For me, 2018 has been one of my favourite years for travel yet. I started the year at a random house party with my boyfriend in Belfast, Northern Ireland and am now about to end the year in Port Macquarie, Australia while I’m at work! If that doesn’t scream a contrasting and exciting year, I don’t know what does!
From living in the energetic city of Belfast, travelling around different countries in Europe for three months, and then moving back to my small, coastal Australian town – here are my top 10 Travel Highlights of 2018!
#1 Drinking Guinness in Belfast
I’ll start from the very beginning – my time spent living (and drinking) in Belfast. I’ve had my fair share of drinking the authentic, Irish Guinness on many nights out with loads of my favourite friends. There’s nothing better than walking into a warm bar after shivering out in the bitter cold. My boyfriend, friends and I spent many nights dancing away the cold in various nightclubs.
#2 Seeing The Colosseum and Roman Forum for Free
Yep, you read that right, for free! Finding out that my boyfriend and I could see the Colosseum and Roman Forum for free in Rome, was by far one of my favourite moments on our 3-month long trip around Europe. As it turns out, EVERY museum in Italy (including Pompeii) is free on the first Sunday of the month!
We arrived in Rome around midday on one bright, sunny day and quickly made our way to our hostel, dumped our bags, and walked down to these amazing historical monuments. Assuming the lines would be super long, we were prepared to only get to see the Colosseum. But in no time at all, we made it through! We ended up spending one hour exploring the Colosseum, and two hours exploring the Forum.
#3 Watching Belgium play in the World Cup in Bruges
Watching Belgium play (and win a game) in the World Cup in Bruges, Belgium was one of the most alcohol-infused, fun and favourite nights of my life! Our hostel had a bar which served all different types of Belgium beer (known for its high alcohol content and unique flavours), which lead to an interesting night…
The night started off with ‘happy hour’ where we bought pint, after pint of beer for only €2 each! We watched the game – where Belgium beat Japan – and everyone in the hostel was drinking, laughing, and excitedly watching along. Somehow, we ended up in a beer tasting (which was expensive but we didn’t pay for it) were us along with a bunch of other people got completely drunk. It was a great night, followed by a pretty bad hangover…
#4 Hellfest in France
We were told Hellfest was an awesome festival, and it did not disappoint! Hellfest was mainly for my boyfriend, Cian, and as the name suggests it is a heavy metal festival. However, this festival was so excellent that I (someone who doesn’t even like heavy metal music), absolutely loved it!
Other than great music Hellfest was complete with cheap jugs of beer, great food, and an overall amazing atmosphere. Getting involved in mosh-pits and being at the front for some pretty amazing bands, is something that will stick with me forever.
#5 Eating Perogies in Poland
The most amazing, delicious, and unique food I have ever eaten was in Poland! Yes, this food has left such a long-lasting memory that I had to include it in my highlights!
Perogies are a dumpling style type of Polish Cusine, and they are absolutely delicious! I read about them before we went to Poland, and was really curious to try them. After searching the streets of Warsaw we found this cute little café on a corner and ordered our perogies. They were to die for!
#6 Hiking in Interlaken
Visiting the stunning, little Swiss town of Interlaken was a definite highlight of my year. We only had one day in this town but we definitely made the most of it! My favourite part of the day was when we spent 3 hours hiking up the huge mountain which towers over Interlaken.
The hike, for me, was a lot harder than I expected. The ‘diva’ in me almost gave up so many times and was ready to walk back down, so you can imagine the relief I felt when I FINALLY made it to the top. I was super proud of myself for hiking up something so far. After lots of photos of the stunning town below, we sat and ate our pre-packed lunch in the cool breeze, watching hang-gliders jumping off the mountain.
#7 A Picnic Under the Eiffel Tower
My whole childhood, youth and life I was dying to visit Paris and I finally have – three times! The last time I went, however, I only had 24 hours in the beautiful city – and I only had one way I wanted to spend it. So knowing our limited time-constraints Cian and I went and got some picnic supplies and made our way to the Eiffel Tower!
Sitting in the warm afternoon sun, we enjoyed our baguettes with ham and cheese, chocolate, fruit and of course champagne! We watched as many tourists tried to capture that perfect photo, and laughed when I was called upon by two foreigners to take a photo for them. Both of us ended up getting pretty drunk and full of delicious food, but it was definitely an amazing highlight of my year!
#8 The Bone Church in Prague
No, you didn’t read that wrong, an actual church made of bones. Located in the small Czech village of Kutna Hora, just outside of Prague, is the little known Sedlec Ossuary. To me, at first, it sounded like a very demonic, negative and haunted place to visit. However, its actually a Christian Church!
The church was decorated in such a way to celebrate death – similar to the catacombs in Paris – and was truly something spectacular to see. Just like every church we visited, we lit a candle inside at the altar! Complete with a skeleton chandelier, visiting the Sedlec Ossuary was a definite highlight of 2018!
#9 Swimming the 40-Foot in Dublin
Taking a dip in the Irish sea is definitely something that is not on many tourists radar, but weirdly ever since we stepped foot in Dublin it’s all we thought about doing! We spent our first month overseas in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin and I’m really glad we ended up going back there for a day.
It was the end of August – so the weather wasn’t too chilly – and there was still lots of locals down at the Forty-Foot swimming, so we didn’t expect it to be too cold. It was a rude awakening when I slowly made my way in and once fully submerged nearly froze to death! I’m really happy that we finally got to do the Forty-Foot in Dublin, and it was a major highlight of my year.
#10 The Thermal Baths in Budapest
Now for the other end of the spectrum – thermal baths! Once we found out about the thermal baths in Budapest, we were dying to visit – we ended up planning a whole day there. It was the middle of summer while we were in Budapest, but oddly enough, visiting the warm Széchenyi Spa was quite refreshing!
We brought our own snacks for the day and got there early enough to nab some armchairs in the shade. All day we made our way through the warm outdoor baths to the sometimes hot, sometimes freezing baths, and of course the various saunas. It was a day well spent, and one of my favourite highlights of 2018.
What are some of your highlights of the year gone by? Feel free to let me know in the comments!