My top five European destinations

by Meryl Hanmer

Europe is famous as the continent of culture; with centuries’ worth of history and tradition entwined in every city or each country. Many British students neglect to appreciate the glorious beauty that lies on their doorsteps; mixed in with the magnificent architecture and countless museums are the naturally splendid landscapes which offer both peace and tranquillity and exhilarating adventures. Being one of the cheapest and easiest continents to move around, there is no reason not to travel this enchanting continent. Having myself travelled extensively across the continent, these are my top five favourite destinations.

5. Vilnius, Lithuania
The capital of Lithuania is an often overlooked travel destination but I assure it is well worth the visit. Vilnius shares the story of its country’s difficult and unique history through the many cultural museums and ancient monuments. The Lithuanian cuisine is just as unique and interesting as its history, my favourite dishes being the Zeppelins (large potato dumplings), Kepta Duona (friend bread with cheese sauce) and Saltibarscial (a pink soup).
My recommendations in the city would be the museum of illusions and the museum of genocide victims. However, I strongly recommend setting additional time aside for two day trips from the city, one to the hill of crosses in the north of Lithuania and the other to the castle of Trakaii, which is just a short train journey from Vilnius.

4. Budapest, Hungary
An absolute must for any aspiring traveller journeying through Europe! Budapest is immensely enchanting and the locals are exceedingly kind. With some of the most captivatingly beautiful architecture in Europe, I was awe inspired from the moment I arrived in the city. Budapest is not only famous for its charm and beauty but also its incomparable nightlife which, coupled with its cheap prices, makes it the perfect destination for any student.
My Budapest recommendations are to visit Buda Castle, swim in the Szechenyi thermal baths and wander around Vajdahunyad castle. For the best views of the city, explore the Fisherman’s Bastion and the surrounding woods.

3. San Sebastian, Spain
From learning about ship building at the living museum to hiking mount Ulia or walking the cobblestone streets, there is something for everyone in this beautiful seaside town. Known as the food capital of Spain, this city is a must for anyone who is adventurous with their palette. San Sebastian certainly ranks as my favourite Spanish city, being much cheaper but still as equally enticing as other major cities in Spain.
My recommendations would be to go hiking along one of the many trails surrounding the city, go kayaking in the clear blue sea waters and to indulge in a city food crawl. Additionally, I would recommend taking a short, one night road trip along the Northern Spain coastline to the small village of Covadonga in Asturias. There you will be greeted by the most spectacular and unspoiled of all the Spanish landscapes, including an old chapel hidden in a mountain cave.

2. Reykjavik, Iceland
A true indulgence for any adventurer is the capital of Iceland. With a country-wide population of just over 330,000, half of whom are based in Reykjavik, Iceland is one of the most socially, economically and ecologically fascinating countries in Europe. You will find few cities more expensive than this one but I can promise that, in either summer or winter, the magnificent Icelandic landscapes are breath-taking.
My recommendations are to tour the famous golden circle (Gulfoss waterfall, Pingvellir park and the Geysirs), bathe in local outdoor hot springs, ride the unique Icelandic horses and chase the Northern Lights (only in winter). Hiring a car is a must to get the most out of your time in Iceland because of the lack of public transport links across the country.

1. Paris, France
Although the cliché of this city may be an off put for some, I guarantee the city of love will capture your hearts and leave you longing for more. The picturesque stairways and petite streets are bursting with exquisite food, enchanting architecture and evocative art, all of which makes Paris the perfect city in which to lose yourself. On a similar price scale as London, it is not the cheapest of cities to visit, although, with an abundance of hostels and free attractions it is certainly possible to still travel this city on a student’s budget!
Aside from the obvious Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur, my Paris recommendations are to walk the catacombs, climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe for what are in my opinion, the best views in all of Paris. In addition, I would recommend taking a food tour of Le Marais quarter and walking the picturesque steps of Montmartre.

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