Corfu Town

The Budget Girls Weekend Destination Guide

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a weekend with the girls. Whether you’re exploring somewhere new, downing the local wine or hunting down the best cheese boards in town, girls weekends are the best time to wind down and relax.

These precious moments with your gal pals don’t need to cost the earth either. Make the most of your mates and check out these budget-busting destinations to get the most weekend for your money!

Berlin, Germany

Berlin ReichstaggIf you’re a culture-vulture by day and a hardcore raver by night, Berlin is for you. Check into an apartment with your friends (Airbnb has lots of choice), take to the streets and explore this vibrant and eccentric city.

Perfect for the budget conscious, Berlin has plenty of free museums and the free walking tour is a must!

Hvar, Croatia

Hvar CroatiaThis small slice of island paradise is easily accessible for a weekend getaway. Party hard in Hvar’s budget bars and wash away your sins in the crystal clear Adriatic sea.

 

Switzerland

Switzerland GrindelwaldGet out into the great outdoors and lose yourself in Switzerland’s rugged scenery. Head to the slopes in Winter or visit in Spring to see the mountains in bloom.

Keep an eye on EasyJet for cheap flights to Switzerland’s cities.

Brussels, Belgium

Belgian Waffles BrusselsFoodie heaven. Wash down your sweet treats with local Jupiler beer, admire the architecture at Grand Place and have a laugh at the Manneken Pis.

It’s worth parting with 4 euros for entry into the Museum of the City at Grand Place. The Manneken Pis exhibition is probably the most hilarious thing I have seen.

 

Canterbury

Canterbury Cathedral I have made my love for this Kentish city (and my University town) quite clear on this blog!

Just because I’ve graduated doesn’t mean I’ll be letting my Canterbury addiction go any time soon…

Canterbury is a great place for a girly break, catch-up in one of the city’s many bars, coffee shops or restaurants (here are my faves) and soak up the history of this quaint medieval town.

If you’re visiting in the Uni holidays, bag some cheap accommodation in the University halls. Find out how here.

 

Corfu Town, Greece

Corfu Town Beautifully undiscovered, as far as girls-only weekends go, Corfu Town is a hidden gem. Hit the shops, relax on the beach and eat as much Tzatziki as is humanly possible!

Come back home bronzed and refreshed.

 

Dublin, Ireland

Dublin PubOne of the ultimate girly escapes and the first one I took. Dublin is conveniently close to home and cheap to get to with airlines such as Ryan Air.

When you’re there, avoid the expensive pubs in touristy Temple Bar and instead follow the locals into one of the hundreds of other drinking holes. Grab and Guinness and prepare yourself for a sing-along!

Have you been on a girly weekend? What is your favourite destination? Let me know in the comments below or via my social media pages!

 

Berlin Wall

The Best Free Museums in Berlin

Berlin Wall

To become a responsible traveller you must fully immerse yourself in the local and national cultural history of your destination, or at least pretend to show a little interest… I don’t think you can ever really know a place before you have learnt about its past, present and hopes for the future. This is why I think it is a necessity to visit the local museums.

Until I began to travel I never realised how lucky I was to be a Londoner. Free and unlimited access to more museums and art galleries than I could count had led to me having an over-indulged-spoilt-child attitude to all things culturally aware. ‘Oh the British Museum again!’ I had gotten used to being able to pop in and out as I pleased, musing over a Monet at the Tate on my lunch break or checking out some creepy taxidermy when I happened to be walking past the National History Museum. The buildings and their contents charmed and humbled me but, like many Londoners, I took it all for granted.

Now in Berlin and faced with- wait for it- ENTRANCE FEES (dun, dun, dunnn), I was beginning to panic that I’d leave the city as ignorant to its complicated past as I’d arrived. Luckily this wasn’t the case as you can’t hide a freebie from this budget traveller for long! Here are my top tips for squeezing as much history out of Berlin as possible:

– Skip the pricey Checkpoint Charlie Museum. At €12.50 per adult, it does not seem to justify such a hefty price tag. Instead, head down the road to the free outdoor ‘Black Box’ exhibition. Granted it isn’t much of a display but its walls are covered with the fascinating stories of those who attempted to escape over the wall.

Checkpoint Charlie

– Further along from Checkpoint Charlie is the free Strasi Museum. Small and simple, this museum is a little gem, documenting the personal stories of those persecuted under the oppressive communist state. Many of those featured in the museum are still alive and living peacefully in Berlin. It makes you wonder how many more stories like these are carried along Berlin’s streets. Plug in a free audio-guide to get a more in-depth experience.

– The next stop along from the Strasi Museum is Topographie des Terrors. Also free, this simplistic, slick glass building stands on the site of the former Nazi SS Headquarters which were destroyed after World War II. A poignant reminder of Nazi history flanked by an impressive stretch of the original Berlin Wall, the longest stretch of its kind under museum ownership. This museum is very word-heavy but it is well worth reading as much as you can in order to delve deeper into the horror of Nazi Germany.

Berlin Wall Flower

– Possibly the best freebie in Berlin is the visit up to the top of the domed Reichstag building. Designed by British architect Sir Norman Foster, this parliamentary building is an impressive mix of old and new. Marvel at panoramic views of the city (try not to freak out like I did- it’s high!) whilst your audio-guide points out the highlights of the skyline. I’d recommend going at night for the great views over the glittering cityscape. Book in advance here.

Reichstag Buillding

– Museumsinsel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is priced at such. Entrance into its museums and galleries isn’t cheap, if you are desperate for a look around then buy the combined ticket for €18 but be prepared to queue. For budget travellers, a wander around the majestic cluster of buildings should suffice.Reichstag Dome

Museuminsel

– As an avid advocate for free walking tours it would be mad to leave them off the list here. The best way to see a city is through the eyes of a local. A walking tour is a great introduction to a city and most major cities run them for free. Check out my experience of Berlin’s free alternative walking tour here.

So don’t be scared off by admission fees and free your inner culture vulture!

Graffiti Berlin

Best of Berlin: The Alternative Walking Tour

Berlin Art

The first thing I do when visiting a new city is find the meeting place of a free walking tour. Tours such as these are the best way to get yourself acquainted with a new city and have worked wonders for me in cities such as Sydney and Dublin. They allow you to find your bearings, and only cost what you can afford. Perfect for us poor students!

Being in Berlin, I wanted to be led off the typical tourist trail and emerge myself in Berlin’s complicated history and learn more about its famous street art and underground nightlife. I stumbled across this website: http://alternativeberlin.com/subculture-berlin-free-tour, a tour which promises to take ‘you beyond the tourist destinations to the heart and soul of the city‘.

We met our guide (aptly named Mari Juana and also a trapeze artist), in the shadow of the Television Tower, the epicentre of Berlin’s tourist led commercial district. Luckily Mari Juana immediately swept us away, tutting as we passed Bratwurst peddlers and Starbucks chains, leading us towards the old Jewish quarter and Rosenthaler Straße. We had ambled through this area the evening before, amazed at its abundance of street art and hidden decorated courtyards. Although we had stared at the various art for quite some time, we had no idea why they were there or the artists behind them. Mari Juana filled us in, with a personal favorite being El Bocho’s ‘Little Lucy’, a series of pieces strewn across the city. This cartoon character had been re-appropriated by El Bocho, turning into the sadistic killer of her cat companion. Whenever you saw Lucy you had to find the cat, and work out its unfortunate fate.

Little Lucy Street Art

Poor Kitty…

Mari Juana also showed us a Banksy, encouraging us to photograph it as a momento. A great Banksy fan, the iPhone came out immediately and I began snapping away. Mari Juana started to chuckle, ‘It’s a fake!’ she gleefully exclaimed. Yup, we all fell for that one! A street art connoisseur I am not…

Banksy Fake

BANKSY! Or not…

The next stop was my favorite courtyard of the lot. The courtyard accommodated Haus Schwarzenberg, a building housing many of the most well-known artists in Berlin, as well as being one of the only legal places to graffiti in the city. The legality of street art here had, of course, encouraged thousands of fantastic pieces, you could explore the walls here for hours, even Mari Juana said she found something different every time she came here.

Berlin Courtyard Berlin Artists

Graffiti Berlin

The street art even continued inside the buildings.

We took a break here to admire the art and take our fill of pictures. We chatted to Mari Juana for a while, learning about her amazing life. Growing up in recently desegregated Berlin, Mari Juana had been introduced to the emerging underground rave scene by her boyfriend of the time. She relived tales of parties only accessed through hidden doors in the floor of public toilets and squats hidden in old-soviet mansions. She lamented this lost world, blaming the emerging influence of international corporations which had begun to dull down Berlin’s wild-child personality. Berlin is a city which is ever changing, for better or for worse.

After our break we jumped on the U-Bahn to Kreuzberg. If I were to parallel Kreuzberg with somewhere in London then it would definitely be Camden. Quirky and alternative, Kreuzberg is home to the Berliners everyone has been talking about, the punks, the hipsters, the young media crowd… Yet it is also home to Berlin’s Turkish population, meaning that kebab shops rub shoulders with alternative clothing stores and art galleries with shisha bars. It is definitely the place to people watch, but do it subtly, these people don’t like being a tourist attraction.

Cappuccino and cake in Kreuzberg

Cappuccino and cake in Kreuzberg.

One of the most inspiring stops in Kreuzberg is the treehouse, built by and home to Osman Kalin. Mr Kalin built the treehouse after finding a loophole in land ownership between East and West Berlin. As the wall was not built in a straight line, Mr Kalin found a patch of no-mans land and decided to build a treehouse and garden there using recycled and unwanted materials. Being on the Eastern side of the wall, West Berlin couldn’t do anything about it and East Berlin made him their poster-boy as a victim of the capitalist regime. When the wall fell, Mr Kalin battled to save his treehouse and finally the local church found paperwork showing that they owned the land and allowed him to stay. And they all lived happily ever after… A truly inspiring story about the power of the individual, one of the many unbelievable stories to add to Berlin’s unique past. We were lucky enough to spot Mr Kalin relaxing in his garden surrounded by family and friends. What a hero.

Berlin Treehouse

What a pretty awesome Treehouse.

Somehow in my research on the city, I had neglected to realise that we were going to be there for one of the most important and crazy celebrations in Berlin’s pretty jam-packed calendar. May Day traditionally celebrates International Worker’s Day. Due to Berlin’s communist history, this day is historically synonymous with violence and protest, with protesters in 1987 forcing riot police from the Kreuzberg District, an achievement wildly celebrated. There hasn’t been any violence since 2010 and now the day is simply another excuse for an infamous Berlin party. Turkish food vendors line the street, music of all genres blares from official and make-shift stages, cocktails are consumed and thousands party along the streets. Like most parties in Berlin, this is a 24/7 affair with revelers still standing in the early hours of the morning. If you want to party like a Berliner, you’ve got to have stamina.

Berlin May Day

Someone’s hungry…

After thanking Mari Juana and profusely apologising for our meagre ten euro tip, we were unleashed onto the streets, ready to stuff our faces with Turkish Kofte and dance to heavy metal bands. When night fell the party raged on with newsagents turned into al fresco bars and locals dragging their laptops onto the street, blasting their favorite playlists and drawing in their own partying flock. It really was spectacular.

Being a massive house music fan I scouted out a stage featuring a crazily talented DJ and Turkish clarinet player- quite the unlikely duo- and later rubbed shoulders with the locals under a railway bridge with an amazing beat-boxer who had drawn quite the crowd.

This was the real Berlin, the Berlin who denied its past the right to dampen their spirit, who were intent on creating a better and fairer future for every inhabitant. Berlin is like no other Western city I have visited before. Here the people were proud to be different, proud not to be in the hands of America and consistently resisting the pull and financial reward of the autonomous multinational corporations. These people were prepared to fight for their individuality and fight for their city in a way I have never seen before. And I sure hope they win.

Berlin Street Party

Partying the night away.