As always, I’m very late to the party and I’m writing about my Christmas travels in August, classic. Prepare yourself, grab a snack, this is going to be a long one. I went travelling with my family who came over from New Zealand and spent 6 weeks in Europe. I met them in Vienna where we would spent Christmas. I flew to Vienna from Madrid and took the train from the airport to the city centre which was fast and easy enough. We stayed in an apartment which we rented through Trip Advisor, but I’ll speak more about that later.
We had 5 nights here which I personally think was one too many but it was still a really beautiful city. It was bloody freezing at this time of year, but that didn’t stop us. I hadn’t seen the fam for 6 months so the first night consisted of gin and tonics and cheese and crackers, it was a great catch up.
We started off with a bus tour to sort of get to know the city which was really nice. One of our family traditions is to go to the Hard Rock Cafe in different cities, and it’s a funny story, I ordered a vegetarian burger and it came and I ate it and I thought it was meat and I started crying, and the waiter came back and was like no no we just try to make it look like meat! I was very embarrassed but I ate it still and managed to score a free glass from it. For Christmas Eve dinner we all wore our Christmas jumpers and went out to a really nice restaurant for a family meal, even though they didn’t really cater for vegetarians it was still a really nice experience.
The sites we saw while we were in Vienna were the Schönbrunn Palace, which was absolutely stunning, inside and out. The Hofburg, where we went to a Christmas Day concert which was really amazing, and that’s coming from someone who’s not really into classical music. We went to the Balvedere museum, which was filled with beautiful art and the building was stunning as well. The highlight for me was definitely the Christmas Markets, and there were so many of them. I loved trying all of the amazing food, like pretzels and of course the mulled wine with souvenir mugs. Mum bought some gorgeous Christmas decorations for the tree at home as well. The Wiener Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz is the main one and it’s in front of the town hall and it really is stunning.
Now back to the apartment, unfortunately on Christmas Day when we got home from the concert, our apartment had been broken into and every had been gone through, all of our cash and jewellery was stolen. The police came but unfortunately nothing has come of it. It was a really shitty thing to happen but it’s definitely opened our eyes to be more careful.
We flew to Rome from Vienna and caught a taxi to our accommodation, I’m not really sure what the other options are. We stayed in an overpriced and tiny room near the Colosseum. First day we did the standard bus tour, which was amazing, I loved seeing the city and it was such a beautiful day and so many things to see.
The Colosseum was amazing, it’s not overrated, you have to go in. Don’t bother with a guided tour though, and definitely don’t fall for any skip the line traps at the entrance. Right next to the Colosseum is the Roman Forum where all the ruin are, which is really cool just imagining how it used to be and it’s amazing that it’s still there. Another highlight was the Trevi Fountain, and of course I threw a coin in and it was amazing. We went into the Pantheon as well, which was quite spectacular, as it’s so huge and just in the middle of the city.
We had a guided tour of the Vatican, where we got to skip all of the lines and we were taken through the Vatican museums, the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica. It was pretty cool to be in the smallest country in the world. I really enjoyed the visit and the view from the top of the Basilica was amazing. Being in the Sistine Chapel was amazing, if you really thought about how the whole thing was hand painted by one man, it was very impressive.
We took a day trip to Pompeii as well, which we did through a tour company. We started the day very early as we had to travel about 3 hours on the bus. We had traditional Naples pizza when we arrived and a cheeky vino before going to learn about the history of Pompeii. We walked around the site for a few hours, it was crazy to think it was all buried by ash and lava and this is what they managed to dig out and be able to tell stories about. We were very lucky to have a clear and sunny day.
And last but not least, the food! We tried to look for more authentic restaurants. I had some amazing ravioli, cabonara pasta and gelato everyday! I can’t wait to go back to Italy, just for the food.
We saw in the New Year with a feast of curry (only place we could find) and watching the fireworks from The Colosseum.
I already have a post about Barcelona from a few years ago so I’ll briefly mention my favourite things to do here. We flew in from Rome and stayed in the Gothic Quarter at this amazing hotel with hot tubs on the balcony. Barcelona is without a doubt one of my favourite cities and I would love to live there.
My favourite (tourist) things to do here are, The Sagrada Familia, it’s such an amazing piece of architecture and it;s always changing as it’s still not finished, and I recommend a tour or an audio guide as there’s so much information. Another one of Gaudi’s works is Casa Batllo, which is just as amazing and worth a visit or if you’re on a tight budget, check out the exterior. And my favourite Gaudi work, Park Guell, it has amazing views and the famous mosaic terrace.
The beach for me is always worth a visit, as I love to be near the water and there’s always a great atmosphere here. From here you can shoot up to Mountjuic on the cable car, where you can check out some amazing views of the city, the castle, the Olympic Stadium and the Magic Fountain and National Museum. There’s a sound and light show at the fountain most nights which is worth checking out as well.
If you stuck around until the end congratulations, I hope this post helps you out!