5 Things to Do in Split, Croatia

Big & Small Travel welcome you to the stunning coast of Croatia! The city of Split is located in the heart of Dalmatia, where the Adriatic blues mix with a vibe that’s part Mediterranean cool, part Italian verve. This coastal gem offers many great attractions, including Marjan Park, Diocletian’s Palace, and the picturesque Riva waterfront of Old Split. It’s also an ideal spot for island-hopping to hotspots including Brac, Hvar, and the often-overlooked Solta.

Enjoy our video above, and keep reading below for more info on our favorite spots and things to do in Split, Croatia.

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How to Do the Amalfi Coast in Italy on a Budget

Big & Small welcome you to southern Italy’s Campania region and the jaw-dropping Amalfi Coast! This is the land of colorful, cliffside villages; narrow, nail-biting roads; stunning hidden beaches; and pure luxury living. But this doesn’t mean budget travelers can’t experience all the fun and fabulousness. Watch our video above for all of our tips on doing the Amalfi Coast on a budget. Keep reading for more details on exact prices and itineraries.

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The Roman World Beyond Italy

Traveling has brought us to many corners of the world — and one group of people keep popping up: the Romans. At its height, the Roman Empire was the most extensive political and social structure in western civilization. Subscribe to our Big & Small Travel Youtube to watch our adventures in Rome and more.

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A Day Trip to the Artsy Tuscan Town of Pietrasanta, Italy

Roberto Barni Exhibition in Sant'Agostino, December 2017

Big & Small took the train up from Lucca to the chic Tuscan town of Pietrasanta to enjoy an artisanal chocolate festival and the opening of the stunning Roberto Barni exhibition. The Italian sculptor’s works were scattered around the main square (Piazza del Duomo) and the former 14th-century church of Sant’Agostino. To be honest, our main mission of the day was to snatch up a whole lot of handmade chocolate, but we were pleasantly surprised to discover such a charming artistic enclave full of trendy boutiques, galleries, and restaurants.

Here’s a look at our day and night (when the town really comes alive) in Pietrasanta.

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48 Hours in Lake Como on a Budget

On our busy tour around Northern Italy—which included Trieste, Venice, Bologna, Bergamo, Brescia, and Verona—Big & Small fell head over heels for the spectacular Lake Como. With its glistening waters rippling against the foothills of the Alps and its scenic towns colored by stacks of modest abodes and luxury villas, it’s hard not to fall in love. Even big-name celebrities like George Clooney and Madonna have been unable to resist its charms.

This kind of high-profile place can be intimidating for budget travelers, but Big & Small were able to keep costs low while taking in all the natural beauty and effortless elegance of this Italian gem—it just takes a little strategizing. Here, we offer some tips on how to enjoy a quick 48-hour trip to Lake Como on a budget. And click the video above for more information!

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7 Fun Facts About the Leaning Tower of Pisa

PRESS PLAY ABOVE TO FIND OUT 7 FUN FACTS ABOUT THE LEANING TOWER OF PISA!

We hate to ruin our undoubtedly cool image (!), but Big & Small are, well, history geeks. So, when we were deciding on a place to settle down for a few weeks in Italy, we chose the cozy, historical town of Pisa. Of course, staying in Pisa for more than 24 hours isn’t your typical itinerary. There’s usually only one bullet point on most tourists’ checklist: a peek at the world’s most famous architectural screwup, the Leaning Tower. Admittedly, this is what Big & Small did on our first trip to the town in 2015. But upon our return, we found there was much more to love about Pisa and much more to learn about its most popular attraction.

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VIDEO: See the Best of Rome in Just 3 Minutes!

There are few places left in this world where you can casually walk through 2,000 years of history. Wandering through Rome, Italy, you are constantly reminded of a storied empire that laid the foundation for Western civilization. Around every corner, you’ll run into a formidable ancient monument, grandly gilded cathedral, or priceless piece of Renaissance art. But behind all that outward splendor and beauty are tragic tales of power, religion, death, and destruction – this is history served up in all its brutal rawness.

To capture Rome in every bit of its glory, Big & Small Travel present this quick video of its highlights.

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The Rich Beauty, Food, and History of Corsica, France

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This mountainous isle is a land of many contrasts. Corsica is full of natural beauty and incredible food, but it comes with quite a turbulent history. It’s home to Napoleon Bonaparte and (arguably) Christopher Columbus, two dominant figures whose widespread influence is still being felt around the world today. Despite this, present-day Corsica is a fairly sleepy island packed with fascinating historical attractions and driven by an independent spirit. Here, I’ll be featuring some of the beauty of this island in pictures, and best yet watch The Big and Small Travel Corsica Video below:

In the video above, we showcase the Citadel, beaches, historic sites, food, L’Île-Rousse, and even yoga from Handstand Steph. This is a wonderful way to enjoy the intimacy and splendor of the isle of fierce beauty.

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J-Crew overlooking the Ligurian Sea in Calvi.

The first thing we noticed on our trip to Corsica was the ubiquitous presence of the Corsican flag. The flag is bold and striking, and revealing in its black-and-white simplicity. Against a white backdrop, it depicts a Moor’s head in black with a white bandana above his eyes—a symbol of liberation, even though Corsica has mostly been under Italian or French rule.

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The Wild Boar of Corsica & the striking Corsican Flag.

This flag was everywhere, reminding us constantly of Corsica‘s strong independent spirit, which can be traced back through an interesting and significant history that includes connections to both Napoleon and Columbus. When in Calvi, I recommend exploring the citadel, which is open to the public and free to roam. It is filled with lots of small passageways, breathtaking lookouts, and interesting architecture. You’ll also notice a monument to Columbus, as well as churches and historical points that refer to the island’s existence under Genoese rule.

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Calvi Citadel – Palace of the Genovese, and reputed birthplace of Columbus. Hmm …

We present many visuals to document the citadel in Calvi, as well as the beauty and attractions at L’Île-Rousse (Red Island), named because of the color of the rocky islet that serves as a natural harbor.

You can get to L’Île-Rousse by train (which offers incredible views of the coast along the way). We recommend hiking up to the top of this part of L’Île-Rousse (just behind the train station) for great views of the Genoese tower and the vivid hills of Balagne in the background. This hike is short but intense and full of nooks and crannies that allow for great photo opps of the sea and beyond.

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Handstand Steph caught on camera at the red rocks of L’Ile-Rouse.

Overall, the food (especially the cheese and wild boar), wine, and striking landscapes are enough to make anyone swoon. But what most struck me most about Corsica was the relaxed sense of efficiency and an overall dedication to self-sufficiency. Corsica seemed to be running on its own watch, despite being part of France.  This made it feel like its own special little paradise.

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La Pietra Lighthouse in L’Ile Rouse, Corsica.
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Plage La Pinede (Calvi Beach) in Corsica.

 

72 Hours in Budapest, Hungary

72 Hours in Budapest
Ruin Pubs, Thermal Baths, the House of Terror, and the World’s First Rock Star

*DOWNLOAD A FREE 16-PAGE PDF OF THIS 3-DAY ITINERARY!*

This is a city that shines brilliantly through the darkness. It especially shimmers at night, with golden rays of light bouncing off the opulent palace in Buda and the commanding Parliament in Pest, setting the Danube River ablaze. The iconic Szechenyi Chain Bridge is in the center of it all, a symbol of both the union between Buda and Pest (the two cities were unified in 1873) and of the Hungarians’ determined resiliency (the bridge was rebuilt and reopened just four years after being destroyed in World War II).

But it’s not just this physical radiance that gives Budapest its distinctive glow. This is a city that doesn’t hide from its harrowing history; instead, it shines a big spotlight on it. And it’s a history so recent you can step right into its still smoldering remains, from the aptly named House of Terror to the many inventive ruin pubs dominating the nightlife. Everywhere you walk, there are constant reminders of a not-so-distant past, when the city lay in turmoil, and a secret police tormented citizens and tortured and killed any suspected anti-communist dissident.

Budapest Highlights

Yet for every commemorative statue, museum, and remembrance plaque, there’s now a hip new club, a hot new restaurant (paleo and vegan options abound), or a chic new boutique quickly transforming Budapest into a city for the young, the vibrant, and the hopeful. It’s a fascinating juxtaposition, between a dark history and a luminous present, and it makes for a visit that is chock full of history, music, food, drinks, thermal waters, and riverfront strolls.

Here’s a loose itinerary for three action-packed days in the gorgeous capital of Hungary.


 

DAY 1: Heroes, Horrors, and The World’s First Rock Star

Andrassy Avenue, Franz Liszt, Sziget Eye
Andrassy Avenue, Franz Liszt, Sziget Eye
  • Pop into the New York Café… then get your coffee across the street

The New York Café is a richly ornate spot built in Italian Renaissance style in 1894. It once served as a popular meeting place for the literary crowd; it’s now a tourist hotspot for cake and espresso, and the prices match the demand. We recommend taking a look around, then heading across the street to the more modern café, Hirado Kavezo, which serves a heartwarming cappuccino for half the price.

Heroes' Square: Celebrating 1,000 Years
Heroes’ Square: Celebrating 1,000 Years
  • Walk or take the metro to Heroes’ Square at the end of Andrassy Avenue

Surrounded by the Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Art, Heroes Square’ is a spacious public area next to City Park (Varosliget). At the center is the grand Millennium Monument, featuring a colonnade with statues symbolizing War, Peace, Work and Welfare, and Knowledge and Glory. See Big explain more, straight from the square:

It may sound like a kitschy Halloween attraction, but the     House of Terror is the real, terrifying deal. Previously the headquarters of the Nazi secret police, then Hungary’s communist secret police, this building holds the ghosts of countless atrocities. Several informative and interactive exhibits take you through the years and the lives of Hungarians under the Soviet regime, but it’s after entering an elevator that slowly leads you to the building’s innards that the terror truly sinks in. When the door opens, you’re led directly into the heart of the terror, including a water torture chamber, a tiny cell for solitary confinement, and an execution room fit with a noose—ominously swaying, of course. You’ll never quite be the same after visiting—and that’s exactly the point.

The Terror House
The Terror House

Step into the home of the world’s first rock star. This is where influential Hungarian composer Franz Liszt lived. It’s a small museum, but a fascinating one, too, with photographs, memorabilia, and (of course) Liszt’s pianos, and you’ll learn about his travels, his performances, and his ability to make women faint from admiration—Listzomania, indeed! If you’re not a fan of classical music, this may just change that. (Note: Beware of a (kind of) steep photography fee.)

Liszt Ferenc Museum
Liszt Ferenc Museum

Say hello to the Liszt statue awaiting you out front, then pop inside to take in the beautifully ornate architecture, the Greek fresco, and a sparkling bronze chandelier. For more of this type of design and architecture, head to the Alexandra Bookstore and its second-floor Book Café. 

Strolling Down Andrassy
Strolling Down Andrassy
  • Walk to the end of Andrassy Avenue and take a right toward St. Stephen’s Basilica 

Here’s another spot to see classical music (particularly involving organ), or to just gawk at more opulent neo-classical architecture.

Sziget Eye and a view of St. Stephen's Basilica from the top
Sziget Eye and a view of St. Stephen’s Basilica from the top
  • Walk back down Bajcsy-Zsilinszky to Erzsebet Square and take a ride on the Sziget Eye

Make sure to do this in the evening, when Budapest shines in all directions (you can’t miss it—it’s that sparkling sphere hypnotizing you from all over town). The price is a bit hefty, but the 10-minute ride is romantic and intimate, giving you incredible 360 views of one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. (Note: As of this writing, the Sziget Eye is closed between January 3 and April 15.)


 

DAY 2: Buda’s Castle District and a Tranquil Riverside Stroll

Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Buda Castle, Parliament, & Buda Viewpoint
Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Buda Castle, Parliament, & Buda Viewpoint
  • If you’re staying in Pest (recommended), today, you’ll cross the Szechenyi Chain Bridge

This may be one of Budapest’s most iconic symbols, a stately suspension bridge connecting Buda and Pest. Don’t miss the bridge’s guards: formidable stone lions which even survived WWII.

Breathtaking view from Castle Hill in Buda
Breathtaking view from Castle Hill in Buda
  • Stepping onto the Buda side, make your way up to Castle Hill

There are two main ways to climb the 170 meters to this UNESCO World Heritage site: From Adam Clark Square, hop onto the Sikló, a funicular railway originally built in 1870 (it was also destroyed in WWII), or simply walk up the Kiraly lipsco or “Royal Steps” (it’s not too bad of an ascent, we promise).

Buda Castle
Buda Castle
  • Explore Budapest’s Old Town and the Buda Castle/Royal Palace

This World Heritage Site was home to both royalty (since the 13th century) and destruction. The Royal Palace was destroyed after being controlled by the Turks, rebuilt by the Habsburgs, and then ruined again in WWII. The Palace now houses the Budapest History Museum, the Hungarian National Gallery, and the Hungarian National Library. In general, it’s a beautiful area to walk around and enjoy spectacular views of both Buda and Pest.

Mathias Church & Fisherman's Bastion
Mathias Church & Fisherman’s Bastion
  • Head over to Trinity Square to visit Mathias Church and the Fishermen’s Bastion

The Neo-Gothic style Mathias Church, with its diamond-patterned tiles, is one of Buda’s most resplendent attractions. (Fascinating fact: It was actually turned into a mosque during the Turkish occupation.) It can be seen from many different angles throughout the city, while the nearby Fishermen’s Bastion towers majestically over the Danube, offering one of Budapest’s best (and most popular) viewpoints.

  • Walk or take the tram across the Danube, via Margaret Bridge, to start your Riverfront Walk in Pest, with a quick stop at the House of Parliament (Tip: Best done after sundown!)

If you have time (we didn’t, but wish we did!), make a stop at Margaret Island, a leafy and popular recreation area in the middle of the Danube. Then, make it back to the riverfront in Pest and take a leisurely stroll toward your starting point, the Chain Bridge. We highly recommend this to be an evening activity. As mentioned in my intro, this city is one of Europe’s most beautiful—particularly at night, with Buda and Pest’s golden lights colliding and reflecting off the river. Along the way, spot the Olympic rings, take a tour around the stately Neo-Gothic House of Parliament, and check out nearby memorials to learn more about the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

Protest in front of the Parliament
Protest in front of the Parliament

DAY 3: Enjoy a Bath and Party at a Ruin Pub (or Two)

Szechenyi Thermal Baths, City Park, Szimpla Kert Ruin Pub
Szechenyi Thermal Baths, City Park, Szimpla Kert Ruin Pub

Yes, you were near here on Day 1, at Heroes’ Square. Now, venture inward and check out sites like the Time Wheel (essentially a giant hourglass—or “year”-glass to be more accurate), the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden, and the Vajdahunyad Castle, situated along the lake.

The Vajdahunyad Castle in City Park was built in 1896 as part of the Millennial Exhibition to celebrate Hungary's 1,000th year.
The Vajdahunyad Castle in City Park was built in 1896 as part of the Millennial Exhibition to celebrate Hungary’s 1,000th year.

Bust out the bathing suit and dip into the healing waters of one of the biggest bath complexes in Europe. There are several other baths to visit in Budapest—of varying sizes, prices, and cleanliness—so it’s definitely worth researching more if you’d like a more traditional (or cheaper) experience. This one in particular has 18 indoor and outdoor pools, steam rooms, saunas, and massage and other wellness treatments. We stuck to the outdoor pools, and particularly enjoyed jumping into the whirlpool, which spins you around with water jets—seriously some of the best time you’ll have with strangers in swimsuits. You could easily spend all day here exploring the complex and simply soaking—you may need it after all that walking from Days 1 & 2. You can keep your belongings in lockers secured with your own wristband (similar to the Blue Lagoon).

One of three outdoor pools at Szechenyi Thermal Baths
One of three outdoor pools at Szechenyi Thermal Baths
  • Take the metro and head over to the Seventh District (the old Jewish Quarter) for eats and drinks

This area is home to the Jewish quarter, and the Great Synagogue (the second largest in the world). It’s also the hottest spot in Budapest, with its thriving cultural and culinary scene. There’s an eclectic mix of restaurants—where you can get some of Europe’s finest cheap eats, from hummus to goulash—as well as interactive entertainment in the form of escape rooms (in which you actually pay to get locked into a cell?!).

Szimpla Kert Ruin Pub
Szimpla Kert Ruin Pub
  • Go ruin pub-hopping

Do not miss out on one of the area’s famous “ruin pubs,” large, funky, often multi-room bars built in the area’s abandoned buildings. It’s like jumping into a surreal bazaar, with odd antiques glued to the wall, flea-market furniture and empty bathtubs strewn about, creepy toys and teddy bears mingling on tables, and other sundry pieces of trashy art and zany treasures. Reasonably priced alcohol and an eccentric mix of live bands and DJs round out the ruin pub experience. We recommend getting lost in Szimpla Kert, one of the first and largest ruin pubs in Budapest, where you can even throw back a beer in an old Trabant (an East German-made car).

Now, book that trip and enjoy your time in Budapest! We sure did.
~Big & Small