A few years ago, I discovered the wonderful world of house sitting and became addicted to Trusted Housesitter’s website and the daily email listing the newest available house sits. I created my profile, applied for tons of house sits, and finally got my first gig in Bristol, England. It opened the door to European house sitting and actually changed my life!
During a one-week break between house sit gigs in the UK, I got a great deal on Skyscanner and then flew down to Nice to visit a friend and escape the cold English winter. I fell in love with Nice and moved here five months later. Now that I’ve finally settled into my new life in Nice, it’s time to dream of exploring more areas of Europe through house sitting!
I’m dreaming…. of a pair of pugs in Paris and a Viennese cat named Pamina!
Here are my Top 5 picks for European house sitting gigs – my Bucket List.
After submitting many house sit applications all over Europe, I’ve finally confirmed a house sit in one of my top bucket list cities – Vienna. I’ll spend a week in this fascinating city, feeding a sweet cat named Pamina and exploring the city.
Vienna was my introduction to Europe when I was a naive “20-something”. I remember being fascinated by the architecture, the parks, and Schonbrunn Palace. But that trip happened so long ago, my memories are very vague and fuzzy. That’s the beauty of aging – visiting the same places all over again because you’ve forgotten everything from thirty years ago.
What’s there to do in Vienna?
I’ve only got 7 days in this city so I’ve been doing some research and have narrowed it down…
First on the list is a return visit to the beautiful Schonbrunn Palace which dates back to the 1600s. This stunning palace has recreated rooms that give you a glimpse into how Austrian royalty really lived back in the day. The massive gardens surrounding the palace are also worth spending a lot of time exploring. Or just relaxing.
Hofburg Imperial Palace
Dating back to the 13th century, Hofburg Palace is now the “White House” of Austria where the president lives and works. This huge, lavish palace was once home to the Habsburg dynasty rulers and contains 3 museums in the 2600 rooms spread through 18 wings.
One of the most interesting displays is the private chambers of Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Elizabeth who, surprisingly, had a home gym installed in the palace.
The rooms are in the Rococo style, with rich stucco work and valuable tapestries from Brussels (17th and 18th centuries), chandeliers made from Bohemian crystal and tiled stoves made from porcelain. The furniture, added in the nineteenth century, is in the Louis XV and Empire styles. Highlights of the tour are the dressing-cum-exercise room and the bathroom of the empress. Sisi spent most of her time in the exercise room. Her day began here at six o’clock in the morning with the daily hairdressing ritual. The exercise equipment installed here, such as the wall bars, high bar and rings in the door frame, are still retained. The dining room with its opulently laid table is also impressive. – Vienna, Now and Forever
Prater Amusement Park
Just for a change of pace, and so I don’t get too engrossed in historical palaces, I plan to spend a day riding the giant Ferris wheel and driving the bumper cars at Prater Amusement Park, the oldest in the world. I may even check out the ghost train and lose some money in the antique slot machines!
Historic Center Walking Tour
My vague memories of Vienna from 30 years ago include walking everywhere. Vienna is so beautiful and so walkable that I plan to do my own walking tour. I’ll hang out in parks and enjoy the street musicians, explore the well-preserved history in the Inner Stadt area, and people-watch at a cafe. Maybe I’ll even wander through old Naschmarkt to do a little shopping.
How much will I save on a hotel by house sitting? (Based on Google’s estimate of an average 3* hotel)
$630 for the week
Related Post: Vienna in a Day – What to see in this cold, sterile city
It’s so difficult to narrow down the top things to do in Paris, but I’ll have a week in October to do just that. I’ve got a house sit (actually a house swap) with a woman I met on Trusted Housesitters. She’s got two pugs that I’ll take care of in exchange for a free place to stay right in the heart of Paris in the 3rd arrondissement. After our hour-long Skype session, we’ve agreed to actually do a house swap so she’ll be staying in my apartment in Nice while I’m in Paris.
I’ve visited Paris a few times many years ago but, like Vienna, my memories are foggy. So, I’ll see it all again as if for the first time!
This magnificent museum began as a fortress in the 12th century and some remains of the original building are still visible. The fortress was renovated in the mid-16th century and then became a museum in 1793. It now houses some of the most famous and priceless art from throughout Europe including Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa. I’ll stop by and see her smile.
Located near The Louvre, the Tuileries Garden is a perfect place to sit on a bench and people-watch after spending hours exploring the museum. This is the oldest formal French garden in Paris and feels like a step back in time. It once was the garden of the Tuileries Palace, but the palace was demolished back in 1883. The garden is filled with nude sculptures and ponds full of ducks and wooden toy sailboats. It also has great views of the Eiffel Tower and The Louvre.
Versailles Palace and Gardens
The Palace of Versailles was the residence of French kings from Louis XIV in 1682 until the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789. Located 10 miles outside of Paris, Versailles is easily reachable by train. I visited this palace on my first trip to Paris many years ago and remember being awed by it. The palace is surrounded by gardens, which tourists can wander through for free. I plan to spend at least a day wandering through Versailles, maybe even more.
This sounds weirdly interesting. Back in 1785, Paris had a problem with overflowing cemeteries, which then turned into a huge hygiene issue. To fix this problem, they dug up the bones from the cemeteries and stored them in an underground quarry tunnel. This area now holds the remains of more than six million people. Tours are available through this passageway, which is located 130 spiral steps below ground. Sounds quite sad and very creepy.
How much am I saving on a Paris hotel? (Based on Google’s estimate of an average 3* hotel)
$721 for a one-week stay
I spent a long weekend in Barcelona last Spring and am excited for a chance to go back and see all the things I missed before. I’ve been in touch with a couple of Barcelona homeowners on Trusted Housesitters but haven’t yet confirmed a house sit here, so it’s still on my bucket list!
What’s on my list when I return to Barcelona?
This place is a must-see for anyone visiting Barcelona! My jaw dropped when I walked in. I spent hours listening to the audio tour while sitting in stunned silence. This massive church was designed by a local legend, artist and architect Antoni Gaudi, and is still under construction. You’ll be blown away by the detail and design of everything from the intricate carvings outside the doorway to the massive interior beams designed as tree branches. And the stained glass windows make stunning photos!
Located in the center of Barcelona, Casa Batllo was also designed by Antoni Gaudi and is considered his masterpiece. I walked by the building but haven’t seen the interior yet, but I have a hard time imagining it can be even better than Sagrada Familia! It’s been described as “intricately beautiful, inside and out”.
“Casa Batllo is utterly charming, creative, and fun. The doorways, windows, interior finishings, room shapes and exterior are really different — Gaudi designed like no one else.” – Trip Advisor review
I look forward to putting this quirky building on the top of my “To Do” list when I return to Barcelona.
Yes, even more Gaudi! Park Guell was designed by Gaudi in the early1900s and became a park in 1926. It’s located on Camel Hill, on the edge of the city, and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. Park Guell is filled with winding pathways and many sculptures and mosaics designed by Gaudi. It also has a great view of the city down below.
The Magic Fountain of Montjuic
Finally, no Gaudi! Just a really cool magic fountain that lights up and dances to the music. It was originally built in 1929, damaged in the Spanish Civil War, and then fully restored in 1992. The mesmerizing performances, which combine colored lights, motion, and music, take place at half-hour intervals every weekend.
Gracia is a hip, trendy neighborhood of Barcelona full of character and charm. This area is set on a hill and offers wonderful views of Barcelona, cool cafes, and a very Bohemian atmosphere. One of the house sits I’m hoping for is located in this area. Keeping my fingers crossed!
How much will I save on a hotel in Barcelona? (Based on Google’s estimate of an average 3* hotel)
$903 for a one-week stay
Prague has been on my bucket list for quite a while now and I applied for a house sit there during the week just prior to my Vienna house sit. The cities are located near each other so the timing would have been perfect. Unfortunately, I wasn’t selected for the Prague house sit (rejection is part of the house sit game!). Hopefully next time!
What’s there to see and do in beautiful Prague?
Old Town and the clock
I live in Old Town Nice and love exploring the historic areas of other European cities. Prague’s Old Town features a Town Hall built in 1338, considered one of the most important monuments in the Czech Republic. One of the main draws for tourists is the very old and fascinating astronomical clock. This clock dates back to around 1410 and local legend says that the health of the city is directly linked to this clock, so they make every effort to keep it ticking.
Unfortunately, it’s currently undergoing some renovation which is scheduled to be completed in October 2018. The lookout gallery on the town hall tower is still open during construction and offers the most beautiful view of Prague.
Dating back to 1357, the Charles Bridge is a stone Gothic bridge across the Vltava River connecting Old Town with Lesser Town. The bridge is now a pedestrian zone lined with baroque statues and a look-out tower on each end. Touch the statue of St. John of Nepomuk, a Czech martyr saint, to bring good luck and ensure your return to Prague!
Many recommend visiting the bridge at sunset when you get the view of the fully lit Prague Castle against the evening sky. Sounds like a perfect happy hour spot!
The ancient Prague Castle is listed in Guinness Book of World Records as being the largest in the world at 70,000 square meters. It dates back over 1000 years to around 870 and is currently used as the official office of Czech President Milos Zeman. Construction back in 870 began as the Church of the Virgin Mary, which is now just a pile of ruins.
In the centuries since then, the castle has been expanded, repaired, abandoned, fortified, looted by the Swedes, repaired again, and then briefly occupied by Hitler. Quite a colorful history and something I look forward to visiting when I finally make it to Prague!
Viewing a city from the water gives a totally different perspective, and Prague has a wide variety of river cruises to choose from. There are lunch cruises, jazz cruises, and evening dinner cruises with a buffet and a live band. There’s also one that explores the small canals, called the “Little Venice” cruise. I’m sure the night view of Prague castle from the water will be magical!
Live Music and Czech beer
Two of my favorite things in the world, live music and cold beer, and Prague is famous for both! Jazz in Prague has an interesting history dating back to communist rule when rock music was banned due to its “subversive nature”. Jazz music was allowed by the authorities because it wasn’t openly rebellious.
“And yet there was always something about jazz – the raw emotion, the lack of structure, the humaneness of the genre – that meant the Jazz Festivals of the 60s and 70s were much more than just a series of concerts. They were amazing paeons of soulful creation in a world that forbade individualism; and, with international acts in attendance, they were also a rare form of contact with the outside world.” Anna Spysz – Local Life, Prague
Check here for what’s currently playing on the live music scene in Prague. And then pour yourself an ice cold Pilsner Urquell and enjoy the nightlife in Prague! I know I will!
How much will I save on a Prague hotel by confirming a house sit? (According to Google)
I’ll save $462 for one week in Prague.
I actually applied for a house sit in Ghent, just 25 minutes away from beautiful Bruges. Unfortunately, I was overscheduled and overwhelmed at the time and had to turn it down. I’m hoping something else pops up in the future because, honestly, before investigating that Ghent house sit I had very little interest in seeing Belguim.
I think I was wrong – Bruges looks like such a quaint, fairytale city!
Some of the things on my Bruges To Do list:
Chocolate – Fries – Beer
Three of my favorite food groups combined into one blissful experience! Belgium is well-known for chocolate, fries, and beer and I plan to indulge in all three while I’m there. For a more cultural experience, I may even do the De Halve Maan brewery tour. There’s also the Frietmuseum, where all your burning questions about the history of fries can be answered along with free samples at the end of the tour.
Climb to the top of Belfry
After indulging in chocolate and beer, I’ll work it off with a climb to the top of the Belfry. There are 366 steps to the top of the tower and amazing views at the top. Some believe the tower is leaning slightly, but not nearly as obvious as the one in Pisa. I also may be leaning slightly after the brewery tour.
Walking Photo Tour
Bruges is such a photogenic city and the photos I saw while researching the house sit in Ghent inspired me to add Bruges to my bucket list. The beautiful old buildings reflecting off the canal are perfect for wandering and trying to capture the magic in photos.
The Medieval Market
This market dates back to the year 958 and is a great place to get a feel for local life. Surrounded by the Bruges Belfry and quaint pastel-colored houses, it’s a perfect spot to explore. The traditional market is open on Wednesdays. The rest of the week the market area is filled with bars, restaurants, and cafes – ideal for people-watching while sipping a cold beer.
Canal boat tour
Whenever there’s a city on the water, I love to view it from a boat. In Bruges, there are plenty of canal boat tours to choose from. The city is often referred to as “the Venice of the north”, full of small canals with amazing views of ancient stone buildings and small bridges spanning the water.
How much will I save on a hotel in Bruges? (Surprisingly, the most expensive according to Google)
I’ll save a whopping $1003 for a one-week house sit in Bruges!
Related Post: Bruges in a Day or Two – Cheap and Free Things to do
What’s on your Bucket List? Bruges? Prague? Somewhere else?
Hotel prices quoted are Google estimates of a 3* hotel. Compare actual hotel prices right here!
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