Europe’s a pretty big area, you guys. I’m not sure if you realise this but, it’s big. Real big. There are a lot of interesting places to visit and, thanks to how old European cities tend to be, there’s a lot of history and culture to experience as well. As you can see, I’m clearly an expert on the finer details of all things Europe! Okay, so maybe that’s not true… but I have been to quite a few places and formed a good idea on my favourite spots and the places I’d prefer not to revisit.
I’ve done two big trips through Europe and a few weekend side trips while we were living in London. My first big trip was a Topdeck bus tour that covered 18 countries in 36 days, it was brutal. By the end of the trip, a lot of places we visited had blended together and I lost track of where I’d been and what I’d seen. Even now it’s hard to remember all the little places you stop through.
That said, there are a few places I’ve been that really stand out. Destinations that stay in my mind and places I cannot wait to go back and visit again, they’re beautiful to explore and stand out from the others. These are my picks for my favourite European cities and travel destinations! What are yours?
Driving through Switzerland is an amazing experience. As you look out the windows you see a landscape so varied and beautiful it’s almost dreamlike. I loved the friendly little villages and towns we stopped in, the lovely locals who were happy to stop for a chat and say hello and the interesting shops we stopped into. The landscape is absolutely incredible, rolling green hills that look like a big, thick, green slushy has been spilled and is engulfing the land. The dramatic Swiss Alps with snow-capped peaks, the jagged rocks and cliff-faces and the bright blue water. Everywhere you turn there’s another photo opportunity, another thing you have to look at and another take-your-breath-away slice of scenery. It’s a place where you take a thousand photos but still feel you haven’t taken enough.
I really liked the whole feel of Switzerland, everything from the jaw-dropping scenery and natural beauty right down to the kind, quirky nature of the locals we met. Everyone is just so cool! It’s a place I would love to revisit and spend more time, possibly taking my own road trip in a hire car to find smaller towns off the tourist track. We’ve been lucky enough to visit Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen, with a trip up to Jungfrau on the famous railway line. It’s a country I expected to be beautiful but completely underestimated.
Generally, I tend to prefer places that are less touristy, so I thought Rome wouldn’t be a favourite destination of mine. Turns out it’s one of my favourite places! Even though there are a lot of tourists, Rome is still absolutely beautiful. Around every corner I found myself seeing something beautiful, something I had to know about and take a photo of, something that took my breath away and another amazing sight that made me need to stop and take a moment to soak it all in. I loved the winding streets, the noise, the cobblestones, the ruins that jut up from the ground and fit into this eclectic city.
Then there’s the food… oh gosh… the food… You hear about how great real Roman food is, then you find a little bistro and you feast and your whole life changes. Rome is one of those places I could go back to again and again and never get tired of. I love the loud, entertaining locals and the buzzing sounds of scooters. I love the smells and sights and of course the incredibly rich history. It’s definitely one of my favourite European cities and I hope I get to go back again and again, because there’s so much more I want to see and eat (yes, eat!). Rome is the reason pants with elastic waistbands were invented.
Visiting Germany had never been high on my travel bucket list for some reason and yet, when we arrived in Berlin, I was completely taken by the city. We took the Third Reich walking tour and it is one of the best tours I have ever done. The tour guides aren’t just history buffs, they’re University graduates who studied German history and are able to share an incredible amount of information and detail. Teaming their knowledge with the sites is an unbeatable combination, it’s almost overwhelming. I spent the entire tour hanging off every word our tour guide said and doing the walking tour gave me an even greater appreciation for everything I saw around me. Without the tour, I’m sure I would’ve taken things for granted and glazed over the sites we visited as I wouldn’t have understood the significance of each one of them and would’ve walked straight past things that are incredibly significant.
Aside from the history of Berlin I also really enjoyed the hospitality of the German people, especially the big smiles and energy buzzing around the Beer Halls. We visited the Lowenbrau and loved every second of it, from the food and the beer to the happy folk around us. To this day, Berlin is one of those unexpectedly amazing places I’ve seen and somewhere I cannot wait to visit again! Matt hasn’t been to Berlin yet, so it’s the perfect excuse to go back, don’t you think?
My first trip to Amsterdam wasn’t great as we stayed in probably the worst hostel you’ve ever seen! The second trip was a lot better, we stayed in a beautiful hotel with great views of the city and canals. We perched up on the rooftop bar of our hotel and watched the bright lights reflecting off the canals as the streets came alive. I love all the different shops and things there are to see in Amsterdam, so many quirky, weird and interesting things to stop and look at. There are shops that sell all kinds of art, crafts, trinkets, knick-knacks and goodness knows what that you can lose hours just wandering around. I really enjoyed just walking around getting lost, the streets are lovely and I really like the look and feel of the city with its beautiful shop fronts and homes as well as the bright street art everywhere.
Of course, there’s also the cheeky side to Amsterdam which attracts a really interesting mix of people, just another thing that makes it such a great place to visit. It’s the perfect place to find somewhere comfy and do a spot of people watching out a cafe window. While the main touristy areas can be a little overrun at times, we found plenty of places that were quiet and gave us a good feel for what Amsterdam is really like, not only that but there are so many great places to eat at too! I couldn’t see us missing out on a trip back to Amsterdam when we head to Europe next.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Visiting Bosnia was a really unexpected and overwhelming experience. We took a guided walking tour through Sarajevo and I was really shocked to see bullet-holes in walls and completely obliterated homes, things which seemed like they should have happened a very long time ago and shouldn’t be as fresh as they were. After hearing the serious details of what happened in this place I was even more appreciative of just how pretty Sarajevo is. The little winding market streets, twinkling lamps and lights and very interesting locals who each look like they have a million stories to tell.
Another thing that surprised me was how delicious the local food is! I don’t know about you but I’d never been to a restaurant which served traditional Bosnian food before and had no idea what to expect. I couldn’t tell you what I ate exactly, but I know is it was downright delicious! I was also really taken by the many interesting places there were to photograph. Old buildings that look like they’ve been there forever, dripping with history, set against bright green scenery and beautiful running water. It’s a photographers dream and a place that was completely unexpected.
After hearing a lot of people talk about island hopping in Greece, I was keen to give it a try. It’s hard when you see photos of somewhere for so long because you feel like there’s no way it could possibly live up to your expectations, so I tried my very best to lower mine for Mykonos. I didn’t need to though because it was absolutely stunning. The views took my breath away as did the beaches. I loved the little towns with their white buildings contrast against patches of bright blue and little shops selling all kinds of interesting bits and pieces.
We hired four-wheelers and buzzed around the island trying to find hidden beaches and quiet spots. I couldn’t believe the beauty of the places we found, they were perfect and the water was so clear and cool, it didn’t seem real. Everything about Mykonos felt like a dream to me, almost too good to be true! Not only was it beautiful but the food was absolutely delicious, some of the freshest seafood I’ve ever eaten, cooked perfectly. I have a really clear memory of buzzing along this stretch of open road on a four-wheeler, wind whipping past, looking out to my right and one of the most beautiful coastlines I’ve ever seen and feeling totally and completely wild and free.
I had never really heard of Meteora until our tour group took me there. If you haven’t either, it is a part of Greece that falls under the UNESCO World Heritage Listings and is home to six Greek Orthodox Monasteries. I had never seen anything like it, these mountains and pinnacles with monasteries perched on top that seem to be floating in the air. We sat on the rocks, just looking out over this beautiful place for hours and completely lost track of time.
The cliff-faces were formed some 60-million years ago and are smooth and defined, shaped by years of the elements hammering them. They stick out from the ground like big teeth, surrounded by lush greenery, jutting out of the earth. There are marks on the sides of the cliffs and historians say they were created by the sea, which used to cover the area. They pinnacles are dramatic, totally captivating, unlike anything I’d ever seen before and completely unexpected.
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