My 5 favorite cities I’ve traveled to

As a travel blogger, I simply had to write a post about the top 5 cities I’ve visited. I started traveling when I was 18 years old and never looked back since. Keep in mind that traveling doesn’t come without disappointments. There are several places I’ve been to that will never make it on my blog – or maybe I should write a post about overrated cities? -. You won’t always feel good in every place you visit, you won’t always feel safe, inspired, happy, and amazed. And that’s okay. That’s the beauty of traveling. Like every else in life, it takes a lot of trial and error, and these experiences will help shape the person you want to be. 

But, that’s not really what today’s post is about. I made a list of the 5 cities I loved visiting the most in the last 6 years. And I can only hope I’ll get to travel there again sometime soon!

1. Stockholm

Having lived in Sweden, I could NOT write this guide without mentioning a Swedish city. And if you haven’t made your way to this beautiful country yet, I recommend you start planning your trip today!

Stockholm is the capital city of Sweden, a country in the heart of Scandinavia. If you don’t know what Scandinavia is, it’s a subregion in Northern Europe commonly referred to as Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark, but in fact, it is also composed of Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Åland. These 6 countries have strong cultural, historical, and linguistic similarities that bond them together – it’s also very cold there -.

Stockholm is located in the Southern East part of Sweden. It is a coastal city built on water, with more than 50 bridges. The historical landmarks that the city has to offer are unlimited. But if you’re only there for a few days, then Gamla Stan is the place to be and stay at – see picture above -.

Gamla Stan is the old town and is located in the middle of Stockholm, on its own island. On the inside, it is filled with narrow streets, cute boutiques, stores, restaurants, and typical Swedish architecture. On the outside, you can see most of the city from above the water, and it’s SO beautiful. 

For a view of Gamla Stan, you can head to the viewpoint Monteliusvägen: a quick 20-min city hike that will blow your mind. From the top, you can see a panoramic view of Stockholm, but mostly of the old town. 

Where to stay

I’ve only stayed in hostels in Stockholm, but my favorite one was on a boat overlooking the old town. It was such an awesome experience: we stayed in a little cabin and had access to most of the boat: dining room, game room, outside deck, etc. It was truly an experience I’ll never forget. We booked a private room with a private bathroom so it didn’t give too much of a hostel vibe: M/S Birger Jarl. Unfortunately, it looks like this hostel shut down. But here are some hotels I would book today: Castle House Inn, Hotel Diplomat, and Sheraton. Stockholm is a very safe city. 

What to do

There is SO much to visit in Stockholm because it’s such an old and cultural city. My favorite visits were the followings:

Vasa Museum: the Vasa was a boat that was transporting hundreds of people. It sunk before the crowd’s eyes in the Stockholm harbor during the beginning of its maiden voyage. 333 years later, the entire ship was recovered from the water and is now for everyone to see at the Vasa Museum. 

Moderna Museet: the modern art museum of Stockholm is free and is located on the museum islands – on the other side of the water from Gamla Stan -.

The Royal Palace: well, the name speaks for itself.

Stockholm Library: this is the most beautiful library I’ve seen! It is round-shaped and is a true historical landmark of Stockholm.

Södermalm: the hipster neighborhood is famous for being a hub of creativity. It has a lot of cute book stores, coffee shops, vintage clothing stores, etc.

Shop & more

Weekday: is one of my favorite clothing stores. It’s a Swedish brand and there are stores all over the city.

Espresso house: the Scandinavian Starbucks. If you need your morning coffee, might as well do it the Scandinavian way!

Cafe Schweizer: the cutest place to eat in Gamla Stan – in my opinion – and the food is delicious!

NOTE: Stockholm and Sweden, in general, are pretty expensive. They don’t use Euros (EUR) but Swedish Crowns (SEK).

2. Tallinn

Photo by Ilya Orehov

Tallinn is the capital city of Estonia, part of the Baltic countries – composed of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania -. It is actually accessible by ferry from Stockholm, but is closer to Helsinki, Finland – I have done both routes -.

I have traveled to Tallinn twice and cannot wait to go back and show my husband. This is probably the cutest city I’ve ever been to. 

It is pretty small but the old town itself is worth the trip. If you’re in Scandinavia, maybe take a couple of days to visit Tallinn? 

I’ve actually never stayed there overnight because I only visited during day trips, but some unique and historic hotels that I have come across during my research are Regent Hotel, St. Olav Hotel, and My City Hotel. I highly recommend staying in the old town. These are all hotels that I personally would stay at. 

What to do and see in the old town

Viru Gate: the entrance into the old town.

Walk around and shop: the old town of Tallinn is famous for its narrow streets, pastel-color buildings, and cute souvenir shops. I recommend wandering around and seeing where your steps take you!

Raekoja Plats: Tallinn’s town haul square is located in the heart of the old town. This is where you’ll find bars, restaurants, and markets. 

St. Catherine’s Passage: a street that will transport you straight into Harry Potter’s world.

KGB Museum: before the country’s independence in 1991, in Soviet times, this was the only place where foreign visitors were allowed to stay. Today, it’s a museum.

Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral: if you’re lucky enough, you’ll walk in during a mass and will be mesmerized. This is the most beautiful Cathedral I’ve ever visited: so bright, full of white and gold. From the outside on, you can immediately see the Russian influence on its architecture.

Khotuotsa Viewing Platform: the most famous viewpoint in the city – pictured above – which is located at the top of the old town. If you only have one place to go to in the old town, this is it. 

NOTE: They use Euros (EUR). 

3. Honolulu

Hmm, hmm… dear Hawaii. Thanks for existing.

That’s it. Onto the next.

Just kidding, but honestly, I wouldn’t even have to write a blog post about Hawaii to recommend you to visit. It’s my favorite place on earth. I say that about a lot of places, but this is truly the one. 

I don’t know if it’s because of the culture & wildlife, or if it’s because this is where my fiancé was living during the first 3 years of our long-distance relationship, and that going to Hawaii meant visiting him – it’s probably both, actually – but Oahu has my heart.

I would have way too much to say if I had to write a guide to Oahu – that’s actually a good post idea! – so this article will force me to focus on the city of Honolulu/Waikiki. So let’s get into it. 

Honolulu is the biggest and most famous Hawaiian city. It’s also the capital city of the state. It is rich in Polynesian culture, but also Asian culture – mostly Japanese -. I love the city so much because it is a perfect mix of city life and island life.

Where to stay

Hawaii and Oahu in general are expensive, but Honolulu is V-E-R-Y expensive. Waikiki is full of big hotels and I’ve only ever stayed at the Aqua Palm hotelbecause during all of my other Hawaii visits I would stay at my fiancé’s – so it’s honestly up to you to find a hotel that you like and that’s close to the beach. My advice is to keep looking for the cheapest period of the year and book as soon as you get a good deal. Feel free to use your rewards, miles, points, whatever you have, because when I say it’s expensive, I mean expeeeeeeensive – 5 nights at the Aqua Palm cost me over $700 without breakfast nor parking -. 

What to do

Ala Moana center: go shopping at the biggest open-air mall on the island. You’ll find all the stores you can think of.

Iolani Palace: the home of the last Hawaiian monarchs.

Aliʻiōlani Hale: across the street from the Iolani Palace, you’ll be able to see the famous Hawaii 5-0 headquarters building.

Chinatown: a neighborhood full of life, tattoo shops, bars, live shows, and good food! Never miss a Chinatown visit.

Honolulu Museum of Art (HoMA): as a big modern art fan myself, I absolutely loved visiting this museum. Being able to see Polynesian art where it should be – that is to say, where it originated – was really a privileged experience.

Surfing: it’s Hawaii, you need to go surfing – says the girl who went there 3 times for 3 months and never tried surfing -. There are lots of surfing schools in Waikiki and you’ll learn where it originated. How cool?

Other water activities: such as jet skiing, catamaran boat rides, snorkeling, etc. 

Where to eat

Banán Waikiki Beach Shack: picture an ice cream / frozen yogurt but only made from bananas from the island, topped with all the good and fresh fruits, macadamias, chocolate, coconut… well, that’s it. You just pictured what a Banán is.

Island Brew Coffeehouse: looking for a cute local coffee shop to get some work done or just grab a quick breakfast and gooooooood Hawaiian coffee? – my favorite is the Kona sunrise, thank me later -, then this is the place to be!

Teddy’s Bigger Burger: I’m a big burger fan. I mean, I’ve had local burgers in every city and country I’ve visited. Teddy’s is a local Hawaiian food chain and their burgers are probably my favorite in the world.

Lanikai juice: another local chain, but this time it’s healthy and fresh juices, smoothies, and açaís. I mean, it’s Hawaii, so what else do you really need to eat?

NOTE: This goes for any place you visit, but especially in Hawaii, respect the land, the locals, and the culture. Practice Leave No Trace and support locals. Also, wear reef-safe sunscreen.

4. Barcelona

Photo by Logan Armstrong

I can’t even count how many times I’ve been to Barcelona anymore.

Just kidding, I’ve been 5 times. 

It is only an hour and 60€ flight from my hometown in France – Nantes – but I also studied in Perpignan, in the South of France for 2 years, and Barcelona is only a 3-hour drive away. My friends and I would visit on the weekends. I also stayed there for a whole week with some friends back in 2016 and was flying from BCN airport to travel around Europe during college.

That was the little backstory as to why I’ve visited so many times. But what a city! Full of historical landmarks, a-m-a-z-i-n-g food, awesome city life – day and night -, and the ocean. What else could we ask for?

I believe I have endless recommendations for Barcelona, but let’s narrow it down to my favorites.

Where to stay

My days traveling around Europe and staying 1 or 2 nights only in each place as a college student are over. I’m now a grown-up and will more than likely stay in a nice hotel or Airbnb next time I visit the continent. But back then, I was only staying in hostels. And for the sake of your safety and comfort, I won’t recommend them to you. So, just as I did with Tallinn, here are the hotels I would book for myself if I happened to go to Barcelona, let’s say, tomorrow – I’m dreaming -: Cien, Motel One, Catalonia Catedral, and Astoria

What to do 

Picasso Museum: If you didn’t visit a Picasso or Dali museum, did you truly go to Spain? Come on! The Picasso museum is so cute, authentic, and beautiful. It is located in the old gothic town.

Mercat de la Boqueria: the most famous farmer’s market in the city. You will be blown away by all the local food and all the colors. Go early because it gets crowded very quickly. And when I say crowded, I mean you will lose your travel companion!

Gaudi House: located in the center of Barcelona, visit the house of Gaudi, the architect that is known for building most of the city. His house is a true gem!

Sagrada Familia: still under construction – some speculate that it will never be finished on purpose because being under construction is what makes it so famous – and it is the highest church I’ve ever seen. Truly magnificent. I haven’t been inside but I’ve heard it’s worth paying the entrance.

Gothic Town: the old town of Barcelona, where the magic happens! Old towns are my favorites, you get to wander around, see how locals live and eat & drink at unique spots.

Park Güell: you probably have seen countless pictures overlooking the city of Barcelona, full of colorful mosaics and white arabesques. Well, that’s there. 

Las Ramblas: the large boulevard that goes through the city center all the way to the beach. I would just advise you to walk from beginning to end, and stop everywhere your heart desires! It’s Barcelona’s city life at its finest. 

Where to eat

Cien Montaditos: you get to choose between 100 choices of mini tapas-style sandwiches, and they are all delicious. Pro tip: go on a Wednesday or a Sunday, everything is 1€. And pro-tip n°2: best to go during a hangover.

Enrique Tomás JAMON-TAPAS-VINO: please please please appreciate this one. It took me 30 minutes of exploring the streets of Barcelona on Google Maps to find it for this article. For you. But I was determined. I couldn’t write a guide on the city without mentioning it. The best best BEST sandwich I’ve ever had. 

NOTE: I recommend visiting Barcelona during the Spring or the Fall to avoid dying of a heat stroke. 

5. Glasgow

Photo by Paulina B

Okay, I think this one calls for a little back story. I wasn’t supposed to go to Glasgow. In 2016, I booked a trip there to see Selena Gomez in concert with a friend. We were such big fans that we had booked tickets for her show in Paris but wanted to see her more than once. I don’t remember why we settled on Glasgow, but we did. Long story short, she canceled her whole European tour a couple of months before it was supposed to start, but as college students, we had booked everything non-refundable. 

We cried for an hour – the life of a groupie – and then we decided that we were still gonna go. Have fun. Visit a new city. « Hey, I’ve always wanted to go to Scotland anyway ». 

If I had the choice, I’d probably had chosen to visit Edinburg instead, but Glasgow was actually awesome!

Where to stay

We had booked an amazing Airbnb right next to the famous Glasgow University. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist anymore. So here are some hotels I would book today: Yotel Glasgow, and CitizenM.

What to do

Glasgow Botanical Garden: historically part of the University of Glasgow, the botanical garden is one of a kind – but in my opinion, they all are -. It’s really big for being in the heart of the city. A breath of fresh air!

Glasgow Cathedral: because the UK’s religious history is so fascinating, and because it’s always awesome to visit religious places when traveling abroad. Remember, keep an open mind and be respectful!

Art Gallery & Museum: I always love to visit the local art museum when I visit a new city. You get to see a lot of famous paintings but also local artists.

The Scottish football museum: look, if you’re American, you probably don’t care about soccer, but here in Europe, we don’t play around! Football is part of the culture, so if you visit us, you need to respect the culture! Jokes aside, if you really don’t care for soccer, then don’t go. But remember that traveling is also about opening your mind to things that you would have never expected to see before.

Glasgow Science Center: it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions: a science mall, an IMAX cinema, and the Glasgow Tower.

Walk around: what I love so much about European cities is how you can walk everywhere without taking a car or public transpiration. To me, this is the best way to explore a new place. Plus, you get your steps in and you save money. Glasgow is particularly famous for its mural art all over the city. So play a treasure hunt and try to see as many as possible!

Where to eat

Because it’s been 6 years since I’ve been, I honestly don’t remember the restaurants I ate at. In my defense, I didn’t know I was gonna be a travel blogger at 24 years old! 

Obviously, you know how to look for a restaurant online: TripAdvisor, Google, etc. But hear me out. Use Instagram as a search engine as well. Go to the city location, and look at pictures, and places. Seriously, have fun. Look around. When you see a picture of a meal that looks appealing, look it up. 

Otherwise, I love to go with the flow. Sometimes it’s not that good, but most times you get to find hidden gems – and you pride yourself until you post it online and realize it’s actually a famous spot recommended by 99% of travel bloggers online -. Walk around, go by neighborhoods and eat in local pubs! That’s what the UK is all about, in my opinion.

I hope this post inspired you! I also share my travel recommendations on the app Trecco. Download it for free with code PASPRT and follow me on there at @romanedrake

What are your top 5 places you’ve traveled to? I’m so curious! Drop them in the comment section below.

Thank you for allowing me to make you dream and for reading me. Don’t forget to hit me up on Instagram, I’d love to connect.

Published by Romane Drake

French 24 year-old living abroad in Las Vegas, Nevada. I teach others to take the leap of faith and live their most extraordinary life. My mission is to guide you and inspire you to travel, get out there and explore.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: