Out of all the continents, Europe is the one that I have travelled the most (living in Scotland helps! What doesn’t help is the fact I have to take at least 2 planes to get anywhere…). I’ve decided to make a list of my Top 20 European Destinations. Some of these I’ve been to, some I’m desperate to visit but I hope you enjoy my list!
Just a head’s up, this list isn’t in order of how much I like the destinations, as they’re too amazing to put in order!
20. Dubrovnik, Croatia telegraph.co.uk
If you wanna pretend you’re in Game of Thrones (although, you’ll probably end up killed off like the rest of the characters…), then this is the destination for you! Dubrovnik is a beautiful, old town, full of amazing history and museums.
19. Saas-Fee, Switzerland
I need to go back here. Saas-Fee is amazing for skiing. Only electric cars are allowed in the town, which is full of cute buildings and amazing shops (and hot chocolate!)
18. Monaco hotel-r.net
The world’s second smallest country (after the Vatican), Monaco is one of the glitziest places in the world and I badly want to visit it. It’s very expensive, though!
17. Barcelona, Spain timeout.com
I’m desperate to visit Barcelona and see the Sagrada Familia, get lost in the alleys, and enjoy everything Gaudi!
16. Prague, Czech Republic
One of the most beautiful places I’ve visited, Prague is full of amazing architecture, history and everything is so cheap! And you need to try a trdelnik – they’re so good!
15. Amsterdam, Netherlands digital.fespa.com
Full of brilliant museums, Amsterdam is also famous for its biking, culture and history.
14. Edinburgh, Scotland
I lived here for 4 years, so Edinburgh will always have a special place in my heart. Make sure you visit the many museums and the castle (and palace!). And you must get lost in the small back streets! (The above photo is the street I lived on – isn’t it gorgeous?!)
13. Budapest, Hungary lvs.luxury
Budapest is probably up there for culture and architecture. And I’ve heard it’s a good place to travel to if you’re on a budget.
12. Verona, Italy
I love Verona. It’s so small, cute, rustic and full of history – and it’s so easy to get away from the crowds as well!
11. Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic czechtourism.com
Another small, cute town, Cesky Krumlov reminds me of The Grand Budapest Hotel (one of my favourite films!)
10. Athens, Greece lonelyplanet.com
I love anything to do with Ancient Greece, so what better place than Athens?
9. Lisbon, Portugal worldwanderista.com
Lisbon is up there as one of the places I’m probably going to visit soon (fingers crossed!). This beautiful city is full of amazing culture, great food, and gorgeous, tiny streets.
8. Colmar, France thousandwonders.net
Probably the cutest town in France – how can you resist all of those gorgeous, brightly coloured houses! And they’re next to a river! Can’t go wrong there 🙂
7. Ronda, Spain malagatogo.com
I badly want to visit this cliffside village – imagine the views! And the history of the place is amazing.
6. Paris, France
The romantic City of Lights, there’s so much to do in Paris – amazing nightlife, culture and food, to name a few!
5. Dordogne Region, France leseyzies-tourist.info
So many castles! I need to go here!
4. Santorini, Greece foundtheworld.com
You’ll recognise the pictures – the gorgeous, white buildings with blue roofs. I’ve also heard the sunsets are amazing.
3. Venice, Italy
I love Venice. It’s so unique and unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before. It’s impossible to walk over a bridge and not take a photo of the canals.
2. Seville, Spain telegraph.co.uk
As well as the history and the amazing architecture, Seville is also famous for tapas, flamenco and sangria.
1. Cinque Terre, Italy
Five gorgeous, small towns by the coast. Hike or catch the train between each town. Be prepared, though – there’s not a flat area anywhere. It’s all hills or stairs.
My first trip abroad alone! As I mentioned in an earlier post, my (sad) reasoning for finally deciding to travel solo was the fact that I turn 26 in October (sad face) and Interrail tickets seem to double in price. So, I bit the bullet, got over my fears of travelling alone (sort of – I was still super nervous until I was actually sat on the plane), and booked.
I chose the Interrail Italy Pass, which cost me around £170 at the time ($244 or 215 Euro), for 8 travel days. I’d heard pretty decent things about the trains in Italy and I wasn’t fussed about 1st class, so I booked everything 2nd class (which saved me about £100!).
I’d decided to travel Italy by train, as I’ve been told that train travel is the best way to get around Italy (plus, I was desperate to go back to Venice!). Those people were not wrong – trains in Italy are amazing and they get you into the centre of each city or town you arrive in! There are noticeboards all over the stations, which tell you each individual stop, and the time the trains are arriving at each stop. The people who worked at the stations were also happy to help if I needed (but everything was so straightforward that this hardly happened). I would definitely recommend travelling Italy by train.
But would I do it again with an Interrail pass? That I still haven’t decided, and here’s why:
(Double-decker trains in Italy! These were a novelty for me)
First things first, if you do decide to go Interrailing, you must choose between an Interrail pass and a Eurrail pass. Simply put, an Interrail pass is for people who live in Europe, and a Eurrail pass is for people who don’t live in Europe. As I live in the UK, I chose an Interrail pass.
I chose the Italy Pass with 8 travel days, as I wasn’t sure how many trains I was going to need (I officially knew I was going to be travelling for 6 days, so I used my 2 leftover days for all of the trains around Cinque Terre). On a travel day, you are allowed to take as many trains as you want, which is extremely handy.
A lot of trains in Italy (and other countries) require seat reservations. This was a bit of a pain, as it meant that I had to pay around 10 Euro just to reserve a seat for at least half of my trains (trains in Italy are strict. If the train requires a reservation, you are not allowed to just hop on and stand in the aisle, or at the end of the carriages – you need to have a reservation. And if you are caught without one – or without a ticket on a non-reserved train – then you get an on-the-spot fine of around 200 Euro). So keep in mind that this has the potential to get very expensive. Visiting certain cities (like Milan) require you to get a reservation for every train you catch going into and out of the city, so if you were to visit the Lakes (which is roughly a 30 minute journey), you would be paying 10 Euro on top of the ticket price, just for one journey. Unfortunately, seat reservations are not included with the Interrail pass, so do your homework beforehand and look at the regional train websites (like TrenItalia) and work out if it would be cheaper to just buy an individual ticket (for some reason, it’s cheaper to buy some tickets individually with the seat reservation included, than to just buy the seat reservation).
I wouldn’t recommend an Interrail ticket for Eastern Europe, as my friends who have travelled by train there have told me that the trains are so cheap that it wouldn’t be worth it – and when I visited Prague last year, I found out exactly how cheap everything was (except trains, which I didn’t have time to try out).
However, travelling in Western Europe, yes, having an Interrail Pass certainly does make things easier (less tickets to carry around), the pricing works out roughly the same as buying individual tickets (but if you were to do this, buy in advance as, obviously, trains get more expensive, closer to the date of departure!)
I’m definitely going to travel Italy again by train, but next time I think I will try buying individual tickets, just to see if the pass was actually worth the money (it was definitely worth the experience, as I loved every bit of it!)
Cinque Terre was definitely a highlight of my trip – everywhere was beautiful and everywhere had an amazing view (even the train stations!). This is my list of the Top 5 things that you must do when visiting Cinque Terre (which you need to go and do now!). Be prepared – there are virtually no flat areas – it’s all hills and stairs everywhere!
5. Eat some gelato
I think I had gelato every day that I was in Cinque Terre and I do not regret it one bit. Look at the view you can have while eating it!
4. Go on a train journey from Riomaggiore to Monterosso
I don’t think I’ve ever been on a train journey with a more beautiful view before. Definitely worth travelling the entire length by train (it’s only roughly 30 minutes). I would have gone on one of the hiking trails but, unfortunately, they were all closed when I visited. At least it gives me an excuse to go back (not that I need one!)
3. Church of San Lorenzo in Manarola
This was definitely my favourite church out of the five towns (and Manarola was my favourite town!). The inside is beautiful (and there’s a really friendly cat that hangs around outside – I saw it every day I was there!)
2. Wander and get lost
Definitely the best way to see the towns – although, they’re so small that it’s almost impossible to get lost! I met a lot of cats – which I’m not complaining about!
1. Visit all five towns
This is a given if you’re visiting Cinque Terre. My all-time favourite town was Manarola – and I was lucky that Manarola was the town I was staying in – followed by Vernazza, Riomaggiore, Monterosso and then Corniglia – which I climbed a bunch of steps to get to and immediately realised when I reached the top that I could have caught a bus. I counted the steps on my way down and realised that I had climbed 382 steps in 25 degree heat – with barely any water! I was melting by the time I reached the top – but I don’t regret it!
So, I finally worked up enough courage to go abroad alone!! (This is a huge deal for me, as I am a very shy, introverted person). I’m so glad I finally travelled alone, though – it was incredible! I found myself opening up more and talking to locals more than I usually do when I’m abroad. I even found that some restaurants gave me money off my food (or let me skip the cover charge) if I practiced my Italian with them – but I think the blonde hair helped as well!
Seriously, Italian men love blonde women. It was a bit surreal. Most of the time, it was the odd comment, or ‘bella‘ as I walked past them in the street but I did have one creepy moment when I was walking to the train station in Pisa and I walked past a guy sitting on a bridge who looked at me and asked ‘Like fucking?’. I gave a little eye roll and replied ‘no’ – what, did he actually think that that line would work and I would be all ‘take me now!’? Nope!. Anyhoo! I walked over the bridge and was almost on the other side when I glanced over my shoulder – the guy had followed me! As soon as he realised that I had noticed him, he kept repeating ‘Like fucking?’ over and over and over, no matter how many times I said ‘no’. Eventually, I stopped, turned around, and gave him the best glare I could – and, surprisingly, it worked! With a grin, he wandered off, and I never saw him again.
But, other than that, everything was great! There were some moments – like when I saw the actual Shroud of Turin – when it was literally just me (which I wasn’t expecting. I was expecting having to elbow people out of the way to see anything), and I managed to get in for free, or really cheap – admittedly, this only happened twice, but it was really nice!
During my two weeks, I visited Rome – where I saw the Colosseum and the Vatican – and my hotel was literally right next to the Capuchin Bone Church – which was fascinating.
Pisa – I took the cheesy tourist photo and, no, I’m not going to post it on here, as it’s really bad… Also, make sure to check out the Cathedral and the Baptistry and surrounding buildings – they’re exquisite!
Cinque Terre – I loved it here. It was so cute! And it was literally all hills and stairs. I climbed the stairs to Corniglia in 25 degree heat, only to reach the top and realise I could have gotten a bus. On the way back down, I decided to count the steps. 382!! I climbed 382 steps in 25 degree heat!! My cold, Scottish skin was literally melting when I reached the top – I’m not used to the heat. On an unrelated note, Manarola was definitely my favourite town – and it was the town I was staying in!
Turin – Like I mentioned above, I saw the Shroud of Turin! I also visited the Egyptian Museum – the second biggest in the world, after Cairo. Plus, my hotel was amazing! It was surprisingly cheap and the room was huge! And filled with so many plants!
Milan – I had booked tickets to see The Last Supper months in advance. I showed up at the museum for my scheduled time – only to see that the museum was closed, due to the staff being on strike!! I was absolutely gutted!! Luck happened to be on my side, however, as there was someone actually working there and they came outside just as I was away to leave – and I managed to get my time switched to the next day!! The painting is bigger than I thought it would be – but it was amazing!! Also, if you are in Milan, I would definitely recommend going on the roof of the Cathedral – it’s incredible!!
Verona – Verona is adorable! And the views from the bridges are amazing!! I saw Juliet’s balcony – which was packed!! I pretty much spent the day I was there walking through the city – it’s absolutely beautiful! And the fruit is amazing!
Venice – Ah, Venice. How I missed you! I think I walked all over the entire city (or at least, it felt like that, with the amount of times I got lost!). I also visited Murano and Burano again (I love Burano). And this time, I visited the Isola di San Michele – which is literally just a cemetery on an island. It was really interesting.
I’m so glad I did this and proved to myself (and my family and friends) that I could do it. I’m already thinking of other places to visit (hoping to get another Interrail trip in before I turn 26 in October!!)
Total miles travelled: 3962 miles/6377km (Just under 4000 miles!! Whoop!!)