I have been to Europe twice now and in that time I have been to thirty cities. I marvel at European cities. The intertwining of old and new, with building’s grandiose beyond compare and modern interiors juxtaposing each other. Here’s a list of what I think are the ten best European cities. These are not in order, as it was hard enough culling to just ten, I could not possibly further rank them.
Budapest – Hungary
I have spoken about my love for Budapest before, but it is worthy of all the love I give it.
The design of Budapest seems all organised with architecture that looks as though it has been meticulously planned. In between the amazing buildings are streets with so many cool cafes, shops and bars. It is definitely a city to party and you can recover in one of the many baths.
Tip: Budapest has some of the best second hand stores, definitely make some time to go and buy some weird and wacky t-shirt. Also make sure you check my top five things to do in Budapest.
Prague – Czech Republic
Prague is one of the cities I have spent the most time in. It’s such a beautiful place, and it reminds me of a disney movie.
I have spent a lot of time getting lost in the Old Town with its many walkways and alleys. I also love going to one of the many parks or by the river with a book.
Tip: Make sure you get accommodation in the Old Town! There are some really nice Airbnb’s around the Old Town in Prague and they are relatively cheap, I would definitely recommend staying in one of them. Food and drinks are relatively cheap (especially the beer), but a ten percent tip is expected.
Vienna – Austria
Vienna is an all round cool city. Austria is a central European country and in Vienna there is a definite mix of East and West. Unlike most of the East though, Austria was not a communist country, and compared to the Czech Republic and Hungary it is a little more modern. However, Vienna’s architecture is steeped in gold and is very much old fashioned, it’s incredible!
The music of Vienna is front and centre. The whole city is practically a shrine to Mozart.
Tip: Seeing a concert in Vienna is a must, however, they can be fairly expensive. If you don’t have much to spare I recommend going to see a performance St Charles Church. I paid 20 euros to see a performance of Mozart’s requiem and it was simply beautiful watching with the backdrop of the intricate art works.
Istanbul – Turkey
Many argue Turkey’s position in Europe, so some readers may find its placement in this list erroneous. However, there is a widely held consensus that the Bosphorous strait, which flows through Istanbul, marks the boundary between Europe and Asia, meaning at least some of Istanbul is in Europe.
Istanbul is one of the most magnificent places I have ever seen. Rich in history and culture, the city is home to some of the most recognisable buildings on the planet, including the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia. I absolutely loved wandering the streets of Istanbul.
Tip: Smartraveller currently advises that Australian’s shouldn’t travel to Istanbul. However, if you wish to heed this advice make sure you stay in the Sultanahmet (the old city) as it is close to everything. Also, be aware of taxi drivers, try and avoid them but if you need to catch one only pay them in small change and make sure you negotiate the fare beforehand. We gave a taxi driver a 50 lira note and they tried to claim it was only a five.
Dublin – Ireland
Dublin has the best vibe, everybody is so friendly. I could easily live there, in spite of the less than desirable weather.
There is a lot to do in the city, particularly in and around Temple Bar which is the cultural hub.
When staying in Dublin, make sure you get out of the city for a bit and check out the amazing greenery of Ireland. I did an overnight trip to Galway – which would be on this list if it was a bit bigger!
Tip: When I went, I stayed about half an hour away from the centre. Don’t do this. Stay in the centre, near Temple Bar.
Florence – Italy
Italy is one of my favourite countries and this is in large part due to Florence. The city itself centres around the Duomo, which is the most amazing building I have ever seen.
Florence has a very rich history, and it’s fascinating to see the contrast of shops like H&M and Zara in streets which would have seen more than one could ever imagine.
Tip: The best way to see this city is by hiring a bike. The centre is relatively small and the streets are so easy to ride.
Krakow – Poland
When I went to Krakow I only spent a day which was not at all long enough. It is a city of churches and the Catholicism is evident throughout. There is also a sombreness to Krakow with Auschwitz located not far away.
Krakow is such a quaint place and although it is the second largest city in Poland it only has a population of 760,000 (not including the metro area). It is a really easy city to walk around and the town square is awesome.
Tip: Spend longer than a day.
Sarajevo – Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina would often be overlooked in a trip to Europe. In recent history the country itself has faced a lot of heartache during the Bosnian War, and remnants of the war are evident throughout Sarajevo with bullet holes in buildings commonplace.
Sarajevo is not the prettiest city you will ever find and a lot appears run down but there is something so appealing about it.
Tip: In the main centre, walk down a few streets and you will find shisha bars where all the locals hang out. My friend and I went there and it was so fun, everybody is so nice and keen for a conversation.
London – England
It’s hard to look past London when planning an European holiday. It’s an overall great city with plenty to do – I could walk around the city for a month and still want more.
My favourite places in London include the Camden markets, Notting Hill, Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square.
Tip: Try and stay in accommodation around the West End. It’s very central with a buzzing night life – you will never be short of things to eat.
Barcelona – Spain
Two words, one name: Antoni Gaudi. What an architect! His buildings are all over the city and they are breathtaking.
But I also just love Barcelona. I had the best time in the city eating tapas, paella, hanging at the beach. and drinking copious amounts of sangria.
Tip: Barcelona is the best place to party, if you get bad hangovers make sure you plan a few days in the city so you don’t miss out on any sightseeing.
Have you been to Europe before? What are some of your favourite cities?