9 European Destinations I’m Itching to Visit

Apr 23, 2018    /    get off the beaten track, most popular posts, stories & photos

Photo credit: Meteora, Greece.


If you know me, you know that Europe is my place.

It was (ironically) the last habitable continent I checked off my to-visit list (having hit, in order: North America, Australia, Africa, Asia, South America) and it’s the one I fell most deeply, head-over-heels, need-to-live-here in love with.

Since that first trip, I’ve spent years upon years exploring. I’ve wintered in Paris, reading Hemingway in Montmartre cafes. I’ve taken ferries to Croatian islands for long coastal walks. I’ve lived in the Swiss Alps and hiked in the Slovenian ones.

And, yet, there is still so very much I haven’t seen and desperately want to explore.

Lately, though we’re still in New York, we’ve started talking about our return. Where do we want to go when we finally get back to Europe? What do we want to see? What places are at the top of our lists?

And as I’ve been thinking about it in practical terms, I’ve also been daydreaming. And going through my to-visit lists. And thinking about the places that I’m itching to go.

Today, I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

1. Brasov, Romania

Brasov, Romania
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mountains near Brasov
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Brasov
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If you know me, your know my heart belongs to the mountains. And so it probably won’t surprise anyone that I’ve long wanted to visit Romania’s mountains. Or that Brasov—charming, mid-sized, and nestled right up against the hill is one of my top picks.

I’m also intrigued by the charming photos of old town, the mysterious history of Transylvania in general, and the extremely affordable cost of living.

2. Reine, Norway

Reine
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Reine
Photo credit.

Reine
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When picking places to visit, I often turn to the photos. Are there mountainous panoramas? Charming architecture? Adorable cobblestone alleys? Mirror-like lakes? Snow-capped peaks?

Reine has four of those five things and every photo I’ve seen has been breathtaking. Which is why it’s been on my list for years. Eventually, you adorable little fishing village, I am coming for you. Camera in hand.

3. Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius
Photo credit: Nico Trinkhaus – Vilnius Castle | Vilnius, Lithuania – CC-BY-NC.

Vilnius
Photo credit.

Normally, big cities don’t top my list. But when Chad mentioned he might get a contract there, I started doing a little research on Lithuania’s cool capital. Turns out it’s one of the cheapest cities in Europe, has one of those charming Medieval old towns I’m such a sucker for, and supposedly has excellent food.

So, I’m sold.

4. Poznan, Poland

Poznan
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I keep hearing rave reviews about Poland. About cost of living. Pretty cities. Good food. And one of the cities at the top of my “to check out” list is Poznan. It’s got a large student population (which is usually a good indicator that there are lots of things to do and lots of people out and about), a cool hidden hipster scene, and at least one massive beautiful park.

There’s not much written about the city, but I kind of like going to places that don’t get a lot of press. The first time I went to Lauterbrunnen (one of my favorite places in the whole world), I based my decision on a two-sentence description in a Lonely Planet guidebook.

5. Meteora, Greece

Meteora
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Meteora
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Meteora
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Greece’s sky-high monasteries are another spot that’s on my list for photogenic reasons. Every time I see photos, I think “I need to hike there.”

I’m not the only one inspired by the landscape. Turns out George R. R. Martin based the Eyrie on this little slice of Greece.

Even if you aren’t a Game of Thrones fan, the landscapes speak for themselves. Beautiful. Hikable. A bit mystical.

6. Prague, Czech Republic

Prague
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Picturesque, affordable, decidedly European—Prague has been on my list for ages, and I’m finally moving it toward the top. Because ever since I interviewed all those locals about the city, I’ve been dying to try their recommendations out for myself.

Plus, we want to get residency in Europe again soon and Chad would like to be in a big city. Most big cities aren’t my thing, but I have a feeling that I might really like Prague. Perhaps even as much as I like Paris. Or Ljubljana. Perhaps even more.

7. Dinan, France

Dinan, France
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Dinan
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This quaint Medieval town (complete with the requisite cobbled streets and windowsills bursting with flowers) is on my list because it looks utterly stunning. It’s one of those places (like Bruges in Belgium or Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina) that people always describe as walking into a fairy tale. Or a Disney movie. Except it’s real life.

I’m also very interested in Dinan (and Brittany in general) because my current novel project is set in that part of France.

8. Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

Ohrid
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Macedonia
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Ohrid
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This UNESCO-listed lake is one of the oldest and deepest in the world, apparently. Also, the photos are stunning. And it’s outside the Schengen Zone, which is a bonus for those of us who have to hop out for 90-day stints.

9. Aix-en-Provence, France

Fountain in Aix-en-Provence
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fountain in Aix
Photo credit: Salva Barbera.

Aix
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I only learned to say Aix properly (it’s “ex” not “aches”) a couple years ago, but it’s been on my radar in writing for years. Because cobblestones. And shady squares. And stone buildings. And villas. And more French food.

It looks so fresh and walkable and bright and since France is high up on Chad’s Maybe Someday We Should Live Here list, I’d like to see so many other parts of the country.


Now, to you, dear readers: What places are high up on your wish lists?

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6 Comments
  • Ali
    April 23, 2018

    These look gorgeous! I really do think you’d like Poznan. We’ve been twice now (it’s less than 3 hours by train from Berlin) and it really is a pretty, charming little city. Andy really liked Meteora, but I haven’t made it there. It really does look gorgeous. Romania is pretty high on our list, and I think there’s a 50/50 chance I’ll go to Macedonia this October. That lake really does look pretty!
    Ali recently posted…Getting Locked in My Hotel Room in SarajevoMy Profile

    • gigigriffis
      April 23, 2018

      Nice! Nothing is definite yet, but we may be in Brasov later this year, so perhaps a good time for you to visit Romania ;).

  • Amanda
    April 23, 2018

    Hello! Nice post, lots of cool destinations off the beaten path.

    I just wanted to share my experience with Aix en Provence. Short story: if I could go back in time and skip it, I would. And my most experienced traveler friend agrees. Definitely there are better places to go nearby.

    Long story: I spent about 25 days traveling through France last May. Here’s my schedule:
    1 week: Paris
    On the way out of Paris: get a car, go to Versailles and Giverny. Then ride for approx 3 hours and sleep close to the Mont Saint Michel.
    1 day Mont Saint Michel
    Ride all the way back south (we stopped at Le Mans) to get to the Loire Valley.
    2 nights staying in a budget château (HIGHLY recommended) – in our case, Château de Razay. And going to various castles nearby. Then a longer ride and…
    2 nights Annecy. I love love love love Annecy.
    3 nights Chamonix (there’s not all that much to do there, but it’s good to have at least 3 days to try and climb the aiguille du midi with good weather)

    It was all perfect so far. Then, going south, the problem began.

    The problem called “I’m bored and want to go north again, this place is boring, what to people do here exactly?”

    Avignon is the sort of place you can dedicate 2 hours to know well. Aix is supposed to have lots of fountains, but if you’ve been to basically any other major European destination, you’ve seen better. Sometimes the supposed fountain is a rock with water running from it. Seriously, skip it.

    Cannes and antibes are not pretty and lack attractions. Nice is merely ok.

    There are 3 places I highly recommend in the south of France: les baux de Provence (the carrière de lumières and the castle ruins), fontaine de Vaucluse (which should get so much more love than it does), and eze village.

    I suppose people only enjoy these places I mentioned when they like to spend hours eating in fancy restaurants. But I don’t, therefore I was bored as hell.

    BTW I read your post about not everyone loving the same destinations, and it’s alright that we don’t. My place is definitely not the South of France. Some people like Napoli/Italy. I don’t. etc.

  • Lynne Nieman
    April 23, 2018

    I love these ideas! Thanks for sharing your wish list, Gigi!!

  • Carla
    April 29, 2018

    I’m drooling over those pictures! I’ve been stuck in a mild depression for a few months, and I realized that it is because, for various reasons, we have no travel at all planned for this year. I thought that looking at pictures, etc., would make it worse, but I’ve finally woken up to the fact that if I can’t be traveling, I’m happy researching, reading, and planning various trips. So thank you–you’ve given me nine new places that will be hours of fun to dig into!

    • gigigriffis
      April 29, 2018

      I’m so glad! Travel planning gives me hope too!

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