For those who haven’t been, Mykonos is considered the party island of Greece. And it is home to some of the most amazing beach clubs. Think gorgeous people, DJs playing beachy tunes and cabanas to take the sun and drink champagne in. The morning hours are very chill, then comes 4 p.m. and the music turns up, people start dancing and champagne corks sound all the way until 9 p.m. when the sun finally sets.
There are so many beach clubs in Mykonos that picking the right ones is key. You don’t want to end up at one of the fratty, college ones. Check out our must-visit guide to beach clubs in Mykonos below.
Scorpios is one of the newest beach club additions in Mykonos and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s got a distinctly Burning Man on the Mediterranean vibe. Think monochromatic shades of tan and sand, wooden cabanas, body painting, hammocks, fire circles and other-worldly slow beats with live drummers, etc.
Scorpios attracts the “it” crowd. Models, athletes, leggy Europeans, etc. During the day, you can rent a cabana by the beach. It is also the most spectacular place to watch the sun set. We wound up at Scorpios three of our four days in Mykonos, if that’s any indication of what it’s like. At sundown, the percussions pick up, but the vibe is still very mellow as people dance to tribal beats while watching the sun set under strung edison lights.
The dress code: hot bikinis and lacy coverups. Tie-up sandals also encouraged. Feather headbands? Do it.
Where do I start with Nammos? It was hands down our favorite day in Mykonos and the best party we went to (from what we remember). It may be because our early lunch at Nammos consisted of two glasses each of vodka on the rocks with Greek Salads. We then went shopping at Luisa, Nammos’s store which is stocked with amazing Missoni bathing suits, Eugenia Kim hats and Karen Walker sunglasses. The day got even better when we decided to order a bottle of vodka just for the two of us. So, by the time the party kicked off at 4, you can probably imagine the state we were in.
Nammos attracts a really affluent crowd. There’s a 120,000 pound bottle of Armand De Brigand Brut Gold on their menu, after all. It is also a celebrity hot spot. Once the beats picked up, out came a surprise bottle of Veueve Cliquot for us. That went down quickly as we danced to club music and swam in the ocean. We then wound up at a table that had approximately 16 bottles of rosé for us to drink while we danced and smoked turkish cigarettes and cigars. Next thing we knew, the sun was setting over the ocean.
Parts of Nammos are a blur, but a really, really fabulous one. We’re already talking about going back to Mykonos next summer and recreating this day. I may have lost a really expensive pair of sunglasses, and my friend may have lost her feather headband, but those are small prices to pay for the amount of fun we had. I’d put it high on the list of beach clubs to visit.
Panormos is a beautiful beach club overlooking Panoramas Bay. The decor is impeccable: Wooden beach loungers, a gorgeous restaurant (pictured above) with views of the turquoise bay, a great shop. and good vibes.
Visually, we thought Panormos was the prettiest of the beach clubs we visited and we liked the chill vibe during the day. There are lots of people in their late twenties and thirties ordering bottles of rosé and champagne. We loved that it had a very Grecian feel to it — the champagne, for instance, was served in a brass boat surrounded by bunches of grapes and strawberries. There is a DJ and a saxophonist playing to the beats.
Like Nammos, the energy picks up around 4 p.m., unless it is one of the days that they have a night party. In that case it will close around 6 so that they can set up. The restaurant requires reservations, so keep that in mind, as do the beach loungers. Don’t try just rocking up and getting a chair — it’s a bit of a process, so reserve in advance.
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Nestled in the post-card perfect hills of Santorini’s Caldera in Oia, is the Andronis Boutique Hotel, a five-star luxury hotel that we had the pleasure of staying in for three nights this July.
Andronis Boutique Hotel is in the most prime of locations In Santorini. It’s smack in the middle of the caldera: those white-washed homes in the hills and blue domes that you conjure up when you think of Santorini, and so many of the island’s other hotels aren’t located in this area so they don’t have the idyllic views you come to expect when you imagine Santorini.
Andronis is one of three hotels run by this boutique hotel group. It is built into the side of the mountain in all white with giant suites carved into the side of the cave, making the hotel part of the beautiful scenery in Santorini. It’s on Oia’s main stretch, meaning walking outside of the hotel puts you in the middle of Santorini’s best restaurants, bars and shopping. And yes, even the famed donkey trail.
We were greeted upon arrival at Andronis with glasses of chilled champagne and the most unbelievable views. This set the tone for the rest of our stay, where the staff went above and beyond to make our trip perfect.
The hotel itself is beautiful. Think white washed buildings and bright pink bougainvillea flowers growing throughout the archways and walls. Our room blew us away. It had arched ceilings because of the cave and a zen-like atmosphere. An example of the type of luxury service provided at Andronis: there is a pillow menu so that you can specify which type of firmness you prefer best while sleeping.
The bathroom was a showstopper. Gray stone and a giant shower with a rain drop faucet as well as a swim in-swim out jacuzzi that overlooked the Mediterranean ocean. We pretty much spent the end of each night in the jacuzzi sipping on Greek white wine and Ouzo. The bathroom has luxury, organic bath products and a killer blow dryer by hotel standards. Our room had an amazing outdoor deck with two sun loungers that fit the aesthetic of the hotel: they were light wood and really eclectic-looking. What we loved and missed once we left was that the views from literally any place you stand at Andronis are just breathtaking. This included the views from our terrace.
The pool area is spectacular. There is an infinity pool and a separate pool overlooking the Mediterranean and lots of beach loungers and umbrellas to take the sun on. In another sign of how Andronis knows its clientele and caters to it: Vogue and other fashion and travel magazines are in a basket at the pool for guests to enjoy. The views from the pool are breathtaking and when the sun starts to set, the whole area is awash in a pink/red glow reflecting off of the mountains that is truly beautiful.
The pool staff is super attentive. From the second you sit down, they are over with chilled bottles of water on ice with lemons and lime. They also treated us to a bottle of their very own white wine. (Andronis also produces its own olive oil!) our first day after we arrived we laid out at the pool and took in the scenery while eating Greek salads from the hotel’s restaurant, and they were the most fresh Greek salads we’d had on our trip. The chef later sent over a Greek yogurt mousse with fresh berries that we are still talking about.
While we’re on the topic of food, Andronis had the most delicious breakfast buffet, which is included in the charge of your room. The breakfast area has every local delicacy available from spinache and cheese pies to local cheeses and cured meats, to our favorite: The Greek Yogurt bar featuring what they call the “Breakfast of the Gods.” Side note: Andronis has ruined Greek yogurt in America for me. the yogurt at Andronis was a million times better than what we get at home, and I made sure to have the breakfast of the gods each morning alongside delicious fruit and pastry. The breakfast of the gods is a toppings bar for the yogurt featuring everything from pistachios to coconut flakes to raisins and currants. Legend has it that the Greek gods ate this mixture each day to give them their energy. Whether the legend is true or not, it’s delicious.
Fresh-squeezed juices and a bottle of chilled champagne also are in the breakfast room for those who wanted to start the party early (Hint: we did). There is also an amazing omelette and egg menu that is made to order for those wanting eggs. We had every intention of ordering omelette but the Greek yogurt was too good for us to pass up!
The concierge and all of the hotel’s staff were super friendly and eager to help. They made us a reservation at their sister property’s restaurant, Lycabettus (a separate post on dinner there here), and arranged our transportation and activities for us. Aside from the two other hotels, Andronis has a few high-end boutiques in Oia with labels such as Pitusa, and those staying at an Andronis property get a 15% discount on shopping.
What we also loved was that Andronis is the perfect backdrop for any sort of vacation you would like. It has wonderful private areas, such as your own private sundeck (pictured above) and jacuzzis/private pools. Or, you can go to the main pools and strike up conversations with other travelers. It’s in the middle of the beautiful town, giving you access to everything you could want to do when in Santorini.
The Andronis is the definition of luxury and exclusivity. We would gladly recommend Andronis to readers, and have already recommended it to friends!
We recently spent five nights in Iceland and it was a vacation unlike any other. The terrain is beautiful, but hard to navigate because of the snow and ice conditions. And, so much of what you’ll want to see and experience if outside of Reykjavic, which is the best place to stay on your trip, but makes it harder to do sightseeing. So, we decided on having the best of both worlds: we stayed the entire time in Reykjavic so that we would be in close proximity to great shopping, restaurants, bars and hotels. And we did a massive amount of research on the best tour operating group to bring us outside of the city for all of our sightseeing an excursions. As I mentioned, we spent weeks researching the best tour guides because the excursions are often full-day affairs and can be expensive. We decided to book every one of our tours with Discover Iceland and were so pleased with our experience.
Discover Iceland has a range of options for your tours, and they offer plenty of itineraries. If you’re on a budget, they offer bus tours to many of their itineraries. Or, you can do what we did and have a private tour in a Super Jeep. We decided on the more expensive Super Jeep option for a number of reasons. First off, there were four of us and we liked the idea of keeping it to just us and a guide who would also drive us. We also liked that a Super Jeep could access parts of Iceland and roads that a large bus can’t navigate, so we got to see a bit more and off road a bit, which was super fun. We also were able to customize the tour a bit, deciding to stay a bit longer here or a little shorter there depending on our interests. It was totally the right call for all of these reasons, plus some you’ll see below. Many people are conflicted about whether to rent an SUV and try to do the sights on their own. I can confidently say after being in Iceland during the winter that you should absolutely not try to attempt the tours on your own. The conditions can be absolutely brutal and totally dangerous and it’s safest and easiest, to leave it to the professionals at Discover Iceland who seamlessly navigate the terrain and conditions day in and day out.
The first tour we did was of Iceland’s famous “Golden Circle.” If you only have time for one tour, let this one be it. It gives you a look at some of Iceland’s most iconic sights, one more beautiful than the next. Our driver, Ivar, picked up up promptly at our hotel at 8:30 a.m. in a ginormous Super Jeep with giant tires equipped to navigate the snow and we set off outside of Reykjavik. We loved that our guide was extremely familiar with Iceland’s geography, traditions and history, and he helpfully pointed things out along the way and even told us local lore and tradition as we headed to our first stop, Thingvellir National Park. Driving to the park in a Super Jeep was a ton of fun because there had been snowfall the night before, so it proved to be an adventure. The park itself, which is a Unesco World Site, is beautiful and we saw where people dive between tectonic plates and were able to roam and take some beautiful pictures.
Next, we visited one of the sights I associate most with Iceland and was most excited to see: Gulfoss Falls. This massive waterfall is just astoundingly beautiful, and all the pictures I had seen of people posting it on Facebook and Instagram don’t do it justice. When we arrived, it was snowing extremely hard and the snow obstructed the views a bit. Ivar gave us as much time as we wanted to take in the waterfall and he even kindly took a bunch of group photos for us, which was really appreciated. He became our unofficial photographer throughout the trip, which was another benefit of booking a private tour through Discover Iceland. He let us stay until the snow cleared and we got unobstructed views of the falls. One of the things you learn about Iceland within a day of being there is that the weather is unpredictable and can change drastically minute to minute.
After the waterfall, we did one of the coolest things we did during the entire trip. We got snowmobiles and drove them on a giant glacier for an hour. We paired up in groups of two and set off onto a beautiful glacier with the help of a guide and halfway through we switched drivers with whoever was on the back of the snowmobile. This was such a unique and exhilarating experience, especially given that we did this in the middle of a really big snow storm. It was unlike anything any of us has ever done, and it gave us some major bragging rights when we came back to the U.S.
After snowmobiling we checked out Iceland’s famous Geyser Strokkur, which are natural wonders. Luckily for us, the main geyser exploded within just five minutes of us getting there, so we were able to see the show relatively quickly. Ivar showed us another waterfall on the way back to Reykjavik, which was also just stunning and we got beautiful group pictures under it. My friend even snuck behind the back of the fall. We were back at our hotel by 6:30 p.m., just in time to shower and get ready for dinner and a night out on the town.
On our second day, we were scheduled to do a private Super Jeep tour of Iceland’s Grand South Coast tour with Discover Iceland. We woke up early in the morning and looked out the window of our hotel to learn that in the few hours we were asleep, Iceland was hit with a blizzard! More than a foot of snow had come down overnight, which was the most snow Iceland had had in decades. We went down to the lobby of our hotel and found that guests who had booked tours for the day with other tour companies were upset because almost every tour that day was canceled because of the conditions. Ours, however, was not. We were ecstatic because this was the only day of the trip we could do the Southern Coast tour and Discover Iceland made every effort to make sure we’d still get to go out and do the tour and do so in the safest manner possible. Because many roads were closed, Ivar got to us a little late, but he gave us notice that he would be around an hour late, which was totally fine. He extended the tour an hour on the back end to make up for it.
Then we started the most memorable part of the trip — driving to the Southern Coast in the aftermath of a blizzard. The entire country was in white out conditions and covered in a blanket of glistening snow. For much of the day, we were the only vehicle on the road and had full access to the terrain.
Our jeep bounced up and down as we drove over glaciers and through feet of snow. It was so memorable and fun, and the entire time we felt safe because we were going at a reasonable speed and Ivar kept checking the tire pressure, etc. We drove to a beautiful glacier where there was an ice cave that we could peek inside, which was really cool. Then, we went to a black sand beach, which is something my friends and I were really looking forward to doing since we booked our flights to Iceland. It was beautiful and the waters were wild because of the storm with giant swells crashing on the black sand. We then stopped by a volcano that was responsible for the disruption of most trans-Atlantic flights a few years back. It was a wonderful, and truly adventurous day.
We also were able to stop every time we saw Icelandic ponies on the side of the road and take photos with them because we had the Super Jeep. (All the photos in this blog post are photos we took ourselves while on the tours.)
The last tour we did with Discover Iceland is the Northern Lights tour on a minibus. The Northern Lights are famously unpredictable, and they don’t come out every night. In order to see them, you have to drive a few hours outside of Reykjavik into complete darkness, which we do not recommend attempting on your own. I liked that Discover Iceland allows you two tries at seeing the Northern Lights. So, if you go out with them on a night that the lights don’t show up, they allow you to go out with them again one more time free of cost, so you get two attempts for the price of one. I also liked that their office gave us updates throughout the day about the odds of us seeing the lights given the clarity and weather patterns.
The bus picked us up at 8:30 and we were off. We liked that it was a small bus and the driver was really entertaining. Next, we drove a few hours into complete darkness and pulled up next to a lighthouse near the coast. Shortly after arriving, we were treated to a show from the Aurora Borealis. We were extremely lucky to see them on or first attempt within minutes of arriving. Shadows of green magically appeared in the sky and slowly created patterns in the sky. It was frigidly cold the night we went, so it was nice to be able to pop in and out of the minibus to warm up. Our driver even made us hot chocolate to keep us cozy. Having seen the Northern Lights, we were pretty much able to cross off every item on our Iceland bucket list using Discover Iceland as our guides for each step of the way. i would gladly recommend them to my friends and readers. Their customer service department is super responsive and helpful and they will also help guide you to the tours that will best achieve the itinerary you want to see. If you have the ability and budget, I would say to definitely do the Super Jeep tour as it was the highlight of our trip.
One of the things that we were most looking forward to when we booked our trip to Ireland was seeing its scenic Cliffs of Moher. For those not in the know, allow me to acquaint you with the Cliffs. Located in the Southeastern edge of Ireland, the Cliffs provide some of the best views of the Irish countryside and coast. My friend and I had seen stunning photos of the Cliffs and this was one of those non-negotiable “have to see” items on our Ireland bucket list.
We only had one day where it fit into our itinerary and luckily we were able to find a tour guide to give us the exact, custom-tailored experience we were looking for. Cue: Jim Parsons of Ireland West Tours. In addition to seeing The Cliffs of Moher, we wanted to see the Burren region of Western Ireland and we also wanted to spend some time in Galway. Jim was the perfect person to make our dream itinerary come true. He was super quick to respond to our email outlining what we’d like to do and see, and he suggested that we take a train from Dublin to a stop near Galway where he would pick us up himself. From there, we would drive to the Cliffs and the Burren region, and he would drop us off at the end of the day in Galway’s city center so that we could grab dinner and bar hop before making our bus to Cork later in the evening.
I can’t stress enough how thoughtful Jim was in helping us achieve all of our itinerary goals. His expertise and knowledge of the reason was clutch, because we didn’t know or understand the geography of Ireland at all, and were having a hard time planning out the logistics. He responded to us quickly and conscientiously and before you know it, we were on our way.
Once we got into Jim’s car, I learned how he got into the tour business. Essentially, he had been a cab driver in Ireland for years and grew up in West Ireland. He and his wife were on an anniversary trip in Thailand and did a bus tour and felt as if they didn’t have the autonomy to see the sights they wanted to see and they felt like they were being corralled and sent to markets where the tour guides got kickbacks. The next day, they did a semiprivate tour, but wound up being the only people on the tour with the guide. The guide allowed them to customize the trip, seeing exactly what they wanted to see. That’s when the idea dawned on Jim to replicate the same experience back home in the area he knew and loved.
Driving from Galway to the Cliffs was half the fun. Jim pointed out abandon castles and gave us history of the region along the drive. It was clear immediately that he had grown up in the surrounding area because he knew the history inside and out. Being city girls, we “oohed and ahhed” every time we saw country animals grazing in the fields. So, we’d have Jim pull over pretty much every time we saw wild horses, sheep, cows, you name it, so that we could snap photos, and selfies, with the livestock. He was endlessly patient with us on this.
Before going to the Cliffs, we went to an area called The Burren. The Burren is in County Clare and it is filled with natural limestone throughout the region. It was here that Jim told us about the unusual temperature in the Burren because of all of the limestone. There are also rare species of plants and fauna in the area.
When we got to the Cliffs it was raining pretty hard, but we were determined to get to the top and take in the views. A little wind and rain never hurt anybody and we persevered and broke an umbrella along the way. We got to the top with wet hair and a definite chill, but it was totally worth it and has made for a funny story since. The green of the cliffs contrasted against the turquoise waters are really otherworldly.
At the end of the day, Jim drove us back to Galway. We explained that we wanted to have dinner and check out some bars before heading to Cork, and he made sure to drop us off in just the right spot in Galway so that we could hit up its famous bars and restaurants in one fell swoop. We had the best day and would gladly recommend Ireland West Tours to our readers!
The second half of our trip to Ireland brought us to Cork, where we had the privilege of staying the the historic Maryborough Hotel & Spa.
The hotel has such a rich history dating back to the early 1700s, and I loved that staying here made me feel like I was stepping back in time to a country retreat. The country manor was built in 1710 and was the original house of the Newenham family. When you walk into the lobby, there is a beautiful fireplace framed by two comfortable arm chairs and everything keeps with the period the house was built when the Newenham’s walked its halls. I particularly loved looking up at the elaborate crown molding and the beautiful ceilings.
Our room was enormous with a separate bedroom and sitting room with high ceilings, exposed beams and even a fireplace. The sitting room was so charming, and they provided us with a vintage tea set with a pretty pink flower pattern and loose tea which was such a nice touch. Our first morning we put up some water and sipped tea in our plush robes before setting out for the day. It made us feel distinctly un-American, in a good way.
Despite the hotel keeping the decor aligned with its history, and sourcing furniture and other pieces from that time, we loved that it had modern fixtures in all of the right places. An example would be the bathroom, which was wstunning and fully stocked with Espa bath products. We loved the beautiful shower and bath, and even threw in some of the divine bath crystals they provided us with, which came in handy after a long day in the cold exploring the scenery on the Ring of Kerry.
The hotel sits on eighteen acres of property that is beautifully manicured and green every which way you turn. In addition to the grounds, they have a greenhouse extension call the Orangery which is the perfect venue for weddings, corporate events or other functions such as a bridal or baby shower. Our hotel room overlooked the Oranegry and we were in awe of its beauty. In the daylight, the sun drenches the interior.
The staff just went above and beyond our entire stay, from greeting us warmly, to arranging transportation each day, to opening the restaurant up early. There were delicious macaroons and cookies as well as wine laid out in our room upon arrival, which was such a sweet gesture.
We had the most exquisite dining experience at Maryborough’s restaurant, Bellini’s. In the mornings, it is where they serve breakfast. We were fortunate that the staff was attentive enough to open the restaurant up an hour early for us before our Ring of Kerry tour one morning so that we could get a healthy breakfast in. They have a wonderful buffet, with a selection of yogurt parfaits, hot and cold cereals, fruits, meats and pastries and also have a hot menu you can order from. We sampled from the buffet and then ordered up an egg scramble with hot bacon and blood orange tea before our tour, which kept us really full.
Dinner at Bellini’s was next level. I loved that the ingredients are locally sourced from neighboring farms and that they take a moment to spotlight where they source their ingredients. I started with the roasted parsnip and apple soup which was warm and flavorful and got the chill out of me after a long day outdoors. My friend had the pan seared scallops to start which were prepared with tomatoes and rocket oil.
There were too many amazing main dishes for us to settle on one each, so we picked two to share and were blown away by how well they were prepared. We learned early on that Ireland is cow country and the beef is delicious and tender, so, we ordered the Hereford Fillet of Beef, which was served with carrots, celeriac, truffle puree and tellicherry emulsion. We also had the duck breast with fondant potato, butternut squash, fennel and beetroot. I have to say, these dishes were so good that we cleaned out plates, including the carbs and that’s how you know it was good. But seriously, each dish was cooked to perfection, the flavor profiles were rich and interesting and everything was perfectly seasoned.
So, you would think that would be enough for two girls about to go out on the town, right? Wrong. We were stuffed, but the dessert menu was so good that we ordered the gingerbread baked Alaska to split. There’s a reason that Bellini’s won restaurant of the year just recently.
The Maryborough has one of the nicest hotel gyms and spas I’ve ever set foot in, and after reading everything we ate above, you can imagine we made good use of it. It’s another example of where they really splurged and create a modern gym and spa environment worthy of the finest hotels. The gym is gigantic and has beautiful polished wood floors, state of the art machinery and ample space to do floor weights and exercises. We spent a few hours in the gym on the treadmill, stair master and floor space. They also had foam rollers which came in handy given it was the end of our trip and our legs were super tight. The spa and steam rooms were also wonderful and added to the relaxing vibe of the hotel. For those looking for group classes, they offer spin class and others as well. There is spa water on hand, both lemon infused and orange infused.
Our two-night stay went by too quickly, but we have only the fondest memories. Our last morning we had a 5am bus to catch to Dublin. In a sign of the type of service you can expect at The Maryborough, the staff was up and early and had prepared two to-go breakfast boxes for us complete with scones, croissants and fruit to take on our journey. Completely top notch stay all around.
We were very fortunate to spend two nights at one of Ireland’s most famous, and luxe, hotels this March: The Shelbourne. Situated in the middle of City Center, The Shelbourne is walking distance to nearly everything you’d want to visit in Dublin.
Everything about the Shelbourne indicates luxury and a five-star stay, but we also really loved how they seamlessly incorporated the history of the building with modern luxuries and conveniences. Once you walk into the hotel you immediately pick up on its vibe and point of view. Stunning crystal chandeliers hang from the ceilings and there are ample fireplaces throughout the lobby, creating cozy little nooks for guests. One of our favorite things to do was to get a glass of wine and sip it by one of the cozy fireplaces pretending to be ladies of leisure.
They keep a small museum in the lobby celebrating the hotel’s storied 200-year-old history. (It was opened in 1824). It’s where the Irish Constitution was drafted in 1922 and the hotel also has historic guest registers on display, photos and letters from famous guests. Fun fact: Both John F. Kennedy and Princess Grace have stayed at the hotel, meaning you’ll be able to have a stay fit for royalty.
At reception, we were greeted with a fresh glass of lemonade and then were shown to our room. Our bathroom was stocked with luxury Elemis bath products and had a full shower and a free-standing bath. The hotel stocks the bathroom with bath salts if you want to soak, which is a nice touch.
Our room was gigantic. Not even just gigantic for a Manhattanite (I could probably fit four of my apartments inside our room), but objectively large. The bed had fine linens and the comfiest mattress and pillows you could ask for. I absolutely sunk into it after a long day and night exploring the city and its pubs and it made it all the more harder to get out of bed in the morning.
We secretly loved that every person we met in Dublin would give us a knowing look after they asked where we were staying and we responded in unison, “The Shelbourne.” I can’t tell you how many times local Irish men were impressed with our choice of hotel, and usually responded with something along the lines of “Of course you two are staying at the nicest hotel in Dublin.”
We loved the location and rarely took taxis anywhere. On average, we racked up 8 miles a day in walking to all of the museums, monuments, churches etc. Just a few blocks away is Grafton Street, which is home to Dublin’s best shopping.
Across the street from the hotel is St. Stephen’s Green, a beautiful park that we went on daily morning runs in. For those who prefer other forms of exercise, The Shelbourne has a wonderful gym and swimming pool and also offers workout classes such as spinning, tabata and pilates. There are also swim-focused classes if you prefer to be in the water.
Their bar room was one of the prettiest bars I’ve ever been in. High ceilings with chandeliers that looked like they were dripping diamonds are throughout. The most intricate crown molding lines the walls and there are cozy fireplaces. We made it a habit to have a glass of wine here each night before heading out.
One of the activities we did at The Shelbourne that we would highly recommend, even if you end up staying elsewhere, is their Afternoon Tea. Shelbourne is considered to have one of the best Afternoon Teas in Dublin. They host it in their Lord Mayor’s Lounge, which has comfy oversized upholstered chairs and large windows letting in the sunshine. For two hours you have a choice of unlimited teas (our favorite was the strawberry and cream blend) and you have savory tea sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam and an array of the most beautiful desserts (raspberry macaroons stuffed with jam and cheesecake or salted caramel mousse, anyone?)
They have a number of seatings, but this is what we recommend. Book the 3:00 seating, sightsee all morning, skip lunch and have tea instead. Better yet, pair it with their champagne or a few glasses of wine, like we did. Be sure to book this well in advance if it’s something you’re interested in experiencing as it does fill up weeks in advance.
Shelbourne’s breakfast was such a highlight each morning. They host it in their Saddle Room and it includes a hot and cold buffet where you can find all the items to make a traditional Irish breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, blood pudding, mushroom, tomatoes), a selection of fruits and yogurts and pastries, etc. They also have a menu you can order omelettes, eggs benedict, French toast and other breakfasts from and a range of delicious juices. We started each day with a healthy breakfast to fuel us up for hours of walking around Dublin and hitting up all of the museums. We also loved that they had a full juice bar offering.
For those looking for a little pampering, The Shelbourne has a beautiful spa and a new salon where you can get blowouts before a night out. The spa offers everything from couple’s massages to waxing and facials. The salon was super chic and soothing. All white with a beautiful embellished fireplace and classic feel. Their blowout menu features styles that emulate Grace Kelly, Brigitte Bardot and Jackie O, among others.
The staff at the hotel are super friendly and attentive. Whether it came to making sure our tea was always immediately topped off or turn down service each night complete with chocolates bedside and slippers laid out, it was truly five star.
Looking to book a trip to Ireland? Make sure to check out our complete Travel Guide here.
A friend and I recently visited Ireland for four nights to get a mix of their history, natural beauty and city life. It was a short trip – just four nights – but was such a fun trip where we got a true feel for the culture, people and took in the beautiful scenes. Having just spent time in both Dublin and Cork, here’s a look at our Travel Guide, which covers a lot of ground in a short period of time.
You’d be remiss to visit Ireland and not spend a few days in their most thriving city, Dublin. It’s as cosmopolitan as any other major city but has quaint touches such as Georgian architecture, pubs dating back hundreds of years and beautiful parks.
Where to Stay: The Shelbourne. The Shelbourne is considered the best hotel in all of Dublin, and having just stayed there, we can see why. It’s centrally located in city center, meaning you can walk to nearly all the sights worth seeing in Dublin, and it’s the definition of what a five star hotel should be. You feel pampered from the second you walk through the door because of the staff, the concierge is wonderful and goes above and beyond to make reservations and suggestions for you, and the building is home to some of Dublin’s most momentous historic events. The food and drinks as well as the amenities the hotel has to offer are top rate. Read our post on our stay at The Shelbourne here to learn more.
What to Do: Chester Beatty Library: This free museum is a treasure within Dublin and worth visiting even if you only dedicate 20 minutes to the vast collection of religious artifacts, prints and books.
Book of Kells and Trinity College: Any trip to Dublin would be incomplete without visiting Trinity College and the Book of Kells. First you walk through the cobblestone campus of Trinity College, one of Ireland’s best research colleges. Then, see the world’s most famous medieval manuscript, the book of Kells, and learn about its history. End the trip with a walk through the Old Library, which was my favorite part of the visit. This beautiful hall houses some of the most famous works in the world dating back hundreds of years, and each aisle is lined with the bust of a great author. I literally could have spent hours in the Old Library perusing the titles.
Run in St. Stephen’s Green: If you decide to stay in the Shelbourne, there is a beautiful public park just across the street where we went running each morning. It’s delightfully green and lined with bright yellow daffodils. Swans and ducks swim in the lake in the middle of the park, so you get some beautiful scenery while getting a workout in.
Guinness Storehouse: Ireland is synonymous with their famous beer, and the Guinness Storehouse is a shrine to the beer company’s history. Housed in an actual working factory, this museum of sorts gives you the download on how beer is made, Guinness’s history and founder and other fun facts. You’ll also learn how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness and get a complimentary glass of Guinness to enjoy one their rooftop bar, Gravity Bar, that has some of the most stunning views of all of Dublin. Book tickets online ahead of your trip and give yourself two hours to get the full experience. Booking online will save you 30% on the ticket price.
Shop on Grafton Street: Dublin’s most famous high street and shopping district is Grafton Street. It has shops ranging from Ted Baker to Marks & Spencer and is just a two-minute walk from the Shelbourne. Meander down Grafton Street on your way to the Book of Kells and Trinity College, as it’s on the way. Just remember to give yourself some time to stop into the shops.
Day Trip to Cliffs of Moher: Dublin is pretty close to Ireland’s scenic Cliffs of Moher, which is something not to be missed on a trip to Ireland. We will chronicle the tour we did, and highly recommend, later on, but be sure to put this high on your list and to dedicate a day to it. You can also do Galway for dinner and drinks on the way back. The city is known for its nightlife and is pretty near to Dublin.
Where to Eat and Drink: One Pico: This Michelin-star restaurant turns out delicious food in an upscale but unpretentious atmosphere.
Afternoon Tea at the Shelbourne: Afternoon tea is an institution in all of the U.K. and the Shelbourne’s Afternoon Tea is the best of the bunch in Dublin. Be sure to make your reservations well in advance of arriving, as they book up very early. Our suggestion is to have breakfast, do some sightseeing and book a 3 p.m. seating for afternoon tea. If you skip lunch that day, you will have enough tummy real estate to enjoy all of the wonderful sandwiches and desserts. Each seating is two hours long and includes unlimited tea. You can read more about our afternoon tea here.
Temple Bar: Temple Bar is an entire area of town dedicated to pubs and live music. Yes, it’s touristy, but it’s also a ton of fun. We went to Temple Bar after dinner one night with the intention of stopping in for “just one drink” so that we could say we experienced it. Famous last words. Hours upon hours later we made our way back home. We spent most of the night at a pub actually called Temple Bar, which had a great live band, stiff drinks and lots of fun Dubliners.
O’Donoghues: This famous pub is known for local musical acts swinging by for impromptu jam sessions. The pub is very large and attracts a good crowd of locals and workers in the area looking for happy hour. After 9, a circle of local musicians forms in the front bar and play traditional Irish music together.
Just a few hours from Dublin, Ireland’s second city is well worth a visit during a trip to Ireland. Cork is the perfect launching point to explore Ireland’s majestic Ring of Kerry and other parts of the countryside. Ireland has lovely rail and bus systems complete with Wifi which make getting from Dublin to Cork a breeze. Cork itself is full of great bars, live music and shopping.
Where to Stay: The Maryborough Hotel & Spa: Set in a beautiful 18th Century country house, The Maryborough is the perfect spot for a luxury getaway. It’s just a bit outside of Cork, meaning you can get to the bars and restaurants of the city within 10 minutes, but honestly, we preferred to stay at the estate. From the beautiful furnishings that preserved the look of the building in its heyday, mixed with modern luxuries, including a state of the art spa and gym, we relished our time at The Maryborough. Its restaurant is top notch, and the grounds are a lush green that give you every bit the escape you picture when heading to Ireland’s countryside. Here’s a separate post on our stay at The Maryborough.
Where to Eat & Drink: Bellini’s: Set inside the Maryborough Hotel, this restaurant has a delightful menu filled with locally-sourced ingredients. The flavors are complex and the presentation is impeccable. You can read more about our meal at Bellini’s in our write up of our stay at The Maryborough later this week.
The Oliver Plunkett: This two-story bar is an institution in Ireland. Both levels have live acts playing. The upstairs was more our scene. A young Irish singer sang cover songs while we danced and sipped whiskey. It’s a fun, light-hearted atmosphere with stiff drinks.
Crane Lane: If you’re looking for live music, this place is the spot. It’s massive, with a bunch of different rooms with different acts going. Some are indie, some are more traditional Irish. The crowd is young and fun an the drinks are really inexpensive.
What to Do: The Ring of Kerry: One of the highlights of our trip was exploring Ireland’s Ring of Kerry, which is a TK. You are spoiled for views the entire time, whether it’s cliffs off of the Atlantic Ocean, lush farmlands, old castles, waterfalls etc. We felt that the Ring of Kerry encapsulated everything in our minds when we thought of what Ireland would be and look like, and it actually exceeded those expectations on every front. We booked a bus tour with Paddywagon tours, but there are a number of tours to the Ring of Kerry to choose from.
We recently went on a week-long trip to Cuba and I took my outfit planning super seriously. Havana in particular is full of so much color, from the architecture to the restaurants and natural beauty, that I wanted my outfits, and photos, to really fit the theme. So, I spent a month shopping ahead of this trip to find the right mix of boho and frilly and pastel and bold prints. Here are some of my favorite finds and picks if you visit Cuba. (And if you do, make sure to read our Travel Guides ahead of time here and here).
Pretty much everything from the Privacy Please range worked in Cuba. Think flirty wrap dresses and floral prints and pastel coloring. I particularly love the Kimono dress pictured above, $238, with its bright floral print. Would be perfect for salsa class.
This Jarlo dress, on sale for $85 (!) is perfect for a dinner in the abandoned mansion that is La Guarida. Loving the caged skirt and the play on high and low.
I played around a lot with fabric and texture on the trip, looking for lace insets and such. This Yumi Kim dress nails that concept and would look great next to a vintage bubblegum pink car. It’s on sale for $139.
Earlier this week, we brought you our guide to booking a trip to Cuba, especially as an American. You can read it here. Today, we bring you our Cuba Travel Guide, which has day by day itineraries. Read on below to get some ideas for your trip. Our guide is about 60% fun and boozy, 40% cultural, so feel free to mix and match and amend to suit your needs.
Morning: The best way to get a feel for Havana is by getting a car tour in a classic 1950s convertible. Trust us on this one, it was a definite highlight of the trip. You can arrange and book this ahead of time, or you can hire cars in Old Havana right near the Iberostar Parque Central. This should cost around $40/hour and two hours is perfect. The car will bring you to each of Havana’s neighborhoods (see our neighborhood breakdown in the post linked above) and should come with a tour guide. During the tour, ask to see the famous Plaza de la Revolucion in Vedado. Ask them to bring you to Vedado’s famous ice cream parlor, Coppelia. You will also see Mirimar’s mansions and other iconic parts of Cuba along the way. By the end of the tour you will have a great feel for Havana and its history and feel well situated.
After, do a Hemingway-inspired bar hopping tour. Hemingway was a fixture in Havana, having written some of his most famous works there. Added bonus: the guy knew how to drink. Start at Floridita, where daiquiris were invented and they taste better and unlike anything else you have ever tasted. There is a live salsa band playing music as you sip on daiquiris. We wound up staying here for way more drinks than we anticipated.
Next, walk down Obispo street which is bustling with shops and bars and live music. Walk a bit until you get to La Bodeguita del Medio, which was Hemingway’s favorite bar for Mojitos. A famous saying of his is on the wall behind the bar: “My mojito in the Bodeguita del Medio and my daiquiri in the Floridita.” So, you know, this counts as being cultural.
After you finish your mojito, keep walking down Obispo until you reach the famous Hotel Ambos Mundos. Their rooftop is to die for and has wonderful views of Havana and the sunset. Order pina coladas in a pineapple and take in the view. The food here is also great if you’re feeling hungry. On the way up to the rooftop or on the way down, take a tour for $2 to see the room in the hotel that Hemingway lived in for ten years. His fishing poles and type writer are still in the room. Havana’s famous plazas are walking distance to Ambos Mundos, so check the four of them out before or after you are here.
Pre-dinner drinks: Head to the famous Hotel Nacional where old Hollywood and diplomats stay. The hotel has 50s glam everywhere you turn. Sit out back on the patio and order a pina collada. It was the best we’ve ever had. (Pro tip: it’s also a great spot for late-night Cuban sandwiches and also has a wonderful cigar shop with Cohibas, Montecristos and other offerings at great prices)
Dinner: Head on over to La Guarida in Centro Habana for dinner. It is in a stately crumbling mansion that is beautiful. It’s also Havana’s best and most famous restaurant. That means, the second you book your airfare, start calling and emailing La Guarida to try and get a reservation for around 9:30pm or 10 p.m. Ask for a table on their rooftop, but if they only have indoor tables, take it. The food is delicious and you really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. You can book a table at La Guarida by clicking the link above. Other places will require phone calls and hounding to make a reservation, so be prepared.
Drinks: Go to Buena Vista Social Club, Casa de la Musica (there are two locations both with live music) or Havana’s jazz club.
During the day we suggest a mix of culture with some pool hopping. Start with the Museo de la Revolucion in Old Havana, which retells the history of the revolution (but from Fidel’s perspective). Next, walk next door to the Museo de Belles Arts, which is a mix of modern Cuban art, classic portraits and other exhibitions. You can do both museums in two hours.
Next, take advantage of Havana’s beautiful rooftops. We swam in the rooftop pool of Iberostar Parque Central and The Hotel Saratoga. If you’d rather explore during the day, Grab a sunset drink at Hotel Saratoga.
Salsa — one of the highlights of the trip was salsa lessons at La Casa del Son. Make a reservation ahead of time. Lessons are around $10/hour. We learned SO much and had so many laughs and even tried to go back for lessons another day but they were booked.
Dinner: Head to El Cocinero near Miramar for dinner. Make a reservation ahead of time and sit on their roof which is strung with lights. The drinks here are delicious and the food is even better. Bring some Cuban cigars to smoke while you wait on the food. Everything we ordered was amazing, especially the special lobster. The rooftop is super chic and sexy, and gives you the perfect vibe for what is set to be your wildest night, since Havana’s Fabrica de Arte is right next door. (To make a reservation at El Cocinero, email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Drinks: Head to Fabrica de Arte, an amazing space right next to El Cocinero that is part bar, art exhibit, live music etc. I’ve never been to anything like it, and the vibe is so fun and amazing. Everywhere you look is sensory overload because the art is beautiful and the music is great and upbeat. Go early (around 9pm) as the line extends around the block. Be prepared to wait in line, or you can do what we did and pay off the bouncer. This is THE place to go in all of Cuba and it is only open Thursday–Sunday, so make sure to plan and earlyish dinner at El Cocinero one of those nights so that you can do both on the same night to be efficient.
Head to the beach. Either arrange for a car ahead of time, or hire a taxi to bring you to Playa del Este, which is about a 35 minute cab ride from Old Havana. Ask to be brought to Santa Maria beach where the water is turquoise, the sand is soft, and everything is dirt cheap. We drank pina coladas out of pineapples for $3 each and renting our sunbeds were just $2. Ask your driver to come back and pick you up at a certain time, because getting a cab home can be challenging. We had a big cab for all of us and it was about $40 each way. There are also buses that go to the beach that are cheaper.
Depending on what time you get back, head to one of the rooftop bars you didn’t get to check out the day before for sunset.
Dinner: We loved both El Atelier in Vedado and Los Naranjos, also in Vedado. Both are Paladares — or restaurants run by Cuban locals out of their homes. But neither are quaint. They are housed in stately mansions with eclectic artwork and finishings that make you feel both elite and cozy.
Los Naranjos is in a beautiful setting. First, you walk through an entrance blooming with exotic palm trees and plants. The interior has gilded mirrors, glistening chandeliers and high ceilings with crown molding. We sat on their terrace (sensing a theme yet?), but the inside was just as beautiful. All of our food was delicious and they have nice bottles of wine and champagne, too. This restaurant dripped with opulence and the food was great.
Atelier is known for its flavors. There is a food scarcity in Cuba and one of the common knocks against the food is that it can be bland. Atelier’s owners stock up on spices when they make trips to the U.S. so the food is full of flavor. I had the absolute best ropa vieja here. Get it even to share for the table. The menus are handwritten and they have great offerings. We sat on their terrace, because obviously.
Drinks: Head to Cafe Bar Madrigal nearby for live salsa and great drinks. Or, head to Serai, a high-end club in the neighborhood.
If you have more than three nights in Cuba, consider leaving Havana and checking out Vinales (two hours by car and doable in a day trip) or Trinidad (four hours each way and better to do over night for one or two days).
If you decide to stay in Havana longer, we spent a day in Vedado, where we booked lunch at Cafe Laurent on its terrace and then walked over to the 50s ice cream parlor, Coppelia. We loved both. You can also do the Canon Ceremony which happens each night at 9pm where a cannonball is shot into the sea. (You can take a cab there or pay less than a dollar to go by boat). We also recommend doing a sunset walk along the Malecon.
Having recently spent a week in Cuba I’ve decided to put together a travel guide because the interest in traveling to the island from friends, family and readers has been overwhelming. This post will focus on booking your trip, since I’ve fielded tons of questions on how to go about doing so. We’ve also written a second part that focuses on our itinerary to Havana and, our fashion guide of what to wear in Cuba.
First, the practical tips for booking a trip. We had a lot of anxiety booking this trip since Cuba is technically off limits to U.S. travelers looking to explore the island for tourism. But, don’t let that deter you as the Visa process is extremely easy. As American citizens you will need to have one of twelve approved reasons to visit Cuba in order to get a visa. These include a work visa, journalism, etc. If you’re going for tourism purposes, choose the “People to people/education” option on all of your documentation, from when you are booking airfare, to when you are buying your visa to get into the country. You don’t need to actually get the Visa until the morning of your flight and it’s easy peasy.
The morning of your flight, get to the airport a little earlier than you normally would and follow the signs for your airline’s Cuban visa entry. You will wait in a small line, fill out a form, pay $50 and voila, you’re good to go, no questions asked. It is literally as simple as that. Just don’t lose the visas, since you need one to get on the airplane, and you need one to leave Cuba. On your return into the U.S. customs is super easy. They hardly ask any questions about the reason for your travel and I even got my passport stamped when we were in Cuba.
In terms of where to stay and where to go, be aware that booking things in Cuba is much more difficult than other places, so give yourself a longer lead time. For one, there is hardly any internet on the island, so communicating with people there is much more complicated. We stayed in a hotel only because it was a last minute trip. When I go back, I will be using Airbnb or staying at a casa particular– a very common way to stay in Cuba. You essentially stay in a local person’s home and they will either rent it out to you in full or stay with you and cook you breakfast. It is the best way to learn about their culture. Plus, hotel stays aid the Cuban government which has oppressed its people. We liked the idea of staying with locals or doing Airbnb and helping the Cuban people. Also, both options are super cheap at between $20 and $60 each night. (Hotels are much, much more expensive. Hotel Nacional, which is the nicest, could be $400+/night. Mid-range hotels are more than $100/night)
Be aware that communicating with Airbnbs and casa particulars while trying to book takes a lot longer time than it would in the U.S. And, you’ll have the frustrating experience of finding great Airbnbs which show up as available on the website, only to contact the owner and learn they have already been booked. Because of lack of internet, it takes the owners longer to mark the homes as booked. Even so, I suggest doing all of your booking yourself. Travel agents will make life easier, but what could be a really inexpensive trip will balloon into a $5,000 trip (seriously. They even charge more than $100 for the visas above)
Getting around Cuba can be challenging, especially without the aid of Google Maps, which won’t work on your phone. I highly suggest coming up with a rough itinerary of museums, restaurants, hotels and other sights you want to see while in Cuba and dropping pins on your Google Maps prior to leaving the U.S. Pre-dropping pins will allow you to navigate where you need to go while you are there. I’d suggest pinning anything you may consider doing just to be safe.
Pack anything you may need while on your trip, since shopping while there isn’t really an option. We packed Tylenol, bug spray, stomach medicine, sunscreen, etc.
Take out money in advance because U.S. Credit cards don’t work in Cuba at all. When you take out your money, take out Euros as there is a 10% tax to convert U.S. dollars into Cuba’s local currency. Take out as much as you think you need and more because you can’t access ATMs. If you book an Airbnb, tours and other activities in advance, you will likely pay by credit card ahead of time, which is great. But some places require cash the day of, so keep that in mind. For a frame of reference for how much things cost, our most expensive dinner which had a ton of food and booze in Havana’s best restaurant only came to $40/head with a tip. Cab rides within Havana are around $5. Cabs to and from the airport will cost you around $20 each way.
Now, here are our suggestions for Havana. We didn’t make it to the countryside, but Vinales (two hours away from Havana and doable in a day trip. Havana Journeys tour group came highly recommended) and Trinidad (four hours away from Havana and more of a night or two trip) are supposed to be great. If you plan on doing either trip, spend three to four nights in Havana first.
Havana is wonderful and colorful and full of life and music. There are a few main sections of it: Old Havana, Centro Habana, Vedado and Mirimar. Old Havana (or Habana Viejo) is where we spent most of our time as it is the most iconic part of town, packed with restaurants, bars, live music and historic monuments and museums. It is also the most walkable part. (You can visit the other parts of Havana mentioned during a car tour, which we highly suggest and get into in our next guide)
Centro Habana is where the locals live. It is more gritty and spread out. There are fewer monuments and museums and such to visit. My favorite restaurant — La Guarida — is here, so it is definitely worth visiting.
Vedado is an upper class part of town that is green and leafy and full of mansions that must have been beautiful in their day before the city went into disrepair. It is an interesting blend of grand architecture and crumbling disarray. There are beautiful restaurants in palatial manors in this area, we will suggest them below.
Mirimar is the Beverly Hills of Havana. It is where the local celebrities, friends of Fidel and the like live. It is beautiful and spacious. It’s a good spot for dinner, but you likely won’t want to spend all your time here.
Before you go, I highly suggest reading Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.” It’s a short read and Hemingway is such a fixture in Havana. You get a great feel for Havana’s culture and people through the book. Netflix also has a documentary that was a good primer called “The Forgotten Revolution” that is worth watching.
Stay tuned later this week for our Day by Day itineraries!