The Best European Experiences, Right Now

The Best of My Experiences in…


Croatia, Slovenia, Spain, Italy, France

 

I promised myself I wouldn’t go to Europe again.

My heart yearns to return to Asia, all the time. I haven’t set foot in South America yet. The only place I have lived in and have seen a lot of is…Europe.

 

A traveler always has to decide — return to a place they already know they love, or see someplace new?

Yet with a strong dollar and a conference in one of my favorite places in the world, it wasn’t exactly hard to persuade me to reconsider. I was spending a month in Europe: some new places (Croatia, Slovenia) and some classics revisited (Spain, France, Italy.) Truth be told, my heart skips a beat every time I think about traveling in Europe. Though I know I need to venture out to see more of the world, it can be difficult to repeatedly resist Europe’s charms…

You all asked, and so I sat down to recap the best eats, stays, views, and experiences (that’s almost all the senses.) While I’ll be writing about many of these in more detail, I thought it might be helpful to have a list of everything all together.

I’ve narrowed it down to a (*cough, short*) list.  It might seem like a random collection of recommendations, but I’m confident it will send some of you off to some of the best experiences in the world.

First off, here’s where I went (click to expand):

Europe Recommendations For The Following Countries/Cities:

Croatia: Dubrovnik, Mali Ston, Split, Hvar, Trogir, Plitvice, Krka, Zagreb

Slovenia: Ljubljana, Bled

Bosnia: Mostar

Spain: Málaga, Álora, Cordoba, Madrid, Barcelona, Girona, Costa Brava

France: Arles, Nice, Eze, Villefranche-sur-mer

Italy: Genova, Rome

Recommendations in each category are in that order. If there’s a specific restaurant that I found to be particularly good for that dish, it is listed as well.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out! These were my highlights though, and I’ve listed extensively where I would happily return to.

(And if you find yourself at any of these places, please do let me know! I would be so happy to hear about it. Each of these places holds a special place in my travel memories!)

HAPPY EATING + TRAVELING!

 

Eats

Oysters in Mali Ston (Croatia) (This type of unique “flat” oyster can only be found in one bay in the whole world)

Bota Sare (also locations in Dubrovnik, Split, and Zagreb though this is the original)

Vila Koruna (three is also a small inn above the restaurant)

Struckli (Croatia) (Just do it!)

Le Bistro Esplanade, Zagreb (try one savory with salt and one sweet with sugar!)

Lamb under the iron bell (Peka) (Croatia)

Konavoski Dvori, Ljuta, Croatia (just south of the Dubrovnik airport, a taxi can easily take you)

Dalmatian Ham/Pag Cheese (Croatia)

Lamb under the iron bell in Croatia

Oysters in Mali Ston, Croatia

Struckli at the Hotel Esplanade in Zagreb

 

Burek (Bosnia, throughout the region) (You had me at meat pastry.)

Veal stew with chive dumplings and buckwheat (Slovenia)

Gostilna Murka in Bled (try any of their traditional menus!)

Pumpkin Seed Oil (Slovenia) (It’s ridiculously amazing, put it on everything.)

Scorpion Fish (If freshly caught – it looks scary but it’s really, really tasty. Also try octopus salad!) (Croatia)

Gariful – Hvar, Croatia

Slovenian food and wine

Handmade chorizo and cheese - fresh as it gets!

Goat cheese salad in Girona

 

Pan com tomate (pan amb tomaquet) (Catalunya)

Cava y Pimientos con queso y más cava (Or actually, everything from this restaurant) (Catalunya)

El Xampanyet (Carrer de Montcada 22, Barcelona)

Botifarra (a traditional Catalunyan sausage)

Can Tosca (discovered on Devour Barcelona Four Tour)

El Xampayet (above) – had an incredible botifarra with crispy chickpeas here.

Gelateria Rocambolesc – Girona, Spain

It’s own separate listing, because it’s beautiful, inventive gelato from the geniuses (the Roca brothers) who bring us El Celler de Can Roca (just named the top restaurant in the world.)

Berenjenas con Miel de Caña (Spain)

Restaurante Sol del Rio – Álora, Andalucia, Spain

Salad with foie gras shavings, caramelized apple and pomegranate (Spain)

Restaurant El Pedro – Pals, Catalunya, Spain

Suquet de peix (Catalunya)

Fresh bruschetta at Testaccio market
Flavio al Velavevodetto pasta

Pasta alla Pesto Genovese

Trattoria Da Maria (Vico Testadoro, 14r, Genova, Italy)

Pasta in Rome: cacio e pepe, carbonara, and/or amatriciana (Rome)

Flavio al Velavevodetto, Testaccio, Rome, Italy

Suppli (Italy)

Trapizzino  – Rome, Italy

Wines of note:

  • Dingač (red – Croatia)
  • Cava (sparkling, Catalunya)
  • Anything from Empordà (Catalunya)
  • Rosé (France, Provence)
  • Frascanti (white – Rome, Italy)

 

Cava in Costa Brava

 

For the cocktail lover, here are few favorite spirits I particularly enjoyed in their respective countries:

  • Rakija (Croatia) (a grappa-type spirit, try the traditional travarica made with herbs.)
  • Ratifia (Mediterranean Spain and France)
  • Vermouth (all over…mmm)
  • Tinto de verano (Spain)
  • Gin and tonic (all the rage in Spain right now)
  • Aperol Spritz (Italy)

Drinking Rakija in Croatia

 

Stays

I stayed in 25+ different spots over the course of several weeks. Here were the standouts:

Hotel Adriana (Hvar, Croatia)

Importanne Resort (Dubrovnik, Croatia)

Hotel Esplanade (Zagreb, Croatia)

Importanne Resort in Dubrovnik

TOC hostel (Madrid, Spain)

El Cortijo Valverde (just outside of Álora, Spain)

Hotel Aigua Blava (Costa Brava, Spain)

View from Hotel Adriana, Hvar, Croatia

Sant Pere del Bosc* (Costa Brava, Spain)

L’Auberge du Pelerin et du Voyageur (Arles, France – though I hesitate to recommend it as the staff could use some help in the polite department…it’s a beautiful, affordable, central spot where there are limited options for solo travelers. And to balance out the scales, I made an amazing French friend there!)

The Hostel Genova (Genoa, Italy)

The Beehive* (Rome, Italy)

Hotel Aigua Blava

(*While I didn’t sleep at these properties, I spent time there and loved it – and look forward to going back for a longer stay!)

Views

Soaking up the atmosphere of a beautiful place is one of my favorite things about travel. It makes me feel alive, vibrant, and optimistic about our world.

Here are a few memorable views that come immediately to mind…

Plitvice Lakes travel photo

Andalucia countryside near Alora

Coastal views in Costa Brava

Streets of Cordoba Hvar waterfront

Onyar River, Girona

View from Le Jardin Exotique, Eze

Palafrugell coast

Streets of Arles

Best view of Lake Bled

Tall buildings - Genoa, Italy

Dubrovnik view from city walls

 

  • Waterfront in Hvar
  • Upper Lakes of Plitvice National Park
  • Dubrovnik from the tram and city walls
  • Lake Bled, Slovenia
  • Côte d’Azur from Eze (Le Jardin Exotique)
  • The Spanish countryside in Álora
  • Barcelona from Passion Tower of La Sagrada Familia
  • The alleyways of Andalucia (Córdoba pictured)
  • Waking up in Costa Brava
  • Coastal walk in Palafrugell, Cataluynya
  • By the Onyar River in Girona, Catalunya (La Terra cafe)
  • The small streets of Provence (Arles pictured)
  • Looking up in Genoa, Italy

Experiences

Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb (Croatia)

Climbing to the Mala Osojnica (viewpoint) of Lake Bled (Slovenia)

Swimming in Krka National Park (Croatia)

Old Bridge of Mostar (Bosnia)

Krka National Park swimming

Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb - Entrance

Oyster farming in Mali Ston

Photo by Brad Bernard of MyWanderlist

Oyster farming in Mali Ston (Croatia)

Train from Ljubljana to Munich through the Austrian countryside (scenery galore!)

Zagreb coffee shops/Zagreb by night (especially with Secret Zagreb Walks)

Sitting riverside in Ljubljana (Slovenia)

Dining al fresco in Ljubljana

Bridge with love locks in Ljubljana

Old Bridge of Mostar

Walking the El Caminito del Rey (Alora, Spain – just reopened!)

Flamenco show in Málaga (not touristy!) 

Wandering the Mesquita of Córdoba (magnificent)

Learning how to Casteller (Catalan human towers)

Yoga in the Sant Clotide Gardens (Lloret de Mar, Catalunya)

Best Summer Travel in Europe

Learn how to build a casteller (human tower)

Kelipe Flamenco in Malaga

Mesquita of Cordoba, Spain

Walking El Caminito del Rey in Spain

Small winery in Costa Brava (Finca Bell Lloc – they make (and raise) every product on site!)

Lunch in a traditional barraca on the beach in Costa Brava

Food Tour: Devour Barcelona

Saturday market in Arles

Discovering Testaccio + Food Tour: Eating Italy

Walking the city center of Rome by night (Best time to see Rome! Please be aware of your safety)

Finca Bel Lloc Wine Cellar

Lavender at Arles Market, Provence

Costa Brava barraca

Piazza Navona at Night


While this by no means encompasses my entire time in these countries, I hope it does give you a reason to dream — a reason to plan! — your next trip. Perhaps it will give you a few places or and the best European travel experiences for your travel wish list. It’s also a preview of what awaits you, dear reader, in the coming months.

For now, whet your appetite over with my piece on European rail travel on Huffington Post Travel or…see the best spots on Findery! (A beautiful storytelling app.)

After all, it’s the experiences that make a place and the stories that shape the experience…

Where do you most look forward to reading about? (I sometimes take requests….)


Disclaimer: As a travel writer, I am often invited to experience destinations, hotels, restaurants, or tours. I only say ‘yes’ to the ones that truly interest me, and I only share those which I wholeheartedly recommend. I also pay for the majority of my travel out of my own pocket, and I so appreciate the partners who make it possible for me to bring you a wider range of experiences here on the blog.


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6 Comments

  1. Wait WHAT??! You didn’t include my flat as the best place to stay in Spain?? Is it cuz I have like half a flimsy pillow to my name?
    So glad you came back to Europe and that we frolicked around for a week–one of the highlights of my year here. Let’s continue the good times in S.F. once I get over my jealousy of all that amazing food you ate in Croatia/Slovenia/everywhere.

    • IMAGINE if I had been there the entire year! *Mind blown*
      Can’t wait to have you back home in SF!!!! We eat pretty damn good here, too, you know.

  2. A traveler always has to decide — return to a place they already know they love, or see someplace new?

    How true is this. I tend to return to the same places again and again, and that was never really my intention (although I do love all the repeat visits I’ve made to places). This fall I’m going to Spain and Finland for the first time, so I’m pretty excited. I’ll definitely look into the TOC Hostel in Madrid since I’ll be there for a few days (and possibly Barcelona – I’m only in Spain for a 1 week, so I’m trying not to cram in too much for my trip).

    • I love my repeat visits, too! Even though I travel more now than I ever would’ve dreamed, I still feel this dilemma. There are just too many great places in the world! I guess it just comes down to stopping the ‘shoulds’ and listening to what/where we really want.

      PS: You will adore the TOC Hostel in Madrid! Awesome location, too. Be sure to book in advance.

  3. I sure could go for some of that Croatian food. Particularly the oysters and the lamb. Might be worth it to make the trip just for that.

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