Things to do in Vienna

There aren’t many countries in Europe I haven’t been to, Austria was top of my to do list, and in particular a visit to Vienna. Steeped in history and tradition this beautiful capital city much has its own character and style, despite the neighbouring countries that land-lock Austria. Their heartfelt fight for independence in the past has made the locals proud of their heritage and I noticed this enthusiasm throughout the city. The grandeur and elegance is immediately noticeable in the architecture, the regular ballroom dancing events and, of course the cake culture, which we whole-heartedly embraced! Music and art are unforgettable elements to the Viennese culture, many tourists visit just to indulge in the opera productions at the magnificent opera house or to marvel at the impressive art collections. I factored in a mix of prominent sites and hidden gems into my itinerary, and have highlighted my favourite finds below.

To Sleep

Hotel Lamee – this stylish boutique venue is one of the handpicked design hotels in the city. Centrally located, with sumptuous bedrooms and luxurious amenities, it was a lovely place to return to after a long day exploring the streets of Vienna.

To Eat

Edvard – Located in the outstanding Kempinski hotel this one Michelin star restaurant serves immaculate dishes using the finest local meat and fish from the lakes of Austria. Sit back, relax and enjoy the culinary masterpieces presented to you by the charming waiters.

FiglMueller – This renowned restaurant is known in Austria as the home of the schnitzel. Cosy and always bustling with hungry tourists and locals, make sure you book ahead or be prepared to get a take-out schnitzel and eat on the street like I did!

Neni at Naschmarkt – a trendy café in the midst of the weekend flea market, Neni’s offers delicious Middle Eastern fare by a Tel Aviv chef. Sit outside (blankets are found on the seats) and enjoy the food while soaking up the bazaar-like atmosphere.

Hotel Sacher – a trip to Vienna is not complete without a slice of the Hotel Sacher Chocolate Torte. Rich and dense it is best enjoyed with a dollop of thick cream.

To Drink

If Dogs Run Free – named after the famous Bob Dylan song, this stylish bar in the 6th district has a great vibe and serves tasty cocktails. Run by a few creative and zealous guys the bar has become a popular hang-out for young trendsetters.

Halbstadt – this little bar was a lucky late discovery for me in Vienna. Known for mixing the best cocktails in town we headed there for a final drink on Saturday night when the place was just beginning to warm up.

Weinorgel – I didn’t realise how wine-proud Austrians were until I visited this little wine bar. Sit at the smoky bar and enjoy a glass of the local wine whilst enjoying the basket of monkey nuts (the floor is coated in the nut shells).

Caffé Couture – a modern and hip artisan cafe offers easily the best coffee in Vienna. The coffee has a smooth luxurious taste poured with precision by the masterful baristas.

Demel – this famous pastry shop and chocolaterie was founded in 1786 on the Michaelerplatz and is still a classy institution today. Order the classic indulgent hot chocolate with freshly whipped cream and then spend your spare change in the beautiful shop (best known for the violet sugary sweets and ultra-thin chocolate ‘cat’s tongues’).

To See

Mozart’s House – The Mozarthaus Vienna was Mozart’s residence from 1784 to 1787. This building in Vienna’s Old Town, not far from St. Stephen’s Cathedral, is his only surviving Viennese residence and is now a museum holding many illuminating information and documents about his life and work in Austria.

Vienna State Opera House – this World famous opera house produces major productions all year round with staggering variety and top talent. Tickets sell out fast, but you can queue on the day for €3 standing tickets or attend a short tour round the building to see the splendour of the venue.

The Kunsthistorisches Museum – this palatial museum houses some of the most important artwork in Austria, currently showing an exhibition of Velaquez alongside the remarkable permanent collection.

To Shop

Shopping with Lucie – Lucie is a wondrous woman who hails originally from NYC. In 2006 she set up this inventive company to fill a gap in the market and has since offered tours that shed light on the ateliers and artists of Vienna. Tailor-made tours offer insight into the beautiful handmade, luxury and traditional products, clothes and jewellery that live in the backstreets. Below are a few shops I discovered thanks to Lucie’s recommendations.

Lena Hoschek – this is a wonder emporium of unique clothes and accessories made for strong and stylish women. Lena Hoschek’s designs are dark and glamorous with an emphasis on the femme fatale look.

Park – this smart fashion boutique is a kind of concept store. Stocking a carefully curated selection of designer and street brands alongside on-trend furniture, footwear, magazines, perfume and art books. I bought a small bottle of the fragrant Austrian perfume, Wendy and Jim, and also loved the Park’s own brand coloured cashmere hats.

Muhlbauer – this minimalist shop has been providing the Viennese elite with beautiful headwear since 1903. Try on the timeless hats, perfect for keeping your head warm in the cold winter weather.

Das goldene Wiener Herz – the name translates to ‘the golden Viennese heart’. These traditionally-shaped wine glasses are decorated with old-fashioned designs and motifs and make a lovely gift. The balloon glasses have a gold rim and a gold heart on the bottom, whilst the bulbous stemless glasses have a pretty vine illustration.

To Do

Sofitel Spa – this sleek skyscraping hotel is very striking thanks to designer Jean Nouvel who has given the building a futuristic look. Head up to the minimalist spa and let the therapists pamper you while you look out over the city.

The Wiener Riesenrad – this 64.75-metre tall Ferris wheel is at the entrance of the Prater amusement park in Leopoldstadt, the 2nd district of Vienna. Featured in the famous “The Third Man” film this iconic wheel is a must for tourists. Relish the opportunity to ride on one of the oldest operating wheels in the world and take a photo to remember the extraordinary view.

Many thanks to the Vienna Tourist board for their help with this trip, more information here.

Things to do in Liverpool

I had lots of reasons to visit Liverpool: my grandmother is originally from the city and my dad religiously supported the football team when he was younger. More obviously, in 2008 Liverpool was recognised as the European Culture capital and the abundance of art and music throughout the city is immediately noticeable. There is a real lack of press coverage about this destination and I felt it was my duty to blog about Merseyside. I always intended to visit whilst spending three years at Manchester University, but never got round to it so I was delighted to have the chance to travel up north and investigate. Often considered in the shadow of its neighbouring city, Manchester, I wanted to visit and discover the unique places that represent this city’s character and culture.

To Stay

Hard Day’s Night Hotel – there is no escaping that Liverpool is the Beatles’ hometown and where they gained worldwide fame. This hotel is a tribute to the renowned boyband with quotes and photos adding colour and spirit to the otherwise corporate-style hotel. Centrally located and very comfortable, HDN Hotel caters for guests young and old, business and pleasure.

Hope Street Hotel – this beautifully designed boutique hotel has been fashioned from The London Carriage Works building which was built in the 1860s in the style of a Venetian Palazzo. The design and décor is sophisticated and chic, making use of the majestic pine beams and natural materials. There is also a great restaurant on site if you can’t be bothered to venture out.

To Eat

Camp & Furnace – This impressively huge venue was once the Baltic Triangle’s engine room and has now been transformed into a hip and happening music and food venue. We went along on a Saturday evening when the weekly Meatmarket disco and dining carve-up was in full swing.

Slims Pork Chop Express – the ultimate weekend brunch hang-out, we devoured the popular waffles with buttermilk chicken and maple syrup.

Salt House Bacaro – This civilised restaurant was recommended by numerous Liverpool locals. A warm and welcoming restaurant inspired by the eateries of Venice this eatery serves tasty tapas-style Italian food. Go for the £12.50 lunch menu.

Delifonseca – So much more than a deli, this Liverpool institution serves great and generous lunches. Try the herby ‘Drunken Chicken’ or the indulgent Chicken and Chorizo burger, accompany with a carafe of carefully chosen wine and a homemade brownie to finish.

To Drink Daytime

Bold Street Coffee – undoubtedly the best coffee in Liverpool. Bold Street kicked off the cool artisan coffee craze in this city and produces deliciously creamy coffee using the high quality ‘Has Been’ beans.

Leaf – an afternoon tea hotspot, choose a delicate speciality loose tea and relax. I tried a variety of black tea that was very soothing with a comforting buttery flavour.

Duke Street Espresso Bar – Trained up by the Bold Street team, Duke Street is of a similar ilk. Ideally located close to the shops it is the perfect place to grab a caffeine kick when the shopping fatigue hits.

To Drink Nighttime

Berry & Rye – a tiny trendsetter cocktail bar with plenty of style and substance. A scruffy plain black door leads to a magical exclusive bar serving innovative drinks made with precision and care. Sit at the bar to see the mixologists at work.

81 Ltd – My favourite cocktail bar in Liverpool, 81 Ltd is craftily hidden upstairs from Salt Dog Slim’s, only accessible with a door code by text message from the bar staff. Aside from the exciting speakeasy vibe, the barmen here really know their stuff conjuring up immaculate drinks. The brilliant Jake made us two enchanting cocktails: El Presidente and Captain Monkey’s Tail Curler.

El Bandito – A basement tequileria inspired by Mexico, tucked away beneath Santa Chupitos bar. This is a sanctuary for cocktail fans who like tasty Tequila-based drinks.

Jenny’s Bar – Run by the Berry & Rye crew this cocktail bar is housed in the legendary Jenny’s Seafood Restaurant on Fenwick Street, and is easily missed. The clever bartender create seasonal cocktails to please even the fussiest crowds.

To Shop

Utility – A brightly coloured mix of contemporary furniture, lighting and gifts… it is easy to spend hours in here.

Cow & Co – A tiny little café and design store with a carefully curated selection of items from socks to coffee cups. I wanted everything on the selves, including the stuff that wasn’t for sale.

Pillbox Vintage Fair – Head upstairs in Leaf on Sundays to find the Pillbox Vintage Fair. There are some fab outfits available at bargain prices, fill up a small bag for £15 and spend the rest of the weekend dressing up.

To Do

Beauty Bazaar – this luxury beauty retreat is a must on the itinerary of any girl visiting Liverpool. Get prepped and preened from head to toe and leave Liverpool feeling fresh and rejuvenated.

Beatles Museum – Learn the facts and stories behind the most famous boy band of all time. This clever underground museum has recreated the Cavern club, recording studio, and café where the Beatles spent so much of their early days. Leave feeling full of love and admiration for this great band.

To See

Tate Liverpool – This art gallery displays British and international modern and contemporary art, and hosts a range of exciting exhibitions and events. I was pleased to tick off the final Tate from my list, as I have now been to all four. Tate Liverpool is currently showing the ‘Transmitting Andy Warhol’ show.

Museum of Liverpool – A museum dedicated to the history and culture of Merseyside from football to music. Definitely worth visiting to understand an overview of this interesting city.

FACT – Liverpool’s Foundation for Art and Creative Technology is a progressive mix of new media and arthouse exhibitions. You can also visit the cinema here to see the latest films.

Many thanks to the Liverpool Tourist Board for their help with this trip.

Things to do in Barcelona

Barcelona is one of the most popular short-break destinations for Brits. Short travelling time, reasonably priced city, plenty of culture, food and sunshine to enjoy. I have been desperate to write about the Catalan capital for a while now and when I did finally spend a weekend there I had an endless list of must try things to do, see, eat and experience. In three days I dashed to every corner of Barcelona to bring you this varied and fun directory of my favourite things to do.


Mercer Hotel – tucked away in the atmospheric and historic Gothic quarter this hotel is removed from the main tourist streets. There is a luxurious sense of calm and cool inside the grand building. Stylish and minimalist design-led rooms are blissfully comfortable, the rooftop terrace bar and pool is heaven on a hot day and the restaurant downstairs serves seasonal fine dining.
Generator Hotel/Hostel – this affordable option is on the outskirts of central Barcelona. Always full of passionate travellers Generator is a perfect combination of character and comfort. Share a room with fellow guests in the hostel or enjoy the privacy of a hotel room complete with private bathroom and balcony.


La Pepita – tired and hungry this little venue was ideal for a first-night quick meal. With long opening hours La Pepita is great for a snack any time of day. Enjoy a glass of cava and a selection of tasty tapas.
Cornelia & Co – this NYC inspired deli-café is perfect place to pick up picnic supplies, or pop in for a morning croissant and fresh juice. The chic canteen-style design is a pleasure to be surrounded by.
La Boqueria – a favourite with tourists, this large public market in the centre of town is a landmark in Barcelona. Offering a wide range of edible goods I recommend wandering round and quenching your thirst with an exotic fresh pressed juice.
Caelis – an elegant Michelin starred restaurant serving inventive cuisine by Chef Romain Fornell. Try the speciality sharing dessert, “Explosion St. Honore”, a dish to remember.
Tickets – simply the hottest ticket in town. If you are blessed with good luck you may find yourself sitting at this wacky tapas restaurant by prestigious chef Ferran Adria. The famous foodie applies his avant-garde creative and unconventional ideas to create a menu that is both delicious and thrilling.
Caravelle – this trendy café is known to make the best brunch place in town. The minimalist little venue is reminiscent of East London hang-outs, with guests tapping away on macs and shovelling the baked eggs into their mouths enthusiastically.
Cañete – an upmarket and fashionable tapas bistro for those in the know. Cañete serves up a taste of old Spain, I couldn’t fault the food. Always busy, it is best to go along at opening time to ensure you get a table. Sit at the bar so you can see the chefs at work, food envy is inevitable so best to order as you go.
Bacoa– Burgers are increasingly popular in Barcelona and this outlet is the place to try them. Now with several branches Bacoa is never too far away. The team use the best meat grilled to juicy perfection, homemade bread and irresistibly creamy sauces, we shared one burger and wished instantly we had got one each!


La Donuteria – If you can bear to leave the traditional churros snack behind, visit this new sweet-tooth heaven for a donut.
La Cova Fumada – the tapas bar with no name, this scruffy traditional eatery is found nearby to the beach, 56 Carrer del Baluart and is always full with local workers. Said to be the birthplace of the spicy potato bomba it is the best place to try this delicious Spanish specialty.
Eyescream and Friends – ice-cream doesn’t get much friendlier than this. Located near the main Barceloneta beach Eyescream and Friends serves animated homemade ice-cream with toppings of your choice. These need to be seen to be believed.


Satan’s Coffee Corner – now relocated to a bigger venue this coffee place was set up by Marcos Bartolome, who saw a gap in the market serving truly great coffee in Barcelona. Local and visiting caffeine addicts flock to the chic corner café to get their fix and sit in lovely light room.
Nomad – this lab and shop in El Born is for coffee fanatics and devotees. Known for offering the best coffee in Barcelona the Nomad boys use a wonderfully balanced blend… the flat white here was one of the best I’ve tried.
Sirvent – selling the locally loved drink horchata, Sirvent is an institution in Barcelona. Horchata is a unique blend of tigernuts, water and sugar and is a refreshing creamy drink. Family run since 1920 Sirvent often has a long queue of parched customers in summer, each clutching a paper numbered ticket ready to be served.
Barcelo Raval – a glamorous 360 rooftop bar with a lovely relaxed vibe, and spectacular panoramic views of the entire city. Not as well-known as the more popular W Hotel this bar is less busy and consequently much more pleasant for an sundowners drink.
Dry Martini – opened in 1978 and has remained the top place to drink fine cocktail in Barcelona. Owned and created by barman legend Javier de las Muelas this bar is a homage to the celebrated Dry Martini.
Negroni – a small and discreet little bar which barely has a sign indicating its whereabouts, and inside there is no menu to choose from. Sit on the high stools and chat to the experienced mixologist about your preference of flavour and ingredients and minutes later your perfect drink will be placed in front of you.
El Mariachi – this hidden away secret bar in the Gothic area is impossible to find but worth looking for. Manu Chao is sometimes seen jamming here, but if he’s not in the house there will often be other talented musicians entertaining the crowd. Drinks are reasonably priced, but beware there are no English speakers here.


Camp Nou – visit this iconic football stadium and museum to get to grips with the history of Spanish history. See the luscious green pitch where the world’s best players illustrate the beautiful game. We enjoyed an in depth tour with a knowledgeable guide, even I left humming the familiar Barcelona FC fan song.
Fundacio Joan Miro – located on the Montjuic hill this impressive white modern museum honours the work of Joan Miro, a 20th Century Catalan artist. I particularly loved the selection of outdoor sculptural work which are arranged with amazing views of the city as a backdrop.
Recinte Modernista – The Modernista Sant Pau Complex was built between 1905 and 1930 and designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner as a garden city for nursing the sick. Recently Renovated this incredible collection of buildings is now partially reopened allowing the public to admire the beautiful architecture and design.
Barceloneta beach – when the heat gets too much the Spaniards head to the beach. It is a rare treat to have the seaside so close to the city centre so take advantage of the cool blue waters and fight for your place on the sand. Nearby bars and restaurants provide sustenance when you get peckish, or buy a fresh mojito on the beach.


Picasso Museum –  this lovely museum houses one of the most extensive collections of artworks by the 20th-century Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. After paying your dues in the queue wander round and pick your favourite painting from the unrivalled selection.
Els Encants flea market – In a startling mirrored open-sided complex near Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes, the ‘Old Charms’ flea market is the biggest of its kind in Barcelona. Over 500 vendors sell antique furniture, second-hand clothes and other random bits and bobs.
Pink Peony – this adorable little salon gave us a chance to recuperate and relax, for a blissful 2 hours we let the attentive staff pamper our feet and hands. Located very centrally on the famous shopping street Passeig de Gracia, this small salon opened in 2008, the perfect place for shoppers to stop for a beauty break.
La Sagrada Familia – easily the most famous landmark in Barcelona La Sagrada Familia by Antoni Gaudi is a challenge to get into but you’ll regret it if you don’t make the effort. I would advise to book tickets online before you go so you don’t waste time in the queue. Inside the large psychedelic Roman Catholic church is even more remarkable than the exterior. The quirky design, multi-coloured stained glass windows and the terrifyingly tall towers are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.


Colmado Quilmez – dating back to 1908 this old-school grocery has a spectacular range of local and international food and drink products. Make sure you check out the unrivalled selection of bottled waters, there are over 200 brands to choose from!
Les Topettes – a dinky, daintily designed shop with a range of lovely perfume brands from around the globe, beautifully packaged soaps and scented candles. I particularly loved the fragrances from Madrid-based perfume house Oliver & Co.
Chandal – Can I please live here? I loved it all…  a fabulous retro concept store stocking retro stationery, books, cameras, toys, t-shirts and much more. A whole load of things you don’t need, but desperately want.
Fantastik – this mad and magical shop stocks imported items from around the world. Here you can buy brilliantly kitsch décor to add some character and colour to your home… Chinese thermos flasks, Mexican virgins, plastic pandas from Japanese and photos of Indian hairstyles from the 70s.
Vincon – an expansive design emporium on the main street Passeig de Gracia Vincon spans two floors and holds a huge collection of aesthetically pleasing furniture and homeware. At the back the small gallery Sala Vincon showcases intriguing exhibitions.
Oriol Balaguer – where chocolate and design meet. Oriol Balaguer is an award-winning chocolatier and he is renowned in Spain. In his bijou Barcelona store in Barrio Alto presents the fine sweets, pastries, cakes and mousses in a beautifully decadent way. Go along in the morning for an indulgent pain au chocolat.
Holala! – this is vintage heaven, with a handpicked selection of vintage clothes and furniture from USA, Japan and EU. Pick up a second-hand Ralph Lauren shirt, neon sports shorts or a retro pinafore to add to your wardrobe.

Many thanks to the Barcelona Tourist Board for their help with this trip, more information here.