When deciding where to eat in Venice, my husband and I first defaulted to the idea that we’ve never had a bad meal in Italy. Then, on our first day, we encountered a mediocre lunch at a pizzeria. Although we sat outside on a glorious day, the pizza might as well been made in the United States. We vowed to be more discriminating for the rest of our trip. As a result, we found some wonderful places to eat.
As with most European cities, some of the best things to do in Venice involve visiting iconic sites. Think the Bridge of Sighs. And the Rialto Bridge. St. Mark’s Square and the Basilica. Beyond those, however, this island city offers a lot more to do, especially if you stay overnight.
Venice has a reputation for being one of the most romantic cities in the world, and for good reason. The absence of motor vehicles creates an unusual quiet, even with the throngs of tourists. Water laps at buildings, and the meandering narrow streets become a delightful puzzle. The distinctive architecture creates a beauty that defines Venice. Taken all together, you can feel as though you’ve fallen back to another era.
On a recent trip to this Catalonian city, I tracked down where to eat tapas in Barcelona. Although we usually seek out some upscale restaurants in a given city, this time we opted for more casual dinners of tapas. Of course, we often added a bottle of cava or a carafe of sangria or a glass of Priorat or Rioja. Life was good in Barcelona!
The best things to do in Barcelona range from the ancient to the modern. The Barri Gòtic and its maze of narrow streets harken back to its Roman beginnings while the dramatic glass high-rises near the water scream contemporary architecture. And Gaudì? You cannot escape the city without visiting several of his iconic modernist buildings.
Most iconic sight: the almost-finished Sagrada Familia
Best Itinerary Theme: Visiting everything Gaudì
Best tapas: Ciutat Comtal
Wildest dining experience: El Nacional tapas
Most worthwhile day tour: Mount Serrat
Most disappointing: Not everything is within walking distance
During a recent trip to Australia, I narrowed down where to eat in Sydney. I’ve done all the research and the taste-testing for World Oyster readers so that you won’t be disappointed. (Hey, someone had to do it!) All you need to do is read, book, and go.
When trying to plan the best things to do in Sydney, I found that I had to re-vamp my expectations of visiting an international city. Yes, Sydney has culture and, yes, Sydney has history; however, unlike European cities, you won’t find yourself steeped in the past. Instead, you end up embracing the now.
Most surprising: how the climate allows for outdoor activities, year round.
Best activity for families: visiting the Tarango Zoo
Most iconic sight: the Sydney Opera House
Best walk to get away from the bustle of the city: the Royal Botanical Gardens
When I visited the Netherlands earlier this year, I wanted to carefully plan where to eat in Amsterdam. Sometimes I chose by location. Other times, I wanted to satisfy my inner foodie. Not familiar with Dutch cuisine, I had no idea what to expect. On my visit I discovered that while Dutch cuisine, even at a Michelin-starred restaurant, embraces different ingredients and styles than I’m used to, the food can be delicious.
You can’t go wrong with any of the below. From Michelin-starred restaurant to casual bar, each offers quintessentially Dutch ingredients prepared in a style unique to the establishment.
Our three days in Amsterdam, the Netherlands became a whirlwind tour, mostly because, in truth, we had only two-and-a-half days. Plus, we cheated a bit by taking a tour outside of the city. No matter. Our jam-packed itinerary gave us plenty to do and see. I’m amazed by how much we managed to fit into a short period of time.
Best museum: the Rijksmuseum
Best restaurant for foodies: Rijks
Most surprising: the speed and danger of the cyclists whirring down the streets
Favorite out-of-Amsterdam stop: Edam
Most disappointing: The Heineken Experience
Get on your walking shoes because this week I cover three days in Florence, properly known as Firenze. You will clock some serious distance on foot.
The Centrale, or old city center area, holds all of the interest, with the immense, colored marble Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (better known as the Duomo) dominating it all.
Most iconic sights: Florence, as seen from the Duomo, and the Arno River, as seen from the Ponte Vecchio.
Best secondary church: Santa Croce
Favorite Museum: the Uffizi Gallery
Best foodie activities: comparing gelato across the city and sampling foods in the Mercato Centrale
Local specialities: Florentine steak, Ribollita, Paparadelle al Cinghiale, anything with truffle (tartufo.)
Two days in historic Philadelphia works well for ambitious tourists like me. Because the historic district is compact enough to sightsee on foot, you can easily hop from one attraction to another. Of course, if you have three days, you’ll be able to see a bit more. And if you really want to see Philadelphia as a whole, including its world-class museums, then you’ll want to add at least another two days.
Most iconic sight: The Liberty Bell
Sight that requires the most planning: Independence Hall
Best Museum: The National Constitution Center
Newest Addition to the District: The Museum of the American Revolution
Best historic district restaurants for foodies: Buddakan and Amada