By Andy Steves
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Andy Steves’ travel guide picks up where crowdsourcing leaves off, covering the skills you need for spur-of-the-moment trips to Europe’s top destinations.
Follow strategic, three-day itineraries for exploring each city. Learn which cities match your interests and which can be easily combined for a longer trip, including itineraries for Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Dublin, Edinburgh, Florence, London, Madrid, Paris, Prague, Rome, and Venice.
See iconic sights. Check the Eiffel Tower, the London Eye, and the Colosseum off your bucket list, and use Andy’s tips to save time and skip lines.
Hit the local hot spots. Chill at Amsterdam’s coffee shops, study mixology at London’s speakeasies, and bust moves at Barcelona’s beach clubs.
Enjoy the best (and cheapest) local cuisine. Graze at boulangeries in Paris, pubs in Dublin, and aperitivobars in Rome.
Become a temporary local. Engage with the culture to enjoy authentic, unforgettable experiences.
Master digital travel. Make the most of your money in Europe with apps and other digital resources.
Connect with other travelers. Head to the most popular hostels for a ready-made, real-life social network.
Enjoy handy tools at your fingertips, with full-color photos and detailed, helpful maps throughout.
Whether you’re studying abroad or just looking to explore Europe without breaking the bank, Andy Steves’ Europe will have you city-hopping like a pro.
Modern travelers have the world at their fingertips thanks to mobile technology. Budget airlines and online resources have turned backpackers into shrewd precision travelers, city-hopping across Europe at the spur of the moment. We’re visiting cities rather than countries, and packing incredible adventures into increasingly shorter time slots. This book leverages all the tools at your disposal today—tech, on-the-ground resources, and my many local friends—to help you maximize your time, money, and fun in Europe’s top destinations.
MY TRAVEL PHILOSOPHY
Good travel is all about two things: bringing the right mindset to embrace the unexpected and sorting out the practical logistics. The second part of that equation is what the rest of this book is all about—the logistics of getting from A to B in the most time-efficient and cost-effective way, and having a blast while you’re there. I’ll be with you every step of the way!
But your mindset is just as important. We live in a complex world, with many different points of view swirling around us in more media formats and screens than ever before. Technology is accelerating progress around the globe, and world cultures and economies are changing at a rapid rate. It’s never been more important to understand and connect with people from other cultures. The lower to the ground you travel, the more you embrace each fascinating destination and the more likely you are to have life-changing experiences.
Connect with the Culture
In all my years of travel, the most memorable experiences and my most fond memories are ones I’ve collected with the new friends and connections I’ve made on the road. If you’ve never traveled or studied outside the country, being somewhere completely different can be nerve-racking. People, food, language…even the laws will be different than what you’re used to. The resulting anxiety can lead you to trap yourself inside your “Comfort Bubble.”
The Comfort Bubble is that safe group of familiar friends you meet abroad. They listen to the same music as you do, eat the same food, take the same classes, and are easy to relate to. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy meeting compatriots while traveling. However, if at the end of your time abroad, the only new friends you made are English speakers, you may need to reevaluate why you’re traveling in the first place.
Don’t let the Comfort Bubble prevent you from experiencing Europe to the fullest. Break free and immerse yourself in something new. Dive into a local festival, sample strange food, flirt with that cute French guy (or girl). You’ll make memories that will ultimately make you a better, more worldly human being.
In my experience, simply saying “yes” to things I haven’t tried before is the most direct route to creating unforgettable memories. Of course, some lines should never be crossed, but in general, being a yes-man or yes-woman for the day (or night) can be really fun. You have a chance to catch a fútbol match in Madrid? Say yes! Never tried smoked herring? Gulp it down in Amsterdam. Do as the Berliners do and stay out till sunrise. Expose yourself to new experiences. You won’t regret it.
Take every opportunity to learn something new about each place you visit. Ask locals where they go on a Saturday night. Ask them about their political climate or discuss American politics. Ask them about their unique national holidays or about some other facet of their culture. They’ll appreciate your interest, and they are sure to have questions for you as well—Lord knows we’ve got a lot to talk about.
When it comes to making conversation, don’t ask where someone is from without a follow-up ready to go (without it the conversation will be short lived). Instead, have a lineup of compelling opening questions to ask those sitting next to you on the train or at the bar. Some suggestions:
• Where are you headed next? What is there to do there?
• Where else should I travel?
• I really like X. Where should I go to experience that?
As this book was nearing completion, terrorism in Europe once again dominated the headlines. Terrorism has become an unavoidable fact of life. Though media coverage of these events makes it seem as though the world is rapidly going to hell in a handbasket, rest assured that Europe is a safe place for travelers (Western or otherwise). If you’re anxious about terrorist attacks in Europe, take a deep breath and try to place the risk in perspective. The chances of your being affected directly are astronomically minuscule—you can look it up—and as every European understands, the best way to counter terrorism is by refusing to be terrorized.
We travel to faraway cities because of their romantic and pristine charm. Adopt local habits and customs to preserve the fragile beauty that attracted you to Europe in the first place.
Europe has been quick to understand the threat of climate change, embracing ambitious initiatives to minimize cities’ and people’s carbon footprints. You can help. Use public transit or walk. Avoid waste. Remember that electricity and energy are closely monitored and optimized for your use. Support locally owned and operated businesses. Give back as much as you gain from your travel experience so that the local communities you visit can thrive.
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Who Is Andy Steves?
I grew up traveling with my father, travel guru Rick Steves—you may have read his books, seen his TV show, listened to his radio specials, or even taken one of his tours. From infancy through high school, I spent weeks each summer with my family in Europe learning the ins and outs of budget travel.
My approach to travel fuses my father’s love of culture with all the tools available today thanks to modern technology. Through college, I worked as a tour guide for Rick Steves’ Europe. While studying abroad in Rome in 2008, I started organizing trips for my friends each weekend, leading groups of 5-10 fellow students. By the end of the semester, these groups had swelled to more than 30 people, and that’s when I recognized a need.
Upon returning home, I began formulating ideas for tips and trips designed specifically for budget travelers and students abroad in Europe. That led to Weekend Student Adventures (wsaeurope.com)—a business concept that won the University of Notre Dame’s entrepreneurship competition in 2010 and led to an appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank in 2014. WSA Europe now leads thousands of students and budget travelers on affordable, local tour experiences in thirteen cities over 3- to 12-day packages. The tours I designed and refined for my company provided the foundation for each city chapter in this book.
Andy Steves Travel Podcast
Check out my podcast, available in iTunes, for fun and easy on-the-go listening. I connect with international friends, travel entrepreneurs, and digital nomads to share a wide range of practical tips, interesting stories, and funny situations you can only encounter while on the road.
AndySteves.com & Social Media
Find my locally guided tours, DIY Detours, a travel store, additional travel recommendations, and more at AndySteves.com. Check it out and follow us on social media: @AndyStevesTravel.
How to Use this Book
Each of the book’s chapters starts with important background information and recommendations for which sights and activities will need reservations ahead of time. Following this is a detailed three-day itinerary—one that groups your most popular sightseeing options in a way that makes geographical sense. Bolded points of interest are described in greater length later in the chapter. These itineraries are based on my extensive experience as a tour guide, but they are by no means the only way to see the city. Use the itineraries as a skeleton of sorts, seeing the places that sound interesting to you and replacing the ones that don’t with any of the other recommended sights.
After the itinerary are descriptions of the top neighborhoods in each city. Then you’ll find my recommendations for sights, food, nightlife, shopping (including markets), recreation (including parks), tours, and hostels. After that are transportation tips, then a section on day-trip destinations close to each city, and, finally, emergency information.
For brevity’s sake, this book doesn’t recommend everything you’ll find to do in each city. An exhaustive list for any of these cities might run into multiple volumes, but there’s enough in these pages to keep even the most ambitious traveler occupied for a week or more.
LET’S GET STARTED
Think of your trip as one big piece of artwork: Start with the outline, then fill in the finer shading and details. Your outline will consist of the following:
• Where you want to go. The longer this list, the less time you’ll have in each city, so trim as much as possible off the top.
• How much time you have. It’s worth asking yourself from the outset how much time you’re willing to spend in transit.
• What your budget—daily and total—will be. Start with a budget of $1,200 for the flights to and from Europe.
• What you want to do and see. What are your priorities—sightseeing, music, culture, architecture, nightlife, or a mixture of all of the above?
Decide Where to Go
If you have three weeks or less and want to hit a wide range of European destinations (this is the starting point for most travelers), you’ll have to decide which cities you’ll visit and which you’ll miss. Let’s say that eight of the cities in this book sound like must-sees for you—eight cities in 21 days means you’ll be in transit for more than a third of your trip. You’ll barely have a chance to catch your breath before you’re packing your bags again. For this reason, I recommend no more than six cities for a three-week European trip. You might want to group these cities geographically, or you might want to select based on the price of flights or accommodations.
Also consider the similarity of experiences in each city. For example, London, Dublin, and Edinburgh have a good deal in common, as do Barcelona and Madrid, Florence and Rome, and Budapest and Prague. For a varied and perspective-shifting experience of Europe, mix east and west, north and south, English-speaking and non-English-speaking destinations.
If you’re studying abroad and will be taking multiple trips throughout your school semester, map out when to go based on each destination. Go to the beach cities (like Barcelona) when it’s warmer, visit active or pedestrian cities (like Prague) before it gets too cold, and save “museum” cities (like Berlin) for the winter.
Plan Your Route
With a manageable list of cities, it’s time to consider how to get from A to B to C. Trains, buses, and planes are generally your best (i.e., quickest and cheapest) options. If you’re on a tight budget, book transportation ahead of time, as prices can climb the closer you get to your travel date. For tips on choosing the best mode of transit, along with step-by-step instructions on booking your transportation between cities, see here.
Links: Try Google Flights, skyscanner.com, kayak.com, cheapoair.com, momondo.com for flights; sbb.ch for train travel; eurolines.com, orangeways.com, berlinlinienbus.de, renfe.com, and studentagencybus.com for bus travel; carpooling.co.uk for ride sharing.
Apps: For a list of helpful transportation apps, see here.
Decide Where to Sleep
Travelers often ask me whether they should book all of their accommodations ahead of time. It’s a question of what you prefer: do you want value or flexibility? You’ll save money by booking early, but spontaneity will be impossible (or at least costly). For extremely tight budgets, book accommodations as far in advance as possible. For more tips on booking accommodations, see here.
If you do book in advance, go the extra mile and find out how to get to your hostel before you leave for your trip. Nothing is worse than arriving in a foreign city with a heavy backpack and not knowing where to go. Have the location saved on your phone and keep the battery charged.
Hostels provide fun, social atmospheres and cheap prices for solo travelers, but quality sleep is harder to come by. Airbnb often offers great value for couples or groups of friends to stay in private apartments. If traveling in a group of friends, compare the total cost you’ll pay at my recommended hostels with a private apartment nearby and make your decision from there. Note that “charming,” “cozy,” and “intimate” often mean “tiny.”
A note on bedbugs: You can catch a bout of bedbugs anywhere, from a dank hostel to a five-star hotel. All it takes is a fellow traveler to pack a family in on their backpack. Hostels are more predisposed to bedbugs simply because they have a higher volume of individuals passing through. Hostels with wooden—as opposed to metal-framed—bunks are more susceptible to bedbug problems.
Links: Use hostelworld.com or airbnb.com and their respective apps.
Calibrate Your Budget
Know roughly how much your trip is going to cost before jumping in headfirst. How much for a meal? How much for a typical night out including drinks? How much for that famous museum? Each of the chapters starts with a number of budget-calibrating tips that will help you remove some of the budgeting guesswork.
Credit cards are widely accepted across Europe. Visa tends to be more common than Mastercard, and it’s difficult to find anyone who takes American Express. The more secure chip-and-pin system is ubiquitous in Europe, but swipe cards will work just about everywhere. It’s worth asking your bank to issue a chip-and-pin card ahead of time. Cash is often preferred in southern European countries like Italy and Spain. You may encounter minimums (around €10) set by merchants to use a card.
Warning: The Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) is a “service” offered at many European ATMs and payment terminals, which will give you the option of paying in your home currency (USD). At first blush, this may seem like a good idea, but don’t be fooled. The exchange rate plummets and you’re charged a commission of 3.5 percent. Your bank conversion rate is much fairer. Always decline and pay in the local currency. If you’re not given an option to decline, cancel the transaction and have them run it again in the local currency.
Apps: Use the XE Currency app to keep track of fluctuating conversion rates and the Mint.com app to balance your budget.
Plan for Precision Sightseeing
Make a list of the top 3-5 things you want to see in each city, and make reservations online to save yourself hours in line. At the beginning of each chapter, you’ll find a list of sights that you should reserve in advance. A word to the wise: see less rather than more. Immerse yourself in the history and culture rather than just snapping a quick selfie and moving on.
ON-THE-GROUND TRAVEL TIPS
Multiple free English-speaking walking tours are offered every day in every major city in Europe. They act as feeders into the companies’ paid, smaller group tours like Street Art Tours in Berlin or Red Light Walks in Amsterdam. Payment for the free tours isn’t mandatory, but in many cases the guide pays the operator a 3- to 5-euro commission per person and keeps whatever is left—if you stiff them, you are effectively making them pay to give you a free tour. Tip your guides generously!
If traveling with a group of friends, a private professional guide is nearly always a great investment. They can tailor their tour to your preferences, and they can often point you in the direction of local dining or nightlife hot spots. My favorite private tour operators are listed in each chapter.
If you’re a competent cyclist, renting a bike dramatically changes how accessible each city becomes. Biking in Europe is not the same as biking in the United States, so wait to rent a bike until you’ve got your bearings and have observed how traffic flows. You’ll find recommended bike rental and tour options in each chapter. Donkey Republic is an international Airbnb-style bike rental option that, via an easy-to-use app, allows you to rent a local’s bike for the duration of your stay. Check them out at donkey.bike.
Carry a Map
Getting lost in foreign cities can be fun, but it’s always nice to know the way back home. Always carry a map, and take time to look up from it every once in a while to orient yourself. When asking around for recommendations, having a map gives you a way to take notes and makes it easy for non-English speakers to point you in the right direction. I take my first morning in town to study up on my favorite sights and mark them on the map, planning a convenient route between them (this has been done for you in the three-day itineraries).
Flash Your Student ID
Some cities, such as Madrid, offer students with a valid student ID free or discounted admission to museums and other attractions. It’s always worth checking when booking ahead or buying tickets.
Customize Your Experience
Whether it’s sporting matches, concerts, or film festivals, it’s worth researching what’s going on in each city during your visit. I’m always on the lookout for concerts, sailing, and cycling races, so whenever I’m planning a trip, I check online to see what’s happening in Europe during my stay. If I’m in France in July, I make a point to catch a stage of the Tour de France. The summer is concert festival time all over the continent, so I check the concert programs early. If I’m in town for the spring, I plan to take a friend sailing for an afternoon on one of the lakes outside of Berlin. Chase your passion all over the continent.
Ready to hit the road? Read on!
Bon voyage, buon viaggio, and gute Fahrt!
Three Day Itinerary
Top Shopping & Markets
Top Parks & Recreation
London, a world leader in style, design, art, finance, politics, and pageantry, is the epicenter of modern Western culture. Having rebounded after fighting tooth and nail against the devastating German Blitz in World War II, it’s now one of the world’s most strikingly modern capitals. London proudly offers some of the world’s best museums (most of which are free!), nightlife ranging from classic pubs to trendsetting clubs, and probably the best chicken tikka masala outside India. Get ready for a good time, because, as the Clash so famously put it, London’s calling.
London was founded as a far-flung outpost of the Roman Empire nearly 2,000 years ago. Its strategic location on the River Thames put it squarely on the route leading from Britannia to Europe. The city grew in both size and importance, and by the end of the 11th century landmarks such as the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey were already part of the city’s skyline.
"From Amsterdam to Venice, the must-see sights are described and travel tips abound, with an emphasis on stretching the travel dollar. Yet there's no skimping on insider know-how about bars, cafes and places to stay."
—Society of American Travel Writers Foundation
- On Sale
- Apr 3, 2018
- Page Count
- 376 pages
- Rick Steves