As many of you know, I ventured around Europe for 6 weeks in June and July last year with my boyfriend! There were a lot of countries we didn’t get to visit in that small amount of time that I would love to go to one day, but we did manage to visit a total of 13 cities, 8 countries and we also passed through 2 or 3! We also celebrated both of our birthdays while we were out there which was lovely. It’s been quite a while now since our trip and I am constantly wishing that we get to do it again this Summer!
The cities we visited were: Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Bern, Zurich, Munich, Milan, Rome, Venice, Budapest, Berlin, Amsterdam and Brussels. My favourite cities by far were probably Paris, Bern, Venice and Berlin. Amsterdam was also quite interesting because there are canals everywhere.
So to give an extra bit of background, we flew into Paris and back from Brussels but other than that, we travelled around via train as we bought Interrail passes (they had a sale where they were 15% off from about October to the end of the year!). For our accommodation we booked as cheaply as possible. As I was with my boyfriend, we didn’t really want to stay in a hostel dorm room, so we opted for the cheapest possible accommodation (usually a hotel) or an airbnb which was a great decision. These tips are entirely based on my experiences and I hope they help you if you decide to do anything like this! (Please bear in mind that these tips are probably not the best if you’re going further afield but they may be good to consider!)
- Your luggage – We both took suitcases that we had to lug around for the whole trip. It was fine and it worked for us, except for when I got very frustrated walking to the train station in Milan and dragged my suitcase up curbs which caused my one suitcase wheel to break. Something I didn’t notice until we were walking to our accommodation in Rome. Luckily my suitcase had 4 wheels but it meant that I had to drag it on its side!. Our friend, who was travelling solo, took a backpack and that worked for him. Use whatever works best for you.
- Packing – My biggest tip for packing is do not take more than you should. I stupidly overpacked on tops and even packed a pair of shorts that I didn’t even wear once! Although our weight allowance was 23kg for the plane rides, there’s no way you’re going to want to kit out a suitcase with that much weight, especially at the beginning of your trip. If you’re going to pack extras of anything, make sure you pack extra underwear and socks.
- Washing – This links back to my previous point about not packing more than you should. Make use of the laundrettes around. I wish I hadn’t packed so much because we did quite a bit of washing on our way round which meant that I ended up wearing the same couple of tops over the course of our trip! We found it to be quite inexpensive and in some instances, our accommodation (airbnb’s) had washing machines! Tip: If you book an airbnb, you can look in the little ‘what it includes’ and it’ll tell you if the place has a washing machine!
- Toiletries – This may seem a little obvious or strange to some of you, but buy toiletries before you leave! The best thing I did was buy the cheapest bottle of Shampoo and Conditioner from Boots. They were 75p each and I think they were 750g bottles and they lasted me the entire 6 weeks and would’ve lasted me longer! You might think this is obvious, but I know some people decide they’re going to buy all their toiletries when they get somewhere else or at the airport, but honestly, every supermarket we visited had higher prices on their toiletries than I bought ours for!
- Organisation – You may be someone that isn’t afraid to just let the train take you anywhere, but I am not that kind of person. In all honesty, being organised was a life saver. I don’t know what I would have done if we hadn’t been so organised. My best tip for organisation is to get yourself an A5 folder with the see through pockets in, print all of your information off for your accommodation, travel, etc and put it all in there. We separated ours by cities and inserted the accommodation information, our train travel itinerary, we kept our train tickets in there and travel insurance documents. It was pretty handy to also store stuff after we’d visited a place, like a fold up city map!
- Try and book your accommodation in the city – One of the best things I can recommend is finding accommodation in the city. Yes, it might be a little more expensive, however you have to weigh up the costs of using public transportation or how long it would take to walk. I stupidly booked one of our Airbnb’s in Zurich about a 20 minute train ride from the actual city. If we walked, it would’ve taken us 1.5 hours. It ended up costing us more than if we’d have just paid to stay somewhere in the city. So yes, it may be cheaper to stay outside the city, but trust me, having to pay for public transport every day is not fun. Plus, it’s an extra cost to consider that comes out of your spending money!
- Get an idea of what you want to do in each city – For some of the place we picked, we had an idea of what we wanted to do but for others, we had just picked a place to tick it off our list of cities to visit eg. Milan. If you are going to spend your money and time in a city, make sure you have a look at what there is to do! In some places, such as Milan, we were a little stumped about what to do and we honestly couldn’t wait to move onto Rome afterwards because we knew we’d have a lot more to do there. However, I would totally recommend Spontini pizza in Milan.
- Google Maps is your best friend – I honestly don’t think we would have found as many places as we did without Google Maps to guide us. 3 days into our trip, my mobile provider made internet roaming in Europe free so we had our data to use as we pleased and it paid off. Maps was such a good tool to have as it meant that if we were lost somewhere, we could find our way back or if we wanted to go somewhere, we could see how far it was!
- Pack your best shoes – No, I don’t mean your favourite shoes, unless your favourite shoes are a pair of comfy trainers! I packed three pairs of shoes (excessive I know, but one was a pair of sandals) and picked up a pair of 2 Euro flip flops in Barcelona. To be honest, I practically wore the same pair of shoes the whole trip, save for a couple of days wearing my other pair of trainers or sandals. Wearing my sandals was a huge mistake that I made on the second stop of our trip. I don’t know what I did, but I managed to pull something in the arch of my foot which made walking quite painful. Even in trainers, I couldn’t walk comfortably and I was almost in tears on one of our hour walks from our hotel in Barcelona to the main tourist bit. It was horrible and I will forever regret wearing sandals when I did in Madrid. Yes, they’re pretty but they don’t give you the best support.
- Most of all, just have fun! – Travelling round Europe, even if it was just for 6 weeks, was one of the best things I have ever done. You may think it’s small and it’s no year-long Thailand or Australia trip, but I had the chance to visit so many different places and managed to tick off so many cities on my list. I’m really happy that I had the opportunity to do so and I can’t recommend doing something like this enough. It truly is an experience and a trip of a lifetime that I’ll never forget.
Things I’d recommend from the cities we visited:
- Paris has a lot to see – Notre Dame and Shakespeare & Company are basically right next to each other which is very handy!
- If you’re travelling cities but you just want to relax, Barcelona has a beach. It’s obviously very busy, but it was still lovely to sit and enjoy the breeze and to have a little paddle in the sea.
- If you visit Bern, Switzerland, you must swim in the river. Our airbnb was right by the river and people just hopped in at one point, swam down and then jumped back out and went round and round like that! It’s definitely an experience I’ll never forget. We were very lucky with the warm weather though!
- Munich has some fab beer. We visited the Hofbrauhaus twice while there, and while they do serve various different beers at either a litre or half a litre (Yes, I did have a litre of beer, you just have to!), it had a fantastic atmosphere and has a really interesting history behind it!
- We also visited Dachau concentration camp while in Munich. As you know, I’m a History graduate, having graduated in 2017. World War Two is one of the topics I find most interesting so I had to visit. It was such an interesting but extremely sad place to visit. I am, however, glad that I got to educate myself more by visiting and I feel that it gave me an even deeper understanding of this part of history.
- This ice cream shop in Milan that’s right outside Sforza Castle (the entrance with the fountain) has the most amazing red velvet ice cream. We actually went back the next day, but unfortunately they weren’t selling it then.
- Rome had some really interesting sights and the best ice cream. On one of the days, I think I had ice cream two or three times. It was sort of ridiculous but I was on holiday so treat yo self. Oh, and don’t forget to take your bug cream! I had a bite on the inside of my ankle right by the bone which caused my whole ankle to swell and it hurt at times if I stepped on it in a certain way!
- You know I mentioned Maps? You will need it in Venice. An amazing place that actually does not smell like fish in the heat of July, but you will get lost. It’s honestly like a maze.
- Budapest is super cheap. That’s all I have to say, because I just loved how cheap it was.
- Berlin was a lot quieter than I expected and the pipes are above ground??? However, it is extremely rich in History and I loved it. 10/10 would go back because I love the History surrounding it.
- Amsterdam was super cool, and once again, on the topic of History, you must visit Anne Frank’s annexe if you visit. I asked to go there on my birthday, so we did and I honestly found it so interesting. It’s crazy to think that one girl, her family and others lived and hid there for years and to know her fate but to see the impact that her story has had is crazy.
I’m sorry this post is super long but I have a lot to say! I hope that you will find these tips useful, whether you’re going on a trip round Europe or a 3 week trip somewhere else, or even 6 months on another continent!