Top Places (at the moment)- Europe

Europe Travel Blog

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I am a Europhile. I love travelling to Europe. There is such a lust for life and appreciation of the everyday there that we Americans just don't have here. I've been to a mix of touristy places (Venice) and off the radar (Devinska Nova Ves, Slovakia). I plan on many more Eurotreks, but so far these are my favorite places.

1)  Vienna, Austria- I must have been a Habsburg in a past-life since I am so enthralled with this city. I love the attention to detail and paradoxically, the relaxed attitude. I love the beautiful architecture, the GREAT coffee. I love the old-world elegance that still permeates the city. Yet this city is not a museum, it is a vibrant and modern city in a classic setting.

2)  Lake Bled, Slovenia- This is the prettiest place I have ever been to. Maybe not as otherworldy as Iceland, or as majestic as Yellowstone, but for sheer asthetic beauty, Lake Bled wins. It looks like a movie set for a fairy tale. Glowing emerald green lake, surrounded by the Alps, with an island in the middle with a 10th century church, and a romantic castle on a cliff overlooking the lake. I still can't believe that place is real.

3)  Dalmatian Coast, Croatia- Paradise. The dramatic sight of mountains entering the aqua Adriatic is majestic. Vis is close to heaven. The people are friendly and the food is fresh. Dubrovnik and Trogir are jewels of cities with their historic areas exquisitely preserved despite the wars. Split is a fascinating jumble of antiquity, medieval, and modern. Although undeniably slavic, there is an Italian-influenced appreciation for the good life. 

4)  Venice, Italy-  I know I know, how can I choose such a touristy, obvious, stereotypical place like Venice? Well because there is a reason for all of the tourists and photos. Venice is magical. The fairy-tale city rising out of the water is spellbinding. The obvious sights like the Piazzo San Marco and the Rialto Bridge are great, but too crowded. The real magic of Venice lies in its back alleys and small canals, where the crowds rapidly disappear and the food gets better. There is an eerieness to this Venice, the unmistakable sense of its past glory faced with the present charming decrepitness. As a bonus you get the different vibes of the other islands in the lagoon and you have a serene world here.

5)  San Sebastian, Spain-  What a lovely city! Maybe this city makes the list because I got a taste of actual life here, while staying with my cousin and her family for a week, and what a lovely life it is! This is a modern, yet traditional family-centered city, whose setting is better than a movie set. The crescent shaped beach with two hills on either side and an island in the middle, turquoise water (when it's sunny), coupled with the Beaux-Arts architecture and you have a physically gorgeous little city. The Basques take great pride in their food and drink and celebrate it with much zest. This all equals up to a great time!

6) Iceland- It's amazing that a not too long flight away is like another planet. No you don't need a spaceship, just a medium-haul plane. Volcanic activity shapes this island not only physically, but also its soul. Hot pots and thermal lagoons are as much a part of the landscape as they are the social fabric of Iceland. Amazing waterfalls, landscapes that should be seen from a lunar module, geysers, etc. I loved this place and its amazingly fresh and tasty food.

7) Southern Portugal- Lisbon is a quick flight from New York, but feels farther away. This is a beautiful, Mediterranean-like city that is just now coming into it's own. Absolutely lovely setting, quite cheap, marble tiled sidewalks, and exudes old world charm. But it also has a laid back modern vibrancy all its own. The Algarve has stunning land/seascapes, reminiscent of the Caribbean, except without the humidity and bugs.

8) Luxembourg- This tiny little Grand Duchy in the heart of Europe sure packs a lot into a little package. It's pretty much a "Best of the European Heartland": Great French style food, Castles galore, wonderful white wines, History everywhere you look, battlefields, efficient trains, ugly EU buildings, and a language that only the locals understand. And you can see it all without traveling for hours a day.

9) Ireland- This is the friendliest country I've ever been to. I think I bought my first drink and the rest of the week, when an American accent came out of my mouth, I had a bunch of new friends buy me more. The landscapes have a lovely mystical quality to them, but it was the authentic local music that spoke to my soul.

10) Western Norway- Bergen is a lovely laid back city set among the remarkable Western Fjords. The fjords are impossibly dramatic, especially in the chilly Norwegian climate. Sheer cliffs diving into pristine seas, islands appearing out of nowhere, like appartitions. A cool mist challenges your body to keep warm. Reindeer meat as lunch and dinner. I want to return and go on a kayaking trip here one day.

HONORABLE MENTION:  Scotland; Flanders, Belgium; Bavaria, Germany; Copenhagen; Strasbourg, France; Siena, Italy.

 

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