Now that my time in Europe has come to a close, 3.5 weeks after I had planned and many more countries then I thought possible, I want to share my favorite places from the 14 different countries I visited. Obviously, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but for my three months on this continent, I can safely say I've seen roughly half of it now (visited a few other countries on previous trips). There are certainly places I didn't get to see and I will absolutely be coming back to in the future to try and knock the other 50% of this continent off my list. I also didn't see everything there is to see in each country I visited, so spare me some of the harsh criticism about what I didn't see and enjoy the places I did see and where I'd recommend.
Before I dive too deep into all of these places, keep in mind a couple of details:
1) I love the outdoors and will typically rank a destination that is more outdoors-heavy over, say, a large city. Not to say there are no cities on this list, but there are likely fewer cities than you may expect considering the sheer number of spots I visited.
2) I visited a few cities twice, and also skipped over a couple of the big ones in different spots. Forgive me. There's a lot to see in Europe, but after roughly 2 months spent in Northern Europe, I can safely say that most of it is also roughly the same. There were a couple that stood out among the rest, but mostly once you see one, you've seen them all.
4) Just because I didn't list a country or city doesn't mean I didn't like it. My comprehensive thoughts on most places are buried in my destination posts, so search for a country or read through those for more info on the places I am and am not listing.
3) I didn't hit much along the Mediterranean or the Balcans, and I'm already planning another multi-month trip in the future to cover those countries. Now if I could just start saving money again...
So without further adieu, let's get this thing rolling.
Old, picturesque, and undisturbed from WWII, this city in the middle of the Czech Republic proved to be everything I imagine every European city would look like had the War never happened. Relatively isolated in the hills of the country and located right along the Vltava River, Prague is dominated by it's famous castle atop the hill on the western side of the river. The castle dates back hundreds of years and looks down on a city which is still extremely old and has numerous building in their original state dating back to the mid-1600s. The Astronomical Clock is the oldest of its kind, the Old Town is still as pristine as I imagine it was 400 years ago, and the bar scene for modern times isn't half bad. One of the best things about Prague, though, is that while there is something to do constantly should you choose to visit the countless museums and cathedrals in town, you can also find bliss in just settling in at a cafe, relaxing, and enjoying countless hours of people watching due to the thousands of tourists littered throughout the city. Beautiful, historical, and relatively cheap compared to the rest of Europe, Prague is a must-see destination. Oh, and I should also mention its proximity to one of the neatest castle towns I've ever seen, Cesky Krumlov.
As I mentioned in my destination post on Slovenia, this country is one of the finest I've seen in person. I had heard a number of great things about it from friends, but never believed that all of the pictures of it from Google were actually real. I can now saw without a doubt that this place has something for everyone. Whether you like old cities, rivers, adventure, mountains, castles, museums, or anything in between, you'll find what you're looking for in Slovenia. Spending a week here didn't seem like nearly enough, and though I caught it at just the right time of year (autumn), I'm quite positive that summer and winter offer just as much beauty and activity. From the classic capital city of Ljubljana with it's hilltop castle to the Church on the Island in the middle of Lake Bled to the Julian Alps and Soca River that flow down from it, there was never a moment here where I thought, "Man, I wish this country was more beautiful."
#3 The Netherlands
To this day the Netherlands is where if I were to choose any European country to live in for the rest of my life, I'd pick here. Everything about this country is amazing! The people, culture, language, and food are all some of my favorite across my destinations I've visited. Amsterdam is in a league of its own when it comes to entertainment, beauty, and activities, and even just a simple bike ride roaming around the outskirts of town can bring hours of enjoyment to everyone. I may be a bit bias because I have some Dutch heritage as well, but having spent nearly two full weeks in the country over the past year, I can safely say there's not a city I don't like yet. Outside of Amsterdam, Utrecht is another amazing town to settle down in, with the old-style architecture like Amsterdam and a smaller number of tourists, it's one of the most idealic Dutch cities I've seen. 's Hertogenbosch, Rotterdam, and The Hague are also phenomenal spots as well, and the people in every one are as nice as you'll find in Europe. Oh, and did I mention that some of the Dutch's favorite foods involve deep fried meat balls dipped in gravy?
#2 Tatra Mountains:
Quite possibly the most random destination during my time in Europe, I ended up here completely by circumstance. After completing two weeks in the Baltics, I had planned before even leaving for my time abroad to meet up with friends from home in Krakow, Poland. After a simple scan of Google Maps (and a strong desire to get away from some cities and people for a few days), I came across Zacopane, Poland, a small resort town along the southern border with Slovakia, nestled remotely up in the mountains. Perfect! After 15 hours of bus travel from Lithuania I finally made it to my mountain hostel on the outskirts of town and started my three days of pure bliss. Not only did my hostel step up in every way possible (sauna, bonfire, indoor fireplace, $5/day), but the hiking in the area was phenomenal, and I saw some incredible spots along my couple of days. It's definitely a place I'd like to go back to in the winter to see what the skiing is like, but if you're into mountain lakes and wood cabin hostels, look no further than the Tatra Mountains!
Without a doubt the most amazing, spectacular, jaw-dropping place I've ever seen in the world (maybe except for Alaska, but it's close). I regretfully only spent five days in this wonderland, but every second of it was amazing. It's absurdly expensive which was the only downside to this otherwise perfect destination. In a 10km stretch of land you can go from watching wild horse and sheep roam freely across the moss-covered rocky terrain to seeing 300ft high waterfalls plummeting down to the rivers below to seeing a lagoon that has been carved out over the last 70,000 years by a glacier that's still there (and quickly melting...thanks a lot global warming). I cannot describe enough, though how fantastic this out-of-this-world country was and is. I'm hoping to go back in the future to spend more than just five days. Maybe hitchhike my way around the entire Ring Road and camp throughout the country. Either way, I know it's one of the locations I'm anxious to get back to sooner rather than later.