Highlights of Shiraz

Most people come to Shiraz to visit the ancient sites of Persepolis and Pasargadae. But Shiraz itself holds many beautiful gems too. So, make sure to have at least one full day to spend in this lovely city. As with most Iranian cities, traffic can be a nightmare and pollution can be a hinder. Don’t let that dissuade you, leave early if you are going on a day trip to Persepolis to avoid the traffic. And take your time when going from one place to another. If the weather allows it, walking can be a faster mode of transport than a taxi.

Masjed-e Nasir al Molk

Masjed-e Nasir al Molk
Morning sun in the Nasir al Molk mosque

Masjed-e Nasir al Molk is a beautiful mosque you’ve probably seen. Pictures of this magical mosque are everywhere on social media, travel guides and brochures for trips to Iran. Although the mosque itself is just over a hundred years old it’s hugely popular with tourists for its stained-glass windows. Go early in the morning when the light falls through the windows for the best sights and pictures.

Vakil Bazaar

Vakil Bazaar and the next-door Mosque were both build at the end of the 18th century by Karim Khan Zand, who was the regent (vakil) of this area. Hence the name. The bazaar is huge and it’s easy to veer off in the wrong direction, but help is always nearby, as are good shopping opportunities.

Vakil Mosque

Vakil mosque is as old as the bazaar. It probably replaced an earlier mosque which stood on the same spot. The mosque is decorated with lush coloured tiles with floral motives.

Citadel Karim Khan Zand

Citadel Karim Khan Zand
Citadel Karim Khan Zand

This citadel was again built by the productive Karim Khan, around 1763. The citadel is well preserved and gives a good insight into urban fortifications in 18th century Persia. It also has a nice courtyard and a bathing area you can visit.

Aramgah-e Ali Ibn Hamzeh

Most visitors of Shiraz flock to the mausoleum of Shah Cheragh with its two shrines to brothers of the eighth imam Reza. This shrine, however, is dedicated to Ali Ibn Hamzeh, a nephew of the Imam. The shrine is much quieter and just as beautiful. The reception is also much more relaxed, we got invited into the tourist office and handed some cookies, water and tea. While we could cool down we take a look at some picture books and got some information about Shia islam. Afterwards, we were guided around and encouraged to take pictures. This still was a bit awkward as people next to you are kneeling on the ground, engaged in prayer.

Aramgah-e Ali Ibn Hamzeh
Aramgah-e Ali Ibn Hamzeh

Hafez Tomb

Just 5 minutes from the shrine Aramgah-e Ali Ibn Hamzeh is the tomb of Hafez, one of the most popular poets of Iran. The mausoleum is always busy both with admirers of the poet, who will recite some poems there and ordinary people escaping the hot city and enjoying the surrounding garden. The present-day mausoleum is a 20th-century construction which replaced the earlier when build by Karim Khan.

Bagh-e Delgosha (Garden)

These extensive gardens are on the way to Saadi’s tomb. They date to the end of the 18th century and are a good example of a classical Persian garden.

Saadi Tomb

Also set in a nice garden is Saadi’s tomb. This is the quieter of the two poet’s tombs as its more on the outskirts of the town. It’s set in a nice relaxed area with beautiful cypress trees and hills.

Mausoleum of Shah Cheragh

Mausoleum of Shah Cheragh
Mausoleum of Shah Cheragh

The mausoleum of Shah Cheragh is one of the more important ones in Iran. It holds the shrines to two of the brothers of the eighth imam Reza. Therefor it is a very busy place. Tourists can only visit this place with a guide which will be provided at the entrance. Guards with green feather dusters will correct females if their clothing slips up.

Bagh-e Eram (garden)

Bagh-e Eram
Bagh-e Eram

The best garden in Shiraz, this classical Persian garden is one of the highlights of the city. It’s always busy with people searching for refreshment and shade. It has a beautiful little palace which now houses the law faculty but can still be admired from the outside. There are many different species of plants and trees here which all are named, also in English.

Charles Bridge

2 Days in Prague

Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, as such it also attracts hordes of tourists. Don’t let all these people dissuade you, it’s still worth to go to this city. But if you want to minimize your irritation, adjust your schedule and get to the sites early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Also try to explore some of the less visited places this city has to offer.

Day one

The itinerary of the first day can easily be done by foot, if you have difficulty climbing and or walking for longer periods, take the cable cart to the top of Petřín hill or the bus to the castle.

Charles Bridge

Together with the Golden Gate bridge, one of the most photographed bridges in the world, and with reason. This medieval bridge was built by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV.  The bridge was decorated with 30 statues in the 18th century, all the statues you see today are replicas.

Petřín Strahov Monastery

Strahov monastery
Petřín Strahov Monastery

As you walk up the Petřín Orchards, you can either go to the Petřín View Tower, a 60-meter high copy of the Eifel Tower. It was built for the world fair in 1891. Otherwise, you can directly go to the Strahov Monastery. This 12th-century monastery was rebuilt many times and its current face is a baroque one. It houses a picture gallery with 14-19th century paintings, a library with old books and the monastery itself.

National Gallery

The National Gallery has many buildings throughout the city. Just outside the castle complex are two palaces which have been completely renovated to act as museums. The Schwarzenberg Palace and the Sternberg Palace, both are beautiful buildings. Visit the Schwarzenberg Palace if you’re into Baroque art as the museum is focused on art from this period. The museum is currently closed and will open again later in 2019. The Sternberg Palace has a more eclectic collection covering the whole spectrum of European art from antiquity to the 18th century. The collection has some outstanding works of art so if you only want to visit one of the palaces, go here.

Prague Castle

From the monastery it’s a short walk to the castle. This is another tourist magnet, expect it to be busy.

Outside you’ll find the president palace with the presidential guard. You can watch the changing of the guards here every hour from 7.00 in the morning. The big one is at noon, with fanfare and all.

Continue inside and decide whether you want to see the interior of any of the buildings and decide which ticket suits your wishes best. I would suggest the cheapest option, circuit B, as this gives you all the highlights without the unnecessary extra exhibitions. The highlights of the castle complex are the St Vitus Cathedral and the old royal palace. If included in your ticket don’t forget to visit the St. George’s Basilica. This old church dates back to the 10th century and has a beautiful Romanesque interior. The other thing every tourist seems to do, is visiting the Golden Lane. It’s a nice medieval looking street, where you can find the house where Franz Kafka used to live. But it’s usually overcrowded so you won’t have the opportunity to imagine what it would have looked like in the past.

St Vitus Cathedral

St. Vitus Cathedral
St. Vitus Cathedral

As with most Cathedrals, the St Vitus Cathedral was built on top of the earlier 10th-century church. Although construction of this Gothic Cathedral started in 1344 again by Charles IV, it was not consecrated until 1929. The biggest part of this cathedral is therefore not Gothic but Neo-Gothic which luckily complements each other well.

Old Royal Palace

There was a royal palace on this hill since the end of the 9th century. But the earliest remains are that of the 12th-century Romanesque palace, which can be seen in the underground. The present-day castle is a Gothic part started by emperor Charles IV and a late Gothic and Renaissance part from the end of the 15th century. The main attraction is the Vladislav Hall, this huge vaulted hall has been the scene of many important events in the country’s history. Don’t forget to go outside to the gallery for some great views of the Ramparts and Prague.

Best Viewpoints of the city

If you are looking for great viewpoints there are a couple with different perspectives.

St Vitus Cathedral great south tower

You need to buy a separate ticket for the tower of the cathedral. From there you’ll have marvellous views over the castle grounds towards Charles Bridge, the Moldau river and the old town.

Old Royal Palace balcony of Vladislav Hall

If you have bought a ticket for one of the castle circuits, then the Old Royal Palace and this viewpoint are included. From the balcony accessible from the Vladislav Hall in the palace you can view the ramparts of the castle, the Charles bridge and the old town. The view is nice but a bit inferior to the one from the cathedral tower.

Petřín orchard

View of Prague castle from Petřín hill
View of Prague castle from Petřín hill

For free views of the castle, the bridge and the old town, climb Petřín hill via the orchard. Besides this being a nice and relaxing walk away from the crowds it offers some of the best views of the city, and all for free. If you don’t feel like climbing, you can take the cable car to the top.

Petřín tower

Petřín Tower provides slightly wider views than available for free from the hill. The view of the castle and old city won’t improve that much, but it does offer grander vistas of the surroundings of Prague and its suburbs. You’ll have to pay to go to the top.


You can get another free view with a different perspective from Letna. Letna park lies opposite the old town and provides magnificent views of the old town and the river. Depending on where you go you can also view the castle and the Charles bridge.

Old Town Hall Tower

This paid viewpoint is a great one for close-up views of the old town, since it stands right in the middle of the old town square.

Day two

The sites of the second day are a spread out more than on the first day. It’s still doable to walk but if you’re tired or want to speed things along, take a ride in a tram or metro. Prague has some beautiful metro stations and the trams are a nice way to explore the city while sitting.

Jewish Cemetery

Jewish Cemetery
Jewish Cemetery

Start your day with the Jewish Cemetery, since it is one of the busier places and cemeteries are better experienced without too many people around. Take your time to wander around, read up on the history of the Jewish community in Prague and its downfall during the Second World War.

Old New Synagogue

As you exit the cemetery make your way to the nearby Old-New synagogue, this is one the oldest still active synagogue in Europe. It’s a beautiful little Gothic building dating from 1270. It’s also the site of the mythical Golem of Prague.

Spanish Synagogue

Just a block away lies the most beautiful synagogue of Prague, the Spanish Synagogue. It’s the newest synagogue in the area built to replace the oldest synagogue of Prague in 1868. It’s built in a Moorish revival style with domes, gold and geometric patterns.

Spanish Synagogue
Interior of Spanish Synagogue

Convent st Agnes

Just a couple of minutes from the Jewish quarter lies the medieval 13th-century Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia. The convent now is part of the National Gallery of Prague and houses its excellent medieval art collection. The collection focuses on art from Bohemia and Central Europe and has altarpieces and sculptures. The convent garden is freely accessible.

Old Town square

You can’t visit Prague without a visit to the Old town square. The square is lined with beautiful baroque buildings. Here you’ll also find the gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn and the Old Town hall with its famous Astronomical clock. So, join the crowds in anticipation of the clock striking the hour.

Astronomical clock

Let me start off by saying the Astronomical clock in Prague is a marvellous piece of engineering which is fun to watch. But don’t take all its claims to serious. It’s not the oldest in the world, just one earlier example is the Gros Horloge in Rouen, France which predates the Prague one by some 30 years. And be aware that much of what you see today is a restoration of the original. The statues are a 1948 reconstruction after the original statues were destroyed by fire in 1945, the same goes for much of the machinery. Don’t let this lessen your enjoyment of this great piece of art and engineering, but it doesn’t hurt to be informed.

Kinsky Palace

While you’re on the square you can enjoy some more art if you want in the Kinský Palace. This is also a dependence of the National Gallery of Prague and is used as an exhibition space. So, check their website to see what is on. The palace itself dates from the second part of the 18th century, built on top of an earlier Romanesque and gothic structure which can still be seen in the basement.

Powder Tower

The Powder Tower is one of the original 13 city gates of the city of Prague. You can visit it for some views of the surrounding area. It was built at the end of the 15th century but suffered great damage at the Battle of Prague in 1757 so much of what you see today is a later reconstruction.

Mucha Museum

One of the Czech Republic’s most famous artists is Alphonse Mucha. Mucha is best known for his Art Nouveau advertisement posters. If you want to see his works of art, you can either visit the Mucha museum dedicated to the artist and his work or go to the National Gallery which has some of his major works like the Slav Epic. If you want to see his best work, go to the National Gallery, if you want to get an overview of his work visit the Mucha museum, or visit both for a complete picture.

Trade fair palace

If you’re not tired yet and love modern art, go visit the Trade Fair Palace dependence of the National Gallery. Here you will find an excellent collection of Czech art from the 1920s onwards.


Iceland Round Trip in only 4 days

Don’t let the others dissuade you, it is possible to encircle the whole of Iceland in only four days. We present you four days filled with endless sightseeing, a wealth of nature and even some whales and puffins. You will see the whole ring road of Iceland, all its highlights, and we promise you’ll be back in Reykjavik within four days. We advise you to go in June though, as you can continue travelling under the midnight sun. Are you ready for a spectacular trip?


Day one

Rent a car in Reykjavik and leave the capital city straight away. Reykjavik is a nice city, filled with nice bars and shops, but the nature outside this city is what it’s all about. We’ll start by exploring the Golden Circle, Thingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir, three key attractions close to Reykjavik.



Drive straight to the UNESCO world heritage listed Thingvellir National park, only 50 kilometres from Reykjavik. It’s a 6 km broad and 40 km long rift. The rift marks the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. If you walk the rift, starting from the visitor’s centre, you can see the world’s first parliament, the Althing, on your right. Sessions were established in 930 CE and held there until 1798. There are several hiking trails or you can go scuba diving, and see the rift from above.



Continue the drive to Gullfoss: one of the most impressive compact waterfalls in the world. It is an enormous double cascade, with a total height of 32 meters. The haze of the falling water creates beautiful rainbows when it’s sunny. Therefore, it’s called Gullfoss: golden waterfall.



Next stop is Geysir. The English word ‘geyser’ derives from this geyser. Geysir is not very active at the moment, due to human interferences. But Strokkur, about 50 metres next to Geysir, is. Strokkur erupts every 6-10 minutes, with a height of about 15-20 metres.

Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss and Dyrhólaey natural reserve

When you’ve finished the Golden Circle, you can drive back to the ring way, heading to Vík, the final destination of today. Along the way, you will see more spectacular waterfalls. The first one is Seljalandsfoss. A 65 Meter high waterfall. You can even walk behind the falling water. Seljalandsfoss is the only waterfall that is lighted during the night. 15 Km further away lies Skógafoss, another waterfall where the water falls over what once was the coastline of Iceland. You can walk a small lane, 1 KM to the east, to reach the smaller Kvernufoss waterfall. Finish the day in Vík. Just before you’ll enter the small fishing village lies the last sight of the day: Dyrhólaey natural reserve. It’s home to one of the largest seabird colonies of Iceland, during summer you should definitely see some puffins. And you can see a massive arch that the sea has eroded.
Stay the night in Vík

Day 2

Reynisfjara Beach

Basalt cliffs at Reyniisfjara beach

Start your day at Reyniisfjara Beach. It is a famous black sand beach, with some impressive symmetrical basalt columns that look like a staircase, a cave, and some basalt cliffs that rise from the sea. A great place to see the sunrise. Just watch out for the unpredictable waves which can suddenly engulf the beach.

Eldhraum, Skaftafell and the Glacier Lagoon

Glacier Lagoon

Heading East, you will cross Eldhraum moss-covered lava fields and Skaftafell. At the border of Skaftafell lies the Glacier Lagoon. It is a lake filled with floating ice chunks, some say this is Iceland’s Crown Jewel. It’s difficult to stop watching all the different shapes of the icebergs, one even bigger than the other. In the end, they all have to pass the small river, to enter the sea. Don’t forget to visit the nearby Diamond Beach, where the ice lies on the black sand, glistening in the sun. Nearby the Glacier Lagoon lies a glacier tongue, which is also a recommended spot to visit. Both the Glacier Lagoon and the glacier tongue will look different each and every time you go.

Litlanesfoss and Hengifoss


Enjoy the drive along the cliffs of Iceland’s East coast when you’re heading north. When you pass Vatternes, you can make a stop-over to visit Petra’s stone collection, if you like stones. Otherwise, continue the drive inland, towards Litlanesfoss and Hengifoss. It’s a 2-hour walk from the parking lot to Hengifoss. You will pass Litlanesfoss halfway. They are magnificent waterfalls, surrounded by colourful and geometric rocks. Hengifoss is one of Iceland’s highest waterfalls, with 118 meter.
After this nice hike, drive back north, towards Egilsstadir to sleep. We can really recommend the cute, wooden tiny houses at Vinland Camping Pot.

Day 3

Drive towards Mývatn. The ring way does not follow the coastline, for a change, but takes you inland. You will pass abandoned farms and desolate land. But don’t forget to look out for waterfalls along the road, there are many.


Another day another waterfall? Detifoss is reputed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe. So take your raincoat with you. The waterfall is over 100 metres wide, and have a drop of over 44 metres, causing heavy mist. Per second an average of 193 m³ water falls down.

Krafla Caldera


Take your mosquito hat with you, when visiting the Krafla Caldera. Not only mosquitoes, but also the smell announces this piece of living earth from afar. It’s a collapsed, but still active volcanic area. The highlights are Leirbotn (the geothermal power station), Víti Maar (a volcanic crater with a green lake) and Leirhnjúkur (steaming sulphuric terrain and multi-coloured lava field).

Mývatn Nature Baths


After seeing the hot water from the outside, it’s time to take a bath. Just on the other side of the mountains lies Mývatn Nature Baths. This bath offers a completely natural experience while enjoying the rocky sceneries surrounding the baths. It has several baths, showers, saunas and a restaurant. What else do you need for your body and mind?

Hverfjall Crater

Near the eastern shore of Late Myvatn lies Hverfjall, a 396-meter high tephra explosion crater. You can walk up the slopes and around the crater’s rim and enjoy the view of the surrounding landscape. The crater has a diameter of 1 KM.



Dimmunorgir lies just next to Hverffjall. It’s a park of unusually shaped lava fields because the lava pooled over a small lake. The water started to boil and formed lava pillars up to several meters in diameter.
Then it’s about time to head north to Iceland’s second largest city Akureyri. Here we’ll have some dinner and a good night of sleep.

Day 4

Whales on backboard!

Humpback whale

Akureyri is one of the world’s best places to watch whales. So rise and shine early, and make your way to the harbour or the towns a bit north to get on a boat and do some whale watching. Nature is always unpredictable, but during summer, and when it’s not too windy, it’s the best time to spot some giant whales, and also some dolphins.

Driving along the Westfhords

The Icelandic Wesfjords are spectacular. In the most remote location of Iceland, you’ll find gorgeous fjords. It’s also the perfect place to photograph some sheep or horses that live along the road. So enjoy the ride back West.

Hraunfossar and Barnafoss


Do stop over at the waterfalls. Although you might think you’ve seen most waterfalls, Hraunfossar and Barnafoss are stunning in their own way. Hraunfossar trickles down directly from underneath a lava field.



Enjoy a nice dinner in Iceland’s capital Reykjavík. It’s filled with hipster restaurants, cafés, galleries and shops. Make use of the happy hour (just before dinner time), to enjoy an affordable beer and say cheers to making it back to Reykjavík!


To do this itinerary, the only thing you need to prepare, next to booking your flight, is to rent a car, book a visit to Myvatn Nature Baths on your third day, book whale watching in Akureyri on your third day, and book hotels in Vík, Egilsstadir, Akureyri and Reykjavik.

Himeiji castle

Best itinerary for 4 unforgettable weeks in Japan

Are you ready for Japan?

U-erukomu! Are you ready for a modern world in the eastern part of the globe spread out over 6,000 islands? Get ready for an unending journey of temples, pagodas, modern art and high tech. But also neighbourhoods of samurais and geishas, Japanese gardens and a highly organized society? A world of fresh fish, the finest sushi, steaming ramen, tea ceremonies and strong sake? Continue reading about our adventures while travelling the land of the rising sun: Japan!


We spend our honeymoon in Japan, which made this journey extra special for us. This meant: reading many books and watching tons of movies before we dared to visit the country. We wanted to be sure that we were prepared our trip in the best way possible. We hope you can use our information to your advantage!

So, we share our itinerary, made a list of 11 tips for travelling Japan, a blog about food, Tokyo and Kyoto, what to pack, how to prepare and much more…

When to go?

Japan is beautiful in all seasons. Just know that Cherry blossom season is somewhere in March or April depending on the weather and the location. But there are dedicated websites to forecasting when the blossoming will start. But be aware that it will be busier around this time. The same goes for Golden Week, which is a national holiday from the 29th of April to early May. Summers are hot and humid and August is also the time of another public holiday. Autumn colors will start to appear at the end of September in the north, slowly making their way south.

Our Japan itinerary

We had a hard time puzzling the best itinerary for our four weeks in Japan. We wanted to visit as much of Japan as possible. As you know, we love culture, history, art and nature and wanted a perfect combination of this. Since Japan has a lot to offer in all these categories, tough choices had to be made. We like to hear if you have a more efficient itinerary than this one.


Tokyo Asakusa
Tokyo Asakusa

We flew to Tokyo to start our trip and spend one long day in this big city, visiting museums of Japanese history and Western art, temples and pagodas. Also, we used Tokyo as our base for two-day trips: one to Kamakura, a coastal town packed with temples and Buddha’s and one to the shrines of Nikko.

Next, we explored and crossed the Japanese Alps. We had a pit-stop Nagano; spent a night in Matsumoto to visit its famous black castle and the birthplace of modern artist Yayoi Kusama. We hiked a day in Kamakochi, a popular resort with spectacular mountain scenery. Then, we crossed the Japanese Alps to the west coast. There, we stayed in Kanazawa, home to one of the best landscape gardens of Japan, an impressive modern art museum and a beautiful castle.


Okunoin cementry
Okunoin cementry

From there our trip continued southwards by bullet train, to visit Osaka a vibrant and modern city; Kyoto, the former Imperial capital of Japan and Nara, Japan’s first permanent capital.
To learn more about the Japanese religion and the art of meditation, we did a tour in the mystical mountains in Koyasan, where we slept in a temple. From Kii-Tanabe we walked the Kumano Kodo, in the footsteps of the pilgrims.



From the heart of those misty Mountains, it was a substantial train ride back to the inhabited world. We joined civilization again in Okayama to visit its garden and castle. Took the boat across the inland sea to Naoshima, an island bursting with modern art. On the way, we also visited the beautiful, white Himeji castle and Hiroshima with its Atomic bomb museum, and the Miyajima shrine. You know that famous shrine that you see on every Japan brochure.


Blood Hell
Blood Hell

And from here, the always unpredictable nature of Japanese earth’s crust threw a spanner in the works of the last weeks of our trip. We planned to visit Kumamoto and its castle and from there Mount Aso with its active volcano before we would hit Beppu, the onsen heaven of Japan. However, because of an earthquake, Kumamoto’s castle was partially collapsed and the city was isolated from most train traffic. Also, the volcano of Aso was a bit too active, and therefore, tourists were not allowed nearby. That is why we choose to go to Beppu straight away and spent the two days that we saved on an extra Japanese garden in Takamatsu, a temple in Kyoto and a museum, all the way back in Kanazawa. Also, we visited Nagasaki, to another city hit by an atomic bomb, and also check out Dejima, the Dutch trading post from the 17th-19th century.

Okinawa beach

From Fukuoka, we planned to fly to Iriomote, one of Japan’s tropical islands to finish our trip on the soft and sandy bounty beaches, to snorkel and hike through the jungle of the remote island. However, because of a typhoon, flights and boats were cancelled, which got us stuck on the main island of Okinawa for three days. This gave us all the time to learn the secrets of healthy living from the oldest people in the world, living in Okinawa.

Just before we had to leave Japan, we spent two more days in Tokyo, to make sure we could check all the remaining highlights there and don’t feel too sad to head back to the other side of the world.

Sergev Posad

Here are the 9 highlights of the impressive Golden Ring

Moscow has its many ring roads driving you crazy while circling this huge metropolis. But a couple of hours outside Moscow lies another ring, the Golden Ring. This imaginary circle links several ancient Russian cities. These Golden Ring cities, once were the heart of Russian culture and power before the supremacy of Moscow. Most of these cities have been spared the devastation of the Second World War and Communism. They offer a rare opportunity to travel back in time to medieval Russia. And they make for ideal day trips from Moscow.

As it’s a circle, you can choose which way to go. We choose to go counter-clockwise as this maximizes our time and divides the days evenly. It’s also possible to do the Golden Ring by public transport but it’s easier to go by car. Alternatively, you can also join one of the organised golden ring tours. Most of the roads are in good condition and signage is both in Cyrillic and Roman alphabet. Since every phone is a sat nav, there shouldn’t be too many obstacles to navigating the Golden Ring. If you’re going to rent a car, try to get one in the eastern part of Moscow.


1. Vladimir

Assumption Cathedral

The first stop is Vladimir some 180km east of Moscow. Expect a lot of traffic inside Moscow and on the M7 towards Vladimir. This will be one of the busiest parts of the Golden Ring road. If you leave early, you can be in Vladimir in the early afternoon.
Vladimir is said to be founded in 1108. During the second half of the 12th century, Vladimir experienced its Golden Age. This Golden Age lasted until the Mongol invasion of 1237. The Golden Horde sacked the city in 1238 and the city never truly recovered.

Assumption Cathedral

There are two cathedrals which survived all this carnage, both belong to the World Heritage of UNESCO. The most important one is the Assumption Cathedral. Grand Prince Andrey Bogolyubsky built the cathedral in 1158. Inside some of the original 12th-century murals have been restored. This cathedral was the place where all Grand Princes of the Grand Duchy of Vladimir were crowned until Moscow became the seat of the Grand Princes in the 14th century. From then on, the coronations would take place in the Assumption Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin, which is a loose copy of this one.

Cathedral of Saint Demetrius

Cathedral of Saint Demetrius
Cathedral of Saint Demetrius

The second cathedral is the Cathedral of Saint Demetrius. It served as a private chapel of Grand Prince Vsevolod III Yuryevich and was part of his palace. Usually, most of the splendour of a cathedral is on the inside, but this cathedral stands out for its exquisite exterior. The stone caving of this cathedral is one of the best in Russia.

Golden Gate

The Golden Gate of Vladimir is the only surviving ancient city gate in Russia. Although much of the present-day building is the result of the 18th-century reconstruction by Catherine the Great.

2. Church of the Intercession on the Nerl

Church of the Intercession on the Nerl
Church of the Intercession on the Nerl

Just outside Vladimir lies a beautiful little church. The 12th century ‘Church of the Intercession on the Nerl’ was also built by Grand Prince Andrey Bogolyubsky and looks a lot like the Cathedral of Saint Demetrius in Vladimir. It lies on an island in the Nerl river and is not reachable by car, so you must walk there. It’s a 15-minute walk through the flower-filled floodplain. The church is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the site White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal.

3. Suzdal


Some 35km to the north lies Suzdal, the ancient capital in a time when Moscow was just a small outpost. Suzdal was founded around 1024 and became the capital of the Rostov-Suzdal Principality in 1125. The capital moved to Vladimir in 1157 but it remained an active trade hub even after the Mongolian invasion. Suzdal was annexed by Moscow in 1392. From the 16th century onwards it became a religious centre. First, it was sponsored by the Tsars. Later, wealthy merchants tried to outdo each other by building dozens of churches. Thirty of these churches remain until this day.


Suzdal Kremlin

The Kremlin is the oldest part of Suzdal and dates back to the 10th century. This Kremlin can be seen as the predecessor of the more famous one in Moscow as it was from here that Grand Prince Yuri Dolgorukiy fortified Moscow and laid the basis for the Kremlin there.

Saviour Monastery of Saint Euthymius

The monastery was founded in 1352. Originally it had a wooden palisade but that was destroyed by the Poles. Nowadays it has a red brick wall from 1640. The monastery also had a prison, from the 19th century onwards this became its main function. Its most notable prisoner was the German field marshal Friedrich Paulus who was imprisoned here after the surrender of the 6th Army at Stalingrad. Both the Kremlin and the monastery are part of the UNESCO World Heritage.

4. Plyos

Statue of Levitan overlooking the Volga

From Suzdal northwards, the road is much quieter. The next stop is Plyos, this small town on the banks of the Volga wouldn’t be that interesting if it wasn’t for the residence of Isaac Levitan. Levitan was one of Russia’s most famous landscape painters and painted many of his paintings in this town and its surroundings. There is a nice museum exhibiting his works. On top of a hill stands the ‘Wooden church of the resurrection’. From here you will have a marvellous view of the surrounding hills and the mighty Volga. And you will understand where Russian painters such as Levitan got their inspiration from.

5. Kostroma

Rurikid Prince Yury Dolgoruky also founded Kostroma in 1152. It became part of the Duchy of Moscow in the 14th century and served as a refuge for the grand dukes in time of danger. Mikhail Romanov spent 13 years in exile here, until he was offered the Russian throne and started the Romanov dynasty.

Ipatievsky Monastery

Ipatievsky Monastery

The monastery is the main sight of Kostroma. It was founded in the early 14th century. It was in this monastery that Mikhail Romanov lived and excepted the Russian throne. His wooden house is still preserved and can be visited. Many of the buildings here were sponsored by the Romanov who paid tribute to the place where they rose to power.
In the centre of the city lies the Susaninskaya Ploshchad square. Here lied the Kremlin until a great fire destroyed most of the city in 1773. Catherine the Great redesigned the city including the great central market with all its arcade just south of the square.

6. Yaroslavl


Further upriver lies Yaroslavl. This industrial city was a place of early Viking activity in the 9th century. Yaroslavl the Wise, Grand Prince of Kiev, founded the city at the turn of the 11th century. It remained a small trading town in the Principality of Rostov until 1218 when it became its own principality. It would remain independent until 1463 when it was absorbed by Moscow. Nothing remained of this time as the Golden Horde razed and burned the city a couple of times. The city saw more destruction in the 20th century. First in the Russian Civil war and later in the Second World War by German bombing. What remained or was restored now is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005.

Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Saviour

The oldest buildings of Yaroslavl are in the ‘Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Saviour’. The monastery itself was founded in the 12th century but the oldest remaining buildings, the Holy Gate and the Cathedral of the Transfiguration, date from 1516.

Annunciation Cathedral

The Annunciation Cathedral dates to 1215, the present-day building, however, is a 2010 reconstruction as Communists destroyed the original cathedral in 1937. Next to the cathedral lies the new Strelka Park, a popular spot for Russians to spend their evenings walking along the Volga.

John the Baptist Church

Monastery of Saviour and Saint Jacob
John the Baptist Church

The most beautiful church in Yaroslavl and one of our all-time favourites is the ‘John the Baptist Church at Tolchkovo’. It lies on the other side of the river surrounded by industrial buildings. Nevertheless, it’s worth the detour. The church has 15 domes and extensive frescoes inside. Sadly, the frescoes look like they are deteriorating due to mould and water damage. So, visit this church now when it’s still in decent shape and contribute to the funds to care for the building. This church is also depicted on the banknote of 1,000 roubles.

7. Rostov

As we head south towards Moscow, we drive towards Rostov. Nowadays a sleepy provincial town, but one of the oldest cities in Russia. The main sight is the beautiful Kremlin.



The Rostov Kremlin was founded in the 12th century but most buildings are from the 17th century. The Kremlin is dominated by the Assumption Cathedral with a big bell tower. The largest bell weighs a stunning 32,000 kilos and is named Sysoy.

Monastery of Saviour and Saint Jacob (Spaso-Yakovlevsky Monastery)

On the outskirts of the city alongside Lake Nero lies the Spaso-Yakovlevsky Monastery. This colourful monastery was founded in the 14th century but the oldest building is from the 17th century. You can climb the walls for a great view of the lake and the monastery itself.

8. Pereslavl-Zalessky

Some 70km to the south lies Pereslavl-Zalessky. This lakeside town is the birthplace of Alexander Nevsky who would successfully battle German and Swedish invaders. And Lake Pleshcheyevo is considered the birthplace of the Russian fleet. Here Peter the Great built his toy fleet and developed his obsession for the sea.


Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Saviour

The Kremlin is little more than a grass ring, but within is one of Russia’s oldest buildings, the Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Saviour from 1152. It’s a small church in a similar style as the little, but beautiful, churches of Vladimir.

Botik Museum

Just outside the town lies the Botik Museum, dedicated to Peter the Great’s toy fleet. One of the buildings houses one of the two remaining ships, the rest was destroyed.

9. Sergiev Posad

The last stop is Sergiev Posad. Named after Russia’s patron saint Sergius of Radonezh, it is the holiest town in Russia. Until 1983 it was the seat of the Russian Orthodox church.

Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius

Sergiev Posad by night
Sergiev Posad by night

The spiritual centre of the city and of Russia is the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius monastery. It was founded in 1337 and grew ever greater until the Russian revolution when it was closed. Nowadays it’s once again an active monastery.
The monastery is colourful and photogenic. The most important churches are the Trinity Cathedral built in 1422 and the Cathedral of the Assumption built in 1585. Here you find the grave of Tsar Boris Godunov.

Now we have completed the Golden Ring and most of its highlights. It’s time to return to Moscow and its big city life.

Golden RIng

The best things to do in the vibrant city of Saint Petersburg

Saint Petersburg was the brainchild of Tsar Peter the Great. Once a swamp, now it’s a beautiful bustling city on the Finnish Gulf. There is a lot to explore. The two major tourist attractions are the palaces and the museums. This combination comes together in the Hermitage Museum, this winter palace is one of the greatest museums in the world.

So, to do this city justice stay for at least three days. Let us guide you to spend these days wisely.


Day 1 Saint Petersburg

The first day in Saint Petersburg is a full one with a schedule that would take at least 8 hours to complete. So, if you want to create some extra time, skip the Stroganov Palace, the Marble Palace is the better of the two city palaces.

Kazan Cathedral

Kazan Cathedral
Kazan Cathedral

Since Kazan Cathedral is free and opens early, this is the best place to start your exploration of Saint Petersburg. The cathedral is loosely modelled after the Saint Peter’s Cathedral in the Vatican. Inside Russians will line up to kiss a copy of our Lady of Kazan. The original was a 13th Century Icon brought to Russia from Constantinople. The cathedral is consecrated to this Icon.

Nevsky Prospekt

Kazan Cathedral lies along Nevsky Prospekt, the main road through the city centre. It’s a good place to watch people, do some souvenir shopping and have a drink. It’s just a short walk from the cathedral to the Stroganov palace.

Stroganov Palace

This beautifully restored pink palace is part of the Russian Museum. You can buy a combination ticket for the Stroganov Palace, the Marble Palace, and the Russian Museum. It was in the kitchen of this palace that the famous beef Stroganoff was invented. The palace is also a good first introduction to the splendour of upper class living in pre-Soviet times.

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Cross the street and walk to the Griboyedov Canal, walk northwards on the left bank for a better view of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. The long name refers to the assassination attempt on Tsar Alexander II here in 1881. The inside of this church is decorated with beautiful mosaics.

Russian Museum

Just behind the church lies the Russian Museum. This museum houses the largest collection of Russian art in the world. You’ll find great medieval icons and paintings by Russian greats like Ilja Repin and Kasimir Malevich.

Summer Gardens

When you’re done with all the art, spend some time leisurely walking through Mikailovsky’s Garden. Cross the Moyka river and continue your walk in the beautiful Summer Gardens. The Summer Garden is the city’s oldest park and began as the private garden of Tsar Peter the Great. Take the northern exit and head to the Marble palace a couple of meters to the west.

Marble Palace

The Marble Palace gets its name from all the different forms of marble used in the construction and decoration of the 18th Century palace. It houses different art collections and temporary exhibitions.


After the head towards the Neva and take the Trinity Bridge to cross it. From here you have a great view of the waterfront of the city.

Peter and Paul Fortress

On the other side of the bridge lies the Peter and Paul Fortress. This is the oldest site in the city. From this fortress, the rest of the city evolved. Climb the ramparts for more great views of the river and the city.

Peter and Paul Cathedral

Peter and Paul Cathedral
Peter and Paul Cathedral

The oldest landmark of the city and the island is the Peter and Paul Cathedral. The cathedral has the highest Orthodox bell tower in the world with a height of 122 meters. The cathedral also houses the tombs of most Russian emperors, from Peter the Great to the last Tsar Nicolas II and his family. The grave of Anastasia is one which is particularly often photographed.

If you have some energy left, go to the Erarta Museum which is open until 22.00 every day but Tuesdays when it’s closed. So, this is a good thing to do in the evening to maximize your time. On Wednesday and Friday, the Hermitage museum is open until 21.00. So, if you’re in Saint Petersburg on those days either get a head start or finish things you have missed before by visiting the Hermitage museum in the evening.

Erarta Museum

The Erarta Museum is an excellent contemporary art museum which focuses on Russian contemporary art. The museum has a good flow and a good mix of art, so everybody should find something to their liking.

Day 2 Half-day trip and more Saint Petersburg

Boat ride

Start the second day in Saint Petersburg early and get a ticket for the hydrofoil to Peterhof at the Lion palace pier. You can buy tickets online or at the pier. This is a great way to see Saint Petersburg from the water and the fastest way to get to Peterhof.


Peterhof fountains

If you’re going to visit Peterhof individually it’s best to go as early as possible since it will be busy. Buy a ticket to the park via the official website so you can skip the line once you get off the boat.

The highlight of Peterhof is the Grand Palace. Sadly, you can’t buy individual tickets online. You can decide to opt for a guided tour package. Choose one with good reviews if you choose to do so and expect to pay at least 2.5 times the normal entry price. Otherwise go directly to the fountain show when you get off the boat, it starts at 11.00. Afterwards, do some exploring of the park. Go to the ticket office for the sale of the individual tickets for the Grand Palace a half hour in advance, to avoid long lines. Ticket sale should start at 12.00, check the website for the latest information. If you’re with more people, rotate your waiting spot and explore the surroundings while you wait.

The Grand Palace

Grand Palace

The Grand Palace was completely destroyed by Stalin during the Second World War. After he heard that Hitler wanted to celebrate New Year here he ordered the palace to be bombed. So, the palace and the interior are post-war reconstructions.

Head back to the hydrofoil and try to get back in the city around 15.00. This would give you enough time to get a good impression of the Hermitage museum. It’s too big to see in a single visit for most people anyway. If you go on a Wednesday and Friday, you’ll have more time as it is open until 21.00 on these days. Buy a ticket online to avoid another queue.


Winter Palace
Winter Palace

The collection of the Hermitage Museum is enormous and provides a complete overview of Western art throughout the centuries. The museum started with the collection of Catherine the Great, who was the biggest art collector of her time. Nicolas I expanded upon this collection and opened it to the public in 1852. The collection expanded threefold in Soviet times when many valuable private collections were seized by the state. After the Second World War, even more art was added as the Soviets looted many private and public German art collections.

Winter Palace

Throne room

This results in an enormous museum. So, decide what you want to see and stick to that and the highlights. Our favourites are the Italian and Dutch art and the ancient Egyptian pieces. Another approach is to do everything and systematically explore the whole museum room by room. Adjust your pace to your interests and you should be able to cover the Winter palace side of the museum under four hours.

Don’t forget to pay attention to the palace itself, as its architecture is almost as impressive as the art that it exhibits.

General Staff Building

Whatever you do, don’t forget to visit the General Staff building on the other side of the Palace Square. Although the building is far less impressive as the winter palace the art is exquisite. The General Staff Building houses an amazing collection of Impressionism, Modern, and Contemporary art. Highlights are rooms full of artworks by Monet, Matisse, Malevich and Picasso. But there is so much more. Plan wisely as this part of the museum only has extended visiting hours on Wednesday.

Day 3 Another half-day trip and more Saint Petersburg

Tsarskoe Selo

Tsarskoe Selo lies in the town of Pushkin 25 km south of Saint Petersburg. You can get there by bus and or by train. If you want to spare yourself the hassle of public transport, get a taxi via a taxi app which won’t be that more expansive when travelling in company.

Catherina Palace

Catherina Palace
Catherina’s Palace

The highlight of Tsarskoe Selo is Catherina’s palace. Construction started under Empress Elizabeth and was finished by Catherine the Great in 1796. The interior of this palace is magnificent and well worth it to explore. Getting in requires some preparation though. The easiest way is to buy tickets online. But there are only limited tickets available this way and they usually sell out a month in advance. So, plan well in advance. If they are sold out it’s back to queueing again. Arrive early, the queue starts when the parks open, but the ticket office will only open at 12.00. So, if you’re with company, rotate your stay in line and use the time to explore the beautiful palace gardens and surrounding buildings.

Amber Room

mirror room
Mirror room

The highlights of the interior of Catherina’s Palace are the great mirror room and the mythical amber room. The interior was completely destroyed and looted during the Second World War as was the Grand Palace at Peterhof. It’s still a mystery what the Germans did with the amber. The restored interiors here have a more authentic look than those of the Grand Palace.

Get back to the city by whatever means of transport you prefer. Finish your visit to the Hermitage Museum or go to the Erarta museum if you haven’t been there yet.

Mariinsky theatre

Swan Lake

End your stay in Saint Petersburg with a night out at the Mariinsky Theatre. The theatre itself is worth the visit but the ballet shows are a highlight too. Book tickets in advance to get decent tickets at a good price.

Also visiting Moscow? Then read our 4-day Moscow itinerary!

Saint Petersburg
River view of Moscow

How to spend four wonderful days in the city of Moscow

Moscow is an enormous city, capital of the biggest country in the world and home to more than twelve million residents. It houses about 10 per cent of the total population of a country that covers 1/8 of the Earth’s inhabitable land area.

Most of Moscow is a concrete jungle, but there is so much to see and there are many gems, hidden or ostentatiously present. This is the first city for which three days were not enough for us to cover all its highlights. So, we packed all the highlights in a perfect and a loaded four-day itinerary for you!


Day 1

Red Square

Red Square
Red Square

Start the first day in the heart and centre of the city, the Red Square. This is the oldest part of the city. On one side the Kremlin is situated, the early fortified part and political heart of Russia. On the other side lies Kitai Gorod, which although mostly demolished in the first half of the 20th century, still houses the oldest residential buildings and edifices of Moscow. The square itself is immense. Hopefully, you can admire it without makeshift stands for a parade or other spectacle occupying it.

Standing in line

One thing you should prepare for when visiting Russia, is standing in line. Ticket systems are not the most efficient and a great part of your time visiting popular tourist attractions will be spent on waiting. To combat this, try to buy tickets online. First check the official website, if they don’t sell them you can try to book through intermediaries. Decide for yourself if they seem trustworthy and if the extra expenses are worth it. The other option is to arrive early, check the cashier opening time and queue at least a half hour in advance. This minimizes your waiting time and some frustration as people will try to skip the line.

Lenin’s mausoleum

Start queuing for Lenin’s mausoleum right after breakfast. It’s only open from 10.00 to 13.00 on every day but Monday and Friday. It’s an eerie and surreal experience as you enter the mausoleum with honour guards silently manoeuvring you forward. Shushing those who can’t keep quiet. You’re only allowed a brief moment to pay your respects or gawk at Lenin’s mummy. No pictures are allowed inside and before you know it you’re back outside, wondering what you have just seen. Now you’re also part of the millions who disrespected Lenin’s final wish to be quietly buried beside his mother in Saint Petersburg.


Spasskaya Tower
Spasskaya Tower

If you’re smart, you’ll have bought tickets to the Kremlin online. Especially the separate ticket for the Armoury since they can otherwise only be bought within small timeslots with long associated queues.

The Kremlin is the fortified political heart of Moscow. Although the word ‘kremlin’ is mostly associated with the Kremlin in Moscow, it’s original meaning is fortified city. You can find many more kremlins in old Russian cities like Suzdal, Novgorod and Vladimir. If you have any time, we absolutely recommend you visiting the kremlins in Russia’s so-called ‘Golden Circle’, which lies close to Moscow.

Assumption Cathedral

The first thing to see inside the Kremlin is the Assumption Cathedral. The earliest building dates back to the end of the 15th century. This is the place where most Russian Tsars were coronated and it is seen as the mother church of Muscovite Russia. The cathedral is also the burial place for most Metropolitans (popes) and patriarchs (bishops) of the Russian Orthodox church. The building has five golden domes and beautiful frescos inside.

Ivan the Great Bell Tower

Verkhospasskiy Sobor
Verkhospasskiy Sobor

If you want, you can climb the Ivan the Great Bell Tower. But you will need a separate ticket to do so. From the top, you will have some nice views of the Kremlin, the Red Square and the Moscow river.

Other cathedrals

Also, visit the Archangel Cathedral, this is the final resting place of many tsars and princes of the Russian empire. And the next-door Annunciation Cathedral with great icons inside.


The Armoury is a must-see if you like shiny objects and opulence. It’s full of silverware, jewellery, armour, weapons, crowns and Fabergé eggs. It also shows original gowns, suits and carriages for the less gold obsessed.

State historical museum

For a better understanding of Russian culture and history head over to the State historical museum. It gives a good overview of Russian history from the prehistory up to the Napoleonic wars at the beginning of the 19th century. Especially the exhibit on medieval Rus and its Viking origin are interesting. The museum itself is lavishly decorated and also houses the biggest coin collection in Russia. If the Napoleonic wars are of specific interest to you, you can visit the next-door War of 1812 museum which focuses on this time.

Saint Basil’s Cathedral

Saint Basil Cathedral
Saint Basil Cathedral

As you exit back unto the Red Square walk towards the iconic Saint Basil’s Cathedral. Construction of this colourful cathedral started in 1555 on orders from Ivan the Terrible to celebrate his capture of Kazan. The church was secularized in 1929 and now is part of the State Historical Museum and owned by the Russian Federation. The inside consists of a labyrinth of narrow vaulted corridors and vertical cylinders of the churches, absolutely worth a closer look.

Kitai Gorod

When you’re done at the cathedral, finish your day exploring Kitai Gorod. This is the oldest part of Moscow, besides the Kremlin. It still has some great historical buildings and churches from the 16th and 17th centuries. Nowadays it’s also a popular place to go for upscale diners and drinks, so enjoy reward yourself as the day of sightseeing comes to an end.

Day 2

Pushkin Museum

Start the second day with a great art museum, the Pushkin museum. This is the main museum in Moscow dedicated to foreign art. Here you’ll find masterpieces from antiquity until romanticism. Highlights are Priam’s Treasure, looted from Berlin, and Dutch Golden Age masterpieces by the likes of Rembrandt.

For spectacular modern art, go next-door to the 19th and 20th century European and American art gallery. Here you can find works by artists like Caspar David Friedrich, Goya, van Gogh, Monet, and many more. You can buy a combination ticket for both museums.

Cathedral Christ the Saviour

Cathedral Christ the Saviour
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Across the street stands a gigantic cathedral. This is the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. With a height of 103 metres, it is the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world. As imposing as the building may be, it’s not that old. The cathedral was finished in 1997, rebuilt in the image of the original one but on a larger scale. The original cathedral was destroyed by Stalin in 1931.

Red October

To the south lies Balchug or Bolotny Island in the Moscow river. On the southwestern tip of the island, you can find the former Krasny Oktyabr’ (Red October) chocolate factory. This red-bricked building houses several art galleries, restaurants, bars and clubs. This is probably a good time to have some lunch before continuing southwards.

Krymskaya Naberezhnaya

Krymskaya Naberezhnaya

When you cross the river once more you get a better view of the gigantic statue of Tsar Peter the Great which lies on a little island in the river. As you make your way towards Gorki park along the Krymskaya Naberezhnaya embankment, you pass a garden filled with statues of old Soviet leaders. These statues were removed from their original pedestals after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Now they have a new home in this sculptures cemetery.

You will pass the gigantic New Tretyakov Gallery, which you can visit on the last day, so you won’t overload with art. But if you’re as art insatiable as us, you can also visit it now.

Gorki Park

On the other side of the Garden ring road lies Gorki Park. The full name gives you an idea of what to expect here – Maxim Gorki’s Central Park of Culture and Leisure. So, leisurely enjoy the green escape from the city noise. Watch people enjoy themselves, go for a boat trip or bike ride, and finish the day with a visit to the Garage museum.

Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

The Garage Museum of Contemporary Art is a contemporary art museum where you can find both Russian contemporary art and exhibition of international contemporary artists. The experience depends on the exhibition that is on but is overall very good.

Day 3



Start your third day at the free to enter Kolomenskoye museum-reserve. This is an UNESCO world heritage site and ancient royal country estate. It lies on top of a hill overlooking a bend in the Moscow river.

It’s a 4 square kilometre picturesque park with some beautiful original buildings and some reconstructed iconic Russian wooden buildings such as wooden churches, gatehouses and palaces. The oldest and the most iconic building is the Ascension church from 1532.

Although the park itself is free, most of the buildings require a separate entrance fee. So, decide what you want to see from the inside, and just marvel at the rest from the outside. The reserve is immense and spread out, so go early as it is one of the few things in Moscow which opens early and expect to spend 2 to 4 hours here. You can get here easily by taking the subway to Kolomenskaya station.

Novospassky Monastery

Go north to Novospassky Monastery. This 15th-century monastery is free to enter. The imperial Romanov family built the main transfiguration cathedral in the 1640s. The frescoes inside show the history of Christianity in Russia and the Romanov family tree. During Soviet times the monastery was turned into a prison, since then it has been returned to the Russian Orthodox church and restored.

VDNKh (Vystavka Dostizheniy Narodnogo Khozyaystva)

conquerors of Space
Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics

Continue your way northwards and head over to VDNKh. As you exit the metro station you’re greeted by the 100-meter-high ‘To the conquerors of Space’ monument. This monument celebrates the launch of the Sputnik. The base of the monument houses the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics. Visit this museum if you want to learn more about the Soviet Space program.

The ‘Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy’ (VDNKh) shows the achievements of the Soviet Unions, its republics and their workers. The park has numerous palaces dedicated to the different Soviet republics and industries. At the centre of the park are two huge opulent fountains gilded in gold with precious gems. Other things you can find in this park are the Buran space shuttle, a rocket and fighter jets.

Day 4

Tretyakov Gallery

Tretyakov Gallery
Tretyakov Gallery

Begin your last day with the huge Tretyakov Gallery. It has an enormous collection of pre-revolutionary Russian art. Highlights of the museum are the paintings by Ilya Repin and the numerous 12th-century Icons.

New Tretyakov Gallery

From the Tretyakov Gallery, it is a 20-minute walk to the New Tretyakov Gallery. This gallery houses the 20th-century Russian art collection of the museum. Highlights are the works of our favourite artist Malevich, and also Goncherova, Popova, Kandinsky and Chagall. And don’t forget its big collection of socialist realist paintings.

Novodevichy Convent

Novodevichy Convent
Novodevichy Convent

Cross the river and take the number one subway from the Park of culture station to Sportivnaya station. From here it’s a 10-minute walk to Novodevichy Convent. The construction of this convent started in 1524 as a commemoration of the conquering of Smolensk by Vasili III in 1514. It’s main building therefore is the Smolensk Cathedral. The convent was also a place where ‘troublesome’ women from noble families were sent to spend their days in exile.

Novodevichy Cemetery

If you like wandering around cemeteries, the Novodevichy Cemetery next to the monastery is the best one in Moscow. Here you’ll find the tombs of Nikita Khrushchev, Boris Yeltsin, Anton Chekhov and Sergei Prokofiev, just to name a few.

Museum of the Great Patriotic War

Now go to the Victory Park with the victory monument, the victory museum and an exposition of military equipment. Here you can get some understanding of the huge suffering the Soviet Union endured during the Great Patriotic War (World War II). The centrepiece of the square is the 141.8-meter obelisk. Every 10 centimetres represent one day of the war.

Behind the obelisk is the museum of the Great Patriotic War. It houses dioramas of all the major battles the Soviets fought as well as impressive memorial halls. The story of the war is retold with a light show.

At the back of the museum in the southwest corner of the park is the Exhibition of Military Equipment and Weapons in the Open Air. If you’re interested in this kind of stuff be sure to visit it. Here you’ll find over 300 different World War II era pieces of military equipment from trains to tanks, to boats and planes.

Now you’ve seen the highlights of Moscow. But there still is much more to see. Moscow is definitely a city to come back to.

What to do in Moscow

Isfahan a two day itinerary

According to a Persian saying, “Isfahan nesf-e jahan“, Isfahan is half the world. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful city in the world! In the same range as Rome, Paris and Saint Petersburg. So Isfahan is a must-visit city, even if you are on a tight schedule. We made you an two-day itinerary, covering all the highlights.

Day 1

Maydan-e Iman
Maydan-e Iman

Exploring Isfahan is best done starting at the grand public square Maydan-e Iman. It’s surrounded by some of the best sights of the city. Watching sunrise there, is truly magical.

Ali Qapu palace

Start the day at Ali Qapu palace, which opens the earliest of the sites (8:00). The palace was built around 1600. Its main feature is the balcony (Talar) from which you have the best views of the square and of the two mosques. Don’t forget to look up while there, to inspect the beautiful ceilings.

Masjed-e Imam

At the southern corner of the square lies the Masjed-e Imam. Building of the mosque started around the same time as the square. Shah Abbas I initiated both at the beginning of the 17th century. Right after entering the mosque you’ll notice that the mosque itself is built at a 45-degree angle in position to the square. The north south orientation of the square prevailed in the design of the area. Both the tiling and the inlay work of the mosque is of great quality and the domes of the buildings make for fine pictures.

Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfallah

On the eastern side of the square is the small Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfallah. This is the most beautiful mosque of the city, especially when the sun is low, and sunbeams penetrate the domed chamber. Have a sit and marvel at all the intricate geometrical shapes.



Now that you are relaxed and peaceful, it’s time to make your way to the northern side of the square and enter the bazar. Head in a north-eastern direction towards Masjed-e Jame. In the meantime, you’ll come across all the spices, scarfs, jewellery and tapestries you could ever need. Get a bite to eat while you’re there.

Masjed-e Jame

Almost a thousand years old, the Masjed-e Jame (Friday mosque) is a true gem. Marvel at the 11th century dome with a 17-meter diameter. Don’t forget to take a look at the Objeity mihrat, a plastered panel from 1310 in honour of the Illhamid ruler Onjeitu. Behind this room is the vaulted winter mosque. Guides will turn the lights on and off for a great scene. More arcades and a dome are at the northern end.

Day 2

Chetel Shotun

Start the day at Chetel Shotun. This 17th century palace was used to receive foreign envoys and dignitaries. The pavilion has some huge painted battle scenes depicting battles with the Turks, Afghans and Uzbeks.

Hasht Bekesht / Ablassi hotel

If you’re into modern art, pay a visit to the contemporary art museum next door for some Iranian art. Make your way south to the small and intimate Hasht Bekesht palace and the surrounding park. If you want an ice-cream or a cup of tea, head over to the Ablassi hotel. Indulge in some luxury in this converted caravanserai and its pleasant courtyard.

Vank Cathedral

Vank Cathedral
Vank Cathedral

Next, go to the Armenian quarter (New Jolfa) on the south side of the river. The main draw here is Vank cathedral. This 17th century cathedral has beautifully painted walls. On these walls you can see various biblical scenes and Armenian tales. The grounds of the cathedral also house a memorial to the Armenian genocide and a small museum.
A short walk to the east lies Bethlehem church. This smaller church is a couple of decades older than Vank Cathedral. It has similar nicely painted and decorated walls and ceilings.
For lunch or a drink, head over to Toranj traditional restaurant. This old restored merchant house has some nice rooms and a pleasant patio.

Thuhlte Foulad
Thuhlte Foulad

Thuhlte Foulad

A ten-minute taxi ride to the east brings you to Tauhlte Foulad. A cemetery dating from the 10th century. The different tombs give an interesting overview of Islamic architectural styles.

Zayandeh River


Take the northern exit and walk for some 10 minutes towards Zayandeh River. Get some food and join the hundreds of Iranians on an evening stroll and picnic alongside the river. We’ll start our walk at Khaju Bridge. Shah Abbas II built this bridge with its octagonal pavilions in 1650. Walk westwards along the river until you reach Si-o-se-pol. This bridge is also known as Allahverdi Khan Bridge and was built in 1599. Its 33 arches are a great site at night when the bridge is lit and mirrored in the water.

Don’t forget to read our two day itinerary for Tehran!

How to spend 2 days in Isfahan
Golestan Palace

How to spend two days in Tehran

It was difficult to decide whether to make a 2 or 3-day itinerary for Tehran. Not so much because of all the things to see but more because of the sheer size of the city and the difficulty navigating it. But two days should be enough for the highlights. And most of the time, the air in the city is so polluted that its detrimental to your health anyways.

As with many big cities, Tehran lacks a proper city centre. Most of its attractions are scattered around the city. To ease you into the city we’ll start our itinerary in what could be described as a sort of centre of Tehran.

Day 1

National Museum of Iran

Darius, King of Kings

We start the day with a visit to the national museum of Iran. The museum is a bit old fashioned but it’s a great place to learn the pre-Islamic history of Iran. Highlights are the Achaemenid statues and reliefs. Which are in better state here than at Persepolis.

Next door is the Islamic museum, which is part of the same complex, so you can buy a combi ticket if needed. It has great pieces from all the periods. We’ll go to the Reza Abbasi museum also covers this.

Golestan palace complex

Next, we head south and take a walk through Park-e Shahr (City Park) and exit at the south-eastern corner. This brings us to the Golestan palace. Most of what remains today is from the end of the 19th century. The Golestan palace complex is divided into separate museums for which you’ll have to pay separately. This is the case for all palace complexes in Tehran. Choose only what interest you and skip the rest. We suggest at least a visit to the art gallery (Neggar Khaneh).


Now its’s time to mingle with the locals by paying a visit to the bazar. Do some souvenir shopping and take in the sights. A good place for lunch is Sharaf Al-Eslami at the eastern end of the bazar, near the Imam mosque.

National jewel museum

After lunch time, the national jewel museum will open. If you like sparkling and glistering things, this is the place to go. Here you find the world’s largest pink diamond, various crowns and other outlandishly shiny objects.

Bagh-e Negarestan

Kamal al-Molk museum.
Kamal al-Molk museum

One metro stop away, near Baharestan Metro Station lies Bagh-e Negarestan (Negarestan garden). Nowadays its part of Tehran university and houses the Kamal al-Molk museum. The museum is dedicated to Iran’s most famous painter and his followers.

Day 2

Azadi Tower

We start at the Azadi Tower, built to commemorate the 2500th anniversary of the birth of the Iranian nation. Nowadays it is rebranded as the freedom tower.

Milad Tower

Milad Tower
Milad Tower

Take the taxi to Milad tower, from where you’ll have great views of both the city and its mountainous backdrop.

Reza Abbasi museum

Head eastwards to the Reza Abbasi museum. This is the best museum in Tehran and you shouldn’t miss it. The museum has superb examples of Iranian miniature paintings, decorated Quran’s and archaeologic treasures.

Niavaran Palace complex

Depending on the time and your appetite for palaces, decide whether to visit the Niavaran palace complex. This is a mainly 20th century palace complex, it was the place from which the last Shah fled into exile. It consists of seven separate museums which all need a separate ticket. If you go here, at least visit the Niavaran palace itself. Completed in 1968, it looks very modern from the outside, but its interior is classic in design.

Saadabad Palace

Saadabad Palace
Saadabad Palace

When you only want to do one palace, go to the Saadabad Palace complex. It’s a 15-minute walk from Tajrish metro station. This large complex lies in the northern part of Tehran, set against the hillsides. It’s a great place to escape the madness of Tehran, relax and go for a walk. There are sixteen different museums in the complex all with sperate tickets. At least visit Mellat palace and the fine arts museum.


Take the northern exit from Saadabad palace towards Darband. Join the hundreds of Iranians going here for a walk, drink, smoke and a bite to eat. At the end of the road where the cars must turn back, take the elevator for some great views of the city. Continue back down alongside the stream. Pick a place and end your time in Tehran watching its people walk by and enjoy themselves.

Also read our review of Chogha Zanbil.

how to spend 2 days in Tehran

Day trip to Nara and Uji

While you’re in Kyoto or Osaka, make sure to leave some time to visit Nara, Horyu-ji and Uji. Nara was founded in 710 CE as Heijo-kyo (Citadel of Peace) to serve as the permanent capital of Japan. This lasted for 74 years until emperor Kammu decided to move the court out of Nara due to ever growing intrigues. These years left Nara with some magnificent history and sites.

You can do this day trip either from Kyoto or Osaka. It’s around an hour by train from both cities. It is slightly faster when you travel with the private rail companies and a little bit longer when you opt to travel the whole way with JR. This last option would save you money if you have a JR rail pass.



Everything in Nara is open from 9 a.m., many sites open even earlier. So, if you want to beat the crowds, leave early. If you want to be extremely time efficient and don’t mind getting up really early. Then start at Horyu-ji when you’re coming from Kyoto or Uji when travelling from Osaka.



The temple complex Kofuku-ji is a 15-minute walk from the station along Sanjo dori. You’ll pass some coffee shops and convenience stores along the way, nice if you need to pick up breakfast or lunch.

The temple complex of Kofuku-ji was established in 669 CE and moved to its current site when Nara became the capital in 710 CE. It remained an important temple complex for centuries until a gradual decline in power beginning in the 15th century. The temple was a victim of the Meiji restoration as many of its buildings were torn down and many of its valuables were lost.

The highlights of the complex are the five-storey pagoda, the Tohon-do with its statues and the modern Kohuihokan. The Kohuihokan houses the saved treasures from the destroyed buildings. The hall will reopen on 1 January 2018 after a yearlong restoration period.

Nara deer
Nara deer


Nara-koen is a large park which houses most of the major sites in Nara. Beside the ancient sites, the deer are another attraction. But beware of them when eating or when with little children since they can be really intrusive.

Nara National Museum

Make your way through the park towards Nara National Museum. This museum has a large collection of statues and national treasures. Check their website to see what’s on display since only a small part of the collection is on display at the same time.


Just north of the museum, behind Nandai-mon, lies Todai-ji, the main attraction of Nara. Emperor Shomu founded this temple complex in 745 CE. Most people come here to see the Daibatsu (Great Buddha) and its hall, the Daibatsuden. The magnificent Daibatsuden was the biggest wooden building in the world until 1998. The current structure is a reconstruction from 1709, only two thirds of the original size. The Daibatsu itself is 15 metres high and was originally casted in 752 CE. Not much is left of that original statue due to fires and earthquakes, but it remains a marvel anyway.


Head eastwards to get a nice view of Nara from Nigatsu-do. There, you can also visit Nara’s oldest remaining building, Sangatsu-do dating from 729.

Kasuga Taisha

From here it’s a nice walk through the park along lantern-lid paths towards Kasuga Taisha. Kusuga Taisha is an important Shinto shrine that was founded in 768. As you continue southwards you’ll pass numerous other Shinto shrines until you exit the park.

It’s a short walk to the 1300-year old temple of Shin-Yakushi-ji. Which houses some interesting statues. From here it’s a 30-min walk back to the train station.


Take either the bus or the train to Horyu-ji. It will take you between 40-60 minutes to get there.

Even according to Japanese standards, Horyu-ji is an ancient site. Prince Shotoku built Horyu-ji in 607 CE as one of the earliest Buddhist sites in Japan. It burnt down in 670 CE but was quickly rebuilt. Today it’s home to the oldest Buddhist building in Japan. Aside from that, Kon-do (Golden Hall) is also the oldest wooden structure in the world. The various temple buildings house some great early Buddhist statues.

Exit through the northeast gate, for a visit of Chuyu-ji. Chuyu-ji is a sixth century nunnery which served as residency for Prince Shotoku’s mother. A highlight of the complex is the Miroku Bosatsu statue from the early seventh century.

Take the bus back to the station and take the train back to Nara and continue towards Uji.



When you arrive in Uji, exit the station and head towards the river. As soon as you’re near the bridge, you’ll see a statue dedicated to Murasuki Shikibu, writer of the Tale of Genji. The last ten chapters of this 11th century novel are set in Uji. You can learn more about this book and the last chapters in the Tale of the Genji museum across the bridge.

We don’t cross the bridge, but go right along the river. Since Uji is the tea capital of Japan, you’ll find plenty of tea shops here. They sell tea in all price classes. Due to the light weight and the sturdy packaging of the tea, it makes for an ideal souvenir or gift.


Tea ceremony

Soon you’ll come upon the entrance to Byodo-in. This temple complex was founded in 1052. The oldest remaining building in the complex is Hoo-do (Phoenix Hall) which dates from 1053. The official name is Amida hall, after the Amida Buddha statue it houses. You can see the building on the 10-yen coin.

After exiting the temple complex, continue along the river until you’ll find the tourist office. The tourist office exploits a traditional Japanese tea house. Here you can enjoy a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and finish your day in style.

If you’re looking for tips for Kyoto, read our 2-day itinerary.

Your guide to Nara
Zen garden

Kyoto in two days part II

Welcome at day 2 of our crazy schedule to get most of the highlights in Kyoto. If you missed the first part, you can read it here. Whether you’re a business traveller with a day to spare, on a tight schedule or just wanting to see as much as possible. We will give you as much of a complete overview of Kyoto as possible.


Day 2

Fushimi Inari Taisha
Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Inari Taisha

Nothing wakes you up more than an early morning exercise, for this head over to Fushimi Inari. This site is accessible all day so come as early as you like. This should give you the opportunity for some beautiful undisturbed shots of the 10.000 torii along the way to the shrine at the top. As an added bonus, the shrine will come with a beautiful view of Kyoto. Both the site and the views are very photo-friendly.


From the top of the hill head north through the forest path. This way you can walk all the way towards Tōfuku-ji. This temple is famous for its fall foliage, the 600-year-old 22-meter-high entrance gate (Sanmon) and the different gardens.


Take the Keikan main line to Shichijō station, from there it’s a short walk to Sanjūsangen-dō. This temple houses 1.001 Kannon statues, 124 of them date back to before the 1249 fire. The others were made in the 13th Century after the fire. The main Kannon statue and some others were made by the sculptor Tankei. The outside gallery was used for archery competitions.



Take the bus (line 202, 206 or 207) or walk for 25 minutes to Kiyomizu-dera. This temple complex with its wooden platform is an iconic site in Kyoto. The way towards the complex is lined with souvenir shops and all kinds of people dressed in traditional Japanese clothing make their way towards the temple.
The temple provides great views of the city from its viewing platform. If you want a good view of Kiyomizu-dera itself, make your way to the opposite hill via Otowa waterfall.


Within the complex you’ll find various Shinto shrines helping people with their love life. Popular to test the quality of your relationship are the two ‘blind stones’. Walk between these two love stones with your eyes closed, if you can reach the other stone, you don’t have to worry about your relationship.


Head north towards Nanzen-ji by taking bus 206 to Higashiyama station. Take the Tozai line for one stop to Keage station. From here it’s a short walk to the Nanzen-ji temple complex.
Start with the smaller sub temple of Konchi-in. It is famous for its’ dry gardens designed by the 17th century tea master Kobori Enshū. At Nanzen-ji you’ll also be able to get some great shōjin ryōri, Buddhist vegetarian meals.


Silver Pavilion

On your way towards the Philosophers’ path you’ll pass Eikan-dō. This temple is a great place for maple leaf viewing in November.

Philosophers’ path

Continue northwards along the Philosophers’ path. This walk through the wooded hillside along a canal is named after a 20th century philosopher who walked here daily. After some 30 minutes, you will reach Ginkaku-ji.


It’s always important to align your expectations with reality to avoid disappointment. Ginkaku-ji (the silver pavilion) is not silver nor is its roof or anything else. But what it is, is a beautiful pavilion hidden away in a wooded area next to a pond and stylized Japanese dry gardens. So instead of impressing you with its shiny metals, it teases you with long windy hedged paths. Offering just a brief glimpse of the pavilion before you finally come up close.


Now it’s finally time to relax. Head over to the Gion neighbourhood. This is Kyoto’s famous Geisha district. Here you’ll find a lot of traditional wooden houses, many of which now function as restaurants. If you are up to spending a lot of money on food, head over to some of the best kaiseki-ryōri (Japanese haute cuisine) restaurants here. Otherwise an inexpensive but still great dining opportunity is always just around the corner wherever you are in this city.

We hoped you have enjoyed this itinerary. Also read our five-day itinerary to Tokyo and its surrounding area.

2 days in Kyoto

5 days in Tokyo: fish market, gardens, temples and museums

Exploring one of the biggest metropolis of the world is no easy feat. If you come here for the food, then stay, because no lifetime is long enough to sample everything this city has to offer. If you don’t have a lifetime to spend here, five to six days will be enough to get a decent impression. Two of these days will be spend on trips outside the city. One day trip to Kamakura and one to Nikko. Read our one-week Tokyo itinerary for more information.

Toyosu Fish Market

Tsukiji fish market has moved to the Toyosu Market some 2 kilometers away. The whole tourist experience a much more regulated and you can only view everything from viewing decks. There are still some shops and restaurants for tourists at the upper level. So if you’re really into it, go there and have the freshest sushi breakfast ever. For the best options available, follow the queues. Wherever you go in Japan, you can spot the popular and best restaurants by the length of the queues. But almost all food is of high quality, so decide for yourself if it is worth the extra wait. At least experience it once to enjoy the anticipation which comes with the waiting.

Toyosu fish Market
Sushi breakfast

Hama-rikyu Gardens

When you’re done with the fish, head over to the Hama-rikyu Gardens next to the old market. After the bustling market, the gardens feel like a peaceful oasis. At least when you’re lucky enough to avoid running into an amplified guided tour. You can enjoy some Japanese green tea in the tea house that seems to float above the pond. The peony garden, the plum tree grove and the cosmos fields provide a colourful palette to photograph.

Hama-rikyu Gardens
Hama-rikyu Gardens

End your tour of the park in the bottom right corner next to the water. Here you can buy a ticket for the waterbus, which will bring you all the way up town to Asakusa. The boat ride is a good opportunity to rest your legs and enjoy Tokyo from a different point of view.

Asakusa and Sensō-ji

At the Asakusa water bus stop you’ll have a great view of the Tokyo Skytree and Asahi beer’s headquarters. Although the Skytree has the highest viewing platform in Tokyo, other views are better and cheaper. Walk through Kaminarimon to enter Sensō-ji, one of the oldest and most magnificent temple complexes of Tokyo. As you walk along Nakamise-dōri you are treated to a host of shops selling local delicacies and a lot of souvenirs.

Tokyo Asakusa
View from Asakusa

Ueno Kōen

Take the metro from Asakusa to Ueno, the park is home to a couple of museums, shrines, temples and a zoo. It’s also one of the prime locations to watch the cherry-blossom during the spring. The Tokyo National museum has the biggest collection of Japanese art in the world and is definitively worth the visit. The museum consists of five different buildings which all have a different focus. If you have limited time, at least visit the ‘Honkan’ building. It contains a chronological exhibition of the highlights of Japanese art. Another worthwhile place is the ‘National museum of Western art’. It has an impressive collection of Impressionist paintings. Tōshō-gū is the shrine in memory of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. It is a great place to visit during the golden hour!


Take the circular Yamanote line to Shibuya where you can watch the famous crossing. The area is also filled with an enormous range of restaurants, so it’s a good idea to get something to eat here. If you still have some energy left, you can browse the area for some shopping or visiting an art gallery.

More Tokyo and its surroundings