It’s a great time to visit Europe right now, especially since autumn brings cooler temperatures and a break from the busy, touristy summers. Wondering which European city to visit? You can now explore Europe by train and it’s so convenient and quick. It’s the best way to visit several cities, even countries if you don’t have a lot of time.
SEE ALSO: 10 Top Things To Do In Barcelona
I just traveled through 3 countries and 5 cities in 7 days through Europe on the Eurail, and it was so easy to hop from city to city, soaking in different cultures and trying different foods along the way. It’s also a scenic way to travel!
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TRAVELING THROUGH EUROPE ON THE EURAIL
The Eurail pass is the train pass that allows pass holders to travel in 28 European countries on nearly all European railroads and some shipping lines. Here’s how it works:
1. Pick your pass
Global Pass – you can see all of Europe and travel by train in and between 28 countries all with one rail pass.
Select Pass – you can select 2, 3, or 4 countries as long as they share a border. This is the pass I had to travel from Spain to France to Italy.
One Country Pass – choose from different Eurail One Country Passes like the Eurail Italy pass.
2. Validity period
Each Eurail Pass has a different validity period. The Eurail Global Pass it ranges from 5 days to 3 months and the Select Pass ranges from 5 to 10 days. If you plan on taking the train almost every day, choose a Eurail Global Pass with continuous validity. If you plan traveling once every few days, choose a Eurail Pass with flexibility validity.
If you’re 27 or younger on the first day your Eurail pass is valid, then you can get a discounted youth pass. Two adults or more can get a group discount by buying a Saver Pass. Children under 12 travel for free with Eurail.
EURAIL IS OFFERING 20% OFF RIGHT NOW UNTIL END OF JANUARY 2018
Sharing my exact itinerary below. I flew into Barcelona and took the train to Gerona, Lyon, Bologna, and then Milan. I flew back to the States from Milan.
- Eurail Select Pass for 3 countries starts at $163, mine was $370.09 for Spain, Italy, and France.
- Barcelona to Girona – $30.72
- Barcelona to Lyon – $35.32
- Lyon to Bologna – $47.10
- Bologna to Milan – $11.77
So I was able to travel through 3 countries in 5 cities in Europe for less than $500 and it was less than $50 between each European country!
Photo by Ready Set Jet Set
There’s a reason everyone loves Barcelona. Located along the coast, it’s got everything from beaches to artwork to some of the best tapas in Spain. With street art and amazing architecture at every turn, you’ll constantly have your camera out. Get a taste of the unique Catalan culture and food, and don’t miss the chance to roam from the historic Gothic Quarter all the way up to the bohemian neighborhood of Gràcia.
THINGS TO DO IN BARCELONA
- Sagrada Familia – Sagrada Familia, Paul Güell, and Casa Battló are all masterpieces of the architect Antoni Gaudí and a must on a visit to Barcelona.
- Park Güell – colorful playground by Gaudí
- Casa Battló – this stunning house has an interesting visceral, skeletal structure with colored tiles
- Bunkers del Carmel – for an incredible panoramic view of Barcelona go to Bunkers del Carmel
- Gothic Quarter – local shops and boutiques
LOCAL FOODS TO EAT IN BARCELONA
- Tapas – our first night in Europe in Barcelona I was so confused why the restaurants open so late. Be prepared to eat late and stay out late.
- Arroz negre
- Bombas (potato croquette)
- Esqueixada (salted cod Catalan salad)
- Pa amb tomàquet (garlic-rubbed bread with tomato)
- Churros and chocolate
Girona is an easy day trip from Barcelona if you’re looking to explore a smaller, quieter city in Spain. You can wander the cobblestone streets of this ancient city, walk along its medieval walls, and get lost in the narrow, winding Jewish Quarter. The Ciutat Antiga or old city (above) is breathtaking, and the views from above are just postcard-perfect. Girona is the perfect place for history lovers (or Game of Thrones fans!) who want to move at a slower pace.
HOW TO GET TO GIRONA FROM SPAIN
Take the train from Barcelona Sants train station to Girona train station. The fast speed is 40 minutes.
THINGS TO DO IN GIRONA
- Rent a burricleta (electric bike) and bike around the city – Girona is very small and taxis are hard to come by. If I went to Girona again I would definitely rent a burricleta to get around.
- Take pictures of Ciutat Antiga (Old City) – see picture above
- Climb Girona Cathedral – it’s 99 stairs to the top
- DIY Game of Thrones tour – Girona Cathedral, Plaza del Jurats, the Arabic Baths, and Sant Pere de Galligants
WHERE TO EAT IN GIRONA
- El Celler de Can Roca – 3 Michelin star restaurant that was rated best restaurant in the world in 2015. Reservations must be made 11 months in advance.
- Can Roca – father’s restaurant of the three brothers. No reservations needed. There’s no menu and you’ll be served a 3-course meal with a couple of different entree options. Since we didn’t make reservations for El Celler, a local actually told us about Can Roca. One of my favorite meals on my Europe trip!
- Rocambolesc – Willy Wonka styled ice cream shop that’s considered the best ice cream in the world
- La Fabrica – local coffee spot in Girona
Photo by Ready Set Jet Set
Lyon is the culinary capital of France and it’s even been called the world capital of gastronomy, so obviously I had to visit! This city is the gateway to the Rhone, Burgundy, and Provence winemaking regions too. There are tons of impressive museums, churches, and colorful riverfront buildings here, but it’s the cuisine that draws most people to town. Be sure to make reservations in advance if you want to eat at any of the bouchons, which local small restaurants that serve traditional Lyonnaise food. We almost didn’t get to eat dinner that night in Lyon because we didn’t booked ahead.
HOW TO GET TO LYON FROM BARCELONA
Take the train from Barcelona Sants to Lyon Part Dieu. It’s a 5-hour train ride with a transfer at Montpellier Saint-Roch.
THINGS TO DO IN LYON
- Vieux Lyon – colorful houses along the river (that’s me standing on the bridge looking at Vieux Lyon)
- La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière – for a panoramic view of Lyon, go up the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière
- Musée des Confluences – museum with cool architecture
- Colored stairs
- Traboules – Lyon has 100’s of secret passageways built in the buildings. Most of them are closed but I recommend going to the Lyon tourism office and they’ll show you the ones that are open to explore.
- Visit a winery – Burgundy, Cote du Rhone, or Beaujolais
PLACES TO EAT IN LYON:
- Les Halles de Lyon – Lyon’s famed indoor food market. I stocked up on macarons, Lyon’s iconic praline tarts, and more bakery pastries.
- Le Kitchen Café – creative, modern French cuisine in an unpretentious setting. Try the fish dishes and order dessert! Make reservations for lunch.
- Le Garet – authentic bouchon serving hearty Lyonnaise cuisine like sausages, frog legs, and quenelles (fish dumplings). We were so lucky to be able to walk into this restaurant without a reservation.
Photo by Ready Set Jet Set
Bologna was my favorite city on this trip because of its charming, authentic, and not-so-touristy vibe. It’s a beautiful and historic city filled with red terracotta architecture, but it’s also a lively university town. Because it’s on the smaller side, Bologna feels approachable even though it’s considered the food capital of the Italy. There are lots of restaurants and bars alongside churches, museums, and plazas. I’d love to return in the spring or summer when it’s warm and sunflowers fields are in full bloom!
Transportation note: Bologna is a small town so taxis are scarce. Make sure to ask for the local cab number at the train station to call for cabs during your stay.
HOW TO GET TO BOLOGNA FROM LYON
Take the train from Lyon Part Dieu to Bologna Centrale. It’s a 7-hour train ride with a transfer at Milano P. Garibaldi to Milano Centrale. I recommend taking a cab to get between stations.
THINGS TO DO IN BOLOGNA
- FICO Eataly World – the first food-based amusement park in the world, it’s a showcase of Italian foods with lots of restaurants in its food hall and farm animals on display. I highly recommend taking the shuttle straight from the train station.
- Climb Towers of Bologna – 498 steps up the tower for an amazing view over Bologna
- Mercato di Mezzo – open-air food market. Head upstairs for a ricotta and mortadella pizza
- Quadrilatero – medieval market to buy bolognese, ragu, and local wines
- Majani – chocolate shop that makes Italy’s first solid chocolate made in 1832
PLACES TO EAT AT BOLOGNA:
- Local foods in Bologna include bolognese, pasta “alla regu”, “tortellini in brodo”, pizza, and aperitivo (when you order a drink, you are automatically allowed to eat for free) and spritz.
- Pappare’ – start your morning with giant croissants at Pappare’
- Pappagallo – this is Bolognese institution famous throughout Italy. I had the bolognese pasta here with a glass of red wine for lunch and it was delicious.
- Nicola’s Pizzeria – this pizza spot is well loved by the locals and is considered the best pizza in Bologna. I loved the cornmeal-dusted pizza crust.
- Trattoria del Rosso – if you’re tired of bolognese ragu, order the Tagliatelle al Ragù!
- Trattoria Meloncello – traditional trattoria that serves polpette (meatballs) in tomato sauce
- Le Stanze – stop in for an evening aperitivo at this local bar where the walls are over 400 years old.
When you think Milan, you think fashion. But it’s actually one of the biggest cities in Italy, and it’s bursting with design in all forms. From galleries to architecture to huge businesses, I found Milan to be sprawling and modern. But there are also plenty of museums, tourist sights, and churches, like the ridiculously beautiful Duomo. Milan has a cosmopolitan vibe, with everything from nightlife to professional football (soccer) to glamorous shopping to keep you busy.
HOW TO GET TO MILAN FROM BOLOGNA
Take the 1-hour train from Bologna Centrale to Milano Centrale.
THINGS TO DO IN MILAN
- The Last Supper – located at the Santa Maria delle Grazie church
- Duomo di Milano – Milan’s Cathedral is a gothic extravaganza
- Grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – the architecture of this shopping mall is stunning and houses luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, and more. Located to the left of the Duomo. I picked up a couple of things from Gucci and you get a tax refund at the airport!
- Naviglio Grande – canal built in 1177
- Arch of Peace in Milan – arch of peace in Milan
- Teatro alla Scala – opera at night
- Parco Sempione – picnic in the park
- Cinque Vie historical district – boutiques, design galleries, old churches
- East market – located inside an industrial building dating from the second world war in the heart of ventura design district in Milan. Vintage clothing Italian bites
- Hangar Bicocca – museum for contemporary art
- Carla Sozzani Gallery – world-class photo exhibitions
INSTAGRAM WORTHY PLACES TO EAT AT MILAN:
- Bar Luce – cute pink cafe located at the Fondazione Prada
- Riad Food Garden
- Soulgreen Corso Como
- LuBar – open air cafe with garden accents that serves Mediterranean vegetarian and vegan options
- Macha Cafe
- Pasticceria Marchesi Prada – one of Milan’s oldest and finest pastry shops on the third level of the Prada shop
- Duomo 21 rooftop of The TownHouse hotel – relax over a glass of wine with a great view of the Duomo
- Cioccolat Italiani – popular Italian gelato shop next to the Duomo
This post is brought to you in collaboration with Eurail. Thank you for supporting the brands that support A Taste of Koko!