So I’m doing it: I’m naming my favourite European cities (of. all. time.)!! Whilst planning an upcoming Spring visit to Europe with my other half, I got to thinking about my favourites cities I had visited thus far. Our upcoming trip in April will be anything from familiar, visiting the Italian coastline, small French towns and various parts of Switzerland, but it was fun to look back through the lens of retrospect nonetheless, to consider where has been my favourite thus far. For those of you new to my blog, I have visited Europe countless times over the course of the past 7 years, visiting Western, Eastern, Southern, Northern Europe… and everywhere in between.
There are a few countries I am saving (could a honeymoon location ever beat Greece – one day hopefully!) and a few hidden gems I am eagerly wishing to uncover in the cooler months either late this year or next (think Belarus; more of Russia beyond Moscow & St Petersburg; Montenegro and especially Norway). But with the next adventure looming, I’ve picked my favourite cities all over Europe of all time – I would love to read about yours in the comments below!
20. Warsaw, Poland
If you haven’t read about how much I loved Warsaw on my blog, then you’re missing out. Not to worry – you can read about Warsaw here. Having visited Poland for the first time at 17 years of age with the intention to see Krakow and Krakow alone, I can honestly say that I made a huge mistake by not exploring more of Poland back then. Warsaw is an incredible city with a turbulent past but optimistic outlook, with a stunning old town that one could wander for days on end.
19. Zurich, Switzerland
Although I’m trying not to retrace my steps and go anywhere I have been before on this upcoming trip to Europe in Spring, I have made an exception here and there for cities that I loved at first glance, but never gave myself enough time to explore at first instance, thus warranting a return. Zurich is one of those cities. I first visited Zurich a couple of years ago for just one day and to be honest, you can totally see and enjoy the city in just one day – but I left feeling like I still wanted more. I wanted to visit more bakeries, eat more chocolate, and return when I had found romance to stroll along the river and see the city in a different light. And now that time has finally come! I’m beyond excited to re-explore Zurich this year and share these adventures with you.
18. Munich, Germany
I can’t believe I’m admitting this right now – but the above photo is the only proof I have that I once visited Munich, a city so pretty I barely stopped for a second to take a photo (no, it wasn’t the beer goggles I swear – I’m not a big drinker at all). Of course this city is renowned for Oktoberfest, a beer festival especially popular with the international travellers, but after visiting in August I can honestly say the city is just as pretty and enjoyable any time of year! It was also a great base from which to explore nearby Neuschwanstein Castle – a must do!
17. Copenhagen, Denmark
I’ll be bold here and admit that when I first arrived in Copenhagen in the dead centre of winter (January/February), I truly didn’t know if I would enjoy my time here. Not only was it cold (the kind of cold where if a limb doesn’t fall off soon, you’re in so much pain you’ll chop it off yourself), but it was also quite grey and impossibly expensive. Because I was there already, fancy hostel room paid for in advance, I stuck it out and sure enough, I absolutely adored Copenhagen. Not just the architecture (Nyhaven is a delight to the eye) but also the food and my lovely local guide (and long term friend), Jasmina, who years later invited me to her wedding (!!) Rendering her one of the closest friends I have ever made travelling and cementing my amazing time in the Danish capital.
16. Riga, Latvia
I have only ever written one blog post on World of Wanderlust about Latvia, that being on the charming and impossible cute capital; Riga. From my experience here (the friendly locals, intriguing cuisine and endearing way of life) I would love to explore more of Latvia, however only stopped over for one night on a flight from Russia to Turkey with a budget airline who so kindly allowed for an 18 hour stopover, leaving just enough time to grab a night of rest and a few hours exploring. I would totally recommend this city based on this experience alone!
15. Moscow, Russia
There is quite possibly no other city in the world that I want to return to as much as Moscow, Russia. I first visited Moscow a few years ago at the start of my East > West European adventure, beginning in Moscow and ending in Paris. Unfortunately due to a flight delay, lost luggage and length stay in Abu Dhabi to retrieve said luggage, I arrived in Moscow days later with just one night/one full day to experience the city before catching the train to St Petersburg (which I would highly advise booking in advance unless you want to spend 10 hours on a slow train when the favourable option is the high speed Sapsan!) Thus I had next to no time at all to enjoy the Russian capital and – can you believe it – did not even get the chance to walk through the Kremlin. Again, there is no city I want to return to more than here – fingers crossed for this year or next!
14. Salzburg, Austria
I really don’t see how it could remotely possible to visit the musical town of Salzburg in Austria and not have a smashing time doing it. This city is so pretty… the kind of pretty that inspires novels, artwork… The Sound of Music!?!?! I really cannot speak a bad word about the city of Salzburg and loved it so much that I have since ventured back a second time to explore some more. I would absolutely recommend the Sound of Music tour; Mirabellgardens; Salzburg Dom; Christkindlemarkts in December and an apple spritzer to finish off any meal!
13. Tallinn, Estonia
I had absolutely no idea what to expect when arriving by ferry to Tallinn for the day, on a day trip from nearby Helsinki (Finland). I certainly didn’t expect to see small town charm in a capital city like this and I’ve gotta say – the whole day was a pleasant surprise. Like Latvia, I feel as if I’ve only just scratched the surface in Estonia and would love to explore the country more – perhaps prompting a trip to the Baltics in the future!?
12. Berlin, Germany
I’m sure it comes as no surprise to long time readers of my blog that I love, love, love Berlin. I loved Berlin so much so, that I moved here for a couple of months to try it out as a city to base myself in in Europe for the following year. As fate would have it I met my now partner back in Australia just a month later when attending a wedding at home, so have since moved back to Australia as my “base” (though really, everywhere is home!). My time in Berlin was short and sweet, but I truly love this city in a can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it kinda way. There are many ups and downs to living as an expat in Germany (the government system is notoriously hard to navigate – though I’m sure France has one up on them in that department), but I really do look back fondly on my time in Berlin. And oh, what I would give for another lunch at Daluma!
11. Vienna, Austria
With the famous coffee culture and incredible arts scene, there really isn’t much not to love about Vienna! I would strongly recommend seeing an opera or ballet (even if you just pay a few euros for a standing ticket on the night); walking or tramming out of your way to see Hundertwasserhaus; seeing “The Kiss” in the Belvedere (especially for art lovers); kaffeehaus hopping around the city and oodles more in the Vienna guide (be sure to spend at least 4 days here, it is such a beautiful city to enjoy!)
10. Amsterdam, Netherlands
I am yet to meet a person who does not like Amsterdam enough to rave about it and proceed to recommend it to me, even when they know I’ve been before (ha)! i loved my time in Amsterdam as much as the next person, though I would strongly recommend getting away from the sights (though do not miss the Anne Frank Museum) and just wandering the endless canals, alleys and streets like a local. Better yet – hire a bike!
9. Florence, Italy
I really struggled when choosing just one Italian city for the list but in fear of listing them all if I moved beyond one, I decided to narrow it down to Florence, the capital of Tuscany (though if I had more list space, I would definitely include Rome, Verona and Venice). Florence is beautiful beyond words. The radiating shades of terracotta underneath the Tuscan sun are just the beginning and I promise you that once you scratch the surface, you too will fall in love with this city (and its many gelaterias!)
8. Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh is one of Europe’s most ethereal capital cities that will leave you feeling as if you have stepped into a time warp. This city is so high on my list for the love of Harry Potter, the beautiful architecture and just the overall feel that left me feeling endlessly inspired (no wonder J.K. Rowling wrote HP here!) I would also highly recommend venturing beyond Edinburgh for a larger trip in Scotland to nearby Glasgow (a really fun, young city with carefree locals) and the Scottish Isles (Isle of Skye is particularly hard to ever forget!) Oh! And for my fellow Harry Potter lovers, you absolutely must ride the (real) Hogwarts Express!
7. Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm to me, will forever be the Swedish capital that stole my heart. I visited Stockholm at the end of Autumn with my mother, who had flown over from Australia to visit me whilst I was living in Berlin (though I’m fairly certain she just took this as an excuse for a free holiday – lucky I love her)!!! We had an absolute ball in this city – visiting the ABBA museum (her preference), eating at incredible gastronomic restaurants (my preference) and going out of the way to visit the highly talked about Fotografskia museum which both of us enjoyed! Stockholm is expensive, yes. But its an investment worth while if you ask me!
6. Ljubljana, Slovenia
I stumbled upon Ljubljana by complete accident a couple years ago when catching a connecting train en route to Lake Bled (one of the most romantic places EVER!) and couldn’t believe my luck. As it turns out this is for sure one of the prettiest capital cities in Europe, if not the most charming. Just a day here was enough to wander around, eat an al fresco lunch and grab some ice cream to accompany me along the river… but I would totally come back for a few more days in the future as it is impossibly romantic, colourful, charming, and just really, really, really picturesque. All of the words.
5. Lisbon, Portugal
The colours, sites, smells and sounds of Lisbon are just a few key reasons you will fall absolutely head over heels in love with this crazy, fun, vibrant and loving city. I’ve visited Lisbon a couple of times – once on my own and once with a group of friends – both times were incredibly enjoyable. In fact, I’d say Lisbon is one of my all time favourite cities as a solo traveller as I felt so welcomed, happily greeted by locals in the street and just the vibe of the place was really enjoyable (it is literally a rainbow city, by the way!)
4. Istanbul, Turkey
There’s something so magical about the point in which the East meets the West (quite literally), and it comes in the form of Istanbul, the capital city of Turkey. With just a few days in Istanbul a couple of years ago, Istanbul is another city I’m itching to get back to to re-explore any chance I get. The highlights (The Blue Mosque; Hagia Sofia; Basilica Cistern) are all worth while, even when enduring the long lines. But the best part of Istanbul for me was just wandering the streets, eating local street food, and finding hidden gems every little corner and nook you turned in to.
3. Budapest, Hungary
A little while ago I wrote about Budapest as one of Europe’s most underrated cities and while I still stand by that, I am glad to say that over the past few years it has really taken off in terms of tourism! Budapest is one of my all time favourite cities for too many reasons to list in full, but for the sake of a good article I will give it my best! If you’re into bathing rituals then look no further than Budapest – a city that is renowned for its public (and some private) bathing houses with thermal remedies. Then there’s the incredible blends of architecture that, once you take the chance to look up, make you realise this city is just as glorious and intriguing as Paris… though a little on the greyer side. The food is amazing (everywhere, I couldn’t give a bad recommendation if I tried) and the local currency allows for a cheaper stay as Hungary is yet to be on the Euro (lets hope it stays that way!)
2. Paris, France
I absolutely adore Paris and love it so much so, that I employed the help of my dear friend (and avid Paris lover) Faye Bullock to write about Paris here on the blog with a full section of dedicated articles on Paris. Because I just can’t help myself, my partner and I will return to Paris this year as I will quite literally take any excuse to return to the city of love and light. I have been approximately 7 or 8 times before (I’ve lost count), but it never ceases to amaze me how you can discover so many new things on each visit.
1. St Petersburg, Russia
And to save the best for last – my all time favourite city in Europe is (perhaps a surprise to some of you who have not yet been to see and experience the magic) St Petersburg, Russia! I don’t even know where to begin when describing my love for this city. St Petersburg is a large city with equally large canals running throughout (think Venice but wider… much wider). The architecture is phenomenal as this was once the capital city of Russia (during Peter the Great’s reign most memorably) and thus a display of Russian wealth and opulence… if even only for the aristocracy at the expense of the peasants. The Hermitage, once used as the Winter Palace for Russian royalty, now houses one of the most impressive art collections in the whole world (if you ask me, THE most impressive) and the nearby summer palace (Peterhof) is another must see. Beyond that, explore!
Over to you – where are your favourite cities in Europe!? Can you narrow it down to three?