Happy 2018! While I’ve already shared with you my top experiences of 2017 (and my worst experiences of 2017!), I wanted to do follow up my Best Places I Visited in 2016 post with one from this year. I went to some pretty amazing places that I would love to share with you all. Some destinations are countries, while others are cities or specific sites, all in no particular order. Here are the best places I visited in 2017!
What can I say? Russia is a spectacular country and an amazing destination for travelers. Russia also has a very special place in my heart, and will always be one of my favorite countries. The history, culture, architecture, and food are all stunning and fascinating. There is just no place like it in the world! On my next trip, I desperately want to get (farther) out of Moscow and St. Petersburg and explore more. It was one of the most meaningful destinations I visited this year.
Of all the cities I visited, Kiev was one that I clicked with instantaneously—from the minute I got out of the metro station and walked to my hostel, I had a feeling that I would like it here. And I fell in love HARD with Kiev. The city is just wonderful. Affordable, vibrant, beautiful, with wonderful people and amazing food. I could spend all of my days eating a daily Puzata Hata feast, visiting magnificent churches, and simply walking around and enjoying the city. This is one of Europe’s most underrated capital cities, my top pick for a budget traveler, and definitely one of the most lively of the former Soviet capitals. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a day tour to Chernobyl when you’re there!
3) Lake District
My favorite British destination of 2017? The Lake District National Park. I can’t believe it took me so long to visit!! I loved my weekend trip in April so much that I decided to go back for my birthday weekend in September—and I’m already scheming for another weekend trip in the spring. The scenery is breathtaking and the outdoor activities are endless—although I definitely prefer hiking. Going in the shoulder season meant that I missed out on the crowds of tourists that engulf the region in summer. My top hikes would be the Old Man of Coniston and Helvellyn, and I loved strolling through Keswick and Ambleside. You haven’t truly visited England until you’ve been to the Lakes!
You heard it here first: this Baltic country all too often gets overshadowed by its nearby neighbors Latvia and Estonia. But the crowds have yet to discover Lithuania, so you should go now. Like, right now. It’s still cheap, there are fewer crowds, and Vilnius is full of beautiful churches. Other popular destinations in the country include Kaunas, the Curonian Spit, Grutas Park (a Soviet sculpture park), and the Hill of Crosses—my favorite place in Lithuania and one of the coolest places I’ve visited on all my travels.
Read More: 7 Places You Need to Visit in Lithuania, What to Do in Vilnius, a Hidden Baltic Gem, Grutas Park: The Soviet Sculpture Park in Lithuania, Amazing Sights: Visiting the Hill of Crosses in Lithuania
5) Rila Monastery
Planning my trip to Bulgaria, the one place I was absolutely dying to go was the Rila Monastery. Nestled in the foothills of the Rila Mountains, this spectacular monastery complex is full of history, and the church boasts some of the most colorful and beautiful frescos I’ve ever seen. It’s an easy daytrip from the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, and did not disappoint.
6) Yorkshire Abbeys
There is a whole lot to see and do in Yorkshire. But one area where the county truly excels is its abbey ruins dotted around the countryside. This year, I’ve been lucky enough to visit several of the big names: Whitby Abbey, Fountain’s Abbey, Rievaulx Abbey, and Jervaulx Abbey. Fountain’s Abbey is probably the biggest and the best, Whitby is the most atmospheric, and Rievaulx is perhaps the most authentic. If you’re coming to Yorkshire (and you should!!), you absolutely cannot miss a visit to one of the abbeys.
The country of Belarus has been closed off to most tourists, but that’s quickly changing with a new visa-free scheme. This was one of my favorite destinations just because I know that in 5 years or even 1 year, it will be completely different. Belarus is well and truly off the beaten path, and at times felt like a time machine back to the Soviet era, where statues of Lenin abound and the KGB is a real organization. It was unique and a place I’m so glad I got to experience. Due to the terms of the visa-free travel, I was more or less limited to exploring Minsk—but I would love to return someday and see more. This is another place that you should visit now (right now) before it changes.
8) Transylvania (Romania)
One of my favorite regions from my trip this summer was definitely Transylvania. I spent my time based in Brasov, but was able to explore more of the region on the first day. Transylvania is home to some pretty outstanding castles, and Peles Castle was definitely my favorite. (I thought Bran Castle, “Dracula’s Castle,” was overrated and a total tourist trap.) There is a lot to see in the area—Brasov and Sighisoara are two of the main towns for tourists. The best part? The area is beautiful and the mountains can make for excellent hiking!
Read More: Brasov: An Introduction to Transylvania
I don’t think it’ll be a surprise to anyone to see the British capital on this list—I’ve made no secret of the fact that London is one of my favorite cities in the world! Every time I return, I see something different, visit a different neighborhood, wander through a different museum. This year, my favorite new-to-me places I visited in London were the Sky Gardens, Regent’s Canal, and the bombed out church, St. Dunstan-in-the-East. The city really has so much to offer, and after somewhere between 15 and 20 trips there, I still haven’t seen a fraction of what this bustling metropolis has to offer. I love this city. And I will always love returning to it, every single time.
Read More: 25 Places You Can’t Miss in London
10) Southern France
My trip to the Mid-Occitanie region in the South of France this fall was my first to the area and such a beautiful place to explore. I loved the medieval walled city in Carcassonne, I loved the charming small streets and stunning cathedral in Albi, I loved the Art Nouveau architecture and delicious food in Toulouse, and I loved getting to see the small villages like Cordes-sur-ciel, Saint Papoul, and Saissac. This might not be the most popular destination in France, but it’s definitely worthy of exploration. If you do visit, I definitely recommend renting a car!
11) North York Moors
I know I might be biased since I live in Yorkshire. But of all the places within an hour of York, my favorite would probably be the North York Moors National Park. I have loved exploring this area since I moved to England! Some of my favorite places are the Hole of Horcum (with a rewarding pint at the pub in Levisham at the end) and Goathland, which doubled as Hogsmeade during Harry Potter filming. Thornton-le-Dale is a charming village just on the edge of the national park, and there’s so much that I still haven’t even seen! If you find yourself in Yorkshire (and you should!!), I really recommend getting out of the cities and exploring the countryside.
Biased again. I know. But there’s no way that my former study-abroad-city wouldn’t make this list! I (finally!) visited Notts again in November, and in the short day that I was there, I remembered just why this is such a fantastic place to visit. The town was preparing for their Christmas markets, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem was historic and pretty as always, and there were SO many new bars, pubs, and clubs that had opened since I’d left. This is such an underrated UK city break, but one that I know I’ll be returning to again and again. If you go, make sure to get out of the center and see Wollaton Hall, and prepare to party!
Well, another trip to Krakow to ring in the New Year meant that I was again reminded of what an amazing city it is. Beautiful architecture, the largest medieval square in Europe, painful and poignant history, amazing food all contributed to me remembering my love for Krakow this time around. Add to that the city vibes and the wonderful people, and you’ve got a firm favorite for Poland and Central Europe in general. If you’re newer to traveling and visiting Krakow, I think this is a perfect gateway city before explorations further east in Europe. Oh and did I mention that it’s one of the best budget destinations in Europe?!
14) Peak District
I know this year I’ve been singing the praises of the Lake District. But my trips to the Peak District this year have been just as meaningful, especially my trip in March. The possibilities really are endless—there is just so much to explore. Highlights from this year include Mam Tor, Winnat’s Pass, Castleton, Edale, and the Ladybower Reservoir. I even vlogged this weekend and had so much fun doing so! Also, it’s a tad cheaper than the Lake District, and generally less crowded. Just saying.
Read More: Postcards from the Peak District, Part 2, The Peak District: Hope Valley, Castleton, and More. Watch my Peak District vlog here!
Every time I come back to Minneapolis, I am reminded of what an amazing, underrated, beautiful city this is, and how lucky I am to call this place my hometown. Minneapolis is the best. It really has the best of both worlds: a big city, but not too big; lots of parks and lakes for outdoor activities; a beautiful waterfall right in the middle of the city; top notch restaurants and bars; and if you get bored, St. Paul is just right across the river! The more I travel, the more I realize Minneapolis really is something special. I am grateful to have spent so much time here over the course of my life. This is one US destination you should put on your list.
Over to you! Where were the best places that you visited this year?!