While studying abroad, it can get a bit overwhelming trying to figure out what countries you want to visit. Before my semester began, I made a long list of places, but struggled to rank them because I wanted to travel everywhere. In the end, flight and hotel prices made it easier to choose my destinations. Throughout my four months in Europe, I was lucky enough to be able to travel to ten different countries. Here are my top three favorite destinations and why.
I was lucky to call Amsterdam my home for my four months abroad. I chose Amsterdam for a variety of reasons (mainly for my communications major), and even after traveling to so many cities, I am still convinced I made the best decision of my life. Amsterdam, and the rest of the Netherlands has so much to offer.
Biker’s Paradise: Amsterdam is a city made for biking, and I was able to take advantage of that. I biked thirty minutes to and from class every day, and despite showing up drenched from the rain at least once a week, being able to ride past the beautiful canals and buildings put a smile on my face every single day.
Canals: One of my favorite features of Amsterdam was the canals. In between classes I would bike or walk past the canals listening to music while watching the boats pass by. One of the best ways to tour the city is by taking a boat tour through the canals!
Museums: I learned a lot by visiting the variety of museums in Amsterdam. The Anne Frank House is a must see. It is a very emotional experience and it taught me a lot about the Holocaust in the Netherlands and what the Frank family had to endure. The Van Gough Museum and the Moco Museum are really unique and I recommend visiting them both. Whether museums are at the bottom of your to-do list, or the first thing you do when you visit a new place, museums in Amsterdam are a must.
Nightlife: Amsterdam is a young city, so there is always something fun to do at night. Although there are many fun bars and clubs to go to throughout the city, Leidseplein and Rembrandt are two areas that you are guaranteed to have a great time in.
Exploring the Netherlands: Beyond the city are cute little towns in the countryside that I definitely recommend to anyone visiting the country. Towns like Alkmaar and Zaanse Schans are easy to get to by train and can be a really fun day trip! Alkmaar is like a mini version of Amsterdam and I recommend going to a cheese market, where you can walk around to the different vendors! Zaanse Schans was one of my favorite places in the Netherlands. They have beautiful windmills, a cheese farm, and a wooden shoe workshop where you can see them make their famous clogs!
Food: If you are a cheese lover, you are in for a treat! There are cheese shops on pretty much any corner. Sometimes I would be biking home from class and stop by one of them so I could taste all the samples. If you love dessert, Amsterdam is also the place for you. One of my favorite dessert places was called Crepes and waffles, where you can order…crepes and waffles! This is a great late night snack, especially after a night out.
Dublin and Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
My most spontaneous trip was to Ireland and I ended up booking the trip with my best friend only a few days before we left. Dublin is an incredible city and the people are so fun and very welcoming.
Music: I love listening to live music, and if you are the same, Dublin should definitely be on your list of places to visit. Temple Bar is a neighborhood in Dublin that houses multiple pubs. At night, you can walk into any pub and listen to live singers. One night, my friend and I walked past a pub and decided to go in when saw everyone dancing and singing along with the singer on stage. The singer was Jake Suleman, and he is still one of the best live singers I have ever heard in my life.
Cliffs of Moher: My absolute favorite part of my time in Ireland was doing a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher. My friend and I went on a guided tour and we took a bus through the countryside. The bus ride to the cliffs was absolutely stunning. We made a few stops along the way, including a castle, a cute little town where we ate lunch, and cliffs that were referred as “mini cliffs.” Once we reached the Cliffs of Moher, I was in shock. It was the most beautiful site I have ever seen in my life; it looked fake because of how perfect it was.
In October, I was lucky to have had a week off from school, so two of my friends and I decided to travel to Italy. Florence was a very memorable trip for us and I already want to go back.
Italian Sunsets: I recommend starting your day early so you can watch the sunset. Our first sunset we watched was from the top of the Duomo. We walked up the stairs of the beautiful Church and once we got the top we saw the most magnificent view of the entire city. Another place to watch the sunset is the Piazzale Michelangelo, a square with an amazing view of Florence. There is a hill with steps on it, where everyone sits and sips on wine while watching the sunset. While my friends and I were there, we even saw a couple get engaged!
Food: If you are going to Italy, expect to eat pizza and pasta for every meal. It was a dream come true for me! If you are looking for the heart-shaped pizza that everyone Instagrams, you are looking for Gusta Pizza. If you are a sandwich lover like me, go to All’antico Vinaio. They make unreal sandwiches that are humongous! (The goal is to eat the entire thing). Don’t be afraid to try the little places that aren’t extremely well known, they often have the best food. Also, be prepared to eat gelato with every meal! I had it at least three times a day while I was in Italy and I have zero regrets.
Wine: One of my favorite days in Italy was going on a wine tour. Since it was off-season, my two friends and I were the only ones at the vineyard so we pretty much had a private wine tour! We drove through the countryside of Tuscany and visited two wineries. We tasted wine and were served snacks such as bread and olive oil (yum!) while overlooking the beautiful scenery.
Every place you visit will be amazing and unique in its own way. I loved all ten places I visited and there were definitely more places that I wanted to go to, but I am looking forward to visiting them in the future. My advice to you is to take a moment to yourself every once in a while and reflect on everything you have done. Make the most of your time abroad, because it goes by fast!
Photos: Talia Berman