It was a fine Saturday afternoon in the middle of a series of public holidays when I knew from a friend, then I checked myself, flight tickets promo. I had never been to Europe, and it was one of the place I’d always wanted to visit. So I told my husband that the tickets were somehow discounted (not much, but cheaper than usual), and my full-of-surprise husband instantly told me to buy the tickets, so I did. LOL. (We consider this holiday as our second honeymoon, using remaining wedding savings we had. – FYI our wedding ended up overbudget, but we managed to save some money from the initially anticipated amount.)
When I first looked at Europe map, I got so excited and planned to visit 10+ cities in my 14 days trip. My trip-planner best friend (re: Tata) then told me not to be dazed by the map and consider the tiredness we would feel if we’d followed that plan. I had to agree with her, so I reorganized my expectations and decided to limit our trip to what people refer to ‘Introduction to Europe’, i.e. the places one must visit during his/her first time in Europe. So here it goes.
*Note: ticket prices are for adults – need to check for reference before budgeting because in most European countries, children and students normally can get discounted price.
Day 1: 5 Oct 2019 – Jakarta-Amsterdam to Düsseldorf (Germany)
So this was officially the longest flight I’d been in – 17 hours in total (excluding transit time in Dubai) + another 2.5 hours by train. My friend Lydia and her husband Tomy picked us up at Düsseldorf train station (we arrived at 7 PM), then we went for dinner at (German for Brewery) Brauerei Schumacher in Altstadt area.
Day 2: 6 Oct 2019 – Cologne – Linz am Rhein (Germany)
Lydia was definitely over excited her friend visited her – on 2nd day we went to Cologne and Linz am Rhein. Both cities are beautiful (Cologne is 45 mins drive from Düsseldorf and Linz am Rhein is about the same distance from Cologne) – unfortunately, it showered the whole day that we cannot take too many pictures (and it was, I feel, our coldest day during our 14-day trip).
Day 3: 7 Oct 2019 – Düsseldorf
It was Monday; Tomy and Lydia worked so we strolled around the city ourselves. Düsseldorf is a unique city because it keeps the old part around while at the same time builds the contemporary part of the city. We started the day strolling around Carlsplatz (Düsseldorf’s oldest market), continued to Altstadt (this time successfully tried the famous pork leg at Schweine Janes for lunch), Medienhafen (the most contemporary part of the city), Rheinuferpromenade (Rhein river bank, not forgetting to see and take pictures in Rhein Tower), Kiefernstraße to see street art, Nordpark, then last but not least tried out some cakes and hot chocolate in Cafe Heinemann.
Day 4: 8 Oct 2019 – Düsseldorf to Paris (France)
It was (again) a rainy morning when we departed to Düsseldorf train station to move to Paris by Thalys. The funny thing was that I accidentally rode the same train as Cuni, my friend in Paris. So we met and chatted for a while in the train (we sat on different car). As soon as we reached Paris Nord station, we went to The Wall of Love, Sacre Coeur Basilica (again it was raining, otherwise many pickpockets would have operated around the area, my friend said) and Montmartre. I was so amazed by the pretty interior of Sacre Coeur Basilica. ♡
Day 5: 9 Oct 2019 – Paris
On our 2nd day in Paris, we went to Sainte Chapelle and The Conciergerie in the morning, then Musée d’Orsay, Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe for the rest of the afternoon. Best part is that we climbed up Arc de Triomphe at sunset so we got to see the beautiful sky (and rainbow).
Day 6: 10 Oct 2019 – Versailles (France)
Our visit to Versailles was originally planned to be half day, but it ended up to be a full day visit (I didn’t schedule anything else on this day). At first we didn’t expect it to be so big (and tiring), but apparently the complex is very big and packed with tourists.
Day 7: 11 Oct 2019 – Paris
It is mandatory to book a time slot to visit Musée du Louvre, and thankfully we still got the slot for morning visit. Again, we didn’t expect Louvre to be so big (it will take 5 weeks to finish exploring the whole museum, according to Robert Langdon/Dan Brown) and confusing. After about 2 hours strolling with whatever-collection-we-bumped-into, we decided to go straight to the 3 masterpiece collections: Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory, and Mona Lisa – all 3 were so crowded with Mona Lisa as the champion (we were too lazy to queue to see Mona Lisa so we only took a picture from far). In the afternoon, we continued to Eiffel Tower – unfortunately that day the elevators were broken so only 1 operated, causing massive delay. We booked a 13.30 slot and by the time we arrived (we were late by 5 mins), even people with 13.00 time slot were still there. Finally we got on the elevator at almost 3 PM. What an experience. Afterwards, following my itinerary, we went for a picnic in Champs de Mars (thanks to Cuni for the food), walked for some pictures in Trocadero, then ended our day in Galeries Lafayette.
Day 8: 12 Oct 2019 – Paris to Rome (Italy)
Our last morning in Paris was spent walking around our apartment (no time for another museum visit), then we went to the airport for our flight to Rome. Same thing in Rome, when we arrived, we walked around our apartment only.
Day 9: 13 Oct 2019 – Rome-Vatican-Rome
It was a bad Sunday morning, where we spent more than 1 hour to reach (only) halfway to our original destination due to too long bus waiting time and had to decide to go straight to Vatican to join papal angelus. We arrived in Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square at 11.10 AM when the mass was still going on. The mass finished at 12.20 PM, then the Pope paraded circling the Square. We waited until 1 PM (papal angelus is scheduled to start at 12 PM), and decided to leave because I was hungry. 😀 From Vatican, we went on with the missed morning itinerary (and managed to complete it): strolling around Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon (we didn’t get in because the queue was too long), then ended our walk on Via Francesco Crispi to see leather products.
Day 10: 14 Oct 2019 – Rome-Vatican
Our 2nd day in Rome marked the only day our schedule was fixed for morning and afternoon: in the morning we went (booked online) to Colosseum and The Roman Forum, then in the afternoon we went (also booked online) to Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel.
Day 11: 15 Oct 2019 – Rome to Amsterdam (Netherlands)
We left early (by early means we left the apartment when it was still dark) to go to the airport so we got to spend more time in Amsterdam. After dropping our luggage in the apartment, we directly went to Bloemenmarkt (flower market) to see beautiful tulips (but of course we didn’t buy the seeds because we’re sure it’s not going to grow in a hot country like Indonesia) and De Negen Straatjes (the 9 streets) to stroll around the shops (unfortunately they’re closed by 5-6 PM so we didn’t get to see too much), then ended our short walk by having dinner in Foodhallen.
Day 12: 16 Oct 2019 – Zaanse Schans – Haarlem (Netherlands)
On our 1st day in The Netherlands (technically, we stayed in Zaandam, a small town in northern side of Amsterdam, and it’s closer to this place we went to), we decided to spend our day outside Amsterdam. Our first destination was Zaanse Schans. We didn’t expect it to be so fun to visit – there is this open area with ‘exhibition houses’ where we can see the wooden clog making process, small explanation on how cheese was first made, small museum of Albert Heijn, the first supermarket that sold Zaandam’s local products, and of course, windmills. Then there is also Zaans Museum and Chocolate and Verkade Experience in the main building. Afterwards, we headed to Haarlem, the capital city of the province of North Holland. Unfortunately, it was raining when we arrived, so we only got to take a few (by a few I meant 1 or 2, without us in the pictures) then decided to warm ourselves up in a small cafe instead. By the time the rain stopped, it was already 5 PM and most of the shops (Haarlem is famous as the center of shopping in North Holland) were already closed. 😦
Day 13: 17 Oct 2019 – Amsterdam
Being our last destination, I improvised my Amsterdam itinerary a lot – except for the pre-booked Van Gogh Museum we visited on this 2nd day in Amsterdam (it was booked at 1.30 PM and, getting tired by all the museums/art galleries we’d visited throughout our Europe trip, we really just skipped a lot of things in this museum LOL). The original plan was to visit Rijkmuseum in the morning, then Van Gogh Museum in the afternoon, but we ended up strolling around Albert Cuypmarket to buy souvenirs and try traditional dishes in the morning (hello, stroopwafel, poffertjes, haring, and chicken meatballs *drooling*). After lunch and Van Gogh, we continued for dessert in The Pancake Bakery (finally found a restaurant we like in Amsterdam), Sexmuseum de Venustempel (and enjoyed it more than Van Gogh LOL) and the Red Light District. Then, to make our last night in Europe more fun, we rode on the 1 hour river cruise (the view is so pretty in the evening).
Day 14: 18 Oct 2019 – Amsterdam-Jakarta
Our last morning in Amsterdam, we checked out early and walked around the apartment (which we hadn’t done the previous days) to shop last minute souvenirs. Apparently there are more stores around than we expected before. At 12 PM, we headed straight to the airport (only to find that our flight was delayed by 1.5 hours.. haha..), but we made it. We arrived in Jakarta on 19 Oct 2019 (the next evening), feeling so happy yet exhausted.
My Opinion on Each City
- Dusseldorf – Cologne – Linz am Rhein (Germany)
Germans are not the nicest people you can meet, but they’re definitely the smartest compared to all other 3 nations that I met in Europe. The cities are not so tourist-friendly, but I love how they preserve the old buildings and the fact that they are highly aware of preserving the environment (where else can you get 25 cents from a used plastic bottle?). If you eat pork and drink beer, this is the place for you.
- Paris (France)
Paris is our favorite city that we visited in Europe, in terms of things to see and do as tourists. Oh and I like the fact that they serve tap water for free in every restaurant *stingy me*. The downsides are that Parisian works so slow (several times we had to wait > 20 mins to get our food served), food choices are more or less the same in every restaurant (except if you go to Asian restaurants) and some older people resisted on speaking English (thank God the younger ones speak English).
- Rome (Italy)
Rome reminds me a lot of Jakarta: careless people, super-packed and behind schedule buses, dirty street corners, but lots of good food. In conclusion: Rome is our least favorite city, which we ‘promised’ never to visit again except if we’re going to Vatican.
- Amsterdam – Zaandam – Haarlem (Netherlands)
I love Netherlands the most. The cities are clean and well cared, the people are very friendly and speak proper English (so relieving to speak proper English again after 10 days of broken one), waiting time is always reasonable, and public transports are the easiest to understand (and clean). The downside is only that it’s hard to find good Asian food, especially for lunch when we supposedly eat big and the locals only eat sandwiches.
Public Transport in Each City
In terms of simplicity of finding the most suitable public transport tickets, this city is my least favorite. Thankfully, 2 days of our visit we got to ride on Tomy’s car. Hehe.. In Dusseldorf, somehow there is very limited number of officers in each bus stop/train station that we can ask, and tickets are not available in convenience stores (only purchasable in vending machines, which are confusing for us because there are a lot of options we can choose). After more than half day wandering around, we finally realized that the most suitable ticket for us was: 24-hr ticket (EUR 10.50 for 2). We prefer not to buy DusseldorfCard because it’s more expensive (EUR 19.00 for 2) and we didn’t need the pass for museums. 1x ride ticket is EUR 2.90 in Dusseldorf.
- Paris – Versailles
During this trip planning, there were 2 options I was interested in: Paris Visite Pass (combination of Museum Pass and transport pass) and Navigo Week Pass (valid only from Monday to Sunday regardless of when you first use it). After checking with Cuni, she told me that Paris Visite Pass is some kind of scam, so we took Navigo Semaine/Navigo Week Pass (we were in Paris from Tuesday until Saturday, so the pass is worth it). You can buy it in the metro station’s ticket office (cannot buy it in vending machines) or order online and get it delivered to your hotel. We went with the first option, because we needed the pass to go from the train station to our apartment. The price for Navigo Semaine Zone 1-5 is EUR 27.80/person (EUR 5.00 for the Navigo card + EUR 22.80 for the week pass), and a 2×3 cm photograph is required. 1x ride ticket in Zone 1-3 Paris is EUR 1.90. The Navigo Zone 1-5 pass can also be used to go to Versailles.
- Rome – Vatican
As soon as we arrived in Rome airport, we directly headed to the train station, as per the instruction from our airBNB host (thanks, Renzo!), to buy FL1 regional ticket from Fiumicino airport to Rome Trastevere station (price is EUR 8.00/person) and 72-hr Rome Metrebus Pass (price for the 72-hr pass is EUR 20.00/person; there are 3 options: 48, 72 and 96 hours, which are valid from the first time you get on any bus/tram/metro until the next 48/72/96 hours – validation is only required the first time we ride on the bus/tram/metro). In Rome, I can say the public transport is the worst among all other countries we visited during our trip – it doesn’t really differ to Jakarta in many ways. If you plan to visit Rome and happen to have extra budget, renting a car might be a good option (but you will need to find out the parking system there – I haven’t searched for it).
- Amsterdam – Zaandam – Haarlem
There isn’t much information available on the transport system that I could find online, but the staff at the Tourist Information Center in Amsterdam Schiphol Airport was really helpful. I was actually planning on getting a GVB 3-day Pass (price is EUR 19/person), but after rechecking, apparently it is only valid for traveling inside Amsterdam. Since we were staying in Zaandam, we required Amsterdam and Region 3-day Pass instead (price is EUR 36.50/person), which can be used also for traveling by bus, train or tram to Volendam, Haarlem and other region in Netherlands. To go to the airport on our last day, we purchased a separate 1-way train ticket from Zaandam to Schiphol (price is EUR 5.80/person). The unique thing about Amsterdam’s tickets is that they are so thin (paper card-thin), but they’re actually chip cards (ov-chipkaart), and you have to check in and out (tapping on the machine) each time you get on and off. Tickets are valid up to 04.00 AM the next day (e.g. if you buy 3 day pass and first use it on Monday, then it will be valid until Thursday 04.00 AM). We also rode on the 1 hour river cruise for EUR 13.50/person (we got the discounted price – original price is EUR 19.00/person).
Combo Pass for Museums
The only combo pass for museums we bought was Paris Museum Pass (EUR 62.00/person, ordered online and obtained in Paris Visitor Office in Paris Gare du Nord station upon our arrival – we can choose whether to have it posted to our Paris address or to take it in certain visitor offices), and we’re satisfied with the fact that with that card in hand, we got to skip the lines at many museums (except at Arc de Triomphe, which special line is only open after the normal queue is long enough).
Other tourist/museum pass in our destinations:
- Dusseldorf Card (EUR 9.00/person or EUR 18.00/family, for transport and discount for museum entry)
- Roma Pass (EUR 28.00/person for 2 days, including transport, first museum, and discount for museum entry)
- Amsterdam Museum Pass (EUR 75.50/person, valid for 31 days, including transport from and to airport, inner-city transport, canal cruise, and discount price for museum entry) or IAmSterdam Card (EUR 95.00/person for 72 hours, including transport, canal cruise, and entry to the museums)
What We Missed from the Original Itinerary
When I made our itinerary, I mostly followed those posted in Earth Trekkers blog, with some improvisations here and there adjusting to our inter-city transport schedule. After visiting so many museums in Paris, we agreed that we were a bit fed up with museums and art galleries, so those are what we ‘missed’ (on purpose) the most from our original itinerary – except the ones where tickets have been pre-purchased.
– Konigsalle – shopping street (we finally passed this street, but didn’t stop to see the shops)
– Hofgarten – Germany’s oldest public park (our time in Dusseldorf was too short for a picnic)
– Dusseldorfer Senfladen – mustard museum
– Classic Remise – where they have classic cars collection (this was put as an option, but the location is quite far from the city center)
– Moulin Rouge (never planned to watch any show here – just wanted to take some pictures, but we ended up missing it because I spent too long in Montmartre 😛 )
– Notre Dame Cathedral (still under renovation 😦 )
– Centre Pompidou (option) – ticket is EUR 14.00/person
– Pere Lachaise Cemetary (option)
– Mundolingua – language museum (option)
– St. Peter’s Basilica (Vatican City) – ticket is EUR 19.50/person for audio guide + EUR 8.00/person to climb the dome
– Borghese Art Gallery (somehow the website cannot be accessed so I couldn’t buy the tickets, and by the time we were in Rome we felt that we’ve had too many museums/art galleries already so we decided to skip this one) – ticket is EUR 17.50/person
– Crypt of the Capuchin Friars (option) – ticket is EUR 8.50/person
– Corrie ten Boom House (Museum of Nazi Resistance – Haarlem) (we arrived at 4 PM in Haarlem and the museum is closed at 4.30 PM)
– Anne Frank House (need to book the tickets online and I didn’t get tickets 2 weeks before arrival) – ticket is EUR 10.00/person
– Rijksmuseum (too many museums already) – ticket is EUR 20.00/person
– The Heineken Experience (they said a free beer is provided upon entry, and I couldn’t drink beer 😦 ) – ticket is EUR 18.00/person
– Museum Ons’Lieve Heer Op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic) (decided to stroll around the city more than visiting the museum) – ticket is EUR 12.50/person
Special thanks to my husband who has taken me to this amazing trip and patiently carried our bags here and there, washed our clothes, and packed our stuff into our 2 luggages. Also to our friends Tomy and Lydia for driving us around Germany and Cuni for the picnic. 🙂
*Gonna add some more pictures later.