and together we visited the happiest city on Earth. If you have ever been to Copenhagen you will for sure remember your first time there. This utterly beautiful city is a stunning combination between the safety and calmness of a small town mixed with the buzz and vibrancy that matches the major European cities. Despite the cold weather, Copenhagen managed to warm my heart up. It was a true inspiration for me. Everywhere you turn you can see a stunning building in the minimalistic traditional Scandinavian style, smell the freshly roasted coffee coming from the nearest coffee joint or sense all the latest fashion trends worn by the people around you. Copenhagen has many fun activities to offer concluding that 3 days were definitely not enough, but here are the things you must see and do in Denmark’s capital.

1. Tovehallerne – Yes, you guessed it, our first stop was the most famous food market in Copenhagen. Surrounded by awesome food stalls, which offered traditional and non-traditional Danish dishes and drinks, we absolutely loved the market! It hides inside two big warehouses and you can choose to eat whatever you are craving. Since we got there early in the day with empty stomachs we wanted to buy something for breakfast, so we tried the most incredible porridge from Grød.

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fresh fruits and veggies from the market

2. Botanical gardens – This is the perfect spot to visit when the weather in Copenhagen is not the best for a long day outside. Whether you are a fan of plants or not, the botanical gardens are absolutely free and perfect for taking cool pictures. Entering you feel as if you have teleported in some kind of tropical island and you can easily forget about the freezing wind outside.

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3. The round tower – The architecture of the tower and the panoramic view from the top make “The round tower” one of the most visited sights in Copenhagen and certainly one of my favorite ones. We were lucky enough to catch a clear sky and admire the whole city from above.

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4. Strøget – Strøget is Copenhagen’s longest pedestrian streets and is full with shops from high-end brands to not too expensive ones. If you want do some shopping, Strøget is the place to go.

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5. Nyhavn – Probably this is one of the most iconic sceneries of Copenhagen. You can see it on every single postcard and travel guide about Copenhagen. Honestly it really looks just like the photos and maybe even better. The colorful buildings contrasting with the grey sky are a real eye-catcher. You can also sit at a cafe by the lake and enjoy the beautiful landscape while sipping on Danish coffee.

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6. Glyptoteket – When we were in Copenhagen the weather was -3 and we were too tired and cold to continue walking around the city. We wanted to find a museum, where we could explore a nice exposition and warm ourselves up. I googled a few free museums and the one that popped out first was the New Carlsberg museum. At first I thought that I would be rather bored, because I am not that much into sculpture, but I ended up enjoying it immensely. The museum hosted a fascinating exhibit about the development and influence of art throughout the centuries. Even if you aren’t that much into paintings, you will be mesmerized by the entire design of the museum inside, which is a piece of art by itself. Giant white hallways, calming winter garden and several books about interior and architecture will make you want to extend your stay at the museum even more.

*it is free on Tuesday for everyone

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7. Try Danish cuisine – Were you even in Copenhagen if you didn’t try their famous smørrebrød(open faced sandwich) or traditional Danish hot-dog. Despite all these traditional Danish dishes, the Nordics are also well-known for the so called New Nordic cuisine and you can find a Michelin-Star restaurant all around the city. A great place to try outstanding new nordic cuisine on a reasonable price is Manfreds. It was recommended to us by a friend of mine, who lives in Copenhagen. Sadly when we wanted to have dinner there it was already fully booked.

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smørrebrød

8. Walk around Nørrebro and Vasterbro – We wanted to escape the crowded tourist attractions and experience the city as locals. This two districts are ultra hip, trashy and trendy. Some of Copenhagen”s best bars, restaurants and vintage shops are spread all around the neighborhoods, so by any chance leave a day off just for exploring them.

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just a random house in Nørrebro

9. Tivoli Gardens – Tivoli is Europe’s oldest theme park. It is full of amazing attractions for young and adults. Unfortunately it closes from November until April because of the weather conditions, so we weren’t able to go. You can still admire its beauty from the fences or have a bite at the Tivoli Food Market, which offers all kinds of international foods.

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A view of Tivoli from the fence

10. Christiana – I was really debating whether or not I should include this neighborhood in the blog post, because to be honest it didn’t live up to my expectations. You probably have heard about “Christiana” – the district in Copenhagen where everything is legal. Walking down the streets you can easily buy marijuana from the sellers and smoke it within the area. If not you can still look and photograph the hand-painted abandoned military barracks and “homemade” houses. Trust me it is not exciting as it sounds. Maybe before it really did represent the hippie culture, but now it has become too much of a tourist attraction.

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a coffee house in Christiana

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That’s all from me. Hope this blog post helps you organize your trip to Copenhagen or makes you wanna go there.

Barcelona – 10 must visits

I have always found it kind of odd when someone told that he is in love with a city. Well, sunny Barcelona proved me wrong.  A few months ago my cousin invited me to come with her to Barcelona and of course with the brightest smile on my face I accepted the invitation. I traveled with her and her family and we stayed in the city for about 3 days. Although our time was limited, we managed to make the best out of it. Continue reading “Barcelona – 10 must visits”

24 hours in Kapana, Plovdiv

For those of you who are not familiar with Kapana(The Trap), it is a district in Plovdiv located in the heart of the city-center. Steering just a little from the Main Street in Plovdiv you will find yourself in the so called Kapana. The literal translation means Trap and the explanation for the abstract name is actually very simple. Once you get there you will want to be “trapped” in forever. Continue reading “24 hours in Kapana, Plovdiv”