As 2015 has come to a close, it is time to start planning trips for the new year! The other day a reader emailed me and asked what my favorite destinations in Europe are. I had to think about. There are so many! So I decided to put together a list.
Many of these cities I have already had the pleasure of visiting while some are high on my travel list. Europe is filled with so many beautiful cities that is nearly impossible to narrow it down to a select few if you have limited time. If you are feeling brave and want to tackle more than ten countries by train as I’ve done, then by all means. But, if you can only visit a select few, here are my must-visit cities in Europe for 2016.
If you’ve read my post about Amsterdam, then you won’t be surprised to see this city topping my list. Amsterdam is like the prom queen – super popular with beauty and brains. From culture to strolls through Vondelpark to the infamous Red Light District, there isn’t anything Amsterdam doesn’t have to offer. Be sure to experience High Wine at the Dylan Hotel and of course take a picture with the iAmsterdam sign.
I was surprised by how much I fell in love with Copenhagen. It is a perfectly-sized city – easy enough to walk around on foot yet not too small that you get bored. It is home to the famous Tivoli Park and another favorite of mine the Carlsberg Brewery. Be sure to take a tour of Copenhagen’s canals to get a different perspective of the city from the water. You can fly to Copenhagen from the US for relatively cheap!
Blending the perfect mixture of city and nature, Heidelberg has something for everyone. As home to one of Germany’s oldest universities, the student populations brings a lively atmosphere to the Altstadt (old town). Then you have this giant castle on a hill overlooking the city that just completes the picturesque scene. And what’s more, Heidelberg is nearby two of Germany’s thirteen official wine regions, Baden and Hessische Bergstrasse. I also went on daily runs through Philosophenweg (Philosopher’s Walk) which is a beautifully landscaped, forested area running up the southern side of the Heiligenberg mountain, across the Neckar river from the castle.
While Budapest might not be at the top of many travelers’ lists, I can assure you that those who have been will tell you that it is a must-go. One of Budapest’s charms is the people. Despite the struggle that their country has endured over the years (communism having just ended in 1989 where the effects are still visible today), the people of Hungry are a warm and welcoming people. In fact, I even placed Budapest on my 10 best places to live in 2016, so clearly it is also a best place to visit.
If any city in Europe has completely taken me by surprise, it is Ljubljana. Knowing relatively little about the city before my arrival, I took to the city streets rather than burying my head in a guide book. (Yes, I still use guide books.) The city is rather bustling and then you can easily escape to nature and make your way to a castle in the trees that overlooks the city. What more could you ask for? Not to mention that just outside Ljubljana you will find a completely fairytale city.
Ah the romantic Tuscan city of Florence rightfully deserves a spot on this list – year after year. It is undoubtedly one of my favorite cities in the world. It is not too small, yet not too large and completely walkable. It is impossible to spend too much time here because you will continuously find yourself discovering more and more with each day.
Ah the city of music. If I could describe Vienna in one word it would be “romantic.” The city is filled with music in the streets and love in the air. Vienna is packed with imperial history and outrageously opulent palaces such as Schönbrunn Palace. Vienna is also known for it’s coffee houses and the Viennese coffee house culture has become an important role in shaping the Viennese culture. These coffee houses have become a place “where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill.”
Stockholm’s good looks and fashion sense could almost be intimidating. But this city is an accessible beauty, as easy to explore as it is to love. Though spread across 14 islands, connected by 57 bridges, it is compact and walkable. Each neighbourhood has a distinct character, yet they’re so close together you can easily spend time in several areas. In each, you’ll find trend-setting design, inventive cuisine, unbeatable museums, great shopping, pretty parks and loads of atmosphere.
This year Wrocław makes the list for the European Capital of Culture, an annual designation by the European Union for which a city remains for one calendar years as it organizes a series of cultural events. Not to mention there is the beautiful 5-star Sofitel hotel with an incredible spa right in the heart of Wrocław Old Town. If you’re in the mood for some travel in Eastern Europe, definitely add Wrocław to your list.
Last but not least is a city that has remained high on my list of places to visit. Surprisingly cosmopolitan and loaded with a rich culinary scene filled with eclectic cafes and funky bars, Reykjavík is not a city to be missed. With snow-capped mountains in the background of the colorful city center surrounded by water, it is hard to not fall helplessly in love with Reykjavík. Not to mention that I am dying to visit the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula, southwestern Iceland!
What are you must-visit cities in Europe for 2016?