Heya travel dreamers!
If you’ve been following awhile, you already know that about a month ago I started a series of posts about where to travel in Europe.
I did this because I get that question a lot. And because when I do get that question, I always answer with a caveat: It depends what you like.
Because the truth is that we don’t all like the same places. You might find my tiny Swiss mountain town boring. I might find your favorite big city overwhelming.
As I said in my original post:
“The only way my advice has real power to get to the heart of the places you want to travel to is for me to ask about you. What do you love? What do you hate? What do you find boring? When you travel, do you travel for food? For views? For ocean? For mountains? Do you love giant busy cities you can get lost in? Or quiet mountain towns where you can hear the birds?
There are no wrong answers. But there are most definitely preferences.”
Which is why I’ve been sharing lists of places to visit in Europe. But not just general lists…curated lists. Lists for people who like specific things and want to travel for specific reasons.
Lists for foodies looking for a tasty vacation or people looking for the best ocean views. And today, a list for those who love big, bustling, busy, breakneck cities.
I’m not a city-lover, myself, so I crowd-sourced some of these options on Facebook from my well-traveled community. Here are some of their favorite European cities, curated by yours truly.
Beloved for its hidden gardens, history, cafe culture, and a gastronomic reputation that rivals that of Paris, Lyon is a city of 2.2 million just a short train ride away from the French Alps.
Bursting with classic cafes, cool museums, sprawling parks, and a great non-European food scene, Torino made the top of several of my well-traveled friends’ lists. According to Anna Lebedeva, it’s where you’ll find the best chocolate in Italy. Population: 2.3 million.
Come for the white port cocktails, fado music, historic buildings, exceptional food, and cool vibes. Lisbon is also known as one of the most affordable spots for a vacation in Western Europe. Population: 2.8 million.
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Photo credit: Jacob Surland.
One of the smaller Europe city options, Luxembourg City has just 110,000 inhabitants, about 70% of whom were born outside the country. Readers recommend the lovely Grund area, and from what I’ve read, the castles are the city’s biggest must-sees.
Young vibes, fab architecture, good food, and a bunch of interesting museums await in France’s fourth largest metro area (1.3 million). Readers also raved about the nearby countryside dotted with cute traditional villages and lush lanes.
For art and architecture, you can’t do much better than Florence (though going in off-season is always smart, as it gets busy in the summer). Readers love it for its food, style, art, and easy access by train to surrounding smaller Italian towns. For all things Florence, check out my friend Georgette’s excellent blog. Population: 383,000ish.
With 3.7 million inhabitants and sprawled over 344 square miles, Berlin is one of the bigger, busier, and more popular cities in Europe. New Yorkers in particular seem to adore the city, so if you’re into NYC, Berlin might be right up your alley. Come for street art, youthful energy, and quirky things to do. According to my friend Ali (who lives there), there’s a neighborhood for every vibe. In just a few minutes, you could go from grungy to pretty, posh to casual.
The smallest city on this list, Rennes hosts just 220,000 full-time residents, many of them students. I also happens to be my and Chad’s next home base! We chose it for its easy access to all of Brittany (it’s right in the center, so visiting both coasts should be a breeze) and because we like places with lots of students. They’ve always got a vibrant, hopeful vibe.
If elaborate architecture, tenderly prepared schnitzel, and unfiltered beer served in lush garden settings sound like a dream, Vienna might just be your place. I love it for its food (schnitzel! goulash!) and bike-friendly culture. Don’t miss out on cycling along the Danube. Population: 1.8 million.