April 29, 2017

Easily Save Money While Traveling

Many cities in Europe offer tourists a city card which includes discounts or free admission to many of the local museums, castles, tours and some even include transportation.

Munich has one.  London has one.  Paris has one. Prague has one.  Innsbruck and Salzburg both offer one too!Eiffel Tower Paris France

Have you ever wondered if they are worth purchasing?

During my trip this summer I purchased cards in both Innsbruck and Salzburg and I can definitely tell you that the answer to the question is a definite . . . maybe!

Let’s look at the details of what they offered.Innsbruck Card Innsbruck Austria

The Innsbruck Card says it offers “free entrance to all museums and places of interest in and around the city.  Plus free use of cable cars, local public transport services, the “Sightseer” city tour bus and the “Kristallwelten Shuttle” bus, discounts on shopping, sports and fun.”

Due to my schedule I only had about 24 hours to enjoy Innsbruck on my own so I purchased a card for 24 hours which was 29 Euros.  It is important to note, these cards are good for 24 hours from the time you start your touring and not just 1 day.Innsbruck Austria

During my 24 hours I was able to visit the Hofburg, Hofkirche, Schloss Ambras, Swarovski Kristallwelten and the Nordkettenbahnen plus the buses getting to/from both Schloss Ambras and Swarovski Kristallwelten.  If I had purchased each of these separately I would have spent 64.50 Euros.

So in Innsbruck my 29 euro expenditure was worth every penny!

 

Salzburg Card Salzburg Austria

The Salzburg Card includes “. . . free admission to Salzburg’s museums, free use of the Fortress funicular, the Untersberg cableway, Salzach ship service and public transport. Salzburg Card holders can also take advantage of a number of discounts on concerts, theater performances or excursions to destinations in the Salzburg vicinity.”

I decided to purchase a 48 hour Salzburg Card for 34 Euros.  While in Salzburg not only did I visit many of the sights included for free; Hellbrunn Palace and Trick Fountains, the Catacombs, Hohensalzburg Fortress and Cable Railway, Residenz Gallery and State Rooms and the Stiegl Brauwelt; but I also used the bus system fairly extensively getting to my hotel, Hanger 7, Stiegl Brauwelt, Hellbrunn and Augustiner Beer Gardens.  If I had not had the Salzburg Card I would have spent 58.70 Euros.Hellbrunn Palace and Trick Fountain Salzburg Austria

Again my expenditure was worth every penny!

Besides the savings both cards afforded me I enjoyed not waiting in line for tickets, not needing to carry so much cash, and the transit systems were very easy since I was able to get on the bus I wanted.

So why did I say they were maybe worth purchasing?

While in my case both cards were worth purchasing but every traveler or city may be different.  My advice is to look into the cards beforehand knowing what you would like to visit. Also make sure you temper your wants down a bit because reality can be a totally different thing! This is the only way you can see if it makes financial sense to purchase the cards.

I have heard that people don’t recommend purchasing these cards because the savings is only a few Euros.  I disagree.   Even if I had not saved any money on these cards, the ease of use at each site or transportation was well worth it, in my humble opinion!

 

Have you purchased any city cards?
Did you think they were worth it?

5 Cities To Take a Walk In

While I am in Europe I am hoping to take a few new walking tours and will share them with you when I get back.  For now, lets dig a little deeper into the archives and discover walking tours in 5 European cities!

A fairly recent new love of mine is walking tours. My love for walking tours began when my daughter went off to college and I needed to get out of my empty nest! Since I live in the San Francisco bay area, my husband and I headed off and enjoyed a fantastic walking tour of Nob Hill. Since then I have enjoyed many walking tours and look forward to new walking adventures in any city I visit.

To me, a walking tour allows you to really get to know a neighborhood at a much slower pace. I feel the amount of area covered is more limited allowing for a more in depth look into the subject of the walk. I have found the guides to be very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the subject. You can find walking tours in larger cities covering a vast range of topics – some are even free!

So to inspire you to walk a bit, I picked 5 European cities to begin a list of walking tour companies. Guides from all companies listed are from all walks of life (no pun intended) including historians, literary experts, art historians, performers and authors. Most of the tours listed do not require reservations, however, some do have minimums so look for this when deciding on the tour you will enjoy.

House of Parliament London

House of Parliament London by cookipediachef, on Flickr

London:

London Walks is a company offering many walking tours covering the neighborhoods of London. Their tours include: The Secrets of Westminster Abbey (From Opus Dei & Death’s Palace to The Da Vinci Code), The Beatles ‘In My Life’ Walk, The Hidden Pubs of Old London Town, Ghosts Gaslight & Guinness, and The Blitz – London at War. There is no need to book ahead and most walking tours are priced at 8£ (about $15). The biggest problem with this company is which tour to choose??

Eiffel Tower Paris France

Eiffel Tower

Paris :

Paris Walks offers many walking tours covering many of the wonderful neighborhoods Paris is so famous for. You could enjoy The Medieval Latin Quarter, The French Revolution, a Fashion Walk, the Village of Montmartre, Hemingway’s Paris or even a Chocolate walking tour! Again, the cost for these walking tours is quite reasonable at 12 € (about $16). Sign me up for the Chocolate tour! Is there a better way to enjoy chocolate and work off the calories at the same time?

Prague Czech Republic

Prague by photojenni, on Flickr

Prague:

Learn about all that makes Prague famous by taking one of these walking tours from Prague Walks: Prague Castle Walk, Jewish Prague, Ghost Walk, Pubs of the Old Town and the Best of Prague, which also includes lunch and a river cruise. Prices range from 300 czk to 890 czk (from $17 to $50 for the Best of Prague). A few of these tours have minimums so be sure to check their website for more details. For you early risers, they offer a Good Morning Walk where you will be able to enjoy Prague before the crowds are even up!

 

Brandenburg Gate Berlin Germany

Brandenburg Gate Berlin by Bernt Rostad, on Flickr

Berlin:

Original Berlin Walks offers tours that help you discover Berlin and its storied history. You may decide to choose one of these tours: Discover Berlin Tour, Infamous Third Reich Sites, Jewish Life in Berlin and Nest of Spies Tours. These tours are 12 € ($16). While looking at their website, I noticed their guides list their favorite restaurants which I think is a real bonus. . . local recommendations can’t be beat!

Marienplatz Munich Germany

Marienplatz Munich by JoeDuck, on Flickr

Munich:

Munich Walk Tours offers a unique way to learn about Munich and its history and culture. Walking tours include: Bavarian Food Tasting & Viktualienmarkt, Haunted Munich Ghost Tour, Beer and Brewery Tour (you are in Munich!), Hitler’s Munich (aka Third Reich Tour) and The City Walk & English Garden tour. These tours range in price from 12 €22 € ($16-$30). Munich Walk Tours also offer a couple bike riding tours, which is my next “adventure” to tackle.

There you have it, 5 cities 5 different walking tour companies. Try one, you won’t be disappointed. This list is not complete and inclusion here does not mean an endorsement is being made.

I do, however, suggest you venture out and walk a bit. . .


Have you taken a walking tour?

Which walking tour would you most like to enjoy??

The 6 EST’s of Europe

What is the largest, longest or biggest in Europe?  Come on a journey with us to find out the best-EST and most-EST that Europe has to offer.

Largest Castle – Prague Castle

In fact, Prague Castle is the largest castle in the world and not just Europe.  Dating back to 870, the castle is home to the Bohemian crown jewels, the National Gallery, Toy Museum, Czech history museum and a gallery displaying the history of the castle.  Over the years, the castle has been remodeled and, therefore, you will find representations of every architectural style including Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral and Romanesque Basilica of St. George.  No visit to Prague is complete without taking a tour of the castle or spending time in one of its many museums.

Prague Castle Czech Republic

Prague Castle by Adam Zivner

Tallest Mountain – Mount Elbrus

At 18,510 feet this inactive volcano stands above the rest in this part of the Urals.  Located near the Georgian border, Mt Elbrus’ permanent ice cap feeds 22 glaciers which in turn feed into the Baksan, Kuban and Malka rivers.  Legend has it, this is the place where Zeus had Prometheus chained to a rock!  This mountaineering area will be hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Mt Elbrus and the Caucasus Mountains

Mt Elbrus by Jialiang Gao

Largest City – Moscow, Russia

The capital of Russia was first mentioned in 1147 and is the most northern city to have a population of over 10 million people.  Sitting along the banks of the Moskva River, Moscow has seen the history of Russia play out before its very eyes.  To say that Russia’s history has been stormy is an understatement but Moscow has been the capital through the Grand Duchy of Moscow, Tsardom of Russia, Soviet Union and today’s Russia.  With the fall of the Iron Curtain Moscow has become quite a tourist destination and no one does not recognize the famous architectural style, the Onion Dome.  Sites to be seen include 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites, Red Square and the Kremlin, a zoo, museums, art galleries, 96 parks, 18 gardens and the world famous ballet.  One of Moscow’s newest claim to fame is it has the most billionaires (79) than anywhere else beating out NYC!

Red Square Moscow Russia

Red Square Moscow by Christophe Meneboeuf

Northernest City – Hammerfest & Honningsvag, Norway

Seems there is a little disagreement on what constitutes a city which is why there are 2 claimants to the most northern city in Europe.  Norwegian law says that to be a city there needs to be a population of at least 5,000 people.  Hammerfest is south of Honningsvag but Hammerfest is the only one that meets the city population requirements.  Both cities are important fishing and hunting areas with histories dating to prehistoric time.  Strange as it may seem for the most northern city, but the ocean off Honningsvag is ice free!  Hammerfest has a huge migration of reindeer during the summer.

Hammerfest Norway

Hammerfest Norway by Clemensfranz

Honningsvåg Norway

Honningsvåg Norway by Luca Boldrini

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Longest River – Volga

Ending in the Caspian Sea, this 2,194 mile long river skirts its way through Central Russia after its humble beginning in the Valdai Hills about 200 miles south east of St. Petersburg.  Even though the Volga freezes for most of its length for 3 months of the year, it has played a very important role in the movement of people from Asia to Europe during decades past.  The Volga estuary, the largest in Europe, is the center of the caviar industry and home to many species of animals including pelicans, flamingos, lotuses and beaver.  The river has also endured many wars, much strife by its people, pollution and the destruction of towns to make way for dams.  As with other great rivers of the world, if only they could talk the stories we would hear!

Volga River Russia

Volga River by Evgeny Pavlov

Oldest Amusement Park – Tivoli Gardens

Tivoli Gardens is in the center of Copenhagen, Denmark and was opened on August 15, 1843.  At this time it was actually outside the city limits but as the city grew the park became one of its central points and is right next to Copenhagen’s central station.  Legend says that Walt Disney decided to build Disneyland after visiting Tivoli.  The park is best known for its wooden roller coast, which was built in 1914, but today has many other modern roller coasters containing loop-to-loops and zero-G’s.  Inside this beautiful park there are performing art theaters, including one dedicated to Pantomime, concert areas, parades and gardens.  The park is spectacular at night where it sparkles under the many lights.

Tivoli Gardens Copenhagen Denmark

Tivoli Gardens by Tbmurray

 

These are few of the -ests of Europe.  I’m sure there are many more.

What other -ests or do you know?

European Villages Discovered-Kuressaare

Europe is home to many world famous cities; Paris, London, Prague and Munich to name a few.  We have all visited or dream of visiting these cities but there are many more small villages that offer travelers a closer look into the culture of the country.  There are even some that may be labeled as “secret” because they are not on the normal tourist routes.

I thought it would be fun to open the door on a few of these “secret” villages.

First up is a wonderful village on Estonia’s largest island, Saaremaa.

Kuressaare on Saaremaa Island of Estonia

by ** Maurice **, on Flickr

Estonia may not be Europe’s best kept secret anymore but Kuressaare is one of Estonia’s.  This lovely village has a feeling that time has stood still and, if this is true, we have the Soviets to thank. During the 1940’s they closed the island, Saaremaa, to all foreigners and most Estonians.  So for 50 years Kuressaare was isolated allowing for its small town feel to remain intact.

Kuressaare church Saaremaa Estonia

Church by Ivo Kruusamägi via Wikimedia

This favored summer get-away was reopened in 1991 and the charms of Kuressaare can once again be enjoyed.  Long summer days and warm weather make this a favored spot.  There are many beaches to enjoy and swim in.  I didn’t know this but the Baltic has a lower salinity level due to the amount of fresh water that flows into it! So swimming in the Baltic won’t leave you with the icky crusty salt feeling.  The weather during the summer months averages in the low 70’s making it not balmy but an enjoyable temperature.

Kuressaare Castle Saaremaa Estonia

Kuressaare Castle & Park by Erik Christensen

What else can you find in Kuressaare?

  • The best preserved medieval castle in the Baltic’s sits at the waterfront and will make all castle lovers happy!  Wander the halls and make your way to the fortifications for amazing views!  While visiting the castle
    Suur Toll Sculpture Kuressaare Estonia

    Suur Toll Sculpture by Beentree via wikimedia

    make sure to visit the regional museum with its own creepy legends.

  • For peaceful way to spend an afternoon, rent a row boat and float in the lake surrounding the castle.
  • Golfers can enjoy a round on the 18 hole golf course.
  • Walking around town you will find some interesting and unique sculptures including the Suur Toll which depicts one of Saaremaa’s heroes.
  • Spend time wandering the historic buildings and churches nestled in the Keskvaljak square area.  Many date back to the 1670’s.
  • The city is flat and, therefore, very friendly to bikers.  Grab a picnic and take off to explore on your own.
  • Kuressaare also has a spa offering a bit of pampering.  How about a bath full of coastal mud?
  • Enjoy the many restaurants, shops, museums and galleries waiting to be sampled.

What do you think?  Could you see yourself wandering Kuressaare?

5 Cities to Take a Walk In

A fairly recent new love of mine is walking tours.  My love for walking tours began when my daughter went off to college and I needed to get out of my empty nest!  Since I live in the San Francisco bay area, my husband and I headed off and enjoyed a fantastic walking tour of Nob Hill.  Since then I have enjoyed many walking tours and look forward to new walking adventures in any city I visit. 

To me, a walking tour allows you to really get to know a neighborhood at a much slower pace.  Since you are walking the amount of area covered is more limited and allows for a more in depth look into the subject of the walk.  I have found the guides to be very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the subject.  You can find walking tours in larger cities covering a vast range of topics.

So to inspire you to walk a bit, I picked 5 European cities to begin a list of walking tour companies.  Guides from all companies listed are from all walks of life (no pun intended) including historians, literary experts, art historians, performers and authors.  Most of the tours listed do not require reservations, however, some do have minimums so look for this when deciding on the tour you will enjoy.

House of Parliament London

House of Parliament London by cookipediachef, on Flickr

London:

London Walks is a company offering many walking tours covering the neighborhoods of London.  Their tours include:  The Secrets of Westminster Abbey (From Opus Dei & Death’s Palace to The Da Vinci Code), The Beatles ‘In My Life’ Walk, The Hidden Pubs of Old London Town, Ghosts Gaslight & Guinness, and The Blitz – London at War. There is no need to book ahead and most walking tours are priced at 8£ (about $15).  The biggest problem with this company is which tour to choose??

Eiffel Tower Paris France

Eiffel Tower

Paris :

Paris Walks offers many walking tours covering many of the wonderful neighborhoods Paris is so famous for.  You could enjoy The Medieval Latin Quarter, The French Revolution,  a Fashion Walk, the Village of Montmartre, Hemingway’s Paris or even a Chocolate walking tour!  Again, the cost for these walking tours is quite reasonable at 12 € (about $16).  Sign me up for the Chocolate tour!  Is there a better way to enjoy chocolate and work off the calories at the same time?

Prague Czech Republic

Prague by photojenni, on Flickr

Prague:

Learn about all that makes Prague famous by taking one of these walking tours from Prague Walks: Prague Castle Walk, Jewish Prague, Ghost Walk, Pubs of the Old Town and the Best of Prague, which also includes lunch and a river cruise.  Prices range from 300 czk to 890 czk (from $17 to $50 for the Best of Prague).  A few of these tours have minimums so be sure to check their website for more details.  For you early risers, they offer a Good Morning Walk where you will be able to enjoy Prague before the crowds are even up!

Brandenburg Gate Berlin Germany

Brandenburg Gate Berlin by Bernt Rostad, on Flickr

Berlin:

Original Berlin Walks offers tours that help you discover Berlin and its storied history.  You may decide to choose one of these tours:  Discover Berlin Tour, Infamous Third Reich Sites, Jewish Life in Berlin and Nest of Spies Tours.  These tours are 12 € ($16).  While looking at their website, I noticed their guides list their favorite restaurants which I think is a real bonus. . . local recommendations can’t be beat!

Marienplatz Munich Germany

Marienplatz Munich by JoeDuck, on Flickr

Munich:

Munich Walk Tours offers a unique way to learn about Munich and its history and culture.  Walking tours include: Bavarian Food Tasting & Viktualienmarkt, Haunted Munich Ghost Tour, Beer and Brewery Tour (you are in Munich!), Hitler’s Munich (aka Third Reich Tour) and The City Walk & English Garden tour.  These tours range in price from 12 €22 € ($16-$30).  Munich Walk Tours also offer a couple bike riding tours, which is my next “adventure” to tackle.

 

So there you have it, 5 cities 5 different walking tour companies.  Try one, you won’t be disappointed.  This list is not complete and inclusion here does not mean an endorsement is being made.  I do, however, suggest you venture out and walk a bit. . .

Which walking tour would you most like to enjoy??