Getting away from the average day to day routines can be a great escape. Whether it’s a small farm town, a big metropolis, or somewhere in between, finding a new culture can be an exciting time. Often, though, just getting away from the regular environment isn’t enough. America is a big country, but sometimes staying within it’s borders doesn’t reach the cultural impact needed. Europe is steeped in culture, and many of its cities are perfect hubs for American travelers to see a different way of life without having too much of a culture shock.
Filled with exotic foods, chic hotels, beautiful architecture, and scenic views to boost any Instagram feed, Iceland is a great place for any American to travel to. The people are friendly and inviting of the new cultures and regularly host events or gatherings in the center of towns that make any traveler feel welcomed. The Blue Lagoon is one of the city’s most sought after landmarks (technically it’s on the outskirts), and it’s the perfect place to snap a photo to send home or to admire the beauty of this natural phenomenon. The city can also be very dark in some months of the year, particularly the winter, though the darker hours are the perfect time to enjoy a hot coffee around a warm fire.
England is a great place for American travelers with iconic landmarks to see like Big Ben, the London Eye, and Buckingham Palace, as well as lesser known spots like the quaint little pubs ad bookshops scattered throughout the city. The people of course all speak the language, making getting around and interacting with the locals much easier. Bartenders at the local pub are also keen to offer any details or recommendations for things to do in any of the neighborhoods. Just be sure to have an Oyster Card handy for the tube!
Just a few hours north of London by train or plane, Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful old cities in Scotland. With the town divided into two halves, the new town and old city, the traditional Edinburgh that gets printed in all the brochures is the “Old City” with cobblestones lining the Royal Mile and buildings that make any wanderer think of Harry Potter walking through Hogsmeade. Be sure to pay a visit for a coffee in The Elephant Room, where JK Rowling reportedly wrote the first few books in the series, and where readers of the books have traveled to write a note for the author in the bathroom of the small cafe.
The perfect city for a short trip en route to a larger city, Bruges is a (relatively) smaller town and thus quite friendly with those passing through for a few days. The city center is smaller and very walkable, though the locals get around on bicycles, which can be rented at various locations throughout the town. Be sure to make a pit stop on the way though for some of Belgium’s finest exports: chocolate and beer. Let the locals tell you their favorites, make sure you get either at a small spot off the beaten path.
A cultural epicenter, Paris has always existed in a daydream of Americans who are looking to flee to live the expat life. From friendly tourists always willing to help offer a direction or recommend a cafe, every little spot in Paris feels like the hole in the wall secret that travelers hope to find. The best tip is to see all the highlight tourism hubs in one day: the Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe, Louvre. These places will be filled largely with other travelers, for good reason though. Spend the rest of the trip discovering the bohemian nooks and crannies of the city.
The Czech capital, Prague is a great place for Americans to travel to. Many English speakers, it’s the perfect place to feel out of the norm while still being able to ask for help or directions if need be. The city also has a healthy expat scene, being about half the cost of living as San Diego and featuring holiday street markets. The outskirts of the city also offer some of the most beautiful countryside in all of Europe.