Backpacking Europe

Published by Lauren on

Backpacking Europe

10 countries. 15 cities. 53 days. The trip of a lifetime! | June - August 2018

I knew I needed to make the most of my dual citizenship before Brexit finalized. Study abroad programs were out of the question because of the price tag. So, I planned my own thrifty excursion in the summer of 2018.

Before the official trip began, I spent a month with my mom’s side of the family in Wales. It was great to see all my Aunties, Uncles, grandparents, cousins, and 2 adorable godkids while there.

London, United Kingdom

June 21 - June 24

Cheerio, cuppa tea, please! I always love being back here, it feels like a second home. I stayed in a 30 person dorm at a youth hostel, situated directly above a nightclub. Triple bunk beds! I gave up on getting any sleep. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet Prince Harry 🙁 

Tower Bridge over the river Thames.
Outside the Tower of London.
Buckingham Palace. The Queen is in!
Protesting Brexit, I joined in.
Big Ben & Houses of Parliament, under construction.
The old & the new.
Hyde Park.
Admiralty Arch.

Additional highlights:

  • Pubs, pubs, & pubs!
  • Shepherd’s Pie
  • Naps in St. James’s Park
  • Chinatown
  • The Churchill Arms
  • Piccadilly Circus
  • Riding the tube
  • Borough Market

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

June 25 - June 28

This place is officially the coolest city in the world. It’s STUNNING. And everyone seems to be so happy! I would live here in a heartbeat. 

The Bulldog, world's first coffeeshop.

Additional highlights:

  • Oreo & strawberry crepes
  • Strompf waffles & Holland fries
  • Heineken Museum
  • “I Am Amsterdam” sign
  • Van Gogh museum 
  • Red Light District
  • Canal boat tour
  • the sunsets
A'Dam Lookout.

Berlin, Germany

June 29 - July 1

An encounter with an angry German man on the train. A pigeon pooped on me. Learned the hard way to always carry cash. Intimidating & aggressive language. LOTS of communication barriers. Overall authentic.

The Brandenburg Gate.
Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe. Sombering.
A section of the Berlin Wall.
Reichstag building.
Angiyok Icebar, Brrrrglin. (Sorry for the pun, I can't resist.)

Additional highlights:

  • Currywust & brats
  • Biergartens
  • World Cup watch parties
  • East Side Gallery
  • Museum Island
  • Checkpoint Charlie
  • Berlin Cathedral
  • Viewing a triathlon on Spree
  • Topography of Terror museum

Prague, Czech Republic

July 2 - July 5

I wanted to come here purely because of an episode of House Hunters International that I’d seen. This is a BEAUTIFUL city, it didn’t disappoint!

My cousins all told me I overpacked, but I didn’t believe them. I really felt the weight of my 55lbs backpack by now (the walk from the train station to the hotel was over 2 miles). But I took lots of breaks and took in the history surrounding me.

St. Vitus Cathedral.
"The City of Spires."
John Lennon Wall.

Additional highlights:

  • Everything was super cheap
  • So much schnitzel & goulash 
  • Prague Castle
  • Prague Astronomical Clock (although being repaired)
  • Dancing House, designed by Gehry
  • Bus tour
  • Letna Park
  • Kafka museum
  • Strahov Monastery Brewery
  • Chimney cakes (donut cones, Trdelnik)
  • Pissing Statue, David ČernĂ˝
  • Weird street art & sculptures
  • Pilsner Urquell
  • Karlovy Lazne – Nightclub
Inside of St. Vitus.
Charles Bridge.
Old Town Square.
Church of our Lady before Tyn.

Vienna, Austria

July 6 - July 9

There’s a lot of statues of men punching horses, and I still wonder why? Vienna is so rich with museums, it’s impossible to do it all. I appreciated all of the luxurious public gardens.

Belvedere Palace & Museum.
The Plague Column on Graben.
The streets were very colorful.
The gardens outside of the Belvedere.
St. Stephen's Cathedral.

Additional highlights:

  • BBQ chicken wings at TGI Friday’s, of all places (yes, I’m embarrassed)
  • Lots more Wienerschnitzel
  • Graffiti on the Wien River
  • Decadent sundae at Aida’s 
  • MuseumsQuartier
  • Karlskirche

Venice, Italy

July 10 - July 12

Venice looks like it’s straight out of a storybook. No cars, no bikes, only people and boats. I stayed in a cute Bed & Breakfast. I met some awesome people that I still talk to!

My train departed early, 6:30 am. As I walked to the station, everyone in the hustling city was asleep. All I could hear is the pitter-patter of the rain as the sun emerged over the bridges. It felt so surreal. 

GELATO! Outside of Saint Mark's Basilica.
View from the Rialto Bridge, the Grand Canal.

Additional highlights:

  • Fresh juice
  • the World Cup finals, England vs Croatia
  • Limoncello
  • Watching the gondolas 
  • St. Mark’s Square
  • Gallerie dell’Accademia
  • Getting completely lost
  • Pizza

Sorrento, Italy

July 13 - July 16

[My backpack got the best of me and I busted my knee.] Sorrento itself was SO different than the other cities; it was relaxing. I picked this area because other big destinations were commutable.

I also took a day trip to the Amalfi Coast; a 3 hours winding bus ride across the coast. Anarchy seems to be the rule of the roads! I opted for a cruise back to Sorrento, which detoured at the Isle of Capri. Another day, I went to Pompeii.

Leonelli's Beach.
Amalfi Coast.
Isle of Capri.
Pompeii.

Additional highlights:

  • All of the beaches & sunsets
  • Laundromat luxury!! 
  • Piazza Tasso
  • Corso Italia
  • Eating on restaurant patios
Leonelli's Beach at sunset.
Isle of Capri.
Mt. Vesuvius in the bg. (Active volcano.)
Mummified.

Rome, Italy

July 17 - July 21

Roma! Where modern humanity began 2 millenniums ago. It was a jam-packed 5 days. I ate my weight in spaghetti bolognese. 

St. Peter's Square.
Sistine Chapel.
Roman Forum.
Spanish Steps.
St. Peter's Basilica. (The Vatican.)
Trevi Fountain.
View from Castel Sant'Angelo.
Pantheon.
The Colosseum.

Additional highlights:

  • Piazza Navona
  • Vatican museums
  • Piazza del Popolo
  • Piazza di Spagna
  • Pizza Zizza 
  • Lots of pasta
  • All of the artwork
  • ICE WATER !!!

Florence, Italy

July 22 - July 23

The birthplace of the Renaissance. Home of stunning art & architecture.

I was supposed to take the train to Pisa. But halfway through, we were all kicked off because a strike began. It was then a fist-fight trying to get on a bus. Well worth it!

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiori.

Additional highlights:

  • Gucci museum
  • “Rocket” pizza, with arugula, mozzarella, and prosciutto
  • Ravioli 
  • The family from Dallas that adopted me for a day
Ponte Vecchio.
Statue of David at Galleria dell'Accademia.
Tower of Pisa.

Geneva, Switzerland

July 24 - July 27

The journey into Switzerland was nothing short of spectacular. A conductor on the train saw me looking out the window, wide-eyed. He comes up and asks, “French, German, Dutch?” I sheepishly said, “only English.” He smiles and says in a thick accent, “Sit on the other side of the train for the best view. My favorite part of my job is the reaction when people see these mountains for the first time.” It was so sincere.

Mountain views from the train.
L'horloge fleurie.

Additional highlights:

  • Cheese fondue
  • Paddle boating on the Lake
  • Oogling at the watch stores
  • Palais des Nations
  • Jardin Anglais
  • Promenade de la Trielle
  • Hiking on Mont-Saleve, which shared with France
The water jet.
Blue waters on Lake Geneva.
The top of Mont-Saleve, "Balcony of Geneva."

Monte Carlo, Monaco

July 28 - July 30

Good beaches, fast cars, and high-end casinos. I spent a full day at Lavotto Beach and Blue Beach (in Nice, France.)

Larvatto Beach.

Barcelona, Spain

July 31 - August 4

There was a heat-wave going through Spain, and these were the hottest days on record. 

Park GĂźell.
La Sagrada Familia.
Stained glass art inside of Sagrada.

Additional highlights:

  • the Gothic Quarter
  • Picasso museum
  • La Barceloneta Beach
  • Columbus Monument
  • Weird foods

Paris, France

August 5 - August 9

I REALLY lucked out with the AirBnB. It was a tiny studio directly across from the Louvre. I took 6 years of French in school, but all I could muster was, “Une chocolat croissant, si vu plait!”

The Louvre museum.
Venus de Milo.
Eiffel Tower.
Gardens of the Palace of Versailles.
The Mona Lisa.
Air BnB view.
Air BnB view.

Additional highlights:

  • Cathedrale Notre-Dame (before disaster)
  • The cafes and bakery’s
  • Champs-Elysees
  • Catacombs of Paris
  • Chocolate croissants
  • Eiffel tower light show at sunset
  • CREPES
Panoramic from the top of the Arc de Triompe.

After Paris, I went back to the UK for another week to spend time with my moms and dads side of the family. The world is a really big place, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to explore some of it. If I’m able to do something like this again, I’d love to dust off the pack and travel in South America (Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, etc…)

What are your travel stories? Where should I go next? Leave a comment below! Help support my work by giving me a follow on Youtube or Instagram. Cheers!


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