My European To-Travel List

So I booked my ticket to Cologne, Germany to see the Christmas Markets with my friend Marina! I have since made a list of all the locations I’m planning to visit over the next nine months. I’m posting this for other travelers and travel bloggers to see – I would LOVE your wise advice on where to go.

To date I have spent five summers in Europe; a grand total of almost eight months here. I’m ashamed to admit that during that time I have barely gone outside of Western Europe, and have missed some truly amazing countries and cities. Here is what I hope to see during the next nine months… bring on the Easyjet!


Please pretend I’m standing in front of a far-off, exotic location and not this contemporary art squiggle-fest at Pompidou.

1. Istanbul

I’ve wanted to visit Istanbul ever since I saw pictures of the Hagia Sofia. Also I adore Arabic architecture so I’m sure I would be in photo-heaven. My only concern is getting there as Easyjet sadly does not fly there. Also would it be safe as a solo female traveler?

2. Budapest

I’ve heard Budapest has incredible nightlife and lots of hot baths. And I feel really guilty for having seen virtually none of Eastern Europe.

3. Berlin

The big draw for me in Berlin is the street art – I’ve heard rumors that it’s everywhere. I also have a huge fascination with war history, so seeing the bombed-out Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church would be really interesting for me.

4. Spanish Basque Country

I have studied in Spain twice and visited five times, but I have never been to the fabled Basque Country. I was green with envy when I saw Anthony Bourdain’s episode there in which he ate pintxos in an old-school bar overlooking the harbor. I will get there.

5. Netherlands Part Two

While I found Amsterdam beautiful, it didn’t feel particularly Dutch to me with so many ethnic restaurants and tourists. I want to return to the see the “real” Netherlands with the family I work for in France, as the dad is Dutch and hails from Eindhoven.

6. Croatia

To be honest I don’t have that much of an interest in Croatia (or at least I don’t have a preconceived fantasy about it), but my friend went there last summer and said it was like the new Tuscany: filled with truffles and good wine, but less tourists and lower prices.

7. Morocco

In Morocco I want to barter for rugs and pottery in the bazaars and eat tagine and cous cous. I want to hear the call to prayer and experience something truly different – in fact I have never been to a Middle Eastern country! I’m thinking Marrakesh is the best place to start, but I’ll have to wait until I find a male travel buddy to come with me.

8. Venice

I have a feeling I will hate Venice (I despise crowds), but it is a city with a fascinating merchant history, and I mean come on, it’s sinking! I need to get here sooner rather than later. I’m also assuming it will be less crowded in the winter.

 9. Who knows?

There are lots of other places I’ve been thinking about: Krakow, Prague, Slovenia, Copenhagen and Sicily among them! Basically anywhere I can cheaply fly to with Easyjet is on my list.


Destinations in France I want to visit

1. Brittany

I want to see the sea here, as well as try the galettes. I love galettes.

2. Normandy

The D-Day beaches would probably bring me to tears, and the nature here would be a great escape from Paris.
Fleckenstein Castle

3. French Alps

My friends are planning on taking a trip to the French Alps and have invited me to come along! As a total ski bum it would be a real treat for me to ski the Alps – and mark my third continent for skiing!

4. Family Castle

Okay this is a little strange, but a long, long time ago my family had a castle. My last name is Fleckenstein and we can trace our ancestry back to the owners of the Fleckenstein castle, which is located in present-day Alsace. My dad has been there and visited our family who still lives nearby, so I would love to go see the castle too. Also the castle is basically a ruin now, and this photo is what it would have looked like 500 years ago.

5. Corsica

After spending one of the most amazing weeks of my life in the nearby island of Sardinia two summers ago, I would love to visit wild and French-speaking Corsica.

Where do you think I’m missing? I would love to hear your ideas for great European destinations!

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

43 thoughts on “My European To-Travel List”

  1. I highly recommend Marrakech I went there in 2011 with one other girl and two guys. I felt safe the entire time I was there and everyone was so kind. We stayed at the nicest hostel (for only 14 euro a night), ate tons and tons of food, bartered our way through the markets (seriously if you think you’ve gotten their best offer, try again!) and took a day trip where we hiked in the Atlas Mountains, road a camel, crossed a scary road bridge and saw an amazing waterfall. It’s a beautiful country and I want to go back badly!!! Oh and the whole trip (flights included) was about 250 US dollars….and I brought a ton back!!!

    • Oh my god that sounds like my dream trip, honestly! I would love to hike the Atlas Mountain and ride a camel. Do you think I would be safe going by myself though?

    • This may sound crazy, but its your hair thats going to get the most attention. (it will also be your strength when shopping). The men in Marrakech love blondes because they don’t get many…so you may get some rude or slightly sketch comments thrown your way or people coming up and trying to touch you.

      But its whatever you feel comfortable with, as long as you dress conservatively (i wore pants and made sure my shoulders and cleavage were covered and I felt fine) and just don’t put yourself in dangerous situations (we didnt stay out later than like 10 for example there isn’t much night life so you really dont need to be out) then I suspect it would be okay.

      2 things: If a hostel or place mentions a “Moroccan style bathroom” its a hole in the floor with a hose….yea thats a toilet AND shower. And stay away from the cats. Some are really cute, but most have massive fleas and are rather ill.

      Incase your interested, This is the hostel we stayed out its a little more expensive than others you can fine but its still 15 US dollars a night so….. yea

    • Oh and I took ryan air and it was 35 euro round trip. Yea it sucks but you cant beat the price.

      One more thing

      i went to spilt, croatia and fell in love. We took a ferry to the island of Brac its GORGEOUS.

      And I found it to be rather cheap…but I was living in Florence so comparatively everything is cheap

    • Exactly, that’s why I need to get out of Paris! Even a half-pint of beer here is like 5 euros. I just want to camp out somewhere inexpensive for a while and enjoy myself… maybe Split would be a good spot? :)

    • Oh dear, that’s kind of like when I would walk around Buenos Aires with my friends who had blue eyes, and every two seconds they would get, “Ay… que ojos tan preciosos!” It kind of made me jealous eventually, haha. Thanks for the hostel recommendation and I will definitely need to buy some new clothes… I’ve been trying to fit in with the Parisians so all of my clothes are quite well-fitted!

  2. Wow, quite the impressive list! I feel kind of bad that I’ve been living in Europe this long and haven’t visited all of those places, yet… :)
    I know Easyjet sounds really tempting, but I had a horrible experience with them: They cancelled my trip to Madeira TWO days before the flight scheduled and I thus never went! Every time I see a picture of how gorgeous Madeira is, I feel literal pain! And it took them ages transfer the money back… Nowadays I actually prefer Germanwings – their flights are very low-budget two, but you can at least expect some kind of decent service and a booked seat. For Eastern Europe, WizzAir was very cheap too and way better than RyanAir for example.
    Regarding Croatia – I was actually shocked this year when I realized how expensive it is! Not just the touristy things, but also the local supermarkets… Nonetheless, you should definitely go – it really is gorgeous!
    I’m looking forward to your stories!

    • I will definitely look into Germanwings, I have never heard of them but am now intrigued! In my experience I’ve liked Easyjet MUCH more than Ryanair but I should definitely try out some other airlines. Also, do you have any idea how to get to Istanbul? I don’t!

    • Ryanair is definitely THE worst airline of all times!
      I have always wanted to go to Istanbul, but I didn’t have a chance to go yet… Germanwings is even flying there – you could snatch a ticket for like 50 €, but they don’t fly directly from France so you would have to go into Southern Germany, Stuttgart for example. That might be too much effort, though… I will let you know if I should haven to stumble over another solution :)

  3. great list!!! i have been to almost all on the european list and they wont disappoint…that is for sure. venice is venice. it can smell and will have insane crowds, but if you run super far away from the water taxi stand areas, you might really enjoy yourself :) i personally prefer verona and some other cities nearby instead, but i do like venice (away from the touristy parts haha). i despise crowds too :)

    i definitely suggest scandinavia if you have the time…and $$. i live in oslo and would certainly suggest stockholm or copenhagen over oslo (oslo is the most expensive city in the world and lacks charm, even though i love it here).

    also, i would dig into eastern europe if you can :) central europe is great as you have budapest listed (vienna and prague and anywhere in poland are all wonderful too). im in love with the east though… the cities are not nearly as crowded, and while you don’t hear much english, things are cheap and more ‘foreign’ or less discovered. traveling to places that are less ‘discovered’ is more fun to me :)

    id definitely suggest the baltics as a good starting point for someone who hasn’t really traveled much or at all in eastern europe :)

    • Thanks for the tips! A few years back I went to Stockholm, Tallinn and Helsinki so I’ve seen a little bit of Scandinavia and the Baltics… I absolutely adored Stockholm, it was such a beautiful city which no one ever tells you. I definitely need to get over to Eastern Europe though, I’m thinking Krakow and Budapest to start would be good :)

  4. As a Dutchie it’s so good to see someone who’d like to see something more than just Amsterdam. If you happen to make it over here you should definitely visit Utrecht! It’s just as beautiful as the Dam, only less crowded.

    And Croatie is a must! It’s beautiful there, the people are warm and friendly, it’s affordable and the food is great. You’ll be pleasantly surprised :)

    • I will definitely bookmark Utrecht, I am not sure of which city is best to visit so thank you for the tip! Also I’m definitely going to try Croatia.

  5. Copenhagen and Munich are my favorite spots, I certainly suggest checking them out. I would try and find a travel companion for Istanbul. The Turkish men are, well, vultures for lack of a better word. I was with a gal pal and we were propositioned several times. It is uncomfortable and they often to follow you and keep talking to you. Better to experience it with a friend so you can laugh instead of freak/be horrible annoyed.

    Also, I think you should definitely add Nice or somewhere on the Cote de Azur to your France list!

    Additionally, I know an awesome girl from my sorority that just moved to Paris. Maybe y’all can hang out? She’s wanting to start a blog.

    • I have been meaning to make it to Copenhagen, I loved Stockholm so I think I’d like Copenhagen as well. I was also “propositioned” by a Turkish man while in Munich and it was a little disturbing for sure. And about your friend, definitely! My email is ashleyabroadx {at} gmail {dot} com. I would be thrilled to make some friends, I haven’t met anyone my age yet!

  6. Budapest is an amazing city, not only the baths but the train stations and even the caves and labrynth is awesome! I also loved Venice, especially if you let yourself get lost and I think you’ll love Prague, I’ve heard nothing but great things.
    As for an old family castle, how freaking awesome is that! Hope you have an amazing time and can’t wait to hear about your adventures and hope to learn more about the places you go that I hope to go to soon.

    • Thanks for the tips! It feels like no matter how many times I visit Europe there’s still so much left to see… can’t wait to make it to Venice and Prague :). I will check out the caves and labyrinth in Budapest, I had never heard of those before.

  7. This is a great list! Berlin, Budapest, and Istanbul are three cities I’m sad I missed when I was in Europe. As far as Croatia goes, it was pretty but it is definitely becoming more and more expensive.

    Like Julika mentioned, try other budgest airlines. I found some really good deals flying form Rome on airlines I’d never heard of (like WizzAir). And as bad as Ryan Air can be, I’d still choose them if it meant getting somewhere I really wanted to go for a cheap price :)

    • I will definitely take Ryanair if it makes sense, the only problem is that the Paris Ryanair airport is in Beauvais, which is like 2 hours away! I will definitely try Wizzair for Eastern Europe.

  8. Oh, so jealous of your list. I haven’t been to Europe yet so I’ll definitely be living vicariously through you! I can’t wait to hear about the Christmas Market… I went to one at home in Vancouver but the real thing would be amazing.

    • I literally cannot WAIT for the Christmas market. I want to try mulled wine and buy lots of Christmas ornaments… It must be my German blood :)

  9. I love your list and that castle looks AMAZING! If you haven’t had your fill of Ireland and the UK yet though you should visit Northern Ireland. The history here is so diverse and Belfast is a really friendly city!

    • I’ve been wanting to visit Northern Ireland forever, Belfast has the most interesting history! And I don’t think I could ever get my fill of Ireland… I would love to live there!

  10. Fantastic list! Personally, I got over all the tourists in Venice pretty quickly. It was crowded, but Venice was so beautiful that I was pretty much blinded to all the other people there. Oh, and Alkmaar is a really cute city in Holland if you’re looking for some more authentic Dutch culture.

    • Wow, I just googled Alkmaar and it’s adorable! I think going in winter to Venice should really help also, hopefully it won’t be swarming with other tourists :)

  11. I would say you must visit Parague. As it is one of the most popular destinations in East Central Europe. It is also quite cheaper as compared to other European countries. Prague as stated by others for its unique archietecture in places such as wencesslas square which is just incredible.

  12. Just got back from Istanbul and you have nothing to fear as a solo female traveler (aside from the usual precautions you should take anywhere) It’s very modern. That said, they are pushy when it comes to buying items but I never witnessed any harassment. Just my experience.

    If you go, get a Hamam! I went to the Aya Sofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam and it was GREAT!

    • I am staying with my cousin so hopefully I will be okay! I will definitely avoid being alone at night or anything like that. And I will definitely note that one, thank you :)

  13. Wow, that’s a super plan! You are gonna see so many beautiful places. I’m in Amsterdam from 3rd to 6th and in Berlin from 9th-12th :) Are you gonna be there as well at the same time by any chance? Let me know, would be awesome to meet up together :)

    • I would love to meet up but I will be in Cologne Germany from the 6th-10th and then I go back to Paris… what bad timing! But if you would like to meet up in Europe sometime in 2013 that would be awesome :)

  14. I am jealous! Great list of places. How about going to Malta? It’s on my list, especially because I am a history buff and it is filled with a lot of history.

  15. Hello! I love your list and have to say that Croatia is one of my favorite places. It really surprised me actually in a good way. I’m not sure what I expected or what preconceived notions I had ahead of time, but I got a cheap flight and we were off. The islands off the coast of Split were gorgeous and the drive to Dubrovnik was beautiful as well. Everything was really affordable (except for Dubrovnik’s touristy areas), the people were nice and I enjoyed learning about the history and culture. If the opportunity presents itself, go to Croatia and don’t think twice. LOVE LOVE LOVE

    • Hi, Diane! I will certainly take Croatia into consideration after this rave review… and plus, there are tons of cheap flights to Croatia from Paris! Double-win.

  16. If you haven’t been to Sarlat (the Dordogne Region), I highly recommend it. It’s a bit of a trek from Paris (train to Bordeaux then a transfer) but well worth the trip. You’ll get a real good sense of what life was like in the 14th century and the food is amazing (truffle region)! Beautiful old buildings everywhere!

    Some of my fav places in Eastern Europe are Krakow and Cesky Krumlov. Sofia is also a beautiful city that is a bit off the tourist route.

    • I actually haven’t heard much about the Dordogne but I will look into it! It sounds perfect, and I have a new-found love for black truffles. Thank you for the Eastern European tips as well, so far I’m thinking Slovenia and Budapest are my top two destinations if only because there are direct flights from Paris.

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