Sometimes you visit a city and something just doesn’t add up. Maybe you’re still jet lagged, maybe there’s a rollerblading Santa Convention going on and the whole city is mobbed and you can’t get anywhere. At any rate, there are certainly a handful of cities which I’ve visited which just didn’t quite make it onto my list of favorites the very first time around even though they are favorites with visitors. That said, these three cities are all on my list of places to revisit but with a different plan of action.
Barcelona–Barcelona is lauded as one of Spain’s best cities to visit time and again, and many tourists seem to prioritize it over Madrid. I loved all of the Gaudí architecture, and strolling along Las Ramblas certainly made for a memorable first night in Europe during my study abroad experience. However, what took away from my experience was severe jet lag. I arrived in a dazed stupor and proceeded to take a nap after not sleeping on my redeye flight from Boston to Amsterdam. I managed to cram a lot in during my short time there, visiting the Sagrada Familia, Picasso Museum, and getting lost in the city’s Barri Gotic. However, there’s a lot that I still did not get to see, like the Casa Milà, Casa Batlló, and Park Güell. Next time around, I would start a trip to Europe in a city I’d already been to, so that the jet lag wouldn’t detract from seeing someplace I hadn’t been. Then, once acclimated, I’d visit Barcelona later on during the trip.
Lisbon–Lisbon is another popular place to visit for students on their semester abroad: it’s cheap, artsy, a little offbeat, and offers something distinctly different from the very classical European cities like London and Paris. There are really incredible neighborhoods around the city with colorful murals and plenty of breathtaking lookout points, so it’s really a feast for your eyes. So what went wrong here? The bulk of my visit was on a Sunday in August, and anybody who’s been in southern Europe in August knows that everything shuts down for vacation. And on a Sunday, those few places which may have been open during the week are likely to be closed as well. So when the Sunday rolled around to explore Lisbon, my day of exploring some funky neighborhoods ended up starting out with an hour inside of a Starbucks waiting for places to open at noon. I ended up finding some secondhand bookstores, a cool place for lunch, and then checked out the castle and having a good day, though slightly defeated by the bad Starbucks americano which kicked my day off. Next time? I would visit during a busier season, or at least during the week. Additionally, I’d visit some of the city’s famous museums (at the point that I visited, I was a little bit museum’d out).
Milan–Italy’s industrial capital allures tourists and businesspeople alike with its famous shopping scene and renowned works of art. I really enjoyed visiting the city when my parents visited: my dad and I climbed to the top of the awe-inspiring Duomo, we all had some incredible pizza for lunch, marveled over Chagall’s work at a special exhibition, and followed Puccini’s footsteps to the Scala Museum. We got a lot of great things into our day trip, but we were all completely wiped afterwards. The city is an exhausting one to visit, and while you can fit in a good number of the sights in a day trip, doing it in two days and a night would certainly be more relaxed. And also, it’s essential to book your visit to da Vinci’s The Last Supper months in advance.