In the first part of this travel story, I shared experiences from Eastern and Central Europe. Later we moved on to Western Europe where we planned to celebrate Christmas and New Year.
After getting mesmerized (and splurging a lot) in Prague, we went to Munich, famous for its Bavarian Beers. We had planned to celebrate Christmas there, keeping in mind that most parts of Europe are shut from Dec. 24-26. We put our hungry stomach to ease with some Kurdish kebabs and Shawarma and started our day by visiting the Allianz Arena football stadium, which is the home of one of the biggest football giants, Bayern Munich. Being football fans, Allianz Arena was on our priority list. Beauty of this stadium is seen in the evening when the stadium exterior is completely lit up in red. Returning back with bags full of football goodies for folks back home, we went to Marienplatz for the Munich Christmas market. By then I was too confused about these stations ending with “platz” everywhere. Next day, we went to one of the best Beer Gardens called Augustiner Keller where we gorged upon scrumptious pork sausages and guzzled down couple of draught beers. The other famous beer garden is the Chinesischer Turm located in the Englischer Garten. If you have an extra day in hand in Munich, there are wonderful day trips that could be considered. Around 16 kms from Munich is the Dachau Concentration Camp, the first of the Nazi concentration camps opened in Germany, intended to hold political prisoners in 1933. Neuschwanstein castle is a nineteenth century Romanesque Revival palace on a rugged hill above the village near Fussen in Bavaria. This famous castle that is about two-hour drive from Munich, serves as an inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. If time permits you can try and squeeze in Black Forest that is famous for hiking, biking, skiing, lake sailing and much more.
Next, we boarded the overnight train from Munich to Amsterdam. The moment I stepped out of Amsterdam Central Station, ‘O Bijuriya’ from the movie Queen started playing in my mind. The Canal city of Netherlands with over 1200 bridges is best explored on foot or on a bicycle. 4 days was more than enough time for us to discover this Dutch city on our own. We started by visiting the landmark site with the IAMSTERDAM sign located right outside Rijksmuseum. Crowded as hell, it almost took me 15 minutes to get my first picture clicked there. We skipped visiting the museums, as we are not too fond of art and painting and had lost our patience of standing in long queues. It is very difficult to get lost in Amsterdam as all roads are mainly connected through canals everywhere. We mainly spent our evenings at Dam Square and Rembrandtplein where most crowd hangs out in the evening. Streets here are full of restaurants, pubs, coffee shops and ice cream salons. Around the Dam Square, you will find the Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk and Madame Tussauds. De Wallen is where the famous Red Light Area is located. If you go there, keep in mind that photography here is prohibited. When in the Dutch land, you must try their famous Vlaams Frites (French fries dipped in mayonnaise). You will find coffees shops at every corner of Amsterdam. Some good ones are Grey Area and Amnesia located near Magna Plaza. Shoppers can straight away head to Nieuwendijk-Kalverstraat, a 1 km stretch full of shops. You will find all mainstream brands over here for perfumes, clothes, accessories, food, cosmetics and more. The shopping area is close to Central Station and has that special Amsterdam shopping vibe.
The City of Love, the Shoppers Paradise – Paris was our final destination. We started our 4 days stay there with a visit to the Eiffel Tower, which is best viewed at night from the top of Arc De Triomphe at Champs Elysees. All you need to do is climb 300 stairs for this breathtaking panoramic view of Paris. You have an opportunity to view the glittering Eiffel Tower every hour after sunset. On New Year’s Eve, we decided to explore Paris by foot and walked from Le Palais Royal to Place de la Concorde (famous public square) to see the 200 feet tall transportable Ferris wheel. From there we headed to Arc de Triomphe to see the light show around midnight. After, enjoying the light show we headed to Bastille to party and drink hard. Bastille’s narrow streets are packed with affordable rock clubs, jazz clubs, Bollywood music clubs and upmarket wine bars. We also visited Pere Lachaise Cemetery to pay our respect to the Lizard King, Jim Morrison and the great philosopher Oscar Wilde. I was very disheartened to not find Love Locks at Pont des Arts. Instead, we visited the Love Wall in Montmartre. Next day we packed some sandwiches, picked up the best French wine and explored the cobbled streets of Montmartre. Later we climbed to the Sacre-Coeur Basilica and enjoyed the full view of city of love. No visit to Paris is complete without a visit to the Louvre museum. Entry to the museum is free on the first Sunday of every month, so we had to stand for 2 hours just to catch a glimpse of the world’s most famous enigmatic and hypnotic painting, ‘Mona Lisa.’ If you would like to explore the Parisian side of the city by foot then walk from Eiffel tower to Louvre. From here walk towards Champs Elysees, one of the most expensive streets in the world full of high-end clothing, cosmetics, sports and gadgets stores along with exclusive French cuisine restaurants. It is a crime to leave Paris without trying out their crepes, macaroons, churros and strawberry tarts. Save an entire day for shopping at Galleries Lafayette, Sephora and H&M stores. If you have more days in hand do not forget to visit other attractions like The Grand Palais, Notre Dame Cathedral, Centre Georges Pompidou and the Palace of Versailles. Disneyland and St. Michel’s mountain are a day trip from Paris.
Plan your trip to these beautiful European Destinations here.
Author: Rikita Parikh (Guest Travel Blogger)