My best friend Stephanie always calls me her little gypsy soul, and I’m known among my friends as the girl that can’t stay in one place for too long. Perhaps I was a gypsy in a past-life or perhaps I have travel A.D.D that has gone undiagnosed or maybe, just maybe I’m so passionate about travel I refuse to live my life any other way. Anyway that is neither here nor there, my point is I’m a girl who loves to travel at every chance possible. My inbox is inundated with messages asking about my travels; “how do you afford it?”, “I’m going to Europe next year, where should I go?”, “What’s your favorite city?”, and the most frequent “can I come with you?”. I love seeing these messages, I am happy to talk to you until your ears bleed or write you an email the length of the bible when it comes to travel. In fact I recall someone I had known for about 15 minutes telling me I’m “the travel encyclopedia”—a crown I’m happy to wear.
Since I get asked so many of the same questions I’ve decided to start answering them via blog posts. I’m not going to tell you what you should and shouldn’t see or do. If that’s what you’re looking for then all you have to do is Google “things to do in London” and you’ll get a million sites with these suggestions. As an amateur traveler I used to make a list of things I had to see while visiting a new place and my whole trip was planned down to the minute. Quite frankly this is the most boring way to see a new city, my philosophy now is to write down a few places I would like to see but when I wake up each morning I assess how I feel and let my mood inspire my day. I can’t emphasize enough how much more enjoyable and memorable your trip will be when you don’t handcuff yourself to an itinerary. I’ve found that some of my most amazing experiences were the outcomes of my decision to just allow myself to “wander”. Listed below are my recommendations of the best places for Europe first-timers and why I love these places and think you will too. Cue the drum roll please…….
(in no particular order)
I love London for many reasons, and yes my infatuation with the English accent certainly played a role in making the list. London is one of those places where you instantly want to live. There is so much culture in such a concentrated area; it’s the New York of Europe. London is one the few cities that actually embraces it’s stereotypes; British style taxi cabs, double-decker buses, red telephone booths, pubs on every corner offering ‘bangers and mash’ and of course the gloomy weather. Everyone is so friendly & approachable and if you’ve ever watched ‘The Office’ then you’ll understand the love for British humor. London is like no other city you will ever visit in Europe and that’s what I enjoy most about it. It’s a gateway city for someone who has never been to Europe. Everyone speaks English and yet it’s distinct from any other English-speaking country. Although London can be quite expensive there’s an added bonus if you make it your first stop; everywhere else on your trip will seem that much less expensive. CLICK HERE FOR LONDON TIPS
- Paris or as the locals say “Par-ee”
I think Paris is on everyone’s list, even the lists of people who have been one or forty times. Although my trip to Paris was less than 24 hours it was enough to make me smitten. It’s the city of romance where every street corner and every bridge and every little quaint Parisian café is picture perfect. Not only is it a beautiful city but it is also a historical city with Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. I mean come on, who doesn’t want a picture in front of the Eiffel Tower? And to see it lit up at night—magnifique! I don’t know if it’s the ornate buildings, the grandeur of the Eiffel Tower or the fact that it was raining, cold and I happened to stumble upon thee cutest café serving thee most delicious French onion soup I’ve ever had in my life but I’m in love with Paris and everything it stands for. Oui Oui
To be in Rome for a week is simply not long enough to comprehend the history and ancient ruins that make Rome the popular city it is today. With that being said, a year probably wouldn’t be a long enough visit either. One of the most historical cities in the world, it’s’ constantly being excavated by archaeologists who, to this day, continue to uncover newly discovered ruins. I have been to Rome twice and I wouldn’t say it’s a picturesque city in terms of scenery. On the contrary, the Colosseum has taken by breath away on both visits by the utter vastness and thought that it was built purely by hand. In between visiting monuments I snuck in a scoop or two of gelato and I’m pretty sure I saw over 20 historical sights…you do the math, that’s a lot of gelato! Needless to say once I got tired of gelato and sightseeing I was guaranteed to find a local café with a cute little Italian man speaking broken English serving homemade pizza and pasta. The Italians are passionately friendly and make it their duty to embrace strangers, there is nothing like going to a foreign country and feeling like you’re right at home.
Lisbon wasn’t even on my radar until my fifth time to Europe, a decision I regretted the moment I stepped foot on the cobble-stoned streets. What I love most about this city is that there is so much to explore and see yet it’s so easily accessible and even walkable. There are several miradouros, or viewpoints, scattered around the city where one can view Lisbon from hilltops all with different perspectives. Cable cars go up and down the main streets of the city with stops at the most popular tourist attractions. The nightlife is another highlight of the city. Whether you’re looking for a hostel, turned brothel, turned trendy bar or an indoor night market with food from restaurants owned by Portugal’s top chefs everything is in the palm of your hand. It’s a very safe city and there is always something to do or some kind of event. Lisbon is also the central hub for day trips to Sintra, a small town with multiple castles or Cascais , a coastal town known for its fresh seafood. Even though I only spent three days in Lisbon I was able to see three very different towns all within 20 miles of each other, something that is perfect for first-timers wanting to get the most out of one stop.
Whenever I go on a trip with multiple stops I like to give myself a variety of cities. I’ll do one city with lots of walking or history and then I’ll do a city where I can relax and sights-see at my leisure. Barcelona is a place that has some very interesting architecture, like Sagrada Familia and The Gaudi house. It also has beautiful beaches if getting a tan is on your agenda. It’s a great escape from the city atmosphere and the nightlife is known for being one of the best in Europe. If you want to party until 7:00 a.m. or if you simply want to have a more conservative night watching a Flamenco show and eating paella Barcelona provides both.