One Month Backpacking Europe

Introduction

I think anyone who has ever caught the travel bug has dreamed of traveling among the countries of Europe.  Experiencing the hustle and bustle of London, taking in the magnificent sights of Paris, wandering the canals of Amsterdam, or standing in the shadows of the awesome monuments of Rome are sensations never replicated and eternally remembered.  Not to mention all the amazing cuisine, museums, art galleries, people, and so much more that Europe offers.  The main point of my article is to outline the destinations that I experienced and some things that make them special. 

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take this excursion due to my year abroad at the University of Nottingham in England.  They have a lovely practice of giving their university students a full month off for Easter vacation in the spring.  This chance, coupled with about a year of saving up money, allowed me to embark on an amazing journey I will never forget.

The most important about going anywhere new is research, research, research, and most importantly, be prepared for it all to go wrong.  If you are familiar with Murphy’s Law then you should have no problem.  One of the greatest things about traveling is finding the things that you didn’t expect or know about.  The experience is what you make of it and what you are looking for.

Blarney Castle
Blarney Castle

Stop 1: Cork Ireland

My first stop was a short flight from Nottingham, England to the south Ireland city of Cork. My main motivation for traveling there, of course, being that it was St. Patrick’s Day.

Points of Interest:

The city of Cork itself was not so spectacular to me, (in comparison to Dublin) but if you are looking for a slightly less touristy feel to Ireland and want to save some money then it is an ideal stop. Another great thing about Cork is that it is only a short day trip away from Blarney Castle. This is home to the infamous Blarney Stone waiting to bless you with its mystical power of unstoppable banter. There is a small fee to enter the grounds but it is well worth it to explore some ancient castle ruins, enjoy the gardens, and see some lovely Irish countryside.

Why Should You Go:

The combination of modern architecture with medieval churches and authentic Irish feel make it well worth it. I recommend going to Dublin as well but the festivities and locals in Cork on St. Patrick’s Day were truly an unforgettable experience.

Stop 2: Paris, France

Paris is very easy to access from London via the Eurostar rail that goes under the British Channel.  Paris is something that even caught me off guard after living in England for over 6 months.  It was something more beautiful and amazing than anything people described to me.

Points of Interest: 

Hmmm…where to start?  This is one city you will need to dedicate a substantial amount of time to.  I unfortunately only had two days but had an excellent guide (a friend and local) and took full advantage of the great subway transportation.

There is history all around you and it would literally take a textbook to understand all of it.  Therefore it is important to do your homework and take a map to see a great many things.  The top sights to see are definitely the Louvre (you can spend all day there), Notre Dame cathedral, Musee d’Orsay, Eiffel Tower (especially at night), and one of my favorites The Pere Lachaise cemetery.  If you are a fan of music or literature then you can find many notables including Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde.

Why Should You Go: 

The city is an absolute masterpiece and there is so much to see you will be on the go constantly!  The food is just as good as they say.  Visit the touristy places but really look around or ask people in the hostels where to go.  People in Paris have a reputation for being rude, but you will find that learning a few phrases in French will go a long way to getting assistance from the locals because almost every Parisian speaks English to some degree.

Canals of Amsterdam
Canals of Amsterdam

Stop 3: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Probably my favorite city in Europe. There are so many great features I will have to try and be brief.  Whether you are into art, music, science, alternative lifestyles, or just wanting to get into some debauchery, Amsterdam is a must-see place.

Points of Interest: 

Some of the better museums in my opinion have got to be the Rembrandt House and Van Gogh Museum.  The Dutch Hermitage has some great exhibits and you can also see the Anne Frank House if you are wanting to see some history.

Late at night the city comes alive with multiple options for after hours fun.  The multitude of nightclubs, coffee shops, bars, and live music venues will keep you entertained till early morning.  The Red Light District is a spectacle not to be missed that certainly attracts people from multiple backgrounds.

Why Should You Go: 

The architecture and multiple canals slicing through the city make getting from one place to another a joy.  The fantastic art and exhibits during the day and party scene during the night will leave you exhausted and make that hostel bed seem all the more comfortable.

Das Reichstag
Das Reichstag

Stop 4: Berlin, Germany

The German capital is a pretty amazing place.  Seeing the scars of the past alongside the progress of the future is a tremendous sight.  The museums and monuments are impressive and numerous and there is plenty to do afterhours.

Points of Interest: 

The Brandenburg gate, Reichstag, Pergamon Museum, and Film Museum are just a few sights to satisfy your cultural appetite.  A stroll along what is left of the Berlin wall is amazing as there are many great murals gracing what was once such a negative symbol.  There are multitudes of restaurants where you can have some great German cuisine and enjoy their outstanding tradition of beers.  Another great attraction is the Berlin zoo, as it is one of the largest in Europe and you can easily spend half a day there.

Why Should You Go: 

If you are a fan of great architecture, history, and art then you must pay a visit to Berlin.  In my experience, the German people are quite friendly and speak perfect English.  There are many walking tours (some that are free) that I highly recommend where you will learn many things would never otherwise.

Prague overview
Prague overview

Stop 5: Prague, Czech Republic

This is another breathtakingly beautiful city with amazing architecture and wonderful history.  Wandering the streets will leave you mesmerized and captivated by everything your eyes fall on.

Points of Interest: 

I took a free walking tour through the city and saw several sights I never would of otherwise.  Some of my favorites were The Charles Bridge, Astronomical Clock, John Lennon wall, Prague Castle, and the view of the Lesser Town.  Wandering the ruins of Prague Castle was incredible while viewing the city below.

Why Should You Go: 

While visiting Prague you can experience a city with so much to offer.  There are multiple places where you can see the impact communism left on the city and where it was contested.  Delve further and you find a fascinating gothic and romantic style to its buildings that have survived and continued to thrive.  It also offers a fun nightlife with multiple clubs and bars to keep you entertained all night.

Atop Gellert Hill
Atop Gellert Hill

Stop 6: Budapest, Hungary

I almost didn’t stop off here as I was on my way to Croatia, but I sure am glad I decided to check it out.  It is a fascinating place, which actually is a combination of two cities, Buda and Pest, divided by the river Danube.

Points of Interest: 

The Parliament Building, St. Stephen Basilica, and Heroes Square were some of the most impressive structures I had witnessed yet.  You can make a trip up to Gellert Hill and get a great panoramic view of the top of the city.  Another fun thing to do is visit the bathhouses.  You pay a fee and have unlimited access to the facilities including a massive outdoor spa, steam rooms, saunas, and mineral baths.  I was in need of some sort of cleansing after so much travel and this cured all that ailed me.

Why Should You Go: 

This was a stop I did not intend to take but am very glad my plans changed.  If you are into architecture (like me) and also enjoy a bit of craziness in the wee hours of the night then you should plan to stay there for a couple days.  The bathhouses were an unexpected treat and traditional Hungarian food is quite tasty.

City Square
City Square

Stop 7: Split, Croatia

Another place that was not on the itinerary, but marvelous nonetheless, was the coastal city of Split.  This medieval city is surrounded by a huge wall and is home to a very well preserved Roman palace.

Points of Interest: 

Diocletian’s palace is incredible and well worth exploring.  The harbor is full of sailboats and the Maritime museum is well worth checking out.  If you have the time and money there are boats that will take you out to the islands for the day and they are amazing.

Why Should You Go: 

Croatia was not a major destination by anyone that I talked to but it very well should be!  It has a very multi-cultural feel to it and is very warm in the springtime.  Another thing that may interest some people is that of all the countries I have visited, Croatia has the most beautiful women I have ever seen!

Stop 8: Rome, Italy

This was one of my most anticipated destinations as I am a huge fan of Roman history.  It did not disappoint me in the slightest bit.

Points of Interest: 

Naming all the best places in Rome would be next to impossible for someone like me who was just a tourist.  So I will leave that to the tour guides.  My favorite sites had to be the Roman Agora, Coliseum, Mausoleo di Augusto, Roman Forum, and the Pantheon.  St. Peters Church is a momentous sight built with the remains of Roman Palaces and the Vatican Museum is well worth the money to witness the numerous amazing works of art.

Why Should You Go: 

Rome is an experience that many people long for, and for good reason.  The food is amazing, although I recommend going to a market and cooking the meal yourself at the hostel, as it is quite cheap and so is the excellent and affordable wine.  Although I recommend tasting freshly baked Margherita pizza, as it is to die for.  The visuals in Rome are so incredible you should remember that spare SD card for the digital camera.  You will need the space.

Athens from the Acropolis
Athens from the Acropolis

Stop 9: Athens, Greece

Another dream come true for me.  Athens is enormous and contains more than half the population of Greece in its limits.  It is littered with ancient history and deserving of a great deal of your vacation.

Points of Interest: 

The Acropolis overlooks the city and from its perch you certainly feel atop the ancient world.  This site contains the Propylaea, Temple of Nike, Parthenon, and Erechtheion.  Each of these structures are amazingly well preserved and are being renovated to keep it that way.  Some other notables that will leave you astounded as well are the Ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Arch, Theater of Dionysus, and Temple of Zeus.

Why Should You Go: 

Visiting the capital of one of the world’s most ancient civilizations is well worth the trip.  There are many excursions available from here as well.  I took a weeklong cruise and visited Patmos, Mykonos, Rhodes, Crete, and Santorini that left images forever imbedded in my mind.  Unless you are craving 6 course meals, you will find a Greek Gyro to be quite satisfying and affordable.

Conclusion

From Greece, I took a plane back to England and my study obligations.  To say my travels changed my perception of the world is quite the understatement.  The number of things I witnessed and captured with my camera leave an indelible mark on the mind and only added to my curiosity about the world.  Traveling the world makes me feel more like a member of a global community and something I recommend to everyone.

Which of these cities would you most like to visit in Europe?

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Comments 1 comment

Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 6 years ago from Scotland

Thanks for the interesting Hub bluemonk

Amazing places to visit, so far I've only made it to Paris, London and Barcelona.

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