My top 6 European cities (from this trip)
Over the course of my 4 month trip I visited more than 20 European cities both large and small. Most were awesome, some were not, but these 6 cities really stood out for various reasons. Sometimes it was the amazing people and other times it was the amazing food. What I enjoyed most is discovering each cities small charms and hidden secrets. Here were my favorite stops on the long trip.
Honorable mention – Bled, Slovenia
I’m not putting this on the actual list because “city” is a bit misleading when talking about Bled. At the same time, I’d be foolish not to mention this wonderful place in some way. Bled is known as one of the most picturesque places in Europe for good reason. But if you visit, don’t just stay in Bled, there is great nature within short driving distance from the town itself.
Bled and the surrounding areas are a great little getaway for those who enjoy hiking or other outdoor activities. Thanks to the thriving tourism there are many options for people who want to go rafting, canyoning or even skydiving. Me and my temporary travel companion managed to have a great couple of days despite crappy weather. If you’re traveling through Europe be sure not to miss this stop.
6. Wrocław, Poland
- Paying 2 Euros for 12 homemade pierogis at Market Hall
- Taking a peaceful stroll through the islands
- Staying at Grampa’s Hostel
This was the one of the few cities I wish I had had more time to spend in. First of all, I love Poland. The people are wonderful, the food is amazing and most importantly for the budget traveler, it’s super affordable. This trip I visited Krakow and Wrocław and the latter was by far my favorite. The city is wonderfully charming and full of history. This brief stay was also made better by what was easily the best hostel during my trip. My first night there we had a free pierogi making class and that same night the staff made us popcorn as we sat back and watched Poland play in the Euro cup.
5. Yerevan, Armenia
- Really, really good drinking water
- Some of the friendliest people you will ever meet
- No tourists
If I’m being honest, the only reason I went to Armenia was because it cost the same to fly there as it did to fly to Georgia, which had been on my list for a while. So I started the European part of my trip in Armenia which turned out to be an surprisingly awesome place.
The first thing to love about Yerevan is the water. On every other street corner there is a fountain of continuous drinking water which happens to be the purest and tastiest water I’ve ever tasted. The second thing to love is the lack of tourists, although my visit was before the peak season. There are plenty of amazing things to see in this country and no crowds of selfie-stick toting visitors to get in your way. Lastly, while people may stare at you at first, when you approach just about anyone you are likely to make a new friend.
I spent the first few nights hosted by an older couple who, despite not speaking any English, made me feel right at home and kept me well fed. This country was welcoming and exciting and I would recommend it to anyone.
4. Plovdiv, Bulgaria
- A free concert
- Beautiful Roman ruins and a small city center
As I mentioned in another blog post, Plovdiv provided me with the best surprise of my whole trip in the form of a free Chris Cornell concert. But aside from that, it was still a really awesome city to spend a few days in. The city is small and easy to walk around to see all the historical sites. The people are friendly and the food is good, and Bulgaria has the best gelato I’ve tasted outside of Italy. It’s not the most exciting city, but it was a great place to relax and unwind for a few days.
3. Bratislava, Slovakia
- Large beer for less than 2 Euros
- A good bus system
- The beach area with free ping pong
My short stay in this city was more awesome than a lot of places because I was lucky enough to meet up with some good friends who showed me all the best places. Nevertheless this city has a certain charm that I found lacking in its close neighbor, Vienna.
The old town area is easy to walk around and not overrun by tourists. There are many cool spots for younger travelers that aren’t so typical. There’s an artificial beach along the Danube with some nice bars, volleyball courts, a ping pong table and other games. In other words there is a lot to do outside of the sightseeing, which is good because the sightseeing is relatively lacking compared to some of the larger central European cities. This is definitely a city I will return to, not only to see my friends but so that I might explore some more of the secrets this place has to offer.
2. Istanbul, Turkey
- Unbelievable architecture, history and people
- A really good Couchsurfing community
- Variety of sites and attractions
What can I say about Istanbul that hasn’t already been said? This city is one of the most amazing places I’ve had the privilege to visit in my young life. The history of this city is, in my opinion, unrivaled among major world hubs.
The significance of Istanbul both in the past and in the present day cannot be overstated. But the most lasting impression Istanbul left on me is simply how big the city is. I’m not necessarily talking about the area, but also of the pure scale of the city. Walking from the wide streets into the narrow, twisting alleys or up the steep hills and then along the Bosphorus makes you feel small and the city’s majesty and grandeur will leave you breathless. I spent 5 nights in this beautiful city (including my birthday), but could have easily spent two weeks without getting bored. It is a truly international city and there is always something to do or new people to meet.
1. Budapest, Hungary
- There is so much happening at any given moment
- Food, food, food
- Beautiful architecture and great views
It’s hard to understand why people call Budapest one of the most beautiful cities in Europe without visiting yourself. Walking around this city is an activity in itself as it feels like one giant museum. Two things become immediately clear after spending just a few hours in this city. In Budapest you will never be hungry and you will never be bored. Without planning during my time there I stumbled upon an amazing outdoor orchestral concert, a book festival, an international a cappella/choral festival, and a beer festival. There is always something happening and always something for any kind of person.
Another thing to love about Budapest is the food. Here’s a city experimenting with new streets foods and twists on old recipes. My personal favorite was the “cheeseburger”, a slice of deep-fried cheese placed on a bun with veggies and sauce. It’s not a perfect city. The mass of Stag and Hen parties can be quite overwhelming and sometimes the crazy nights result in dirty streets. But this city’s lively spirit combined with the old renaissance feel gives this city more than enough reasons to top this list.