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This is a guest post from Colm Hanratty, Editor of Hostelworld.com.
Beginning to plan your Summer vacation? Thinking of maybe hitting up one of Europe’s hotspots? In this guest post Hostelworld.com Editor Colm Hanratty gives us his selection of 5 of Europe’s top cities you should think about visiting on your annual summer getaway…
Regularly referred to the ‘Venice of the North’ and home to over 800,000 people, Amsterdam is easily one of Europe’s most welcoming, relaxed, charming and fascinating cities. Thanks to its location on a cobweb of canals, it boasts one of the most picturesque settings in the world. It’s also where you’ll find world-class museums (one of which opens on April 14th after a decade-long renovation), stunning architecture and, of course, a buzzing nightlife making it the perfect city for a few days.
There are some places on the planet where you can feel an energy and a sense of excitement in the air, almost all day long. Barcelona is one of those places. From the second you hit Las Ramblas for the first time you know you’re going to enjoy yourself here. This city on the east coast of Spain is buzzing all day long, but of course it’s at night that it really comes into its own. Choose from a bar in the Barri Gotic, one in El Raval, another down by the port or just hang out on the streets and you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s not only hedonists that will love Barcelona – thanks to one Antoni Gaudi, it is where you will find some of the world’s most fascinating architecture. It’s also where you’ll find a beach to catch rays on, a park to unwind in, tapas bars to meet locals in…the list goes on.
It’s a bit of a cliché when it comes to many cities around the world, but there really is nowhere else on earth like Prague. A perfect blend of the old and the new, the Nové Mesto (New Town) symbolises the new independent Czech Republic, while the Staré Mesto (Old Town) is one of the best preserved old towns in Europe as it remained untouched in both World Wars. While these are both on the eastern side of the River Vltava, stroll across the famous Charles Bridge to the west and you’ll encounter the Malá Strana (Lesser Town) and the city’s medieval castle. Along with all the sightseeing to do, Prague has more than its fair share of affordable restaurants, while if you search hard enough you’ll find some of the cheapest (and tastiest) beer in Europe.
In my opinion, there are three cities on earth that epitomize the definition of the word ‘city’ more than anywhere else. Tokyo is one, New York City is another, and London is the third. No matter what part of the city you’re in, it still has that ‘bright lights big city’ aspect to it. It’s also one of the most iconic destinations on earth. Within a couple of hours you can walk from Big Ben to Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace to Piccadilly Circus, stopping for fish and chips along the way of course. After dark, if you want to be in the thick of it you’re spoiled for your choice. You can go bar hopping in the West End, chill out for a beer in the East End after a curry on Brick Lane, or see what the cool kids do in Shoreditch or Hoxton. No matter what you do, you’ll never forget a visit to one of the world’s great capitals.
I was lucky enough to have visited Budapest for four days last summer. I made sure to do two things…explore two aspects of the city that are extremely unique to the Hungarian capital – thermal baths and ruin bars. They complement each other quite well – at night you can sample local brews and meet people from all over the world in the ruin bars; bars literally built into ruins of old buildings (don’t leave without going to the most famous one called Szimpla Kert). Then during the day you can dust off the cobwebs caused by those brews in one of the city’s thermal baths. There are five in the city centre, with the Gellert Baths and the Szechenyi Baths being the most famous. But if you want to experience something visit the Rudas Baths, the most Turkish of all the baths and home to the hottest steam room I’ve never been in (I could only go to the one beside it that was 10C cooler and almost unbearable).