TRAVEL / MY TOP 5 TRAVEL DESTINATIONS IN EUROPE
The weather has turned a bit sour here in London over the past week. YAY for coats & boots season but a massive thumbs down for drizzly, cold weather. I'm already desperately missing the sunshine. To compensate, I thought that writing a travel piece might send me off into a bit of a fantasy world and make me feel like I'm on holiday. I did think about putting on a bikini and popping a fancy umbrella into my cuppa tea whilst typing buuuuut thought that'd be a step too far haha.
I've been very fortunate to have travelled quite a lot of Europe by this point in my life. As many of you know, my Dad lives in Rome so we've ticked off quite a few places in Italy together but I've also been lucky to have travelled a lot with (ex) boyfriends, friends and colleagues too. In fact, before pursuing blogging full time, I worked for an events agency who specialised in group travel so I got to travel to quite a lot of destinations that I wouldn't necessarily have chosen myself, but were in fact really amazing - e.g. Budapest and Riga, both of which I'd love to visit again.
Europe really does have it all. No matter the season, there'll be a city in Europe to cater for your needs. Adrenaline junkie? Why not try sledding down the Olympic track in Riga, or try a black slope at one of Europe's multitude of ski resorts? After something a bit more relaxing? Europe offers beaches galore for week long lounging; sandy utopia's that'll give Bali a run for its money. Europe is just as great for its weekend city breaks; filled with strolls, good food and shopping, as it is for its longer stints, which makes it so perfect.
There are so many cities in the world, let alone Europe, that fly under the radar. We often hear about the same destinations over and over again, many of which I've visited and adored, but I'm always keen to discover new and exciting places. One way of doing so is by reading online articles and blogs like this, as well as scrolling through #wanderlust on Instagram. Major. Travel. Envy.
So, seeing as I have some knowledge and experience, I thought I'd share some of it with you, in the hopes that you'll get inspired and book a holiday (... which naturally you'll take me on too!)
MY TOP 5 CITIES IN EUROPE
I'll just start by saying that that's where the main photo is taken. I'm clearly drooling over the menu rather than looking at the insanely breathtaking Mount Etna behind me - standard.
Sicily is a regular spot for me, and the island has so many beautiful areas but Taormina holds a very special place in my heart. Taormina is a picturesque small town perched on a slope of a mountain, at the eastern coast of Sicily. It offers the true Sicilian dolce vita, in every sense, and is brimming with culture. Visitors come far and wide to experience it's outdoor theatre during film festival but it has so much more to offer than that; to name a few, the golden beaches, the breathtaking views, the old Grecian ruins, the fine dining and even finer hotels. It's truly spectacular. It's perfect for a long stint in the summer but is also equally as nice during the winter; NYE being a definitely highlight due to the fireworks close to Mount Etna.
I went on a girls trip to Valencia a few years ago when it was flying under the radar a bit and so didn't know what to expect but I was blown away by the city. Valencia was a real surprise and ticked so many boxes for me. Everything from the architecture to the nightlife was just spot on. It's often overlooked for more popular Spanish destinations but after a few decades of development, it is slowly becoming more and more popular with tourists. The city boasts the best of both worlds; miles of sandy beaches with a relaxed atmosphere but also offers the cultural aspect with its striking Gothic architecture and cathedral up toward the main square. The daytime activities are covered but the city truly comes alive at night; the streets are buzzing with people enjoying tapas and sangria in one of the many restaurants before heading to one of the many famous nightclubs. The city genuinely doesn't sleep!
Visiting Rhodes was actually a bit of a whim decision because me and an ex boyfriend were just desperate for anywhere with sun and it was pretty damn reasonable, however I'd very happily go back! The city is split into two distinct parts, the New Town and the Old Town - both areas offering up different quirks and surprises. The Old Town is encapsulated within high walls and you can spend hours just getting lost, strolling through the pretty cobbled lanes, taking in the copious amounts of character. I should point out, not a heels kind of destination ladies. The New Town, hence the name, is a modern metropolis and boasts the famous white beaches, seafront bars and restaurants as well as many boutiques to take your fancy. The highlight for me though was the food... my good, the food was so ridiculously tasty.
Amsterdam is a city that I can see myself visiting over and over again and never getting bored. I'm going to avoid talking about the red lights and the weed because neither are my reason for frequenting but apart from those elements, there's so much more to the city that people often sadly overlook. Amsterdam is genuinely one of the most beautiful cities I've ever visited; its canal-woven core is laced by atmospheric narrow lanes for you to get lost in. You'll stumble across unusual boutiques, art galleries, coffee shops and delis galore - all of which appeal to me massively. It’s impossible not to fall in love with the “Venice of the North” after a few days spent careening your bicycle over twinkling bridges and being serenaded by its laid back nature.
I'll start off by saying that this is kinda sorta cheating, just because Istanbul is only partly European but I'm gonna roll with it anyway.
Istanbul is genuinely unlike anywhere I'd ever visited and that's why I had to pop it on this list. As I mentioned, I've experienced quite a lot of Europe before and if I'm honest, a lot of it can be quite 'samey' but Instanbul blew me away. I was definitely out of my comfort zone, but in the best way possible. Straddling two continents, Istanbul boasts a lively nightlife, eclectic shopping and a rich cultural offering with breathtaking architecture; all of which reflects the influences of the many empires that have ruled over the metropolis. Being a self declared shopaholic, the Grand Bazaar remains as one of the key highlights from the trip. Walking around the Grand Bazaar and getting lost in its labyrinthian alleyways is an experience on its own and you genuinely will find something new as you turn each corner. I'd definitely recommend taking a visit! Also, if none of the above appeals to you, just go for the turkish delight. I genuinely thought I'd hate the stuff but it took roughly, let's say, 2 mins on the ground to convert me. I'm officially salivating....