Things to skip in Vienna

Things to skip in Vienna

Six things to SKIP in Vienna, Austria

and Six things to do INSTEAD!

Avoid the typical to find the hidden gems

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With any destination that you visit, you should always research with caution as to which things you must see and which you can pass over. Because let’s be honest, not all museums are created equal, five plus churches in one day begins to lose its lust, and we can’t all go into the same ‘famous’ restaurant.

Before any trip I take, I do a lot of research. I see which blogger recommends what, what’s the best area to stay in and what I should be packing with me. And quite frankly, a lot of what I found online was the same places listed out over and over again.

So, after visiting these places I realized what wasn’t worth our time and what was a much better use of travel time. Read on for the Six things you can skip while in Vienna, and six things you should do instead:

Things you should skip in Vienna, & six things to do instead!

(1) Don’t pay to go into ALL of the Hofburg Palace museums/areas

INSTEAD choose one part to pay for and enjoy your time outside marveling at the Hofburg Empire architecture. I would suggest either the Sisi Museum or the National Library. Vienna is full of exciting and exquisite history, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend your entire time inside of museums. Choose one in the Hofburg Palace to immerse yourself in and then be sure to have time to explore other areas of the city.

(2) Don’t pay to go to the top of St. Stephen’s Cathedral

INSTEAD enjoy a view of the cathedral and all of Stephansplatz (St. Stephen’s square) from Do&Co Hotels Onyx bar. Their interior and cocktails are almost as stunning as the views! You can still, and should, go into St. Stephen’s Cathedral, as it’s beautiful and is the city’s most important and standout church since it’s construction in 1160. But don’t pay to go up to the top of the tower. It’s like paying to be inside of the view, when the view should be the cathedral itself.

(3) Don’t visit every palace in Vienna

INSTEAD head further outside of the city to explore the Schönbrunn Palace. This palace is one of the main attractions in Vienna, but it is massive so you won’t feel like you’re walking through a crowded space (although I would still suggest you arrive early in the day to avoid some crowds).

With over 1400 rooms, gardens that are comparable to those of Versaille and it’s own zoo, you will have plenty to explore here all while getting an incredible sense of history of Austria.

Since you’re a smart sustainable traveler, you’ll be purchasing your tickets to the Schönbrunn Palace in advance. I love these ‘skip-the-line’ options!

*Please note- I often will not promote the visitation of zoo’s, as many around the world are not animal friendly and are often seen as abuse to the animals. I personally did not visit this zoo, but have read that the ‘animal enclosure areas’ are quite large and mimic their wildlife habitats. I’m unaware of their conservation efforts at this time (however, I have reached out to them for details) besides careful breeding of endangered species. Visiting and contributing funds to this zoo would be a personal consideration that you will need to make.

(4) Don’t go to Hotel Sacher for the famous Viennese Sachertorte (cake)

INSTEAD go to Kleines Cafe or Cafe Sperl for Sachertorte. Both are smaller and more authentic cafes, with a traditional Viennese cafe vibe. Kleines Cafe is located in Franziskanerplatz, and Cafe Sperl is near the Naschmarkt. Plus both of these cafes are not nearly as crowded as typically tourist frequented Hotel Sacher or Cafe Demel will be.

(5) Don’t eat schnitzel or sausage

I mean for one thing, true traditional schnitzel is to be made with veal, aka baby cow so no thank you 🙁

INSTEAD Enjoy the city’s best bakery, Joseph’s Bakery & Cafe. This is where the locals are enjoying their weekend brunches or lunches. Josephs has a few locations throughout Vienna, and some of the best bread you could enjoy. They also have a handful of vegan and vegetarian options, which pair amazingly well with their delicious coffees, juices and teas.

(6) Don’t visit every museum in Vienna

INSTEAD- visit the Kunsthistorisches museum. Known as the city’s fine art history museum, the Kunsthistorisches museum is incredibly beautiful inside and houses works of art from many famous and well known artists. Such as Caravaggio and Bernini – what can I say, I’m impartial to Italian artists

Click here to get discounted tickets to visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum!

Don’t forget to pack these items:

With Vienna being the most livable city in the world, and home to the center of European history it is chock full of beautiful places to discover, foods to sample and history to learn about. I hope this list provides you with some insight into what you can skip over during your visit to have an even more authentic visit of Vienna.

Happy travels,


Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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Foolproof Visitor’s Guide to Interlaken Switzerland

Foolproof Visitor’s Guide to Interlaken Switzerland

travel guide

An Ultimate travel Guide for Interlaken, Switzerland!

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The stunningly pristine alpine village of Interlaken, Switzerland is one that visitors to Central Europe must add to their destination bucket list. Nestled between two alpine water lakes, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, and epic views of snow capped Alp mountains, this area of the Canton of Bern, Switzerland continues to be a breathtakingly beautiful stop for visitors. It is also home to one of the world’s thrill-seeking capitals. Imagine having access to turquoise waters for windsurfing and kayaking, and being in proximity to major Alp mountains like the Jungfrau, for extreme sports. With so much to see, do and explore in Interlaken I guarantee you’ll leave wanting to come back to this paradise in central Switzerland.

How to get to Interlaken

        No matter what destination you are coming from, getting to Interlaken is quite easy. By taking one of Switzerland’s timely and efficient trains, you can arrive to the center of the town of Interlaken and begin your exploring soon after.

        There are two train stations in Interlaken – Interlaken Ost and Interlaken West. Interlaken Ost is closer to the Old Town part of the city, while the Interlaken West station is closer to Lake Thun. I visited Interlaken after a long weekend in Zurich, and with one easy to make connection in Bern, found ourselves at the Interlaken Ost train station (as it was closer to our AirBnb) marveling at the beautiful mountains right behind the train station. Which were dripping in natural waterfalls and springs. You can look up Swiss train schedules here.

        There is also an airport in the area called Belp Airport. However, it is typically much cheaper to fly into a major airport, like Zurich International, and take a train, rather than spend an exorbitant amount on a flight to a smaller airport like the Belp Airport.

        And of course you can reach Interlaken by car. Depending on where you are staying this may be a great option so that you don’t have to rely on public transportation (however, public transportation in Switzerland is very reliable). You can utilize the Sepp app to find and pay for parking in Switzerland, and here is a map of where you can find parking in the central part of Interlaken.

Where to Stay in Interlaken

        Deciding on where to stay can be a challenging feat for any trip. You want to have balance between great location, price, value and more. Since Interlaken is known for more beyond its city lines, such as outdoor adventure sports, there is an overwhelming amount of options. Here are quite a few options for travelers on different budgets visiting Interlaken:

    Looking for traditional Swiss architecture?

    Stay in Interlaken City. This is the urban part of Interlaken, and is very walkable. This is also where a lot of the adventure sport companies will have visitors meet near.

    Lodging in Interlaken City

      Looking for lake views?

      Stay on one of the lakes that hug Interlaken, Lake Thun or Lake Brienz. We stayed at a beautifully renovated AirBnb that had stunning views of Lake Thun (and heated bathroom floors, second best feature next to the lakeside views!)

        Looking to stay outside of Interlaken?

        Here are a few options for wanting to stay somewhere that isn’t in the main part of Interlaken:

        • Lauterbrunnen- only a few kilometers south of Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen is best known for its quintessential Swiss chalet style homes, and beautiful landscape views.

        Lodging in Lauterbrunnen

          • Grindelwald- the mountain village of the Eiger mountain, there are lots of activities to participate in here for both summer and winter months.

          Lodging in Grindelwald

            • Thun- the main town that Lake Thun was named after. Thun felt much more traditional Swiss than the (quite frankly) over touristed area of Interlaken City. It also felt like there was much more to see if you weren’t doing outdoor adventure activities during your entire time to this area of Switzerland.

            Lodging in Thun

              Looking for convenience to travel elsewhere?

              Stay near Interlaken Ost, which is the east side of the town. It is close to the larger train station. It is also near the touristy areas; meaning lots of souvenir shops and over-priced/under value eateries.

                While I could link to multiple different hostels, hotels and B&Bs, I understand that it’s important to look at all of your options, so instead I would suggest making your own independent decision (as you know your travel style better than I ever could). I typically book through AirBnb or

                Hafen Lodge, AirBnb

                Where to stay in Interlaken, Switzerland

                When should you go to Interlaken?

                The best Time of Year to visit Interlaken

                        The best part about Interlaken is that it’s always a good time to visit! It really depends on what you want to do while you are there. If you’re looking for winter sports, then you can’t beat skiing or snowboarding in the Swiss Alps. If you want to be able to casually walk around and enjoy the european charm and beautiful landscapes then springtime and summer are great. And yes, it does warm up in Interlaken, even though it is near the Swiss Alps. It can get up to the mid-70s during the summer months.

                        I would suggest that you keep your budget in mind when deciding when to visit Interlaken (or any part of Switzerland for that matter). It is a fairly expensive country, and can become even more expensive during busy seasons such as mid-summer months and major holidays like Christmas.

                How many days should you stay/visit Interlaken?

                        Similar to the best time of year to visit Interlaken, the number of days you should spend in this area is dependent on what you want to while there and your preferred travel style. You could spend a solid three days there and be able to explore Interlaken, have an adventurous excursion, like paragliding, and enjoy half a day on a boat cruise of one of the lakes.

                        If you prefer a slower paced travel experience, then I would suggest taking a week here. That way you can enjoy going to the top of Jungfrau (which you would want to wait to do until the sky is clear, see more about this below). As well as be able to spend an entire day exploring the town of Thun (my favorite place during my trip to Interlaken). You would also have time to go on a few hikes, and feel as if you have experienced all that Interlaken city has to offer.

                How to get around Interlaken & the surrounding areas

                        Interlaken is conveniently compact so exploring the city center is easily done so on foot. However if you are staying outside of the city center you will be able to take their local bus lines.

                        In order to find which route/s to take I would suggest using Google Maps or Rome2Rio. For all of our travels we use these two options. The best part is that most hotels will have free bus cards for their visitors, so be sure to ask the front desk when you check in. Even our AirBnb host had bus cards for us to use. There are of course taxis you can take around as well, but the buses were always on time, and conveniently close to everything we needed.

                        Don’t forget that Interlaken is situated between those two shockingly turquoise watered lakes, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. There are boats that you can take around the entirety of the lakes with multiple stop off points that I would highly recommend (keep reading to find those below!). You can purchase tickets for the boats at the tourist office or at their docks. Here is a map of the stops on both lakes.


                LAKE THUN

                • If you want to explore Lake Thun, then you would board near the Interlaken West train station
                • It takes about two hours to get to the town of Thun
                • Best stop off points: Oberhofen Castle, St. Beatus Caves, Spiez
                • Not every boat that departs from Interlaken West will be a multi-stop boat, so be sure to ask which one will stop at each spot
                • Map of Lake Thun boat docks here
                • Boats operate year round, so you can enjoy a round about boat trip on Lake Thun even in the winter

                LAKE BRIENZ

                • If you want to explore Lake Brienz, then you would board near the Interlaken Ost train station
                • It takes about one and a half hours to get to the town of Brienz
                • Not every boat that departs from Interlaken Ost will be a multi-stop boat, so be sure to ask which one will stop at each spot
                • Map of Lake Brienz boat docks here

                Why should I go to Interlaken?

                Check out this blog post that includes

                Eight Reasons why you NEED to visit Interlaken, Switzerland

                  Things to do in & around Interlaken

                  Interlaken is known as an adventure seekers destination, so there is no shortage of things to do in this area of Switzerland.

                  • Spend time outdoors on a scenic hike

                  Hiking is an all time favorite travel activity of mine, and an excellent way to burn off those vacation meal calories when traveling. Interlaken has so many options when it comes to their hikes. You can find ones that are range in length and difficulty. Wherever I’m traveling to, I almost always use the All Trails app to research and choose which hike/s I want to go on. Download the app here!

                  Cost: Free!

                  • Become a bird, and paraglide!

                    Each morning you’ll be able to see paragliders swinging lightly through the clouds down to the center of Interlaken. So, why not be one of them? This fairly carefree adventure is great for those just beginning to go outside of their comfort zone (which I can say from experience, as I’ve tended to lean towards the safe side until I went paragliding in Interlaken).

                    After reviewing a few companies (based on price, reviews, years in service & level of professionalism) we chose to book with Paragliding Interlaken. Their staff were very accommodating and we loved our guides. Push past those fears of heights and enjoy a birds eye view of Interlaken!

                    Cost: 170 CHF

                  • Step up your game & be a daredevil

                    While paragliding is a wonderful activity, if you’re feeling up for an even greater adrenaline rush, Interlaken also has companies that offer skydiving, canyoning, white water rafting, ice climbing and bungee jumping. Luckily Paragliding Interlaken has lots of options for the adventurous type. *Add in Tripadvisor link if approved for their affiliate program

                    Cost: depends on activity, ranges from 40 CHF to 400+ CHF

                  • See if the legend is true, by visiting St. Beatus Caves

                    There is a legend that says Saint Beatus defeated a dragon that was living inside of these caves. You’ll have to see for yourself if you believe it to be true, but either way you’ll be greeted with stunning waterfalls both in and outside of the caves. The caves are open from March to November. Find more details about visiting here.

                    Cost: 18 CHF

                  • Take a relaxing boat cruise on Lake Thun or Lake Brienz

                    Interlaken is great for providing ways to view this beautiful country from both above the clouds and on the shorelines. A lake cruise is a wonderful way to spend your day and they offer plenty of hop on/off stops for further exploring.

                    Lake Thun cruises depart from the ferry dock near the Interlaken West station, while the Lake Brienz cruises depart of the ferry dock near the Interlaken Ost station. Both are easy to find once you’re at the train stations. You can find the timetables here. The more difficult decisions you’ll make is which lake to cruise on. Both feature turquoise waters and stunning views of the Alps. If you have time consider going on both! Cruises are offered April through October, and there are winter cruises on Lake Thun (only).

                    COST: starting at 35 CHF

                  • Step back in time at the Oberhofen Castle

                    Since you’re already going to take a Lake Cruise (which is my number one suggestion for those visiting Interlaken!), you might as well stop off from the Lake Thun cruise to explore the Oberhofen Castle.

                    My standards for visiting a museum and castle have become somewhat particular … after plenty of travels, I’ve seen quite a few and have decided to spend my money wisely when visiting, as not all are created equal … and I would definitely recommend walking through Oberhofen Castle.

                    We found this 13th century castle and museum to be informative, engaging and loved the way the interior has been maintained. There are also English gardens outside that you can walk around in, for picture perfect moments with loved ones (unlike these hilarious attempts we made here… not quite sure what we were trying, but sleep deprivation probably had something to do with us thinking it was a good idea, haha).

                    Overall it is an enchanting lakeside with beautiful architecture, and remains one of my favorite stops while we were in Interlaken, Switzerland. 

                    Cost: 10 CHF, Oberhofen Castle Visitor Information

                  • Treat yourself to a first class cocktail

                    Put your fancy pants on & enjoy a cocktail at Interlaken’s finest hotel, the Victoria Jungfrau Hotel. In between all of your outdoor adventures, be sure to treat yourself to a high class atmosphere. The Victoria Bar offers traditional English tea times on the weekends as well.

                    Cost: depends on what you order

                  • Walk around Interlaken Old Town

                    There are two sides to Interlaken’s town centre, the main street and the streets north of the main street leading to the river.

                    The Main street is strictly shopping and mostly for tourists. I wouldn’t skip past it too quickly but you don’t need to spend too much time here. If you’re looking to buy some Swiss chocolate, Swiss Army Knives or souvenir type items then this is where to go.

                    After you’ve finished with your shopping, head north through the small collection of streets that lead to the river. Here you will find more traditional buildings decorated with baskets of flowers and colourful window shutters, including the Interlaken Monastery and castle.

                    Cost: free!

                  • Explore the top of a lesser known Swiss Alp, the Neiderhorn

                    Below are the top Swiss Alps to visit when you’re near Interlaken, Switzerland. However, I’ve come to love exploring the lesser known places while traveling and you will not be disappointed by taking half a day (or a full day if you want to hike up) experiencing the top of the Niederhorn. This was suggested to us by our AirBnb host, as was the restaurant that is located at the midway point.

                    You can either hike from the bottom to the top, or take the funicular. In fact, you can ride the funicular to different heights of the mountain. So if you want to ride halfway up and hike the rest (or vice versa) you can!

                    Cost: the cost has varied since we visited, I would ask your local lodging to find this for you

                  • Soak up another breathtaking view at Harder Kulm

                    Harder Kulm is a viewpoint in Interlaken. People call it Interlaken’s own mountain as the view looks down directly over the town. Visitors take a quick ten minute cable car up to the top, and can walk out over the extending platform to spectacular views of Interlaken and Unterseen from above.

                    *The cable car cost is a bit pricey, so be sure to plan to go only on a clear sky day. I would suggest visiting around sunset is best. There is also a panoramic restaurant with a glass viewing platform.

                    Cost: (for the funicular) 38 CHF

                  • Visit the beautiful Giessbach Waterfalls

                    On the south side of Lake Brienz are the Giessbach Waterfalls. Arrive either by ferry or bike, then take the funicular to the Grand Hotel Giessbach, which has incredible views. Of course you can always hike up or down instead of taking the funicular, if you want to spend more time outside enjoying Switzerland’s hikes.

                    For more details on the hike, check out this blog post.

                    Cost: 10 CHF

                  Day Trips from Interlaken

                   Just as it’s smart to have a somewhat planned out itinerary for things to do in Interlaken, there are so many beautiful places around the area that you should consider as well.


                  Be enthralled with Thun Switzerland

                  Enjoy your lake cruise on Lake Thun over to the town that the lake was named after, Thun. You can enjoy your time walking through the colorful town, and the uphill walk to the Sleeping Beauty-esque castle, Thun Castle. You may even catch some surfers riding the structured tides at the wooden bridges in the town center. Yes, that’s right, Thun has wooden bridges just like Lucerne!

                  Step back in time at Unterseen

                  This medieval town is walkable from Interlaken, and worth half a day trip for those who enjoy meandering through charming European towns.

                  Explore the famous mountain of Jungfrau

                  Visitors can hop into a cogwheel train all the way to the top of the mountain and take in breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps. There is a Snow Park open during the summer months, which is great for snow tubing, skiing or snowboarding.

                  It takes two hours to get to Jungfrau from Interlaken, and I don’t believe there are any restrooms on the trains. It’s accessible 365 days a year. There is also a Jungfrau pass that’s great for those who want to explore more than one mountain town near Interlaken, as it will save you money if you want to participate in many of those activities. You can purchase the Jungfrau Travel Pass HERE.

                  Battle your adventure fears in Grindelwald

                  No, I don’t mean the J.K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter novels) evil Grindelwald, I mean the outdoorsy, very popular mountain town, Grindelwald. Not only is the main town of Grindelwald postcard worthy for Switzerland, there are also lots of outdoor activities for both summer and winter months. Here are more details on what to do in Grindelwald.

                  Take postcard worthy images in Lauterbrunnen

                  You’ve probably seen snapshots of this Swiss town with its iconic waterfall falling near the main town. Visitors can easily take a train or car from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen, and capture pictures you will cherish for years.

                  Take a scenic train ride

                  There is something magical about train rides that weave you through the countryside, especially a countryside as adorably picturesque as Switzerlands. Take the Schynige Platte cogwheel train from Wilderswil. Only a ten minute drive or bus ride from Interlaken. *Be sure to check the weather forecast before choosing which day to do this, because if it’s cloudy outside then you won’t see the wonderfully beautiful scenery, which makes this trip worth it.

                  FUN FACTS about Interlaken, Switzerland

                  Both Lake Thun and Lake Brienz are turquoise and blue due to glacial particles. These tiny particles drip down the Swiss Alps and sink to the bottom of the lake, purifying the water as they go on their descent.

                  Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

                  Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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                  Travel Guide to Bern, Switzerland

                  Travel Guide to Bern, Switzerland

                  travel guide

                  An Ultimate Guide for what to see & do when traveling to Bern, Switzerland

                  (and what to skip!)

                  Note: this post contains affiliate links to products we love and have purchased ourselves. Clicking these links doesn’t cost you any extra money, and you’re supporting us by doing so. You can view our disclosure page for additional details

                  Experience the effortlessly charming city of Bern, Switzerland. The fifth largest city in the country, and Switzerland’s capital, Bern is a compact but adorably picturesque city. A place that was once home to the physicist Albert Einstein, known for bears, Berenese dogs and the colorful River Aare, Bern is perfect for a city break and is still an off-the-radar gem of Switzerland.

                  Below you will find a detailed travel guide to Bern, Switzerland including where to stay, why you should visit Bern and the top things to do in the city.

                  [If you found your way here through my Sustainable Travel page, then you may just be interested in my findings and viewpoints on Barenpark. Click here to scroll to that section.]

                  Why go to Bern?

                   Why should I go to Bern?

                          There are so many beautiful places to visit Switzerland and its surrounding countries, yet I would still highly recommend a visit to Bern, and here’s why:

                          The city is meticulously preserved, which is most likely why it’s old town (also called the aldstadt) was named a UNESCO World Heritage site all the way back in 1983! Literally every corner you turn there are picture perfect places to soak up. And it doesn’t hurt that life is slower paced than many other major european cities. So, you’ll be exploring a ‘big’ city but enjoying it as if it’s a small town.


                  Fun fact: Bern, Switzerland earned its name from the founder around the early 1900’s after he apparently killed a bear who came too close to the city while it was being built. (More about how this fact led to a not too pretty, in fact very negative, animal rights situation… more on that later. Keep reading to find out!) Since then, the city’s flag and emblem has always shown a bear.

                  Where is Bern?

                  Bern, Switzerland is located southwest of the major city of Zurich, and only an hour train ride from the crisp blue lakes bordering Interlaken. The city is hugged by the beautifully bright & clean River Aare

                    Where to stay in Bern?

                            The city of Bern goes farther beyond the altstadt (old town), so be sure to book your lodging inside of the old town area, as this is where the charming, picturesque part of the city is located.

                            We stayed at the Hotel Savoy Bern and loved it! The location was not only within walking distance to the main train station (which will save you money from having to order a taxi or public transportation), but the rooms were very spacious, had great views and the interior was modernly beautiful.

                            Be sure to check out other lodgings options – I typically use as they list more than just hotels. There are luxury homes, B&Bs and apartments. Lodging options in Bern, Switzerland

                      How long should I stay in Bern?

                      We stayed in Bern for three nights and felt like we were able to leisurely enjoy our time here. One day would not be enough, so I would suggest at a minimum two full days and depending on your travel style, at most four nights.

                        If you’re planning visits to other parts of Switzerland, be sure to explore my other posts about this enchanting country here!

                          How to get around Bern:

                                  While there is an airport near Bern, it’ll be much easier to arrive by train. Once you arrive via train, it is a five to ten minute walk to get to the old town part of the city. Bern’s old town is shaped like a horseshoe bend with the turquoise River Aare giving it its shape. Once there you will notice that there are trams and buses available. However, we did not once use them as the city is so accessible on foot. In fact, most of the traffic you’ll see will be pedestrian foot traffic.

                                  Bern, Switzerland has recently installed bike stations throughout the city, which I would definitely recommend utilizing. You could bike around all of the old town in half a day this way. Check out this map for the location of the docking stations within the old town of Bern.

                            Walk around Berns beautifully preserved old town

                                      The city of Bern has transformed into a metropolis since it was rebuilt after a terrible fire in the early 1400’s. However the aldstadt has kept its european charm and has remained intact since the 15th century rebuild. Known for its 6 kilometers of ‘covered arcades’ – not actual arcades, but outdoor promenades – locals refer to them as “Lauben” – they are the longest weather sheltered shopping promenade in Europe

                                      While you’re walking around, try to find the Kindlifresser statue, aka the Child Eater statue. Yep, you read that correctly. There is a statue with a man eating a sack of babies… no one is quite sure what it depicts, but it should be a great example of the boogeyman tactics for parents to use.

                              Fun fact – there are over 100 fountains in this small old town!

                                Ogle at the Zytglogge

                                          The Zytglogge is a famous astronomical clock. It was Bern’s western city gate back in the 12th century, and is now a major site to see in the old town part of Bern. This 800+ year old clock still functions with all of its mechanical figures, and on the hour you can watch it ‘perform’. There is a museum/walk through tour you can do, but truth be told, I felt this was unnecessary. But I suppose it depends on your love for clockwork.

                                    Walk to the top of the Bern Cathedral

                                              A dominant landmark in Bern, this cathedral is the tallest religious building in all of Switzerland. Not only is it a great workout walking up the 222 steps, but the view is beautiful. I’m personally not always a fan of views from super high up because you miss out on so much detail, but the view from Bern Cathedral is perfect in terms of height without being too far away. It’s also the highest place to view the city from.

                                        Visit the Rosengarten

                                                  Bern’s Rosengarten is great for both a relaxing afternoon in a charming park and vistas of the entire city from across the River Aare. It is an uphill climb to reach the park, but you are rewarded with great views of Bern. There is a statue of Einstein sitting on a bench that is perfect for capturing cute pictures with the historical figures.

                                                  The Rosengarten would be good to visit even in the fall, and for sunset as the sun dips below the city skyline.

                                            Explore the Bundeshaus

                                                      The Bundeshaus is the Swiss Federal Assembly building in Bern. I’ve become particularly choosey when it comes to spending my travel time inside of museums and historical sites, so while I typically wouldn’t suggest going inside of a government building, the Swiss do it justice. They offer FREE tours of inside the Bundeshaus, however will be closed to the public if parliament is in session. You can find the dates they are closed here.

                                                Shop at the Parliament Square weekly market

                                                          In front of Bundeshaus is Parliament Square, which is great for people watching, and where Bern hosts a weekly market. Every Tuesday and Saturday morning you can enjoy local produce and Swiss foods.

                                                          Maybe you’ll feel inclined to buy some treats and then enjoy them while sitting on the steps in the back of Bundeshaus. This part of the building sits against the River Aare so will provide a nice relaxing place to enjoy a morning treat.

                                                    Channel Albert Einstein’s intelligence

                                                              Learn about the famous physicist and his life while he lived in Bern, Switzerland by visiting the house he used to live in. This house museum is where he lived when he developed his famous theory of relativity. Overall, it was a fairly interesting place to visit as Einstein had a unique life and also traveled the world.

                                                              (There is a good cafe directly below it as well)

                                                        Swim in the Aare

                                                                  If you plan on visiting Bern in the summer, than I’d suggest packing a swimsuit as you can swim in the beautifully clean River Aare. I can’t speak personally about this as we visited in the fall, but a local gave us the following information on how to swim in the Aare in Bern : enter at Eicholz recreation area and float down to the Freiban Marzili.

                                                            Enjoy the sunset with a view

                                                                     Grab a bottle of wine or some beers from a local store and enjoy the sun setting over the rust red rooftops of Bern at the Rosengarten or from the back side of the Bundeshaus (Parliament Building).

                                                                Take it slow & people watch

                                                                          I loved the pace of the city of Bern. A city that felt effortlessly slow paced. My suggestion, pick up a cup of coffee in the morning and sit in one of the squares to people watch. There was a square close to our hotel that had a life size chess set. We watched a group of older men play while starting their day with espressos, beers and cigars. It’s moments like these where you can begin to feel the heart of a place you travel to.

                                                                          Another way to immerse yourself in a new destination is to…

                                                                    Take part in a local event or festival

                                                                              As Bern is the capital of Switzerland there are quite a few events that you can attend. We stumbled upon a cultural food festival while there and loved it. You can find more of Bern’s events here.

                                                                                Translated this means the Bear Park. As an animal lover and protector I am always hesitant about visiting and suggesting others to visit places that house (unfortunately, ‘house’ is a light term used here, when often it’s a prison) animals of any kind. I try my best to research prior to visiting and especially spending any money on places like these.

                                                                                Unfortunately, Bern housed a cement bear pit since its inception of officially becoming Bern in the 1500’s. Looking at pictures of what it used to be, which was maintained up until 2009, it makes me feel really sad that that went on for so long. Happily though, the Bern bear pit has been transformed into a bear park. The park is over 65,000 square feet in size, is fitted on a sloping hill with plenty of grass areas for the current bear occupants to enjoy who were transferred from Scandinavia or born in captivity. (Personally, I feel that it’s extremely odd that we ship animals around like property to different zoo’s.)

                                                                                  Barenpark is free to visit in Bern. And while the space provided for them now is much much better than the cement hole in the ground they inhabited for hundreds of years, it’s still limiting for what a wild animal should have access to. For example, bears enjoy water and currently the bears at Barenpark can see the water rushing by but have no access to it. Talk about dangling a treat in front of someone face, and preventing them from having it for their own ‘safety’.

                                                                                  I suggest visiting as you can see for yourself the conditions they’re in, and may it be a reminder, note for the future or nugget of a lesson for you to better understand the rights that animals should have.

                                                                          What are your thoughts on this?

                                                                             Not to end on what may feel like a negative tone, let me conclude by saying that Bern has much more to offer than their Barenpark. If you choose to visit this charismatic city (which I highly suggest you do!), be sure to enjoy it in its entirety by visiting and doing the items I listed above. Bern is great for taking it slow, and is one of the few places in Europe that still feels off the beaten path in terms of popular cities to visit in Switzerland.

                                                                              [Curious about why there are so many people at the same destination as you? Read about Over Tourism here]

                                                                                TIPS for visiting Bern, Switzerland:

                                                                                • Switzerland is expensive, so be sure to visit a grocery store for lunch or breakfast (and maybe some wine) to save yourself from racking up your expenses too high
                                                                                • Swiss German is the language spoken in Bern
                                                                                • Stay in the old town part of the city Bern, once there, everything is walkable
                                                                                • Visit Bern, Switzerland in the summer to swim in the River Aare, visit in the winter months for the Christmas markets
                                                                                • More general facts about the city of Bern

                                                                                  Want to see more?

                                                                                  Scroll through these pictures of from our trip to Bern, Switzerland

                                                                                    Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

                                                                                    Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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                                                                                    San Miguel de Allende Mexico Travel Guide

                                                                                    San Miguel de Allende Mexico Travel Guide

                                                                                    travel guide

                                                                                    San Miguel de Allende.

                                                                                    I type this beautiful towns name and smile, looking back fondly on time spent here.  Simple, yet stunning. Slow paced, yet full of life.  Experiencing San Miguel de Allende, Mexico is something I recommend to anyone who has only experienced a Mexico resort or those who need a week of deep breathing and delicious foods.  My sister and I spent a week in San Miguel de Allende and after exploring almost every shop and many many restaurants, I’ve put together a first time visitors ultimate travel guide to San Miguel de Allende.

                                                                                    [Check out my other Mexico travel guides here]

                                                                                    Interesting Information about San Miguel de Allende:

                                                                                    San Miguel de Allende was a travel destination haven for artists and now boasts a large number of expatriate retirees.  Don’t let this discourage you though, San Miguel de Allende is still an authentic town and the retirees have discovered a calm, beautiful and easy living city to place roots that has a wonderfully mild climate.

                                                                                    Buildings within the city center are required to follow certain aesthetics, which is why the town has been able to preserve its charm.  In fact it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008! Wandering the streets you will see colonial style buildings, many with dwindling stone facades.

                                                                                    Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

                                                                                    Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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                                                                                    How to get to San Miguel de Allende:

                                                                                    Fly into the Leon airport, and hire a transfer service to drive you the one hour and 20 minute ride to San Miguel de Allende

                                                                                    We used Baijo Go shuttle service and loved it! 

                                                                                    You can also take a three to four hour bus ride from Mexico City

                                                                                    *based on the time it took us in the Mexico City airport and driving from Leon to San Miguel de Allende, a bus ride may be about the same amount of time to get there, if not quicker.  If you decide to take a bus from Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende, check out this blog post by An Epic Education. Jason provides great details about how to do so.

                                                                                    Things to do in San Miguel de Allende

                                                                                    Enjoy the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel

                                                                                    This church is the epicenter of San Miguel de Allende.  A stand out, neo-gothic style church known for its pink color and intricate towers.  If you can see this church than you can navigate your way around the entire town.

                                                                                    Explore the many other churches

                                                                                    All of the catholic churches are quite exquisite to walk through.  Here were our favorites:

                                                                                    • Templo de Santo Domingo
                                                                                    • Templo de San Francisco
                                                                                    • Church of our Lady of Health
                                                                                    • Templo del Oratorio de San Felipe Neri
                                                                                    • Templo de Santa Ana

                                                                                    Wander the colorful streets

                                                                                    Soak up the charm of San Miguel de Allende by wandering through its serpentine streets.  Enjoy the buildings colors change seamlessly from amber, to blush, to merlot, to lemon all while also watching your step on the cobblestone streets (there are holes in the ground!).  Be sure to get lost among these streets and go into the small boutiques

                                                                                    Walk up to El Mirador

                                                                                    El Mirador is a lookout area in San Miguel de Allende.  It is a steep walk up but well worth the views. There were also fantastic, non-assertive, vendors up there as well.

                                                                                    Bring home local treats from Mente Cacao

                                                                                    Mente Cacao is a locally made chocolate and was one of the best chocolates I have ever tasted.  Their chocolate bars are made with simple, real ingredients of caco and honey (instead of sugar) and sourced from within Mexico.  These made for great gifts for our friends.

                                                                                    Explore El Charco del Ingenio

                                                                                    El Charco del Ingenio is San Miguel’s botanical gardens.  As beautiful as this place is, be sure to wear hiking boots or sneakers and cover your ankles.  There were so many huge spiders and bugs up there!

                                                                                    (*I wore sandals – not a smart idea – and couldn’t make it more than ten minutes in before I freaked out with the large bugs and ran back)  This is not walkable from the city, so I would suggest ordering an Uber to take you there.

                                                                                    [If you’re new to using Uber you can use this link to get a discount on your first ride!]

                                                                                    Go organic at the Mercato Sano farmers market

                                                                                    This organic farmers market was a favorite place of ours.  It is only opened on Saturdays so be sure to plan accordingly.  There were vendors outside serving freshly made to order hot food, vendors inside selling a variety of other goods and an indoor structure with two levels that had various food places too.

                                                                                    Slow down in Parque Juarez

                                                                                    Enjoy a serene walk through the Parque Juarez on your way to or from the Mercato Sano

                                                                                    Take a sustainable day tour and go horseback riding

                                                                                    We booked a half day horseback riding tour with Coyote Canyon Adventures and LOVED it!  Everything about this tour was well done and environmentally friendly.  Explore a privately owned canyon on an ‘adventure’ trail as they call it (not just meandering along a paved trail).  The horses well very well cared for by the guides who are true Vaqueros (cowboys).  And the lunch was held at one of their houses – a freshly prepared lunch with gorgeous views, and vegetarian friendly!  I can’t speak highly enough about this tour.

                                                                                    Day trip to Guanajuato

                                                                                    We weren’t able to do this ourselves but it was recommended by many to spend a day at Guanajuato.  There are many tours on TripAdvisor you can find, or you can take bus from San Miguel de Allende to Guanajuato.  *Be warned that during slower times of the year, buses do not always run according to schedule

                                                                                    Spend an afternoon people watching at the Centro Historico

                                                                                    Where the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel is is an open square with a gazebo.  The area is surrounded by shops and restaurants too.  Enjoy an afternoon sitting near the gazebo people watching.  You’ll see a combination of locals, expats and visitors all enjoying the slow paced lifestyle San Miguel exudes.  And at night there are quite a few mariachi bands playing for the crowds as well.

                                                                                    A little bit more cliche, there are also vendors selling fake flower crowns in this square.  A fun memento of your trip and even more fun to wear around the town after you’ve had a few mezcal shots.

                                                                                    Where to eat & drink in San Miguel de Allende, for vegetarians:

                                                                                    La Posadita: had a great grilled veggie dish and large salads.  Their rooftop view of the church was close to town and stunning

                                                                                    Rosewood Hotel bar: one of the most beautiful hotels in San Miguel de Allende (possibly the most expensive too), with a grand view of the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel and the entire town.  Go here for drinks and light appetizers and enjoy watching the sun set.

                                                                                    Via Organica: both vegan and vegetarian friendly!  Plus they have a grocery store which was great for us as we stayed in an AirBnB.  This is also where I bought bags of Mexican coffee beans to bring home

                                                                                    Azotea: a centrally located restaurant with delicious margaritas and a great mezal & tequila menu.  Their rooftop was cozy and modern.

                                                                                    Inside Cafe: a vegetarian friendly restaurant with an adorable terrace.  Their french toast was delicious and had a very friendly staff

                                                                                    Lavanda: a well known spot for brunch, they had a great menu.  Be sure to arrive when this place opens as its popularity can produce a long wait.  

                                                                                    Mama Mia: another spot with a great terrace, but better known for their karaoke nights.  Definitely a cultural experience to go here and watch everyone perform

                                                                                    Don Taco Tequila: a vegan restaurant with delicious tacos.  They also have amazingly spicy salsa too

                                                                                    It’s easy to understand why so many people have been visiting San Miguel de Allende Mexico.  This relatively small town carries so much character and life within its boundaries. To me it felt like an approachable place to fall in love with Mexico, a country so many fear to explore beyond their beach resorts.  Travel to San Miguel de Allende for the slow paced living, amazing food scene and warm colors.

                                                                                    [ Related: the Mexico City Travel Guide for first time visitors ]

                                                                                    TIPS for visiting San Miguel de Allende:

                                                                                    • Don’t take picture of mariachi bands, unless you are willing to tip them… I learned this the hard way (albeit funny for my sister) by them turning their backs on me
                                                                                    • The sidewalks are older cobblestones and many places have holes in them.  Be sure to look down when you’re walking around
                                                                                    • That classic view of the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel with the colorful alleyway is behind the church
                                                                                    • The city is very walkable, so a rental car isn’t needed.  If necessary, you can also order Ubers here.
                                                                                    • Each building has its own courtyards will gardens,, tall ceilings and brick layers.  These are great for pictures and to enjoy some moments of peace.
                                                                                    • If you’re an art fan there are a ton of art galleries throughout the city

                                                                                    [ Related: the Mexico City Travel Advice for first time visitors ]

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                                                                                    First Time Visitors Mexico City Travel Guide

                                                                                    First Time Visitors Mexico City Travel Guide

                                                                                    travel guide

                                                                                    Here are visitor & local favorite sightseeing stops, and neighborhoods to explore and safety tips for first-time visitors.

                                                                                    This page contains affiliate links to products and tours that I have used for my own travels, purchased & enjoyed. Clicking these links does not cost you anything, however doing so will support Blue Eyed Compass and allow the site to continue.  THANK YOU!

                                                                                    As a first time visitor to Mexico City it can feel daunting about what to expect.

                                                                                    What do you envision when you think of Mexico?

                                                                                    I visualize lots of vibrant colors, hear tons of happy people walking around me, taste fresh tortas, smoky mezcal, cinnamon sweet churros, and the strum of guitars as part of a mariachi band.

                                                                                    Now imagine a city that has all of that, PLUS beautiful architecture blending old and new, celebrated history seen throughout its streets and tree-lined boulevards leading to city parks, galleries, and vibrant restaurants. This is Mexico City, Mexico – a destination with a combination of your favorite Mexican characteristics.

                                                                                    Here is your first time visitors travel guide to Mexico City!

                                                                                    How to get around Mexico City

                                                                                    Mexico City is a very large city, and one I wouldn’t suggest anyone try to walk the entirety of. Instead start your trip by ordering an Uber, hop in and head to the most interesting places to see in Mexico City:

                                                                                    [New to Uber? Use this link to earn your first ride for free on me!]

                                                                                    Car sharing rides are quite cheap in Mexico City, costing around $3 for a 10-15 minute trip. And something I would suggest over their public transportation.

                                                                                    How long do you need to spend in Mexico City?

                                                                                    There are plenty of restaurants, museums and day trips that you could spend weeks in Mexico City. If you aren’t an urban fan or dying to see the more ‘scenic’ parts of the country and just booking a stopover in Mexico City, I would suggest at least three full days.

                                                                                    First Time Visitors Guide to Mexico City


                                                                                    Bosque de Chapultepec

                                                                                    A vast and lush park (bosque in spanish translates to park!), Bosque de Chapultepec offers so much for first time visitors.  Spending an entire weekend here is possible, it is that large of a park.

                                                                                     Chapultepec Castle

                                                                                    The castle is inside of Bosque de Chapultepec.  The Chapultepec Castle is the only royal castle built in the Americas and since its use as a palace it has been home to military academies, presidents and now is the National Museum of History.  Pay only 70 pesos to enter the museum and be rewarded with views of the city in all directions. Heads up though, this is a steep climb to the entrance.

                                                                                    Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

                                                                                    Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

                                                                                    Follow Along!

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                                                                                    Check out more images of Chapultepc Castle by scrolling through here

                                                                                    Step into the Future Forest

                                                                                    Upon your walk from the Chapultepec Castle to your next stop (see next item below), visitors will find the Future Forest.  An art installation done by artist Thomas Dambo, made entirely out of recycled plastic!

                                                                                    The Future Forest can be found within the parks Botanical Gardens.  It was created for the annual Flowers and Gardens Festival (April 2018) and is set to remain here until further notice.

                                                                                    Museo Nacional de Antropologica

                                                                                    Also inside of the Bosque de Chapultepec (remember, this park is huge!), is the Museum of National Anthropology.  Enjoy this museums free entrance and open courtyard set up to get a glimpse into the way ancient mayans lived and treasures collected from sites like Chichen Itza.

                                                                                    La Feria

                                                                                    Chapultepec Parks own amusement park!


                                                                                    Centro Historico

                                                                                    Explore all of the Zocalo

                                                                                    Zocalo is part of the historic center of Mexico City.  This is where the major picture snapping sights are, and is the heart of the city.  Set aside this area as the start of one of your days and explore the following:

                                                                                    Metropolitan Cathedral

                                                                                    This is the lead place for Roman Catholicism in Mexico.  Built on top of sacred Aztec space (thanks to Spanish conquistadors), this cathedral is the most recognizable church in Mexico City. And it’s interior is stunning with the golden Altar of Forgiveness gleaming as soon as you step inside.

                                                                                    Check out more images of  the Metropolitan Cathedral by scrolling through here

                                                                                    Templo Mayor

                                                                                    These are the remaining ruins of the Mexica people’s place of worship of Tenochtitlan (which is now the city of Mexico City).  You can pay to enter, or see it from above by walking to the right side of (if you are facing) the Metropolitan Cathedral.

                                                                                    National Palace

                                                                                    Since the time of the Aztecs, this has been the ruling class’s palace.  It is now a government building and museum. Much of the exterior is original and beautifully maintained.  The National Palace is free to enter, and you will provide your ID as you enter — don’t worry, you get it back when you exit.  Be sure to enjoy the gardens as there are feral cats on the grounds, many of which were very friendly and seeking cuddles! Inside you’ll enjoy The History of Mexico wall mural by Diego Rivera.  This massive mural seamlessly intertwines the struggles of the Mexican people throughout history.

                                                                                    *The entrance to the National Palace in Mexico City may be difficult to find.  Head towards the Templo Mayor from the Metropolitan Cathedral and go down Prol Seminario.  The entrance will be a five minute walk down this road and on the right side of the road.

                                                                                    Check out more images of  the National Palace by scrolling through here

                                                                                    Walk down Calle Francisco I Madero

                                                                                    This pedestrian only street, leading from the Zocalo, has many restaurants and stores to shop in.  A wonderful place to stop for a quick bite and people watch. Plus it will lead you to the beautiful…

                                                                                    Palais de Bella Artes

                                                                                    Probably the most iconic building in all of Mexico City.  The Palace of Fine Arts is a stunning architectural beauty.  Tours are available inside, but I prefer the outside beauty and people watching.  If you want pictures with less people visit here early in the morning prior to its opening. *If you want pictures of the Palais de Bella Artes from above visit the cafe inside of Sears across the street.

                                                                                    Alameda Central

                                                                                    One of the many public parks in Mexico City, Alameda Central is connected to the Palais de Bella Artes.  Walk along the granite walkways, and on the weekends there is usually street food vendors and performances here.


                                                                                    Roma // Condesa

                                                                                    The Roma and Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City is the perfect place to escape from the hustle of the metropolitan areas.

                                                                                    Walk along Avenida Amsterdam

                                                                                    A round about tree lined street in between the road just for pedestrians.  It circles around the main area of the neighborhood, so you can stop off to explore where you feel drawn to.

                                                                                    Read More: Staying in the Roma and La Condesa Neighborhoods

                                                                                    Find the best vegan food

                                                                                    See my guide on our own self run vegan food tour that you can take yourself on.  This neighborhood has some of THE best vegan food offerings in the city. There is also a vegan food market called Casa Quimera that has lots of options for fresh produce and restaurant prepared meals.

                                                                                    *Remember the food is phenomenal, the water is not.

                                                                                    Read More: Vegan Food Tour in Mexico City

                                                                                    Wander the streets in search of stunning street art

                                                                                    There is so much great street art in this neighborhood that it is reason enough to grab some shots next to them.

                                                                                    Enjoy the many public parks throughout the city

                                                                                    • Plaza Luis Cabrera is a small one in the Roma neighborhood, surrounded by restaurants and lots of great people watching.
                                                                                    • Parque Espana is another small public park in the Roma neighborhood with a mini CDMX sign and street art of the infamous dog, Frida, can be seen too.

                                                                                    *There are so many parks in the city, if you see one allow yourself some time to wander through or go in with a coffee in hand to people watch and understand the culture a bit more.

                                                                                    The remaining suggestions are places that I have not been to, but wanted to share as they were part of my research prior to traveling here.


                                                                                    Polanco is an upscale area of the city.  Known for its high end shopping and top quality restaurants. In addition to the Centro Historico and Roma/Condesa neighborhood, the Polanco area is very safe for tourists to travel to in Mexico City.


                                                                                    Coyoacan is a beautifully preserved, popular place to visit in Mexico city (especially on the weekends).  Coyoacan is a vibrant area with a few places to enjoy walking around.

                                                                                    Temple San Juan Bautista

                                                                                    A well known catholic cathedral with many beautiful murals.

                                                                                    Coyoacan central square

                                                                                    The main area of this district and it is lined with great restaurants.


                                                                                    Famous for its floating gardens, Xochimilco is known as the Venice of Mexico.  Many first time visitors will go here on the weekends, hop in a colorful boat and float around with drinks.

                                                                                    *We did not go here ourselves, but were told by a few locals that it would be easier to visit here if you spoke Spanish, as many here only speak Spanish.  At the very least, bring cash in small denominations with you so you can avoid overpaying.

                                                                                    No matter what you choose to see and do in Mexico City as a first time visitor, it’ll be easy to enjoy yourself.  The colorful culture is so bright and the food so delicious, that adding in some historical sites can only make it a better time.

                                                                                    Don’t forget to pack these Mexico City Essentials:

                                                                                    TIPS for visiting Mexico City, Mexico:

                                                                                    • Be wary of walking around at night.  We chose not to go out at night (since we were exhausted at the end of each day) but many locals told us to be cautious as females — this is advice you should carry with you everywhere you go
                                                                                    • Don’t take the public metro system; Ubers were very cheap and took up much less time.  There are also quite a few reports of pickpocketing on public transportation, so avoid dealing with it if possible.
                                                                                    • Don’t take taxis either; this is a preference depending on who you talk to
                                                                                    • Read More about Mexico City Travel Advice
                                                                                    • If you don’t speak the language, stay in safe areas (such as the ones listed above)
                                                                                    • Book an Airbnb or boutique hotel in the La Condesa or Rome neighborhoods
                                                                                    • It’s best to carry cash & use credit cards for larger purchases
                                                                                    • Leave your valuables at home, no need to flash off your expensive jewelry or handbags.
                                                                                    • Street food is a vibe in Mexico City, and probably the most affordable (and delicious) food you will ever find.
                                                                                    • Most museums are closed on Mondays

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