Rome Offers Many Unique Hotels

Rome Hassler Hotel
Elizabeth Unique Hotel, Rome.
Elizabeth Unique Hotel, Rome.

New places are always popping up around the city of Rome, but two new and improved options, both near the famous Spanish Steps in the city center, are great options for your next stop in the Eternal City.

Elizabeth Unique Hotel

As of January 2018, the Elizabeth Unique Hotel of Rome has reaped as a newly restored 17th-century palace. Inside the centuries-old palazzo, the boutique hotel is located just a few minutes walk from the famous Spanish Steps in the pedestrianized Via del Corso neighborhood. With thirty-three freshly renovated guest rooms, Elizabeth’s quarters are perfect for savvy travelers with antique wallpaper, couture, one-of-a-kind textiles, and incredibly varnished floors.

The guest rooms’ canopy beds welcome visitors as they sip espresso while taking in the breathtaking views from outside their window. The living room offers guests a relaxing atmosphere to wind down in after their day of sightseeing in the city, complete with a fireplace or their garden terrace.

Centrally located and tragically chic, the Elizabeth Unique Hotel’s contemporary style, innovative use of technology, trendy bar, and international team offer guests an unforgettable stay in the city on seven hills.

Rome Hassler Hotel
Rome Hassler hotel

Roma Hassler Hotel

If you’re looking for a more historic accommodation, a notable Roman property, and another uniquely non-chain lodging option, the Hassler is a fan favorite. Owned and operated by the same family since the early twentieth century, perched atop the Spanish Steps, the Hassler is overridden by Roman style and personality.

Three newly renovated suites were recently revealed, adding more appeal to this timeless classic. At their in-house bistro, Italian fusion cuisine is served to guests, dishes like tandoori-style duck and cacio e pepe risotto, all while overlooking beautiful panoramic views of Rome.

Find hotels in Rome and then use the points from Bonwi for another stay.

Bristol, England, Makes a Great City Break

The Bristol Hotel, right near the river and in the heart of the city, is perfect for a City Break.
The SS Great Britain was built in Bristol and is the top attraction in the city. You can tour even the very bottom of the outside of the ship!
The SS Great Britain was built in Bristol and is the top attraction in the city. You can tour even the very bottom of the outside of the ship!

Sometimes, frequent travelers like to avoid the most popular cities, hoping instead to discover an out of the way place that won’t be overrun with tourists.

Yet there are times when it’s fun to visit the most popular tourist cities because they’re set up to provide visitors with fun experiences,  restaurants of all stripes, and more hotels.  Bristol, England falls into this category, it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Britain.

Visitors come to Bristol for what people on the Continent like to refer to as ‘City Breaks.’  The advent of City Breaks came mostly after inexpensive flights became widely available from Ryanair and EasyJet made flights to places like London, or Prague, or Faro, Portugal very very affordable.  So today you’ll see many Brits and other Europeans planning their own 3-night city breaks, and Bristol is a perfect place for this.

Either take a cheap flight from Paris, or Rome or just take the train two hours from London.

The Bristol Hotel, right near the river and in the heart of the city, is perfect for a City Break.
The Bristol Hotel, right near the river and in the heart of the city, is perfect for a City Break.

Bristol’s fine Bristol Hotel would be a great choice for anyone visiting the city, with prices from around $135-150 US.  You can find a deal using Bonwi and have around 6000 points to use on a future trip.

What else do visitors enjoy in Bristol?   One new attraction is called Cargo, at Wapping Wharf. This is a collection of shipping containers that have been put together and strapped into two stories where cafes, small shops, a bakery, high-end restaurants and other businesses have opened up.  Building using containers means that you can put two or three together to make it larger, and the rent is low. So all manner of experimental businesses can give it a go.

Cargo is a shopping and dining area built out of shipping containers.
Cargo is a shopping and dining area built out of shipping containers.

Bristol is just one of thousands of cities where you can enjoy a city break, and with Bonwi, you’ll get points you can use for the NEXT one too!

8 Trivia Bits to Know About Stockholm, Sweden

Visit Stockholm old city

Visit Stockholm old city

Stockholm is a gorgeous capital city in Scandinavia and you could take a thousand postcard-perfect photos on a visit here. You get ancient architecture and a long history, plus this is a thriving and electric city with a great food, music, and nightlife scene. Stockholm often shows up on lists of the “most creative cities in the world” and its people often rank themselves as some of the happiest.

You’ll learn a lot from a guidebook or tour guide during your visits to museums and waterways, but here are a few surprises to get you started before you book a hotel and map out your plans.

You Probably Have Something From Here in Your House

Those Swedes aren’t real braggarts, but they’ve got an eye for business opportunities. Here are just a few brands that have rolled through Stockholm on the way to your house or garage: Ikea, Absolut, Volvo, Saab, Abba, Spotify, Electrolux, AstraZeneca, Skype, H&M, Fjällräven, Minecraft, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Abba museum Stockholm
Costumes at the Abba Museum

The Nobel Peace Prize Founder Was a Bomb Maker

Alfred Nobel is now known as the man who left his fortune for the establishment of the Nobel Prizes, including the Peace Prize. The way he made all his money though, was developing explosives. He invented dynamite and held the patent on it. Along the way though, he blew up several of his family’s factories and one blast ended up killing one of his brothers.

More #1 Hits By Anyone Not Named Lennon or McCarthy

You’ve probably never heard the name Max Martin, but unless you’ve been living in a cave for three decades you’ve heard a few of his songs. He has been behind #1 hits recorded by Katy Perry, the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, and lately The Weeknd. (If you now can’t get “Oops, I did it again” “Bad Love,” or “I Want It That Way” out of your head, blame him.)

Stockholm is Really a Collection of Islands

There are 14 islands connected by 57 bridges in Stockholm, for a city of 2 million. Roughly one-third of the city is green space and one-third of it is water. While the whole country of Sweden only has 7 million people total, it’s the 5th largest country by land mass in Europe.

King Gustav Was Killed at a Masked Ball

On March 16, 1792, Swedish King Gustav III arrived at a masked ball in costume. While most participants were incognito, he couldn’t help but show off his identity through a large star symbol on his vest. A captain planning a coup could easily tell it was him and shot him in the back. Gustav lived but ended up dying 13 days later from a resulting infection. This story eventually became an opera by Verdi, now known as The Masked Ball.

Boats Have to Come Out of the Water Each Winter

Marina and couple at sundown in StockholmThere are a lot of boats in Stockholm: an estimated 7% of Swedes own a boat and the waterways are lined with marinas. They can’t stay there when the water freezes in winter though, so most get moved to storage facilities up on the land.

The Country’s Most Famous Ship Was a Failure

The Vasa Museum is one of the most popular attractions in Stockholm, a giant wooden ship rescued from the harbor after lying at the bottom of it for hundreds of years. It sailed a little more than a kilometer on its maiden voyage of 1628, then toppled over and sank. It took three years to build and the carvings are grand, but they apparently neglected to budget for an experienced engineer to make the plans. It was poorly designed and top-heavy. If it hadn’t sunk near the shore, it would have sunk at sea.

Royal Palace in Stockholm

The Heir to the Throne Married Her Personal Trainer

Princess Victoria is next in the line of succession for one of the world’s oldest monarchies. In 2010 she married her former personal trainer, giving hope to gym rats around the world as 1,200 attended and half a million watched on TV. He’s gone from pumping iron to being called Prince Daniel of Sweden, Duke of Västergötland. We can only assume he also gets to hear, “Yes your highness” on a regular basis.

Is this capital city on your short list? Get the best Stockholm hotel prices at Bonwi, plus you’ll earn more valuable award points than with any other program.

Article and photos by Tim Leffel, editor of Perceptive Travel online magazine. See his story there on biking the Kattegattleden Trail in Sweden

Tips on Eating in Europe

While in Europe, food is enjoyed as much as art, language, and traditions. From sampling local hidden gems to experiencing farmer’s markets, here are some tips eating in Europe while on your travels.

Do Your Research

Scout out authentic eateries to experience the true local cuisine. Go online and spend some time writing down a list of restaurants that represent the cultural local dishes you are looking for. Most of the time authentic restaurants are not located on the touristy main streets.

Tipping is Optional

Not tipping the usual 15%-20% is okay. Don’t worry, you’re not being rude. The prevailing culture in Europe is to not leave excessive tips. You can leave a few euros if you feel inclined.

Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ markets are a good way to find high quality food at a reasonable price and an exciting cultural experience. Farmers’ markets can be found somewhere in any city just about every day of the week.

Drink in Public

Europe has fairly lax laws about drinking in public. This means it is perfectly acceptable to enjoy a beer or bottle of wine in a park or other outdoor spaces.

By using these tips as a guideline, you can better organize and prepare for your trip. Read more Travel Tips for more in-depth information about the best way to travel.

Exploring the Worlds of Harry Potter in London

Harry Potter London Studio tour

The character of Harry Potter, the international book and movie phenomenon, is about as British as it gets. So London offers plenty of Potter-themed attractions. Whether you’re just a casual fan wanting to stop by Platform 9 ¾ during your day trip around the sights of the city, or a more hardcore fan ready to sign up for the all-day Warner Brothers Studio tour, this classic city has something for the wizard in everyone.

Harry Potter London train station

As a Harry Potter fan on my first trip to London, there were a couple things I knew I had to do while I was there. Upon first arriving at Kings Cross Train Station (home of Platform 9 ¾ and The Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter novels and movies) you’re met with crowds of bustling people hurrying about to catch their trains to cities and provinces all over England. The station has been incredibly modernized over the years, and is easy to navigate, so it didn’t take long to find the swarming corner of the station devoted to Platform 9 ¾. Keep in mind it’s not actually on the real platform (in fact, the movie scenes were filmed on platform 1 and 2, because 9 and 10 are in a different section of the station) but is more like a small homage to the Harry Potter story in a significant landmark in modern London.

Once you get to the “platform” there are two options: a photo op and a gift shop. The gift shop is fairly large, with multiple rooms filled with every Harry Potter trinket you could imagine, from t-shirts and posters to wands and replica props. You can even find an array of Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts merchandise as well as all the books in the series in various editions. The employees are helpful and friendly and will attend to all your merchandise needs.

If you choose to wait in the photo op cue for a good 20 minutes or so, you’ll have the opportunity to take a picture with a Hogwarts cart (halfway through the wall, of course) with a wand and scarf of choice. The “scarf fluffer” on duty will first give you the option of choosing a house scarf to wear (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin). The fluffer will then proceed to toss the ends of the scarf into the air as the photo is snapped to give an illusion of it flowing in the wind. It’s an awfully simple gag that looks great on camera, as well as the mid-jump shots you can choose to take.

As far as the photos itself go, you have the choice to either have a friend or family member take them with a phone or personal camera, or buy a physical photo taken by the photographer. Either way they’re lenient and won’t push you to buy one, so it’s worth waiting in line to snap a quick Instagram photo to show off to your friends, even if you were only a technically a wizard for a couple minutes.

Harry Potter tour double decker bus London

On a Double Decker to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour

If you want the full London Harry Potter experience, a fantastic fan opportunity that you’ll never forget, the Warner Brothers Studio Tour is the thing for you. If you’ve ever wanted to see some of the authentic sets, props and costumes from the Harry Potter films, this tour is an opportunity you won’t want to miss. After pre-booking the tour, you’ll meet at an assigned pick-up spot in the city to be swept away by a large double decker bus, the exterior decorated like the Hogwarts Express. From there it’ll be about an hour bus ride to the studio, but don’t worry, they show The Philosopher’s Stone (The first Harry Potter film) on little overhead TVs on the way there.

Once you get to the studio, after wait in the queue and scanning your tickets multiple times, you’re in! After a couple brief presentations (one by an employee and one pre-filmed by the stars of the films) you enter the Great Hall and your adventure begins.

Harry Potter London Studio tour

Strewn throughout the rooms of the enormous property where many iconic Harry Potter scenes were filmed are sets, costumes, props, puppets, sketches, photos, and just about anything else you would ever want to see as a fan of Harry Potter—or even just as a fan of film. You start indoors with the interior-use objects and sets such as the Gryffindor Common Room, The Ministry of Magic, and the hundreds of costumes. Then you proceed to the new Forbidden Forest expansion, the train station, the outdoor sets, and the concept art and model rooms. It’s a lot to take in and takes a good 3-4 hours. There’s a halfway point cafeteria, however, where you can stop for a bite to eat or the iconic Butterbeer (imagine cream soda but more magical), feasting on your treats next to Privet Drive and The Knight Bus.

Exit Through the Harry Potter Gift Shop

Once you reach the end of the tour, past the rooms of prosthetics and drawings from the early stages of the films, you get to see the scale model of Hogwarts (the one they used for outdoor shots, it’s about 9 feet tall) before ending in the massive gift shop. Along with all the usual Harry Potter merchandise you can buy elsewhere—such as at the Universal Studios parks in Orlando and Los Angeles, or the Platform 9 ¾ store in London—they have an incredible selection of more authentic prop replicas in a glass case display in one of the shop’s corners. There you can get realistic-looking horcruxes as well as boxes of paper props which contain assortments of replica tickets, Azkaban posters, letters, maps, etc. But of course, if that’s not your thing and you would rather have your favorite character’s wand and a house scarf, they’ve got you covered for those as well. The studio is absolutely breathtaking, it’s really something that must be experienced in person to fully appreciate, so if you’ve got a morning free, don’t miss the opportunity to book a spot.

Overall, both these attractions are fun experiences to take advantage of, a little modern sightseeing break to differ from the classic London must-dos. Whether you have kids with you who are avid fans, or are one yourself, Platform 9 ¾ and The Warner Brothers Studio Tour are exciting for all ages, anyone who simply wants to go back to the magical world of Harry Potter, or even for those who never left in the first place.

IF YOU GO

Search Bonwi.com to find the best rates on London Hotels and earn points you can use for a future trip. Follow these links to see more info on Platform 9-3/4 and the Harry Potter studio tour.

Story and photos by guest contributor Alina Leffel, young adult author of the  novel Demon High, available at Amazon.

Rome: When is the Best Time to Go, and Which Hotel to Choose?

Look at the giant line waiting to enter Rome's Colisseum during the summer. A better choice would be to go off season if you can.
Look at the giant line waiting to enter Rome’s Colosseum during the summer. A better choice would be to go off-season if you can.

When is the best time to visit Rome?  April to June and late September to October are the best months for a visit to the Eternal City — temperatures are usually mild and the crowds aren’t quite so intense.

Starting in mid-June, the summer rush really picks up, and from July to mid-September, the country teems with visitors. I can attest to this first hand, having spent a few weeks in and around Rome in September when I thought all would be clear.

But Italy, when it’s crowded in the summer, can be pretty unbearable since everything isn’t air conditioned and people need a lot of personal space just to gesticulate their feelings with their hands, as we all know Italians are famous for doing.

But in Italy, when it’s crowded, it can be pretty unbearable since everything isn’t air conditioned and people need a lot of personal space just to gesticulate their feelings with their hands, as we all know Italians are famous for doing.

Think about visiting Rome completely offseason–since much of what you want to do there isn’t weather dependent anyway.  These hotels are highlights that were chosen by the Espresso Blog, published by Select Italy, a tour operator specializing in all things Italy.

The Fortyseven Hotel is described like this, by blog author Elizabeth Salthouse:

“Nestled between the historic Roman Forum, Circus Maximus and the fast flowing Tiber River, the Fortyseven is an elegant haven of luxury in the center of Rome. Each floor is styled in tribute to one of Italy’s great contemporary artists with Modigliani, Mastroianni, and Greco just three of the masters acknowledged. And the artistic theme continues to the rooms, where chic Art Deco detailing and contemporary art make each one unique.

The Inn at the Roman Forum gets another thumbs up from Elizabeth, as it’s just steps from the ancient forum, a huge tourist draw for the ages. This hotel has views, unforgettable views, over the Forum, Palatine and Capitoline Hills.

Not only can you bask in view of the more modern “wedding cake” building that towers over the ancient forum, the imposing Altare della Patria, a memorial to the city’s first King, but there is another surprise. Inside the hotel itself are more ancient ruins below the floors. Guests can follow down a small passageway to see a stone gallery adorned with artwork from ancient Romans, right below the hotel!

Book hotels in Rome like this, offseason, using Bonwi Points!

Romantic, Budget-Friendly European Getaways

Looking to plan a romantic getaway? Check out some of our favorite romantic locations in Europe which won’t break the bank. Below are our top destination choices to wind down and connect with your significant other.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

The cobbled streets and narrow alleys of Amsterdam are perfect for strolling around and cozying up in a quaint spot to wine and dine. For a truly romantic experience, be sure to rent a houseboat to soak up the city’s ambiance and charm from the canals.

Valencia, Spain

Valencia, Spain

Valencia is Spain’s third-largest city and among its most popular tourist destinations. Fantastic architecture, interesting history, unforgettable sunsets, and out-of-this-world food are just a few of the contributing factors to its massive popularity.

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is a great city for lovers. Indulge in a night-time cruise on a Bosphorus ferry. Catch the boat from Karaköy to Kadıköy at dusk and watch as the city skyline lights up. Find here a wealth of terraces and gardens in which to enjoy one another’s company.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, Czech Republic

Considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world since the Middle Ages, Prague is perhaps the best city in Europe for couples in search of romance. There’s music in the air, beautiful art and architecture throughout, and numerous romantic activities available, such as walks along the Vltava river in winter.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin, Germany

While it isn’t quite the same as Paris, Berlin is likely to be far easier on the wallet and certainly has its fair share of romantic spots. The Tiergarten is one of the most beautiful parks in all of Europe, and Pfaueninsel Park (Peacock Island) is the perfect spot for a private picnic.

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal

Romance embraces you on every street corner here in Lisbon. Stroll hand-in-hand through backstreets twisting up to hilltop veranda, hidden courtyards, and vintage funiculars. You’ll soon fall head over hills with the Portuguese capital.

 

Save some cash (use it for a date night) and head to Bonwi.com to start planning that romantic rendezvous.