It took me a long time to compile this list simply because I kept disagreeing with myself. I planned a top ten then contemplated making it longer, to fit in the other places that definitely do warrant a place but sadly don’t quite fit in (in my eyes). Of course, there’s plenty of cities I haven’t been to that almost definitely warrant being on this list but as I haven’t been there, I don’t think I can put them down.
Also, London and Brighton are both wonderful places but I must admit hold special places in my heart because I’ve lived in both of them. That doesn’t mean they’re not marvellous to visit but the reason they’re so high up is definitely due to my own bias. Saying that they are fantastic and you should go. Maybe right now.
1) London, England
As I pointed out above, London is home to me and no matter where I am in the world, always will be. I’ve always lived within at least 2 hours from there and to be further away (when I move to Canada, for example) will be very strange.
Yes, London is expensive and busy and the air is barely breathable and people aren’t always very pleasant but honestly, its the best. The feeling of fitting in in London – knowing where to get on the tube, the best ways to get somewhere and the psychic ability every Londoner has when sharing how much they hate anyone that does not follow these rules, without saying a word out loud.
Ok, London doesn’t have mountains or oceans but my god does it make up for it in the sheer amount of extraordinary things it does have… Free museums, forests, huge parks, historical buildings around every corner, new events and restaurants opening every night (plus in general some of the best food in the world). All this and some of the best, most diverse people you will ever meet.
I adore London and no matter what negative Nancys have to say about it, I always will.
Must visit: Kew Gardens, Tower of London, Hackney canal, Dishoom, Shoreditch, Richmond Park, Tate Modern/Tate Britain, V&A, Portobello Road. I have a million more recommendations than that, so please just ask if you would like some. I would be THRILLED to give some.
2) Paris, France
If I had ever lived in Paris, this would probably be first. I’m extremely jealous of anyone that has ever had that chance.
Paris is somewhere that has a special place in my heart in that I think its the first time I fell in love. Not with another person but with a city. It has this charm that I can’t explain. Even when I’ve had a bad time there, its never been the worst. Its just the way Paris is.
I’ve been visiting Paris since I was a teenager when we would go on French exchanges with school. This in itself was almost always the oddest adventure imaginable and something that I think sparked my wanderlust without me ever realising.
I’ve been to Paris maybe 7 times now, probably more and I never get sick of it. The only thing I could maybe do without would be going up the Eiffel Tower again. Unless I’m taking a kid up there because a child seeing something for the first time is the closest you can get to seeing it for the first time yourself again.
Yes, Parisians are known for being rude but honestly, I don’t think of them as any more rude than London. I speak just about passable French and do my best to use it, which in my experience has always helped people be less rude to me. Unless I’ve really mucked up my words and managed to offend someone.
They say that Paris is one of the most romantic cities in the world and I suppose they’re right. Walking through its beautiful streets makes you feel like you’re in the romantic movie of your dreams. I wouldn’t say it matters if you’re on your own, with family, with friends or in fact with that special someone, its still magical.
Must visit: The Eiffel Tower (duh), The Arc De Triomphe, The Louvre (and not just to see the Mona Lisa, there’s so much more. Check out the late openings, they’re great), Musee D’Orsay, Versailles, The Pompidou and of course the general area of the Marais (including their plentiful vintage shops).
3) Brighton, England
Another place I have lived and therefore love like it belongs to me – I went to Sussex University, which is in Brighton (well, just outside). I then stayed on for about a year afterwards to work. I’ve lived in Falmer, Kemp Town, the Marina, Preston Park… I would love to live in North Laine one day but I’m not sure when that could ever happen.
People often talk of Brighton in a few ways – like a little London and the gay capital of the UK. Both of these things are true and an enjoyable part of living there but its so much more than that. In the same way that London has a million things going on at once, Brighton is a metropolis of activities, shows, events and communities that make it easy for everyone to find something they like. This is why it was such a perfect place to go to University – whatever person you are destined to become, you have the opportunity to and I really feel like it made me the (perfect and humble) person I am today.
Seriously though, its by the sea, the houses are colourful, the vintage and boutique shopping is excellent, the music scene is rad and there’s a big ass historical pavilion that looks like its been dropped in the wrong place in the world right in the middle.
Must visit: The pavilion, the seafront, the undercliff walk, Brighton Fringe, Brighton Festival, North Laine, the Lanes, Green Door Store, Coggings and Co (best burgers around) and the Brighton Museum.
4) Amsterdam, Netherlands
We all know what Amsterdam is known for – if thats your scene, then yeh this is the place. I cannot stress enough how that is just a TINY part of this amazing city.
I first visited Amsterdam because a good friend of mine from University is from the next city over (Amersfoort) and I went to see her. I’ve been twice since then and every inch of the place I’ve seen has only made me love it even more. There are amazing museums, great Indonesian food, beautiful canals, insane wonky buildings and super cool upcoming neighbourhoods. Plus its home to the best hotel I have ever been to (Sir Adam).
Must visit: Plek/NDSM neighborhood, Stedeljik Museum, Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, the neighbourhood with the windmills and its super close to a bunch of other amazing cities, like Rotterdam.
5) Edinburgh, Scotland
I’ve never lived here but it does hold a special place in my heart for many reasons. The first time I visited was part of a trip of a lifetime with my parents, driving round Scotland (Ben Nevis, Isle of Skye, John O’Groats, everything). Edinburgh was the last stop and it was the absolute cherry on top.
Since then I’ve gone up a few times to visit my very best friend, Mr Hamilton G Jones (who I am soon to be moving to Toronto with), as he lives there. He’s an excellent host and tour guide (with a brain that also serves as google maps), and someone that you can immediately tell is in love with Edinburgh.
Yes its full of Tourists but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great place to live and visit (including as a tourist). Its got hundreds of great pubs and restaurants, the best Fringe Festival there is and its streets are stun-ning.
… If you can put up with bagpipes.
Must visit: Edinburgh Castle (though its pricey as hell), Edinburgh Fringe, National Museum of Scotland, Scottish National Gallery, Royal Mile, South Queensferry, their variety of secret speakeasy bars, Chihuahua cafe and the Royal Botanical Gardens.
6) Zagreb, Croatia
Zagreb is often overlooked for the seaside towns of Dubrovnik, Pula and Split but when Hamilton and I did our Croatian road trip, it was here that we fell in love with.
While we were there we spoke a lot about coming back to the city for the weekend, simply because its so close and cheap to get to from London. I’m genuinely unsure why we haven’t done so. We came away with full bellies (from the lovely beer and food), full eyes (if thats a thing – from the beaut architecture and emotive Museum of Broken Relationships) and full hearts (from their lovely people).
We both said that we would happily live there and I stand by it. It wasn’t full of tourists, in fact it was mostly people wandering around with their dogs and stopping for drinks outside (even in early April) yet when people encountered us as British tourists they were more than accommodating.
Its Croatia’s capital city yet somehow feels like an undiscovered gem.
Must visit: Museum of Broken Relationships, St Mark’s Church, Zagreb Cathedral, Mirogoj Cemetery (sounds weird but trust me on this) and Zagreb City Museum.
7) Munich, Germany
Firstly I would like to say – Berlin is amazing, I have nothing against it. If this was a general list of my favourite places, Berlin would be on it but this is ten and I’m having to scrutinise… So, sorry Berlin. I just liked Munich more.
I went in December, for the Christmas markets (* raise your hand if you’re a tourist * * raises hand higher than ever before *). It was cold and busy and expensive but nothing that a beer hall (or two) couldn’t fix. It had a chilly charm that made it feel Christmassy AF. I’ve also heard its very nice the rest of the year.
Must visit: the Christmas markets, English Garden, Marienplatz, Munich Residenz, Deutches Museum, St Peter’s Church and Olympic Park.
8) Riga, Latvia
Riga was the start and end point of our recent Baltic Road Trip. I was sad leaving the first and even more the second time, because I had no reason to return within the week.
Walking round the streets of Riga feels like straight out of a fairytale. Unfortunately it has been slightly tarred with the brush of tourism and there are a few chain shops/restaurants dotted around but you don’t have to walk far to get away from that.
There are gorgeous churches, museums, art galleries, alleyways, streets… Ok, almost everything is pretty.
Must visit: Old Town, St Peter’s Church Tower, National Museum of Art and Art Nouveau Architecture (near the national museum of art).
9) Stockholm, Sweden
I went to Stockholm in February and I must say, this was a mistake. It was bloody FREEZING. Like hurt faces, frozen toes, will I ever be warm again kind of freezing.
Mind you, I think it says a lot that its still made this list in spite of that. It was one of the strangest yet amazingly culturally fulfilling trip I’ve been on. We saw all sides of the Swedish spectrum – we went to ALL of the museums, including one of the oddest places in the world… Skansen Open Air Museum. I don’t know how to explain to you what Skansen is like. In the same day, we saw elk, people dressed up in old time costume and monkeys.
Stockholm is insanely pretty – all of the little islands make for a really dramatic cityscape, especially in winter. Yes its expensive but the views and experiences are more than worth it, if you’re willing to jump in to what they have to offer.
Must visit: Skansen, Gamla Stan, Vasa Museum, Nobel Museum, Stockholm Palace (the tiny little crowns are the sweetest thing), Moderna Museet and Nordic Museum.
10) Rome, Italy
I’m not sure why but I never expected to like Rome. I always thought it as busy and sweaty and touristy… Ok, yes. I can’t deny that it is all of those things but my goodness they are overshadowed by all the rest of the things the city has to offer.
We went in summer, so we were kind of asking for the warm, queues that we experienced. Thankfully what was waiting at the end of the line made it worth it.
Its an amazingly walkable city with history casually in front of you right in the middle of the street. One second you’re looking at the Trevi Fountain (ok it was drained of water when we were there but I’ve still seen it) and the next you’re in the Sistine Chapel. On the way between them, you’ll probably run in to a ruin or two. Where else can that happen? (Why is this number 10 again?)
Must visit: Pantheon, Sistine Chapel, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Vatican, St Peter’s, Colosseum and Castel Sant’Angelo.
What’s your favourite European city?