Amsterdam ( Netherlands)
For first time travelers in Europe, Amsterdam is a must see destination. It combines the beauty of Venetian canals with the bohemian freedom of choosing to visit art galleries, museums, take a canal cruise , do your own barbeque in Vondelpark, soak in the sun at Dam square, take a look at the famous red-light districts or just spend the afternoon at the much talked about ‘ coffee shops’. Amsterdam has so much to offer. It has some of the best restaurants serving world cuisine. It has beautiful architecture that frame the canals and it’s a treat to see the bright windows studded on these old buildings. While in Amsterdam it’s a good idea to see the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam and Anne Frank House.
Most of all , it’s the spirit of the city. It has people from all over the world and is a melting pot of culture, ethnicity and experiences.
There are some great weekend getaways close to Amsterdam like Paris, Brussels , Antwerp. Keukenhof or the tulip fields, Volendam is a small fishing village close by, Rotterdam etc are good day trips.
Amsterdam is a place best seen at a leisurely pace. Rushing through the city doesn’t do justice to the place. So pick up a bite to eat and walk around town, sit by the canals and savor the beauty of this lovely city.
Amsterdam has great trams, bus and overall public transportation. You can buy discounted pass for day / week / month at the Central Railway Station. Try local cuisine while in Netherlands, its easily available and tastes great. It’s perfectly safe to be out at night as long as you are careful. You can also buy calling cards at the station to call back home – it’s cost effective and gives you sufficient talk time.
Paris ( France)
This city has always been heralded as the original city of romance. It has been the backdrop of much art, culture, movies, literature and music. And quite deservingly so. There are few cities in the world that manage to balance modernity with history as well as Paris. From the right and left bank of the River Sienne that is dotted with beautiful old architecture , to the Sacre Coeur and the winding roads of Abbesses dotted with artists and small French patisseries , to one of the best public transportation system.. . Paris has it all!
If you are lucky and are traveling in summer, you will also walk alongside the river while street musicians playing softly on their accordion and violins , while you can just halt for a while and take in the magic of it all. Stop at small Parisian cafes for crepes and coffee before you explore more of this enchanting city.
Traveler's tip: ensure that you see the Eifel when it lights up gloriously at close of each hour . Buy day passes for the metro for the duration of your stay. The metro connects you to every part of the city and is the most economical and fastest way to travel. If you love Indian food, there are some excellent Indian / Pakistani restaurants near the two main rail stations - Gare Du Lest and Gare Du Nord.
Innsbruck ( Austria)
Anyone who has seen the movie ' Sound of Music' would have wanted to see the Austrian alps, and among the choice of towns scattered on the Alps in Austria…Innsbruck is one of the must see places . Known as a tourist attraction for the Golden Dachl and other sights it has some lesser known secrets to offer.
Not many explore the Alps on foot and that's something one must try. Each day early morning a group of mountain lovers departs from the city centre by bus to the foothills. You can even borrow trekking boots at no extra cost. From the foothills the trekkers go up the hill on ropeway to the summit of the trek. The guides are seasoned trekkers and they know the distance, trail and difficulty level. This is one of the best ways to experience the alps as you climb with other enthusiasts , pass cattle grazing on the meadows and experience the beautiful mountains as they should be.
Traveler's tip: try the famous apple strudel and herring sandwich. There are good hostels that offer nice rooms at affordable rates. Use public transport as much as possible. The restaurants near the train station have some good deals on buffet meals