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If you’ve been reading my blog for the past few months, you’ll know that this March I spent two weeks traveling around Europe during my spring break. Without a doubt, one of the best things about moving to Scotland has been the ability to travel to Europe so frequently, easily, and – most importantly – cheaply. I really took advantage of that during these two weeks.
While I’ve mostly wrapped up my coverage of the trip, I thought I would do something different and write out an overview of the whole two weeks. And hey, if you want to you can even steal my Eurail itinerary! Although I warn you, parts of it make literally no sense… more on that in a minute. (Sidenote: If you’re actually looking for a Eurail itinerary, scroll the end of this post. I give a few suggestions there for a better planned version of what I did! And check out this post for more tips on how to travel Europe by train.)
The Beginning: Paris
After seven long weeks of classes, everyone was more than ready for two weeks off. My university has a pretty large international student population, so when my four friends and I arrived at the airport there wasn’t a single non-student in sight. One of my travel-mates even knew some of the people on our flight to Paris!
I hopped on the Paris train (well… plane) a little late. Although the girls who planned the trip had invited me earlier, I had originally turned them down because I was planning on spending the entire two weeks of my break in Switzerland. But then, about a month before break started, I randomly decided I actually really wanted to go to Paris. So I forgot about the plane ticket I already had to Geneva and booked a ticket to Paris!
When we arrived in Paris, we hopped in a taxi to our apartment rental. We were actually able to find the best deal on Homeaway, rather than Airbnb, and we were so in love with our little apartment.
That evening, we set out to explore our adopted neighborhood of Montmartre and visited the Sacre Coeur.
There, we were accosted by men, and although most of us just kept walking one girl in our group was stopped and had a string bracelet tied around her wrist. When asked for money, she had the smarts to say that she only had her card on her, not cash. It was a good reminder that you should never get too comfortable – and that you should always acquaint yourself with the common tourist scams of the area that you’re traveling to!
But hey, the view from the Sacre Coeur was pretty amazing.
I couldn’t have picked a better way to spend the days that we had in Paris.
On our first day there, we set off to see all of the major tourist destinations. Most notably, we picnicked in front of the Eiffel Tower. That was pretty amazing.
On our final day we took a trip out of the city to visit the famous Palace of Versailles – and beat the crowds by visiting the gardens first.
And then, it was time for me to set off on my own.
The Planned Bit: Switzerland
I mentioned earlier that my original plan had been to spend the entire two weeks of my spring break in Switzerland. So after spending an amazing four days in Paris, that was where I went!
As my first ever solo trip, I was definitely a bit nervous. But in the end, I think everything turned out pretty well – despite a few twists and turns along the way!
I began my trip with two nights and one day in Bern. Visiting the overlooked capital of Switzerland was a great reintroduction to the country, and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who visits Switzerland.
From there, it was on to Lucerne – perhaps one of the most popular tourist destinations in Switzerland. I began my time there with a boat ride on Lake Lucerne and a hike down part of Mount Rigi.
The next day I was rained out, but on my final day in the city I was actually able to explore some of Lucerne – and I fell in love with the place.
The Unplanned Bit: Germany
I wrote about this bit in detail on my blog post A Spontaneous Trip to Heidelberg, but basically: I was supposed to go to Interlaken after Lucerne. Instead, I took a train to Interlaken, a train to Basel, a train to Mannheim, and, finally, a train to Heidelberg. All because of a random impulse. It was a crazy experience, but Heidelberg was an absolutely beautiful city, and visiting there on a whim forced me to get out of my comfort zone. So in the end, I think it was worth it.
The Unplanned Bit: Switzerland
Since my unscheduled detour to Germany messed up the rest of my plans for my trip, I struggled a bit trying to figure out what to do next. I considered completely forgetting about my flight out of Geneva (which would have meant that I didn’t use either leg of the flight, since I had already bought a ticket to Paris in place of the flight there…) and continuing on through Germany. In the end, though, my boyfriend convinced me that I had already done enough crazy things for one trip and I ended up in Zurich. I couldn’t be more grateful that this is what I ended up doing.
Finally, I spent one day in Geneva before my flight back to university.
Tops & Flops
The two weeks I spent Eurailing around France, Swizterland, and Germany resulted in a lot of amazing experiences… and a few not so great ones.
Taking my first ever solo trip – this was a long time coming. After reading a million travel blogs about solo female travel, I couldn’t wait to try it out for myself. I think a week and a half was the perfect amount of time for a first solo trip.
Visiting the Gardens of Versailles – Versailles was easily my favourite part of Paris – even though it’s not actually in the city. And the top TOP part of my time there was exploring the Gardens and the Estate of Trianon. Because we went there first, we had them almost completely to ourselves – and then enjoyed an almost nonexistent line later in the day to get into the actual palace!
Finally having my first proper Swiss hiking experience – Read more about that story in my blog post on Hiking Mount Rigi.
Being Spontaneous – I’m not normally a spontaneous person, and I definitely freaked out a bit when I decided to head to Heidelberg. But in the end, it turned out to be a great experience. And I got to visit a city that I’ve been dying to see for ages!
Wasting almost two whole days in transportation – The downside of my spontaneous trip to Heidelberg was that it was WAY out of the way from everywhere else I went those two weeks. This resulted in wasting almost two whole days on trains, which, well… wasn’t great.
Being underwhelmed by Paris – I wasn’t sure if I’d love Paris or not. And truthfully, I ended up pretty underwhelmed. I think this was probably the result of having seen so much of the city in pictures a million times before. I did like the morning we spent exploring off the beaten path, though, so maybe I just have to go back and do more of that.
Not being able to eat out – One of the downsides of traveling on a budget is that you have to sacrifice some experiences. Usually, eating out is one of the first things to go. This was especially the case in Switzerland, where even just two days worth of groceries cost me nearly CHF20!
The Loneliness – Everything I’ve ever read has said that it is super easy to meet people when you’re traveling solo. Unfortunately (with the exception of one AMAZING experience in Geneva), the hostels I stayed at in Switzerland were pretty sterile when it came to a social atmosphere. This may have just been because I was traveling in the off season. But other reviews I’ve read seem to indicate that this is a year-round thing. Which really is too bad.
But despite the downsides of my trip, I really couldn’t be happier that I did it the way I did.
And that’s it! The complete overview of the two weeks I spent Eurailing around France, Switzerland, and Germany!
Two Week Eurail Itinerary
Want to steal my Eurail itinerary? Probably not. I’d suggest going in a much more logical order! Here’s one option:
Days 1-4: Paris
Spend your first four days in the most iconic European city of all. Take a day trip to Versailles.
For advice on where to stay in Paris, be sure to check out this post on the best budget hotels in Paris!
Days 5-6: Bern
Don’t overlook Switzerland’s capital – it’s stunning!
Days 7-9: Lucerne
Spend three days in Lucerne. Make at least one day trip out to the mountains!
Days 10-12: Zurich
Spend at least two days soaking up the atmosphere of Zurich. It’s so much more than a banking city!
Days 12-14: Freiburg
If you want to pop into Germany during your two weeks, then I’d suggest Freiburg. Heidelberg was beautiful, but way too far away from everywhere else I was! If you have more time, though, then definitely go there!