The Best Rooftop View of Paris

I found the best rooftop view of Paris at the top of the Galeries de Lafayette. This truly is the best view of Paris. The greatest part of this excursion is that it’s free! One of my hostel mates recommended the Galeries de Lafayette. I took the metro to the Opera station and came out right in front of the Opera building also known as the Palais Garnier. I snapped a few pictures of the building because it’s incredible and then walked to the back of the building. The Galeries de Lafayette is right behind the Opera building. 

Front of the Palais Garnier

There is one main entrance when you arrive at the Galeries de Lafayette. Everyone is shuffled into the main entrance behind the Opera building, and you’ll see a set of escalators on the right. There are elevators and stairs to the terrace, but the escalator was easier and less of a wait. 

I took the escalators to the terrace view, which is 7 floors up. There are signs that tell you when you’re close to the terrace. You get a gorgeous view of all of Paris. I spent probably an hour up there admiring the view. On the way down, take the escalator just one floor down, and you’ll find a variety of gift shops and cafes. There’s a free bathroom on this level too, which was hard for me to find in Paris. The Galeries de Lafayette terrace view is the absolute best rooftop view of Paris!

Palais Garnier

6 Hours in Copenhagen

I’ve been to Copenhagen before and knew some of what I wanted to do on my layover in the city. I first took the metro to the Nørreport Station and first decided to grab a bite. I found Cafe Vivaldi and had a delicious meal. Cafe Vivaldi had plenty of allergy friendly selections including different sandwiches, salads, and soups. Cafe Vivaldi even offers dairy free options for their coffee and espresso drinks. The cafe had an outdoor and indoor section. The decor is super cool inside, so if it’s cold outside, a seat inside will definitely suffice. 

After lunch I decided to do some shopping on Strøget, which is Copenhagen’s famous shopping street. You’ll find elegant boutiques and common stores like H&M and Zara. My favorite budget shop is Only, which we don’t have in the US. Strøget is great to walk along and get a feel for the city. 

I ended my layover by walking along the water and getting pictures in the town square. If you have more time you can visit some of the city’s historic buildings: Børsen, Thorvaldsens Museum and Christiansborg Palace

City Center

Last time I was in Copenhagen I really enjoyed watching the Danish Royal Guard march from Rosenborg Castle to Amalienborg Palace for the Changing of the Guard ceremony. At the time of this article the ceremony takes place daily with the guard leaving Rosenborg Castle at 11:30 to arrive at Amalienborg Palace for the ceremony at 12:00.

That’s about as much as you can squeeze into a 6 hour layover in Copenhagen. You’ll get a great sample of the city, and I guarantee it’ll make you want to return!

You will find bikes everywhere!

Copenhagen Airport Layover Tips

On my way to Paris I had a 6 hour layover in Copenhagen, which was just enough time to head into the city. I listed a few tips below to help with the logistics of going through customs, finding the luggage lockers, and taking the metro into the city.

Copenhagen Customs

I landed at Copenhagen Airport Terminal 3 and quickly went through customs. If you land at Terminal 3 do not go through the far right customs lane. This lane defers to flight attendants and pilots first, so I waited a few minutes while the crew went through this customs lane before I opted for a different lane. It still only took me 10 minutes or so to go through customs. I recommend avoiding the far right customs lane because you’ll be waiting longer than the other lines simply because that lane allows flight crew through first.

P4 luggage lockers are right behind the tan and white arrow wall.
Luggage Lockers
Pay Station for the luggage lockers.
Luggage Lockers
Luggage Lockers

After customs I went to find the luggage lockers. The luggage lockers are located in parking garage P4, which is across the street from Terminal 1. I walked down to Terminal 1 and saw the P4 sign. When you cross the street for P4 you’ll see a wall with giant white and tan arrows (pictured above). The lockers are immediately behind that wall. Follow the instructions on the screen and you’ll pay with either a Mastercard or Visa. Keep the receipt because it has the code you’ll need when you return to get your luggage. 

Hallway headed towards P4
DSB ticket counter
Finding the Metro

After dropping off my luggage I walked to Terminal 2 and followed the signs for the metro. As you walk towards the metro, you’ll see a large, red section for DSB train tickets on the right (pictured above). I skipped this and continued towards the metro because you can get metro tickets right before you hop on the metro. The airport metro station is the last station on that line. You can hop on either side, and the metro will take you to the city center. I recommend getting off at either Kongens Nytorv or Nørreport Station. Kongens Nytorv is a public square in Copenhagen, Denmark, centrally located at the end of the pedestrian street Strøget. Nørreport Station is located in the district of Indre By, and is named after the historic Nørreport city gate, near the original location. 

Copenhagen Airport Metro Station
Copenhagen Airport Metro Station

I hope these tips help you navigate the Copenhagen Airport on a layover. If you have time it’s definitely worth going into the city center!

Charles de Gaulle Tips

Charles de Gaulle was not my favorite airport. It generally seemed like a poorly-designed mess. I was stressed the whole time I was there. Terminal 1 has a very odd design because there are people-movers in giant plastic tubes to take you from one floor to another. You can look out of the plastic lining and see all the other people-movers in the center of the Terminal. It looks like hamster tubes all over the airport. I got to the right floor, found the set of gates I needed, and then had to take another, long people-mover to the gates. The positive part is security is very fast. There is security at each of the gate groups, so I only had to go through security with other people going to gates 70-78. I have a few tips below that may seem obvious but are necessary reminders for traveling through Charles de Gaulle. 

Charles de Gaulle Hamster People Mover
Charles de Gaulle People Mover to Gates

1. Get to Charles de Gaulle Really Early

I mean really early! I normally fly out of Chicago O’Hare and thought that was busy, but Charles de Gaulle gives “busy” a whole new meaning. I took a shuttle bus from my hostel to the airport at 7:30am for an 11:10am flight. We had a slight detour to pick up another group before heading to the airport. We hit major traffic because it was rush hour. Then we hit heavy traffic at the airport because it was the start of a French holiday when I was traveling. Additionally, the trains were only partially running to the airport because of a strike, so that just added to the number of people taking cabs to the airport. The airport has a wacky design too, so there was generally an abundance of traffic. Thankfully I had plenty of time before my flight. Charles de Gaulle was a hoppin’ airport, so I recommend getting there really early. 

2. Eat Before You Go Through Security

I flew out of Terminal 1, which is an older terminal. It’s hub-shaped with different spokes coming out of the center as the different terminals. If you are hungry there are 4 restaurants including McDonalds and Starbucks on the -1 level at Terminal 1 before security. I wish I’d grabbed a coffee prior to going through security because there is only 1 cafe, 1 duty free shop, and 1 convenience store past security for the gate I needed. Security was fast because there appear to be security lines at each of the group of gates. My group of gates was 70-78, and there was security just for this group. I ate at the one cafe while waiting for my flight, but the line was huge given it was the only cafe on this side of security. Perhaps there are more post-security food options in different terminals. I recommend grabbing food before going through security.

3. Charge Your Devices Before You Get To The Gate

As I write this, I’m at 14% battery, and there is no plug in sight. Well, there are a few scattered outlets, but they are all in use. Other passengers scooped up the open plugs immediately. At other airports I’ve had no trouble finding outlets to charge my devices. Terminal 1 only has a few charging stations, and they only have 3 outlets per charging station. Also, there’s almost no wifi in Terminal 1. Again, maybe this is different at the other terminals. There is wifi, but it was spotty at best; don’t rely on consistent wifi. I was connected for maybe 10 minutes. 

I hope these reminders help you on your next journey through Charles de Gaulle!

The one cafe after security for gates 70-78.

Navigating Madrid Barajas

I’ve flown Iberia into Madrid Barajas Airport several times, mostly with layovers before flying to other countries in Europe. Madrid Barajas is one of the more complicated airports I’ve flown into especially when transferring. 

Coming from the United States you’ll land at Terminal 4S and need to make your way to Terminal 4 if you’re transferring. After landing everyone will be funneled towards passport control. I’ve had to immediately go through passport control when landing at any European country from the United States. Madrid Barajas was no different. 

Right before passport control you’ll see a departure screen listing all upcoming flights. You’ll know what letter (H, K, L, etc.) within Terminal 4 you’ll have to find.  

You’ll see two lines for passport control. The first is for European Union (EU) citizens, and the second is for those holding United States passports. The United States passport line is a bit hidden. The EU line is immediately on your right hand side. If you have a United States passport, you’ll keep walking towards what looks like a dead end. Then you’ll see an opening on the right to enter passport control. 

After going through passport control if you’re staying in Madrid you’ll leave and get your baggage. If you’re continuing to another flight, you’ll take the elevator or escalator to the bottom floor. From there you’ll catch the tram going to Terminal 4. Terminal 4 has all the connecting flights within Europe. The tram takes 4 minutes to get to Terminal 4. From there you’ll go up two flights of escalators and go through security. You won’t be able to bring any water bottles or drinks from your last flight, so be sure to finish them before you go through security. As soon as you’re through security you’re good to go. Happy Traveling!

Sunrise over Madrid

The Three Best Restaurants in Munich

My first favorite restaurant in Munich is California Bean. This is a great breakfast spot. I happened upon it when I was looking for a different restaurant. California Bean has an allergen friendly menu. The main menu also notes if certain items has preservatives, dyes, sulphates, etc. I noticed that at several restaurants, which is a great practice. 

California Bean
California Bean additive list
Breakfast including a gluten free baguette
Honey Macchiato

I had a honey macchiato and a classic breakfast of eggs, bacon, and a warm gluten free baguette. California Bean had plenty of gluten free options. I’m so glad I happened upon this restaurant because it was a tasty, allergen-friendly option for me!

The next restaurant I recommend is Bohne & Malz am Stachus. Bohne & Malz is in the Old Town area of Munich. They’re open all day and don’t close between lunch and dinner. I greatly appreciate this because I was hungry for dinner at 4pm; thank you jet lag! Like California Bean, the Bohne & Malz menu listed allergens and other additives. The menu had English and scientific names of the allergens like “corylus avellana” for hazelnut. I enjoyed the Viennese Schnitzel with cranberries, a side salad, and fries. My meal was mouthwatering and absolutely delicious. I highly recommend Bohne & Malz!

Bohne & Malz list of additives and allergens
Viennese Schnitzel

Schiller Brau Schnitzel

Finally, I loved Schiller Brau for dinner. Their website states that patrons can sit by copper brewing kettles in rustic atmosphere and enjoy our home-brewed and enjoy unfiltered beer specialties and traditional favorite dishes inspired by grandma’s kitchen. The ambiance was “gesellig,” a German term for cozy. This was my first time having schnitzel, and I loved it. The pork schnitzel cut like butter and was so tender. The fries were crisp and perfectly salted. This is a must-visit restaurant if you’re in Munich. Make sure you make a reservation. I showed up right at 6pm and found a seat at the bar. Others showing up just a few minutes after me couldn’t even get a seat at the bar.

Munich Art Scene

I spent most of my time in Munich at museums. I recommend getting an art day pass for 12 Euro. You get access to Alte Pinakothek, Pinakothek der Moderne, Museum Brandhorst, Sammlung Schack. Neue Pinakothek was included in the day pass, but it’s currently closed for renovations. I only ended up going to Pinakothek der Moderne, Museum Brandhorst, and Alte Pinakothek in one day, and I felt I got my money’s worth out of the day pass. 

Pinakothek der Moderne has a large collection of modern and contemporary art works by Picasso, Magritte, Kandinsky, Francis Bacon, and Andy Warhol. This was my favorite art museum I visited because of the variety of works. 

Pinakothek der Moderne
Pinakothek der Moderne
Pinakothek der Moderne

Pinakothek der Moderne
Pinakothek der Moderne

Museum Brandhorst is currently celebrating its 10 year anniversary. Museum Brandhorst is relatively new on the Munich art scene with permanent exhibitions including pieces by Damien Hirst, Joseph Beuys, and Andy Warhol, including his “Marilyn” portrait. Sunday entry is just 1 Euro. The audio guide was free, and I really enjoyed learning about the works through the audio guide. 

Brandhorst
Outside of the Brandhorst
Brandhorst
Brandhorst

Alte Pinakothek has numerous old Flemish and Dutch paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries. It even has a rare Rembrandt self-portrait. Alte Pinakothek also has Italian artworks from the 14th to 18th centuries including Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna with the Carnation, from 1475 and a broad collection of medieval German paintings from the 15th and early 16th centuries. The Rubens collection is one of the world’s largest, and Spanish and French masterpieces are also represented. Because Neue Pinakothek is closed, there are also works of Van Gogh, Manet, and Monet in Alte Pinakothek. That section was my favorite of the museum. There are audio guides available, but I opted to wander on my own. 

Alte Pinakothek
Van Gogh
Rembrandt
Cezanne

On my last day in Munich I went to the Lenbachhaus Art Gallery. Lenbachhaus Art Gallery is housed in the historic villa that once belonged to master painter Franz von Lenbach. The museum has been home to the world’s largest collection of art by the Blue Rider movement, including pieces by Wassily Kandinsky, Gabriele Münter, Franz Marc and many more. I arrived around noon and had the opportunity to see the Kunstbau gallery. The Kunstbau is a subterraneous gallery on the mezzanine level of the Königsplatz subway station. The audio guide for the Kunstbau was free, so I took advantage of it.

Andy Warhol in Lenbachhaus
Lenbachhaus Advertisement
Outside of Lenbachhaus
Kunstbau Gallery

All of the galleries I went to had a locker room and coat check. The coat check cost between 1-2 Euro. I recommend using the lockers because those end up being free. You need a 1 or 2 Euro coin that you put into the locker to get the key. Then when you come back and open the locker, the coin is released back to you. This system seemed to be uniform throughout the museums in Munich, so I always made sure I had a 1 or 2 Euro coin on me.

Lenbachhaus
Lenbachhaus

Munich Overview

Logistics

I booked my trip to Munich about nine months in advance because I knew I’d have MLK Day off of work and school. Google Flights alerted me that I could fly to Munich for $362 roundtrip, so I bought it! I had a short layover in Madrid, which was no bother to me. For that price, I couldn’t turn down a trip to Europe. I booked the long weekend trip having no prior knowledge of Munich, and I’m glad I did. It was a great, long weekend trip.

Lodging

I booked the Wombat’s Hostel in the center of Munich for $77 USD total for three nights. This location is a two minute walk from Munich’s central train station, which is why I picked it. However, I would not stay here again. 

I’ve had really positive experiences at other hostels, so this one was a let down. The staff was very kind, but the hostel procedures were odd to me. Every guest has to give some sort of identification card with a picture in order to get a key card for the room. Wombat’s holds the card, like a student ID or library card, until you check out to ensure you return your room key. I thankfully had a student ID on me; otherwise, I’m not sure what I would’ve done! Wombat’s doesn’t advertise this procedure to you prior to check in. 

Additionally, Wombat’s cleaning services are minimal. When I got to my room I found my bed undressed with a pillow and quilt, no pillow case or sheets. It didn’t appear the quilt had been cleaned since the last guest. The cleaning staff came in and gave me sheets to dress my bed. My other roommates didn’t dress their beds, so they just slept on the pillow and bed sans sheets. It didn’t seem like the cleaning staff cleaned often. The procedures seemed a bit unsanitary. When I checked out I had to bring down my linens and towel to the front desk. 

Finally, I was bummed by the number of people in the hostel who didn’t want to socialize. I’ve enjoyed getting to know travelers at other hostels, and this was not the case at Wombats. They give everyone a welcome drink ticket to use during happy hour, but everyone at happy hour was on their phones or laptops. No one talked to each other; it was pretty awkward. 

My stay at Wombat’s was just okay. The location was great for walking around the city, but that really was the only positive for me. I’d recommend finding a different hostel.

Transportation

I pretty much walked everywhere in the city aside from arriving and leaving Munich. There are trams that run on the major streets, which is a quick and easy way to get from one side of the city to the other.

Arriving in Munich was very easy; visitors landing at Munich International Airport can take the S-Bahn either S1 or S8 trains into the city. When I landed I followed the green signs for S-Bahn and found the train I needed. It took about 50 minutes to get to Munich Hbf. The train announces the stops in English and German. Most passengers were getting off at this stop too, so it was hard to miss. 

The trains run almost 24 hours a day, so I was able to catch a 5am train back to the Munich airport for my returning flight. The staff at Wombat’s told me that the S1 train splits in half sometimes, so I should sit in the back of that train to ensure I wasn’t in the part of the train that split in the wrong direction. I was back at the airport within 50 minutes. 

Cafe Juli

I decided to dedicate an entire blog post to Cafe Juli because it’s one of my favorite cafes in the world. I ate there twice over the course of a short, four-day trip in Aachen. I cannot speak highly enough about Cafe Juli. Cafe Juli is a vegetarian restaurant with organic products. If you are in Aachen, this is my #1 recommended restaurant. 

On my first visit to Cafe Juli, I was welcomed by the warm ambiance and smell of fresh baked goods. The first day I went was on a Friday around 1pm, and it was relatively empty. The waiters said I could sit wherever I like, so I found a cozy corner with a comfy chair. The mismatched furniture and displays of baked goods really add to the cozy feeling Cafe Juli exudes. 

The menu details Cafe Juli’s use of organic products.

The second day we went was on a Sunday right when Cafe Juli opened, and the restaurant was packed. The waiter squeezed us in at a table that had a reservation in an hour, so we ate quickly. I recommend making a reservation on weekends or showing up right when Cafe Juli opens to snag one of the few open tables.  

Cafe Juli offers an English menu, and some of the waiters speak English. I showed the waiter my list of food allergies, which I had translated to German. She noted my allergies and confirmed that the meal I ordered was safe for me to eat. 

Breakfast Day 1
Our meals on our second trip to Cafe Juli

I ordered the basic breakfast both days, and it was nothing short of scrumptious. It consisted of a warm roll, cheeses, apple slices, a hard boiled egg, jam, a small salad, and a healthy dose of the best butter I’ve ever had. I am obsessed with their butter; it had to be homemade.

I also enjoyed a refreshing iced caramel latte and a pumpkin spice latte. I was thrilled to have a pumpkin spice latte in late November, which normally doesn’t happen in the United States. My mouth is watering just writing this post. I hope if you find yourself in Aachen that you eat at Cafe Juli.

The outside of Cafe Juli
Pumpkin Spice Latte

Aachen Day 1

I had a full day in Aachen after I arrived via train. It was absolutely pouring, so my first stop was finding a warm cafe. I ended up at the Aachener Cafe, which was recommended on all the travel blogs I read prior to going to Aachen. It was right next to the Dom and City Museum, so it was a good location. The Aachener Cafe was incredibly busy, likely due to the weather. I felt very rushed to eat my potato soup and down my coffee. It didn’t seem particularly allergy-friendly either. If you’re visiting Aachen, I would pass on this cafe. 

Aachener Cafe
Aachener Cafe dining room

Aachen has four major relics–Virgin Mary’s dress, Jesus’ swaddling cloths, Jesus’ loin cloths, and the decapitation cloth of John the Baptist. These are all kept in the Shrine of the Virgin Mary in the chancel of the cathedral. They get removed and presented to believers, during the Aachen pilgrimage, which regularly takes place every seven years since 1349. Afterwards the shrine gets secured with a padlock, and the keyhole is sealed with lead. They key is sewn into two pieces, of which the key bit is given to the municipality of Aachen and the bow to the cathedral chapter. The padlocks are on display in the Aachen Treasury, which was my next stop. 

Treasury Hallway
Charlemagne
Hand of the King

The Aachen Cathedral Treasury is one of the most important treasuries of medieval Christian artworks in Europe. It costs 5 Euro to see the Treasury, and it was an enjoyable rainy day activity in Aachen. I spent about 45 minutes looking around the Treasury. 

The Treasury is next to the Aachen Cathedral, which is the monumental church of Charlemagne. The cathedral and treasury were added to UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage list in 1978. After the Treasury, I went into the cathedral and walked around. It was free to enter the cathedral, and the church asked for donations if patrons wanted to take photos. I opted not to take photos and just enjoy the beauty of the cathedral itself. 

Aachener Dom

The Aachener Dom, as it’s known in German, is one of the oldest cathedrals in Europe, it was constructed by order of the emperor Charlemagne, who was buried there in 814. From 936 to 1531, the Palatine Chapel saw the coronation of thirty-one German kings and twelve queens. I highly recommend walking around the cathedral for its beauty!

Aachen Christmas Market
Aachen Christmas Market

I then walked around the Christmas Market late afternoon, which was a great time because it stopped raining. There were few people around, and I picked up some great Christmas gifts for my family. 

Cafe Zuhause

I ended my day at Cafe Zuhause where I met up with my friend, Natan. He’s an Aachen native, and this was one of his regular spots. Cafe Zuhause embodied “hygge” and coziness. The mismatched furniture and abundance of books created a warm and welcoming environment. I enjoyed a local Hamburg cider and pizza from a nearby restaurant. Cafe Zuhause doesn’t have a kitchen yet, but they allow customers to bring in outside food. They have menus on site for Greek, Asian, and Italian cuisine. The pizza was incredible. I was happily stuffed and in a food coma by the time we left Cafe Zuhause.

Statue in Aachen