It’s like speed dating, but for travelling the European continent.
By mid-August last year, I was on a plane to move across the country with Nick to study filmmaking in Berlin, Germany. Of course, my education was the priority and the reason for my move, but there was no way in hell I wasn’t going to take advantage of my prime location within Europe, access to affordable travel and the ability to pack up my suitcase and go whenever I wanted. That being said, my schedule with school can be pretty demanding and I don’t really have any free time. So, when I do travel, I often just disappear for a couple of days and try to maximize my time wherever I am and get the most I possibly can out of the experience! Since moving to Berlin in August, Nick and I have travelled to Munich, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Iceland; I’m basically a professional weekend-getaway-er at this point and thought I’d share my tips for getting the most out of any location when you’re short on time.
Obviously, every new destination is a little different from the last, but I think I’ve found an almost universally applicable itinerary for speed travelling that allows me to really get the most of out my experience. I recommend you try walking around as much as you can while travelling in Europe. One of my favourite ways to see any city is by foot; whether I’m aimlessly walking around or going from point A to point B, walking gives you the freedom to divert from the path and experience everything first hand! While in Copenhagen, Nick and I walked a loop of the entire city in one day and we were able to hit all of the tourist attractions we had planned and check out a cafe or whatever else caught our eye! Personally, I like to try and eat my way through any city I visit and lucky for me food is a HUGE part of European culture. Anywhere you go will have a dish that is recommended to try. In Amsterdam, Stroopwafels and fries are some really popular foods there that we tried (and loved), and Berlin is all about the Currywurst. Booze is pretty prevalent here too. Although, I do try to steer clear of partying a lot while I’m travelling because I don’t want to waste my money on alcohol, it’s still worthwhile to sip on a local favourite! In Munich, we were there for Oktoberfest so, we abused our livers and got to try many world-famous beers!
Europe is a melting pot for history, culture and diversity. One of the best ways to really understand a place is to learn a little bit about its history, so I always try to check out a museum or exhibit while I’m traveling. Museums are also a great way to stay dry or keep warm if you’re exploring through less than ideal weather conditions! When Nick and I first moved to Berlin, we spent a day on Museum Island and bounced around from the handful of museums that are located all within walking distance. In Amsterdam, it was absolutely pissing rain the first day we were there, so we booked a full day of museum tours where we could stay nice and dry inside.
I like to tell myself that I’m a photographer and I really fucking love photographing cityscapes, so I always try to find some kind of high-vantage point or a look-out of some kind that gives you a view of the city. More often than not, cathedrals and churches offer the best look-outs. Which is great, because I also appreciate old architecture so, it’s like a double-whammy for me! While we were in Munich we checked out the St. Peters Church and took an elevator up to the top and checked out the city from a bird’s eye view. We did this again in Copenhagen, but instead of an elevator we walked up 400 steps to reach the top of the Church of Our Saviour. Whether you take an elevator or nearly die walking up hundreds of stairs, the view is totally worth it either way!
While bopping around Europe, I try to find as many free or nearly free attractions because momma ain’t made of money. One of my favourite free attractions to do is to check out the local parks. Most cities in Europe have their own version of Central Park; I love spending an afternoon strolling through the vast expanses of greenery, taking some pictures and taking a break from the busy city vibes. Nick and I are lucky enough to live a hop, skip and a jump away from Treptower Park in Berlin. We’ve also checked out Englischer Garten while we were in Munich and Vondelpark in Amsterdam. Most people may not be super into walking around a park for a couple hours and think it’s a monotonous thing to do, but each park is a little different and has different attractions within its sprawling landscape! Treptower Park is full of statues and historical tidbits, Englischer Garten has a man-made river that people can go surfing in and Vondelpark has a plethora of happy dogs.
Unique experiences that you won’t get anywhere else is the whole point of traveling, right? So, before you arrive to your destination look on Pinterest and Google and see what is unique and special about where you’re going. I have a few travel blogs that I always go back to for recommendations or I’ll check out what people are pinning most often on Pinterest. The possibilities are quite endless; Berlin has the Berlin Wall, Munich has river-surfing, Amsterdam has the Red Light District, Copenhagen has Freetown Christiana and Iceland has the Blue Lagoon! No two destinations are the same, so make sure you pick at least one tourist attraction that you’re not going to have anywhere else!
Seasonal experiences are always interesting too! If you’re traveling over the holidays, take the time to see how another part of the world celebrates the same holidays that you do at home! Over the month of December, we were in Berlin, Copenhagen and Iceland before returning back to Canada for the holidays. So, we had the opportunity to see how three different European countries celebrated Christmas and I found that really cool.
There you go, speed-traveling tips for experiencing Europe! While you’re only getting a little taste of everything, you still get to see a lot of your destination and leave feeling like you got your money’s worth.