Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Exploring Germany: Private Street Art Tour of Berlin

 

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Jadore Tong’s Elephant Playing with a Balloon mural

If you’re a fan of street art, Berlin is a must-see destination. Even if you consider all painting on the side of a building, graffiti, exploring Berlin might make you stop and look a little closer. The city is an ever-changing gallery filled with large scale murals by world-renowned artists as well as random graffiti tags. I recently visited Berlin, and took a fantastic private street art tour called Writing on the Walls to see some of the best known works in world of street art.

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Our tour guide, William

A good tour guide can make all the difference and our tour guide, William, was excellent. In addition to showing us some of the city’s urban art highlights, he gave us context for each work. Berlin once was as a city divided by communism, and political street art was a form of expression and protest. Since the Berlin wall came down in 1989, the city has remained one of the best cities in the world for street art.

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The colorful alley of Hackescher Markt

In addition to seeing well known works on buildings and exploring street art rich neighborhoods like Kreuzberg, we also visited Urban Nation, the museum for urban contemporary art, which opened in 2017. It’s a really great space that features works by some of the best known street artists in the world.

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Left: I want to revisit this alley when the weather is better Right: Anne Frank mural in Berlin

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Photographing street art in Berlin

A necessary stop on any tour of Berlin is the Berlin Wall Museum and Eastside Gallery, a former stretch of the Berlin Wall which as been transformed into the which the largest open air gallery in the world.

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Section of the Berlin Wall help visitors get a sense of what the city felt like before it came down

Berlin has a rich history and dynamic present. It’s a city with buzzy vibe that feels like things are happening here. And street art is part of that vibe.

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Meat mural that depicts the history of Berlin

One of the most interesting stops on the tour was the meat mural by Marcus Haas that depicts the history of Berlin as a divided city from 1961-1989. It’s really smart when you take the time to look at it for a few minutes.

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Street art has long been an expression of political protest

Another perk of this private street art tour was being able to escape the miserable January weather in the comfort of our own van. Private transportation is also included.

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The bathrooms at Urban Nation encourage guests to create their own street art

I’ve never felt compelled to photograph a bathroom until I visited the one at Urban Nation, where visitors are allowed to write on the walls and contribute to the street art scene themselves.

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The stairs at Urban Nation

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Some of the works currently on display at Urban Nation

Urban Nation does a really good job of making art feel accessible. There is no snobby vibe.

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Nick Walker’s Marge Simpson-inspired work at Urban Nation

 

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street art on the side of the Mecure Hotel in Berlin by  Interbrigadas

Some of the city’s best known works were commissioned, which shows just how intrinsically linked Berlin is to it’s street art. The mural on the side of the Mercure Hotel by Interbrigadas is a great example of this.

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The Cosmonaut by Victor Ash 

If you’re looking for things to do in Berlin, the Berlin Graffiti & Street Art Tour: Writing on the Walls is great option. It’s a great alternative culture tour and feels very of-the-moment. The itinerary for this tour changes with the street art scene.

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Magazine of Street Art in Berlin

Berlin Experiences

Our guide was William

tel: +49 1762 9913011

email: info@berlinexperiences.com

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Exploring Greece: Shoulder Season in Mykonos

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Sunrise at the Armenistis Lighthouse

When you visit the Greek island of Mykonos during the shoulder season, you’re not coming for the beach clubs and all night dance parties. But the “Island of Winds” still has plenty of appealing sites to check out.

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A view of Ornos

The Windmills of Kato Milli are a popular tourist destination all year long, particularly at sunset. It’s worth checking them out during dusk, and then take in the sunset views from one of the bars in the Little Venice area. My favorite is Katerina’s.

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Aegean color story on Mykonos

Mykonos town is worth exploring, especially for those who like to shop. Window shopping on the winding streets and look at all the jewelry, crafts and souvenirs you could wish for.

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Ouzo in an amusing souvenir bottle

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Shoulder season at a beach club in Ornos

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Gorgeous street scene in Mykonos

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Friendly local cat on Mykonos

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View of Ornos Bay from the Buddha-Bar

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View above Mykonos town 

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Cocktails at 180 Sunset bar

If you don’t want to deal with the crowds in Mykonos town, check out the Santa Marina Buddha-Bar  in Ornos Bay, where the view is zen and the music is eternally chill. It’s open for both lunch and dinner.

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Panorama shot of the lighthouse at sunrise

If you’re looking for things to do on Mykonos, consider taking a day trip to the island of Delos, the mythical birthplace of Artemis and Apollo. You can wander among the ancient Greek ruins of one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. There are several tour operators who provide half-day tours, and since you have to take a boat to reach it, it’s a nice way to get a sense of the maritime importance of the Cyclades.

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View of Mykonos by boat

There are also plenty of options for a private tour by boat but keep in mind… boats are expensive. Unless you have cash to burn, it’s going to be more comfortable if you go on a group tour by large yacht or boat.

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Private boats don’t come cheap

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Among the ruins on Delos

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Exploring Delos

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Signage on Delos

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View of Delos

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Boats arriving on Delos

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Boat near Delos

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Church in Mykonos town

If you are a fan of churches, there are several cool ones worth checking out on Mykonos. Along the water in Mykonos town.

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Church interior on Mykonos

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Church in Little Venice

Buddha Bar at Santa Marina, Mykonos

Ornos Bay, 84600,
Mykonos, Greece

T: +30 22890 23220

Monday – Sunday
13:00 – 19:00
20:00 – 01:00

Katerina’s Restaurant & Cocktail Bar
Agion Anargyron 8.
Little Venice, Mykonos. Greece.
telephone.: 0030 22890 23084

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Exploring Greece: A Stay at The Kenshō Boutique Hotel on Mykonos

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The glam/rustic Lobby of the Kenshō

If you’re planning a trip to Mykonos and looking for someplace chic and interesting to stay, be sure to check out the Kensho Boutique Hotel in Ornos Beach. It’s just a short walk to the upscale beach clubs on Ornos Beach, and has a more laid-back vibe than touristy Mykonos Town.

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Exterior of the Kenshō Boutique Hotel & Suites

Mykonos Town is only a short cab ride away. After dark, the Kensho is ideally situated halfway between Mykonos town and the after dark hot spot of Psarou Beach. My visit was during shoulder season, and the beach clubs were being boarded up for the season.

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Whitewashed exterior of the Kensho

The concierge staff at the Kensho was top notch and made sure we had plenty of things to see and do and gave great restaurant, activity and recommendations.img_8471

View of Ornos from the Kensho

The property has 35 rooms, suites and a villa and the top rated spa in the area. There is an award winning on-site restaurant which serves Mediterranean specialties and excellent cocktails which can be enjoyed in the glamorous dining space, by the pool, or on the rooftop deck space.

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Live edge table in the restaurant

The modern bohemian vibe of the Kensho makes it a great choice for design lovers. While the decor is mostly warm whites and wood, the layers of texture make the property very special and welcoming. The Kensho opened in 2016 and still feels new yet it has hit a stride with it’s well polished service.

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Left: Lounge chairs Right: Pool vibes at the Kensho

The Kensho boasts a hot tub on the roof and several rooms with private plunge pools. There are swings in the lounge area and cozy throw blankets for guests to use if the famous Mykonos winds kick up. My room was a VIP Junior Suite with a swing on the deck and a plunge pool, which was not surprisingly brisk during the October weather. The room was cozy despite it’s large size. The setup would be ideal during peak summer heat.

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Poolside lounging at the Kensho

With only 35 rooms, the Kensho is intimate. The prime pool side lounge chairs and sundeck can get packed during sundown. The vibe is buzzy but not over the top.

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The rooftop lounge is a popular spot for cocktails

Get a spot early!

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Roof top hot tub at the Kensho

The hotel car is a gleaming Range Rover  that offers complimentary transfers to and from Mykonos Town and other nearby locations.

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Left: Sunset in Ornos Right: Bougainvillea 

Wifi was strong and free throughout the property. The gym was small but had all the essential equipment.

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Cool lighting fixtures at the Kensho

While large, my Junior Suite was cool and cave like and had a comfortable work area. The shower was a bit dark, but there was ample closet space and a well stocked mini-bar.

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Outdoor yoga space at the Kensho

If you’re a first time visitor to Mykonos and aren’t sure where to stay, consider dividing your time and spending a few days in Ornos. It’s happening but less chaotic than other parts of the the island including Mykonos town.

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Basket swings in the lounge area

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Cozy lounging area at the Kensho

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Left: wood, stone and warm shades of white Right: cool planter 

The breakfast spread at the Kensho was impressive with a variety of cold dishes as well as eggs made to order. Don’t miss the strapastranda (Greek style scrambled eggs) and the tasty bougatsa (filled phyllo pastries).

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Enjoying the swing at the Kensho

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Lobby of the Kensho Spa

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Left: slightly steam punk details in the spa bathroom Right: groovy details in the Kensho spa

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Thoughtful furnishing choices in the dining area of the Kensho

One of my favorite things about the Kensho is how thoughtful the design of the property is. Not only does the furniture in the Kensho look stylish but it is all comfortable and works well for guests.

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Left: Tasty gyro from room service Right: Aperol Spritz by the Kensho’s fire pit

The hotel is happening but quiet by Mykonos standards. It’s a perfect choice for sophisticated guests who are foodies and appreciate design. The crowd was cool — and like the property itself- good looking.

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Mediterranean tapas at the Kensho

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Details are everything at the Kensho

The spa has a boutique for products and there is a well curated gift cabinet.

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Left: Cappuccino froth Right: Egg menu at the Kensho breakfast

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Salmon, cheese and meats at breakfast

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Left: Bread selection Right: Choice of cheese

My suite had a coffee maker in case I needed a caffeine boost before breakfast service began. The minibar had a nice edit of treats.

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Fruit featured on the breakfast spread

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Impressive selection of  bite-sized desserts on the breakfast buffett

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Rainbow at the Kensho reception

I booked my stay at the Kensho through JMAK Hospitality, which has a small but on point edit of properties in Greece.

KENSHŌ Boutique Hotel & Suites
Ornos Beach, 84600
Mykonos, Greece
T. +30 22890 29001 / +30 22890 78788
F. +30 22890 27010
Athens offices: +30 210 7209911-4
E. info@kenshomykonos.com

Rates start at $355 USD

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Exploring Verona, Italy: a Photo Essay

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A view of the Castelvecchio Bridge

Verona, Italy is perhaps best known as the setting of the Shakespeare’s Young Adult classic, Romeo & Juliet. But there is more to this medieval town in the Veneto than Juliet’s balcony. I was lucky to spend a few days in Verona in early October to attend a friend’s wedding. Here are some of my favorite finds in this charming Italian city.

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fly by of the Castelvecchio bridge

If you’re looking for things to do in Verona, The Museo de Castelvecchio is a must. The Roman fortress, built on the Adige river in the 1300s, is a great place to wander and and check out the simple Gothic architecture and bridge. The inside has been renovated into a museum with exhibits including statues, painting and sculpture as well as some very cool ancient weapons and armor.

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Bird at Castelvecchio

Be sure to check opening hours, as the Museum is closed on Monday mornings as well as some holidays.

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Walking along the banks of the Adige River

If opera is on your radar, don’t miss the Arena di Verona, a Roman amphitheater orignially built during the first century. Now it’s the home to the Arena di Verona Festival during the summer. While there wasn’t an opera during my visit to Verona, I did sit at a table next to an opera singer at lunch who was singing while waiting for her food.

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Villa Zamboni

Like all of Italy, Verona has some beautiful churches. The Gothic Sant’Anastasia is centrally located but charges a fee to visit. I stayed at Hotel Due Torri, overlooking the church. My room overlooked the Piazza, where I got a bird’s eye view of a local wedding.

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Just Married getaway Fiat

The Hotel Due Torri also has a great rooftop bar which is great location for a happy hour drink and view of the church and surrounding terra cotta rooftops.

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Just married in Verona

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Exterior of Sant’Anastasia Church

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Details in Sant’Anastasia

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Wall murals at Sant’Anastasia

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Window light at Hotel Due Torri

Since this is Italy, you can eat well in Verona. The charming Osteria Ponte Pietra has a small but lovely terrace overlooking the Adige river and great pasta. Restaurants in Verona are small, so reservations are a must.

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Interior of  Osteria Ponte Pietra

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Pasta at Osteria Ponte Pietra

Ristorante Antica Torretta was another delicious find. They have a seafood-centric menu and romantic atmosphere to boot.

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Still life at a gourmet shop in Verona

Window shopping is a lot of fun in Verona. I accidentally wandered into a store that outfitted opera divas or people going to carnival in Venice, or maybe both.

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Pretty in Pink (and a swan hat) in Verona

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Street art outside the Verona Arena

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Obligatory Vespa shot

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Moonlight stroll on the Adige

Verona is a great walking city and it’s worth taking an evening stroll after dinner along the Adige river.

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Verona after Dark

Contact details are below.

Ristorante Antica Torretta

dinner on patio. good for romantics

Piazza Broilo, 1
37121 Verona – Italia
Tel. / Fax 045 80.15.292

Osteria Ponte Pietra Ristorante

via Ponte Pietra 34
37121  Verona
T. +39 045 80 41 929

Basilica of Sant’Anastasia

Piazza Santa Anastasia
37121  Verona
T. +39 045 592813
entrance 2.50€

Castelvecchio Museum

corso Castelvecchio 2
37121 Verona
T. +39 045 8062611
entrance 6.00€

Verona Arena

Piazza Bra
37121 Verona
T.+39 045/596517

Due Torri Hotel

Piazza St. Anastasia, 4,
37121 Verona
T. +39 045 595044

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Exploring Portugal: Vibrant Lisbon

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Famous 28th tram in Lisbon

Editor’s Note: Anastasia Chernykh (the social media manager for My Life’s a Trip) just came back from Lisbon  with rave reviews. I asked her to do this post for the blog. Her images have me craving a trip to Portugal. – Jen Pollack Bianco 

The number of foreign tourists visiting Portugal has exceeded 10 million for the first time in 2016. Portugal has been named the destination of the year (Travel+Leisure), most popular place to visit in 2017 (Huffington Post), and on top of that the city has won Best European Destination World Travel Award. Everyone seems to be going to Portugal now, and I can see why!

I flew to Lisbon after a short trip to Paris, and it was such a great difference. Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely love Paris, but Lisbon felt so welcoming, cozy and warm after a big rainy city. Like a visit to an old friend.

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Lisbon fashion tip: blend into city colors!

You know a city is tourist friendly when you don’t need to spend  hours to get from an airport to its center. Lisbon airport is just 6 miles away, and has several transportation options including metro, bus, and taxi. The weather is pleasant here all year round. The climate strongly influenced by the Gulf Stream, it is one of the mildest climates in Europe (imagine 6-month long summer!).

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Azulejo tiles on Lisbon buildings are part of the city’s bright creative look

We stayed in an old city part called Alfama. I would say it’s one of the most interesting and iconic parts of Lisbon, but it’s not everything. You may not want to take famous 28 Eléctrico as it’s usually notoriously overcrowded, but use it’s route as a map for your own tour since it covers almost all main landmarks.

Walking seems to be the best way to explore old center of Lisbon, or the most convenient at least. It’s not a good idea to use a car in the city unless you are prepared to spend hours in traffic jams and looking for parking space. Cycling also doesn’t seem like a good idea, since Lisbon is located on seven hills, some of its streets have tram lines, potholes and an absence of designated bicycle lanes.

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Narrow streets of Lisbon

For me, Lisbon is not that much about sightseeing as about experiences. So try to live like a local in Lisbon instead of visiting:

Start your morning with pastéis de nata (an egg tart), this is the most famous local pastry and it’s delicious. Cafe culture is a very important in Portugal (fun fact–Portuguese colonists initiated the first coffee plantings in Brazil). The local coffee lingo is a bit different, for example espresso is often called bica, and for locals it’s normal to have at least 3 bicas a day. You won’t be able to stroll down a street in Lisbon without passing at least several of cafes.

After that, try to climb up to one of the several main Miradouro (viewpoints). The one near Santa Luzia church, for a breathtaking view of the city with its old terra cotta roofs.

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View of Alfama quarter and river Tagus

Lisbon doesn’t really have any ocean access or beaches, but it has long avenidas in front of river Tagus – Avenida Infante Dom Henrique and  Avenida Ribeira das Naus. Walk down the first to get to Praça do Comércio, one of the main city’s squares that was completely remodeled after the horrible Lisbon 1755 earthquake.

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Praça do Comércio with Statue of King José I 

The square is connected with the other traditional square Rossio, paved with typical Portuguese mosaic, this square is filled with cafes and restaurants, with a train station of the same name nearby.

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Praça do Comércio as seen through Arco da Rua Augusta

Keep walking along Avenida Ribeira for great sunset views of the 25 de Abril Bridge. There are several spots where people seat along the waterfront and enjoy the beautiful sunset views with another local specialty, porto wine.

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25 de Abril Bridge sometimes is compared to Golden Gate in San Francisco

Port is a world famous fortified wine from Portugal, produced exclusively in the Douro Valley (that’s where the city of Porto is located, hence the name of the wine). There are several styles of Port, including red, white, rosé and an aged style called Tawny Port.

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Vibrant sunset colors kept changing every 5 minutes

Looking for day trip options from Lisbon? Try visiting a small town Sintra. It is located only 20 miles away from Lisbon and packed with attractions.

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Entrance to Rossio train station, trains to Sintra run every 30 min

With its many 19th-century Romantic architectural monuments, Sintra is now classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and attracts visitors from all over the world. Royal retreats, estates, castles and other buildings, including the mediaeval Castelo dos Mouros, the Pena National Palace and the Sintra National Palace, are giving the town almost fairytale look.

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Sunset in Sintra

From Sintra it’s easy to go to the Westernmost point of the Europe, Cabo da Roca. The cliffs of Cabo de Roca were believed to be the edge of the world up until the late 14th century. Sunset is the best time to visit this dramatic landscape.

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