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Enter our Valentine’s Day competition to win a £100 gift voucher!

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We think travel is best shared with those you love. What is the best trip you’ve ever taken with your significant other and why? Be it your partner, friend, mum or parrot, whoever you hold dear in the world – we want to hear from you.

Drop us a few lines at valentines@isango.com and you’ll enter the competition to win a £100 gift voucher to spend at isango.com. Share the love and surprise your loved one with a tour of your choice!

Competition closes on 14th February at noon. Winner will be announced on the same day. 

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1st Day of the New Year in Stockholm’s Old Town

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As New Year's Eve rapidly approached and I was faced with spending it in my pesky home town in grey, boring Finland, a friend and I decided that we needed to get away. The trip to Stockholm from Finland is easy and traversed often by Finns via a cruise liner. This is one of the most convenient ways for Finns to take a small break: a cruise to Stockholm is easy and quick – enjoying the tax free shops on board comes as an added bonus. Our ship docked at 10.30am on the 1st of January and the vessel was eerily, yet understandably quiet. After a night of boogeing on the party boat we were starving and headed out early.

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Ranked #3 on TripAdvisor for things to do in Stockholm, we headed for Stockholm’s Gamla Stan i.e. Old Town. The walk to the area from the port takes about 15 minutes and although there was nothing much of interest to look at along the way, at least we found evidence of a night of heavy partying. 

Celebrations

Gamla Stan is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centres in Europe, and here you can see the Royal Palace with its 600 rooms, Sweden’s national cathedral Stockholm Cathedral and the Nobel Museum. The Christmas wreaths and decorations were still in place and created a cosy atmosphere even post-Christmas.

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The area isn’t huge and perfect for a leisurely wander along the cobbled streets, peering into crowded passageways and gazing up on the medieval buildings, the surfaces of which look powdery and ancient. There are so many little details on the buildings you'll be snap happy throughout your stroll. Gamla Stan is unsurprisingly very touristy with the appropriate offering of souvenir shops, sweet shops and bric a brac – none of which tickled our fancy. However, we did stop over for a tasty lunch in one of the little cafes that dot the streets.

Gamla Stan is definitely worth checking out when in Stockholm, but head over early morning to avoid the crowds!
Keen on a bit of Stockholm sightseeing beyond the Old Town? Take a bus tour of the city and get your bearings from day one!

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In search of Père Noël – Christmas in Paris

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During the coldest, darkest winter months it’s often the wonderful thought and anticipation of Christmas that encourages most of us to bravely battle the nasty breeze, sleet and sub-zero temperatures. When Christmas lights and displays pop up across the cities of Europe, one can’t help but feel the build-up of festive cheer and excitement. And during this dark time of year the best place to be is of course the City of Light, where you can soak up the glow of seasonal activities. Paris is chock-full of yuletide activities and makes for a wonderful destination even if you're not too into busy Christmas markets and carol singers. Take a look below at the best things to do if you're spending Christmas in Paris.

Christmas Lights and Displays

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Image by Nicholas Jones

A 2km stretch of the iconic Champs-Élysées is lit up with dozens of lights leading up to the Arc de Triomphe. The 200 trees that are drenched in light will stay lit until 2:00am each day, and all night on December 31st in celebration of the new year.

The many boutiques and shops that line Champs-Élysées are decorated with festive displays, lights and trees. Stop by at the traditional Christmas market for a cup of mulled wine and a bit of shopping. Don’t miss the stupendous Galeries Lafayette department store: from the outside you can marvel at the ever-changing light show the wonderfully magical window displays, dedicated this year to the theme of The Beauty and the Beast. Be sure to check out the Printemps store as well.

Other noteworthy spots with twinkling lights are Place Vendôme and Place de la Concorde, where you will also find the Paris Big Wheel.

Ice Skating

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Image by Olivier Bruchez

Donning a pair of skates and heading to the rink is a winter favourite, especially among kids.
Patinoire de L’Hôtel de Ville is situated right in front of the city hall and is the most popular (and busiest) rink in the city. If your skating skills are a bit rusty, fear not, the huge rink includes a smaller area for beginners and children – and there are even instructors at hand to help you perfect your technique.

Patinoire des Cinq Continents at Champs-Élysées, right in the middle of the liveliest Christmas shenanignas. This year the rink takes its inspiration from the five continents of the world by featuring over 300 animated pandas, deer, wolves, polar bears and other critters in its ice garden.

If you want to skate under the watchful eye of the Eiffel Tower, you can do so at the Trocadero Square rink where you will also find a Christmas village and a snow garden.

Cultural Events

There are many things to do in Paris besides the obvious Christmas activities, from shows to art exhibitions.

For scenes straight out of a storybook, catch the legendary Sleeping Beauty (La Belle au bois dormant) ballet at the Opéra Bastille, or the Beauty and the Beast musical at Théâtre Mogador.

For thrills and wondrous excitement, go to one of the latest circus shows: Cirque BouglioneCirque Pinder or Cirque National Alexis Gruss. For something out of this world, you can experience Kooza, the new show by Cirque du Soleil. Whatever your choice, prepare for an evening of fantastical characters, colours, sounds and mind-boggling feats and tricks.

Art lovers will appreciate the many exhibitions taking place, most of which run until the end of January. See the works of Frida Kahlo at the Musee de l’Orangerie, Goya at the Pinacotheque and Braque at the Grand Palais

Quirky

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Image by Christophe Alary

Enter the bizarre, mysterious world of carnivals of the bygone era at Musée des Arts Forains, also known as The Fun Fair Museum. The museum is located in Bercy, a disctrict once used by Parisian wine merchants, where you can see rows and rows of warehouses with rails running down the lanes for transportation of the barrels. The museum is usually only open with prior reservation, but opens to the general public during Christmas. The collection includes merry-go-rounds and carousels, Japanese billiards and much more dating all the way back to 1850.

Still unsure of what to do in Paris? Take a look at the tours we offer in this beautiful city!

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Brussels Nightlife Guide

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Brussels Nightlife Guide

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Having lived in Brussels for 9 months and frequenting pubs and bars nearly every weekend (sometimes two nights in a row) I like to think myself a connoisseur of Brussels after dark. Some of the best places for a drink can be found conveniently located around the city centre and for some you might have go the extra mile, but it will be worth it. Whether you’re in the hunt for the best margarita or just a place to dance until your legs feel like jello, Brussels will deliver.

Le Corbeau

Good for: Dancing on tables

If you go to one place in Brussels, go to Le Corbeau. Get there before 10pm and you will see people casually enjoying their dinner with a few drinks in a charming old-Brussels setting. Stick around and you will be surprised. At approximately 11pm the bartender goes around removing lamps from tables, the volume goes up and suddenly you will see someone scrambling onto the table they just had their dinner on – soon the whole place is up on tables, grooving to the music and you have no choice but to try it yourself. I’ve never had a bad night here even though the fight for the best table spot can sometimes get a bit heated. Wearing heels is not recommended, you will need all the balance you have!

http://www.lecorbeau.be/

Mappa Mundo

Good for: Pre-drinks

Mappa Mundo is one of the many gems of the Saint Gery area. In the summer the cobbled St. Gery streets are filled with the sound of chatter and clinking glass as tables are spread outside and the bars open their windows wide to let some of the cool air in. Mappa Mundo has a wonderfully cosy, warm atmosphere. The lights are dim, the seats and setting comfortable and the music varied. Here you can have a quiet drink and catch up with friends or gear up for a night out in the livelier bars of the area.

http://www.mappamundo.com/?lang=en

Havana

Good for: Cocktails

This Cuban place is superb for cocktails; here is where I fell in love with margaritas. They make them super tangy and sweet, and during happy hour you get 2 for 1! If you’re into Latin music you can easily spend the whole night dancing here, but you can also catch the last bus into central Brussels at around 11pm if you’re looking to explore the city more.

http://www.havana-brussels.com/home_r.html

Delirium

Good for: Beer

This place is incredible. Even if you're not into beer you have to appreciate the fact that when you ask for the drinks menu, you will receive a book as heavy as The Lord of the Rings. As you leaf through the pages you will realise that the best option is to just close your eyes and poke your finger at the menu at random to choose your beer. They come in all tastes here, in over 2400 varieties from smoky to deliciously fruity. If you're finding the surplus of choice overbearing just ask the bar staff to recommend you something: they will give you a taste first before filling up the glass.

http://deliriumcafe.be/

Bonnefooi

Good for: Late, late hours

After all other bars in central Brussels close, there is always Bonnefooi. A favourite among nighthawks, this is where the party's at – even at 7 in the morning. The place gets a bit grubby in the early hours of the morning, but if you're hell-bent on not retiring to bed, Bonnefooi is there for you. Seen as it will probably be about 5 or 6 in the morning once you get here, have your wits about you and keep an eye on your belongings. I once had my bag stolen here right under my nose within the space of 5 minutes even after having carefully hidden it under a pile of jackets and keeping vigil right next to it.

http://bonnefooi.be/index.php/

Celtica

Good for: Cheap drinks

If you’re out to find that laid-back Irish pub feel and your main goal of the evening is to get sufficiently intoxicated, Celtica is your place. The drinks are cheap and the dancefloor upstairs crowded and pumping out the latest tunes to grind to. The place will become packed so be prepared to stand around with your drink. Certain nights kick off with live music, and you will most definitely hear a drunken singalong rendition of Wonderwall. Celtica is nothing fancy but it does the trick with the added bonus that the doors stay open til very late.

http://www.celticpubs.com/celtica/celticabxl.html

Fuse

Good for: Clubbing

One of the (very) few clubs in Brussels, this is where you can come all dolled up to bust a move.

The set-up is spacious and the music loud, providing all the essentials of a club night. The place lacks the great atmosphere you will find in smaller Brussels bars, but if clubbing is your thing, this is where you need to be. Be sure to bring change: every time you want to use the loo, you will need to pay.

http://www.fuse.be/

 

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