This was my first euro trip. A trip that etched in my heart forever! Since I never attempted to write on travel blogs, I thought I would rather shape up this blog to highlight 4 things which I liked the most from the 4 European cities I visited ( although there are hell lot things to encapsulate but, a single blog can’t do justice to the beauty of Europe!!)
1. Amsterdam: Eco-Friendly transportation
So Amsterdam was our entry point/destination in Europe. This city is known for many things. The beautiful 200 different canals winding through the city which is one of the most unique and gorgeous things I’ve ever seen in a city. The famous “coffee shops”. There are many ‘coffee shops’ that sell marijuana, but they aren’t advertised as such and are very discreet – no photos, they aren’t even on a regular map. The laws are of course stricter than you think, but I was amazed to see people are still walking around with joints like they would a cigarette in the rest of Europe. The beautiful world class museums which housed some stunning paintings by renowned painters like Picasso, Rembrandt, Van Gogh etc.
The beautiful tulip gardens although we didn’t get the chance to witness them as we went in the month of June. But we did visit the Blumenmarkt which offered the insane amount of artificial tulips. It was beautiful to walk through, so bright and colourful and fresh.
Then the infamous Red Light District known for erotic sex shops, museums, adult theatres and skimpily-clad commercial sex workers in brothel windows. It’s not for everyone.
But the thing which enthralled me the most was the eco-friendly transportation across whole Amsterdam. By the way, this city is also known as the “city of bicycles.” It is one of the beautiful cities that have very little to do with the grown-up transportation world of cars and trucks. Amsterdam is home to more bikes than people, about 880,000.
We all are aware that cities around the world are facing a crisis as cars are suffocating the streets, creating congestion and contributing to health-threatening levels of air pollution.
Having said that, it is highly commendable that some of the European Cities are now increasingly looking to discourage the domination of fossil-fuelled cars, and the banning of diesel vehicles. I loved the way the residents in Amsterdam are so perceptive towards making their city clean and green. The city has completely transformed their transportation system.
European Cities are now increasingly looking to discourage the domination of fossil-fuelled cars, and the banning of diesel vehicles.
The surprising thing was I didn’t see a single person in Amsterdam cycling for exercise purposes. The cyclists were not suction-cupped in Spandex gear, no attached water bottles to their bicycles, no speedometer or GPS trackers, just dressed in their regular clothes cycling comfortably and moving seamlessly through their environment with minimal effort.
Throughout the city, there are streets where cars are simply not allowed, and therefore the best way for all locals to get around is via bicycle. I remember when I was walking down the street, not knowing it was the bicycle lane, I was told by a biker “hey it’s a bike lane.” For us, transportation means travelling in cars, buses, local trains, metro which all contribute a great amount to pollution. But the people of Amsterdam have adopted an eco-friendly transportation to minimize the harmful effects of pollution.
Amsterdam is opting for a fully electric bus fleet within 2025, and its airport, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, recently pledged to become the world’s most sustainable airport. To achieve this, the airport will be electrifying all vehicles operating on the airport itself, as well as all passenger and public transport operating to- and from its facilities. For non-bikers, electric cars are a popular choice, and the city has over 300 charging stations.
2. Brussels: Comic Strip route
Belgium is famous for its beer, tasty waffles, potato chips/fries and for yummy chocolates!! Brussels is the capital city of Belgium, where we visited the beautiful Royal Palace which is majestic and also the bigger than the Buckingham Palace.
But if asked what I liked the most in this city, I would say the lengthy set of comic murals sprawling across the city walls.
Belgium has created more comic artists than any other country. The tradition dates back almost a full century ago when Tintin was created by Belgian artist Hergé and the Smurfs were created by Belgian artist Peyo.
This a place where you will find that your favourite comic book characters have escaped the pages and scattered themselves around the facades of the buildings in the city centre.
Brussels has also got a comic book museum – the Belgian Comic Strip Centre, where one can learn useful and interesting information. But it is much more inspiring to just walk down the streets and get acquainted with your favourite cartoon characters in person.
Sometimes you might not even notice the murals as they are so well integrated into Brussels’ architecture.
It would require more than a few days in the city to find all the murals but I had a fun time seeking a few out and revive my childhood cartoon days. This one below my favourite:
Besides wall murals, the city walls and the metro stations are also painted by colourful graffiti by some secret night painters.
3. Paris: Great Architecture
Paris always comes up in the mind, when we think about the most beautiful cities in the world. One of the biggest reasons is their architecture, every great period of architecture can be found in Paris. Paris gave birth to the Gothic style and has very important buildings that mark the Renaissance. I had only 4 days in Paris and so many things to see on my bucket list! But I managed to see the important ones:
The Louvre Museum
Besides Louvre being the single largest art museum in the world, it’s also a great monument in the city. The Louvre is home to items spanning a period of nearly 5,000 years, from ancient cultures. It is also the most visited museum on the planet (8.7 million of visitors in 2017). It houses the famous work of Leonardo da Vinci “Mona Lisa,” who enchants hordes of visitors with her enigmatic smile. At the entrance of this great museum is Louvre Pyramid. The pyramid was built in 1989 by the renowned American architect I.M. Pei. The glass pyramid allows the sunlight to enter the underground floor. It is flanked by three smaller pyramids and reflecting pools with modern fountains.
French Gothic Architecture is showcased at its best by Notre-Dame Cathedral. I bet that if you were to guess how long it took to build, you wouldn’t get it right. The answer? Almost 200 years. Upon entering Notre Dame I felt as if I have entered one of the world’s great cathedrals. The view inside Notre-Dame was grandiose.
The huge vaulted ceiling keeps visitors eyes gazing upward and the most stunning interior feature was the three stained-glass rose windows (north, south and west sides)
Arc de Triomphe
One of the most famous landmarks in Paris, the Arc de Triomphe stands tall, proud and solid in the centre of the city. It was built as a homage to the soldiers who passed away in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. One can even see the names of war generals engraved there. Inspired by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, India Gate in New Delhi is a memorial to India’s war dead from World War I and other battles during the time of the British Raj.
Located at the top of the hill of Montmartre, the majestic church offers one of the most amazing views over Paris. After Notre-Dame cathedral, The Sacré-Cœur Basilica is France’s second most visited church. It is also the second highest point of the city, of course, the first is the Eiffel Tower with the height of 324m.
The Iron Lady
What would Parisian architecture be without the Eiffel Tower? The Eiffel Tower is also known as “The Iron Lady” is without a doubt the enduring symbol of Paris.
I always had the desire to visit Paris and click pictures near Eiffel Tower(what a cliche dream;-)) like every other girl for it’s the symbol of love. My dreams had come true once I took my first glimpse of its grandeur! After taking some 10-15 different shots of Eiffel tower, I felt something was missing from my pictures. I wanted the panoramic view of the city at the backdrop of the Eiffel tower. Montparnasse tower is best for such a view. We bought tickets to The Montparnasse Tower Observation deck which is located on the 56th floor. In 38 seconds, Europe’s fastest elevator will take you to the 56th floor. Yes, it’s real! I didn’t feel my senses.
It was a breathtaking view from the top of the Montparnasse Tower.
One can have a 360 view on all Paris from The Montparnasse Tower Observation Deck and the view on the Eiffel Tower remains the highlight of the show!
What else but a glass of beer at the bar on the top level was the perfect way to toast to our Paris experience!
Milan: Confluence of fashion and history
Milan is considered one of the most dynamic cities in Europe. It is known for priceless works of art, eccentric beautiful buildings and world-class restaurants. The city has amazing historical monuments which make this city one of the most beautiful cities of the world. In our short stay, we visited The Cathedral of Milan, Duomo which is one of the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world. It is the most impressive structure in Milan that can accurately be described as awe-inspiring. The roof of the cathedral is intriguing with 135 magnificent towers. There are about 3,400 statues on this gothic-style cathedral more than any other building in the world has. This cathedral almost took five hundred years to build. A jaunt inside the 14th-century cathedral is worthwhile to glimpse the airy marble interiors and the exquisite stained-glass windows, which were wisely placed in a crypt for safekeeping during the Second World War.
Milan is also known as ‘The Fashion Capital of the World’. It is the home to the Fashion Week and to the world’s best luxury Italian and international brands namely Valentino, Gucci, Versace, Prada, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana. And therefore it is justified to say that why looking good is compulsory here in Milan.
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, built from 1865 to 1877, is the oldest shopping mall in the world. So it’s a historic sight and architectural gem that non-shoppers will want to see, too. From the iconic Prada store to Versace’s latest gem, it’s impossible not to remain awestruck by the collections showcased in these spaces that tend to resemble museums rather than shops!
La Rinascente: If you’re looking for a convenient one-stop-shop for fashion finds in Milan, La Rinascente dishes up a bit of everything. It is the most prestigious department stores in Italy famous for international and Italian brands. This giant department store carries fashion, home furnishings, small electronics, books, jewellery, and much more under one roof.
I believe travelling is a great way to rejuvenate oneself. Travelling is not only fun but also improves overall health and enhance creativity. Therefore, we should at least once in a year take time out from our daily tasks, office responsibilities and hectic schedule to travel and explore new places.
So, plan a tour to a new city, discover and explore new things and let life present you with the numerous opportunities that are waiting for you.
I will end up with this beautiful quote which inspires me to travel and explore more.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in you sail. Explore. Dream. Discover.”– Mark Twain