We are so deep into 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic that being able to travel feels like something from an alternate reality. Some borders may be open, but I could never in good conscience catch a flight given the current state of the world. My Pinterest boards are growing with ideas, and my desire to explore more of this beautiful world is growing exponentially each day. For now, I have to try to satisfy my travel craving by reminiscing on past trips. I find myself trying to relive my 2019 trip to Europe by scrolling through my photos, watching old Instagram stories, and digging through my bag of souvenirs.
While I have a list a mile long of places I want to visit for the first time, there are some cities I find myself longing to return to. So, without further ado, here are the six cities I just can’t get off my mind.
1. Florence, Italy
When I close my eyes, I can still see the sun set over the city of Florence. Memories of this glorious city are etched into my mind: eating gelato by the Duomo after dark, feeling the warm sun on my skin as I navigate busy streets, my first bite of truly exceptional pasta — each of these moments are little pieces that help create this profound longing to return. But, perhaps no memory do I hold more dear than seeing the sun set from Piazzalle Michelangelo. After wandering the city, visiting the galleries and gardens, there is no better way to end the day than with a bottle of wine and a million dollar view.
2. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Oh Dubrovnik, how I look forward to the day I’ll be back among the salty air, climbing hundreds of stairs, and finding dozens of beautiful buildings tucked away in every corner. No place has ever made me feel so far away from the rest of the world. After passing through the gates to this 16th century, walled city I was immediately taken with its charm and inviting character. The warm glow of lights illuminate the old streets at night, creating a romantic, contented atmosphere. With the sunrise comes the Mediterranean heat, and that easy-going tropical feeling, aided by the salty air emanating from the Adriatic Sea.
3. Bucharest, Romania
Despite knowing very little about the city, Bucharest was on my travel bucket list for quite some time. I have no clue when this fascination with the Romanian capital started or what caused it, all I knew was that I had to go. When my plane landed, I exited with no expectations and no real plan. What greeted me was a vibrant, eclectic city. I didn’t know what I would find endearing about Bucharest, but I soon realized that list would be longer than expected. The trendy coffee shops, artsy communities, and neoclassical architecture are just a few reasons why my time in Bucharest was so enjoyable.
4. Stockholm, Sweden
Before arriving in Sweden’s largest city, I heard that there were nicer places to go in the country. I was told Stockholm is nice, but Gothenburg was really nice. Since my trip to Scandinavia was already booked and carefully organized, I couldn’t exactly squeeze another city into the itinerary. If my sources can be trusted, and based off of how thoroughly I enjoyed Stockholm, Gothenburg must be amazing. Stockholm was the perfect mix of new and old, Gamla Stan had all the charm of historic Europe, while the newer city centre had the excitement of a modern, progressive metropolis. This city oozes arts and culture. While sipping coffee in a sweet cafe, I could envision myself founding a design firm and making Stockholm my trendy home base. I can’t wait to return to explore more of the islands that make up Stockholm, and to visit their galleries and independent shops.
5. Utrecht, the Netherlands
To say I miss being in Utrecht is an understatement. I long to return to the days of cycling the streets, shopping beside the canal, and lounging in the parks. Utrecht is often described as a less-busy, smaller Amsterdam, and while both cities have winding canals and charming facades, Utrecht deserves recognition in its own right. The city is alive with friendly people, exciting nightlife and lovely markets. Utrecht feels like a real city, one that is thoroughly lived in, and willing to welcome you warmly.
6. Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn was another fun surprise. I often read everything I can about a city I’m visiting, I love to be prepared. This time, however, I only did some light research before catching the ferry in Helsinki, and travelling across the Gulf of Finland. Having scrolled some photos of the old town, I expected it to be beautiful. What I didn’t expect, was the immediate ease and comfort I felt wandering the cobblestone streets. I can really envision myself spending my days walking the town, popping in to new restaurants, climbing up to see viewpoints and relaxing in public squares. As much as I loved the long days of sunshine I experienced when I visited in June, I think my next trip will have to be during the Christmas season. This city is the storybook-perfect location for Christmas markets, and I can only imagine it looks even more magical covered in snow.