Prague’s Old Town is awash with an array of colorful and intricately-detailed buildings, many of which are centuries old. We strolled the streets wide-eyed; we were in awe at every turn. However, as stunningly beautiful as Prague is up close, leaving the curving cobblestone lanes of the Old Town to seek out vantage points offered breathtaking landscapes. The rust orange rooftops, towering church spires and grand castle are spectacular from afar – perhaps even more so than up close. We found several scenic viewpoints in Prague – some natural, some manmade, some elvated, some at ground level – that provided sweeping vistas of the ornate city.
London is an expensive city, there’s no doubt about it. As budget travelers, we’ve focused on seeking out low-cost activities, which has equated to creating our own self-guided walking tours and being content with seeing most of the sights from the outside. Admission into some of the iconic landmarks can cost upwards of $30 USD, which is simply out of our price range. However, we have found a few freebies, including visiting the Sky Garden in London.
Located in the City of London on the north side of the River Thames – and directly across from The Shard, London’s tallest building – is the new 20 Fenchurch Street building. Nicknamed the Walkie Talkie by locals, it is the 5th tallest building in London at 38 stories. The building is used as office space – except on the top three floors, which are touted as a public garden with 360 degree views of the city, including an open air viewing deck and three restaurants. The bonus: unlike The Shard that charges $30 USD, the Sky Garden is free to enter.
If we thought we landed in a fairytale when we arrived in Ljubljana, Slovenia, we were in no way prepared for the captivating atmosphere of Lake Bled. Nestled amidst snow-capped mountains, the serene lake has one island, which is occupied by a church with a wish-granting bell, and a dramatic cliff-hanging castle along the shore. While many people flock to the island and castle for an up-close experience, we were seeking the best Lake Bled scenic viewpoints and set off on a hike that put some distance between us and the lake, but delivered picture-perfect views and a fresh perspective.
Since arriving in Kotor, Montenegro, we’ve been determined to hike the town walls – and all 1355 steps – to the San Giovanni Castle that sits at the top of the hill high above the city. A few days ago, we started the hike, propelled by the stunning scenery even though the skies were covered in dark clouds, but only made it halfway before a storm swept through. This time around, the sun was shining and, despite the gusty winds, we took the stairs from our front door and started hiking in Kotor, making the climb along the ramparts to the castle above. We paused at all the same places we had on our previous shorter hike, finding the views even more vibrant under a sky of blue.
There are three miles of protective walls that wrap around Kotor, Montenegro, completely fortifying the triangular, medieval town from the sea-facing entrance up into the hills above it. Building the ramparts took more than 1000 years and include lookout towers and a castle. Looking up from the harbor, we could see the outline of the walls, a series of paths, a church that clings to the side of the mountain and the expansive castle at the top.
We were anxious to hike up into the hills tracing the path that follows the walls, but with a forecast of grey skies, we were holding off in hopes of better weather. By the afternoon of our third day, however, our curiosity got the better of us. The stairs that lead to our apartment are part of the walls; short flights, like switchbacks, pass several homes before passing under a gate and connecting to the main walking path that leads all the way up to the fort.
Cape Town’s Table Mountain sits majestically in the background to be marveled at in its enormity on clear days and in wonder on overcast days when the South Easter winds create the ‘tablecloth,’ shrouding the plateaued top in clouds.
Table Mountain, the iconic centerpiece to Cape Town, was recently named one of the ‘New 7 Wonders of Nature.’ Table Mountain is part of the larger Table Mountain National Park and mountain range that extends to southern end of the cape. It’s also included as part of the a World Heritage Site, Cape Floral Region. The top of the mountain can be accessed by a strenuous hike or by a swift cable car; either way up, the views of the city and sea are phenomenal.
At Bondi Beach the waves and sand are the main attraction. And, while we can spend all day staring at it, in the afternoon it’s nice to have a cold, refreshing drink in our hands while we do so. Apparently, we’re not the only ones as we found three bars in Bondi Beach that delivered on cold brews with balcony views.
Bars in Bondi Beach: Icebergs
This Bondi institution has been on the southern edge of the beach since 1929. Started as a swim club with its iconic seaside lap pool, it’s now open to the public (even the pool for a small daily fee). There are views from every seat of the modern glass-walled bar, but the small, nearly private, balconies are the best place to gaze below at the swimmers in the pool, the surfers in the ocean and the horizon beyond. We could have stayed all afternoon if it wasn’t for the exorbitant prices. A ‘cup’ of the Cricketer’s Arm ale was $9, but we chalked it up to the price of the view.