If you have a smartphone or a netbook, chances are you’re going to take it with you while you’re travelling, even if just for a weekend. Staying “connected” is more than expected these days and if you don’t want to rack up 3G bills on foreign networks, you’re going to need to see out the wifi. Here are the best ways to connect in Europe’s capitals.
The continent’s capitals may be getting more and more wifi hotspots, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to find them, especially when you need it most! Follow the crowd, in some cities you’ll be searching out coffee shops while in others public spaces. Here is a small tour of Europe’s fee wifi (locations subject to change).
- Look for franchise stores, there certainly are a lot of them. McDonald’s (181 locations with wifi), Coffee Republic, Leon (8 locations with wifi), Corney & Barrow (13 signals), Pret à Manger (150 signals), Le Pain Quotidien (15 locations with wifi). Watch out: London’s 400+ Starbucks locations offer free wifi but only at the price of a drink purchase and a flash of your Starbucks card (free to register).
- Public connections: St Pancras Station, Westfield shopping centre (tube: White City).
- Hundreds of cafés are connected (see Time Out for the list)
- McDonald’s and Quick: Almost all of Paris’ McDonald’s and Quick offer free wifi. Don’t try to connect between noon and two in the afternoon, it’s often turned off. Morning or late-afternoon in an upscale McDonald’s should be quiet for catching up on the web world.
- Cafés and bars: Quite random who has connections and who doesn’t. You’re likely to hear “Oh, it doesn’t work today,” at smaller places. Try the Frog’s Chain (the Halles, St-Germain-des-Prés, Bibliotheque, Trocadero, Bercy-Village). Starbucks in Paris does not offer free wifi.
- Museums and libraries: Centre Pompidou (90 minutes max.), Carnavalet Museum, most libraries and city administrative offices, city halls (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 10th). There are more than 400 other hotspots throughout the city (see map below).
- Public spaces: Plaza de Colón (wifi from the public library), Plaza del Dos de Mayo, Plaza Mayor
- Cafeterias inside El Corte Inglés
- 28 city libraries
- Public transportation: 60% of the city’s buses have wifi connections and by April of 2011, the number will be up to 2000 public buses.
- Wifimas is a service that allows you to surf the web up to 30 minutes a day at terminals around the city. Register here.
Rome is one of the best cities for connecting to free wifi (who would have thought?). Roma Wireless lets locals surf for up to 1 hour a day from several access points around the city. Recently the city has installed hundreds of wifi hotspots in the city centre and throughout the other parts of the city. It’s quite impressive.
- Cafés and bars: Really your best option, try St Oberholz in Rosenthaler Platz (very famous thus very crowded), Schmitt in Friedrichshain, Ms. Völkerfreundschaft in Prenzlauer Berg, Café Mirell in Schöneberg, Gaststätte Strandbad-Mitte in Mitte.
- Sony Centre in Potsdammer Platz
- Laundromats! Yes, if you’re tired of watching the spin cycle, log on at Freddy Leck sein Waschsalon.
- The best place to get a connection is Bagels & Beans. You’ll find some in McDonalds and Coffee Company as well. See a list of these hotspots.
- Cultural centres: Nieurwmarkt Waag (the Waag wifi is easy to pick up). Similarly the Centre Pakhuis de Zwijger, the Central Station, Leidseplein and the Centre De Balie have wifi hotspots.
- OBA Library (Open Bare Bibliotheek): certainly the coolest library in the world. Oosterdokskade 143, Amsterdam.
- Cafés: There are many coffee shops offering free wifi if you purchase a beverage. See a complete and comprehensive list (in Swedish, use a translation plug-in).
- Try hotel lobbies, Scandic Hotel for example.
- Apple Humanac, on St. Eriksgatan 45 offers free wifi (daily 10:00-19:00, weekends until 17:00)
- Several public libraries offer it as well (Public Library of Stockholm) but you must have a library card (20 kr).
- Public areas: Belgium has set up a network of free wifi connections around the city included schools, libraries, houses of parliament, etc. The network is called Urbizone. There’s no problem finding a connection around Brussels! See a complete list of hotspots (only available in French).
- If you do not have a PC or mobile phone, public libraries and other public spaces have free internet terminals.
Other wifi sources around the world: FON network, which we recomend if you travel a lot.
Have any other ideas on how to stay connected while travelling in Europe? Have a city to add?