It’s almost springtime! (kind of). If you’re heading to The Netherlands this April to check out the tulip fields, I’m sure Amsterdam is on your agenda. It might even be where you decide to stay for your trip. While Amsterdam is amazing (see my guide here), I want to introduce you to it’s smaller, academic little brother: Leiden. I stayed 3 nights in Leiden when I visited The Netherlands I’m going to tell you 5 reasons why you should visit Leiden.
1: The Location
Leiden is located only 30 minutes from Amsterdam by train and only 20 minutes by bus to the famous Keukenhof Garden in Lisse. This makes it the perfect spot for you to set up camp if you want to check out the tulips. It’s also only 15 minutes from The Hague by train which is also worth checking out.
It’s proximity to Keukenhof makes for an easy day trip. During tulip season there are busses that leave regularly from the Leiden Central Train Station. You can buy a bus ticket + garden entrance combo online here for €27.50. If it’s peak tulip season, there will be a line but they run things pretty efficiently. Also be prepared for traffic approaching Lisse.
2: The Size
Leiden’s population is 120,000, making it about 1/8th of the size of Amsterdam. This means that you get the beautiful canals, boats, architecture and charm of a Dutch city, but in a much more manageable size. Once you’re in the center, the city is very walkable. It’s easy to get happily lost amongst it’s cobblestone streets.
Trust me: if you visit The Netherlands in April it will be crowded! After a day at busy Keukenhof, it was nice to come back to a smaller and less crowded city like Leiden vs. Amsterdam.
3: The Market
Leiden has a large market every Saturday and Wednesday that brings a large number of vendors selling traditional Dutch food and other goodies. Cheese, stroopwafels, herring? It’s all there! Even if you’re skeptical, trying Dutch herring is a right of passage you should not miss. Order it with onions and hold the whole fish (don’t worry, it’s small) by the tail as you strip the meat from the bone with your mouth. This is the Dutch way, I was told. Or, you can play it safe and just eat it with a little fork like I did!
4: The Vibe
20,000 of Leiden’s residents are students, thanks to the large university in the city. This gives the city a vibrant and youthful energy that you feel when you’re walking around. I happened to visit on a bank holiday and I loved watching all the boats come through the canals with students and young professionals celebrating their day off.
Perhaps because of it’s student population, Leiden has no shortage of bars, pubs, cafes & restaurants to choose from. Also, Indonesia was once a Dutch colony, so make sure to try Indonesian cuisine while you are there.
5: The Wall Poems
Another unique feature of Leiden is it’s collection of wall poetry! Thanks to a project initiated by the Tegen-Beeld Foundation, over 100 poems in several different languages decorate Leiden’s walls & buildings. There is a map on the foundation website where you can find specific routes to view the poems, or you can explore and stumble upon them on your own if you prefer.
Ready to Go?
Well, there you have it: 5 Reasons to Visit Leiden in The Netherlands! I hope this makes you consider making Leiden part of your Netherlands trip this spring!
What do you think of when someone mentions Baltimore? Inner Harbor? (sure.) The crab cakes? (duh!) The Wire? (probably.) I’m going to tell you about a little pocket of the city you shouldn’t miss during your visit to Charm City: Hampden, Hon. I’ve made a guide to Hampden, Baltimore’s quirkiest neighborhood, which also happens to be my home.
Guide to Hampden: Some History
Before I get into my guide to Hampden, Baltimore I wanted to start you with a little history. Hampden is an enclave north of downtown that was originally built around the mills along the Jones Falls and millworkers that settled there. You can see evidence of this today in the old mills that have been restored into local businesses.
In the 90s it began to undergo a transformation when artists started moving in, making the neighborhood their own. Eventually, 36th Street, known to locals as “The Avenue” or simply “The Ave” filled with restaurants, hip boutiques, and thrift shops.
Today Hampden is known as Baltimore’s hipster haven and center of kitsch, where there’s always something fun going on and something delicious to eat.
What is this “Hon” Thing?
“Hon” is short for “Honey” and is an affectionate term made Balti-famous by the working-class women of the 1960s. A stereotypical Hon has the beehive hairdo, cats eye glasses and bright attention-grabbing clothing (think: Hairspray).
Hampden embraces this kitschy image and even pays homage in an annual HonFest every June, where women dress up in full “Hon” regalia and celebrate all that makes the neighborhood unique.
Honorable mention goes to the plastic Pink Flamingo: Hampden’s unofficial mascot.
First on the agenda in my guide to Hampden? Eating of course. This is a tough one because there are just so many good options! It’s really hard to go wrong, but I’ve listed some of my favorites below, categorized by meal.
Gertrudes | 10 Art Museum Dr, Baltimore, MD 21218 (Inside the Baltimore Museum of Art)
Open for also for dinner but brunch at Gertrude’s is a real delight! Beautifully set within the museum, the menu focuses on farm to table ingredients and local Chesapeake flavors. If you go during the spring or summer definitely try to sit outside where you’ll have a nice view of the BMA sculpture garden.
A kitschy neighborhood staple where your wait for a table on the weekend will most definitely be a long one. Once seated though you’ll have a multitude of tasty options to chose from. The restaurant prides itself on “Southwestern comfort food” and it also has a large amount of vegan/vegetarian options. Come hungry!
This aesthetically pleasing coffee shop/cafe is close to the Woodberry light rail and worth the extra walking. Featuring local baked goods, sandwiches, salads and a full coffee bar, it’s a great spot to have a cozy lunch.
Once featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners Drive-ins & Dives, Grano is my favorite restaurant in the neighborhood which is why it tops my list on the guide to Hampden. Super simple menu (pick your pasta, pick your sauce…voila), quaint interior and friendly staff, you can’t go wrong. Oh, did I mention it’s BYOB? Yep! So grab a bottle of your favorite vino and your date or friend and enjoy it. Just be prepared, for interior dining most tables are only for 2 people, there is one table for 4 and it’s first come/first serve. They’ve added more outdoor seating for warmer months for bigger parties.
“Oysters & Booze” is what this restaurant is all about with it’s sustainably sourced seafood and creative craft cocktails. The menu is small but mighty, obviously heavy on the seafood but they do feature a burger. I go for the small bites (the anchovy on baguette bite is my favorite!) and oysters of course.
Rustic Italian with local ingredients, Birrotecca is housed in an old stone mill and has a cozy festive vibe. The food is phenomenal from it’s interesting pizzas to unique plates of pasta and everything in between. They also have quite a variety of craft cocktails and a HUGE wine and beer list.
Okay so this restaurant is not technically in Hampden, it’s in the sister neighborhood of Remington. I know, I know, this is a guide to HAMPDEN.
But since it’s so close and SO good, here it is. Clavel is a “family-owned Taqueria & Mezcaleria serving food deeply rooted in Sinaloan ritual.” It’s interior is sophisticated industrial chic and its margaritas are the best I’ve ever had (and I’ve had a few). It’s INSANELY popular with a no reservation policy so always expect a wait. My trick is to go for happy hour during the week (5-7) and enjoy $4 off margs and queso fundido.
If you do one thing in Hampden, make sure you stop at The Charmery. Their ice cream is handcrafted from “super-premium” ingredients and is quite frankly delicious. They have their staple flavors (Old Bay Caramel anyone?) and then they switch it up with weekly and seasonal flavors. Some are somewhat standard and some are SUPER out there like Ritz Cracker. Either way, you’ll be able to find something that you love, and they let you sample as many as you want before making your final decision. During summer expect a line that wraps around the block.
Quality Snowballs was new last year and features TONS of variations on the Baltimore classic dessert: the snowball (shaved ice with toppings.) You can do a regular snowball with syrup or a more involved snowball with a variety of toppings. Some examples include Cinnamon Bun & Salted Caramel Shortbread. Only open in Spring and Summer.
There’s also no shortage of watering holes in Hampden, and many of the places I’ve mentioned already have excellent cocktails and wine lists. There are a few places I’d recommend especially for the drinks though, and I’ll share them below:
I’m obsessed with the interior of Bluebird – like a gorgeous library where you can talk, drink and eat. Their cocktail menu changes seasonally and always has a literary theme to its drinks. Expect to pay between $12-18 for a cocktail but it’s all part of the decadent experience. They also serve food and lite bites if you feel like nibbling.
Below the Bluebird, this unassuming Beer Hall with a nice atmosphere serves only Belgian beer from an extensive list. They also have a nice selection of wine and often have events such as live music or discussions.
WC Harlan* | 400 W 23rd St, Baltimore, Maryland 21211
Another Remington Gem from the same owner of Clavel, WC Harlan is a unique speakeasy in a rowhouse with a door simply marked “Enter” in chalk. The Victorian decor is right out of Edgar Allen Poe’s era, giving it a cozy and spooky vibe. A great spot to grab a craft cocktail while you’re waiting for your table at Clavel.
Clothing & Gifts
Next on my guide to Hampden, Baltimore? Shopping! Don’t come to Hampden with an empty wallet, that’s for sure. From home decor to clothing, to vintage finds, this neighborhood is a great spot to shop for yourself or for gifts.
Your first stop if you need to buy an amazing gift – Trohv is a curated selection of home decor, stationery, housewares, books, art, bath, and beauty…the list goes on. There are two floors filled with unique merchandise, a lot of it locally made. But be prepared to drop some serious cash.
A store with attitude – in the best possible way! Women-owned and one of several locations in the area, Brightside has a great selection of on-trend fashion (for men and women), accessories, cards, jewelry, and gifts. The store just makes you happier when you walk inside and I consider reason enough to check it out.
Another unique boutique with brightly colored pieces & accessories, they also sell locally made beauty products, apparel, and stationary. There is a small vintage section as well alongside the new items.
Another favorite spot for gifts, this store has a beautiful inventory of high-end bath and beauty products, books, candles, stationery and kids items. During the holidays they stock up on gorgeous decor and ornaments which they display in the most beautiful way.
One of several vintage shops on the Ave but this one I think has a particularly curated and special stock of clothes that they merchandise really well. They also have a small amount of other (non-clothing) vintage items for sale.
I’d be remiss if I left out the glorious Wine Source from my guide to Hampden. Not just a wine store, it’s stocked with a wonderful selection of beer, liquor, cheese, gourmet foods, locally baked bread and of course wine from all over the world. There’s also a tasting bar where you can sit and have a beverage and the staff is super helpful. A great spot to pick up a bottle to bring with you to BYOB Grano (see above).
Annual Events in Hampden
As mentioned above, HonFest occurs every June and pays homage to the neighborhood and city’s “Hon” culture. The Avenue is blocked off with food and craft vendors and 3 stages of live music as well as a “Hon Pageant”. Expect to see lots of beehive hairdos and feather boas.
A smaller version of HonFest, this one takes place in September. The Avenue is still filled with vendors and live music but the main show here it the “Toilet Bowl Race” (I told you Hampden was quirky!) where locals craft “racecars” out of toilets and compete in a dash down Chestnut Avenue. If you don’t believe me, check it out!
Miracle on 34th Street
Starting the weekend after Thanksgiving, the houses on Hampden’s 34th Street between Chestnut and Keswick are fully decked out in lights and holiday displays. It’s a magical spot (although I admit as a resident the extra cars during this time make parking pretty difficult). It’s certainly something to see during the holiday season. On New Year’s Eve, the whole neighborhood + visitors gather for a mini ball drop which signifies the end of the lights.
Hampden is located north of downtown Baltimore. You can get there from downtown by hopping on Interstate 83 and taking exit 8: Falls Road. This will bring you right to The Avenue (36th Street). If you’re traveling by light rail, exit at the Woodberry Station which will leave you a 10-15 minute walk from the Avenue. If you’re taking the train down from New York or up from DC, Penn Station is also only a 5 minute Uber Ride from The Avenue.
Whether you’re a local who’s never been or a first time Baltimore visitor, I really hope you’ll consider heading to Hampden to experience its unique culture and amazing eats, drinks, and shops. I hope this guide to Hampden helps you plan your visit.
Looking for the most Charming photo spots in Baltimore? Look no further!
Baltimore is the largest city in the US State of Maryland, and is also the place I call home. Despite it’s gritty reputation, Baltimore is a lovely “small city” with character and lots of charm. I love the diversity, quirkiness, art scene and waterfront local…not to mention the famous crab cakes!
I’m going to share some of my favorite photo spots with you, along with a map so you can find your way.
I love the Fells Point neighborhood for several reasons – one being it’s amazing waterfront location. You get great views of the Baltimore Harbor as you make your way down it’s quaint cobblestone streets.
One of Baltimore’s oldest neighborhoods and was once inhabited primarily by pirates! It’s also home to some of Baltimore’s best pubs & taverns and adorable boutiques (as a reward after you finish your photo session.)
Some of my personal favorites for photos:
Urban Garden near the corner of Thames and S. Ann Street
Row of pastel houses on South Ann Street between Alicanna and Lancaster
Hampden & it’s sister neighborhood have plenty of murals to keep you busy. Also check out the huge flamingo facade on Cafe Hon, it can’t be missed.
Favorite Hampden/Woodberry Photo Spots:
Baltimore & Charmery Wall Murals
38th Street Pastel Houses
Creative Labs & Surrounding Walls
It’s no secret this is one of my favorite photo spots in Baltimore, as it’s appeared several times on my social media feed. Graffiti Alley is in the Station North neighborhood, nestled slightly north of downtown (close to the train station and Maryland Academy and Institute of Art.)
The name says it all: it’s literally a tiny alley where graffiti has been made legal, making it a super colorful background for photos. Afterwards you can stop at the Showroom Bar for a drink or head to Joe Squared for amazing pizza.
Seton Hill Historic District
Seton Hill is one of my newer discoveries, although it’s been around for quite awhile!
It’s located between Mount Vernon and Heritage Crossing, Seton Hill was also once known as the “French Quarter” of Baltimore, founded by priests fleeing the French Revolution. You can still see the influence in the Parisian style lampposts that dot some of the streets! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ There is an adorable row of pastel houses on Jasper Street, between Druid Hill Ave and George Street. You can also find some pretty colors on Druid Hill Ave between North Paca Street & Jasper Street.
Highlandtown Arts & Entertainment District
Another graffiti mecca, Highlandtown Arts & Entertainment district is a bustling part of the city plenty of colorful spots to photograph. It’s a large area that actually encompasses parts of several neighborhoods including Greektown, Patterson Park, Highlandtown and Canton.
It’s also home to the performing art space venue The Creative Alliance, which is definitely worth checking out.
Ready to go exploring? Check out this handy map for easy reference:
Want to find even MORE charming photo spots in Baltimore? Check out my Baltimore Street Art Map which I try to keep current with murals and colorful spots I find.
And don’t forget to PIN this for future reference:
Bonjour! If you’re no stranger to my blog and Instagram account, you know Marseille has become my home away from home. My husband’s family is from there and we go at least once a year. Marseille is a diamond in the rough, and I certainly advocate spending at least 3 days exploring the city itself. (See: my Guide to Marseille and my Instagram Guide to Marseille). If you find yourself wanting to wander off the beaten path though, I have 5 unique day trip ideas from Marseille that will make you fall in love with the surrounding area.
Cassis & Bandol
You may have heard of Cassis, the candy hued, charming (& somewhat touristy) seaside town. Maybe I’m biased because it’s where I got engaged, but I think it lives up to it’s hype. About a half an hour from Marseille by car, the view when approaching Cassis is one of my favorites in the world. The stunning red cliff of the Cap Canaille, the endless aqua of the Mediterranean, gorgeous houses dotting the mountain side…wow. It is simply breathtaking.
What to Do in Cassis
I would suggest leaving late morning from Marseille to start your day. You only need an hour or so in the village itself. There are a few dozen cute boutiques & souvenir shops and plenty of choices for food. I love picking one of the places on the waterfront for lunch (I’m not loyal to any one in particular) and dining on Moule Frites. If you still have room, head to Amorino Gelato for a tasty (and Insta-worthy) rose shaped cone. There is often a little market in the central Place Baragnon. The typical French Market is on Wednesdays and Fridays but they have traveling and art markets as well.
If you are interested in seeing the Calanques (beautiful inlets that dot the coast around Marseille), you can take a cruise from the harbor. The price and duration vary depending on how many Calanques you want to see and what time of year it is. If the weather is nice, it’s definitely a good option! (Plan to leave earlier if you plan to see the village, do the cruise, AND still want to see Bandol).
Onward to Bandol
As you enter and leave Cassis, you will see plenty of vineyards where you can stop and taste wine. Unlike most of Provence which specializes in rosé, Cassis is known for it’s full-bodied and herbaceous white wines. While Mike and I usually try our luck stopping at random places along the way, here is a more detailed guide to region if you would like specific vineyard recs.
As you head towards Bandol (30 mins further east down the coast), you will pass many more vineyards. Even though the wine region is named for the seaside town, you won’t find any vineyards in the city center. In contrast to Cassis, Bandol is known for it’s earthy reds but also makes great whites and rosés. Taking the A50 towards La Ciotat/Toulon towards Bandol will take you past the villages of La Cadière d’Azur, Le Castellet, in the heart of the region. This guide will point you in the direction of specific wineries if you’re looking to plan in more detail.
This should go without saying that you should always have a designated driver if you plan on tasting wine – those sips can add up quick and France’s love of wine doesn’t cancel out their enforcement of drunk driving laws.
If you have time, continuing on to the village of Bandol would be a nice way to end the day. It is a fun and festive seaside town with quaint streets plenty of options for food to soak up all that wine.
Once you are satiated and tired, you only have a 42 minute drive back to Marseille.
Another gem along the coast that I wanted to make sure to include in my guide to 5 unique day trip ideas from Marseille is Six-Fours-les-Plages. Take the A50 from Marseille towards Toulon and you’ll be there in about an hour. We didn’t spend much time in the center of Six-Fours and instead continued towards the sea to the smaller commune of Le Brusc, which I would recommend. It’s quaint with a distinctly local feel. You can pass through the little town by car and park in the paid lot further down towards the water.
Here the shore is rocky with pretty formations and tide pools and you can jump right in for a pleasant dip. We were there for golden & blue hour which were particularly beautiful. Adjacent to the coastline is a small island called Île du Petit Gaou which is reachable by foot bridge. There are walking paths to enjoy the beautiful nature, majestic cliffs and breathtaking views.
There are a few nice restaurants close to island which offer amazing views. We chose to do a casual dinner of pizza back in the little village of Le Brusc which we ate on benches overlooking the harbor accompanied with rosé in plastic cups.
I would suggest allowing yourself a full afternoon here and ending up with sunset drinks and dinner. Six-Four/Le Brusc could also be paired with a morning trip to Cassis or Bandol.
So you’ve heard of the Côte d’Azur but have you heard of the CôteBleue? I hadn’t until I started visiting Marseille regularly. The Côte Bleue is a charming piece of coastline between Marseille and Martigues, with the Mediterranean on one side and the Etang de Berre on the other. You’ll find quaint and lesser known fishing villages and beaches to keep to occupied on your day trip.
Driving East from Marseille you can start in L’Estaque which is a suburb of Marseille and worth checking out either on your way out or on your way back. This little village has been an inspiration to many artists over the years including Cézanne, Renoir and Georges Braque.
Further west you will find the village of Carry-le-Rouet, another seaside resort town which is favored as a summer retreat by the locals. Besides the cute downtown and harbor there is a coastal footpath where you can walk along the sea and four different beaches:
Le Rouet: the first beach in town and the most popular,
Cap Rousset: a natural limestone cove
Fernandel: in the center of town
Les Beaumettes: edge of town, stone and shallow water
Fun fact: Carry-le-Rouet is known as the “sea urchin capital” and even has a designated urchin month (February) with events and tastings!
After you can head to Martigues, a colorful village known as the “Venice of Provence”. It’s bright buildings and bridges were definitely reminiscent of the famed Italian city, however even in the middle of summer there were no crowds. The Moiroir aux Oiseaux, a little port along Quai Brescon, was particularly picturesque and also a famed spot among painters.
Road to Valensole
I’m sure you’ve heard of Valensole (hello, Lavender fields?). Not so unique, you might say. BUT- I want to recommend a few places surrounding the famed plateau that you may not have on your radar, qualifying it as one of my unique day trip ideas from Marseille. The places below are a bit on the further side for a day trip so I would suggest leaving early if you want to get the most out of your day!
A cute little town with shops, colorful buildings and cafes with outdoor seatings for prime people watching! It also home to a thermal bath healthy center at which you can prebook health treatments for an extended period of time. If you’re just there for the day though and want to enjoy some pampering, there are facilities to book day treatments.
We loved visiting this quaint perched village! Also simply known as “Moustiers”, this pedestrian town has waterfalls woven through it’s streets and a glorious view of the valley below. It’s also well known for it’s beautiful and uniquely hand-painted ceramics called faïence. You will see many shops with plenty of opportunities to stock up on unique souvenirs (although they are not cheap!) Also make sure to be respectful in the shops as a lot of them have signs that say “no photos.”
As you drive up the hill to approach the building there are parking lots where you can leave your vehicle and continue on foot into the town.
Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon is a small town overlooking the beautiful Lac Sainte Croix (which I also recommend visiting if you have time!) In fact, you can take a quick visit to the lakeshore below the village and then drive up the hill for the view. The view, in fact is the main attraction and we’ve come back several times to have dinner at Le Comptoir. I still think about the lavender honey & goat cheese bruschetta and dessert plate I ate there, and the scenery is truly unbeatable.
To conclude my 5 unique day trip ideas from Marseille I present you with The Camargue. It’s a natural park area in Provence, known for it’s marshy land, birdwatching & wildlife, salt flats & quaint villages, just west of Marseille and the Côte Bleue. I would definitely recommend checking it out if you’re interested in distinct landscape and natural beauty.
Aigue-Mortes is an old medieval walled city with towers, lots of shops & restaurants. It is at the edge of a large pink body of water known as an Etang, or Lagoon that gets it’s color from the high concentration of salt in it. You can take a guided tour of the salt flats on a little train – cost is around 10 Euros. It was a neat and unique experience! You can also find WILD PINK FLAMINGOS as well as over 400 species of birds. Wild horses and cattle roam the rolling landscape, which looks a bit like a Monet painting.
While in the area, you can also visit the village of Arles, made famous in part by Vincent Van Gogh’s painting “Cafe at Night” (here is where the cafe can be found). You can even take a Van Gogh Walking Tour organized by the tourism office! Other things to visit are the Roman Amphitheater, Ancient Theater, several museums and of course, shops & cafes.
So, here you have it: 5 unique day trips from Marseille! If you can’t get enough of this region like me, check out my guides for Visiting Provence in Autumn and My Favorite Spots in Provence. If you scroll back up I’ve also provided a handy dandy MAP of all the places I’ve talked about here and color coded it by trip for your convenience. I hope this guide was helpful to you and that you enjoy your time in Provence, wherever it takes you!