I’ve been traveling around Europe for about a year and a half now, and I’ve noticed a sort of pattern to all of the must-see tourist sights in each city. Most of the places on my list probably will not come as a surprise, but I believe that if you can hit up each of these six sights when visiting a new city, you will be able to get a pretty thorough introduction to the local scene.
1. A Beautiful Church
I currently live in Reims, France, and I live about a 15-minute walk away from the cathedral where the French Kings used to be crowned. We’re pretty serious about our churches here. That said, I’m never one to turn down the chance to see some artfully stained-glass, some well-worn wooden pews, or some masterfully arched ceilings.
2. A View from Above
You may have to climb a few hundred stairs, but the view from the top is always worth it. Some of my favorite perches include the tops of bell towers, clock towers, and Eiffel towers.
3. A Remnant of Royalty
Although most of the European monarchs didn’t turn out so well in the end, you gotta admit that they lived in style. Many former castles and palaces have been transformed into museums or art galleries, because the art of opulence is something that needs to be preserved. Personally, I quite enjoy visiting these former seats of royalty and envisioning my life as a queen for a day, albeit usually surrounded by thousands of other tourists in the same crowded hallway as me trying to do the same.
4. A Local Treat
If there is something I love about traveling, it is the excuse to eat as many calories as I want. After all, there is no better way to taste the local flavor than to dig into some local cuisine. During most of my travels, I stick to a diet of cheap street food in order to keep costs low. Then, on the last day I will take myself out to a nice dinner with appetizer, dessert and all, a sort of gastronomic finale that I can look forward to during the whole trip.
5. A Bridge over River Water
My favorite type of bridge is a sturdy one. It seems that the inhabitants of Europe centuries ago really paid attention in their physics classes, because they have built some bridges to last. I have many fond memories that include a bottle of wine and a few friends sitting along the Seine. There’s just something about the flow of a river that calms down the hectic life of the city built around it.
6. An Iconic Backdrop
London has the red telephone booths, Berlin has the Berlin Wall, Barcelona has the mosaic bench in Park Güell, even Paris has the je t’aime wall (if you haven’t heard of it, look it up, it’s love-ly). Every city has the one place where you have to get your picture taken, or you might as well not even have gone. I mean, if there’s no photographic evidence of something nowadays, it never happened, right? Make sure when you hit up that one iconic spot in a city that you have a smile ready and your camera charged.
The wonderful thing is that no matter how many churches I visit, local delicacies I eat, or bridges I cross, every one of these experiences feels completely separate in my mind, because it is the local culture and history that gives these monuments their value. Just like no two people are the same, no two cities are the same. By visiting the same types of sights in various cities, the unique qualities of the locality come to light.