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Where to Stay in Tokyo — Best Neighborhoods and Accommodation

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Where to stay in Tokyo? There are so many options! Whether you want to be surrounded by skyscrapers and sleeping in a pod hotel or, close to designer shopping and in a cool hostel, there is a place in Tokyo that is perfect for your trip. The best place to stay in Tokyo for one traveler isn’t necessarily the same for every traveler.

Tokyo is a city that quickly takes ahold of you. Its eclectic mix of traditional and modern attractions, huge electronics stores and tiny counter bars, the brightest neon signs and the most dimly lit izakaya, make it surprising, chaotic, delightful and mind-boggling in the most incredible of ways!

This post was updated in September 2019.

Deciding on where to stay in the largest metropolis in the world can be overwhelming. However, the sheer size of the city has meant that many neighborhoods offer different looks, feels and points of interest to visitors. Deciding on your priorities for your trip will therefore make it considerably easier to decide on a Tokyo neighborhood that suits your travel style.

After almost a decade of being based in Tokyo, here are our recommendations for places to stay in this incredible mega-city!

This post is written by Jessica and Hai from Notes of Nomads, who lived for several years in Tokyo. They are the ultimate Tokyo experts, and when I decided to put up a Tokyo accommodation guide on the site, there was no question that I wanted them to write it!

And for the record — my personal favorite neighborhood to stay in Tokyo is Shinjuku! And if you can afford the Park Hyatt Tokyo, DO IT. It was one of the best hotel experiences of my life.

–Kate

Hundreds of people cross the enormous Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo as tall buildings covered with screens and advertisements surround them.

Shibuya Crossing — via Pixabay.

Best Area to Stay in Tokyo

What’s the best place to stay in Tokyo? It’s different for every traveler. Some travelers like to be in the most convenient

Know that Tokyo is an immense city, but it has an excellent public transportation, so you’re always able to get to where you need to go. Also, neighborhoods are often pushed up right against each other. Ginza, for example, is right next to the Marunouchi neighborhood that contains Tokyo Station.

That being said, here are our picks for the best areas to stay in Tokyo:

Shinjuku is the center of the city, home to nightlife, restaurants, millions of skyscrapers lit with neon lights, and the very well connected Shinjuku Station.

Asakusa is a neighborhood where you get value for money, as well as some of the best food options in the city. Plus you have easy access to traditional Japanese temples.

Tokyo Station in the Marunouchi neighborhood is very convenient for day trips outside the city, as many of them leave from there. On top of that you’ll find some of the city’s best luxury hotels and a beloved ramen street.

Ginza is about the glamour and luxury — if you want to shop and explore Tokyo’s fascinating department stores, this is the best place to stay in Tokyo! You’ll also find lots of excellent restaurants and cafes.

Okutama is a quiet neighborhood away from the city center and if you want to have easy access to nature, it’s a very good choice for where to stay in Tokyo.

Shinjuku

No accommodation guide for Tokyo would be complete without mentioning Shinjuku! If you want to enjoy city views, nightlife, and being in the center of things, this is your place. (Note from Kate: Shinjuku is my pick for the best place to stay in Tokyo.)

Shinjuku Station is the busiest train station in the world, serving more than 3.5 million passengers a day. While shinkansen trains do not depart from this station, a number of JR lines, private rail lines and subways do. Staying in the area means that you are always connected, even if that also means sometimes getting lost in the overwhelm of this station.

Shinjuku really has it all with a great variety of shops, electronics stores and depaato (department stores), as well as your pick of fantastic restaurants. If the idea of exploring Tokyo by night and being close to food, shopping and entertainment sounds like your idea of fun, Shinjuku is the best area to stay in Tokyo.

Popular places to visit at night include old-school Omoide Yokocho (Memory Lane) where small hole-in-the-wall eateries serve up everything from conventional noodle bowls to frog sashimi, Kabukicho district for its cheap izakaya and karaoke joints, and Golden Gai, where stacked wooden rabbit-warren bars take you back to former times. (Note from Kate: Golden Gai is so cool! I wrote about it here.)

In Shinjuku, you can enjoy the city lights at street level or head up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for free views over the city — a great place to catch the sunset, especially on a clear evening.

Where to Stay in Shinjuku:

Luxury: Park Hyatt Tokyo

Mid-range: Hotel Sunroute Higashi Shinjuku

Budget: Hikari House

Find more deals on Shinjuku hotels here.

 
Asakusa

With 160,000 restaurants in central Tokyo alone, it’s no easy task to isolate one neighborhood in particular as the foodie destination. Honestly, you can find excellent food choices all over the city and restaurants to satisfy any taste or budget. Hell, many people even rate convenience store food among some of their best eats! (Note from Kate: Truth. I love my 100 yen convenience store onigiri!)

The whole city (and country for that matter) has extremely high food standards, but we settled on Asakusa for a few reasons. One is that it is filled with traditional snacks and restaurants where you can sample lots of different Japanese treats and dishes. Soba and tempura are two traditional Japanese dishes that Asakusa is particularly well known for.

Another is its food accessibility. Japan is typically a challenging country for those with dietary restrictions, especially with so much of the cuisine based on fish products. However, Asakusa has a great range of vegetarian, vegan and halal restaurants, making it easier to find food for all kinds of diets.

If Asakusa feels overwhelming at first, venture away from the highly visitor-frequented Sensoji Temple and the Nakamise shopping street leading up to it. You’ll quickly find a more residential side to Asakusa, one where life goes on at a slower pace and you can find many local shops.

Foodies will also no doubt be interested in the nearby Kappabashi Street. It has been coined “Kitchen Town” and is best known for its high-quality kitchen knives and plastic food models (like the ones you see in restaurant windows in Japan). You can actually book a lesson to learn how to make these fake food samples for yourself!

For those simply wanting to pick up some practical souvenirs, Kitchen Town also has beautiful bento boxes, useful kitchen gadgets and classic chopsticks.

Where to Stay in Asakusa:

Luxury: The Gate Hotel Kaminarion by Hulic

Mid-range: Asakusa Hotel Hatago

Budget: Hotel Mystays Asakusa-bashi

Find more deals on Asakusa hotels here.

 
Tokyo Station/Marunouchi

Tokyo Station in Marunouchi is the best place to stay in Tokyo if you plan on doing day trips by train. The surrounding neighborhood gives you easy access to both Narita and Haneda Airports and to a number of subway and train lines, including the city’s central loop, the Yamanote line.

It’s a great base for day trips, especially those to the Tokyo Bay area, such as Yokohama, Kamakura, the Tokyo Disney resorts, and for traveling between cities. From here you can take the shinkansen (bullet train) to other popular destinations like Kyoto and Osaka.   

Marunouchi is at the heart of Tokyo’s financial district, and while it has long been a busy area for the city’s salary men and OL’s (office ladies), the refurbished Tokyo Station has transformed the area from a transport and business hub that trails of commuters would simply pass through, into a destination in and of itself. It’s long been known as the best area to stay in Tokyo for business travelers, but plenty of tourists enjoy it for the same reasons.

Tokyo Station stands as a rather interesting contrast to the modern, non-descript office buildings that dominate the area. The iconic European-style redbrick building was originally constructed in 1914. After surviving the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, it was later burned and gutted during fire bombings in WWII. A reconstruction project to restore Tokyo Station to its former 1914 charm was completed in late 2012.

Tokyo Character Street features 20 stores dedicated to well-known Japanese characters and TV show merchandise, while if you’re in the mood for noodles, Tokyo Ramen Street is operated by eight renowned names on the city’s ramen scene. You can find more food variety on Kitchen Street on the first floor main concourse between the North Yaesu and North Marunouchi exits.

For those wanting to visit the Imperial Palace and its East Gardens, it’s an easy 10-15 minute walk from Tokyo Station.

Where to Stay in Tokyo Station/Marunouchi:

Luxury: Shangri-La Hotel Tokyo

Mid-range: Sotetsu Fresa Inn Tokyo

Budget: Tokyo Ekimai Bay Hotel

Find more deals on Tokyo Station/Marunouchi hotels here. 

Ginza

Ginza is one of the most coveted addresses in the city and home to high-end fashion and dining spots. Think of any of the world’s top luxury brands and they’ll probably have a storefront here, along with Japanese luxury brands you’ve never heard of.

If high fashion and luxury goods are what you’re after, then Ginza is the perfect place where to stay in Tokyo. While weekdays are preferable for fewer crowds and more personalized service, a great time to enjoy this shopping district is actually weekend afternoons, when Chuo Dori is closed to vehicles and becomes a lively pedestrian street.

Ginza is also home to some of the best restaurants in the city. These are the kinds of places that will leave a dent in your wallet but also allow you to walk away with that satisfying feeling that it was totally worth it. Tokyo is home to some of the best Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, and Ginza is one of the best areas to stay in Tokyo if you’re looking to experience them. Top guidebook restaurants are always popular here, so it’s best to ask your hotel to make a reservation for you in advance to avoid disappointment.

Ginza is also located near Tsukiji with its incredible selection of sushi restaurants, and is well connected to other popular areas for food, shopping and sightseeing on the Ginza, Marunouchi and Hibiya lines, such as Asakusa, Ueno, Shibuya, Omotesando, Akihabara and Shinjuku.

Where to Stay in Ginza:

Luxury: Hyatt Centric Ginza Tokyo

Mid-range: Hotel Gracery Ginza

Budget: Hotel Monterey La Soeur Ginza

Find more deals on Ginza hotels here. 

READ MORE:
Splurging on the Right Things in Ginza

Okutama

Contrary to popular belief, Tokyo actually has a lot of green spaces — and one of the best spots to enjoy nature in the city is Okutama. They exist in pockets all over the city, so it actually isn’t difficult to find a park or garden for a walk or to simply chill out in. There’s even a tranquil ravine known as Todoroki Valley within the confines of the 23 inner-city wards.

For those who want to get into the “wild,” so to speak, you simply have to go west. The west side of Tokyo is where it’s at for the hikers and nature lovers. Many tourists visit Mt Takao on a day-trip, but to get further off the tourist trail and into national park territory, we recommend Okutama in Chichibu Tama-Kai National Park. 

Even the train ride there (approximately 2 hours from Shinjuku) has many visitors on their feet in the train carriage gasping at the views, especially around Sawai and Kawai Stations. In fact, many people get off around there for hikes and mountain climbing. A popular peak in the area is Mt Mitake and can be accessed from Mitake Station on the same line and a cable car can then take you part of the way up.

Okutama Station itself sees fewer visitors but it’s also a wonderfully picturesque place to go hiking, white-water rafting, forest bathing and visit hot springs. If you’re interested in camping or staying in more remote accommodation, you’ll find those options here. 

Keep in mind that the Asian black bear is found in the area (yes, there are bears in Tokyo!) so hikers are advised to make their presence known by talking and making noise along the trials. Some hikers like to wear bear bells. 

While we wouldn’t recommend basing yourself here for your entire time in Tokyo because of its distance from downtown, and limited bus services and dining options, a night or two will allow you to see a completely different side of Tokyo that you probably never knew existed.

Where to Stay in and around Otaru:

Mid-range: Shukubo Komadori-Sanso

Budget: Guesthouse Nishiki

Find more deals on hotels in Okutama here.

A Tokyo scene from above -- busy streets and neon skyscrapers.

Tokyo image by @Pixabay.

Best Places to Stay in Tokyo

There are so many places to stay in Tokyo, they could fill books. To make it easier, we’ve chosen three of our favorites.

The Park Hyatt Tokyo is our favorite luxury hotel in Tokyo — and if you have the money to spend, you will have an outstanding experience. If you love the movie Lost in Translation, this is THE place where to stay in Tokyo.

The Hotel Sunroute Higashi Shinjuku is an excellent, solid choice for a mid-range hotel in the epicenter of Tokyo. It’s hard to find any fault with this place.

K’s House Tokyo is an excellent hostel, home to some of the cheapest dorms in the city as well as budget-priced private rooms. If you’re trying to keep expenses down, this is a very good spot.

Read on for more in-depth descriptions of each property.

Best Luxury Hotel in Tokyo: Park Hyatt Tokyo

For those wanting a luxury stay in Tokyo, it’s hard to go past the Park Hyatt of Lost in Translation fame. This 5-star hotel in Nishi Shinjuku occupies the top 14 floors of a 52-story tower, giving guests unparalleled views of the city and the chance to live out all their Lost in Translation fantasies at the New York Bar.

Facilities include world-class drinks and dining, pool, spa, gym and fitness center.

(Note from Kate: I said it above but I’ll say it again — this hotel is fantastic, and the views are unreal. If you’re a Lost in Translation fan in the least, you must stay here.)

Click here for the best rates at the Park Hyatt Tokyo.

READ MORE:
What’s It REALLY Like to Stay at the Park Hyatt Tokyo?

 

Well, in Japan, don’t expect wide hotel room but, cleanness is always on point. This 3*** star hotel room is no exception, for more or less IDR. 1.2mio a night, with good location (next to subway station, a lot of konbinis around and one Donki store not too far), I think Sunroute Hotel is a good choice for beginner to explore Tokyo. #msalwayshungrytokyo #travelgram #room #hotel #recommended #travel #sunroutehotelhigashishinjuku #higashishinjuku #tokyo

A post shared by EDITH FYANSA (@ms.alwayshungry) on Mar 30, 2018 at 5:01am PDT

Best Mid-range Hotel in Tokyo: Hotel Sunroute Higashi Shinjuku

This three-star hotel is a comfortable western-style accommodation with reasonable pricing. Its biggest asset is its location, just 1-minute walk from the nearest subway station and 10 minutes from the main JR Shinjuku Station, putting it in the best area to stay in Tokyo.

The hotel’s facilities include free Wi-Fi, two restaurants and a 24-hour front desk.

Click here for the best rates at the Hotel Sunroute Higashi Shinjuku.

 

We had a Shaved Ice party tonight! Yay!? Thank you all for coming?? #Tokyo #Japan #kshousetokyo #asakusa #kuramae #travel #solotravel #guesthouse #backpacking #backpacker #love #hostel #world #instagram #instagood #like #smile #followme #東京 #ホステル #ゲストハウス #日本 #浅草 #蔵前 #イベント #event

A post shared by K’s House Tokyo (@kshousetokyo) on Jul 28, 2018 at 5:24am PDT

Best Hostel in Tokyo: K’s House Tokyo

For those looking to stay in Tokyo on a budget, K’s House in Kuramae (Asakusa) is an excellent choice. If you’re wondering where to stay in Tokyo while also wanting to save money, this is a great spot.

There are mixed and female only dorms for those wanting the cheapest possible stay, as well as budget-friendly private rooms for solo travelers, double rooms for couples, twin and multi-capacity rooms for friends and larger traveling parties, and family rooms for those traveling with kids.

Facilities include free Wi-Fi, communal areas for socializing and a rooftop terrace. This hostel has no curfew. Note: there is another K’s House in Asakusa (K’s House Oasis) with similar facilities but less room variety.

Click here for the best rates at K’s House Tokyo.

Tokyo Travel Tips

Get an IC card. Electronic public transportation cards such as Pasmo or Suica will save you time and hassle trying to figure out individual fare prices for each train journey on your own (and it also gives you a small discount). Get them from ticket machines (500 yen refundable deposit) and add cash for spending. You can also use these cards at most vending machines and convenience stores.

If you do buy a paper ticket and are not sure which value to buy, just get the cheapest one and you can pay the difference at the other end. You’ll find fare adjustment machines near the ticket gates. Simply pop your ticket in and it will tell you how much you owe.

Consider a rail pass. If your plan is to visit several cities in Japan, the JR Rail Pass can be a huge cost saver. While they have been doing limited trialing of in-country JR Pass purchases, it is still easier (and cheaper) to organize the pass from your home country. A voucher will be sent to your address, which you can then exchange for the pass in-country.

While the rail pass is best used for inter-city travel, if you still have validity, you can also take advantage of using it on JR lines during the Tokyo portion of your trip. 

Take advantage of lunch sets. Grab a lunch set for the cheapest, best-value meal deals. Many restaurants have daily lunch specials, known as higawari ranchi, which usually include a main, side, a drink and sometimes a small dessert. 

Japanese restaurants are notorious for having many different menus. You might need to sift through them to find the one with the daily lunch specials on offer. 

When you’re really hungry, get more rice. If you’re finding Japanese servings a little smaller than what you’re used to back home, many restaurants offer larger servings of rice at either no extra charge or for a very minimal extra cost. Simply ask for gohan oomori. 

In Japan, it is polite to eat every last grain of rice in your bowl, so only order larger servings if you plan on finishing it.

When you don’t know where to eat, check out department stores. Department stores can be found near train stations around the city, as well as Ginza, and they are an easy go-to for food. As a rule of thumb, there are restaurants on the top floor(s) and a food hall in the basement. These basement food halls are called depachika and are home to an array of delicious food options. 

It’s also where you can find food-related gifts and those legendary $100 square watermelons beautifully gift-wrapped to perfection.

Ask for a recommendation. If you don’t know what to order, you can ask for a recommendation by saying osusume wa? It’s an easy way to find out what’s popular or the restaurant’s specialty dish.

Expect to wait in line. Queuing is like a national pastime in Japan, and sometimes the wait at popular attractions, special events and restaurants – especially newly opened ones – can be several hours. 

It’s always useful to check about ticketing and reservations in advance. You may be able to get advance tickets that will allow you to skip some of the waiting time, or for specific restaurants you want to visit, ask your accommodation to help you with making a reservation ahead of time.

Mind your chopsticks. One of the most important areas of Japanese dining etiquette involves chopsticks. Think of them as for the action of eating only. 

If you like to talk with your hands, be sure to place them on the chopstick rest or over your bowl or plate. Never wave them around, point with them or leave them standing in your bowl. The latter is a funerary act, as is passing food to another chopstick to chopstick, and should be avoided. 

If you are using your own chopsticks to put food on the plate of another, it is polite to flip them around and serve from the fat end. 

Travel Insurance for Tokyo

A lot of people think travel insurance is an unnecessary expense — that’s far from the truth. Travel insurance is vital, even in a destination as safe as Japan. It’s saved Kate hundreds of dollars and for one of her friends, who slipped and broke her foot while traveling in Italy, her travel insurance bought her a business class ticket home and saved her thousands of dollars.

If your purse is stolen on the shinkansen, travel insurance will refund you what you lost.

If you slip on the steps of a temple and break your ankle, travel insurance will refund your medical costs and get you home for free.

If you get appendicitis while in Tokyo, travel insurance will cover your medical costs.

If an immediate family member dies while you’re in Japan, travel insurance will help you get home immediately.

These are unpleasant things to think about, but it’s so important to be prepared for the worst.

AdventurousKate.com uses and recommends World Nomads Travel Insurance. They’re a great fit for almost every traveler. Take a look at their policies before you buy to make sure they’re right for you.

Tokyo Awaits You!

There you have it – those are our tips and recommendations for places to stay in Tokyo during your trip. Tokyo may be huge but it also has options to suit any kind of traveler. Once you figure out where to stay in Tokyo, the rest of your trip will flow out naturally from there. Simply pick an area that most suits your travel style and use the city’s incredibly vast public transportation system take you to see the rest. 

Meet the Tokyo Experts

Jessica Korteman and Hai Huynh are Australian travel personalities who recently relocated to Australia after several years of living in Tokyo. They write about their travels on their blogs Notes of Nomads and Travel Solo Anyway, produce videos on their YouTube channel, and regularly appear on Japanese TV and print media. 

They are the founders of Instameet Community Japan and are the countrywide Instameet Managers for Instagramers Japan – join one of their free monthly photo walks during your next trip to Tokyo!

READ NEXT:
What’s it Really Like to Travel in Japan?

Have you been to Tokyo? Where’s your favorite place to stay? Share away!

The post Where to Stay in Tokyo — Best Neighborhoods and Accommodation appeared first on Adventurous Kate.


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Where to Stay in Rome — Best Neighborhoods and Accommodation

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Vittorio Emanuele, the "wedding cake" building of Rome with large columns and Italian flags flying, bright yellow at dusk beneath a cloudy sky.

Where to stay in Rome? The Eternal City seems to have infinite options. This is a gorgeous city with beauty and history and fountains and motorbikes screaming by. It’s often where you’ll have your first introduction to Italy — and what an introduction it is. But first things first: what is the best area to stay in Rome?

This post was updated in September 2019. Image above by Pixabay.

It’s hard to write an introduction to the city because everything to be said about Rome has seemingly already been said during its 2,772-year-old history. Having that kind of history attached to a city can be a lot to deal with. The Roman Empire defined western culture and shaped our world and we are still feeling the effects of their influences today.

That’s a pretty impressive resume for just one city. But what does it mean for your trip? As a visitor it can be challenging to narrow down the best places to stay in Rome.

Do you want to wake up with a view of the Coliseum out your window?

Do you want to stay in a cozy apartment in the medieval heart of the city?

Do you want to wake up to the smell of espresso and the buzz of a residential neighborhood coming to life?

Rome may be eternal, but it’s not lacking for diversity, especially when it comes to its different neighborhoods.

After living in Rome for a combined six years, we have combed the different Roman neighborhoods looking for local eats, charming markets, history, shopping, and more.

Here are the best Rome neighborhoods, no matter what kind of traveler you are.

This post is written by Ashley and Alex of In Pursuit of Adventure. As Rome experts, they definitely have the knowledge of the best area to stay in Rome and are eager to share it with you!

Enjoy this post — and I agree with them; the best place to stay in Rome is Trastevere!

Kate

Table of Contents

Best Area to Stay in RomeTrastevereTestaccioCentro StoricoMontiPratiSpanish StepsBest Places to Stay in RomeBest Luxury Hotel in Rome: The FirstBest Mid-Range Hotel in Rome: Hotel ForumBest Hostel in Rome: The YellowTravel Insurance for RomeYou Will Love Rome!Solo Female Travel in Italy: Is it Safe?

The Trevi Fountain, covered with Baroque era white marble statues and flowing water.

The Trevi Fountain — image via Pixabay.

Best Area to Stay in Rome

The best place to stay in Rome depends on who you are as a traveler and your travel goals. Some people like to be close to the main attractions, some people prefer to have a quiet, neighborhood-like atmosphere, and some people want to be in the heart of the best neighborhoods.

We believe that Trastevere is the best overall neighborhood to stay in Rome — it’s a beautiful, local neighborhood filled with far more Romans than tourists. There is excellent nightlife and even though you’re close to the center, it feels like you’re in a fun neighborhood nobody else has heard of.

If you’re a foodie, you want to stay in Testaccio. This neighborhood is filled with Rome’s best restaurants, markets, and food tours.

If you want to be in the heart of the main attractions of Rome, the Centro Storico, or historic center, is the best neighborhood for you. This is a good option for first-timers.

If you’re crazy about ancient history, consider staying in Monti, with easy access to the Colosseum and Roman Forum.

Prati is a neighborhood just a stone’s throw from the Vatican, where you can balance being in the center of things and enjoying typical Roman life.

And if you’re all about fashion and style, you want to stay in a hotel near the Spanish Steps.

Read on for more details about these fantastic neighborhoods.

A quiet side street in Trastevere, Rome, with yellow painted buildings and ivy-covered arches, fairy lights in the background.
Trastevere

We think the neighborhood of Trastevere (tras-TEH-ver-ay) is the best place to stay in Rome overall. It has everything we look for in a Rome neighborhood: fantastic restaurants, charming alleyways, a youthful vibe, and that quintessential Roman look. Trastevere was our home for just over two years and we may be biased, but hear us out!

Over those two years we fell in love with the beautiful winding cobblestone streets, local restaurants and the vibrant nightlife filled with students, locals, and tourists alike. Every time we go back to visit our old neighborhood, we feel right back at home.

Trastevere is also ideally located. It is just on the other side of the Tiber from the Centro Storico which is the historic center of Rome. It’s the best of both worlds: centrally located but not overrun with tourists.

Besides the great location, one of the best things about staying in Trastevere is the vibrant nightlife that comes with it. The neighborhood is populated with locals and students from the nearby universities. The streets are filled with wonderful bars and great restaurants that fill to the brim every night. If you want to mingle with the locals then you better start your night out at Bar San Callisto with an Aperol spritz, then go from there! (Note from Kate: Dar Poeta is an awesome pizza place in Trastevere.)

Lastly, Trastevere is one of the best preserved medieval neighborhoods left in Rome. Trastevere will transport you back to the 1200’s with its faded elegance, buildings in loving disrepair and cobbled, narrow streets that twist and turn until you come upon pristine piazzas.

If you choose to stay in Trastevere, you’ve done well — it’s a special place. We think that experienced Italy travelers will especially appreciate Travestere for where to stay in Rome. Keep in mind that due to being a residential neighborhood, most accommodation here is small guesthouses and B&Bs with only a few rooms.

Where to Stay in Trastevere:

Luxury: VOI Donna Camilla Saveli Hotel

Mid-range: B&B Arco Del Lauro

Budget: La Civetta di Trastevere

Click here for the best hotel deals in Trastevere.

A man holds up four cones of what looks like bread topped with sauce in Rome.

Testaccio

The best Rome neighborhood for foodies is Testaccio! If you love food and don’t mind staying a little outside the center of Rome, the local neighborhood of Testaccio is the place for you. This is a neighborhood in Rome that has kept its traditional roots while embracing change, especially when it comes to food and markets.

Testaccio is where locals go to eat. Throughout the neighborhood are little restaurants that have been serving up delicious Roman cuisine. The most well-known place is Flavio al Velavevodetto, which is almost impossible to get into on Sundays because the place is packed with Roman families!

Testaccio is also home to the amazing Mercato Testaccio. This modern structure recently replaced the older markets in Testaccio, but all the fantastic old school vendors have come here to sell their produce.

In addition to these vendors, Mercato Testaccio has a host of new spots offering up anything from panini to vegan offerings to street food. Of particular note is Mordi e Vai, one of the most popular places to grab a panini in Rome. They specialize in Roman cuisine and are most well known for taking local main dishes and serving them up between two slices of bread. Make sure to grab a panino and then spend time wandering this amazing local market!

While there are plenty of traditional restaurants for you to enjoy there are also plenty of restaurants putting a new twist on the the Roman kitchen. Trapizzino is one of our personal favorite restaurants on the cutting edge of Roman street food. A trapizzino is a little cone of pizza bianca hollowed out and stuffed with your choice of fillings like chicken cacciatore, eggplant parmesan, Roman tripe, or chicken with peppers. Trapizzino is part of what Italians call “lo street food.” It’s a casual way to enjoy Italian cuisine, since food trucks don’t really fit in the streets here!

If you are a food lover, there’s nowhere better than Testaccio. Also, if you would like to to learn more about the Testaccio food scene, there are plenty of food tours available, like this 3.5 hour Testaccio food and wine tour.

Where to Stay in Testaccio:

Luxury: Seven Suites

Mid-range: B&B Testaccio

Budget: Hotel Re Testa

Click here for the best hotel deals in Testaccio.

Groups and families sitting on a narrow staircase in Rome's Centro Storico.

Centro Storico

The Centro Storico, or historic center, is the best Rome neighborhood to be in the heart of it all — the perfect neighborhood if this is your first visit. In the Centro Storico you can wake up steps away from Piazza Navona or see the famous market in Campo de Fiori come to life or watch the sunrise over the Pantheon.

While the neighborhood can be touristy, the Centro Storico includes the famous sites of Campo de Fiori, Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon and has more than enough charm to offset the tourist crowds. There are plenty of charming alleyways and streets to get lost in, including the Via Giulia, one of the prettiest streets in Rome, featuring a stunningly graceful archway by Michelangelo.

This neighborhood is excellent if you want to be walking distance from all the major sites and well-connected. While the metro doesn’t run through this area, Largo Argentina is a transportation hub for all the major buses and trams. Did I mention there is a huge taxi stand at Largo Argentina, too? This is a massive benefit because it can be nearly impossible to flag down a taxi in Rome.

Additionally, some of our favorite restaurants are located in the Centro Storico. Whether you are looking for a fresh mozzarella delivered daily from Campania or homemade pasta from some Italian grandmas or artisanal gelato or even a local wine bar, you can find it all in the Centro Storico.

And if you love to shop, don’t forget to take a wander down Via Coronari, which has independent shops featuring vintage goods, bespoke Italian clothing, and hand-blown glass. If you have family and friends who want you to bring back souvenirs, the Centro Storico is a great choice for where to stay in Rome.

(Note from Kate: Don’t stay in the Centro Storico if you hate tourist crowds. Rome is a very busy city, especially during the summer months, and the tourist crowds are their most intense in the Centro Storico. If you want to experience a quieter Rome, consider visiting in the off-season, from November to March — it’s still worth it.)

Where to Stay in the Centro Storico:

Luxury: Sina Bernini Bristol

Mid-range: Trevi Beau Boutique Hotel

Budget: Babuccio Art Suites

Click here for the best hotel deals in the Centro Storico.

A man sitting at the base of a fountain in Monti, Rome.

Monti

Monti is the best Rome neighborhood for history lovers. A quiet neighborhood made up of small serpentine streets in the heart of Rome, staying in Monti can means staying in the neighborhood of Julius Caesar.

This historic neighborhood is conveniently located close to several metro stops and Termini train station, but you wouldn’t know it — it’s actually tucked into a valley between three of Rome’s seven hills. This keeps the neighborhood quiet and charming. This may have been a slum in the days of Ancient Rome when it was known as Suburra and home to Julius Caesar, but it couldn’t be more lovely today!

Here you can base yourself close to the Coliseum and the Forum, which border the neighborhood. Also nearby is Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome’s oldest church, dating back to 432 CE and where Gian Lorenzo Bernini is buried.

Surrounding these sites are structures built by Emperor Trajan, including his markets, column and forum. Several medieval towers from the Middle Ages, dot the landscape, and you’ll also find San Pietro in Vincoli, the church of St. Peter in Chains and home to Michelangelo’s statue of Moses.

This ancient neighborhood is also very popular with Rome’s hipsters. You can find them around the fountain in Piazza delle Madonna di Monti or enjoying an aperitivo at nearby restaurants and bars. Stroll the ancient streets, admire the galleries and shops, and revel in the creative atmosphere nurtured by artists since the 1930s.

Where to Stay in Monti:

Luxury: Villa Spalletti Trivelli

Mid-range: 1880 Atypical Rooms

Budget: Mok’House B&B

Click here for the best hotel deals in Monti.

A street view of Rome with a man on a motorbike in front of the large dome of St. Peter's Basilica.

Prati

Prati is best known for being the home of the Vatican, and if you consider yourself a Renaissance Man or Woman, this is the neighborhood to call home. The Vatican Museums are home to an immense collection that includes some of Europe’s finest works of art: from classical sculptures, renowned Renaissance paintings, and most famously, the Sistine Chapel.

In addition to Prati’s Vatican Museums, you can also tour St. Peter’s Basilica and wander the piazza in front of the church designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Prati also is home to Castel Sant’Angelo. The roots of this building date back to the early 100’s CE when it was constructed to be the tomb of Emperor Hadrian, a Renaissance man (if you can apply that term to a man born 1400 years before the Renaissance!) in his own right. (Note from Kate: Castle Sant’Angelo is my favorite place in Rome to watch the sunset!)

While this neighborhood has its fair share of history, it is also known for its wide streets, Art Nouveau charm, and its fast-paced lifestyle. This is a neighborhood where Romans live and work and you can find them shopping at the local markets, commuting to their jobs,and of course indulging in some retail therapy on the weekends on famed shopping street Cola di Rienzo.

While this neighborhood may not look classically “Roman,” it offers visitors a chance to experience a different side of Rome, embrace their love of the arts, and escape the tourists.

Where to Stay in Prati:

Luxury: Le Meridien Visconti Rome

Mid-range: St. Peter Guest House

Budget: Hotel Nautilus Rome

Click here for the best hotel deals in Prati.

Crowds of people climbing up the Spanish Steps in Rome.

The Spanish Steps — image via Pixabay.

Spanish Steps

If you’re in Rome to explore the fashion scene and show off your style, you have to book a hotel near the Spanish Steps (La Spagna). This neighborhood is anchored by the iconic steps but also by the high-end shopping street, Via dei Condotti, which features the shops of some of the most famous Italian designers like Prada and Gucci.

Embrace your inner Audrey Hepburn, grab a gelato, and sit on the steps to watch the fashionable Romans parade by. Or grab a cocktail at two-level rooftop bar on top of the The First, you can enjoy 360-degree views of Rome, including the Spanish Steps.

Or embrace la dolce vita and head to Via Margutta to stroll the artistic haven where Federico Fellini used to live. This brick lined, ivy strewn street is full of charming art galleries and retains the soul that drew Fellini to this neighborhood. This is where to stay in Rome if you want to feel like you’re in a movie from the 1950s.

No matter where you stroll near the Spanish Steps, you can indulge in your stylish fantasies and truly live the sweet life.

Where to Stay Near the Spanish Steps:

Luxury: The First

Mid-range: Condotti Palace

Budget: Domus Spagna Capo le Case

Click here for the best hotel deals near the Spanish Steps.

A purple and pink sunset in Rome. You see the lights of a bridge reflecting in the river, and on the right is the dome of St. Peter's Basilica.

Rome at night — Image via Pixabay.

Best Places to Stay in Rome

What are the best places to stay in Rome overall? We recommend three properties in particular, one high-end luxury hotel, one mid-range property, and one hostel.

If you’re looking for a luxury hotel in Rome, we highly recommend The First.

An excellent mid-range hotel that we love is Hotel Forum.

And if you’re looking for a good hostel, The Yellow is an absolute gem.

Read on for more in-depth descriptions about these properties.

 

Comfort taken to a whole new level: the Junior Suite at The First captures the Italian way of enjoying beauty and style.

A post shared by The First Hotel (@thefirstroma) on Jun 15, 2018 at 1:06am PDT

Best Luxury Hotel in Rome: The First

Why just grab drinks at this luxurious hotel when you can stay here? The First is in the heart of Rome near the Spanish Steps and is the perfect luxury stay for someone who has always wanted to spend the night at an art gallery. Besides impeccable amenities, this 200-year-old palace has been lovingly restored and highlights the contemporary artwork of some of Italy’s most influential modern artists.

This intimate 29-room boutique hotel provides an elegant retreat from the chaos of Rome, embracing the modern in the Eternal City. Hire your own personal shopper to dive into Italian fashion, experience Michelin-starred dining, and explore the world of modern Italian art at Galleria Mucciaccia when you stay at The First.

Check current rates at The First here.

 

Our American Bar! ???

A post shared by Hotel Forum Roma (@hotelforumroma) on Sep 8, 2017 at 3:14am PDT

Best Mid-Range Hotel in Rome: Hotel Forum

Hotel Forum is an affordable hotel in the heart of Rome across the street from The Forum. This four star hotel is located in a historical 18th century building and is the perfect stay for someone who wants to be walking distance to all the major sites and in the charming neighborhood of Monti.

The hotel is classically elegant and has a rooftop bar where you can watch the sunset over Rome. Plus, you don’t have to break the bank to stay at this elegant hotel in the heart of Ancient Rome.

Check current rates at the Hotel Forum here.

 

Our American Bar! ???

A post shared by Hotel Forum Roma (@hotelforumroma) on Sep 8, 2017 at 3:14am PDT

Best Hostel in Rome: The Yellow

While not the cheapest hostel, The Yellow is consistently named one of Rome’s best hostels. The Yellow isn’t just a hostel but also venue for amazing local music, a place to meet locals and expats at the popular bar, a yoga studio away from home, and so much more. The Yellow has really worked hard to create a community around their hostel and it shows. The Yellow in Rome is ready to be your home in the Eternal City.

Check current rates at The Yellow here.

Rows of espresso cups on a counter in an Italian cafe.

Travel Insurance for Rome

A lot of people think travel insurance is an unnecessary expense — that’s far from the truth. Travel insurance is vital. It’s saved Kate hundreds of dollars and for one of her friends, who slipped and broke her foot while traveling in Italy, her travel insurance bought her a business class ticket home and saved her thousands of dollars.

If you get pickpocketed on Rome metro, travel insurance will refund you what you lost.

If you slip on the Spanish Steps and break your ankle, travel insurance will refund your medical costs and get you home for free.

If you get appendicitis while in Rome, travel insurance will cover your medical costs.

If an immediate family member dies while you’re in Italy, travel insurance will help you get home immediately.

These are unpleasant things to think about, but it’s so important to be prepared for the worst.

AdventurousKate.com uses and recommends World Nomads Travel Insurance. They’re a great fit for almost every traveler. Take a look at their policies before you buy to make sure they’re right for you.

A small alleyway in Rome at dusk, brightly colored buildings lit by yellow streetlamp.

Rome at night — image via Pixabay.

You Will Love Rome!

Rome is a multi-layered city and it has so much history that deserves your time. Choosing where to stay in Rome will be one of the biggest decisions of your trip. Still, no matter what neighborhood you choose, be sure to get out and explore the others. They all have something to offer and play a role in this chaotic, historic, charming city.

Remember to relax, enjoy that long lunch, linger over coffee and stop for an aperitivo or two. Embrace the pace of your neighborhood and truly experience the Roman lifestyle. We love Rome and we want everyone to love Rome.

Click here to compare the best deals on hotels throughout Rome.

While the Roman empire may have fallen, all roads will eventually lead you to Rome — this city has a way of drawing people in.

READ NEXT:
Solo Female Travel in Italy: Is it Safe?

Ashley and Alex of In Pursuit of Adventure, smiling with their arms around each other.

Meet the Rome Experts

Ashley and Alex are two travelers from California who are addicted to living local. They run the travel blog In Pursuit of Adventure and focus on eating, drinking, and living locally across the globe. Lately they’ve been writing about the dishes of Peru. They also are the authors of Eat Local in Barcelona: A Guide to Catalan Cuisine.

Have you been to Rome? Where’s your favorite place to stay?

The post Where to Stay in Rome — Best Neighborhoods and Accommodation appeared first on Adventurous Kate.


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Reasons to Travel to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Canada

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Kate stands in front of a field of wildflowers and faces cliffs and a rocky beach in the distance.

The Îles-de-la-Madeleine are a mysterious archipelago just north of Prince Edward Island in Canada. They’re isolated, hard to reach, and precariously perched in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where the wind whips like mad and erosion threatens their existence.

But these are islands of great beauty — of bright red cliffs and lighthouses, of purple cottages and seal colonies, of craft beers and creamy cheeses and lobster rolls served in the back of mini-marts.

This July I traveled on a 10-day expedition cruise of Eastern Canada with OneOcean Expeditions. I became interested in this journey because it visits so many random, hard-to-reach places in Atlantic Canada. But I got most excited when I saw the Isles-de-la-Madeleine on the itinerary — the destination I wanted to visit the most!

The expedition was fantastic — one of the best trips I’ve taken in a long time. And by the end of the voyage, despite the incredible places we visited, the Îles-de-la-Madeleine were my favorite.

What was it about these islands that stole my heart? 

Table of Contents

Traveling to the Magdalen IslandsA Windy, Tempestuous ArchipelagoThe Best Things to Do in the Îles-de-la-MadeleineSee the red cliffs.Gorge on local cheeses at Pied de Vent Fromagerie.Check out an authentic smokehouse at Le Fumoir d’Antan.Kitesurfing, kayaking, hiking, and more.Enjoy craft beers at À l’abri de la TempêteChat with the incredibly friendly locals.How to Get to the Îles-de-la-MadeleineTraveling to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine with OneOcean ExpeditionsREAD MORE:My Favorite Moments Cruising Eastern Canada with OneOcean ExpeditionsWhere to Stay in the Îles-de-la-MadeleineTop-Rated Îles-de-la-Madeleine AccommodationUpscale B&B: Auberge Havre-sur-Mer or La Butte RondeMid-range Guesthouse: Auberge Madeli or Motel L’ArchipelHostel: Auberge de Gros-Cap or Paradis BleuCheck out more accommodation in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine here.Travel Insurance for the Îles-de-la-MadeleineThe TakeawayREAD NEXT:The Cabot Trail: Nova Scotia’s Best Road TripHave you been to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine? Does it look like your kind of place? Share away!

Tiny, brightly colored houses nestled into the hills of the Iles-de-la-Madeleine

Traveling to the Magdalen Islands

The Îles-de-la-Madeleine are known as the Magdalen Islands in English (or the Maggies, if you’re feeling cheeky). So which term is best? You’re in Quebec, so the French name prevails, even if it’s more of a mouthful: the Îles-de-la-Madeleine. Five syllables: EEL-duh-la-mad-LEN.

The original inhabitants of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine were the indigenous Mi’kmaq people, who hunted the once-abundant walrus; by the late eighteenth century, walrus had been overhunted to extinction in the region. In the seventeenth century, the first French settlers migrated to the islands.

People from the Îles-de-la-Madeleine are called Madelinots, and as Acadians, they tend to have more in common with their Atlantic Canada neighbors than mainland Quebec. Expect to see plenty of Quebec and Acadian flags flown throughout the islands. The population is about 12,700.

The islands are 94% francophone and 6% anglophone. English-speaking Madelinots mostly live in some of the furthest communities of the Magdalen Islands: Grosse-Île, Île d’Entrée, and Dirty Harry (yes, that’s its real name).

Kate stands in front of red cliffs and stands sideways to the camera, and you can see the wind is blowing her long curly hair straight upwards!

A Windy, Tempestuous Archipelago

When my zodiac lands on the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, I’m struck by how windy it is. The islands are famously blustery, making them a hotspot for kitesurfing and windsurfing. It can throw visitors for a loop — some people are surprised by how hard it is to bike in the wind, and tent campers are often unprepared for the reality of sleeping outdoors!

We arrive in La Grave, a village of tiny gray cottages cheered up with bright yellow and green trim. The Acadian flag, like a French flag with a yellow star in one corner, flies proudly throughout the village. It’s an overcast day, and these punches of color add life to the monochromatic landscape of gray and beige.

But what I most want to see is the cottages — the bright, colorful homes that I’ve seen in posts about the islands. And as soon as we hit the road and drive to the other islands, we see them — tiny purple cottages nestled into nooks, sumptuous yellow homes holding court over the hilly landscape. In the distance are red cliffs topped with lighthouses.

Being in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine feels like living in another time. Everything seems stripped down to the basics — cottages and fishing boats and honest livings. Who needs anything more than that? If you told me that the internet existed here, I might not believe you.

The islands, however, face major issues related to erosion. The surface area of the islands shifts constantly, which makes the total number of islands change continuously (sometimes two islands are joined and sometimes they’re not). While that’s been the case for centuries, the real worries are how this low-lying archipelago will deal with climate change and rising sea levels.

They’re already feeling the effects as harsh storms climb their way up the East Coast. After Hurricane Dorian in 2019, Madelinots have been asking for more aid from the province to protect against further erosion; the province argues that they don’t have enough money to do so. You can read more about that here (in French).

It’s not surprising that the islands have been losing population over the years, as young people leave for opportunities elsewhere and arguably more solid ground.

At the same time, though, there’s hope. In the form of a brewery.

As I enter À l’abri de la Tempête, the islands’ beloved brewery, I feel like I’ve been catapulted into the present day. This funky bar with its modern-day decor feels like it could be somewhere deep in Brooklyn. And it was started by two young women who wanted to bring a modern business to their beloved islands.

Is this the future? More young people coming back, more businesses coming to the islands? Are people going to continue fighting for funding to protect their environment? Are people going to believe in the tourism potential of their hard-to-reach islands and make them even more of a draw?

Perhaps, according a Madelinot woman working in a shop in La Grave.

“Everyone always leaves,” she tells me. “All the young people, they go to study and they don’t come back. But now they’re finally starting to come back. Six babies in my family were born here this year!”

Kate sits on a bench in front of a gray shop with yellow trim and a red white and blue Acadian flag with a yellow star on it.

The Best Things to Do in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine

There are so many things to do in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine. Whether you’re focused on outdoor adventure, camping off the beach, or exploring a pretty little village, there’s something for you. Here are some of the best things to do:

Wander the shops and boutiques of La Grave village. La Grave, located on the southern island of L’Île Havre-Aubert, is arguably the most picturesque part of the Magdalen Islands.

A gray house with a bright red bottom in La Grave.Gray houses and boutiques lined up in rows in the Iles-de-la-Madeleine.A gray house with a green door in La Grave as an older man walks by in front of the door, his head pointing down as if deep in thought.A gray house with green trim reading "Cafe de La Grave."

Here in La Grave, the best thing to do is just walk around, check out the shops, and enjoy the seaside setting. I particularly loved the chocolate shop — they make the most fantastic salted caramel truffles!

La Grave is also home to the Musée de la Mer, a museum covering the history of the islands.

If you’re going to have lunch in La Grave, try to go on the earlier side — there are only a few cafes here to satisfy the large crowds. Cailin and I had a great meal at Marché Resto, a mini-mart with a restaurant in the back, and it seemed like only locals knew about it. More about that further down.

Bright red cliffs plunge into the sea on the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec.

See the red cliffs.

You’ll find gorgeous red cliffs all over the islands — this one, my favorite, is by the Cape Lighthouse on the west coast of Île-du-Cap-aux-Meules. PEI may be more famous for its red dirt and cliffs, but the Magdalen Islands are just as stunning, if not more so!

Do note that exploring the cliffs can be dangerous — many are continuously eroding and may not hold your weight. Stay at least three meters away the edges of the cliffs, keep to marked paths, and follow all signs.

Piles of wrapped cheeses in a refrigerated container at Pied de Vent fromagerie in the Iles-de-la-Madeleine.

Gorge on local cheeses at Pied de Vent Fromagerie.

One of my favorite stops in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine was La Fromagerie du Pied de Vent. The name Pied de Vent (or “foot of wind”) refers to the sun rays peeking out from the clouds.

You can drop into the fromagerie and buy cheeses, but if you really want to get into it, take the tour! You’ll explore the pasture, witness the cheese-making process, and of course do lots of tasting. The 90-minute tour takes place on selected days between mid-June and late August (call them to make sure) and costs $15 CAD ($11 USD) for adults and $5 CAD ($4 USD) for children.

I definitely bought a few of the cheeses to enjoy back on the ship! (Cailin was less than pleased that I brought back one of the stinkier varieties, but as any cheese connoisseur knows, the stinkier the cheese, the better!) My favorite was the Jeune-Coeur (Young Heart).

Smoked herring hanging from the ceiling.

Check out an authentic smokehouse at Le Fumoir d’Antan.

When I saw a herring smokehouse on the itinerary, I’ll admit that I wasn’t too excited. But Le Fumoir d’Antan ended up being one of the highlights of my time on the islands. I expected an unpleasant fish processing plant — but this is a family-run smokehouse where they smoke the fish the same way they have for generations. And it smells AMAZING inside!

Tours including a tasting are offered from June through August at 3:30 PM for $5 CAD ($4 USD) per person, free for children under 5.

There is a tall hill behind the smokehouse that is good to climb for panoramic views of the surrounding cottages. I definitely recommend going up there for a few photos.

A gray-beige beach with a pointy green hill in the background.

Kitesurfing, kayaking, hiking, and more.

Take advantage of that insane wind by finally learning how to kitesurf! If not, there are plenty of other outdoor activities.

Kiteauxiles offers kitesurfing courses for all levels. L’Istorlet offers kayak and stand-up paddle board rentals and tours, including sailing trips and seal watching kayak excursions. Excursions sur Mer offers a variety of boating and fishing tours, including zodiac tours. The tourism board has a collection of hiking trails listed here; you can also buy a guide to the islands’ trails at their office in Cap-aux-Meules.

Bartenders serve beer to patrons at L'abri de la Tempete brewery in the Iles-de-la-Madeleine.

Enjoy craft beers at À l’abri de la Tempête

One of the coolest new establishments on the Îles-de-la-Madeleine is À l’abri de la Tempête, a women-founded brewery with a variety of local beers on tap! The name means “Shelter from the storm” — an apt choice for somewhere as windy as the Magdalen Islands.

The brewery was opened by two women in 2002, who dreamed of opening a new kind of business in their home community. The beers pay homage to the harsh climate and isolated location. You’ll find flavors made with local herbs and algae, and they even have a smoked beer made in collaboration with Fumoir d’Antan, the local herring smokehouse!

Not only does the brewery have great beers — but the entire bar is decorated in style. And it’s set in a former crab processing plant, overlooking sand dunes and the ocean!

The brewers say their beers come with “un peu de folie” — which you could translate as “a bit of fun” or “a bit of madness.” I think both are appropriate here.

If you’re staying for a few days on the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, chances are you’ll have less-than-ideal weather at some point. That’s when you come here — for the shelter from the storm.

Kate smiles and holds up a bowl of poutine in the Iles-de-la-Madeleine.

Chat with the incredibly friendly locals.

To be honest, the Quebecois don’t have the greatest reputation among travelers, which isn’t fair to the lovely people who live there. I’ve known many travelers to Montreal who have felt stung after asking, “Parlez-vous anglais?” and getting an eyeroll or a response in rapid-fire French. I wish it weren’t the case, but it’s pretty common.

I had my guard up when I arrived in the Îsles-de-la-Madeleine — I speak French, but did I speak enough French to get by here? I walked into Marché Resto, a mini-mart with a restaurant in the back, unsure of how to order. Why couldn’t we have just gone to a normal restaurant with normal rules? I hoped I didn’t look stupid to the lady behind the counter.

So I summoned my nerve and asked — and she smiled and told me I could order here and pay her, then take the receipt to the back and they’d make the food.

Looking back, I don’t know what I was afraid of. Everyone was eager to welcome visitors and happy to speak English as best they could. And Cailin and I got to enjoy fresh lobster rolls and a big dish of poutine.

A group walks down a dirt road in the Iles-de-la-Madeleine; on the right is a gray cliff leading down to a rocky beach.

How to Get to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine

They don’t make it easy to get to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine. It can be complicated, time-intensive, expensive, or all three. But if you’re willing to invest effort in getting to these islands, you’ll be rewarded.

There are direct flights to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine from Quebec City, Montreal, and Gaspé. However, these flights tend to be very expensive, especially during the summer months. Check Skyscanner for the cheapest rates.

There are regular CTMA Ferries to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine from Souris, Prince Edward Island. The journey takes about five hours each way. Throughout the year the ferry departs PEI at 2:00 PM and departs the Îles-de-la-Madeleine at 8:00 AM; additional departures are scheduled in July and August. Book as soon as you can because this ferry tends to sell out.

The rates jump up sharply during high season, from June 15-September 14 . Low season/high season rates are $35.10/54.30 CAD ($26/41 USD) for adults, $28.60/43.90 CAD ($22/33 USD) for seniors, $14.15/$27.35 CAD ($11/21 USD) for kids under 12, and free for kids under 5. Vehicles under 21 feet are $71.20/101.25 CAD ($54/76 USD). See the web site for additional vehicles.

There is a bus to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine from Quebec City with Autobus les Silons. It leaves weekly from mid-June through early September, departing Quebec City on Thursdays and departing the islands on Wednesdays. It stops in Riviere-du-Loup, Edmundston, Fredericton, Moncton and Charlottetown and takes 21.5 hours altogether, including the ferry from PEI. The full trip from Quebec to the islands costs $265 CAD ($199 USD) one-way and $429 CAD ($323 USD) round-trip for adults; see the site for other pricing.

There is one weeklong cruise to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine from Montreal on CTMA Cruises. You leave Montreal on Friday afternoon and you arrive on the islands by Sunday morning, staying through Tuesday evening. The cruise does a stop in Gaspé, Quebec, allowing a seven-hour stopover to explore the region, then the ship returns to Montreal early Friday morning.

If you have the time and money, this is a nice way to get to the islands for three days without worrying about the travel logistics. Rates for inside cabin with shared bathroom start at $1,019 CAD ($768 USD), based on double occupancy, and outside cabins with private bathroom start at $1,419 CAD ($1,070 USD).

And OneOcean Expeditions’ Canada’s East Coast Fins and Fiddles route stops in the Îsles-de-la-Madeleine for one day. Is one day enough? I would have loved more, but this is a great start.

Some locals sail to the Îsles-de-la-Madeleine from Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. While the vast majority of fishermen will not take a stranger with them on this journey, you never know — make the right connections and charm the right people and you might be able to hop on a sailboat there. Keep in mind this is at your own risk.

The smokehouse owner stands in front of the smokehouse holding a stick taller than him. Several older people wearing bright red OneOcean jackets listen to him talk.

Traveling to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine with OneOcean Expeditions

I chose to travel on the East Coast Fins and Fiddles expedition with OneOcean Expeditions because their itinerary included so many hard-to-get-to destinations in Atlantic Canada. As soon as I saw that itinerary — Sable Island! Gros Morne! Percé! Anticosti Island! St. Pierre and Miquelon! — I knew I had to do this trip. But the Îles-de-la-Madeleine were the destination I was looking forward to the most.

OneOcean gives you opportunities to do all kinds of excursions: hiking (often both easy and challenging hikes in the same location), biking, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, birding, cultural tours, etc. In the Îles-de-la-Madeleine they offered a “gastro tour” with visits to the fromagerie, fumoir, and brewery, along with lots of scenic stops around the islands.

I almost chose the biking excursion here, but after being warned that it would be super-windy, I decided I’d rather stuff myself with cheese and beer. That was definitely the right decision.

Do know that traveling on an expedition means you’re held to the whims of the weather. We lucked out with good weather in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, but we weren’t so lucky with other destinations. We missed half the day on Prince Edward Island because it was too windy to bring down the zodiacs down; sadly, we missed Francois completely because it was too windy to anchor in their narrow fjord. The fact that we made it to Sable Island in questionable weather was nothing short of a miracle.

In short, it’s possible that bad weather may keep you from the islands. Is that a risk you’re willing to take? It’s a risk I was willing to take.

One day wasn’t enough in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine — but one reason I took this trip was to find out which places I’d like to visit for longer. And I’m doing it — just one month after the trip ended, I went back to Newfoundland!

READ MORE:
My Favorite Moments Cruising Eastern Canada with OneOcean Expeditions

A large pale yellow house with a wraparound porch perched on a hill in the Iles-de-la-Madeleine.
Where to Stay in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine

Where’s the best place to stay in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine? Accommodation in the Îsles-de-la-Madeleine tends to book out far in advance in the summer months, so I urge you to book accommodation as early as possible.

You won’t find large hotels here. Instead, focus on small guesthouses, B&Bs, and hostels.

Camping is a popular option in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine — though keep in mind that it’s extremely windy and there aren’t many trees to shelter you! Many campgrounds offer cabins as well as campsites. Three of the most popular campgrounds are Parc du Gros-Cap, Camping Belle Plage, and La Salicorne.

Top-Rated Îles-de-la-Madeleine Accommodation
Upscale B&B: Auberge Havre-sur-Mer or La Butte Ronde
Mid-range Guesthouse: Auberge Madeli or Motel L’Archipel
Hostel: Auberge de Gros-Cap or Paradis Bleu
Check out more accommodation in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine here.

 

Kate walks along the path on a grassy hill to a white lighthouse in the Iles-de-la-Madeleine.

Travel Insurance for the Îles-de-la-Madeleine

While the Îles-de-la-Madeleine are an incredibly safe destination — the kind of place where everyone knows each other and people leave their doors unlocked — it’s essential to have travel insurance. Even with a country with good healthcare like Canada, travel insurance can save your health and finances in your time of need.

In the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, you’re dealing with a weather-vulnerable destination. This could end up impacting you if your flights or ferry are canceled.

Additionally, travel insurance will cover you if the islands’ crazy wind knocks you off your bike, or if you sprain your ankle while hiking up one of the hills to see the view.

Get yourself covered — I use and recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance for trips to Canada.

Kate wears a red waterproof coat over black leggings and sits on a bench in front of a gray house with a sign that reads "Le Globetrotter".

The Takeaway

I enjoyed the Îles-de-la-Madeleine so much that I’m hoping to return next summer — most likely in tandem with a trip to PEI, another place I want to return. Now that I know what I know, this trip will require a lot of advance preparation. Stay tuned to see how it goes!

Looking back to my time on the islands, in one shop I held up a shirt with French on it and tried to parse out the meaning — it was an expression I hadn’t heard. “Qu’est-ce que ça veut dire? What does this mean?” I asked the woman who worked behind the counter.

“It is like, I miss the islands, I think,” she offered.

“Ah. So it’s like les îles me manquent.” 

“Oui! Les îles me manquent!” she exclaimed with a smile. “Très bien.”

Two months later,  les îles still do, in fact, me manquent. I hope I get back there soon.

READ NEXT:
The Cabot Trail: Nova Scotia’s Best Road Trip

Pinterest graphic: Why You Should Travel to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine

This post is brought to you by OneOcean Expeditions, who hosted me on their East Coast Fins and Fiddles expedition through Eastern Canada. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Have you been to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine? Does it look like your kind of place? Share away!

The post Reasons to Travel to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Canada appeared first on Adventurous Kate.


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