I have several favorite places for different reasons so I have a new mini-series planned–Favorite Places-Europe, Favorite Places-USA, Favorite Places-Asia (after my SE Asian adventure later this year) and maybe Favorite Places-City/Attractions or Favorite Places-Day Trip Destinations.
I’ll start with my comfort zone–Europe. I think my criteria for determining “favorite” status will be feeling of comfort while there, ease of getting around, the attractions, and if I’d return (& if I’ve returned–how many times).
Here’s my list of top ten cities in Europe:
10. Rome-I travelled there in April of 2016. My first time traveling to Italy. I went solo for a whole week. I love this city. I was mesmerized by how the modern Rome was tucked in and around remnants of the ancient Roman Empire. I stayed in neighborhood that was transitional (and that’s being kind). My hotel–Hotel Napoleon–was historic and the staff were fabulous. They were so kind and helpful when a couple of my day trips were jeopardized by travel companies dropping the ball. The staff called and spoke to them for me and made it happen. The day I was going the Colosseum and the Roman Forum there were several school groups–school was in session when I was there. These school children have amazing opportunities–they were sketching the columns and other architectural features of the Forum while sitting on marble slab remnants in the center of Roman power. I loved the history and the food and despite my somewhat shady neighborhood I would go back and I would probably go back to Hotel Napoleon because the staff were that good.
9. Helsinki-I visited for a quick weekend in August 2015 between Oslo and Copenhagen. I wished that I booked less time in Oslo and more time in Helsinki. I stayed in the perfect location–Klaus K near the Esplanade Park. It’s a musical city which I didn’t expect. I heard the best Blues band outside of New Orleans, LA while (I stayed for their whole set) . The cathedral was just stupendous. I loved the Suomenlinna Fortress island excursion. I wish I had more time to really explore the city–I couldn’t really get every penny out of my Helsinki card. Though I made my money back by only using it to do things. I would return to Helsinki in a heartbeat.
8. Vienna-I have been to Vienna twice. Once in August 2010 in a combined Vienna-Prague weeklong trip and the second time in April 2015. In 2015, my hotel was in the Old Town and I loved the location. Hotel Royal was next to St. Stephen’s Cathedral and down the street from the State Opera House. When I return–I’m getting tickets to the Opera. The opera season was in full swing when I was there in 2015–they live streamed the performances to the public via jumbotron TV screens on the sidewalk next to the Opera House complete with seating provided. Two nights back to back I stood in the street and watched the Opera. The sidewalks were literally 30 feet across from curb to the Opera House.
7. Edinburgh-I visited twice. The first time was with one of my BFFs while she was studying abroad in Lancashire, UK. We traveled to Edinburgh, Canterbury, & London. We also made day trips to Oxford and Cambridge. I loved our weekend in Edinburgh. We stayed on the Old Town near Edinburgh University and Greyfriars Cemetery. The second time I traveled there was in April 2009. I stayed on Princes Street and I just had a ball getting around and soaking up the history. Scotland has great atmosphere and feels welcoming despite the cold, damp weather.
6. Dublin-I managed to visit Dublin twice. The first visit was the end of a 10 day Ireland whirlwind tour with my family via the dreaded big coach bus tour in April 2004. We were in Dublin for maybe two nights and really had little free time to explore. The second time was a long weekend in September 2011. I was very sick–I lost my voice, had a horrible cough, and was on all sorts of prescribed medications to get better quickly. The weather was unseasonably warm but seasonably wet. It rained virtually the whole time I was there. I inadvertantly developed a 1916 Easter Uprising tour itinerary. I visited so many sites of the Uprising-City Hall and The General Post Office or ran across the history of the event by seeing Kilmanhaim Gaol where the leaders were executed or ran across the homes of the those involved. I would like to visit again–I didn’t see as much as I hoped to due to the short time I was there.
5. Seville-Ahhh-I loved Seville. I visited in February 2015 with my sister. It was our last stop in the grand southern Spain trek–Granada & Seville with two full day visits to Ronda & Cordoba. My sister and I loved Seville. The cobble stoned streets, the largest cathedral in Europe, the tongue in cheek stories about Christopher Columbus’s tomb (another blog entry), and tapas! We loved the tapas–every night it was tapas and gelato for dinner. I want to return (not in the summer–I would melt in 124 F degree heat), but I need to explore Barcelona and Madrid first.
4. Paris-Paris was my first European vacation in April 1989–I was in high school. I fell in love with travel. I returned in April 2011 to a very warm spring in Paris–think high 70s-low 80s. It was wonderful. I loved wandering around the city from almost the moment I woke up to late in the evening. I rarely sat down and just slowly wandered around. I was staying on the Left Bank close to one of the many pedestrian bridges across the Seine. I was staying in the Best Western in the middle of a pedestrian area that backed up to the prestigious Rue de St. Germain. In September 2014, I returned with my Mom (her first visit to Paris) for a day trip from London–it was my first time on the EuroStar train and using the Chunnel for the two hour journey. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Paris.
3. Copenhagen-I fell in love with Scandinavia when I traveled there in August 2015. I just loved the culture and history and the not-too-hot summer days. Copenhagen was the last stop in my 3 city Scandinavia vacation. I was staying about 2 blocks from Central Station and on the same street as City Hall. I had to pass Tivoli Gardens on the way to and from the train station. My first night in the city I went to Tivoli Gardens–the inspiration for Disneyland when Walt Disney traveled there with his wife before building the “happiest place on Earth”. The similarity to Disneyland is so clear when walking around. The royal palaces were unlike anything I had ever seen before–the ceilings were often decorated with plastered ceilings that just projected downward and sculpted and decorated lavishly. It’s a style I saw throughout he region, but not in the palaces and castles I’ve visited in western or central Europe. It’s just this great little city that I so enjoyed wandering around aimlessly. I want to return to do some of the easy day trips out of town. I went to Hamlet’s Castle (Kronberg) in Helsingor (or Elsinore in English)–the site of Danish power over Northern Europe by controlling the Baltic trade routes. Who knew the Danes were such badasses for 400 years!
2. Stockholm-I skipped Stockholm in August 2015 because the hotel prices were just so outrageous. 4-5 nights in Stockholm cost close to $800 when my four flights (including 2 transatlantic flights) cost just under $1000. I stayed 12-13 nights in Oslo, Helsinki, & Copenhagen for about $1100. However, I really wanted to see Stockholm, so I started scouring different sites to find a good deal. I’m glad I waited–my weeklong visit to Stockholm in August 2016 was very reasonably priced. I was staying in Gamla Stan–Old Town next to the Royal Palace. My hotel–the Lord Nelson has the distinction of being the narrowest hotel in town. It’s a full fledged museum to the hero of Trafalgar–the Lord Nelson of England. I just loved walking around and the city was so comfortable. It just edged out Copenhagen as the favorite city. Being the city is spread across 14 islands makes getting around interesting. I loved the Royal Palace and I want to return after it’s painted a pretty pale pink. I feel like there’s so much more I can see on a return visit.
- London-I firmly believe I’ve had past lives in London because I feel so comfortable there. I love England–London in particular. I’ve visited a grand total of 7 times and I’m feeling the jitters because I need a London fix soon. So I will be keeping my eyes open for good deals for a long weekend or as a layover fly-by to or from other European destinantions. I first time I visited London was in April 1994 with my BFF while she was studying abroad. We stayed in the student housing of the London School of Economics in Bloomsbury across from Euston station. The second time was in April 1998 with my other BFF–we crossed paths with my mother and her BFF who were leaving the day we arrived. We met at a tea shop near their hotel before they left for the airport. The third time was in June 2000 with my sister for 8 days! We took several day trips-Cardiff, Dover, & Bath. We saw a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Regent Park open air theatre–loved it. I traveled there solo in 2007, 2009, and 2011. My last visit was in September 2014 with my mother. I frequently revisit several sites–St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Tower, Hatchards bookshop, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park, National Gallery, and Fortum & Mason department store. I have been to almost every possible day trip out of London–some trips were repeated like Stonehedge and Bath (3 times-1994, 1998, & 2000). I will always find time for a London visit though I want to explore other parts of England such as Devon & Cornwall and Yorkshire.
I have so many other European destinations that I loved but didn’t list because while every trip is “my favorite” at the time–the 10 cities on this list just stand out in my mind for different reasons. Other cities I’ve visited in Europe: Prague, Budapest, Granada, Amsterdam, Brussels, Oslo, Galway, Killarney, Waterford, Nice, Geneva, & Nimes. I enjoyed getting to know all of these cities. Some of these cities are where my all time favorite attractions, museums, and/or experiences occurred. I usually take advantage of nearby cities to visit for the day during most of my vacations and none of those cities have appeared on this list.