Last week I went on yet another amazing inter-railing trip round Europe and my sister came along with me for the ride. I’ve done 4 inter-railing trips over the past two years and have loved every single one. Inter-railing is a great way to discover Europe, and to get around quickly and easily. Train travel is so hassle free and not stressful at all. Endless luggage allowance, no liquid restrictions, comfy seats, ample space and good views out the window… what’s not to like?! I’ve visited 9 consecutive countries whilst inter-railing, and each experience has been fantastic in different ways. My most recent trip was between Paris, Luxembourg and Bruges and each city offered plenty to see and do. Getting the Eurostar to and from each destination also made the whole journey even easier and we had a wonderful week away. Here are my highlights from my recent trip…
Climbing the Montparnasse Tower in Paris
When in Paris, you’ve just got to climb some kind of tower, right?! Most people will flock to the iconic Eiffel Tower, queue for approx. 3 hours, get to the top, be squished with hundreds of other people and probably wish they’d just admired it from the ground instead. I’m not gonna lie, I have done the Eiffel Tower before and I embraced my inner tourist whilst doing so, but when I got to the top I wondered why I couldn’t see the giant grey statue that dominates the Parisian skyline and forgot that it was because I was STANDING ON IT!! Duuhh Jess. So anyway, long story short, the views from Montparnasse Tower, located in the 14th arrondissement, are waaay better. Mainly because it is more glam, completely enclosed and you can use a lift instead of climbing hundreds of steps. And also because you can actually see the Eiffel Tower from it as well. The queues are shorter, it’s cheaper and there’s even a café/bar at the top serving food and drinks until 10pm. No brainer! Top tip, get there for sunset to see panoramic views in the light, and then wait until after dark to see the Eiffel Tower glitter and sparkle in the night’s sky – on the hour every hour from 7pm.
Visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris
Again, I have done this before but my second visit to the Notre Dame was just as magical as the first and it’s seriously one of the most impressive buildings I have ever seen! I absolutely love the architecture, the design, the stained glass windows, the roof turrets and just the sheer size of this place has me gazing up in awe. Sadly we didn’t have time to climb to the roof and take in the views, but we did spend a good hour wandering around, lighting a candle, paying attention to all the design features and admiring it from every angle. Top tip, don’t go on Easter Sunday like we did – it was soooo busy!! Queues were miles long so we came back early on a Tuesday morning instead and got in straight away. Get there before 9.30am for the best chance of beating the queues.
Wandering around the Casemate caves in Luxembourg
Upon arrival in Luxembourg I had no idea about the cities links to war, invasion and destruction, but everything became clear as soon as we reached the Casemates ready to escape the rain that started lashing down on us that morning. The Casemates are basically a series of underground caves and chambers that were used in many wars, mainly to defend from attack, and there are still cannons, windows and hiding places which can be seen today. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Casemates are one of the country’s top attraction and are fun for all the family. If you’re claustrophobic I would give it a miss, but it was really fun to wander around the many hidden chambers, follow the ladders and staircases up and down to find different areas of the tunnels and when we reached an open air bit at the top we had amazing views over the valley and the rest of the city. This place was a real hidden gem and we could have spent hours here wandering around!
Hiking the Wenzel Walk in Luxembourg
Whilst there aren’t many landmarks or famous things to see and do in Luxembourg, my sister and I really enjoyed the laid back vibe that was present throughout the city. Obviously you can see the Palace of Justice, the castle, the many bridges and beautiful buildings, but we loved nothing more than taking a hike and getting out in to the fresh air. Luxembourg itself is like a miniature countryside retreat and the outdoor opportunities are endless. Sadly on our first day it was pouring with rain, so the Casemates were a wise choice, but on the second day the sun was shining, the sky was blue and we were treated to warm temperatures so decided to make the most of it. We saw signs for the Wenzel Walk and decided to follow them until we couldn’t see them anymore. Turns out we had stumbled upon a famous Luxembourg trail and the hike took us through the valley, towards the outskirts of the city centre, and then back toward the Palace square. It was super enjoyable, especially in the sun.
Taking a canal boat cruise around Bruges
Taking a boat cruise is an amazing way to get to know a new city, and what better place to do it than in beautiful Bruges? There are tonnes of small boats cruising around the canals and each of them fits around 30 passengers so it feels pretty small and intimate. Your guide will take you for a leisurely tour around the city, pointing out landmarks and things of interest along the way, and you’ll pass many other boats during your ride too. It was really hot whilst we were in the city and, naturally, people flocked to the boats to make the most of the glorious sunshine. I imagine this attraction is busy all year round though, and it was definitely very touristy. If you don’t fancy hopping on a boat, the city is extremely walkable and you can see pretty much everything on foot. We really enjoyed our 30 minute boat trip though and it was a great way to see the city from a different perspective.
Tasting endless amounts of chocolate at the Choco-Story museum
When in Bruges chocolate is an absolute MUST!! The Belgians really like their cocoa beans, and I don’t think any nation does it better. Bruges is the perfect city from which to lap up all the chocolatey goodness, with chocolatiers, gift shops, museums and even chocolate café’s on every corner. Wherever you go you’ll be offered mini tasters and samples and you will definitely come back with kilos of the stuff in your suitcase!! Handy if you travel by Eurostar and aren’t restricted by luggage allowance ;) We were actually a bit sick of chocolate by our third day, but we still made time for one of the city’s most popular museums, Choco-Story. This exhibition was super cool and very busy but well worth the €8 entrance fee. After walking through different levels of the building learning about the history of the cocoa bean, and then the evolution of chocolate as we now know it today, you’ll watch a short film from one of Belgium’s leading confectioners. Make your way round the exhibition, passing treat stations along the way where you can eat as much free chocolate as you wish, and you’ll then be treated to a live demo with one of the chocolatiers making heavenly pralines in front of your very eyes. You’ll then be offered a taster to see you through the rest of the day as by the end I can guarantee you will be all chocced out!
These are just a few of my highlights and there were so many more stand out moments I could have picked! Paris, Luxembourg and Bruges are all totally unique, different from each other and each one offered something special for us to enjoy. I really do think that inter-railing is the best way to get around Europe and would definitely encourage other travellers to use this method of transport when exploring our beautiful continent. Have you ever been inter-railing before? Let us know where your train journeys have taken you!