Taking a trip across Europe this summer? Rather than going to the library and reading a separate book for each country, take some tips about the best places to go from somebody who’s already been there (to the library and the countries that is!). I’ve learned about these places from personal trial and error, so I can pass along some of the perks –as well as the pitfalls. This is also a guide for how to travel without spending loads of money. It takes immersion to really learn, though, so just go for it! It’ll be the most amazing experience if you open yourself to meeting new people, experiencing new, exotic places, speaking new languages and eating new flavors of food!
- If you’re looking to stay in a hostel, try Backpackers Hostel. The rooms look a bit like barracks (not even kidding), but there are a lot of other kids staying there, and there’s a bar and a restaurant on-site! Overall, it’s a good place to stay and it’s in a very central location. You can walk to lots of landmarks from there, and the Metro station is extremely close!
- Eat lots of delicious bratwurst and other German sausages and meats! I’m getting really hungry just thinking about it! German food is so tasty, so don’t worry if you eat too much; you’re on vacation after all!
- Oktoberfest: It’s really fun and a total party, but if I could go to another German beer festival, I might go to a smaller and less hyped-up one. There are so many people there it can be overwhelming. That said, if you like big rowdy crowds of people, Oktoberfest/Munich will be an amazing experience for you!
- Hofbrau Haus: When my two friends and I arrived with our backpacks, we went directly to the Hofbrau Haus, a giant cafeteria-style eatery with three floors and many benches. The Oktoberfest spirit was infectious—there were Germans dressed in Lederhosen just pounding their beers on the table and chanting. The authentic German food was delicious (I ordered veal) and affordable, and the waiters circled around offering more liters of beer! Hofbrau Haus was my favorite place in Munich. They have delicious German pretzels too!
- The Temple Bar: This is the most happening musical district in Dublin, and the central bar, The Temple Bar, is indescribably awesome. The prices are high among all the bars here, but on the plus side, you can see live Irish musicians at every single venue on the block.
- Guinness Storehouse: The Guinness factory is definitely worth the trip to St. James Gate. It’s a cool and sensory tour led from bottom to top, and once you finish, you get a free pint of Guinness and a lovely panoramic view of Dublin in the Gravity Bar.
THE GREEK ISLANDS
- Atlas Hostel and Restaurant: This hostel was on the more remote side of Santorini, but was one of my favorites. The bartender and owner is really witty and free-spirited; the hostel is only in business in the summer months, and so during the rest of the year, he travels to other underdeveloped places. Not a luxury hostel, but definitely a great place to stay in my opinion!
- Perissa Beach Hike: A very steep but relatively brief hike over a mountain and onto a black sand beach on the other side. There is a little boat that ferries people back to the other side, and leaves every 15 minutes. The light blue-green Aegean Sea is so beautiful and relaxing, and there’s something intangible about the way the Greek sun hits your body that feels more pleasant than elsewhere.
- Cavo Paradiso: This beachside Euro-trash nightclub is way far out. Just go, you’ll see.
Rhodes: This seems like more of a modern, party island, so if you want to go out to the nightclubs, go here!
Krakow: This place is charming and unique. It’s kind of small, so you can just walk around everywhere and see all the old historical buildings and monuments. The Polish food takes a certain palate to get used to, but the beer is extra strong, which makes it extra fun!
Even though I’m partial to Italian culture, France is my second favorite country to visit. Contrary to common stereotypes, French people are very polite, friendly and welcoming! They are all about family at heart, and they will treat you like family if you are a friend of a friend; however, they aren’t as warm if you approach them out of the blue.
Corsica: This French island off the coast of Italy is amazingly beautiful! We took a ferry here from a place in Italy called Livorno on the country’s west coast, just about level with Florence. Go here during the summer if you want to spend a lot of time on the beach and party European style!
Annecy: This is the “Venice of France.” There are picturesque cobblestone streets and canals. Stop for a drink outside, and just watch the people walk by.
Biarritz: This is the surfer capital of France, located on the southwest coast in Basque country just north of San Sebastian, Spain. There are busses that will take you from Barcelona to San Sebastian, and then you can take a train up to Biarritz. It’s such a chill city!
Barcelona: This was my favorite place of them all. Barcelona is kind of like Paris, in the sense that it’s large and cosmopolitan, but it’s also a fun place to just sit in cafés and pass the time. What makes it even better than Paris, though, in my opinion, is how earthy and artsy it is! There are colorful houses designed by Gaudí dispersed throughout the city, and art installations all over the streets. The Barceloneta beach is especially pretty, and the Spanish lifestyle is very intriguing. People crowd restaurants at 11 p.m., and there are still people eating at midnight. The food is great and not too expensive! Paella, tapas, prawns, octopus, sausage, sangria and bocadillos are all not-to-be-missed delicacies.
- Dalì Museum: This museum is a two-hour train ride north to Figueres, but it’s worth the trip. The multi-floor museum contains numerous installations, complete with a central car installation. It’s thought-provoking and fascinating, especially for Surrealist art-lovers.
- Las Ramblas: This broad, crowded street is really cool. Stroll along and take in all the sites, passers-by and street performers.
- Parc Guell: This park, designed by Gaudí, is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen. It sits at the top of a mountain, and is filled with art installations and incredible architecture. It also contains the Casa Gaudi, an informative museum about the artist.
- La Sagrada Familia: This church, also designed by Gaudí, is breathtakingly beautiful and completely different from any other church I’ve seen. Gaudí was inspired by the shapes of seashells, tree branches, pine cones and other natural phenomena when he designed the church, and this can be seen in the general earthy aesthetic, as well as the colorful stained-glass windows, the tree branch-like supporting columns, and the seashell-esque skylights in the high roof. I could barely pull myself away from this place!