Tag: Europe

1 Day in Innsbruck – Walking Tour Itinerary

1 Day in Innsbruck – Walking Tour Itinerary

What comes to your mind about Innsbruck? Maybe a Winter Olympics city surrounded by mountains? The capital of the Tyrol region is a hidden gem among European cities – it had much more to offer than we were expecting, as we noticed to our positive surprise […]

London Itinerary 4 Days – Best Things to Do in London with Kids (or Without)

London Itinerary 4 Days – Best Things to Do in London with Kids (or Without)

London is a perfect destination for a long weekend city break: museums, parks, musicals, sightseeing…  there are abundant options on what to see and do when you visit London with kids. Plan your family trip to London well in advance to make the best out […]

Lapland Holidays in Ylläs Finland – 17 Tips to a Unique Lapland Experience with Kids

Lapland Holidays in Ylläs Finland – 17 Tips to a Unique Lapland Experience with Kids

Are you looking for Lapland holidays with a wide variety or activities and unique experiences for the whole family? Prefer a place accessible by public transportation? Ylläs, located about 200 km/125 mi north from the Arctic Circle, is a fantastic base for Lapland family holidays thanks to the wide variety of activities as well as tracks and slopes for all levels. It is ideally located at the southern corner of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. You can choose either Ylläs Ski Resort in Äkäslompolo or Sport resort Ylläs on the Ylläsjärvi side of the fell. Since I had earlier visited the first one, we headed this time the latter one to get a new perspective to the amazing winter wonderland.

Visiting Lapland – especially if traveling with kids – gets a lot easier if you do a bit of research and plan ahead. Other excellent options in Lapland include Saariselkä and Urho Kekkonen National Park, Pallas and Ylläs-Pallastunturi National Park, Salla, and Ruka (great skiing though just south of Lapland and the Arctic Circle). Read further for to discover how to design your perfect Lapland experience in Ylläs!

Snow Village Lainio Ice Hotel

Yllas Snowvillage entrance

Are you a Game of Thrones fan? In that case you definitely shouldn’t miss visiting Lainio Snow Village, that’s an ice castle offering snow accommodation about 20 km from Sport Resort Ylläs. Even if you’ve never watched an episode (like us) it’s certainly worth the visit. I’m not sure how I’d missed this and learned about it only towards the end of our stay in Ylläs. If you can manage the distance (around 14km from Sport Resort Ylläs), it’s possible to ski to Lainio Snow Village from Ylläs making it a great day trip. Alternatively, you can either join a tour or take a taxi if you don’t have a car. If you’re looking for a truly unique Snow Village Finland experience you could have dinner at the ice restaurant or stay overnight in the amazing ice castle rooms made of snow and ice (reservations required for both restaurant and hotel).

Yllas Snowvillage ice bar

This is the 18th time when Lainio Snow Village has been built and every year the Lapland ice hotel has grown bigger and more impressive. Game of Thrones is the theme for a second year in a row and it’s also the last chance to visit it as we heard that a new theme is planned for next winter!  We learned that the ice is from the nearby lake and actually from last winter and has been kept frozen over the summer as the construction starts in November and it’s too early to get enough ice.

Yllas Snowvillage

I’m sure it doesn’t come as a surprise but it’s cold in the ice hotel, so dress warm. Especially fingers are frozen easily when taking photos so smart phone compatible gloves would be very useful! We toured the ice castle in about half an hour, but we’d recommend to allow at least 1 hour for your visit to have plenty of time to fully enjoy Lainio Snow Village and enjoy a nice warm cuppa in the café to warm up your cold fingers afterwards.

Yllas Snowvillage hotel room

Opening times: 10 am to 10 pm

Fees: Adult 17,50 eur, Child 10 eur (4-14-year-old). Pre-booking is possible for a private tour for 65 eur. Taxi from Sport Resort Ylläs – Snow Village Lainio – Yllärjärvi cost us 72 eur (we asked the driver to wait with our luggage in the car while we toured the ice hotel).

Yllas Snowvillage

Cross-country skiing

Ylläs is one of the best places in the world for cross-country skiing even for beginners. There are plenty of easy tracks and maintenance is usually excellent. There’s a good network of cafés and skiing huts along the tracks so it’s easy to plan even long routes. There are 330km / 205mi of illuminated ski trails where it’s easy to ski even after sunset. Here’s examples of two routes that are easy and suitable for kids with some skiing experience.

Yllas fell

Route 1: Sport Resort Ylläs to Latvamaja (via Kahvikeidas) ~15km / 9,3mi

This route offers pleasant skiing on mostly flat ground. Kahvikeidas unfortunately is no longer maintained by Metsahallitus and in private ownership there are now fees for the use of the premises which is understandable but makes the place feel considerably less welcoming.

Route 2: Sport Resort Ylläs to Aurinkotupa (circular route) ~10km / 6,2mi

The first 4 km are very easy, mostly downhill or flat till Aurinkotupa café. We had the opportunity to watch reindeer feeding in the yard. There’s also an outdoor fireplace where it’s possible to barbecue for example sausages on the open fire. We also spotted a reindeer in the yard and had the chance to watch it’s feeding. The second part of the route is more challenging with uphill climb – you could consider going in the opposite direction if you prefer.

Yllas reindeer

How to plan your skiing route?

It’s a good idea to start your route plan by identifying places for breaks: cafes, wilderness huts, etc where to stop on your route to rest, have some snacks, and use restrooms. Ideally you can find a circular route so that you don’t need to return the same way. Double-check: are the distances reasonable considering your experience and fitness level as well as the weather conditions? You and especially the kids might also need some shorter breaks along the way for example to have a sip of water. It depends on your experience and fitness level how far you can go before a break is needed. What’s working well for us at the moment is to take a shorter break about every half hour and a longer break every 1-2 hours.

 

Check the weather the night before and plan your route and what to wear based on the forecast. Check again in the morning to make sure there’s no big changes and your plan is still valid. It’s a good idea to try to get to the tracks reasonably early in the day for a number of reasons but especially because the daylight time is limited (with the exception of late spring), the tracks are in better shape (especially later in the spring they may start getting softer in the afternoon). On the other hand, at sunrise the temperature may still be extremely cold so a bit later in the morning might be ideal. Check also the time of sunset – darkness falls maybe 30-60 minutes after and you wouldn’t want to get caught in the non-illuminated tracks later (unless everyone would happen to be equipped with a headlamp flashlight!)

The skiing routes are divided to thee maintenance classes: I, II and III. Number I is maintained throughout the season on a daily basis so it’s the safe choice early in the season or if there’s been heavy snowfall or wind. Trails in classes II and III are open only from February/mid-February till end of April and to our experience these tracks often have the most naturally beautiful sceneries.

Downhill skiing

Ylläs boasts to be home to the longest slopes in Finland (3000 meters) and it’s easy to reach the top with the gondola that’s quite a rare in Finland ski resorts. However, the gondola may be closed due to strong winds (during our visit it was closed on 2 out of 5 days) but it’s possible to check online the status of open lifts and slopes. There’s a good variety of easy and moderate slopes as well as some more challenging ones including the world cup racing slope for the fearless! It’s good to be aware that the wind and cold temperature can make the conditions quite challenging – on our first descent we could barely see anything due to heavy snowfall and goggles freezing before halfway down the slope!

After sunset at the top of Ylläs it felt eerily almost like we could have been on the surface of the moon – surrounded by utter darkness except for the blinding headlights from the huge maintenance vehicle, blazing wind and viciously flying snow. I’ve rarely been as happy as when we opened the door and entered Ylläskammio café at 718 meters above sea level and could warm up by the fireplace with hot chocolate! If you happen to visit there close to the closing time of the slopes I’d warmly recommend to take the slope 28 “Koulurinne” on the left-hand-side to get downhill since on the right side only the black slope was illuminated – luckily we realized at the last minute although it was quite a heavy climb to get to the other side from that point.

Yllas Yllaskammi 718

Opening times:  10 am to 5pm (open till 7pm during high season, Christmas holidays and from mid-February to late April)

Fees for 3 hours ski pass:  Adult 39 eur, child 22,30 eur (6-11 years-old) + rechargeable key cards 7 eur
Check out all the skiing pass prices here: https://www.yllas.fi/en/activities/skiing-2/ski-tickets-and-prices.html

Super ski pass 3/4 or 4/5 offers the opportunity to ski at Levi, Olos, and Pallas in addition to Ylläs (either on 3 out of 4 days or 4 out of 5 days) and sounds like a perfect solution for avid downhill skiers especially if you have a car to make it easy to transit between the four Lapland skiing resorts.

Fees for equipment rental at Head Ski Rent: set (alpine skis, poles and boots) for 3 hours Adults 28 eur / Kids 19 eur (11 and under) + helmets 5 eur

Learning snowboarding

Have you ever felt like learning something challenging although it feels painfully difficult? That describes my feelings towards snowboarding. About every ten years I’ve given it a go and I have to admit it doesn’t get any easier with age… I’m super slow at learning it yet enjoy challenging myself. In 90 minutes the 9-year-old had pretty much learned the basic technique while I was still basically not much beyond the starting point but happy to have survived without injuries 🙂 Just kidding, it was great exercise in perfect winter weather.

Yllas snowboarding

Fee for 90 min private class: 111 eur, 2h snowboarding set rent 25 eur / person

Swimming and chilling in the spa

After a long day on the skiing tracks or slopes it feels awesome to go for a swim and we were lucky to have Ylläs Hotel Saaga’s spa accessible through the indoor walkway from our Ylläs Chalet building.  The spa is quite compact with a swimming pool and a couple of whirlpools. The water in the bigger pool felt a bit cool for us and the whirlpool with warmer water was fully occupied all the time. It was a bit crowded during our visit – I’d recommend checking the time table for aquabic classes and maybe visit at another time if you prefer a more peaceful spa experience. It was nice that there were plenty of water toys that could be borrowed. We especially enjoyed playing catch with a ball. There are Turkish and Finnish saunas (separate for women and men, access from the shower area).

Opening times: 1 pm to 9 pm

Fees: The entrance is included for those staying in Ylläs Hotel Saaga. If staying at the Chalets as well as others the prices are 14 euros for adults and 7 euros for children under 12 years old.

Fatbiking

We rented fatbikes for one hour to test this way of moving on snow. It turned out to be a bit more challenging than it looks like. The terrain, weather, the quality of the bike seem to have quite a big impact on how light or heavy fatbiking feels. We started off on a uphill trail which soon proved to be a bit too much for the nine-year-old. We ended up walking the bikes quite a bit but reached a nice spot to see the views. The way down on the other hand was fast and fun. We’d recommend fatbiking to those who can go for the adults bikes which are suitable for people over 160cm/5ft 2in.

Fees: We rented our fatbikes from Jerissport that gave -20% discount for kids under 12. In total it was 35 euros for one hour, including the bikes and helmets.

Snowshoeing

In addition to skis and snowboards, it’s also possible to rent snowshoes or fatbikes from the equipment retal shops. The wintertrails where it’s possible to walk, snowshoe or bicycle are clearly marked on the skiing route map as well as signs on the tracks. We went snowshoeing in Pallas-Ylläs National Park last year, read more here.

Aurora Borealis watching

Aurora Borealis in Lapland
Photo: Pixabay (BeHappyTravel)

The northern lights are maybe one of the most amazing spectacles nature has to offer and there are good chance to see them in Ylläs – this is where I had the opportunity to marvel them for the first time in my life a few years ago. The most likely time of the day to see auroras is often from around 10 pm to 1am. There are some ways to forecast the probabilities of northern lights, for more information see here. One night I looked out of the window and got lucky to see a glimpse of the northern lights – so exciting that I could barely hold myself from rushing outdoors 🙂

Ice swimming

One of Finland’s best ice swimming places I’ve experienced is located in the Äkäslompolo side of Ylläs. It’s possible to rent the private wood-heated sauna with plenty of space for 15 persons, for more details see here.

Sledding and playing with the snow

Yllas playarea

There’s an outdoor play area next to the slopes that especially around 2-7 year-olds will enjoy and there’s also a sledding hill next to the playground but you need to bring your own sled/toboggan (or rent it from one of the rental shops). My nine-year-old took a quick look and decided that she preferred climbing and jumping down the huge snow piles.

Yllas - enjoying the snow

Music and entertainment

A bonus about Ylläs is that although it’s far from big cities it has a lively bar scene offering entertainment from nightly après ski to live music with front-line Finnish artists often in much more intimate setting than in larger cities. A few years ago I had the opportunity to see Maija Vilkkumaa at Taiga Restaurant and this time Sanni had a concert at the same place.

Snowmobile, reindeer and husky safaris

A wide variety of snow tours and safaris are available in Ylläs. If snowmobiles, reindeer rides or husky safaris are of interest to you this is the place to go for those adventures! See more details on safaris and other possible activities here.

Indulge in Lapland Cuisine

Ylläskammi 718 is at the top of the Ylläs ski resort, accessible by the gondola lift. The big fireplace felt like a life savior after entering from the freezing cold outdoors. A special feature and giving the place a special personal touch was the wooden cups “kuksa” from different owners hung up on the walls. The burger was tasty and the prices weren’t insanely expensive despite the special location.

Yllas Yllaskammi

Latvamaja is a traditional wilderness café in the Pallas-Ylläs National Park. We loved the decoration and above all the big fireplace at the heart of the café: it’s possible to hang your clothes to dry in the warmth of the fireplace and let them dry while enjoying some refreshments. The pancakes with jam and cream were yummy and the crowberry juice delicious. They even had oat milk available with coffee which seems to be still quite rare in these surroundings.

Aurikotupa is also a traditional café with wooden tables and benches. “Mokkapalat” and hot juice did the trick to get us re-energized to take the more challenging route back. The café also advertised home-made gluten free doghnuts which weren’t too bad at all. Indoor restrooms are a big bonus!

Yllas Aurinkotupa cafe

Restaurant Kota is located just next to the slopes. Don’t let the exterior scare you – at first sight I thought I wouldn’t enter such a touristy looking place. However, after reading the reviews online it sounded worth checking out. In addition to the looks from outside, also the initial impression of the service inside was a bit puzzling: no one seemed to take any note of us let alone guide us to a table. I was already thinking of leaving when my smart daughter urged to go ahead to the counter to make our order. Self-service was the way to go: we paid in advance for the meal, they handed us soda cans and told the glasses are on the table. The reindeer burger turned out to be very tasty with some added blackpepper. Later the staff was very friendly though: asking if everything was well, filling up the water jug, asking if we would like dessert.

Yllas Kota Restaurant

On our final day we had lunch at the Yllas Saaga Restaurant at the hotel to keep things simple. I couldn’t find information about the lunch online but found some recommendations on Tripadvisor and we didn’t need to be disappointed. Especially the salad buffet was fantastic after eating way too much burgers and other fast food. The buffet included a wide selection of starters, mains and dessert as well as coffee, tea or hot chocolate. If we would have discovered this earlier we would have returned for another lunch for sure.

Fees: Adult 15 eur, Child 7,50 eur

Yllas Saaga lunch

We usually had lunch at the cafes and restaurants while breakfast and dinner we enjoyed preparing at our apartment. We bought groceries at Eelin Kauppa K-market in Ylläsjärvi at arrival (and later by skiing the 5 km there) and replenished supplies from the minimarket downstairs at the Ylläs Chalets. The prices were a bit higher than in larger markets but still less expensive than eating at restaurants, and it was the most practical way to ensure eating relatively healthy during our Lapland winter holidays.

Where to stay?

Since we were traveling by public transport our key criteria was close proximity to resort services and walking distance to ski tracks and slopes. A lot of options had already sold out when we were making our reservations only about a month in advance. I was delighted to find a modern 1 bedroom apartment available Ylläs Chalets apartments, adjacent to Ylläs Saaga Hotel.

Yllas Saaga hotel

The apartment was located on the 2nd floor with views towards the forest and slopes. It had a well-equipped kitchen where it was easy and fun to prepare meals. Sauna was a must for us and indeed it was in use almost daily. The drying cabinet was very handy for drying clothes and towels. The apartment didn’t have wifi but internet access with LAN cable. We found the storage lockers downstairs for skiing equipment convenient.

There was indoor access from the next floor to the hotel and spa via a walking tunnel. It was a big help that on the day of departure as we could move the suitcases to the hotel lobby via the indoor pathway and leave them in the luggage storage at the lobby till it was our time for departure.

Yllas Chalets hotel

What to wear?

Layers, layers and layers is the best advice to follow so that it’s easy to remove or add a layer in case you get hot or cold. Warmest possible gloves are a must. Neck warmer tube scarfs are very useful as you can pull the scarf easily up to warm your face from the freezing wind. I also recommend high quality sports socks and ski boot overboots – they’ve been a savior to my cold feet!

What to pack in your back-pack: snacks and other essentials

The freezing temperatures have their pros and cons for packing snacks. On the positive side, there’s no risk of food going bad because of heat but it can freeze! Pack along for example water, hot juice / tea, muesli bars, sandwiches, chocolate.

Pack also a skiing route map, fully charged mobile phone with maps app, power pack and charging cable (the cold temperature might use up the phone’s battery quicker than you’d expect), tissues, matches, cash, possibly some additional clothes, room keys, sun glasses, lip balm/chapstick, sunscreen (especially in the spring and if the weather is sunny).

How to get there and move around?

See the location of Ylläs and the places we visited on the map:

Bus: Onnibus overnight double-decker bus from Helsinki Kamppi to Ylläsjärvi, duration aprox. 15 hours (the bus stop is in the parking lot of Eelin kauppa store). It’s about 5km/3mi from Ylläsjärvi to Sport Resort Ylläs. There is skibus service multiple times a day, connecting Sports Resport Ylläs, Ylläsjärvi and Äkäslompolo as well as other stops on the way but the timetables weren’t a perfect match for us. See Skibus schedule and ticket informaiton here. We decided to take a taxi as we had quite a bit of luggage, skis and equipment with us. The taxi numbers can be found at the entrance of Eelin kauppa.

Yllas Onnibus

Train overnight (approx. 15 hours) from Helsinki to Kolari and bus from the station to Ylläs. This is a convenient option as the train and bus schedules are synced to support smooth transitions. You can select either a seat or a cabin with bunk beds for 1-3 persons. There’s even an option to take your car onboard the train but beware that there’s limited availability and at winter holidays these spots get sold out early. This is maybe the most comfortable option to travel especially if you don’t mind the sound of the railway tracks through the night.

Airplane to Kittilä and bus from the airport to Ylläs. The flight is only about 1,5 hours and there’s always a bus connection leaving shortly to Ylläs. This is the quickest option but at high season especially if you haven’t booked early the flight tickets tend to be very expensive and there’s the usual luggage limitations (check your carrier’s policy on sports equipment if you plan to bring your skis or snow boards). Finnair and Norwegian fly from Helsinki to Kittliä.

Car – it’s about 14 to 15-hour drive from Helsinki which means that in the winter it’s not possible to reach the destination before sunset. Note that although there are good roads all the way to Ylläs, in the winter the driving conditions can become very challenging, and therefore I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have experience of winter driving. Stopping on the way for a night in about half way for example in Oulu could make the drive a bit easier.

What has been your most memorable Lapland experience? We’d love to hear from you!

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15 things to do and tips to Lisbon and Cascais – active city break

15 things to do and tips to Lisbon and Cascais – active city break

Lisbon is one of the world’s oldest capital cities, built on seven hills and on the banks of River Tagus. The climate, history, architecture, food and wine have allured millions of visitors and made it one of the top 10 visited cities in Southern Europe. […]

Vatican Top 5 Highlights – How to Skip the Lines and Avoid Crowds?

Vatican Top 5 Highlights – How to Skip the Lines and Avoid Crowds?

Vatican definitely deserves one day on your trip to Rome.  I only had a few days to prepare for my trip but just enough to do a bit upfront research and all the reviews on Vatican warned about the massively long lines especially on weekends. […]

Rome – top 10 tips to an active long weekend and walking tour map

Rome – top 10 tips to an active long weekend and walking tour map

Back in school I loved history and felt intrigued by the ancient Egypt, Greek and Roman cultures. As long as I remember, I’ve had visiting Rome in my travel goals and finally it was time to make it happen. Traveling to Rome in the beginning of March had its pros and cons – just a couple of days earlier it had snowed for the first time in 5 years and it continued to be cold and rainy. On the positive side in low season the crowds are bearable so it’s possible to take advantage of the free museum access to for example Colosseum (only available the first Sunday of the month).

Pack along your best walking shoes, you’ll need them in Rome! I was amazed with how easy it was to walk from one key sight to another. Here’s an itinerary of a 6 kilometer / 4 mile walking tour of the main sights you don’t want to miss: the Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza di Navona and the Spanish steps.

If you only stop for taking some quick photos the tour could be completed in about 2 hours but of course you’ll get much more out of it if you visit Pantheon and Colosseum from the inside. I saved the Colosseum tour for another day as I didn’t start off till the afternoon for my first exploration of the eternal city.

Colosseum, Palatine hill and Roman forum

Colosseum

The Colosseum is massive, similar size as stadiums today – it could fit 50 000 people and had marble seating for the best spots reserved to the most prestigious visitors while slaves, women and children were only allowed to access the top floor with wooden structures. However, after the fall of the Roman empire the monuments were not cared for and during the medieval times people recycled whatever could be removed and burned the marble!

Colosseum from inside

Expect long lines to the Colosseum around the year and especially on the first Sunday of the month when the access is free (otherwise it costs 12 euros for adults) to access the first and second floors. I strongly recommend to buy your ticket in advance to benefit from the shorter line. The ticket includes access to Palatine hill and Roman forum in addition to the Colosseum and it’s valid for two consecutive days. Even on a free Sunday, you need a free ticket that you can most likely get with a shorter wait at the Palatine hill and Roman forum entrances.

Palatine hill

For an extra fee you can purchase a guided tour (~40 minutes) or an audio guide. Luckily a guided tour in English was starting shortly and cost just 5 euros so I decided to sign up for it. Our tour guide Laura, archaeologist, shared interesting historical facts and useful insights that were not all included in guidebooks. It was a nice quick tour and worth the small price for sure. However, next time I would book a longer tour that would go around also the underground and the third floor as well. Check out this Guide To Visiting The Colosseum for further details. If you’re interested in seeing even more ancient Roman ruins see this must-see list of Roman ruins in Rome.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi fountain

From the Colosseum the walk continues to Fontana di Trevi where tourists flock to take photos of the gorgeous Trevi Fountain and throw coins there. According to the legend, you should throw a coin over your right shoulder to the fountain to secure your return to Rome one day. I didn’t want to jinx this one!

Spanish steps (and shopping)

From here the walk continues to the Spanish steps which is a popular place for people to gather and sit down – nice break for taking a sip from your water bottle. Some nice shopping streets are located in this area including very high-end stores but also a wide range of brands and I found some good deals at GAP and Desigual stores.

Piazza di Navona

On the way back, you can pass by Piazza di Navona which is one of the most beautiful Baroque squares in Rome.

Piazza di Navona

Pantheon

Next stop is Pantheon which is free to access. The dome is open from the middle and it’s quite amazing how rain falls in and trough small holes on the floor – an example of the brilliant engineering expertise of the ancient Romans!

Pantheon entrance

Pantheon oculus

Altare della Patria and Trajan Forum

From the Pantheon the walk continues to Plaza Venezia where you can admire the Altare della Patria – a palace honoring first king of Italy and WWI soldiers – and the Trajan Forum ruins before you arrive back at the Colosseum.

Altare della Patria

Trajan forum

Renting a bicycle

Renting a bicycle was a great way to explore places a bit further away, although due to the traffic it can be a bit adventurous – especially if it starts raining! I rented a bicycle at a bike shop just outside the Colosseum station (4€ per hour or 10€ for a day). Beware that they ask to leave some form of photo ID for the duration of the rental so it would be a good idea to bring something in addition to a passport. I loved the feeling of freedom on the bike and having some pedaling after all that walking felt so good! If the River Tiber isn’t overflowing like during my visit to Rome you could even bicycle along its banks.

Tiber river

Trastevere and Monteverde

Trastevere is a nice hip neighborhood on the west side of the River Tiber from the historical center of Rome, south from Vatican. It’s nice to stroll along the narrow cobblestone roads, visit the Basilica of Santa Maria and dine at one of the excellent restaurants available in this area.

Trastevere Basilica of Santa Maria

Monteverde is a lovely neighborhood next to Trastevere. It was a bit of hills for bicycling and quite many stairs too that my maps app didn’t recognize. Saw some nice street art though and enjoyed a fantastic lunch.

Monteverde

Food, wine and coffee

Finding a quality but reasonably priced restaurant can be a challenge in the historical center of Rome from the middle of so many overpriced tourist traps. I stumbled upon this little place Prosciutteria Cantina Dei Papi that’s actually more of a shop than a restaurant (they don’t have restaurant license so they can’t serve or set tables but offer plastic cutlery. They can also only sell drinks only by the bottle (luckily also small wine bottles, beer, soft drinks) and tap water is freely available. I recommend the mixed platter that comes in 3 sizes (5/10/15 euros). I was so hungry that I couldn’t help but to choose the big one.

Mixed platter Prosciutteria Cantina Dei Papi

Restaurant Panattoni was highly recommended for paper-thin pizzas. After having already a bit too carbs I was craving for something light and found the smoked salmon salad at Buff excellent and free wifi was nice too.

Buff salmon salad

Close by to Piazza Navona is Circus Café which is ideal for a relaxing break with a nice cup of chai latte with almond milk and freshly made juice or smoothie.

For ideas where to eat in one of Rome’s trendiest neighborhoods check out this Trastevere Food Guide.

Yoga in Rome

Yoga in Rome

After a long day of walking and aching feet, Yoga class in Rome was the perfect end for the day. Zem Yoga’s hot Vinyasa community class of Friday evening (13€ + 2€ for renting a mat) instructed by Amity was incredible! She created such a warm-hearted atmosphere and asked the participants to introduce each other the closest people in the room which brought a very nice social aspect to a solo traveler’s day. The class was quite physically demanding and indeed hot – I should have brought a bigger water bottle! In the end on the 90-minute class I was feeling superbly relaxed – what a better way to unwind after a long day of sightseeing!

Finding the perfect place to stay

Rome has a huge number of hotels for all budgets. Based on reading some reviews it seems that in many places the rooms can be very small. Airbnb has an extensive offering in Rome and I found a modern 1-bedroom apartment with a roof terrace with an amazing location in the city and just across the bridge from Vatican. There was a small grocery story close by and I was very happy that I had a kitchen to cook healthy breakfasts and suppers to stay energized for the long days exploring the city. If you are new to Airbnb you can use this promo code link for 35€ travel credit.

Beyond the eternal city

Visiting Vatican is something you don’t want to miss when in Rome – read more about the Top 5 highlights of Vatican and how to skip the lines and avoid crowds. If you have a bot more time to spend in Italy why not head south to Naples or the Salento region in Puglia. Or you could head north to the mountains for fresh air and some amazing views – check out this Perfect 4 Day Dolomites itinerary. Another great option would be to hop on a train and visit for example Venice, Florence or Cinque Terre as well – see this Ultimate 2 week itinerary for Italy for inspiration.

I took the Italo train from Roma Termini station to Milan Centrale and it was a comfortable as well as super convenient way to travel between these cities in just 3 hours and under 50 euros. There were some nice countryside views along the way and quite a bit of snow! There would be plenty of sights to see in Milan, the capital of fashion and design but I’ll need to return another time.

Still wondering how Rome in snow looked like? Check it out here.

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Pin for later - Top 10 tips for an active long weekend in Rome



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