Visiting Europe for the first time was a way of celebrating passing my written qualification exams in January, passing my Master’s thesis defense in April, AND earning (and later accepting) a pre-doctoral fellowship at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, specifically funded by the Chandra X-ray Center, in May. I think I more than deserved a vacation, right? Especially a grand adventure! So, Noah and I bought tickets to visit my good friends, Kirsten and Jacob in Belgium. 

Heidelberg, Germany! Our first adventure altogether. Pictured is the town center with a beautiful view of the Heidelberg castle.

View at the top by the Heidelberg castle, over looking the gorgeous town that hugs the Neckar River.

The Aare glacier waters that run through Interlaken, Switzerland.
We were in Europe for two full weeks. This was Noah and I’s first time ever leaving the United States (at the ages of 25 and 27!). We managed to visit SEVEN countries:
1. Belgium

  • Cities: Lens, Brugge, and Brussels

2. Germany

  • ​Cities: Heidelberg

3. Switzerland

  • Cities: Interlaken, Grindelwald, and Spiez

4. France

  • Cities: Annecy

5. Czech Republic

  • Cities: Prague and Karlovy Vary

6. Netherlands

  • Cities: Amsterdam

7. Spain

  • Madrid

Below I outline my favorites and highlight areas I think everyone should visit (!), and some tips for navigating Europe.

My favorites: Heidelberg, Switzerland, Prague, and Amsterdam

Grindelwald, Switzerland! This was at the location of the ride Toboggan. You ride on a fast slide through the Swiss mountains! It’s great fun.

The Charles Bridge in Prague. The bridge was finished in the 15th century and crosses the Vltava River.
Heidelberg: Gorgeous town, rich in history (like the rest of Europe pretty much) and features an ancient castle dating back to at least 1214. We stayed at a small hotel called Hotel Dier Johresjeiten with its own intriguing background, itself dating back to 1690. The hotel staff were knowledgable about the area and were very kind!

  • Average price to visit here (1 $ being cheap to 5 $ being very expensive): $$ — not bad. 

Switzerland: Interlaken is absolutely beautiful! Everywhere we went, we were surrounded by towering mountains and glacier streams. This includes Spiez and Grindelwald. We visited Harderkulm, a peer in the mountains nearly a mile above sea level, that overlooks Lake Brienz and Lake Thun, and has a stunning view. In Grindelwald, we went up to ride the Toboggan! It was so much fun! Everyone should do that when visiting Grindelwald. 

  • Average price to visit here: $$$$ –the Frank is comparable in value to the US dollar but the cost of living is much higher. Four of us stayed in a one room AirBnB that shared a bathroom with another hotel room that was walking distance from the train station and to the city center for two nights: nearly $500.00. 

Prague: The capital city of the Czech Republic has remarkable architecture with winding roads that all stream from the city center where the astronomical clock sits. The cuisine is divine! You feel like a king when you dine in Prague. 

  • Average price to visit here: $ — A big perk for me about Prague was the prices!! You could buy a decent beer for $1.00 at pretty much any convenience store. You could buy a fabulous sausage dish and a latte for $10. We did one of those tour buses for $25! It was awesome. Plus people are really nice. We have some very interesting stories from this city…. One being we stayed on the fourth floor of a hotel in downtown. Every night you would hear SWARMS of men stumbling in the streets, belting out famous songs (We’re not gonna take it and Don’t you love me baby to name a few)  at the top of their lungs as they made their way to the next bar. I was still recovering from jetlag at this point so I wasn’t necessarily annoyed by it. In fact, I thought it was rather funny. If I can’t sleep, why not listen to Prague at night?

Amsterdam, Netherlands. Beautiful and captivating in architecture, culture, and history.

Annecy, France. A brief trip but was lovely nonetheless. Took a dip in the lake and appreciated the clear blue water.

         Must sees!

  • Heidelberg Castle in Heidelberg, Germany
  • Brugge (great beer, good prices!), Belgium
  • Toboggan ride in Grindelwald, Switzerland
  • The astronomical clock in Prague, Czech Republic
  • Harderkulm in Interlaken, Switzerland
Tips to follow in the next post. There are a few apps that saved me while traveling in Europe on a budget and with limited cell phone service! Other things, like traveling with a group and planning on a budget, I will try to provide advice on next.

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