Last summer, we had a once in a lifetime adventure backpacking across Europe. I think about the trip almost daily, what it felt like to be carefree and roaming through cities taking in all the things that were new and different and absolutely spectacular. I believe everyone needs to have an experience similar to it at least once in their lives–with nothing but what you can fit into the pack on your back. Everyone needs to have to spring to catch a train, have a run in with a pick-pocketer, sleep on a train, stay in a hostel, get lost in Paris, ride a bike down the hills of Ireland, have an inaccessible phone, and eat fresh food from the supermarket in Venice while sitting outside the supermarket while all the elderly people give you pointed looks all because you’re sitting on the ground in shorts that are perhaps too short and you haven’t showered in awhile because your room isn’t ready yet and you have nowhere else to go because your backpack is too cumbersome to carry around with you all over the city…It really is a beautiful image in hindsight, I swear. Take me back.
Here is a brief itinerary of the places we went–5 countries, but 8 cities. It could, of course, be easily modified to fit your journey’s needs. I’ve included a quick list of the things were able to accomplish each day so that you know what’s possible in such a short time!
ROME: 1 DAY
- We arrived in Rome from New York on a late Wednesday night and stayed overnight in a hostel in downtown, which if you’re only going to be in Rome for ONE day, it’s best that you stay downtown near everything.
- We spent the whole day roaming the city and saw the following: The Colosseum, The Roman Forum (photo below), The Palatine, and the Trevi Fountain–and the Tiber River, of course.
VENICE: 2 DAYS
- Late Thursday night, after we had roamed Rome all day long, we caught an overnight train to Venice and arrived early Friday morning.
- DAY 1: Honestly, Friday involved a lot of just roaming. We went into markets, bought gelato, rode the boat taxis everywhere–it was great. Oh, and we also went to Doge’s Palace, which was pretty cool.
- DAY 2: In addition to repeating much of what we did on Friday, on Saturday we went KAYAKING IN VENICE! I’ve never ridden a gondola, but if I ever go back to Venice (I will), then I’LL GO KAYAKING AGAIN. GO KAYAKING! It was absolutely incredible. There’s plenty of trips you can take. Google it. We found ours through Antlos. We also spent the afternoon swimming in the Adriatic Sea at the island of Lido (you can take a water taxi here and just keep walking until you reach the other side of the island–the beach). That evening, we bought fresh food and cheap wine (it’s almost all cheap) and cooked in our apartment. It was truly one of the best nights.
MARSEILLE: 1 DAY on a Train + 1 DAY in the City
- Sunday morning we roamed Venice one last time and then caught an 11-hour train ride to Marseille, France, so needless to say, we didn’t arrive in Marseille until late that night. We went straight to our AirBnB.
- Marseille was a city I had been dying to see ever since I saw photos of it online, but we didn’t do it justice in just one day. It definitely demands more time for exploration. However, I’m certainly glad we fit it in because that Monday was a relaxing day with incredible views. We went swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, lay out on the beach half the day, and climbed around the Calanques de Semena–photo below (There are many, many Calanques down around the coast, and I want to see them ALL! They are stunning, and there are many you can swim around).
PARIS: 2 DAYS
- That night we (barely) caught our last train to Paris; it was an overnight one, so we arrived in Paris Tuesday morning.
- DAY 1: Just as in Venice, we spent a lot of time on the first day simply roaming around and walking along the Seine River. We did, however, spend some time in the Musée d’Orsay. We also visited Notre Dame, but we didn’t arrive early enough to go up into the 2 towers (I believe they closed around 6:00). That night we bought some ingredients and wine again at the little supermarket down the street and cooked supper in our AirBnB!
- DAY 2: This day, Wednesday, was fairly busy. We went back to Notre Dame to climb up into the two towers (worth it!–photo below), climbed up the Arc de Triomphe, saw the Eiffel Tower twice, and wandered around the Louvre for awhile.
AMSTERDAM: 2 DAYS
- We actually took an hour long fight from Paris to Amsterdam on Thursday morning.
- DAY 1: We visited the Anne Frank House; it was definitely an eye-opening experience.
- DAY 2: We walked around Amsterdam’s world famous flower market, Bloemenmarkt, for quite some time on Friday. There was honestly not a ton of sightseeing that we did here. It was one of the more laid back parts of the journey where we walked around exploring the whole city and looked out over the canals.
LONDON: 2 DAYS
- We took another short flight from Amsterdam to London on Saturday morning.
- DAY 1: We visited the London Bridge and walked along the Thames River and across a few other bridges as well. Then we went to the movies just because 🙂
- DAY 2: Sunday was a full day. We awkwardly posed on Abbey Road, stood in awe as we watched the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, geeked out at the Tower of London (okay, maybe that was just me), also geeked out at King’s Cross Station, and wondrously beheld the stunning views from the London Eye that evening.
DUBLIN: 1 DAY
- We took another one hour flight Monday morning from London to Dublin and rented a car when we got there.
- I know there is much more to do in Dublin, but we were pretty tired on this day. We spent a significant amount of time at a pub called The Bleeding Horse, visited the Guinness Storehouse (the photo below, taken by one in our group, is from the top floor), and walked along the Sandymount Strand on the east coast.
LOUISBURGH: 2 DAYS
- We took our car and headed toward the West Coast Tuesday morning. These were by far some of our best, most relaxing days–a wonderful place to finalize our long journey.
- DAY 1: We spent a couple hours driving before we reached the Cliffs of Moher (photo below). I could have walked along through there all day, and I hope that one day I do! We also walked in and around the small Dunguaire Castle and stopped frequently in other places as well, including by a small waterfall. That evening we made it to our AirBnB, a small house on a very narrow road with sheep everywhere. Right down the road was a hotel called Ocean Lodge Killadoon, and if one walked a little further, there was the ocean. We ate dinner at the Lodge (all by ourselves–it was a secluded place!) and then spent some time exploring down by the ocean. We then went back to the Lodge and played darts until late into the night.
- DAY 2: We ate a nice Irish breakfast at the Lodge (they made it just for us!) Wednesday morning and then headed out to take a ferry boat to Clare Island–an extremely small island with not many tourists! When we arrived, we rented bicycles and just rode up and down hills–the ocean on our left and sheep on our right. We climbed to the top of a hill at some point and drank in the sight of the ocean again with no one else around. It was one of the most incredible sights I’ve ever experienced, and I’m devastated I couldn’t capture a photo that encapsulated its beauty.