With 2010 soon coming to a close, Iâ€™ve been thinking about where next in Europe I want to explore come the new year. With still loads of the continent left for me to travel and write about, I sat down and made a shortlist of cities I want to hit up once the weather becomes favourable again.
Iâ€™ll be expanding into more destinations in a wider arc from London, including further East into Poland and the Czech Republic, whilst also revisiting parts of Italy and the Iberian region that I havenâ€™t checked out yet.
This seaside city, situated in the north is itâ€™s own very unique part of Portugal with a very working class, laid back vibe. Itâ€™s built up around the Douro river, with an impressive bridge spanning the waterway to frame the cityâ€™s historic mix of a Romanesque cathedral, Renaissance squares and Baroque monuments.
Porto is the home of Port Wine, and comes from the terraced vineyards that line the banks of the River Douro â€“ Iâ€™ll definitely be sampling my fair share when I visit. Porto also has some incredible seafood restaurants (Bacalhau anyone?) and tonnes of riverside bars and pubs in the Ribeira region, where youâ€™ll be able to enjoy your beer with an awesome view.
Porto promises to be a weekend away that will not only allow you to appreciate the historic and cultural aspects, but will also let you relax and unwind in this chilled out coastal town.
Sometimes infamous for its reputation as a stag party destination, Iâ€™m really keen on visiting Krakow for both its festive-ness and the historic importance. The city is packed with Medieval era architecture including the Royal Castle and Cathedral that looms over the river and the ruins of ancient walls that used to surround the city.
The former Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau is located 60 km outside of Krakow, and is one of the most horrifying and devastating examples of the Holocaust. This is an absolute must for anyone with an interest in World War Two, and Iâ€™ve not spoken to anyone thatâ€™s been there that hasnâ€™t been blown away by the experience.
As the quintessential, romantic canal town, Venice is a fantastic example of classic Roman architecture and the fusion that has gone on since the dawn of this incredible city.
Photo â€“ Amit Singh
Packed full of churches, museums and awesome bridges spanning the canals, Venice is just one of those cities in the world you have to visit that you canâ€™t experience anywhere else (apart from the Venetian casino in Macau or Vegas, haha). Imagine cruising along a canal on a gondola, jumping off somewhere, having some lunch and then exploring the extensive maze of laneways that run along the waterside. Amazing, huh? Itâ€™s gonna be awesome.
When I think Spain, I donâ€™t instantly think Madrid. I think more along the lines of Barcelona, but Iâ€™m interested to see what the capital is like, and how it compares to its contentious Catalan companion. In typical stylish Spanish fashion, Iâ€™m expecting nights out till dawn, loads of tapas and probably having to watch my wallet doesnâ€™t get lifted by dodgy dudes in the street.
As the focal point of the Spanish empire for hundreds of years, the history behind their colonisation of Central/South America and the Franco era provides an insight into the tumultuous evolution of this once European powerhouse. Another thing I love about Spain is the concept of the siesta, so thereâ€™ll be plenty of afternoon napping going on. If I can, Iâ€™ll try to get myself to a bullfight whilst Iâ€™m there, itâ€™s one of those unique things you can only see in this part of the world.
A Central European stalwart, Prague has always been a good value destination packed with loads of Czech character and centuries of history to wrap your head around. Itâ€™s home to the largest castle in the world, an amazing old town, beautiful bridges and I think it will be wicked to experience a new, Eastern part of Europe. Iâ€™ll be making sure I do the legwork to get an idea of what life is like in the Czech Republic; digging deep to find out what the locals are like, the food and of course, the beer!