So you have your flight booked, classes registered for, and suitcases packed (let’s be serious, you’re taking more than one). You’re ready to study abroad and hope to see as much of Europe as possible during the semester. That prospect can be a bit overwhelming, there’s so many amazing places waiting just across the pond! This guide will highlight some lesser known gems that should be on your must-visit list when in France, England, or Spain.
1.) Eze, France
Imagine a medieval village perched on top of a cliff surrounded by the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Now add a luxurious hotel, a breathtaking sculpture garden, unique shops, and you’ve got Eze. This quaint village is a perfect day trip, only 15 minutes by train from the metropolitan town of Nice. From the train station you can hike up to the town on the Nietzsche trail, named for the famous philosopher who supposedly hiked the trail daily. The intense summer heat apparently caused hallucinations that inspired some of his philosophic works. To prevent any dehydration induced revelations, make sure to bring a bottle of water because the trail is steep! The panoramic views of the French Riviera at the top make the exertion well worth it. Spend a few hours exploring the cobblestone alleyways and the fabulous Jardin Exotique, a cliffside botanical garden decorated with sculptures. Finish off the afternoon with a cappuccino at the ritzy Chateau de la Chevre D’Or restaurant before hiking back down to the train station.
2.) Carcassone, France
Located on top of a hillside is the quintessential fairy-tale castle of Carcassonne. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the fortified town is a must see for any history buff. The restored medieval walled city is exciting to explore, you can climb up many of the towers and work on your Rapunzel impersonation. Restaurants and gift shops line the narrow streets, breathing life into the ancient castle. A fantastic stop while on the way to the French Riviera cities of Nice and Monaco.
3.) Cordoba, Spain
If you like tapas and the movie Aladdin, you’ll love Cordoba. Located in Andalusia, or the Southern region of Spain, this small medieval city is filled with beautiful Moorish architecture and winding streets that just beg to be explored. Once the capital of the Islamic empire, the town boasts the coolest
mosque you’ll ever see, the Mezquita. After catching up on your religious history, roam the white washed alleyways to find hidden courtyards fragrant with orange a lemon trees. Spend a few hours roaming the gardens at the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, a medieval palace where the King and Queen of Spain once lived. Grab a delicious traditional dinner at La Fracjula, a restaurant hidden in the old Jewish Quarter where wine bottles are stored in crevices in walls and a guitarist serenades dinner guests.
4.) Oxford, England
For die hard Harry Potter fans, Oxford is a definite must-see. Various scenes in the movies were filmed on campus and the whole town has a Hogwarts-esque feel. University students even have special dress robes that they’re required to wear while taking exams. A short train ride from London, Oxford is the quintessential English town filled with pubs and people playing cricket in the alleys. After taking a free walking tour of the town and university, pop into the Oxford Covered Market for lunch. First built in 1774, the market has dozens of cafes and food stands to choose from. Grab a pint (or two, or three) and explore the lively town while perfecting your jaunty British accent.
5.) Cinque Terre, Italy
You’ve probably seen pictures of these cliff-side villages but may not have known how easily accessible they are. A scenic 4 hour train ride from Rome, Cinque Terre is increasingly popular with tourists, and for good reason. Cars have been banned, so the only way to get from one village to another is by train or by foot. Hiking the trails connecting the villages trail is definitely the more scenic option, and you’ll work up an appetite for some locally made pesto. The trail hugs the coastline so panoramic views of the Italian Riviera make the steep, rocky terrain worth the effort. Wandering through lemon groves, a local farmer may even offer you a refreshing glass of lemonade! The beautiful pastel villages are home to friendly locals that will make you feel like a member of their family. Be sure to check this gem out before it becomes completely overrun by tourists.