How to visit 4 European Capitals in a week

As much as I love my occasional road trips – the longer, the better – there’s one way of traveling I love just as much. Yes, I love sitting in the passenger seat next to my partner, while being in charge of the Spotify playlist, blasting my music out loud, only to get interrupted by the female voice of the GPS, silencing my favorite tunes to tell us to turn left or right in French.

What I love just as much as loud music and road trips,  is interrailing. If you’re not from Europe, chances are you might not be familiar with that term – although you are most likely  very familiar with the concept!

The Interrail Pass is a railway ticket available to European residents. Residents from countries outside of Europe can purchase the Eurail pass. You can purchase your travel pass from Interrail.eu – and yes, it will be cheaper and way more convenient than traveling from one airport to another to visit different cities in Europe. You’ll save time, money and energy – and the possibilities are endless!

You are free to do whatever you want. Whether it’s Scandinavia that caught your interest or you’re daydreaming about French cafes or Spanish flamenco or eating pasta in Italy, the choice is yours and there’s plenty to choose from. Here’s one possibility that includes none of the suggestions listed above, but something a little different – an easy way to start your interrail adventure if you’re a Eurotrip-rookie.

Warsaw (Poland) – Berlin (Germany) – Prague (Czech Republic) – Vienna (Austria)  and if you have 3-4 extra days, add Bratislava (Slovakia) – Budapest (Hungary) to the list.

Side note: Vienna will be the most expensive out of the four destinations, and Warsaw the cheapest, so spend your money wisely.

 

How to spend 2 days in Warsaw, Poland

The central train station is not located in the Old Town, but public transportation is great in Warsaw and it will take you approximately 10 minutes to get to the Old Town from the station. If you’re staying near the Palace of Culture and Science, you’re only a short walk away from your accommodation. Click here for more information about Warsaw Public Transport.

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Where to stay: If you’re a backpacker on a low budget, chances are you’re looking for a hostel rather than a hotel. Hotels are generally not that pricey in Poland, but it’s probably still more than what you’re looking to spend. Hostel Kanonia has good reviews and is located in the heart of the Old Town. If you’d rather pay more and stay at a hotel, you might as well stay at a 4-star one. After all, at Mercure Warszawa Centrum you’ll get a room for 50 euros per night, and for only 45 euros at Novotel Warszawa Centrum. These hotels are not located in Old Town, but a thirty minute walk will get you there (so  will the buses and trams). The hotels are close to the Palace of Culture and Science.

Where to eat: I’m telling you, you have to go to the restaurant chain Zapiecek and try the traditional Polish pierogis (dumplings). You can choose between boiled or fried dumplings, with filling of your choice + sauce of your choice, on the side. Also try the platzki (large fried potato pancakes). If you’re planning to walk the distance from Novotel or Mercure to Old Town, you’ll walk past a Zapiecek restaurant on your way there. It’s just across the street from Louis Vuitton.

Zapiecek is already quite cheap, but there’s one restaurant concept that is even more cheap – and no, it’s not fast food. Nor am I talking about somewhere where you can get yourself a sad little sandwich and some tap water. No. I’m talking about what once were state-run canteens serving cheap meals during the communist era. What has now made a comeback and is considered something retro and somewhat chic. The Milk Bars. Traditional Polish food, generous portions – and yes, it’s actually really good! My favorite Milk Bar in Warsaw is Mleczarnia Jerozolimska .

What to do:

  • Explore the beautiful Old Town and its architecture dating from the 17th and 18th century. Learn the history behind the city that was almost completely destroyed during Word War II, but rose from the ashes and blossomed into the UNESCO heritage site and beloved tourist attraction it is today.
  • At the entrance to the Old Town, there’s the Royal Castle, a castle residency that formerly served as the official residence of the Polish monarchs. Take the “Royal Route” and discover beautiful parks, architecture and learn about the history of Poland – way, way back in time.
  • “The Royal Route” will take you to the Wilanów Palace – a Royal Palace and one of Poland’s most important monuments. Built for King John III Sobieski in the 17th century and later enlarged by other owners.The gorgeous palace and its beautiful garden is as picture perfect as it gets and it makes you wonder what it would have been like to be a Polish princess.
  • Close to the Wilanów Palace, there’s another part of the “Royal Route” worth visiting. The Lazienki Park, the Palace on the Isle, the Myslewicki Palace, the old and the new Orangery, the different temples, the Chinese Garden – this park is full of treasures.Take your time. There’s a lot to see here!

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How to spend 2 days in Berlin, Germany

You might wanna study this metro map  and buy yourself a day-ticket, because you’ll certainly need it. That is, of course, unless you wanna walk for hours to get from A to B. Berlin is a big city and there’s a lot to see and a lot to do in the German capital. 

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Where to stay: So, when I was in Berlin, we rented an Airbnb apartment somewhere on the outskirts of the main center of the city. If you’re traveling alone, you’ll probably prefer something cheaper and maybe less isolated? I haven’t stayed at any hostel in Berlin, but this one, ONE80, seems to have a great reputation and good reviews. Also, it’s located right next to Alexanderplatz, which is right in the center of the city.

Where to eat: PraterGarten for traditional German cuisine – and all that beer. There’s plenty of options for meat lovers as well as for vegetarians. And as always in Germany, the portions are very generous. It will keep you full until the next day. I promise.

If you’re a meat lover, you might wanna try some curry wurst as well. Just go to any hot dog stand and look for it on the menu. It’s a popular, local specialty – and a cheap meal!

When in Germany, don’t miss out on the traditional German bakeries and cafes. In other words; eat cake. Some of the cakes on display are so beautiful to look at, it’s almost a shame to eat them. Others – the rustic pastries – taste better than they look. So if you find yourself craving something sweet, take a trip to the nearest Bäckerei!

What to do: 

  • When in Berlin, you have to see the most famous landmark in Germany; the Brandenburg Gate, an 18th century neoclassical  monument. Stroll along the square and continue to the Reichstag building. The Reichstag building was constructed in the 18th century, to house the Imperial Assembly of the German Empire. It was severely damaged after it was set on fire in 1933, and was not used for its original purpose for a very long time – that was until it was reconstructed and reopened again in 1999. It now serves the Parliament.
  • Opposite direction from the Brandenburg Gate, is the Memorial to Murdered Jews in Europe, a unique monument dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust. And whatever you do, please don’t take selfies there. Yes, the monument makes kind of an edgy backdrop, but no, it’s not cool. It’s disrespectful.
  • Visit the Berlin Cathedral Church, or Berliner Dom as it’s called in German.
  • Take the “7 lakes tour” from Wannsee, a relaxing boat trip where you can sip a refreshing bright green or red beer (local fruit beers) while viewing the gorgeous scenery and enjoying the calm atmosphere.

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How to spend 2 days in Prague, Czech Republic

The central train station in Prague is not located in the Old Town. Prepare yourself for a 20 minute walk or taking the metro. The train station is located in a neighborhood that is, based on my own experience, completely safe. However, the station itself is like any other central train station in any capital city; a haven for pickpockets – and not somewhere you should hang out on your own, late at night. Here’s a guide to Prague Public Transport.

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Where to stay: When I was in Prague, I stayed at Falkensteiner Hotel Maria Prag – a hotel just across the street from the central station. I paid 99 euros per night, with breakfast included in the rate. It’s neither cheap nor expensive for Prague. It’s average. You can easily find something cheaper if you’re traveling on a low budget. One of the hostels I’ve heard a lot of good things about, is the Hostel Florenc , located next to the central bus station – and only a metro station away from the central train station. The hostel is newly renovated and have special options for vegans in the breakfast buffet. If you’d rather stay in the beautiful Old Town, there’s a lovely hostel only a 5 minute walk from the heart of the historical city center. Ahoy! Hostel has as many returning guests as new ones, and is known for its friendly staff, clean rooms and a lot of special facilities – such as free hot drinks, free Wi-Fi and a fully equipped kitchen.

Where to eat: My favorite restaurant in Prague is located close to the central train station. I first discovered it while wandering around looking for somewhere to go for dinner. A thing that really bothers me in Prague, is that people smoke indoors – everywhere. I remember entering a few restaurants that looked kind of nice from the outside, only to be greeted by a thick fog and the awful smell of cigarettes. After nearly twenty minutes of searching, I was seconds away from Googling the nearest McDonald’s. But I wasn’t ready to give up just yet. I wanted goulash. And just down the street to the left of my hotel, there it was. A restaurant called Sherwood. A restaurant with a non-smoking section with clean, fresh air. A restaurant with delicious food and good drinks – and low prices, unlike the restaurants close to the tourist attractions in the city!

If you’re a beer lover and want a great night out (and can handle heavy cigarette smoke lingering in the air) or just wanna enjoy a couple of draft beers and a pub meal, check out Prague Beer Museum . They have 30 Czech craft beers on tap!

When in Prague, you might want to try the local street food, the sweet specialty called trdelnik. You’ll find it everywhere in the city. It’s dough rolled around a thick rolling pin, grilled on live coal and sprinkled with sugar. Basically a Czech doughnut.

What to do: 

  • Admire the amazing thirty baroque statues situated on the famous Charles Bridge. Cross the bridge and continue to the spectacular Prague Castle – the most significant Czech monument and an important symbol and cultural institution in the country. The castle, dating from the 9th century, is currently the residence of the President of the Czech Republic. It was a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors and presidents of former Czechoslovakia.
  • Every hour, you will see big groups of tourists gathering in front of the Old Town Hall to see the mechanical performance from the beautiful Astronomical Clock. The procession of Apostles, the music, the moving statues – it never fails to amaze people. If you want to catch the performance, I recommend you do it in the evening. The night sky adds a little extra magic to the experience!
  • Do you like graffiti? Then you might have heard of the John Lennon Wall in Prague. Since the 80’s, what once was a normal wall, has been filled with John Lennon-inspired street art and pieces of lyrics from Beatles’ songs.
  • If the Prague Beer Museum seems like a perfect place for you to hang out, chances are you will either hate or love the concept of a Beer Spa. All treatments are made using beer – and while enjoying your massage you get to drink as much beer as you want. I suggested the idea for my partner, but it was too weird for him. Oh well, maybe next time.

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How to spend 2 days in Vienna, Austria

The central train station is located in the Favoriten district, which is a heavily populated urban area with many residential buildings – but also parks and recreational areas. Many hotels are located here and in surrounding neighborhoods. The station is only a few blocks away from the Museumsquartier, which is the eight largest cultural area in the world. I stayed in this area, and I loved it. The beautiful baroque buildings, side by side with Modern architecture. I assume you wanna see the rest of the city as well, so here’s a guide to Vienna Public Transport.

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Where to stay: I stayed in the artistic Musemsquartier, at Hotel Viennart. I found a great discounted deal on Booking.com and went straight ahead and booked it. The hotel was lovely and the breakfast buffet had a wide variety of foods. If you’re lucky to find a similar deal, go for it. The regular rate listed on the website starts with 65 euros for a single room, breakfast excluded. A cheaper option in the nearby area is the Kaiser 23 – Hostel & Guesthouse , where you’ll get a private room for 37 euros per night – breakfast included.

Where to eat: My partner and I tried – yes, tried – twice to book a table at a restaurant called Fromme Helene. We never succeeded in our mission and the restaurant seems to be fully booked every single day, so you might wanna send them an e-mail and reserve a table quite early in advance if you wanna be one of the lucky chosen ones. The food there is supposed to be amazing!

When in Vienna, you have to try the local specialty; the Schnitzel, or at least eat at a restaurant that specializes in this and other traditional Austrian dishes. At Schnitzelwirt you’ll find all of that – and a lot of vegetarian options as well.

What to do: 

  • Visit the Historic Center of Vienna and admire its stunning architecture, including the Baroque castles and gardens and the 19th century Ringstrasse (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the numerous monuments along the boulevard.
  • The most frequently visited tourist attraction in Vienna is the beautiful Schönnbrunn Palace, a former imperial summer residence. The palace itself is gorgeous, but so is the sculpted garden. The garden contains, among other things, a maze (in case you’d like to pretend you’re Alice in Wonderland), an Orangery, a palm house and a Zoo.
  • Take a few pictures of the gorgeous Belvedere Palace, the former residence of the Price of Savoy – which now houses the Museum of Medieval Austrian Art, the Museum of Austrian Baroque, and the Austrian Gallery.
  • Channel your inner Austrian princess and listen to some Mozart while comfort eating some delicious cake. Not any cake, but the local specialty, Sachertorte. Comfort eating, because you’re probably broke by now. And if not… Those classical tunes will sound way better in concert ( Wiener Mozart Konzerte ).  Enjoy!

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Paris Outskirts: Oise (thrill rides and castles)

Paris is beautiful. No doubt about it. Beautiful parks, amazing Haussmanian architecture, famous monuments, delicious food, fashionable people. But do you know any thing at all about the banlieues (suburbs) and the districts close to Paris?

Paris. We’ve all seen the thousands of photos shared on social media. We all know what the Eiffel tower looks like. And the Louvre too. And most of us Francophiles have heard the song “Champs-Élysées” and have either been – or want to go – shopping on this famous boulevard. “Now I feel like a real Parisian,” I heard one tourist say out loud as she let her friend hold her fancy shoppingbag from Ladurée – containing overpriced macarons- while she was trying on a beret from a souvenir stand. She was probably the kind of tourist who came to Paris determined to visit the same sites, do the same things, and share almost identical photos with others who had been there and done that before her. Or maybe she wasn’t like that at all. Maybe she just didn’t know any better. Maybe she even wanted to befriend locals and get to know the REAL Paris. Maybe even….the towns and villages close to Paris? Certain Parisians would probably burst out laughing and tell you you’re wasting your time exploring the suburbs, when everything you need is right there, in the centre of Paris. Others would encourage you to see absolutely everything and maybe even offer to come with you. Me, I am a curious soul, interested in seeing every corner of France – and not just the ones mentioned in glossy magazines. 

Before I moved to Paris, I was completely unaware of all the amazing places located only a stone’s throw away from the big city. Parks as beautiful as the ones in Paris, enchanting castles, charming little villages, lovely cafes and restaurants. It’s enough to make you wanna book a flight to Paris – without even visiting Paris.

I will write about each department individually, as this post would seem never-ending, otherwise. You see, the outskirts of Paris have quite a lot to offer!

First, I’ll take you a bit further than just a stone’s throw away, but still not too far to qualify for a spot in this series:

Oise

Parc Asterix

Oise (named after the river Oise) is a department 84 km north of Paris. The biggest tourist attraction of the department is also one of the most visited annually by locals; Parc Asterix – a theme park based on the stories of Asterix (a series of French comics). The park has a large variety of roller coasters as well as many other attractions and shows.

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Beauvais

If you’re flying to Paris with Ryan Air, you’ll be arriving in Beauvais, which serves as the capital of the Oise department. I have never been to Beauvais myself, but I’d love to visit the city’s spectacular gothic cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Beauvais)  and photograph the facade of the Museum of the Oise Department, which is a museum in the former bishop’s palace and is classified as a historical monument. And why not visit one of the expositions at the museum while you’re there?

Senlis

Medieval town Senlis is another destination you should add to your list. Visit the impressive, Gothic cathedral – a national monument of France. The ruins of the Royal Castle is also worth seeing. The actual castle dates back from the 1200’s. Once you’ve visited the cathedral and the castle ruins, sit down and relax with a glass of red or white in one of the local restaurants.

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Château de Pierrefonds

Another must-see is the Château de Pierrefonds, a beautiful medieval castle built between the late 1300’s-early 1400’s. I visited the castle last year, and coincidentally  got there in time for the local medieval festival. I bought myself some souvenirs and farmers produce from the festival market and enjoyed a tasty crêpe to-go!

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Château de Chantilly

Last but not least, Château de Chantilly, a historical castle located in the town of Chantilly. The chateau houses the Musée Condé, which is one of the finest art galleries in France and is open to the public.The park is a French formal garden, which is the same style of garden as the ones of Versailles. While visiting the beautiful garden, we saw happy newlyweds posing for photos, using the gorgeous nature as a backdrop for their wedding photographs. The estate overlooks the Chantilly Racecourse (Hippodrome de Chantilly) , and the Great Stables. Make sure you check out the equestrian shows and demonstrations while you’re there. It’s great fun to watch!

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Château de Montvillargenne

Would you and your significant other like a romantic celebration at a 4-star spa hotel? Then check out Château de Montvillargenne. My partner and I celebrated our one year anniversary at this luxurious chateau. They have an indoor swimming pool, sauna, Turkish bath and they offer a variety of spa treatments – including a duo massage for couples (we tried it, we loved it!). The rooms are neat, the interior is modern and the restaurant serves fine gourmet cuisine. If you’re already in the neighborhood and if you have the budget for it – why not spoil yourself a little?

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Château d’Ermenonville

Set in a medieval chateau, this sophisticated hotel château d’Ermenonville is located in a calm environment – in the heart of the Ermenonville forest, overlooking the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Park. The restaurant has a good reputation and I’d love to dine there someday soon. Just waiting for yet another special occasion.

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And you, will I see you in the department of Oise?