My love for Europe started because I fell in love with Paris, after being read Madeline, at the age of 2. By the age of 7, I was lusting away at pictures of Paris, learning everything I could, and planning fictional trips. When my sister studied abroad in Italy, I actually banned her from going to France at all. Soon, my Paris fetish turned into a fully fledged European fetish.
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Europe twice, once as a senior in high school, going to Paris (I practically peed my pants) and London, and then again this past summer, to London, Overton, Salisbury, Avebury, and Glastonbury in the United Kingdom, to celebrate my graduation from college. And yet, with two trips under my belt I still want more. I’m actually impatient for more of Europe, some places more than others.
Here are 11 (well actually 14) European destinations I HAVE to also visit at some point in my life:
I’m told Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. My old roommate describes his experience as walking into a fairy tale world saying “once upon in a city far far away.” And, for the bibliophile, it’s the home of Kafka. Prague is just one of those cities everyone has to (wants to) go.
I’m realizing that I may start sounding redundant if I keep saying I want to go to this or that European city and country because they’re pretty. But, let’s be honest they are. And, Budapest is one of those places. It’s actually two cities, with two distinct forms of architecture and culture, which fascinates me. Not to mention that the sections are divided by one of the most famous rivers in Europe, the Danube. The city is rich not only in architecture, but in history too. It’s been plighted by occupations from the Romans, the Turkish, and the Soviets, and yet, it’s retained its beauty.
I grew up believing in fairies, elves, everything, including leprechauns. The Celtic background and mythology make you believe that those things can actually be real. Plus, they add to the vibrant culture. With the rolling hills and the lilting accents the country seems so calm, like anything is possible. It inspires my imagination and my photographic eye, and I haven’t even been yet. Ireland fought so hard for independence from England for years, and in Northern Ireland, some are still fighting. There’s something amazing about a country that can seem so peaceful even through the face of such a volatile and often depressing history.
4) Scotland & Wales
Even though I’ve set foot in the United Kingdom twice, I’ve barely seen the country, especially since I still haven’t been to Scotland or Wales.
What’s not to love about Scotland? There are castles, bagpipes, and kilts. Nice and perfect cloudy rainy days. Not to mention Scottish accents. It helps that my family dates back to the region. People are drawn to their roots, and in this case it’s true for me and my family. Despite the rugged exterior and stereotype, there’s something quaint about Scotland.
During one of my grandmother’s first trips to the UK she said that Wales was her favorite. She said it was the most peaceful and most interesting. I think when people head to the UK, Wales is often forgotten. But, it’s remarkable to me that a region surrounded by the English language and English customs, has retained not only its own language, but it’s own distinct culture. It seems to be unique from the rest of the island, and I really really want to hear what Welsh sounds like.
5) Brittany and Normandy
I’m drawn to places that have distinct cultures. The northern reaches of France, especially Brittany and Normandy, are distinct. When people look to go to coastal France, they usually look to go to Southern France with its warm Mediterranean beaches. Brittany and Normandy, along the English Channel aren’t necessarily warm, but they are unique. Throughout history the French and the English constantly battled over control of these two provinces, resulting in a blend of the two cultures. If there’s one reason to visit Normandy, it would be to see Carolingian Mont Saint-Michel, the island, can be reached by foot during periods of low tide. Meanwhile Brittany retains its culture blending traditional elements of its Celtic and French heritage.
The capital city of Tallinn is one of the oldest and one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. Estonia isn’t a country that a lot of people think of going to. That means that you can enjoy the medieval streets and culture without the muddled confusion and traffic of overly publicized tourist traps. You can discover the country for yourself. Estonia is also one of the poorest countries in Europe, with one of the largest gaps between rich and poor on the continent. As someone interested in finding ways to alleviate poverty and interested in finding the root causes of poverty, Estonia interests me. We don’t think of Europe as a poor continent, but that’s because in the 21st Century much of the war damaged nations of the 20th Century and the Cold War are overlooked.
Next to Paris, Vienna is the city I’ve wanted to go to the longest. I can’t tell you why, but I’ve wanted to go for years. I think I may have read a book once that took place in Vienna (a lot of my travel inspiration comes from books). The pictures I’ve seen are beautiful. It’s history, as one of the musical and cultural capitals of the world make me think it will be worth the trip.
8) Greece & Turkey
I’ve never been a fan of Ancient Greek history. I don’t know why, but I haven’t. But, I still want to go to Greece. Athens seems interesting, but I’m more interested in the islands off the coast. The culture there seems much more raw, and authentically Greek. Not to mention that the white buildings and blue roofs against the Mediterranean are simply begging me to come and take photographs.
Turkey is such a mix of European and Asian culture, it’ a true midpoint between the two continents. I’ve had several friends that have been to Istanbul say it’s one of the most unique experiences of their lives. It’s so different from the rest of Europe, different from so many other cultures. It’s dotted with mosques and hints of Islam, unlike most of Christian dominated Europe.
In all honesty I want to go to all of Scandinavia, but if I had to pick only one of the Scandinavian countries to visit, it would be the southern and smallest of the countries: Denmark. The brightly colored buildings and the Norse culture have always intrigued me. Not to mention that the country is home to Hans Christen Anderson, one of the greatest fairy tales writers in history. A friend of mine, who studied abroad in Copenhagen, showed me a photograph of potentially the most beautiful library I have ever seen. Yes, I would consider going to a country just for its library.
I know what you’re thinking, Romania, it must mean I’m one of those teen/20-somethings obsessed with Twilight and vampires. Sorry to disappoint, but no. It would make it easier to explain why I want to go to Romania. Whenever I hear about the country, something strikes me as wild and exotic. Long sweeping forests and small isolated towns. A rich history and a language that is the closest modern language to Latin (I desperately want to learn Latin). There’s something about Romania that makes we want to jump in and begin peeling back the layers and learning as much as possible.
Raise your hand if you’ve never heard of Andorra? Most people haven’t. It’s a tiny little country sandwiched between France and Spain in the Pyrenees. I discovered Andorra during the Olympics one year. An announcer made mention of the country, one I had never heard of before, and I decided that wanted to go there. Mostly, because no one ever says they want to go to Andorra. Of course I’ve studied up on it since, and it’s actually pretty cool. The capital city, Andorra la Vella is the highest city in Europe. It also has some amazing ancient architecture. And to make things even better, it’s consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world. Andorra here I come!
If I were being more realistic the list would keep going. I want to go to Iceland, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Ukraine, Russia, Bulgaria, and Croatia, just to name a few others. But if I had to pick my top top choices, they’d probably, at least today, be the ones above.