Europe is one of the most amazing places I’ve visited in my lifetime. Having ventured over three separate times, I have had the pleasure of exploring Spain, Malta, Italy, Greece, France and Switzerland. I have only scratched the surface of all the counties and beautiful cities that Europe contains, but I’m definitely not done yet!
That being said, there are a few places that have left a big impression on me. Read ahead to find out which four cities caught my love and attention.
The first city I want to highlight is Florence. Nestled in Tuscany this is a must-see if you find yourself in Italy. I became obsessed with wanting to go to Florence in my first year of university when I took my first Art History class. There I learned about Brunelleschi’s revolutionary Duomo di Frienze. I was mesmerized by how beautiful it was, and when Justin (my boyfriend) and I were planning our Europe trip, this city was a must on my list – I had been to Italy two previous times and had not visited yet.
Florence did not disappoint. Being one of the oldest cities in Italy, I was fascinated by the history and art that surrounded me every step of the way. There was so much to see!
Pictured above is Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s oldest bridge that runs over the Arno River, and this structure dates back to the 1300s. This stunning piece of architecture is truly a bucket list item. Shops can be found along the inside of the bridge, and we witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets just standing on it (also pictured above).
The city is also filled with an immense amount of different museums with iconic gems. At the time we were in the city, Justin and I were lucky to be able to see an exhibition that showcased four of Leonardo Da Vinci’s unfinished paintings. I saw some pretty iconic art in these museums, including The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli.
We went inside of the cathedral that houses the Duomo on top of it, and saw the dome from the inside – which was pretty spectacular. The dome is actually painted with Giorgio Vasari’s Last Judgement.
Another highlight (although a bit of a hike, but worth it), was the Piazzale Michelangelo. This iconic piazza was constructed in 1869 – seriously, isn’t that wild – and it gives you a sweeping panoramic view of the whole city! It makes for the best photos and an unforgettable view. You can see stunning architectural pieces sprouting from the centre of the city, as well as the Duomo.
The overall vibe that I got from being in this city is what makes it one of my favourites. There is so much to do, to see, and to learn while you are here. The culture and history infused into this city is truly magical, and the food is freaking delicious.
The second city on my list is Venice. Yes, this is another city in Italy, but I’m half Italian so I think that justifies it.
I first visited Venice when I was in high school on a school trip. Although I only had one full day in the city, I fell in love with it and vowed that one day I would have to come back – and I did!
There is something magical about a city that is entirely on water. It is seriously a surreal experience, to get lost in small alleyways, to ride a gondola to your next destination, and to eat amazing Italian food with the view of colourful buildings and blue tinged water. Our gondola ride even passed a building that once was home to Shakespeare. Our bed and breakfast was super cute, and they served us breakfast in a small garden every morning, which I loved. There were so many places to explore here, and we walked literally everywhere!
Piazza san Marco is a main spot in the city, with Saint Mark’s Basilica looming over it (pictured above) – a must-see! The square is massive, with many different sites to see. The whole city is connected by bridges, corridors and small shops where you can see the influence of Carnevale through the intricate and stunning Venetian masks sold at every corner.
For those of you who don’t know, Carnevale is an popular Italian festival, once of the biggest in all of Italy, held in Venice every year. The festival is world-famous for extravagant costumes and iconic masks.
Finally, the iconic Rialto Bridge, described as “the heart of Venice.” This structure has been around since the 1500s and spans across the Grand Canal, offering amazing views of the city and boats chugging and gliding gracefully through the water. The architect (Antonio de Ponte) competed against legends such as Michelangelo for the contract to build this bridge.
Ah, Venice. I will probably be back again.
The next city on my list is Nice, France. To be honest, I wish we had had more time to visit more of France during our trip! I feel like there are so many great, underrated cities to see. For those who might be surprised that Nice, rather than Paris makes my list, I have to say: Paris is overrated in my opinion. I really did enjoy exploring Nice more.
I loved getting up close and personal with the French Riviera and being so close to the beach!
The best part about being in a city like Nice, is being so close to others along the coast. We hopped on a train and were easily able to visit Monte Carlo and Cannes while we stayed here, which was amazing as well. Yes, I fan-girled over Cannes pretty hardcore (movie stars, anyone?).
Exploring the streets of Nice was amazing because there were so many beautiful buildings and history to be seen. It truly is a glamorous city.
I saved the best for last…Santorini, Greece. Although it is a whole island, and not a singular city, it truly is my favourite place I’ve visited in all of Europe thus far – so I feel the need to talk about it as a whole.
Santorini feels like a different world. With it’s cream white buildings, far-reaching views of the ocean and pink bougainvillea flowers that can be seen at every corner, I would come back here in a heartbeat.
The best part about this island is that tourists are able to get around everywhere in quads! We rented one, and explored the entire island, up and down, in four days. We saw:
- Amoudi Bay – A famous port with stunning multi-coloured rocks (pictured at the very bottom).
- The Red Beach – A famous, stunning beach where the sand is literally red.
- Oia – A village found at the top of the island with stunning views of the Caldera, unmatchable sunsets and Instagrammable buildings.
- Perssia Beach – A beautiful beach found near Fira with unique characteristics, such as black sand.
- … and so much more!
Since Santorini is so close to Italy, they have a number of stunning, authentic Italian restaurants right along the Caldera. We got to experience amazing food and a stunning view all in one – not something I’ll forget anytime soon! Expensive, but totally worth it.
We also went on a Sunset Island Boat Tour, and we actually docked on a still- active volcano, Nea Kameni, and got to hike up it. It was HOT, but extremely cool. We also got to see a stunning sunset out on the ocean, and jumped into green-tinged hot springs off the coast of the island.
I can’t wait to come back to Greece and explore more of the islands. I’ve learned that while European cities are great, and I have seen quite a few, I much rather enjoy a place like Santorini where I can hike, explore and see unique things.
What are your favourite European cities?