James and I spent 3 and a half months travelling around Europe, mainly central Europe, over the summer. We’re now looking to settle in the UK for a couple of years. Over that time we’ll further our travel adventures. But for now, these are our Best Of’s and highlights from our European travels so far.
Best value for money
Two beers and two doughnuts for less than €5 in the centre of the beautiful capital city. Everything you could want from amazing scenery, great city vibes, and dragons. Slovenia was a great cheap escape.
Best cultural experience
Exploring the heart of Ancient Rome, there is so much history, stories and ruins of the once great empire. The Roman Forum and Palatine hill, win!
We couldn’t decide between two amazing activities.
Riding bikes down 15kms of Via Appia Antica, an ancient cobbled road lined with ruins, forts and an aqueduct. The old main road from Rome to the Adriatic, it was one of the best places to feel like you were back in Ancient Rome.
Our other favourite was spending the afternoon kayaking around the islands off the coast of Dubrovnik‘s old city while watching the sunset over the Adriatic sea.
Now, first of all, Europe is full of many, many beautiful and unique churches. I want to give honourable mentions to Cathedral St Mary of the Flower in Florence, Notre Dame in Paris and St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, they are all AMAZING places of worship and all definitely worth a visit. But the winner is the incomplete yet phenomenal Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. There is so much detail and thought put into the design. An absolute masterpiece, pricey to go inside but worth it.
Slightly out of the centre of Rome, there’s a good place to explore more Roman ruins without hundreds of tourists. Towering buildings with mosaics and tales of an ancient athletic centre. The Roman Baths are underrated.
OK, I’m partly to blame for James’ overrated landmark. I absolutely love the Brandenburg Gate from my previous trip to Germany and my enthusiasm may, ever so slightly, have over-hyped the gate, a tiny bit.
My most overrated landmark was probably the beaches, and I mean you, Nice. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the beaches, I swam a bunch and got a heck of a sunburn. But on the way to Nice, we were told this beach was so bloody beautiful it was where tourism was invented. After all this hype, I wore my bikini out of the bus. But, STONES! Really? I’m not having a bar of that, Nice!
Obviously Nice is beautiful, I only have a bone to pick with the stones on the beach. No hard feelings, Nice?
You’ve probably heard me rattle on about this clear water in other blog posts, but the water is seriously unbelievably clear and beautiful in the Adriatic sea all along the Croatian coast.
Despite my passionate rant before about stony beaches, I did still enjoy swimming at the beaches, despite the stones. There were some lovely quiet beaches around the peninsula of Dubrovnik, away from the old city. You might look like a chicken walking across the stones to the water, but they’re still lovely beaches. And again clear water.
Right through the middle of Europe is a large alpine range, they cross through many countries. We were lucky enough to see them from four countries; Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Slovenia. And I can’t pick a favourite place to see them from. No matter where you see them they’re massive, they’re beautiful and they made us feel at home.
This lake was actually recommended to us by a friendly hostel worker. It’s surrounded by mountains instead of tourists and it’s on the edge of a national park. Lake Bohinj in Slovenia, is nothing short of magical.
Waterfalls upon waterfalls, over 18km of walking tracks, and beautiful lakes with the bluest water. Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia is the place to go.
Best castle exterior
This castle looks like a dream, feels like a fairytale and even inspired Walt Disney’s castle. You can’t past the magic of Neuschwanstein Castle for this one.
Best castle interior
For an exciting and varied castle experience including a great armoury, a very deep well and a tower to view over the city Nürnberg castle in Nürnberg, is definitely worth a visit. It has an important history with the Holy Roman Empire.
Best castle grounds
Here, there is a massive castle area, previously home to the Austria and has since been marked as a UNESCO Heritage. There are with gardens, fountains and even a zoo. Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon.
Best castle gardens
Situated in a picturesque valley, the lovely gardens and fountains of King Ludwig II hunting lodge couldn’t be left out of a beautiful gardens list. Linderhof Palace in southern Germany.
Best overall castle
I’ll give an honourable mention to Sterling Castle in Scotland. It is a beautiful castle with amazing views over the lowlands, a great museum about Scottish history and it’s a great place to listen to the Braveheart soundtrack.
The best overall castle has it all. It’s a sweet castle with a massive armoury (James took FOREVER in there, haha), the crown jewels, people dressed up putting on an interactive show for families with small children and over-enthusiastic adults who love participating (not unlike myself) and an awesome history to boot. ALL in the centre of London. Tower of London takes the cake.
Most hipster city
With a turbulent history and the East Berlin influence, this city is super hipster and super cool. Just all-round great vibes in Berlin.
Most romantic city
We only stayed here one night but it’s everything you want in a French town, beautiful wine, lovely cuisine, gorgeous buildings, and surrounded by the French language (even though I had no idea what anyone is saying). You’re living the dream in Bordeaux.
Most historical city
If you hadn’t noticed on this list already, this city is full of amazing sights. Most of the sights here are 2000 years old and full of stories. It was awesome to learn so much about the Ancient Empire while in Rome.
Best ancient city
This ancient city blew our minds. It really is a city. It covers a massive area and is so much fun to explore. It’s quite well preserved despite the volcano and being almost 2000 years old. We managed to do a day trip from Rome easily and it’s worth doing a short guided tour to learn a little bit then afterwards explore for yourself. This amazing ancient city is Pompeii.
This one was the cutest wee medieval town. Old fashioned shop signs, a wall around the old town, cobbled streets and surrounded by fields. Walking through Rothenburg ob der Tauber is like a fairytale.
Best surprise city
Our best surprise city is an amazing Italian city on the border of Slovenia, with Austrian heritage. Its beauty was astounding and unexpected. Definitely worth a couple of days visit to Trieste.
Best city to live in
It’s a city I’d drop everything and move to right now. One of my absolute favourite places we visited. It’s a city of about 200,000 surrounded by mountains, skiing in the winter, mountain biking in the summer, Austrian architecture and German language. There’s nothing else I want in a city, like Innsbruck.
I have absolutely LOVED writing this list. We’ve looked back on our trip and all the amazing places we’ve been able to visit. It was the most amazing trip and to do it with my best bud is more than I could ever ask for. I am so grateful to be able to travel and to travel safely. Do you like this list? Do you agree or disagree with any of the awards we’ve given? Let me know in the comments and watch out for further best of’s when we continue our travels further.