My friends over at Adventuring Pandas recently asked me where they should go in 2017. The answer is wherever they can get themselves to, but even after I’d narrowed it down from there, I realized the answer required more than just a Facebook reply—and besides, many of my readers are probably also planning their 2017 adventures.
What follows is the first half of a collection of places I’ve visited in Europe that would make a decent long weekend, with at least one reason why I loved it! The second half of the list will follow in a few days.
I visited Bath, England, on a solo tour of the UK—my first truly independent travel. On a whim, I visited a high school friend who had just arrived in Bath for her semester abroad, and we explored the city together. From highlights like a tour of the subterranean Roman baths under the Pump Rooms and a visit to the Jane Austen Centre, to hidden gems like a tucked-away cemetery along a peaceful brook, Bath is a nice city to explore on a long weekend. Just enough to keep you busy, but peaceful enough to feel relaxed.
By all accounts, Vienna is GORGEOUS. But I wouldn’t know. I visited right before any of the legendary gardens were in bloom and while all of the buildings were hidden by tarps during restorations in preparation for Mozart’s 250th birthday. Despite the unfortunate timing, I loved the atmosphere of the city. Drink champagne and take in the view from the Riesenrad (giant Ferris wheel). Take a ride on the streetcars that feel like they’re straight out of a movie. Wander through the natural history museum on a rainy day, and catch a concert in the Musikverein. And to really enjoy your stay, treat yourself to a wine tasting in one of the many vineyards just outside of town.
I could write a book (and have often tried) about how much I loved the one week I spent in Krakow. My friends and I stayed in a super low-key hostel in a residential neighborhood and spent our evenings either drinking wine and playing guitar on the roof of the apartment building or walking along the Vistula Riverfront or up around Wawel Castle. We took two day trips outside the city, both well worth the visit: Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp and the Wieliczka Salt Mine. A visit to a concentration camp is not easy, but it’s a trip everyone should take at least once.
The one and only fortnight my mom and I traveled together included an overnight stay in Alton, England, a quick walk from Chawton Cottage, where Jane Austen penned and published her novels. We stayed in the lovely St Mary’s Hall B&B (a converted church and the first place I saw an Aga), and soaked in the Hampshire charm, from the thatched roofs to the tea shoppes. If you’ve read this far in the post, you already know I’m a great Jane Austen fan, too, so spending time in her house felt just a little bit like magic.
Vincent van Gogh. Aqueducts. Outdoor markets. Lavender fields. Need I say more? Oh, but I will. Arles is also within a day trip of the Mediterranean Sea (great for day on the beach) and of the beautiful Pont du Gard aqueduct, one of France’s top 5 tourist attractions. It’s a gorgeous way to spend a day, whether reading, swimming, or cliff-diving. Take a baugette, a round of brie, and a bottle of wine for a truly relaxing experience.