6 Of My Favorite European Museums

I am an unapologetic nerd. I was born and raised into a nerdy family, and it’s just who I am as a person. When I travel, this spills over into my itinerary. I love visiting places that have literary significance, historical significance, or just allow me to buff my nerd knowledge. MOST of the time these places are museums, so I thought I would share my top five favs so if you happen to be planning a trip to Europe you can stop by some of my favorite spots. Tell them Emilee sent you. JK I definitely don’t have that kind of sway…yet.

1. Parlamentarium | Brussels, Belgium | FREE

This museum is AMAZING. And that’s coming from someone who isn’t even a part of the EU. At the beginning of your tour you’re given a headset that walks you through the history of the EU, where it came from and how it functions today. I honestly never knew any of this information and it was such an amazing lesson in world history, and also in current economic situations in Europe. There’s obviously a bit of a bias, but I felt like overall the structure of the museum was amazing and very interactive. I think I spent 2-3 hours in there.


2. The Louvre | Paris, France | $18.50

I’m sure all of you are SO SURPRISED to see this one on the list. But, really. The Louvre is one of my favorite places on the planet and I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for people to visit it. It honestly will change your life. One of the biggest mistakes that a lot of people make about The Louvre is that they go in for an hour, walk around two floors and say they’ve “been” to the Louvre. You’re cheating yourself with this approach. I would say take a couple of days to go to the Louvre. Go a morning on one day and just sit and look at paintings. Go an evening another day and walk through the lower levels of The Louvre. Look at the Middle Eastern exhibits (which, by the way, barely anyone knows about). There is so much history in this museum it really is a must-see multi day/hour visit. While I lived in France I think I went 6 or 7 times at 2-3 hours a pop…and I still haven’t seen everything.

3. The Sherlock Holmes Museum | London, England | $21

This might be the nerdiest one on the list, but I’m a pretty hard core Sherlockian, and I absolutely loved being able to visit the real 221B during my first trip to London. This museum is essentially set up as the house of Sherlock Holmes with a Victorian style guard at the front door, three levels of Sherlock Holmes related artifacts, and an over-priced gift shop. Everything you could ever want, right!? If you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan like I am I would definitely recommend visiting the museum for photos if nothing else. The whole museum takes about 30 minutes to an hour to go through.


4. Titanic Museum | Belfast, N. Ireland | $25

You think you know about the Titanic because you’ve seen the movie? Ha. Try reliving the entire experience from day one as an immigrant in the early twentieth century to the day the ship sinks. WARNING: This museum is REALLY emotional and there is a really high chance of you feeling feels. One of the coolest parts of this museum is that the admission ticket is made to look like the tickets that were originally made for the Titanic’s maiden voyage. Since I’ve been obsessed with the Titanic since I could read, this museum was absolutely amazing to go through. It’s several floors and takes about 2-3 hours (at least) to walk through.

5. Van Gogh Museum | Amsterdam, The Netherlands | $22

Can I tell you how much I love Van Gogh? If you know me well, I probably already have…but here we are again. I distinctly remember the first time I saw an image of a Van Gogh painting. It was the same feeling I had when I first heard French. So right, and a forever part of my identity. The Van Gogh museum was a sacred space for me. From the first moment I slipped on the headphones for the self-guided tour I was completely immersed and could have been in that world of Van Gogh for forever. Not only is this museum the world’s largest installment of Van Gogh paintings, but it’s also such a personal experience since it’s in the home country of the artist. Must see. I think I spent 2-3 hours in the museum.

6. Natural History Museum | London, England | FREE

This is actually one of my most recent visits, and GUYS, THEY HAVE DINOSAURS! I’ve been to London three or four times before, but I had never visited this museum until November and it was so cool. Basically everything natural history related is in this museum, and it’s broken down into geology, biology and just general awesome. We actually got kicked out of this museum because it was closing, to be sure to get there early. You could easily spend 3 hours in this spot.

And that’s the best of the best! What are your favorite museums? Let me know in the comments!

10 Things You Should do the Week Before Taking a Solo Backpacking Trip

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Next Saturday I’ll be taking off on a jet-plane. Literally. The time has come for my yearly trip to Europe (Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Hungary, Belgium) and I could not be more excited to be going back to my second “home.” I’ve taken somewhere around 15 backpacking trips, so I definitely have a routine of how I get ready for them. My number one rule of advice? Don’t wait until the last minute. It might seem sexy to pack the night before, but you must resist. A smart traveler knows that to have peace of mind you need a good system to get things checked off bit by bit.

This weekend I started my “week before takeoff” routine and after getting everything booked up, I’ve started to get the ball rolling on pre-packing. Didn’t know that was a thing? Well, it definitely is. Especially when you work as much as I do, it’s important for you to plan things out well. Here’s my list of six things I make sure to have done one week before take-off, for an international solo backpacking trip.

Copy Passport, Drivers License, Credit and Debit Cards to Leave

Obviously I don’t anticipate anything going south during my trip, but if you’re smart then you’ll always have in the back of your mind that it could. The best way to keep this type of thing from turning into a really big bad problem is for you to be prepared. This is why I always copy, and then hand off, prints of my passport (and other important cards/documents) that I’ll have with me on my trip. This way, if they get stolen, I’ll have all the numbers and information I need to replace them… or at least get back on a plane ride home.

Print Maps and Directions from the Airport to the Hostel

I know that this is the information age, and that many places have wifi for free. I also know that data plans allow you to talk and pop on GoogleMaps whilst abroad. But the reality of the situation is that phone signals and wifi are not reliable, and if you solely depend on them you could end up stranded in a city you don’t know, surrounded by a language you don’t understand. If you have a physical map you not only can find directions easier, but a lot of the time you can ask for directions easier. People in a city know their city. And even if they can’t speak your language, seeing things in written form (with a map) can make a world of difference when communicating.

Learn Basic Words if You don’t Speak the Language 

The reality of traveling to Europe is that most people have some knowledge of English, especially since most of the places I’ll be visiting will be major cities and capitals. That being said, a native word can go a long way, when you’re making your way through pretty much any part Europe. Even if you try to say a word, and totally botch it up, most people will appreciate the attempt. Unless you’re trying to speak Irish in Ireland, in which case you’ll probably just get laughed at. Let’s all try to be a little less like the stereotype of walking into every country like English is the official language of the world. Especially if you’re an American, like me, you should at least know how to say:

  • Please
  • Sorry
  • Goodbye
  • Hello
  • Thank you

Make an Address List for People who want Postcards

This one is really near and dear to my heart because I adore getting postcards, so I think it’s really important to send them out, while I’m traveling, as well. I usually travel with a physical list of all the names I want to send postcards to. Obviously there are ways to make this digitalized, but what can I say? I’m an old fashioned kinda girl.

Print Confirmations, Tickets, Hostel Booking etc.

Not all confirmations need to be printed, but if I’m feeling nervous about going to a country I’ve never been to before I usually do, just to be on the safe side of things. I always travel with a pocket binder so I can slip things like this in there. It’s also great for slipping things in for the scrapbook I’ve been saying I’d make for the past 10 years (#DontJudgeMe). Like I said above, use your best judgment, but when it comes down to it, wifi should never be depended on.

Make a List of Places for Roommates, Significant Others

I always leave a list of places I’ll be staying, when I leave on a backpacking trip. On this list I write hostels, cities and any other relevant information people might need to know if an emergency happens. Once again, it’s always better to be prepared!

Pay Bills in Advance

One of the easiest things to forget, when you’re abroad, is to pay bills that fall on the dates that you’re traveling. For this reason, I try really hard to pay everything before I even head to the airport. This way I have peace of mind that I’m not late on a payment, and I don’t have to worry about coming back to a house where the electricity has been cut off. Everybody wins.

Arrange for Pets to be Fed

Whether you’re a plant mom/dad, or you have a more cuddly animal, it’s important to make sure that your pets are fed and good to go before you embark on your adventure. For me, this means buying fish feeders that my roommate can drop into the tank periodically, but for a cat if obviously would be more involved. The long and short of it is, be sure to say thank you for roommates helping out. Just ’cause they live with you, doesn’t mean it’s somehow their obligation.

Make a List of Things to See in Each Location 

I love lists. And when it comes to travel I try to compile a (rough) list of places I want to go, and things I want to see beforehand. When I’m on my trip I don’t want to spend the time looking up local attractions, so it makes it a lot easier to have a fall-back plan. I also want to emphasize that this is a list that’s extremely flexible. I usually only end up doing half (at most) of the things I write on there, but it’s good to have options!

Change Out Currency

Some currencies are easier to come by than others, so you’ll want to make sure you have what you need before you leave on your trip. You should also make sure that your hostel (or wherever you’re staying) accepts payments with cards, since that definitely is not always the case, and you don’t want to be caught off-guard.

When it comes to currency, you should also make sure that you do your research on which currency is best for which country. I definitely have a horror story of thinking that Northern Ireland and Ireland rolled with the same money. A mistake that earned me some very angry glares on my first trip. You can exchange money, beforehand with banks (as long as you have an account with them) and with businesses that specialize in currency exchange. You can also exchange money in airports, but I’ve generally found that to be a pain.

Have a pre-packing tip or routine that helps you keep your sanity? Share it in the comments section below!