7 Cities in Europe I’m Dying to Visit

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…okay, well maybe not literally dying, but I’m pretty excited about the prospect of finally losing my Europe virginity in 2014. With one of my dearest friends tying the knot in London, it’s a perfect excuse to take a few extra weeks (or months) off to see the continent I’ve daydreamed longest about visiting.

I’ve had a hard time condensing it to just five to be completely honest. I also didn’t want to be terribly predictable by doing the usual Paris-London-Barcelona-Rome-Athens pentad (a group of five – my word of the day), but rest assured they’d all appear on an extended list.

While I don’t yet known how long I’ll have in Europe or even how I get there (could a Trans-Siberian Railway trip make the agenda?), I do know that the European cities below will most definitely make the cut.

You may notice that all of the cities below share a certain historic beauty. What can I say? I’m a sucker for cobblestone, spires, and gargoyles.

#7 – Zagreb, Croatia

I’ve long been told of Croatia’s immense natural and architectural beauty, and what better place to soak in the latter than in the beating heart of Croatia. Most tourism these days seems to centre on the Croatian coast, but Zagreb proves a remarkably affordable European destination – something I’ll sorely need on my budget.

My fascination with Europe’s medieval period would be indulged in a city overflowing with classic architecture and cathedrals, cafes, and coffee shops. It’s just the kind of place I could sit for a few hours and write while soaking in the ambiance of the 900 year old Gradec section of the city. What better place to write the next great fantasy epic than by gaslight in a genuine medieval city?

#6 – Ljubljana, Slovenia

I first learned about Slovenia from my good friend, Eva (who I’d be hoping could offer me some couch space as I passed through) and I’ve wanted to visit the country ever since doing a little research. Castles, quaint rural villages, and the regal beauty of Lake Bled are all real draw-cards in Slovenia’s hand, and Ljubljana is the perfect jumping off point to see the often overlooked country.

Ljubljana in all its splendour. Photo by Andrej Trnkoczy.
Ljubljana in all its splendour. Photo by Andrej Trnkoczy.

Much like Zagreb, there’s a wealth of historic sights here to satiate the nerd in me wanting to walk along cobbled streets and pretend I’m one of my D&D characters out on a quest. Not that I’d do that. Never.

#5 – Berlin, Germany

Berlin certainly isn’t a city that is overlooked by travelers, but one of Europe’s most famous cities is remarkably affordable. Both flights and accommodation are helped by a competitive market place, so shopping around could well land me a cheaper stay than I’d anticipated.

Beer, history, German food, and (dare I say it) German girls are all a big part of the city’s appeal – but I’d make Germany one of my lengthier stays so I could explore a country of which I’ve read a great deal over the years. Between the natural beauty, the country’s rich history, and the ‘lure’ of seeing a site such as Dachau – Germany is one of my priorities for my 2014 trip.

#4 – Istanbul, Turkey

With the exception of Sydney, I don’t think there’s a city I’ve written more about on Aussie on the Road than Istanbul. My abiding fascination with Turkey has its roots in the continued badgering of a friend to move there – but the more I’ve learned, the more I find Turkey appeals to me.

Hagia Sophia interior. Photo by Moyan Brenn
Hagia Sophia interior. Photo by Moyan Brenn

Ancient Constantinople was a constant feature in my ancient history studies in school, and while Istanbul is a modern city, I’d still jump at the chance to set foot in such a storied city. The Hagia Sofia and the city’s many historic sections really draw me, but I daresay I’d spend a good chunk of time drinking and causing trouble with my mate, Anthony.

You can read more about Istanbul and my thoughts on the city in my Egypt v Turkey showdown.

#3 – Krakow, Poland

You might have picked up on a subtle ‘Chris is obsessed with medieval history and architecture’ vein in this post. I’ll fess up – the entire European medieval period fascinates me and it’s the main reason I’d love to visit Europe. Krakow is another city where you can see so much of this history up close.

Of course, there’s more dark tourism to be found in places such as the city’s Jewish Quarter, Oskar Schindler’s Factory, and nearby Auschwitz.

I’d also love to visit Bialowieza Forest, do a little castle hopping, and try out the spas I’ve read so much about.

#2 – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Much like Berlin, Amsterdam probably features on most European itineraries. And while I would be lying if I said the red light district and the famous hash cafes are not a part of Amsterdam’s lure for me, it would be grossly underselling the place to say that my interest ended in the gutter.

Museums, cafes, canals, night life… Amsterdam just sounds like my kind of city. Much like Berlin, Amsterdam is made a bit more affordable by a variety of flights to Amsterdam and deals on hotels in Amsterdam. It’s definitely not going to be the cheapest stop on my trip, but I wager it’ll be one of the most fun.

#1 – Prague, The Czech Republic

Considered by some to be Europe’s prototypical medieval city, the beauty of Prague has made it a hugely popular tourist destination for decades. Having survived the World Wars largely unscathed, Prague still contains many of its beautiful old buildings, cathedrals, castles, bridges, and statues. It’s a veritable treasure trove of old world charm.

A castle outside of Prague as evening falls. Photo by Porechnyy Dmitry
A castle outside of Prague as evening falls. Photo by Porechnyy Dmitry

It’s architecture that really draws me to Prague, but I won’t say no to a good Czech beer either. Oh, and puppets. They’re not creepy at all.

Your Say

What are your dream European destinations?

Re-reading mine, perhaps they sound a little dour – but what they may lack in party, party, party – I feel like they make up for in eye candy. Don’t you?

 

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18 comments

  1. I’m from Europe, was born in Czech Republic and live in the Netherlands. so yeah iIve been to Amsterdam and Prague, Berlin too btw. And I must (warn you) say that the weather here in Holland is really shitty, It rains alot ): I like Czech republic the most, and Prague is indeed very beautiful!

  2. Yeah, i’ve finally saved up the cash to plane ticket across the pond; now, it’s time to get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. Backpacking through Europe is one of the most romanticized travel experiences, and for good reason: European cities boast loads of impressive architecture, scenic vistas, and free museums and attractions for even the most economical traveller. I will explore city Berlin, Germany first.

  3. I thought I was pretty well travelled within Europe but I’ve only been to two of these cities. From the cities on your list I think Istanbul and Berlin are top of mine!

  4. Seems like you compiled a pretty good list. Don’t forget about the Nordic countries though which has a lot of eye-candy both out in the nature and in the cities.

    • On reputation, there is probably some eye candy among the local population as well, haha.

      Fascinated with the Nordic region. It’s definitely on my list.

  5. I lived in Prague for 8 months and absolutely loved it there. I also lived in Croatia for about 5 months last summer, although I never made it to Zagreb (yet). Both are such incredible cities and I have no doubt in my mind that you will fall in love.

    One I think should be added to the list in consideration…..Sarajevo, Bosnia. I spent 2 weeks here before moving to Croatia and it tops the list as one of the most surprising (in a good way!) places I have ever been. So beautiful, the people are kind, the history is prominent and astounding to see with your own eyes, and at night – these people know how to have a good time! Just be sure you aren’t there during Ramadan 😉

  6. I like your list. definitely check out croatia! 🙂
    I myself live in Hamburg, Germany and while Berlin is amazing, a bit cheaper and fast paced and full of museums, Hamburg is also well worth a visit. Lots of greenery and old pretty buildings (a rich city!) , the whole history of being such an old trading haven (excuse my bad English) and two rivers, many pretty bridges and friendly people, amazing pastry (Franzbrötchen) and big well kept museums (my favourite museum though is the spice museum which is somewhat improvised but offers such gems as “things found in spices shipments” ) …i could go on. I grew up near Frankfurt, but I love Hamburg a whole lot. 🙂 Happy travelling

  7. What a great list of cities. I have been to a couple before – ive been to prague for new year, so pretty but so cold! I live in the UK so im determined to explore easten europe in the coming couple of years.

  8. It’s weird to see people who have been all over the world admit that they have yet to see half the world, but that’s just the scale of the challenge. Anyway, Zagreb isn’t so bad, but it’ll be other places like Split, Zadar, Dubrovnik or Rovinj that’ll be the highlights of Croatia. The whole coastline is just an endless string of open-air waterfront cafes, medieval town centers, cobblestone streets, and good food. Dubrovnik gets all the attention but they’re pretty much all just like that, except smaller and less touristy. Have fun!

    • I wish I could claim to be one of those people who have been all over the world. I feel like my nine countries don’t even make a ripple in the ocean of experiences I still need to have.

      I’ve heard good things about Split and Croatia as a whole. It will definitely be a stop on next year’s Europe trip.

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