My European Bucket List

Recently, I was having the usual “getting to know you” conversation with another traveler – where we were going, where we’d been, etc. He asked if I’d seen much of Europe. I kind of curled my nose and said “No, not much….” before going on to rattle off a list that surprised even me: Spain, Scotland, England, Greece, Turkey and Iceland. I guess I’ve seen more of that continent than I thought!

The thing is, Europe has never captivated me in the same way that Southeast Asia or Latin America has. But the more I think about it, and the more I hear about it, there are European destinations that sit very firmly on my bucket list…

BarcelonaBarcelona via

1. Berlin

There’s something about Berlin – it seems to have found the sweet spot of cutting-edge design, hedonistic nightlife, and underground cool. I also have great respect for the city’s famous atmosphere of social tolerance and openness. I’d love to get lost in this bohemian city and get to know all it’s gritty and glamorous corners.

2. Barcelona

I’ve been to Spain twice – to Grenada, Costa del Sol, and Ibiza – but thus far the country’s most cosmopolitan city has eluded me. I’ve always maintained that in order to settled down somewhere, it would have to have some non-negotiable baselines: warm weather, a big city, and a nearby seaside. Who knows, Barcelona could be my someday-home! Not to mention, I am ecstatic any time I get a change to practice my español. Oh Barcelona, I can’t wait to meet you!

3. Amsterdam

When I picture Amsterdam, I see myself biking joyfully through fields of tulips, walking with awe past the world’s largest collection of Van Goghs, and darting wide-eyed through the city’s notorious red light district. Adding to my wanderlust, one of my best friends from Thailand is now based here – and if I’ve learned one thing about travel, it’s that there is no better way to explore a new destination than with a local at your side.

What about you readers, what’s on your European bucket list?!

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46 Responses to “My European Bucket List”

  1. I haven’t been to Europe at all! So my bucket list is a long one. To begin with, I want to go to Sweden and forage for wild mushrooms, then cook them up on a beach fire with some butter, chopped onions, and cream. This would be followed up by freshly picked blueberries. (Now that I think about it, all of my European fantasies somehow involve food…)
    Torre – Fearful Adventurer recently posted..Inspiration Versus Idiocy: The Fine Line Between Success and Failure

    • Alex says:

      Ha, it is for this reason that I can never go to Italy… I would gain thousands of pounds gorging on my favorite cuisine. Maybe if I followed up my trip there with the Tour de France or some other equally physically punishing activity…

  2. rob says:

    I find this so amusing, as I’m firmly the other way. I’ve been to a LOT of places in Europe. Lived in Sweden for years. And have only been to Asia once. Korea. Hated it. My view of Asia is overpopulation, filth, poverty and general unpleasantness. Although I hear Thailand is better than most. And south of the border with Mexico just spells drug wars, revolutions, terrorism, poverty and other unpleasantness in my mind.

    Europe is civilized.

    Of course, I recognize that I shouldn’t write off Asia because Koreans are rude and smoke all the time. Nor South America because of the Media. But Europe, NZ, Australia are so *easy*. And interesting.

    • Alex says:

      Well, clearly I don’t agree with your views on Asia as I’ve returned here over and over and over again :) I think for some people, the allure is actually that it ISN’T easy in these destinations — a challenge can be so rewarding! And if I was really that interested in being civilizes, well, I probably would have stayed in New York! Ha.

      • rob says:

        I know other people who really like Asia, and even those people will acknowledge that it’s 3rd-world hard. I’ve a friend living in Singapore that I’m considering visiting, and people say that Thailand is nice. India is supposed to be nice if you can get away from the cities and the people, which is kind of hard to do. Ditto China.

        Where do you go in Asia that is appealing? And why is it appealing?

        • Alex says:

          Currently I’m in Thailand for the bajillionth time :) I’ve also been to Cambodia (twice), Vietnam, Laos, and Malaysia, and I’m heading soon to Philippines and Indonesia. I love this region of the world with all my heart. It is rich in a culture that is very exotic to me, the weather is lovely, prices are low, and there are plenty of opportunities for adventurous and active travel here.

          I admit that more developed Asian nations like China and Korea really don’t hold much interest to me as a traveler.

          • rob says:

            Well, Thailand is on my list (albeit down on my list) as I’ve friends who lived in Chaing Mai and loved their time there. I have some Swedish friends there now on the islands and they are having a blast.

            If you ever go to Scandinavia (including Finland) post about it in advance. I’ll put you in touch with people who will show you around.. Scandinavians are a touch reserved, but go all out for friends of friends… :)

          • Chris says:

            I couldn’t agree with you more Alex, and disagree with Rob completely.

            The appeal of Asia, Africa and Latin America is that it is so different to what we find at home.

            Not that there isn’t beauty (people and places) in Europe, Australia or the northern Americas, but if I wanted comfort and things that were easy, there’d be no point in leaving home.

            Seeing the life on the streets, the overcrowding, the squalor, but then to realise that these people remain happy, make all that material crap back home irrelevant.
            Chris recently posted..“The Travel Book” – A Book Review

    • Anon says:

      Not to be blunt, but do you realize how ignorant you sound? Haha.

      Your generalizations of Asia can be applied to any country, even those in Europe. There are many “civilized” countries outside of Europe, and many places in Europe and United States can be deemed as “uncivilized” and unpleasant.

      Might as well just never leave your country to stay within your comfort zone :P

      • Alex says:

        I’m all for freedom of speech on Alex in Wanderland, but I do think most comments — especially critical ones — are taken more seriously when they come from a name other than “anon” :)

  3. Laryssa says:

    That’s an impressive list for not going to Europe much. ;)

    I want to explore my family’s roots: Germany, Poland, Ukraine.

    And Prague’s been on my list for a LONG time, even though I have no clear reason why – except that I keep hearing it’s awesome, maybe?
    Laryssa recently posted..New York City and Randy Travis

    • Alex says:

      I know, right? Don’t think I can really say that anymore. I guess I never thought of myself having explored the region too much because all my travels have been about family — my own or my ex boyfriend’s. So I never really sat down and initiated one myself, which seems significant somehow :)

  4. Nadia says:

    Berlin and Barcelona are my two favorite cities! You will love them. It is about loving a city more than a culture or a people… is the energy the city produces and how it effects you. Certainly you can love SE Asia and Europe; you just love them for different reasons.

    • Alex says:

      I agree, I’m definitely a person who is either charmed by a city or not and often I have a hard time describing why and instead just mumble something about “the energy.” I’m definitely looking forward to exploring these places now that I’m earning enough to make it a reality!

  5. Europe has never captivated me either…but Barcelona…easily one of the best cities in the world!!!!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Asheville, North Carolina: Biltmore Estate In Photos (Part 2)

    • Alex says:

      Well we have very similar taste so I will trust your judgement :) Yeah for some reason I always have this feeling like, “Meh, Europe will be there when I’m old…”

  6. As a European I feel the urge to advertise it a little bit. :-) I am from Germany and lived in England for 7 years. I have been to pretty much most European countries, as it is soooo easy to travel around Europe with the proximity and great rail networks and cheap flights operating between each country. Each country is so different as well: you can go skiing in Austria, discover Roman treasures in Italy or live the highlife in the south of France. You should definitely go.
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..My husband is a lucky man

    • Alex says:

      I am definitely jealous of the passports of most Europeans… you must be the most well-traveled bunch in the world! And as I re-read this I think of a few more places I’d like to go… Finland (one of my good friends is from here), Italy (for the food!) and back to Iceland and Greece again!

  7. Amsterdam and Berlin are definitely two of my favorite cities in Europe, but I haven’t seen Barcelona yet. I’m quite fond of London and Turin, as well.
    Christian Eilers recently posted..Weekly Photo: Plaza de Toros, Málaga, Spain

    • Alex says:

      See, I’ve been to London twice now and just didn’t feel “it.” My second time was definitely better as I was with friends who showed me all around but I still didn’t get that whole “I’m never leaving this place!” feeling that I get with places I really love.

  8. rob says:

    It seems people are suggesting places to go, as well. I’m more than fond of Scandinavia but will acknowledge that it’s painfully expensive to visit. Cheaper and warmer, the south of France is glorious, Spain is nice enough, but Portugal is absolutely glorious. Great people, great wine, great food. And all the normal European history stuff – castles, small farms, small villages. I love Portugal!

    I was in Croatia (the Istrian penisula) two years ago and can’t wait to go back. Croatia and Slovenia are fabulous places.

  9. Jessica says:

    When i first began reading this, I too did not realize how many countries in Europe I have been to. So far I have been to Greece, italy, france, uk (london), and switzerland. I am dying to get to iceland and turkey as of now. I really enjoyed all your posts on iceland! (And hawaii since that is my next big trip)! Thanks!
    Jessica recently posted..Soaking in some Sun on St. Thomas

  10. Lisa says:

    curiously enough, most westerners are captivated by Asia, while on the other hand, asians are so captivated by the US and Europe. i guess it always seems greener on the other side of the fence. :P

    i haven’t been to Europe and it’s definitely part of my bucketlist! my ultimate europe backpacking itinerary is: Paris – Amsterdam – Prague – Berlin – Frankfurt – Vienna – Venice – Rome – Florence – Nice – Marseille – Barcelona – Madrid – Dublin – Edinburgh – London :)
    Lisa recently posted..foodie friday: Banapple Baked Cheesy Penne

  11. Sol says:

    Croatia and the Greek islands are best seen from the sea. Go sailing there you will not regret it. Although Greece is very expensive compared to 10 years ago.

    There is something about France that I adore. Especially the South of France.

    Most of Turkey is technically Asia, so you have seen more of Asia than you think.

    I didn’t really like Portugal, I went several times as a child and then again 5 years ago and in the 15 years in between it became very touristy and very much like some areas of Spain, catering to drunk Brits I was embarrassed of their antics.

    Morocco is cheap and easy to travel around.

    Love your blog

    • Alex says:

      My trip to Greece was a small ship cruise from Athens to Istanbul… it was heavenly :) I would absolutely love to return to Greece and see more of it.

  12. Chet Opalka says:

    Too many favorites to mention. Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam, the Greek Isles are all special to us. We should talk some day.

  13. Frank says:

    Berlin, Barcelona and Amsterdam are all very cool cities to visit! I lived in London for 6 months so most of my initial travels were in Western European nations which absolutely have amazing sites. If you move on to Eastern Europe there are very cool areas that are less touristed.

    I’m dying to travel in Asia and more of S America but if I had to choose a top three bucket list for Europe it would be Florence (with another trip to Rome thrown in), the Greek Islands and Poland.

  14. I have to admit that the places that really captivate me travel-wise right now are far away from Europe as well – but then again, I’m from Europe so naturally it is less of a travel destination in my mind! :) Would love to visit Santorini, though, and Iceland!

    Melanie Fontaine recently posted..Vienna Day 3 – Schönbrunn and Belverde

  15. Chris Shaw says:

    I lived in England for awhile, I agree that London can be tough to warm up to quickly, but it grows on you over time. Don’t overlook Salzburg, Paris, Lucerne, and Munich, you’ll be glad you went!

  16. Diane says:

    Wow, I have to say I’m surprised that France isn’t on your Europe bucket list! Don’t snub Paris. ;-) And really any city in France. There’s a special charm to France that you just can’t understand until you’ve been here. Maybe in 2013??
    Diane recently posted..Lonely expat problem: Making friends is harder than it looks

  17. Amsterdam is wonderful. I can’t wait to visit the other two as well!

  18. Renate says:

    You should come to Norway! Nice place with nice people :) i felt it had to be said :p

    • Alex says:

      After going to Iceland I would love to visit Norway, Finland and Sweden… it definitely gave me a taste for how much I would like Scandinavia!

      • rob says:

        I can confirm Scandinavia is awesome. I lived in Sweden for 4 years and miss it a lot. I visit every 2-3 years to touch base with my friends. But only in the summer. It’s not a great place for people like me who like sunshine and warm weather when it’s winter!

  19. Paul says:

    Top of my European bucket list would be a tour of all the major football clubs by going to different matches – Barcelona FC, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, etc. I can’t imagine a better way to get a real feeling for the roots of football, as well as an understanding of an important cultural aspect of Western Europe.

    Great pics on both Berlin and Amsterdam by the way. I did a short tour of Western Europe in 2011, and those two were my favorite two cities. I definitely recommend renting a bike in Berlin, as well as Amsterdam, to see the entire city as you wish.

    • Alex says:

      I’m no sports lover, Paul, but I love a good themed trip! :) And I’m an avid biker, so I’ll definitely take your suggestion when I finally get to these cities.

  20. Hauke says:

    hmmmmm MALTA hello! Why isn’t it on this list???? Shame on you missy!

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