Six Overlooked European Cities You Should Consider For Your Next Trip

backpacking, Europe

The obvious European hotspots pop up on most people’s travel bucket lists. These often include Paris, Rome, Venice, and London. But, there is a lot more to Europe than these tourist traps, which can be expensive, cliché and absolutely full of holiday makers. If you want to see real Europe, without all of the frills and glamour, you should instead head to these must-see destinations.

Berlin

Berlin

Brandenburg Gate. Photo from Pixabay

Berlin is becoming much more popular with tourists from around the world but attracts such an eclectic group that it still feels authentic and genuine. Berlin is absolutely packed with history, all of which is on display at the city’s many museums, monuments, and landmarks. It’s also full of restaurants, street food and bars from around the world and has a thriving art scene. Berlin is the place to visit if you want a trip with plenty to do, see, eat and learn. You certainly won’t be bored in this vibrant city. For the best places to eat, visit https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurants-g187323-Berlin.html.

York

York

York, Great Britain. Photo fromPixabay

Great Britain is known for London and Edinburgh. But, there’s plenty of other places worth a visit outside of the biggest cities. York is absolutely gorgeous. Filled with Harry Potter charm, little cobbled streets, cute independent shops and restaurants and bursting with its own unique history. It’s a picturesque city with an extraordinary allure.

Budapest

budapest-525857_960_720

Photo of Chain Bridge and the Parliament House. Photo from Pixabay

Budapest is actually two separate districts. Buda and Pest, which are separated by the river Danube. Buda is hilly while Pest is flat, but both sides are confident, beautiful and filled with romance. Visit the museums and galleries but also spend time exploring the back streets in search of hidden gems.

Valencia

Valencia

Peniscola Castellon in Valencia. Photo from Pixabay

Valencia is an absolute must for any food lover. The city is stuffed with street food vendors offering up fresh cuisine, as well as larger restaurants serving up both classic Spanish fare and delicacies from all over the world. While you’re there, you should also make some time to visit the Cathedral and Bioparc, which is a zoo devoted to African animals you may never have seen before.

Ghent

Ghent

The old buildings and canals of Ghent. Photo from Pixabay

When you think of Belgium, your first thought is probably Bruges. Ghent is little known outside of Europe but definitely worth a trip. It’s a destination that somehow manages to be both cozy and vibrant in equal measures. When visiting Ghent, make sure you try some of the chocolate and beer. Both of which are some of the best in the world.

Innsbruck

Innsbruck

The charming city of Innsbruck in Austria. Photo from Pixabay

Innsbruck is a funny city. There’s a huge, modern shopping district to rival Milan or New York. But, by trekking just a little way into the mountains, you find tiny old-fashioned villages. It’s almost like going back in time. Before traveling to Innsbruck make sure your travel insurance covers ski trips by visiting https://www.gobear.com/my/travel-insurance as you are sure to want to hit the slopes for a bit of adventure.

Travel Around Europe

If you can, spend some time traveling around Europe. Rail is an excellent option if you want to see as much as possible. Just be sure to explore both the bigger cities and attractions and the hidden gems and cultural hotspots.

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Surviving on coffee cups in Seoul

Asia, backpacking, food, personal, reflections, seoul, solo travel, South Korea
A starbucks in Seoul
I have a confession to make. I am not a coffee lover and nobody can influence me to like it.
In fact, I go to coffee shops sparingly, and in those occasions, I am probably after the wi-fi.

At times, when the entire office or my entire group of friends need their caffeine fix, I let myself be swayed to go to the nearest coffee house, but I order my preferred signature hot chocolate instead.

I can live without having a single coffee cup. The world would go on turning even if a global coffee holiday is declared.

But in my recent trip to the cold streets of Seoul, South Korea, I realized that in some parts of the world, coffee is a vital commodity, and it spells the difference between surviving or freezing in the biting cold.

I am used to cold weather. Thanks to previous visits to other countries during winter time, I am very much prepared for the unforgivingly cold weather in Seoul during early winter.

It can get really cold, and for most tourists coming from an equatorial country such as the Philippines, the change in climate can be quite disorienting. But not me.

I roamed the streets of Insadong and Gwanghwamun wearing only a light jacket and an inside shirt, despite the temperature dropping to 5 degrees.

I partied in Itaewon with fellow travelers with a thin leather jacket.

All along, I noticed the wide array of coffee shops in Seoul. When it comes to coffee, South koreans have a lot to choose from. Of course, there were Starbucks stores, but there were also Paris Bagguette, Blenz Coffee, Caffe Benne and Angels in Us in almost every block.

As a non-coffee lover, I found this to be really absurd. Do South Koreans consumer that much coffee?



Me in Seoul

I read somewhere that South Korea is in the mid-50s when it comes to countries with the largest coffee consumption per capita. In comparison, the Philippines is in the mid 90s.
Why? I don’t really care, and I didn’t put much thought about it.
Except for the slight drying of the skin brought about by the cold, which was easily remedied by Laneige moisturizing creams, my trip was problem free. I was able to visit as much tourist attraction as I wanted and I had a blast trying different restaurants in various shopping and tourist districts.

But on the night before I was supposed to fly out of Seoul, in the middle of Gangnam, things started to turn messy.
On a high with too much people sightseeing, I left my jacket and gloves at a restaurant. (This is completely acceptable since most its establishments are warm inside due to ondol or heaters).
I didn’t have enough money to buy another jacket so I just decided to finish my wandering wearing only a shirt and a scarf. I was also too proud to buy a new pair of gloves.
But that was my biggest mistake. It wasn’t too long before my body started to feel cold.


With each passing minute, millions of needles seem to prick my entire skin, as I slowly lose sensation in my bare hands.
My breathing became ragged and I started to shiver as I walk slowly around Gangnam.
An hour passed and my entire body was already frigid. I chanced upon a public thermometer and I realized that the temperature plummeted to about 4.4 degrees celsius.
Unable to bear the cold, I ran to the nearest Angel in Us coffee shop and ordered a big cup of searing cappuccino. 

As soon as I took my first sip, warmth spread all over my body. My body, which was almost as cold as ice, started to loosen up. Sip by sip, my body temperature returned to normal. My breathing became normal.
As night fell, the temperature fell even lower to 4 degrees and I couldn’t help but be thankful for my temporary shelter for the protection it gave me.

I stayed in the coffe house for about two hours and by then, my body has normalized.
Without a choice, I left the coffee shop and braved the frigid weather heading to the nearest subway station. As soon as I got off, I ran at full speed towards the house I was staying at. There, I savored the warmth of the house, trying to forget the moment, I almost froze to death.
Still without a jacket and gloves, I survived my last day by ordering tall cups of coffee as I stroll around. Every two hours, my body would get really cold and I would grab another cup.
In a city as cold as Seoul, I realized that contrary to what I earlier suspected, the numerous coffee shops. mostly situated side by side, are not just part of a fad. Instead, it’s a matter of survival.
I arrived in Seoul, without any passion for coffee.
But by the time I left, it’s something I learned to appreciate and respect.

Red Carabao: A Great Hostel in the Heart of Manila

backpacking, Hostels, philippines, review

One of the things tourists complain about Manila as a destination is that hotel rates are not cheap. In fact, they are quite expensive as compared to hotels in other Asean countries. And there’s really not many options for backpackers who wish to explore the country’s capital but have little or tighter budget.

As a result, they are discouraged from visiting the country and if they do, some directly go to Boracay, Cebu or Palawan, and they don’t get to appreciate the urban charms of Manila.

But thankfully, there is a Filipino family who recognized this problem and decided to open a hostel, one of the most convenient and affordable type of accommodation right in the heart of Manila.

Red Carabao, located in Felix Huertas in Sta. Cruz, Manila offers local and foreign backpackers an alternative way of staying and exploring Manila.

Rates go for as low as P204 or about $5 per person (hostelworld.com) for group rooms. Discounts are even available for those staying for more than 14 days.

common kitchen

It has a common lobby, just like most hostels where you can meet fellow travellers. It has free broadband terminals and breakfast are already inclusive of the rates.

It has a rooftop smoking area (where staying guests hold drinking sessions nightly), and there’s no curfew, perfect for those who wish to go clubbing.

Red Carabao also has a 24-hour surveillance system to ensure the guests security.

The hostel’s location is also quite central. You can go to downtown Manila, Makati, Caloocan and Quezon city easily through by the LRT and through jeepneys.

Internet area

The emergence of these kind of hostels catering to foreign backpackers is a very much welcome development for the Philippine tourism industry.

The posh hotels will not really lose their clients since they are targeting a different segment of the tourist market. But these hostels, will encouraged those who have limited budget to still come to Philippine shores and see what we have to offer.

Tourism in Thailand boomed, thanks a lot to cheap hotels and hostels located everywhere, especially in Khao San Road in Bangkok. Backpackers also flock to Kuala Lumpur and stay at the numerous hostels along Jalan Petaling street.

Siem Reap in Cambodia also has lots of cheap hotels.

common lounge

I met Aldrich, one of the passionate owners of Red Carabao at a house couchsurfing party he hosted and I was immediately impressed by his passion and dedication to change and improve people’s views on Manila.

I admit, I am one of those who believe that Manila as a tourist destination doesn’t have a lot of things to offer aside from the clubs, bars and red light districts.

But like the backpackers who have stayed in Red Carabao, whom Aldrich tour around the city, I realized that there is more to Manila than I know, or wish to recognize.

Granted that he grew up in the US, but Aldrich says that what we consider normal can be interesting for tourists. For one, our churches are beautiful.

visitors in front of Quiapo church

Our street foods are as bizarre and unique like those in China and Thailand.

Our traditional Flores de Mayo also captured the hearts of foreign visitors who saw it.

He also toured visitors in Binondo, our own version of Chinatown and they loved it.

location map

Since it started operating in 2009, Red Carabao was clear and determined to accomplish its main goals. It is “on a mission to help change the way the world looks at Manila”.

With people like Aldrich and establishments like Red Carabao, I just realize that it may not be a futile attempt after all. In time, more and more foreign visitors may indeed see the city in a different, more positive light.

 Photos courtesy of Red Carabao Facebook page and WordPress site.