THE ULTIMATE NEW YORK FOOD GUIDE : 35 OF MY FAVORITE PLACES TO EAT IN NYC

This year marks year seven years of spending time in New York in the summer. I have spent as little as three days and as long as two weeks exploring and eating my way through the city. I have dined at a lot of restaurants - some really good ones and others not so much. With all that food knowledge, now seemed the perfect time to share my guide to eating in the city. This list has been curated based on years of research and if it made the list then you can trust it is a good one. These are from the city and surroundings - Brooklyn and Williamsburg. If you are in need of more NYC food recommendations or food recommendations in general - I share food recommendations from my travel around the world - here

COOKSHOP

Let’s start with the markets. If you are traveling with a large group with different tastes, a market is a great place to head for nourishment because you can satisfy everyone’s culinary tastes with one stop.

THE MARKETS

IMG_8603.jpg
  1. Chelsea Market. Located close to the highline; this could your reward for walking the highline. This indoor market has got cafes; florists; artisans. There are several food options from seafood to burgers; noddles and pizza. There are also a few dessert spot here. The market gets crowded so keep that in mind.

  2. Eataly. The Italian grocery store located by the flatiron is one of my favorite food destinations in the city. Their food court has a variety of food options. Some quick and others are more traditional. My favorite spot is the nutella bar. The waffle with a scoop of ice cream drizzled with nutella is delicious.

  3. Smorgasburg. This is a weekend food market that runs seasonally. There is also an indoor food market; there are over 75 vendors serving a variety of cusines. I love walking around a trying a little bit of everything. Make sure to have cash on hand; some vendors only take cash.

EATALY
2016-07-11 14.04.57.jpg

BREAKFAST AND BRUNCH

  1. Jack's Wife Freda. This is one of my favorite brunch destinations in the city. I am never disappointed. The madame Freda is a favorite and if cantaloupe juice is on the menu - get it !

  2. Sara Beth. There are multiple locations including one close to Time Square serving American style brunch. Order the french toast and let your life be forever changed. The cookies are also very highly recommended.

  3. Bubby's. Multiple locations. Love the one in Chelsea. You can walk off all the delicious food by strolling the Highline after brunch. I recommend pancakes and apple pie.

  4. Sylvia. This spot is known for both its history and the food and has hosted some greats including former presidents. The brunch lines on weekends requires resilience, but if you can brave it, you will be rewarded with amazing soul food. I recommend the chicken and waffles and the cornbread.

  5. Two Hands. This Australian brunch location with multiple locations, including one in Soho has been a favorite brunch destination for years. The menu is not complicated but the dishes are seriously delish. I always recommend the acai bowl but the avocado toast has triggered a lot of food envy on my part.

  6. Bluestone Cafe. Another Australian import with several locations around the city. I love the vibe of the collective cafe in Greenwich. There is a lot of talk about the avocado smash but I go back often for the green baked eggs. They also make an excellent cold brew.

  7. Cookshop. This is a new favorite discovered on my last trip and I can’t believe I have just discovered it. Located by the higline and serving really good food. The biscuits are amazing.

  8. Pie n’ Thighs. I discovered this Brooklyn brunch destination a few years ago; but did not get a chance to dine here until my last trip to the city. They serve brunch all day - always the chicken and waffles; their doughnuts are excellent.

Bubby's.
2017-06-14 11.21.25.jpg
IMG_3908.jpg
2016-07-12 10.32.06.jpg

SWEETS AND COFFEE

Some of my favorite brunch spots also serve excellent coffee including two Aussie imports that have staked a legitimate claim on the NY coffee scene. Two hands and Blue stone cafe. Did I mention the cold brew from Blue stone already ?

2016-07-11 13.19.02.jpg
Sweet moments cafe
  1. Toby's Estate: There are multiple locations around the city serving great Coffee. If coffee is not your thing, the Chai tea latte is excellent.

  2. Devocion: If you are in Williamsburg then you should stop by; it checks all the right boxes - coffee and ambiance. This is a great spot to get coffee and also get work done.

  3. Maman Coffee: I went for the ambiance and stayed for the coffee and the adorable floral coffee cups. Don't be distracted by the instagrammable exterior, they know how to make a great cup of coffee

  4. Birch Coffee: Multiple locations | The very best chai tea latte. The rest of the menu is excellent.

  5. Sweet Moment: The coffee shop is known for their cold brew with incredible latte art. If you are looking for perfection in a cup then you should give a cup of their cold brew a try.

  6. Bibble and Sip. The mid-town location is always packed for good reason. The matcha lavender latte is one of the best things I have ever tasted.

  7. Dough : Multiple locations | Donuts the size of your face. I recommend the Tres des leche and the regular sugar donut.

  8. Four and Twenty Blackbird: Worth a trip to Brooklyn and they know a lot about how to make an incredible pie. The menu changes daily. Get the black bottom oat if it's on the menu.

  9. Doughnut Plant : Multiple locations | Order a carrot cake donut; then send me a thank you note (donut attached, of course !).

  10. Levains : Delicious cookies the size of your face. Ok, maybe not the size of your face, but quite large portions. Locations in Harlem and on 72nd street. Expect long lines especially at the 72nd street location but the chocolate, chocolate chip cookie is worth the wait and/or trip to Harlem.

  11. Egg Loo: China town has one of the best-kept secrets for sweets. The hong kong style waffles with mounds of ice cream and toppings is a must have a treat.

  12. Dylan's Candy Store: Midtown location has a sit-down area on the second floor. Order yourself a sundae. Make sure you have a friend with you to share and prepare for a sugar high.

  13. Momofuku milk bar : Multiple locations serving cereal milk soft serve every time. It tastes like the milk at the bottom of cornflakes.

  14. Magnolia Bakery : Fans of Sex in the City will be familiar with this one. The cupcakes are awesome. The red velvet cheesecake checks all the right boxes. Light and fluffy.

  15. Taiyaki: The Japanese phenomena that ruined me for good. Fish shaped waffled stuffed with airy light Japanese ice-cream drizzled with topping of your choice. Give me a moment while I find my happy place

2017-06-15 16.07.25.jpg
2017-06-15 15.28.42.jpg
2017-06-14 15.44.37.jpg
IMG_8842.jpg
IMG_8757.jpg
IMG_8587.jpg
2016-07-12 17.09.17-1.jpg
2016-07-12 10.39.50.jpg

LUNCH AND DINNER

  1. Marta. I have been dining at Marta for as long as I have been visiting NYC. It is a very popular destination for lunch meetings so you may have to wait for a table if you don’t want to sit at the bar. (Located in Midtown East).

  2. Blue Ribbon Sushi. If you are lucky and they feature the soba noodle ball with duck meatballs on the menu. Order it immediately. You are welcome.

  3. Shake Shack. While Shake Shack is expanding across America; I still love stopping by the one by the flat iron building to order a chicken burger and a milk shake.

  4. Totto Ramen. This was one of my first food destinations in New York. I stumbled on it on a cold / rainy day in 2014 and I have been returning for their ramen offerings since then. You may have to wait to get in but there are three locations to choose from Midtown West ; Midtown East and Hell’s kitchen.

  5. Grimaldi's. This cash only Pizza spot in Brooklyn is a favorite of mine. I have read mixed review but I quite enjoy their Pizza offering. The queue to get in can be ridiculous at time so keep that in mind.

  6. The Butcher's daughter. This plant based restaurant is the only spot I will visit when I am craving delicious and healthy. I have often said if other restaurants did healthy like TBD; I will never have a problem eating healthy. They serve a variety of vegan; vegetarian and gluten free options.

  7. Ippudo. This is another favorite go to Ramen spot. Their specialty is tonkotsu ramen, and that is what I always get because it is amazing. There are a few locations around the city.

  8. Baek Jeong NYC. I am a lover of Korean food and any time I have a craving for Korean food in NYC; this is where I go to satisfy that craving.

  9. Fred’s at Barney’s. For a real treat yo self experience; it is always Fred’s. The Nicoise salad is a personal favorite but the menu if packed with a variety of delicious offerings

2017-06-15 14.07.09-2.jpg
2016-07-11 12.36.01.jpg
2016-07-07 20.11.48.jpg
2016-07-12 15.06.03.jpg



WHAT TO DO WITH 24 HOURS IN VERONA, ITALY

IMG_1394.JPG
Verona, Italy

We were in Milan for a few days and had planned to spend a day in  Lake Como and Bellagio. It had always been on the bucket list and this trip to Italy was going to be the one we got to tick this off the bucket list. Mother nature had other ideas though - we woke up to rain and thunderstorms in Milan and surrounding areas and Lake Como was a no-go. We explored multiple options including Bergamo; Venice; and Verona. Venice was at the top of the list but I had been there the weekend before and other members of my party were saving Venice. Our hotel concierge recommended Verona over Bergamo so after a lazy morning we set out for Verona via train from Milano Centrale.  The train ride took about an hour and a half plus a twenty minutes bus ride to the city and we were ready to start off our day in Verona. If you can, I think the city deserves a weekend to fully enjoy it, but if like us, you don't have the luxury of a weekend, I think a day gives you a glimpse to the heart of this artist hub also known as the city of love. Here is what we got up.

IMG_1253.JPG
IMG_1268.JPG
Verona, Italy
IMG_1396.JPG

Arena de verona. The arena is right in the heart if the city in Piazza Bra.  In the summer months, you can catch a show here and when our hosts in Milan heard we were heading to Verona. He could not stop gushing about the shows hosted at the arena (which looks something like the Roman coliseum. The elaborate set design available for public viewing in the piazza held promise of soemthing spectacular behind the arena walls. Unfortunately we were out of luck getting tickets.

IMG_1259.jpg
IMG_1251.JPG
Verona, Italy

Via Mazzini. If you looking to do some shopping, then Via Mazzini is where you want to spend your time. It is very busy street  lined with both high street brands and big designer shops. If you have more than twenty four hours in the city then you have head to the designed outlets in Lake Garda. It was highly recommened and may just be a reason to plan a return trip to Verona. Don't limit yourself to the main avenue, take a detour to side streets for hidden archictecture gems.

IMG_1273.JPG
IMG_1301.JPG

Piazza delle Erbe. At the end of Via Mazzini to the left, we stumbled on Piazza delle Erbe. The Piazza seemed to be heart of the city housing both history and present. The square is lined with quaint architecture; restaurants; cafes and bars with a day market operating in the center of the square. The square is also home to Torre del Gardello and Fontana del Madonna.

IMG_1318.JPG

Palazzo Maffei. Located in Piazza della Erbe. The baroque facade of the Palace cannot be missed. The top of the facade facing the Piazza has six statues of greek divinities - Hercules ; Jupiter; Venus; Mercury; Appollo and Minerva. If you have time to explore the interipr. It is home to a helicodia stone staircase that makes for spectacular photographs.

IMG_1426.JPG
Verona, Italy

Piazza dei Signori. From Piazza Delle Erbe, walk through the Costa Arch to arrive in Piazza del Signori. The square is less busy than Piazza delle Erbe but dont let that put you off. The Piazza is the perfect place to view the facade of the domus nova; renaissance loggia del consiglio and the monument of Dante. Just off the Piazza is small arch leading to Mercato Veccho (Old Market) with the Scala della Ragione (Stairs of Reason); home to the Modern art gallery of Verona and Torre dei Lamberti (aka tower of love) which offers incredible views of the city from the bell tower. 

Verona, Italy
Verona, Italy

Scaliger Tombs. Because Verona was a sponteneous trip, I did not have the luxury of planning. I left the rest of my party at Via Mazzini to wander off  on my own. I stumbled on Scaliger tombs in the process. The tombs is located outside church of Santa Maria Antica. It is a gothic style monument to celebrate the Scaliger family who ruled Verona in the 14th century. As an architecture fan, I can tell you I have never seen anything quite like it and it ranks high up there in my book. Also, pictures don't do it justice.

Verona, Italy
Verona, Italy
IMG_1457.JPG
IMG_1321.JPG

Casa de Romeo. Just down the road from the tombs, I stumbled on Casa de Romeo. Yep ! that Romeo - the one from Romeo and Juliet. I heard some tour guide say they are no 100% sure it is his house but given the information available - it is most likely than not it is his house. Take that as you will. 

IMG_1328.JPG
IMG_1324.JPG

Casa de Guillitte. Not too far from Casa de Romeo was Juliet's house. Compared to Casa de Romeo, there is no doubt this place was "Juliet's home". There is a museum in her honor and you can go up to the balcony for a photo op and re-live moment from the fmaous Shakespeare tragedy. In the courtyard, there is a statue of her which you can touch in hopes of finding love in your life.

Verona, Italy
IMG_1297.JPG
IMG_1294.JPG
IMG_1379.JPG

Ponte Pietra. Wandering through narrow roads, I found myself at Ponte Pietra which is the oldest bridge in Verona and offers an incredible view of Castel San Pietro and a panaromic view of the city. I am told the bridge has a history like the city and if you are a fan of architecture, the history is one to look up. If you are not, it is still a great spot to visit in Verona. 

Verona, Italy

Castel San Pietro. Before planning out sponteneous trip to Verona, I knew exactly two things baout the city Castel San Pietro and Lake Gardi. Unfortunately, I could not see the latter due to the short visit and the rain which eventually caught up with us in Verona. The rain also ruined plans to hike up to Castel San Pietro, instead, I admired it from the banks of Ponte Pietra. It is quite impressive.

IMG_1344.JPG

I think we could have done and seen a lot more than we did but we spent about two hours of our time there in Zara hiding from the rain. I found my new favorite summer shoe in the process so I am not complaining. Don't leave Verona without having a meal. One of the best meals I have had in Italy was in Verona at a spot called Ristorante Greppia - the Caprese salad was divine.

IMG_1475.JPG
IMG_1473.JPG
IMG_1331.JPG
Verona, Italy
Verona, Italy
IMG_1345.JPG
Verona, Italy
Verona, Italy

FINDING TIME TO TRAVEL WHEN YOU HAVE A 9 TO 5 JOB

2016-11-06 17.04.08.jpg

My goal with this space is to provide practical posts to help you achieve your travel dreams in addition to sharing the itineraries and guides. One of the key things for me is learning to juggle travel with my full time job. I think social media gives this (false) illusion that you have to quit your day job to be able to travel the world . Afterall that is the story of several influencers in the travel space. While it is incredible they have that opportunity; I think the majority of us don’t have that option. If like me you have big travel dreams, I want to know you don’t have to wait till you can quit your job; you can make those dream a reality now.

2016-11-06 17.07.59.jpg

Like most people I only have a limited number of vacation days available to me and given my travel goals, there have been years when twenty-eight days was not sufficient (and early on in my career I have significantly less days to work with). Obviously, the best most logical option is to make use of your allocated vacation days. However, if your vacation days are limited or you, here are the ways I have managed to travel the world while working full time. The process of achieving this has morphed slightly from when I worked/lived in Dallas. I had a bit more flexibility in Dallas but I have more access to destination in the London.

1. Plan travel around the bank (public) holidays. This is one of the easiest ways to maximize your vacation days. In the states, plan travels around thanksgiving so instead of taking five days off work; I was only taking two days from work. Now that I live in the UK, I leverage holidays like Good Friday/Easter Monday or Christmas/boxing day. Last year my work rewarded us for a good year with an off day on 24th December; 25th and 26th December and 1st January are bank holidays in the UK. I was away from 22nd of December until 6th January (16 days) but only used up six days of allocated vacation days by leveraging weekends and holidays.

2016-11-06 17.04.19.jpg

2. Make the most of work trips. Another great way to travel (and save cost) is to maximize your work trip. Before using this option, make sure you understand your organization’s policies. One of my former employers had a policy that if you were working out of town over a period of several weeks; you can either fly back home on the weekends or fly to a destination that cost the same (or less) as flying back home. I never took advantage of this but in hindsight, this was a great opportunity to have travelled more. If you organization has a similar policy - lucky you and make sure to take advantage of it.

3. Book end work trips with personal trips. When traveling for work to a city I will like to explore; I book end the work trip with a personal trip. I used to have to attend a work training in Washington D.C. in June. The training session were usually on Monday and Tuesday. I will typically fly in on Saturday morning and spend the weekend exploring on my own account before the training kicked off. Another alternative, when traveling for a work engagement that runs all week; instead of flying back on the Friday afternoon; I wait to fly back on Sunday evening to give myself some personal time to explore the city. The cost incurred for those personal stays are always covered out of pocket. Keep track of your expenses separately to avoid commingling work expenses with personal expenses.

2016-11-06 17.20.15.jpg

4. Make the weekend count. Make a list of destinations within a two hour flight/drive from your home. You can usually plan a weekend trip to destinations that don’t require extensive travel time. The idea is you fly in Friday evening and fly back Sunday evening or the first flight Monday morning in time to be back at work Monday morning.

5. Bookend long trips with the weekend. Speaking of weekend, when planning an extended vacation, I always book end it with the weekend. Essentially fly out on Friday evening and return the following weekend - this means I have eight to nine days to travel as opposed to five days if I leave on a Sunday evening or Monday morning.

6. Utilize Flex. Many companies now have robust flex programs which takes many forms. I have co-workers who only work Monday to Thursday with Fridays off to run their business or stay home with their kids. This is an option I have considered for myself in the past but ultimately decided that the financial impact of that particular type of flex did not work for me. Another option I have employed with flex programs is to have a four day work week without having it impact my pay. Essentially, work longer days to hit my target hours. In the UK, full time work week is 35 hours. With this option, I would work those hours in four day instead of five days to be able to take Friday off without having to use up my allocated vacation days. I have not used this for purposes of travel but it has been useful for days when I have had back to back personal appointment.

2016-11-06 17.16.18.jpg

7. Work remotely and take advantage of time differences. Several years ago, I planned an epic four week travel around Europe. I only had about three weeks of time built up and I did not want to use unpaid leave. I discussed with my superiors at work and worked overseas for part of my four weeks away. There was six hour time difference so I spent the mornings till early evening exploring the city and worked in the evenings. I worked about four to six hours in the evening for part of my trip to make up the time. The key with this option is communication and letting your team know when you will be working if they need to reach you.

8. Use unpaid Leave. I have not used this option before but I know it is available to me if I want it. If you are in a financial position to take a few weeks off work unpaid and your organization offers this option; take advantage of it to achieve your travel dreams. Make sure to consider the impact of limited or no pay before deciding on this option.

2016-11-06 17.12.25.jpg





EDINBURGH CITY GUIDE - A WEEKEND GUIDE TO EXPLORING SCOTLAND'S CAPITAL

IMG_5099.jpg
IMG_4900.jpg

This hilly capital city of Scotland is a must-visit. I have been visiting the United Kingdom since I was 17 and never got around to visiting the other Countries in the Kingdom which includes Wales; Northern Ireland and Scotland. I have spent all of my visits in England and I have only just realised how much of a disservice I have done to myself by doing that - one of my travel goals this year is to visit all the Countries in the United Kingdom. If you are already in London this should be an easy fete to accomplish. I got to spend my last birthday in Edinburgh with my Mom and we had an incredible time in the city.

TIME OFF WORK. I took a week off work while my Mom was visiting. We were on the first flight out of Luton airport to Edinburgh on a Tuesday morning and returned to London on a late evening flight on Thursday. However, this is a trip (and itinerary) that is perfect for a weekend getaway with no need to use up your vacation days. Arrive Friday evening and leave Sunday evening (or Monday morning).

Edinburgh

GETTING AROUND. There is a bus service that runs from the airport into the city center with multiple stops along the way. Once in the city, the transport system is very reliable; we were not staying in the city center; so we relied heavily on the buses to get around. We were lucky to have a stop right outside our Hotel. Make sure to have cash on you to pay for fare on the bus. It cost us about 20 pounds for two people over our threes days/two nights in the city.

WHERE TO STAY. We stayed at the The Dunstane Houses which was not in the city centre but we did not find that to be an issue. We absolutely loved our accommodation and I recommend it to anyone heading to Edinburgh. It was very homely and customer service was top notch. It felt less like a hotel and more like staying at a (very) lush room at a friend’s place. Struggling to describe it - simply put - we enjoyed our stay and will stay here again if ever in Edinburgh.

Dunstane Houses
IMG_4894.jpg
IMG_5765.jpg

WHERE TO EAT. Our culinary adventures in Edinburgh began at Urban Angel - a highly recommended brunch spot in the city center. I thoroughly enjoyed my french toast and bacon dish. Other brunch spots we loved Cafe MIlk and Word of Mouth cafe. Word of mouth cafe was good but it was a bit out of the city centre. If you don’t have the time to make a trip out - a few other options are Brochan; Century General Store; Hyde and Son or Soderbergh Bakery. Surprisingly we only had lunch once during our visit; we typically had a late breakfast and that carried us through the day. If you want something quick and delicious, I recommend the pulled pork sandwiches at Oink. Several of the brunch spots also serve lunch; these spots were also highly recommended Groats pop up cafe ; the hideout cafe and Gannet Guga.

Oink
IMG_5784.jpg

For dinner, we treated ourselves, it was my birthday trip and the first time I was traveling with my mom as an adult so we stretched our budget for dinner. I cannot say enough good things about the food at Yamato - a Japanese restaurant just off one of the main streets. I had to stop myself from eating my way through the menu. We also dined at Baba - a Mediterranean restaurant - this was one of the best meals I had in 2018. The hummus was amazing. There is also a fish and chick pea dish I thoroughly enjoyed. These spots were highly recommended Saiko Kitchen; and Bistro at Hotel du Vin. I could not leave the city without trying some authentic shortbread - we stumbled on a spot in Old town that has become one of my most recommended spots in Edinburgh - Pinnies and Poppyseed. They make fantastic shortbread in a variety of flavors. While we could not visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse , we had a lovely snack and hot chocolate at the cafe at the palace.

IMG_5230.jpg
IMG_5260.jpg
IMG_5693.jpg
IMG_4908.jpg
IMG_5296.jpg
Yamamoto
Word of Mouth Cafe
IMG_5255.jpg
IMG_5225.jpg
IMG_5823.jpg
IMG_5687.jpg
IMG_5273.jpg
IMG_5332.jpg

WHERE TO EXPLORE. Our first stop was Dean’s village; I think we could have spent the entire day here. It was such a lovely place. I recommend planning about three hours here to explore all of the narrow roads; there is so much beauty in Dean’s village to be discovered by leisurely wandering. Keep in mind there are parts that are not flat so appropriate footwear is recommended. You can access Dean’s village from Prince Street - the main street in the city centre. It is about a five minute walk from Prince Street. Follow the walkaway along the Water of Leith. While in Dean’s village, do not miss Dean Bridge or the temple of St. Bernard well . Don’t miss Well’s court which is possibly the most striking building in Dean’s Village so keep an eye out for it. From here you are also in close proximity to two museum - the Gallery of Modern art and Dean gallery.

IMG_4979.jpg
IMG_4957.jpg
IMG_5069.jpg
Dean's Village
Temple of St. Bernard well
IMG_4990.jpg
IMG_4964.jpg
Dean's Village

We stopped by the Jenners building; the Scott monument which has some great views of Old town and the Prince Street garden. While there is an option to climb up to the top for even better views - we chose to pass on the hike. The Prince Street garden is incredibly beautiful; we were visiting in early spring and were rewarded with gorgeous blooms. We made a stop at the National Gallery of Scotland and loved see the paintings that capture the history of the Country. Then it was uphill to explore Old Town. There is so much hidden gem in Old town you should not miss; thankfully I found Shawna’s Exploring Edinburgh instagram page just before our trip and it was a excellent reference for the spots that will not pop up on any guide unless you are a local - Ramsay garden ; the heart shape Ivy adorning an entry way just off the Royal mile; and Victoria street just to name a few.

IMG_5203.jpg
IMG_5794.jpg
IMG_5103.jpg
National Gallery of Scotland
Prince Street Gardens
Edinburgh
IMG_5141.jpg
IMG_5387.jpg
IMG_5847.jpg
Prince street gardens

The Royal mile is a long stretch that runs from Edinburgh castle to Palace of Holyroodhouse. We enjoyed our time at both - the views from Edinburgh castle are spectacular. A note of caution when heading to Palace of Holyrioodhouse - confirm openings on the website before visiting; we could not get access to the palace as it was the week a prominent person was visiting and staying at the castle so most of it was closed; we rested and had scones and tea at the cafe. While in Old town and Royal Mile, we visited St. Giles Cathedral; University of Edinburgh school of divinity (aka New college on the mound) and The Scotch Whisky Experience. Other recommended stops on the mile - Camera Obscura; Mary King’s close; and John Knox house.

IMG_5474.jpg
IMG_5501.jpg
IMG_5721.jpg
IMG_5490.jpg
John Knox's House
IMG_5681.jpg
IMG_5829.jpg
Edinburgh castle
IMG_5151.jpg
IMG_5421.jpg
IMG_5043.jpg

Day II adventures started at the Edinburgh castle - we got rained out on day one and really wanted to see the view with clear skies. It was worth the trek up hill with the most amazing view of the city. Our second day was very relaxed because I was planning to hike to the highest point in the city. We spent some time not he Royal mile docking in on various alley ways like World’s end close. Then we went in search of Greyfriars Bobby. I will not ruin the legend for you but know that it is worth a visit. Please do not rub his nose - that is a specific plea by locals so abide by it.

If you have been around this corner of the internet for a while - this next bit will not surprise you. I spent the afternoon hiking up to Authur’s seat. This is the main peak of hills in the city; the starting point is the Holyrood Park and while it is the most challenging hike I have completed to date - it also ranks as one of the most rewarding hikes. The views of Edinburgh from the top is breathtaking. After the hike, we sat in on a session at the Scottish Parliament. That was a different kind of tourism but very informative. We wrapped up the day exploring New Town and Prince Street. One activity I did not get to do and still have major FOMO about - hiking to the top of Cannon Hill - I hear the view of the city is just as incredible as the view from Arthur’s seat.

IMG_5527.jpg
IMG_5831.jpg
IMG_5719.jpg
IMG_5175.jpg
IMG_5095.jpg
IMG_5138.jpg
IMG_5599.jpg
IMG_4982.jpg
IMG_5626.jpg
IMG_5542.jpg
IMG_5646.jpg
IMG_5599.jpg
cab10927-19af-47a4-b173-85a8efd73f72.jpg
14ce336c-2ad1-402f-930c-2c6d958f81ec.jpg
1dbdebb6-5e6c-4fdd-9b63-3d5edbe88153.jpg

I cannot recommend Shawna’s instagram page enough - we found some amazing spots for our various photo shoots; these will not pop up on any guide and I have not shared those here because I think it will be doing you a disservice; but stop by her page and let her photographs be your guide to this city.

THE BRUSSELS CITY GUIDE - TWENTY THINGS TO DO (AND PLACES TO EAT) IN BRUSEELS

IMG_3618.jpg

So much to share from my time in Belgium. This was different than a lot of my trips but that was exactly what made it perfect. I am usually on the go and trying to fit multiple trips into one. My time in Brussels was very different, it was slow paced; I slept in and I did not get to do all the things. One thing did not change though - my eating. I still ate my weight in food. Between the waffles; fries and the local dishes - I feel like I gained 10 pounds over the weekend.

IMG_3793.jpg

If you are thinking about Belgium - waste no time; finalize your plans; book your trip and get ready for an incredible time. I stayed in the Rogier area at the Hotel Le Plaza Brussels. Rogier is not quite city center but it is close enough. It is a short ten minute walk to city center and less than a ten minute walk to the Brussels nord train station. Rogier train station is a short walk from the hotel and access to city center means access to all the food and shopping options your heart desires. If you are headed this way, here are a few things I recommend for your itinerary.

IMG_3633.jpg
IMG_3312.jpg
IMG_3613.jpg
IMG_3328.jpg

Visit Grand Place. The facade of the buildings that make up the grand place is my definition of architectural opulence. The grand place is a UNESCO world heritage site in the center of the city and known for its decorative facade. The square is surround by the guild house; Maison du roi and city hall. If you find yourself here on a saturday you will likely catch a wedding or two. The square is also lined with shops and restaurants and if you are interested - the Belgium museum of beer.

IMG_3304.jpg
IMG_3299.jpg
IMG_3924.jpg

Manneken Pis. The bronze sculpture of the urinating boy stands as a symbol of Belgium (and of the City’s defiance). is a must see. The statue is replicated all over the city. The main statue is a short walk from the grand place and one of the most visited spots in Brussels. These days you will find the statue clad in one of a reported miniature nine hundred suits.

IMG_3351.jpg
IMG_3347.jpg
IMG_3350.jpg

Statue of Everard ‘t Serclaes. The statue of the reclining man is just off the grand place and legend has it that rubbing the statue will bring you luck. If you believe in such; then by all mean go for it. If not, still stop by and read up on history of the statue and man depicted in the statue. Everard was lord of Kruikenburg who recovered the city from the Flemings.

IMG_3334.jpg

Visit Brussels Park. If you want a break from the city or a spot to picnic or work out. The Brussels park is ideal. It is the largest public park in Brussels in walking distance to the palace and mont des arts. There is a main pond and several monuments that add to the character of this park.

IMG_3495.jpg

The Royal Palace of Brussels. This is the administrative home of the king and queen of Belgium. It is only open to the public (for free) every day (except for Mondays) during the summer (end of July to early September). Unfortunately, I could not visit the interior; the exterior and gardens are accessible and very lovely.

IMG_3506.jpg

Shop at Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. This is known as one of the oldest shopping arcades in the world. Apparently it is older than the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. The shopping arcade is lined with restaurants ; film theater. Some of Belgium best chocolatiers have shops here including Mary and Leonidas.

Eat Waffles. Belgian waffles are top notch - they are so good. If you google best waffles in Brussels - you will get a variety of options. I decided to treat myself to Maison Dandoy. Waffle and one topping of choice will set you back seven euros if you are dining in their tea room. Prepare to wait in line for fifteen to twenty-five minutes; but I thought it was worth it. I decided to go for the dine in option. I ordered the waffle with one topping of speculoos ice cream. If you have tried the famous Dutch Christmas cookie then you are in for treat. if you are in a treat yo self mode - then can I recommend the hot chocolate with whip cream as well.

IMG_3600.jpg

Eat Frites (Fries). Good lord, they make amazing fries in Belgium; the price for an order of fries and sauce range from 2.50 euro to 7 euros and worth the splurge. In my research Maison Antoine and Frit Flagey were highly recommended. The latter was out of my way and the former is closed on Sundays. Instead, I decided to try Fritland which is in the heart of city centre. This spot has been around for a few decades and their fries and sauce will set you back about 4.20 euro and they are the best fries I have ever eaten.

IMG_3844.jpg

Belgian Centre for Comic Strip Art. This was probably my favorite part of the trip (don’t judge). Did you know the Smurfs was created by the famous Belgian cartoonist - Peyo ? There was an exhibition of the Smurfs and great female comic artist on while I was visiting. I missed the Mangis exhibition by a day (insert: sad face). Ticket to the centre is 10 euro and I thought it was worth every penny.

IMG_3417.jpg
IMG_3430.jpg
IMG_3414.jpg

Visit Mini-Europe. The park is a reproduction of famous monuments from the European countries - from big ben to the Eiffel tower and everything in between. The monuments are reported to be at a scale of 1:25. The entry fee is 15 euro and I initially thought it was too steep but I really enjoyed my time there, It is not something I will do again (maybe when I have kids), but I am glad I stretched my budget to fit this one on the itinerary, The park is about a half hour from city centre. From Rogier train station, take the number six train all the way to Heysel train station; a short seven minute walk will get you to Mini-Europe and the Atomium.

IMG_3731.jpg
IMG_3711.jpg
IMG_3763.jpg
IMG_3778.jpg
IMG_3724.jpg

Check out the Atomium. Next to Mini-Europe is the Atomium. This is the last remaining structure from the 1958 world’s fair. The very unique structure is made up of nine atoms; five of which are open to the public and house restaurant with panoramic view; exhibition and a view deck with a telescope that gets you views of Antwerp and its port. It cost 12 euros to visit the interior.

IMG_3795.jpg

Explore Mont des arts. You could easier spend several hours here. It is about ten minutes from the palace or about fifteen minutes from the grand place. This hill of arts has got all the art your heart desires. The garden is a work of art in itself and the complex is home to the royal library; national archives; the mim (museum of musical instruments); Belvue museum and so much more. My time was spent in the garden taking a break from the trek around the city; there is a restaurant/bar at the top of the hill. Brussels centre train station is not far off. You can get trains to other parts of Belgium from there.

IMG_3561.jpg

Plan a day trip (or two). You know how much I love my day trips and Brussels is perfectly stationed for several day trips. Brugge is less than an hour and half away; Antwerp , Brugge and Ghent is about an hour from central station. You can also take a train to Amsterdam and other parts of Europe from central station.

Where to eat in Brussels. The food in Brussels is fantastic. For brunch, I recommend Peck 47 and Streetpecker. Lyly’s is an amazing fondue restaurant in the city center; Grimbergen cafe has a great menu mix - the steak and flemish beef stew were excellent.

IMG_3574.jpg
IMG_3826.jpg
IMG_3277.jpg
IMG_3279.jpg
IMG_3647.jpg

Drink Belgian Beer. Full disclaimer ! I am not a beer person and was very overwhelmed by all the options. The folks at La Belgique gourmande were incredible to this beer novice and after my twenty questions to the staff, I decided to try the Belirium red. It was really good. If you like beer, you should check out the beer museum located in the Grand place.

IMG_3860.jpg
IMG_3348.jpg