10 cities every football fan has to visit

Bill Shankly, one of the game’s greatest managers, once said: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.” If you think that’s a far-fetched statement, then you’ve never visited these football-mad cities. From the wild derbies of Istanbul and Buenos Aires to the […]

Meet your guide to St. Petersburg

Take a trip around St. Petersburg with this insider guide to Russia’s fairytale city. With the help of Lidia Nerobova of MariaRosaTours, we’ll reveal what to see, where to shop and when to visit. So, Lidia, what’s your favorite thing about being a tour guide? It gives me the opportunity to meet people from all […]

10 unmissable places in Portugal

Portugal has everything you need for a dream vacation. Spend your time unwinding on idyllic beaches, hiking breathtaking cliff passes and eating your way through a mountain of pastel de natas thanks to our guide to the country’s most unmissable spots. 1- Take to the waves Listen up surfers: forget Australia and Hawaii. The highest […]

Meet your guide to Bali

Bali’s beauty is no secret. Millions of tourists descend on the Indonesian island every year to unwind on the white sand beaches and explore the tropical interior. But that’s not to say you can’t find your own slice of postcard paradise. To help you escape the crowds, we chatted with island native Nyoman Gede Mahayuna of Bali Private […]

10 cities every football fan has to visit

Bill Shankly, one of the game’s greatest managers, once said: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.” If you think that’s a far-fetched statement, then you’ve never visited these football-mad cities.

From the wild derbies of Istanbul and Buenos Aires to the iconic clubs of London and Madrid, here’s where every football fan needs to visit.

Milan, Italy
Football rivalries don’t get much bigger (or intense) than the Derby della Madonnina, Milan’s bi-annual battle between the red and black of AC and the blue and black of Inter. Over 80,000 Milanese watch these icons lock horns in their shared gladiatorial stadium, the San Siro. While it might be tricky to secure tickets to the big match, tours of the ground and trophy-laden museum are available throughout the year.

Istanbul, Turkey
Now, if the Milan derby is intense, any meeting of Istanbul’s Big Three (Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray) is a mind-blowing assault of the senses that any true football fan needs to experience. The stands are packed with unbridled passion as fans shatter noise records. A 2011 meeting between Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe clocked an ear-ringing 131 decibels, which was then a world record for the loudest roar in a sports stadium. Best bring your earplugs.

Barcelona, Spain
Nobody needs an excuse to visit the sun-soaked city of Barcelona–especially fans of the Beautiful Game. The Catalonian city has long been established as a footballing wonderland thanks to the tika-taka on display at Camp Nou. Once you’ve had your fill of tapas, head straight to the stadium and learn about the likes of Messi, Ronaldinho and Cruyff as you tour the largest stadium in Europe and the club’s interactive museum.

Manchester, UK
Two great teams, one truly great city. Life in England’s northern powerhouse revolves around a couple of footballing giants, Manchester United and Manchester City. Head to the Etihad or Old Trafford to watch the world’s best in action or indulge in England’s rich footballing history at the National Football Museum. You can even enjoy a football-themed meal at Cafe Football, which is located just a stone’s throw from United’s famed stadium.

Dortmund, Germany
While most destinations on this list house some of football’s fiercest inner-city derbies, Dortmund is a one-team city of epic proportions. No city in the world gets behind their team like the locals of Dortmund, so it’s easy to see why a trip to the Westfalenstadion (especially the Yellow Wall) is near the top of every football fan’s bucket list. Like Manchester, Dortmund is home to a national football museum, which is a great place to get your football geekery on.

Buenos Aires, Argentina
If the city of Dortmund has one of football’s most united fan bases, Buenos Aires can claim to have one of the most divided. Home to the Superclásico between Boca Juniors and River Plate,  Buenos Aires eats, sleeps and breathes football (with a side of tango, of course). The derby pits two of South America’s most successful clubs against each other in a true feast for football fans.  

London, UK
London is arguably the sporting capital of the world. From the traditional tennis tournament in Wimbledon to all-action rugby matches in Twickenham, the city has something to satisfy every sporting fanatic. But it’s football where London truly excels. Six of England’s 20 Premier League clubs are located in the city, and you can tour their stadiums, including the homes of Arsenal and Chelsea. You can also take a wander around the architectural gem of Wembley, the home of the English national team.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio lives for football. Every street corner, patch of grass and sun-soaked beach is treated as mini Maracana by locals of all ages. The real Maracana, perhaps football’s holiest cathedral, is more than just home to the Brazilian national team. It’s a stadium steeped in history, and you can experience the captivating stories of this iconic stadium with a behind the scenes tour.

Lisbon, Portugal
The people of Lisbon agree on plenty: Pastel de Natas are the best pastries around, their native city is the prettiest of them all and their seafood is to die for. However, one thing that divides them like no other is the small matter of football. Benfica vs. Sporting. Red vs. Green. Eagles vs. Lions. It’s a rivalry that defines life in the Portuguese capital, and one that you can get to know better with a stadium of the tour Estádio da Luz or the Estadio José Alvalade.

Madrid, Spain
You can’t have a rundown of the world’s greatest footballing cities without mentioning Spain’s capital city. Home to both Real and Atlético, Madrid is a city that has defined the game for over 100 years. Head to the Bernabeu to see Real’s ridiculous amount of trophies, including 13 Champions League titles. Or if you fancy something a little more modern, check out the Wanda Metropolitano, Atlético’s state-of-the-art stadium.  

Meet your guide to St. Petersburg

Take a trip around St. Petersburg with this insider guide to Russia’s fairytale city. With the help of Lidia Nerobova of MariaRosaTours, we’ll reveal what to see, where to shop and when to visit.

So, Lidia, what’s your favorite thing about being a tour guide?
It gives me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world while helping visitors better understand Russia and St. Petersburg.

What makes St. Petersburg so special?
It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world with a very rich culture. It has beautiful architecture, interesting history, lots of events, famous museums and theatres. It’s also a modern city with nice shops, good restaurants and clubs.

What’s your favorite place in St. Petersburg that tourists rarely visit?
I love the Peter the Great Bridge. It’s quite far from the city center and not often visited by tourists, but I love looking at it from a distance as well as how it looks when you drive through it.

What’s the most Instagram-worthy place in St. Petersburg?
It has to be the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. It’s on pretty much every guidebook cover, magnet, watercolor and postcard of St. Petersburg!

Nobody should leave St. Petersburg without having seen/visited…
Everybody should enjoy the unforgettable view of the Neva embankments from the spit of Basil Island. Visitors should also walk along Nevsky Prospect, the city’s main street that’s lined with beautiful palaces, churches, monuments, shops and all types of restaurants.

Where are the best places to eat in St. Petersburg?
Head to Terassa or Moskva for tasty food in perfect locations. From their open terraces, you have a fantastic view of Nevsky Prospect.

Where’s the best place to shop in St. Petersburg?
Galeria Shopping Mall! It’s the biggest and most famous mall in the city center.

What’s your favorite word/phrase in Russian?
Chut-Chut (чуть-чуть), which means “a little.”  For example, “I speak chut-chut Russian.”

What’s your favorite season in St. Petersburg?
When spring is turning into summer as everything is in bloom. This is also when we celebrate the famous White Nights, which is when the sun never really sets.

What’s the most exciting event to happen in St. Petersburg this year?
The city is ready for the World Cup! We’ll host seven games at this year’s tournament, including a semi-final and the third-place playoff.

What can people expect from your tours?
My tours take visitors to all the must-visit places. I run tours that showcase St. Petersburg’s beautiful squares, buildings, palaces, churches, rivers and bridges. Any visit to St. Petersburg is incomplete without seeing the Hermitage and the amazing tsar residences of Tsarskoye Selo, Peterhof and Pavlovsk.

 

10 unmissable places in Portugal

Portugal has everything you need for a dream vacation. Spend your time unwinding on idyllic beaches, hiking breathtaking cliff passes and eating your way through a mountain of pastel de natas thanks to our guide to the country’s most unmissable spots.

Nazare

1- Take to the waves
Listen up surfers: forget Australia and Hawaii. The highest wave ever surfed (24m) was in Nazaré, just a few kilometers north of Lisbon. Even if you’re not that into surfing, from the lookout point of Miradouro do Suberco, you can enjoy spectacular views of the ocean crashing against the rugged coastline. The biggest waves usually occur in early November, but you’ll need a bit of luck to catch an elusive 20m one. Unfortunately not all of us are able (or crazy enough) to surf waves as high as a house, but luckily Portugal has more surf spots to offer than just Nazaré. On Arrifana Beach in the southwest of the country, perfect surf swell awaits you on a stretch of coastline that’s lined with high cliffs.

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2- Unwind on a deserted island
An uninhabited island that’s basically just one giant beach with a little restaurant on sounds pretty damn perfect in comparison to the touristy alternatives on the mainland. Soak up the sun, swim and repeat all day – with absolutely nobody disturbing your peace. The nature on Ilha Deserta is still relatively untouched, and its remoteness will make you feel like you wandered into paradise. Instead of spending the entire day on the island, you can take a catamaran tour that visits both Ilha Deserta and Ilha Farol. The latter is ready-made for hiking enthusiasts since there are no roads or vehicles.

Miramar

3- Find your dream beach
Portugal’s 900 km coastline is home to its fair share of unique beaches. One such beach, Miramar, is just a short drive from Porto. Here, embedded in dreamy white sand and built on several rocks, sits Senhor da Pedra, a picture-perfect little chapel marooned in the middle of the beach. If you find yourself further south, head to Praia do Paraiso (Paradise Beach). You can only reach the beach by walking down a set of cliff steps, but you’ll be rewarded with a stunning sandy beach that truly lives up to its name. The charming fishing village of Carvoeiro, which overlooks Praia do Paraiso, is well worth exploring.

Fisherman's Trail

4- Get lost in nature
There are seemingly millions of different hiking tracks you can choose to tackle in Portugal – and with each route more breathtaking than the next, it’s tough to settle for just one or two. Arguably Portugal’s (and the world’s) most picturesque coastal path is known as the Fisherman’s Trail, a single track along the cliffs of the west coast. Even though the whole trail is 120 km long, it’s easily accessible meaning you can choose to hike as much or as little as you want. If you’re less of a hiker, you can enjoy the many different paths (or even kayak routes) in Arrabida National Park, just a short drive from Lisbon.

Aveiro

5- Meet the Venice of Portugal
With its brightly painted gondolas peacefully floating through the canals, Aveiro easily gives Venice a run for its money. Each gondola (also called a Moliceiro) is unique, usually painted to depict traditional landscapes found around Aveiro. They were originally used to collect seaweed in the lagoon, but you’ll now see them taxiing locals and tourists. Make sure to also explore the city by foot – Aveiro boasts beautiful pastel houses, public gardens and a century-old train station with stunning blue azulejo tiles.

Caves of Benagil

6- Discover breathtaking caves
The only thing more spectacular than the Algarve’s beaches are the stunning rock formations found along its coastline. Whether it’s by boat, kayak or stand up paddle, you simply can’t miss a visit to the Caves of Benagil. Sunlight pours through a giant hole in the ceiling of this particular rock formation and sets the cave alight. You can also peek through it from above after a short hike. The ‘Elefante’ cave near the little fishing village of Lagos is shaped (you probably guessed it) like an elephant. And if you’re already in the region, head to Ponta da Piedade, where imposing cliffs tower from the ocean into the sky.

Fraga da Pena

7- Do go chasing waterfalls
After a quick forest hike in Serra do Açor, you’ll find yourself standing in front of the stunning 20m high Fraga da Pena waterfall. If you’re brave enough, you can go for a swim in the lagoon that sits underneath it, but only if you don’t mind very (and I mean very!)  cold water. The closest ‘big’ town is Coimbra – it’s easy to reach from Fraga da Pena and the perfect starting point for a camping trip.

Cabo de Sao Vicente

8- Venture to the end of the world
We (hopefully) all know that earth is not flat, but when you’re in Cabo de Sao Vicente it sure feels like you’re about to fall off the edge of the world. At the most southwestern point of continental Europe, you’ll find an almost hundred-year-old lighthouse that sits perched atop cliffs that can reach up to seventy meters. You can enjoy “The Last Bratwurst Before America” from a little food stand while you take in the amazing scenery. In the unlikely case that you get sick of the view, just a kilometer before the lighthouse is Fortaleza do Belixe, a 15th-century fort that’s packed with history.

lisboa

9- Explore Europe’s trendiest capital
A trip to Portugal is incomplete until you’ve visited its artsy capital city. The age-old yellow cable cars will transport you from A to B in what may feel like the hilliest city in the world. No matter where the cable cars (or your legs) take you, you’ll soon realize there’s no shortage of things to do in Lisbon. Take in the views from Park Bar (an inexpensive rooftop bar in the city center), enjoy exhibitions at the MAAT and do not leave the city without enjoying a pastel de nata from Manteigaria, a famous little bakery that produces fresh batches every hour.

duono valley blossom

10 – Marvel at the almond blossoms
Everyone’s heard of the gorgeous cherry blossom trees in Japan, but you’ll find something equally as beautiful at the very edge of western Europe. From late February until early March, the Douro Valley in northern Portugal becomes a flower paradise you really don’t want to miss. Legend has it that a young king had the almond trees planted to woo a Nordic princess. He hoped by covering the valley with white almond blossoms she would be reminded of the snow back home. We’re not sure if it worked – but it did leave us with a breathtaking natural spectacle to enjoy! Be sure to celebrate the blossom with the locals at the Folklore Festival of the Almond Trees in Mogadouro.

Meet your guide to Bali

Bali’s beauty is no secret. Millions of tourists descend on the Indonesian island every year to unwind on the white sand beaches and explore the tropical interior. But that’s not to say you can’t find your own slice of postcard paradise. To help you escape the crowds, we chatted with island native Nyoman Gede Mahayuna of Bali Private Tours, who’s been a tour guide for 10 years.

tourist

What’s your favorite thing about being a tour guide in Bali?
I love meeting new people from all over the world and becoming friends with them. The landscape and the island’s friendly and warm people is what makes Bali so special. You’ll never be lonely while in Bali!

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What’s your favorite place in Bali that tourists don’t visit?
Mt Batur’s caldera is my favorite place where tourists rarely visit. From here you can see three volcanoes (Mt Agung, Mt Batur, and Mt Rinjani) as well as Lake Batur, the ocean and beautiful sunrises and sunsets. For the best sunrise in the whole of Bali, make sure to head to the top of the Batur volcano.

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Where are the best places to eat dinner in Bali?
You’ll find a lot of great restaurants in Seminyak. The area has a good mix of expensive and cheap dinner options. Some highly recommended restaurants include Breeze at The Samaya, Biku, Sardine, Metis, and Mamasan. My personal favorite is INGKA as they serve cheap yet very tasty dishes. You’ll also find great coffee at Mangsi Coffee.

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Where should visitors go for a real adventure?
Head to the Munduk area for a real adventure. Here you’ll find around 100 waterfalls with the most famous being Sekumpul, Git Git, and Manyumala.

Where’s your favorite beach in Bali?
Virgin Beach Karangasem (known locally as Pantai Pasir Putih) on the east coast is my favorite beach.

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What are the most Instagram-worthy places in Bali?
Kelingking Beach on Nusa Penida is beautiful although having this beach has seen tourists start flooding the island.

When’s the best time to visit Bali?
May is still considered low season and dry season is just beginning. A lot of cheap deals can be found at this time.

Where are the best places to see the sunset in Bali?
Uluwatu in the southern part of Bali has some cliff-side bars (Omnia, Rock Bar, and El Kabron) that are perfect for watching amazing sunsets.