Recently I took an extended vacation and visited several different cities in Europe. My itinerary included stops in Dublin, Amsterdam, Paris and Disneyland Paris, which is in the countryside outside the city.
As someone who typically spends more time on a treadmill in the gym than I might like, I resolved that on this trip I would take the opportunity to explore the different cities by running through them, especially in parks or open spaces that were near my hotels. What I found was that each city offered a unique running experience and truly enhanced my vacation immensely.
Dublin was my first stop. It was a relatively short overnight flight from Chicago and with only an hour and a half of sleep on the plane, I was too exhausted when I arrived to go for a run the first morning. After a little sightseeing, I took a nap and woke up refreshed and with enough energy to head out for a run.
The concierge recommended heading to Phoenix Park, the largest park in Europe and a short run from the hotel. The park was very pretty, with lots of open green space and a long straight road cutting through it from one end to the other. There were various paths and trails that wove through the park, allowing for an extended run. There were separate paths for bikers and runners, and on Friday afternoon there were many of both in the park.
As I left the park, I noticed a sign for a 5K and 10K that were being held there the next morning. Interested in seeing what a race in Ireland was like, I signed up for the 10K when I returned to my hotel. After a good night’s sleep on Friday, I woke up Saturday with much more energy and ready to run the race.
Packet pickup began at 8:30 a.m., with the 10K starting at 10 and the 5K starting at 11 a.m. I picked up my bib first and then my race shirt, which the sponsors encouraged everyone to wear for the race. Signs at the 10K starting line organized runners in the front, joggers in the middle, and walkers in the back. The course was a loop course along some of the park roads and consisted of some hills. Those in the 5K would complete the loop once, while those in the 10K ran it twice. It was a beautiful, cool morning, and the race was an enjoyable experience. At the finish line, everyone received a medal and goodie bag of snacks and juice. Race results were online by the time I had walked back to the hotel and connected again to Wi-Fi.
I ran around the park early on my final morning in Dublin. The streets were relatively empty on the run to the park, as were the trails through the park. On more than one occasion, I spotted groups of deer peacefully grazing on the grass.
Overall, I enjoyed running through Dublin and taking part in a race there. The park was large and well maintained. My biggest obstacle running in Dublin was that cars are driven on the opposite side of the street from what we are accustomed to; I was constantly uncertain which direction to look when crossing a street and where a car might be coming from. The Rock ‘n Roll Series holds a race weekend in Dublin in August, so maybe one day I’ll experience it.
Upon checking into the hotel in Amsterdam, I asked the concierge where would be the best place to run, as there are several parks scattered throughout the city. He suggested nearby Westerpark, and so that is where I headed the following morning.
Amsterdam is full of bicyclists traversing the city. Runners almost need to watch out for bicyclists more than cars. On my first run to the park, a bicyclist almost crashed into me as he came up from a side street and didn’t yield onto the main road. Luckily I jumped out of the way just in time.
Once in the park, the path connected to a trail system that wove all around. Runners stayed to the side of the trail and bicyclists had no problem going around. I enjoyed long runs here both of my mornings in Amsterdam, venturing even further to explore new paths and connecting trails the second morning. There were plenty of runners each day. The weather was cool but sunny, making for pleasant runs. Although the city itself is beautiful with all the rings of canals, I found maneuvering through it to be a bit of a challenge at the run (as are most major cities).
Paris is one of my favorite cities to visit with absolutely stunning architecture seemingly around every corner. The concierge provided me a small map with three different running routes – two that were 10K and one that was 5K. Overall, however, she suggested running along the Seine, which is primarily what I did.
I started the first morning in the Place de la Concorde and headed to the path along the Seine. I decided to run toward the Eiffel Tower that morning. It started to rain lightly as I reached the Tower and so, in an attempt to stay dry, I ran twice around the tree-lined Champs de Mars in front of the tower. To be able to run and look up and see the Eiffel Tower looming over was amazing.
The second morning I began running around the Tuileries Gardens in front of the Louvre. The gardens and fountains were lovely, and there were several other runners enjoying the packed gravel paths. From there I headed along the Seine in the opposite direction from the previous morning and made my way to Notre Dame Cathedral. Running around such iconic Parisian landmarks felt like a gift. There were many walkers and runners out along the Seine. Portions of the path are paved, but there are several stretches that are cobblestone. While I didn’t find this to be the most ideal running surface, the views of the city more than made up for it.
After navigating crowded Parisian streets for two mornings, running around Disneyland Paris was a welcome change. There were wide walkways and plenty of places to run and explore. I stayed on property at one of the hotels, and my morning runs took me (and many other early morning runners) around Lake Disney, through the Disney Village, past the entrances to the two theme parks and around the different hotels on site.
As a huge Disney fan, I thoroughly enjoyed this experience. Having run several runDisney races in the United States, I could easily imagine what taking part in the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon weekend would be like (it’s still on my list of things to do!). The early morning runs were calm and peaceful. The weather was cool, and running afforded me the opportunity to explore and see areas of the resort I might not have seen otherwise. I ran whichever direction I felt like, enjoying the relative quiet before people started heading out to the parks for the day.
Being able to run through each of the cities I visited on my recent European vacation became a wonderful part of my trip and created memories of each city that I will cherish. Running deepened my appreciation for each destination and provided a truly unique perspective. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to explore and experience each city in this way, and I would encourage anyone to go for a run when you find yourself in a new destination. As for me, I’m now busy planning where in the world I can go running next!