This is not a travel blog and I am by no means a travel guru, but a little while ago a friend requested that I share the favourite places I have visited in Europe and I thought I would oblige her request, because perhaps my other readers may be interested too.
The Husby and I have travelled far less in recent years since becoming parents, simply because we now live on one income and have little ones to factor in our travel plans. However, we still enjoy traveling when we can and my ultimate travel goal would be to visit every country in Europe. Ambitious I know, I’ve made it to 20 European countries so far, but admit I have only visited some of these countries very briefly.
Before revealing my list let me state that I’m pretty sure that cities like Rome and Barcelona would be on my list if only I had actually visited them. Most of my European travels have been in the Central and Northern European countries and I have yet to tick off a lot of Eastern Europe. But for now my top 10 places in Europe, in the order in which we visited them are;
Surely Venice makes every top 10 list? We started our honeymoon in Venice in 2006 before heading off to the Italian lakes and it was a city break like no other. I would recommend a city break in Venice over a day trip, you beat the crowds and get to experience St Marks Square and all it’s back streets out of hours. It’s a wonderful place for a couple to get lost in, which we did -for 2 hours! – on our first day.
St Wolfgang, Austria
We visited here in 2008 for the Christmas Markets and they did not disappoint! The village of St. Wolfgang is simply idyllic, the locals welcoming and the hot chocolate delicious! We even managed to squeeze in a visit to Salzburg from here, perfect for any Sound of Music fan.
Stockholm is the capital of Scandinavia and although we didn’t have much time here as it was one of the shorter stops on our Baltic cruise, it left a lasting impression. I do love a good old town and the Medieval Old Town known as the Gamla Stan, is one of the best preserved city centres in Europe. Built across 14 islands I could easily see why Stockholm is the most popular of the Nordic capitals and I hope to return one day, maybe for the Christmas Markets, when the sea has frozen over!
Berlin is a fabulous city and deserves much longer than your usual weekend city break as there is just so much to see! I have vivid memories of standing under the Brandenburg Gate, strolling along the beautiful canals by Checkpoint Charlie and visiting the Berlin Wall. If you’re a fellow history buff you’ll love this place and a visit to the Reichstag building and Museum Island is also a must. Berlin will of course appeal to those also wanting a modern city break with great shopping and nightlife but it is also a very family friendly city, with many parks, play grounds and offbeat city scenes where you’ll find lots of little cafes and lunch spots, boutique artisans and great accommodation in residential areas.
Who doesn’t love Bruges? This was our city break of choice in 2010 and it’s definitely on my return to list. Part of the draw of Bruges was not just its gorgeous canals, Medieval architecture and ample supply of chocolate, but the fact that we could so easily explore the Flanders Fields and WW1 memorials in and around Ypres. We had an unforgetable time in this tiny city, you really must visit.
In 2011 we visited Amsterdam to tick something off of my bucket list – visiting the home (and now museum) of Corrie Ten Boom in Haarlem. This was a wonderful experience for me as the Ten Boom family have been an inspiration to me since I was 14 years old and the inspiration behind my blog name. Although Amsterdam is definitely worth a visit I actually recommend staying outside of the capital. I hadn’t realised just how small the Netherlands is nor just how close Haarlem was to Amsterdam and if I did this trip again I would actually stay in Haarlem. To me Haarlem offered a much more authentic and relaxed dutch experience, away from the bustle of tourists in the capital. It’s also a great location to get to the infamous Keukenhof gardens and tulip fields.
Austria is the only country to make it into my top 10 list twice! The architecture in Vienna is simply stunning with ornate (and huge!) buildings everywhere you turn. For me it makes the list for it’s fabulous cafe culture and if you do make it to Vienna you must check out Central Cafe, I plan on returning to Vienna one day simply to go back here. It’s also worth pointing out that you can do day trips from Vienna to Bratislava in Slovakia, ticking off two capital cities in one city break.
Oh Budapest how I love you! Budapest is a city like no other with it’s fascinating architecture, distinct old town and infamous public baths. If you have yet to venture into Eastern Europe Budapest is a great starting point as it offers a good blend of east meets west. I particularly enjoyed the Jewish quarter with it’s impressive synagogue, Jewish museum and poignant holocaust monument, the best I’ve seen so far. Oh and if you fancy venturing out of the city the open air museum, Memento Park makes for an interesting visit with it’s collection of monumental statues from the Soviet era – it also makes for some fun photos!
Scotland is perhaps my favourite country in the entire world! Edinburgh and the Highlands was our first family holiday with Blossom back in 2014 and it did not disapoint. Edinburgh is one of the few cities, like Berlin, in which I’ve thought I could happily live. It’s such a wonderful blend of history and nature with all the modern things you would want from a city. Plus the sea and highlands are a relatively short drive away, it really is the best of all worlds.
Latvia has truly captured my heart, there is something about this country and culture that really appeals to me. Riga is a relatively small capital, which is easy to explore on foot. It’s old town with it’s cobbled streets is incredibly picturesque and the new town contains an impressive amount of art nouveau architecture, seeing as Riga is in fact the art nouveau capital of the world! With it’s central gardens and close proximity to both the beach and Gauja National Park for day trips, Riga is also a fabulous city to visit with children.