Going abroad for Spring Break is a no-brainer. Exposure to a foreign culture can be the perfect complement to a year of classroom-bound learning or a long winter spent working at a desk. Plus, exciting sights, exotic cuisine and world-famous architecture are all the more compelling when everything is in bloom. Before you depart, take a crash course in your destination city in order to maximize your experience and minimize your expenses. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Sleep: Boulevard Saint Michel runs through the lively and hip Latin Quarter and is home to a number of budget-friendly hostels and rental apartments. It’s best to be assured of a place to stay before you leave, so reserve your room in advance. Places like Hôtel de la Herse d’Or in the Marais district are ideal for travelers seeking authentic, old-world experiences; its four-centuries-old rooms may be Spartan, but its architecture and surrounding attractions are rich with history.
Eat: Head to the 5th or 6th arrondissement for crêpes made to order from street vendors or served in cafes like La Coupole (102 Boulevard du Montparnasse) and Cafe de Flore and the Deux Magots (6 Place St. Germain des Pres). Stick to the 6th arrondissement for North African couscous with harissa (Tunisian chili sauce) and spicy merguez sausage.
See: It’s impossible to take in everything Paris has to offer in just one week, so targeting areas with multiple attractions is key. The Bastille is a hub for flea and farmers markets, as well as music and nightlife. Les Grands Boulevards makes an excellent stroll for window shoppers, while the Montmarte district is brimming with history.
o Hi, my name is: Bonjour, je m’appelle
o Good day/evening: Bonjour/bonsoir
o How do you say: Comment dites-vous … en Francais?
o How much: Combien?
o Where is the: Où est le/la?
o How are you: Comment allez-vous?
o What is your name: Comment vous appellez- vous?
Sleep: Hotel and Hostel Des Artistes offers the best of both worlds: three-star private rooms for the selective and wallet-friendly hostel beds for those on a budget. Centrally located near Termini Station at Via Villafranca 20, Hotel and Hostel Des Artistes is also a short walk from historic old Rome. Friendly and family owned and operated Hotel Smeraldo is located at the center of the historic district and boasts a rooftop terrace with stunning views of the city.
Eat: Head to the Trastevere for delicious and affordable Italian cuisine—including, of course, world-class pizza—at Est, Est, Est, (Via Genova, 32) and Pizzeria Maratoneta (Via Tiburtina, 224) or explore the old Jewish district for an unforgettable kosher lunch or dinner. The romantic Il Baccaro (Via degli Spagnoli, 27) is perfect for a table for two, but the wine alone merits a trip, even for solo travelers.
See: During the day, soak in the legendary Roman architecture by touring the Colosseum, the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica or the Pantheon. Be sure to save plenty of time to visit the Sistine Chapel, as well. At night, try a pub crawl (the Colosseum Pub Crawl is world-famous) or stage your own around Campo de Fiori, the Piazza di Pietra or Testaccio.
o Hi, my name is: Mi chiamo …
o Good morning/evening: Buongiorno/Buona sera
o How do you say: Come dite … in italiano?
o How much: Quanto costa questo?
o Where is the: Dove posso trovare …?
o How are you: Come state?
o What is your name: Quale è il suo nome?
Sleep: Budget Guesthouse (23 Swinton St.) offers affordable accommodations in the King’s Cross area (take the tube to St. Pancreas) and is close to a number of major attractions, including the Tate Museum and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. Hotel Ibis has numerous locations throughout the city, all reasonably priced; look for the signature red awning.
Eat: Old Spitalfields Market, with its plentiful stalls of fresh produce and baked goods, is located on the eastern outskirts of the city and definitely merits a day trip: antiques and vintage gifts are on display as well. Within the city proper, sample a formal English breakfast at E Pellicci (332 Bethnal Green Rd., The City) or go veggie at Food for Thought, in Covent Garden (31 Neal St.).
See: London is chock-full of things to see and places to be, and many of them don’t cost a penny…or a pound! For instance, a glimpse of Big Ben is essential, as is a trip to St. Paul’s Cathedral. For the sporty, a morning kayak ride on the Thames (try Kayaking London), when weather permits, is a brisk start to a perfectly British day. Trafalgar Square, site of numerous political protests and historical events throughout the centuries, is always packed with interesting people, and the London Dungeon (County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road), an interactive tour featuring live recreations of gruesome London history and lore, will appeal to thrill-seekers.