Europe: When & Where To Go
I love to travel (surprised?). I swoon over TripAdvisor and love gabbing with others about the best places to visit and the best time to visit them. Since arriving to Europe I’ve kept a careful tally of all the travel recommendations I’ve received from fellow expats and locals.
Factoring in weather, the amount of other tourists, and cost vs. fun,
this is my European bucket list.
1 | Ski Mont Blanc, France and explore the idyllic town of Chamonix, France.
2 | Dan and I are itching to go to Budapest, Hungry. A city of spas, relaxing in the steam baths would be the perfect way to warm up mid-winter. Aside from the spas, there’s plenty to do indoors- museums, shopping and eating.
3 | Famous as Mozart’s hometown and the site of the Sound of Music film, head to Salzburg, Austria for their annual Music Festival. Catch world-renowned musicians playing daily in impressive concert halls. Later, ski the Austrian Alps in Innsbruck, Austria just 2 hours away. Here are details about the music festival.
1 | The world’s craziest party, head to Venice, Italy for Carnivale! Masks, partying to all hours of the night, I’m dying to go. Looking for something more toned down? Hop over before the action of Carnivale for decent weather and minimal tourists. Here are 6 steps to make the most of a day in Venice and scenes for a photographer’s dream destination, Burano Island, in the Venetian lagoon.
2 | While the weather is crummy in Europe, head to Marrakech, Morocco for sunshine, camel rides, and lots of amazing food. Stay in Marrakech for a few days of sightseeing then take a camel ride from Zagora, Morocco to overnight at a Beber camp in the desert under a sea of stars. Here are the details on our visit.
3 | Head to the Menton, France (the “pearl” of the French Riveria) for the annual Fete du Citron, or Lemon Festival. Using 145,000 tons of citrus fruits, mammoth sculptures are created for unique citrusy floats. Nearby lies the luxurious country of Monaco for post-festival pampering and gambling.
1 | In Modica, Sicily they hold an annual Chocobaracco festival mid-March, as in, chocolate festival! A UNESCO world heritage site, during the festival the town center is filled with vendors selling traditional chocolate of Modica along with Sicilian cakes and pastries. After your sugar high, head 2 hours to the coast to the gorgeous Sicilian beach town of Taormina.
2 | Las Fallas Festival in Valencia, Spain – 5 days of bands, parades, fireworks and street performances. Sounds pretty fantastic to me.
3 | A Guinness, my Goodness! AND leprechauns? Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in Dublin, Ireland!
1 | This year I LOVED my time at La Feria de Abril in Seville, Spain. After the fair, explore the infamous Alhambra in Granada, Spain, quite possibly one of the most beautiful structures in the world. Check out our visit here, here & here.
2 | Find something orange to wear and join the party in Amsterdam, Netherlands for Queens Day! Hit the streets in the Jordan district for vendors, food stands, beer taps and free public performances. After the festivities, head to Lesse, Netherlands for their annual Tulip Festival. Considered the premier flower display in the world, hundreds of thousands of tulips blossom in beautiful blankets across the fields
3 | Perhaps the most scenic country in all of Europe, Lucerne, Switzerland has a ton to offer. Nestled in the Alps and resting alongside Lake Luzern, Lucerne is a absolutely dreamy town. Nearby lie endless hiking trails (here is an iPhone app that details 32 of the best) or take the worlds steepest cogwheel railway up Mount Pilatus for spectacular views from the top of Europe. Here are the details. Don’t forget about the chocolate!
1 | Before the crowds settle in, fill yourself with pizza and pasta then soak in the sunshine on Almalfi Coast in Positano, Italy. (Here I claimed this place to be the MOST beautiful Europe, and I mean it.)
2 | May is the sunniest time of the year in Bergen, Norway. Surrounded by 7 hills and 7 fjords, Bergen easily makes the UNESCO heritage list with a spectacular harbor and timber-clad houses. Take one of the most scenic train routes in the world, The Bergen Railway, to Oslo, Norway for spectacular views of the Norwegian interior. Here are the reviews of The Bergen Railway, you’ll see what I mean about spectacular.
3 | Paris, France in late Spring is picture perfect. Here is your itinerary. One of the most impressive and beautiful cities in the world, I’ll keep it simple: you need to visit.
1 | Off the beaten path, head to Spain’s Costa Del Sol to relax on the beautiful beaches of Nerja, Spain with the locals. Expect a glorious trio of sunshine, iberico jamon, and sangria. Here is our visit a few weeks ago.
2 | I love wine. I love France. The perfect duo, the Bordeaux Wine Festival takes place in Bordeaux, France. A 2km wine route within the city between the river and 18th century buildings with more than 80 tasting pavillions along with music acts and other performances. After the festival, head down the coast to beaches of San Sebastian, Spain. Here is wine festival information.
3 | London, England. No matter the weather, there are always 1 billion things to see (Big Ben!) and do (like a bike tour). In June though, you can grab a court-side seat at Wimbledon.
Note: Most European schools break for Summer on July 15, travel becomes more expensive and crowded through the September 1.
1 | Every week in July and August is Yacht Week in Croatia. Cruise through the beautiful Croatian islands with your pals and 50 other yachts for a week long party. Make friends from all over the world, snorkel and swim the clear waters, feast on Mediterranean food, gorge on wine. I must do this at some point in my life. Here is the official Yacht Week trailer. I had a big cheesy grin on my face as I watched this, I know you will too.
2 | Are you a Tour de France fan like me? Watch the event live in the fairy tale walled town of Carrasonne, France. The build up party in preparation for the bikers is an event in itself. Afterwards, head South to the French Rivera.
3 | Go to camp! Surf school in Peniche, Portugal includes lessons, equipment and accommodations for 1 week for less than $500. Here is the information.
1 | Grab a bike and head to Bad Durkheim, Germany for Erlebnistag Deutsche Weinstrasse meaning “Enjoyment Day on the German Wine Street“. The Weinstrasse is a 85km route that winds it’s way through Germany’s wine country. In late August the Weinstrasse is closed to motorized traffic, allowing bikers (and scooters) to roll their way to 15 different wine festivals en route. Yes, drunk riding is completely legal so long as you stay on the street. Here are all the details.
2 | 3 weeks, 40,000 performances and 1 festival, the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland is HIGH on our bucket list. Performances vary from street acts, ballet, to improv comedy. There will be lots of others in attendance but it’s certain to be entertaining.
3 | Throw things at your friends at La Tomatina in Bunol, Spain, the infamous tomato fight takes place August 27, 2014!
1 | Of course, it’s time for Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany! Be sure to book accommodations and travel EARLY (as in, 8-10 months early!) as things fill up fast. Rightfully so, this is one of the largest and wildest festivals in Europe! I can not wait to throw on my dirndl this Fall.
2 | Before bidding farewell to summer, head to Corfu, Greece. At this time of the year count on solid weather, less tourists and feta for days!
3 | Ready for Autumn instead? The leaves are turning in Prague, Czech Republic making the already magical city burst with color. Here is an itinerary for the perfect Saturday (hint: riverside farmers market, fortress overlooking the city, beer).
1 | Head to Rome, Italy to take in the sights. October is considered shoulder season, there’s good weather and reduced crowds. There’s plenty to see and eat in Rome to occupy weeks but if you want to tour the beautiful UNESCO-famed city of Assisi, Italy no one is going to stop you. It’s only a 2 hour train ride.
2 | A human stacking spectacle, the Concurs de Castells in Tarragona, Spain will have your head spinning as competitors work in teams to stack on top of one another to form towering human pyramids, sometimes reaching 9 stories high. Afterwards, get grounded in Barcelona, Spain, one of Europe’s most prized cities and a short train ride away. Here are the details on the funky festival.
3 | Get your pumpkin fix at the world’s largest pumpkin festival: Ludwigsberg Pumpkin Festival, in Ludwigsberg, Germany. With hundreds of thousands of pumpkins displayed throughout the Ludwigsberg Palace, pumpkin eats and even a pumpkin boat competition this shindig has Fall written all over it. Here are the details and the reviews. After you’ve gourd-ed (hardy har) stop by my fair city of Heidelberg, Germany!
1 | Sunshine, hummus & culture, its off to Izmir, Turkey. A short ride away, Ancient Ephesus awaits, with about half the normal amount of tourists, this magnificent historical site dates back to 6000 BC the amazing little village of Sirince, Turkey close by. Check out our visit here and here.
2 | In Reykjavik, Iceland the annual Iceland Airwaves music festival engulfs the city. A miniature version of SXSW in Austin, expect lots of great hipster bands along with unique venues, like concerts by the thermal Blue Lagoon. (And I thought 930 Club was cool.)
3 | Who doesn’t love truffles? Savory, buttery, white truffles. Yummy. The San Miniato Truffle Fair takes place annually in the idyllic Tuscan village of San Miniato, Italy. Vendors fill the town center with a variety of truffle offerings along with wines, cheeses, meats, chocolates, breads and other heavenly caloric delights. It’s the gastronomic capital of Europe and therefore would undoubtedly be a feast you’d never forget. Here are the details.
1 | No place knows Christmas better than Europe. Off to Vienna, Austria! The Vienna Christmas Market is known as being the BEST. Great food, spectacular architecture, it’s only one step short of the North Pole. Here was our visit.
2 | Check out the Amsterdam Light Festival in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Illuminated artwork is installed throughout the city making for dazzling evening strolls and boat rides through the canals. Here are all the details.
3 | We adore Brugges, Belgium. The ‘Venice of Northern Europe’ the canals are beautiful, the Christmas market is charming and oh.. there’s a TON of yummy Belgian beer to be drank. Check out our visit here and here.
Happy Travels, folks!