I’m midway through my time in London, and just about midway through my travel budget, too. So here’s a quick sum-up of the city superlatives I’ve experienced so far.
And the nominees are:
Best pork: Salzburg, Die Weisse. Easily in the top three pork experiences I’ve had in my life thus far. It was like a prime rib au jus, but with pork. Mmmmmmmmm. If we’d stayed in Salzburg an extra night, I totally would have gone back.
Cheapest beer: Prague, any pub or brewery. Have I mentioned, $1 beers?!
Best Korean food: Berlin, Kimchi Princess: Principesa, you are near and dear to my heart.
Best coffee: Prague, the roaster’s in the building where we stayed (I don’t remember the name). So rich and roasty. I think the best coffee I’ve had, ever. Period.
Best homecooked meal: London, A’s pad. This is the best meal I’ve had in London yet, which both attests to how good A’s cooking is, and how disappointing eating out is.
Best cuisine overall: Paris, hands down.
MUSEUMS & CULTURE
Favorite museums: Paris, Rodin Museum and Army Museum; Berlin, Pergamon Museum. London has great museums too of course, all the better because they’re free. But I haven’t been to enough yet to say–working on it! (Okay, I didn’t want to say the Louvre because it seems so predictable, but the Louvre was pretty amazing after all.)
Favorite stage production: London, Singin’ in the Rain.
Most beautiful set design: Vienna, Carmen. Designed by Franco Zeffirelli.
Most educational: Berlin. The Checkpoint Charlie museum and the Jewish Museum were pedantic in different ways, the Jewish Museum more successfully so. But between those and the open-air exhibits at Bernauer Strasse regarding the Berlin Wall, there was a lot of information intake going on while I was in Berlin.
Best archway: Paris, Arc d’Triomphe. Really felt pretty triumphant when I made it to the top.
Most impressive church: London, St. Paul’s (though I haven’t been to Westminster Abbey yet so I’m not sure); Paris, Notre Dame.
Most elaborate tomb: Paris, Napoleon’s tomb. Not sure such a short guy needed such a big mausoleum.
Most elegant palace: Well, I’ve only been inside three—Schloss Sanssouci in Berlin, Hradcany Castle in Prague and the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. Of these three I’d vote for the Hofburg Palace.
Most thought-provoking: Berlin, the Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Strasse. The footage of the Church of Reconciliation being demolished—I lack the words.
GETTING AROUND & LODGING
Best public transit: Berlin. The most affordable (especially considering that it’s an honor system, so teeechnically you don’t have to pay), easy to navigate, and of course like all things German, on time. (Worst would be Paris—whether it was the graffiti, the lighting, the urban grunge fashion, I don’t know, but it felt way 90s in the Parisian metro.)
Most walkable city: Hmm, hard to say. Salzburg might be the most walkable because it’s the smallest, but I definitely walked the most all around Paris.
Best AirBnB stay: Vienna, near Karlsplatz. Our host was away for the weekend, so we had the entire place to ourself. It was beautiful, spacious, with airy high ceilings and huge windows. Within walking distance of all the main attractions. The beds were more comfortable than my own bed in London.
Best (and only) hostel stay: Salburg, Yoho International Youth Hostel. Having had bedbugs once in NYC, I’d been wary of hostels, but found this one to be quite clean. Felt like staying at a retreat centre, with random strangers who were all pretty nice, if rather noisy in the wee hours. The wifi didn’t really work, but all I needed was a good night’s rest anyways. And yes, even the bed here was more comfortable than my bed in the Oliver Twist House of London.
Tourist-friendliest: Prague. It kind of felt like the whole city was designed around the tourism industry—in entire sections of the city, window displays were in English, souvenir shops were a-plenty, and people stood in front of restaurant doors to invite you in.
Would totally go back to visit: Vienna for culture, Paris for food. If I didn’t already have a long list of other places I have yet to go to, Berlin would be on this list too.
Most picturesque: Paris. My loyalties lie in London, so I’m almost loth to admit this. But seriously, my photos from Paris are the prettiest of the bunch.
Most liveable: London. They speak English here, which is helpful. The fact that London wins relatively few of the above categories belies the mentality with which I approach the cities I visit versus the one I live in. I’ve got about half a year left in London, so it’s time to start making the most of it!
Upcoming trips include Madrid and Amsterdam, and I’m hoping to squeeze in some UK trips to Edinburgh, Bath, a day in the countryside, and perhaps Ireland. If I can swing it, a week each in Italy & Switzerland. These are very ambitious plans, but I just filed my tax return today and am getting back more than I expected. Europe, here I come (again)!
*Shoutout to my bro for his generous contribution to my travel fund! Thanks M!!!