What to pack for Iceland in the winter

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Most places you travel to, you have a fairly good idea of what to take. Beach holiday? Bikinis and flip flops. City break? Trainers and skinny jeans. Skiing - well, you get the idea. 
But Iceland, and especially Iceland in winter seems to be one of those places that is sort of a packing enigma - the temperatures aren't as arctic as skiing but you definitely need more than you would for your average winter getaway. And then there's all the tours you go on. Do you need to prep yourself for a Bear Grylls arctic explorer type situation or would your converse and ear muffs be enough? After heading to Reykjavik over New Year's I've put together my ultimate list of what to pack for Iceland in the winter. Just a disclaimer, I haven't included things like a toothbrush and pants as I'm guessing you guys can handle that part!

Snow boots 
I'd say the single most important thing you need to get for your trip is snow boots and I'd really advise getting boots that have inbuilt crampons like these Calzats, as much of the ground on the tours - and even around Reykjavik - can be slippy. If your boots don't have them built in you can get add on crampons like these, which you can just pop on as and when you need to. 

Warm coat
Another essential is a warm, waterproof coat - if you have one already a ski jacket would be perfect and if you're looking for the perfect Insta shot a bright coloured coat like this looks best against the white snow.

Thermal socks 
Pack enough for two pairs per day. I just got a cheap pack of three from trespass but if you fancy a splurge these heat holder ones have great reviews.

Neck warmer
You may be tempted to pack the biggest fluffiest scarf you can find, but in my opinion they tend to get a bit in the way. Instead go for a fleecy neck warmer which keeps your neck and mouth super toasty without bulking you out too much.

Thermal under-layers 
The key to keeping warm in Iceland's sub zero temperatures is layering and this means getting hold of a number of thermal under-layers. Each day I tended to wear a thermal vest, one thermal long sleeved top and two pairs of thermal leggings as my base layer and this kept me pretty snug. M&S have a really wide great value range for both men and women and even have some patterned designs which were great for wearing when we went out on the evenings.

Waterproof trousers
You won't necessarily need these but it's best to keep a pack in your rucksack to be on the safe side. A fold away pair like these Trespass ones are ideal.

Thin fleece 
The last thing I popped on underneath my ski coat was a thin thermal fleece like this Regatta one. A fleece not only gives you an extra layer to protect you when you're outside but also means you can take your coat off on the coach journeys without feeling chilly.

Smarter jumpers 
Evenings we tended to go for dinner in one of Reykjavik's many restaurants. Instead of wearing all your basic thermal layers it's nice to have some smarter thick jumpers you can pop on top of just a couple of them. That way you can stay warm but feel a little more dressy.

Jeans
I also packed a couple of pairs of jeans for evening - meaning I could keep my thermal leggings for the day time.

Hat 
Pretty self explanatory - go for a thick one!

Thick gloves
The thing that got the coldest during my trip was definitely my hands and I learnt that just like the rest of your body - layering is the trick. Team a thin wool pair with these waterproof thermal ones from Trespass and that should keep you cosy. They are also touch screen compatible so you can use your camera and smart phones without taking your gloves off (because trust me they will FREEZE when you do).

Waterproof rucksack
Most of the tours you go on will mean you're out all day so you'll need a rucksack to keep all your essentials in. A waterproof one like this Osprey bag has lots of sections and feels really lightweight on your back. 

Camera 
For social snaps your smartphone camera will get the job done. But a place as beautiful as Iceland looks extra special if you can invest in something a little more hi tech. I took advantage of the January sales and got the Canon EOS M10, which is a really great little compact system camera for your travels which has inbuilt wifi and a selfie friendly flip screen (look out for a more detailed post on why I love mine soon)!

Go Pro
If you plan to pay a visit to the Blue Lagoon (and you totally should!), you'll want to have some kind of underwater camera with you. A Go Pro is a great option as you can use this on some of the other excursions too, but if you're looking for a more budget friendly option you can pick up a waterproof case for your phone and take that in with you instead. I'd strongly recommend investing in something good quality like this Eco-Fused one to be on the safe side and not opting for sandwich bags which I saw a few times...

Lip salve 
As well as being cold, Iceland can get pretty windy which means the parts of your body that aren't covered up can get a bit blown about. Keep a moisturising lip salve in your pocket to make sure your pout is protected.

Polarised sunglasses 
In the winter months, you're likely to be greeted with a snow covered Iceland that has a blanket of the white stuff pretty much everywhere. It looks super magical but it also means that there can be some serious glare. Pop in a pair of sunglasses and get polarised ones if you can as they are better at keeping glare at bay.

USB Powerbank
One thing I didn't anticipate was the effect the temperature has on batteries. On many of the trips our phones and cameras would completely die outside because they were too cold. Once we were back on the coach they would switch back on but it's worth having a powerbank with you to keep you charged on the go.

Snacks
In case you haven't already been warned, Iceland is pretty expensive! To keep costs down bring a few snacks over with you from home that you can take out during the day. Our snack of choice was Cadbury Dairy Milk #justsaying

Water bottle
Another handy tip to save a few pennies is to always carry a water bottle with you. Iceland has some of the safest, cleanest tap water in the world as it's sourced directly from their springs. Ditch the bottled water and just fill up your own wherever you go.

Swimming costume 
A final pretty obvious must if you're paying a visit to the blue lagoon!

So, hopefully you found this useful! Have you ever been to Iceland in the winter? What would your list of essentials be? 

If you're heading to Iceland soon I've also created a handy pinable visual list for you below. Enjoy!

Ultimate Iceland winter packing list


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48 hours in Philadelphia

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48 hours in Philadelphia


When it comes to America's east coast, there are plenty of big name cities to keep you busy, but one that can sometimes get overlooked is Philadelphia. Mixing a vibrant nightlife and restaurant scene with a wealth of historical significance, Philly is a great place to spend a weekend. Check out my 48 hour guide for first timers in the city...

Saturday


Lacroix restaurant Philadelphia

8.00am
Kick off your weekend in style with breakfast at The Rittenhouse's Lacroix restaurant. This sophisticated spot offers a selection of classics with an enviable view of Rittenhouse square. Be sure to try their signature date butter!

Elfreth's Alley Philadelphia

9.30am
There's no better place to get yourself introduced to Philly than the old city district. Philadelphia played a really important part in the American Revolution and a morning stroll around this part of town will see you tick off Independence Hall, the birthplace of the declaration of independence and the constitution, Liberty Bell, an iconic symbol of freedom and Elfreth's Alley, America's oldest residential street.
There's also a number of museums in this area if you want to learn more about America's past but my recommendation would be to head to the recently opened Museum of the American Revolution which provides a slick and interactive overview.

Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia

DINIcs Reading Terminal Market

1.30pm
Now you've finished geeking out on American history, you've probably worked up an appetite. Just a short walk away is Philly's Reading Terminal Market - a favourite lunch spot for locals and tourists alike. Get your savoury fix with a pulled pork sandwich from DINIc's - they are huge so one between two will be plenty unless you are a big eater. Finish it off with one of the amish pretzels from Miller's Twist or a doughnut from Beiler's.

Philly mini golf Franklin Square

2.30pm
If you're a fan of mini golf (and who isn't) spend an hour early afternoon checking out the mini golf on Franklin square, where the course is made up of holes inspired by all of the cities most famous landmarks.

Mural Arts Philadelphia

3.30pm
Another thing Philly is known for is its street art, with a number of murals dotted around the city thanks to the Mural Arts programme which works with communities to transform outdoor spaces. There are organised tours of the murals that you can book on to but if you're short on time you can also download the Mural Finder app, which gives you a digital map of all the art pieces around the city with image previews included, meaning you can just pick the ones you want to see and create your own self guided tour.

One Liberty Observation Deck Philadelphia
Photo by M. Fischetti for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

5.30pm
As evening draws in head up to the observatory of One Liberty Observation Deck. Sunset is a great time to see a view of the city from above and the cocktails are a perfect way to kick off your evening in the city.

Butcher and Singer Philadelphia
Photo by M. Fischetti for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

8pm
Philadelphia born Stephen Starr is one of America's best restaurateurs and his group of Starr restaurants are some of Philly's best. Head to chophouse Butcher and Singer for one of the best steaks around and be sure to order a side of the stuffed hash browns. For an authentic east coast experience team your chop with one of their renowned Manhattan cocktails.

10pm
Finish the night by heading to Spin, a trendy ping pong bar which doubles up as a great party spot until the early hours.

Sunday

Sabrina's Cafe French Toast

10.00am
Sundays are for lazy starts so once you've got yourself up and about head for brunch at Sabrina's Cafe. Serving up comfort food with a Philly twist they regularly change up their menu with specials around different seasons and events. The Stuffed Challah french toast is also not to be missed if you have a sweet tooth.

Eastern State Penitentiary Philadelphia
Photo by M. Fischetti for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

11.30am
Now it's time to check out some of the museums the north west side of the city has to offer. If you want to do it properly you will really only have time for one. My pick would be the Eastern State Penitentiary - a huge former prison which housed some of America's most notorious criminals and has now transformed into an interactive attraction. If you're looking for something more family friendly The Franklin Institute is one of the biggest science museums in the US or for art buffs there is the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Rocky Steps Philadelphia

2.00pm
Even if you don't pay a visit to the art museum, you'll more than likely want to pay a visit to the steps outside, made famous by the movie Rocky. Head to the top to recreate the iconic scene and take in some great views across the city.

Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk Philadelphia
Photo by C. Smyth for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

4.00pm
Spend the rest of the afternoon strolling along the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk a breathtaking, 2,000-foot-long pathway that extends the Schuylkill River Trail from Locust to South Street. This picturesque walk offers some of the best views of the Philly skyline and has four designated viewing spots to help you get that perfect Instagram shot.

Spruce Street Harbour Park Philadelphia
Photo by M. Edlow for VISIT PHILADELPHIA™

6.00pm
Finish off your weekend by heading a little south of the centre to Delaware River Front. In the summer, an urban beach is illuminated with colourful LED lighting that hangs from the treetops. Grab a selection of food from vendors representing some of Philadelphia's best restaurants and chill out in one of the signature hammocks under the stars. If you're visiting in the winter you'll be treated to a winter wonderland with Philadelphia’s largest outdoor ice skating rink, cozy cabins and a chalet-inspired Lodge.

Have you ever visited Philly? What would be your best picks for a first timer?

Charlotte x

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#PILLOWTALK: A REVIEW OF THE RIVER INN, WASHINGTON

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River Inn, Washington Hotel Review

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I've just come back from a mini tour of America's east coast. This is definitely fast becoming one of my favourite parts of the world and I've got lots of posts planned to share with you but first up is a review of the hotel we stayed in during the Washington leg of our trip, The River Inn

On the map

The River Inn is found in Washington’s historic Foggy Bottom district. The leafy surroundings are just a 10-minute walk away from both trendy Georgetown and the Lincoln Memorial – one end of the famous National Mall. It is also just two blocks away from the Metro, making it very easy to get to anywhere in the capital.


River Inn Washington, Living Room

Style
Designed to offer a cosy retreat which still feels connected to the buzz of the city the décor can feel more like you’re moving back into the comfort of your parent’s house than a super swish hotel. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you are used to refined luxury, you might be underwhelmed by some of the interiors. It does however give the hotel a very local feel, which is emphasised by the rows of 19th century houses, which surround it, giving you the sense of being right in the heart of one of Washington’s residential areas.



River Inn, Washington, Bedroom

Rooms    
All the rooms are designed to feel like a real home away from home, equipped with a spacious living area and a kitchen complete with fridge and microwave – making it perfect for families or travellers who are spending an extended period in Washington. A really nice touch is the ‘stock the fridge’ option, which allows you to order groceries to be delivered to your room within a few hours. Although the décor can feel a little dated in parts, the size of the rooms are some of the biggest I’ve seen in the US, making it very good value in terms of space. Most of the bedrooms also boast panoramic windows offering envious views of the Potomac River or the Foggy Bottom area. If you don’t mind early rising, leave your curtains open and enjoy the sunrise right from your pillow.


River Inn, Washington, Breakfast

Wine and Dine
DISH + Drinks, the hotel’s restaurant is a local's favourite, serving up a number of contemporary takes on American classics. To start the day, why not try one of the signature breakfasts complete with a typical American buttermilk biscuit – if you want the full USA experience, don’t forget to add the hot sauce! In the evening, there are a whole host of dishes on offer but you’ll find most DCers opting for the steak and frites, with a generous smothering of béarnaise sauce.
If you’re a wine drinker, you will feel at home here with over 40 different types to choose from but if cocktails are more your thing, give the District Blossom a go which combines gin, fresh lemonade and crème de violette for a tasty and refreshing mix.



River Inn Washington, Bikes at National Mall

Top Tips
If you are planning to explore the National Mall – take advantage of the complimentary bikes on offer at the hotel, as the 2 mile national park can take a while to cover walking! Just make sure to book the bikes a day or so in advance as they can get booked out fast. If you’re a fitness fan there are also complimentary yoga classes in partnership with Georgetown Yoga and running clubs every Wednesday for you to enjoy.

Last Word
If you’re looking for a homely spot for your time in DC, the River Inn won’t disappoint and you’ll struggle to find more bang for your buck when it comes to size. There are certainly more modern and trendy hotels on offer but if you favour home comforts over hipster design then it’s certainly worth a look.

Details
£££: From £109 per night
Address: 924 25th Street, Northwest, Northwest, Washington, DC 20037, USA
Book Now

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River Inn, Washington, Hotel Review


*I received a media rate in exchange for this post, all views and opinions are my own.



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Where to see the best Christmas markets in Europe

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Best Christmas markets in Europe

Now that summer is officially over and mince pies are in the shops (yep - that's right), it's totally acceptable to start thinking about the best time of year - CHRISTMAS! There's no better way to get in the festive spirit than visiting a Christmas market so to help you out, I've rounded up my selection of where you can find the best Christmas markets in Europe. Get ready for a post filled with lots of gingerbread, mulled wine and fairy lights...

Weihnachtszauber Christmas market in Berlin

Berlin
23rd Nov - 31st Dec
Germany is the home of the Christmas market and you'll be spoilt for choice with a visit to the capital, with over 60 markets to choose from. Each market has it's own unique style, with high end, artsy and foodie specific markets all an offer.  A couple of the biggest are the Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt, known for its wide selection of handmade goods and trinkets and the Berliner Weinachtszeit at Alexander Platz, which boasts a huge ice rink and ferris wheel giving it the ultimate winter wonderland feel.



Advent in Zagreb Christmas market

Zagreb
2nd December - 7th January
Crowned the winner of best Christmas market in Europe for two years in a row, 'Advent in Zagreb' is not just a Christmas market but more like a Christmas extravaganza with an ice sculpture festival, 3D advent tunnel, live nativity scenes and much more. It even offers themed tours of their advent experience and special hotel deals for those who book to visit directly through their website - making it one of the best value destinations on the list.



Strasbourg Christmas market

Strasbourg
24th November - 24th December 
Believed to be the oldest as well as one of the best Christmas market's in Europe, Strasbourg Christmas Market was first held way back in 1570. Found in the capital of the Alsace region, right on the german french border, the market is a melting pot of the two cultures with quaint wooden chalets, cinnamon biscuits and the enormous Christmas tree at Place Kléber creating a toytown traditional feel. Make sure to check out all 11 of the different villages in the market and don't leave without trying bredele biscuits, an alsation speciality which comes in all shapes and flavours and doubles up as a sweet snack or a decoration for your Christmas tree back home!



Budapest Christmas market

Budapest
26th Nov - 2nd Jan
Budapest has two main spots for their Christmas market, the first is in Vörösmarty Square and the second is just in front of St Stephen's Basillica. Both markets offer a great place to familiarise yourself with authentic Hungarian Christmas culture - most importantly their favourite festive cuisines - including roasted pork knuckles and krampampuli, Hungary's equivalent of mulled wine. Everything on sale in the market has been verified as officially traditional and handmade by an independent jury, so if you want an authentic souvenir of your visit, take home one of their official Christmas mugs, which changes design every year.



Bruges Christmas market

Bruges
24th November - 2nd January
One of the prettiest cities in Europe is made even more picturesque by the arrival of the festive season. Twinkling fairy lights and the smell of Belgium's famous waffles drifting through the air are just two things which give Bruges Christmas market the fairytale factor. The main market is in Grote Markt, but don't forget to visit the stalls on Simon Stevinplein too, where you can also stop by a couple of Bruges' most loved Chocolate shops to sample their Christmas specials.



Prague Christmas market

Prague 
2nd December - 6th January
A visit to Prague's Christmas markets will never get boring as the market takes on a different theme every year, which is announced in November, a month or so before the market opens.
Christmas in Prague is a real family affair with local school choirs performing every afternoon and a stable where little ones can go to see donkeys, sheep and goats. For a sweet treat whilst you wander round be sure to try Trdelnik - a sugar coated pastry served warm, which is all kinds of delicious and for a nice way to finish the day why not watch an evening concert in one of the city’s churches, such as St Salvator or St George’s Basilica.



Viennese Christmas market, Vienna

Vienna
18th November - 30th December 
Like Berlin, Vienna has a number of markets for you to choose from. The highlight is arguably the Viennese Christmas Market located in front of city hall, which boats an enviable backdrop to really set off the Christmas feel, however the stalls dotted around the charming narrow lanes of Spittelberg are also worth a visit for a romantic stroll through one of Vienna's former suburbs. Don't miss out on trying your hand at Christmas cookie or candle decorating inside the city hall itself whilst you sip on your gluhwein.



Tivoli Gardens Christmas market, Copenhagen

Copenhagen
19th November - 31st December
Out of all the Christmas markets in Europe, you would struggle to find one that looks as magical as Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens during November and December. Expect light shows, Christmas music and snow covered trees as you walk around the lake and for those who like a bit of a thrill seeking there are also 27 rides to have a go on. 60 stalls make up the market itself selling everything from crafts to deli foods and hot chocolate and try to catch the Pixie Band who play at various points around the gardens. For a cosier feel, you can also head to the market in Nyhavn harbour - home to a handful of stalls selling danish trinkets and delicacies.

What's your favourite Christmas market in Europe? Have you ever visited any in my roundup?

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Best Christmas markets in Europe



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