In the first of a series of guest posts on our blog, Matt Kepnes, founder of top travel blog NomadicMatt.com gives us a rundown of his favourite destinations in Europe. To keep up to date with Matt you can follow him on Twitter and facebook.
I fell in love with Europe when I backpacked through the continent in 2006. It fascinated me – the food, the buildings, the cafe culture, the cheap wine and beer…it was exciting, full of history, and breathtaking. I’ve gone back every year since.
And after years of coming to Europe and seeing every corner of it, these are the top destinations I think every traveller should visit at least once.
Prague was the first city in Europe that I visited. Setting foot in such a beautiful historic city with cobble stone streets, medieval buildings and castles was the perfect start for my European trip. What draws me to Prague is its history. A lot of people come here because it’s such a well known party place but for me, walking down the tiny, winding cobblestone streets is like stepping back in time 500 years.
I love history and as such, I always knew I would love Rome. But it turned out what I loved most about Rome wasn’t the history at all. I mean, don’t get me wrong – the ruins are wonderful and extremely interesting to see, but what I really loved the most about Rome was the food. Rome is full with mouth savouring food. I particularly love heading to the Trastevere area across the River Tiber. It’s away from the tourist traps of the ruins and it is here you can find a cheap, delicious, and local Roman meal.
Barcelona is just a cool city. The Bari Gotic neighbourhood is steeped in history and its winding streets are great to get lost in. The beachfront has a ton of delicious seafood restaurants where you can gaze on all those perfect, tanned bodies laying in the sun. The Catalan food is delicious. But what draws me to Barcelona is the wild nature of the city. There you can have dinner at midnight, go out at 2am, stay out way past dawn, and sleep all day. Barcelona is a city filled with food and excitement.
I don’t find Budapest to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. I think it’s beautiful but I can name 10 more that are even better. But what I love about Budapest is that it is exciting and vibrant. There’s so much energy going on in this city – Hungarian food is delicious and there’s a good dance and art scene. What I love most though is the ruin bar scene. These bars in old, abandoned buildings in the city are eclectic, interesting, and incredibly fun. They give this city character.
When I first came to Berlin, it didn’t really click with me. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it. It was a bit grimy, run down, and far too big. But coming back a second time, I saw another side of it. It’s a city filled with amazing art, music, and food. Sure, it still could use a paint job and it does take a long time to get anywhere but giving it a second chance showed me that there was a lot here I missed. I am extremely glad I came back.
I can’t say exactly how many times I’ve been to Amsterdam, but it’s in the double digits. And, for a brief time at the end of 2006, I lived there as a professional poker player (seriously). The fast-paced life, friendly locals, easy access to the rest of Europe, picturesque canals and beautiful architecture keep me coming back. The city is usually associated with red lights and marijuana but once you step away from that tourist scene, you find a beautiful historic city filled with modern art, a wide variety of food, and locals who are always happy to show a stranger their home.
Ever since I stepped out on the Champs Elysees, I knew Paris was it. I was in love. It had that ‘je ne sais quoi’ that people talked about, and I was unable to ignore its magic. Sure, Paris is large and expensive but what big city isn’t like that? Paris is just too beautiful, vibrant, and filled with orgasmic food and history to hate. Being here is like being in a real life romantic comedy movie, but better. Every day, I dream of the magic that is Paris.
I have a strong affinity for all things Scandinavian, and Stockholm is by far my favourite part of the region. I’ve been there three times, and I am moving there next summer to learn Swedish. I think this city is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. The reds and greens of the buildings have an old world charm that rivals cities like Prague and, during the fall, the changing leaves only highlight that beauty. Stockholm is also very historic, has a high quality of life, and the Swedes in the city are super friendly and welcoming. I’ve been 3 times already.
There are so many amazing places in Europe that it’s hard to narrow down a list because once you start thinking of one, 10 other similar ones come in your mind. Before you know it, your list includes 1,000 places to see. But when I consider my favourite destinations in Europe, and the world, I think of the places I would love to live in. That’s how I narrow down my list. And in Europe, I’d live in these cities.