Cities and Towns in Europe
At first sight, Athens can seem as an one trick city. As big and splendid Acropolis is, as anonymous and nondescript are the rest of Athens. New and old from all time periods are mixed together. Sure, there are Roman columns here and temples ruins there, but nothing that can't be seen within a day. But what Athens lacks in attractiveness, it certainly wins in other aspects. Don't settle with the otherwise pretty view from towering Acropolis over Athens' urban sprawl, when the view from Lykavittos Hill (277 m) includes Acropolis. Explore the tiny white painted neighbourhood of Anafiotika on the northern slopes of the Acropolis hill. Indulge in the many good gyros and souvlaki places. Or people watch at one of the city beaches, a tram ride away. It's even possible to take a day trip to one of the closer islands. So don't just see Acropolis when in Athens.
With the same name as the island, Lefkada is a beautiful quaint Greek town. It is not as touristy as some other parts of Lefkada island and has a nice and relaxed feel to it. Old ladies sit in front of their houses in the narrow alleys and old men wander about. What makes Lefkada town very unique is the way the people have built their houses in order to protect them from earthquakes. The houses are either entirely, or sometimes only the top floors, covered in metal plates, which they then have painted in nice colours as is typical for Southern European towns.
The town also has a nice waterfront with bars and restaurants and a large marina with sail boats.
Saint Peter Port is way smaller and cuter than its big sister Saint Helier on Jersey. But while Saint Helier is a real town with working people, Saint Peter Port seems more like a holiday town with a cluster of fine dining for tourists. The pretty harbour with its guarding castle Cornet, is the main entrance to Guernsey for many visitors (though there is an airport too). Steep cobblestoned streets lead up the hill from the marina through the historical neighbourhood, which once was home to the French writer Victor Hugo. As the bus system is extensive, it's easy to use Saint Peter Port as your base, while exploring the rest of Guernsey.
Budapest is a wonderful mix of fine architecture on par with Vienna and charismatic east bloc leftovers. The city is split into two sections by the Danube river, Buda the west side and Pest the east side. They are connected by several bridges, all with their own style and history. A popular activity is a river cruise either during the day or at dinner at night - you could also just grab a drink at the river front in a cafe or bring your own. There are heaps of churches and other magnificent buildings, including a few quirky sights (like underground hospital from WWII and "Shoes on the Danube"), which can keep you busy for days. But no visit to Budapest is complete without a trip to one of the famous thermal baths.
Esztergom is famous for its soaring basilica which overlooks Danube river and Slovakia on the other side. It's the largest building in Hungary and is among the largest churches in Europe, so it's naturally to get drawn to it, but don't necessarily skip the rest of the town. The neighbourhood at the foot of the basilica is surprisingly nice and so is the river front. The view of the basilica is particularly good from the bridge leading to Slovakia. The rest of the town centre is interesting too, and even the area around the bus station is a lovely insight into ordinary Hungarian life with small local bars and shops with outdated fashion.
At the far west end of Lake Balaton lies the town of Keszthely. It's a fairly touristic place during summer with fairgrounds, beach parties, and lots of souvenir shops, but the town's pride is the Festetics Palace. Its construction started in 1745 and lasted more than a century. The palace grounds are pretty with flowerbeds, but what stands more out is the asymmetric layout and architecture. Many of tourists who come to Keszthely also come for the thermal lake in Heviz a short bus ride away - an even more touristic place.
Szentendre is another stop on the Danube Bend route. There are several lovely Orthodox churches, as well as other fine buildings and charming winding lanes. The best place for an overview is from the yard of Szent János Plébánia church on Castle Hill, where you can have peek at the other church’s spires and the red sea of tiles, which makes up the rooftops of Szentendre. The main pedestrian streets and the riverfront can be very touristic during summer and sunny weekends, but it's easy to escape the crowds by wandering the narrow alleyways.
Vác is one of the stops on the very scenic day trip to the Danube Bend region. It's a pretty little village with a fine cathedral and a small castle. When they renovated the cathedral in 1994, they stumbled upon a closed vault which hold a huge number of mummies. It turned out they were from 17th century and as they were very well preserved, they gave the historians an insight into middle ages Hungary. Today some of the many mummies are on display in the museum across the square from the cathedral.
The citadel ruins is the reason why Visegrád is another popular stop on the Danube Bend day trip route. The 13-century citadel is spectacular perched high above the Danube river with splendid views over a famous bend in the river - and over neighbouring Slovakia. The village itself is rather spread out and nothing special, though there is a tint of local vacation vibe with a handful of pensions and hotels.
If you were a real estate agent in Borgarfjörður Eystri, there is one selling point you would want to advertise loud and clear: location. Set in a small bay, surrounded by gorgeous mountain peaks, this village of 130 people is not as isolated as it once was – even in winter, super jeeps and snow mobiles make it possible to cross the mountains to the relative metropolis of Egilsstaðir. For travellers, it is a place to escape the crowds of the Ring Road. Despite its small size, Borgarfjörður Eystri has a lot to offer visitors. The Elf Rock – home of the queen of elves – has lovely views of the village and its surroundings, and a local guide can provide plenty of local myths, legends and stories about the hidden people living inside it. There are close to thirty day-hikes in the surrounding mountains, and some much longer ones, too. The local puffin colony makes for some of the easiest and most accessibly bird watching in the country, and turf-covered Lindarbakki – a private home which doubles as a museum – gives some wonderful insights into what life was like in these parts in the first half of the 20th century. For a livelier scene, this tiny village hosts one of Iceland’s biggest music festivals every August – but make sure to bring a tent, as only a fraction of the several thousand visitors can be housed inside the few hotels.