TGIF!! I hope you’ve had an exceptional week and are ready for some weekend fun! I know that the Mr. and I have some *light* shopping and dinner planned, so be sure to follow me on Instagram (@cathedralsandcafes) for a story or two. :-)
Today I’m sharing my 10 favorite European locales. I have the travel bug BIG-time lately. We’ve been to 19 countries and counting, but I never tire of exploring someplace new. We do have a couple of weekend getaways coming up (plus an epic trip to Greece this summer!) so I can’t complain. But every Friday has me ready to jet off somewhere. The weather has been sunny and breezy which also doesn’t help. So for now, let’s all drool over these spots! These are in no particular order – besides, how can you really choose an overall winner?
- ) Paris, France
I know, I know…this is the most cliché place in the world to have on a top 10 list, but I always say that things become cliché for a reason – they’re awesome! I’ve been fortunate to visit Paris twice now and she continues to reveal herself in surprising ways. My favorite restaurant is L’Ange 20 located in the Marais. You definitely need a reservation here but you’ll love the cozy atmosphere where you can see everything going on in the kitchen. Chef Thierry composes incredible dishes and the service is outstanding.
2. ) Madrid, Spain
Madrid is a city that feels completely alive. For the foodies, you absolutely must go to the Mercado de San Miguel. We have been to many markets throughout Europe and we always end up using San Miguel as the benchmark. This indoor market is massive. We actually went more than once and had a great dinner just trying different things from the various market stalls. The seafood on display was fresh and abundant in variety, but what I could get enough of were the stuffed olives and jamón ibérico. I must have eaten my weight in it. Just buy a bottle (or two) of wine and start tasting. It will be one of the most fun experiences you’ll have.
3. ) Manarola, Cinque Terre
Everyone says Vernazza is the jewel of the Cinque Terre, but for sophisticated travelers, we prefer the sleepiness of Manarola. During the day you’ll see tour groups traipsing through the streets, but don’t be dissuaded by this influx of snap-happy day trippers. As the afternoon wanes, a quiet falls upon the village and you’ll have one of the best sunsets you’ll ever experience. I mentioned our incredible sunset experience while taking a boat cruise in this post. Locals gather at the cantina nightly but we preferred to have a bottle of wine on our private terrace. Definitely make a reservation at Trattoria dal Billy. Incredible views and delicious food make this a great spot to watch the sun go down. My favorite dish was the zucchini flower pasta.
4. ) Bruges, Belgium
First, rent the movie In Bruges. You’ll get a glimpse into the cobblestone streets and canals that await you in Belgium’s most well-preserved medieval city. Unfortunately, Bruges’ most famous resident, Fidel the yellow Labrador in the window of Côté Canal B&B, has passed away. We were fortunate enough to stay at Côté Canal and meet Fidel, even playing with him in the mornings. I cannot recommend staying here enough. The owner, Caroline, is the most welcoming and sweet person. Take your breakfast in the lush garden and watch the swans pass by in the canal. Bruges is gorgeous so spend lots of time strolling the streets, especially in the evenings. Very romantic!
5. ) Delft, The Netherlands
This is the home of “Delftware,” the blue and white pottery made in this region. The main square, Markt, is surrounded by cafes and shops that makes for a great place for people watching. You can see the Delft Town Hall and the New Church. We also recommend Cafe de Oude Jan for lunch and a great beer selection. The Old Town is surrounded by canals and you’ll find flower boxes overflowing with gorgeous blooms. If you like strolling through less-touristy small towns then Delft is a great option.
6. ) Sintra, Portugal
Sintra is an easy day trip from Lisbon and a great place to take some beautiful pictures. It’s fun to explore the winding up-and-down streets. Nestled amongst the Serra de Sintra hills, the weather is cool and quite comfortable. Take a sweater or light jacket even in summer. Rising above the town is the Park and Palace of Pena, a multicolored architectural wonder. You can get there by bus, car, or one of three footpaths ranging from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. Outside are beautiful grounds and pathways while inside houses an amazing furniture and art collection. The stained glass is also worth noting.
7. ) Bratislava, Slovakia
If you’re in Vienna looking for a day trip, you can get to Bratislava in about an hour by train. Once you arrive walk to the historic center or Old Town. Throughout your walk you’ll discover many street statues, some in surprising places like Cumil who peers up at you from a sewer. You can’t miss Bratislava Castle with its four prominent towers, white exterior and rusty red roof. Located on a hill along the Danube River, the site dates back to the 9th century. This is a popular spot for brides to take bridal portraits. Devastated by fire in 1811, it has since been restored.
8. ) Colmar, France
Located in the Alsace region of northeastern France, Colmar has all the ingredients for falling in love with Europe – cobblestoned streets, timbered architecture, and great wine! Explore the Alsace Wine Route and discover vineyards producing the best riesling and gewürztraminer. Even non-white wine drinkers will be pleasantly surprised. The Place de la Cathédrale is well preserved and we spent every night at a local wine garden, an outdoor area strung with soft amber lights and lined with simple picnic table seating. This was a fun spot for locals and tourists to relax and enjoy a bottle together.
9. ) Berlin, Germany
For history buffs, Berlin is like a living museum. From the iconic Brandenburg Gate to the Reichstag and Checkpoint Charlie, there are many points around the city that a first-time visitor shouldn’t miss. You can still see parts of the Berlin Wall, as three long sections still remain and are covered with artist murals. Aside from the history, you’ll find great food and beer, especially at Prater Garten, the oldest beer garden in Berlin. We recommend staying at The Circus Hotel, located in former East Berlin, where you’ll find a comfortable stay and extremely helpful staff.
10. ) Zurich, Switzerland
Two words – Christmas Markets! Zurich has some of the most amazing Christmas markets we’ve ever seen. Many of the Christmas markets throughout Europe are similar. You’ll find some of the same style ornaments, spiced wine or “gluhwein,” and a selection of food on a stick. It’s like a Christmas-themed carnival. However, the Christmas markets in Zurich were above and beyond. You’ll feel super chic noshing on french fries while sitting on the fur-lined deck of a miniature ski chalet and sipping gluhwein by a roaring fire that feels a little Game of Thrones-ish. The craft vendors were most unique here and I’ve never seen so many beautifully yet minimally decorated fur trees. You’ll feel like a true Swiss when you sample fondue with a shot of kirsch, a brandy made from fermented cherries.
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Friday Favorites: The Best 10 Places to Visit in Europe Now appeared first on Cathedrals & Cafés.