Taking a trip to Europe is almost a rite of passage for those who love travel. The continent is full of iconic destinations, ones you’ve seen or read about for years before visiting. On your first trip, you’re bound to stick with these famous destinations – think Paris, London and Rome – and maybe a few other stops along the way. Once you’re home again, chances are you’ll already be thinking about where to go next time.
Typically, people look to new places and new countries for that next trip. That’s a good instinct, as Europe is unbelievably varied and it’ll take ages to visit each of its 44 countries. And yet, there are some familiar destinations that will always be luring you back, trip after trip. No matter how many times you visit these countries, there is always somewhere new for you to explore. These are the countries that will never quite be “done”, as some travelers like to say.
It’s not hard to understand why France is the most popular tourist destination in the world. Romantic daydreams of a European getaway tend to include France in one way or another. Paris is clearly one of the most famous city destinations in the world, and places like Nice and Cannes on the French Riviera are no hidden gems either. With future visits, you may explore big cities like Lyon and Bordeaux, or decide to wander the vineyards of Burgundy or the lavender fields of Provence.
But the truth is that you’ll never run out of remarkable cities - let alone towns - to visit in France, with each different from the last. The same could be also said for classic French chateaus, beaches, and vineyards. This depth means that cities like Lille or natural beauties like the Verdon Gorge may barely get a mention. Perhaps for your next visit, consider which departments you’ve yet to see, or see which of France’s many UNESCO sites you’ve yet to visit.
Because of its popularity, people make a habit of underestimating just how much Great Britain has going for it. London may be a world-class tourist destination that can entertain for days, but it’s just the first in a long list of impressive places across the UK.
One of the big mistakes people make is thinking of the United Kingdom as just England. Doing so neglects so much there, namely Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These countries each have their own culture and way of life, and seeing one doesn’t mean you’ve seen them all. A great part of visiting the UK is appreciating the differences across the region, between cities like Edinburgh and Belfast, or natural beauties like the Isle of Sky and Snowdonia National Park.
But even if you do just stick with England, there’s a wealth of places to warrant multiple return journeys. Cities like Oxford and York couldn’t be more different, and the same goes for regions like the Lake District, the Cotswolds and the Cliffs of Dover. We haven’t even reached the obscure places yet, as you’d already need a few trips just to get through everywhere mentioned above.
That Italy has loads of incredible destinations to visit should come as no surprise. Just start reeling off names of places you’ve heard of - Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, etc. – and it’s clear that there’s already plenty to see. As soon as Italy creeps its way onto your Europe itinerary, the challenge then is not spending your entire trip there.
Tuscany is a great example of why you can keep coming back to Italy. Starting with a big name like Florence, the next obvious destinations are popular historic cities like Pisa and Siena. But there are still wonderful places like Lucca, San Gimignano and Arezzo waiting for you, not to mention the region’s signature vineyards. Once you start popping over to the neighboring regions of Umbria, Emilia Romagna and Liguria, you’re really fighting an uphill battle.
Of course, then there’s everywhere not found in the country’s northern half. Italy’s south is far less crowded with tourists, excluding the hot spots around Naples, like the Amalfi Coast, but even still there’s so much down there to explore. That there’s not even room to talk about the islands of Sicily and Sardinia says it all really, doesn’t it?
When you picture Spain without ever having been, you could easily imagine that everywhere is sun, sand and sangria. That stereotype may be true in some places, but Spain is a truly diverse country and rarely are two places there alike. The differences for Spain become clear even if you only visit big names like Barcelona, Madrid and Mallorca.
Those cities really only scratch the surface of how wildly contrasting places in Spain can be. While cities in the southern region of Andalusia, like Seville and Granada, are awash with Moorish palaces and architecture, San Sebastian and Bilbao in the Basque Country have a character all their own.
Even the climate can be at total opposites when you travel from the dry and dusty interior around Toledo to the cool and lush coast of Galicia. Of course, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean near Africa are another thing entirely.
As one of Europe’s liveliest summer getaways, Greece is always a good idea. While everyone knows the capital, Athens, it’s usually combined with a trip to the famed Greek Islands of Santorini, Mykonos and Ios.
The thing is, people have a habit of finding an island that they like and revisiting it over and over. But with over 200 inhabited islands and more than 6000 total, there’s just so many to experience. The islands can be incredibly different from each other too. Just compare historic Rhodes with the stunning beaches of Zakynthos, and you’ll quickly understand. Island hopping is a great way to see lots of islands quickly, but to fully absorb each one means taking your time.
With so much focus spent on the islands of Greece, the country’s mainland sometimes comes as an afterthought. Beyond the capital, there’s the northern city of Thessaloniki, the incredible monasteries of Meteora, and countless historical sights like Delphi and Corinth. The possibilities here are endless.
About David Johnston:
David is an avid traveler from Australia who has spent the last several years exploring as much of Europe as he can. He has a passion for trying to find the lesser-seen, quieter pockets of the world, fostering a love of photography along the way. From hiking in the outdoors to exploring medieval towns, his travels have taken him to some fascinating places well off the beaten path. You can follow his travels on his blog Travelsewhere and on Facebook.
All content provided in this blog is supplied by David Johnson and is for informational purposes only. Barclays takes no position as to the views, and makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the blog or found by following any link within this blog.
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