The first time I went Interrailing was in the summer of 2012, in between leaving school and starting university. I travelled with 5 friends and the experience of different cultures was something you don’t get on your typical holiday. So, here is my route and the highlights from it.
We flew out to Rome, as we wanted to incorporate Italy. It was a great decision because Rome really is a brilliant city full of culture and things to do. We stayed at what is now one of my favourite hostels — The Yellow Hostel. There’s so much you can do in Rome so we made sure to spend a fair amount of time here. It was also the first destination so it meant we weren’t restricted by the Interrail pass whatsoever as our first day of travel wasn’t until we went on to Florence.
Highlight: relaxing in the sun on the Spanish Steps.
We were eagerly anticipating Florence as the hostel we booked had an outdoor pool, something which was very welcome in the scorching Italian heat. While the pool wasn’t exactly hotel-standard it did the the trick and refreshed us. Florence is a beautiful city with architecture to really admire, in particular the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio bridge. The Duomo offers extraordinary views over Florence, but you’ll first have to climb the 463 steps to see them.
Highlight: watching the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo.
Our next stop completed the Italian leg of our trip. We managed to find a hostel in the main part of Venice which was brilliant. It’s an expensive city but most of the fun in Venice involves aimlessly wondering around and getting lost, with the occasional pitstop in a cafe for coffee and ice cream. Be careful not to go to any cafes in the tourist trap of San Marco or you’ll likely end up paying ten Euros for a Coca Cola.
Highlight: visiting one of the many fantastic wine bars in the evening.
Munich is a hugely popular Interrail destination and we could not miss out. We took the night train up from Venice but made the mistake of not booking a sleeper carriage, so it was a rather sleepless journey. Nevertheless, we arrived in Munich ready for the beer halls and they certainly lived up to expectation. However, Munich isn’t just a place to drink Steins, you can walk around the central historic area very easily but can also move around easily with the excellent public transport. We visited BMW World and the Olympic park from the famous Munich Olympics, for example.
Highlight: swimming in the river in Englischer Garten.
On our way east to Budapest we decided to stop off for 2 nights in Vienna. It is a city brimming with culture with music and theatre playing a key role in its history. We explored what we could of both the culture and the nightlife, visiting several museums including the excellent Technisches Museum It was a very different city to our previous stops and offered something very unique in the sprawling gardens surrounding Schoenbrunn Palace, complete with a maze!
Highlight: drinking coffee (and lots of it) in some of the legendary Viennese coffee houses.
Budapest has become one of my favourite cities to visit in Europe. Not only is it cheap, there is so much to see and do. This really is a place that I’d recommend staying in for at least 3 nights. We stayed at Maverick Hostel, which was superb. The thermal baths are fantastic and are a must. If you are there on a Saturday, as we were, then don’t miss out on the thermal bath rave at the Szechenyi Baths. It is defintely worth taking a trip up the Gellert Hill to the Citadel for a brilliant view over Pest, where you’ll find attractions like the Great Synagogue, the Parliament building and St. Stephen’s Basilica. As far as night life goes, the ruin bars should definitely be on your list – Szimpla Kert was my favourite.
Highlight: relaxing for the whole day in the thermal baths and wave pool at Gellert Baths.
Everyone had told us that we needed to visit Prague and that we did. The old town square is beautiful and the views from Charles Bridge, which itself is one of the most stunning bridges in Europe, and Petrin Hill are something to behold. We tried the local goulash and plenty of the local beer, as well as going to the famous five-floor nightclub — something which I wouldn’t recommend due to being too gimmicky and overpriced.
Highlight: sampling the local absinthe.
Having been to Berlin previously I had to visit again. We stayed at the Odyssey Globetrotter Hostel in the Warschaeur area. This was a really cool area, full of bars and eateries. We visited Kreuzberg and had some great burgers from Burgermeister, which is housed in a former public toilet. Dr Pong is also well worth visiting for a few drinks and table tennis. The city is obviously full of history and Berlin really lends itself well to a walking tour, which you can do for free. We did this and we learnt so much more about Berlin than we would have by just going to museums and visiting attractions (which we did as well). The best views over the city are from the Berliner Dom rather than the TV tower, both in terms of experience and value. This marked the end of our trip and from here we flew home. We all loved Berlin.
Highlight: Sunday brunch at Morgenland.