I thought that a great way to wrap up my traveling this year would be to make a definitive ranking of all the places I visited this year, including why I loved it and what some of my highlights were in each place. For those of you who don’t know, I was lucky enough to study abroad at University College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland during the spring semester this year. While I was there, I made a lot of trips around Europe when I could. That’s why there are so many places on this list of everywhere I traveled to in 2019! I only included the places that I stayed at least a day in, which I consider at least dipping my toes in.
Why? I’ll never fully know why, but I was disappointed by Brussels! I can’t help but rank it last. The city was dirty and there wasn’t that much to do in my opinion.
Favorite sight: I loved seeing the Atomium. Unfortunately, I didn’t even go inside because we had so many other things we wanted to do/see during the day. Looking back, I really wish I had gone inside because it’s one of the coolest structures I’ve ever seen.
Favorite food/place to eat: I actually loved the waffles here, but I mean who doesn’t? I bought a chocolate covered waffle from a little food truck right at the Atomium. I didn’t find the fries that I ate to be anything special, but maybe I went to the wrong place!
If you’re looking for a better experience than I had, try touring Brussels with a local guide!
Why? I ranked Galway so low because I didn’t fully enjoy this city! I think I didn’t get the chance to explore it to its fullest. Honestly, I should’ve gotten out of the touristy parts of the city more, but since it was one of the first places I visited, I didn’t know any better.
Favorite sight: I loved seeing the two castles downtown that are now a Costa Coffee and a bank. Also, shoutout to Costa Coffee — I miss it so much!
Favorite food/place to eat: I loved the Auntie Nellie’s sweet shop! I of course bought candy for the long ride home.
Why? I stayed one night in Dundee on my way back to Edinburgh during my Scotland road trip! Dundee is a super cool coastal city and is actually the birthplace of DC Comics! As a comic nerd, I completely ate this up.
Favorite sight: I particularly love the V&A museum in Dundee. It’s free to enter, though you can pay more to go to some exhibits. I think I paid about $12 to enter a video game exhibit while I was there which was absolutely worth it.
Favorite food/place to eat: Though not technically Scottish, I only ate at Toni Macaroni here because my Scottish friend who was with us suggested it. I wasn’t disappointed! It kind of reminded me of an Olive Garden… it’s an Italian restaurant for the most part.
Why? Belfast is filled with so much history and I couldn’t help but love that. Plus, we were able to explore a lot of Northern Ireland using Belfast as our home base.
Favorite sight: The Salmon of Knowledge is my favorite sight here! I don’t know why I loved it so much, but I did.
Favorite food/place to eat: I didn’t actually eat out much here, besides at The Bridge House and Eddie Rocket’s, so I’m not sure! I mostly made my own food at the AirBnB.
Why? I loved visiting Blarney Castle in Cork, though unfortunately I didn’t much care for Cork city. I think I definitely want to explore more of Co. Cork though and take in some of its more natural views!
Favorite sight: Blarney Castle of course is my favorite sight here in Cork!
Favorite food/place to eat: Nando’s… need I say anything more?
Why? I stayed a night in Buckie at a friend’s house during my Scotland road trip. With its beautiful coastal views, I couldn’t help but fall in love. I also saw the best sunset I’ve ever seen in my entire life while in Buckie.
Favorite sight: The sunset over the ocean in Buckie is unbeatable.
Favorite food/place to eat: I didn’t actually eat anything from any specific place in Buckie, but I did try spaghetti bolognese for the first time as a home cooked meal. I highly recommend it!
Why? I stayed in Mataró during my stay in Spain and the hotel I stayed at was actually right on the beach! The coast of Mataró is to die for and the water is incredibly blue.
Favorite sight: Though I didn’t really explore Mataró that much, I did spend a full day on Mataró beach a short walk from my hotel. It’s beautiful.
Favorite food/place to eat: The churros and chocolate from Xurreria Rosita are amazing. You have to try these in Spain!
Why? London was actually at the very top of my travel list. I had dreamed of studying abroad here, but it actually sort of disappointed me! Honestly, I think I put too much pressure on this trip, and London ended up feeling a bit like a “royal” version of NYC. I do want to go back to this city and maybe try exploring other areas.
Favorite sight: Though technically not in London, my favorite sight in London is the Harry Potter WB Studio Tour. I loved it.
Favorite food/place to eat: Salty Balls cereal from Cereal Killer Cafe is the best food I had in London. I loved it so much. I’ve honestly never had better cereal in my life, which is huge for me because I eat cereal for any meal!
Why? I can’t help but love coastal towns in Ireland. Bray, sort of like Howth, has a beautiful cliff walk that I just couldn’t get enough of.
Favorite sight: The views from the Bray Head Cliff Walk. I didn’t enjoy this cliff walk as much as the one in Howth, but the water and coastal views were magnificent.
Favorite food/place to eat: I actually packed my own lunch for this cliff walk while I was in Bray, so I can’t really say unfortunately! There are a lot of places to eat right in Bray along the coast.
Why? Riomaggiore was the first village of the Cinque Terre that I visited and I couldn’t believe my eyes. It doesn’t even look real! Plus, it’s super easy to visit Cinque Terre with kids too!
Favorite sight: The water was actually my favorite sight in Riomaggiore. I couldn’t help but just sit on the cliff faces and stare at it the whole time I was here!
Favorite food/place to eat: Pesto pasta is a must while you are in Riomaggiore. I’ve never had better pesto in my life, probably because it actually originates from this very region in Italy!
Why? Rome is an amazing city and it’s so historical. Everywhere I looked was more history! If you’re visiting for the first time, here’s some of the best things to do in Rome!
Favorite sight: The Trevi Fountain is definitely my favorite sight in Rome. I do wish I had gone earlier in the morning though to avoid the crowds! I also wish I had more time to see the side of Rome that you wouldn’t see on a postcard, including these 7 hidden gems in Rome.
Favorite food/place to eat: The best food I ate in Rome was carbonara. I loved it. I’m a sucker for carbonara and I’ve never had it better than in Rome.
Why? Zürich is the first place I took a weekend trip to during my semester abroad. It was my first introduction to mainland Europe, so it’ll always hold a special place in my heart. Though expensive, Zurich is an incredibly beautiful city.
Favorite sight: The view from the top of Grossmünster is my favorite sight here. I loved looking down at Zürich and seeing the beautiful Lake Lucerne with the Swiss Alps in the background. It honestly didn’t seem real.
Favorite food/place to eat: Part of me doesn’t know whether to choose Swiss chocolate from Max Chocolatier or raclette from The Raclette Factory. Both of these are amazing, so I’m going to say both!
Why? Venice is unlike any other city out there. The canals are beautiful and you can literally get lost exploring all the islands. Plus, it’s super easy to take day trips to other islands like Burano.
Favorite sight: I loved just sitting by the waterfront and watching all the gondolas go by, but I think my favorite sight would have to be Libreria Acqua Alta. All the books in this little book shop are in gondolas since the bookstore is flooded so often! Save the books!!
Favorite food/place to eat: The best thing I ate in Venice, just like Vatican City, was actually gelato. To be fair, Gelato di Natura is actually the best gelato I had in my whole week in Italy. It’s amazing.
Plus, if you’re a book lover who is passionate about travel like me, you’ll be happy to find that there’s an abundance of books you can read that take place in Italy, including Venice. Here’s a great post on 31 of the best books set in Italy to inspire your next trip and fuel your wanderlust!
Why? Ever since I took AP European History in high school, Versailles was at the top of my travel list. That dream finally came true and it did not disappoint! The only reason it’s ranked at #15 is because of how busy it was when I went, but I’m sure it’s always that busy unfortunately. It’s one of the royal day trips you should take from Paris!
Favorite sight: The gardens of Versailles are unbeatable. Plus they’re free to explore! I honestly which I had just explored the gardens and not bothered going inside. It was so crowded I could barely move.
Favorite food/place to eat: Unfortunately I didn’t really eat in Versailles, though I did grab a quick croissant for lunch at the cafe. It wasn’t anything special, so I’m going to say nothing here!
Why? Vernazza has so much amazing food. Plus, the views were incredible since it’s another village in the Cinque Terre!
Favorite sight: While walking around Vernazza, my friend and I saw a bunch of people duck off through this little cave. Of course we followed and were greeted with such a gorgeous view!
Favorite food/place to eat: The focaccia pizza from Batti Batti’ Focacceria is so great. I can still taste it in my mouth months later… the ghost taste of an amazing meal.
Why? Vatican City is just incredibly beautiful. You can’t help but love it.
Favorite sight: I am still not over how gorgeous St. Peter’s Basilica is. It’s unlike any church that I’ve ever seen.
Favorite food/place to eat: Though we technically didn’t eat in Vatican City, right next to it is a gelato place called Old Bridge Gelateria. I highly recommend trying it out – it’s the first place I tried real Italian gelato and from that second on, I was hooked.
Why? Luxembourg is like a modge podge of Europe, at least that’s the way it felt to me. The citizens speak up to 5 languages, the food is amazing, and the city is gorgeous.
Favorite sight: I loved exploring the Casemates which are filled with so much history. It was a great place to hunker down too since it unfortunately rained the one full day that I was in Luxembourg City.
Favorite food/place to eat: This is probably terrible to say, but my favorite food was actually the pizza that I ate at Vapiano’s. From my research, it actually turns out that this is a German restaurant chain, but there was a location right next to our hotel in Luxembourg so it’s where we ate a few times. Vapiano’s serves the best pizza that I was able to find in Europe (besides Italy of course). It kind of reminded me of a Panera Bread feel.
Why? Manarola actually looks like a postcard.
Favorite sight: My favorite sight here is actually the viewpoint from a short hike up part of the village where you can see the entire village from the front.
Favorite food/place to eat: I spent most of my time in Manarola taking photos, so I actually didn’t buy anything to eat here!
Why? Howth is filled with so many stunning views and I was lucky enough to go during one of those few days in Ireland where there was gorgeous weather.
Favorite sight: The view from the Howth Cliff Walk is just utterly amazing. The water was so blue that I couldn’t even believe my eyes.
Favorite food/place to eat: I didn’t actually buy a meal here, but I loved exploring the Howth Market where I bought some gelato on this warm day!
Why? Munich is gorgeous… plus the views that greeted me from the top of St. Peter’s Church still has me awestruck. While you’re in Germany, you could also easily hop over to Denmark too and make even more out of your trip. Here’s 134 fun and interesting facts about Denmark!
Favorite sight: If my “why” answer didn’t give it away already, the view from the top of St. Peter’s Church is my favorite sight from this city. Looking down at all the beautifully-colored roofs and being able to see all the way out to the Bavarian Alps still has me trying to catch my breath.
Favorite food/place to eat: The sausage that I got from Victuals Market is still a standout for me here!
Why? I dreamed of visiting Paris since I was young. Everyone told me that it wasn’t going to live up to my expectations, but somehow it did! It’s the city of love – how could I not love it myself? Plus, there are so many great spots to take awesome Paris photography!
Favorite sight: I am still obsessed with the view from Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Though it was a bit of a hike to get to the top and actually see the Basilica and the views of Paris, it was totally worth it. I could’ve sat up there and looked out at Paris all day. I do wish I had visited Disneyland Paris though!
Favorite food/place to eat: The croque monsieur that I ordered from a small restaurant in Paris is the best thing that I ate while there. If you ever visit Paris, you have to order one of these. It’s essentially a grilled cheese but with ham, and the French make it best!
France is also a great place for a road trip, which I wish I had more time to do! Check out this great post featuring a 10 day France itinerary!
Why? I took a day trip to Füssen from Munich on my own during my two week spring break and I enjoyed it so much. This town is nestled right in the Bavarian Alps and Neuschwanstein Castle is there.
Favorite sight: Neuschwanstein Castle of course! This castle is unbeatable when it comes to castles.
Favorite food/place to eat: Cheese and onion spätzle is my favorite food from here. I stopped and ordered this on my way down from visiting the castle, so I got to eat while enjoying amazing views.
Why? Lucerne is such a quaint and fun Swiss town. I immediately loved getting lost in the streets and taking in the nearby views. The water here is absolutely stunning as well – I didn’t even know water could be that blue!
Favorite sight: Honestly, my favorite sight in Lucerne is Reuss, which is the river that flows right through the city.
Favorite food/place to eat: Okay… so this is probably going to sound bad. I was introduced to toasties for the first time while I was in Switzerland, and I actually had my first toastie from a Starbucks. It was actually amazing! I had it with local Switzerland cheeses, and though it was very expensive, I couldn’t get enough.
Are you planning your own trip to Lucerne? Consider taking a free Lucerne city walking tour!
Why? Barcelona’s warmth and fun spirit was the perfect way to end a two week spring break trip in Europe. The city is so lively and beautiful, plus there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky while I was there!
Favorite sight: My favorite sight is definitely Park Güell. Fun fact – you can get in to this sight for free if you go before or after the operating hours!
Favorite food/place to eat: Though this isn’t technically a traditionally Spanish food, my favorite food in Barcelona was the smoothie bowl that I got from FitBar. The fruit was so fresh and the bowl was honestly the best and most affordable smoothie bowl I’ve ever had.
Why? Killarney was actually not even a town that we had wanted to visit, mostly because we hadn’t even heard of it. One of our tours actually had a stop here and we immediately fell in love with it. It’s probably the most quintessentially Irish town that we visited. Killarney is even sometimes called “Ireland’s tidiest town”, which is extremely apparent in its cleanliness. I only wish I could’ve spent longer exploring this area and all that Killarney National Park had to offer!
Favorite sight: Torc Waterfall definitely stands out as my favorite sight from Killarney. It’s part of a hike in Killarney National Park, but since we were on a tour we only made it up to the waterfall. The greenery near the waterfall is genuinely the greenest forest I’ve ever seen. Even now I can’t be sure if it was real or not!
Favorite food/place to eat: Murphy’s Ice Cream is a MUST in Killarney. This ice cream is handmade in Ireland’s own Dingle Peninsula which nearby the area, so it’s pretty fresh! I highly recommend trying the Dreamy Creamy Caramel sundae… you won’t regret it.
Why? Edinburgh is actually the last destination that I visited (besides a few more stops in Ireland) during my semester abroad. The city is filled with Harry Potter sights, which is probably why I hold it so near and dear to my heart! Plus, the streets are so quaint and enchanting.
Favorite sight: My favorite sight here is definitely the view from the top of Arthur’s Seat. The hike takes about 3 – 4 hours total, but the view is definitely worth it. You can get a panoramic view of the city for FREE.
Favorite food/place to eat: OINK. This little restaurant dubbed itself as the best pulled pork sandwich in Edinburgh and I think I have to agree. Plus, the sandwich was extremely affordable and it was easy to just grab it and go!
Why? Florence was part of a week-long trip to Italy I took, and it was smack dab in the middle of our week. I fell in love with its beauty and the rolling hills surrounding the city. Plus, it’s really easy to just see all of Florence in 2 days or less, and I was on a time crunch!
Favorite sight: The view from Michelangelo Square is definitely what blew me away the most. If you are ever going to Florence, definitely take the hike up to this Square because the views are amazing. I personally think that this view is even better than the view that you can get from the top of the Duomo because you can actually get the Duomo in your shot if you take it from this viewpoint! Plus, did I mention its free?
Favorite food/place to eat: The coffee in Florence is actually the best coffee in Italy in my opinion. If you’re in this area, definitely go to a local coffee shop and try whatever coffee your heart desires.
Why? I honestly think I ended up loving Vienna so much because I went into my trip here with absolutely zero expectations. I immediately fell in love with how beautiful and clean this city is. It’s breathtaking!
Favorite sight: The view from the top of St. Stephen’s Cathedral is unmatched. Looking out, I could see almost everything in the distance, even Wiener Riesenrad (the city’s ferris wheel at Prater Amusement Park) in the distance, which was right near my hotel.
Favorite food/place to eat: Viennese Schnitzel!! The schnitzel here is absolutely amazing, and you really have to try it. This is the first place that I tried it, and I was getting it almost everywhere in Europe afterwords.
Why? I studied abroad here! Dublin will always be my favorite city. From the people, to the great food, there is so much to do here. Plus, it’s so connected to the rest of the country, making day trips so easy.
Favorite sight: Grafton Street/St. Stephen’s. This whole area downtown, though probably deemed “touristy” by many, is always so lively. I love hearing all the live music and just people watching. Plus, there’s some pretty great places to eat around here too!
Favorite food/place to eat: Quay’s Restaurant! I love this place. There is so much great food on the menu and I am never disappointed. Whenever anyone visited me at school, this is where I brought them!
I am incredibly grateful that I was able to spend a semester abroad which allowed me to visit all these places! Even though I ranked them, I would suggest going to all of them. Not one place was actually terrible. If you’ve visited any of these places, I’d love to hear what you thought of them in the comments below!