3 days in Norway

Norway is best known for its scenic beauty- in tall, strapping men as well as magnificent fjords, mountains and waterfalls. While travelers can easily spend weeks exploring Norway’s natural wonders and pristine cities, for those of us short on time, here’s a jam packed Norway itinerary to get the most out of your visit.

Day 1: Oslo

Arrive in the capital city of Oslo in the morning on an overnight flight from the U.S. Norwegian Air offers low cost no frills air to Norway and has non stop flights from JFK and Boston to Oslo. Oslo airport has direct train service to downtown Oslo and runs frequently. The “official” airport train is double the price of the local train, so if you don’t mind waiting, jump on the local train which is just as fast, but not as frequent. Book a place to stay near the Oslo train station so you can dump your bags and explore Oslo on foot. Walk over the iconic bridge near the train station and head towards the Oslo Opera House. Continue to walk along the water until you arrive at Akershus Fortress.

Sunset at Oslo Opera House
Sunset at Oslo Opera House

Oslo, Norway

Also known as Akershus Castle, it was built to protect Oslo and was also used as a prison. Finally head towards the Palace Park to get a view of the Parliament building. While prices in Norway are far more expensive than most countries in Europe, New Yorkers will feel right at home spending an arm and leg for fine dining.

Day 2: Norway fjords

Wake up uncomfortably early and catch the first train to Myrdal. The journey is close to 5 hours so don’t worry you can sleep for the first few hours. The scenery doesn’t start to pick up until the last two hours of the train ride.

Norway train

Once in Myrdal, transfer to the Flam Railway. Known to be one of the most scenic train journey’s in the world, the train travels on the edge of the mountain for 20 km and takes about 1 hour. Grab a seat with a window that opens so you can take unobstructed pictures (and selfies). The train will also make a stop so you can get off and take pictures outside a stunning waterfall.

Norway Flam Railway waterfall

Flam Railway Scenes

The train will put you in Flam, where you will board a fjord cruise (which will blow your mind). Weather onboard the fjord cruise will be about ten degrees colder, so pack layers. It is also very windy so hold on tight to your phones and cameras while taking photos and videos.

Norway Fjords

Norway Fjords

Following the cruise, hop on a bus to Voss and finally take the Bergen Railway from Voss to Bergen. Arrival into Bergen is close to 7 pm. The best way to book this journey is through the company Norway in a Nutshell. The most efficient option is traveling from Oslo to the city of Bergen via Myrdal, Flam, and finally Voss. The tour, around $250, has places to store your luggage on each train ride, boat ride and bus ride, plus it doubles as your transportation to the city of Bergen on Norway’s west coast. Purchasing the package through Norway in a Nutshell provides all your transfers and is the most scenic way to travel from Oslo to Bergen. Remember to pick up the tickets from the train station in Oslo when you arrive from the airport.

Day 3:Bergen

Spend the morning in Bergen exploring the scenic wharf area (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and wandering the streets. The city of Bergen is set on the side of a mountain so the views from the wharf of the houses is very picturesque. You can wander up the streets, gaining elevation and views as you go or take the funicular up.

Bergen Norway

Bergen, Norway

Read more about Bergen here. Bergen is not that big and can be easily explored in half a day. Norwegian air offers evening non stop flights from Bergen to JFK which will allow New Yorkers to make the the most of their day and head back to the U.S. in the evening.

Norway Travel Tips

While beautiful, Norway has the potential to get very cold. The temperature can vary greatly during the day depending on the elevation so pack layers and water resistant jackets. Bring snacks with you while traveling, and don’t be afraid to drink the water. Also the bathrooms, even in the train, are very clean so have no fear! Almost every establishment accepts credit card so do not convert too much cash before traveling. If you have more time to spare, fly to Stavanger to hike to Pulpit Rock or, if you have the guts, make the challenging trek to iconic Trolltunga. City lovers can fly direct from Bergen to Copenhagen or Stockholm to continue exploring this fantastic and pristine part of the world.

5 Hidden Gems in the South of France

When visiting the southern part of France, the cities of Nice, Monaco, Cannes, Avignon and Provence are popular choices on traveler itineraries. However, be sure to add some of these lesser known places to your travel plans. While the French rail and bus system can get travelers just about anywhere, the best way to explore the list below efficiently is by renting a car. Travelers who are able to drive manual / stick shift cars will save money on their car rental!

The Ruins at Glanum

Just 12 miles south of Avignon lies the ancient town of Glanum.  This fortified town was founded in the 6th century BCE and was then destroyed by the Alamanni (a confederation of German tribes) in 260 AD.  The people of Glanum abandoned the area and moved north to found what became the present day town of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.  Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is well known as being the location in which Van Gogh spent the last years of his life.

Glanum Roman Ruins France

This triumphal arch stood outside the northern gate of Glanum and was a symbol of Roman power. It was built during the reign of Augustus Caesar in approximately 14 AD.
This triumphal arch stood outside the northern gate of Glanum and was a symbol of Roman power. It was built during the reign of Augustus Caesar in approximately 14 AD.


St. Remy is a charming little town a 30 minute drive south of Avignon. Spend a day wandering the streets, stopping into shops, and visiting St. Paul’s Asylum, where Van Gogh spent the last years of his life. In the Van Gogh Field, located on the psychiatric hospital grounds, there are several reproductions of the painter’s work on the actual sites where he painted them. Travelers are able to see what Van Gogh saw as he painted the scene in front of him.

In 1889, Van Gogh was likely depicting these olive trees outside the Saint-Paul Asylum in his painting "Les Oliviers" or "The Olive Trees."
In 1889, Van Gogh was likely depicting these olive trees outside the Saint-Paul Asylum in his painting “Les Oliviers” or “The Olive Trees.”


Lavender Fields

Travel about 1.5 hours east of St. Remy to visit the lavender fields near the Luberon and Sault regions. They are in bloom from June to August, which is prime tourist season for visiting this part of France. Try some of the locally made lavender honey, and bring home some lavender soap.

Lavender fields Provence

Lavender field Provence France

Gorges Du Verdon

Continue further east from Luberon to visit the magnificent Gorges Du Verdon, or “Europe’s Grand Canyon.” Park your car near the kayak and paddleboat rental, and spend an hour or two exploring this site. If you have more than two people, you may want to look into pre booking a larger boat. For small groups, there is no need to make a paddleboat reservation ahead of time.

Gorges Du Verdon, France

Gorges Du Verdon Saya

Cassis, France

Leave Gorges du Verdon and head south towards the French Riviera. Before you get to the larger cities of Nice, Cannes, or Marseille, visit the idyllic fishing port of Cassis. Rent a boat or kayak from Cassis and swim in the blue waters of Calanque d’en Vau. If you are up for an enduring hike, trek to the beach at En Vau (secluded but a 2 hour hike each way). The boat tours from Cassis into this area are usually not allowed to dock at the beach, so, if you want to spend time on the beach itself, you will likely need to trek there.

Cassis, France

Kayaking in the water near Calanque d'en Vau
Kayaking in the water near Calanque d’en Vau

The Golden Circle, Iceland

One of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions is the “The Golden Circle”-a must see route for travelers visiting the country. About a 300 km journey beginning and ending in the capital city of Reykjavik, a visit to the sites of the The Golden Circle can be done as a day trip from the capital. Start your journey in Thingvellir National Park, which is not only the site of Iceland’s first parliament, but also where travelers can observe the magnificent splitting of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. The splitting of the tectonic plates has created deep fissures in the earth.

iceland thingvellir national park golden circle

One specific fissure, called Silfra, is a crack between the North American and Eurasian continental plates, and is a popular site for snorkeling and scuba diving. Spend a few hours exploring Thingvellir National Park and then continue your journey 60 km towards the geysers at Haukadalur. There are two famous geysers- Strokkur, which is still active, and Geysir (from which the word geyser originates), which is inactive. Strokkur erupts about once every ten minutes, so you won’t have to wait long to observe this natural phenomenon.

Geysir Iceland Golden Circle Tour

Strokkur, just before erupting
Strokkur, just before erupting
Strokkur erupts once every 8 to 10 minutes
Strokkur erupts once every 8 to 10 minutes

Finally, drive to the last stop in the Golden Circle route-powerful and magnificent Gullfoss. Gullfoss is a breathtaking waterfall created by the Hvítá (White) river, which is fed by Iceland´s second biggest glacier (Langjökull).

gullfoss iceland golden circle

Spend another hour here before making your way back to Reykjavik. The whole Golden Circle route including driving time will take about 7 to 8 hours. If you have time and energy, add on a visit to the Kerid Crater. Although, not officially part of the Golden Circle route, the crater lake here has a deep shade of blue that is worth a visit.

Traveling to Iceland

Direct flights to Iceland are available from NYC, Boston, Minneapolis, London, Washington D.C., Oslo, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Stockholm, and Baltimore. Once in Iceland, you can make the capital city your base and book a Golden Circle tour with a local company, or rent a car. Given the fact that the country is sparsely populated, driving in Iceland is easy (in good weather, of course). However, gas prices and car rental prices tend to be higher. Depending on whether you are traveling alone or with a group, booking a tour may be cheaper than renting a car.

Iceland Travel Tips

Bring plenty of layers and a waterproof or water resistant jacket. Also, remember to pack some rain boots and bring them along even when it’s sunny as the approach to the waterfalls is often muddy. During the summer months Iceland has nearly 24 hours of daylight. Bringing along some over the counter melatonin may help you fall asleep at night. During the winter months your site seeing in Iceland will be affected by limited hours of daylight, so plan accordingly. However, a visit in the winter months means a higher chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.

Aurora Borealis Iceland Northern Lights Iceland

Best Time to Visit Iceland

The tourist season in Iceland runs from late June to August. Hotel and flight prices are at their highest during this time. Visitors will be able to experience nearly 24 hours of daylight, and this is the best time to visit if you plan to drive the Ring Road around the country. By mid September, the temperature and hours of daylight drop significantly. The advantage to visiting in September is that it is cheaper, there is still enough daylight to see many sites, and visitors have a chance to witness the Aurora Borealis. It is, however, significantly colder, and driving the ring road may not be possible if there road closures due to weather conditions. However, the sites on the southern coast can still be accessed easily in the early Fall.

Iceland’s Best Tourist Sites

Aside from the Golden Circle, take time to visit Iceland’s southern coast. The southern coast has several breathtaking waterfalls including Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss. Travel a bit further to Jokulsarlon, Iceland’s glacial lagoon. Be sure to also visit the black sand beaches in the seaside village of Vik. If you have a week in the summer, rent a car and drive the Ring Road along the perimeter of the country to visit all of Iceland’s magnificent scenery.  Either on your way to or from the airport, spend a few hours relaxing at the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa with water that is rich in minerals and temperatures close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Parliament Building, Budapest

The Hungarian Parliament building is the third largest parliament building in the world, boasting 691 rooms and 12.5 miles of stairs. The building, which lies on the banks of the Danube river, was completed in 1904 and sits in Lajos Kossuth Square.

Hungarian Parliament Building

Guided tours are offered when the National Assembly is not in session and cost approximately $15 USD (4000 HUF) lasting 45 minutes. The parliament building is a popular attraction at night – viewed from across the river while illuminated makes it a very memorable sight.

Hungarian Parliament Building at Night

Beside the parliament building lies the Shoes on the Danube, a memorial to Budapest Jews who were executed along the river between 1944 and 1945. They were forced to remove their shoes beforehand because of the value of shoes at the time. The iron shoes were created by Hungarian sculptor Gyula Pauer in 2005. Learn more about the Jewish history sites in Budapest here.

Getting to Budapest

From New York, travelers will have to connect in Europe to get to Budapest. Direct flights to Budapest (BUD) leave from Brussels, Zurich, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Munich, Vienna, and Paris. To get to the parliament building, take subway M2 to the Kossuth Ter stop. The Shoes on the Danube are beside the parliament building. To get to the Basilica, take subway line M3 to the Arany János Utca stop. Both sites are a short walk from each other.

Parliament building Budapest

Top Tourist Sites in Budapest

St. Stephens Basilica or Szent Istvan Bazilika is the largest church in Budapest and is dedicated to the first king St. Stephen. The basilica’s dome reaches 96 meters high –identical to the height of the Hungarian Parliament building. This commonality represents the balance between church and state in Hungary. Visitors can visit the inside of the basilica free of charge and gaze up at the intricate interiors of the dome. For a breathtaking panoramic view of all of Budapest guests can climb the 364 steps or take an elevator for $1.75 USD (500 HUF)  to the domes’ observation deck.

Budapest Basilica View

Budapest Basilica View

Travelers should also leave time to visit the Hungarian Jewish Museum and The Great Synagogue, which are also top tourist sites in Budapest. To further explore the Jewish history sites in Budapest, include a trip to the House of Terror museum.

Thanks to travel expert Madelyn for sharing her tips on Budapest!
Thanks to travel expert Madelyn for sharing her tips on Budapest!

Top 5 Sites to see in Zagreb, Croatia

Often overlooked as a major city, Zagreb (the capital of Croatia) is an up and coming must see destination. While the county is often known for it’s quaint coastal cities, the inland city of Zagreb has a charm of its own. The city has a combination of Austro-Hungarian and socialist architecture, which give it a unique personality. Zagreb is the perfect destination for anyone looking to stroll through cobblestone streets, spend an afternoon at a café, explore museums, or dine at unique restaurants.

Zagreb City landscape

Zagreb View from the Upper Town

When to Visit Zagreb

If you plan to make your way from Zagreb to the coastal cities of Dubrovonik and Split, it is best to visit Croatia in the summer. The summer months are incredibly sunny with temperatures averaging about 21C/70F. Spring and fall are also good seasons as there are less tourists during this time and it is great for experiencing the parks and buzzing markets. We visited Zagreb in the middle of March, which during the daytime was pleasant with temperatures about 10C/50F, however, the evenings were cold.

What to Bring to Zagreb

Dress according to the season and carry layers. With all the outdoor walking and activities, sunglasses are advisable, especially in the summer time. Most places take both cash or credit card, but it’s better to keep both just because smaller restaurants and shops may only take cash. Free Wi-Fi is easy to find throughout the city, so bring a tablet or phone with wifi connectivity.

How to Get to Zagreb

Non stop flights to Zagreb (ZAG) can be found from London (LHR), Munich (MUC), Istanbul (IST), Amsterdam (AMS), and Copenhagen (CPH). If traveling to Zagreb from within Croatia, the most efficient means of travel would be by bus. If comfortable with it, another option would be to rent a car and drive from city to city. The inter-city highways are some of the best I’ve ever seen as they are well maintained and fairly easy to drive on.

Top 5 Things to Do in Zagreb

  1. St. Mark’s Church is a popular landmark in Zagreb as it is one of the oldest buildings in the city and is easily recognizable amongst the other buildings due to use uniquely colorful roof. If visiting between April and May, a changing of the guards’ ceremony can be seen outside the church at noon on Saturday’s and Sunday’s.
  2. Explore Tkalčićeva Street. This street is lively with many shops and places to eat and drink. At night, the street is beautifully lit up and perfect for an evening stroll.
  3. Visit the local markets. One of the most famous markets in the city is Dolac market, which can be found right in the city center. The market is so colorful and full of fresh locally grown produce, definitely something worth seeing. It’s a great way to immerse yourself into the local culture.
  4. Catch a show at the ostentatious National Theatre in Zagreb.
  5. Take a trip to Mirogoj. It may seem strange that a local cemetery is a tourist destination, but this Austro-Hungarian style cemetery has beautiful archways and lush greenery. Mirogoj is also much more than a cemetery, throughout the memorial park lie sculptures designed by local Croatian artists.
Tkalčićeva Street in Zagreb
Tkalčićeva Street in Zagreb
Zagreb national theater
National Theatre in Zagreb


Being the capital city of Croatia, Zagreb is very cosmopolitan and has a wide variety of cuisines—expanding from the local Croatian food, seafood, Italian, and Asian. We recommend:

The Wine Bar– The Wine Bar is a trendy and classy bar located just outside the main square in the city center. What caught our attention was the distinctive outdoor seating. Outside the restaurant are two individual glass box rooms, candlelit, with high rise tables. The wine bar has a wonderful selection of wines and cheeses.

Boban– Located in the city center, Boban is a chic Italian restaurant and bar. On one side is a cozy bar/lounge and on the other is the restaurant. The décor is eclectic with dim lighting and chalkboards. The menu is extensive with something for everyone. The soups and homemade pasta were really good.


Thanks to Nikitha for sharing her travel tips on Zagreb! Follow her on Instagram @_pairofpassports

Top 5 Things to Do in Split, Croatia

Along the coastline of Croatia lies Split, the country’s second largest city. Full of character, it is the perfect combination of both history and modernity. Within the old city walls are mazes, small alleys filled with quaint shops, restaurants and bars. An outdoor promenade lined with restaurants faces the sea, where you can get a glimpse of the turquoise water. It is the perfect place to enjoy a lovely lunch on the edge of old town, with a view of the sailboats, cruise ships, and locals walking by.

Split, Croatia

Just like the rest of Croatia, the best time to visit Split would be during tourist season, May- September, when the weather is warm (highs in 80’s, lows in 60’s Fahrenheit). However, to avoid crowds, mid to late April is a good time as well. Split does have its own airport (Airport Code: SPU), with flights coming in from London, Munich, Vienna, Rome and other major European cities. Flying into Zagreb or Dubrovnic and driving along the coast is another option as well. There are various bus tours that stop in Split as part of the itinerary, however we chose a private car. We had a great experience driving from Dubrovnik to Split with Blue Bay Excursions, a local family run company.

Split, Croatia

Here are the top 5 things to do while in Split:

Diocletian’s Palace

The main attraction in Split is Diocletian’s Palace, the Roman Emperor’s residence in which he lived after retirement until he died in 313 AD. Although the most of the palace had been destroyed, remnants lie throughout the old city. You can spend time walking through and looking around, and even stop by a restaurant to break for a drink. There is no entrance ticket for just the palace view, however if you wish to tour the basement halls it is 40 KN adult/20 KN child.

Diocletian's Palace Split Croatia

St. Dominus Cathedral and Bell Tower

This was originally the mausoleum of Diocletian, as it lies within the palace boundaries. To climb up the bell tower it is 25 KN, and to enter the cathedral it is 25 KN. After climbing to the top of the bell tower, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the whole city of Split and the sea as well.

Marjan Forest Park

This site is said the be the “lungs of the city.” If the weather is nice, take a quick break and hike up to Marjan.  Not only will you get a breath of fresh air but lovely views of the city as well. There are trails running through the forest in which you can choose to hike or you can bike along the seafront (bikes can be rented from the northern entrance for about 15 KN/hour).


Gallery of Fine Arts: Located very close to the palace, this building was once the city’s first hospital. Here you can see a mix of ancient and modern Croatian art pieces. Entrance tickets are 20 KN adult/10 KN child.

Archaeological Museum: A ten minute walk from the town center, here you can see excavations from the Roman and early Christian periods. Tickets are 20 KN adult/10 KN child.

Ethnographic Museum: Get a glimpse into the old life and culture of Dalmatia.  You can see old photos, costumes and other pieces important to the citizens. Tickets are 15 KN adult/10 KN child.


There is a large selection of restaurants, mostly local Croatian, seafood, Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. There is a variety of small casual mom and pop type places, as well as modern/trendy places.

Recommended restaurants (at the time of this post):

Bokeria- Located in the old town. More on the trendy side, great variety on the menu, and presentation and atmosphere are fantastic. Lovely selection of wine and drinks as well.

Galija- Hidden gem, located inside old town. Well lit outdoor seating covered in Christmas lights.  Pizza was really good, staff was really friendly, and everything is reasonably priced.

Brasserie on 7- Located right on the promenade (Split Riva). We stopped here for a coffee break, lovely hot chocolate!  Very homey feeling, decorated in shades of aqua and sand. Gives you the feeling of being on the ocean.  Their lunch and dinner menu consists of a mix of seafood, burgers, and more.

Split, Croatia

Split, Croatia

Thanks to Anisha, a senior at Syracuse University, for sharing her travel tips on Split, Croatia. Follow her on instagram @_pairofpassports
Thanks to Anisha, a senior at Syracuse University, for sharing her travel tips on Split, Croatia. Follow her on instagram @_pairofpassports

Barcelona’s Best Parks, Spain

Located on the northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula, Barcelona is a cultural and economic center offering travelers the opportunity to see well-known Catalan modernista architecture, and most famously, Antoni Gaudí’s unique artistic style. The work of Antoni Gaudí, highlighted in Park Guell, can be easily identified by his use of ceramics, stained glass, wrought ironwork, and carpentry inspired by nature and religion with a hint of the baroque style. The well known Park Guell is actually only one of Barcelona’s 68 municipal parks. Just as beautifully crafted and important to the city, parks cover 10% of Barcelona and offer travelers the opportunity to escape the hustle of busy city life.

The view from Park Güell
The view from Park Güell

Park Güell

Park Güell is located on Carmel Hill in Barcelona and belongs to the mountain range of Collserola. When visiting Park Güell, be sure to purchase tickets at the entrance of the park to be able to see the area where the majority of Gaudí’s work is located, as it is separated from the rest of the park. It is also best to visit Park Güell at early hours of the day in order to avoid waiting in long lines to enter.

The famous corridor of Park Guell
The famous corridor of Park Güell
A detailed view of Gaudi's work at Park Guell
A detailed view of Gaudí’s work at Park Güell


To get to Park Güell by metro, use the green line (L3) and get off at the stops Lesseps or Vallcarca. There are three entrances, one on Carrer de Larrard, which is the main entrance, the second is the entrance at the coach park for tourist coaches, and the third is on Passatge de Sant Josep de la Muntanya, which you can get to by using an escalator. You can also take the bus lines H6, 32, 24, and 92 to reach the park. Be aware, however, that no matter which form of public transportation you use, there will usually be at least a 10-15 minute walk to the park.

park guell gaudi


Jardins Joan Maragall is located in the middle of the Montjuïc Mountain between the Lluís Companys Olympic Stadium and Jardins de Laribal. The expansive park houses the Albéniz Palace built in 1929 to celebrate the International Exhibition, which was held in Barcelona the same year. The palace served as the Royal Pavilion and is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family in Barcelona. The park is beautifully landscaped and has a total of 32 sculptures located throughout. Some of the sculptures include works by Theophile Eugène, Frederic Marès, and Louis Sauregeau.


Jardins Joan Maragall
Jardins Joan Maragall


The park is open from Saturdays and Sundays between 10:00 and 3:00 PM, however it is best to visit earlier in the morning to experience the park at its most tranquil. To get there, take metro lines 1 or 3 and get off at Plaça Espanya. From there, walk about 3 minutes to the red, 150 bus stop at Plaça Espanya-Av Reina Maria Cristina in the direction of Castell de Montjuïc. Get off at the Av. de l’Estadi-Estadi Olímpic and walk west on Carrer l’Estadi for about a minute and you’ll find yourself at the entrance of the park.


Located near the Jardins Joan Margall, the Jardins de Laribal was also created to decorate the mountain before the International Exhibition in 1929. The garden, designed by Nicolas Forestier and Nicolau M. Rubió Tudurí, is sculpted by terraces, pathways, ponds, statues and houses exotic plant life. Following the pathways and terraces allows you to see beautiful view of Barcelona, while enjoying the Mediterranean foliage of the garden.

Jardins de Laribal


Jardins de Laribal is open from 10:00 AM until sunset and is close in proximity to the Jardins Joan Maragall. In order to get there, take the same public transportation that you would to get to Jardins Joan Margall, but from the Av. de l’Estadi-Estadi Olímpic bus stop, walk southwest toward Carrer l’Estadi. Turn left onto Carrer l’Estadi and walk a few minutes until you reach Carrer Sol. Turn left on Carrer Sol and you’ll find the entrance of Jardins de Laribal on your left.


The weather in Barcelona averages highs of 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit during winter and fall months and 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit in spring and summer months. For sightseeing, wear comfortable clothes and shoes that you can walk long distances in. Although Barcelona does offer public transportation, you’ll still usually need to walk about 15 minutes to get to your destination. Given the cosmopolitan nature of the city, be sure to bring fashionable clothes and shoes to go out in. Remember that things quiet down during the afternoon siesta, and dinners usually start no earlier than 10 pm. If you want to enjoy Barcelona’s beaches, visit towards the end of the summer (August) when the sea water has had a chance to warm up.


Non stop flights to Barcelona leave from New York, Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, Houston and Dallas. Direct flights to Barcelona can also be found from Madrid, London, Paris, Dublin, Lisbon, Toronto, Munich, Zurich, and Brussels (to name a few). If already in Europe, cheap flights to Barcelona can be booked on Easy Jet and Ryan Air. Several trains also run per day from other European countries that stop at the central train stations of Barcelona-Sants, Barcelona-Passeig de Gràcia, and Barcelona-Estació de França. Madrid to Barcelona is a 3 hour train journey, Paris to Barcelona is 6 hour train journey on the TGV high speed rail (reservations required), and Valencia to Barcelona is a 3.5 hour train ride.


There are so many things to do and see in Barcelona. Aside from taking in the culture, catching a soccer game, and enjoying the nightlife, make sure to also visit Sagrada Família and Casa Batlló, two other very famous Gaudí constructions. Travelers should also spend time walking around the Gothic Quarter during the day, and exploring the nightlife in Las Ramblas at night. Head to the W hotel Barcelona, situated right on the water, to enjoy the view and explore the wide array of beach bars right next to it. A great day trip from Barcelona is visiting the Montserrat Benedictine Monastery, which is a one hour train journey from the city.

Casa Batlló
Casa Batlló
Thanks to our travel expert, Isabella, for sharing her travel tips on Barcelona!
Thanks to our travel expert, Isabella, for sharing her travel tips on Barcelona!

The High Alpine Road, Austria

The stunning Grossglockner High Alpine Road is a 29.7 mile (47km) stretch of road offering breathtaking views of the Austrian Alps. The road bridges the two Austrian states of Salzburg and Carinthia.  This scenic route is named after Austria’s highest mountain, which stands at 12,461 ft (3,787m).  The road is the tallest paved mountain pass in the country, and has been meticulously constructed with a series of mountainside tunnels, switchbacks, and roads built up on stilts.  It is s a thrilling drive and / or bike ride, and, fortunately, the road is in excellent condition.  The optimal driving route begins at the road’s eastern entrance in Ferleiten, which is about a 1.5 hour drive south of the city of Salzburg.  There you will reach the toll house; it costs 35€ per car for a day pass.  From Ferleiten, the road heads westward toward the Pasterze glacier that lines the eastern slope of Grossglockner.  There are many parking places along the route, most of which you can hike or bike from, and all of which promise breathtaking views of the surrounding Hohe Tauern mountain range.

Grossglockner High Alpine Road

Grossglockner High Alpine Road

Grossglockner High Alpine Road

Don’t tire yourself from hiking before you reach the glacier, though.  When you reach the end of the road, there is a free parking garage at Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe, and from there you can choose how you want to take in the sites of the glacier and towering Grossglockner.  Hiking, or taking a lift, down to the valley where the glacier lies is a popular option, and the best place to view how dramatically the glacier has receded in recent years.  Another great alternative is to hike along the mountain slope to the east of the glacial valley.  Continue walking towards the glacier, and you’ll journey through a series of short tunnels, that afterwards open into a mountainside path surrounded by lush greens and tiny, colorful flowers, all while overlooking the Pasterze glacier.

Grossglockner High Alpine Road

Grossglockner High Alpine Road


Bring proper hiking or walking shoes; if you want to experience the utmost beauty the High Alpine Road has to offer, a good deal of walking is necessary!  No matter how warm it is in the valley as you begin, once you start driving up the mountain it gets very chilly and windy, very quickly, so wear a thick jacket. Keep snacks and water handy as well!


Due to its high altitude, the High Alpine Road is only open from May to October.  In those two months, there is still a chance of encountering snow, so June through August is the best time to visit if you are interested in hiking during your visit. Between June and August, the temperatures in the valleys will range between 75 and 90 Fahrenheit (21-32 C), but as cold as 50 F (10 C) on the highest peaks.

TRAVELING TO Grossglockner High Alpine Road

The closest major airports are Salzburg (SZG), Munich (MUC) and Vienna (VIE).  Non-stop flights to Austria from NYC fly into Vienna. Non stop direct flights are also available into Munich. You will have to either take a connecting flight to Salzburg or a train. Travelers can rent a car in Salzburg, or rent immediately from Munich. From Salzburg, the Grossglockner High Alpine Road is just under a 2 hour drive.  If you plan to explore elsewhere in Austria, flying into Vienna is another viable option, but the drive to the High Alpine Road itself is 4 hours, versus 2.5 hours from Munich and even less from Salzburg.  Renting a car is necessary to visit this road, and is best for navigating the Alpine region of Austria.  Depending on how much you hike, budget 3-6 hours on the High Alpine Road.


There are numerous “hütten” (cabins) and bed and breakfasts in the area to stay in, especially if you want to continue exploring the Hohe Tauern or Dachstein mountain ranges. This area is renowned for its extraordinary hiking, rock climbing, via ferrata, mountain biking, river rafting, camping, and swimming opportunities.  The biggest attractions in this area include the Dachstein Krippenstein cable car, sky walk, and ice palace.  The nearest cities, Salzburg and Innsbruck, also offer a range of additional outdoor activities and sightseeing.
Grossglockner High Alpine Road
Thanks to Devan for sharing her travels in Austria! Here is a pic of her enjoying some refreshing glacial water during her visit to the Grossglockner High Alpine Road.

Bergen, Norway

On Norway’s western coast, the charming city of Bergen is often referred to as ‘the gateway to the fjords’. In 1979, the Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf was named a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its rich history as a major Hanseatic trading center. The colorful houses and shops here, against the backdrop of mountains, make Bergen a truly picturesque destination. As you wander through Bergen’s cobblestone streets, visitors can enjoy views of the seven surrounding mountains. Bergen is constantly bustling with travelers from all over the world, most whom will visit the wharf as well as the fjords during their stay.

Bergen Norway

Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf
Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf


Nonstop flights to Bergen, Norway (Airport code: BGO) can be found from Oslo, London, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam. Another popular option is to fly into Norway’s capital, Oslo (Airport code: OSL), and take a scenic 6 hour train ride to Bergen. Norwegian airlines tends to offer cheaper flights to Oslo than SAS airlines. From the airport, travelers can reach downtown Bergen by taxi, rental car, bus and, soon, the tram. The tram system is currently being expanded to reach the airport. Most hotels are located in the heart of the downtown are. If you plan on using public transportation, the cheapest pass available costs about 4 USD and is valid for 90 minutes, or purchase a 7 day pass at 28 USD.


Bergen Norway


The warmest month is July (average temperature of 66F / 19C) and the coldest is January. Fjord boat tours are available all seasons, but a larger variety are offered in the summer. Visiting in the winter is restrictive- with only 7 hours of daylight, visiting the fjords will be a rushed experience. Summer, with nearly 18 hours of daylight, is the most popular time for tourists. On the 17th of May the country celebrates it’s national day with parades, food markets, and natives dressed in traditional Norwegian garb.


The Norwegian fjords should not be missed when visiting Norway. Bergen is often used by tourists as a stopover before and after visiting the scenic fjords. A fjord is a long and narrow inlet of the sea between high cliffs, and the ones in Norway are spectacular. In the summer, which is the most popular time to travel to Norway, do not forget to plan ahead for a boat cruise into the fjords. In Bergen itself, one of the most popular attractions in Bergen is the FlØibanen Funicular. The funicular runs year round and offers sweeping views of the city area. It costs 90Kr for a round trip which is about 10 USD. There are many hiking trails at the peak of FlØyen, a lake, a restaurant and a souvenir shop. Spend time wandering around the many shops and restaurants along the historical wharf and take some pictures of the classic colorful wooden houses. Along the canal is a large outdoor fish markets that sell fresh caught seafood, fruit and vegetables.

Bergen norway


Bergen Norway

Bergen Norway


The weather in Norway is cool and often cold, so bring plenty of layers. If you are counting on alcohol to keep you warm, know that it is expensive when purchased at restaurants. A domestic beer can cost around 9 USD for a pint. ‘Applesin’* means orange in Norwegian. Applesin is extremely popular and is found just about everything-tea, ice cream, syrup, jelly, and candy. If visiting during the summer months, book your boat cruise ahead of time to guarantee availability on your desired date of travel.

Bergen Norway

Bergen Norway

Thanks to travel expert Madelyn for sharing her tips on Bergen!
Thanks to travel expert Madelyn for sharing her tips on Bergen!


The Berlin Wall, Germany

Constructed by the German Democratic Republic (East Germany or GDR), the Berlin Wall was a barrier that cut off West Berlin from East Germany and East Berlin. After World War II, East Berlin, became the capital of East Germany (formally the German Democratic Republic). The Berlin Wall divided the city from 1961 to 1989, and its demolition lasted from 1990-1992.  Traces of the Berlin Wall, which was actually two walls at certain points, can still be seen today. The East Side Gallery is an expansive outdoor art gallery, where the art is painted directly on remaining portions of the Berlin Wall. This part of the wall has famous images from several artists including, Dmitri Vrubel, Jürgen Grosse, and Kim Prisu.

The Berlin Wall's East Side Gallery
The Berlin Wall’s East Side Gallery
The Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall

Aside from the Berlin Wall, there is a great deal to be discovered here. Many other historical sites, such as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and the Jewish Museum, have been erected to honor the lives of those lost during WWII. Located in northern Germany, on the banks of the rivers Spree and Havel, Berlin is a city with fascinating history, countless museums, various cultural events, and a large variety of restaurants. Due to its size (3.5 million people over 12 boroughs) and central location, Berlin is a hub for foreign immigration. Because of this, the city offers cuisines, venues, and cultural events for a broad range of nationalities.

The Jewish Museum in Berlin
The Jewish Museum in Berlin

How to Get to Berlin

Berlin has two main airports: Tegel International Airport (TXL) and Schönenfeld Airport (SXF). Tegel International Aiport (TXL) is located in the northwest area of the city and is the central airport for international carriers such as British Airways and United Airlines. When traveling to Berlin from the United States, you are most likely to arrive in Tegel International Airport. Cheap flights to Berlin can be found by flying into Schönenfeld Airport, located in the southeast area of Berlin. Schönenfeld is the base for budget airline carriers like easyJet, RyanAir, and Germanwings. When flying with budget carriers, be sure to read their baggage weight and size regulations at time of booking. Direct flights to Berlin from NYC can be found on United, Lufthansa, and AirBerlin.

What to Wear in Berlin

What to wear depends on the season. If you choose to visit during the summer, pack clothes that will keep you cool due to the lack of air conditioning in many buildings and restaurants. Fall and spring require a light jacket. Winter is cold and windy, so pack layers and bring an umbrella. If you visit the clubs or bars in Berlin, you will notice that locals usually dress in darker colors during the day.

When to visit Berlin

Berlin is best visited in the fall or spring. The city is more crowded during the summer, as that’s when the weather is warmest and students are on break. Summer months have temperatures in the mid 60s (17-18 Celsius) and January averages temperatures in the 30s (0-1 Celsius).

What Not to Miss in Berlin

When visiting Berlin, one should not miss the Brandenburg Gate (referred to as Brandenburger Tor in Germany) erected between 1778 and 1791. The famous monument is located in the western part of the city center of Berlin, within the district of Mitte. The gate can be found at the junction of the streets Unter den Linden and Eberstraße. This icon of Berlin is only a block north of the Reichstag, which houses the German parliament and is centrally located to many of the other historic buildings within Berlin’s city center. It is also a gathering area for stage shows, major sporting event broadcasting and fireworks during holidays like New Years.

Bradenburg Gate in Berlin
Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

If you find yourself in Berlin during October, make sure to check out the Festival of Lights. This 10-day event transforms many famous landmarks and monuments in Berlin into artwork through light projections and video art. The festival was first held in 2004, and continues annually each October. Check out the Berlin, Germany website (www.berlin.de/en/) before you visit in October to see when the specific dates will be.

The Festival of Lights in Berlin
The Festival of Lights in Berlin
Thanks to our travel expert, Isabella, for sharing her travel tips on Berlin!
Thanks to our travel expert, Isabella, for sharing her travel tips on Berlin!

The Great Synagogue and Jewish History in Budapest

The Dohany Street Synagogue, also known as the Great Synagogue, is the largest synagogue in Europe and one of the largest in the world. It was constructed between 1854 and 1859 and was strongly influenced by Moorish architecture. The synagogue was bombed by the Nazis on February 3, 1939, following which Nazi occupation of this area ensued. The synagogue became part of the Jewish ghetto in Budapest, where Jewish people were forced to live during World War II.  When the ghetto was liberated by the Soviets in 1945, a decision was made to bury the 2,281 victims  in 24 mass graves in the garden outside the synagogue. This garden truly touched me as I stood here with a moment to reflect on the lives lost during that time. Behind the synagogue is a weeping willow memorial, which if you look at closely has names and tattoo numbers of those who died.

budapest synagogue garden
Garden outside the Great Synagogue which holds the mass graves of the victims of the Holocaust
The weeping willow memorial at the Great Synagogue in Budapest
The weeping willow memorial at the Great Synagogue in Budapest

Grave suffering and damage occurred to this place of worship during the Nazi Occupation and also later during the Siege of Budapest. Following World War II, the Soviets occupied Budapest for a lengthy 45 years, until 1991 when the last of the troops finally left. The restoration of the synagogue began in 1991 when Budapest gained back it’s independence.

Outside detail of the Great Synagogue, the largest in Europe
Outside detail of the Great Synagogue, the largest in Europe
Inside detail of the Great Synagogue
Inside detail of the Great Synagogue

The Great Synagogue should not be missed while visiting Budapest. It is easy to spend hours here as the underlying significance of this building is amazing.

When to Visit Budapest:

I visited in the middle of November right when it opened at 10:00am, and I encountered no line. Budapest’s tourist season is generally during the summer, so to avoid crowds, but still have temperate weather, visiting slightly off season in May or September is a good choice. Average high temperatures between June and August are between 70 and 79 degrees Farhenheit (24 – 26 degrees Celsius). For a guided tour, arrive between 10:00 and 10:30 in the the morning. The synagogue is closed on Saturdays, and on the Jewish High Holidays. Check the website before going, as these dates change annually.

Inside the Great Synagogue in Budapest
Inside the Great Synagogue in Budapest

What to Wear/Bring to Budapest:

Although there are no specific restrictions online, it is standard for men and women to have their knees and shoulders covered when entering a synagogue. Men must also wear a kippah, which they provide directly before entering the synagogue if you need one. Photos are allowed inside so bring a camera. When buying your ticket, you can ask if you need to buy a photo permit from them, which is the equivalent of about $1.75. When I visited, photos were allowed without a permit but this is subject to change.

How to Get Here:

The synagogue is in downtown Budapest and easily accessible from downtown hotels and hostels. If you’re downtown, I would suggest walking. Everything is pretty close. If you’d feel more comfortable taking a subway, you can take subway M1, M2 or M3 to Deák tér station, and walk on Károly körút towards Astoria.  Budapest is well connected to the rest of Europe by rail and by air.

What Not to Miss in Budapest:

The Hungarian Jewish Museum (in the same building as the Great Synagogue), the graveyard, and a memorial garden area are also included in a general ticket. The Hungarian Jewish museum was constructed between 1930-1931, and it contains ritual objects of the Sabbath and High Holidays, religious relics, and a Holocaust room. To further explore the Jewish history sites in Budapest, include a trip to the House of Terror museum.  This site contains information about the fascist and communist dictatorial regimes in Hungary. The top 2 floors include history, videos and pictures from the time, but the basement includes physical replicas of torture items, prison and isolation rooms. Freedom Square contains a controversial World War II monument-there is an eagle (which represents Nazi Germany) attacking the Archangel Gabriel (which represents the Hungarian victims). Several people, not pleased by the implications of the statue decided to take action. On the sidewalk, in front of the statue, is a makeshift memorial.  Constructed by  dedicated activists, this memorial contains photographs of victims, personal items, and candles to provide a stark contrast to the grand memorials built by the government. In fact, this community uses social network to continue its mission, and any person can add to this memorial. Thus, this improvised memorial changes daily with a row of personal items honoring the Hungarian Jews who died in the Holocaust.

Personal items belonging to Holocaust victims outside Freedom Square
Personal items belonging to Holocaust victims outside Freedom Square

Another moving Holocaust memorial is situated on the Danube River. Here, visitors will find 60 pairs of cast iron shoes sitting inches from the river symbolizing those who were shot by the Arrow Cross Party (Hungarian Nazis) during the Holocaust.

The cast iron shoes in remembrance of the Holocaust victims shot along the Danube during World War II
The cast iron shoes in remembrance of the Holocaust victims shot along the Danube during World War II
Thanks to Katherine, a student at Rhodes College, for sharing her powerful experience in Budapest.
Thanks to Katherine, a student at Rhodes College, for sharing her powerful experience in Budapest.