Western Europe, one of the world’s richest regions, is defined by its collection of medieval castles, from Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle to Scotland’s Edinburgh castle, and its many world renowned landmarks, from the UK’s Big Ben to Paris’ Eiffel Tower. On the other hand, Southern Europe, or the Mediterranean, is known for being the birthplace of Western civilization, as well as being home to Italy’s Colosseum and Greece’s Pathenon. Both of these regions are some of the world’s most popular vacation spots for tourists from all around the world. In this post, I am going to be adding on to my ‘Dream Destinations’ series, and I will be writing about 13 cities and spots located in both of these regions that I’d love to visit.
Disclaimer: All photos used this post were found on the website Pixabay. The classifications of Western and Southern Europe I based this post on were written by Eurovoc, which you can get more info on here.
Officially the capital of Greece, and unofficially the capital of the ancient world, Athens is one of the world’s oldest cities. It is home to the Parthenon, the famous temple sitting above the Acropolis and the Olympic Stadium, built above the remains of the original stadium from back in 330 B.C. for the first modern Olympics in 1896. With over 3400 years of history, Athens is known as the cradle of civilization as well as the birthplace of democracy. I have never been to Greece, and since Athens is the country’s capital, I thought that Athens would be a great spot to start a trip throughout the country.
Barcelona, Spain’s seaside capital, is known for its architecture, art, and of course, its world famous football team. Famous architect Gaudi’s work can be found all throughout the city, from Park Guell, a park located on Carmel hill with a great view of Barcelona, to La Sagrada Familia, an unfinished Roman Catholic church with an intricate interior design (shown above). La Boqueria, a market with a wide selection of goods, and La Rambla, Barcelona’s widest street full of many shops and restaurants are two other main attractions in the city. I have yet to visit Spain, and I have been wanting to visit Barcelona in specific for a while, so hopefully I get the chance to visit someday soon.
Cinque Terre, Italy
Possibly the most quintessentially Mediterranean towns in the region, Italy’s Cinque Terre is made up of a chain of coastal villages on the jagged Italian Riviera coastline. Cinque Terre translates to Five Lands in English, as Cinque Terre is made up of five towns; Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. Originally just fishing villages, the towns are now major tourist attraction, due to their colourful homes, steep terraces and vineyards. The towns are the perfect place to visit for any photographer, like me, or pretty much anyone… because who wouldn’t want to visit after looking at the photo above? My family and I went on a trip throughout Italy a couple of years ago, but unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to visit Cinque Terre.
Lisbon, the hilly, seaside capital of the country of Portugal is one of Southern Europe’s most visited cities. Some of Lisbon’s most popular attractions include Torre de Belém, a 500 year old fortified tower located on the bank of the Tagus River; the Feria da Ladra, a flea market where you can find pretty much anything; and the Castelo de São Jorge, a Moorish castle atop a hill with beautiful views of Lisbon. Lisbon’s iconic tramway system, shown above, was started in 1873 and is now pretty well known throughout the world. I’ve yet to visit Portugal, so hopefully one day I get the chance to visit its capital, Lisbon!
Santorini is one of six thousand Greek Islands, all scattered throughout the Aegean Sea. Santorini is one of the most popular Greek Islands, possibly the most famous one, only recently discovered by tourists. Its known for its dome shaped white and blue buildings, rocky landscape, beautiful beaches, and stunning sunsets that occur every night and that make for beautiful photos. Ideally I’d want to visit every Greek Island possible, but Santorini is definitely my top choice… it was hard to chose a top one though!
Germany’s capital, Berlin, has had a rocky history, from the World Wars to the Berlin Wall. However, the city is now a very safe place to live in and visit, seeing as an average of over 10 million people visit the city each year. Some of Germany’s most iconic landmarks are located in Berlin, from the Brandenburg Gate, an 18th century Neo-classical monument, to the Berlin TV Tower, the almost 400m tall tower than dominates Berlin’s skyline. Other popular spots in Berlin include its Berlin Cathedral, an elaborately designed cathedral located on Museum Island; the East Side Gallery, a section of the Berlin Wall now covered by 100 different murals; the Museum Island, an island in Berlin that is home to 5 of Berlin’s best museums; and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a monument dedicated to the Jews who passed away during the second World War. My family is thinking about visiting Germany, Austria, and Czechia this winter (or next summer), and Berlin is definitely going to be one of our stops on that trip.
Politically the heart of Europe, as well as one of Europe’s safest cities, Brussels is the capital of Belgium, a country known for its chocolate, waffles, and beer. Brussels is a very bustling city, yet it has many parks, two of them being the Mont des Arts and the Parc de Bruxelles, as well as many churches, including the Cathedral of St. Micheal and St. Guide, and the Church of Our Lady of Laeken. My family and I visited Bruges last year, but we didn’t get the chance to visit Brussels. However, I’d love to get the chance to visit the city someday, as I think it is one of Western Europe’s most beautiful cities.
Yet another country capital, Edinburgh, the hilly capital of Scotland is one of Europe’s most charming cities. Some of the cities most well known neighbourhoods are New & Old Town, which, contrasting their names, are both two of the oldest areas in Edinburgh, as well as some of the most picturesque districts. The city’s most iconic monument is the Edinburgh Castle, one of the most attacked castles in the world, which sits atop Castle Rock and is a major factor in the city’s skyline. I am actually 1/8 Scottish, yet I’ve never been to Scotland, so the country’s capital if obviously a great place to start. Plus, my great grandmother was from Edinburgh, so it would be really interesting to see where my part of my family is from!
With over 7000 years of history, Hallstatt, Austria, is definitely one of Europe’s hidden gems. Hallstatt is a small Austrian village on Lake Hallstatt, historically famous for producing salt. You can find beautiful views of the lake and town from pretty much anywhere in the village, especially from some of the surrounding Salzkammergut Mountains. Hallstatt’s salt mine is one of the oldest in the world, dug by hand over 3000 years ago, and it can even be toured! As I mentioned earlier, my family is planning to visit Austria sometime in the near future and I hope that we will be able to visit Hallstatt in that trip.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle was originally built by Ludwig II of Bavaria back in the 19th century, and it is a Romanesque Revival style palace. The castle is atop a hill, and it is surrounded by picturesque mountain scenery, more specifically the Bavarian Alps. The castle is most likely Europe’s most famous castle, as it was the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty castle, and it has been visited by over 60 million people in total. Tours throughout the castle are now offered, which allows you to actually visit some of the luxurious rooms and halls that make up the castle’s interior. The castle is definitely one of my bucket list spots, and I really hope that I get the chance to visit and even tour it someday!
Palace of Versailles, France
Located in a suburb of Paris, the Palace of Versailles was started by Louis XIII in 1623, then enlarged into a palace by Louis XIV. It was once the home of the French royal family, and it is now one of France’s most popular tourist attractions. The Palace of Versailles is surrounded by pretty park grounds and gardens and the interior is adorned with rooms fit for only royals. Some of the most famous rooms inside the palace consists of the Hall of Mirrors, a room containing 357 mirrors in total, and the Chapel of Versailles, one of the palaces five chapels with beautifully tiled floors, stunning pillars and gargoyles surrounding the room. My family and I visited Paris a few years ago, and we didn’t get the chance to visit the Palace of Versailles… but next time we visit France we will definitely have to see Versailles.
Salzburg, the hometown of the musician and composer Mozart and the setting of the world renowned film ‘The Sound of Music’. It is surrounded by the Eastern Alps, and divided by the Salzach River, which Salzburg’s Old City on its left bank and New City on its right bank. Hohensalzburg Castle, one of Europe’s largest medieval castles atop a small hill, and the Mirabell Palace and Garden, the picture perfect gardens where many ‘Sound of Music’ scenes were filmed, are two of the city’s most popular attractions. Two of the city’s most well known neighbourhoods are the city’s Altstadt or Old City, considered the heart of Salzburg by many, and the Church District, an area in Salzburg full of tons of cathedrals and churches designed in many different architectural styles. I am a very musical person, as I have been playing piano for almost seven years now, so since Salzburg is a very musical city I think it’d be the perfect destination for me to visit!
Located in northern Switzerland, at the north end of Lake Zürich, Zürich is apparently Europe’s most expensive city. It was originally founded by the Romans around 2000 years ago, and eventually grew into Switzerland’s largest city, population wise. Some of the city’s attractions include the Old Town or Altstadt neighbourhood, a very historic and beautiful district; Lindenhof Hill, a public square with great views of Zürich; and the Swiss National Museum, a museum that represents the history of Switzerland. I visited Geneva for the first time a few years ago when I was a lot younger, but didn’t get the chance the visit Zürich, so hopefully the next time that I am in the area I’m able to visit Zürich.
That’s it for my top 13 destinations in Southern and Western Europe! I hope you enjoyed. Have you been to any of these spots? If so, which ones? If not, which would you most like to visit?
Thanks for reading!