Life in Europe can be as chic and cheap as you want it to be.
Here I have belting out in my head ‘Paris to Berlin, and every disco I get in my heart is pumping for love.’ Maybe your heart can pump out other places, places that are considered to be offbeat from the usual route of Europe. It may be an odd combination of cities and towns but it’s time to think out of the stock standard European itinerary. Its ok if you are broke, down to your last few pennies because these European cities are ever so impressive are most importantly, cheap and chic.
Tallinn is the place to live out your inner princess as this medieval wonderland is quite simply the most picturesque walled city of Europe. With its 26 watch towers surrounding the old town, one could get lost for hours wandering around its’ cobblestoned streets and gazing upon the colourful medieval buildings and feeling like a Disney Princess (or Prince).
Outside Old Town, you can explore old Soviet structures including the abandoned Linnahall right along the harbour to watch the sunset or gaze at the cruise liners leaving the port which was used in the 1980 Summer Olympics. Fast forwards to trendier times as you can check out the ultra hipster area Kalamaja. Kalamaja is home to funky bars and cafes and acts as the city’s urban canvas with its street art splashing colour on its converted old factory buildings.
Tallinn is on the brink of change with its’ old Czechoslovakian trams given the flick to make way for new slick trams as well as fast becoming one of Europe’s hottest meccas for a startup companies. It also has a carries a bit of the Scandinavian influence as some of its modern architecture being world class and forward thinking.
With it being announced as one of 2016 hottest destinations according to the travel bible Lonely Planet, this will surely be a fix on many travelling itineraries.
So maybe it’s not the cheapest of all cheap places in Europe and the UK, but certainly, it is worth venturing out to this city. In comparison to London, this place is a bargain. Small and easy to get around, this student city carries a rocker, hipster and grungey vibe. Artistic flair is in the air as the streets are littered with street art with most notably, original Banksy art work located in and around the city.
The undercover St Nicholas Market is worth a casual stroll for its street eats that it offers and its relaxed vibe. After seeing a queue filled with locals outside Matina, the Kurdish food stall, I decided to let my let my tastebuds have a bit of an adventure. I solemnly swear that this place serves up the best kebabs. It is actually worth visiting the city just for that.
The city is ever easy to navigate, and I found myself exploring parks with castle remains, crossing bridges and seeing where all the cool kids hang along the epicure of the city’s cool Stokes Croft. Chill out at the popular hang out joint The Canteen where laptop happy people sit during the day and with live performances dished out at night. Just think Hipsterville East London but in a city of its’ own.
St Petersburg, Russia
Technically not in Europe, however, it is classed as the most European flavoursome city that Russia serves up. Forget getting a visa, get a crash course into Russia by sneaking through the (legal) loophole and take an overnight cruise over from Tallinn or Helsinki and visit St. Petersburg for a max of 72 hours. This is the chicest place on a backpacker budget to visit.
Live out the life of Anastasia by visiting the Hermitage Museum or the impressive grandeur Palace or do the 2 am or 6 am wake up call and see the massive bridges of St Petersburg open. Get a taste of Moscow by visiting the equally impressive (however smaller) Church of the Savior on Spilt Blood. Experience the arts with a visit to the opera that also includes English subtitles. This is worth it to just see the theatre itself even if you are not a mad opera enthusiast.
Oddly, sushi places are just as much as a prominent fixture on street corners as are Russian cafes. Stock up on goods at local markets such as stockings, Russian hats and gloves – particularly winter wear as it is everywhere.
In all my travels, this is by far one of the best places I have visited as despite the fact the city is so beautiful and elegant to visit, I felt a massive cultural difference and it made me enjoy the trip away even more.
The new Berlin or so they say. This is fast becoming one of the popular cultural hubs of Western Europe. It is a place for the bohemians with grunge in the air and street art everywhere outside and inside hidden industrial warehouse galleries. There is even a disused plane hoisted in one part of the city. In addition to its nightlife being comparable to Berlin’s techno house offerings, all in all, this is seriously one badass cool city.
Head into the centre of town and its another story. Check out some impressive German Renaissance architectural wonders in Market Square and soak up its’ medieval charm. It is a rare combination of the new cool and historic
No need to worry about the crowds as this city has a small population of 500,000 and is best explored by bike with canals being a nice touch to the flat city.
Luckily the food effect trickles down from Berlin with kebabs being a dirt cheap eat. If you spent over 10 Euros for a feed, then you have spent too much!
With its’ cheap living costs likened to Eastern Europe prices, creatively being widely embraced by all and a laid-back atmosphere to boot, this is the new cool of Germany.