Monday 22 July 2019

8 Days Touring Europe (Prague, Berlin and Amsterdam)

A bit over a month ago, I went on a mini tour of Europe with two of my best pals. It was so lovely to see them as now that we’re all at uni or in full time jobs we don’t get to see each other very much, so spending just over a week together was much needed after months apart!

Our first stop was Prague, and after a long day of navigating delayed public transport (yes, you know that was UK trains – it took us longer to get to Gatwick from Hampshire than it did to fly from Gatwick to Prague), flights and the figuring out how to navigate the city’s tram network in the dark, we finally made it to our Airbnb at 11pm, and just about collapsed into our beds as soon as we could. As soon as we stepped out of the airport we were overwhelmed by the heat. The British Summer was being its usual rainy self when we left, so jumping up to 32 degrees was a major difference and it took us a little while to get used to it. 

The next day, we saw Prague in the daylight at last, and it was beautiful. But boiling. First on our list was to get ourselves some food, and we managed to find a reasonably large supermarket about 15 minutes down the road. I was actually really impressed by their range of vegan food, they had way more plant milks and meat alternatives than expected- pretty cool. We then headed back to our flat, made our lunches (hummus, salad and a few strips of fried pre-marinated tofu wraps) then headed into the centre of town. We had a long list of potential places to visit, and with only 2 days, we had way too much stuff on my list to fit in that time (but hey, if any of us go back to Prague, we have some ideas).

The first item of our day was Petrin Hill and Observation Tower, which we could just about see in the distance from a window where we were standing. We made our way across the city on the tram, which was a lovely way to get a more general taste of Prague. On our way to the rail which would take us up the hill, we saw a memorial to everyone who died under Soviet Communism, and on the way up we got to see the beautiful park and glimpses of the view across the city’s rooftops. Once we got to the top of the hill, we stepped out into a gorgeous garden, which was mostly quiet apart from a few families and group of school kids. We had a bit of a wander, and found a space of grass near the Tower to sit on to have lunch and a bit of a chill in the heat. 

After lunch, we left the park and headed through a gap in a wall around some buildings which I’m still not sure what their function is, and walked around gradually down the hill on a public pathway through some fields and eventually reached an old monastery where they had a café in a shaded spot outside. It was a good place to stop, fill up our water, stay in the shade for a little while, and have a weird blueberry beer which I am so glad I will never have again.

We then managed to get back down the hill to where the main city is, and made our way towards Prague Castle. I won’t lie, we were a tad confused about how to actually get in and which parts were the castle and where the cathedral was in comparison to the castle, but we figured it out in the end – turns out the cathedral is insidethe castle walls! The cathedral was gorgeous, even if it stuck out in a slightly weird manor against the yellow walls of the castle. Several parts of the castle were only accessible for those who had paid extra at the door (it’s free to get into the castle walls), so we didn’t see several parts, including going to the top of the cathedral tower. However, we did get to see the view across the city in all its glory as we left the castle, and I don’t think we could have lasted that much longer anyway as we were flagging quite a lot due to the heat. 

We had a little time to kill before the place we were going for food opened, so ended up going to the National Gallery, which was just around the corner from the castle’s exit. It was very small, and the main exhibit was of the artist Josef Šima, who none of us had heard of before. I won’t lie to you, his stuff wasn’t the most amazing, but we still enjoyed ourselves and there were some really cool things further down in the exhibit where there were several other artists. After we’d gone around the gallery and cooled down a bit, we went around the back of the building to the Wallenstein Gardens. These were absolutely beautiful, and we got to see some massive fish in the pond, and we had a lot of fun watching all of them mooch around and enjoying their time. 

That evening, we went out for food at a restaurant called Vegan Prague. I guess it’s exactly what it says on the tin. Genuinely though, it was such good food, our expectations were well and truly blown away. It took a while to get up there as it was at the top of quite a tall building and we had to go up several flights of stairs (not very accessible, sadly), but was quite cool when we got there.

The menu was had a lot of traditional Czech food, except veganised. I love eating at places like this when I’m away, as you don’t usually get to try many traditional dishes if you’re vegan or veggie (they typically tend to be meat central) so it’s great when there are vegan versions available. I ended up having some Czech dumplings in sauce, and they were absolutely lush. They didn’t look like much when they arrived, but they were so tasty and actually really filling. Would highly recommend to anyone going to Prague, vegan or not. This was actually one of the only times I didn’t take pictures of my food (it’s a habit vegans have whenever we go out, we’re just amazed to be eating something that’s not broccoli), and that was probably because we were all so hungry and tired (again, a lot to do with the heat) that we just dove into it straight away. 

On our way back, whilst waiting for the tram back to our Airbnb arrived, we saw what turned out to be Prague’s Pride. It was so small and looked quite sad, but we hoped they had a great time. To top it all off, it suddenly started raining really heavily with the biggest raindrops I have ever seen. We thought it was incredible, and quite entertaining watching people run around to escape it whilst we were dry on the tram, however, we did feel so bad for their Pride, I just wanted to go up and give them all a hug and find them a warm place to dry off and eat food. Ah well, I hope it ended up okay.

That evening we went out to Bukowski’s, a bar just around the corner from our Airbnb, which was very convenient. It was a nice place to sit and chat with a few strong cocktails, before we headed further into the centre of town to an 80s club we’d found online, along with a group of Americans we’d met on the way. However, we didn’t quite seem to remember that we were in fact in central Europe, and their 80s music would be quite different from the 80s music we would normally think of. And that, my friends, is how we ended up dancing our hearts out in an almost empty nightclub to 80s Europop. 

The next day we woke up a little later and got breakfast at a waffle place. It was absolutely delicious and we had a great time! They had a couple of vegan options, including a pick your own toppings option, which meant we all had completely different waffles.  

After our (rather large) brunch, we got the metro right to the centre of Prague, where we then visited the Prague Sex Machines Museum. I was told about this place by a friend and it was absolutely hilarious going around and just seeing really old and extravagant dildos. It was quite a small little place, but it didn’t need to be any bigger as they packed a hell of a lot in the space they had. Safe to say we had a great time laughing our way around, as well as at the several people who were walking around looking very seriously at the exhibits. Who takes themselves seriously in a sex museum???

The Sex Machines Museum was just around the corner from the main square and the Old Town. We watched the Astronomical clock go around and had a wander around. There was a military performance thing on (don’t know the details), so it was quite loud in the square as we all as lot of guns (which made us quite uncomfortable), and we headed to find a café a little out of the way. We had some lush lemonades, chilled for a bit to cool down (pun oh so intended). 

Once we felt like we could brave the sun and heat again, we had a walk around some of the Old Town. As we knew that Franz Kafka lived there, we made sure we found his statue which was right next to a shopping centre. It was a very snazzy statue.

That evening we made ourselves a lentil bolognaise, packed, then headed back into the centre of town to a bar we’d found online. It was very loud, although it wasn’t that busy (just dance music blaring when there wasn’t a dance floor. Great.), so we had one drink and went to find somewhere else to go. We ended up at a karaoke bar called Berlin (which we found quite amusing considering our next destination), had several delicious cocktails, sung our hearts out (along with other people, we weren’t on the stage, the queue was too long), and ended up chatting to an English stag party who were actually really nice. That night we said we’d have a couple of drinks and leave at a decent time… Fair to day that didn’t happen thanks to our friend sweet absinthe-y drinks. 

The next morning, we got a bus to Berlin, and (despite a couple of hiccups early on - hangover related as I’m sure you can imagine), we made it to our hostel in one piece. For a number of reasons, we ended up staying in the same hostel we went to during our first trip to Berlin two years ago with our college (you can read all about that trip here), and in a way, it was kind of comforting having some kind of familiarity in where we were going. We went out for a lush vegan pizza at a place a bit further out from the centre, and had a lovely evening going to various different bars and having a chat. One of the places we went was a bar linked to an exhibition created by local artists, who had made lots of mechanical monsters, which we’d been told about by a friend. It was hilarious, and one of the artists who was acting as our guide of the monster lair was absolutely bonkers. We had a great time looking at these weird and wonderful things and I think we would all recommend it to anyone going to Berlin. Also, does anyone else know about any smoking laws in Germany? We were literally in a bar surrounded by smoke because someone had shut the doors and everyone came to smoke inside. Weird when you’re not used to it. 

The next day we headed to a vegan doughnut place called Brammabil’s, and they were absolutely delicious. We honestly could have spent all of our time (and money) there trying everything they had on offer. Mine was caramel cherry crumble and was so freaking good I can’t even describe it properly. Incredible. I desperately want more in my life. Can we get one in Newcastle and Southampton please? Thank you. 

As we’d been to Berlin before, we weren’t too fussed on seeing all of the major tourist attractions and historical sites again, so took our time exploring. We headed over to see the Brandenburg Gate again (it has to be done) and then to Checkpoint Charlie, where we saw a biker rally which seemed nationalistic in some way, but we weren’t sure whether or not it was alt-right or promoting diversity and acceptance, so didn’t know how to react. We tried to look it up but couldn’t find anything, so I guess we’ll never know. Whilst we were over there we got vegan currywurst from a place directly opposite Checkpoint Charlie we’d been to on our college trip – again, delicious. 

We then made our way over to Charlottenburg Palace. This took a while and was more complicated due to roadworks and our confusion with the buses, but we got there in the end and it was a nice way to get out of the sun and away from the buzz of the main city for a little bit. We were given free audioguides and went around the inside of the palace and learned all about various Prussian royals, particularly the first inhabitants of the house, one of whom the palace (and the surrounding area) is named after. Our feet did hurt after a while, so it was lush to be able to sit down as soon as we found a bench. The gardens were absolutely beautiful outside. There was a section where a path ran alongside the river, and then in the main garden there was a fountain which splashed us (mostly me) a few times – something that was seriously welcome considering the heat.  

For our tea that night, we got a burrito at Dolore’s – a Mexican place we went to together to escape the rain when we were there before, and was as yummy then as it was two years ago – and then headed back to our hostel to get an early night as we had to get up in the early hours of the morning for a flight to Amsterdam. Before anyone says anything about the environmental impacts of flying, it was by far the cheaper option, and I have never claimed to be perfect (I have in fact claimed the opposite, you can read that post here), but I do want to make much more of an effort in the future to travel by train and bus where possible. 

We arrived in Amsterdam at around 8:30 in the morning, and just about managed to figure out how to get out of Schipol, and bought ourselves a 3-day travel pass each. We stopped off at a café at a train station on the way to our Airbnb as we had a bit of time to kill before we could check in. There, we had some very tasty smoothies and were loving being able to wear jumpers and not be overheating!

We dropped off our stuff in our Airbnb and then made our way to Amsterdam Central. One thing which immediately struck me about Amsterdam was the architecture. The buildings are just so interesting, and genuinely like nothing I’ve ever seen before. They’re so thin and tall, and must all go back so far. 

Although we spent our first day in Amsterdam absolutely exhausted from having been awake for so long, we still made the most of it. The first thing we did when we got into the city centre was to make sure we got some lunch. Beforehand, we’d found a food chain called Beans & Bagels which had some good looking vegan bagels available. When we got there, we all ended up getting the burger bagel, which was absolutely lush. I’m going to have to start making that in daily life, and to be honest with you, I don’t know how one of us hadn’t thought of it before – a genius idea if ever there was one!

 From there, we made our way away from the coast and a bit more centrally. We just wandered around for a bit, looking around the various canals and streets. There were various different vintage clothes shops, cafes and food places which all looked so interesting, I’d love to go back and look around all those places we saw. There was one Syrian restaurant which was advertising its vegan options outside which we didn’t have time to try but I would love to go to if I go to Amsterdam again.

Later on that afternoon we went to Vegabond – a vegan deli and shop where they sold all sorts. We specifically went in for cake – how could we not? The others had brownie-esque things (I can’t remember the details) and I had a Dutch Apple Pie which was one of the best things to grace my tastebuds ever. Deee-lish. So good in fact that we went back on our last morning in Amsterdam!

At 5:30 we were booked to go on a tour of the Anne Frank House Museum. It was an experience I think everyone should go through. It started at the bottom of the house, in the basement which was used as storage for the business which the Franks were hiding above, and then we worked our way up the building through offices and eventually into the annex, then worked our way back down again. At the end of the museum they held her original diary and it was incredible and heartbreaking to see. I won’t lie I did have a little cry at several points around the museum. Stories like Anne’s are in the millions and they are happening right now under our noses and we aren’t taking action. Change needs to happen now and we need to make it.

Okay, back to me and my friends forgetting about world issues for a bit…

We then got the bus straight back to where we were staying and made ourselves some food. We spent the rest of the evening chilling outside on deckchairs then had what was (for me at least) one of the best sleeps ever. I mean we had been awake since 3am, we had plenty of reason to be needing a proper sleep.

It took us a while to get going the next morning, so the first thing we did was to head to get some lunch. We went to Happy Pig, a pancake place which had several options for vegans. They were so tasty and really cute in their presentation. I had apple crumble mix and maple syrup on mine, and it was my dream pancake. 2 of my favourite things smushed together: apple crumble and pancakes. 

We then had a walk around and ended up looking in the fanciest shopping centre I’ve ever been in whilst on the hunt for public toilets (even though we didn’t end up using them because it was one of those “you can only piss if you pay” places). 

Close to that was Dam Square, which seemed like kind of a central point for Amsterdam. There were all sorts of things going on there – everything from what looked like recruitment for a cult to a Free Palestine demonstration. 

We then walked for a couple of minutes to the Sex Museum – a must do if you’re a tourist in Amsterdam right? Again, like the Prague one, this was just hilarious. This museum was much bigger and had a lot more variety than one we’d visited in Prague. Rather than old sex toys, this one had a lot of artwork, photography and discussions and exhibitions on particular people. There were some elements which were a tad problematic and/or inaccurate, but most of it was interesting and fun. 

We then visited the Stedelijk Modern Art Museum, and stayed there until about 6pm. There was loads of stuff there – some which was a bit meh and way too pretentious, but also a room with pinball machines you could use and we had a great time in that bit!

Gradually, we made our way back to where we were staying in Zaandam and had another chill evening making some yummy fajitas, enjoying the evening sunshine on the sun loungers they had outside, and doing some packing. Our flight was in the late afternoon, so we had a fair amount of time the next morning. We check out of our Airbnb and then headed back into the centre of town to have a bit of a wander again, then headed back to Vegabond for some more cake (only this time with our chared suitcase in tow). Charlotte and Lizzi tried some other cakes to last time but I got the Dutch Apple Pie again, and it was just a delicious as last time. Charlotte and I also bought some cheeky Cashew Camemberts. They weren’t cheap but we were treating ourselves with the little bit of cash we had leftover. I tried mine as part of a lunch when I was home the next week and it was very tasty, although not the consistency of dairy camembert but still purty good. 

After finishing our cake, we went and found a nice place to sit along a canal and have our lunch – some extra fajitas we’d made the night before. After that we made our way back to Central Station and then on to Schipol airport for our flight back home. Our last impression of the Netherlands was of a guy sat next to us asking us if it was okay to play his guitar on our little bit of the carriage and was absolutely brilliant. The Netherlands is just lovely isn’t it?

This trip was great, mostly because I got to spend over a week solidly with two of my absolute favourite people, but also because we got see so much cool stuff and eat some much snazzy food.

If you liked this post you might like: 4 Days in Ireland


  1. Looks like a grand time the foods looks even better lol I hope I have a chance to travel Europe one day

    1. I hope you get to go, it's definitely worth it!

      Jemima x