Trip Advisor can be a nice tool to use when visiting a new city. As I mentioned in my post on making travel itineraries, TripAdvisor is one of the tools I will use. Here of some of the advantages and disadvantages of using Trip Advisor:
Trip Advisor gives a good idea of the main sites and things to do in a city. It is easy to check out what there is to do in a city you might be unfamiliar with. You can read reviews by people who have visited the sites to get an idea for a plan when visiting a new city.
Restaurants can be sorted by price and other categories. For example, you can sort by seafood or by Indian food, and you can search for fine dining or cheap restaurants. Trip Advisor will rank restaurants both overall and by category.
Trip Advisor has changed its format, apparently in an attempt to look and function more like Facebook. In my opinion this is a step in the wrong direction, and just makes the site come across as less organized. I think they should stick with what they do well and leave social media feeds to social media sites.
When using only Trip Advisor some great places can be missed, because unfortunately the majority is not always right. Also, while you can search by category, it is not always specific enough. For example, some coffee places might be rated highly for their pastries instead of their coffee. So someone looking for good coffee might end up at a place with below average coffee but good pastries (that they may not even want).
Some establishments have been known to pay for positive reviews of their establishment. They have also been found to pay employees to write fake negative reviews about competing establishments. Also, many restaurants seem to dislike Trip Advisor, and prefer to use word of mouth or other methods to grow their businesses.
I like to use trip advisor to get an idea of a place, but it is only one of a number of resources I use when planning a trip. Also, it is important to check the dates of reviews, because restaurant quality and menus can change over time so a review that is very old may be obsolete. However, using Trip Advisor can help when planning a trip to a new place.
What I did and saw:
Berlin Wall (East Side) Gallery-
Part of the infamous Berlin Wall still stands as a reminder of the past. It has become a popular place for graffiti artists, and there are some interesting works there. It is definitely worth checking out when visiting Berlin.
Sandemans Free Walking Tour-
As I have mentioned in previous posts, free walking tours are a great way to see a new city. They provide good context and some good recommendations when visiting a city.
Set on an island in the Spree River that runs through the city of Berlin, Museum Island houses some great museums, such as the Neues Museum. They offer single museum passes as well as whole island passes. I only had a day there, and I could have spent much longer there.
Topography of Terror-
Berlin has a number of free museums with the goal of educating people about the past, and the Topography of Terror museum is one of these. The hope is that through this education, we will keep from repeating past mistakes and atrocities.
Berlin, like many other German cities, has some great Christmas Markets. While some of them had closed for the season before I got there, some were still open, and they were great to visit.
Where I ate and drank:
I visited the Schlesisches Tor Burgermeister location underneath a train bridge. The unassuming place served me the best hamburger I have ever eaten. The burger, bread, and toppings are all high quality. There could be a wait during peak times, but when I was there they worked through the line relatively quickly.
Bone Berlin and Kaffee 9 (Markthalle Neun)-
Markthalle Neun is a great food market, with most of the places serving food to eat on site, but a few places selling ingredients to cook with back home. Bone Berlin serves great food for good prices. I tried the shakshuka, curry, and french toast (all with German twists to them). Located right by Bone Berlin in Markthalle Neun, Kaffee 9 serves up some really good craft coffee, with filter and espresso options.
Annelies is a great breakfast cafe. They serve good coffee and great food with excellent service (and a cool name too).
Mustafa’s Gemuse Kebap and Curry 36-
After hearing from multiple sources that Mustafa’s had amazing kebabs, I thought it was worth a try. However, there was a massive wait in line. While waiting in line I ate some curry wurst from nearby Curry 36. The curry wurst was good, but I preferred the curry wurst I had at Typisch (see below). Also, the kebab from Mustafa’s was very good, but not worth the wait in my opinion.
Typisch is a solid plane that I stopped at on my Sandemans walking tour. The curry wurst I had there was the my favorite curry wurst in Berlin.
Buck and Breck-
Hidden behind an unassuming store front, Buck and Breck is a cool, laid back speakeasy that serves high quality drinks.
Brewdog Berlin Mitte and Mikkeller-
While neither of them were started in Berlin, both Brewdog and Mikkeller have outposts in Berlin. They serve excellent craft beer and good food. The Jule Mælk I had at the Brewdog in Berlin is still one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted in my life.
The best cup of coffee I had in Berlin was at the Barn. The award winning serves up some good food options in addition to their excellent coffee.
Where I stayed:
Plus Berlin was a very nice play to stay. They even have a pool and sauna, but unfortunately I was unable to use them. They are only open from 10am-10pm everyday, and I usually would leave before 10am and not get back to the hostel until after 10pm.
How I got around:
I walked a good amount in Berlin to see the sites, but because it is such a large city, I also used the train to get around the city.
My favorite thing:
It was nice to be in Berlin during the festive Christmas season, the museums were interesting, and the food I ate was great. However, my favorite thing was the Jule Mælk I had at Brewdog.
My least favorite thing:
Due to the fact that Berlin is in a way two cities, it covers a very large area. Many sites and restaurants are very spaced out, and it can take a long time to get from place to place.
For next time:
As I said above, Berlin is a massive city, so there are still many things I want to do and try there. There are a couple more museums I would like to check out and quite a few more craft coffee places I would like to try.
While the typical coffee in Barcelona are an over-roasted, cheap, espresso based drinks, there are now some great places to get great craft coffee in the beautiful city. Here are a few of my favorite places:
When I am buying beans to use to brew at home, my favorite place to get them is at SlowMov in the Gràcia area of Barcelona. When I visit their cafe I usually will order a Chemex. They don’t have an expansive food menu, but they do offer a few tasty options.
As I am a big fan of nitro coffee, Nømad is my favorite place to drink coffee in Barcelona because they almost always have nitro on tap. They have a very limited food menu, but they are consistently trying out new things with their drink menu (especially at their coffee lab location). One of their tastier drinks blends nitro coffee with artisanal gelato with delicious results. Their roasts are used by many cafes in the city of Barcelona (and in many other cities around the world). They have a few different locations in the city (Nømad Coffee Lab, Nømad Everyday, Nømad Roaster’s Home).
Satan’s Coffee Co.-
Said to be one of, if not the, original craft coffee spot in Barcelona, Satan’s Coffee Co is tucked away in the old Jewish quarter of Barcelona. They have also opened up a spot inside a hotel near Plaza de Tetuán. The beans they use are roasted by Right Side Roasters in Castelldefels just outside of Barcelona. They also offer good, unique food that is like a Japanese-brunch food hybrid.
Cafés El Magnífico-
Having roasted in Barcelona since 1919, Cafés El Magníco is one of the most historic coffee locations in the city. However, they also keep up with the times and new methods. They serve their coffee with a variety of different methods such as V60 and syphon. They offer coffee beans from all around the coffee-growing world that are roasted on site. They have an entire book-sized menu of coffee beans to choose from to roast at home.
Three Marks Coffee-
Three Marks Coffee is another place I’ve had nitro coffee at every time I’ve been. With their upstairs seating area, they offer slightly more seating than some of the other spots on the list, and they offer a few great food options as well.
Others worth a mention:
Hidden Cafe is a nice coffee spot in the Les Corts area. Departure Coffee Co serves excellent filter coffee and they also offer some good food. Tostadores Bon Mercat offers good coffee at good prices (their beans to take home offer good value for the money).
Bond Cafe serves up great filter coffee is a place decked out with James Bond quotes and photos. Bermont Coffee and Onna Coffee are both great coffee places in the Gràcia area. Skye Coffee serves their coffee out of a van inside a warehouse that is often used for different coffee related events. Dalston Coffee doesn’t really have a seating area, but it’s a nice place to get coffee to go. Wer-Haus was an excellent place to get coffee and food, but it has closed down (although it might be opening back up again). I would also like to try the coffee at Caravelle, Morrow Coffee, and Ruma’s Coffee and Chocolate when I get a chance.
What I did and saw:
Explored the town-
Bruges is a beautiful Belgian city that is great to walk through. It is very walkable and its nooks and crannies and alcoves are worth exploring. I also got to see some of the windmills on the outskirts of the town. There are many beautiful buildings and plazas throughout the town.
The Christmas Market in Bruges is a beautiful and interesting place to walk through. They had an ice skating rink and numerous stands with tasty food and drink, along with various other items.
Basilica of the Holy Blood-
As the name suggests, the Basilica of the Holy Blood is said to have a vial of the blood of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, said to have been collected by Joseph of Arimathea. There are legends of the dried blood turning back into liquid at various times. Whether or not it is actually his blood (or even blood at all), the building itself is historic, interesting, and beautiful.
Where I ate and drank:
Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan-
The Half Moon Brewery has a pipeline that carries their product from their brewery into town. Their drink is extremely tasty, and the food they serve at their brewery is delicious also.
Although they offer only limited food options, Vero Caffe serves up some excellent coffee. It is a cool cafe that is worth a stop if you are in Bruges.
Bruges Beer Museum-
The Bruges Beer Museum is conveniently located by the main city plaza. They offer flights of different tasty Belgian brews.
Where I stayed and how I got around:
Jacques Brel Youth Hostel-
When I visited Ghent I was staying at Jacques Brel Youth Hostel in Brussels. To see more about it check out my post on Brussels. I traveled by train to both Ghent and Bruges on different days while staying in Brussels. Once there I walked to get around and take in the sights.
My favorite thing:
Bruges is a beautiful town to walk through, the Christmas market was great, and the both the food and drink I had at the Half Moon Brewery were excellent.
My least favorite thing:
I wish I could have spent more time in Bruge. There are still a handful of things I would like to see and taste there.
For next time:
As mentioned above there are still a handful of things I would like to do in Bruges, but at the top of the list are the Belfort van Brugge (bell tower) and Le Trappiste Restaurant, both of which were closed during the time I was there.
In my travels around the world I have tasted some outstanding food and drink. Here are some of the foods that are more than worth traveling for:
Cacio e Pepe and Carbonara (Rome, Italy)-
I’m typically not a fan of pasta, but Roman pasta is different than most. Cacio e Pepe literally means “cheese and pepper,” and the only ingredients are pasta, pecorino cheese, fresh ground black pepper, and olive oil. However, when each of those ingredients are of the highest quality (as they are in many place in Rome) the results are delicious. Another amazing pasta dish to get in Rome is pasta carbonara. While cream is used to make a white carbonara in many places worldwide, real carbonara (as it is made in the Rome area) has more of a yellow tint because egg yolks are used, not cream. This makes the dish much tastier when made well. Also, the gelato in Rome is amazing as well. While Rome is a very historical city, it is the tastiest food city I have visited. Fortunately there are so many great things to see, so I can do plenty of walking and sightseeing to get my appetite up between meals.
Brioche Pistachio Gelato Sandwich (Palmero, Sicily, Italy)-
When I eat unhealthy I want it to be worth it, and the brioche pistachio gelato sandwich I had in Sicily definitely was. Sicily is famous for their pistachios and their gelato, so their pistachio gelato is an absolute delight. It is common in Sicily to order the scoops of gelato on a brioche bun, and while its not very healthy (and I wouldn’t recommend eating it every day), it tastes absolutely amazing. Sicily also has some amazing pasta, cannoli, and arancini.
Franklin BBQ (Austin, Texas, USA)-
The best barbecue food I have ever eaten in my life was the barbecue I had at Franklin’s in Austin. Although there was a significant wait in line, it was more than worth it. The brisket there melts in your mouth and is incredibly flavorful. Also, Franklin’s has the stamp of approval from the late great Anthony Bourdain. In addition to some other great barbecue places (like La Barbecue), Austin also has some great taco places (like Torchy’s and Veracruz), some excellent nitro coffee, and some fun speakeasies.
Indian food (London, England, United Kingdom)-
Indian food is excellent in many parts of the United Kingdom, but the Indian food I had at Dishoom in London is the best I have eaten so far. Both the food and the chai tea (which was bottomless at lunch!) were excellent. In addition to Dishoom, London has a massive amount of other good food options, and the Borough Market is one of the best food market I have been to in the world.
Brennan’s (New Orleans, Louisiana, USA)-
The tastiest (but most expensive) breakfast I have eaten to date was the breakfast I had at Brennan’s in New Orleans. The soft-scrambled eggs were perfectly cooked, and there was real truffle shaved in and on the eggs. Also, I’m not a big bread person, but the brioche bread at Brennan’s is probably the best bread I’ve ever had. New Orleans also has some great Cajun and Creole food, and it is possibly the best city in the world for cocktails.
The Black Hoof (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)-
Located in Toronto, the Black Hoof offers some unique and incredibly tasty food.
Graeter’s (Columbus, Ohio, USA)-
Based out of the Cincinnati area (but reaching into other cities in Ohio and Kentucky), Graeter’s serves the best (non gelato) ice cream I have had anywhere in the world.
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