Having already covered train and hotel bookings, I move to the more exciting part – a solo trip around Europe.
Europe is a sight to behold. Almost everywhere you look, there is something to capture. It has azure skyline, spotless roads and heritage buildings at every nook and cranny. One of the best ways to explore these are the Free Walking Tours, a popular tourist trend across Europe. A simple Google search would lead to you to these free walking tours in all the cities that you are visiting on your solo trip to Europe. There are many groups such as the United Europe Tours that organise these walking tours and take you around the important landmarks of the city, give you an overview of the history of the city/town, help you know the do’s and don’ts, must eat places etc.
Basically, all free walking tours start from one of the most popular spots in the a city, say for example the city centre, and then take you through all the places of touristic or historic importance. For Prague, we started at the Old Town Square, which also houses the iconic Astronomical Clock.
Europe is historically rich and has preserved its history really well despite the world wars. These walking tours are helpful in getting you familiarised with a new place, which is especially important when you are on a solo trip around Europe, giving you insights into the history of a place as well as avenues to interact with the natives. Though they are called free walking tours, you are expected to tip the guide at the end of the tour.
As I geared up to kickstart my explorations on this solo trip around Europe, the first thing that needed to be addressed was getting around any city. Every city has the option of a city card/city pass. For example, the Vienna City Pass/City Card is extremely popular. While a Pass may give to access to majority of attractions in a city, spending 50-odd Euros on a travel pass seems a bit impractical. You would not be able to cover everything that is listed there anyway. Almost all public attractions can be accessed by paying the entrance fee directly at the counter or you may just choose to go around a monument but not entering it. On the other hand, if you are in Budapest for three days, for example, you could buy a 72 hour all transport card with your Forex card directly at metro stations, bus stops. It is easy, affordable and gives you unlimited access to public transport. For everything else, there is Uber which is also pretty cheap. You would not be able to make call to the Uber driver from your matrix SIM. You have to largely depend upon the driver to arrive at your location, to which I have never been disappointed.
With these knitty-gritties taken care of, I now move on to some of the most spectacular destinations I explored on my solo trip around Europe:
In Vienna, the Schonbrunn Palace, Hofburg Palace, St. Stephan’s Cathedral, Belvedere Palace, Vienna State Opera, Naschmarkt, Albertina Art Museum, The Prater and the Ferris Wheel for a wonderful panoramic view of the city are absolute must see.
For Prague, check out the YouTube videos by Janek and Honza to plan your itinerary. I fully relied on them and it turned out to be an absolutely delightful experience.
The ruin bars and thermal baths in Budapest cannot be missed during your solo trip around Europe.
Also, Goulash and Svickova, the two most popular native dishes, in Prague and Budapest are a must try. Similarly, the pizzas at La Osterria Pizzeria at Salzburg are to die for. The Sacher Torte, a classic pastry with whipped cream and coffee, at the Sacher Cafe in Vienna was one of the most delectable delights I tasted on this solo trip around Europe. The apple strudel, demel pastry and wiener schnitzel are worth a try for a whole new taste palette they introduce you to. Vegans and vegetarians in the house must include a pit-stop at Lehka Lava and Maitreya at Prague. Both these places offer scrumptious vegetarian version of native dishes.
In Salzburg, do pay and take the tour of the Hohensalzburg Castle. They take you right on to the top most point of the castle that offers breathtaking view of the city of Salzburg. The Panorama tours and Lake District Tour also make for a mind-blowing experience. Few things during your solo trip in Europe can match the beauty of this experience. You can follow it up with some salt shopping from the salt mines of Austria.
Be mindful of where you exchange your money in Prague. It is safest to use the Forex card during your solo trip around Europe to avoid these exchange hassles. Pickpocketing is rampant in Prague, so keep an eye out on your belongings at all times, especially in crowded places.
Day trips from Prague to Kutna Hora, Karlovy Vary and Brno are high recommended. Similarly, if you have the time, get on a bus for a day trip to Bratislava from Vienna. Brastislava popular as a hot pub-crawl destination. Just get down at the city centre of Bratislava and take a free walking tour. Bus stops here are easy to miss, in most cases they won’t seem like bus stops at all, so just ask around. They are insanely particular about timings, so don’t be late.
In Prague, visit the Vyserhad and Prague Castle. Walk down the Charles Brigde to go to Mala Strana, the other side of town. Also, visit to the monastery around Petřín Hill, Nove Mesto, and the beer gardens all around Prague. Beer is cheaper than water in this part of Europe. As for water, you can drink directly from taps (even bathroom taps – it is that clean). Beer tasting and beer crawls are quite famous in this part of Europe and must feature right at top of your to-do list.
Have ice-creams at random places. They are absolutely lip-smacking, particularly the ones at Amorino ice cream parlour in Prague.
Take the trams, they are super cool and have oodles of nostalgia attached to them.
In my limited interaction with the native during this solo trip around Europe, I discovered that people are extremely fond of India and Indians. It was a great feeling to know that your country and its countrymen are known for their diversity and warmth. An interesting, totally unexpected incident took place when I was boarding the tram in Budapest – the ticket checker on realising that I am an Indian, started singing ‘Tum Hi Ho, Ab Tum Hi Ho, Zindagi Ab Tum Hi Ho’. It was a funny-sweet incident that warmed up my heart. People in this part of Europe are extremely helpful despite the language barriers.
As I stated earlier, Europe is not a journey, it is an experience. So, figure out things by yourself. You would hopefully enjoy that more. This is not a guide but my experience of living up my dream of a solo trip around Europe.