Are you going to travel europe soon? Have your first flight booked and a vague idea of attractions and cities you wish to visit but looking for more information and inspiration? Read on..
Wandering the streets of Alfarma in Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon is in the southern half of Portugal, making it great destination to visit year round – as summers are hot and winters are mild (aha, mild for Europe that is). It is also one of the cheapest countries to visit in the EU, making it a great destination option for backpackers.
If you have been to Vietnam and Macau you might have had a bit of exposure to Portuguese architecture, and theres no doubt that it is beautiful. As soon as you set foot in the beautiful area of Alfarma you will be spellbound.
Alfarma is Lisbons oldest and most famous neighbourhood. The medieval like village offers beautiful alleyways, steep hills, beautiful view points, charming houses, and it is mostly all pedestrian only traffic.
The colours of Lisbon will also impress. Bright pink, orange, red and yellow buildings to the more softer pale blue and light pink can easily be spotted while wandering around. The hand painted tiles are worth stopping to admire, with detailed patterns and colours.
For more information on Lisbon, you can read Free Things To Do In Lisbon: Colourful Village-Like Capital of Portugal
Check out Gaudi’s architectural delights and hit the beach – Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is a friendly, relaxed city with welcoming beachy vibes. It sits on the Mediterranean sea and it the perfect destination if you are travelling Europe in the summer and looking for an inexpensive relaxed coastal city to soak up the sun and of course, siestas.
The beach is a long strip near the city centre. Expect a clean spacious beachfront, a foreshore with showers, change rooms, outdoor gyms and paved walkways that follow the beach right along. Hotels, restaurants, markets, the harbour, everything is happening in the area.
The city is also famously known for its architecture. The very unique designs are the work of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, whom died 90 years ago. The famous Sagrada Familia, commenced construction over 100 years ago, has only recently entered the final stage of construction. It is estimated this final stage will be completed by 2026 – the centenary of Gaudi’s death.
Forbes named the Sagrada Familia “the most beautiful building in the world“. If that’s not a reason to visit then i don’t know what is! If you wish to visit inside, organise your tickets well in advance as the lines outside the building for tickets are HUUUUGEE.
While you’re at it, take a look at some of Gaudi’s other works then take a stroll through the Triumphal Arch, an islamic styled arch established in 1888 that leads to beautiful walking tracks, parklands and gardens.
For more information on Barcelona, see Things To Do In Barcelona – Gaudi Architecture, Beaches & Travel Tips
Explore The Canals & Red Light District, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
A visit to Europe is not complete without visiting Amsterdam. And a visit to Amsterdam is not complete without taking a look and wandering around the Red Light District.
Now i am not saying you must use the services on offer (of course you can if you wish) but check it out to see what it is all about. I mean, it is one of the most famous attractions in the city.
A wander by day or by night (better at night) you can view ‘the ladies’ – normally sitting or standing behind the window dressed in lingerie luring in passers by. During the day, business is quieter, so most ladies are sitting, smoking or busy on their smart phones, but it gets busier after dark and you can see the girls dancing.
Wander around the city and you will find yourself easily lost. For every street seems to have a canal crossing it either horizontally or vertically. It is really hard to pinpoint where you are on the map if not near a main attraction (but that’s half the fun). If you wish to explore by boat, you can opt for a canal tour on a tourist boat.
While you’re wandering, check out the Albert Cuypstraat Market. This is the most popular market in Amsterdam and has been continually running since 1904. Here you can find clothing, shoes, household goods, souvenirs, fresh fruit and vegetables and lots of street food.
There is so much to see and do in Amsterdam and the locals are really friendly and welcoming. It is not the cheapest city to visit, however many guesthouses do offer value for money dorm rooms – considering this is Amsterdam after all.
For more information on Amsterdam, see Things To Do For Free In Amsterdam
Auschwitz and Birkenau Camps – Oświęcim, Poland
Visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps is not only moving, but very very educational. One quote on the wall in Auschwitz reads, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George Santayana). I think it is a valuable quote.
Taking the guided tour is invaluable (and also very affordable) – with tours offered in a range of languages running throughout the day it is also very easy to organise. The guides share information on the camp, significant sites and buildings in the camps as well as information about the war, stories of events that occurred in the camps as well as individual prisoner stories.
Auschwitz I is set up with a lot of photographs, prisoner belongings on display, and many informative boards to read. One block is set up to show the living conditions and sleeping rooms of the prisoners, while another displays artefacts and prisoner belongings that have been retrieved at the end of the war. Block 11 was quite confronting, as it had been used as a punishment room with a gas chamber in the basement.
The free shuttle bus will then take you to Birkenau, a much larger camp ‘working’ camp. It is now referred to as an extermination camp due to the large amount of mass murders that occurred. Visiting both camps you will learn a lot, and it will instil in you.. We are all one. Every living being. Everyone deserves life.
For more information, booking a tour and catching the bus from Krakòw see Auschwitz Tour – Tickets, Transport, Camps & Guided Tour.
Market Square, Krakòw, Poland
One word sums up with city and that is.. magic. The historical centre is not huge in size so walking around is very enjoyable. The population is also quite low so no need to make your way through huge crowds just to cross the street.
However during the summer months many tourists decend on the cities main attractions and lively restaurant and bar scene. Speaking of bar scene, Krakow is home to one of the highest concentrations of drinking establishments in the world (by square kilometre and per capita).
Poland offers travellers quite good value for money when considering the cost of accommodation, meals and transport costs – being one of the most affordable countries in the EU to visit.
Wander around the cities main Market Square at twilight, as the sun starts to set over the historical buildings and horses clip clop along the cobblestone.
Dine in one of the many luxurious looking restaurants and spent the rest of the evening checking out the street performers. Saint Mary’s Basilica is a main feature of the square, towers over nearby buildings and was built in the 1200s.
While you’re wandering around the old city area, be sure to stop by Wawel Castle – one of the cities main attractions. It also offers a great view over the city and along the Vistula River.
For more information, see Things To Do In Krakow – Poland
The Spice Market & Blue Mosque – Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul would have to be my favourite city in Europe. It is outside of the ‘Schengen Zone’ so it is a great place to visit either before or after your 3 months in the zone. The city is not only beautiful, set on the Bosphorus with the most magical mosques and quaint alley ways – but the people of Istanbul are AMAZING.
The city is one of a kind, and is the only city in the world to be located in two continents (both Europe and Asia) with a rich history dating back more than 4000 years.
Wandering around the Spice Market and Grand Bazaar will not only be an exciting and magical experience, but you can also buy some really beautiful gifts, sweets (a lot of turkish delight), spices and tea.
The store owners and market vendors are both friendly and chatty, and can give you some great tips on things to do and see in the area. The streets around the Spice Market were one of my favourite places to wander in the city.
While in Istanbul you must not miss the Blue Mosque. The exterior is grand but once inside you can view its real beauty. There is also a free information session to help broaden your understanding of Islam, the pray rituals which muslim people undertake five times each day and the significance of the Blue Mosque. I found this experience fantastic and really educational.
Looking for somewhere full of life, vibrant and exciting to have a meal or do some shopping – check out Taksim Square and the main street. Follow the flags right down the heart of the city, taste some street food (Kumpir, a large packed potato is the best), and watch as thousands of people pass by.
You will be enchanted by Istanbul and if you are like me, then already planning your return. For more information on things to do and see in Istanbul, see Istanbul, I love you. Attractions, Markets, Transport, Streets and Food.
Old Town Square and Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic
Prague really is a magical historical city. Filled with so much history and culture to learn about and is set in one of the most picturesct locations – on the Vitava river. The river cuts through the centre of the old city area with the famous Charles Bridge connecting the Old Town Centre with the Prague Castle area.
On of the most interesting finds while wandering the streets is the Prague Astronomical Clock. Made in 1410 and still working today, it is the third oldest clock in the world. It is located in the Old Town Square.
Take a close look and you will find it both fascinating and complicated. It is an ancient ‘orlop’ that shows Old Bohemian time and German time. It also shows the sunset, sunrise, phases of the moon and the suns zodiac position.
The cost of travel in Prague, transport, hostels and meals is also very affordable in comparison to other capital cities in Europe. For more information on Prague, see Backpacking Guide to Prague & Architectural Attractions.
Heldenplatz, Heroes Square, and Naschmarket Flee Market, Vienna, Austria
Vienna is a charming city with a rich history and fine arts culture waiting to be explored. Vienna is known as the most influential city in Europe for classical and opera music, and many attractions adhere to this arts and musical theme.
Vienna is one of the more expensive cities to visit in Europe, however, it is important to note that many of the attractions (architecture and a few art exhibitions) are free to visit. Vienna’s museums are quite expensive.
Heldenplatz is a large, green and open area with prominent statues and buildings located in the centre of the city. Here you can find the Museum of Art History (home to one of the largest art collections in the world), and the Museum of Natural History (check out the huge fossil spiders).
Heroes’ Square is home to the Imperial Palace. The area was first named Heroes’ Square during the war. This was where once part of the old city walls stood and where a battle took place. Many soldiers died and still remain buried deep under the surface, where the grass lawn is today.
Naschmarket Flee Market is an extremely interesting and large antiques market held on Saturday morning only. Hundreds of people from all walks of life wander through the stalls each Saturday. The market is extremely unique to say the least and easily the best flee market that i have ever been to in my life.
Highlights were antique typewriters and cameras, old painted handmade wooden jewellery boxes, war memorabilia, antique jewellery and clothes, as well as the totally creepy taxidermy animals.
The Steffl Church also deserves a mention when discussing attractions in Vienna. The impressive gothic church dates back to 1137 and is one of the most impressive of its kind in the world.
For more information on travelling to and visiting Vienna, see, Things To Do In Vienna, Australia – Home Of Fine Arts And Music.
Mineral Baths and Budapest By Night, Budapest, Hungary
Hungary is one of the top 15 most popular tourist destinations to visit in the world. It is easy to see why. The capital Budapest is considered one the worlds most beautiful cities. The main tourism draw cards? World class architecture, crazy fun nightlight and the many natural thermal baths.
Budapest is made up of two cities, Buda is the city on the west side of Danube River, while Pest sits on the east. They are considered two different cities, however collectively known as Budapest.
Stroll around after dark and you will be mesmerised (and take a lot of photographs). Check out the Castle Hill Area – this is the oldest part of the city where you find the major architectural attractions such as Mathias Church, the Royal Palace, Fisherman’s Bastion and the Labyrinth.
Cross the Danube Bridge or the Chain Bridge (basically attractions on their own) on foot and check out the famous House of Parliament building. This area sparkles at night. During opening hours you can view the Holy Crown and the Hungarian crown jewels at the House of Parliament.
After exploring make your way to one of the many thermal bath houses. Szechenyi Thermal Bath House is a good choice, and is the largest spa complex in Europe. Many of the baths in Budapest are over 500 years old.
For more travel advice and tips on Budapest, see, Budapest Travel Guide: Budget Travel, Attractions, Tips and Costs
Colosseum and The Vatican State, Rome, Italy
No visit to Rome is complete without visiting the famous Colosseum. This amphitheatre is the largest of its kind and was once used for gladiator contests (I am sure you have learnt about this era of Roman history at school, as i did).
The Colosseum was home to many very horrific spectator games. Some examples of this include gladiator v’s gladiator on foot or on horse (last one still alive wins), gladiator (with weapons) v’s many prisoners (without weapons), or gladiator v’s exotic animal (such as a tiger, lion or bear, that had been imported for such events).
Once inside the structure, you can not only see where spectators once sat for events, but you can also see the maze of tunnels, secret rooms and hallways that once sat under the ground of the spectator arena.
The nearby Palatine Hill and The Roman Forum are also worth checking out. The remaining arches, buildings and ruins are impressive and makes you realise how advanced and capable humans were to have created such structures without the assistance of modern machinery that we have today.
The Vatican State is a magical area of Rome, and there are many beautiful buildings to visit. St Peter’s Basilica is one of them and is an absolutely stunning example of Rome’s Renaissances structures. The building itself was decorated by Michelangelo and Carlo Maderno. St Peter’s Square is a beautiful open space, complete with Egyptian obelisk in the centre, and is a great place for taking photographs.
The Sistine Chapel is also worth visiting. Check out the amazing artwork by Michelangelo and explore the different rooms.
And of course, be on the look out for the pope. For more information on travelling in Rome, see, Rome Travel Guide – Attractions, Transport and Accommodation
For information on coach transport in Europe, see Eurolines Bus Unlimited Travel Pass – Is it worth it?
Before you leave home, see How Criminals Know You’re Not Home – How To Protect Your Home While On Holidays
Travel Insurance – What You Really Need To Know
Cheap Transport Guide – How to Find Cheap And Free Transportation
For ride shares (car pooling) in Europe take a look at BlaBlaCar.com
Want to meet some locals, hit up CouchSurfing.com
As always, i hope this post has been helpful and provided some travel inspiration for anyone thinking to travel europe. Safe and happy travels for the year ahead xx Jasmine