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!

How to Plan the Perfect Trip without Being Perfect

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I wish you could see my bedroom floor right now.

Not very many people understand how many hours, days, weeks and months it takes to pull together a truly amazing trip. The myth that you “just go” is one that I think leaves a lot of people disappointed, and wishing they had spent more pre-planning time on their trips. Instagram can be a tricky lens to look through.

I’m planning two trips right now, one in December (to HARRY POTTER WORLD!) and the other one in January (Europe 2017!). Both are completely different, since one is international and on is right here on the west coast of the U.S., but I’ve reached the point where I can use similar styles of planning on both.

Note: This is not a post on how to pack for a trip, or not forget your toothbrush. It’s how to ensure that you get the most from your time spent in a place. 

So, since none of you lovelies can be here, amidst my organized chaos, I’ve decided to share some of my trip planning tips with you! After five years of circling the globe, I’ve learned a thing or two…


Dream BIG

Don’t limit yourself when you’re planning your trip. I always say this because you never know what you might find along the way. I usually have a list of about 50 things that I want to do in a given city, but then I only do about 5. Why? Because some things might be closed on the dates you’re there, some might be under construction. You might miss a bus or a train or get off at the wrong stop (#ohthetalesIcouldtell). And THAT is why it’s a good idea to have a list. Even before you leave, and you’re planning your trip out, have a notebook where you write down any and everything that peaks your interest. This is also a great way to keep track of all the suggestions people give you!


Know What You Love 

Take a moment and write down some things that interest you. Shoot for 5-10 things, but if you’re feeling inspired, go ahead and keep on writing. Done? Great! So, now that you’ve decided on your interests, start Googling. Yep, that’s write. Literally write the name of the interest with a comma and the place you’re visiting. The Google gods are more than generous when it comes to providing you information about the things you love. Here are my go-to’s:

  • Art Museums
  • Van Gogh
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Geek (I usually branch out to things like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Star Trek etc.)
  • Books (famous authors)
  • Famous movies (filming locations)


Connect with People

I have a pretty strict rule that I connect with people who actually live in the places where I travel. I love touristy things as much as the next person, but there’s something amazingly fulfilling about chatting with people who know a place inside-out. My biggest tip on this one is to either use a site like Couchsurfing or Airbnb for meet-ups, or for finding a place to stay, OR just start talking to people. As an introvert I usually do the first, but I’ve also found myself making really amazing friends on tours, just by striking up a conversation. Oh, and don’t be afraid to go on tours, adventures and touristy things alone – that can be one of the best ways for you to meet new people in the city! Just remember, safety first.

 

Spread Your Net WIDE

If you’ve seen the movie “Yes Man” then think of this step like that. Say yes to things you normally wouldn’t. Things that are safe obviously, but things that challenge you to stretch beyond who you currently are. If you’re planning a trip to Europe and someone offers you a place to stay in a little town near the big city you wanted to go to – GO. When you’re first planning out your trip, post your plans on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. The first time I ever backpacked, I ended up staying a week with a complete stranger (friend of a friend) via my Instagram post on the plane ride to London. Travel is all about getting out of your comfort zone!


Make a Mess

Guess what? Your trip is not going to go as planned. You might miss a plane. You might have lodging plans fall through or you might just straight up hate a city you thought you would love. It happens. It’s called life, and it’s OKAY. Pick yourself up, mark it off to “travel bingo” and move on. Traveling around the world isn’t always easy. If it was, then everyone would do it. But if you’re passionate about learning and growing as a person, it’s more worth it than you might ever know.