The diversity and breadth of what Europe has to offer in terms of it’s history, food, culture and experiences is stunning. Europe is the continent the 2 Idiots have explored the most and we are excited to share our experiences from here.
Here are the countries we have traveled with our child in Europe (Iceland live and others coming soon!):
Croatia, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Montenegro, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia
There is something so magical about Budapest, which is the capital of Hungary. Natasha knew she wanted to visit the Danube River, but she never thought the city would be as beautiful as this. Although Hungary is a part of Europe, it was occupied by the Mongols in the 13th century, which translates into country’s look and culture being slightly separate from the rest of Europe. Resting on the Danube River, the city was actually two separate cities: Buda and Pest. When they united, they became the full city you can explore today, and the tourism folks like to say you have one city with two personalities.
When people think of visiting a Croatian city, they often think of picturesque Dubrovnik, where “Game of Thrones” was filmed. We decided to visit the capital city of Zagreb instead, and it is such a cool, energetic city that we would go back in a heartbeat. Although the country is old, its democracy is young, and the people of Zagreb have such an excited and hopeful energy – you can feel it as you walk around. It reminds of our hometown of Charlotte because it’s filled with new businesses, restaurants and growth. It’s also very family-friendly and children are everywhere.
Why The 2 Idiots recommend driving from Zagreb to Budapest?
Less than four hours apart, there is a lot to see between the quaint and historic Croatian Zagreb and Hungary’s capital of Budapest. Oftentimes, train or plane travel will have you missing some of a country’s most beautiful sites, and with such a short drive, we found spending a full day exploring gave us a chance to check out the ancient city of Varazdin and sampled a traditional Hungarian thermal spa in Heviz, Hungary. Both aren’t on-the-radar spots of Americans, and we would have missed them if we didn’t take the driving route.
Why The 2 Idiots recommend visiting Slovenia’s Postojna Caves?
We discovered the Postojna Caves simply because we were visiting Croatia and rented a car to drive between PorecandZagreb, Croatia. There are two paths to get there: one that drove through Croatia and the other that took a little longer but went through Slovenia. We took that path because we wanted to visit another country. We had no idea what was out there and luckily discovered these cool caves in the town of Postojna, Slovenia.
Florence is a historic and charming city, with some of the best markets for shopping. However, we found the city was similar to Venice: You’ll walk along the streets and it’s buzzing and exciting but 90 percent of people there are tourists. The only Florentine people were taxi drivers, tour guides and people servicing the tourists. Everyone lives outside of Florence, in the Tuscan countryside.
That said, if you are a history or art lover, you’ll be fascinated by the history and art found at every turn. This is where the Italian Renaissance began, and museums and churches are filled with the works of the Italian Masters: Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Rembrandt. The Medici family, one of the most power rulers of Italian history, owned this city, and the imprint they left is everywhere.
Venice is one of those must-visit cities in the world, and certainly one of the most unique cities we visited. Venice is a series of tiny islands that were once inhabited. When refugees escaping persecution from Rome began hide here, they began building the city from the marshes using wooden poles dug deep into the bottom of the lagoon to create foundations that have now stood solid since 421 AD. While it’s a cool city that you should see, it is definitely more touristy than we prefer. It doesn’t feel as if anyone actually lives on the island; it feels like one giant tourist trap. Plus, Natasha found it the water stinky in some places.
Why The 2 Idiots recommend exploring Murano and Burano?
Venice is not the only island in the Venice’s Northern Lagoon that you can explore. With inexpensive ferries, island-hopping is a piece of cake, even with children, and the islands of Murano and Burano can be enjoyed with just a few hours of exploration. One island is renowned for its glass. The other? For its colorful buildings and lace. Both are charming and if you are spending more than a day in the Venice area, take one of those days to visit these islands, as we actually found this to be our favorite day when we were in Venice.
Rome is our favorite Italian city. It is basically an open-air museum – it was built so long ago that even if you didn’t rush around to see the sights and just walked around, you are walking through so much history at every tour. But Rome is also a very modern, living, breathing city. Most of the cities we visited in Italy, especially Venice, are 95 percent tourists with the Venetians who live outside the city coming in to earn money from the tourists. In Rome, you have tourists, but you also have a thriving city — the future of Italy is being built in Rome while the other cities were cities of the past. Rome feels authentic.
Why The 2 Idiots recommend exploring the Amalfi Coast?
Every picture you have ever seen of the Amalfi Coast on Instagram is THAT– the coast looks just like the photos you have seen. It is so stunning and, for Natasha, the highlight of our tour of Southern Italy. For me, Pompeii blew me away – the archaeological site is the most preserved of any site I’ve ever seen and it feels like you are transported back in time and able to visualized what Italy was like centuries ago. When we visited Naples, it was through a Mediterranean cruise – the last stop of one of our favorite cruises we took with our son. Taking a tour that incorporates stops in Sorrento, Pompeii and a drive along windy cliff roads overlooking the sea will be a long day, but for us, a definite you should do when in port in Naples.
We didn’t have any expectations of Kotor; in fact, it wasn’t even on our radar. Our original cruise stop was supposed to be Istanbul, but we were rerouted due to security issues. Natasha didn’t even know it existed and was wondering where we were going and if it would be any good after Mykonos and Santorini. But boy, were we blown away! It’s stunning; old school medieval times – with cats (read on). Just pulling into port while on the Adriatic Sea, we were able to take in the most incredible scenery of the medieval city that is still surrounded by its original fortification walls as it was generations ago. The city only truly began seeing tourism in the 2000s, so its relatively undiscovered. Pictures don’t even do it justice.