Survey Results: Who are Adventurous Kate’s readers, anyway?

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Kate is sitting down and playing a bright red painted piano in the streets of Trento. She looks at the camera and smiles.

I’ve got my 2019 survey results in! After receiving more than 1,400 responses to the survey, I’m excited to share with you exactly who Adventurous Kate’s readers are.

I thought I knew who you were. And I did…but still, there were a lot of surprises.

So, what did the survey show me?

Four women walking through the Tuileries Gardens in Paris, all wearing fashionable and colorful dresses.

You’re a homogenous bunch. More than I expected.

White women age 25-44 who have at least a Bachelor’s degree and hold liberal political views constitute a whopping 50% of my readers.

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, that’s literally who I am, and homogeneity is exactly what advertisers like to see — it helps them target their advertising better. On the other hand, I wish I were reaching a broader audience, particularly when it comes to people of color.

A graph showing 90% of Kate's readers are female.

Until now, I had been operating under the assumption that roughly 2/3 of you were female (which is the case on both Facebook and Instagram). Turns out it’s closer to 90% female!

A chart with the ages of AK readers, mostly 25-34 and 35-44.

Just over 50% of you are 25-34, which means that I’ve effectively aged out of my own blog this year (!). I’m glad there’s a sizable (28%) population of 35-44-year-olds.

Chart showing that 85% of AK readers are white.

Well. I knew my audience would be primarily white — I didn’t think my audience would be 84% white. Asian readers represent the largest racial minority at 5%.

A chart showing that most AK readers have a college degree.

As for education, this is an impressive statistic — 88.5% of you hold at least a bachelor’s degree! While education level is not the be-all and end-all of intelligence, the truth is that education and income are correlated and advertisers are eager to work with a highly educated audience.

And nearly 6% of you hold doctorates or the equivalent.

Chart of AK readers' relationship statuses, most of whom are married.

As for relationship status, I was mildly surprised that the most common status is married (37%). Next up is single, never married (30%) followed by live-in relationship (16%).

Chart showing most AK readers hold liberal political views.

Aaaaaand political views. Ha. I asked this more out of curiosity than anything else, because I’m very happy to write about political topics and feel like I’m in a good position to do so.

74% of you hold liberal political views — 41% “very liberal” vs. 32% “somewhat liberal.” Which, of course, dovetails with the fact that people who travel tend to be much more liberal.

White brick houses in Savannah, Georgia, with a twisting oak tree in front.

Most of you are from the United States.

No surprise there — I’m American and the US is the biggest English-speaking market. Here are the top nationalities:

57% USA10% UK9% Canada4% Australia2% Germany2% Ireland

Most of you travel internationally once or twice a year and domestically several times a year, regardless of your home country. Some of the most popular US destinations you mentioned in the survey were Savannah, Asheville, New Orleans, Key West, Boston, San Francisco, and New York City.

A man and a woman sitting on bar stools at an industrial-looking brewery in Asheville, North Carolina.

You tend to be mid-range travelers.

One of the most important things to figure out, yet most difficult to ascertain, is figuring out how much your audience spends on travel.

It’s SO hard to figure out! You have different budgets for different destinations, spending much more on a trip to London than a trip to Thailand. Or maybe you’ll upend expectations and splash out on luxury in Thailand, then do London on a tight budget. And that’s before getting into all the different currencies you earn in!

So I decided to ask about what kind of accommodation you book on your travels. And that seems to be the closest way to gauge your typical travel style.

Graph of accommodation AK readers use.

As you can see, Airbnb/apartment rentals are what most of you choose for accommodation, followed by mid-range hotels, budget hotels, and private rooms in hostels.

If you use Airbnb, I urge you to read up and see whether it’s legal in your destination. In New York, for example, you can only rent a whole apartment for 30+ days, yet Airbnb refuses to enforce the law and people thus end up booking illegal rentals that harm New Yorkers.

Airbnb can be an excellent travel tool, but it also creates housing shortages and drives up rent for locals. Try to do the least harm possible and avoid units that are owned by large companies.

Kate at age 26 in 2010, wearing a large backpack on her back and a small backpack in front, double turtle style, standing on a wooded path in Pai, Thailand.

3% of you consider yourselves nomadic.

That’s pretty cool. I know that wouldn’t have been the case a few years ago.

Four backpackers standing on the edge facing Kaieteur Falls in Guyana, no safety rail whatsoever!

What you want the most is content about unusual, off-the-beaten-path destinations.

A whopping 95% of you said you wanted more posts about unusual, off-the-beaten-path destinations. That’s awesome to hear. I’m glad to do that!

I really enjoy exploring regions that aren’t as popular. Especially seldom-covered destinations in popular countries like Italy. Writing about lesser-visited destinations gives me a rush of excitement.

The only problem is that posts about unusual destinations don’t bring in the traffic (and therefore the money). Everyone is constantly searching for information on New York and Paris and Italy. Guyana? Very few by comparison.

I’ve always viewed content as a balance. You need to write posts that will bring new readers in and make you money. But you’ve got to write posts to keep your existing readers’ interest, too. These days, it seems like too many bloggers are focusing exclusively on the former and neglecting the latter.

A purple cloudy sunset in Paris. You see the rooftops in the fading light and on the right, in the distance, the Eiffel Tower lit up in orange.

You use the site differently than I thought you did.

At least 50 of the responses said, “I haven’t traveled to any destination specifically because of Kate, but I always go back and read her posts for recommendations once I do choose a destination.”

This is the single most important thing I learned from the survey. I figured some of you did this, but I didn’t realize so many people did. To see it repeated over and over and over was jarring.

This is now what I’m going to be leading with when I meet with brands. I now feel like my strongest attribute isn’t convincing people to visit new destinations, but planting a seed and then helping you if you decide to go.

And the most popular destination where you use my recommendations? Paris, bien sûr!

READ MORE:
100 Travel Tips for Paris

A pink sunset with lots of fluffy purple clouds in Antigua. At the bottom is the sea, a black silhouette of a boat, and a tiny yellow sun.

You LOVE the monthly recaps.

Lots of you mentioned the monthly recaps — and the feedback was 100% positive. That’s fantastic! You love them especially for the book, TV, and podcast/music recommendations, and some of you told me that while you skip reading some posts, you never skip the monthly recaps.

I’ve been phoning the recaps in a bit lately, since I’ve been so bogged down with work, but you’ve inspired me to go into more detail on them.

A lot of SEO specialists encourage bloggers not to write monthly recaps because they don’t drive search traffic and they basically act as dead weight for your site. I disagree with that. You can’t just pander to robots and new readers — you need to do what makes your existing audience happy. (And personally, I always love reading my blogger friends’ monthly recaps.)

Like I said…it’s all about balance.

A hammock and straw umbrella palapa on Relax Bay, Koh Lanta, Thailand, clear turquoise water and the beach.

The most popular destination you’ve visited because of me is Koh Lanta, Thailand.

And that makes me so happy. Koh Lanta is one of my favorite places on the planet and I’ve been raving to you about it since 2010.

Koh Lanta is a Thai island with a great vibe. I love that it isn’t overdeveloped and pushed to the brink like Koh Phi Phi, Ao Nang, or (sadly these days) Railay.

The island is long with tons of beaches along the western side. I’m convinced Koh Lanta has the best sunsets on the planet, especially if you go in November, when the end of the rainy season gives you streaky clouds in a rainbow of colors.

The locals are mostly Muslim and very welcoming to visitors. There’s an animal shelter where you can volunteer to walk dogs or cuddle cats. You can rent a motorbike and drive to a village with buildings built on stilts.

It’s been a few years since my last visit — I think it might be time to return to Koh Lanta!

READ MORE:
Adventurous Kate’s Guide to Koh Lanta, Thailand

Here are the top 10 destinations you’ve visited after reading about them on my site:

Koh Lanta, ThailandBologna, ItalyParis, FranceWestern AustraliaPuerto RicoSavannah, GeorgiaCaye Caulker, BelizeSkellig Michael, IrelandAsheville, North CarolinaZadar, Croatia

In Piazza Maggiore in Bologna, the statue of Neptune gesticulates as if he's about to kick something. Behind him are rose-colored brick buildings.

The most popular country you’ve traveled to because of me is Italy.

I’m not surprised with all the Italy coverage here! Italy is probably the closest thing I have to a favorite country, and I’ve particularly picked up the pace in the last year as I try to visit all 20 regions. (Three to go!)

And where do you go in Italy? All over — but especially Bologna. Lots of you traveled to Bologna after reading about how much I love it there.

There’s so much that I love about Italy — but one of the best things is that it’s so diverse in geography, look and feel. This year I was in the Dolomites and Puglia and they couldn’t be more different from each other!

Lake Bled: a soft blue lake with mountains in the background. On the left is a castle perched on top of a cliff right next to the lake; on the right is a smaller white building in the foreground.

You also love traveling in the Balkans, Southeast Asia, and Central America.

Probably my top three regions in the world. You’ve got great taste!

In the Balkans, Croatia and Slovenia got the most love from you, followed by Albania and Macedonia.

In Southeast Asia, Thailand got the most love by far, followed by Vietnam.

In Central America, Guatemala got the most love, followed by Nicaragua and Belize.

A tiny sandbar of an island topped with umbrellas and a few palm trees.

A LOT of you have done the Ragamuffin Tours cruise in Belize!

I already knew this — since 2015, well over 20 of you have told me that you went on the Ragamuffin Tours sailing cruise from Caye Caulker to Placencia. This is one of the most fun things I have done on my travels.

Sailing along the Belize Barrier Reef, snorkeling twice a day, camping overnight on an uninhabited island, enjoying rum punch-fueled parties in the evenings — it was insane in the best way.

What kills me is that they don’t have an affiliate program. I would have made a killing with all those bookings!

READ MORE:
Sailing Down the Coast of Belize

Kate "spider-walking" in a narrow opening in Karijini National Park in Western Australia, holding her body high up wedged between two walls.

I am genuinely shocked that so many of you have been to Western Australia.

Not because it’s a bad place — Western Australia is AMAZING! But it’s expensive to get there, expensive once you’re there, and a challenging place to travel, with long, desolate drives and limited infrastructure.

The fact that lots of you went there and chose to travel there — most likely in the past two years, as my trip was in October 2016 — means that you made it a major priority.

I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw how many of you had traveled to WA after reading about it on my site. Did not expect that AT ALL. Did the quokkas convince you?

READ MORE:
My Favorite Experiences in Western Australia

A village of stone towers in the foreground and mountains in the background in Mestia, Svaneti.

The destination you want to visit the most is Georgia!

More of you said you wanted to visit Georgia than any other destination. Though I wonder if that’s because my Georgia post was only two weeks ago. Newfoundland was right behind it.

Kate wearing a tan jacket and green pants and boots, and a hat, looking out over the savannah grasslands in the Rupununi of Guyana.

You understand that I need to make a living.

The blogging world has changed a lot in the last decade — and so have you, my dear readers.

Back in the day, I got a lot of readers saying, “I don’t like ads, and I don’t like sponsored travel, and I don’t like when you get money if I buy something through your site, and I DO NOT WANT BE SOLD TO.” Well, I’m happy to offer you a refund on the free blog if that’s the case.

These days, blog audiences understand that all of this takes SO much work and expenses. Just the basic expenses of keeping the blog online can cost upwards of hundreds of dollars per month. People get it. You can’t travel as much when you have to work a full-time job.

This time around, I got some responses saying, “I know you have to do some sponsored travel, and that’s fine, but I enjoy your coverage the most when you’re on your own, paying your own way.”

I get that. And I appreciate you saying so.

I make an effort to partner only with destinations or organizations that I’m genuinely excited about. It seems to have paid off — my campaigns with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland were huge hits with you guys.

But not every campaign has been a good fit. I know now that my campaign in Kenya last year wasn’t the best choice. To be honest, I took that trip because it sounded fun and I wanted to meet the people who were on the trip. Those connections I made are invaluable. And I did have a great time. But now I know that even if the destination is amazing, an all-luxury-and-charter-flight thing isn’t a fit for AK.

So I’m going to keep try to do well by you.

Kate wearing a burgundy and navy striped long dress and short black leather jacket in front of the San Francisco skyline, covered by fog.

You chose some nice words.

I asked for three words that described my site, and that described me. Here are the results:

Words that describe Adventurous Kate, the site and brand:

Informative (38% chose this!)InterestingFunHonestInspiringHelpfulUsefulDetailedOrganizedEngaging

Words that describe Adventurous Kate, the person:

FunHonestAdventurous (well…)SmartIntelligentFunnyBravePassionateConfidentIndependent

Kate faces away from the camera and stands facing the Duomo in Florence in the distance. She is in a rose garden, surrounded by greenery.

You’ve got me thinking about what I should do next.

There are lots of directions that I want to go in — projects that I’m in the middle of developing. At this point, I need to commit to one and work hard on that one alone.

The challenge, for me, has been balancing creative fulfillment, helping you, and doing something that will actually make decent money. I need to invest my time wisely since I think we’re going to hit a recession AND the SEO bubble is going to burst, but that’s another story for another time.

A lot of you said you didn’t like any of the ideas, but you’d buy a book if I wrote one. That really made me happy, but in the current publishing landscape, an author only gets around a dollar per book sold. Do I want to spend months working my ass off on a book that doesn’t even cover a month’s rent?

I polled you guys on a few of my ideas, including nontraditional publishing, for that reason. And while many of you were thoughtful and generous in your responses, I don’t have any clear and definite answers for what comes next.

A blue and yellow sunset between two palm trees on the beach in Boracay, Philippines.

Postcard Winners

As a thank you for participating, I offered five postcards to readers who took the survey, sent from somewhere on my travels.

Well, I decided to up it from five to ten! All were chosen randomly at random.org.

Here they are:

Ella I.Burt C.Tanya M.Amy L.RisCaroline B.Anna B.Helena F.Megan F.Sher

I will send them by April next year. Maybe from Europe in December, maybe from Cuba around New Year’s, maybe from Mexico after that.

Thank you so much to everyone who participated. You are making the site so much better as a result.

The post Survey Results: Who are Adventurous Kate’s readers, anyway? appeared first on Adventurous Kate.


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Why You Should Travel to Parma, Italy

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Kate wears a hot pink romper and stands on the street in Parma, next to people sitting down eating at outdoor tables, yellow and pink buildings behind her.

Of all the cities in Italy, why should you travel to Parma?

I have been traveling in Emilia-Romagna, a beautiful and delicious region in northern Italy, since 2011. Bologna has always been my favorite city in the region (indeed, it’s my favorite city in Italy), but I’ve always considered Parma my second-favorite.

I first traveled to Parma for a day trip in 2013. I had gone for a parmigiano factory experience and spent the rest of the day enjoying the city. As I walked through Parma’s buzzing streets, I was pleasantly surprised. This city was so colorful! With such cute shops! And a truly spectacular cathedral!

One day wasn’t enough. But six years later, I came back.

This September, I attended the Social Travel Summit in Ravenna, Italy. Part of the summit included a three-day post-conference tour through Emilia-Romagna. With four different places I could choose to explore, I knew where I wanted to go the most: back to Parma.

And what a city it is.

Table of Contents

Travel to Parma, ItalyThe Cathedral of ParmaTeatro RegioTeatro FarneseParma Street LifeCulatelloParmigiano ReggianoWine Tasting Near ParmaParma, Italian Capital of Culture 2020Where to Stay in ParmaHow to Get to ParmaWhere to Go After Traveling to ParmaParma is waiting for you!

People walking down a narrow street, some walking bicycles. The buildings are warm shades of orange and pink.

Travel to Parma, Italy

Parma is one of the most beautiful cities in Italy — but it seems like nobody knows about it! Parma is in the western part of Emilia-Romagna, Italy, located between Bologna and Milan.

Parma has a long and storied history — its centuries as a seat of power, its conquests by France and Milan, its wars and times of peace. But visit today and you’ll find a modern, beautiful and very colorful city.

Parma is the kind of city I love visiting in Italy — it’s small enough to see the main sights on foot, but large enough to have lots of options; home to some interesting attractions but not overwhelming with a sightseeing to-do list; lots of cool shops and boutiques, and great food and wine!

A colorful street in Parma with yellow, pale red, and orange buildings stacked together, each with green shutters.A fruit stand brimming with piles of fruits and vegetables in Parma, Italy.Several bicycles parked outside a building with a bright pink wall and a large gray-blue door.

The streets are lovely enough — but there are three specific sites in Parma that I recommend visiting because they’re visually stunning.

A square image of Parma's cathedral ceiling divided into sections shaped like an X, paintings on the ceiling.

The Cathedral of Parma

In my opinion, Parma is home to one of the most stunning cathedrals in Italy. And I say that as a somewhat jaded Italy traveler who is tired of seeing cathedrals all the time.

When you walk in, it takes your breath away.

Parma's cathedral, leading back to the altar, each wall covered with paintings and ornate gold decoration.

Parma's Baptistery ceiling -- planks leading to the center like a starburst, each segment covered in intricate frescoes.

Don’t miss the Baptistery either, with its frescoed ceiling.

The ornate theater with stacked rows of gold-and-white balconies.

Teatro Regio

One of Parma’s most famous residents is composer Giuseppe Verdi. Parma is Verdi-crazy with monuments and bridges named after him, and the city puts on a Festival Verdi each year.

(Fun fact about Kate: Did you know that I have a classical singing background? I performed Verdi’s Requiem with the Connecticut Grand Opera when I was in college and it was one of the best musical experiences of my life!)

If you’re spending time in Parma, you should take in a classical performance of some kind. And the Teatro Regio, Parma’s primary theater, is absolutely SPECTACULAR — over the top in all its Baroque glory, layers of white and gold. It’s a cool place to visit, and they offer both main theater and backstage tours.

You can check the performance schedule here.

An old-fashioned giant theater with wooden benches in stadium-like seating, with wooden arches on top.Teatro Farnese

Another cool place to check out in Parma is the Teatro Farnese — a place that is miraculous in the fact that it still exists. The theater was constructed almost entirely from wood in 1618.

It was almost entirely destroyed in 1944 during an Allied raid in World War II, but it was painstakingly reconstructed and reopened in 1962.

Some performances are still held here, and what a thrill it must be to perform in a place like this.

Old-fashioned stores painted green side by side in Parma, Italy, with motorbikes parked in front and people walking by.

Parma Street Life

But what I most enjoyed about Parma was its street life. I was there on a sunny September weekend, likely the last warm weekend of the year, and people were out in the streets, chatting with loved ones, sitting at outdoor tables and enjoying a bottle of wine.

Oh, and the SHOPPING. Parma is filled with all kinds of cool shops — clothing shops, houseware shops, food shops, map shops, all kinds of fun shops!

I absolutely love Bologna, and nowhere can match that city’s vibe. But I think Parma exceeds Bologna on some levels. It’s much prettier and more colorful (Bologna is primarily red and pink, but Parma uses a larger warm palette). A lot of the streets in Bologna look the same, so much that I often get lost, but in Parma, everything’s more distinctive.

And if you’re looking to shop while in Italy (and you should!), I’d recommend Parma over Bologna. Bologna has H&M and Zara, and Prada and Gucci, but not a lot in between those two price tiers. Parma offers a lot more mid-range fashion.

Parma felt like Bologna — but with a prettifying Instagram filter on top.

People sitting outside at a restaurant in Parma, Italy

A butcher shop reading "La Prosciutteria" with people walking in front of it in Parma, Italy.People walking down the streets surrounded by warm-colored buildings in Parma, Italy.

Kate and Cailin take a smiling selfie while toasting small glasses of red lambrusco wine.

And I was surprised at how cheap Parma can be. Much cheaper than the major cities in northern Italy. Cailin and I enjoyed some glasses of lambrusco — just 1.50 EUR each!

Racks of Culatello hams hanging in a cellar.

Culatello

I consider myself a cured meats aficionado and an Emilia-Romagna expert — but I’m embarrassed that I knew almost nothing about culatello before this trip. Parma may be most famous for its namesake prosciutto, but culatello is prosciutto on a much higher level.

When my boyfriend saw on my schedule that I’d be visiting a culatello producer, he was thrilled — he loves Italy and Italian food even more than I do. He asked me if I could bring a culatello home.

“Sure, I’ll get you one,” I said.

“I’ll give you money.”

“Nah, it’s fine, you can pay me back.”

“No, I’ll give you money. It could be four hundred euros.”

I stared, aghast. Four hundred euros? Just how good WAS this meat?

Quite good, it turns out.

The outdoor dining area -- chairs underneath an ivy-covered trellis, surrounded by lavender bushes, red brick buildings in the background.

We visited Antica Corte Pallavicina, located in the town of Polesine Parmense, about a 45-minute drive northwest of Parma. This is not only a culatello production facility — it’s also a luxurious agriturismo and restaurant.

One thing you’ll learn quickly in Emilia-Romagna is that the region is full of micro-climates, and many traditional foods must be produced within a tiny, specific micro-climate. Traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena is perhaps the best known product; I wrote about that here.

Culatello is also dependent on a microclimate and is produced in the misty, humid lowlands north of Parma. “For us, this is a clear day,” our guide Giorgia joked, pointing up at the hazy gray-blue sky.

Culatello hams in a cellar, hanging from chains and connected with cobwebs.Hanging culatello in the basement, some labeled with "Principe Alberto II" and "Principe Carlo" for Prince Albert and Prince Charles.

The culatelli hang and cure in cellars, no more climate control than simply the opening and closing of a window. It’s like a scene out of a horror movie, hams hanging on chains and connected by cobwebs in the darkness.

And if you look closely — those hams are reserved for Prince Albert of Monaco, Prince Charles, and some of the best restaurants around the world, from Osteria Francesana in nearby Modena to the Shangri-La in Tokyo.

Chef Massimo Spigaroli is the guiding force at Antica Corte Pallavicina. He’s the latest in a long line of culatello producers — his great-grandfather actually cured hams for Verdi!

He’s still producing culatello today — and running both the inn and the restaurant, and giving pasta-making classes to visitors. We joined in.

A giant mound of flour with twelve raw eggs sitting inside it.Chef's hands sculpting tortelli -- large tortellini. His hands surround the cheese stuffing and push down.An oval bowl filled with tortilli pasta, topped with lots of parmigiano cheese.

A large wooden platter covered with several cured meats, including culatello, salami, and raw pancetta (white and slithery and gross, but hey, some people are into that).

After half an hour of pasta-shaping, it was time to finally taste the culatello. So how was it?

OH, so good.

Culatello tastes like prosciutto, but there’s a complexity and deepness to the flavor that you don’t get in most meats. It’s more delicate, too — it almost melts on your tongue, like lardo.

I can see why it’s so revered.

A bottle of red wine being poured into a small white bowl for drinking.

Wine used to be considered a food, our server told us, so people used to drink it out of bowls. She poured bowls for us and honestly, the wine seems to go down more quickly when you drink it that way!

And the pasta? Delectable.

A blackboard with the prices of culatello written on them, starting at 68 euros per kilogram.

And in the end, I did buy a culatello to take back with me. “What can I get for two hundred euros?” I asked an employee. She recommended half a culatello oro. It came out to 147 EUR ($164). I felt like such a baller!

Half a culatello was more than enough meat to enjoy at home — and it tasted just as good when sliced thin and served with scrambled eggs for breakfast.

If you ever have a chance to try culatello, go for it. Culatello became available for purchase in the US in 2017. But there’s nothing like having it at its source, in the misty lowlands near Parma.

As for Antica Corte Pallavicina, I would absolutely go back and stay overnight. I always recommend that travelers to Italy spend at least a bit of time in the countryside — this is a great place to do so!

Rows and stacks of Parmigiano Reggiano wheels on shelves.

Parmigiano Reggiano

Parma is home to another world-famous Italian specialty: parmigiano reggiano cheese. This cheese, this superb cheese, this cheese that I buy constantly from the good grocery store in my neighborhood, is a building block of Italian cuisine. Parmigiano makes everything better. Throw a rind in with a pot of soup and taste how much it changes!

Emilia-Romagna has become a culinary travel powerhouse in the last few years — and more people are traveling here to see how the foods are made. Parmigiano Reggiano factory tours have become popular events. We visited Latteria Santo Stefano, where you can learn how this fine cheese is made.

A woman in a smock stands in front of a liquid vat, spreading her arms and talking about cheese.Two men, one very handsome and covered with tattoos, hold a cloth with a block of cheese on top in the vat.(I think everyone in our group had a crush on tattooed cheese dude on the right.)

Learning about the cheese is so interesting. But the best part is TAKING PHOTOS WITH THE CHEESE!

Kate poses with one foot in the air in the middle of the aisle in the cheese factory, surrounded by rows and rows of cheese.

Three wedges of cheese in a row, each broken up into bite-size pieces.

Afterward, we sampled the different types of aged cheese — 12, 24, and 36 months. My favorite was definitely the 24. I bought a wedge to take with me — costing a fraction of what I’d pay at Fairway in New York City.

Four wine bottles (one rose, one white, two red) resting on a bottle surrounded by brown leaves, greenery in the background.

Wine Tasting Near Parma

If you’re going to Italy, you will likely want to go wine tasting. And you can find great wine everywhere. But if you’re looking for something special, visit Venturini Baldini, about a 40-minute drive from Parma.

This organic winery has plenty of swoon-worthy wines — including some fabulous sparkling rosé wines and some Lambruscos! (Lambrusco is from Emilia-Romagna and trust me, it tastes so much better than what you’ve had in the US.)

Not only do they have wine, they also have a selection of vinegars — very fine and special vinegars. Keep in mind that we’re not in Modena so these aren’t consider the traditional balsamic vinegar from that region, but they are special and make a wonderful nonperishable foodie gift to bring home.

One warning — being an organic winery, it means that pesticides aren’t used. If you’re drinking wine outside, try to keep the insects from diving into your glass.

People walking down the street in front of orange buildings in Parma.

Parma, Italian Capital of Culture 2020

Parma has been chosen as Italy’s Capital of Culture for 2020! That means 2020 is the year to go. When a city is an Italian Capital of Culture, there will be interesting cultural events taking place all year long.

Stay tuned for the schedule.

The Verdi bridge in Parma, gray stone and iron, topped with pink flowers.

Where to Stay in Parma

In Parma I stayed at the Hotel Sina Maria Luigia. This four-star hotel is very comfortable and in a pretty good location, a short walk from the action. It was a very Italian hotel catering to Italians more than an international crowd. Wifi was terrible and it was difficult to open the window shades.

If you’re looking to stay in Parma, I recommend staying within the city center. There are lots of great hotels at a variety of price points. Here are the ones that get the highest ratings:

Top-rated hotels in Parma:

Luxury: Park Hotel Pacchiosi

Mid-range: Link124 Hotel

Budget: Ibis Styles Parma Toscanini

Find deals on Parma hotels here.

A view of Parma's crenellating side buildings with a steeple in the distance.
How to Get to Parma

If you’re flying into Italy, Parma is easily accessible from Bologna and Milan airports. I recommend flying into Bologna Airport if you can; if you fly into Milan, Linate Airport is much closer to Parma than Malpensa Airport and it will save you an extra hour in transit by car or rail.

If you’re taking the train to Parma, the city is strategically located on the train lines between Milan and Bologna, which are two of Italy’s biggest rail hubs.

Flixbus and other bus lines stop in Parma as well.

A bright orange building with lots of columns underneath a blue sky.

Where to Go After Traveling to Parma

Emilia-Romagna is one of my favorite regions in the world. You have plenty of wonderful places to include when you travel to Parma.

Reggio Emilia, pictured above, is a lovely little city that I discovered on this trip. It’s similar in size to Parma but feels much smaller. Be sure to sample the local specialty, erbazzone: a delicious pastry filled with chard, parmigiano, and pancetta. 15 minutes from Parma by train.

Modena is another lovely city with outstanding food traditions, like traditional balsamic vinegar, and one of the best restaurants in the world Osteria Francescana (make reservations months in advance). It’s a beautiful city with a UNESCO World Heritage-listed cathedral.  30 minutes from by train.

Bologna is the largest city in Emilia-Romagna. This university city has a relaxed and unpretentious feel, tons of value-for-money restaurants with outstanding food, and a great vibe without too many tourists. One hour from Parma by train.

More on Emilia-Romagna:
Ravenna and its Glorious Mosaics
Bologna, la Rossa: Scenes from a Red City
Modena and Its Famous Balsamic Vinegar
San Marino, the Tiny Nation Surrounded by Italy

Kate wears a short hot pink romper and stands on a cobblestoned street in front of a yellow building and a tree with autumn leaves.
Parma is waiting for you!

I am so glad I got to spend more time in Parma. A lot of people will only visit Parma as a day trip (hell, until this year I only visited as a day trip), but there is SO much to offer. Come here at least for a weekend.

And I won’t lie — I enjoyed myself so much in Parma that I actually looked up the prices of property. And it’s less than you’d think!

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

Travel to Parma, Italy -- Pinterest Graphic

Essential Info: In Parma I stayed at Hotel Sina Maria Luigia, a comfortable four-star hotel in a convenient location, 5-10 minutes from most of the sights in the city center. Find deals on Parma hotels here.

Parma’s cathedral is free to visit; visiting the Baptistery costs 8 EUR ($9).

You can tour the Teatro Regio — regular tours are 5 EUR ($6) for adults and 2-3 EUR ($2-3), backstage tours are 25 EUR ($28) for adults and 12.50 EUR ($14) for students. See the performance schedule here.

Tickets to the Teatro Farnese are 10.20 EUR ($11 USD).

Antica Corte Pallavicina is in the town of Polesine Parmense, 45 minutes outside Parma. Cooking lessons are 140-160 EUR ($155-177). They also offer rooms, a restaurant, and the Culatello Museum. They offer a variety of tours and experiences; see them here.

If you’re interested in visiting Latteria Santo Stefano, contact them at [email protected] If you’re interested in seeing other Parmigiano Reggiano factories, ParmigianoReggiano.com has a complete directory here.

Travel insurance is essential for every trip — it can save your life or finances if you have an emergency while traveling. I use and recommend World Nomads travel insurance for trips to Italy.

Does Parma look like your kind of city? Share away!

The post Why You Should Travel to Parma, Italy appeared first on Adventurous Kate.


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AK Monthly Recap: September 2019

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Kate wears overalls and jumps in the air, holding skewers of lamb in each hand, mountains and blue sky behind her, in Gran Sasso National Park.Kate wears overalls and jumps in the air, holding skewers of lamb in each hand, mountains and blue sky behind her, in Gran Sasso National Park.

Sometimes a moment makes your month. That’s what happened in September.

At Traverse in Trentino in June, the closing keynote included blogger Sassy Wyatt, who writes about travel and disability and is visually impaired. She pointed out that bloggers should be writing descriptions of their photos in the alt text field, because that’s what visually impaired people use to understand the photos.

At that point I had been blogging for seventeen years, professionally for nine years, and had no clue that alt text was for this purpose. I didn’t know it was even a thing. And that shows how little people with disabilities are given consideration in the blogging/online publishing world.

“Whenever I write my alt text,” my friend Alistair said as he moderated the keynote panel, “I pretend that I’m writing directly to Sassy.”

I started writing image descriptions in my alt text immediately — and I, too, pretended I was writing directly to Sassy. That top photo reads, “Kate wears overalls and jumps in the air, holding skewers of lamb in each hand, mountains and blue sky behind her, in Gran Sasso National Park.” It takes a bit more time, but it’s not complicated, and it makes a huge difference. Sometimes I’ll put jokes in the descriptions.

That’s not all I’m doing, though. If you follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate, you may have noticed that whenever I talk in my Stories, there is now a transcription underneath. And that’s something I should have known better about — I have friends who are deaf, including friends in the travel blogging community. I should have been doing this all along.

It’s not perfect, and I know I have a long way to go — but I hope that this is making my site more accessible to more people. And this month I found out that yes, it is.

I saw Sassy at Borderless Live in London this month and got a chance to talk to her in between sessions.

“I just wanted to let you know that since your talk at Traverse, I’ve started using descriptions in my alt text,” I told her.

“I know you did! I read your blog,” she said with a grin.

That didn’t just make my day — it made my month. Sometimes it can feel like the behind-the-scenes work is screaming into the void — but knowing that someone is now directly benefiting from the alt text made me SO happy.

Bloggers, start writing descriptions in your alt text. You probably already have visually impaired readers reading your site, and this will make it much more enjoyable for them!

A view over two of the Tremiti Islands -- a rocky, uninhabited island, covered with sand and grass, rising out of the bright blue sea. Rowboats in the water in front of the island.A view over two of the Tremiti Islands -- a rocky, uninhabited island, covered with sand and grass, rising out of the bright blue sea. Rowboats in the water in front of the island.

Destinations Visited

New York, NY
London, UK
Bologna, Ostuni, Lecce, Monopoli, Bari, Matera, Altamura, Turi, Alberobello, Locorotondo, Foggia, San Domino, San Nicola, Termoli, Gran Sasso National Park, Cupra Marittima, Porto San Giorgio, Porto Recanati, Loreto, Urbino, Ravenna, Quattro Castella, Reggio Emilia, Basilicagoiano, Polesine Parmense, and Parma, Italy
Prague, Czech Republic

A street scene with old-fashioned stores with moss-green paint in Parma, Italy. Three motorbikes are parked in front of the stores and pedestrians are walking behind them.A street scene with old-fashioned stores with moss-green paint in Parma, Italy. Three motorbikes are parked in front of the stores and pedestrians are walking behind them.
Favorite Destinations

Lecce. A low-key city in many ways, filled with beautiful and sometimes perplexing architecture. Hot year-round, cheap year-round, and not too discovered by tourist hordes just yet.

Monopoli. The perfect base for a week of Puglia exploration. A small but oh-so-beautiful town perched on the beach, with lots of good restaurants and perhaps Italy’s best gelato.

Parma. Man, I thought I liked it before, but now I REALLY love Parma! So much joy and color, so many cool shops, interesting and artsy and cheap, cheap, cheap.

Kate wears a red dress with an asymmetrical hemline and poses in front of the city of Matera: stone towers and homes built on top of a row of sassi (caves).Kate wears a red dress with an asymmetrical hemline and poses in front of the city of Matera: stone towers and homes built on top of a row of sassi (caves).

Highlights

A great Borderless Live conference in London. This was the first Borderless Live conference ever, and I loved listening to inspiring creators talk about how they work. I also gave a talk on the current state of blogging, ethical issues, and writing for your existing, faithful audience rather than catering 100% to newcomers from SEO.

Spending extended time in Puglia. I’ve been to Puglia once before, a brief trip to Gargano and Alberobello, but this time I spent nearly two weeks and got to see a ton of the region. Puglia is amazing — great weather, gorgeous coastline, and excellent food, especially if you don’t eat meat.

I revisited Alberobello but enjoyed so many places, especially Lecce, which was interesting and low-key in all the right ways; the coastal town of Monopoli, which was such a beautiful and perfect base; and the inland town of Locorotondo, which may be one of the prettiest small towns in Italy I’ve ever visited. It ended with a VERY Italian trip to the Tremiti Islands, which it turns out are quite pretty but quite dead in September!

Visiting four new Italian regions. My goal to visit all 20 Italian regions is coming along nicely, as I visited Basilicata, Termoli, Abruzzo, and Le Marche for the first time ever! I made sure to have a memorable experience in each region.

First up was Basilicata, and I visited the stunning city of Matera, built on sassi (caves) where people were still living as late as the 1960s. I’ve wanted to visit Matera for well over a decade and was happy to finally get there. Also, it was my 150th UNESCO World Heritage Site! Hopefully next time in Basilicata I’ll head to the west coast to see Maratea.

Molise is the least visited region in Italy, but we dropped by the seaside town of Termoli and had a local Molise specialty: a pampanella sandwich (peppery, vinegary ribs on a bun). It was tasty. Molise is a small region and doesn’t have much for attractions, so I doubt I’ll make it a priority to return — but you never know…

A butcher shop with smoking grills in front of it, in the middle of nowhere in Abruzzo, Italy. Incredible mountains rise in the background underneath a blue sky.A butcher shop with smoking grills in front of it, in the middle of nowhere in Abruzzo, Italy. Incredible mountains rise in the background underneath a blue sky.

Next up was Abruzzo, and we drove through Gran Sasso National Park, which is astounding in its beauty. Best of all was stopping at Ristoro Giuliani, a butcher shop in the middle of absolute nowhere, surrounded by mountains. You buy your meat — including arrosticini, the local specialty, or little skewers of lamb — and cook it on one of the grills in front of the shop! It was such a special experience, the kind of place that you can’t believe exists. I want to go back to Abruzzo and see more of the national park!

After that, we had a few days in Le Marche, staying at an agriturismo near the coast. Le Marche doesn’t get the fame of its neighbors like Tucany and Umbria, but there’s a lot to love here. There was a food festival, a Porsche festival, and two hilltop towns: Loreto and Urbino. Urbino was a highlight of the trip — such a beautiful town. They have a local pasta called passatelli, made from bread crumbs, parmigiano, and egg.

A return to Emilia-Romagna. You guys have been listening to me rave about Emilia-Romagna for eight years now, so there’s nothing new there. I think Emilia-Romagna is like Italy in miniature, with cool cities and incredible cuisine. It was fun to return to old favorites, like Parma and Ravenna, and have some new experiences, too — like learning all about culatello, one of the world’s finest meats. I actually bought half a culatello to bring back to Prague.

A great STS conference in Ravenna. I always have a good time at STS and it was great to see friends, pick up tips, and spend time discussing how we can best influence people in our industry to do better, more ethical work.

Arriving in Prague for the first time in 15 years! Can you believe it’s been that long? Last night I was here, I was a 20-year-old college student, drinking Bailey’s and hot chocolate on the street and dancing all night long at the five-floor club.

This time is different — my boyfriend has lived in Prague for the past 18 years and is fluent in Czech, so I’m experiencing the local side of the city. A lot of people complain about how touristy the Old Town is — but the Old Town is such a tiny part of Prague. You see almost no tourists outside the city center.

Lots of good times with friends. Good times with friends up and down Italy, especially in Emilia-Romagna. Probably my favorite moments was in Bologna when I briefly dropped out of sight and my friends’ three-year-old daughter said, “Hey, where’d that little guy go?”

Kate stands on a cobblestone street in Ravenna, Italy, in front of boutique shops in yellow buildings. She wears black and white patterned pants and a sleeveless black blouse.Kate stands on a cobblestone street in Ravenna, Italy, in front of boutique shops in yellow buildings. She wears black and white patterned pants and a sleeveless black blouse.

Challenges

An illness that snowballed into horrific insomnia. I felt like I was getting sick on the flight to Europe, and the cold hit in full force once I arrived in Bologna. I went to the farmacia for my usual pills (you know you spend a lot of time in Italy when you have a go-to brand of Italian decongestant pills). They didn’t work very well.

And suddenly, the night before my presentation in London — just like the night before my last presentation in Trentino — I was up ALL NIGHT and could not sleep. It just could not happen. Melatonin had no impact. Then the same thing happened two nights later. I was an exhausted mess and wanted to cry.

It turns out it was the medication — pseudoephedrine can cause insomnia. Who knew?! My mom told me she can’t take Sudafed for that same reason. As soon as I got off it, I was sleeping well again.

Just keep that in mind — if you are taking pseudoephedrine and can’t sleep, that’s probably the reason.

A pinched nerve — just to start. I had a sore neck, blamed it on crappy Italian pillows, then the pain began to shoot down my arm a few days later. Most likely a pinched nerve — and a physio visit in Prague showed me that my body really needs some alignment work. I guess this happens when I’m on the road and out of the gym for a few months. It will take some work getting back to normal.

A street in the white city of Locorotondo in Puglia: all white and green. White city walls, green chairs next to a wall, green plants everywhere, black iron streetlamp. A perfect Italian town.A street in the white city of Locorotondo in Puglia: all white and green. White city walls, green chairs next to a wall, green plants everywhere, black iron streetlamp. A perfect Italian town.

Blog Posts of the Month

Reasons to Travel to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Canada — This was my favorite stop on my 10-day OneOcean Eastern Canada expedition this July. Here’s what made it so special.

What’s It REALLY Like to Travel to Baku, Azerbaijan? — Baku was a strange, offbeat city, and while I had a good time, I doubt I’d go back. Here’s why.

Kate wears a brightly colored and patterned one-piece bathing suit and throws her hands in the air in joy. She's standing on a rocky formation with the bright blue ocean behind her. In Monopoli, Puglia.Kate wears a brightly colored and patterned one-piece bathing suit and throws her hands in the air in joy. She's standing on a rocky formation with the bright blue ocean behind her. In Monopoli, Puglia.

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

This is the first full-length bathing suit photo that I’ve published since 2011. Up until now, I’ve only done bathing suit photos from the waist up. It feels GOOD. For more updates from my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.

A glass of sparkling white wine next to a tangliere (plate of meat and cheese) in Lecce, Italy: topped with several kinds of ham, burrata mozzarella, and other hams and cheeses.A glass of sparkling white wine next to a tangliere (plate of meat and cheese) in Lecce, Italy: topped with several kinds of ham, burrata mozzarella, and other hams and cheeses.

What I Read This Month

Four books read this month and I am up to 64 in 2019, which means that I will most likely exceed my record of 72. I guess I can officially say goodbye to reading 100 in 2019…that’s not going to happen!

There There by Tommy Orange (2018) — This novel is told from the point of view of several American Indians living in and around Oakland, California, in the days leading up to the Big Oakland Powwow. There’s the teenager who knows nothing of his heritage and teaches himself how to dance from YouTube, the woman fleeing her abusive husband in Oklahoma, the documentary filmmaker eager to tell Indian stories. They all converge on the powwow, which erupts in conflict.

This book painted such a different view of Indians. (First off, learning that the “Don’t say Indian — say Native American or American Indian!” drilled into me from childhood is wrong.) I never knew anything about Indians living in urban areas today. This tells the story of people trying to survive after having their culture, family, and meaning torn away from them. Some people believe that PTSD can be passed down generation by generation — this shows that it’s the case. Generational poverty and substance abuse continue to harm Indian communities today. But even as it’s an “important” book, it’s also a beautiful, engrossing, and entertaining novel. Highly recommended.

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff (2017) — Why do so many people struggle with finishing what they start? This book sets to figure out why. Jon Acuff ran a course helping people achieve their goals, he was surprised to learn what actually got people across the finish line. In a nutshell, it wasn’t getting people to work harder — it was taking the pressure off. The greatest obstacle to us achieving our goals is perfectionism, and that’s what keeps people from finishing.

This book was a really great read, and highly recommended for self-employed creatives. Acuff has a great sense of humor, too, and I chuckled throughout the book. A lot of these examples make a lot of sense. But the truth is that reading books like these is all for naught unless you put what you learn into practice.

Kate stands in front of shelves of parmigiana reggiano wheels. She wears a protective robe and leans in with her hand to her ear, as if listening to the cheese.Kate stands in front of shelves of parmigiana reggiano wheels. She wears a protective robe and leans in with her hand to her ear, as if listening to the cheese.

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink (2019) — Timing is a lot more scientific than we think. There are different “chronotypes” that people fall into — the times that we work best as humans. Most people work best in the morning, fade in the afternoon, then rally back in the evening. But not everyone is like that. This book breaks down how timing affects how we work, and how we can best organize our days to get our work done.

Well, I’m now terrified of ever having to see a doctor in the afternoon thanks to this book. In all seriousness, though, I found it to be a fascinating read. I’m not quite sure where I lie — there have been times when I’ve gotten so much work done between midnight and 3 AM, but I feel a lot better about myself when I get a day’s worth of work done by 7 PM. Maybe I should keep experimenting. But the single best tip I got from this book is the “nappuccino” — drink a coffee, then take a short nap. Caffeine takes about 25 minutes to kick in, so once you wake up, you’ll feel amazingly refreshed and ready to work again.

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult (2018) — This novel, told backwards in time, describes the day a terrorist murders several people at an abortion clinic in Jackson, Mississippi, and takes several others hostage. It’s told from several points of view: the cop talking the terrorist through the situation from the outside; his teenage daughter, who was in the clinic to get birth control; an undercover anti-choice protestor pretending to be a patient; the doctor, whom I knew immediately was based on Dr. Willie Parker; and some other characters.

Typical Jodi Picoult novel — you know exactly what you’re going to get. Morality issue. Legal-medical drama. Surprise twist ending. Cop or firefighter husband talking about how much he loves his wife even though she’s put on weight in recent years (though this book tended to be more about him gushing about his daughter). Gay characters with perfect romantic relationships without a single blemish. But damn if they’re not engrossing books. This one was an easy read that kept me enthralled until the end — and I actually didn’t guess the ending this time. And the book is a sobering reminder of how difficult red states make it for women to access abortion care: one clinic serving an entire huge state, mandatory two-day procedures, court orders that can be delayed simply by a judge going on vacation. We need to work to make it easier for low-income and disadvantaged women to access these services.

A scene from Old Town Square in Prague: a statue of soldiers in front of a cream-colored building with an orange roof and two church towers. Shot from below because THIS SQUARE IS FULL OF THOUSANDS OF TOURISTS.A scene from Old Town Square in Prague: a statue of soldiers in front of a cream-colored building with an orange roof and two church towers. Shot from below because THIS SQUARE IS FULL OF THOUSANDS OF TOURISTS.

Coming Up in October 2019

My original late September plan was to drive north from Emilia-Romagna into Friuli-Venezia Giulia then drive to Prague via Slovenia and Austria — but we had to be in Prague a little earlier than expected, so we switched it around. I’ll be in Prague for a little over two weeks, including a weekend getaway to Olomouc, which I hear is a lovely city. It will be nice to discover a bit more of the Czech Republic, a country that is too often overlooked.

After that, I’m flying to Venice, not visiting Venice, but driving east into Friuli, visiting Trieste, Aquileia, and staying at another agriturismo. Italian region #17! What can I say about Italy at this point that I haven’t yet?

After that, I head back to Bologna briefly to catch my flight, then I fly back to New York and will remain there the rest of the month. After being on the road more or less constantly since June 1, I’ll be glad to be back in one place. Halloween in Harlem is INSANE — Broadway swarms with thousands upon thousands of kids, no joke — but this year I hope to finally make it to the Village’s Halloween parade.

Any suggestions for Prague? Share away!

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Take the AK 2019 Survey and Win a Postcard from Kate!

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Four photos of Kate with the text "Win a postcard from Kate! Take the 2019 reader survey."Four photos of Kate with the text "Win a postcard from Kate! Take the 2019 reader survey."

It’s time for my annual reader survey! I would LOVE to hear from you!

I’ve put together my 2019 reader survey. I’m doing this so I can have an updated audience profile for my marketing materials — and also decide what content to bring to you in 2020 and beyond.

The survey is 100% anonymous and should take around 5-10 minutes.

Click here to take the AK 2019 Reader Survey.

Bright pink and red wildflowers with a backdrop of the white houses of Santorini in front of the ocean.Bright pink and red wildflowers with a backdrop of the white houses of Santorini in front of the ocean.
Why are you doing a survey, Kate?

Surveys are important in every business. They help you figure out who your customers are, how they use your business, and what they like and dislike about it. Here is what I’m specifically looking for in this survey:

Who my current readers are. Age, gender, and nationality are huge factors when it comes to working on campaigns. This helps me put together an audience profile of my business.

What you like and don’t like about the site. Specifically, the kinds of posts you enjoy the most and least. This helps me write content that you actually want to read.

Where you’ve traveled because of me. This helps me build a list of “where I’ve sent the most readers” destinations and is especially valuable for doing repeated campaigns with destinations.

What new businesses I should start next. I’ve got four options that I’m weighing and I want to hear your feedback on each of them.

Bright white daisies with yellow center spilling over a bridge in Strasbourg, France, a still canal and pale houses in the background.Bright white daisies with yellow center spilling over a bridge in Strasbourg, France, a still canal and pale houses in the background.

Wait, you’re starting new businesses?

Yes! It’s very exciting! Honestly, I’m in the various stages of starting four different businesses, but each of them take a LOT of time and energy. I can only fully commit to one at a time, and it’s time to pick one.

So I thought I would ask which ones you would be interested in the most.

There may be clear results from the survey; there may not be. Either way, it will give me good direction and help keep me serving you.

Yellow and pink flowers blooming from a blow in the foreground; a tiny church and river in the background. In Trento, Italy.Yellow and pink flowers blooming from a blow in the foreground; a tiny church and river in the background. In Trento, Italy.

I’m giving away five postcards!

Five survey participants will receive postcards from me on my travels. It’s my way of saying thanks.

Don’t worry, even if you enter for a postcard, your survey will remain completely anonymous! The last page of the survey will give you a link to a different page on my site with a password. You can add your email address in a comment.

I will choose five winners by using a random number generator and will notify the winners by November 20, 2019. The postcards will be sent out by April 1, 2020.

Click here to take the AK 2019 Reader Survey.

 Thank you so much!
 

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Introducing Borneo

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A visit to Valparaiso, Chile – Lonely Planet vlog

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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.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.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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What’s it REALLY like to travel to Baku, Azerbaijan?

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Kate poses in a red dress in front of the white swooping curvy roof and glass wall of the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan.Kate poses in a red dress in front of the white swooping curvy roof and glass wall of the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan.

When I think back to my travels in Baku, Azerbaijan, one anecdote comes to mind. I’m driving through the highway as we speed past modern, silver buildings interspersed with sand-colored mosques and souks, set back against the arid landscape. My guide points out a cluster of buildings on one side of the highway.

“See those buildings?” he tells me. “Our journalists live there. They get to live there for free.”

I smile weakly and say, “Oh. For free. Cool.” Inside, I’m thinking, really? In exchange for what?

That’s what it’s like to grow up in a country without freedom of the press. Journalists living in government-provided housing is seen as something to extol to international visitors, rather than something that should be kept under wraps.

That’s not to say that Azerbaijan is horrifying. Far from it. I found Baku to be an intriguing destination, quite often perplexing, and well worth a three-day visit with my boyfriend before traveling on to Georgia and Armenia.

Kate stands in front of the burning ground at Yanar Dag in Azerbaijan, wearing overalls and holding her hand up and using her fingers to mimic flames.Kate stands in front of the burning ground at Yanar Dag in Azerbaijan, wearing overalls and holding her hand up and using her fingers to mimic flames.

Azerbaijan: A Modern Land of Fire

Azerbaijan is known as the Land of Fire — this is a country where flames can and do burst out of the earth in unexpected places. There are places close to Baku where you can see eternal flames billowing out of the ground, or even from the water. And the reserves of natural gas cause unusual geological effects, like bubbling mud volcanoes.

And sitting in the middle of that fiery desert, on the banks of an inland sea, is one of the world’s most prolific collections of modern architecture. The most famous of which are three modern towers shaped like flames, lighting up with even more flames at night.

If you mention modern architecture set against a desert, where do you think of first? Dubai, maybe, or Doha, Qatar? I got a similar vibe from Baku. Azerbaijan is rich with oil money, thanks to its location next to the Caspian Sea, which had led to insane levels of recent development.

While Dubai and Doha have their share of modern buildings, Baku sprawls like neither city. As you’re driving around Baku, it seems borderline uncanny that you can cruise over so many hills and still see all kinds of modern, interesting buildings.

Within this unusual setting, there are a lot of cool places in Baku to explore and enjoy.

Three teenage girls in pink and red dresses sitting on a bench in the old city of Baku as a woman takes their photo.Three teenage girls in pink and red dresses sitting on a bench in the old city of Baku as a woman takes their photo.

Best Things to Do in Baku

The good thing about visiting a city like Baku is that there isn’t an established tourist trail — you don’t need to hop from sight to sight.

Have dinner overlooking the Flame Towers. On a whim, I ended up at Panoramic Restaurant. While most of the windows face away from the Flame Towers, there is a tiny outdoor patio with only three tables that has a view of the Flame Towers! Do what I did — go early in the day to check it out, then make a reservation for that exact table for sunset that evening.

Kate poses on a balcony in front of the three flame-shaped towers of Azerbaijan as the sky turns pink at dusk.Kate poses on a balcony in front of the three flame-shaped towers of Azerbaijan as the sky turns pink at dusk.The three Flame Towers in Baku, Azerbaijan look blueish-purple against a pink sky at dusk. Underneath are smaller buildings and to the left is the city's tall, skinny TV tower.The three Flame Towers in Baku, Azerbaijan look blueish-purple against a pink sky at dusk. Underneath are smaller buildings and to the left is the city's tall, skinny TV tower.The flame towers of Baku, Azerbaijan, at night: the sky is dark blue and the towers illuminate with red and yellow flames snaking up the building.The flame towers of Baku, Azerbaijan, at night: the sky is dark blue and the towers illuminate with red and yellow flames snaking up the building.

Explore the old city of Baku. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a place where the architecture differs enormously from the rest of the modern city. The old city dates back to the 6th century and it gives you an idea of the incredible cultural history in this region from Zoroastrian, Sasanian, Arabic, Shirvani, Persian, Ottoman, and Russian cultures. The Maiden Tower is a great spot for a view of the Flame Towers. And just outside the old city is the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum.

Piles of spices and dried fruits in perfectly conical piles in Baku, Azerbaijan.Piles of spices and dried fruits in perfectly conical piles in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Visit the markets. What struck me about Baku’s markets is how immaculate they are. I’m used to seeing piles of produce flung in every direction; it seems like Azerbaijanis make every effort to shape their produce into the most aesthetically pleasing piles. The conical shapes on the mango slices and dried flowers are perfect.

It extends to larger fruits, too. Apples were stacked in clean straight lines; perfect green watermelons made up the perimeter. One table even grouped tomatoes not just by type but by size, arranging them into perfect mounds!

Normally I’m a bit uneasy at markets because I feel guilty when I don’t buy anything, but I felt more relaxed here. That and men kept giving me macadamia nuts to sample — the best macadamia nuts I’ve ever tasted. (Did I buy any? Nope. Macadamias are one food that I avoid because if I have one, I’ll have a million.)

The swooping white curves of the modern Heydar Alivev Center, with people sitting on the grass in front of it.The swooping white curves of the modern Heydar Alivev Center, with people sitting on the grass in front of it.

Check out Heydar Aliyev Center. In a city filled with modern architecture, this is one of the most famous buildings of all (and a symbol of Azerbaijan, named after its most beloved leader). The building contains a museum and conference center with rotating exhibitions. But even if you don’t go inside, it’s worth it, because it’s in the middle of a giant park, which becomes a place to see and be seen at sunset.

This is easily the best Instagram spot in Baku. I recommend coming around sunrise or sunset for the best light.

Two clear plastic large lattes with the milk and coffee swirling together, surrounded by ice.Two clear plastic large lattes with the milk and coffee swirling together, surrounded by ice.

Enjoy the cafe scene. While the old city was surprisingly more dead than I expected, I loved the neighborhood just east. This area was filled with all kinds of interesting cafes and restaurants, and I loved walking around and exploring.

People sitting at outdoor tables at a restaurant on the Caspian Sea.People sitting at outdoor tables at a restaurant on the Caspian Sea.

Spend an evening down by the Caspian Sea. I was a bit surprised that there was so little seafood on the menus in Baku, despite being located on the sea. But there is one place where seafood is the star: Derya Fish House.

Once you step out of your cab, you arrive to a windy waterfront filled with locals celebrating the end of the day. Oh, and it’s cheap! The two of us had a whole fish, bread, a bowl of olives, eggplant caviar, lemons, pickled vegetables, cheese, and pomegranate sauce on the side for just $18.

Kate wears overalls and a pink shirt and poses with her hand behind her neck while sitting on a Soviet-era Russian Lada car. She's in the middle of the gray-brown dessert beneath a pale blue sky.Kate wears overalls and a pink shirt and poses with her hand behind her neck while sitting on a Soviet-era Russian Lada car. She's in the middle of the gray-brown dessert beneath a pale blue sky.

Best Day Trips from Baku

The best day trip from Baku is its most famous day trip — to Qobustan to see the mud volcanoes and petroglyphs. Qobustan National Park (sometimes written as Gobustan) is just under an hour’s drive from Baku.

Qobustan is known for its mud volcanoes. To get to them requires an off-roading vehicle. When my car pulled to the side of the road, I assumed we’d be getting into some kind of jeep — but was I ever surprised when we got into a tiny Soviet-era Lada! It didn’t look like it would last a day in the desert, let alone go off-roading to mud volcanoes!

And soon we reached the mud volcanoes.

Four tiny people standing atop a mud volcano in the desert, making it look enormous.Four tiny people standing atop a mud volcano in the desert, making it look enormous.Kate crouches near the edge of a gray bubbling mud volcano.Kate crouches near the edge of a gray bubbling mud volcano.A close-up shot on ripples in the slowly bubbling mud volcano.A close-up shot on ripples in the slowly bubbling mud volcano.

The gurgling is a lot slower than I thought it would be — just a constant, slow BLURP! BLURP! every few moments. Like the volcano had eaten a lot of beans that day.

The landscape is beautiful and dramatic — but that wasn’t all we’d see.

The rocky entrance to the Qobustan petroglyphs.The rocky entrance to the Qobustan petroglyphs.A petroglyph of two people hunting.A petroglyph of two people hunting.A petroglyph of a large animal -- maybe a cow?A petroglyph of a large animal -- maybe a cow?A petroglyph of people dancing in celebration.A petroglyph of people dancing in celebration.

Next up in Qobustan was the petroglyphs — ancient rock art. I’ve seen ancient rock art in other parts of the world, like Kakadu National Park in Australia, but this rock art is uniquely impressive. You see people dancing, people hunting, petroglyphs of animals. It has survived remarkably well, and this is why Qobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Seeing Qobustan was one of the highlights of my time in Azerbaijan, and I feel like you can’t go to Baku without making a stop here. See tours to see Qobustan’s mud volcanoes and petroglyphs.

The temple at Ateshgah: a sand-colored temple set against a blue sky with a flame burning inside.The temple at Ateshgah: a sand-colored temple set against a blue sky with a flame burning inside.A fire burning inside Ateshgah temple, flames leaping up.A fire burning inside Ateshgah temple, flames leaping up.Fire bursts out of a well-like opening at Ateshgah Temple; behind it, tourists walk in a line and explore.Fire bursts out of a well-like opening at Ateshgah Temple; behind it, tourists walk in a line and explore.

The other half of my day was spent touring the famous sites on the opposite side of Baku. Here you’ll find two more attractions that prove that Azerbaijan is the land of fire: Ateshgah, the Zoroastrian fire temple, and Yanar Dag, where the fire bursts from the earth.

Ateshgah is a temple on the outskirts of Baku. It was built in the 17th and 18th centuries, though ceremonies have taken place on the same site as early as the 10th century, and it has been a center of worship for Zoroastrians, Sikhs, and Hindus. The flame inside the temple is naturally occurring, but it actually went out in 1969 due to environmental destruction. The fire today is lit by Baku’s main gas supply.

A brown hillside at Yanar Dag where flames burst out of the earth at the bottom. It says #YANARDAG in white on the hill, in the style of the Hollywood sign.A brown hillside at Yanar Dag where flames burst out of the earth at the bottom. It says #YANARDAG in white on the hill, in the style of the Hollywood sign.

At Yanar Dag, you can see a steady fire burning from the bottom of the hill. Fed by natural gas, this is another fire that never extinguishes. It was so toasty down by the fire — I have never wanted to have a stick and a bag of marshmallows so much in my life! (And let’s not kid ourselves, a bag of graham crackers and chocolate waiting by the table.)

Ateshgah and Yanar Dag are two places that show you how interesting of a natural environment Azerbaijan is. See tours to Ateshgah and Yanar Dag here.

On a plate, an eggplant and two kinds of peppers stuffed with minced beef.On a plate, an eggplant and two kinds of peppers stuffed with minced beef.

Azerbaijan Food

What kind of food will you be eating in Azerbaijan? Delicious food. Surprisingly good food. The dishes I ate were most similar to Turkish cuisine, fresh and flavorful. While there were some similarities to their Georgian and Armenian neighbors, Azerbaijani food is very much its own thing. I was only in the country for a few days, so this is by no means an exhaustive guide, but it contains several of my top hits.

I ate a lot of dolma — vegetables stuffed with a mixture of rice and meat. While “dolma” can mean stuffed grape leaves or cabbage leaves in other cultures, in Azerbaijan it can mean any kind of stuffed vegetable.

Also popular are kebabs of all kinds, and plov, roasted rice and meat dishes.

A dish filled with Azerbaijani eggplant caviar, roasted eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes in a dip.A dish filled with Azerbaijani eggplant caviar, roasted eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes in a dip.

Eggplant dip was everywhere — made from roasted eggplant, peppers, and onions and mixed with a variety of herbs and spices. This was the perfect start to a meal. You eat it with bread.

My absolute favorite dish was at Panoramic Restaurant in the Old City — I can’t remember the name and REALLY should have written it down, but it was a skillet filled with chicken, cherries, potatoes, and chestnuts. It sounds like a winter dish but it was solely on a hot summer night.

A meal at Derya Fish house: fish, wine, and several vegetable dishes and bread.A meal at Derya Fish house: fish, wine, and several vegetable dishes and bread.

While you don’t see a ton of fish on the menus in Azerbaijan, you will down at restaurants on the Caspian Sea like Derya Fish House. I recommend ordering a grilled white fish with pomegranate sauce on the side — it brings the same kind of acidity that you get from lemons.

As for Azerbaijani wine, it does exist and it’s worth sampling, but it’s nothing to write home about. Georgia and Armenia have much better wine.

Three pieces of baklava, one topped with an almond, one with a walnut, one with a hazelnut.Three pieces of baklava, one topped with an almond, one with a walnut, one with a hazelnut.

Azerbaijanis love sweets and pastries, and I tried a few different kinds of baklava — one made with walnuts, one made with almonds, one made with hazelnuts. I honestly think walnuts are king — they need that slightly bitter flavor to cut the sweetness. Hazelnut baklava was dangerously sweet!

And Azerbaijanis are crazy about tea. Tea breaks are important punctuation marks of the day. You can sweeten tea with jam, and they serve it with small pastries.

This is just a sample of the delicious food I ate in Azerbaijan.

Want to learn more about Azeri cuisine?
Go on a food tour in Baku.

A string of modern gray buildings in front of a large green park with paths cutting across it.A string of modern gray buildings in front of a large green park with paths cutting across it.

Travel Azerbaijan with JayWay Travel

On this trip I traveled as a hosted guest of JayWay Travel, a boutique travel agency specializing in Eastern and Central Europe. I’ve worked with JayWay Travel in Ukraine in the past and they do such a good job putting together bespoke itineraries where you don’t have to worry about a thing. JayWay recently added Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia as new destinations where they have local experts.

For my three-day trip to Baku, that meant pick-ups and drop-offs at the airport; a full-day private tour to Qobustan and the fire region, including a stop at a market; a local SIM card, and support throughout the trip. That was perfect for me — I knew my first day would be spent napping and taking it easy due to the weirdly timed flight (see more on that below), and I liked getting to do my own exploring on the final day.

As I always say, if you’re an experienced traveler, you don’t need JayWay in order to travel. But JayWay is perfect for your parents, older travelers, less experienced travelers, and experienced travelers who want someone else to plan their trip for a change. It’s an enormous time-saver when you’re busy, too.

The Caucasus is a fantastic travel destination, but it’s not nearly as easy to travel as Europe. Azerbaijan is a country just waking up to tourism, and they don’t have the established tourism infrastructure of other countries. It’s a good place to have a helping hand.

Learn more about JayWay’s Azerbaijan trips here.

One of the metal Flame Towers of Baku curls in the background; in the foreground is the traditional sand-colored Old Town.One of the metal Flame Towers of Baku curls in the background; in the foreground is the traditional sand-colored Old Town.

Where to Stay in Baku

Most of the time when I visit a new city, I stay in the old town or old city because it’s usually the prettiest, most central part of town. Baku’s old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which made it seem like a slam dunk, and so I stayed at a hotel in the old city, the Deniz Inn Boutique Hotel.

While I had a good stay there, I actually don’t recommend staying in the old city of Baku. It’s beautiful but it’s mostly inaccessible to cars (to get an Uber or taxi, you need to walk a distance outside the old city); you are constantly going up and down stairs; there are lots of aggressive touts around the Maiden Tower; there aren’t as many cafes and restaurants as you would think. If you have mobility challenges, you should absolutely avoid staying in the old city.

If you do want to stay in the old city, the Deniz Inn Boutique Hotel is a nice midrange choice. It’s comfortable, the internet works well, it’s not too deep into the old city, and the staff are great. And the best thing about this hotel is that it has an Illy cafe in the lobby. Reliable quality coffee isn’t always easy to find!

So which Baku neighborhood is best? I recommend staying in a hotel just east of the old city. This area is home to lots of cool restaurants, cafes, parks, and nightlife. And because it’s part of the main city, cars can drive the streets and you can hail Ubers close to your hotel. Most of it is flat, though there are some steeper parts.

Recommended Baku Accommodation:

Luxury: JW Marriott Absheron Baku

Midrange: Passage Boutique Hotel

Budget: Hotel Hale Kai

Find deals on more Baku hotels here.

 A rough desert landscape with telephone poles running across the sand.A rough desert landscape with telephone poles running across the sand.
Azerbaijan Visa

Azerbaijan requires a visa for most visitors. In the past it was difficult and expensive for most westerners to get an Azerbaijan visa for longer than a few days. Now it’s MUCH easier and cheaper — you can get an e-visa online for just $20! See the full list of nationalities eligible for the e-visa here.

You order the visa online, it takes around three days to process, and you print it out and bring it to immigration with your passport. Don’t keep it on your phone; bring an actual printed copy.

Order your visa directly from evisa.gov.az. NOTE: THIS IS THE CORRECT SITE; DO NOT BE FOOLED BY IMPOSTERS! There are many third party visa sites that mimic the layout of this site, then try to charge you $50 for the same exact thing. I almost got fooled by one of those sites.

Inside view of an Azerbaijan Airlines flight, Comfort Club. Larger dark blue metal seats separated by thick armrests with pillows and blankets.Inside view of an Azerbaijan Airlines flight, Comfort Club. Larger dark blue metal seats separated by thick armrests with pillows and blankets.

Flying to Baku with Azerbaijan Airlines

I flew nonstop from New York to Baku on Azerbaijan Airlines. This is the one direct flight from the United States to Azerbaijan. The flight takes 11 hours and currently flies twice per week.

While it’s awesome to fly nonstop, the flight leaves at an awkward time: it departs New York at 11:30 AM and arrives in Baku at 6:30 AM, which is 10:30 PM New York time. As a result, you probably won’t be able to sleep much if at all, and you’ll likely spend your first day in Baku in a jet-lagged stupor. Plan a low-key day for your arrival if you take this flight.

I was lucky to fly in Azerbaijan Airlines’s Comfort Club, as someone special upgraded me for my birthday. Comfort Club is like the stop between premium economy and business class.

Kate stretches out her legs in her seat on Azerbaijan Airlines -- she's five foot four and her feet can't reach the seat in front of her.Kate stretches out her legs in her seat on Azerbaijan Airlines -- she's five foot four and her feet can't reach the seat in front of her.The appetizer on Azerbaijan Airlines: shrimp and cured seafood, pineapple in milk (weird), bread, berries.The appetizer on Azerbaijan Airlines: shrimp and cured seafood, pineapple in milk (weird), bread, berries.A cheesecake topped with a chocolate swirl in the Azerbaijan Airlines Comfort Club.A cheesecake topped with a chocolate swirl in the Azerbaijan Airlines Comfort Club.

You get comfier seats and a TON more space (the seats go much further back but don’t lie flat), you’re served multiple courses for meals, and you get lounge access at the airport (in my case, the cheese-and-champagne-filled Air France lounge at JFK). I was able to stick my feet straight out without touching the seat in front of me (I’m 5’4″). I didn’t get into the entertainment but there was a decent selection of movies. For an 11-hour flight where I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep much, I was so glad to have this level of service!

If you’re coming from the US on another line, you can get connections on Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa. Azerbaijan Airlines flies to cities including Tbilisi, Tel Aviv, Paris, London, Dubai, and several Turkish and Russian destinations.

Perfectly stacked, immaculate piles of apples, watermelons, and grapes at a market in Azerbaijan.Perfectly stacked, immaculate piles of apples, watermelons, and grapes at a market in Azerbaijan.

Travel to Azerbaijan BEFORE Armenia

If you’re planning to travel throughout the Caucasus, you should try to travel to Azerbaijan before Armenia. It will make your life much easier.

Azerbaijan and Armenia don’t have diplomatic relations, and all borders are closed. Armenians are not allowed to enter. (While Armenia doesn’t have diplomatic relations or border crossings with Turkey, Armenians are allowed to travel to Turkey anyway, so Azerbaijan is much stricter.)

When I arrived in Azerbaijan, I was asked if I had ever traveled to Armenia. I said no, and there was no evidence of Armenia in my passport. But I do know people who have been interrogated heavily for traveling to Armenia previously, regardless of their nationality.

If you have visited the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is Azerbaijani land currently occupied by Armenia, you will automatically be rejected. (They also ask you if you’ve traveled to Nagorno-Karabakh when you apply for your visa, which will also earn you a rejection if your answer is yes.)

However, Armenian immigration officials are more forgiving. They do ask you if you visited Azerbaijan and why, but if you only visited as a tourist, they don’t care and they let you in without any problems. This is why I recommend visiting Azerbaijan first and Armenia second. (It’s best to go via Georgia, either by land or by plane.)

Unfortunately, ethnic Armenians of different nationalities (whether they’re American, Russian, French, Lebanese, Argentine, or something else) are often rejected at the border based on their last name. From what I’ve researched, it seems to come down to the mood of the immigration officer, and I’ve heard that some people try to convince the immigration officials that their last name is Persian.

If you’re an ethnic Armenian who wants to travel to Azerbaijan, or a person whose last name ends in -ian or -yan, I recommend you do more research. This is beyond my pay grade.

Kate stands in the middle of an "I Love Baku" sign where the B is shaped like a heart. In the background is the swooping white roof of the Heydar Aliyev Center.Kate stands in the middle of an "I Love Baku" sign where the B is shaped like a heart. In the background is the swooping white roof of the Heydar Aliyev Center.

Traveling to Baku: The Takeaway

I’m very happy that I got to travel to Baku — but I think this is a one-and-done trip. Which is fine! Not every destination has to be an “I can’t wait to go back” destination. I’m so glad that I visited and had the experience this interesting city had to offer.

Looking back at my two-week trip to the Caucasus, I think that starting with Baku was a good idea. I was able to take advantage of the only nonstop flight to the Caucasus from New York, and then I moved on to Georgia and Armenia, which were both more impressive. I wouldn’t have done it any differently.

READ NEXT:
Chisinau and Minsk: Two Offbeat Soviet Cities

Essential Info: My trip in Baku was entirely organized by JayWay Travel, a travel company that organizes custom private tours in Central and Eastern Europe. They organize everything as soon as your feet touch the ground in your country, from flights and tours to airport pickups and a cell phone or SIM card. JayWay recently added Azerbaijan as one of their new specialties, along with Georgia and Armenia.

In Baku I stayed at the Deniz Inn Boutique Hotel. Rates from $56.

When using Uber to get around Baku, be sure you check the license plate — some drivers here operate with a different car than the account they claim to have. Never get in a car unless they match.

Travel insurance is essential before every trip — in case of an emergency, it could save your life and finances. I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Azerbaijan.

Many thanks to JayWay Travel for hosting me on my Caucasus trip, including covering my expenses in Azerbaijan. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Have you traveled to Azerbaijan? What did you think?

The post What’s it REALLY like to travel to Baku, Azerbaijan? 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.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? 

Tiny, brightly colored houses nestled into the hills of the Iles-de-la-MadeleineTiny, 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!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.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.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.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 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."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.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.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.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.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.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.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.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.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.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.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".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-MadeleinePinterest 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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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.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, complicated, chaotic city filled with beauty and art and fountains and screaming motorbikes. For many travelers, Rome is their first foray into 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 history. 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 Colosseum 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 places 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

The Trevi Fountain, covered with Baroque era white marble statues and flowing water.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 surrounded by the best restaurants in town.

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 home to 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, which is the best area to stay in Rome if you want to be in the center of things while also 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.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.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 best area to stay in Rome 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. Il 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.

Love Italian food? Don’t miss the best food region!
25 Best Food Experiences in Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Groups and families sitting on a narrow staircase in Rome's Centro Storico.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 makes Prati one of the best places to stay in Rome if you’re traveling with people who can’t walk too far, as it can be nearly impossible to flag down a taxi elsewhere 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.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 mean 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, but it couldn’t be more lovely today!

Here you can base yourself close to the Colosseum 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.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: I think Castle Sant’Angelo is the best 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. It’s one of the best places to stay in Rome if you want a lot of variety on your trip.

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.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, it’s the best area to stay in Rome to 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.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.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.

READ MORE:
Three Weeks in Northern Italy: An Itinerary

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