After five years of wishful hoping and planning, my best friend and I finally decided to book the ultimate Europe trip. We spent four grueling years at West Point together. Always wishfully discussing our epic trips that we would one day take together. Backpacking Europe during festival season was the penultimate for us as young twenty-somethings. With both our shared love for international travel and dance music, it just made sense that we create the most ridiculous itinerary to hit all the major music festivals. This included Ibiza, Split, Prague, and Brussels.
First stop: Ibiza, Spain
Although there weren’t any major music festivals in Ibiza, there’s simply no way you can skip Ibiza during a European trip if you love dance music. Plus, this summer was the final year of Carl Cox’s residency at the iconic club, Space. Clearly we needed to see Carl Cox perform live before that ended. Some other highlights included seeing Nicky Romero perform at Amnesia, Flower Power night at Pacha, and of course a boat party.
Needless to say Carl Cox exceeded all expectations!
We stayed at an Airbnb one block from Pacha. Our hostess went far above and beyond to make sure we felt right at home and acted like a hotel concierge. Literally anything we needed, she secured for us. From making dinner reservations at 971 to booking our scuba dive to giving us tips on how to navigate the bus routes, she made sure we enjoyed an unforgettable experience.
We ended our stay in Ibiza with a Cirque de la Nuit Ibiza boat party and coincidentally ran into a newlywed couple we met at Space the night before. So we enjoyed unlimited sangria and beer while cruising the Mediterranean listening to sick house beats with our new friends for the entire afternoon before we departed for the airport.
Second Stop: Split, Croatia
Now backpacking Europe was strictly a budget adventure for us. Although, my typical travel style involves using points and miles to create luxurious itineraries to exotic destinations. This trip wasn’t intended to be luxurious by any means. So we flew from Ibiza to Barcelona, slept in the Barcelona airport overnight, and then boarded an early morning flight to Split. We landed around 8:00 AM and took a bus to Split before checking-into our next Airbnb in Bacvice Beach.
We took a nap in preparation for the pub crawl through Split that evening and boy was that worth the grand total of $20 USD! They advertised it as open bar for the first two hours, but it lasted the entire night and even included hosts walking around with open boxes of free pizza. Every single person we spoke to came from a different country and were backpacking Europe themselves. Plus 99% of them chose Split as a destination in order to attend Ultra Europe–just like us!
So the next few nights included raging at Ultra Europe and meeting even more friends from all over the world. Ultra is a music festival that draws over 100,000 attendees from over 143 different countries with four different stages featuring top international DJs from sunset until sunrise.
Ali and I have attended several music festivals together in the United States and the majority include Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas. Experiencing a music festival in Europe is definitely unique because there are cultural differences between how people dress and behave. Plus, many Europeans grew up listening to dance music from a young age whereas dance music only recently reached mainstream popularity within the past few years. Despite the first night getting cancelled due to inclement weather, the festival overall was incredible and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Plus, Ultra refunded us our money for the first night.
We ended our Croatia chapter with a calm dinner and a scenic view at Dvor restaurant. I must say, not only is Croatia gorgeous with jaw dropping beaches and fun nightlife, their food is also incredible and VERY affordable. We enjoyed a six course gourmet meal with wine for two for only $50 USD total.
Third Stop: Prague, Czech Republic
We decided to shift gears from the non-stop partying activities in Croatia and to take it a bit easier during the 48 hours we spent in Prague. We also switched it up a bit by not staying in an Airbnb, because let’s be honest…you’re not truly backpacking Europe until you stay in a hostel.
We booked The Old Prague Hostel on hostelworld.com and found it nestled in the perfect location. Not to mention it’s super easy to access from the airport via the metro system.
Here we essentially did our own self-guided walking tours of Prague instead of paying for any bus or boat tours. We ate traditional Czech food and wandered for hours around the gorgeous city touring places like Old Town, Prague Castle, and the Charles Bridge. We even found a vegan restaurant to try one day for lunch…of course we did this after we tried one of the fabulously healthy trdelníks–which are donut cones filled with ice cream. This is a MUST HAVE Prague street food item.
After our brief stop in Prague we continued onto Brussels on a cheap 40 euro flight on Ryanair!
Final Stop: Brussels, Belgium
Brussels was extra special to us because not only did we plan to attend one of the biggest music festivals in the world (TomorrowLand), but our old West Point volleyball teammate graciously hosted us in her home in Waterloo. Another teammate and her husband joined all of us on the tail end of their honeymoon, too!
Our backpacking Europe experience was now enhanced with old college friends and the expert recommendations of a local to help guide us. As luck would have it, the day we landed was Belgium’s Independence Day. So we headed to the heart of Brussels to celebrate during their festival!
The next day we went on a chocolate tour through Brussels! We learned so much about chocolate making and the various levels of quality. We even made our own chocolate designs and picked them up at the end of the tour. But of course no holiday is truly complete without macarons.
And we ended our epic journey with the ultimate European music festival: TomorrowLand. Now TomorrowLand is a festival with around 20 different stages that lasts three days and draws over 180,000 attendees. It even features its own campground called, “Dreamville” in which you can select from a basic arrangement to a luxury suite complete with beds and swimming pools. It is a very popular event/destination for those backpacking Europe because it always takes place during the summer in Boom, Belgium which is located just outside Brussels. It hosts the most famous and talented DJs in the world from across a wide range of dance music subgenres. It’s sense of community is what keeps attendees both young and old coming back for more each year.
We were lucky enough to meet up with one of the friends we previously met in Split, Croatia during Ultra Europe! TomorrowLand is a much bigger music festival than Ultra Europe with a different vibe to it because it takes place mostly during the day and ends at night. It’s definitely one of the more expensive music festivals in terms of ticket prices, but you can choose to attend one, two, or three days. Additionally, we opted to only attend on Saturday due to the other activities we planned with our friends, cost, and that we wanted to squeeze in visiting Prague.
Overall, the entire trip was a blast to say the least. There is never the perfect time to really ever plan something like this, but Ali and I seized the moment this year. Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re getting older. As someone who unexpectedly got married way sooner than I thought I would at the age of 25, I knew that there was only so much time to do crazy trips like this with my girlfriends before other life obligations (i.e. children) would come along. I’m so happy that we moved forward with crossing off SO MANY items off our bucket list–and I’m not even a fan of that phrase because I think it’s way overused. But this truly was a trip of a lifetime with once of my closest friends on the planet and I’m so thankful to have a husband who supported me in pursuing my dream trip. Now I can officially say that I conquered backpacking Europe at least once in my life and not only that–I danced to my favorite music through iconic clubs in Ibiza, Ultra Europe, and TomorrowLand.