Dublin, Ireland is a great place to visit. It’s a must for everybody who enjoys travel and the simple things in life. In Dublin, you can drink and dance all night, and hang out with like-minded people exchanging stories. Basically, Dublin is a great place to hang out. However, Dublin does have more to see beneath the surface.
No visit to Dublin is complete without a visit to the Guinness Factory. There’s really no way around it – you must go. Even if you don’t like beer or Guinness, the Guinness Factory is a very cool museum and speaks to the culture of Ireland as a whole.
In all seriousness, the Guinness logo has become the unofficial logo for the whole country. Guinness’s namesake, Arthur, now has a day in his honor that rivals St. Patrick’s Day for popularity…and consumption. I should know; I flew out specifically to celebrate Arthur’s Day a few years ago!
Samuel Beckett Bridge, Dublin
Take the elevator to the top for the best views of Dublin City. Have a few pints and gaze out over the beautiful city that feels more like a big town. You can see Croke Park from the top of the Guinness Factory and for my money, it’s a must see.
Croke Park is the largest stadium in Ireland and the 4th largest in Europe. It is home to many Gaelic sports and has even hosted NFL and college football games before. But it’s most historic significance is that it was the site of the famous Sunday Bloody Sunday Massacre. You can feel the history in the stadium-it shouldn’t be missed.
There is of course Trinity College and St. Patrick’s Cathedral; which are definitely worth seeing. However, in my mind, Dublin isn’t really about sightseeing, it’s about experiencing the simple things in life.
Parnell Square, Dublin
Have a stroll along the river and over to Temple Bar and just do a little pub crawl. You’ll see locals and tourists alike enjoying the simple things in life. That’s what Dublin is to me!
What can I say about London? For me, it’s the city that started it all. I had never left the United States until I decided to study abroad in London back in 1998. It changed my life forever and will always remain in my heart as one of my favorite cities in the world.
There is so much to do in London that it would be silly for me to start talking about the obvious things like Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Instead I’m going to talk about some places you may not know about and that I love to visit when I’m back in London.
The biggest misconception people have about London and the UK in general is that the food is terrible. This is so far from the truth that I giggle every time I hear someone say it. There are so many great restaurants all over the city from top chefs around the world-more than any other city in Europe. Additionally, London has some of the best outdoor food markets I’ve been to anywhere in the world.
Spitalfields Market and Borough Market are easily two of my favorite places to eat, drink and yes, be merry. Whatever your taste, you can find it at this pair of London treasures that locals swear by and many tourists miss out on.
Plus, the Royal Parks in London compare favorably to Central Park or any other urban parks on Earth. Personally I love Regent’s, St. James, Green and Hyde Park and I can’t even decide which one I like the best! So in that case, you should be sure to visit each one because they all have unique things to offer and are a perfect way to spend a nice day.
For a real treat, head up to Primrose Hill in Regent’s Park for the best view of London. It’s a nice hike and you won’t be disappointed. Conversely, have a stroll from Buckingham Palace through St. James Park and head into the Churchill War Rooms. This is perhaps the best museum in London and in my opinion, the most interesting by far.
You will be in the place where Churchill plotted World War II and communicated with the Allied Forces while hiding from the Nazis. This is perhaps the most important place in London in the last century and well worth a visit.
I would be remiss as an avid sports fan to not mention the vast amount of incredible sports and venues available in London. There are several English Premier League teams in London to choose from including Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Fulham, West Ham and Queens Park Rangers. Each team plays at a different venue and each is worth a visit on it’s own.
If you happen to visit during late June or early July, check out Wimbledon, the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world and the pride of SW19. This fall, if you’re in town, check out the Rugby World Cup; which will be played all over the country with several matches and the final being played at Twickenham just outside London; which is the home of Rugby.
I could go on and on about one of my favorites places on the planet but these are a few fun ideas that I love and highly recommend.
Edinburgh, Scotland is a great city that is often overlooked by many travelers. Aside from being a great destination in and of itself with some amazing sights, great restaurants and a history dating back thousands of years – it is also the gateway to so many other great attractions in Scotland; especially if you like scotch or golf!
If you’re in Edinburgh you cannot help but be constantly followed around by the imposing structure that is Edinburgh Castle. It reminds me a bit of the Acropolis in Athens or Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro in that you can see it from almost anywhere in the city, high above, looming like an overlord of the city. But make no mistake, Edinburgh Castle is a fantastic place to visit as well.
Inside the castle you will find artifacts dating back centuries and gothic architecture that you simply won’t find in other castles or cities in Europe. The price to enter Edinburgh Castle is a little steep but it’s worth having a look around-you won’t regret it.
Much like London, Edinburgh has long had a reputation for having bad food. I am here to tell you that is false. Edinburgh has many excellent modern restaurants with cuisines from all over the world. While Edinburgh has become much more modern in the last 15 years, it still holds on to its roots; which I love.
You can have a 5 star Japanese restaurant next to a hole in the wall potato or haggis stand. You can have a fancy $20 cocktail at an ultra-chic lounge located next to a pub with backpackers chugging $3 pints. That’s a great thing about Edinburgh: the contrasts of the old versus the modern, and the harmony in which they both exist.
My favorite things to do from Edinburgh are twofold: golf and scotch! Within a 60-90 minute drive you can play golf on some of the worlds most famous and renowned courses. St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Turnberry and so many others are there and yes you can play them. But those little towns are more than just golf, they are destinations themselves and well worth a visit during a trip to Scotland even if you’re not a golfer!
Another great thing to do is to take a distillery tour of your favorite Scotch. They’re all there and they all offer tours – with free samples! I’m a big scotch fan and an even bigger fan of visiting distilleries. I enjoy listening to the guide talk of the history and explain how things work at their distillery. The photos are also great and did I mention the free samples?!
So all in all, Edinburgh is a destination but also a gateway to the rest of Scotland so make the most out of your time in a place where time can seem to stand still!
Azamara has five upcoming voyages calling on Edinburgh:
Malta is a place that I always forget about. It’s a little island nation in the Southern Mediterranean that most people don’t know anything about. It’s not a place that has an Eiffel Tower, an Empire State Building or something you absolutely must see before you die. What it does have is a lot of beautiful places and things to see and do. They’re not household names but they will leave an impression long after you’ve left Malta. Personally, I can’t wait to go back to Malta!
For a relatively small island, Malta has a lot on offer for the visitor. First, the old city is a fantastic place to visit. Really it’s one of the best-preserved old cities in the region if not the world. Remember that Malta is located just below Sicily and just above both Libya and Tunisia. In fact, the first time I went to Malta, I flew there from Tunis, Tunisia.
The other pleasant thing about Malta’s Mdina is that it’s a virtual ghost town so even in the summer; you’ll have great photos and get the feel of having it to yourself. That’s a difficult thing to do on nearby Italian, Greek or French islands.
The capital of Valletta is an intriguing place that looks like something out of a movie. In fact, Valletta and Malta are often used to film movies or TV shows on location, most notably current, Game of Thrones. The views from the Gardens are fabulous and the small streets give it an old gothic kind of feel. I highly recommend having a drink in one of the numerous small pubs in Valletta. All the bartenders like to tell stories of the people that have passed through over the years.
Most people have heard of the Maltese Falcon although few people actually know what it really is. That said, the Maltese do offer falconry on the island and it’s a pretty fun thing to do and makes for great photos and videos.
I also suggest getting out of Malta proper and heading out to the island of Gozo just offshore. Gozo is great for water activities and a really off the beaten path kind of destination, easily visited on a day trip. Not to mention, it is absolutely gorgeous!
Plus, if you feel like dancing, Malta has no shortage of places to go out at night. They have clubs and bars to suit any age and it kind of reminds me a bit of Cyprus in terms of nightlife, but less seedy.
Finally, the best way to see Malta is by just getting out and doing it. Hire a car and just go. There are also public busses that will take you around the island but I always find it more fun to drive myself! As they say…Malta is more.
Azamara has several cruises calling on Malta, including:
Montenegro is a small European nation that not many people know about, but everyone should. Born out of the 1990s war that created the new Balkan nations, Montenegro has benefitted greatly from its tremendous Adriatic Sea location, stunning vistas and old towns. It seems Montenegro gets lost in the shuffle of the European giants as far as tourism goes, but I am telling you that you need to see Montenegro!
Make no mistake, the best parts of Montenegro are the small towns and sites on the Adriatic, easily accessible from cruise ships. My favorite town in Montenegro is Kotor.
Kotor is a picture perfect place with a well-maintained old town; which is a labyrinth of little streets, shops, cafes and pathways. Just walk around and get lost in the beauty of a true gem. Then don’t forget to hike up to the top of the hill for some stunning views of the only fjords in Southern Europe. The views are to die for but keep in mind, it is a strenuous hike and in the summer the temperatures can get pretty hot with little shade along the way. So bring plenty of water and monitor yourself.
Not far from Kotor, is Perast in Boka Bay. This is another great little old town to visit with the highlight being the ‘Our Lady of the Rock’ little island church. There are frequent water taxis that head out to this great site and it should not be missed. The views alone of the mountains surround Kotor Bay are worth it to make you feel really small!
Budva is another great coastal town in Montenegro that is very popular with tourists as it should be. Probably my favorite thing to see or do in and around Budva is go to Sveti Stefan or St. Stephen.
It is another small island easily accessible from the mainland and is photogenic to a tee. It’s also a popular place with A-List celebrities including the Queen of England herself! Sveti Stefan is a very glamorous place and is not to be missed in Montenegro.
Inland from the coast there is also a lot to see and do in Montenegro including some excellent National Parks. I think the two best are Skadarsko Lake and Durmitor. Skadarsko is about a 20-minute drive from the coast. It has a beautiful river that connects the lake to the Adriatic and creates a gorgeous natural setting with lovely mountains breaking it up creating tremendous views. The river is shared between Montenegro and Albania but the best part is in Montenegro for sure. Durmitor is a great place to do fun outdoor activities; you can even bungee jump!
The capital of Podgorica is also an interesting place to pop into but I wouldn’t spend a huge amount of time there. The highlights of Montenegro are on the coast and the majority of your time should be spent exploring the old towns and natural beauty.