10 Beautiful Places to Get Lost in Europe
Why do we travel – is it the food? The architecture? That feeling of being inspired? To escape? Sometimes it’s all that and more. And sometimes, it’s simply to let ourselves go—when we travel to get lost. Nothing quite beats ditching the smartphone or map, and intuitively roaming.
What I love most is simply to take a morning, and to follow my lens, because wandering is when genuine traveling experiences are born. Now, not all cities are built equally when it comes to wandering (hello, LA?). And that’s the charm of most European cities–you’ll never find a grid in a historic district, only winding alleyways, dead ends, and small passageways that you’ll probably forget the name of. To make sure you’re strolling in the right places, here is your quintessential European field guide to getting lost.
1 | Seville (Barrio Santa Cruz)
A maze of improbably narrow and winding cobblestone alleys. Whitewashed houses with brightly painted shutters and wrought iron balconies overflowing with plants and flowers. Small squares lined with orange trees. Hidden passageways. Santa Cruz is idyllic enough to feel like a dream, but one thing is for sure—you’ll not want to come back to reality!
(Image via The Fresh Exchange Blog)
2 | Barcelona (El Born neighborhood)
El Born has all the characteristics of the perfect borough for a wander—intimate side streets, cute cafes, and funky boutiques all leading into medieval buildings. It’s laid back, but at night is the place to go if you’re in for some serious partying. This is all well and good, but what’s the real kicker? The beach is just a 10 minute walk away! That is, if you can make it that far on a full stomach of tapas 😉
3 | Amsterdam (Jordaan district)
Jordaan is a labyrinth of little canals, beautiful courtyards, art studios and galleries, boutiques, and pubs. It’s simply gorgeous. What it lacks in major sites it more than makes up for in peaceful charm. Look for the stone tablets above doorways that are carved to show what profession once occupied that house (tailor’s would have a scissor, etc.)—which makes for a great guessing game!
4 | Venice (the whole thing!)
It’s hard not to get lost in Venice. The best thing to do is to embrace it, and leave the map at home (it won’t do much good anyway!). Not only is walking significantly cheaper than any other form of getting around, but meandering over tiny bridges and unbelievably small lanes is the best way to discover this magical place.
5 | Heidelberg (Altstadt)
“Ich hab’ mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren” is the title of a famous German musical (“I lost my heart in Heidelberg”). Having lived there, I’m pretty sure it could be the soundtrack to my life—Heidelberg is absolutely delightful. From romantic castle ruins to lovely architecture to strolls along the River Neckar, all perfectly nestled between two mountains. And don’t forget to partake in the afternoon coffee and cake culture at Coffee Nerd!
6 | Lisbon (Alfama neighborhood)
There are only two ways to understand where things are in Lisbon: either up, or down. No matter where you set out on your walk, your trip will end in stairs! Pro: peace and quiet without cars. Con: brutal on the thighs! But Alfama is worth it—it’s one of the oldest ‘hoods in one of the oldest cities in Europe, and is only accessible by foot. A true glimpse into Portugal’s Arabic roots.
7 | Istanbul, Turkey
(Beyoglu and Kadikoy, or Fatih and Uskudar)
Although the Grand Bazaar might be the ultimate place to get lost (don’t forget to barter down your prices!), Istanbul has many quarters full of quiet backstreets offering peeks into its dynamic cultural swirl. Head to Fatih or Uskudar for gorgeous mosques and a more humble, conservative feel, and go to Beyoglu or Kadikoy for a lively introduction to the city’s modern pulse. Stop for Turkish tea (“çay”) or coffee, play a game of backgammon (the locals game of choice), and keep moving. No matter where your wandering takes you, the call to prayer soaring above will remind you of your location—where East meets West.
(Original Image Via // Editing is My Own)
8 | Rome (Trastevere neighborhood)
Once you’ve had your fill of the main sites, the true pleasure of Rome comes from roaming through backstreets until you stumble upon an ancient sculpture or some spectacular fountain. Dodge Vespas and snap pictures—heavenly gelato in hand, of course.
9 | Paris (St. Germain)
There’s actually a word in French for someone who wanders about aimlessly—a “Flâneur” is a connoisseur of the street. And in St. Germain (the quintessential place for urban exploration), it’s hard not to feel cultured while roaming—book stores, design shops, galleries, historic cafes, churches, museums, you name it. Not to mention that you’ll never go hungry, as there’s always a bakery around the corner.
10 | Prague (central historic district)
Prague’s central district is like a fairy-tale. The medieval center remains a undamaged by WWII, with its cobblestone lanes shooting this way and that beneath gold-tipped towers and church domes. Wander over to Charles Bridge to really bask in the majesty of it all.
Bonus: Cassis, France
Oftentimes, it’s the small villages that are more memorable than the big cities. This was definitely my experience in Cassis—waking up before the sleepy town had gotten moving for the day, and simply strolling without an agenda gave me a great fantastic for this little town in the French Riviera. Here’s a more detailed report!