I’ve recently returned from a long trip through Europe and although I enjoyed every second of it, there were some places that stood out from the rest. I visited 7 countries and around 15 cities, and I have listed my absolute favorites here. This is my list of 5 European cities that I think stood out from the rest. These cities may not be the most touristy or most blogged about but they were amazing in their own right.
Although I did visit the beautiful and luxurious Santorini, Naxos seemed to give me so much more for my money. Naxos island is only a couple of hours from Santorini by ferry (for only 50 euros), and a much better value. Naxos is one of those places that you don’t hear about a lot, but had so much to offer. It was one of the cheapest places on my trip because it hasn’t become a tourist trap quite yet ($172 for 3 nights in Airbnb). Naxos is one of the largest Greek islands and offers a variety of beaches, but the main hub for visitors is Chora Naxos or Naxos town. Chora Naxos is where the large harbor is located lined with restaurants and docked boats. This town is home to the narrow stone pathways filled with gorgeous boutiques and restaurants. This is where I spent most of my time other than the beach. The beaches are gorgeous and plenty, offering affordable lounge chairs and tasty drinks. Although there are several beaches, we visited Agios Georgios (walking distance from town), Agia Anna (bus ride between 2 and 4 euros), and Plaka (bus ride). Between the beautiful stone walkways, excellent drink specials, and gorgeous sunset, Naxos had everything I needed for a relaxing leg of the trip, at an attractive price. I will say, though, that food other than the classic gyro was a bit expensive.
I was really debating whether to include Positano or not because although beautiful, it was outrageously expensive. I hate to say it, but it’s beauty kind of made up for the pain it caused my bank account. Positano is one of those places you go for the views and was definitely more of a tourist spot than Naxos. Positano is known for Marina Grande beach featuring the gorgeous mountain side sprinkled with buildings that you see in all the pictures (reference the one at the top of this post). This beach is lined with ridiculously priced beach chairs that I refused to indulge in as well as tons of bars and restaurants. This beach would get pretty crowded throughout the day so I would suggest going in the morning or taking a trip to Fornillo beach. Positano earned its place on my favorites because of its beauty and the air of luxury it exuded. I felt rich and famous just breathing in the salty air. It was also home to the most beautiful hike I’ve ever taken, Path of the Gods. You could see Positano from a view like no other while getting in a nice workout, because although some like to claim it’s an ‘easy hike’ I’d beg to differ. In addition to all this, Positano is conveniently located on the Amalfi coast to where we could get to several other coastal towns by bus and ferry. My ultimate favorite part of my stay in Positano was my short day visit to Capri, one of the most beautiful places on my trip that really left me in awe. Read more about my adventures in Positano and why Capri is a day trip you must take here.
London is one city I could not leave off my list. I really could see myself staying in London long term and that’s one of the things I loved most about it. It didn’t feel like a vacation spot, but it was still so amazing. We ended up staying in the oh-so comfy and cute Southfields area, which was a lot cheaper than staying closer to the hot spots like SoHo. It was the last stop on our trip and it was like a breath of fresh air, although super different from the U.S., it was by far the closest we had gotten (there was Starbucks everywhere, I was finally home). This is not to say we didn’t enjoy the cultural immersion our trip offered us, but it had been a long 7 weeks! London, felt like New York on steroids in the very best way. There was something different at every corner and so much to explore. We didn’t get to half the things we wanted to see, but one of favorite stops was the London Sky Garden. It offered 360 views of London, stylish decor, plants galore, and hot tea. What else could you ask for? We also visited all the typical London sights like the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower Bridge. We also loved the diversity London offered, we saw people of all types and we didn’t feel like the odd ones out (which we did in other places that were void of anybody of the super melaninated variety).
Spain was not my favorite country on my trip and it was partially because I think I expected more than I got. One place that did not disappoint was Valencia. Valencia was another city that you don’t hear a lot about so I didn’t have many expectations at all. I was wonderfully surprised by all it had to offer in rich culture and arts. Valencia, like Naxos, was one of the cheapest places on the trip because it wasn’t a huge tourist spot. To be completely transparent, there wasn’t a plethora of things to do there, but that’s what made it amazing. Our days in Valencia were calm and relaxing, we spent time riding rented bikes through the beautiful city park to the science and art museums that offer a modern side to an old town. We also spent a whole day at the beach laying out surrounded with other sunbathers who preferrend being topless (yes, that’s definitely a thing). The beach in Valencia is sprinkled with a few restaurant’s serving traditional seafood Paella, which is said to have originated in Valencia. Our time in the city was mostly spent exploring Valencia’s El Carmen district, marked by the amazing street art that adorned the buildings. El Carmen was also home to Blanq Carmen, the hotel that housed the rooftop bar we spent hours at. It was our favorite place to sit and relax that also had fantastic food.
Marseille was a town in France that was probably one of the best places on the trip overall because we felt truly immersed. This place was far from a tourist trap and everyone seemed to be having a great time, all the time. The locals were very nice and they seemed to have quite the community. One night we walked through what we would compare to a block party down the street from our airbnb. It felt homey. In addition to the feeling of community, our airbnb was unreal. It was at the very top of a quaint apartment building and its terrace was never ending with the best view ever. This view was only challenged by the view we got of Marseille from the garden atop the MuCem museum. Marseille is also home to a large port that is surrounded by restaurants and bars. One of the best nights we had there was spent at a Merrigue bar on near the port with live music and cheap drinks where we watched locals dance the night away. My absolute favorite part of Marseille was the Calanques National Park, where the gorgeous white limestone cliffs and blue water of the French coast meet. The calanque pictured above is the one that we hiked to to visit, we even took a dip in the water.
As you can see, I appreciate variety and although this list may seem incohesive, a common thread can be found in that my favorite places were the ones I felt most comfortable. Whether that be seeing people that looked like me in London or feeling like I was among friends in Marseille. This list of favorites are directly from my heart. Have you been to Europe? Comment your favorite cities below!