For many 18 to 22-year-olds, colleges offer the most flexibility for traveling with friends over breaks from school. While destination options such as Cabo offer enough partying, beaching, and hangovers to make your average Brad/Chad quake, you should not pass up the experiences offered in the glorious cities of Europe.
While international travel seems expensive and daunting for many, I promise a week-long trip via hostels and trains can cost as low as $500 — not including airfare. While that is by no means pocket change, skimming off the earnings of a part-time job through a semester a school can help fund a worthwhile trip that you and your friends will appreciate for years to come. Plus, if you’re smart and plan well, you can live very well on that $500. You’ll likely have the best food and alcohol you’ll consume up to this point in life. The only problem is you may not return home.
All of which is why I want to make some recommendations to the novice traveler who is looking to get their European fix for an upcoming spring or summer break. Below are three cities that you should absolutely try to visit sooner rather than later. You could even pair them up for a week-long trip.
As the cultural mecca of Europe, Berlin has so much to offer in terms of art, music, clubbing, and especially food and beer. From fantastic contemporary art museums to the plethora of street art, such as the entirely painted Berlin Wall, the urban artistic vibe adds an overall pleasing aesthetic to the city.
If you like red meats and sauces, Berlin is your Flavortown. Turkish-inspired doner kebab is shaved, seasoned meat that is often served in a wrap with various veggies and hot, bbq, or spicy ranch-esque sauces. Seen all over the city as predominantly street food, Kebab will only cost you around five euro and will never fail to disappoint. Another favorite is currywurst, a huge ass bratwurst covered in a curry sauce that works like a charm, balancing a sweet and savory, smokey meat dish that any carnivore will appreciate.
Berlin’s beer cannot be understated. Often costing less than water, Germany’s beer selection is as smooth as it is diverse in flavor and style. A worthwhile experience is attending a bar that has a beer stock market that sells you a pint based on the beer’s stock price relative to its competition. How they came up with such a system? We may never know.
Maybe I’m biased because I am studying here right now, but wow. You cannot miss out on Rome. Food, wine, nightlife, culture, and history — it’s all here. It’s no surprise that Rome is home to some of the best food in the world, even at an affordable price. Some of the best pasta or pizza you’ll have in your whole life? Roughly just eight euros. The best gelato you’ll ever have? Two euro, max. The classic European breakfast of coffee and croissant will often cost less than three euro and is better than any five-dollar grande, sugar-filled, latte you’ll have at Starbucks.
Arguably the most impressive part of Rome is the availability of transportation and ease of walking. In just a walk that’ll take just under two hours, you can see the beautiful Tevere River, Coliseum, Pantheon, Vatican, and stunning churches every block, along with grabbing amazing food, coffee, and gelato for all under 15 euros.
In just a few days in Rome, you can see more historic landmarks and cultural centerpieces than most Americans will in their life. With its great food and vibrant nightlife, Rome is a city you certainly don’t want to miss.
There is a clear appeal for any college student to check out Amsterdam: legal weed and shrooms. Regardless of your drug habits, the laid back and open lifestyle of the Dutch capital is spectacular. Everyone is in full chill-mode, as most of their daily routines consist of munchy food, beautiful scenery, and biking. You know, the basic essentials. The legal weed doesn’t hurt too.
While most of the food is relatively familiarly American and overpriced, the Dutch certainly know their way around a french fry, offering plenty of stands that boast good deals and plenty of unique sauce options. The coffee shops — ehem, weed dispensaries — are a pleasant cultural phenomenon, as one can order bud at the counter and sit inside to enjoy a coffee and a smoke. What a concept!
Honestly, there are plenty more cities in Europe that offer better food, history, and culture than Amsterdam. But a good two to three days with friends will be plenty of fun in one of the most unique cities in the world for those looking to blow off some steam.
Saint Malo, France
San Sebastián, Spain