Rome, Paris and Madrid are some of the well known global cities of Europe attracting travelers. But are you familiar with Prague a lesser known international European city in central Europe that will not disappoint in comparison.
The capital city of the Czech Republic is also it’s largest city. Prague has a gilded past filled with history and riches as the Bohemian Kingdom of the Holy Roman Empire and a key city of the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg empire.
Prague is culturally comparable to the formerly mentioned iconic European cities, offering modern amenities, theatres, galleries and museums scattered throughout the region.
Having survived the second world war, “The golden city of a hundred spires” is named for the extensive number of towers that fill her skyline. Prague stands as a baroque historic center of world heritage sites drawing visitors to her endless number of architectural gems. Breathtaking cathedrals, historic palaces and hundreds of statues scattered throughout this very walkable city makes it a must visit.
Visiting Prague offers amazing opportunities to tour attractions and sites, read on to further investigate which ones ought to be at the top of a must see list and why.
Prague Castle –
One of the most visited sites in Prague is a 9th century castle, that is Prague’s namesake. The complex has been in use continuously as the ruling location for emperors, kings, queens and presidents since its erection. At 750,000 square feet, this ancient castle has been declared the largest in the world. If that isn’t daunting enough, she also sits high above the city on a hill overlooking the Vltava River, making her appear even larger than reality.
Step into the past by watching the changing of the guard ceremony from the grand entrance at the Matthias gate. All within a stone’s throw from the entrance of the massive compound are stunning cathedrals, mesmerizing from the spires outside to the glittered treasures within. The old royal palaces represent the original medieval and renaissance architecture and tell the stories of their past residents. The various beautifully manicured gardens that once entertained nobility are all waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.
Due to its popularity and the number of sites, it is highly recommended to purchase tickets in advance.
Old Town –
Not far from the castle is the historic “Old Town” quarter of Prague. The oldest part of Prague dates back to the 10th century when it was the central marketplace. Later developed in the 12th century as the significant center of the city, it became the location for some of the Czechs most notable historical events including riots, revolutions and executions.
Surrounded by a mixture of architectural buildings built in various styles, at first sight you will find gothic churches and a medieval Old Town Hall with an astronomical clock, one of the oldest working clocks in the world. As you venture further along the cobblestoned streets past residences and shops you come upon the rococo Kinský Palace, home to Czech National Gallery and art museum.
Located nearby the old town, crossing over the Vltava river are the towers of the famed stone arch Charles Bridge. Named after the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, the structure is lined with statues representing saints, patron saints and some of Prague’s most famous inhabitants.The pedestrian bridge, connecting the old town and the lesser town of Prague, is always popping with tourists and locals alike. Note there is a nominal fee to cross the bridge, but this iconic attraction is a highlight when visiting Prague.
Prague’s less visited upper castle on the east bank of the Vltava is a 10th century fort. Believed to be the location of the original Prague settlement, here you will find a fortified castle built up with bastions, ramparts and gates. The Vyšehrad complexis a location popular with Praguer’s with many opportunities for outdoor recreation to enjoy local celebrations.
Within the ancient fortification, many hidden gems can be found and if that does not draw you here, the stunning views over Prague makes this a location worth exploring. The castle serves as a historic monument of the reign of Czech dukes and contains many architectural riches. The Saints Peter and Paul Basilica is a neo-gothic church originally built in the 10th century featuring intricately adorned pic worthy twin towers that are easily spotted from the river. Vyšehrad cemetery is the final resting place for hundreds of Czechs most famous past residents including artists, composers and writers, among others from the 18th and 19th century. Within the fortress grounds there is plenty of green space where you will find locals enjoying the area out for a jog and on weekends, frequenting the restaurants and bars making this experience more culturally immersive.
Prague is a gilded and historic destination treating you to beautiful architecture and innumerable cathedrals that draw you into the various town squares filled with friendly Czech culture. As a modern city, Prague offers all the necessary amenities with easy to access public transportation, luxurious accommodations and some of the best shopping and dining in the heart of Europe. When desiring to experience the best of central European cities, we recommend spending time in Prague among other breathtaking cities like Vienna, Salzburg and Budapest. A top travel experience is enjoying these iconic regions on a ten night river cruise traveling along the Danube River.
Find out more about the river cruise experience from our website.
Traveling has many different faces ranging from local excursions close to home to extreme far off destinations that take days to reach. Within each individual journey are many opportunities for purpose driven travel. Purposeful travel is arriving at a destination with a set goal. Volunteer travel, ancestry travel, historical travel and wine travel all fall under this category.
Wine travel which is officially referred to as vinitourism, oenotourism or enotourism includes exploring destinations with visits to local vineyards and wineries, familiarizing oneself with a region’s history of wine, experiencing the art of their vinification and the ultimate treat, sampling the wines. If timed accurately, one may even find themselves participating in the annual harvest physically and/or celebratorily.
Italy, France and Spain, are some of the European regions that are most visited for this type of experience. However areas, like Greece, that sit under the radar are home to wine-producing regions that while not as well known, provide many opportunities for unique and enjoyable purposeful wine experiences paired with visiting the cradle of civilization.
The birthplace of western culture, Greece is visited for its abundance of beautiful scenery, pristine beaches, friendly easy going lifestyles and historic architecture. Unbeknownst to many, Greece is also one of the oldest regions of the world for wine production.
Within the Mediterranean, wine has a historical past that dates back 6,500 years with Greece as its original producer. The distribution of Greek wines made its way throughout Italy, Spain, Portugal and into Northern Europe as Europe was colonized during the era of the Roman Empire.
Greece’s role in wine production with lesser known grape varieties are waiting to be unearthed throughout 29 wine regions as the home to 700+ wineries.
Central Greece on the mainland peninsula is the wine region of Attica. With its warm, dry climate, Attica’s main growth is the fruity and floral white grape Savatiano which is used to produce a 2000 year old table wine Retsina. Retsina is a fruity, oily wine with a pine finish that is made from a combination of Savatiano and Rhoditis grapes and then infused with resin (hence the name and the pine flavor). For the sophisticated wine drinker, the Savatiano grape as a single varietal blend will be similar to Chardonnay wines grown in the French Chablis region. Though when oaked, Savatiano wines will resemble a white Burgundy from the Cote’d’Or region in France.
In the foothills, near the former home of the Greek gods, Mt. Olympus is Rapsani, the first officially declared wine appellation of Greece. The mountain vineyards of the Rapsani region blend the locally grown red grapes, Xinomavro, Stavroto and Krassato and cask age them to produce wines with strong tannins, minerality and a fruity finish.
The legendary Peloponnese peninsula is home to the Nemea region, near the former Greek ancient capital city, Nafplio. This region produces Greece’s most well known native growth, the Agiorgitiko grape. Grown at some of the highest elevations in Greece and oaked for up to five years, the result is a complex flavored and balanced, medium acidity and yet full bodied red wine. With a flavor similar to a spicy Merlot, the presentation of this wine can be compared to a young French Beaujolais Nouveau wine.
The largest island of Greece, located in the Mediterranean Sea is the rugged island of Crete. One of the most attractive vacation spots in Greece, Crete is filled with luxury hotels and is home to the ancient white grape, Vidiano. This hard to grow grape produces a fruity and complex medium to full bodied wine. Grown on a smaller scale with very few vines still in existence, the outcome is a locally favored fruity wine primarily enjoyed by residents and visitors to the island.
The volcanic islands of the Aegean sea draw visitors to its ancient villages, bays, coves and bright blue waters. As a prominent cruise destination, the Aegean islands are filled with travelers searching for the perfect sun and sand experience combined with a uniquely Greek cultural experience. But another reason to visit these beautiful islands is for the wine.
Santorini, which is part of the Cyclades islands, is home to the white Assyrtiko grape. Considered to be one of the top white wines in Greece, Assyrtiko grapes are highly influenced by the island’s volcanic soil, producing a dry wine with a citrusy and crisp flavor similar to a German Riesling. Produced oaked and unoaked, the oaked version labeled locally as Nykteri will present a less acidic wine.
Samos, the lesser known Aegean island just a mile off the coast of Turkey, is the birthplace of the worldwide grown white Muscat (Muscat Blanc) grape. The UNESCO World Heritage site once drew affluent residents specifically for its ancient vineyards. Visiting Samos is a primitive look into the Aegean isles before the days of cruise ships and luxury hotels.
With various wine regions and grapes influenced by the diverse terrain, Greece offers plenty of opportunities to include wine tourism into a Hellenic vacation. Visiting by cruise ship, ferrying between mainland and islands, or taking a wine tour, even the most sophisticated oenophile can bring a Greek experience to a whole other level and travel purpose.
More wine travel articles can be found at our website. Yamas! (that’s Greek for cheers)
Germany attracts visitors for its beautiful countryside of mountains, forests, rivers and even beaches. While the landscape of Germany is vast and offers many opportunities to explore, a top of the list for visitors is immersing into the culture and traditions of the region you are visiting. The most recognizable opportunity for immersion is with the local cuisine. Germany is most known for its traditional German fare of bratwurst, pretzels and sauerkraut, but what is not known is that like other countries, the foods within Germany are regional.
Made up of various food provisions that are reflective of the history of the region, cooking practices may also be influenced from neighboring countries. For instance, making a dish like bratwurst in Bavaria may be very different from those served in the Rhineland. Think, Chicago vs New York pizza. At the end of the day it’s pizza, but the thick vs thin crust is a debatable topic. One bratwurst may not be better than the other, they are just unique to their regions.
Many restaurants throughout Germany have been awarded the highest Michelin dining designation (three stars) for dining excellence and have the fourth highest rating for total Michelin stars in the world after Japan, France and Italy.
Journey into the dining experiences of the most popular regions of Germany, traveling from the southern Baden region to Bavaria, Franconia and the Rhineland.
The Gemeinde Baden (that’s German for; Baden municipality) is in the southwestern portion of Germany north of Lake Constance at the Switzerland border and to the east of France. With a warmer climate than the rest of Germany, you will find many locally grown products that are incorporated within the cuisine. The combination of farm to table ingredients and influence from both France and Switzerland’s cuisine arguably make it some of the best food in Germany.
With the country influences that surround Baden, there are actually only a few dishes here that are uniquely from Baden. Most of the offerings are popular dishes in neighboring regions that have been adjusted toward a uniquely Baden experience. These dishes will be adjusted using many of the fresh components that are readily available in Baden and the results are less heavy dishes than those found in other regions of Germany.
For example, by adding additional eggs, the popular German noodle dish Spätzle tastes richer than in other parts of Germany. In Baden, it is not uncommon to find traditional dishes from the nearby French Alsace region. Baeckeoffe, an Alsatian casserole dish and Flammekueche, a popular French Tart are served throughout the Baden region. The very popular German cabbage side dish, Sauerkrautor (sauerkraut), pretzels and German potato salad can also all be enjoyed with a unique Baden influence.
East of Baden, in southeastern Germany, is the very popular Bavarian region. Bavaria, the largest state in Germany, is an elevated region and is credited for Germany’s popular potato and beet dishes. Many of Germany’s signature dishes that are also found throughout the world were influenced by Bavaria’s eastern neighbors of Austria and the Czech Republic.
Bavaria’s specialty dishes include Brotzeit, a traditional bread snack, similar to the deli sandwich topped with meats, cheeses and condiments. Other notable dishes are Weisswurst (white sausage), Münchner Schnitzel (fried breaded cutlets) served with spätzel noodle dumplings, Knödel (boiled dumplings) and the world famous Bavarian pretzels, Brezel’s.
The capital of Bavaria, Munich is Germany’s third largest city and the home of the popular annual festival, Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival that occurs from mid to late September to early October. Regardless if you are visiting during the festival or any other time of year, you will want to pair your dining experience with a stein (mug) of local bier (beer). For full immersion into the gastronomic culture of Munich, take a Bavarian Beer and Food tour and visit some of the best beer halls in Germany.
While technically a part of Bavaria, Franconia has its own unique cuisine. Franconia’s largest cities; Nuremberg, Bamberg & Würzburg carry a distinct culture that stems from the Medieval Germanic tribes that once existed here.
Bread, potatoes and meats, like the rest of Bavaria, are still the main components of a Franconian meal, the biggest difference is the gravy that smothers the food creating a heartier dish. Franconian gravies can be enjoyed with various meats served in the area like Schäuferla, roast pork.
There are many items to enjoy throughout Nuremberg and the other Franconian influenced locations within Bavaria. Grilled Nuremberger Bratwurst pork sausages served with sauerkraut, Franconian Bread soup and Zwiebelkuchen onion cake are all popular items. Not to be missed and the most well known dessert within Franconian culture is Nürnberger Lebkuchen, a gingerbread cake commonly found during the cooler holiday periods.
Franconia is home to hundreds of small breweries and has the largest number of breweries in the world. When visiting try some of the local specialties like Rauchbier (smoked beer) Dunkel (dark lager), wheat beer (Hefeweizen) and Helles pale lager.
But bier isn’t the only viable drinking option, Franconian wines grown along the Main river produce some of the best whites in Germany. Franconian wines are bottled in easy-to-spot Bocksbeutel, green bulb shaped, bottles that you will want to take home as a souvenir of your visit.
The final region we are visiting is also the northernmost of the regions. Located in western Germany, this hilly Rhineland area surrounds the Rhine river and covers the areas of Germany that borders the countries of Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. Some of the most visited cities of the Rhineland; Bonn, Düsseldorf, Koblenz and Cologne are found throughout the middle section of the Rhine river.
Within this cooler area of Germany, the gastronomy is made up of hearty dishes of stews, potatoes, soups and traditional German offerings like sauerkraut. A popular dish of the region is Himmel un Ääd (Heaven and Earth), a mashed potato dish made with apples that signify heaven since they grow from trees and hang above the earth and potatoes which grow from the earth.
The perfect Rhine experience includes a visit to the largest city on the Rhine river, Cologne. A medieval city, Cologne is the largest city within western Germany and a prime cultural area. Featuring many architectural sites, landmarks and museums, the best gastronomy of the Rhineland region can be found in Cologne. The city boasts thousands of pubs, cafes and restaurants offering many opportunities to enjoy a Rhineland dining experience.
A key part of a Cologne foodie experience is sampling the locally brewed Kölsch beer from one of the many local breweries here. Taking a local brewery tour, you will find paired with the local brewery cuisine; Kölsche Kaviar, a black pudding with onions or Halve Hahn, a traditional Cologne cheese sandwich made with locally sourced Gouda cheese on a rye roll with mustard and onions.
When visiting Germany, food is just one of the many experiences that immerse you into the many faces of the Deutchland. If you need additional reasons why Germany needs to be on your travel bucket list, here are ten more for you. The best way to travel through Germany is by river cruise. Hit all of the best cities along the Rhine, the Main or the Moselle enjoying the towns, sites and the gastronomy of the different regions of Germany.
Regardless if you are an oenophile, a vin lover or just getting your feet wet in the wine world, Bordeaux is the most renowned region for wine. Exploring wine, understanding the vinification process and sampling wine, Bordeaux is known for high quality, aged wines, and being the world wine capital. Here you can enjoy some of the world’s most expensive reds and deliciously sweet white wines.
Wine’s existence in Bordeaux began with the Romans who occupied the area in the 1st century. Today Bordeaux is one of the oldest continuously producing wine communities in the world. The key success to the wines of this area is the combination of the maritime climate, the calcium rich soils, and the rivers, the Garonne and Dordogne that provide irrigation year round for continued vine growth.
The heart of the region, centered around the town of Bordeaux, is well known not just for their wines, but as an international destination filled with history and medieval architecture and for its connection to the rivers that flow through the area. The famed Cabernet Sauvignon producing Medoc region is where you will find some of the most esteemed wine villages along the left bank of the Garonne river. And the popular Saint-Émilion region on the right bank of the Dordogne produces Merlot with a reputation for superior wines. But this is not all Bordeaux has to offer, the region is also established for White Bordeaux wines produced from Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadet grapes. Vinified in the cooler parts of Bordeaux, sweet dessert wines are fermented naturally using a process called Botrytis. Botrytis concentrates the sugars in the grapes as they ripen and develops unique flavors that can only be found within this part of the region.
In a nutshell, Oenotourisme is the purpose of traveling that centers around wine. Exploring and enjoying the production of the region plus the cultural heritage that unites it all together is a wine traveler’s dream. With almost 300,000 acres of vineyards and a multitude of wine options, Bordeaux is a top destination. So one might wonder the best way to explore the vast and largest wine growing region of France. The answer is by bicycle. Bicycles will take you on the streets that create Bordeaux’s iconic towns, past the historical monuments, along the rivers, and through the villages that are home to the wineries locally known as châteaux. It is within these villages where you will taste the most respected wines in the world and venture into the vineyards that grow the famed blends.
City of Bordeaux
The heart of the wine region is a bike friendly city offering paths of approximately 400 miles of bicycle trails. Traveling by bike through the walled city centre, you can explore sites like the grandiose Place de la Bourse square with a grand reflecting fountain and the iconic Bordeaux Cathedral. You may also find yourself stopping along the way to enjoy dining in a local cafe, popping into a shop on the Rue Sainte-Catherine or even finding unexpected historical treasures throughout this UNESCO World Heritage city centre.
Within the city of Bordeaux, there are many paths to take you on adventures well beyond the wine regions. Bike through forests, into the outer regions to visit one of the many beautiful parks, like the nature reserve in Barails and you can even cycle all the way to the beaches on the Atlantic coast. Jumping onto one of the many paths available, you never know what hidden discoveries you will find as you explore the area guided or on your own.
A relaxing hour-long ride is all it takes to lead you along both sides of the Garonne river. Start from the bell towers at the Place Pey Berland, cross the Pont de Pierre stone bridge to the right bank of the Garonne. Ride along the shores of the right bank, admiring the views of the city of Bordeaux across the river until you reach the Chaban-Delmas bridge which will take you back to the left bank. Crossing the river, you will find you are near the popular Chartrons district, the perfect stop to enjoy one of the many bistros or taverns before continuing along the river back to the bell towers where you began your ride.
Within reach from the historic centre are the prestigious appellations of the Médoc region. Following “La Route de Vins des Bordeaux” by bicycle, you can enjoy a relaxed ride along the Garonne river into the countryside and through the villages where you will find yourself upon the famed vineyards of Bordeaux.
Traveling from the city of Bordeaux in just 3 hours each way, you pass through some of the highest respected elite first growth wine producing château in France. Château Margaux, Château Pichon Longueville, Château Latour, Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Mouton Rothschild, produce Bordeaux’s most valuable and esteemed wines. By bike, you can leisurely stop along the way and visit the vineyards of these most prestigious wine producers with plenty of time to sample some of the most expensive wines in the world.
Alternately starting in the city, you can head south along the “Route des vins” into the birthplace of the region. The city of Graves is home to the only Premier Cru château outside the northern Medoc region, Château Haut Brion. Continuing on this path, you will pass some of the oldest château, and historical castles as you ride along the vineyards leading you into the Sauternes region to the Château d’Yquem whose vineyards are famed for its sweet White Bordeaux’s.
Although not as accessible as the Left Bank from the city of Bordeaux, with the superb public transportation that Bordeaux offers, visiting the right bank is just a train ride away. Starting from the Gare de Bordeaux St Jean, a 30 minute ride will take you to the city of Libourne, the second largest city center in the Bordeaux region. Located in Saint-Émilion, Libourne is the main city of the Right Bank along the Dordogne river and the commercial location for the wines of the Right Bank and the Entre Deux Mer region.
Saint-Émilion is the prime wine region of the Right bank and along with its neighboring area, Pomerol, as Grand Cru vineyards, produce the highly desired Merlot based blends of Bordeaux.
Embarking on your two and half hour bike ride (without stops) will start from the train station in Libourne. Cycling northwest along the Right Bank of the Dordogne, you will find some of the largest castles, smallest villages and most approachable wines from world famous vineyards as you enjoy your ride to the town of Fronsac. Exploring Fronsac you will find historic sites dating back to Charlemagne and the Roman Empire as well as some highly reputable château vineyards.
From Fronsac, moving east and passing through the French countryside vineyards of the picturesque Pomerol region you will find yourself traveling to the rustic village of medieval St-Émilion, a UNESCO World Heritage site and another historic center for Bordeaux wines. Arriving in St-Émilion, explore the beautiful hilly town, visit the historical church and stop in at a local bistro to enjoy a meal with some locally produced Grand Cru vin before traveling on.
Making your way back towards Libourne from Saint-Emilion, you will reach the Dordogne, and cross the river into the Entre Deux Mer region on your way to Graves de Vayres. Graves de Vayres is known for its terraced vineyards that produce both red sweet Merlot wines and dry white wines produced from Sauvignon Blanc. A reward for your biking travels will be reaching one of the most prestigious medieval castle’s built in the region, the Château de Vayres. Sitting on the left bank of the Dordogne river, a visit to this historic location will offer you a fantastic view into the past royal presence within the Bordeaux region. Exploring the beautiful château and the French and medieval gardens will be the perfect stop before your 30 minute ride traveling back to the Libourne train station.
As the premium wine producer in France, Bordeaux offers many opportunities to fully explore the famed region as a wine traveler. However biking through Bordeaux will offer an immersion that you can not otherwise experience by motor vehicle and is a way to connect with Bordeaux on a more personal level, path by path.
Did you know, many of these biking adventures, in addition to others, are provided excursions on a Bordeaux river cruise starting at the city of Bordeaux. What better way to enjoy seven days of vinitourism on both the Garonne and Dordogne rivers visiting the many châteaux along the way. Familiarizing yourself with the region and sampling some of the finest wines are all expected when visiting Bordeaux. But imagine your experience when you explore on one of the bicycles included onboard, guided or on your own. Spend your time cruising the rivers, bicycling the beautiful French countryside and enjoying the wines that have made this the most famous wine region in the world. Wine travel doesn’t get any better than this!
If this sounds like your perfect vacation, join us starting on June 9, 2022 for a 7 night Bordeaux river cruise. Let us guide you through this fantastic wine experience. Space is limited. Learn more about Traveling the Rivers of Bordeaux and inquire for more information here.
Africa, an outdoor enthusiasts dream. An entire continent of open space filled with five ecosystems each offering a unique aspect to the landscape. Deserts, mountains, savanna’s, rain forests and coastline. One of the few places on earth where despite being the second most populated continent still contains many locations that look just as they did hundreds or maybe even thousands of years ago.
Visiting Africa for its amazing scenery, landscapes and its most endearing feature it’s biodiversity. Containing the most flora and fauna still in existence Africa is one of the most desired locations for travelers looking to step into a world completely different then their own.
Excited passengers whisking off in 4 x 4 vehicles on protectedwildlife Safarisled by a local guide to search for the Big 5 (Cape buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros) among others. But there is another experience, one less considered and yet an amazing more intimate way to see wildlife in a natural and sustainable way.
The one source that all animals need for existence is water. Which is what makes very important to the existence of Africa’s wildlife, the rivers.
Africa has dry and wet seasons that occur annually interacting with the animal behavior driving them to and from the rivers, their main source for water. On average Africa’s wettest season is from April to early June and they see some rain October – December. However June through September is the dry period when animals begin migration to and along the rivers for sustainability.
Like the animals, traveling along the rivers can offer explorers a unique experience for up-close wildlife sightings and viewing of wildlife in their natural habitats as they play, socialize, feed, bathe and rest.
*Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways River Cruises
Traveling the Chobe and Zambezi rivers into the Chobe National Park in Botswana, brings guests to the source that attracts wildlife from hundreds of miles to the only water available during the African dry winter months. Offering unobstructed views of herds of elephant, giraffe, hooved animals and hundreds of birds all visiting for the season.
In addition to the wildlife experience, the scenery along the river offers many opportunities for unexpected views of the river and the African landscape. Don’t be surprised if you also come across some other unexpected surprises like the breathtaking sunsets that you can see from your cabin balcony.
The best part of an African river cruise is you don’t miss out on the land safari’s. Time is also spent exploring on safari in the Chobe National Park among other areas within Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Rwanda.
Visit national parks, iconic locations like Victoria Falls and private game reserves all while enjoying the best available five star accommodations that are arranged for you based on the itinerary that you choose.
Enjoying an African river cruise can offer many opportunities for immersing in the local culture, exploring the best sites and experiencing the bucket list adventures that most interest you.
Bordeaux, a world renowned wine region and for good reason. Within the total area are many wine appellations filled with over 8,000 chateau and vineyards all produce some of the most sought after, best aging, highest quality and most expensive wines in the world.
Wine and Bordeaux’s relationship date back 2000 years, since it’s time as a commercial center for the Roman Empire. Today Bordeaux provides one-fourth of the production of the best wines in France.
The greater Bordeaux region is located in southwestern France where crescent shaped land surrounds and is surrounded by the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and the Gironde river, respectively.
Within the region of Bordeaux, on the left bank of the Garonne river you will find the port city and capital of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region, similarly named, “Bordeaux”.
A popular location as the starting point for a wine experience, the city of Bordeaux also offers history, architecture, culture, dining, shopping and so much more. When taking a break from your “wine travels” or completely venturing out to see all that the city of Bordeaux has to offer, the best place to start is within the seven districts of the city of Bordeaux that each has its own flair, its own history and offers its own unique Bordelais experience.
The birthplace of the city of Bordeaux started here as the Roman city of Burdigala transforming over 2000 years into the primary city centre and heart of the downtown area. The location of the port entrance and where the economy that developed Bordeaux into a major city was built upon. It is here that you will find some of the oldest architecture and history of the city. Visiting the local landmarks of the Porte Cailhau, the Pont de Pierre, Saint-Pierre church, the iconic and recognizable Place de la Bourse along the Garonne river and its modern counterpart the must see Miroir d’eau reflecting pool which is the most photographed location in Bordeaux. The Old Town is also the location of the Rue Saint-Catherine, the longest pedestrian shopping street in France.
The upscale region of the city, known as the “Golden Triangle” of parishes offering beautifully elegant stone buildings and boulevards featuring well maintained city squares like the Place des Quinconces, the Place Tourny shopping district and some of Bordeaux’s top restaurants, luxurious boutiques and the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, Place de la Comédie. Grand Hommes is the area to see and be seen as you explore the city and outer regions of Bordeaux.
Saint Seurin – Fondaudège
The residential district northwest of the Grand Hommes, named for the oldest cemetery in Bordeaux, Saint Seurin, is within walking distance to the old town. A quiet upscale area featuring a mixture of modern architecture with old stone buildings and beautiful gardens. This where you will find the Jardin Botanique to venture out for a local experience. However if mixing with the locals is not of interest, the area is still visit worthy for the Palais Gallien, a former Roman arena and one of the only remaining forms of architecture from the Gallo-Roman era in Bordeaux and the Natural History museum located at the edge of the Jardin.
Town Hall District
South of the Saint Seurin district and west of the Old Town, you will find the district with both visitors and locals enjoying the centrally located and symbolic Place Gambetta square. Other visitors may be searching out the once medieval residence, Palais Rohan that today is Bordeaux’s Town Hall (Hôtel De Ville)home of the Museum of Fine Arts. Not far from there is the most beautiful and primary Cathedral within Bordeaux, Saint Andrew and the adjacent and popular Pey – Beland bell tower. Within this district is also where you can discover the antique district and the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design located in one of the most beautifully decorated 18th century mansions of Bordeaux.
The Saints District
In the southernmost district of the city is the Saint – Jean train station the neighborhood of Saint-Michel and the Saint-Croix church. As the central location where train passengers are passing through all day long, this area is filled with local immersion. Le Marché des Capucins is a local market open early morning until early afternoon and is worth exploring for fresh regional and popular items to sample and bring home. Come back to the area in the evening for a truly Bordelaisen experience heading to one of the many restaurants, bars and clubs where you will find an energetic and animated crowd of both travelers and locals. Also located within this district is the Quai de Paludate popular with the locals for music and nightlife.
The city of Bordeaux is not completely limited to the left side of the Garonne river. On the right bank is the recently gentrified neighborhood of La Bastide. The former industrial area has been built up with restaurants and movie theatres in a newly developed urban area and features fantastic views of the historic Old Town from across the Garonne. Within the district you can find a newly developed botanical garden. The Jardin botanique de la Bastide features six different garden areas including a water garden and an arboretum.
Bassins a Flot
Crossing back across the Garonne via the Chaban Delmas bridge is the district of Bassins a flot. The most northern area of the city is the location of the city’s river commercial docks, once home to the largest port in Europe. Despite it’s maritime history this is where you can now find the most modernistic and futuristic architecture in the world, better known as the wine tower, the La Cité du Vin museum. Walking the paths along the river quay you will pass barges and other relics of the area’s river past and eventually you will reach the Bordeaux Submarine base. One of five sub bases built by the Italians during World War II, the bunker has been repurposed into a multicultural building with the Bassins de Lumiere art museum, and offers various concerts throughout the year.
Last but not least is the most eclectic of Bordeaux districts. North of the Old Town district is the original home of the 14th century Chartreux Abbey. The historic neighborhood has been restored from its dilapidated existence into a chic bohemian experience offering a centrally located public garden and featuring the Place du Marché Chartrons marketplace filled with local merchants offering river and locally sourced food like oysters, foie gras and macarons. Explore the nearby Saint-Louis Cathedral and also within this district you will find riverside dining and the Quai des Marques shopping area filled with cafe’s and boutiques for the hipster in all of us. With all the activity that happens here, it is not surprising that this is the location where the quays for river boats dock making it a popular location for tourism and travelers looking for a Bordeaux experience.
Looking beyond Bordeaux’s wine presence, you can see that the city of Bordeaux is abundant in culture and experiences and offers an internationally cosmopolitan vibe. The many areas throughout the city are vibrant and yet each offers its own unique reasons for visiting. The city draws a romance of it’s own. Read more specifically to find Romance in Bordeaux.
No matter how you choose to explore the region, one of our very favorite experiences that brings all of these experiences to you in one amazing week is by river cruise. Learn more about river cruising from our website.
Searching for history, culture and experience you arrive into Germany to embark on a journey along the Danube river. One of the longest rivers in Europe and many cities that access the river, the best place to start your travels is from memorable and medieval Germany.
The heartland of the river, the Danube in Germany offers you charming towns along the river that are filled with historic castles, beautiful cathedrals and culture that goes back thousands of years.
With many towns and villages to explore, there are three key German towns along the Danube river and the “The Route of Emperors and Kings of Bavaria”. A dedicated cycling path also runs along the Danube river for an active experience while traveling offering the opportunity for visiting multiple sites along the way.
German towns along the Danube river offer a unique travel experience, these are some of what you will find on our itinerary when visiting the Bavarian Danube:
The second largest city in Bavaria after Munich is where you will begin your Danube journey. Although technically located on the Pegnitz river, a tributary of the Main, Nuremberg is located at the Rhine – Main – Danube Canal making it a popular starting point for navigating the Danube river.
Nuremberg is best known for its role in World War II Germany, the Nazi Rally grounds and the Nuremberg Trials at the Justice Palace. There are many tours and underground experiences offered in Nuremberg for World War II enthusiasts.
Not just historic, a city of art and culture, there are many attractions to explore including the medieval fortified Nuremberg Castle complex in the altstadt (old town) and the twin towered St. Lorenz medieval/gothic church built in the 1400’s and it’s three organs.
Nuremberg is a walking city and exploring the area you can follow the old city walls finding medieval gates and towers throughout the city. Visiting the old town squares and the Hauptmarkt (open market) to interact with the locals shopping for fresh fruits, popular local pastries and a la carte dining options. The market is sitting in front of the Roman Catholic Frauenkirche church, another site you will want to step into and explore.
Foodies will enjoy the range of offerings available in Nuremberg with its many restaurants featuring traditional Franconian fare and popular local offerings like lebkuchen German cakes and Nuremberg sausages.
Recommendation: Plan time to relax at one of the many beer gardens scattered throughout the city of Nuremberg.
Visitor friendly, Nuremberg’s old town is a pedestrian only area where you will find many options for shopping and finding specialty items. This is also the location where many festivals occur throughout the year. Additional shopping options can also be found in the Handwerkerhof area of medieval village shops featuring independent businesses selling handcrafted goods.
Departing Nuremberg you will travel up river to Regensburg. Located where the Danube river meets the Regen and Naab rivers in the eastern part of lower Germany, Regensburg is not as populated as Nuremberg, yet it is still ranked the 4th largest city in the Bavarian region of Germany. A cultural center, the city played an important role during rule of Germany by the Holy Roman Empire.
A UNESCO World Heritage site as one of the largest “old towns” in Germany, Regensburg attracts visitors to its mostly medieval town filled with many well known sites, historic buildings, gardens and parks. One of these that is highly recommended is the Dom Cathedral. Built starting in 1275 and finished in 1869 the complex is primarily made up of Gothic architecture however you will also find adjoining chapels still in existence that predate the Dom dating back to the 8th century among newer styles of architecture and notable art works.
As you walk the town, you will find many medieval churches each offering its own stories that are visit worthy among other architectural treats like the Porta Praetoria fortress walls built by the Romans. Other recommended visits is the medieval stone bridge which dates back to the 11th century that was used during the crusades to cross the Danube.
A not to be missed dining experience is the Sausage Kitchen. A popular destination for both visitors and locals, it is the oldest public restaurant in the world actively serving guests since the 11th century.
As you journey along the Danube following the famed Route of Emperors and Bavarian Kings, you will pass historic castles and beautiful landscapes along the way as you travel to Passau.
Referred to as the “City of Three Rivers” because the Danube joins the Inn river from the south and the Ilz river from the north. Passau is a smaller city then the other two but is also well known for its gothic and baroque architecture.
You will first notice when walking the cobble-stoned streets of Passau’s Old City (die alstadt) the Veste Oberhaus Fortress which can be seen high on a mountain top facing the city. Today the museum of Passau, it is home to an art gallery, historic collections from the Bavarian region, collections symbolic to Passau’s past and an observatory.
Tip: A highlight of visiting the fortress is the 18th Century viewing platform with fabulous views of historic Passau and the rivers below.
Visiting the Gothic town you will find there are many hospitable and site worthy churches within Passau to visit however, a not to be missed site is the Italian Baroque Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral). Notable as having one of the largest pipe organs in the world with over 17,000 pipes. Concerts are held daily during the warmer summer months and worth scheduling your visit around to experience the organ in action for yourself.
Passau has a large University that populates almost a ⅓ of the town with students who bring a bustling excitement to the city’s taverns, restaurants and beer gardens scattered throughout.
Your journey as you are transported along the Danube’s Route of Emperors and Bavarian Kings will continue from Passau on into some of the beautiful river towns of Slovakia, Austria, including Vienna and Hungary until you reach your final destination in Budapest.
There are so many reasons to visit Germany, an enjoyable and unique experience is to travel the inland waterways exploring the towns and villages of Germany and other neighboring countries from your boutique floating hotel. For more information on a Danube river cruise, head to our website.
The city of Luxor in southern Egypt, is a modern city, once the ancient Greek city of Thebes and former capital of Egypt known as Waset in the prime of Pharaoh rule during the sixteenth – eleventh centuries BC today is the gateway to the ancient Egyptian monuments..
Located on the Eastern bank of the Nile river, Luxor is the prime location for visiting the ancient sites found on both banks of the Nile river. Luxor was originally built during the 11th Egyptian dynasty as the home of the Egyptian god Aman-Ra and over the growth and power of the Egyptian dynasty grew into a wealthy and prosperous capital city of the Upper region from the 18th – 20th dynasties.
Today as was in ancient times, the city of Luxor is the center of daily life and still where you will find the majority of the people, the airport, hotels, port and the majority of the tourism industry that draws visitors to the area.
Across the river on the West bank of the Nile is the location of the temples and burial sites of the ancient royals who ruled Egypt from the East bank.
When planning a visit to Egypt, what are the sites to plan on visiting on both banks?
East Bank –
The main archeological attractions outside the city of Luxor are the ancient temples of Karnak and Luxor which sit about 2 miles apart along the Nile river.
The Temple of Karnak and Open Air Museum
The second most visited site in Egypt is one of Egypt’s largest surviving temples. Originally designed as the main religious site of the kingdom during the Middle Kingdom period (2030 to 1650 B.C) of Pharaonic rule dedicated to the Egyptian god Amun – Re saw continuous building well into the Ptolemaic period from 305 – 30 BC.
Various monuments were added by the many Pharaohs (approximately 30) who ruled through the Middle Kingdom, during the Roman era, the New Kingdom and into the Ptolemaic period of rule making it one of the largest archaeological sites in Egypt. Filled with substantially decorated courts, temples, pylons and shrines that tell the stories of religion, coronations and military campaigns that occurred throughout the time of construction.
With so many sites to see, one of the key sites is the Great Hypostyle Hall which is a 50,000 square foot area filled with 134 columns from 33 – 69 feet tall, an archaeological feat for construction of the time. Also worth visiting is the Open Air Museum, an archaeological museum featuring reconstructed structures from the various periods.
Recommendation: Schedule time for the evening Sound and Light show that takes you on a visual journey through the history of the Karnak Temple region.
The Temple of Luxor
The second of the primary ancient temples, was constructed from sandstone between 1500 – 1200 BC. Under commissions by the Pharaohs Amenhotep III and Ramses the Great (II) as a dedication to the Ka (original dynasty of Pharaoh gods) and the fertility god Amen was used for the annual Opet festival which paid tribute to the royals of Egypt.
It is assumed that this was where the Pharaohs were crowned. Here you will find the chapels of the Amenhotep, Ramses II, Tutankhamun and Alexander the Great along with shrines that can be found between the Temples of Luxor and Karnak. During the Roman rule of Egypt, The Temple of Luxor was used as the center of Roman government. In the 11th century AD, a mosque was built on top of the temple, Abu al-Haggag, which is still active today.
Tip: For a less crowded and amazing additional temple experience, visit again at sunset or in the evening to walk the grounds of the Luxor Temple when the ruins are lit up.
Between the two temples along the Nile river, an archaeological museum filled with antiquities from the graves of Tutankhamun, statues that were found within the Luxor Temple and the mummies of Ramesses I and Ahmose I.
West Bank –
As if the East Bank did not offer enough ancient Egyptian experience, the West Bank offers a deeper dive into the ancient Egyptian culture filled with Pharaonic death temples and decorated tombs.
The Colossi of the Memnon
The first site you will pass as you are headed along the main road will be the twin statues of Amenhotep III sitting facing the river Nile accompanied by statues of his wife and mother. Constructed of quartzite sandstone the 60 foot statues which are estimated to weigh approximately 720 tons each sit in ruins and are almost unrecognizable.
Originally constructed to stand guard at his 85 acre mortuary temple which at the time of construction was considered one of the largest and most richly decorated in Ancient Egypt, the statues are some of the few remains of the original complex which eroded over time from river flooding by the nearby Nile.
Your next stop will be the temple of Ramesses III. One of the best preserved temples of the New Kingdom period, it’s location is directly across the river from the Temple of Luxor and originally the site of the temple of the god Amun, the god of creation and fertility.
Ramesses III enclosed the Amun temple and built his memorial shrine within the complex. 75,000 square feet of shrine are decorated with script and scenes from Ramesses’ many military triumphs and festivals that were celebrated in his honor during his reign.
Within the complex you will see large statues of Ramesses, large halls, courtyards and a church that was added during the Greco-Roman period.
Valley of the Queens
Just southwest of the temples of Medinet Habu, built into the cliffs is the necropolis of tombs of the royal family members. Here you will find 90 tombs of Egyptian queens, princes and high officials of the New Kingdom.
Starting in the 19th Dynasty with Sitre, wife of Ramesses I, the Valley of the Queens became the traditional burial site and by early BC and AD, due to lack of space, tombs were being reused for nobles and mummified animal remains.
Many of the tombs had been robbed and vandalized over the thousands of years that they sat abandoned, however in 1905, the tomb of Nefertari, wife of Ramesses II was discovered. Referred to as the “Sistine Chapel of Ancient Egypt” it is considered the most beautiful tomb in Egypt. Commissioned by Ramesses II for his favorite wife, his love for her can be seen in the level of detail and vibrant colors used within the designs of the tomb.
Still an active archaeological site, new discoveries are still being made and some tombs may be closed or inaccessible when visiting.
The mortuary temple of Ramesses the Great (II), known as the great warrior, is one of the largest temples of the New Kingdom era. Originally named the “Mansion of Millions of Years” for Ramesses dedication to Egypt as the most powerful and most celebrated ruler of Egypt, the complex is nothing short of a fantastic step into the ancient past.
Featuring gateways and pillared halls filled with columns, sanctuaries and the remains of one of the largest statues in the world estimated to stand originally at 92 feet. All that is left is 62’ of his base and torso. Unlike other mortuaries, the shrine features rising floors and drop ceilings symbolizing the rise of Egypt under Ramesses power.
Also within the complex are temples dedicated to Ramesses mother and first wife Nefertari and a temple palace. One of the highlights of visiting is the preserved painted ceiling and walls decorated with scenes of his military successes and his representation as a god of Egypt.
Valley of the Nobles
As you journey on you will see scattered through the hills the tombs of the high nobles who assisted and guided the royals during the Old and New Kingdoms and through the Golden age of Thebes when it was the most powerful city in Greece.
Stopping in to explore some of these lesser acknowledged tombs will offer a unique experience into the history and culture of the times. Each chapel of the tomb is decorated with scenes telling the stories of its owners and also sharing details into the lives of the ancient Egyptians.
Valley of the Kings
Your final leg of your journey and one the more popular destinations of Luxor will take you to the inland location where you will find hidden within the valley walls 63 tombs of the New Kingdom (1550 – 1070 BC) pharaohs and their royal family members.
Divided into the East Valley and the West Valley, your primary focus will be the East Valley which has many available tombs for public visiting. Each tomb within the Valley has a KV number which means Kings Valley and then the order for which the tombs were opened by archaeologists.
Some of the tombs that may be accessible for visiting are all the Ramesses with the exception of Ramesses II who has a separate tomb closer to the river (see Ramesseumabove) and Ramesses the IIX whose tomb has yet to be identified. As well other New Kingdom pharaohs with the most well known being the boy pharoah, Tutankhamun. The tombs are carved into the cliffs with shafts that lead underground into the burial chambers, decorated with images, religious text and their supposed journies into the afterlife.
Although Tutankhamen is the most well known of the pharaohs it is worth knowing that his tomb has the least to see as most of the tomb has been relocated to Cairo.
Note that not all tombs may not be open at the same time, some are periodically closed for renovation and the more popular tombs like Tutankhamen, Ramesses VI require an additional ticket for entry. The area is still a live archaeological site and subject to closure for additional discovery, it is worth checking before arrival to avoid disappointment.
Egypt offers many rewarding experiences and definitely needs to be top of the list with a visit to Cairo to see the Sphinx and the pyramids of Giza. But also a visit to Luxor and both banks of the Nile needs to be part of the itinerary. Expect to spend at least 3 full days to explore all of the sites and experiences mentioned above.
A tour guide is highly recommended for the most enjoyment and best understanding of the sites you are visiting. Our favorite way to explore ancient and modern Egypt is by river cruise to travel in luxurywith every detail thoughtfully designed for a one of a kind experience of both ancient and modern Egypt.
Bordeaux is the world’s most famous wine region as the world capital of wine. So much so that generally 4.3 million visitors travel to the region each year. The Gironde department of Southwest France is the most popular wine tourism destination in France for attracting both French and foreign visitors.
Separated into 3 distinct regions, the Left Bank along the left bank of the Gironde Estuary and the Right Bank on the right side of the Gironde. Between the two, the central island of sorts named Entre-deux-Mer (between to tides) is separated by the Garonne River of the Left Bank and the Dordogne River of the Right Bank which confluence into the Gironde.
Most visitors are drawn to the main city of the region, Bordeaux, a port city, the capital of the Nouvelle – Aquitaine region and the fifth largest city in France. Located on the Left Bank of the Garonne river not far from the Atlantic Coast, Bordeaux is not just as the hub of wine production and distribution but also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The main city offers many opportunities for exploring beautiful architecture and historical monuments, is famed for its gastronomy and yes this is the perfect place to start your journey into the vins of the famed region with a visit to the Cité du Vin museum.
We could go on and on just about the city of Bordeaux but today we are focusing on the entire region of Bordeaux and its relationship to the world of vinology and travel. The Bordeaux wine region is about 30 miles in length and 6 ½ miles in width as the crow flies which means you can get almost anywhere from the city of Bordeaux in less than an hour.
The majority of wines produced in the Bordeaux region (85%) are medium to full bodied reds made from Merlot, the number one grape grown primarily on the Right Bank and Cabernet Sauvignon the number two grape, primarily grown on the Left Bank. Although less than 15% growth of white grapes can be found in Bordeaux, the region is known for its Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc & Muscadelle grape blends that can be found growing in the Entre-deux-Mers and southern Bordeaux regions.
The key to exploring Bordeaux red wines is to know that the primary wines are blends of the main Merlot and Cabernet grape growths with additional vintages like Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere to produce some of the highest rated and most expensive wines in the world.
The Left Bank
This is where the city of Bordeaux is located, the Médoc and Graves regions make up the area primarily known as the Left Bank. Gravel soils promote the growth of Cabernet Sauvignon led blends that are highly tannic which is the component that allows for the aging of the wines for decades. The primary area for the wines of the 1855 Classification for first growth Château producing most of the best wines of Bordeaux can be found in the Left Bank.
The Médoc areas create these most prestigious Premier Cru (top rated) wines which can be found in the sub-regions of Pessac – Léognan south of the city of Bordeaux, Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac and Saint-Estephe which are all located north of the city of Bordeaux along the Gironde Estuary.
Following the Médoc route and visiting these Premier Cru will not only provide you with a deep understanding of some of the world’s greatest red wines but how they are made from growth through vinifying, aging, bottling, distribution and taste.
Graves in the southern Bordeaux region along the Garonne river with its forests, is a cooler region of Bordeaux where you can find dry white wine blends surrounding the city of Graves and some sweeter dessert blends in addition to some popular historic sites like the Château de Roquetaillade a former fortress that was converted to a castle.
The Right Bank
Within the Right Bank the regions of Libournais, Saint-Émilion, Fronsac and Pomerol are some of the prestigious appellations of the area. The location of the Right Bank closer to the Atlantic Ocean combined with the red clay soils are perfect for the growth of the dominating grape, Merlot. Some of the top quality long aging Bordeaux Merlot leading blends can be found around the town of St.Émilion. Although the grapes are less heavily structured, the combination of the soil and the climate create enough tannin’s that these wines can also age for many years also producing high-end wines.
The town of Saint-Émilion and it’s eight villages can be found on the right bank of the Dordogne River. A UNESCO World Heritage site for it’s 2000 years of viticulture history among historical relics dating back to Paleolithic tribes. From early man to present day, you will find many sites to explore among the town and cathedrals of Saint-Émilion.
Further east you can travel into the main city of the Right Bank, Libourne who the Right Bank region is named for where you will find a fortified medieval town and Gothic church, French markets and of course locally sourced wines. The commune of Fronsac just west of Libourne features beautiful landscapes and wine Château featuring Merlot and Cabernet Franc. North of Libourne is the Pomerol wine region. A smaller and more modern region for wine vinification, Pomerol is an up and coming area that is producing many notable quality wines from Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
From Pomerol as you move west along the Dordogne, you will reach the beautiful historic village of Côtes de Bourg where you will find Merlot and a small amount of white wines. Visit the Citadel and then travel on to the rolling hills of the Gironde Estuary, more archaeological sites, churches and the vineyards of the Côtes de Bordeaux commune of Blaye. Sample traditional Red and White Bordelais blends and you can also enjoy some of the locally produced rose’.
The largest region of Bordeaux is located between the Garonne River of the Left Bank and the Dordogne River of the Right Bank. Mostly filled with forests, the Entre-deux-Mers is where you will find the smallest production of both red and white wines. With the most fertile lands and coolest weather of the Bordeaux region, the Merlot grape is prominent, but it’s the approved white blends from the Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes that the area is most known for. This is also where you will find the famed sweet Sémillon based wines of Bordeaux that are produced as a result of the Botrytis fungus that grows in the foggy and humid river regions.
Filled with small villages, some of the highlights are visiting the beautiful port town of Cadillac, along the Gironde river, it’s many communes filled with historic ruins, stately Château, cathedrals, medieval villages and famed sweet white wines under the Cadillac AOC. Also along the Gironde, Loupiac, is known for its late harvest sweet wines from Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon which can be sampled at one of the wine Châteaux while also visiting the castle/abbey and church located here.
On the opposite side of the Entre-deux-Mers, the Graves de Vayres wine region has been traced back to the Roman age of Octavius. Home to the Château de Vayres medieval castle along the banks of the Dordogne here you find both dry reds and white wines to sample as you explore the area.
Visiting the Bordeaux region of France is a learning experience. A popular tourism destination with many attractions, but for the wine expert or the novice looking to improve their Oenology skills this is the perfect opportunity to experience the vineyards, wineries and tastings throughout each region and its sub-region.
The best way to travel Bordeaux and discover its red, whites, rosés and sweet wines is by river cruise roundtrip from the capital city of Bordeaux along the Garonne, Dordogne and cruising through the Gironde Estuary. Visit the Châteaux, historical landmarks, the countryside and sip your way through the Bordeaux vineyards without missing a thing on a 7 day journey.
As one of the oldest cities in the world, Lisbon is located on the western coast of the Iberian Peninsula where the Atlantic Coast meets the Tagus River is the ninth most visited of Southern European cities. With a colorful history that includes Roman, German & Moorish influences Lisbon offers many reasons to visit.
Lisbon is Portugal’s hilly, coastal capital city. The old cities’ pastel buildings, Roman ruins, Moor Castles, stunning views, the local Atlantic beaches, beautiful weather, fantastic gastronomy, the Fado Houses of the Bairrio District and to top it all off, the active nightlife. As a destination she already has so much to offer.
You can easily spend your day visiting the menu of historic and storied castles, exploring the vibrant local markets, riding the historic trolley or visiting the many museums. But if you are looking for some of the Lisbon’s “Secret” visits, here are 10 of our top lesser known worth seeing recommendations, Read on:
Misteiro dos Jeronimos
Formally known as the Royal Monastery of Saint Mary Belem, was built beginning in the early 15th Century by King Manuel I, the building process took 100 years, which can be seen in the detail of the facility which was inhabited as an active religious complex until the 19th Century.
It is not surprising that the monastery is Internationally recognized for the structure, the cloisters, the refectory and the library which can all still be seen today. The Manueline rich architecture and decor (as it is referred from the influences of King Manuel I), is seen throughout the complex and is considered both one of the most fantastic Portuguese churches and also one of Europe’s most notable.
The site is noted for her design encompassing ornamental columns, statues and facade paintings, but the magnificent church hall and the silver ornamental tabernacle are one of the most beautiful in Europe. A Portuguese national monument and also a UNESCO World Heritage site, the monastery can be found in Lisbon’s historical sea-faring, Belem District overlooking the River Tagus.
Padrao Dos Descobrimentos
The Monument of the Discoveries also located in the Belem District of Lisbon is a symbol of the historical achievements of Portugal’s Age of Existence throughout her lifetime. Originally designed in the 1940’s for the Portuguese World exhibition, as a temporary display, the 184 foot statue was reconstructed in 1960 as a permanent memorial for the anniversary of the death of Portugal’s most notable contributor and main statue, Prince Henry the Navigator who was instrumental in the maritime discoveries and expansion of Portugal throughout the world.
The location of the structure is of important significance for its location where the River Tagus meets the Atlantic Ocean. This is the location where many ships departed during the 15th and 16th Centuries during Portugal’s Age of Discovery when expansion was key.
The two sided display features 33 statues helmed by Prince Henry the Navigator holding a ship with others each holding an identifying artifact signifying their contributions to Portuguese exploration. You will find notable characters like Ferdinand Magellan who was the first explorer to circumnavigate the globe holding the world and Vasco da Gama holding a sword, who discovered the sea route to India among other explorers, sea captains, missionaries, writers, poets, royals, pilots and navigators who were all dedicated to the Portuguese act of discovery.
From the middle of the monument visitors can climb steps to a platform with views of the river and the area that surrounds you. Below the statue a cultural museum was designed featuring an exhibition hall and auditorium.
One of the highlights of visiting Lisbon is walking the medieval neighborhood streets and alleys of the historical districts. The Barrio Alto is the most notable for its traditional Fado quarter but seeing the town of Alfama is a must for the full Lisbon experience. Like a small village within the larger Lisbon city center Alfama offers many opportunities for snapping photos of the colorful homes, the Lisbon Cathedral, small city squares and narrow hilly streets that back up to the picturesque area where the Tagus River empties into the Atlantic Ocean.
Originally settled by the Romans, Alfama played an important role as both the old Jewish Quarter and as a central town originally designed by the Moors. Set below St. George castle which looms above, many of the buildings have been repurposed as hotels and gentrified apartments.
The magic of visiting the area is to see the 11th century Castelo de S. Jorge and the beautiful views from above before aimlessly wandering the streets indulging in the views, visiting the Lisbon Cathedral and immersing in the local culture of the residents who live here.
Parque Eduardo VII
Considered Lisbon’s “central park” the 64 acre location offers so much more than beautiful green space to stretch out and relax in the perfect Portuguese weather.
Well located in Lisbon’s city center the park stretches from the popular shopping boulevard of Avenida da Liberdade down to Pombal Square with a roundabout featuring the statue of the 1st Marquis of Pombal that connects many of Lisbon’s busiest thoroughfares.
One of the highest points in central Lisbon, the top of the park features panoramic views of the city. The cultured hedge maze attracts visitors to lounge in its shade while having a picnic or reading a book. However there are many opportunities for enjoying the shade from one of the benches or picnic tables found throughout the park.
If you are traveling with young children, the park offers playgrounds, a pool and has a sports complex that is popular with the locals. You will also find the Estufa Fria a 3 ½ acre greenhouse with three separate gardens to explore and further enjoy the outdoors.
Miradouro da Senhora do Monte
Our Lady of the Hill church offers some of the highest panoramic perspective with a birds eye view across central Lisbon, the Castelo (São Jorge Castle) in the distance, the Bairro Alto historic district below, the Ponte de 25 Abril Bridge and the Tagus River Estuary.
Located in the Graca neighborhood, the church is just outside the central Lisbon area, adjacent to a popular viewpoint, the Miradouro da Graça, the church is a lesser known location to also enjoy the sites surrounded by trees and a less bustling area filled with tourists.
The chapel is also worth a visit. Dating back to the 12th century, the original structure was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake and rebuilt in the late 1700’s.
Tip: The best time to visit is just before sunset to see the glow of the sky upon the city or visit the Miradouro da Graça at night to see the city come alive with lights.
One of the popular attractions to Lisbon for those fascinated with architecture is the many Azulezhu designs scattered throughout the city. An iconic part of the culture, the tin-glazed ceramic tile works tell the history and stories behind the capital city of Portugal.
Azulezhu is the proper name for the tiles the Portuguese used and continue to use among the walls of the faces of their buildings. Originally brought to Lisbon by the Moors to function as assistance with temperature control of the warm Portuguese summer, the design was later modified to create traditional Portuguese patterns to tell stories and became an ornamental art and traditional decor. Azulejos are commonly spotted within churches and palaces throughout the region but it is also not uncommon to see them on apartment buildings, shops, restaurants, bars and even public buildings.
Unfortunately it has become common for vandals to steal tiles and sell them on the black market to unknowing tourists and well knowing collectors. It is estimated that about 25% of the original tiles within the city were stolen and sold over 20 years between 1980 and 2000. So in 2007 a protection group was formed and in 2013 it became illegal to demolish buildings featuring them without protective measures first taken.
Many of the tiles that have been salvaged can be viewed at the National Tile Museum that will take you on a journey through Lisbon’s history through Azulezhu tiles.
Arco da Rua Agusta
The triumphal arch building was constructed after the 1755 earthquake that resulted in a tsunami and fire destroying much of the downtown area of Lisbon. Formally known as the Arco Triunfal da Rua Augusta, it welcomes you into the commercial waterfront area.
Designed to symbolize the strength and rebuilding of the city of Lisbon after the devastating event. The stone building features six columns and is decorated with statues of some of Lisbon’s well known historical personalities.
Standing at over 135 feet from the top of the arch to the bottom of the columns, the statues above the arch representing Glory, Valor and Genius each stand approximately 23 feet tall to coincide with the size of the arch. An elevator from the arch transports you to the top for 360 degree views of the downtown area.
Located along one of Lisbon’s busiest streets, the arch leads from the Rua Agusta as an entrance to the Praça do Comércio pedestrian waterfront area that faces the Targus River, filled with cafe’s, shops, restaurants and lots of local artists and entertainers.
Campo Pequeno Bullring
Located in the historical center of Baixa in a district named Campo Pegueno which means small field. Constructed in 1890 influenced by Moorish design and the original bullring of Madrid, Spain. The building stands as the official home of Portuguese bullfighting.
The North African inspired circular building located at Campo Pequeno Square was created with brick featuring octagonal towers topped with domes and turrets at the main entrance. The inside of the arena is covered with sand, traditional to a bullfighting ring.
Bullfighting season lasts from Easter to summer. During the off season the facility is used as a concert venue. Refurbished in 2006, an entertainment center was added to also feature an underground area filled with shops, restaurants and a movie theatre.
Because slaughtering the bulls was deemed inhumane by King Miguel during his reign between 1828 – 1834, Portuguese bulls are not killed at the end of the fight, as they are in Spain keeping the sport enjoyable for all who participate.
You might recognize this monumental statue as similar to the Christ the Redeemer statue that stands overlooking the Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. That is because it was inspired by the original after the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon visited the monument.
Built in 1959 on a hilltop 133 feet above Lisbon in Almada, the cement shrine is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ and similarly to the Redeemer in Rio, overlooks the city of Lisbon. Standing 630 feet above the River Tagus, the significance of the statue was to give thanks for Portugal being spared from the effects of the Great World War.
The 92 foot monument itself stands on a 269 foot high pedestal with its arms extended, similar to the original, in the form of a cross facing the city of Lisbon. The pedestal contains four arches that are each positioned in the directions of a compass rose.
On the 25th anniversary of the monument, the area was refurbished and a sanctuary and visitor center was added. The Chapel of our Lady of Peace features a rectory and a chapel and the visitor center offers exhibition galleries among administrative and meeting rooms. At the top of the pedestal is an observation deck with a not to be missed 360 degree view of Lisbon and the 25 de Abril Bridge over the Tagus River.
Known as the city facing the sea, Setúbal is a coastal town located just 40 minutes south of the city of Lisbon in southern Lisboa. A historic area dating back to before the Roman occupation features a historic center of Baroque churches within a busy coastal town, the area is also well visited for the beautiful scenery and its beaches.
Located on the Setúbal Peninsula the region offers a bustling downtown area filled with squares imbued with fountains and gardens surrounded by shops and restaurants offering the latest catch from the fisherman whose boats line the large harbor that spend their days fishing the area. The town is filled with many locations to relax with a glass of Setúbal celebrated locally grown moscatel wine and people watch the locals, the tourists and the street artists who are fighting for their attention.
Another reason that visitors come to the region is for Arrábida Natural Park. Just a five minute drive from the town of Setúbal, offers a mountainous area overlooking the sea. The mediteranean climate provides 27 thousand acres of preserved beauty deeper into the peninsula with fabulous views of the clear waters below. Hiking the protected area you may spot one of the many local species of mink or fox or see eagles flying above searching for their next meal.
Within Arrábida Park you will also find a protected marine area popular for scuba diving with beautiful untouched beaches. Praia de Galapinhos beach is a remote beach 15 minutes west along the coast from the town of Setúbal that is considered one of the best beaches in Europe and not to be missed if you are looking for a beach day. Further along the coastal road nearby Praia do Portinho da Arrábida is a quaint tiny coastal town with a beach and another great spot to stop to grab lunch and relax.
Tip: The Lisboa card will provide all inclusive access to many of the above named sites.
While a day will give you the highlights of the Lisbon region, if you want to see all of the above, at least three days are recommended to fully immerse in the area. One of our favorite ways to explore Lisbon is pre a 7 night cruise of the Douro river from Porto, Portugal.