On those precious sunny London days, there’s no better feeling than sitting outside with a drink. Pub gardens have their time and place, but in a city growing taller by the day, there are more and more places where you can get up high. Here’s our pick of the best rooftop bars in London.

Frank’s, southeast London

Potent negronis and uninterrupted views towards the centre of London have made Frank’s, summer-only bar atop a Peckham multi-story carpark, wildly popular. Scruffy it may be, but what it lacks in finesse it makes up for in attitude. To enjoy the rooftop at its best, come during the day at the weekend when there’s usually no wait to get in and plenty of seats up for grabs.

Sky Pod at Sky Garden, the City

Unlike other skyscraper bars in London, Sky Garden is a public space, and visitors are free to wander amid the 35th-floor flower beds without so much as buying a glass of prosecco. But to really make the most of this 155 metre-high oasis, come after 6pm, when you can bag one of the walk-in tables at Sky Pod. Just don’t forget to leave time to circle the gardens and make the most of the 360 degree views over the City.

Sky Garden bar, London Sky Garden by Bex Walton via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Boundary Rooftop, Shoreditch

Looking for somewhere to watch the sun set over East London? Head to the smart Terence Conran-designed Boundary Rooftop, where you can cosy up with vin chaud and hot cocktails in winter or linger over a bottle of wine on lazy summer evenings. Unsurprisingly it’s both popular and reasonably pricey, so book ahead and come prepared to splurge.

Sushisamba, Heron Tower, the City

Rooftop bars in London don’t get much higher than Sushisamba, soaring above the City on the 38th floor of the Heron Tower (officially 110 Bishopsgate). This bar-restaurant is just as glitzy as you might expect – from the glass bubble lift that whisks you up the outside of the building to the sparkling orange tree that illuminates the terrace at night. Cocktails echo their mission to fuse Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian flavours, with the likes of nashi martinis and lychee coolers.

Sushisamba, bar, London

Image courtesy of Sushisamba

Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden, South Bank

On sunny evenings it can sometimes feel like every inch of the South Bank is crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with drinkers. But there’s a way to escape the worst of the crowds. Head up the flight of yellow stairs to the top of the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, where the roof is transformed into a garden complete with a mini wildflower meadow and allotments come summer. Drinks choices are limited, but reasonably priced in comparison to competing venues.

Queen of Hoxton, Shoreditch

The terrace at Shoreditch pub-club Queen of Hoxton is one of the few rooftop bars that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Recent winters have seen a huge tent – once dubbed the WigWamBam – take over much of the space, while a rooftop cinema and colourful summer theming take over once temperatures heat up. The views aren’t the best in the capital, but drinking here is more focused around having fun.

Radio Rooftop, Covent Garden

If minimum spends and mixed reviews of the service don’t put you off, then the tenth-floor of the Aldwych ME Hotel is well worth checking out. The bar here crowns what was once Marconi House, where the BBC made their first radio broadcast – hence the catchy name. Today you might not find much in the way of ground-breaking media, but the views along the river and over south London are unrivalled.

Radio Rooftop, ME London Image courtesy of Radio Rooftop, ME London  

Kensington Roof Gardens, Kensington

Live flamingoes? Check. Restaurant owned by Richard Branson? Check. London’s flashiest rooftop, first opened in 1938, doesn’t disappoint. Although the gardens are nominally open to the public, the best way to explore them is by coming for drinks or a meal at Babylon. You can even kick off your evening with a Prince Harry cocktail, following in the footsteps of the royals who’ve reportedly partied at the “members-only” club here.

Kensington Roof Gardens Image courtesy of Kensington Roof Gardens  

Madison, the City

You can’t find much better views of St Paul’s than those from the top of neighbouring shopping centre, One New Change. Half of the rooftop is exposed to the elements and free to wander, while Madison takes over the rest. Mostly indoors, this bar can feel a dominated by suited City-types in the week, so aim to come outside peak times when you might even be able to steal a sofa all to yourself. Snapping a perfectly framed view of the cathedral in the glass lift on the way up is almost obligatory.

Madison bar, London Drinks at Madison by Raphaël Chekroun via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)  

Ham Yard Hotel, Soho

Opened in 2014, the Firmdale-owned Ham Yard Hotel is one the most recent additions to London’s high-end hotel scene. Its airy rooftop is officially for the use of guests only, but after a pop-up bar run by West London gin brand Sipsmith sold out this winter, it seems likely future events will make it more accessible. Look out for the two bee hives which supply the honey used in some of the house cocktails.

A photo posted by @sylvia_london on

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Header image courtesy of Radio Rooftop, ME London.

Rum is history in Puerto Rico. This island is the leading producer of rum (ron) in the Caribbean and there were once hundreds of small distilleries here.

Track down its greatest rum-making dynasties and you might meet Fernando Fernandez, heir to the family that has been making Ron de Barrilito since 1880. His office lies inside the shell of a graceful windmill built in 1827, surrounded by aged photographs of his grandfather and dusty bottles of what many believe to be the world’s finest rum.

The rambling hacienda contains cellars crammed with white-oak barrels of rum, once used to mature Spanish sherry, the air thick with the burnt, sweet aroma of sugar molasses. Workers bottle the rum by hand, slap on labels and then pile them, delicately, onto trucks for distribution.

Real connoisseurs drink Barrilito on ice – a spicy, rich spirit that goes down like fine Cognac.

Playa Lucia at sunrise, south east Puerto Rico.

The top rum-maker in Puerto Rico, however, is Don Q. The brand was created by the Serrallés family, who started selling rum in 1865 in the southern coastal city of Ponce. You might try it in Puerto Rico’s national cocktail, the piña colada.

Then there’s Casa Bacardí. Visit this slick tourist centre inside the “cathedral of rum”, the vast Bacardí distillery across San Juan Bay, and you’ll enter another world – Cuba, to be precise.

The Bacardí family started making rum in Santiago de Cuba in 1862, and now utterly dominate the world market. Hand-held audio devices and enthusiastic guides help you navigate the seven sections of the centre.

Puerto Rico, San Juan. Bacardi Rum Distiller, rum bottles

Special barrels allow you to “nose” the effects of wood barrelling, ageing and finishing, as well as the various Bacardí brands on offer: sweetly scented apple and melon flavours and the rich, addictive aroma of coconut-laced rum – piña colada in a bottle.

Bacardí abandoned Cuba in 1960 and now has its headquarters in Bermuda, but while you can argue about where it came from or who made it first, there’s no doubt that today the home of rum is Puerto Rico.

Make the most of your time on earthDiscover more unforgettable places around the world with the new edition of Make the Most of Your Time on EarthCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Polluted, rainy and business-orientated. Let’s face it, a trip to Bogotá hardly sounds appealing. And many travellers don’t bother to probe much further than this bleak reputation, seeing Bogotá either as somewhere to be skipped out altogether, or as merely a logistical blot on a more exciting itinerary.

Other Latin American cities such as Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro are huge tourist draws, and within Colombia there are more great cities: Medellín’s gripping mix of hedonistic nightlife and cruel cartel-centre past, Cartagena’s heady blend of Caribbean buzz and colonial beauty, Cali’s famous salsa scene.

But Bogotá deserves to be seen as more than just a stop-over. Spend some time here and you’ll realise the city quietly works its humble magic; slowly revealing an irresistible pull of vibrant art-strewn streets, quirky cafés and one of the most interesting urban cycling innovations in the world. Here, we’ve whittled down the top six reasons to give Bogotá a chance.

2341897770_635b9747e2_oLa Candelaria by Luz Adriana Villa on Flickr (license)

1. For the street art

Sao Paulo, London, Valparaíso, Montreal – some cities are well known for their street art. But amongst the artistic community Bogotá is up there with the best, with international artists flocking to its streets to contribute to its thriving scene.

Bogotá doesn’t just accept art, it actively encourages it with neighbourhood commissioned pieces, privately funded works and local schools hiring street artists to teach classes.

While there’s art all over the city, it’s La Candelaria, Bogotá’s oldest neighbourhood, where it’s most concentrated. Here the narrow, cobbled streets have become a canvas for artistic expression: buildings are cloaked in colourful works from strikingly lifelike faces to bizarrely endearing flying potatoes.

But the creativity doesn’t stop at eye level, the tiled rooftops are littered with strange statues: a juggler on a unicycle wobbling along the edge of a roof, a figure sitting with a banana dangling from a fishing rod. Bogota Graffiti Tour is the best introduction to this dynamic culture, led by guides who are all closely involved in the street art community.

The free tour (donations welcome) explains the historical and socio-political contexts behind each piece and the collective culture, and introduces the styles of the city’s most compelling artists, from Guache’s multi-coloured, often-dreamlike focus on indigenous issues, to Toxicómano’s hard-hitting anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist driven pieces.

15310368144_41f239bbd0_oBogotá street art by Frank Plamann on Flickr (license)

2. For innovative urban cycling

One word: Ciclovía. This is the stuff urban cyclists dream of, a day when you can ride through car-free city streets. In Bogotá this happens every week when Ciclovía clears the traffic from 76 miles of roads right through the city centre.

Every Sunday, more than two million people come out to reclaim the tarmac: cycling, jogging, roller blading, dog-walking and strolling with pushchairs, while Recrovía fills the parks and paths with free yoga and aerobic classes.

The programme has been running since 1974, with such success that other Colombian and international cities are now following suit. For Bogotá this is about more than just exercise and a break from the mind-numbing traffic-clogged streets: in a society where the gap between rich and poor is so great, and so much emphasis lies on the status of owning a car, this is the perfect leveller and social integration at its best.

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Ciclovia em Bogotá by Cidades para Pessoas on Flickr (license)

3. For the great gourmet pleasures

There’s been an explosion of culinary creativity in Bogotá. From quirky hybrid ventures to smarter joints where nuevo Colombiano chefs are experimenting with traditional ingredients and international techniques, Colombia’s capital is a great place for a feed, with each neighbourhood harbouring its own foodie vibe.

La Candelaria has a number of small, creative places tucked away down its winding, graffiti-splashed streets. A small space with an exposed brick bar, Sant Just has an innovative, daily-changing menu that blends French cuisine with Colombian ingredients, served up in enormous portions. A few streets away, La Peluqueria is an exciting blend of edgy café, hairdresser and creative space for emerging artists.

In La Macarena, a village-absorbed-by-the-big-city neighbourhood, there’s a clutch of international restaurants, one of the best being Tapas Macarena – a tiny, charming spot for authentic Spanish cuisine.

To the north, Zona Rosa and Parque 93 hold Bogotá’s smarter dining. Amongst the competition, Central Cevicheria is up there with the best, serving zingy ceviche in a cool space decked out with bare wood and industrial lighting.

Bogota street art

La Peluquería by Olivia Rawes

4. For real coffee

Colombian coffee is world famous, but as new arrivals quickly learn the best produce is exported. Hold your disappointment: a number of cafés in Bogotá are working hard to address this.

Leading the way is Azahar, a café founded by travellers who wanted to re-establish the connection between coffee, local farmers and Colombian people. A shipping container houses the café: repurposing the very vessel that is so often associated with taking the best beans away from the country, and here using it to serve great coffee back to Colombians.

This care and passion trickles down to the product: each single origin coffee served is traceable back to an individual farmer, with the bag detailing information about the farmer and the plantation – there’s even a QR code that links to a video of the farmer explaining what makes their own coffee so special.

coffee-1156877_1920

Pixabay / CC0

5. For the views

Looming over Bogotá’s city centre, is Cerro de Monserrate, one of the city’s most loved landmarks. Cable cars and a funicular railway run up and down the mountain, while athletic locals and those tourists who’ve adjusted to the altitude tackle the steep, one-hour-thirty-minute walk up to the top.

Whichever way you ascend, the panoramic sweep of the cityscape below is stunning. Often framed by a dramatic sky, the city spreads out from forested mountains into a sprawl of low-rise tiled roofs. The scattering of taller buildings announce that Bogotá is on the cusp of the skyscraper age.

Bogotá desde MonserrateMonserrate by Luis Jou García on Flickr (license)

6. For the underground cathedral

Add an extra day to your Bogotá stay and explore the surrounding area. An easy, and unmissable day-trip is to Zipaquirá, home to the only underground cathedral in the world. Carved out of an old salt mine hidden in the depths of a mountain, the site is an astounding maze of winding passages, carved crosses, and small chapels.

The most impressive part is undoubtedly the vast main cathedral: an eerily-beautiful, purple-lit space delineated by huge pillars and a lofty ceiling, and filled with a rock-hewn altar and the biggest subterranean cross in the world.

Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá | Catedral de Sal de Zipaquirá |Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá by Jimmy Baikovicius on Flickr (license)

Explore more of Bogotá with The Rough Guide to Colombia. Compare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. Cover image from: Pixabay/CC0

Blame Frances Mayes. Ever since she penned Under the Tuscan Sun twenty years ago the region has seen an unstoppable influx of English and American tourists descend on the area, which has left neighbouring regions, with just as much to offer, decidedly in the shade.

Emilia-Romagna, home to an officially designated ‘Food Valley’, the majority of Italy‘s high performance auto industry and a host of charming, historic towns, is one such region that has to shout louder than its popular neighbour to attract tourist dollars.

The flipside of that, however, means fewer crowds and a better chance to grab a slice of authentic northern Italian life. Here are a few highlights of Emilia-Romagna.

Pork lovers rejoice

As with most Italian regions, Emilia-Romagna earns its place on the foodie map via certain specialties. Filled pasta is one, with anolini (little ravioli-like discs, stuffed with truffles and mushrooms) being a particular stand-out, while another attraction is the region’s wealth of pork products.

No meal here is truly complete without some choice cold cuts. Parma ham is perhaps the most famous, but that’s just the tip of the proverbial porcine iceberg. Culatello di Zibello is one of the rarer kinds. It’s produced in the lowlands of Colorno, where the thick fog wafting from the River Po creates the ideal environment for these hams to mature. They’re hung in dark, humid cellars, with expert staff regularly brushing off mould and testing their quality by simply tapping them with a hammer.

Ham in meat locker, Parma, Italy

Al Vèdel is one of only fourteen Culatello producers in the world, where you may also be introduced to the strange delights of sparkling red wine. The local Lambrusco is chosen for its refreshing qualities complementing the rich pork cuts. It’s complex and takes a while to adjust your palette accordingly, but is light years away from the cheap and cheerful supermarket plonk we may associate with Lambrusco outside of Italy.

The perfect accompaniment to these cuts are some Gnocchi Fritti – great, puffy pockets of fried bread, usually stuffed at the table with whatever meats and cheeses you can lay your hands on.

Palatial Parma

Parma was an important Roman trading post – and later a major staging town for pilgrims, which explains the grandeur of the city’s architecture. Today it’s the region’s main cultural hub. You can practically hear the ghosts of Verdi and Toscanini echoing around the pedestrianised streets of the Old City.

Make time to explore the Teatro Farnese, an extraordinary complex of buildings, crowned by the Baroque masterpiece that is the Villa Farnese Theatre. This vast, wood-panelled ‘coliseum’ was built in 1611 for epic royal celebrations and is still used for classical music performances today.

Cathedral and Battistero in Parma, Italy

Fast cars meet slow food in Modena

Modena pairs fast cars with slow food. Lamborghini, Maserati and Ferrrari all craft their automobiles here. The futuristic Enzo Ferrari Museum gives you a glimpse into the man behind the motor, and you can take a tour to zip around the region’s essential foodie pitstops.

In pole position on the province’s grid of gourmands sits Massimo Bottura, the triple Michelin starred chef behind the wheel at Osteria Francescana, which is currently ranked second in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

A visit to a traditional balsamic vinegar producer is a must. Take a tour of Villa Bianca‘s vineyards, carefully irrigated by robots, to get a glimpse of the 12-year-plus artisanal process. They mature the vinegar using strictly controlled methods, siphoning the sweet stuff between barrels of varying woods and sizes, all with a reverence usually reserved for wine.

2010 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano turning on rural road

There’s more to the city’s urbanity than food and cars though. Modena’s reputation as a hotbed of intellectualism and radical ideas is showcased by the often sold-out evening events at the Philosophy Festival on Piazza Giuseppe Mazzini. At the nearby Piazza Grande, it’s worth reflecting on the shimmering photo wall showing the faces of hundreds of Partisans who helped overthrow Fascism.

Comacchio: Emilia-Romagna’s answer to Venice

Okay, there’s only one Venice, but the sleepy estuary town of Comacchio on the Po Delta gives it a run for its money, with its maze of canals, stylised bridges and pastel-fronted buildings.

The entire town owes its livelihood to the humble eel, a history which is documented to surprisingly fascinating effect at the Eel Pickling Factory and Museum. Here you can see the ingenious nets and traps used to land eels over the centuries, who make an annual pilgrimage all the way from the Sargasso Sea to Comacchio, and the cavernous fireplaces used to roast them prior to pickling.

Sophia Loren became the slippery beast’s unlikely ambassador in the 1950s, after she starred as an eel fisherwoman in the film La Donna Del Fiume, with her face adorning the tins to this day. Drop into one of the many canal-side restaurants to sample local delicacies like “Donkey’s Beak” (eel soup served with grilled polenta).

Italy, Emilia Romagna, Comacchio, Torre dell'Orologio

The pleasures of Piacenza

When James Boswell came through Piacenza on his 1765 Grand Tour of Italy, he noted that the name literally translates as “pleasant abode, certainly a good omen.” Today the biggest town on the banks of the Po River is known for producing the largest amount of DOP and DOC cured meats, cheeses and wines in all of Italy.

Expect to sample a hefty portion of these at Taverna In, a modest-looking osteria in the shadow of the town theatre, designed by Lotario Tomba, the architect behind Milan’s famous La Scala opera house.

The town’s centrepiece is the Piazza dei Cavalli, dominated by bronze horse statues, the symbol of the powerful Farnese family who ruled the region during the sixteenth century, and the Gothic Palace, which has a distinctly Venetian feel.

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Since the 1960s, foreign tourists have flocked to Goa, India’s smallest state, attracted by its palm-fringed golden beaches, glorious sunshine and distinctly relaxed attitudes. Domestic tourism has taken off enormously in recent years too, such that now almost ninety percent of visitors are from within India.

Kerala, several hundred kilometres south, draws double the number of both domestic and foreign tourists than Goa, with its dense tropical landscape, tantalising festivals and 550km of striking coastline.

Here’s what to expect from each of these captivating states, and how to decide whether to visit Goa or Kerala first.

St Cajetan from Divar Island, Old Goa, India

What’s the local culture like?

Goa was a Portuguese territory from the sixteenth century until 1961, and a quarter of the population remain Christian today. Though Hindus still make up the majority of the population, unusually for India you’ll find churches in pretty much every town, some of the best of which are in Old Goa, the state’s former capital and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kerala is intensely ritualistic, with numerous ancient indigenous practices that are unique to this region and which make a visit here far more alien to Western perceptions than Goa. All-night festivals are frequent occurrences at temples across the state, with fireworks, splendidly adorned elephants and deafening drums combining to create magical spectacles.

A performance of kathakali, Kerala’s most famous form of ritual drama, is well-worth experiencing to see the elaborately made-up and fantastically dressed performers act out ancient stories with astonishing intensity.

India, Kerala, Cochin (Kochi), Christmas celebrations, street parade

Which is best for food?

Goa and Kerala are renowned for their excellent cuisines. South Indian curries are generally much spicier than those in northern India, and use simpler, tangier ingredients often including copious amounts of coconut, fresh chillies, tamarind and curry leaves.

Masala dosas originated in southern India, and are a breakfast staple across both states. Rice usually replaces bread in family homes of both states, though in touristy places – and especially in Goa – naans, chapatti and parathas are readily available.

Yet despite these similarities, Goan and Keralan cuisines differ more than you might think.

Idli, steamed rice cakes, are a staple in Kerala, usually served with sambar, a lentil-based vegetables stew. Vada, deep-fried lentil doughnuts, are also immensely popular here, where meals are often served on banana leaves. The vindaloo, meanwhile, is a Goan creation. Vinegar, one of the key ingredients, is a Portuguese legacy, and these ultra-hot curries are traditionally made with pork.

Keralan food is traditionally vegetarian, but you’ll find meat in most places, and fresh, delicious seafood is ubiquitous, as it is in Goa.

India, Goa, fish curry

Where can I party?

When hippies flocked to Goa in the 1960s, parties spread like wildfire. By the 1990s, Goa Trance was in full swing, attracting partygoers from all over the world to dance till dawn on the sand or in beautiful jungle settings. At the turn of the millennium, the authorities clamped down, banning loud music after 10pm, and with it went the rave scene.

These days parties do still exist (if the police are successfully paid off), and Goa still has a reputation as the party capital of India, particularly around Anjuna and Vagator. Beer as well as local and imported spirits are widely available at beachside restaurants, and cocktails are especially popular in the early evening happy hours.

Kerala, by contrast, has never had much in the way of nightlife, unless you count all-night kathakali performances. Some hotels and restaurants catering for tourists do serve alcohol (amusingly sometimes disguised in tea pots in unlicensed places). In coastal resorts such as Varkala, you’ll find plenty of cheap booze, and even the odd impromptu party which carries on till the small hours.

India, Goa, Palolem Beach, beach lined with huts and backed by palm trees

Where will I find the best beaches?

Goa’s beaches tend to be wider and cleaner than that of Kerala, and are, overall, more tourist-friendly. You can take strolls down the beach and continue for hours, connecting from one resort to the next, which isn’t possible in most places in Kerala. Beachside accommodation is plentiful, from budget shacks to glitzy resorts. There are coastal yoga retreats galore and shops selling the usual hippy tat wherever you go.

Though Kerala’s beaches tend to be smaller, and the beach-shack culture is pretty much non-existent, “God’s Own Country” is home to numerous pretty shores, particularly in the far north where you’ll find some gorgeous quiet coves scattered among little fishing villages. Kerala is also queen of Ayurvedic treatments – if you’re interested in some alternative therapies, this is the place to for you.

India, Goa, huts and palm trees at Palolem Beach

What sights are there to see?

Old Goa is home to some lovely examples of whitewashed churches, and the Dudhsagar waterfalls near the southern border with the state of Karnataka manage to draw curious tourists inland. But it’s Goa’s beaches which brings most people here, rather than any specific “sights”.

The main attraction for visitors to Kerala is Fort Cochin, with its European-era architecture, spice markets, iconic Chinese fishing nets, art exhibitions and hip cafés. Another Keralan allure is the chance to ride a boat through the myriad of narrow backwaters that weave their way through lush forests and offer a glimpse into traditional rural village life that’s barely changed for centuries.

India, Kerala, Kerala Backwaters

Where should I go in a nutshell?

If you’re up for some serious sun worshipping, plenty of boozing and some yoga to cleanse your soul the morning after, your best bet is Goa. If you’re looking for a quieter, more culturally immersive trip, try Kerala. And if you have a weakness for punchy curries, extend your trip and go to both.

Explore India with the Rough Guide to IndiaCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

It’s safe to say, most people’s preconceptions of Hull aren’t brilliant. In the past it has been named Britain’s worst city and the least romantic place in the UK. But Kingston upon Hull, to use its proper name, has come into its own in recent years.

Designated the UK City of Culture for 2017, Hull is finally showcasing to the world what a vibrant and intriguing place it really is. With exhibitions and celebrations all over the city this year, culminating in the September Freedom Festival, there’s plenty to interest every visitor. But even without all these special events, it remains a brilliant weekend away.

Here are just a few reasons to love this misunderstood city.

1. Its historical charm will surprise you

You might expect to see industrial factories and high-rise concrete blocks throughout Hull, but while much of the city was flattened by bombing during the blitz, some of its oldest streets remain.

Head to the Old Town, where cobbled roads are lined with charming old houses and visit the 700-year-old Holy Trinity Church for some typically British Gothic architecture.

The Victorian indoor marketplace and shopping arcade also evokes a past age; there are a handful of vendors still inside selling fresh fish and coffee, and the shops range from electronics to a quirky old joke store.

Hull Victorian shopping arcade, Yorkshire, EnglandShopping arcade by Lottie Gross

2. It’s full of cosy drinking holes

There’s nothing better than, after a long day of exploring, settling into a comfortable corner with a good old pint of English ale. Fortunately, there is plenty of opportunity for this in Hull.

Try the Lion & Key whose walls and ceiling are colourfully covered in beer mats, the Minerva, which is steeped in maritime history, and Ye Olde Black Boy, whose facade was painted pink for the Freedom Festival to signify that “colour doesn’t matter”, for local ales and snug seating.

The seventeenth century George Hotel has a lovely, wood-panelled bar, and just outside you can find what’s purported to be the smallest window in the world.

Need something to soak up that hangover? Look out for patties on any pub, restaurant or take-away menu. These deliciously deep-fried discs of mashed potato seasoned with sage are the perfect cure to the morning after your historic pub crawl. Try a pattie butty – yes, that’s two slices of bread with a pattie in the middle – if you need a carb overload. For something a little more upmarket, but equally comforting, try 1884 Dock Street Kitchen’s Sunday roasts.

3. There are brilliant museums – and they’re free

From street life and art to geology and archaeology, Hull’s free museums cover it all. There’s something for all ages, whether it’s climbing atop old trams and trains, or delving into the city’s maritime history.

Head to The Hull and East Riding Museum to travel through time: you’ll walk through a reconstructed iron age village, explore Roman bathhouses and see ancient Viking artefacts.

One of the city’s more poignant exhibitions is Wilberforce House, once the home of William Wilberforce who helped abolish slavery in the nineteenth-century British Empire. His pretty Georgian house in Hull’s Old Town High Street is now a museum about slavery, with films and interactive displays, as well as the work of Wilberforce himself.

If you’re looking for something a bit more hands on, hop aboard the Arctic Corsair (located behind the Streetlife Museum) for a guided tour of the city’s last remaining sidewinder fishing trawler – one of the most important vessels in the city’s deep sea fishing fleet.

Hull Street Life Museum, YorkshireThe Streetlife Museum by Lottie Gross

4. It’s played home to some of Britain’s greatest figures

Poet Philip Larkin is one of Hull’s most famous exports, but there’s a whole host of big names that have grown up or settled in Hull. William Wilberforce – the man who helped abolish slavery in the UK – lived in Hull and his old home, a creaky, red-brick house, is now a museum dedicated to the fight against slavery.

There’s an entire book, titled The Famous Side of Hull, published by locals listing all the celebrities from the area, and even a hall of fame in Spin It Records inside the market building.

Statue of William Wilberforce, at Wilberforce House, Hull, YorkshireWilberforce House by Lottie Gross

5. The city knows how to throw a party

The Freedom Festival is the highlight of the Hull calendar – a long weekend of performance arts, installations, street food and some seriously impressive fireworks.

The festival name hails from the link between William Wilberforce and Hull, but – according to the festival website – it’s as much about freedom of the people as it is about “exploring local, national and international representations of freedom, independence of spirit and creative expression.”

20150905_183622-01The Deep and the Humber by Lottie Gross

6. It’s going to be City of Culture 2017

We’ve long championed Hull as a travel destination – but in 2017 the city will be given a real change to shine as the UK’s Capital of Culture.

There’ll be something to see or do every day of 2017, and millions of pounds of investment flowing into the city.

7. It’s not that unromantic after all

We challenge anyone to stand in the tip of The Deep, watch the sun turn the sky a fiery orange as it sets over the Humber, and not feel even just a little wooed.

A photo posted by Lottie Gross (@lortusfleur) on


Explore more of Hull with the Rough Guide to YorkshireCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Traditionally, pilgrimage meant hoofing it, wayfaring the hard way. Yet most Catholic authorities will tell you there’s nothing particularly sinful about making it easier on yourself.

You could roughly trace Spain’s Camino de Santiago, or Way of St James, by car … but then taking full advantage of the fringe benefits – discounted accommodation and gorgeous red wine – would prove difficult. The answer? Get on your bike.

7734187390_ffb66e6096_oDay 1 by Juan Pablo Olmo (CC license

With reasonable fitness and not a little tenacity, the mantra of “two wheels good, four wheels bad” can take you a long way on the religious pilgrimage route that pretty much patented European tourism back in the Middle Ages.

The most popular section begins at the Pyrenean monastery of Roncesvalles, rolling right across northwestern Spain to the stunning (and stunningly wet) Galician city of Santiago de Compostela, where the presence of St James’s mortal remains defines the whole exercise.

2506038144_dc320a8b3b_oCamino de Santiago by Fresco Tours (CC license)

Pack your mac, but spare a thought for the pre-Gortex, pre-Penny-Farthing millions who tramped through history, walking the proverbial 500 miles to fall down at Santiago’s door.

Bikers can expect a slight spiritual snag, however: you have to complete 200km to qualify for a reprieve from purgatory (twice the minimum for walkers). But by the time you’re hurtling down to Pamplona with a woody, moist Basque wind in your hair, though, purgatory will be the last thing on your mind.

Granted, the vast, windswept plains between Burgos and León hold greater potential for torment, but by then you’ll have crossed the Ebro and perhaps taken a little detour to linger amid the vineyards of La Rioja, fortifying your weary pins with Spain’s most acclaimed wine.

DCIM100GOPROphoto by Luis Marina (CC license)

The Camino was in fact responsible for spreading Rioja’s reputation, as pilgrims used to slake their thirst at the monastery of Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The medieval grapevine likewise popularized the route’s celebrated Romanesque architecture; today many monasteries, convents and churches house walkers and cyclists.

Once you’re past the Cebreiro pass and into Celtic-green Galicia, rolling past hand-ploughed plots and slate-roofed villages, even a bike seems newfangled amid rhythms that have scarcely changed since the remains of St James first turned up in 813.

Make the most of your time on earthA “credencial” or Pilgrim’s Passport, available from the monastery at Roncesvalles or via csj.org.uk, entitles you to free or very cheap hostel accommodation. Discover more unforgettable places around the world with the new edition of Make the Most of Your Time on Earth.

Record numbers of visitors have been racing to get to Cuba ‘before it changes forever’ since President Obama’s historic announcement in December 2014 that diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba were to be restored.

Since then the relationship has continued to warm, but there has been more speculation than tangible change as a result – though significant developments have included the re-opening of embassies in both countries, Airbnb’s entry into the Cuban market and a broader, more flexible set of rules governing US visitors to Cuba. Whilst US visitor numbers are up they still accounted for little more than 150,000 of the more than 3.3 million international arrivals in 2015.

Though change has been in the air for some time now – much of it the result of new domestic policies – the really transformative changes may well take place in the coming year.

2 cuban men playing music in havana street

This might well be a truly momentous year for Cuba – and though fears that McRice and Beans will soon be appearing on menus around Havana may be unfounded panic, the Cuban Government unlikely to embrace capitalist changes to that extent in the foreseeable future, by the end of 2016 Cuba really could look quite different to how it looked at the start.

Here are a few new and exciting things happening in Cuba this year.

1. The capital’s dining scene will continue to break new ground

Cuba, but more precisely and strikingly Havana, is rapidly shaking off its out-of-date reputation for bad food. Its increasing kudos in foodie circles is sure to take another step forward this year when internationally-renowned chefs Massimo Bottura, Enrique Olvera and Andoni Luis Aduriz open a restaurant in the Cuban capital. Said to be called ‘Pasta, Tapas y Tacos’, after the national cuisines of their respective homelands. With a new restaurant opening seemingly every week and a swathe of exciting openings last year, this year could see Havana break free from that old reputation once and for all.

2. Ritmo Cuba salsa festival

Dance schools have popped up all over the island since the laws governing private enterprise in Cuba were relaxed five years ago. The most ambitious project to have emerged from this new wave of businesses is Ritmo Cuba, an international salsa festival to take place from 18–24 April 2016.

Drawing on the expertise of a whole host of Cuba’s most renowned dance teachers, the festival is a packed week of workshops, dance classes and shows, guided tours and dance parties suitable for everyone from beginners to experienced salseros.

Cuba, Camaguey, Camaguey Province, City view looking towards Iglesia De Nuestra Se–ora De La Soledad

3. New tours and operators

The current ceaseless demand for travel to Cuba has seen new organised tours popping up left, right and centre, many offered by US agents who can provide itineraries that meet one or more of the twelve criteria set out by the US Government for any of its citizens travelling to Cuba.

Among the newest of these so called ‘people-to-people’ tours is insightCuba’s four-night Weekend in Santiago de Cuba Tour, with an emphasis on music and the history of the Cuban Revolution, launching in January and already selling out fast.

Central Holidays’ ten-day, themed Afro Cubanismo tour, visits Havana, Camaguey and Santiago de Cuba, and Coda International Tours’ introduce what they bill as “the only all-gay trip to ‘Unexplored Cuba’”.

Luxury travel agent Abercrombie & Kent is amongst the operators visiting Cuba for the first time this year whilst at the other end of the scale, Cuban-based Havana Supertours add the Mob Tour to their original and diverse set of day trips around the capital, tracing the history of the Mafia in pre-revolutionary Havana with transportation, as with their other tours, in a classic 1950s American car.

4. Gran Teatro reopens

The Gran Teatro, one of Havana’s most magnificently ornate buildings, home to the Cuban National Ballet, reopens to the public on January 3 after several years of closure. Now known as the Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso, this cathedral of dance has been meticulously restored and is one of the most awe-inspiring sights in Habana Vieja. See it at night when its shining regal exterior, which has been cleaned so thoroughly you’d think it had only just been built, is now captivatingly lit and the new jewel in the Parque Central crown sparkles above you.

Gran Teatro, Great Theatre, and Capitolio building, Havana, Cuba

5. Cruise liner companies launch Cuba itineraries

Cruise ships have been a rare sight in Cuban harbours over the last five decades but in 2016 they are set to become a regular feature in the ports of Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.

Cyprus-based Celestyal Cruises have been sailing their 1200-passenger Celestyal Crystal on seven-day circuits around the island since last December, whilst Italian-owned MSC Cruises has become the first major cruise ship company to use Cuba as a starting point for cruises, operating from the Cuban capital until 12 April this year.

The world’s largest cruise line, Carnival, an American company, will join in in Spring 2016 when it commences sailing to Cuba for the first time – though technically, according to US law, the ship’s passengers will not be permitted to sunbathe on the beach as this does not qualify as an activity which supports the Cuban people.

6. Manana music festival

Manana 2016 is the first ever international electronic music festival on Cuban soil, taking place in May (4–6) in Santiago de Cuba. The brainchild of Londoners Harry Follett, Jenner del Vecchio and Cuban musical artist Alain Garcia Artola, the festival will feature an unprecedented mixture of mostly UK, US and Cuban-based musical talent.

There will be boundary-breaking collaborations between Cuban musicians of various musical genres and foreign electronic artists. Among the confirmed performers are British-born electronic and Latin music DJ and producer Quantic, UK dubstep pioneer Mala, and Cuban rumba innovators Obba Tuke.

Cuba, Cienfuegos province, Cienfuegos, Punta Gorda, landing stage of the Yacht Club (Club nautico)

7. New ferries and flights from US

Cuba and the US might have seemed like a world apart for most Americans over the last fifty years or so but there has been just 90 miles between them the whole time. For travellers from the US it should become startlingly apparent over the next twelve months just how close Cuba is, with three-hour ferry services from Florida to Havana likely towards the end of the year, and scheduled commercial flights for the first time in over half a century due even sooner.

Catching a direct flight between the US and Cuba currently means booking a relatively expensive and often complicated charter flight, but, after an agreement reached between the two countries in December last year, American Airlines, JetBlue and United Airlines are set to be amongst the carriers ready to operate a total of more than twelve flights daily from the US to Cuban airports.

8. Rock legends in concert

Listening to Western pop and rock stars in the first couple of decades after the Cuban Revolution of 1959 was considered anti-revolutionary and became an underground activity. So whilst there have been occasional performances from left-leaning rock groups like the Manic Street Preachers and Audioslave over the last twenty years, there is a greater significance, in some respects, to the performances said and set to take place in 2016 by Sting, Stevie Wonder and the Rolling Stones.

Puerto Rican singer Olga Tanon concert in Havana

9. Hay Literary Festival comes to Cuba

It’s a long way from South Wales to Cuba and the cultural gap is perhaps even wider, but the organisers of the Hay Festival are planning to demonstrate again this year that good literature bridges divides.

Having already launched in Spain, Peru, Colombia and Mexico, the literary festival comes to Cuba on January 25 and 26. Attendees will include Jon Lee Anderson, American reporter who wrote the definitive English-language biography of Che Guevara, esteemed Mexican author Guadalupe Nettel and English novelist Hanif Kureishi. Cuban writers at the event will include Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, author of Dirty Havana Trilogy, one of the most internationally successful Cuban novels of the last twenty years, alongside Antón Arrufat, Mirta Yáñez, Reynaldo González, Marilyn Bobes, Dazra Novak and Rafael Grillo.

10. New luxury at Hotel Manzana de Gomez

They can’t build hotels quick enough to meet the rising demand for visitor accommodation and a slew of new hotels around the island is due in the next year. The highest profile of these is the Hotel Manzana de Gomez on Havana’s increasingly splendid Parque Central, right in the epicentre of the changing capital and due to open in late 2016.

When it does open, this grandiose five-floor, 246-room neoclassical landmark, occupying an entire block and with a rooftop pool, will be one of the largest in the old city and transform the eastern side of the square, bringing back to life an imposing edifice which stood largely derelict and decrepit for much of the last decade and whose alluring street-level commercial galleries, cutting diagonally through the building’s belly, will provide some new public spaces too.

Explore more of Cuba with the Rough Guide to CubaCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Croatia is one of Europe’s rising tourist stars. This remarkable Adriatic country of 1244 islands, bear and wild boar inhabited forests and world-class vineyards is so much more than just a beach destination. To make sure you hit the ground running in this complex and diverse nation, follow our top ten Croatia travel tips.

1. Be picky

Avoid the temptation to cram too much of this geographically challenging country in to your first visit. If you only have a week split it between the capital, Zagreb, for a night or two and spend the rest of the time exploring the famous Adriatic coast. Longer trips allow rewarding forays further afield, where gems like the UNESCO listed Plitvice Lakes, the castles of the Zagorje and the Slavonian vineyards await.

2. Don’t only go to Dubrovnik

Yes Games of Thrones star Dubrovnik is every bit Lord Byron’s ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, but also tempting on the coast is Split, the country’s second largest city, whose city centre is remarkably a UNESCO site, the spectacular Roman Diocletian’s Palace.

Further north the old Roman hub of Zadar and early Croatian city Šibenik are lively hubs just emerging from the bitter 1990s war, where the cafes are less filled with tourists.

The same goes for the city of Pula in the northwest of the Croatian littoral, which boasts a UNESCO listed Roman amphitheatre.

Croatia, Dalmatia, Hvar, Hvar Town from the sea

3. Don’t let the bugs bite

From late spring into autumn mosquitoes are a nuisance throughout much of the country so find a good repellent that your skin does not react to. Light colours help. Avoid wearing fragrances too. Tics are a more pressing problem as they can cause serious illness so wear thick socks and cover up your legs when hiking. A simple tic remover is a good investment, especially if you may be trekking in rural areas.

4. Get the best beds

Spare beds can be hard to come by in summer especially in the most popular islands – like Hvar and Brač – and Dubrovnik. Booking ahead makes sense, but if you do get caught short look out for the sobe signs, which are essentially advertising rooms in locals’ homes. As well as being cheap, staying at a sobe can be a great way to meet Croats. If they are full, owners will often point you in the direction of another nearby.

Croatia, Dalmatian Coast, Pelgesac, two bottle of red and white Croatian wine and half full glass of red wine resting on barrel, barrels in background

5. Drink up

Of the big domestic brands Karlovacko is the favourite beer of many Croats and justifiably so. Croatia’s wines are seriously underrated abroad, at least in part due to the relatively small production and high domestic demand. Look out for the mighty Dingac red and the dry Posip white, both from Dalmatia. Istria is renowned for its Malvasija (great with seafood), while the Dubrovnik region’s own Malvasia is on the rise too.

6. Health matters

You should always take out decent travel insurance, even for a weekend break. If you’re an EU resident, be sure to pack a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This entitles you to a basic level of state health care in Croatia. It won’t cover you for repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment though, which is where good travel insurance comes in. The emergency ambulance number in Croatia is 112.

7. Get active

Croatia may be famed as a sea and sun destination, but getting active is the best way to discover its wilder corners. Paklenica National Park offers superb hiking and climbing, while in the islands the walk to the highest point, Vidova Gora on Brač, offers remarkable views. For rafting the Cetina River tempts, while windsurfers should head to Korčula and paragliders to Mount Ucka.

Croatia, Dalmatian Coast, Split, pile of silver fish at fish market

8. Eat well

Croats are justifiably proud of the fine organic produce their country conjures up in such abundance and many will refer to the processed food in supermarkets witheringly as ‘cat food’. Wherever you are, a local market is never far away, so shop local to put together a mouth-watering picnic bursting with fresh flavour.

9. Talk to the locals

Be very careful when discussing the Homeland War, which ravaged the country as it became independent from Yugoslavia in the 1990s, with a local. Do a little bit of research before your trip and hold back any too hastily formed views. Then when a Croat does decide to open up a little about those defining years, your knowledge and interest may help you gain an insight into the country well beyond the tourist sheen, which adds a totally different dimension to your trip.

10. Savour the seafood

Croatia’s seafood is truly world class. A bounty of fishy delights are hauled daily from the Adriatic, the cleanest corner of the Mediterranean. Even if you’re timid about bones and shells no trip to the coast is complete without a seafood feast. The best value way of sampling a range of delights is to order the riblja plata, a mixed platter of fish and shellfish, which is usually plenty for two to share.

Explore more of Croatia with the Rough Guide to CroatiaCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

The festive period is upon us again, and with so many celebrations it can be hard to keep up the pace. Luckily, there are some pretty inventive hangover cures out there to help you make it through to the new year. We’ve compiled some of the most interesting from around the world to ensure that you have a fighting chance the next day…

1. Leche de tigre (tiger’s milk), Peru

Your Peruvian hangover cure comes with a side of ceviche – leche de tigre is the marinade used to cure the fish. You might drink it from the bowl after you’ve finished eating or sip it from a glass on the side, but either way, the combination of lime, onion, chilli, garlic and fresh coriander will be sure to blow away those cobwebs.

2. Shakshuka, Tunisia

This delicious mixture of red peppers, harissa, tomatoes and eggs is thought to have originated in Tunisia, but is incredibly popular across North Africa and parts of the Middle East. Served with fresh, crusty bread, it’ll put your regular breakfast to shame.

3. Ostrich egg omelette, South Africa

Got a group of hungover friends? You’ll want to embrace a South African hangover cure and whip up an ostrich egg omlette. There’ll be plenty to go around as one ostrich egg contains the equivalent of two-dozen chicken eggs and weighs on average 1.4kg.

Hangover cures from around the world

4. Lechona, Colombia

This much-celebrated Colombian dish is made from a whole pig stuffed with onions, peas, rice, and roasted for over 23 hours. As it’s so time consuming to prepare, this robust recipe is usually served on Sundays, making it the perfect remedy to a big Saturday night out.

5. Kokoreç, Turkey

On paper Kokoreç might not sound inspiring – especially if you’re feeling rough – but once you’ve tried this Turkish sandwich, you’ll understand why it’s a the most sought after fast-food in Istanbul. It’s made with several kinds of lamb or goat organs, wrapped in the intestines, seasoned and cooked on a skewer in a similar way to a doner kebab.

6. A dip in a hot spring, Iceland

If your heavy night has led to a loss of appetite, there are few better cures than a dip in one of Iceland’s beautiful blue pools.

One of the best hot springs to head to is Landmannalauger, a stunning outpost just inland from the south coast, where hot water streams mix with cold water streams to create the perfect hot-bath temperature. Get ready to laze for hours.

7. Prairie oysters, USA

Start with a bloody mary, then replace the vodka with brandy and the tomato juice with raw egg and you’ve got this classic American hangover cure. We take our hats off to anyone who can stomach it after a night out.

Hangover cures from around the world

8. Pickle juice, Poland

Pickle juice has been a hangover staple in Poland for generations. And the claim it eases the after effects of a big night out might actually carry some scientific weight; a recent study in Psychiatry Research found that pickles ease social anxiety and neuroticism. Cheers to that.

9. Hair of the dog, England

It might be medically unsound and socially questionable, but many Brits swear by “hair of the dog” – drinking again the next morning. Just don’t try it before work.

10. Ukon No Chikara, Japan

Drinking this turmeric-laced sugary drink, translated into English as ‘The Power Of Turmeric’, is a popular pre-booze preparation in Japan. For a more powerful dose, it’s also available in a less-appetizing powder form.

11. Haejangguk, South Korea

South Koreans are so confident this broth works that they’ve named it after its very function, “soup to cure a hangover”. It’s typically made from ox blood, pork spine, vegetables and an intense array of spices.

bloody mary on the dock – creative commons licensebloody mary on the dock by Karyn Christner (license

12. Caesars, Canada

Bloody Marys might be better known, but Canada’s Caesars pack even more of a punch with clam broth in the mix. The garnishes are also pretty hearty: prawn, pickles, beans, olives and bacon can be found. Who needs boring old celery?

Compare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

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