By Kailee Madden
Before beginning my semester abroad at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, I took two weeks to travel around other areas of Europe. This whirlwind of a trip brought me from the city of Prague in the Czech Republic, through central Europe and Italy, and finally to Geneva, Switzerland.
Hitting up 7 cities during the course of 15 days and nights was exhilarating and absolutely exhausting. We walked over 160 miles, for an average of 10.7 miles a day. After the first two days in Prague, it became a running joke throughout the trip that we should aim to complete a marathon in each city. Luckily, with a pair of good walking shoes on my feet, I was quite content to explore each city on foot. By the time we reached Geneva, and decided to go hiking in the Swiss Alps (technically we even crossed into France!), we were so steady on our feet that the hike seemed almost too easy – although I suppose the fact that we had to climb up a mountain did make it slightly more difficult than our everyday city walks.
While I may have only spent a couple days in each place, I learned a lot. Below I include my top tips for each city:
Prague, The Czech Republic
- Beware of tourists – this city is best done at the beginning of a trip before you’ve gotten used to travelling and exploring, it is a nice introduction to the travel scene in that you can literally just follow the hoards of tourists to find where you’d like to be.
- Two days is plenty of time to cover all the important parts of the city and to get a feel for the culture.
- Spend more time than you might anticipate at the Schönbrunn Palace – the gardens are quite extensive and well worth exploring. To get inside you must buy a ticket for an audio tour, which is worth it if you enjoy history or seeing fancily furnished rooms.
- There is a huge amount to do here, spend multiple days if possible, and be prepared to go away not having done nearly as much as you would have liked.
- Go to the Military History Museum – it is not expensive, and you can see the car where Franz Ferdinand was shot.
Above: Another famous palace in Austria, the Belvedere Palace
- Do Buda one day and do Pest the other – they are separate sides of the river, both have unique views and monuments to visit.
- Do not let rain hinder you! Some of our group turned back because of the rain, however, so did many other tourists, meaning the city was less crowded and very beautiful in a grey sort of way.
Above: Enjoying the rain in Hero’s Square
- A lot. Every street is filled with white marble buildings, ruins, churches, and gelato. If you have a destination half a mile away, you’re sure to see at least five important sites on your way, that otherwise, you may not have known to stop by and see.
- Be prepared for heat – this was by far the hottest city we visited even though people there said it was not bad by their standards.
- You could spend a month here and it wouldn’t be enough time, so be prepared to leave while still feeling like there are lots you haven’t done.
- Buy tickets online – this saves hours that would otherwise be spent in ticket queues; it is well worth the extra 4 euro. There is no need to buy a ticket for a tour unless you enjoy tours because buying online will save you just as much time and more money.
- Make sure to cover your shoulders and knees every day, there will be plenty of places that require this and if you happen upon a snazzy cathedral or such, it would be a shame to not be allowed in.
- The best view in the city is from Piazzale Michelangelo Square – don’t miss out on these panoramic views.
- The Uffizi Gallery is quite extensive and well worth a visit, to ensure that you allow ample time if you have an appreciation for art.
- The vibe of this city is very relaxed and artsy. Try to lean into that by visiting the art museums, but also by giving ample time to sit, eat gelato, and listen to street performers.
Above: Looking down the Arno River in Florence
- Walk to the Punta della Dogana, a triangular area of Venice where the Grand Canal meets the Giudecca Canal, and one of the best views in Venice. On your way, get lost, purposefully or not, a few times. A couple extra circles never hurt anyone.
- Gelato here is delicious, as it is everywhere else in Italy, but it is also slightly cheaper – this means you can justify eating extra!
- Go hiking! Or, if you can’t do the actual hike, take the tram up Mont Salève to snag some snazzy views of Geneva without all the extra labour.
- This city is expensive but you can make it work for you. Even though our hostel was the most expensive we stayed in, it provided a large free breakfast, and a free transportation card. This meant we could taxi across the lake (highly recommend!) and bus to our hike, as well as other tourist destinations without any extra cost.
- Spend a few days here – things are further apart than in some other European cities. We utilized our free transportation card to the full extent, hopping on buses all around the city, however, there is a limit to how much you can accomplish in two days, particularly, if you want to go hiking.
Above: Enjoying the views at the top of Mont Salève with the travel group