Spending the summer semester traveling across Europe is the dream of any college student and this summer I was lucky enough to make that dream a reality.
While studying photography and urbanism at Univerzita Karlova in Prague, Czech Republic, I used my six weeks overseas as the basis of the greatest adventure of my lifetime!
After a wealth of time researching flights costs and bus routes, I managed to plan an ultimate excursion that allowed me to visit 9 countries during my stay! I must admit, it was quite difficult choosing which countries and cities to visit in my free time abroad, therefore I thought I’d make a few suggestions of Must-Sees for those planning on traveling or studying in Eastern Europe as well! My 8 Must-See Locations of Eastern Europe cover five countries and are well worth the visit!
8 -The Prague Castle Views
A UNESCO World Heritage site and a current Guinness World Record holder for the largest castle complex in the world, Prague castle stands proudly overlooking the vast cityscape of Prague. Construction began in 880 and it has survived practically unscathed by war since then. Because of this and it's fantastic beauty, it also acts as the home of the Czech President.
Prague Castle is placed at #10 on my list of Must-Sees not because of its castle-like attributes, though, but instead because of its view. Prague Castle and the surrounding area has many lookouts and scenic spots that are perfect for an afternoon picnic or a quick selfie. The radiant rooftops of burnt reds and oranges are quite the site when gazing from above. The Prague Castle grounds also allow for an up close glimpse at Gothic stylings of St. Vitus Cathedral.
7 - Budapest by Boat
What most travelers do not realize, and is essential to navigating the city, is that Budapest is actually broken up into two parts. The first part being Buda and Pest. Buda is where the well-to-do citizens live and are full of lush, green landscapes, whereas Pest is the main city that resembles an older version of Brooklyn.
If you find yourself in Budapest, I suggest you take note from my #9 Must-See by taking a calming river cruise to see both city portions together as a whole. Being that Budapest lies on the Danube River, cruises are plentiful and fairly cheap. I recommend choosing a night cruise while in Budapest so you can glimpse the elegant architecture of the Hungarian Parliament Building lit up in gold as well.
6- Bubble Blowers of Prague
Old Town Square of Prague, Czech Republic is brimming with street performances during the key tourists times of 2 pm - 8 pm. Tin men spray painted in gold and barbershop quartets litter the streets in a vast array of heavily practiced performances, but sometimes, the highlight of a trip can come from something much simpler…
My #8 Must-See of Eastern Europe lies in a simple street performance that can bring back childhood whimsy, The Bubble Blowers of Prague. These performers spend their days blowing bubbles galore. Bubbles fill the streets, families play in their paths, and joy fills your heart with something so trivial. If you need a few spare chuckles after a long flight, go watch the Bubble Blowers of Prague and allow them to bring a smile to your lips.
5- Gravensteen Castle
Located in Ghent, Belgium, Gravensteen Castle was first built in 1180. Due to its Middle Ages sense of style, Gravensteen Castle makes #7 on my Must-See list! Because Gravensteen sat abandoned numerous times during the centuries, exploring the partial ruins brings you back in time to the era of the crusades.
4 - Strahov Library
The Strahov Monastery is located a short walk from Prague Castle, therefore you can take Tram 22 from the city square to its last stop to get there. Once on the monastery grounds, head straight for the Strahov Library!
The Strahov Library is arguably the most ravishing library in Europe as a whole. With 250,000 books dating back to the 12th century, it is easy to fall in love with. Entering the first library chamber you will see the dual floor space packing with versed books, but it is the globe room that is really why the Strahov Library was including on my Must-See list. The room of the globes has a handcrafted ceiling covered in murals. Each small work can tell a portion of the larger story, but it is the room as a whole that acts as a room from a fantasy.
3 - Auschwitz Birkenau
For a person to truly try to understand the history and pain of those lost at Auschwitz Birkenau, they must see it. That’s why it makes my list of Must-Sees. Not a dry eye filled our tour group, yet are eyes will open to the repugnance of the past...
2 - Cesky Krumlov
If you are wishing to visit a village that looks as if it is straight from the Renaissance, look no further than Cesky Krumlov. Cesky Krumlov is located in the southern section of Bohemia in the Czech Republic and acts as a living time capsule. Travelers can walk the cobblestone streets for the views as well as the small shops selling handmade Czech crafts giving it a set spot on my Must-See list.
A personal highlight of my trip to Cesky Krumlov was climbing the castle tower. As one ascends the steps, the tower narrows into a one person pathway. Once atop the tower, you can see all of Cesky Krumlov and most of Bohemia! A sure cardio workout, but well worth the effort.
1 - Lake Zurich
My final Must-See is my personal favorite: Lake Zurich Switzerland. This large waterscape in the north of Switzerland is a great place to see the sporty sailboats cruising on the clear, blue waters.
Another key positive for Lake Zurich is its views of the Alps. Not only are the snow topped mountains in sight in most of the city of Zurich as a whole, but they also are easily accessible by train from the city. I spent a great deal of my time in Zurich hiking the Swiss Alps. This was a major highlight of my trip and should be on a trek on your travels as well.