How to Spend Your Free Time During a Tour of European Capitals

Europe’s capitals are iconic. You’ll find them in acclaimed novels, great works of art, epic films, and on the list of places to see for almost every travel lover. But if you want to get swept away in Europe (because quite frankly who doesn’t), then you’ll need an itinerary as exciting as the continent you’ve set your sights on. One that allows you to explore Europe’s major capitals alongside local experts, and also lets you lose yourself to destinations like Rome, Paris and London on your own terms.

Along with taking you to London, Paris, Lucerne, Venice and Rome, Trafalgar’s European Traveller itinerary includes free time in each of the European capitals. It may not be enough time to explore the entire capital, after all, you would need a lifetime for that, but there’s plenty of time to immerse yourself in the city and experience it just like a local. Discover how to spend your free days during a tour of European capitals with Trafalgar.

Groups of people sitting outside a cafe in Paris
Discover Europe like a local | © Pedro Szekely/Unsplash

Local things to do in London

In London, the best way to beat jetlag, if you have any, is to dive right in. With Trafalgar’s European Traveller, you can do that. The second day of the tour is dedicated to seeing famous sites like Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey and traditional experiences like shopping on Carnaby Street and devouring a proper full English breakfast. Which means the day your arrive is all yours.

selective focus photo of back of woman wearing fedora hat with elbows on railings facing bridge
Experience London like a local | © Luigi Manga/Unsplash

The oldest markets in London

Markets are one of the best local experiences, and in London, many of them offer up a slice of local culture along with the past. There are so many to choose from in London; the really popular ones are Portobello Road Market, Old Spitalfields and Borough Market.

Saturdays are one of the best days to visit Portobello Road Market, and it’s when all the antique dealers set up shop from Chepstow Villas to Elgin Cres. The best thing to do is get off at Notting Hill Gate tube station and then make your way on foot to the market, it’s a 20-minute walk, and depending on which path you take, you’ll get a taste of this eclectic neighbourhood. On the way, you’ll see places to eat, boutiques and street musicians. On Portobello Road, behind stalls heaving with vintage goods and antiques, there are lots of other little shops and cafes where you can pick up cool souvenirs and sample local delights.

Best of East London: Brick Lane and Shoreditch

Spend your day exploring two renowned spots in East London. While most of the Indian restaurants in Brick Lane are touristy, this famous street has an intoxicating atmosphere that you have to go and experience. From Brick Lane, you can wander off towards Shoreditch, one of the city’s coolest neighbourhoods. Both are chockful of things to discover: watering holes, places to eat, hip bars, cafes, shops and street art.

animal abstract painting
Oso by Okuda San Miguel in Shoreditch, London | © Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

Undiscovered Paris

After bearing witness to Paris’ historic landmarks, wander off the beaten cobbled path. No trip to the City of Lights is quite complete without a quintessential scenic sojourn along the grand Champs Élysées, visit Notre Dame Cathedral and stroll through the Latin Quarter, so parts of your two-day itinerary in France’s capital are dedicated to such pursuits. The rest of it is a blank page, to be filled in by you.

woman walking in hallway lined with cafes
Wander off the beaten path in Paris | © Tristan Colangelo/Unsplash

French cafés in Paris

Holing up in a Parisian café and watching the world go by has a certain je ne sais quoi about it! The famous neighbourhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés may have haunts that were frequented by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, but Parisians know better. Eileen W Cho, a journalist and local in the know wrote a guide for The Independent with her tips, in which she shared that these days the city’s creative minds flock to The Hood Paris. On the one hand, it’s a coffee shop, and on the other, it’s a space for exhibitions and live music.

Sip cocktails by the canal 

For an authentic local experience, make your way to the banks of l’Ourcq and Saint-Martin for l’apéro alongside the canal. You can indulge in some French wine and food with a side of bohemian charm. It’s a magical way to spend the evening, won’t break the bank and gives you a chance to experience the capital’s bustling bars and restaurants.

Unusual places to visit in Rome

After stopping off in Lucerne, Venice and Florence, you will come to the final destination on your tour of Europe’s capitals. Rome is where ancient history, street culture and Italian feasts come together. After joining the devoted in the Vatican and marvelling at remnants of an empire at the Colosseum, discover Rome’s quirkier side and escape the crowds while you’re at it.

Visit Quartiere Coppedè

Fairytale-like architecture isn’t what you usually associate with a magnificent city like Rome where structural feats often take your breath away, but then that’s what makes Quartiere Coppedè so delightful. In a city of extraordinary neighbourhoods, this one takes the cake.

a Gothic like archway and buildings
Fairytale district of Quartiere Coppedè | © Nephelim/Flickr

Built by Florentine architect, Gino Coppedè, between 1913 and 1926, this tiny neighbourhood is filled with small castles adorned by turrets, and Gothic embellishments. Throughout the Quartiere Coppedè, you’ll find Moorish arches and lovely little gardens. Take your time exploring it as there are lots of unexpected, whimsical touches.

Stroll along Via Appia Antica 

Steeped in history, the Appian Way or Via Appia Antica is one of Rome’s oldest and longest roads. Cutting through green fields, lined by towering trees and dotted with splendid structures such as Villa dei Quintilli, this beautiful cobbled road was built to transport troops out of the city. The best way to explore it all is on foot or on a bicycle. On Sundays and public holidays, this becomes one of Rome’s biggest pedestrian zones.

a road winding through grass and surrounded by trees
Walk one of the oldest and longest roads | © Elisabeth/Pixabay

This story was inspired by: European Traveller by Trafalgar