First Europe Trip: Travel Guide

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What you will find in the coming blog is a LOT of information. I will try my best to organize so those of you who don’t want to read everything can easily scroll to what you’re looking for. I recently went on my first trip to Europe. It was a 16 day journey and incredible! I want to thank my friend Erin for coordinating all of our travel and my friend Terry for providing some awesome suggestions. Everything to follow is my opinion. You have the ability to make your own judgement, I’m just here to offer suggestions. Okay, so let’s start with what I packed and what I wish I would have packed or left home.

Packing List:

  • Travel Bags – I bought these on Amazon and they really helped me stay organized during the trip. I used them for dirties, underwear, bras, socks, and toiletries.
  • Travel Pillow– seriously, I don’t know why I never used one of these before. GREAT for planes and trains.
  • Space saver bags– I got mine at Walmart, but you can get them pretty much any where. I got the extra large size, but large probably would’ve been fine. I only used two- one for shirts and one for pants.
  • Universal adapter– you’ll need this because outlets are different in Europe and UK.
  • Collapsible travel book bag- in addition to my carry on backpack, I had a foldable one in my checked bag. This is a great thing to have when going on tours or sightseeing. (This isn’t the one I have because mine was a gift…but here’s something similar)
  • Travel Packing Cube Set– This really helped me organize my underwear, socks, bras, toiletries, and dirty laundry. Highly recommended!
  • The obvious: Clothes. Make sure to bring a rain jacket!!

What I should have packed:

  • Medicine- it’s very different in Europe. If you know you’re prone to acid reflux (like me), bring tums. I also wish I would’ve had zzzquil or Benadryl for the flight there and back. Additionally, bring a cold or allergy medicine with you in case you start to get sick on your trip.
  • Travel sized laundry detergent- some Airbnb’s had washers, but no detergent.
  • Snacks- I wish I would’ve packed a box of granola bars or snack size goldfish. It’s easy to get hungry while traveling, and the snacks overseas are all…foreign. πŸ˜›

Details of the packing:

Girls especially- pack for comfort, not for style. I brought about 7 pairs of pants and 11 shirts. Plus I wore yoga pants and a tank top for traveling. I also brought a light sweater in case the weather was cold. I packed 2 pairs of yoga pants, 2 pairs of jeans, a colored pant, and some glitter leggings. (I never leave home without my glitter) I made sure most things could be mixed and matched so I could wear “different outfits”. Before I left I bought plain black tennis shoes so they’d match everything. If you do this, make sure you break in your shoes before your trip! Oh- I did bring 3 dresses too, in case we did any nice dinners. Additionally, I brought a pair of black sandals and black boots. I packed tan boots as well and never wore them.

Note: in Europe you will walk a lot, so don’t take up space packing heels. 😊

Then there is the obvious things like toiletries- I surprisingly made it all 16 days with one travel sized shampoo and one travel sized conditioner. I forgot body wash so I had to buy it in France. Not recommended. πŸ™‚ toothpaste, toothbrush, hairbrush, and q-tips were the other obvious items. I knew I was going to keep my hair natural for a lot of the trip so I brought hairspray and gel. For those of you wondering about hair dryers and flat irons overseas- here’s the bad news: even an adapter won’t support the electricity needed for your blow dryer. Most Airbnb and hotels have them though. Regarding the flat iron, they make dual voltage flat irons that will work with the adapter. I was fortunate because my every day flat iron is dual voltage. I use the hot tools brand. This is very important because the watts/voltage overseas are much lower than in the U.S.

I had a 30″ luggage to be checked and also brought my book bag as a carry on. In my carry on I had my ipad, headphones, etc. I kept it pretty light. The weight limit for checked bags internationally is usually 50 pounds or 23 kilograms.

The Itinerary :

Keep in mind that I had little/nothing to do with booking and planning our trip- that was all thanks to my friend Erin! What I can tell you is that we booked one way flights to Europe and back home. Round trip price was roughly $550, including checked baggage. We flew out of Newark, NJ via Primera Air. Honestly, it was a great price but a very uncomfortable airline- sort of like Spirit but for international flights.

  1. Paris, France
  2. London, England, UK
  3. Amsterdam, Brussels/Netherlands
  4. Cologne, Germany
  5. Berlin, Germany
  6. Munich, Germany
  7. Cinque Terre, Italy
  8. Florence, Italy
  9. Rome, Italy
  10.  Lisbon, Portugal

PS- get ready to walk in Europe! If you’re not very active, I suggest walking daily before you leave. It will help! I sit at a desk all day, and although I work out, I don’t get a lot of steps in. I wanted to track how much I walked so I brought my Fitbit. In each section, I’ll tell you where I walked the most. For overall purposes, I walked 107.2 miles! 

1. Paris, France

Paris was our longest stay of 3 days. There was so much to see. Our Airbnb had an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower.

We arrived in Paris around 2pm, took a nap, and got ready for dinner. We made prior reservations at Dans Le Noir, which translates to dining in the dark. This was a truly amazing experience. Here you get to “see” what life is like as a blind person. You will be served your meal by a blind waiter, and he/she will guide you into complete darkness where you will encounter a surprise 3 course meal. That’s right…not only can you not see, you don’t know what you’ve ordered and must rely on your taste buds! My friends and I are still arguing (playfully) about what we ate. It will cost about $75, but I highly recommend the experience. After dinner we went bar hopping.

Day one: 7,980 steps; 3.49 miles

Sunday was our longest day! For breakfast we went to a spot called La Cantonese du Troquet. No meal I had in Europe was bad, so I’ll just go ahead and get that out of the way. We went to the Leuvue and spent about 2 hours inside – there was one wing that we didn’t even look at. This could easily be an all day event. This is in fact the place where Mona Lisa lives. She is a small panting hung on a large wall, surrounded by tourists, jut to set the expectations for you. After the museum we pretty much walked to all of Paris’s monuments… the arch, the other arch, another arch…. there’s a lot of arches in Paris. We saw the big round about that’s famous in many movies- I suggest going here to watch how the cars drive…it’s incredibly fascinating to see the cars navigate so smoothly and quickly. Much unlike any drivers in America! While walking we discovered a place called Flora Danica, so of course I had to stop for a picture! After so much walking we went back to our Airbnb and napped before dinner. My friend’s colleague suggested dinner at Les Chouettes, so we made a dinner reservation. This was a fancy restaurant… I even ate snail and duck and liked it! After dinner we hit up the bars again. We discovered a place called Syndicat- it’s got a speak easy vibe with craft cocktails.

Day two: 22,780 steps; 9.95 miles.

Our last day in Paris we took pretty easy, as we did a lot of drinking the two nights prior. We were within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower and decided to have a picnic in the park with a bottle of wine for lunch- very relaxing and highly recommended! After lunch we walked over to Lady Liberty. That’s right, she’s in Paris too! I have never seen the one in NYC, but I’m told this one was much smaller. The rest of the day was simple – dinner and back home to pack for our next destination.

Day three: 17,717 steps; 7,74 miles.

2. London, England- UK

πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§On day four we woke up pretty early to catch a train to London. We originally had a flight scheduled, but a week before we left it was cancelled due to air strikes in France, so we had to make a last minute change. (Again, thanks to Erin for coordinating the change so smoothly!) Since we took a train, we ended up getting there early and couldn’t check into our Airbnb. We killed time at a pub about a 3-5 minute walk from the train station. (Yes, luggage and all.) This was the last of our decent breakfasts in Europe. In most places breakfast only consists of croissants.

The rumors are true…London is a very rainy place. It rained 95% of the time we were there.

London was mainly for drinking and pubbing, of course. What’s different about the pubs in London is that you order from the bar and then sit down if you’re ordering food. A server doesn’t come to your table. Some of the places we went that I would recommend are:

The Piano Works – this was a really fun piano bar with a band. If you’ve never been to a piano bar this is how it works: request a song by writing it on a napkin and giving it to the band with a tip included. As long as they know it, they’ll play it. And trust me, they know a lot of songs! The drink specials were pretty good and I recommend the Pornstar Martini ( must be a famous drink in London because I had it in multiple bars- delicious!)

O’Neils – this was a really fun pub with 3 floors of awesome! The upstairs had a DJ with many American songs. It was a good place to dance and meet people.

Joe’s – Another fun pub and live music pub. I believe Joe’s is meant to be known as a jazzy music club. It was fun with decent priced drinks.

The George – we had dinner here with some locals. I had the 21 day aged steak- yum! It had a nice ambiance and good drinks as well.

Fullers Brewery– this is the last family owned brewery in London. Also interesting, it is the only Fuller’s Brewery in the world. If you’ve ever had the London Pride beer, it was brewed there. The tour guide was awesome and it was cool to see the process. At the end of the tour we had about 30 minutes to drink beer. I don’t like beer, but they had a cider on tap that was really good. After the tour we ate at their pub, which was also great!

Day Four: 12,932 steps; 5.65 miles

Day Five: 11,391 steps; 5.01 miles 

3. Amsterdam, Netherlands πŸ‡³πŸ‡±

We took another train to Amsterdam. This was the only place we stayed in a hotel, and it was walking distance from the train station. The moment we walked out of the station we were overwhelmingly greeted with bicyclists. It is unbelievable how many people ride bikes there. One importance to know is that bikers have the right-of- way…so don’t walk in front of them or you will get hit. If we would have had time, I would have rented bikes just to experience it, but we only had a day to explore the city. This was my most anticipated city because I’ve always wanted to go Anne Frank Museum. We bought tickets 2 months in advance because they sell out very quickly. This is a self guided tour where you have a headset that tells you about each room as you walk through it. It’s a true history lesson of the life of Anne Frank and her family while they were in hiding in the secret Annex. After Anne Frank House we walked around town for most of the day. Dinner was light – just went to some restaurant and had fondue cheeses. We also went to the Sex Museum….quite the interesting place. There’s a lot of nude pictures, so just be forewarned. At nighttime we walked through the Red Light District just to say we did. We went to a few of the bars along the strip, but keep in mind most of them were cash only. That’s about it for Amsterdam!

Day 6: 22,674 steps; 9.81 miles

4.Cologne, Germany πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺ

Another day, another train! Cologne was truly a blast! This is a smaller town in Germany, compare to most of the touristy spots. In terms of sightseeing here we only saw the cathedral and the “love lock bridge”. The bridge was really cool to see and if I got back I will definitely bring a lock! It was a rainy day in Cologne Andre just walked around the main strip of town and bar hopped. We met a group of German men who truly made the experience worthwhile! The locals are the best way to have a good time in a foreign city. We followed them on a bar crawl and ended up at a club at the end of the night. What I loved most about the Germans- they love to sing! I had so much fun that my friend Jen and I stayed up all night with the locals. We left the club at 4am, went to our Airbnb to pack, and got on a train at 5. I will absolutely go back to this city!

Day 7: 17,341 steps; 7.57 miles 

5. Berlin, Germany πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺ

This was another quick, one day visit. I’m going to keep this one short because I didn’t keep up with where went went…too much bar hopping. We wanted to BASE jump (where you jump off the tallest hotel in Berlin), but it was too windy. At night we went to some strange underground club with techno music. In Berlin there’s a lot of techno music and people don’t go out until 1am or later.

Day 8: 30,012 steps; 13.11 miles ** a lot of these steps came from the night before since we danced all night in Cologne. 

6. Munich, Germany πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺ

At this point in our journey I was happy for another 2 day stay! We were all pretty exhausted when we got to Munich so upon our arrival we napped! My friend Terry had previously met some people who lived in Munich so they went to dinner with us and suggested a cute Bavarian place. Apparently in Munich, the bars aren’t open on Sundays. After dinner we walked over to Sausalito’s, a Mexican restaurant that serves jumbo cocktails. Delicious! Following dinner we went to Shi-Sha, which is known as hookah to Americans.

I was thankful for an “early” night. We met our Munich friends again on day two. Had a bite to eat and then hopped on the underground train to the shopping district. I was excited to do a little bit of shopping finally! Earlier in the trip I lost my belly button ring and had such a hard time finding a place that sold them! ( body piercings are not as popular in Europe.) Munich all in all was pretty laid back, but a very beautiful city that I’d love to explore further on my next visit.

Day 9: 10,966 steps; 4.79 miles

Day 10: 10,996 steps; 4.8 miles (SO crazy how close it was both days in Munich)

7. Cinque Terre, Italy 

Wow! I don’t even know where to begin with this absolutely beautiful city. What I immediately liked is how close the train station was to the city. It’s a very small city so you can walk to everything. It’s rare to even see a car in the little town. For those of you who don’t know Cinque Terre is a town made up of 5 small cities (it literally translates to “the five lands”)- you can hike to each of the cities through a trail. It’s a very physically demanding climb, but absolutely worth the views. The first day we arrived we made a beach day and then took a walk to dinner.

Day two is where we woke up in the morning and hiked between Monterosso (the city we stayed in) and Vernazza- the next city over. The hike took about 2 hours and you did have to pay a $7 fee because you hike through the national park, which we all know is not free. πŸ™‚ Basically all we did in Monterosso was enjoy the beautiful views on the beach, drink rum buckets, and eat good Italian food! This region is known for their pesto, so if you’re a pesto fan, I highly recommend you have some here!!

Day 11: 11,259 steps; 4.92 miles

Day 12: 19,428 steps; 8.49 miles

8. Florence, Italy

Ah, Florence! Known for the close vicinity of Tuscany…aka wine country! That’s right…if you didn’t think we’d go taste wine in Tuscany, I have no words for you. We did a half day wine tour, and it was perfect. I don’t know if I would have survived the full day tour. We took about a 45 minute bus ride to the Chianti region. I really wish I remembered the names of the two vineyards we visited- maybe before I publish this I’ll look it up. If not, I’m sure they’re all good. We tried red wines and white wines local to the region as well as cheeses, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Just YUM! Along the tour we stopped in a little town and let me tell you- we went to a fresh meat market and I had the best salami and cheese sandwich I’ve ever tasted. Absolutely delicious!

It was actually our friend Jen’s birthday (happy birthday once again!) when we went to Florence so we had dinner reservations that night at La Giostra. The food was excellent and we had GREAT service! They gave us a complimentary appetizer, and because they heard it was Jen’s birthday we got a free round of shots- limencello! If you’ve never had it, you should at least try it. But I will warn you- it’s 30% alcohol and it is very strong!

We went to some bars after dinner and ultimately ended up at Space Club – which ironically happened to be across from our airbnb. This place played American music and was a great place to dance. The way they do admission is interesting. They give you a punch card for getting drinks and you pay for everything at the end. Your first drink is free, but there is a minimum of 10 dollars so even if you don’t order an additional drink, you’ll pay the minimum.

Day 13: 16,034 steps; 7 miles

9. Rome, Italy

Rome called for more tours! We schedule a half day tour of the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica followed by the Colosseum. Here’s where we might start to have some differing views. Although extremely educational, I did not very much enjoy the Vatican tour. Here’s a few reasons why- it was SO crowded. I felt like a can of sardines the entire time. We walked at less than 1 mile per hour, and the tour guide was long winded. Granted, she was very knowledgeable, but she was too informative in my opinion. It was a beautiful site, but I would have preferred a self guided tour for this one. The Colosseum was a little bit better- the tour guide was super energetic and had a great sense of humor! She was very passionate about her job and it really showed. We actually dipped out early of the tour because there was more to it after the Colosseum and we were exhausted at that point. Another must see in Rome was the Trevi Fountain- known for tossing a coin and your wildest dreams coming true!

Guided Tours- Pros: You don’t have to wait in the long lines

Guided Tours- Cons: You have to go at the pace of the tour guide- can be very long and drawn out.

Day 14: 10,222 steps; 4.47 miles

Day 15: 12,357 steps; 5.4 miles

 

 

10. Lisbon, Portugal 

Last but certainly not least- Portugal! Okay, so this wasn’t really an overnight journey- we only had an 8 hour layover. But that’s enough time to go to the aquarium, take a cable car sky ride, and eat lunch in the city! That’ really all we did. πŸ™‚ Would love to explore Portugal some more, but this is all we had time for.

Day 16: 11,000 steps; 5 miles

Useful Information:

If you’ve made it this far, I commend you! Some other things I think you will find helpful… like what countries you should or shouldn’t tip in. Also, thanks to my roomie Terry for discovering an app- Splitwise – this REALLY helped us during the trip. In Europe, they don’t like the split the check up, so be prepared to pay in full if you’re in a group, and you can workout paying each other back later. Splitwise keeps track of who owes who what… and the best part, it converts currencies for you!

Tipping in Europe:

  • France- They say to tip 1 to 3 Euro or 5% of the bill if you’re really satisfied.
  • London- They usually charge a service fee- so if they don’t you can leave a small tip; otherwise, it’s unnecessary
  • Amsterdam- Round up or leave your change. 5-10% tip for exceptional service.
  • Germany- usually leave 1-2 Euros; again, 5-10% for exceptional service.
  • Italy- service charge galore- no tip necessary
  • Portugal- not necessary, but you can if you want.

Summary:

All in all, Europe was amazing!! I would go back in a heart beat, and I can’t wait until my next adventure. I hope you’ve found this guide helpful, or I at least hope you find the content and pictures inspiring to plan your next trip. To give you an idea, I probably spend b/w $2,000-3,000 in total including all airfare, hotel/airbnb accommodations, food, tours, etc. Not too shabby for 16 days if you ask me! If there’s something that you have questions about, please do!!

What was my favorite spot? Everyone has been asking me this and every time I say it was Cologne, Germany! Here’s why: it was a smaller town and not 100% full of tourists. Special shout out to the awesome group of German men who let us bar hop with them and showed us the night life in Germany! I think this is the main reason it was my favorite spot- I really enjoyed experiencing the town like a local. I learned that Helena Fisher is a really popular artist in Germany, so look her up before you go. πŸ™‚

With all that, I now wrap things up! I hope you’ve enjoyed learning the details of my journey. I’m happy to share links of the different AirBnB’s we stayed in for anyone interested.

Key takeaways- pack light, learn a few important phrases in other languages, be prepared to pay for the bathrooms, bring good walking shoes, bring a rain jacket, and be ready to have the time of your life!

Goodbye: Auf Wiedersehen, Au revoir, Tchau, Addio

Peace Out my readers!

Peace out

 

 

Published by Danica

I'm still not sure why I started this blog, but I hope you'll stick around long enough to figure it out with me! Three things I love most: Food, Fitness, & Traveling. That's what you'll find the most amongst the depth of my blog. I tend to get philosophical at times as well and sometimes you'll find a random post about what is on my mind at the time. Take it or leave it! All positive vibes, people. Much love!

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