Early August this year (2016), my friend and I travelled through five cities in Europe within 14 days. In this itinerary, you’ll find the list of places that we went along with a few handy tips. If you’re looking for a basic itinerary for a (not-much-of-a-budget) trip in Europe, then you have found one of them!
Day One: Guten tag, Berlin! ??
We set Berlin as our first destination as it was one of the cheapest entry prices into Europe via flight. Honestly, we didn’t expect much from this city but it had so much to offer and we didn’t manage to enjoy all of them!
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- Begin your trip with a visit to the Berlin Wall Memorial. There, you will find interactive exhibits that tell and shows you the history of the Berlin Wall.
#HHWT Tip: Take time to walk around the Nordbahnhof station as they have a mini exhibition on Border Stations and Ghost Stations in DividedBerlin.
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- Next, we move on to Checkpoint Charlie, where it was once the dividing point between East and West Berlin.
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If you happen to in Berlin on a Tuesday, the Berlin Philharmonic holds a free concert at the Philharmonic Foyer starting at 1 PM. Do make your way down earlier if you plan to attend the lunchtime concert as it is usually packed!
- Also, the concert is only held during certain seasons so check their schedule first!
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- Walk over to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, built to remember the unfortunate deaths of the Jewish people during World War 2.
- Pay a visit to the Visitor Information Centre near the Memorial to further discover the history behind the Memorial free of charge.
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- Spend some time at the Brandenburg Gate, which is a must-visit in Berlin at both daytime and nighttime.
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- Continue your trip by visiting the Reichstag, a part Parliamentary building. The main attraction is the dome on the building where visitors are able to get a 360º view of surrounding buildings.
- After spending a few hours walking around, spread your picnic mat and rest your legs at the Platz der Republik, just in front of the Reichstag.
- Have your late lunch at the Döner Kebap, just outside the Friedrichstraße Station.
Day Two: The other side of Berlin
- One of the best ways to drink in the transformation of a painful part of Berlin history into a more vibrant present is to visit the East Side Gallery.
#HHWT Tip: Get an irreplaceable souvenir by decorating your actual passport with entrance stamps to West Berlin for €4,00!
- In Ostkreuz station, there is a McDonalds where you can get a filet-o-fish, or even better, there is a halal restaurant just beside the ticketing area.
- If you’re coming from Warschauer Strauße station, take a 10-minute walk towards your right to the Pizzeria Alte Forno. The restaurant serves Italian food such as pizza and pasta at a reasonable price.
HHWT Tip: On the way to Pizzeria Alte Forno or at anywhere else in Berlin, you’ll pass by a Photoautomat, which is a vintage automated photo booth that takes a 4-frame, black-and-white photo for €2,00.
- Purchase a unique souvenir from Hard Rock Café Berlin or from the Ampelmann Café
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- Then, head to one of the most visited squares in Berlin’s Mitte district - Alexanderplatz. One of its biggest attraction is the World Time Clock which shows the accurate time of all the countries in the world.
- If you have sufficient budget: Ride 203m above Berlin and view the city from Berliner Fernsehturm (TV Tower). For the best views of the city, you need to at least spend €13,00 for a standard ticket.
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- The Berliner Dom is the largest church in the city and serves the Protestant church of Germany. With a grand exterior and an even more breathtaking interior, it’s definitely an attraction that you should not miss. You can even climb up to take in the sights from on top of the Cathedral.
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- Spend a few hours at the Museum Island, which is just across the Berliner Dom. The Island is dubbed as a UNESCO World Heritage and consists of five different museums.
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- Spend the rest of your day strolling through Tiergarten Park. Tiergarten was previously a hunting ground, so there’s no telling how long you’ll take to cover everything.
Day Three: Hola, Colourful Barcelona! ??
Ahh, the land of tapas, flamenco, and Antoni Gaudi. To be frank, I was most excited to visit Barcelona due to the favourable reviews I’ve had heard about the flamboyant architecture and cheap, tasty tapas.
Olé olé olé Barcelona FC! (45 mins – 1 ½ hours)
- We began our trip in Barcelona with a visit to Camp Nou, home of the Barcelona FC.
- Fans of the team can pay for a tour inside the stadium, or if you’re just interested in buying their merchandise, there’s a three-floor shop dedicated to serving visitors.
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- Basilica La Sagrada Familia is one of Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece. The temple has been in construction even before the architect took over in 1873, and is expected to finish in 20 years time.
#HHWT Tip:Purchase the tickets ahead from their online store to avoid lining up at the site. If you’re between 11 – 30 years old, spare your wallet by visiting the Basilica on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays as they have a 50% discount on tickets from 6.00PM until closing.
- A must visit for us, the Hard Rock Café Barcelonais situated at the starting point of La Rambla, a long stretch of concrete in between roads that makes for an interesting night walk.
- After sundown, La Rambla has a vibrant feel to it with the street performers and various dining places down the street although visitors are advised against dining at any of the roadside restaurants as most are tourist traps.
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#HHWT Tip: For satisfying tapas, try to venture further into the alleyways at the side of La Rambla. Do not venture alone though!
Day Four: Falling Further in ❤ with Antoni Gaudi
- Although Basilica La Sagrada Familia is cheaper in the evening, in order to capture the exquisite façade and other breathtaking details on the surface of the temple you have to come in the morning where the light hits the masterpiece just right.
#HHWT Tip: To take a full photo of the Basilica, go around Plaza de Gaudi, which is just in front of the Basilica, and capture the building across the small pond in the Plaza.
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- Continue your Gaudi appreciation by visiting La Pedrera - Casa Milà, a house along Passeig de Gracia which Gaudi was commissioned to build by Pere Milà.
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- While making your way from Casa Milà to Casa Batlló, take your time window shopping high-end brands along Passeig de Gracia!
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- Spend a few hours exploring the beautiful Casa Batlló, an actual residential house designed by Gaudì for the Batlló family with a bone-like exterior.
- End your day with a stroll along Port Vell, where you can find various attractions nearby, for example, The Christopher Columbus Monument, L’Aquàrium de Barcelona, and Museu d’Història de Catalunya.
- As for dinner, La Bombetaserves great tapas in a small restaurant.
- Alternatively, you can dine at Restaurante Siempreviva, and order garlic shrimp and seafood spread for two.
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- End your day by treating your eyes and ears to the magical light and water show at Font Magica.
Day Five: Time to Say Adéu
- Start your day with a short hike to Park Güell, another site Gaudì was commissioned to work on by Eusebi Güell for an estate of well-off families. Situated on top of Carmel Hill, visitors are treated to a magnificent view of Barcelona amidst colourful mosaics.
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- For brunch, visit Mercado de Sant Josep La Boqueria. For hungry travellers, they have tapas bars towards the back of the market. I’d suggest trying one of their fresh fruit juices that cost €2 a cup.
- If you’re famished, try the seafood paella at a stall located behind the market for €10 a serving.
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- Walk off your lunch as you head to the Catedral de Barcelonafor walkthrough Gothic architecture. Nearby the Catedral, spot the BARCINO letter structures and snap a selfie with them!
#HHWT Tip: Plan your visit to the Catedral before 12.45PM and after 5.45PM to enter free!
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Slip through the alley and you will see a beautiful pink building - Palau de la Música Catalena. The interior of the concert hall is absolutely stunning. It is very different from the usual design of musical halls.
#HHWT Tip: As souvenirs in Barcelona don’t usually go lower than €3 each, there are stalls around the Palau that sells keychains and magnets at €5 for 3, with considerable lower quality.
Day Six: Ciao, Roma! ??
Rome, where our whirlwind of adventures in Italy begins with a daily gelato fix. Be sure to secure your accommodation within the city centre as Rome doesn’t have a lot of prayer spaces and there aren’t many shops you could duck in to borrow their changing rooms.
#HHWT Tip: Most museums and restaurants close on Monday, while shops tend to rest on Sundays.
Lunch and Prayer at Roma Termini (1 hour)
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- Wherever you’re staying, you’ll find yourself at the termini at one point. Just outside of the Termini, there are a few halal restaurants with a decent menu of pizzas and biryani as well as prayer spaces. To use the prayer space, just ask the servers.
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- Walk through the romantic alleyways of Rome and take a seat at the Spanish Steps. The 135 steps were made famous by world-renowned actress Audrey Hepburn when she sat down and elegantly enjoyed her gelato in the movie Roman Holiday.
- Instead of a gelato, enjoy an alcohol-free tiramisu from Pompifor €4.50. Try the strawberry tiramisu!
- Do not leave Rome until you’ve visited the 2000-year-old Colosseum! Opt for a special tour around the Colosseum, the Third Ring and the Dungeon.
- Plan your visits for the first Sunday of the month as visitors enter free on the day.
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- Finally, finish your day with a sweet cone of gelato from La Dolce Vitafor €2.00 each.
Day Seven: Discovering the Magic of Roman Streets
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- Make a wish at Trevi Fountain whilst trying to fight other tourists for a decent picture at the fountain.
- After you’re done with the photo, make your way through the alley to find the Pantheon - a historical monument you’ve only been able to see in your history textbooks. Entrance to the Pantheon is free but make sure to keep silent.
- On Sundays, the line to the Pantheon can crowd the plaza, so take your time by trying the melon-flavoured gelato from Ciuculla.
- Walking through Rome, you’ll always find your way to Piazza Venezia, situated at the heart of the ancient city. Stop for a while and take gorgeous pictures at the Piazza full of grandeur.
- Make use of your two-day Colosseum ticket by paying a visit to the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill in two different days.
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- The Palatine Hillis said to be the origin of Rome, and that original Romans had lived on the hill. Meanwhile, the Roman Forum is the ruins of ancient government buildings. Standing amongst all the relics, you wouldn’t believe that you’re in the 21st century!
Day Eight: Of Blessings and Peach Gelato
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- Take your time at Vatican City, a city known as the smallest country in the world, roughly the size of a football field. Although the Vatican City is considered a small country, there is plenty to explore - from the Sistine Chapel to the Vatican Museum, and Vatican Garden (paid attractions). Free attractions include St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter’s Basilica.
#HHWT Tip: On the last Sunday of the month, the Vatican museums offer free entrance. Meanwhile, the Pope holds his General Audience on Wednesday, so perhaps the museums wouldn’t be so crowded then.
- Taste the best peach-flavoured gelato at the Frigidarium and enjoy your treats whilst sitting at Piazza Navona.
Day Nine: To the Home of Renaissance Art - Florence
- Buy your tickets from Trenitalia and ride all the way to Florence. Tickets can be as cheap as €24 and the journey will take around 4 – 5 hours.
- When we arrived in Florence, it was late afternoon so we decided to just walk around the city centre. We started from the Firenze Santa Maria Novella (or Piazza Stazione) and passed by the Church of Santa Maria Novella.
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- Santa Maria Novella is one of the most important Gothic churches in Tuscany. We were mostly attracted to the unique design on the main entrance.
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- Next, we walked towards the Piazza Del Duomo. Within the Piazza, there is the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, Giotto’s Bell Tower, Baptistery of St. John, and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. If you’re here in the morning, you’ll see a long line around the Cathedral with visitors eager to enter.
- Saving the visit to the Cathedral for the next day, we walked past Piazza Della Repubblica
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- We made our detour to Hard Rock Café Florence, which was nearby Piazza Della Repubblica.
- From there, we decided to make our way to Piazzale Michelangelo just before the sun sets, for a panoramic view of the city’s silhouette.
- End your day with a three-flavour gelato from Gelateria Cavini.
Day Ten: Exploring the Art in Florence
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- Line up at Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore to enter the cathedral for free. But you can also buy tickets to climb up the Dome, and the Bell Tower, which has 463 steps and 414 steps respectively (whew!).
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- Stroll around Piazza Della Signora, which was formerly the pinnacle of Florence’s political scene in the 14th century, where gatherings were usually held at and where rulers address their citizens.
#HHWT Tip: Fashion fanatics, prepare yourselves to visit the Gucci Museum at the Piazza!
- Walk among masterpieces at Galleria degli Uffizi. The Galleria houses an unbelievable amount of artworks from various artists such as Botticelli, Caravaggio, and Leonardo da Vinci.
#HHWT Tip: Galleria degli Uffizi, as other museums in Florence, offers free entrance on first Sunday of the month.
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- Visit the historical Ponte Vecchio for the splendid view of the Arno River in mid-afternoon. The bridge itself is flanked with shops selling gold, brooches and watches for those looking for an expensive gift.
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Say ‘Hi’ to David, Michelangelo’s most prominent sculpture at Galleria dell’Accademia. Due to its proportions and lifelike details, visitors come all over the world to awe at the statue (whilst nonchalantly glancing over his lower part).
- Try a Sicilian-style gelato at Carabe, which is just a few steps away from the Galleria.
- Enjoy the taste of Florentine pizza at Fuoco Matto, where the pizza is said to be the best. Although not certified halal, the majority of their pizza toppings are suitable for vegetarians.
Day Eleven: Such a Good Day for Day Trips
Have a Picnic at Pisa (2-3 hours/ ½ day)
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- Set yourself straight with a visit to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It’s one of the magnificent buildings within Piazza Dei Miracoli, which translates to Square of Miracles and consists of the four religious structures, which are the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistery, the Campanile, and the Monumental Cemetery.
#HHWT Tip: Even though it receives many visitors, the Piazza is not overcrowded so pack a picnic blanket and spend a few hours here. You could even pray in the open and no one would so much blink at you.
Or visit All Five Villages of Cinque Terre (1/2 or 1 day)
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- The colourful coastal villages of Cinque Terre is every wanderlust’s dream. What is not to love? You have the vibrant hues of the buildings, and then there’s the beach coupled with summer’s naked sun, and you have your perfect holiday.
- Cinque Terre comprises the fishing villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza, Corniglia, and Monterosso al Mare. It will take you at least half a day to explore these quaint villages.
Day Twelve: Glide through the canals in Venice
The small island of Venice is jam-packed with culture and gorgeous architecture. Not to mention the romantic canals and exquisite festival masks. Venice certainly did not disappoint as our last stop.
- Like Rome, the beauty in Venice is best discovered on foot. Alleyways with shops selling intricately designed masks, smaller bridges over narrow canals; if you go by too fast, you just might miss these beautiful sights.
- We began our trip from the Venezia Santa Lucia Station, immediately coming across one of the three bridges crossing the Grand Canale: Ponte degli Scalzi.
- After taking a few pictures, we walked through Lista di Spagna where there was a lot of halal restaurants for those looking for something to start their day.
- Our next aim was the Rialto Bridge, so we just followed the signs and continue to walk along the streets that are occupied with shops selling intricate hand-made masks. We couldn’t resist and bought one (€6.99) from the first shop.
- Craving for a light snack, we stopped at Fried Land, an obscure shop selling mainly fried seafood and pasta dishes for cheap.
- We then walked up the second bridge crossing the Grand Canale: Rialto Bridge. With the crowd on, and around the bridge, it is undoubtedly a visitor favourite. Around the bridge, there are typical stores you’d find in a shopping mall.
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- Next stop: Basilica San Marco. Heading towards the Basilica, you’ll pass by brand shops such as Tods and Gucci. Then, you’ll first arrive at the vast Piazza San Marco.
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Take advantage of the free entrance to the Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica San Marco.
- By late evening, we doubled back to the Stazione. On the way, we had dinner at SKK Restaurant. The restaurant is certified halal and serves mostly halal food.
Whew! That’s two weeks in Europe done. I hope that this itinerary plays as a useful guide for those of you looking forward to visiting the countries we visited. We didn’t manage to do much and made tonnes of mistakes along the way but it was an adventure in our 20s that we could never forget. Now it’s time to go to an adventure of your own!☺️