Filed In: Travel

Florence Travel Guide

I can’t take all the credit for this guide.  I had some amazing friends who have traveled to Florence and given me tons of recommendations.  I also always love looking at The Design Sponge’s travel guides. 

Florence was by far our favorite spot in Italy on our honeymoon.  It doesn’t feel as touristy and everything is walking distance in this tiny city.  I recommend spending at least 2-3 nights here.  

Caleb and I spent three nights here on our honeymoon.  The first day we did a full day walking tour of Florence and visit to Accademia Gallery and Uffizi Museum.  On day two, we woke up and climbed the Duomo which has a beautiful view. In the afternoon, we enjoyed the sunset of the Piazzale San Michalangelo.  On our last day, we rented a car from Hertz and drove to Tuscany where we stayed three nights.  I mention this below, but I wouldn’t stay more than two days in the Sienna/Tuscany region.  You really only need one day of wine tours in Tuscany and one day visiting the town of Sienna.  We ended our honeymoon in Rome.  We drove our rental car to Orvieta, about a 45 minute drive from Tuscany, and then took the train from Orivieta to Rome.  This is only about an hour train ride but it is absolutely beautiful and something I will never forget.  

The one thing I’d change about our trip is renting a car from Florence to Tuscany.  It was pretty stressful and it is very hard to find a rental that is automatic.  Caleb and I had a manual car and it was quite the experience!  I think we faced our first challenge as a married couple but it was an adventure we will never forget/laugh about for years to come!  If we could do it again, I’d hire a driver to take us from Florence to Sienna/Tuscan region. IMG_2672

To Stay:

The Saint Regis– My husband and I stayed here and absolutely loved it.  It is in the best location.  I’d request a room that overlooks The Arno river (image below).  Nothing better than having a glass of wine on your patio and enjoying the view.  It also has a great breakfast buffet! IMG_2548

Museums/Sites:

Duomo–  climb the Duomo for the aerial view of Florence.  Make sure to wear comfy shoes if you want to make this walk.  It’s best to get in line early in the morning.

Piazzale San Michalangelo– you MUST walk up here!  Best view overlooking Florence.  I’d try to time it out and go for the sunset.  The bronze replica of David is here. We had dinner at 4 Leoni after, which is on the same side of the river. 

Ponte Vecchio– the bridge over the river Arno.  There is tons of jewelry shops here.IMG_2638

The Uffizi- art museum with amazing history.  A must visit. 

Accademia– home of the famous David sculptureIMG_2656

Palazzo Pitti- also know as the Pitti Palace. 

Basilica Santa Croce– a beautiful church that you’ll want to go inside. Might be worth getting a guide for this because there is so much history. 

Mercado Centrale– huge indoor market full of italian meats, cheeses, etc.  Great for a made-to-order lunch.

To Eat (lunch):

Antico Noa– best sandwich ever, I recommend the #9! You MUST go here.  It’s not a place that you eat inside.  It’s just a little hole in the wall so grab a sandwich and walk around or find a nice spot outside to people watch. 
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The Oil Shoppe– people rave about the meatball sandwich.  This is near the Duomo so you could time it out to stop for lunch after.  Caleb and I didn’t go here since we already had a sandwich at Antico Noa but I’ve heard this is their big competition!  Leave a comment if you go here, I’d love to hear how it is! IMG_2697

 

Pizzaiuolo– best pizza in Florence, a must! 

Cucciolo Bar and Pasticceria– near the Duomo.  Cute little cafe, serves famous Bombolini (doughnut style fried sweets)

Pizzeria del Caffe Italiano– genuine Naples-style pizza.  Pizza dough is slightly slicker with a crispy crust.  You must order the tiramisu for dessert.

Obika– if you are a mozzarella fan, you must go here.  Building is also very cool, not the location for your average restaurant.  If there on a Sunday, go for brunch- set price and awesome food.

Gelateria Perche No– known as one of the best gelateria’s.
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To Eat (dinner):

La Giostra– you 100% have to go here and you must order the pear ravioli. This place is very romantic, dim and everything we ordered was amazing.  Make sure to get a photo with the owner, he dresses like a (very interesting) rockstar.

Acqua al Duo– another must!  Famous for their blueberry steak.  I recommend getting the steak sauce sampler so you can try a little of all of them.  This place is a bit more touristy, but great food regardless. IMG_2594

4 Leoni– romantic spot known for their pear ravioli. 

II Santo Bevitore– authentic tuscan cuisine, just across the Ponte Vecchio.

Goldenview– near the Ponte Vecchio, can’t beat the view!  They offer live jazz that starts at 9pm.  Make a reservation after 9 or 9:30 to hang with the locals.

Armando– classic Tuscan cuisine.  Order the Papa al Pomodoro and Bistecca alla Fiorentia.

Cocktails/Bars/Clubs:

Rifriulo– right under Piazzale Michaelangelo.

Excelsior at the Westin– right across the street from Saint Regis hotel.  Most amazing view of Florence.  FYI- they don’t offer appetizers, just a little sampler of nuts and chips. IMG_2569

Pitti Gola– wine al fresco at this small wine bar.

Rex Caffe– Pre dinner drinks here.  Very trendy, go earlier to avoid crowds.

II Rifrullo– Good for before or after drinks.

Rooftop wine bar of Hotel Torre Guelfa- Intimate wine bar atop a medieval family house tower.

Slowly– club

I Vicacci– bar/club

Kikuya Pub– we had so much fun here, definitely our favorite.  You’ll usually find a lot of American students here.  

To Do:

Day trip to Tuscany:  My husband and I spent three nights in Tuscany but honestly you only need a day or two.  If I were to do the trip again, I’d just stay in Florence an extra night and hire a driver take us out and do a full day of wine tours!  It’s a little over an hour drive so not bad at all.  IMG_2807 IMG_2811

Day trip to Sienna: We had an absolute blast here!  I definitely recommend taking a day trip from Florence or you could stay a night or two in Sienna or Tuscany and go to some wineries/enjoy the city!  We had a half day tour here and learned so much, there is a ton of history here.  We had a great tour guide named Chiara.  Her facebook page is My Beautiful Tuscany- Guida. IMG_2762 IMG_2778

Shop for leather goods: Florence is known for their leather.  The store, Rive Gauche, carries authentic and real leather.  Caleb and I both bought shoes from here and they are amazing.  Be careful because a lot of leather is fake from China.  Our tour guide told us about Rive Gauche and both our shoes are still in great shape and we paid way less for them there then we would have in the states. Another great store for leather is Casini.  Caleb found a fabulous black leather jacket here! 

 

 

 

 

Sevilla Travel Guide

Oh, Sevilla, how I love thee!! One of my most favorite places in the world, if not my favorite, is Sevilla. I discovered a lot about myself during my college years studying abroad there, I was lead to the love of my life and now husband by living there, and I was taught by the “Sevillanos” how to live a life of filled with happiness and not stress. To say that this city is near and dear to my heart would be an understatement.IMG_4801

Sevilla is the cultural center of Andalucía in southern Spain and they have much pride in this. Not only is this city beautiful, but it has SO much character. The best way to travel the city is to wander. Wander through they alleyways (it’s very safe!) and take in what the locals are doing. They know how to live, you’ll see, and you are going to want to take notes. 

I have recommendations for you but, again, I want to express that my most wonderful memories in Sevilla are popping into crowded Cerveceria’s, ordering a Cruz Campo (beer) and looking around the tables at what the locals are snacking on. I then tell the bartender, I want that…it’s a foolproof method on emerging yourself into the culture and having a wonderful experience. Not to mention, you’re likely going to love what they are eating, too! It might be different but if everyone is eating it–it’s gotta be good, right?

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Let’s start with sights to see (in order of importance to me):

  • El Alcázar
  • La Giralda Tower and Cathedral of St. Mary
  • Plaza de España — Take a walk through here and then through Maria Luisa Park. They are right next to each other.IMG_4839
  • Parque María Luisa — One of my favorite things to do in Sevilla is take a walk through this park. They stragegically placed water features around the park so that no matter where you are, you can always here a water fountain. Fabulous!
  •  Torre Del Orro — DO NOT do the musuem inside, it is a waste of time. Just walk by it and have a beer at a “kiosko” nearby.
  • Triana — a beautiful neighborhood located near the Guadalquivir River. They are known for their ceramics. Take a walk through the ceramic shops and have a beer at a nearby Cerveceria to enjoy some quality people watching.

Now, Let’s talk FOOD AND DRINK:

  • Hotel Alfonso XIII — If you can afford to stay here, DO IT. It’s absolutely beautiful and luxurious, yet has so much character. If you can’t afford it, do stop by and take a look and enjoy…
    • Drinks at Bar Americano — great for a pre-dinner cocktail, or a late night drink.
    • Drinks and tapas ENA — if the weather is nice, you HAVE to enjoy a cocktail and an appetizer at ENA before you hit the town. Sit and soak in the view of the beautiful streets nearby with a glass of Crianza (or try their Tinto de Verano if its hot out) and definitely get an order of their “La Bravas Potatoes. We also had dinner here one night because we were exhausted from traveling and it was great!IMG_4853
  • Ovejas Negras — Delicious, modern tapas with an asian influence. Be sure to make reservations!IMG_5052
  • Calle Mateos Gago: This is a street directly behind the Cathedral. It’s a little touristy but, nonetheless, I like it and you can always find a good spot here to kick back, have a beer or a glass of wine, and enjoy some traditional spanish tapas. Better for lunch than dinner.
    • Cerveceria Giralda: One of the first ones on the street so it has great views of the Cathedral. Try the Solomillo al Whiskey here, one of my favorite Spanish Tapas!!IMG_5037
    • La Tradicional is another good one. 
  • El Pinton — I did not go here but was told by my friend that is from Sevilla that this is a great spot for Modern Tapas.
  • Perro Viejo— Again, wasn’t able to try this place but was told by my friend in Sevilla that it is good! Modern Tapas.
  • Bodega Consolacion— okay, so if “Caracoles” are in season this is where you want to venture out and try them. Caracoles are snails and hey, don’t knock it until you try it! I loved them! During the late Spring, andaluces flock to the streets when the temps start to cool down to slurp up caracoles by the tapa-full. The season is short – mid May to late June. This little bar is off the beaten path–located in the Los Remedios Barrio at the corner of Calle Niebla and Calle Virgen de la Consolacion. It’s such a local gem!IMG_4859
  • El Zeste-– Another place that we happened to stumble upon when in need of a beer. It was good!
  • Burguer Carlos & Jose: talk about the BEST. LATE NIGHT. EVER. If you can find these guys on the streets after a night out on the town, do yourself a favor and INDULGE in one of their burgers. Its stacked high with odd ingredients like carrots and corn, but it takes drunk food to a whole new level. You won’t regret it!

Madrid Travel Guide

Madrid is a wonderful metropolis and a great place to start when traveling to Spain. If you check out a map of the country Madrid is pretty much in the center of the country, which means its a great place to get to and from everywhere else you might want to visit in Spain via train or airplane. It’s also easy to fly into from the States; therefore, I always suggest starting off you trip here. The museums are wonderful, the food is fabulous, the shopping is exceptional, its all good! However, keep in mind that this is a BIG CITY. You aren’t going to get that quaint Andaclusian vibes you find in smaller southern cities like Granada and Sevilla. Nonetheless, Madrid is Madrid. And Madrid is fabulous.

With all that being said, because Madrid is such a huge city–it’s difficult to know where to go and what to do…I mean you can do so much here but my question was this: what can I do in Madrid to have a unique experience? I don’t want to feel like I am just dining and going out in NYC. I want a special experience. I searched online and one of my most favorite blogs of all time, Design Sponge, had a fabulous guide to Madrid by Kristen Bernardi, who lives in Madrid and has a ton of credentials. I took a ton of her recommendations and found her guide to be extremely helpful. My guide I am about to share with you will suck in comparison to hers; however, my guide is a “2 day trip to Madrid Guide,” so just look at it that way. Got it?

First off, lets discuss Food and Drink. This is a food blog anyway!

Mercado de San Miguel — I would say that this is the biggest must as far as a foodie experience goes in Madrid. The Mercado is an old farmers market turned into this super funky, hipster hangout with so many delicious eats and drinks that your mind will be blown! Clayton and I took 2 visits to this spot because, well, it’s fabulous. Here is my recommendation to you about visiting here: I mean, really you can go anytime of day but I say start off your evening here! Get dressed and head over here to kick off the night. Walk in, grab yourself a big glass of wine or beer and make a big walk around the place and explore all of the many beautiful things you can eat. By the time you finish that first glass, you’ll have a better idea of what you want to order. (Definitely get a plate of oysters from the oyster guy. So fresh and good!) I would enjoy a few little plates and some drinks with whomever you are with then move on to dinner or more tapas! IMG_4747IMG_4779

Calle Cava Baja– Located in the heart of the La Latina barrio, is known as one of the best culinary stretches in the city. We had such a blast doing a tapas “crawl” on this street after we kicked off the night at Mercado de San Miguel.  On a bustling Saturday night, the street and restaurants are crowded with mostly standing room only but, needless to say, it’s fabulous and so fun! We were drunk so I can only name a few of the places we went but we went to tons of places and there wasn’t a bad restaurant on the street! A few that I can recall,

  • Txakoli – Big, Basque style tapas. Standing room only. Grab a beer/wine and share a huge tapa.
  • Taberna Tempranillo — the gorgeous floor to ceiling wine rack makes you HAVE to order a delicious rioja here (we both ordered a big glass of Crianza). Delicious tapas!

Café Ajenjo – This little gem of a bar is tucked away and we had such a wonderful time topping off with one last drink here at the end of the night. The owner is the only usually the one on staff, and if you’re ordering cocktails, he’ll ask if you want something dry (seco) or sweet (dulce) before surprising you with a perfectly personalized cocktail. This bar is located in Malasaña, a laid-back barrio (or neighborhood) that is filled with young 20-30 year olds. There are tons of bars/clubs around here, so if you are looking for that sort of scene, this is your neighborhood. Cafe Ajenjo is NOT that vibe at all, its a slow paced local dive and it is oh-so lovely!IMG_4778

Ten con Ten — located in Salamanca (the posh, upscale barrio) this place has great food and drinks. I probably won’t go back here again for 1 main reason: they take only two reservation times per night because its such a popular restaurant (one at 8:30, the other at 10:00 I believe). We could only get into the 8:30pm reservation and we felt like we were being pushed to order quickly and get out of there, so it messed up our vibe. If you do decide to go here, go for the later reservation time…I think you will have a much more enjoyable experience! Try their Pulpo, it’s delicious!IMG_5078

Casa Marius — Located in the Chueca Barrio, we stumbled in here because it was pouring rain and we needed a place to park it and eat. It was much more upscale than we anticipated and, as we were soaking wet, we felt like the nasty Americans they assumed we were. Ha! The food and wine were absolutely delicious. If you are looking for an upscale dinner option, I would suggest this!

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Palo Santo Cafe — Located in Chueca (right near our hotel, The Only YOU Boutique Hotel) we stumbled in here one morning for breakfast because it looked like a lot of locals were enjoying coffee and breakfast here. As simple as it was, this was one of my favorite meals during my stay in Spain. We both asked to have what all the locals were having: “Tostada con Tomate Macerado” (toast with tomato), a side of “Jamon Serrano”, and (of course) a delicious cup of “Cafe con Leche.” It was simply fantastic!IMG_4761

 

Now let’s talk sightseeing. There are SO MANY Sights to See in Madrid, so it depends on your taste, your love for history, and how many days you are staying here. Here are my highlights:

  • Museo Nacional del Prado— ranks as one of the best and largest collections of European art in the world. Must see galleries: Goya and Velasquez.
  • Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofía — beautiful modern art collection. Must see: Picasso’s masterpiece, Guernica
  • Retiro Park – Nearly 300 acres of green space in the center of Madrid, this place is absolutely gorgeous! Grab a drink and people watch by where the row boats are and really soak in Madrid. I recommend strolling through here to rest your mind after a visit to the Prado Museum, which is close walking distance.
  • Plaza Mayor –Madrid’s historic main square that has a beautiful fresco on one of its façades and is lined with (tourist filled) cafes. If you can find the right cafe, a cup of coffee isn’t a bad idea, but you will probably get annoyed by the hecklers trying to make money for their bizarre “acts” and/or the trinkets they are attempting to sell. (Which is why I suggest avoid eating a meal here.) Take a walk through here on your way to Mercado de San Miguel, its on the way. 
  • Palacio Real — Although the king and queen no longer live here, it continues to be their “official residence”. Home to the Kings of Spain from Charles III to Alfonso XIII, this palace will take you through a journey of rich history in Spain! 

This is the best I can do with my short stay in Madrid, and it’s a great place to start. I know that the city has SO MUCH MORE to offer, so if you have any additional recommendations please leave them in the comments below for others! GRACIAS!

Granada Travel Guide

When visiting Spain, Granada is a must! The people of Granada pride themselves of carrying on the tradition of Tapas in the way that they were originally meant to be enjoyed, which is as simple as this: you order an alcoholic beverage, you get a small plate of something to eat. Keep drinking and they will keep coming, I am a HUGE fan of this concept and we took full advantage of it, too. You’ll find based on my restaurant recommendations I have many places to recommend and we only spent 2 days here. This is because we got a little bit of food in many places the true Spanish way…what a delight!

Okay, so lets start with a little breakdown of WHAT WE DID during our 2 night stay in Granada. At the bottom of this post, you can find a quick breakdown. 

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DAY 1:

First off, we didn’t arrive in Granada until about 3pm on Day 1 because we took the train from Sevilla to Granada and that is the earliest time we could arrive. We checked into our Hotel, Hospes Palacio de los Patos, and hit the town immediately! We immediately walked towards the center of the town towards the Cathedral, took a quick walk around of the Cathedral and then walked down the street of the nearest silk market, or the Alcaiceria. These streets are filled with Moroccan looking goods and trinkets and are fun for a quick walk down even if, like us, you don’t feel like purchasing anything!

We hadn’t had lunch yet and we were ready for a beer and some food at this time but here is the catch…its 4pm and pretty much all the good spots close around this time. We ended up eating at the plaza right there nearby the silk market that was filled with, well frankly, pretty crappy touristy lunch spots. I didn’t even write down the name of the restaurant, it was that bad.  Left unsatisfied and bummed we couldn’t go to a delicious lunch spot, we then booked it for a beer to make us feel better. Clayton remembered Calle Navas being a fun street to drink and eat and he was correct! We had one of the most memorable experiences at the most unassuming bar and its a story I must tell you now and one that I will probably tell until the day that I die. 

So here we are walking down Calle Navas in search of a funky bar and a cold beer. Let me let you in on the biggest secret about Spain that you must remember when you are there: walk around and look for a place packed with locals and standing room only. You know its going to be good! With this in mind, we walked into the unglamorous little gem we found at Casa Fernando (Calle Navas 28). We walk in, ordered a round of drinks and to our surprise Fernando, the owner, plopped down a delicious tapa. We noticed when we walked in that the locals seemed, well, a bit “borracho” (drunk). As we were enjoying our first round, an older man in the back corner started to sing a beautiful, traditional flamenco ballad in an attempt to serenade the young girl from Juarez sitting at the bar. They all began to clap and sing and then, the girl from Juarez hops up out of her seat and began to dance in traditional Flamenco style. If that wasn’t good enough, the most “borracho” of them all walks in from the outside seating and chimes in by singing his own, more comical, rendition of a Flamenco song. We were in awe and no joke, this continued for about an hour and half on and off. It was absolutely wonderful and an experience you can’t even pay for as a tourist! Casa Fernando wasn’t open at night when we were there and I am unsure of the hours but, if you are in need to sit and relax after a day of sightseeing, go to Casa Fernando. I can’t guarantee the show that we enjoyed, but I can guarantee a wonderful spot to enjoy a cold beer and a good tapa in an authentic, unassuming little local bar. 

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We then went back to the hotel, got dressed and took a cab up to St. Nicolas Viewpoint, a lookout with breathtaking views of Al Alhambra, the Sierra Nevada, and the city of Granada. This is a must! We took in the view for a bit and walked down the steps to El Huerto de Juan Ranas, a beautiful restaurant with more beautiful views. We enjoyed a few drinks here and ordered a few appetizers to kick off the night. We didn’t have dinner here, but I wish we would have!IMG_4871 IMG_4909 IMG_4911 IMG_4922

We then took a taxi back down into town and went to finish off the night with drinks at El Tabernaculo, the most wonderfully bizarre bar you’ll probably ever step into. The walls of this tapas bar in Granada are covered from ceiling to floor in an awesomely gaudy display of photos of Semana Santa (Holy Week in Spain) and religious trinkets. I saw this bar on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown and knew I had to take a visit. Its quite the experience and again, the tapas will continue to roll out as you order drinks.

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DAY 2

The morning of our second day in Granada was filled with a tour of Al Alhambra. which is the biggest must see when visiting Granada. Clayton and I had both been to the Alhambra before and we wanted to learn more about it this time so we hired a tour guide, which was wonderful! IMG_4928 IMG_4962

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If you take the back exit of the Alhambra and walk straight down, it will take you to Plaza Nueva where we enjoyed some much needed post tour beers and, you guessed it, some tapas. Our first, and favorite, stop was Los Diamantes. Here we enjoyed some Tinto de Veranos, Cervesas, and absolutely delicious seafood tapas. I would recommend just having lunch here after you enjoy a few free tapas if you are still hungry. We walked to Los Manueles down the street (per our tour guides recommendation) and it was good, not great.IMG_4983 IMG_4984

We then took a big siesta back at our hotel, had some pre drinks at our hotel bar, and then went to enjoy dinner at Tuntun, a new modern tapas spot. Although they served us delicious, free tapas with our drinks, we also ordered dinner here. It was all great! We had been in Spain for about 7 days now and were growing a little tired of traditional Tapas, so this was a great change of pace for us.IMG_5007

Lastly, we walked back over to Calle Navas for some glasses of wine over at La Tana, a wine bar with great complimentary tapas served with your drinks. The wine was great, the tapas were great but I have to tell you one thing about it: its a tourist hot spot. This didn’t bother us too much but just fair warning. IMG_5014

SIGHTS TO SEE:

TO EAT AND DRINK (read above for more details on these spots):

Austin, Texas City Guide

Austin Skyline

After college, I was fortunate enough to enjoy living in Austin for a couple of years.  I love that city so much and it holds a special place in my heart.  I love that no matter how long you live there, there is more exploring to be done.  My husband and I make multiple trips to Austin per year for “vacation”, and it really is the perfect getaway!  Austin is a foodies paradise.  Plus, on a pretty day everyone is outside enjoying the city and what it has to offer.  I have put together a list of my personal favorite restaurants and things to do in Austin.  I am certain there are tons more great places to eat and explore than what I have provided, so don’t think that just because it is not on this list you shouldn’t try it if someone else recommends it!

To Stay:

Hotel Saint Cecilia –  Located in the South Congress District.  This hotel may be pricey, but it is totally worth the stay if you are wanting a quiet and romantic getaway or a fancy girls weekend with a few of your girlfriends.  The vibe is artsy and low key…pretty much the perfect setting to your weekend stay in Austin.  Just check out the pictures of their poolside and the breakfast we enjoyed on our bungalow balcony!

Hotel Saint Cecilia

Hotel Saint Cecilia

Hotel San Jose –  The sister hotel to Hotel Saint Cecilia, Hotel San Jose is also located in the South Congress District.  It is an “urban, bungalow style” hotel.  Everything about this hotel is awesome, I want to recreate the vibe in my own backyard right now.  You have to book months in advance, as there are only a few bungalows available and they are always booked.  If you cannot stay here, I recommend dropping by for a drink in the afternoon, but fair warning:  beer and wine only!

To Eat:

Elizabeth Street Cafe – an adorable French Vietnamese restaurant located in South Austin.  The atmosphere is quaint and the food is delicious.  My go-to order?  For the table: the fried springrolls and the niman ranch pork belly steamed buns.  For me:  the chicken breast and lemongrass skewers pho.

Elizabeth St. Cafe

Perla’s – this place is great for dinner and lunch, do not get me wrong.  But, my favorite way to enjoy perla’s is a mid afternoon snack of oysters and one of their delicious cocktails while people watching on South Congress Street.  You have to get a huge tray of oysters, their ceviche, and a mexican martini.  Pure bliss.

Perla's Austin

South Congress Cafe – this is my favorite brunch ever.  No joke.  I dream about their bloody mary’s pretty much every Sunday and wish I was there.  It absolutely without a doubt has the best bloody mary ever! If you think there is one better in the world, please let me know.  Everything on the menu is amazing.  If I had to narrow down some favorite: the gumbo, the blackened tuna tacos, and the steak and migas eggs benedict.  But really, you can’t go wrong.  If there is a wait, don’t be all boring and eat somewhere without a wait.  Put your name on the list, give them your number, and go to some nearby shops (Tesoro’s and Uncommon Objects are my favorite shops!)  The wait is never as long as they say.

SoCo Cafe

Parkside – located on “Dirty Sixth”, this place is a true diamond in the rough.  Their oysters and everything on the raw bar is delectable.  When I lived in Austin, this was one of my go-to restaurants to take people that were in town for the weekend.  There is something for everyone here and it is good for groups or just a nice little date night!

La Condesa – a modern mexican restaurant located downtown.  The margaritas here are off the chain and the restaurant is decorated fabulously!  Great for brunch, lunch or dinner.  You have to try at least one of their ceviches.

Franklin’s Barbeque –  If you are a BBQ lover, this is worth the wait.  Fair warning:  you will have to arrive by 10am to wait in line for it to open at 11am.  You want to be closest to the front of the line as possible because when they run out of brisket or ribs (which they will) its not worth the trip!  Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the wait!

Blue Dahlia Bistro –  this is quite a wonderful lunch spot.  This European bistro serves delicious, yet simple food that is mostly local and organic.  You really feel like you are in Europe when you eat here!

Jeffrey’s –  Jeffrey’s is an old classic of Austin recently renovated and revived by the group who did Perla’s.  It still has that old, classic, dark steakhouse feel.  So, if you want a fancy steak night dinner in Austin, this is your place.

Josephine House–  Josephine House is Jeffrey’s sister restaurant.  I haven’t been myself yet, but its on my “to-do list”.  I here its a sophisticated, great lunch spot!

Sway–  another place I have not yet been to myself, but hear it’s the place to “see and be seen”.  Next time I go to Austin I plan on eating at this modern thai restaurant!

Qui – Located in East Austin, this place is very unique.  If you are not an adventurous eater, I wouldn’t recommend this place.  But, if you are a foodie and open to unique bites, than Qui is a must visit.  I went with my Husband and we ordered 6-8 dishes to share.  Plus, dessert; which was a cheddar cheese ice cream sandwich!  What?  Yes, it was all delicious.  Not to mention, top chef winner and restaurant owner Paul Qui is frequently there walking around his own restaurant checking on his customers.  Seeing him alone made my night, I am a huge fan.

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Justine’s Brasserie – located in East Austin, this French restaurant is a magical and dreamy experience.  You dine under festive lights outside while listening to french music in the background!  I don’t think you can beat that.  This casual spot is a must visit and please, don’t go here without trying the escargot and the cheese platter!

Justine's Brasserie

Uchi – if you are wanting to throw down some money on the best sushi of your life, Uchi is the place for you!  Make reservations long in advance and enjoy one of the best meals of your life.  You have to order a lot of items from the menu to get full.  some must orders?:  Maguro Sashimi with goat cheese, hama chili, machi cure, and the bacon steakie.  You’ll need more food than that (even if there is just 2 of you) and it will all be out of this world.

Lenoir – my husband took me to this spot for Valentine’s Day when we lived in Austin.  It was the perfect, romantic, quaint little spot.  You feel like you are in someones home for a fancy dinner.  It’s menu is pre-fixed and is Mediterranean inspired that changes with the seasons.

Clark’s Oyster Bar – Located on West 6th, another spot owned by the same people as Perla’s.  They always do a great job!  Great for lunch or dinner, but in my opinion more of a lunch spot.  To order:  oysters (of course), and the Clark’s Cioppino soup is TDF.

To Do:

Austin Greenbelt –  The Austin Greenbelt is probably my favorite get active activity in Austin.  Its a good hike plus, if you want to go swimming, go swimming!  I typically don’t go for the swim but should, I usually just do the hike and put my feet in the water for a quick break!  Such a wonderful stroll but beware of bikers!

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Barton Springs Pool – a man made pool that is fed from underground natural springs.  It is the best relief from Summer heat there is in Texas!  You get the true Austin experience, I mean real hippies basically live here.  Not hipsters, I mean hippies.

Zilker Park – Go walk around zilker park.  Walk up the hill and visit the JuiceLand (2307 Lake Austin Blvd.)  If you are really feeling festive, pack a picnic and a frisbee, soccer ball, (something!) and enjoy a day at Zilker!

ACL Live – be sure to check out what artists are playing the weekend you visit Austin at ACL Live.  ACL live is attached to The W Hotel in Downtown Austin.

Stubbs – Also make sure to see who is playing at Stubbs.  Another awesome live music venue.  I’ve heard their gospel brunch is pretty amazing, too.

Mohawk – yet another great live music venue.  Check and see who is playing while you are there!

Rainy Street – a great street to bar hop either at night or during the day.  It is a bunch of old houses turned into bars and restaurants.  One of my favorite drinks of all time is the Pickle Martini at Icenhauers.  I also love the indian food at G’raj Mahal Cafe!  yum.

West Sixth – Once again, another bar hopping experience.  Always a good time!

To Note:

I always scroll through Thrillist when I am going into town to see if there are any cool events, concerts, festivals, etc. going on during my visits to Austin.

Shop:

Tesoros – located on South Congress.  When I am brunching on South Congress, I always make it a point to drop into here and hunt for unique, global, worldy objects for my home.

Uncommon Objects – the name of this place says it all.  They have the most random finds ever, but some of the items I cherish most in my home.  Its a truly unique antique shop that I can’t get enough of located on South Congress.

Goorin Bros Hat Shop – a really badass hat store located on South Congress.  We had so much fun shopping in here.

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Wildflower – Located on Lamar, this place offers high end furniture and organic bedding.  I usually do not actually purchase anything here, its way out of my price range; however, just looking at their stuff is satisfying to me.  It is gorgeous.  I’ve splurged a couple of times on bedding and towels.  So worth it.

The Domain – luxorious shopping.  It is not in the heart of Austin but its open aired, pedestrian friendly shopping is very plesant!  Its not all just luxurious, they have one of the best Zara’s I have ever been to!  If you go visit, you have to eat at North.  So damn good.