So whether you’re about to go to study abroad or are planning your post graduation Euro-trip, you’re probably doing a lot of research on where you should go and what you should do/eat/see. Because that’s really what we do on vacations, we look at things and we eat. In order to make things slightly easier, I give you my completely biased and unthorough list of the best of Europe. I’ve been to 7 countries and heard 4 different languages, 5 if you count Gaelic. Sláinte, y’all. So here we go.
Best view of a city
Florence is tied with Bruges as the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to, but where it has it beat is the views you can have of the city. The best view is from Giotto’s bell tower. It’s not as high as the duomo, but the advantage is that you can see the duomo from the bell tower, and that’s a much better view. But be prepared, there’s 441 steps to the top.
Best Christmas Markets (sorry Spring study abroaders)
Now Paris has two big Christmas Markets and when I first went, I thought they were the greatest thing I’d ever seen. BUT that was before I went to Berlin. I was in Berlin for 4 days and we went to 6 different Christmas Markets. SIX. Paris has two. And we went to most of these twice. I’d say 60-70% of our time was spent at Christmas markets. There’s bratwurst, gluhwein (hot wine), roasted nuts, pretzels, waffles, cider, candy, cookies, nutcrackers, christmas villages, artisan shops. It basically made Paris look like the Christmas aisle at Dollar General. It was amazing. And they’re not even the best Christmas Markets. The best are in Cologne, Germany where they originated.
Best value for the least amount of money
Italy has a terrible economy. They’re not really producing much other than Fiats and unemployment is almost as bad as Spain’s. However, they have delicious food and a struggling economy means higher purchasing power from other countries. In Paris, you can pay 16 euros and get a decent entree and maybe a glass of wine. In Italy, I ordered a veal entree and split a plate of bruschetta, a lava cake (that’s not what it’s called in Italian), and a litre of wine with my roommate for 16 euros. Oh and we got free shots of limoncello after our meal. I know other places like Prague and Berlin and cheap too, but you really get the best food in Italy.
Best Place to Stay off the Beaten Path
I love Berlin. It’s the Austin of Europe. You’ve got the bohemian culture of the East in Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte with hipster bars and organic food stores, and the yuppies of the West in Charlottenburg. It’s the capital, but it doesn’t have a lot of big business. All the banks and headquarters are in Frankfurt (aka Dallas). Even the Wall, or former wall is like I-35 separating the East from the West. There’s some really good Thai and Tex-Mex food. You can see all the monuments in a day, but take it slow there. Check out the bars on Oranienstraße, grab brunch and then head to a farmer’s market in Prenzlauer. There’s nothing more satisfying than hanging out in a bar with your friends, sipping on a 3 euro hefeweizen and just enjoying the atmosphere and people watching. And the best place to find where the locals go is to ask the locals. Everyone speaks English really well so if you’re looking for a bar to go after dinner, your waitress will be happy to recommend her favorite.
I’m a barista, so I know the bad coffee from the good and I can easily say hands down, with no other competition the best cappuccino can be found at Saint’Eustachio Il Caffé in Rome near the Pantheon. The milk has the perfect texture with a very smooth foam The espresso was pulled to perfection and the beans espresso flavors itself are divine. So much so I brought a bag of beans back for my boss to try. Get it at the bar where you can get it for less than 2 euros.
Paris, duh. How do I even explain it? Like every pastry you eat automatically becomes the best pastry ever. There’s not even one boulangerie that has the best pastries, your local one will do just fine and yes they are on every corner. My favorite however, is the one on Voltaire and Popincourt in the 11th because I think they have the best pain au chocolates.
Best city for art
I was once told that if you were to look at every piece of art in the Louvre for 60 seconds you could see the entire museum in 7 years, and that’s if you don’t like to eat or sleep. It’s huge and it carries some of the greatest art pieces in the world. I’m an art lover, so I’ve travelled to Italy to see Renaissance paintings and to Germany for modernism, but Paris really has it all. There are so many museums it’s impossible to even see them all. My favorites however are the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, and the Centre Pompidou. And the great thing is that if you’re under 26 or a student in Europe, it’s usually free. Just don’t talk a lot in English.
Best place to feel at home
With your friends. You meet so many different people on exchange and it’s amazing that even though you’re from extremely different cultures, you all manage to have fun together and bond with one another. I’m so happy to know that I have friends all over the world now and I think that’s actually my favorite definition of home. “Home is where you know that someone or some people love you. I don’t like goodbyes so, à bientôt.