Discover Dresden This Year

Dresden is the epitome of beauty and culture. This magnificent city lies on both sides of the Elbe River and is often called the Florence of the East and the state capital of Saxony. From baroque buildings to gleaming gardens to museums and other tourist attractions, there are many things to do in Dresden. Let me help you discover Dresden as I list down some of the best places to see in this glorious city.

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1. Explore the Residenzschloss Dresden Castle (or Royal Palace)

The Dresden Castle of Royal Palace is one of the oldest buildings in the city. One of the most popular castles in the European continent, it served as the residence of the electors and kings since the 15th century. Today, the Residenzschloss Dresden Castle contains an array of museums. You can find here the Historic Green Vault, which is known as one of the richest treasure chambers in Europe. Another museum is The Dresden Armory, which houses valuable collections of weapons and costumes.

The Coin Cabinet is where you can see the oldest and most renowned collections of coins, medals and banknotes, and the Collection of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, where you will get to appreciate 515,000 works representing eight centuries of over 20,000 artists.

2. Visit the Frauenkirche Dresden

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Dresden’s Frauenkirche, which translates to Church of Our Lady, is one of the city’s most important edifices. This Lutheran church was designed by the architect George Bähr. However, he did not even live that long to see its completion. It was completed in 1743 but was later destroyed during the Allied bombings in World War II.

The church ruins had been put together as a war memorial. Then in the 1980s, plans for reconstruction started, and its reestablishment was completed in 2005. You can still find the old damaged cross at the church’s new altar. The reconstruction of Frauenkirche Dresden symbolizes the international reconciliation after World War II.

This church is truly something you can’t miss when you go to discover Dresden. Remember to check out the fantastic view over the city of Dresden and its surroundings. The viewing platform is open to visitors all year round.

3. Wander Around the Zwinger

The Zwinger in Dresden is a baroque palace situated in the old town. It is very grand, and you will be mesmerized by its beauty. Wandering outside the building is worth your time because of its unique and intricate architecture. Zwinger was meant to stand as a testament to the glory of Augustus the Strong’s time in power. It was later developed into a cluster of cultural venues till its destruction in World War II.

The reconstruction began in 1945 with the help of the Soviet military. It was later restored to its pre-war condition in 1963. The exterior and the surrounding views of this palace are enough to feast your eyes on. But if you want to explore the museum complex, head inside the Porcelain museum, which features 20,000 porcelain artefacts.

4. Relax and Enjoy the Views at Brühl’s Terrace

If you want to see the scenic and wide-ranging view of the Elbe River, then head out to Bruhl’s Terrace. Bruhl’s Terrace is where you can also find the 400-year-old Brick Gate, the only surviving original city gate in Dresden. Furthermore, you can also see the relics of the old town bridge, the medieval defence system, the casements and the bastion.

Bruhl’s Terrace, also known as the balcony of Europe, is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the stunning view of the Elbe and the other side of the city.

5. Discover Dresden and Stay at Taschenbergpalais

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If you are looking for a great hotel in Dresden, then Taschenbergpalais should be at the top of your list. Taschenbergpalais is a palace hotel that is just in front of the Zwinger and beside Dresden Castle. This hotel was built in the 18th century by Augustus the Strong. Some famous past guests of this grand hotel include President Jacques Chirac of France, Prince Albert II of Monaco, and designer Karl Lagerfeld.

It features 213 rooms and suites. Dine in the Palais Bistro or have a coffee break at the Cafe Vestibul. Other amenities of this historic hotel include a spa area with a sauna, a pool, a steam bath, massage treatments and a fitness centre.

6. Enjoy Your Time at the Großer Garten or the Grand Garden

Spending quiet time in a garden is something I love to do. That’s why this park is one of the things that I had to include on the list. The Großer Garten is a Baroque-style park in central Dresden. This huge park was established in 1676 on the instruction of John George III, Elector of Saxony. The rectangular-shaped park has been open to the public since 1814. A miniature railway runs in the park from April to October.

Other features of the park include a souvenir shop at the main station where you can also buy refreshments, The Summer Café which is located at the Palace Pond, and The Boat Hire and its Beer Garden, which is located on the western shore of Lake Carolasee.

This is truly a great place for walking, jogging, skating and riding a bike—a perfect place to spend time with friends and family.

7. Shopping in the New Town

Dresden won’t disappoint when it comes to shopping. You can either go to Innere Neustadt, the Baroque Quarter or go to a much hipper place at Äußere Neustadt.

The Baroque Quarter welcomes guests with galleries, museums, and boutiques. In contrast, the trendy Äußere Neustadt offers its visitors with various bars, restaurants, cafes, music hubs and chic shops. Dresden’s two shopping secrets are must-visit places when you travel to Dresden.

Dresden is an incredibly beautiful city. I was mesmerized by its rich history and architecture. Though it was heavily destroyed during WW II, it has recovered quite well and is now one of Germany’s most beautiful historic cities. The combination of baroque architecture and romantic landscapes makes Dresden stand out from other German cities. Plan your trip now and discover Dresden this year!

Viceroy Bali

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Arriving in Bali is like arriving in an island paradise. However, being greeted by the warm and genuine hospitality of Indonesian guest relations staff at the Viceroy Bali makes you feel right at home. This is exactly how it felt like when I was given the chance to stay for 3 days, 2 nights at the famed Balinese boutique hotel.

While the hotel is situated a few kilometers from the white, sandy beaches that have made this part of the world almost as iconic as the marbled beaches of Tahiti, I learned that it is actually a favorite among travelers who prefer to be a lot closer to the bosom of Mother Nature and slightly far from the crowd that flood the nightlife streets of Bali. It’s a simple hotel that has all the makings of a 5-star, making you never want to leave its warm embrace.

Set in Bali’s famed Valley of the Kings amidst lush greenery and providing a stunning view of the turquoise sea, Viceroy Bali is perfect for couples, honeymooners, and small families who prefer a more intimate experience. Good thing I was treating my partner to an exotic experience of a lifetime.

It’s a boutique hotel that offers more than what five-star accommodations I know of can with its array of 25 elegantly designed, meticulously adorned, and beautifully curated private pool villas that provide a breathtaking view of a jungle ravine. It’s a view that is worth posting on Instagram.

One of the best things I about the Viceroy Bali is its location. You get this feeling that you are actually being treated to the unique sound of Mother Nature. There’s the chime of a gently rolling river that magnificently rises from the verdant valley floor. It’s something that I vividly recall as the one sound that greeted me in the morning and shushed me back to sleep.

Getting to Viceroy was never a problem since the accommodation gave us a ride. The view along the way is simply marvelous, taking us to a pleasant transport all the way from the airport through fascinating Balinese countryside and greeted by the smell of freshly-made Pisang Goreng or the more sumptuous Babi Guling. It’s not centrally located, yet the heart of the action is right within walking distance. I believe the hotel can arrange a ride just for you, too.

The thing about Viceroy Bali is that we’ve been given the chance to be just like royalty throughout the entire duration of our stay. With the staff always eager to please us, it’s like partaking in the royal traditions of the local kingdom.

The CasCades Restaurant is truly something. The alfresco dining it provides is quite a blessing since I got to renew my passion with my partner over several orders of Sate Babi while looking at the vast expanse of the blue Pacific.

I’ve been fortunate enough to stay at Viceroy Bali. Now I know how the King and His Royal Court felt like when they were served with such dedication and commitment. It may be far from Bali’s center of attraction, yet it lies much closer to my heart.

For information on travel to Bali visit http://www.balitourismboard.org/

Il Sereno Hotel

Lake Como is the right choice for a luxury holiday and the iconic lake is definitely a sight to see. When you do come, you will want to stay at a hotel that exceeds all of your expectations. This is why Il Sereno is your only choice.

Location

You do not go to Lake Como to not stay along the shores. Il Sereno is on the banks of the lake, so you can enjoy the views directly from your hotel room. Because of this, you can also take one of the hotel’s own boats (designed by Ernesto Riva) to get to the hotel.

Interior Design

This hotel features beautiful surroundings, with panoramic views incorporated in the design of the hotel. While it is luxurious, it is also much understated compared to other hotels. Instead, it focuses on the beauty of the lake through the floor-to-ceiling windows that also bring in a lot of natural light. This means visitors are not distracted from Como’s tranquil waters and picturesque mountains.

Amenities

There are 30 suites available, ranging in size between 40 and more than 200 square meters, with all of them facing the lake. The other amenities of the hotel will also make sure you have nothing but the most relaxing holiday ever. The full-service spa can be found under original arches that are at least a century old.

You can also enjoy the warm, sunny days at the large sundeck before enjoying the 60-foot long freshwater infinity pool hanging over the lake. This is definitely one of the highlights of the hotel. And yes, the water is heated to be at a comfortable temperature all-year-round.

The restaurant by Milan’s one Michelin-starred Ristorante Berton chef Andrea Berton serves the delicious dishes like locally-sourced fish in a casual setting. Visitors can also enjoy service along the pool bar and the Il Sereno Bar and Lounge.

Services

Guests can expect full service, from the special arrival by boat to the personalized attention during their stay. The full-service spa offers in-room treatments, and the pool club has attendants catering to your needs. The fitness center also has trainers available whenever guests require one.

The hotel also makes it easy for guests to explore the lake. You can rent one of the private wooden motorboats to go somewhere for a picnic or just to enjoy the surroundings from a different perspective. Other than that, Il Sereno has its own private water limousine called the Vaporina del Lago, complete with a driver ready to take you up and down the lake at any time.

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Overall

Luxury does not have to be ostentatious, and instead, something as quietly elegant as Il Sereno can still give you the holiday of your dreams. In fact, the whole design was made simple on purpose to not distract you from the breathtaking surroundings of Lake Como. Just make sure you bring your favorite outfits for those hundred photos you will definitely take during your visit. And for the best experience, stay at the Il Sereno for an unforgettable holiday.

Best Lakeside Destinations in Europe

The lakes in Europe have been a favorite summer destination for a long time. It is ideal for those who want to enjoy nature. It is also best for those who do not want to be on a crowded beach. Check out my top 5 lakeside destination choices when in Europe.

1. Lake Como Italy

Lakes can be deep and Lake Como is among the deepest in Europe. It measures 400 meters deep and is listed to be the 5th deepest lake while the other four are all found in Norway. A lot of wealthy people come to visit as well as royal families and tourists. Many stars from Hollywood and all over the world have also built their residences on its shores.

Watersports lovers find Lake Como a haven. They can enjoy water skiing, windsurfing, and wakeboarding when visiting here. They can even do diving and enjoy a day at the spa while looking at the picturesque sceneries all around. The temperature in areas surrounding the lake remains warm even during winter. This is why a lot of hikers and explorers enjoy hiking all year round.

2. Lake Geneva Switzerland

Lake Geneva is found sitting in the Alps. It is shaped like a crescent and serves as a border to France and Switzerland. Activities for visitors include boating, antique shopping and even walking the steep streets made of cobblestone.

If you ask me, the most stunning areas to visit can be found on the western shore. This is where the lake sits against Mont Blanc where a picturesque snowy scene can be seen.
If you’re looking to visit for watersports or swimming, then you have to come between June and September. The waters of the lake remain warm despite being situated against the Alps.

3. Lake Bled Slovenia

Lake Bled is located in northwestern Slovenia. The main attraction for most tourists who come here is the bluish-green waters. Aside from that, the tiny island in the center of the lake makes it more interesting.

The 16th century Bled Castle offers visitors a magical view especially when the quiet waters stay still surrounding it. During winter, the lake is mostly frozen. However, you can reach the castle using the traditional “pletna” boat during warmer months.

Water Sports activities are mostly sought after in the lake. Aside from that, hiking and biking are also popular choices.

4. Lake Hallstatt Austria

Austria takes pride in one of its most striking bodies of water, the Lake Hallstatt. The lake was named after the village where it sits. Divers also love the clean waters here making it a prime destination. Aside from diving, pedal boats and rowing are available for rent.

The months of July and August are the busiest as millions of visitors come here during this time every year. If you want a new experience, you can try coming during the winter when the Alpine Village is covered with snow and turned into a winter wonderland.

5. Lake Lucerne Switzerland

This lake is Switzerland’s most scenic body of water. You can go cruising on Lake Lucerne and appreciate the winter landscape of the snow-covered mountains. Visitors can try many activities including antique shopping, cycling, and even skating. During the warmer months, events including musicals and culinary programs take place. Some of Switzerland’s oldest communities can also be found surrounding Lake Lucerne.

6. Trevassack Lake, United Kingdom

As well as the large, well-known lakes like the above there are thousands of smaller lakes that rarely get a mention. In the United Kingdom, where it rains a lot, there are hundreds of lakes and reservoirs dotted around the countryside. Trevassack Lake is one such lake, located in Cornwall in the southwest of the country. Trevassack Holidays runs a watersports centre at the lake, plus there is excellent, brand new family holiday accommodation so visitors can stay lakeside in this beautiful destination.

The Must-See Castles In Europe

Beyond being remnants of the past, castles are a must-see when traveling in Europe. There is simply something so romantic about them, especially when you imagine how the royals spend their days inside them back then. Due to the many royal families in Europe, there is no shortage of castles to visit. Here are the ones you should not miss.

1. Carreg Cennen Castle, Wales

For such a small place, Wales has more castles for every square mile than anywhere else in the whole world. Carreg Cennen is also unique because it is in a state of ruins, but it does not mean that it will not fill you with awe.

2. Hohenwerfen Castle, Austria

Given that the royal family of the Austro-Hungarian empire ruled most of Europe for centuries, it is not surprising to find one castle in Austria making it to this list. The views alone will enchant you, as you can see the Salzachtal Valley and the Berchtesgaden Alps. Being more than 900 years old, it has been home to kings, archbishops and even prisoners (it served as a state prison for some time).

3. Predjama Castle, Slovenia

Built on the side of a 400-foot cliff, it will remind you of Tolkien’s Helm’s Deep. The castle itself also boasts of so many dungeons, castles, and hidden tunnels. They also host an annual medieval tournament every July.

4. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

No other castle is as well-known and as photographed as this fairy-tale castle. It has inspired Disney movies, computer games, and books.

5. Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

This is also quite popular, thanks to being a popular feature in Highlander shows and in many postcards. It is also an important site during the 1719 Jacobite Rising. The surroundings, where 3 locks meet at the bottom of the mountain range will also take your breath away.

6. Hohenzollern Castle, Germany

This castle feels like a dream, being literally in the clouds. While it is the 3rd to have been built on the site, visiting it can be surreal.

7. Hunyad Castle, Romania

The impressive Hunyad Castle is known for being where Vlad the Impaler (the inspiration for Dracula) was imprisoned. It is grand, especially since it has a Gothic-Renaissance influence. It has also been greatly restored after being neglected for years.

8. Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

This medieval fortress has been fully restored, so locals can enjoy the views on top of an extinct volcano named Castle Rock. Since being built in the 12th Century, the Edinburgh Castle has been passed on from the English and the Scots and vice versa.

9. Versailles, France

No list of best European castles is complete without Versailles. While it started out as a hunting lodge, it is now the most popular castle in the world.

Thanks to the centuries of history of this continent, many relics remain for current generations to explore and enjoy. You can discover the different styles and use them to guess how old the structure is. Or you can simply walk through the halls and pretend to be a princess for a day.

Rediscover Rome

Rome, the sprawling, bustling Italian city that is known to the world for its inspiring architecture and art, still has more to offer besides the iconic Colosseum and the largest St. Peter’s Basilica. Look at a touristy destination like Roman with fresh eyes. Rediscover its beauty with this unique guide.

First, Gelato

It’s tempting to hit the big places right away when you’ve reached the city. But breathe for a little while and try the local Italian foods first. Tourists often prioritize sights over tastes but the best way to know the city is by filling the stomach.

Go on a food tour first. Take your pick, though it’d be nicer if you can go to the Trastevere neighborhood where you taste the very foods that put Italy on the world map street style – pizza, gelato, pasta, and more. There’s also another food tour offering near Campo Fiore, where you not only eat but learn how the Italians cook.

Climp up the Janiculum Hill, next to the tallest hill in metropolitan Rome, that offers a breathtaking city view. When in Rome, you definitely trade skyscrapers for leisure walks and stylish architectural sights.

Stroll in the City

Strolling is the best way to experience any city. You’ll discover nooks and crannies you haven’t heard of. If you’re coming from Travestere, take a bus all the way to the city center. You must see Plazza Navona, surrounded by palatial churches and fountains. The infamous fountain of Neptune is definitely not one to miss.

From there, you can go straight to the legendary wish-granting Trevi Fountain featured in many movies via the stately Pantheon building. The tickets are free in the beautiful temple Pantheon, so you can tour around at will. Then you can proceed and have your ice cream sitting on the Spanish steps.

The list of the many other must-see places in Rome are the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the
Vatican, the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. You can definitely have your desktop research and take a self-guided tour. But if you’re in for some deeper, more interesting facts about these sights, book a tour.

Cruise through the River

A unique way to experience the lively city of Rome is to traverse along the Tiber river. Tickets are available for anyone’s grab. The view from a boat deck offers you a quiet but rich experience in the middle of a bustling city.

As you cruise along, your tour will have stopovers at Roman landmarks like Piazza Spagna, Piazza Venezia, and the Castel S. Angelo (the impressive fortress originally built as a mausoleum for the emperor).

And if you want a more localized experience, you can get back to the Trastevere neighborhood and cross the river. The island called Isle Tibertina offers the best evening merriment with many outdoor activities and quality bars, especially during summer.

Cap the night at Campo de’ Fiori

Rome is a city worth walking every waking hour. Spend your last night at the cool district of Campo de’ Fiori, branded as the hipster ground. But really, anyone who’s up for fun and drinks, is welcome. The cobbled streets of the square look equally beautiful and colorful in the daytime, known for its fruits, veggie, and flower markets.

There’s so much more than the historical tours in Rome. Besides the known places, less mainstream districts offer you just about the same exciting and rewarding experience.

Convent de la Missio

A holiday in Spain requires only the best accommodation. With the never-ending sightseeing, one definitely needs a daily refuge. I particularly found mine in the luxurious sanctuary of Convent de la Missio. Not only was it beautifully curated, the service I experienced was outstanding.

Location

The hotel is located in 07003 Palma de Mallorca, Islas Baleares, approximately 2 km from the legendary electric train railway in Ferrocarril de Soller. What made me ultimately pick the area is its proximity to the majestic 14th-century Gothic-inspired Bellver Castle, one of the few circular castles in entire Europe.

Interior Design

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The interior of this renowned boutique hotel is beyond description. I found the designs rich but not quite ostentatious. I particularly liked the play of earth tones and warm lights that filled every space, from the reception to the patio. The walls are painted white and cream, the furniture pieces are beautiful minimalist designs. Once you step into the building, you immediately sense the relaxed, calming vibe every traveler so desperately craves.

The exterior is equally gorgeous especially at night. Well-illuminated, this 17-century hotel is a spectacular Mediterranean beauty.

Amenities

All rooms look sophisticated, complete with WiFi access, study desks, television sets, and of course, mini bars. I checked into a room with a canopied bed, mini salon for receiving guests, and a balcony. The city view is dramatically splendid at night.

I have friends in the city who sometimes dropped by and together we would dine in the Michelin-rated restaurant right within the hotel – Marc Fosh. The dishes are flavorful Mediterranean cuisine with a twist. It also boasts of an Art Bar that not only offers a range of time-honored wine and spirits, but also an exhibit of gorgeous artworks.

Apart from the restaurant, Convent de la Missio has a pool, a bar, a fitness center, and a meeting room for those keen to meet clients and friends privately. I personally love lounging by the pool just before hitting the buffet breakfast table. It’s a nice reading nook when you want fresh air and sunlight. The area is non-smoking, so fresh air is guaranteed.

Staff

Concierge is available for those who need extra helping hands for carrying the luggage. This service is extremely helpful for me because I am never without at least 5 bags. I have been to many destinations and rubbed elbows with different hotel staff. I can guarantee that the service at Convent de la Missio is above par.

The staff, from the receptionist to the room attendants, are all friendly and accommodating. I may not be capable of speaking Spanish but I was able to put my message across without any hindrances. That is, there were no wrong food orders or directions.

Overall

Convent de la Missio gives every guest a truly rewarding stay. Choosing it is an ultimate value for money. The place is artsy but definitely not the distracting kind. Its atmosphere is warm, calming, and friendly. You don’t get intimated nor lost because there’s always a cheerful staff.

Since it’s within the commercial center, the shops are within reach and the transportation is convenient. I even availed of the hotel’s airport transfer, a rather wise decision especially if you are taking a late flight.

Fontelunga Hotel

If you’ve seen Under the Tuscan Sun, then you know the kind of experience you should get when you book a hotel in Tuscany. I was not kidding when I booked a room at Fontelunga Hotel, expecting that I will get to see a sunset view of the fields and olive gardens just as the movie portrayed.

Location

Fontelunga Hotel is located at Arezzo, Italy. If you’re coming from Florence, then it will just be an easy one hour drive away. An hour of driving does not seem appealing especially if you are coming from a long flight or a business trip but I recommend staying awake to take in the routes going to the hotel. If this is your first time in this side of Italy, then you would love to know that there are several tourist destinations like the Pienza and Siena are just less than an hour away.

Interior Design

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When you approach the hotel, you will suddenly wonder if you are going to a local’s house or a building. Don’t be fooled by the facade as with its simple exterior comes with a sense of calming sensation for anyone who wants to escape the city life. It was nice to see that all the blue shutters were open which made the place feel more inviting.

Upon checking in, I was directly led to my room. To my amazement, it did not look like anything from the outside. Instead of having brick walls as I would think Tuscan homes have, I have a room that was stark white with shades of light blue and cream. It is somehow reminiscent of Greece in the age of Mamma Mia.

Amenities

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For a boutique hotel, Fontelunga Hotel offers a lot of things. It has its own pool and tennis court. However, they don’t have an in-house spa which is understandable. Nonetheless, I appreciate their effort to get me a spa appointment in my room. During my stay here, I also availed of their guided tours. They don’t hold these tours themselves but I just gave them the places I wanted to go to and they sent me a few quotations to choose from.

Staff

What I love the most in this boutique hotel are the services they offer to make every guest have that Tuscan experience. I was fortunate enough to reserve a seat at their bi-weekly dinners. These bi-weekly dinners, as I was told, were made to replicate how life is in Tuscany – where people (even strangers) gather around a long table and get to know each other. This became the highlight of my stay here. People were so welcoming and kind and seeing the stars above our heads just painted a very serene picture.

Overall, there is nothing I would change in this boutique hotel – not more rooms, not more furniture. It is lovely the way it is. I also loved the fact that they made sure they gave what they can to all their guests. Whether it was a car rental or a cooking class, they didn’t miss out on the services that can make your stay enjoyable. If you are planning to stay here, I recommend booking some of their tour packages like the cooking classes and the horse rides.