Covering the Major Northern European Cities
Whether you want to travel to other countries while studying abroad, or explore the United Kingdom a lot, one of the major northern European cities is a great first destination! For not a bad price, a journey on the Eurostar will get you to Paris, Brussels or Amsterdam in no time. The Eurostar leaves from St. Pancras, an easy location to reach by tube. Leaving from St. Pancras eliminates any costs you would be paying to reach an airport if you flew. If you keep an eye on the Eurostar website, you’re sure to catch a great deal! One tip for booking: Book early, pay less! Be flexible with your travel dates, let the deals decide when you’re going places.
Alright, where to first? That’s a personal preference. If you don’t have much time to prepare for your trip and read, Amsterdam and Brussels are easier cities to wing. Paris is not for beginners, you need to bring a book with you to help focus your trip. There is so much to do in Paris and impossible to cover it all in one weekend, so you need to decide what you want to see most. Travel books by Rick Steves or Lonely Planet are an excellent help on weekend getaways. Here’s a bit on each destination without the fluff of the travel books to help you decide!
AMSTERDAM:Amsterdam is by far the most unique city out of these three. This is a city of water; 25% of the city’s surface is canal. A 7.25 Euro canal cruise will guide you around the canals and give you a broad overview of the city. Of course, the widely known Red Light District is the attraction the draws tourists in. In this area, weed can legally be bought and smoked in coffee shops and you will see prostitutes selling themselves in windows. It is quite a site but don’t let this turn you away from all the city has to offer! It is one thing to know about the Red Light District, but it is another to see it in person. Fair warning-it’s not for those with sensitive eyes and souls. If you aren’t interested in viewing this that’s okay! The Red Light District is only a small area of the city. On the outskirts, you will find more bikes than people. Rent a bike for a day a visit the Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum, lovely markets, the National Maritime Museum, the Rijksmuseum and more! Clogs, diamonds and windmills are all made in Holland. It is a total outdoor city with plenty to do in a weekend. It is also cheaper than London. The official language is Dutch, but out of the three cities, you will hear the most English spoken here.
BRUSSELS: If you’re into politics, Brussels would be a great first stop for you! The European Parliament is located in the center of Brussels. You can get a tour of the parliament on weekdays, but it is still interesting to walk around on the weekends. 23 different languages are required to be written on every sign. Every country’s flag stands around the building. Another great tourist attraction is the Atomium. You can go to the top for under ten Euros and get a great view of the city. Indulge in the world-known beer, waffles and chocolate. There are plenty of pubs and shops around the Grand Place where you can get mouthwatering food. The city is famous for their mitraillete sandwiches. This sandwich is a baguette filled with meat, salad toppings, frites and topped with andalusian sauce. While this sandwich sounds like a motherload, save room for a delicious Belgian waffle topped with Nutella. On this weekend getaway there will be no need to pack a belt. Brussels has great nightlife with unique clubs. One club was an old church that they turned into a jungle-themed club. Try a chocolate beer when you go out and you’ll be the happiest traveller around. Many different languages are spoken in Brussels, so you will be able to find English signs nearly everywhere. Brussels is also much cheaper than London.
PARIS: Paree! What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone says Paris? The Eiffel Tower of course! Pictures do not do a justice for the Eiffel Tower. It is a breathtaking site that everyone MUST see. You must be prepared to go to Paris. Learn a few French words before you go, the French will appreciate your attempt at their language. If you only speak English to them, you won’t get very far in this city. “Hommes” is the mens bathroom and “Dames” is the girls. Most bathrooms charge. In fact, everything in Paris charges. This is an expensive getaway but well worth it! Buy a weekend pass for the Metro. Jump on the Metro to go see famous Louvre museum. In the Louvre you will find the oringal Mona Lisa, Vinus del Milo, Winged Victory and more! Notre-Dame, St. Chapelle, Arc de Triomphe are just a few of the many attractions in Paris. Don’t leave without eating cheese and drinking wine. Don’t worry about staying in a nice hostel while you’re in Paris just make sure you’re close to a Metro stop.
Every time you travel you get a natural high. It is such an exciting feeling. This is the one time in your life you can get student discounts and be okay with staying in hostels. Don’t pass up any opportunity to go places. Create a travel budget before you come abroad so you know how much money you can spend. Please see our budget section for advice on making the most of your dollar.