Welcome! Here you’ll find travel tips to Europe, including my personal experience. First of all, feel free to take a look at my post on preparing a safe and fun backpacking trip, which includes key organisational, booking, packing and safety tips: https://thinkmoveeat.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/important-travelling-tips/
I’ll start by giving a few general tips for Europe and then move on to each city and region. First, the Lonely Planet guide that I took with me (Europe on a Shoestring 2017) is very helpful interesting for learning about the places where I was travelling. It also gives amazing practical tips on each country and region, such as about the currency, language, religious diversity, customs, means of transportation, and more. However, I found that the specific tips for each city (museums and attractions to visit, places to stay and eat…) were too touristy and not enough authentic to the local culture and life, although they were also sometimes useful (regarding opening hours, entry price, and more); of course I will visit the Eiffel Tower when in Paris and Temple Bar when in Dublin, but what are the places that regular people or locals go to sight-see and drink a good beer? I feel like this is what is usually missing from most guides and tourism blogs. That is mainly why I immensely enjoyed to mostly stay at airbnbs throughout these trips and meet regular people from each city, to get a bit of the local insight although we didn’t have a lot of time in each place and were indeed “tourists”.
In addition to the guide, I used a lot of online sources to decide what to do or not to do in each place. Here are a few ones: www.hiddeneurope.co.uk ; www.visiteurope.com ; www.inyourpocket.com ; www.eurocheapo.com ; http://budgettraveller.org ; http://thesavvybackpacker.com ; www.flycheapo.com . Plus, the guides USE-IT for each city (they only exist for a few ones, though: https://www.use-it.travel/home) are made by young locals who want visitors to experience the real place, not only touristy scenes and activities. I have used them for many cities, especially in Belgium, and they’re amazing. They’re renewed every year with the most current tips on places to see, eat, drink, and things to do. You should definitely look into it and find stands where you can get them, since they’re free, though they don’t exist for every city or place.
It can be really cheap to visit many places in Europe by taking cheap flights, which you can buy from the following companies (on their websites or really great mobile apps): Ryanair, Easyjet, Wizzair. In order to find the best possible prices, you can look at the following sites or apps: Skyscanner, Google Flights, GoEuro. The downside is that while buying the ticket you have to select and pay extra for any luggage or suitcase other than a small hand bag. Also, those cheap flights usually leave from smaller airports further from the city, although that really depends on the place, so you should research on the price and times of the required transport to go to and from the given airport. Plus, in order to find the best deals you have to keep looking constantly and buy the tickets a few weeks in advance. In the Skyscanner app you can search for destinations depending on your dates and budget, and you can even add an alert for when the price falls for a specific flight destination or date. Alternatively, you can travel by train, which you can find good deals on the GoEuro or Rome2Rio websites or apps. Although, it is usually expensive to travel by train in Europe. Travelling by bus definitely takes more time, but it’s usually cheap and simple; you don’t have to get to the station a lot in advance, and the rides can be really beautiful and interesting. Two good companies are Eurolines and FlixBus, but you can find other options on the GoEuro or Rome2Rio websites or apps. You can even travel by car, by the app or website Bla Bla Car, which organizes lifts and car pooling for short or longer distances, though it isn’t available everywhere.
I would advise to visit Europe between January and May, since in the summer as well as in the winter holidays, it gets really full of tourists and packed with people. That personally really bothers me when I’m visiting somewhere, since you can’t even try to experience the local culture or day-to-day reality. Finally, do your research before going somewhere, as people tend to generalize when speaking about “Europe”, but in reality every place’s weather, culture and type of tourism depends on a lot of other things.
I didn’t add a lot of pictures to this post because in these trips I have been learning to embrace the surprise factor; not to look up a place online before going so that I can enjoy it even more (well of course I read travel blogs and have a book guide, but I don’t read extensively on the places or look at pictures). I hope you will enjoy this post and use my tips wisely :)
Take a look at my post on Portugal, where I traveled for seven days!
Take a look at my post on France, where I traveled by car for eighteen days!
Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England
Take a look at my post on Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England, where I traveled for ten days!
Take a look at my post on travelling in Belgium, where I explored by train for about two weeks!
I actually lived in beautiful stunning impressive Budapest for five weeks, where I was doing an internship at an important local NGO called Kalunba (click on it and check out the facebook page, I initiated an interesting project called People of Kaluba that has been amazingly going on even though I don’t work there anymore!), that helps in the long-term integration of migrants and refugees in the Hungarian and European societies, which I found and applied through AIESEC, the world’s largest student-run organization (which I totally recommend)! It was amazing to get to experience this vibrant city from the “inside” with Hungarian friends, understanding that society from an interesting perspective, and lots of time to see and do everything I wanted! I couldn’t recommend Budapest enough; did you know there used to be two cities, Buda and Pest, on each side of the Danube river, or Duna as they say in Hungarian, which then became one city, the Budapest we know today?! Buda-Pest is full of amazing surprises.
Here are a few general tips:
- Public transport works very very well (day and night), and it’s perfectly synced with Google Maps, which makes things easier.
- Try to learn a few basic words of the language; it’s a sign of respect and you’ll feel less like a basic tourist. Koszonom means ‘thank you’, Bocsanat means ‘excuse me’, Szia means ‘hello’, and Jó Napot! means ‘good afternoon’, as Jó means ‘good’ (search all on google for pronunciation).
- I have found that Budapest is heaven for cute authentic coffee shops and dessert places. Lots of vegetarian and vegan places too. Check out Sunday vegan markets (not every week but get informed whether there’s one happening while you’re there, it’s really worth it!)
- Exchange money in the city center, on Király Utca (utca means ‘street’ and is pronounced ‘ut-za’, as the letter C makes the sound of Z) there’s a good place with the best rate that we found; there’s no name, but it’s written ‘Change‘ in English and Arabic on a sign on top of the shop. Their currency is the Hungarian Forint.
- I advise you to stay at an Airbnb, they’re really luxurious and cheap, and I prefer the Pest side as it’s closer to everything, although the Buda side is extremely charming.
- There’s a coffee shop that has free wi-fi, where you can also print your boarding pass for free, and pay to store your luggage: Koffer on Paulay Ede Utca. It’s central in the Pest side and it can be very practical; I went there a couple of times when I was switching Airbnbs and had to leave my backpack somewhere, print some papers or needed a meeting point with traveler friends.
- Tram #2 is the best sightseeing ride in Budapest and has been voted among the best in the world!
- There’s a great free walking tour available starting near Deak Ferenc Ter; it’s tip-based, 2h30 by walking with a dynamic guide (ours was very nice and passionate!) which gives an overview of what there is to see and do in Budapest, explains the city’s history as well as a bit of the Hungarian culture and language, going from to beautiful sights and historical places to an underground local restaurant for a great cheap lunch.
Pest side, things to visit/see/do:
That’s where the main city center is; merged with the nice Jewish quarter, it’s lovely to walk around in there.
Walk on Andrássy út.; it’s a main street, with stores, restaurants and pubs. Get to the Heroe’s square (Hősök terre) built in the Millennium year of 1896, when most of the important buildings of Budapest came to life. Next to it, the City Park is also well worth the visit. There is a skating rink there in the winter, and even better, the largest natural thermal bath in Europe thermal baths (Széchenyi Medicinal Bath), amazing in the winter and inexpensive compared to other European attractions but a bit expensive compared to others; definitely worth it, I was there twice.
Another good thermal bath is the Lukacs, more intimate but still big and with lots of saunas, pools with different temperatures, and more.
Terror Háza or the House of Terror is a well-known museum about the dark past of the country; it’s pretty costly (3000 ft for one student entry, 4000 full price) but worth it. It’s a 1h30-2h visit in a very well done way; extremely interesting history and presentation.
The metro line 1 is the first one built in Europe, really old and impressive. Go see the Opera House, a beautiful building where there are a lot of affordable concerts and presentations.
Go to the St-Peters Basilica, beautiful on the outside and on the inside. It’s only 400 ft for students to go in and up; the 360 view of the city is breathtaking.
Go see the Hungarian Parliament, stunning during the day as well as at night. To me, this is the most beautiful and impressive building in the world; I never got tired to look at it and took dozens of pictures of it.
Don’t miss the Great Synagogue, the second biggest in Europe; stunning on the outside but I didn’t get in as it’s extremely expensive for Budapest.
Visit the Goszdu Udvar market in the city center, but I found the restaurants there quite touristy and expensive.
Visit the Palace of Arts next to the Ludwig art museum (which I received a great recommendation about but didn’t get to visit), where you can find online inexpensive and interesting concerts and dance performances.
Pest side, places to eat/drink/go out:
The center is full bars and pubs, there’s definitely an active nightlife. The city is known for its ‘ruin bars’, notably the trashy but charming Szimpla Kert; even if only to see the inside and get one drink, it’s a must-go!
There is a cute café-restaurant close to the Parliament (Smuz). Close to the opera, eat close to the opera at Bamba Marha Burger Bar, where there’s a fattening but amaaaazing vegetarian burger.
The restaurant Napfényes Étterem, vegan and inexpensive, has a nice staff who speak English and serves very good food. I went there multiple times and was always positively surprised!
The Art Cinema & Cafe called WarmCup is a beautiful and cozy coffee place near the city center; I went there probably a dozen times for a coffee and a quick bite. Also, the London Coffee Society has a cool atmosphere and good vegan coffees. On Király utca, the coffee place Goamama has a great atmosphere, coffee and desserts. Plus, Káldy Gyula utca between Andrássy utca and Király utca has tons of cute and cozy coffee shops and dessert places. One of them has many vegan, raw and gluten-free options, Naspolyanassolda.
The chain Hummus Bar exists on a lot of central streets in the Pest side, and you’ll find really great and cheap Middle Eastern food there..
My ABSOLUTE FAVORITE is the fancy-but-inexpensive-for-what-it-is (around 2500 Ft/ person and completely worth it) Macesz Bistro, where they serve Jewish Hungarian food; you must try their amaaaaaazing vegetarian Matzot lasagna!
The restaurant Spinoza in the city center is simply charming; enjoy live music, amazing atmosphere, very good Jewish Hungarian food, all for an affordable price.
There’s also Kiválo, a restaurant in the Jewish quarter with a few veggie options, really good and very affordable.
There’s the unmissable huge central market Központi Vásárcsarnok, with food and ingredients, local and cheap, clean and big. It’s the perfect place to buy Hungarian paprika or souvenirs!
Go to the inexpensive restaurant-bar veganlove.hu for vegan burgers and hot dogs.
Known as the most beautiful café in the world, the New York Café near the Boscolo Hotel, is worth a visit. Its golden interior is very classy but you can find all sorts of people inside, and the food is expensive (for Budapest), but if you just sit inside to people-watch through the glass windows and sip their great ice coffee latte, it shouldn’t be too bad.
Visit the Citadel, an impressive fortress and its communist liberty statue; you can cross the bridge by bus or walking, then walk up among the nature all the way to the top (not too hard or long, it’s actually a lovely walk), where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the river and both sides of the the city.
Visit the Buda Castle or Royal Palace; it’s actually a beautiful hill and mini-city in there. It’s inexpensive to enter the Castle Hill but once you do, you have to pay for each museum or church you wish to enter. Alternatively to visiting the interiors, you can also just walk around the lovely streets for free! Spend some time at the stunning Fishermen’s Bastion inside the castle hill; enjoy the breathtaking view from up there. We went to an amazing restaurant that I definitely recommend (although it’s considered expensive for Budapest), called Etterem 21 on Fortuna utca. There is a gourmet quarter there with many fancy restaurants.
The museum Hospital in the Rock is an impressive cave that served as a hospital in the Second World war and during the Hungarian revolution against the Soviets, as well as a bunker protected against nuclear attacks during the Cold War. It costs 2000 ft for young people under 26, 4000 ft full price; it was completely worth it to me, as it’s very interesting and well presented. The guided tour is included (obligatory actually), and I went in the last tour (7 pm) and it was perfect because there wasn’t a lot of people (as opposed to during the weekends and afternoons).
Overall, Budapest is an absolutely amazing city, and even though I got to spend some time there and fully experience it, I still wish to go back there and enjoy it some more! It’s apparently even more vibrant in the summer. I still catch myself picturing the Parliament, Bastion and impressive view from the Citadel from time to time.
It goes without saying that Roma is a very nice city with wonderfully historical places. However, I found it too filled with tourists (I was there on a weekend in March) and quite expensive to eat and sleep. Of course it’s still worth it; it’s the kind of place where everyone needs to go there at least once in their lives. And if you don’t mind a place that’s a bit touristy but can’t handle tooo muuuch of it, you can visit the city thoroughly as it isn’t thaat bad, with the exception the Vatican (you can still visit the Vatican square for free without getting inside the museums or basilica). All in all, this city will charm hopeless romantics and historical geeks with its cute stone pine trees all around. I only spent a weekend there, it would’ve been great to have more time!
We stayed at an Airbnb outside the center (in a neighborhood called Pigneto, a very nice and quiet place with many restaurants and bars, especially in the street Via Braccio de Montone, and the amazing vegan place So What), which was great since we could experience a more authentic place. There’s a great public transport network there (although the buses are often late), you can buy 24/48/72 hour passes. Also, beware of pickpockets in crowded places!
Explore the neighborhood Trastevere, filled with locals and very few tourists, except closely around the basilica. There are many traditional pasta and pizza restaurants there (of course!), and the food was good and not too expensive (around 12 euros for a meal with homemade pasta and local wine). Visit the beautiful outside of Castel Sant’Angelo. Walk in the Via dei Coronari, where you’ll find cute stores, cafés and restaurants.
To visit the Ancient City, it’s worth it to buy the one ticket for the Roman Forum and Colosseum (7.50 euros for students). The Colosseum is incredible, despite the number of people trying to visit the ruins of this ancient gladiatorial arena. The Roman Forum, archaeological ruins of what used to be the heart of the Roman Empire is simply the most impressive place I’ve seen! I won’t go into all the details of what you can visit there, but walk around all afternoon, read the signs which explain each monument’s meaning and history, and keep your ears open to the guided tours passing by. Inside the Forum, the Palatino hill is incredible and shows a charming view. Around the Ancient City, you can eat well for about 10 euros around the corner of Via dei Normanni and Via dei Santi Quattro. Go to Il Gelaton for amazing vegan gelato.
In the historical center or Centro Storico, you MUST eat Supplizio, where they serve the typical street food Supplì, which is a tasty fried risotto ball with cheese inside (Cacio e Pepe is the best flavor!). The Pantheon (you know, the church that’s casually 2000 years old, and very well maintained) is amazing on the outside and free to get in! Close to it, there’s the magnificent Altar della Patria. The Piazza Navona is a central square in the city, with the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in the center, also worth a visit. Obviously, the well-known Fontana di Trevi is a must-see, and the touristy Campo de’Fiori is a market during the day and restaurant and bar square in the evening, though it used to be the place of public executions. Piazza di S. Ignazio, on the other hand, is a cozy and chill square with no tourists in the evening, perfect to take a breath.
Then, there’s the Vatican. This touristic place is worth a visit despite everything, though if the line’s for the Basilica di San Pietro is too long you should just take a walk around the amazing (free) Piazza San Pietro, the Vatican‘s central square designed by Bernini. For a non-Catholic such as myself, the three-hour wait to get in the church wasn’t worth it, even though it’s an impressive place where you can admire Michelangelo‘s Pietà and the entrance is free of charge. I feel the same way about the Vatican Museums (8 euros for students) is well-known for its great art collections, from ancient to modern, including the Cappella Sistina; it’s absolutely filled with tourists but it’s also quite the artistic experience.
There’s also other stuff to do in the city that I will go back to visit: the Mercato di Circo Massimo, the Piazza dell’Unità (close to Vatican), the Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps. Also, the Renaissance palace Villa Medici, and close by the park with museums Villa Borghese.
Overall, Rome is a magical city, though the ten hundred billion tourists almost ruined it for me. Almost. Roma, I will be back! But next time, on a weekday, hoping that it makes a difference.
Prague, Czech Republic
Praha is a great great city, where features of different European cities that I love come together; Budapest’s architecture style and the fact that the city’s built o both sides of a river, Edinburgh’s urban green areas, Amsterdam’s water presence… It’s an interesting ans very impressive place, you won’t get bored! We spent four full days there and it was enough to do what we wanted to do, but we could’ve easily stayed longer without getting bored! The map USE-IT is amaaazing for this city (click here to know where to get a free one in Prague); I will of course give my personal tips in this post but I definitely 200% recommend the map! The only downside of the city is really the public transport; the network is very extensive and works well, but you need Czech Crown coins to pay for it, since the machines don’t accept neither credit/debit card nor bills, so be prepared.
Before giving my recommendations for the city, here is my google maps list for Prague where I have added my coups de coeur for the city; you can download an offline map of the city with your google maps app and add this list, which makes it easier to make up your own itinerary or spontaneously find something to do or somewhere to eat when you’re already out. Okay, let’s do it by category.
Where to eat/drink/go out: Containall (the place of live events and drinks, but check for opening hours), Bakeshop (large selection of great baked goods), Veganland (self-service style relaxed place to eat), Jiná Krajina (I didn’t actually get to eat there but I received great recommendations of this restaurant), Lokál Dlouhááá (same thing), Pernícuv Sen (Christmas all year-long, great gingerbread cookies), BeerGeek Bar (amazing bar with many beers on tap, good food as well and great price; try my favorite light Czech beer, Sibeeria/Raven Pilsener Weisse, 3.8%), Old Town Square (very touristy but mostly inexpensive traditional snacks are sold there), Naplavka Farmers’ Market (filled with fresh local goods), Batalion Comics Bar & Museum (great bar with interesting atmosphere, though a bit expensive), Letná Beer Garden (in the Letná park in the north of the river, very enjoyable when it’s sunny out), and manyyyy more! Good and cheap food is fortunately not a rarity in this city!
What to do/see: The map USE-IT has two suggested walks/circuits, and you should definitely do that! Let me just briefly present individually my favorite places, starting on the west side of the river and then moving on to the east.
We stayed at an Airbnb in the neighborhood Praha 6, which is super clean and cute. Even if you’re not staying close by, Prague 6 is well worth a visit; the beautiful campus of the Czech Technical University is located there, with beautiful buildings and a creative library. To eat, the Bistro Santika is inexpensive and cozy!
There is a huge and beautiful park and hill (Petrín) in the western side of the city, and it’s a great place to be surrounded by nature, take a long walk and get to a beautiful viewpoint. You can go inside the park from any side you’d like, and the combinations of possible paths are infinite, but you gotta get to the Czech ‘Eiffel tower’ (by walk or free funicular), which is the top of Petrin and where you can grab a bite while looking at some beautiful views. Also, try to visit the Strahov Monastery complex down the hill, where craft beer is sold, (touristy) restaurants are available and another pretty view can be enjoyed.
The square around Namesti Miru and St. Nicholas Church is lively and promotes beautiful architecture. Close to it, the oldest garden in the city, Vojanovy Sady, is impressively colorful and full of lovely hidden corners. The Wallenstein Garden is also beautiful, though closed in the winter. In the charming street Valdstejnské, one garden comes after another, accompanied by governmental offices in historical buildings (you may find more details on the places there in my google maps list mentioned in the first paragraph).
Then of course, there’s the stunning Prague Castle and its surroundings of cathedrals, gardens and palaces.
In Prague 7, there is the huge and peaceful Letná park, where you’ll see all sorts of people and activities, as well as stunning views of the city.
On the way to the river, there is a beautiful park (Kampa) followed by three small charming islands worth a stroll.
Then, of course, there are the stunning bridges. Charles Bridge is the most well-known and filled with people; it’s nice to go on it in the evening, but during the day you should stick to the other bridges which have less tourists and give a beautiful sight of Charles. The other bridges are also beautiful and unique.
In the city center, Prague 1, there’s so much to see; Josefov, the Jewish neighborhood, is small but offers many beautiful synagogues and interesting museums (which are honestly very expensive compared to the prices in Prague). The Old Town Square is filled with traditional markets and selling of goods, as well as majestic churches, buildings and museums (for more information, see my google maps list mentioned in the first paragraph). The best thing to do there is just walk around and explore whatever interests you.
In the border of the river, there are two must-sees: The stunning National Theatre which lights up in the evening, and the mesmerizing and creative Dancing House.
In the southern part of the city, there are two interesting outside areas to be visited: Vysehrad, the fortified castle with secret paths, stunning architecture and unexpected views, and (which I unfortunately didn’t get to visit but you definitely should) the medieval Bastion close to the Ztracenka garden.
Further east of the center, there is the well-known Television Tower with playful statues of babies crawling up, by David Czerny. It’s also a nice area to walk around in and get something to eat (there’s a great bar there, BeerGeek, mentioned in the drinks part of the post).
Honestly, Prague has so much to offer and it was extremely hard to write this post because the city has gotten me completely overwhelmed; there is so much stuff to do and see there, you should consider staying for a while!
København is an amazing place!! I stayed there for three full days, but I would have loved to have had more time to explore around. Although it is quite expensive, we stayed at an Airbnb with an okay price, and we also saved money by cooking at the apartment. It’s a great city to admire architecture and design, ride a bike, and enjoy the windy harbors. Take a look at my google maps list for the city!
We stayed at the neighborhood Nørrebro, a very hip and chill one that’s definitely worth a visit! If you do visit there, go to the skatepark Nørrebrohallen, and walk towards the south on the avenue Nørrebrogade to visit the more active part of the neighborhood. Visit: Nørrebroparken, Stefansgade, Jaegesborgade (very cool, full of second-hand stores, clothing and young jewlery stores, and cute coffee places), and the tranquil and green Assistens Cemetery. Eat or get coffee at: Dürüm Bar (falafel), Meyers Bageri (bakery), Mirabelle (coffee), Aroii or Kiin Kiin (good priced Asian meals), La Centrale (kebab and falafel), Cafe Ñ (amazing and not so expensive vegan coffee and restaurant), and Ranee’s (I haven’t been there but it’s well recommended). Drink or go out at: Mikkeller & Friends, and Café Plenum.
In and around the city center there are multiple things to see and do as well! I recommend you take a 3-hour free walking tour that starts at the (absolutely beautiful) City Hall every day at 11 am or 3 pm; it’s tip-based (the guide we had was amazing!) And the tour definitely teaches a lot about the city’s history, culture, language and gives a great overview of places to visit and things to do. Alternatively, if you can’t make it or don’t like walking tours, visit the city’s tourist office and get a free map, it shows a complete circuit that you can do on your own pace. In addition to the walking tour or map circuit, which will show you the center and touristic places which are worth the visit (Amalienborg, the Round Tower, the old harbor, the historical squares in the center of the center, the outside of the Opera House…), these are my recommendations:
Toverhallerne is a big market where you can find anything you need, it’s a cool and lively place to visit and despite it being not-so-cheap for students on a budget, it’s the cheapest food you can find in Copenhagen’s center.
Visit (for free!) the huge Botanical Garden, where you can not only see plants and flowers but also chill in the sun and grab something to drink. The Rosenborg Castle next to it is also an amazing place to sit around and people-watch; although I didn’t get to visit inside the castle (check for opening hours), I had a good time wandering around the green area and park.
The outside of the Christianborg Palace in the south part in the center is beautiful and the area is all but boring; the Børsen next to it is impressive.
The Nyhavn old harbor is lovely, even though it’s full of tourists; I have heard it’s worth it to do a boat ride starting there, though we were a bit short on the budget to do so. I had heard great things about the Design Museum, and as it is free for students and young adults under 26, I visited it; I loved its impressive creativity and good presentation, but I expected more of it and I wouldn’t pay to go there.
The Gefion Fountain and St Alban’s Church next to it are simply beautiful, grandiose and impressive, all in a beautiful shore area; definitely worth the visit. The Little Mermaid statue close to it isn’t all that, though.
In the south of the city center, you should visit the Wildersbro harbor; although not well-known or touristy, it’s the cutest place to take pictures or contemplate the beautiful Danish urban architecture. Close by, you must see the Freetown Christiania; it’s a society within a society, where alternative people live in a free community recognized as independent. It’s interesting to visit its center, walk on the main street where hash and weed are sold as if it were legal (it isn’t; Danish law still applies), drunks hang around, tourists observe, and all kinds of people act as if it were a no-man’s-land. The nicest thing there to me was to go further from this center and walk in the streets where the people from there live, grow their crops, and more; the nature is beautiful there and it feels like it was untouched by humans.
In the south of the city, the neighborhood of Ørestad is an amazing place to visit if you like modern architecture and design. If you rent a bike (we did so with the mobile app Donkey Republic, a pretty inexpensive and practical thing), it’s about 30 minutes to get there from the city center; it’s a beautiful though windy ride, and you get to live the real bike-capital-of-the-world life! Stop first at Byparken, a big green area between many modern buildings where children play and you can have a peaceful picnic (bring some food!); I felt like I was in a place from the future. Then, keep riding south on the Ørestads Boulevard for a few minutes where you’ll get to more modern impressive buildings and a huge new shopping center. Then, keep riding south until you get to the 8Taller, an impressive housing complex (which you can visit at certain times of the week) with a green area, water and a view to an field of nature where you can also visit, the Naturcenter Amager. Ørestad is an amazing place to get away from the tourists, visit an impressive futurist neighborhood and peacefully chill.
Now, the things I unfortunately didn’t get to do (but will be back for!): The famous Statens Museum for Kunst, the Danish National Gallery, the Tivoli gardens (an amusement park close to the center, and although I didn’t go inside, I biked past it and it seemed like a lot of fun), the National Museum of Denmark, you should check it out if you have some extra time, and the Kastellet (fortress with museum and park).
Copenhagen is all about hipsterism and minimalist design, I will definitely go back for some more, and you should too!
This country is small in size but not in culture; it used to be a model to be followed in Europe, and I can definitely see why. A green and sustainable tendance, bikes as a mean of transport, liberal laws, cutely weird language, and open-minded people are what make this place so great and totally worth exploring.
Amsterdam is an incredible city! Although you might just be hurt by a bike, its charming streets, green areas and liberal culture will make you fall in love with it.
There’s a lovely bed and breakfast, tranquil but very well located, if you don’t mind spending a bit more (but not too much, since the hostels and Airbnbs are very expensive there as well): Herengracht 21. I totally recommend it! On other occasions, I have stayed at the Stayokay Stadsdoelen and Stayokay Vondelpark, both nice, well-located and clean, although they cost at least 30 euros a night (for a bed in a mixed dorm of 16 beds), and you have to book in advance (I did it through the Hostelling International website).
I recommend to take a free walking tour there, which are offered by many hostels as well as independent organisations; they’re usually tip-based and give a great overview of the city’s attractions and history.
To eat out, it can be pretty expensive, except for a few good lunch deals in certain cafés; to save money, it’s best to get street food or cook at home. A place that I do recommend for eating out is the Foodhallen, a kind of market with all kinds of foods (and prices), very pleasant, multicultural and fun. To get a drink, I can recommend the bar Proeflokaal Arendsnest, which is nice and inexpensive, and has a lot of beer options. To get a bite next to the Centraal Station, I can recommend Prins Heerlijk, a small but cozy place that opens early and also offers take away.
Visit the Anne Frank House; though it isn’t cheap and the line can be quite long (buy your ticket online to skip it), it’s an impressive and historical experience. If you don’t want to or can’t visit the inside, at least go see its exteriors!
Visit the huge Voldelpark, where all kinds of people get together to celebrate life. Honestly, it’s not only a beautiful place, but you can feel immersed in the local culture there; we had the pleasure to experience a weirdly artistic dance and music show at a part of the park reserved for festivals and performances.
Basically, just walk around the beautiful canals and don’t be afraid to get lost (if you’re like me and can’t recognize streets if they look too similar to each other, you will get lost). Also, there are many boat tours available, it’s definitely worth it! It’s also a must to visit typical coffeeshops (the Dampkring is a good one). Don’t forget the Red Light District; it’s an interesting experience to walk in there.
The Heineken Experience is surprisingly educative and dynamic. It’s quite expensive and touristy, but I honestly really enjoyed it (even though I don’t like their beer)!
There are also many art museums and cathedrals to be explored there, though I mostly preferred to enjoy the city’s views and outdoors culture.
Rotterdam completely surprised me as I wasn’t expecting much from it; it ended up being one of my favorite cities in Europe!
I desperately looked for a free walking tour of the city, but they were either organized by hostels for clients only and on specific days only, or there was a fee. So I went to the tourist information office (there is one in the central station and another in the center), and I bought an amazing map for 1.50 euros with a self-guided tour of the place! It explains the history, symbols, architecture and sights, and I really enjoyed being able to walk at my own pace and stop wherever I wanted to.
This is why I am not going to give any specific recommendations of the city, I’ll just strongly recommend you to go there, get the guide map, and see it for yourself! It will completely blow you away.
Den Haag is a beautiful city, and despite it being not well-known for its tourism, it’s home for half a million people and the center of important legal actors, such as the United Nations International Court of Justice. Having a few friends who live there, I was lucky to have some local insights, and I can highly recommend this place!
Only 40 minutes from Amsterdam and 20 from Rotterdam by train, it has everything; the city, the sights, and the beach. You should definitely rent a bike there, and explore as much as you wish!
In the center, there’s this kind of lake called the Hofvijver, and it’s a short but beautiful walk around it, where you can admire the historical buildings around it. One of them is the Dutch Parliament or Binnenhof, which is situated in the The Hague despite Amsterdam being the official capital, and it’s completely stunning. Next to it, there’s the beautiful building Ridderzaal, also relevant for the Parliament. Around the same area, you can find the Haags Historisch Museum, which I unfortunately didn’t have time to visit but I definitely will next time. Plus, there’s the Mauritshuis, a well-known museum displaying important works.
To walk around the central area is already lovely. Not far, you can find the Plein, an open area between medieval constructions where events take place especially in the summer. There is also Escher in Het Paleis displaying the graphic works of a Dutch artist; I didn’t get to visit it but my local friends did recommend it.
Somewhere I can recommend for hanging out, eating and having a drink is definitely the Grote Markt (take not that the G is pronounced as a French R). It’s a big square with bars and restaurants around it; you won’t lack choices and it gets vibrant in the evening. I recommend the vegetarian Pad Thai from Zeta! Lastly, a few minutes walk from there you can find Cremers, a well-known coffeeshop where you pick and take away or relax at their smokers’ lounge.
Further north of the center, you can find the Peace Palace and the International Court of Justice, where you have to pre-book any tours but just seeing the exterior is already impressive. The area is nice to walk or bike around in, too.
To top it all off, there’s a beautiful beach in The Hague, only twenty minutes by bike or tram from the city center! The Pier is the most commercial and well-known part, and it is worth a visit. However, if you prefer the peace and calm, you should spend some time at the amazing Westduinpark, where you can bike and relax among the dunes, trees and the beach.
I have received recommendations of the Westbroekpark as well, though I unfortunately didn’t have enough time to enjoy it!
All in all, the Netherlands is definitely a country to be explored and undermined by international (or at least among Canadian) travelers!
I hope you have enjoyed this post, and that some of my tips can be useful in your present or future trips, or that they give you an itch to discover the old and beautiful continent that is Europe! If you have questions or comments, feel free to leave a comment below! And I still have many regions and cities in Europe in my bucket-list, or in a list of even-though-I-have-already-been-there-I-haven’t-seen-enough-of-it-and/or-want-to-go-back-for-more-of-this-place, so if you have tips for me or something to add to my tips, please leave a comment below (: