I just got back from almost three weeks of interrailing around Europe and it was the highlight of my summer. In case you’re wondering what interrailing is; it’s an organisation that allows you to buy one ticket that gives you access to all international trains across Europe and some national trains too. The options range from 5 days of travel to 1 month, I went for the 15 days continuous pass and tacked on a bit of extra holiday on the end. The only things that aren’t included is travel with in your own country meaning British travellers will have to purchase a ticket to get to the mainland (I went on the Eurostar) and public transport within countries however this is generally much cheaper than Britain and you can get discounted rates.
I’ve read a lot of posts about interrailing so I hope mine is of use to you. I’ll give you a summary of what I did in each city and my top tip for the visit. My route was: London to Brussels (via Eurostar); I only stayed in Brussels long enough to have lunch before going to Amsterdam where my trip really started. Amsterdam to Berlin, Berlin to Prague then Prague to Venice on an overnight train via Munich, then from Venice to Zurich and I finished with a trip from Zurich to Paris.
This was my favourite city, it’s just so picturesque. I’m from Cambridge and it reminded me of home with everyone on their bicycles. I was so impressed by the amount of people that spoke English, even n tiny corner shops; normally I like to try and speak a bit of the local language while I’m on holiday but having no experience of Dutch it made it a lt easier that people spoke English and were happy to help.
Must do in Amsterdam: the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, a cycle ride in the Vondelpark. If it’s spring time go to the flower market, I was there in August so it was disappointing but I can imagine it’s stunning when it’s filled with tulips. Visit Pancakes! for any meal of the day; the dutch do pancakes like no one else so try poffertjes (small fluffy pancakes) for a traditional dutch brunch. Another delicacy are bitterballen, little round balls filled with creamy sauce and meat and then fried and served with mustard as an appetiser.
Top tip: I’ve got two top tips for Amsterdam. The first would be to get an Iamsterdam card which was a brilliant deal it includes public transport, free access to many museums and discounts at lots of places to eat. We used the trams A LOT so it was 100% worth it. My second piece of advice would be to arrive at any museums you want to visit for when they open as queues can be enormous. You can book ahead of time and save queuing but as a traveller in a city for two days this isn’t always feasible.
Unfortunately I was only in Berlin for one whole day but I could’ve easily spent longer there. I did a lot of historical visits there as I think that’s an important part of Berlin today rather than the art scene in Amsterdam.
Must do in Berlin: Visit the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburg Tor, the Holocaust memorial and information centre and check out the electro clubbing scene I had no problem getting into House of Weekend which also had a rooftop bar. I also visited Panorama Berlin which I wouldn’t say is must do but it was a beautiful day and the views were stunning; you read the summit in the fasted elevator in Europe!
Top tip: for Berlin: stay at Generator Hostel! It was the best hostel I stayed at in my time away, newly renovated, friendly staff and safe.
Prague is a beautiful city which is why it was such a shame that it was absolutely chucking it down for the majority of the time I was there. The architecture is beautiful and it has a really rich history.
Must do in Prague: visit the Jewish museum; this consists of four synagogues each focusing on a different part of Jewish culture or history. Some parts were incredibly moving whilst others were very informative, it took me a good part of a day and was perfect in the wet weather.
Top tip: get your hands on trudlo a traditional Czech pastry. It’s rolled in sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and walnuts and tastes delicious.
As expected Venice was stunning and the food was incredible. The majority of places are geared up for tourists which makes it expensive (especially compared to the incredibly low prices in Prague) so be sure to save up for it. I was there with an Italian friend which made it a lot easier to find deals and traditional restaurants filled with locals.
Must do in Venice: visit the Piazza San Marco and soak up the atmosphere and sunshine. Unfortunately the queues were too long and I didn’t have time to get into the cathedral but the outside is beautiful, I also went up the watch tower and got breath-taking views of the city. Gondola’s can cost upwards of €80 an hour which I couldn’t justify but I found a place where you could go across the width of a canal for €2. It’s a bit lame, I know, but I can say I have been in a gondola and I still got some great photos.
Top tip: Be prepared to get lost A LOT. I have no sense of direction but luckily my friends did. Either learn to read a map, get a sense of direction or enjoy being lost. Everywhere is in walking distance from each other so going a bit off track doesn’t make a huge difference and you might come across something amazing that you weren’t expecting.
I only had one day in Zurich as it was more of a stopping off point at a friend’s to break up the journey from Venice to Paris but I wish I’d had longer there. The scenery is absolutely breath-taking and I can see myself going back there again. The only negative is that it’s expensive but it’s absolutely worth saving for.
Must do in Zurich: Hike (or take the cable car to save time as I did) up to the top of a mountain and have lunch in the cafe there surrounded by beautiful views. Most mountains have a little cafe at the top (according to my friend who lives there). I would also highly recommend visiting the Lindt shop and taking a boat across to the old town.
Top tip: Go for more than one day! I’d love to go again and spend some time just relaxing by the lake.
Obviously Paris did not disappoint. It’s one of my favourite cities and looks beautiful and feels magical even in the rain. I spent three days there but there’s always more to do; in fact I’d love to move there for at least a year after I’ve graduated.
Must do in Paris: Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower; even though I’d visited Paris before with my parents we hadn’t planned well and the enormous queues meant we could go up. This time I woke up early; got there before it opened and it was totally worth it. Visit the Musee d’Orsay and the Louvre; I’ve discovered I’m a huge fan of Degas since seeing so much of his work at the Orsay. The Place des Vosges is also a great place to go and soak up some sunshine and visit all the independent boutiques.
Top tip: If you’re aged 18-25 and an EU student you get free access to the Louvre, Orsay, the top of the Arc de Triomphe and many more places so take some ID out with you, either a passport or drivers’ licence.