I’ve decided to create a list of my top five European destinations which are only a ‘short hop’ away from England. Why? So that you know where to visit!
But also because I’m from New Zealand (A Kiwi), and each year many Kiwis and Aussies leave their homeland to head to England for an OE (Overseas Experience). Why England? Because it’s considered an easy transition from home, has readily available work visas, and many Kiwis and Aussies have English relatives. But there is more to Europe than England, so lets get out and explore – and these five destinations are a great place to start.
Consider them starting points towards your wider continental European exploration, or just weekend get-a-ways while you’re living and working in England. Even if your born and bred English, if you haven’t visited all 5 of these European cities then I highly recommend you start…
1. Paris, France
Merely a hop, skip, and a jump away from England, you cannot consider going to Europe and not seeing Paris.
Taking the train to Paris from London is really simple, or if you have a vehicle there are ferries which will drop you across the English Channel with the added bonus of getting to see the White Cliffs of Dover from the sea! The cliffs were easily the highlight of my ferry ride to France during the start of my Contiki bus tour a couple years back. Once in Paris explore the unique French cafes, bakeries, parks, museums and art galleries.
Tip: Don’t rush around the city trying to see everything if you only have limited time. Take time to chill out in a sidewalk cafe, sip a coffee and watch the French as they go busily about their way. It’s the little things which are often most memorable, and better to see less properly, rather than more in a rushed manner.
2. Brussels, Belgium
Easily one of my favourite destinations because they make quite possibly the best beer in the world.
My favourite spot to sample Belgium’s best beers was Délirium Café aka The Pink Elephant, tucked away in one of Brussels narrow alleyways this impressive bar offers more beers on tap than you’ll be able to drink in a weekend, and more in bottles than you could manage in a year! When I was here I had an amazing time sampling as many fine Belgium beers as I could manage given my travelling time constraints. Regrettably, since I was travelling by myself at the time, I didn’t get the chance to order one of these huge glasses (pictured below), but if you’ve ever tried one before please do comment about your experience.
3. Amsterdam, Netherlands
An absolute must visit for any fresh-faced first-time traveller.
Explore the red light district, chill out at a cafe, cycle around the city and float down the canals, so much to enjoy in Amsterdam. I only spent the one full day in Amsterdam; it was very memorable and I’ve only ever heard positive experiences from other travellers who’ve visited – whether for a short period like me or from those who’ve spent months temporarily living, everyone enjoys the place. Don’t just get stuck in a cafe, make sure you explore the markets, the canals and consider checking out the Anne Frank museum.
4. Copenhagen, Denmark
Old buildings, canals, Danish people, northern weather; go check it out!
Apparently Copenhagen has one of the highest concentrations of bars and restaurants per capita in the world, no doubt this contributed to its 2006 Most Liveable City in the World (1st) ranking by Monocle magazine, and it frequently appears in other ‘top city’ lists. While not as far north as Norway, Sweden and Finland; Denmark will certainly give you a taste of what you could see venturing further into northern Europe, and if you only make it to the city of Copenhagen, well it still has plenty to offer! While you could ferry to Copenhagen, the airport is close to the city and easily accessible by public transport. So from London I’d recommend getting the Heathrow Express connection from Paddington train station to the airport and you’ll be exploring Copenhagen in no time at all!
5. Barcelona, Spain
Just a short flight from England and you can immerse yourself in the Spanish culture!
From all the countries and cities I’ve seen in Europe, Barcelona has a permanent spot at the top of my ‘most awesome’ list; it just has a unique feel to the place. Plus if you really want to see something different, visit for the festival of Saint Joan in late June (23-24 June), when everyone takes to the street at night, lights fireworks and bonfires on the beach and pretty much just go crazy – it’s awesome! I visited on a bus tour which took ‘ages’ to get there, but if you just have the weekend I’d recommend flying.
So hop on a plane, boat, train or a bicycle and get out there!
Five must see, easily accessed from England, mainland Europe destinations. So book a plane, hop on a ferry, or catch a train; but get out there and explore, because you only live once, and there is no better time than now to see somewhere new!
What has been your favourite short trip from England?