While Europe is quite a small continent, it packs a lot of interesting places to visit. If you plan a trip to the old continent in 2018 and have no idea where to go, you are lucky. The team at LooknWalk has asked fellow travel writers to talk about the European destinations they recommend visiting in 2018.
Until 5 years ago I never thought about Germany as being a touristic destination, I honestly don’t know why, but when I got the chance to visit Munich for a Christmas Market I changed my mind completely. Honestly, it was not love at first sight, mainly because it was cold, but later, fate made sure I would fall in love with Munich, having me come back here at least 3 times every year, each time offering me the possibility of discovering something new.
Having seen the city in each season, if you are not looking to explore a Christmas Market which is lovely, I would suggest you go during autumn and fall in love with the colors the city will spoil you with. Just make sure to avoid the Oktoberfest season when the city gets really crowded and prices (which are already high) skyrocket.
In 2018 you surely don’t have to miss walking around the English Garden, this huge park right in the heart of the city, where you will stop by at the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) for a beer and some traditional Bavarian music, only to wander around and discover the surfers on the Isar river. Make sure to exit the park directly in the Schwabing district where you will discover lots of chic cafes and picture-perfect houses, plan to come here for a delicious brunch or dinner.
And because that’s not all and hopefully I’ve made you curious, you surely have to see Munich in 2018!
Pembrokeshire Coast, Wales
The Pembrokeshire Coast in Wales makes the perfect European destination for 2018. Situated on the south-west coast of Wales, it’s a wonderful place to visit at any time of year.
In Spring, it’s a haven for wildlife and bird watchers, with boat trips to the local Nature Reserve on Ramsey Island. Then in the summer months, the very cute puffins arrive for a short time and you can enjoy relaxing on the golden beaches and swim in the sea.
Autumn is ideal for long walks along the coastal paths, and those who like more of a challenge can complete the full National trail which takes you 186 miles/ 299 km along the cliffs. Or you can opt for walking shorter sections of the path each day, equally as beautiful. Be sure to stop off at Abereiddy and visit the Blue Lagoon, formed when the rocks of the old quarry were blasted and let the seawater flood in. You can even try the famous coasteering here (scrambling along the cliff rocks and jumping into the sea!)
And lastly, winter, although it’s colder you still have the beautiful scenery all around so what more could you ask for!
The Pembrokeshire Coast really offers something for everyone. It’s perfect for families, groups or even solo travelers. All you need is a love of nature and the outdoors and you’ll fall in love with the beautiful scenery around you.
Stretching from the border of France and the French Riviera to the northern most tip of Tuscany – the Ligurian region of Italy has become extremely popular in the last few years – all thanks to social media!
Liguria or the “Italian Riveria” is home to dozens of colorful Italian port towns, including the insta-famous Cinque Terre (the ‘five towns’ of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore) and the playground to the stars: Portofino. The capital of Liguria, Genova (pronounced: GEN-oh-a) is centrally located and a great place to base yourself if you’re planning to explore the Ligurian Coastal towns.
While Cinque Terre and Portofino surely steal the show, lesser-known towns such as Ventimiglia, Varazze, Bogliasco, and Camogli still shine with heaps of Italian port-town charm. Start your day early and skip from one town to the next with daily trains running in between each town every 30-60 minutes.
When you’re not hopping from one picturesque town to another, slow down and enjoy some of the regions fresh seafood or the region’s specialty sauce – pesto! The delicious basil sauce is said to have originated in the region in the mid-19th century and has become a staple of the region ever since.
Low-cost airlines have made Sofia so accessible from all corners of Europe, that no flimsy arguments can explain why you haven’t visited it yet. With its busy park party life (in summer, the young and creative crowd hangs out more in parks with a beer in hand than in hipster bars) and cool outdoor festivals (keep an eye on A to Jazz Festival) the Bulgarian capital is a perfect summer weekend getaway.
You may be surprised to discover that Sofia keeps many secrets dark maze-like catacombs, churches that make wishes come true, a cute dolls museum where you can also craft your own doll, and a Buddhist stupa on a beautiful plateau just to mention a few.
The food scene is a whole new adventure too; an unexpected hodgepodge of Oriental, Balkan, and European tastes stirred up in surprising combinations, which you will either love or hate.
If you are a keen hiker, you will be happy to know that there’s a 2,290-m mountain peak to climb just a 30-minute drive out of the city center. Getting on Cherni Vrah (the Black Peak) in Vitosha Mountain is all doable as a day trip from Sofia as there is a chair-lift taking you most of the way up and leaving a mere 2-hour walk at the end. The tea-house at the top is a busy last stop before the descent where you can recharge with a beer, grilled meat or a hot beans soup.
Have you ever visited a country or city for the first and just felt like you were home? Well, if you haven’t then keep traveling because I didn’t feel like that until I visited Edinburgh, Scotland this past year.
Yup, I fell head over heels in love with this charming, Scottish capital that is adorned with Historic castles and architecture that make this city a vastly beautiful and totally interesting place to explore. So whether you want to enjoy a good ghost story at Mary King’s Close or yearn to see the iridescent colors of the Golden Hour, atop Calton Hill, I promise that you will not grow weary of this enchanting city. Add in some amazing food, a decadent afternoon tea, and a brisk hike up Arthur’s Seat, and you have an urban oasis that can satisfy the personal needs of just about every traveler.
That’s why in 2018, if you have not visited Edinburgh, Scotland, then you need to do so immediately. I promise that as soon as you walk along the Royal Mile and take in some of the vibrant, vivacious, and down right powerful street performers, you will understand why this capital has been charming people for many centuries. I mean, even the Queen herself has setup a royal residence known as the Place of Holyroodhouse. So say hi to the queen and treat yourself to a trip that will change you, and in the best possible way.
Sandy beaches, blue sea, amazing architecture, delicious food, friendly people, warm weather, panoramic views, nightlife, lush greenery… everything one might think of can be found in Malaga. Well, the beaches are not sandy only, it is a mix of sand and shells.
Personally, I like Malaga for its beachfront and parks: unlike some other Spanish cities in the south, Malaga has huge green areas with palm trees in the center that are lifesavers in hot weather. Moreover, everyone needs some time alone far from crowds, and the parks are perfect for this purpose.
Architecture and history lovers will keep themselves busy exploring the Moorish fortresses of Alcazaba and Gibralfaro. By the way, you will get stunning views of the sea and port from the Gibralfaro panoramic deck, just keep in mind that getting there takes some effort.
I saw some of the most amazing churches in Malaga, so when you are tired of lying on the beach, give them a go. Of course, the biggest one is the main cathedral of Malaga, so climb to its roof for the panoramic views of the port and fortresses.
Oh, and did I mention that Malaga is the birthplace of Picasso? So, art lovers, in the Picasso’s Birthplace Museum you will get to see the house where the famous artist was born, and, in addition to this, you can visit the Museum Picasso Málaga that houses the works donated by his family.
The Swiss resort town of Zermatt, Switzerland is my top pick for European destinations. Zermatt is a mountain resort nestled in the Swiss Alps, known for skiing and hiking, as well as the famous Matterhorn which looms over the village.
Zermatt, reachable only by train, has something for every visitor, including shopping, dining and spas. For the outdoor lover, Zermatt is the perfect destination. In the summer, hikers will find miles of trails, easily accessed by the lifts in town, with rewarding views of snow-capped peaks, glaciers and alpine lakes. The 5-Seenweg (5 Lake Walk) is a great hike that takes you past 5 scenic lakes in under 3 hours of hiking. At least two of the lakes will show the reflection of the Matterhorn, which makes for lovely photography. In the winter, Zermatt transforms into one of Europe’s best ski resorts, with the largest amount of intermediate runs. (Technically, skiing is available year-round, but I prefer hiking in summer.)
The apres-ski scene is alive and well in Zermatt, and the town is small enough that everything is easily within walking distance. No cars are allowed in the village, only custom-made electric trucks that you will find at each hotel. Arrival is by train from Visp, and most hotels will send their truck to retrieve you from the station. Unless you are staying at a 5-star hotel like the Mont Cervin Palace, which will pick you up in a horse-drawn carriage!
Warm sunshine and crystal clear oceans, perfect for rest and relaxation! Majorca or Mallorca in the Balearic Islands off the shores of Eastern Spain is known for its pristine beaches and also for its snaking hills. Waters that make you just want to dive in are also complemented with a variety of ocean life, from playful turtles to stinging jellyfish. And if you take a yacht or boat out further into the sea, you might just spot a whale or dolphin. If you love adventure, rent a kayak near Cala Blava and go off on your own or with a group. Or go snorkeling and cave diving around the island.
But the sea isn’t all there is to Mallorca. There’s are a number of Puigs and castles atop hills that are perfect for hiking. For example, the Puig de Santa Maria, Santuari de Lluc, Capdepera Castle and Cap de Formentor. I also found out about the amazing Roman ruins at Pollenca after we left Majorca. So I’m telling you now. Don’t miss them. I have to wait till I go back. But I did see the amazing limestone Cuevas del Drach or Dragon Caves and listened to the musical show inside. Don’t forget to drive past the cyclists on the winding Tramuntana to reach the beautiful but sometimes crowded hidden beach at Sa Calobra.
The capital, Palma de Mallorca has a beautiful port and the ancient Palma Cathedral that’s also called La Seu that was built in 1229 by King Juame of Aragon. There’s a lot to see and do in Palma, you could very well spend months there.
Don’t forget food! Paellas and ensaimadas, tapas and pa’amb oli keep you satisfied and content. But don’t just take my word for it. Go there and try for yourself!
Rovaniemi is the perfect starting point for exploring Finnish Lapland. You can reach the city by bus, train or plane from Helsinki, but the international airport connects you to numerous places across Europe too.
The city and its surroundings offer plenty of activities especially winter time. During the snowy half of the year – and I really mean half a year! – you will be in a winter wonderland. The thick snow layer covers the land and trees. It opens the possibility for skiing and snowboarding on ski slopes, but you can emerge more in the Finnish culture and try cross-country skiing, ice fishing, go for a hiking trip on snowshoes or just dip into the freezing river and enjoy the sauna.
If it’s not enough, you can rent a snowmobile to explore the wilderness or hunt for northern lights. Yes, you can observe them frequently in Rovaniemi!
Considering the indoor sights, you have several options. Not surprising that Santa also lives here and you can meet with him all year round at his office. At the Arktikum Museum, you can learn about life and nature in Finland and get a peek into the reindeer herding Saami culture too.
The midsummer festival is the highlight of the summer season. The bonfire, the sauna and the endless white nights will show you a totally different slice of life in Lapland.
Gothenburg, located on the southwest coast of Sweden, is the perfect European destination for a short break. The historic city center is arranged around a network of canals, crisscrossed by bridges lined with flowers in the summer months. Take a canal tour to fully appreciate the beauty of the waterways, as your guide explains the historic buildings of the center, then takes you past modern Gothenburg with its old shipyards and new museums.
The city center is very walkable, with plenty of historic squares and green parkland to while away an afternoon. There are museums to suit every taste (and every weather condition!), as well as a 1930s concert hall and shiny modern opera house. If you want to explore Sweden’s great outdoors, head to the Gothenburg Archipelago, a cluster of rocky islands just off the coast which are perfect for an afternoon’s cruise or a quiet picnic on the rocks. Take one of the many ferries out to the archipelago and pick your spot! Or hire a car and head further up the beautiful Bohuslan coast to check out the seaside towns which bring the Swedes themselves flocking to this region.
Gothenburg has its own airport, Landvetter, and is within easy reach of Stockholm (3 hours by train) and Malmö (2.5 hours).
When you think of Italy, chances are you think of Rome, Venice, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or the Duomo in Florence. However, Sorrento is one of those places that you shouldn’t miss, especially if you love being by the ocean. Located in southwestern Italy, Sorrento is often overlooked in favor of the Amalfi Coast, Capri or Naples, when in fact it is the perfect place to base yourself for a week or two. Accommodation prices tend to be more reasonable, the pace of life is slower and more leisurely, the food is delectable and you can escape the crowds after a busy day of sightseeing.
Sorrento is well connected by trains, ferries and buses which means that you can easily plan day trips to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, the Isle of Capri, Positano and Amalfi, or the islands of Ischia and Procida during the summer months. Make sure you spend some time exploring what Sorrento itself has to offer by wandering through its historic center and grabbing a sunset cocktail and thimble of limoncello (a local specialty) at Hotel Bellevue Syrene. This small town offers up some of the most incredible views across the Sorrentine Peninsula that will take your breath away!
São Miguel, Azores
Do you enjoy being out in nature? Then without a doubt São Miguel should go straight to the top of your 2018 travel wish list. The largest island of the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores, São Miguel has options for hiking, cycling, kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling and other outdoorsy pursuits. The stunning landscapes with lakes and mountains covered in lush greenery will take your breath away and give you plenty of wanderlust-inducing photos to show your friends and family.
Another reason to visit São Miguel is whale watching – different species of these majestic animals pass through the area during the year. Make sure you bring a camera with a good zoom lens for close-up photos if you want to go on a whale-watching tour!
When you get tired of exploring, pick one of several outdoor hot springs and relax in the warm mineral-rich waters – entry fees are very reasonable here.
Though still quieter that some of the better-known European tourist destinations, São Miguel is starting to rapidly gain popularity. This means that hotels and rental cars are in high demand during the peak season in summer, so it is advisable to book in advance.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
If you’re looking for a city that has it all and that can be explored throughout all the seasons, Amsterdam will quickly capture you in its spell. Being small enough to explore on foot or by bicycle (you can’t miss them) you will be able to get a real feel for the local people, picture perfect canals and stunning sights. Talking of canals, this amazing city is floating on 165 waterways which make 90 islands connected by 1,281 bridges and they are also home to the world’s only floating flower market. Lining these canals are their unique homes which are narrow as well as crooked, these were built by wealthy merchants during the 17th century. At night, Amsterdam really comes alive with the bridges spanning the canals lit up with tiny lights that give them a fairy tale appearance.
With over 50 museums you are sure to find one that fascinates you, some of Amsterdam’s favorites include the Rijksmuseum, see some beautiful paintings by the most famous Dutch artist of all time at the Van Gogh Museum; or go back in time to World War II at the Anne Frank House. Last but not least we can’t forget its amazing food scene, being such a culturally diverse city means there’s so much choice from Thai to Italian and not forgetting their famous Dutch cheese. Calories don’t count on this travel break.
Plovdiv, Bulgaria should absolutely be on your list of places to visit in 2018. Not only is it one of the coolest cities in the country, it has been named as the European Capital of Culture for 2019. Plovdiv is Europe’s oldest continually inhabited city and has a ton to offer to history and culture buffs alike. Visitors tend to stick to the Old Town and Kapana districts, as the majority of the city’s tourist hotspots are located there. One of the best ways to see these areas is by taking one of the free walking tours. These run every day and are a fantastic way to see the sights and learn all about the history of this ancient city. In addition, the Kapana district boasts a wide variety of traditional and modern Bulgarian restaurants and is the perfect area to spend an evening. Other than Old Town and Kapana, Plovdiv offers great city views from atop one of their seven hills, gorgeous gardens and fountains to walk through, and the ever-so-popular Maritsa River, home of several water sports in the summertime. Whether you are a history, culture, or nature enthusiast, Plovdiv is an absolute must-see destination for 2018!
If Sicily is on your 2018 bucket list (and if it isn’t, why on earth not?!), there’s no better place to stop than the ancient city of Siracusa. Located on Sicily’s west coast, the city was once one of the most populous and powerful of the ancient world. Today, this gorgeous city has something for everyone. For those who love ancient history, it is worth a visit to the city’s archeological park (Parco Archeologico Della Neoplis) to see its 5th century Greek theater, Roman theater and more. From there, head to the historical heart of Siracusa, the island of Ortigia, to spend the rest of the day drinking in gorgeous sights, stuffing your face with Sicilian fare and of course – more history. Visitors can take a step into everyday Sicilian life by heading into its bustling marketplace and picking up from fresh fruit to munch on, then run straight into the Tempio di Apollo. t is appropriate that much of this 6th century temple remains today; after all, according to legend, the Greek goddess Leto gave birth to one or both of her twins, Apollo and Artemis, on this island.
Visitors also can’t miss the fabulous Duomo di Siracusa, a cathedral whose history very much mirrors that of Sicily itself in the way it has evolved through various conquests. Although its exterior is the lovely Baroque style you’ll see frequently in western and southwestern Sicily because of a 1693 earthquake that destroyed so much of that part of the island, its interior contains elements from across the centuries that speak to the site’s variable past a Greek temple, church, mosque and church again. The plaza outside the cathedral is one of the prettiest places in Sicily, and the nearby La Volpe e La Uva pizzeria in an unbeatable place to dine and people watch. Visitors can also tour the island’s defensive castle, Castello Maniace, check out the pretty Archimedes Fountain, or engage a boat tour around the island.
Siracusa is a quintessentially Sicilian town with unbeatable scenery and something for everyone. If you are considering heading to Sicily, it should top your list.
Kasey from Babies with Backpacks. Follow her on Facebook.
Tucked away in the Baltic region of Europe, Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is often overlooked. However, with its wide variety of architecture and fascinating history, it is a destination that must not be missed! The churches in Vilnius are exquisitely beautiful with neoclassical, baroque and gothic architecture. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the perfect place to spend a couple of hours exploring. For panoramic views of the Old Town and the new skyscrapers, walk up Gediminas Hill or take the funicular. Another interesting place is Uzupis, an artists’ neighborhood which declared itself an independent republic. It has its own constitution, national anthem and you can even get your passport stamped there!
Vilnius has several interesting museums. It is important to learn about Lithuania’s history, and you can do so by visiting the KGB Museum. The Money Museum is an excellent stop as well, with interactive exhibits.
For views of the entire city, visit the observation deck of Vilnius TV Tower. You can enjoy the view while eating at the revolving restaurant.
If you want to go up even higher, take a hot air balloon ride over the city!
A must-do day trip from Vilnius is Trakai Castle, a gorgeous red brick castle on an island in a lake. It’s also possible to take a hot air balloon ride there.
A few years ago, if you were to ask people if they had heard of Ghent it was likely their response would have been “no.” This was also true for me as I hadn’t heard of this city until I read about it in a travel guidebook whilst planning my trip to Belgium. Quite quickly I became intrigued with fascinating Ghent… The most powerful city in Europe during the Dark Ages (and bigger than Moscow or Cologne at the time) was certainly a place I had to go and see for myself. Today it seems many others are catching on, too!
Ghent is an awesome destination for a city break as you’re able to avoid the crowds of people who usually decide to visit the well-known cities of Brussels and Bruges. With a relaxed vibe, Ghent is a university city and is not overwhelming in size so you can cover a lot of ground in a few days.
I loved discovering what life was like during medieval Ghent at Gravensteen Castle, sampling delicious (and numerous!) local fruit beers amongst locals at Vrijdagmarkt, admiring the stunning architecture of Patershol and stepping back in time to the 7th century at St Bavo’s Abbey. I’d highly recommend uncovering the city’s gems by canal cruise. Not only does exploring Ghent from this unique perspective make for some amazing photo opportunities but you’re also able to learn more about the history of her iconic landmarks from a local. Awesome Ghent is surely one to add to your next Belgian itinerary!
The capital of Greece, Athens, is a city that fascinates many travelers. I have fallen for it many years ago (n.a. 2012) when I had the chance to visit this magnificent place for the first time.
If you only have limited time on your hands, start with exploring Plaka, the charming neighborhood that buzzes with activity (and tourists). But – as you can see in the photo above – show up before 10 a.m. and you can at least snap some good photos (without tourists, that is). Then make your way to the Acropolis. The Acropolis Museum is a good addition, too. Other interesting historical sites include the Roman and Greek Agora, as well as The Temple of Zeus, and the Olympic Stadium.
You’d also want to spend some time in the National Gardens if only to relax from the hustle and bustle of the city.
A super easy day trip is Cape Sunion with the Temple of Poseidon perched on top of a cliff overlooking the seas.