When you don’t have much time, squeezing in a mini euro-trip can seem stressful. A few weeks ago I was set to visit my friends at Hostel ROOM for a weekend festival in the city, which seemed like the perfect excuse to stop by Paris on the way and visit other friends. The problem? I only had one week in Europe before I had to be back in the UK!
But, after so many great experiences with European buses I knew I would get the most out of my little time by catching the night bus between cities. And as I had never experienced FlixBus before I figured this was the perfect opportunity!
So I’ve created a mini ‘One Week in Europe’ itinerary for you that covers the whole trip from London, to Paris, to Rotterdam! And you can also find out what I thought of the FlixBus service by clicking here!
P.s. I am running a competition in partnership with FlixBus to offer you and a friend a FREE pair of return tickets to any one of their 900 destinations! Click here to enter before midday (BST) on Sunday, 25th September 2016. – Competition now closed.
Day 1: London
There are two reasons I love getting the night bus from Victoria Coach Station in London:
- The coach station has on-site staff and is well lit until midnight, with toilet and shop facilities until 11:00pm.
- The location is close to some incredible city sites to fit in that last minute sightseeing!
With a free day in London to spend as you like, I’d begin at the National Portrait Gallery. It’s free to enter and exits onto Trafalgar Square – an iconic London scene. Walking around the gallery takes up a lot of time, but from there you’re only a twenty minute walk from my favourite park in London.
St James’ Park is the oldest Royal Park in London. Obtained by Henry VIII in 1532, it passed down through the monarchy and is now a public park. Surrounded by three palaces and situated at the front of Buckingham Palace, the park attracts thousands of tourists and yet it is one of the most peaceful places in London… I promise.
And then of course, you will find yourself at Buckingham Palace. Not surprisingly, the palace is swarmed on weekends and can be hard to appreciate. But if I’m in London with little to do on a sunny day, it’s quite fun to sit on the edge of one of the perimeter walls and watch the selfie-stick warriors.
Plus, if the sun is shining the gardens at the front look magnificent. Fit for a Queen in fact and the perfect way to begin one week in Europe…
The walk from Buckingham Palace to Victoria Coach Station is then just 15 minutes! But make sure to stop for some food and pick up some snacks for the bus on the way
Day 2 & 3: Paris
Getting the late FlixBus from London meant that I arrived in Paris at 9:50pm. I actually arrived an hour later (see the full review here) but that worked out perfectly as the friend I planned to meet wasn’t free until midday anyway!
We decided to meet in Belleville for two reasons:
- I wanted to check out a new hostel that has opened there
- I was desperate to see the street art of Belleville that Joey and I had failed to find earlier this year
So we began our day with a beer in the new hostel, Les Piaules. After that, I dropped my carry-on backpack at his apartment around the corner and went on the hunt for street art.
I’ll be publishing a longer post about this, but Belleville’s working class, multicultural and artistic essence screams from the bold colours painted on walls, windows, doors, rubbish bins and pavements. To see life in Paris, head to rue Dénoyez.
After that, take a hike towards Parc des Buttes Chaumont. It’s here that you can see some of the best free rooftop views of Paris and walk over the incredible suspension bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel – the same architect that created the Eiffel Tower.
By now, it’s definitely time for a very late lunch. And on a summer’s day in Paris there’s no better way to eat than along the water.
Grab a bottle of wine or a few cans of beer, a fresh baguette from a boulangerie and cheese and meats from the supermarket. Then head to the Seine or, like we did, to Canal St Martin…
After a late lunch, it’s time to check in to your accommodation. I grabbed my bags from Maxi’s (you can also store yours at Gare du Nord train station – which I did on the second day in Paris!) and headed towards Montparnasse in the South of Paris.
On this short one week in Europe trip, I decided to rent my first Airbnb! It was the perfect ground floor studio apartment with the perfect owners (thanks Pierre & Catherine!) and the kind of place I could see myself living if I could ever afford to live in Paris!
But if you need help choosing hostels – I’ve written reviews on my favourite Hip Hop Hostels here.
The following night and day were spent with one of my closest Parisian friends. We spent the night walking Paris with a bottle of red wine, and then slept the morning under the sun in a small park in Montparnasse as I had to check out of the Airbnb at 9am and was exhausted from drinking wine in Paris until 4am!
For a full itinerary for Paris – click here. On that second day in Paris, the tourists took the pictures and I took the memories. And then all too soon it was time to head to Porte Maillot for my 22:15pm night bus to Rotterdam!
Day 4-6: Rotterdam
My bus was scheduled to arrive at 6:15am in Rotterdam, and it did. But as I slept so well on the bus I woke up at 6:30am in Delft and ended up getting a train back to Rotterdam from The Hague!
After finally arriving at 7:30am, my plan was to store my luggage at Rotterdam Centraal Station but, unlike Gare du Nord in Paris, you need a train ticket to access the luggage storage – so my bags would have been impossible to pick up!
Luckily I was staying at Hostel ROOM and I knew they wouldn’t mind me turning up early to drop off my bags!
On your fist visit to Rotterdam, it’s impossible not to be overwhelmed by the incredible architecture in the city.
And arriving so early from the night bus gives you plenty of time to appreciate the Erasmus Bridge and the incredible skyscrapers that give Rotterdam it’s famous skyline. This view can be seen just around the corner from the hostel…
The next step is to take a walk along the Nieuwe Maas towards the centre of Rotterdam where you’ll find the incredible Cube Houses; designed by Dutch architect Piet Blom they are intended to represent an urban forest.
Oh, and the cubes are apartments and offices. There’s even a hostel inside them (not an endorsement as I’ve never stayed there, but cool location)!
Once you’ve got neck ache from staring up at the impossible architecture of the cubes, it’s time to eat!
Rotterdam’s incredible Markthal was opened in October 2014 and not only serves as an incredible market for local businesses but also as apartments to very lucky residents! Whilst there is a huge range of food on offer – including the incredible Dutch cheeses and ports – visitors should focus on the fish stalls.
Raw herring, served with diced onions, is one of Holland’s national dishes and should not be missed when in Rotterdam!
By now, it’s time to check in to your hostel. As I had taken the night bus, the fantastic Hostel ROOM owners treated me to a night in one of their cosiest double bedrooms.
Each room represents the work of local artists and for my first night back in Rotterdam I had the luck to sleep the whole night through in the Love Room. After quite a few beers at the hostel bar of course…
My next two days were spent exploring the best of one of Rotterdam’s incredible festivals. Of all the cities I’ve visited in Europe, Rotterdam seems to offer the most in terms of culture festivals and creativity.
Wereldhavendagen (or World Port Days in English) was no different. A celebration of the biggest port in Europe, Wereldhavengdagen offered displays of some of the most famous ships in the harbour (including SS Rotterdam!) alongside fantastic seas shanty choirs placed all along the old harbour of the city…
But, aside from experiencing one of the many festivals that Rotterdam has to offer, I still made time to hang out with the Hostel ROOM team who took me to experience some fantastic places to eat.
The first was Fenix Food Factory. A food hall where you can buy specifically from the stalls or grab a board and try something from each(!), Fenix Food Factory is the perfect example of how Rotterdam has taken abandoned parts of its past and turned them into hip places to hang out.
Another place I had been meaning to visit on previous trips to Rotterdam was Koekela.
Now famous in the The Netherlands, Koekela began as a small bakery in Rotterdam in 2003. Since then, word of their incredible cakes and biscuits has spread and once you visit and taste them, it’s easy to see why!
Our stop at Koekela was time perfectly after our self-guided tour of Rotterdam’s street art with the Rewriters app was cut short by the rain!
And after that fantastic final day out I still had plenty of time to kick back and work at my laptop before catching my 22:15pm bus back from Rotterdam to London. The hostel lounge is one of my favourite places to spend evenings in Rotterdam, and they’re made even more special by a few of Pablo’s incredible cappuccinos…!
Day 7: Arriving back in London after one week in Europe
And just like that, my one week in Europe was over and I had arrived in London. It was a Monday morning, and the beginning of a new working week for most commuters in the capital.
But no matter what day you arrive back in London, take a short stroll from Victoria Coach Station to Westminster. Home to Westminster Abbey, Westminster Palace, Big Ben and Parliament Square, the area is always buzzing.
This post was written in partnership with FlixBus who provided the tickets for my one week in Europe. However, and as always, all opinions are honest and my own and I hope you find this useful when planning your next Euro trip!.