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Top Cities to See in Europe

Chilling on the palace wall with an amazing view of Budapest.

Chilling on the palace wall with an amazing view of Budapest.

As I leave for Europe in three weeks, three days and six hours, I am getting incredibly excited about my trip and Europe in general. The last few weeks have been a constant of organizing, buying travel supplies and clothes, and talking everything Europe.

So, I thought that for one of my last posts before my trip, I would try writing something different!

Below, in no particular order, are some of my favourite cities that I visited in Europe, and some tips to keep your trip to the city a bit less expensive. Of course I have not been everywhere yet, but it’s on my list!


London, England

The London Eye. No caption needed.

The London Eye. No caption needed.

Where I stayed: I stayed at two different hostels, but would not highly recommend either as they were cheaper options: London Backpackers Hostel (a little far), Smart Hyde Park Inn Hostel.

Day Trips: I didn’t take any while in London, but there are many places that are easy to travel to!

Things to see or do: London Eye; Buckingham Palace; Royal British Museum; parks!

London is an interesting and enticing city! There is so much to do in London, whether you want a tourist or local experience.

One really great thing about the UK is that all museums are free! I really enjoyed wandering the British Museum and the Imperial War Museum. There are so many interesting things to see, and so much history. There are also many parks and markets to wander around for the afternoon. Hyde and Regent’s parks are beautiful to wander on a sunny afternoon, or to have a picnic on the lawns. Also, Camden Market is only a short ride on the tube, where you can see all the shops and buy souvenirs – and, if you have seen the movie, the World’s End pub is located here!

View of Big Ben while on the London Eye. Despite the clouds and sprinkling of rain, it was amazing.

View of Big Ben while on the London Eye. Despite the clouds and sprinkling of rain, it was amazing.

Of course, there are all the usual things to see in London as well: Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Shard, Tower Bridge, London Tower, Buckingham Palace, King’s Cross Station, and the well-known London Eye. I have not been inside all of these as it can add up costs quite quickly. If you have never done it, I seriously suggest going on the London Eye, but it is easiest to buy your tickets ahead of time online or in person.

Honestly, my favourite was to simply wander the city and see the sights. You can cross multiple bridges along the Thames, and wander back and forth to different sides of the city. There are parks, chuches, pubs, and beautiful views that you can find simply wandering. On my wanders, I found a poet for hire, a small book sale under a bridge, and Churchill’s childhood home.

London has something to do for everyone, and even though it can be expensive, it is an amazing city to experience.


The views from Parc Guell were amazing.

The views from Parc Guell were amazing.

Barcelona, Spain

Where I stayed: HelloBCN Hostel

Day Trips: Montserrat

Things to see or do: La Sagrada Familia; Parc Guell; Barceloneta Beach; Picasso Museum; try tapas!

I have never been to a more vibrant and exciting city than Barcelona. This was my first taste of Spain and it was absolutely amazing!

Barcelona offers so many things to do to immerse yourself in the culture. The artist Gaudi is found everywhere, even just wandering down the street, in his various buildings and architectural designs. Honestly, you don’t need to see the inside of every single one, but pick one for sure. I chose La Sagrada Familia. You can tour the inside, and for not much more, even go to the top of one of the towers to view all of Barcelona – this was probably one of my favourite experiences of the entire trip. (I seriously suggest buying the tickets ahead of time online, though). Parc Guell is beautiful, but I only walked around the outside.

Barceloneta Beach is the famous beach of Barcelona. It is incredibly busy on nice days, so go early if you want to find a spot on the beach and definitely watch anything you bring with you. But it’s a great place to be able to dip your feet in the Mediterranean Sea!

I absolutely loved this market - the sights and food were amazing!

I absolutely loved this market – the sights and food were amazing!

Wandering the city is also a great experience. There are some lesser known places to go around the city, including the amazing and free Picasso Museum. The Mercado de La Boqueria is a massive market place that you can get food at and wander. The fruit and juices are delicious! And, as always, there are many amazing churches and cathedrals to see in the city. My favourite was Catedral del Mar – a cathedral built by sailors who were not allowed in the main cathedral. It is gorgeous, and the stories behind it are very interesting.

My friends and I went on a day trip to the Montserrat monastery. It is an amazing and beautiful monastery on the top of a mountain. You can wander the area and go through the monastery, or you can be adventurous and hike through the surrounding areas. It can get really hot and the hikes can be long, so make sure you’re prepared.

And, of course, the food! Thankfully, if you can find the right areas, food in Barcelona can be quite cheap. My favourite was definitely having tapas! Around the corner from our hostel, there was a street with various tapas restaurants that we ate at many nights in a row.

Barcelona is an amazing city, and I cannot wait to go back there on this trip for new experiences. Our hostel was amazing, however, so I will be staying there again this trip. The people who stayed and worked there were absolutely incredible, and the location was perfect.


Chain Bridge in Budapest. So pretty! (I love this picture)

Chain Bridge in Budapest. So pretty! (I love this picture)

Budapest, Hungary

Where I stayed: Suite Hostel

Things to see or do: Buda Castle; Great Market Hall; Chain Bridge.

Budapest is a beautiful and interesting city. I knew nothing about this city before travelling to it, but I am so glad that I went there.

This city has incredible history. The Buda Castle is beautiful to walk around. I was too late to go inside, but I am sure there is even more incredible sights inside the castle. I loved the beautiful views of the city from the Castle grounds.

On the other side of the city, the House of Terror Museum shows the history of Budapest through all the terrors of the wars and after, and the Heroes Square has statues of the various heroes in Hungarian history. I found these as really interesting experiences to learn more about the history of Hungary.

The Parliament building architecture was really interesting!

The Parliament building architecture was really interesting!

The Great Market Hall was very close to our hostel, so we went there a few times. The market is two floors, with lots of food and souvenirs. The building is interesting, and it’s really fun to just wander around the market.

I included Chain Bridge in the list of things to see simply because it is an amazing sight. The bridges to cross the Danube are amazing to walk across for views, but also for the architecture of the bridges themselves.

My favourite experience was the day we took to simply wander the city. Walking along the Danube allows you to see many amazing sights. You can see the castle across the river, and you walk by the incredible Parliament Buildings – the buildings have some of the most interesting and beautiful architecture! There is also a memorial for the Jews and people murdered along the Danube River, a very moving piece of art to remember a tragedy.

Two things that we did miss out on were the ruin bars and thermal spas. I am told that these are great experiences, and I hope to have these experiences this time I go to Budapest.


Prague, Czech Republic

Where I stayed: Santini Hostel

Things to see or do: Old Town Square; Prague Castle; Charles Bridge; Jewish district.

The amazing views from the castle grounds in Prague. I fell in love with this city the first night I was there.

The amazing views from the castle grounds in Prague. I fell in love with this city the first night I was there.

Just like Budapest, I knew nothing about Prague when I went there. Of course, lots travel photographers on Instagram have posted beautiful photos of Charles Bridge, enticing me to go there.

Prague is an amazing city – probably one of my very favourite cities that I’ve been to. It is absolutely beautiful! I suggest finding a free walking tour through your accommodations or online, as it is an easy way to see all of the city and hear the amazing history.

Old Town Square is very central to the city, and the place most people know about. In the square, you can see old buildings, cafes, locals and tourists mixing, and the amazing astronomical clock. (I suggest the walking tour or online research to find out all of the interesting information about this really cool clock.) On the same side of the river, you can find the Opera House, the Dancing House, and the Jewish District.

The Jewish District was an extremely interesting experience, especially if you are interested in history. We bought a ticket to have access to the various museums and the cemetery. The one building we went to was a humbling experience, as it had the names of all of the people who died from Budapest in the Holocaust. The cemetery was moving and sad, but an interesting experience – as it’s the only place that Jewish people could be buried, there are multiple graves on top of each other.

The large metronome in Prague. And an electrical line with shoes. It was cool!

The large metronome in Prague. And an electrical line with shoes. It was cool!

Charles Bridge can take you across the river to the other part of Prague. The bridge is famous for being beautiful, and for the numerous buskers that you can meet, day or night, along the bridge. Walking across the bridge during the day time is a completely different experience than wandering it at night. And, as you walk up the hill, you are led straight to Prague Castle. We only wandered the castle and gardens, as the lineups to go inside the cathedral were extremely long.

There are lots of other small things throughout Prague as well, including the Lennon Wall, the Metronome, and many other areas. There is also a park that has the original statues from Charles Bridge (which I unfortunately don’t remember the name of). Under Charles Bridge, on the same side as the castle, was a great little market that I went to last trip. The food was amazing, and not expensive, and there were lots of little vendors and interesting things.

I absolutely loved Prague, as there is so much to do, and cannot wait to go back there again this trip!


Chilling on the 'm' of Amsterdam, one of our last stops. Love that we got a pic of all of us!

Chilling on the ‘m’ of Amsterdam, one of our last stops. Love that we got a pic of all of us!

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Where I stayed: Airbnb

Things to see or do: Iamsterdam sign; Vondelpark; Anne Frank House; Flower Market; rent bikes; canal cruise; museums!

Originally, Amsterdam wasn’t on my list of places to see, and I definitely did not go there or love it for the reasons that most young people do.

Amsterdam is a beautiful and historic city. I loved wandering this city, seeing the beautiful canals, and the differences between the city center and the outlying buildings. I saw the city three different ways, and seriously recommend any of the three: walking, renting bikes, or going on a canal cruise. The canal cruise is amazing day or night, and shows you a completely different view of the city.

Walking along the canals is an amazing experience. You will probably want to stop and take pictures every few feet with the amazing views across the canals. The Flower Market is a floating market on the canals. If you’re there when the flowers are in season, it is amazing. Even if there aren’t a lot of flowers, the market is still a really cool experience, and a great place to look for some little souvenirs.

The canals of Amsterdam are beautiful.

The canals of Amsterdam are beautiful.

Vondelpark is a massive and beautiful park in Amsterdam. I really enjoyed riding a bike through the park, but you can walk around it to see enough as well. Dam Square is the main square in Amsterdam, and there are so many shops, small restaurants and coffee places. You can go to Madame Tussaud’s, or if you go to the top of the department store, there are views across Dam Square.

Of course, as I love history, I had to see the Anne Frank House. I seriously suggest going to see this incredible place of historic importance! Walking through the house was an incredible experience that I am so glad to have had. However, I do want to warn you that the lineups can get very long – you can look online to find the best times of day to have a shorter lineup. I believe that we went around lunch time, but the lineup is usually quite long anyways. If you also like history, I didn’t get to check it out but there is the Dutch Resistance Museum as well, which I heard is really interesting.

Amsterdam is a really pretty city, and there is so much to do!


The infamous Temple Bar of Dublin on St. Paddy's.

The infamous Temple Bar of Dublin on St. Paddy’s.

Dublin, Ireland

Day trips: Kilkenny; Galway; Wicklow Mountains; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland.

Things to see or do: Trinity College; Kilmainham Gaol; Guinness Storehouse; National Museum of Ireland.

Of course, having lived in Ireland, Dublin was one of my favourite cities. There are many other cities in Ireland that I love as much or more, but Dublin has something for everyone.

Dublin is a great center to get around to different places in Ireland. Although I didn’t take day trips from there, it is easy to drive or hop on a bus to places all over, including Kilkenny or Waterford, Galway, the Wicklow Mountains, or Belfast and the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland. For the majority of cities, Ireland is easy to travel around by simply taking buses.

In Dublin, there is just as much to do. If you happen to be there during St. Patrick’s Day, be ready for an unforgettable experience! There are parades, parties, and people out wandering the city.

Trinity College is really cool to walk around, and you can pay to go into the library to see the Book of Kells. Just around the corner from the college is the National Museum of Ireland. I absolutely loved wandering this free museum. There are so many artifacts here for Irish history, and you can see the infamous bog bodies – slightly creepy, but incredibly interesting.

Kilmainham Gaol (jail) in Dublin - so full of history!

Kilmainham Gaol (jail) in Dublin – so full of history!

Kilmainham Gaol is a jail that is a large part of Irish history – you can tour the jail for a few euros, and see the places where the leaders of the resistance were kept and executed. It is a very interesting experience! And, not far from the jail, is the Guinness Storehouse. Anyone who loves Guinness must visit the storehouse for a really cool beer experience. Not only can you see everything used to make Guinness, but you can pull your own beer to enjoy in the Sky Top bar – with a view of the entire city. I went here twice and would definitely suggest the experience!

And, like any other great city there are gorgeous parks, like St. Stephen’s Green, and many cathedrals and churches, like Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The churches cost money, but you can wander around the parks and see the churches for a free and interesting afternoon.

Lastly, it wouldn’t be a trip to Ireland without checking out the pubs. Temple Bar is the most famous, and you can find many bars along the street. However, it is far better to wander a bit out of Temple Bar to find the true gems of the city. A few that I loved were the Porterhouse, the Market, and O’Neill’s near Trinity College. If you want to say that you’ve had a drink in a church, head to The Church – but be warned that it’s a little pricey.

Dublin is an amazing city full of history and culture, and lots of interesting things to do!


There weren't a lot of flowers at the Tulip Market yet, but there was a wall of wooden shoes! Can't get more Dutch than that...

There weren’t a lot of flowers at the Tulip Market yet, but there was a wall of wooden shoes! Can’t get more Dutch than that…

As I mentioned at the beginning, I haven’t travelled to a lot of places yet, but these are my favourites out of where I have been. I would also suggest checking out Berlin and Cardiff as well, as they are interesting. If you read my blog posts from my trip, you will also know how much I loved Cinque Terre. BUT – for now, these are my top European cities that I have visited, and hopefully this gave a little insight into some things you can do or see in the cities!

May the road rise up to meet ya

From

JH

Waterford Wanderings & Excited Ramblings

So this post is a little late. A lot happened over the last week, so I will try to fill you in with a minimal amount of writing.

Last Saturday (February 28), a few friends and I decided that we would go to city center. Bruna, Carlos, Brittany and I set out to tour Waterford Crystal and Reginald’s Tower. Having been here for over 2 months, we decided it was time to do more of the tourist-y things in Waterford.

Waterford Crystal was really interesting! We learned about the processes used to make the crystal, we saw vases being made, and we viewed the amazing artistry of the sculptors. The pieces were beautiful. It was cool to see how it was all made, and why exactly it is so expensive (other than the fact that it’s crystal).

 
 
Entrance to Waterford Crystal.

Entrance to Waterford Crystal.

Carving the lines into the crystal with precision.

Carving the lines into the crystal with precision.

 

 
Amazing pieces by the sculptors of Waterford Crystal.

Amazing pieces by the sculptors of Waterford Crystal.

 
Wandering the streets and narrow-ways of Waterford city.

Wandering the streets and narrow-ways of Waterford city.

We wandered around city center and explored areas we didn’t know after we found out Reginald’s Tower was closed for the day. We stopped for hot chocolate before heading back. We decided to meet up later and have a potluck dinner and movie night. Some of the others were going to make food from their homes – we were really excited!

The dinner was fun – just a bunch of us hanging out, eating Spanish tortilla, pizza, salad, and a Polish dish (although he wasn’t sure if it was exactly Polish, it was really good). A bunch of our friends stopped by and ended up staying, so we all hung out instead of watching a movie. It was fun!

Early in the week, Brittany and I met up with our friends Carlos and Bert in the evenings to plan out our trip for the two-week Easter break. We had it all planned and booked in two night! It is going to be amazing. We will travel from Dublin to London, and on to Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges, and finally Paris. We are all super excited! It was relatively easy to book, and we all get along great, so I am definitely looking forward to this trip.

On Wednesday, there was a party planned by the International student society for Brazilian Carnival. Brittany and I decided we would go after mulling it over a bit. It was going to be a costume party, and neither of us really enjoy completely dressing up. So we headed to city center and tried to find something simple, settling on an ‘80s punk vibe. We looked great! We went to the pre-party here and had a blast with our friends, before heading to The Reg bar in city center. Our night had some hiccups, but it was great to dance with our friends in a fun atmosphere!

 
Brit and I at The Reg in our 'costumes.'

Brit and I at The Reg in our ‘costumes.’

 

Not the best picture of all of us (and includes some random guy in a wig), but it's a great memory! (Photo cred: Bert)

Not the best picture of all of us (and includes some random guy in a wig), but it’s a great memory! (Photo cred: Bert)

 

Skip ahead to Friday – probably the day I am most excited to tell you about. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you might already know some of the details.

So, for the trip that we booked, there was one hitch: the other three were planning to leave Paris the Tuesday of the second week to come back to Ireland. All of their parents are coming here to visit them. While I’m super happy for them, I didn’t exactly want to come back to Waterford and sit around for a few days. Instead, I began to look up places I could go for a few days! I wanted to go to Spain, but it was proving too expensive, and I didn’t have many choices of reachable and affordable places. Oddly enough, the best place seemed to be Nice in the French Riviera. Friday morning, I booked everything – I will be spending a few days in Nice, and doing day trips to other cities. I am super excited!

The afternoon only got better. While searching Facebook one day, I saw a random advertisement about a climbing area that had just opened in a rec center. Curious, I clicked it to find out that it is in Waterford!!! I was super excited and immediately contacted the gym to find out when I could go. Friday afternoon, I set out on a long walk (40 minutes of uphill to be exact), and reached my destination. It’s a small area of two rooms: one for rope and one for boulder. But there are a few autobelays and the staff are super friendly! I did an induction and can now climb whenever I want! I probably won’t go often, because it’s so far, but it’s great to know it’s there. I can work on keeping up my strength and the roughness of my calluses for when I go home.

 
The top rope climbing section is on the left - including three autobelays- with bouldering in the back @ Activate Waterford.

The top rope climbing section is on the left – including three autobelays- with bouldering in the back @ Activate Waterford.

 

 
The bouldering section of the climbing area! All new holds was heaven...but hell for my hands.

The bouldering section of the climbing area! All new holds was heaven…but hell for my hands.

Friday night Brittany and I met up with a few of the girls to go to a football match (every time I write ‘football,’ think soccer. I’m trying hard to adopt their words here). It was Waterford United FC vs. Athlone United. I was super excited to get to watch a football match that I didn’t have to pay a lot for. It definitely wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped, but it was a fun outing and experience! I’m not even sure what the score was, although I believe it was a tie due to Waterford’s last minute goal.

This weekend has been pretty relaxed. Yesterday we went shopping and then had a cooking night with Kitty and Carlos. Brittany, Kitty, and I learned how to make a Spanish tortilla and fajitas. They were honestly delicious and I regret not taking a picture of any of it. And then we watched Shaun of the Dead, which I know some of my friends (and my brother) will be very happy about.

A walk in Kilbarry Park.

A walk in Kilbarry Park.

For this week – lots of school work and possibly some nights out.

It seems that my life has fallen into a routine here, and I love it. The routine is oddly never the same. Although it includes school, friends, nights out, and lazy days, there are always factors that are changing and keeping things interesting.

I’m still loving it here, and I’m glad that I’m not homesick (sorry mom and dad). Of course I miss people and things from home, but I am determined to enjoy every minute of my time here as it shortens. I can’t wait for the next adventures around the corner.

“Trust that an ending is followed by a beginning.” (Pinterest quote)

From

JH

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