Europe Travel Tips
Our expert travel Do’s and Don’ts for Europe’s largest cities
Do Visit: Trevi Fountain, the Vatican & St. Peter’s Basilica, Colosseum, Palatine Hill & Roman Forum, Piazza Navona, Capitoline Hill, Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, & the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
Do eat as much delicious Italian cuisine as you can, just be careful of the restaurants you go to. The Italian style “fast food” (aka the corner shops with ready pizza) are generally not half as good as hole-in-the-wall restaurants where you have to wander away from tourist attractions to find. Do understand that Rome is one of the most visited cities in the world, especially during the summer; it’s going to be very crowded at each major attraction.
Forget to book ahead! Especially for the Vatican: if you want a shot at seeing the Vatican Museum along with the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, you’ll have to book months ahead. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck in a painfully long line outside all day. Don’t overlook other Roman attractions just to see the Sistine Chapel; while it is famous, it is often underwhelming for many people. Spend a majority of your time walking throughout the streets of Rome: there is something to discover around every corner!
Do Visit: Park Guell, Casa Battlo, the Gothic Quarter, Montjuic, Parc de Ciutadella, Placa de Catalunya, Museo Picasso, and the Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.
Do try their Paella, which is usually featured on local restaurants on Thursdays. Despite the embellished reputation, Sangria is also a must-try. It’s delicious and no one will judge you for partaking in such a touristy treat. The locals drinks it too! While you’re at it, try their Vermouth and local Catalan cuisine – from fish to mussels to breads, you won’t be disappointed. Let’s not forget Tapas as well.
Don’t get stuck on one of Barcelona’s beaches – they are rumored to be beautiful but can also be heinously crowded in the summer. Don’t get stuck eating the frozen Paella (which is usually the norm for Las Ramblas) or watered-down Sangria. Don’t spend all day at Las Ramblas despite its reputation as a tourist and local hub. Spend more time exploring the other architectural monuments, art and cuisine of Barcelona.
Do Visit: Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Palace of Westminster, the British Museum and Trafalgar Square.
Do book ahead for the Tower of London– it has been known to have long lines, and some do not find the wait worth it when combined with the admission price. Do consider going to British Museum, Natural History Museum, or National Art Gallery as an alternative during peak hours; the museums are all free and have less tourists. Do also consider visiting the Windsor Castle to see the Changing of the Guards with a much smaller crowd than at Buckingham Palace. Do avoid Liverpool Street at rush hour (5 pm).
Do not harass the Guard at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle! They are doing their jobs and it’s disrespectful to say rude things to them. Even if you want to try and make them laugh, understand that there is no way that they will let you get to them. Don’t forget a jacket! London and the United Kingdom as a whole is quite chilly year-round. Don’t be afraid of trying different foods in London, especially Indian food. Many local Londoners are from India and will surprise you with their authentic cuisine.
Do Visit: Champs de Elysees, Eiffel Tower, Palace of Versailles, the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Palais Garnier, Place de la Concorde, Luxembourg Palace & garden, and Montmartre.
Do try to visit the Eiffel Tower at night when there are less crowds and other tourists about. You will still wait in a long line to view the very top, but it generally moves more smoothly in the evening. Do take a half or full day at the Louvre to see everything – not just the Mona Lisa! Do consider skipping the Louvre to visit the Musee d’Orsay and see its impressionist works of art. Plus the admission is cheaper!
Don’t forget to purchase Eiffel Tower tickets ahead of time! Currently the limit for purchasing tickets ahead of time is 3 months for safety reasons; plan the 3 months back and snab your tickets. Be aware that you must purchase a ticket to the summit of the tower either beforehand or on the second level – it is sometimes a separate fee. Don’t necessarily purchase a ticket to see Notre Dame Cathedral: if you avoid peak hours the wait can be under 20 minutes.
While these are some of the largest European cities (some of which are the big European capital cities), there are countless other cities to explore and appreciate. Europe is above and beyond its main hubs, and you always find hidden gems once you venture out beyond the touristy and crowded areas.
We hope these travel tip do’s and don’ts were helpful for your next trip to Europe. Be a smart and savvy traveler but most importantly — have fun!
Stay tuned for Part 2, with 5 more European cities’ Do’s and Don’ts!