|Houses of Parliament in London|
Note from Eddi: These are about first world "real life" destinations. I wrote this article in 2009, and just stumbled across it. I decided to republish it and update it just a bit. Note that I never got around to finishing the article mentioned at the end.
I have recently lived in Europe for several years, and had the opportunity to visit most of the countries there as part of my job as a information systems and web consultant.
This is my first top 10 list of places that you need to see at least once in your lifetime that you will probably want to go back to. They are comfortable, manageable, and have hot gay scenes. I also am giving you "inside travel tips" for each.
London: Make sure to take a day trip to Windsor and Cambridge if you have the time. Avoid eating hot dogs from street vendors, especially ones that are called "all meat" and avoid Mexican food in the UK at all costs. In fact, avoid ALL food at all costs if you can unless you can spend money at a good restaurant. Expensive. Best time of year to visit: September and October. Hottest clubs in Europe, but don't expect people to think you are a rocket scientist if you have an American accent.
Tip: Warning- an English concept of a "bed and breakfast" is NOT some pert yuppie couple serving you muffins and fine coffee in the morning, it is a former Prison Matron who considers her borders borderline criminal.
Paris Despite what you may have heard, most people are charming, and do not hate Americans. The cab drivers are as rude and nutty as those in New York. Best time of year to visit: April and May. Great gay night life, great culture, incredible sites. Take the chunnel train from London, its a pain getting from airports, and see as many of the famous sites as possible. One of my finest memories is taking an all night train from Neuchatel Switzerland, arriving in Paris at 6:00 am, and having the best croissants and coffee I have ever had.
Tip: Most brasseries still have good cheap food, eat at the Brasserie du Nord across the way from Gare du Nord which is the station for the chunnel train to London and the trains to Brussels and Amsterdam.
Brasserie Du Nord in Paris
Rome The single most crowded city in Europe, but you have not lived until you have seen the Trevi Fountain at night. You will need to research where you eat, tourist trap food is simply awful. Best time of year to visit: Any time that is not over the Easter Holiday, and certainly not June, July or August. Plan to go when it is cold and rainy so you can move around. The gay scene takes place as much outdoors in cafes as it does in clubs at night. Leave early or late to see the Sistine Chapel.
Tip: Eat fried artichokes and fish at one of the Jewish restaurants in the old ghetto south of the Vatican on the Tiber, it is a 2500 year old cuisine that real Romans relish as much as any.
Venice Tips: I have never had a bad time in Venice, but the tourist trap food is worst then Rome. Good hotel accommodations for the price, and the ferries take you everywhere. They will literally try to serve garbage to you if you look American. Get a recommendation from your hotel on where to eat. Times to visit: Carnival around Lent. Oh I forgot, the beauty of Venice at any time is incomparable.
Tip: Visit the Guggenheim, it is my favorite little art museum in the world. It is almost across from St. Mark's Square.
Barcelona This, and not Madrid, is the cultural capital of Spain, or better yet, Catalonia, which is a separate nation, like Scotland is from England. This is a truly gorgeous city, with great night life which starts very late. Visit Sitges the gay resort south of Barcelona if you go in the summer months - you can take a local train there. Best month to visit: October or November or March or April. Make sure to visit Antoni Gaudi's Sagreda Familia Cathedral, and his other masterpieces around the city.
Tip: Do not eat on the Ramblas, and yes, most of the hookers are trannies - try not to gape at them with your mouth open.
Prague: Tips: Everything you have heard about it is true - gorgeous architecture, great culture, and stunning Czech boys (and girls), some of who are not ashamed to try to make a bit of extra cash. Best beer in Europe along with Belgium. Eat roast duck and dumplings with red cabbage, the national dish. Perhaps the most perfectly preserved city in Europe along with Florence Go in months other than the summer to hear classical music and opera even if you are not a fan- gorgeous venues and cheap prices for amazing music.
Tip: Also visit Dresden Germany, only a two hour train ride from Praque. Dresden is now a rebuilt baroque architectural masterpiece after being destroyed in the Second World War and is stunning.
Vienna: Tips: My single favorite city in all of Europe, but I am a classical music fan, and this is the center of it all. Staff in hotel, especially the snooty ones, are quite cold, but the people in general are charming if they are true Viennese. You must visit the Opera House, and must see the Musikverein where the Vienna Philharmonic plays, the worlds most stunning concert hall (along with the Sydney Opera House). May and June and October are my favorite months to visit, but Christmas is lovely in Vienna. Great eats for the cash just about everywhere, and the local cuisine is luscious. Try the "green" wine if you can find it.
Tip: The pretty city of Bratislava, capital of Slovakia, and home of the famous Bel Ami film studios, is full of gorgeous and friendly men and is a 45 minute drive from Vienna. Try to go for a day.
Amsterdam: Tips: The crime rate has increased lately, watch out for pickpockets. Still the gay capital of Europe, filled with tall and handsome Dutch boys who love their American admirers. Nightlife gets hot after Midnight. Visit the Van Gough and the nearby Rijksmuseum to see the old masters. Don't eat too much spacecake at first, you will spend your entire vacation in your hotel room looking at the ceiling, and do NOT try to take your spacecake with you to other countries if you leave Amsterdam on a train.
Tip: Forget good food, go to nearby Antwerp if you want some, the Dutch idea of a great meal is raw herring. Antwerp, a two hour train ride, also has a very hot gay nightlife scene -- guys from Holland go there to "let their hair down".
Berlin: Tips: Berlin is the capital of the new Germany, with stunning modern architecture on a very human scale, great culture and museums, and kinky clubs with hot and handsome guys who tend to be tops (well at least the ones I have met). Visit the art galleries and show rooms to see cutting edge design. If you like sausages, beer, and pastries you will be in luck, unless you want to spend more at a good restaurant. Times to visit: Spring or fall if you want to hear good classical music, its too cold in the winter for most, and do whatever you can to get a ticket to a performance by the Berlin Philharmonic if they are in town- they are the world's greatest orchestra for a reason.
Tip: Go in the summer if you like to look at hot fit guys with their shirts off, or ladies who like to sunbathe bra-less in the Tiergarten park. Nudity is legal. This city has to have the largest number of "experimental" straight men I have ever seen.
Copenhagen: The most cultured and most pleasant large city in Scandinavia to visit (sorry Stockholm). A truly great city to walk around in. Best food in Northern Europe outside of Belgium, you have not tasted a danish pastry unless you go there. Tivoli is a classic amusement park in the center of the city is open for the summer and is simply one of the nicest places you can imagine to spend an evening in. Great Danish Design just about everywhere, especially in the modern hotels . Nice smallish friendly gay nightlife with many very hot and tall Nordic guys to admire- who tend to smoke way too many cigarettes. As in all of Scandinavia, the evening light in June and July is absolutely spectacular, and lights the sky through Midnight in this gorgeous dark blue color.
Tip: Danes are very honest people, but do not seem to run many of the tourist establishments in Copenhagen. Although this is an unfair statement, and perhaps due to bad luck on my part, make sure to count your change, and be careful if you eat in an establishment or stop in a convenience store not run by Danes. The few times I have been ripped off in Europe (that I know about at least) have been here.
Next installment: Famous European cities you will probably want to visit only once, and why I put Florence on that list.