Eurotrip on a budget

March 08, 2018
Ewa Kislo

Do you remember the Christmas Market Competition organised by Hostelling International in collaboration with Interrail and Eurail Passes?

We offered you an opportunity to travel around Europe! Our two lucky winners just came back and want to share their experience with you. Let’s see what they have to say…

Christmas Market Trip

Central Europe through the eyes of Tineke

On the 15th of November, I was at a conference checking my mail. One of my unread e-mails stood out: “Congratulations…”

First, I thought this was a spam e-mail that had reached my inbox, but when I opened it, I couldn’t believe my eyes! According to that e-mail, I had won the Christmas competition of the Eurail Group and Hostelling International. Obviously, I didn’t pay any attention to the conference anymore, and immediately replied that I would love to take this trip!

As soon as I found my travel partner, Robin, we picked the dates we were available and made plans on what to do and enjoyed the pre-vacation feeling.

On Saturday the 9th of December, we started our journey from Groningen to Lille, France. We travelled on a TGV train, and we were pleasantly surprised when we received a free lunch!

The Interrail and Eurail Pass is a rail pass that allows you to travel in and through up to 30 countries, at your own pace. You can choose from 10,000 destinations, and design a European adventure that's personal to you. You can create your own story.

Interrail

In the late afternoon, we arrived at the Auberge de Jeunesse Hi Lille Stephane Hessel hostel. The true Christmas feeling got to us when it started snowing and all lights of the Christmas market were shining!

Auberge de jeunesse Hi Lille Stephane Hessel

The futuristic architecture of the Auberge de Jeunesse Hi Lille Stephane Hessel represents Lille's modernity and eco-responsibility, whilst the view of the building’s communal forum space from the hostel’s terrace creates an immersive experience for travellers of all ages. This youth hostel can accommodate up to 200 travellers, with excellent quality shared facilities for maximum comfort. 

After two days, we continued our trip to Tournai, a small town in Belgium. Unfortunately, the city itself was quite boring on a random Monday, but we enjoyed a nice walk through the city to see all the highlights. Fortunately for us, the beds in the Auberge de Jeunesse de Tournai were great, so we slept like roses!

https://www.hihostels.com/hostels/auberge-de-jeunesse-de-tournai

The Auberge de Jeunesse de Tournai hostel is ideally situated in the heart of the City of the Five Steeples. Plus, there are lots of shops and other places to have fun! The building is a former music academy (as is borne out by the 200-hundred year-old tapestries), and stands next to the Fine Arts Museum.

The next day we enjoyed the breakfast and travelled to Liège, Belgium. This city was a bit more lively. After dropping our bags at the Liege Youth Hostel, we explored the city and its amazing Christmas market!

We even climbed the famous stairs, which is a great cardio session, and you get rewarded with an amazing view of Liège!

Liege

The Liege Youth Hostel blends perfectly with the bustling activity of Liège, known as the Cité Ardente, or burning city. The hostel is involved in numerous local festivals, including the Music Festivals, the Festival of the Assumption on 15 August, and others.

Then we went back to my home country, the Netherlands, to visit Maastricht, the Netherlands. It was nice to get to use the standard public transport method and speak Dutch to everyone, including the receptionist of the Stayokay Maastricht hostel. Our room even had a view of the Maas!

Besides visiting the Christmas market (of course), we also visited the caves of Maastricht.

Stayokay Maastricht

Stayokay Maastricht has a clean, contemporary interior, with a fresh, hospitable atmosphere. The hostel is splendidly located on the bank of the River Maas, and it's a perfect base of operations for anyone visiting the city.

The next morning we were on our way to visit Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg, the second largest city in Luxembourg. Even though the station and the Esch-sur-Alzette hostel were next to each other, we still managed to walk in the wrong direction! This hostel also offered dinners, so we got our dinner in our hostel. We even got two separate bedrooms, but we decided we wanted to share one room together. The Christmas market was mostly closed, so we discovered some local pubs to try some Luxembourgish beer.

Esch-Sur-Alzette

Both the authentic, multicultural city centre as well as a local recreation area are just a few minutes’ walk away from the Esch-sur-Alzette hostel. Wheelchair accessible, located next to the train station, and with Luxembourgish specialities served to its guests.

The next day was a long, long travel day. The first train was delayed, so we missed our connections. After several hours of delay, we finally arrived in Zürich, Switzerland at 10 pm. Being able to sit in first class coupes made our life much more comfortable!

In Zürich we slept for two nights in the Zurich Youth Hostel, one night on our own, the second night with two girls from the USA. We had several activities in Zürich: joining a free city tour, sailing on a boat on the Zürich lake, and last but not least: visiting the Christmas markets!

In the evening we had a cheese fondue and met a lot of nice locals. We learnt Hoch Deutsch at the high school, so we had a hard time understanding the Swiss!

Zurich Youth Hostel

The Zurich Youth Hostel is a versatile place with the right offer for every guest, whether backpackers, families, or groups. On the site where a school cabin served as a hostel in 1936, there now stands a spacious new-build, featuring modern infrastructure, varied cuisine, a cosy bar, and a 24-hour reception.

The next day we travelled to Stuttgart, Germany, our last destination. The DJH Jugendherberge Stuttgart International hostel put us in a room with an amazing view. The hostel was at a higher point in the city, so we could see the biggest part of Stuttgart.

This city was the only German city in our trip, so the biggest Christmas market was here! We spent hours walking around the market, eating all kinds of typical German food, and buying some small souvenirs.

DJH Jugendherberge Stuttgart Neckarpark

The DJH Jugendherberge Stuttgart International hostel has a terrace with panoramic views of central Stuttgart. Guests are welcome to play the piano or enjoy a game of pool (billiards) or table football. There is also a TV room, as well as a common lounge on every floor.

On Monday the 18th of December, it was finally time for us to head home. With several delays because of the snow, we got home at 6 pm, exhausted but satisfied!

I want to thank Interrail and Eurail, and Hostelling International for this opportunity to explore several cities in central Europe, and all the people working at the hostels for their kindness and helpfulness!

Experience the Nordics with Diego

diego

First of all, I want to thank Hostelling International and the Eurail Group for choosing me to experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

The story begins with me arriving in Rome for a 6-month long Erasmus+ student exchange programme. I already knew about Erasmus Student Network, the biggest student organisation in Europe, which aims to support and develop student exchange within the European Union, and I wanted to benefit from all the perks of being an Erasmus+ student! That’s how I learnt about Hostelling International, a global partner of ESN.

As soon as I saw the Christmas Market competition, I decided to take part in it! I had almost forgotten about it, but in November I received an email informing me that I was the winner of the Nordic Route, a 7-day long sponsored trip across Norway, Sweden and Finland. Without a second thought, I accepted the prize and invited my friend Solenn to join me! I received my booking confirmations and the Interrail Global Pass.

Interrail

The Interrail and Eurail Pass is a rail pass that allows you to travel in and through up to 30 countries, at your own pace. You can choose from 10,000 destinations, and design a European adventure that's personal to you. You can create your own story.

Unfortunately, in the beginning, my trip wasn’t going according to plan. My flight from Rome to Helsinki had been delayed, and until the last hour, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to participate in the trip. Luckily, soon it was solved and I was ready to depart to Finland, my first destination!

In Helsinki, I was welcome by snow and -5ºC, and the streets covered in snow and ice! It was only adding to the magic of the city.

Once in the Eurohostel Helsinki, the staff took us on a tour around the property. The hostel is quite big with kitchens, bathrooms, common rooms, and even free access to a sauna early in the morning. We got a few useful tips and we were ready to go!

eurohostel helsinki

Eurohostel Helsinki is one of the largest year-round open hostels in Scandinavia. The hostel is located in central Helsinki in a unique part called Katajanokka, close to the Market Square and easily accessible by tram. Additional facilities include a fully licensed restaurant, daily buffet breakfast, and a sauna.

The next day we had to wake very early in order to discover the city! We visited many markets full of local food. For sure Finns love their fish and seafood. One memory that comes to my mind is of a seller who even though didn’t speak a word in English, was offering us different local specialities to try.

We also visited a few museums, and the most interesting one was the Helsinki City Museum with free entry and marvellous exhibitions! There is even an exhibition about sexuality, sex and gender, its development, and about the freedom to choose how to express them. With virtual reality tours of the city over the decades, it offers a great and engaging experience!

Our only regret was that we were too tired to enjoy the sauna inside the hostel!

The first time we used the Interrail Global Pass was on our way to Turku, a city located on the west side of Finland around 3-hours by train from the capital. We didn’t have much time to see the city, as we had a night ferry to catch that would take us directly to Stockholm. The ferry was incredible, just like in movies! Inside we were surrounded by all kinds of shops, supermarkets, bars and clubs. There were even artists performing in different rooms. We had a good night rest having one room just for the two of us.

Stockholm was even colder than Helsinki! The city is surrounded by sea, and even the surface of the water was frozen! It took us a while to arrive at the hostel due to the time we took to explore Gamla Stan, the Old Town of Stockholm which is really close to the hostel. One of the most amazing aspects of Stockholm is that it was built on a group of islands. and even our hostel was located on one of them!

Stockholm

The STF Vandrarhem af Chapman & Skeppsholmen hostel is located just in front of Gamla Stan, and the most incredible thing is that is a boat. Yes, a hostel in a boat!

I was very impressed with the hospitality of the hostel’s staff, they were so helpful and welcoming. They let us do the check-in before 12:00 pm so we could sleep more after the exhausting trip. Our stay included free breakfast, and it was more than we could eat! I was surprised that Swedes eat a lot of Gouda cheese, ham, and fish for breakfast! Completely different culture, but I loved it!

Stockholm - af Chapman & Skeppsholmen

STF Vandrarhem af Chapman & Skeppsholmen hostel is centrally located on the island of Skeppsholmen in Stockholm, offering a unique hostelling experience aboard an old sailing ship or in a 19th century building originally used as firewood storage for the royal castle. Aboard the ship you can stay in comfortable cabins - some have been restored back to their original style - or in regular rooms with bunk beds in the 19th century building.

Stockholm quickly became my favourite city for its magical atmosphere and history! Also, the people there were so welcoming and did their best to help us discover the city. The only problem was the winter. I remember walking around the city and experiencing pain in our faces due to the cold air. I don’t know how the ducks were swimming so relaxed in the water!

On our way to Oslo, we used the opportunity to travel in first class. With a free coffee and tea served on the train, we spent these few hours appreciating the panorama of Norway! You can’t imagine how incredible this country is! Full of forests and lakes, it just takes your breath away.

Upon our arrival, we had another obstacle to overcome: the Oslo Haraldsheim hostel is located on a hill, so due to the weather, it wasn’t without difficulties to reach it. We really enjoyed our stay in the hostel! One of the best things about our stay was the delicious food served each day.

oslo

The Oslo Haraldsheim hostel is located 15 min. from the centre of Oslo, and can easily be reached by tram or local train. The hostel offers beautiful views of the city and the Oslofjord, and is the ideal starting point for seeing Oslo's sights and going on forest treks in the neighbouring woodlands.

The capital of Norway is an incredible city full of art, street art, and museums. Unfortunately, it’s a quite expensive city, so we were lucky to have the free accommodation and transport.

On our way back to Rome, we made use of our Interrail Global Passes once again and visited Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Milan! The best part of it? We could enjoy the first class experience in every train!

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