How to Visit Europe in a Weekend

Many people dream of long weeks, or even months, backpacking around Europe.  Sadly, that is not a possibility for many people.  As someone with a full time job and a travel addiction, balancing the two is a challenge; I squeeze every opportunity I have to travel and see as much of the world as I can.  So when I realized I had a 4 day weekend in November (due to Remembrance Day on a Friday), I jumped at the chance to go somewhere, anywhere.

Securing the Flights

I always have my eye out for good flight deals: following blogs, using travel message boards, keeping an eye on promotion emails.  I was able to jump on a pretty good deal back in April for a round trip ticket from Vancouver (YVR) to Munich (MUC) in premium economy for only about $50 more than regular economy.  It was lucky that I found the deal early enough that the dates I wanted were available as these deals always tend to go quickly.

The thing to remember with these tickets is that you can have up to 24 hours in the hub city (in the case of British Airways this is London) without it becoming an official stop over.  This is key because most good deals increase in price once you add a stop over.  So my routing ending up being Vancouver – London – Munich – Vancouver… in 4 days.

An Afternoon in London

While the flight over was disappointing (they got my meal wrong and the seat back TVs were tiny!) I was happy to land in London and get a chance to visit some friends I hadn’t seen in a while.  I landed at Heathrow, which I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with.  It’s a terrible airport to make a tight connection through, and there are always a multitude of flight delays, but there are some positives.  There are many different ways to get into the city, depending on budget and time constraints: express train, regular train, the underground, bus, or an Uber/taxi.  I wasn’t in a huge rush as my flight landed in the afternoon and my friends were still at work, so I decided to take the tube (underground) into the city.

I spent a chill evening with my friends at a local pub and then went back to the airport fairly early in the morning with an Uber due to the early hour and the fact that the public transportation would take a few transfers.  The Uber was fast and on time and only cost about $30.

A Day in Munich

After a quick flight, again with some drama at the airport since they kicked me out of my seat, I arrived in Munich.  My flight landed just after noon and I rushed out to hop on the train to the city.  After checking in at Euro Youth Hostel, I spent the rest of the day exploring, hitting up a few restaurants (Max Pett and Tushita Teehaus) and walking around the city.  There was so much to see that without even spending a lot of time at each location, I still only saw half of what I wanted to.  I used a audio guide to help me out through the city.  It was my first time using one, and while I stumbled a little bit, it was quite interesting.  You can also tailor it, skipping sites that aren’t high on your list.  I usually take a free walking tour of a new city (there are a few in Munich), but unfortunately I didn’t really have the time this trip.  The audio guide was an excellent alternative. You can download the app on your smartphone for free 🙂

Daytrip to Salzburg

Looking around Munich on a map, I realized that Salzburg wasn’t that far away. While anyone would think that a weekend in Munich is not a lot of time, I decided to squeeze even more in and take a day trip to Salzburg.  It’s a short hour and a half trip by train to the neighbouring Austrian city.  I love train travel in Europe, so I splurged and got a first class ticket there and back.  It’s always a good idea to check the first class tickets on train travel in Europe; sometimes they can actually be cheaper and usually include things like seat selection, lounge access, and more room on the train.

Arriving in the city just after 9 am I did a quick audio guide of the old city (again a Rick Steves guide) and then warmed up in a Starbucks for a while.  The old city is neat, but they were getting ready for the Christmas markets so a lot of the statues/fountains were covered up… although they also may have been covered to protect them from the coming snow.  After that I set off on my “Sound of Music” expedition, visiting most of the filming sites that were within walking distance.  I also took a tour of the Rock Riding School (Felsenreitschule) where they filmed the final concert of the movie.  They do at 14:00 and you can only buy tickets right before at 13:45.  It was a great tour, exploring all three of the theaters that the Salzburg Festival uses.

After the tour I made my way to a few last sites on my way back to the station.  I stopped in at The Heart of Joy Cafe for a warm beverage and some apple cake.  A delicious end to my day in Salzburg.  I then went back to the train station and sat in the lounge, enjoying the free snacks and beverages until it was time to head back to Munich.

Heading home

I made it back to Munich and grabbed some dinner from My Indigo, a chain of decent priced, delicious, Asian-inspired food.  I grabbed a beer at the bar downstairs before turning in for the night.  Unfortunately I didn’t have time to do anything significant the next morning. I had slept in a little longer than I meant to. There was time for a quick stop on my way to the airport before I had to start my long journey home.  Again, this trip was not ideal as they had changed the flight from Muinch to be about an hour and a half earlier than originally scheduled.  The change meant I had a bit longer of a layover in Heathrow. This ended up allowing me a good length of time in the BA Galleries Lounge.  The lounge had a surprising amount of vegan goodies, all clearly labeled.  Eventually I made my way to the gate to board the last plane home; it was a great, if short, trip.

~Zen on a Plane~

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