This post is a roundup of tips and highlights from my summer trip to Europe. See a similar post on my winter trip to Europe.
Summer in Europe
While I wasn’t suffering from bone-chilling temperatures this time around, I was, unfortunately, suffering from allergies. However, that was the only downside to the trip. You can’t have it all. Despite the allergy attack, the countries in Europe that we visited were picturesque, full of history, and so fun to explore. Europe, you are amazing!!!
I wanted to drop a couple of tips and highlights from the trip, nothing too crazy. Since we hopped around five different countries, I can only give you what we were able to do in the short time in each. There are still some valuable nuggets though, so stick around. 😉 I’m never one to oblige by my list of have-to-dos (I don’t even have one…), since being whimsical and spontaneous is more of my thing. Even if we didn’t get to see something that “should” be seen, my mentality is always, it’s ok, I’ll be back to check it out.
If you’ve done any of these before, let me know your experience. If there’s something you think we need to do when we revisit any one of these countries, please drop me a comment!
Tips and Highlights
- Try an eiskaffee and/or a melange (coffee). The eiskaffee is an ice cream coffee…like a root beer float but with coffee and whipped cream! I also think it’s cold coffee and not an espresso like how an affogato is made. This was my drank in Vienna. N loved the melange, which is similar to a cappucino. Mild but delicious.
- Tour the Vienna State Opera & go see a performance. I’m not an opera person, but I might’ve attended one if I had more time in Vienna, just to get the experience. TIP: In April, May, June, September, and around New Year’s Eve, you can watch for free the opera and ballet performances live on a video wall outside the Opera House in Karajan-Platz. I was able to catch this last summer, and it was pretty cool!
- The Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens grounds is massive. While the palace is magnificent, the gardens in the back felt a little flat. There was a lot of land, and I think the gardens looked lost in the open space. You can keep walking towards the back and hike (barely) uphill a bit to the Gloriette in the garden. Once there, you can grab a coffee at the cafe and enjoy the views on the observation deck that allows a panoramic view of the city!
- We crossed the bridge from the Pest side to get to Fisherman’s Bastion on the Buda side. You need to go here, since it offers such gorgeous views of the Danube and the Parliament from across the water. If you have time, you can tour the Buda Castle, which sits atop Castle Hill and is nearby Fisherman’s Bastion.
- Cross The Chain Bridge. I mean, how cool is it that Budapest is split by the Danube River, and both sides of the city have different vibes? Buda is more quaint and hilly while Pest is a party animal. Of course, the Chain Bridge was the first bridge built across the Danube. Do it for the symbolism.
- Take a dip or soak up at Gellert Baths. If you don’t want a crowded scene, opt for this one. People usually go to the popular Szechenyi Baths, but it could get overwhelmingly crowded. The hottest bath in Gellert is inside, but if you want an outside experience, you can hop in the wave pool! TIP: We got this one from the staff who checked us into Marriott Budapest. Apparently, Rudas Baths isn’t a popular tourist spot yet, so head there if you want something different. There is a small dome bath at the top of the building that overlooks the Danube and the city, which is what I’m all about. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it here, but it’s on my list for next time! Wanted to share though, so please let me know if you’ve been there, and tell me how pretty it is!!
Sidenote: Although we stayed in Brussels at Aloft Brussels (shout out to one of my favorite hotel chains!), we barely spent anytime exploring the city. Instead, we attended a wedding near Leuven, spent a day in Ghent, and a day in Bruges.
- Take a day trip to Ghent & Bruges. In my opinion, Ghent had better vibes. Maybe because it reminded me a bit of Harry Potter, and there weren’t as many people. Bruges had a nice big square in its center, and I loved the canals that surrounded the city.
- Eat a Belgian waffle! They make waffles unlike you’ve tasted before. Drizzle with choco sauce, and go heavy on that whipped cream. 😀
- Do a tour of the Stella Artois Brewery in Leuven. As part of the wedding festivities, my friends hosted her wedding attendees to a tour of this brewery. We learned so much about the mechanics of brewing, down to how each ingredient affects the beer.
Cinque Terre, Italy
- Have dinner at Ristorante Belvedere in Monterosso Al Mare (fifth city). With a waterfront view and delicious food, you can’t go wrong. We ate here twice, and both times, I got the seafood spaghetti. If you’re in the mood to splurge, order their house special, which is a variety of seafood cooked in a clay pot and comes out steaming hot. I almost ordered it, but I couldn’t give up my spaghetti streak!
- Hike from city to city. Make sure you check which trails are open to hike between the five cities as they may not all be open. For us, we trained from Riomaggiore (where we stayed) to Manarola and hiked from there through Corniglia, Vernazza, and, finally, Monterosso. I would say the hike took about 2.5 hours total. TIP: The trail from Manarola to Corniglia is probably the most strenuous since there’s a steep incline to get to Corniglia. The rest are doable even if you aren’t an experienced hiker.
- Grab generous portions of bruschetta at Nessun Dorma in Manarola. They’re huuuge and refreshing with a glass of beer on a hot summer day! TIP: If you want the classic Cinque Terre picture of colorful houses on the cliffside, this is THE spot to go to for it. The views are spectacular.
- Enjoy life while sipping coffee at Bar & Vini in Riomaggiore. I love quaint spots that feel like only locals frequent. Somehow, we found this cafe/bar walking past the train station the opposite way of going into the main city area. It’s nestled in the cliffside and overlooks the vast ocean.
Can you tell that I just love this place? Getting major nostalgia from writing and thinking about Cinque Terre right now. Need to get back there ASAP.
- Go to any beach ‘cuz you in the Cote d’Azur! A lot of people think of Nice when they think about the Cote d’Azur, or French Riviera, since it’s the largest city on this coast. The beaches aren’t exactly nice (pun intended) and sandy, more like rocky. But hey, that’s how the French do, so you do too!
- Walk along the Promenade de Anglais. Fancy a stroll along the famous street that stretches for miles along Nice’s waterfront? Look no further. 🙂
- Take a day trip to Monaco. Only 30 minutes from Nice by train, you should make it a point to visit Monaco. The land of the rich doesn’t disappoint, from a commoner’s point of view heh. You can ogle at the array of luxury cars valeted at Monte Carlo or lust over the million dollar yachts pulling into and parking at Port Hercules. TIP: Find the path leading up to Prince’s Palace for the best view of all of Monaco and the port. There are other picture worthy spots along the way as well.
I hope you guys enjoyed this post on highlights and tips in these cities/countries! Thinking about Europe makes me so happy, and I’m glad to be sharing them on my blog.