It all started on New Year’s Eve, when 3 drunk friends (myself included) got together and decided to make a New Year’s resolution.
“Guys, we have not travelled together before. We should go somewhere this year.”
“How about Europe?”
“Sounds expensive… But sure!”
Lo and behold. A month later, those 3 friends expanded to 5 and we bought our flight tickets to Europe. Because YOLO.
We decided to travel to 7 cities in the span of 18 days, and to be honest, it was no small feat. We spent the next 8 months just filling in the blanks between our flight out and our flight home – and that included places to visit, restaurants to eat at, Airbnb accommodations, and many other money-eating things.
So here’s the little guide we put together in hopes of helping those who ever dreamed of visiting Europe.
Rome, Italy (3D2N)
Who wouldn’t visit Rome while in Italy, right? This lively capital is packed full of things to do, see, and eat. We first visited the Pantheon and spent a few good minutes taking pictures of the architectural masterpiece. We then strolled around the streets to the Trevi Fountain, had a good few scoops of gelato at the famous Giolitti, and ended our night at the Spanish Steps.
The day after, we basked in Roman history at the Colosseum and Roman Forum, where we spent nearly half a day admiring its majestic remains. There’s just something about walking down the ancient paths that adds to the experience. We then made our way to Palatine Hill and discovered some of the weirdest contemporary art (would not recommend going). Shortly after, we walked over to Altare della Patria and caught the sunset overlooking the busy streets of Piazza Venezia. The night ended with us strolling through Piazza Navona, catching the 3 famed fountains: Fountain of Four Rivers, Moor Fountain, and Fountain of Neptune.
No visit to Rome would be complete without a stop at Vatican City. A treasure trove of art, the Vatican Museum left us (okay, maybe just me) oohing and ahhing at every corner with its incredible sculptures and artifacts. After 2 hours of walking, we ended up at the Sistine Chapel where we marveled even more at Michelangelo’s most famous work spanning across the entire ceiling of the chapel – which was simply breathtaking. Just when we thought things couldn’t get better, we went over to St. Peter’s Basilica and climbed 550 steps for the best view of Rome.
Florence, Italy (2D1N)
Florence was by far one of my favourite cities to go to in Italy. We first visited Galleria dell’Accademia where the original statue of Michelangelo’s David resided at, along with a large collection of paintings by Florentine artists. A copy of the David statue can also be found at Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence. We then took a stroll down Ponte Vecchio and had a good serving of Florence’s specialty, the T-bone steak.
There’s nothing quite like the view of Florence. We climbed 414 steps at Campanile di Giotto and were left in awe at the city view. Although I’ve seen it many times on Instagram, it’s not the same as seeing it in person – and pictures don’t do the place justice! We then headed over to Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore and were treated to a fresco on the dome’s interior depicting the Last Judgment.
Tip: If you have time and money to spare, visit Giardino Bardini for a different view of Florence.
Cinque Terre, Italy (1D1N)
If there’s one place I’d recommend everybody to visit, it would be Cinque Terre. No busy streets, no fancy stores, no museums – just us and the deep blue sea. One of the main attractions was hiking from one village to another, and that was what we did. We hiked the trails from Monterosso to Vernazza, climbing up steep stairs and narrow alleyways… and almost died. No joke. Thankfully, after 3 hours of sweat and tears, we were greeted with a gorgeous postcard-like view of Vernazza.
The next day, we all woke up with sore muscles and a sense of accomplishment. To reward ourselves, we spent our time left in Cinque Terre getting lost in the little town of Riomaggiore. We stumbled upon a little restaurant called Mamma Mia! Take Away and had some of the best fast food calamari.
Venice, Italy (2D2N)
Venice is like a dream you never want to wake up from. Our day started off with us heading to the Rialto Market for some fresh fruits and seafood, and finishing off our meals with a great view of the canal by Rialto Bridge. We then headed to T Fondaco dei Tedeschi for the best and most breathtaking rooftop view of the entire city.
The city’s also filled with cobbled sidewalks and canals, and it was amazing to watch locals go about their everyday life by foot or boat. Being the tourists that we were, we couldn’t miss out on the experience and took a gondola ride down the Grand Canal. We even learnt that gondolas were built to be asymmetrical and slightly lopsided so that the boat would be perfectly balanced. Fun fact of the century!
Berlin, Germany (4D3N)
Berlin had a very cool (literally, it was 5°C on most days) vibe and, unfortunately, was one of the most underwhelming cities I’ve been to so far. The city may be known for many things – tangible history, street art, urban culture, cutting-edge architecture – but it just wasn’t for me. On the first day, we visited The Berlin Wall and sadly, I fell asleep at the exhibition. Shortly after, we walked over to The East Side Gallery, where partial remains of The Berlin Wall had been painted by artists and activists all over the world. Okay, that was cool.
We also visited the Holocaust Memorial on a cloudy day, which only desaturated the grey monument even more. The deeper we walked into the field, the taller the concrete blocks became – and walking through the narrow passageways created this moving yet almost eerie, unsettling effect. We then headed over to the Reichstag Building for our free guided tour before making our way to the next stop, Brandenburg Gate.
The rest of our trip was spent shopping at Alexanderplatz and eating copious amounts of currywurst. Exciting, I know.
Brussels, Belgium (3D2N)
If Cinque Terre was my ultimate place to re-visit, Brussels would be a close second. There’s just something about Brussels that makes me weak in the knees. Just like when we first laid our eyes on the city’s main square, the Grand-Place. With its Gothic and Baroque-styled architecture, we thought the place couldn’t be real – it looked like it came straight out of a Disney movie! Even better, we also stumbled upon shops nearby that sold chocolates, waffles, french fries, and good ‘ol beer. I swear I was in heaven.
Tip: Take a stroll down Parc du Cinquantenaire if you want to get away from the city for a bit.
One of my favourite things about Europe was the diversity of characters between each city, even in such a small distance. We took a full-day tour to Brussels’ neighbouring cities, Ghent and Brussels, and I loved every bit of it. When we arrived at Ghent, I swear to God the place looked like a European-styled Disneyland. From the pristinely maintained medieval castles to cobblestone-lined canals, it might as well have been called The Second Happiest Place on Earth. The guide led us through a brief walking tour around the city to the Castle of the Counts, St Bavo’s Cathedral, and the picturesque old port before making our way to Bruges.
Unlike Ghent, our arrival at Bruges felt like an enchanting one. We were first greeted with Bruges’ romantic Minnewater (Lake of Love) where swans glided peacefully above the waters. If at any moment a Disney Princess randomly popped up and started singing amongst the trees, I wouldn’t have been surprised. Anyway… Our tour then took us around to explore the City Hall and Market Square, and to be honest, it stopped being exciting then because the tour got boring. But hey! At least everything looked pretty.
Netherlands, Amsterdam (3D2N)
Ah, the land of weed, canals, weed, history, weed, red city lights, weed, and bicycles. To end our trip on a high note, we spent our last days at Amsterdam taking in the city sights while chilling with some good ol’ Mary Jane. Of course, we also visited the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House for a little bit of art and history – but clearly, that wasn’t the main point.
Also, for the freshest authentic stroopwafels, they can be found at Albert Cuyp Market.
No trip to Amsterdam would’ve been complete without a visit to the infamous Red Light District. While we didn’t have to go into any strip clubs, we did. Because YOLO, right? It was my first time, and let me tell you, it was awkward on so many levels (but that’s a story for another day).
Aaand that concludes our Europe trip for 2017! Now back to our regularly scheduled lives.
Disclaimer: This trip was not sponsored by the company (C27) or anyone, in any way. All expenses are paid on my own and now I’m a broke hoe.
When Beatrice isn’t busy hoarding panda paraphernalia, she can be found posting passive aggressive Instagram stories.