While most of us would love to spend weeks exploring continents far afield from the beaches of LA and Miami to the hidden lands of Thailand and Indonesia these types of holidays are not always possible. It isn’t always just because these holidays are more expensive (sometimes they’re not), but it’s a time thing. For most of us we can fit in a few long weekends taking a few odd days holidays or making the most of bank holidays, but less of us have the time to spend two to three weeks exploring. This is where the wonders of Europe comes in. My European bucket list is pretty long and eventually I want to have explored all the major cities across the continent, although this is still a slow moving dream. If like me you like jetting away more frequently here are eight European destinations you have to explore.
Let’s start with the most cliched one: Paris. With so many ways of getting to Paris including plane, eurostar, ferry or driving through the channel tunnel Paris is hugely accessible and understandably is hugely popular with British tourists (and pretty much everyone else from around the globe). And rightfully so. You have the cute picturesque streets lined with trees and cute boutiques, you have plenty to explore artwise including the Louve and Musee De L’Orangie and so many cultural landmarks to scale and enjoy the views from aka The Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe, Notre Dame etc. And come on when you have Disneyland Paris half an hour from the centre do you need more of an excuse to go?! Plus you know pastries and macaroons aglore!
If you’re on quite a tight budget then make sure you head to Krakow which is the second largest city in Poland. It might not be the first place which comes to mind but there’s plenty to do within the city from historical landmarks to the beautiful Jewish quarter, but two things you have to do are the Wieliczka salt mines and the Auschwitz- Birkenau world war two camp. The salt mines are fascinating with sculptures and landmarks created from salt and well Auschwitz doesn’t need an explanation but it’s hugely emotional. The best thing about the city is the price where you can get a three-course meal with wine for around £14 per head and a litre of vodka for under a fiver.
Now onto possibly my favourite European city: Copenhagen. The Danish capital is chocca full of things to do including castles and palaces galore, the biggest aquarium in northern Europe, one of the best zoos I’ve been to, the iconic Little Mermaid statue (it is the home of Hans Christian Anderson) and don’t get me started on Tivoli. Tivoli is an amusement/ theme park meets beautiful gardens right in the city centre so you can see the sights of the city from atop a rollercoaster. Full of Scandivanian chic the city doesn’t have to be expensive but you’ll see why it keeps topping the ‘happiest place in Europe’ lists.
If you don’t want to travel too far then hit up the Scottish capital of Edinburgh. Since heading earlier this year I have fallen in love and been back twice already and am already planning a third. I imagine Edinburgh is how London feels to an outsider full of culture, history and beautiful buildings, alongside some great walks and hikes aka Arthurs Seat and Pandas who live at the Edinburgh Zoo. If you’re a spirit lover there’s a gin distillery which does a great value tour (and tasting) and the Scotch Whisky Experience with a similar experience. Make sure you keep your pennies for whiskey, fudge, and Scottish shortbread, yummy!
I couldn’t do a top European cities post without including somewhere from Italy, and of course it’s Rome. It’s been quite a while since I went but the memories are still vivid in my brain. There’s so much history, culture and architecture in this city from the Colosseum and Roman Ruins to the Spanish Steps and Pantheon. And who can forget the Vatican, I was super lucky when I went to be in an audience with the Pope at the time (I had no idea what he was saying as it was all in German but hey I was there!) Plus of course Italy has some of the best pizza and pasta anyone can wish for.
Having just come back from Budapest it naturally had to feature on this list and is closely becoming one of my favourite city spots. I would probably say the city has the prettiest buildings that I’ve seen in Europe so far with the Parliament, Castle and Fishermans Bastion dominating the river edges. There’s so much to explore and almost every street/ church/ synagogue etc is beautiful, but there’s also plenty of ways to relax courtesy of the natural baths which are scattered around the city. Sink into the heated pools and enjoy a massage by morning and then explore the city in the afternoon. Perfect.
Island hop across the Swedish capital in Stockholm. The city is made up of loads of small islands which means plenty of water and opportunities for boat rides and drinks on the river edge. The best thing about the city is being able to explore by foot as each street and canal front has it’s own quirky style, plus you know it is home to Abba so make sure you hit up the museum! With a small theme park, a cute zoo, and a rainforest themed aquarium it’s the perfect spot for a few days away from home.
The final city in this guide has to be Berlin. Germany has so much to offer and there’s still plenty of cities on my to visit list but the capital is a great place to start. The iconic Berlin wall stands (partially) proud within the city showing how barriers were broken down and each segment is filled with beautiful artwork which you can spend hours exploring. There’s so much history in the city including Checkpoint Charlie showing the crossing point between East and West Berlin during the cold war, a touching memorial to the murdered jews from the holocaust and Brandenburg Gate which is one of the most iconic landmarks in the city.
What European cities do you love? Any recommendations on where I should visit next?