There are reasons these remain European favorites
The places on this list are all wonderful, but their popularity means they can occasionally suffer from the sheer volume of people. With responsible travel slowly becoming more possible, they’re sure to remain popular, but at this time you can hope to carefully avoid the crowds.
Rules regarding travel to these countries are being constantly updated. Please check what restrictions are currently in place before booking your trip.
Paris has become something of a cliche over the years. Known as both the city of love, one of the most romantic places in the world, and as a pushy, aggressive place that often sees visitors as little more than an inconvenience that must be dealt with as aloofly as possible, it’s perfectly possible it’s both.
Places like the Louvre art gallery are rightly world-famous, housing some of the greatest works of art ever created, pieces that for centuries have spoken of love, agony, desire and loss, yet suffer from millions of people simply wanting to tick the box that says “seen that”. This year being unlike any other in living memory has, however, given the careful traveler the saving grace of being able to visit places such as this without the crush of other people.
The same goes for things like bars and restaurants. Rightly known as a great city for food, bars and restaurants are less busy than normal, so the opportunities for a great meal or a delicious cocktail are to be taken. Or why not eat and drink outdoors to take advantage of the sunshine and picnic in one of the parks?
As well as the major sights, there are some wonderful things to do in Paris that might not seem as obvious but can be even more rewarding. For art lovers, the Rodin Museum is excellent, good value, and relaxing. Take a turn around Montmartre and see the magnificent cathedral. Pay your respects to Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Frédéric Chopin, Edith Piaf, Georges Seurat and many more by taking a reflective stroll around a couple of the cemeteries. Whatever you choose to do, enjoy Paris for what you make it.
Krakow, wonderful though it is, has started to feel the impact of being a tourist favorite, with huge tour groups, stag parties, backpackers, and general hangers-on all crowding the beautiful historical center to bursting point. So now might be the time to see it when the crowds aren’t quite so overwhelming.
The city was the royal capital up until the 16th century when the seat of power was moved to Warsaw. This means that there’s still vast swathes of palatial and fortified city to explore; indeed, the Old Town was declared the first-ever Unesco World Heritage Site. Even after losing the political battle to Warsaw, it remained at the forefront of the cultural one, and over 1,000 years of art and architecture has passed through the city, leaving behind Gothic, Romanesque, baroque, Renaissance and art nouveau buildings, as well as Soviet-style apartment blocks and the old Jewish ghetto of Kazimierz.
Today, Kazimierz is the youthful heart of the city, a mish-mash of indie clothing stores, galleries, microbreweries, hip restaurants and unmarked dive bars. It’s also — naturally — the center of Jewish life in the city, with a great number of monuments and museums to those persecuted through history, as well as active synagogues and cemeteries, Jewish restaurants and an annual festival.
All in all, Krakow is an incredible combination of history and modernity, grave stories and chaotic youth, mixed together over centuries to create one of Europe’s great cities, and one that deserves your time, your respect, and your love.
Perhaps not as romantic as Rome, not as hectic as Naples, not as steeped in Renaissance grandeur as Florence, but Milan holds itself with an understated confidence that doesn’t beg for attention; rather, it expects it.
The famous cathedral is probably what most people would visualize first, and with good reason. It is a massive, imposing thing which, again, isn’t flourishes and romantic dreaminess; more something that radiates wealth and power. Milan has always been the Italian city which seems to value those two things more than most. Confidence and well-cut clothing are currency.
Scratch the surface though and it becomes warmer and less detached. There’s a great music scene, for example, and although the people may feel more Central European than Italian in their nature, they still know how to let their hair down! Many of the backstreet trattoria are still your typical small, family-run places, but with the added twist of not only serving Italian classics, but food fit for a rich, multi-cultural city. Milan has more Michelin stars than anywhere else in Italy. Don’t worry if that’s not your thing though: there are still plenty of cheap and cheerful bars and cafes for a quick snack, a coffee on the go, or a rich, flavorful slice of pizza to sustain you.
The bonus of a trip to Milan is that if you fly into Milan-Bergamo airport, you get… well, you get Bergamo, a beautiful old city that lies on the slopes and ridges of a hill around 40km north-east of Milan. Surrounded by Venetian walls that contain cobbled streets and market squares, tiny shops selling home-made sweets, handicrafts and artisan food and drink, the Città Alta is well worth a day or two of your time. It’s a nice contrast to Milan, and an easy way of getting two Italian holidays in one trip.
At some point in the late 90s, it seems the world became aware of Bruges and suddenly it was suffering from an almost Venetian influx of tourists to its pretty streets and winding waterways. I’ve no idea what the locals thought of this as camera-wielding tour groups vied for space along streets that are home to, y’know, people. It’s a living city, not a museum!
Regardless, Bruges has managed to maintain its charm. The core of the old town is a 13th-century cluster of zig-zagging streets, markets, stone houses and winding canals, crossed by bridges that have seen centuries of traffic. It’s not the liveliest place in the world, but that’s not really why people come. The pace of life is slower here, so get your bearings by taking a trip on a canal boat and exploring the waterways (or do one during the day and another at night to see the city in literally a different light).
Another reason to come to Belgium, in general, is their world-famous beers, and Bruges is a perfect place to try some. Right in the center of the city, for example, hidden down an alley between Markt and Burg squares, is De Garre, a small, brick-lined pub that serves over 100 different types of Belgian beer. It’s just one of scores of places that are willing to trade euros for glasses of hoppy stuff, dark stuff, hazy stuff, fruity stuff, or whatever takes your fancy that day.
It’s also just a short, 25-minute train ride from Bruges to Ghent so, as with Milan, you can choose to base yourself in one city and spend easy days in the other, getting yourself more for your time, and more for your money. Simply search Kiwi.com for easy rail connections and cheap prices.
Berlin always seems like the sort of city that people go to for 48 hours or so of utter chaos, such is its reputation as a city of clubs, bars, and unending parties. This is true. For this reason, it can seem a little bit overlooked as a destination in and of itself. It feels like you have to do everything in a massive, neon-lit rush, unlike, say, Vienna, Munich or Cologne.
Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s okay. You don’t have to let Berlin get blurry, it’s not a prerequisite. Not everything has to move at a million miles an hour.
There are a whole bunch of self-guided walking tours available online, so pick an area of the city you want to explore and head out. Many of the areas of Berlin are almost like towns unto themselves, so each has their own flavor and feel. Exploring them one by one will give you a good feel of a city that some people find hard to personify except for “party town”.
From punky, artsy, former squats in Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, to cultured Charlottenburg; from multicultural Wedding to the museums, galleries and monuments of Mitte; stumble across unexpected pockets of quiet like Rixdorf in Neukölln, or the former airport of Tempelhofer Feld that’s now a beloved public park, and get to really know Berlin properly.
Okay, so it’s not one of the coastal resorts Croatia is so famous for, but you can combine both city and countryside by coming to Zagreb.
Croatia’s capital isn’t a huge place as cities go (it’s home to around one million people), but this means it feels friendly, in many ways more like a college town than a national capital. This is borne out as you walk the narrow streets of the old town, located in the north of the city. The change is a marked one: leaving the station, you walk north along a 19th-century grid of grand houses, squares and museums, before hitting Trg bana Josipa Jelačića, a large square crossed by tramlines and home to an equestrian statue of Count Jelačić himself.
Keep heading north and the mood of the city changes from relatively modern and bustling to one of peace and quiet, with higgledy-piggledy streets and alleys, red-roofed buildings, and hidden squares. Here you’ll find Zagreb Cathedral, as well as the 11th-century Kamenita vrata (Stone Gate), the colorful St. Mark’s Church, the wonderful Museum of Broken Relationships (absolutely worth your time), as well as the Lotrščak Tower, a lookout point from where a cannon is fired at midday.
When evening comes, the old city starts to wake up from the sun-baked snooziness of the day. The bars and restaurants start to fill up, and you can take your pick from scores of places offering traditional Balkan food to seafood (you’re never really that far from the coast in Croatia!), outdoor grills, gourmet burgers, pizzas the size of a satellite dish, you name it. Afterwards, wash it all down with some local wine or a couple of craft beers and go for a midnight walk, before lazily doing it all again tomorrow.
You’ve reached the end of this article but it definitely isn’t all we’ve got for you. Browse Kiwi.com Stories for more inspiration, travel tips, news, and more.