There you are: young, carefree and with a few weeks of holiday break to burn. If you listen closely you can hear Europe calling! Assuming you already have your passport, you are off and running. The European Union is slowly pulling in all the far corners of Western Europe and that means everyone is turning to an economy based on the euro-dollar. With a little pre-planning you can still travel all over, see plenty of sites and eat more than bread and wine.
In no particular order are the top five European hotspots for the 18-25 year old set (or anyone else who is into traveling light!).
First up is Prague, Czech Republic: Perhaps the most youth-oriented city I know of, Prague has captured its history like no other. Because Prague was basically left alone during WWII, it has in many ways remained the same for years and managed to preserve its beauty. Scattered throughout the city are pubs catering to young adults (18-25), trendy cafes, traditional restaurants, winding cobblestone pathways and romantic parks and gardens (where Europeans are not afraid to show PDA). So not to miss the hidden alleyways, revealing mystery and history, Prague is best experienced on foot. Check out the AC archives for other articles of mine on Prague or check out https://thepnw.co/
I personally feel that the “real” Prague is best discovered when the sun sets until about 3 or 4 in the morning. That’s when the jazz and blues bars come alive. But for more standard sightseeing, check out the following: the Hradèany Museum, Josefov (the Old Jewish Quarter), the Malá Strana district, Old Town Square and Petrin Hill. Check out www.prague.cz for all the information you could ever hope to find — and in English to boot!
Next up, lets jet over to London, England: The number one study abroad location for American students, England’s capital, London is a wonderful city full of exiting things to see and do. The best way to get around the city is by subway (or as they call it in England, “the underground”). From these underground stops you can usually walk to most of the area’s best attractions.
For a beautiful view of London, take a ride on the London Eye (an observation wheel). If you are into art, stop by the National Gallery or the Tate Modern. For history enthusiasts, the Tower of London never fails to impress. If you need a break from all that sightseeing, take a stroll in one of London’s many parks or visit a market. Portobello Road market is certainly worth a visit on Saturday.
One of the nicest aspects of London is that it has one of the least expensive international flights available for American students (not counting Canada). Travel websites www.statravel.com or www.studentuniverse.com usually offer the best prices, and provide spring break discounts as well when flying from the United States. If you’re already in Europe and country-hopping from place to place, consider www.Ryanair.com or similar no-frills airlines. (I flew from Southern Italy to London for 19 euro. Once in London however — get ready – student or not, because it is one very expensive place. In fact, London is the third most expensive city in the world, following Tokyo and Osaka, based on annual cost of living.
Far be it from me to tell you what to see or where to go. But the big ticket items in London include the following sites: the British Museum, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Camden Market and Covent Garden,
One of the most reliable sites to go to for information on London is www.visitlondon.com. I also recommend checking out an AC article I wrote on Youth Hostels.
Third on our list is reserved for Budapest, Hungary. Budapest boasts having the best nightlife in all of Europe. That’s debatable but certainly it’s a 24 hour town. The capital of Hungary, Budapest’s tradition and culture is still thriving. Although Westernization advancement is affecting the deep-rooted traditions, the beauty and ancient feel of the city will always set Budapest apart. The Danube River winds through the city center, providing great views from the many parks, hills and gardens. Budapest rests atop thermal hot springs and cool mineral springs, which creates opportunities to visit the many old-fashioned bathhouses and spas.
Notable sites include but aren’t limited to Castle Hill, City Park, Gellért Hill, Király Baths and the Magyar Állami Operaház (Opera House). Check out www.budapestinfo.hu/en for more information.
Next up is Amsterdam, Netherlands: It goes without saying that Amsterdam is known for its very unique and bizarre selection of museums and restaurant styles. The Red Light District also draws crowds of all kinds looking to discover the city’s exotic night life. Amsterdam is like no other city in Europe, with lots to do and experience, you don’t have go far to be entertained. Check out my AC article on Amsterdam for dos and don’t on visiting the Red Light District.
Tourists scatter throughout the cobbled streets during the summer months; yet the Dutch culture still remains predominant. Canals glide throughout the city, with lush parks and bicycle “owned” winding streets following beside. Voted by travelers as one of the hardest cities to leave, Amsterdam has maintained a very relaxed, laid-back atmosphere, which has proven ideal for backpackers.
Amsterdam is another city where life really begins after dark. But while you wait for the sun to set, you can visit the Begijnhof courtyard, take a boatride through the canals, ponder Vincent at the Van Gogh Museum, visit the Stedelijk Museum and the Southern Canal Belt. You can also tap into www.visitamsterdam.nl for more information.
Last but not least is Valencia, Spain. It may well beEurope’s best-kept secret, and with good reason: Valencia is on the southern Mediterranean coast, about two hours southeast of Madrid, Spain’s capital. Valencia is rapidly becoming a very popular student destination. The San Francisco-like city is safe, inexpensive and the night-life is varied and alive. Valencia feels young and vivacious and the locals are personable and friendly.
Similar to Prague, Valencia is best seen on foot. Aside from Barcelona, Valencia is the only Spanish city that has ferry access to the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Ibiza and Menorca) every day at 3 p.m. From the Valencian harbor, students can catch a four hour ferry to any of these popular spring break locations. Be prepared for lots of tourists. And don’t forget to check out the Tomato Festival better known as “La Tomatina” which takes place in August. Read all about it in my AC article.
The City of Arts and Sciences (Ciudad de Las Artes y Las Ciencias), Jardin Botanico (Botanical Garden), the Central Market, Fallas Museu, El Palmar and the Albufera of Valencia are but a few of the many places to see and enjoy.
For more information log on to www.turisvalencia.es or www.24-7valencia.com. And tell them Gary sent you.
One last note: a EuroRail pass is still a good way for students to travel, but these days there are so many inexpensive regional airlines jetting tourists back and forth, you can easily travel quicker and cheaper by air. Just a thought!
So there you have it! And you thought there’d be nothing for you to do during holiday break! Are you kidding? As a student, you have all of Europe at your beck and call – in fact the hardest thing may be going back to school!