Your next travel destination: Madrid

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Madrid is not only the capital of Spain, but it is also one of the most elegant cities you will ever travel to. Filled with beautiful boulevards, expansive parks, one of a kind art, and plenty of history, Madrid is on all lists of top cities worth visiting.

Considering Spain’s bountiful tourist attractions, Madrid will most likely not be your only stop on your journey through the Spanish lands. Therefore, if you have a limited amount of time to visit Madrid, here’s a guide of things you cannot miss out on:

Your first stop, and a lengthy one for that matter, will be at Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art. The triangle is composed of the top three museums in the city: Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.

Known for its ample European collection ranging from the 12th century to the 19th century, Museo del Prado is Madrid’s main Spanish national art museum.

On the other hand, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is more focused on Spanish 20th century impressionist and expressionist art. It includes collections renown artists like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. The Reina Sofía’s Museum’s most prized possession is considered to be Picasso’s famous painting referencing the Spanish Civil War, titled “Guernica.”

The third museum which comprises the Golden Art Triangle is the The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. This museum composed of the second largest private art collection in the world, after the British Art Collection. The museum does a great job at filling in the historical gaps between the art collections found in Museo del Prado and Reina Sofía.

Once you’ve you’ve completed your journey through years and years of well-preserved art, it’s time to go down a different historic lane – visit Madrid’s Royal Palace and Armory. You will learn about all kinds of remarkable historical anecdotes that took place within the walls of the palace and the armory through generations and generations of the Royal Family.

Another historic landmark you should not miss is Plaza Mayor. This central plaza was built during Philip III’s reign, and the Puerta del Sol is the central point in the plaza where numerous Spanish roads connect; it was also one of the original gates to the city of Madrid in the 15th century.

To finish off your historic day, take a nighttime city bus tour and enjoy other city landmarks that will be beautifully illuminated. Monuments and palaces will take on a new dimension and you will learn all the fun facts behind every architectural piece of work.

By the time you finish up your strolls through museums and historic landmarks, you should take a break. Visit the beautifully groomed Parque El Retiro. It’s one of Madrid’s largest parks, and inside you find a crystal palace, a lake where you can rent a boat and row around, and a aromatic rose garden that will certainly take your breath away.

Regardless of what you ultimately decide to do and see in Madrid, one thing you must not pass on is the incredible cuisine. Don’t be afraid to take the Metro and visit barrios like La Latina, Chueca, or even the San Miguel Market in Plaza Mayor and bask in some delicious tapas, local beer and Spanish wine. With a belly full of Spanish flavors you will not regret your time spent in Madrid.

5 Great Spots for Your European Winter Vacation

In Switzerland, we have gemütlich (“comfortably homey”), in Denmark they have hygge (“coziness”), and Bulgaria has their уют (“snug.”) Europeans love to get cozy in the middle of winter, and a getaway is the perfect chance to snuggle up with your loved ones to enjoy the coldest months of the year by a fire.

Some vacationers want a small town where they can escape the crowds, others just want to enjoy their favorite winter sports, but wherever you go, each town has its own unique way of making winter enjoyable and fun.

Here are 5 great places to stay for your upcoming vacation, each one with it’s own special way of keeping you nice and cozy.

 

Snæfellsnes Peninsula

 

Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

The Snæfellsnes peninsula’s landscape is made up of beautiful, moss-covered lava fields, misty cliffsides, and a gigantic volcano topped with a glacier that dates back all the way to the Ice Age. At night, you can view the northern lights, an auroral display above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres, often seen as wondrous patches of pale greens and pinks.

In the tiny fishing town of Stykkisholmur you can stay at Hotel Egilsen, a small in with 10 cozy, New England style rooms with original sketches of local landmarks by Icelandic artist Tolli line the walls. You can enjoy the best lab stew in town across the street at Narfeyrarstofa.

Or you can stay at Hotel Búðir, a 28-room lodge with views of the Snæfell glacier or bay from every window. Sitting areas throughout the hotel are furnished with deep leather sofas and scores of old National Geographics to flip through. The lobby bar has one of the country’s largest whiskey collections.

 

 

Alpe di Siusi

Alpe di Siusi, Dolomites

Come to the soaring peaks of northeastern Italy, and you can either stay at a traditional hotel in the Badia Valley or head to Adler Mountain Lodge for skiing in the lesser-known Alpe di Siusi region to the west. The lodge has 18 rooms with pinewood interiors, floor-to-ceiling windows, and African décor set sporadically throughout the shared areas from the owners’ own trips to Africa. There are also 12 terraced villas resembling ancient Tyrolean huts.

In the surrounding area there are more than 220 miles of hiking and cross-country ski trails. Make sure to buy a cup of hot cocoa from the traditional baitas (stone and wood houses) spread throughout. During the holidays, you can take a short cable car ride to Santa Cristina village to see the town square filled with lights.

 

 

Åre Sweden

Åre, Sweden

This mountain resort in Northern Sweden sits amongst snow-covered peaks with more than 100 powdery ski runs.

If you’re feeling adventurous, stay at Igloo Åre where the beds are made from packed snow covered in thick sleeping bags and reindeer skins. For a more traditional, and warmer, stay, try the Copperhill Mountain Lodge with it’s ski-in, ski-out chalet and large stone fireplaces. Here you can book a Samezan massage in their spa tee-pees, inspired by the region’s indigenous Sami tribe.

At night, you can enjoy a pint with the local crowd at Hotel Fjällgården, or curl up with a mug of glogg at Gute Grill & Bar in the Tott Hotel. For a tasty meal, head over to Fjällpuben, a farmhouse style restaurant serving elk carpaccio with currants and pickled beets.

 

 

Vals Switzerland

Vals, Switzerland

This list wouldn’t be complete without including a small village in the Swiss Alps. Built from sparkling gray blocks of Vals quartzite, the Therme Vals are filled with steamy hammams and flower-covered pools. The 7132 Hotel features a restaurant that serves dishes like Öra salmon with beets and spinach. It also features rooftop suites designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.

If you’re up for a challenge, traverse the 45-minute hike from the hotel along farm roads to Restaurant Ganni, an 18th-century timber mountain lodge for a pot of cheese spiked with ginger, porcini, or traditional kirsch.

 

 

Courchevel France

Courchevel, France

Spend a night at the luxurious Cheval Blanc Courchevel in Le Jardin Alpin for up scale stay with scenic views, world renound slopes, and well-off visitors. Chef Yannick Alléno from Paris’s Michelin three-starred Le Meurice runs Le 1947, where traditional French dishes are served with a modern twist.

Courchevel’s beautiful town center is lined with high-end boutiques, including Isabel Marant and Ski Dior. Make sure to stop in at the bakery Maison Braissand for its delicious pain au chocolat.

 

Whether you’re looking for a small cabin to escape to or a high end resort to pamper yourself in, there’s plenty of options this winter. Decide what kind of experience you’d like, and there’s sure to be a town to suit your wintertime whims.

Which Countries are Best for Gluten-Free Travel?

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Traveling gluten-free can be a hassle. For people with a serious allergy, having to prepare for your vacation by printing out diet cards in various languages, researching and digging through gluten-free blogs and travel sites, all the while packing a back-up stash of gluten-free snacks. It’s time consuming, and at times overwhelming.

Luckily, gluten-free travel is getting easier as people around the world become more aware of gluten intolerance, even in places that heavily utilize wheat. Here are four countries that may surprise you with their wealth of gluten-free options. Pick your next vacation stay in one of these, and you can focus on immersing yourself in the experience, instead of fretting over what’s on your plate.

1.Italy

There are few places that can make maintaining a gluten-free diet seem more impossible than Italy. Known as the land of pasta and pizza, you’d be surprised at the number of options available for people seeking authentic Italian cuisine while also staying gluten-free. Dishes like osso buco, risotto and caciucco come to mind. But that’s not to say that you have to stay away from your Italian favorites. In Italy, “senza glutine” (gluten-free) has been available long before the trend started heading West to Americans.

Italy actually started offering gluten-free options back in the 1970’s. Chef’s in Italy are responsible for some of the best gluten-free pasta brands available such as Jovial, Delallo, Rustichella d’Abruzzo, and Riso Bello. Even their chain restaurants have menus senza glutine. No matter where you go in Italy, all you need is one little phrase: “io sono celiaco(a).”

2. Ireland

When you think of Ireland you probably think of enjoying pint, a slice of brown bread with fresh Irish butter, and a basket of fish and chips. What you might not know though is that Ireland has a fairly high concentration of celiacs. The country even formed a group called The Irish Coeliac’s Association way back in 1963, far before celiacs disease became as talked about in the US. This long history of gluten-awareness means that Ireland has some of the best food options and resources for gluten-free travelers. Try Gluten Free Ireland, a search engine that can link you to over 700 gluten-free establishments across the country.

Still worried about entering a pub? You’re in luck, Bulmers cider (known as Magner’s in the U.S.) is naturally-gluten-free and just as popular in Ireland as any beer is.

3. Australia

Australia is in the middle of a food revolution, and part of that revolution seems to be including gluten free options on everything. From high-end restaurants to local cafés, there are always gluten-free options no matter where you go. From ravioli to dinner rolls, you’ll be able to enjoy your meal worry free, and the locals are so used to the request that they don’t think twice about it. No more silent judgements from the waiter as you ask for the gluten-free option.

Having celiac can be frustrating, and no one enjoys feeling like they can’t go out and enjoy the same restaurants and bars as the rest of their friends. Luckily, the world is changing, and soon enough, it will be as accommodated for as any other allergy.