WIN! A pair of 10-day rail passes in our European Rail Pass Competition.
This is part 3/4 of our series covering great train journeys across Europe for all of you young hopefuls wanting to win a pair of 10-day European Rail Passes. We begin in one of the best places to visit in Eastern Europe; picturesque Prague before travelling north to Berlin, Copenhagen and finally Stockholm for a complete European rail itinerary. These cities are all particularly magical in winter and have perfected the art of offering warm, snug cafes and bars twinkling with glowing lights. But in warmer months there’s plenty of inner-city swimming, cycling and boat trips to enjoy too.
Our journey begins in…
With charming cobbled streets and Gothic spires, it’s no surprise that backpackers think Prague is one of the best cities in Eastern Europe. Prague is enchanting. Winter months are spent popping in and out of cosy cafes for a steaming hot chocolate or sitting in bars with roaring fires. It might be a popular stag destination but there’s plenty of nightlife that avoids these crowds.
History: Wandering between the tombstones of the Old Jewish Cemetery (Starý Židovský hřbitov) can be both a haunting and peaceful experience.
Culture: For a miniature entrance fee of €3, marvel at artworks inside the Museum of Miniatures (Strahov Monastery). Some fit inside the eye of a needle and require a microscope.
Cafe: For that serious cup of steaming hot chocolate, Cukrkávalimonáda cafe (7 lázeňská) offers a gloriously rich 70% cocoa variety. Sip this devilishly delicious drink beneath an ornately decorated ceiling.
Bar: Beer is what the Czechs do best. Pivovarský dům (15 Ječná/Lípová) is a micro-brewery where you can sample an assortment of wonderful light, dark, sour cherry or banana beers. Inside, two large copper vats dominate the bar and the rest of the brewery is visible through a small window. If you’re feeling strong Prague is the place to visit the Green Fairy (drinking absinthe) and since this place is off the tourist route, the barman has time to show you how to prepare the 70% ABV drink.
Area: Laze on the grass beside the watermill in Kampa near Újezd and enjoy a cold and refreshing beer in summer months.
Top tip: Hop on tram no. 9 (line 58 at night) for a cheap tour of the city. Take your pick of some of the best bars that pass by.
Youth hostel Prague: The brand spanking new St Christopher’s at Mosaic House is a budget traveller’s dream. Top reviews compliment the staff, cleanliness, live music, terrace garden and the historic city centre location.
Private and dorm rooms from €12pppn.
Continuing your journey from Prague…
Depart Prague: Frequent trains daily
Duration: 5 hours
The end of the East-West divide has allowed a large number of areas to grow and blossom with an alternative art scene, caffeine and politically-fuelled cafe culture and an extraordinary array of nightlife from Weimar-era cabaret to thumping 24 hour techno clubs attracting all ages.
History: The Berlin wall has been, in part, restored at the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (111 Bernauer Strasse). Read fascinating accounts of escapees at the neighbouring documentation centre.
Eat: Try fondue at Nola’s Am Weinberg (9 Veteranenstrasse), housed in a Swiss-style chalet with a terrace overlooking a pond complete with deckchairs and a snug interior.
Shopping: There are plenty of flea markets in Berlin but you’ll often be flogged the touristy ones. The locals go to Arkona Platz in Mitte, pleasantly surrounded by chestnut trees and cafes. Alternatively, treasure hunt at Hermann-Ehlers-Platz in the suburban Steglitz area.
Area: Prenzlauer Berg is a beautiful area to explore with wide boulevards and lovely shops in Altbau buildings. While Ryke Strasse is well-known to tourists it does boast trendy boutiques. Twinkle Twinkle (52 Kollwitzstrasse) is a favourite selling a great number of kitsch home and garden products, some made on the shop floor. Stop for a spot of lunch at Sian (Rykestrasse 36) which serves seasonal and cheap Vietnamese dishes followed by homemade tea.
Drink: A cocktail at the sumptuous Würgeengel (122 Dresdener Strasse) is worth splashing out for. Inside, the dark Victoriana vibe dates back to the 19th century when the building functioned as a pharmacy. Cocktails set you back about €7. Alternatively try Ankerklause (104 Kottbusser Damm) a nautical-themed bar overlooking the water and one of the best places to party at weekends. Ahoy!
Hostel in Berlin: With a fantastic roof terrace and a girls-only dorm, the Baxpax Downtown Hostel Hotel is a great choice if you want to be in walking distance of Friedrichstraße, Museum Island and of course the main station. Their cosy lounge complete with roaring fireplace often hosts a number of gigs and competitive Wii sport nights. Private and dorms rooms from €13pppn.
Continuing your journey from Berlin…
Depart Berlin Hbf: 11:26 / or the sleeper service at 23:01 arriving at Lund Central 08:39. Change and depart Lund Central 08:39
Arrive Copenhagen: 18:11 / sleeper arrives at 09:37
Duration: 6 hours 45 minutes / sleeper 10 hours 36 minutes
A laid-back and very cycle-friendly city filled with beautiful and style-conscious people. It’s fairly small – you can pedal across town in about 30 minutes – so you won’t need more than a few days here. Stroeget is the longest pedestrianised street in the world and although it’s rather touristy, visitors will find some gems along the roads running parallel. Copenhagen is pricey but the suggestions below should help you keep within budget. Remember, only tip at dinnertime and when you receive exceptional service.
Boat Tour: Locals and tourists alike sip a beer beside the array of colourful boats in the Nyhaven canal area. Hop on a Netto-bådene boat tour for just €5. En route you’ll spot the Little Mermaid sculpture, a tribute to the Danish children’s author Hans Christian Anderson.
Gallery: Don’t miss the idyllic setting of Ny Carlsberg Glypotek (7 Dantes Plads, admission €8), an art gallery where you can enjoy lunch and afternoon tea in the gorgeous Winter Garden. Catch free guided tours in English at 2pm on Wednesdays.
Eat: To sample one of the best smorgasbord in the city try Aamann’s (10 Øster Farimagsgade). These open sandwiches cost about €5 and the lovingly created fillings include sweet and sour plum marinaded pork or Icelandic herring with dill flower, lemons and sour cream. The puddings are divine too.
Gallery: Celebrate Scandinavia’s innovative sense of design at the Danish Design Centre (27 HC Andersens Boulevard) with frequent exhibitions and a cafe, naturally very stylish too.
Funfair: The oldy-worldy amusement park of Tivoli delights both adults and children. Located in the city centre it twinkles at night with rides suitable for the faint-hearted.
Area: Frequently overlooked, an older generation resides in Frederiksberg. Even the pubs and shops seem stuck in the past but it’s an interesting and attractive place to look around. The zoo borders the park of Frederiksberg Have and round the corner from the bustling Værnedamsvej street is Kleistkaffe, a delightful cafe owned by cookbook author Helle Kleist.
Continuing your journey from Copenhagen…
Depart Copenhagen: Frequent trains daily
Duration: 5 hours 20 minutes
The city is a spectacular sight. The complex waterways give Stockholm its unique geography, with the city spread across a number of islands. It acts as a gateway to the extensive archipelago islands, a few easily doable as day trips. Unfortunately this is another expensive city so be savvy and if visiting in summer, make the most of picnics in the park and inner-city swimming spots on the banks of the islands.
Area: It’s Stockholm’s most historic area and is home to the main drag of museums too, so Gamla Stan attracts the tourist hordes. But explore the cobbled streets, absorb the architecture, choose your tourist trinket carefully (there are a few kitsch crafty souvenirs to be had) and avoid the waffle cones.
Picnic: While it is expensive to sit and eat at Urban Deli (4 Nytorget) you can pick up some great picnic ingredients before heading to nearby Vitabergsparken or one of the park-rich islands like Djurgården which has popular swimming spots, galleries and museums.
Day trip: While you can choose from 150 of the inhabited archipelago islands, the closest include Vaxholm, Finnhamn and Fjäderholmarna. Ferries depart from outside the Grand Hotel at Södra Blasieholmshamnen and a 40-minute, one-way trip will cost about €11.
Gallery: Fotografiska (22 Stadsgårdshamnen) holds exciting exhibitions of contemporary photography. Recent displays include Annie Leibovitz, Vee Speers and Joel-Peter Witkin.
Eat: Fill up on Swedish staples including meatballs, herring and root vegetable mash at the traditional Pelikan (40 Blekingegatan) beer hall in the trendy Södermalm area. Check the daily specials up on the blackboard for dishes under €12 and wash it all down with schnapps.
Shop: Lisa Larsson (48 Boindegatan) leisurely mixes vintage and modern pieces with an equal mish mash of expensive to bargain price tags.
Bar: The Mosebacke (3 Mosebacke Torg) offers fantastic views from the terrace looking out across the water to the rest of Stockholm. The venue is popular in summer hosting great concerts or serving a brilliant brunch with pleasant live jazz accompaniment.
Club: Marie Laveau (66 Hornsgatan) has to be Södermalm’s and maybe Stockholm’s best club. Always popular, especially at weekends, a number of nights are free before 11pm. Expect anything from disco to soul, funky house to top notch DJs spinning electro.
Youth Hostels Stockholm: The city is large and spread out but staying on the small island of Gamla Stan at the 2kronor Hostel – Old Town means you are not only in the historic centre but ideally located between the mainland, ferry connections to the archipelagos and trendy Södermalm. Private and dorm rooms from €27pppn.
Continuing your journey from Stockholm…
Why not make the most of your European Rail Pass and get a 50% discount on ferry services to Helsinki (Finland), Riga (Latvia), Tallinn (Estonia) and Turku.
Alternatively journey north and explore Lapland, Northern Sweden also known as the land of the midnight sun. Here you can experience beautiful countryside and life almost on top of the world.
WIN! A pair of 10-day rail passes in our European Rail Pass Competition.