If you have any interest in taking a gap-year either before or after college, choosing where you go can make all of the difference. You want to get the most out of your experience, see places you wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to explore, and learn about different cultures and ways of life. If Europe is your top pick, here are five gap-year travel destination you won’t want to miss.
1. Ljubljana, Slovenia
While most people don’t know a ton about Slovenia, it’s an absolutely incredible country and well-worth the visit. The country itself is stunning with sprawling mountains and endless forests, and a capital city filled with charming baroque architecture, castles, cobblestone streets, local markets, and their famous bridges. While there, be sure to take a day or weekend trip to Lake Bled. You can swim or kayak in the lake, but you should definitely hike one of the nearby trails or work your way up to Bled Castle to get one of the best views you’ll ever see.
2. Budapest, Hungary
Visiting Budapest will not only provide you with the chance to sample all of the delicious local goulash, a traditional meat and vegetable stew, but also learn about the city’s rich history. Museums such as the Terror Museum showcase what life was like under fascist regimes in the region and local walking tours further explore the lasting effects of Stalinist rule on the community. Between these grave but fascinating local history lessons, relax in one of the many thermal bath houses in the Buda side of the city or hang with friends in a ruin bar — pre-war buildings re-purposed into bars with often eclectic and fascinating decor.
3. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague has to be one of the loveliest capital cities you can visit in Europe today and it’s a must for a gap-year travel destination. It’s called the “City of a Hundred Spires” and it lives up to the name with castles, grand bridges, old clock towers, and much more. More than that, the stories and histories that accompany the stunning streets will leave a lasting impression, especially if you spend time with locals or take one of the many free walking tours. The Jewish Ghetto is an important stop to spend some time in and the astronomical clock tower boasts an intricate display each hour as well.
4. Seville, Spain
The first non-capital city on this list, Seville is a hidden treasure. The city still feels like it belongs to the locals, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t wonderful things to do and see as a tourist. Add this to your gap-year travel destinations list if you want to visit somewhere with a slower pace of life, wander old cobblestone streets lined with oranges, take siestas with the locals and eat tapas late at night, and watch all the flamenco you can stand. On top of this local lifestyle, make time to visit the grand Plaza de Espana, explore the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, and learn about the Moorish influences on the city’s history.
5. Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon is as stunning as it is fun. The sprawling city is incredibly old and boasts small eateries offering the best pastries in the region (specifically the pasties de nata), local flea markets filled with treasures, and architectural wonders like the Torre de Belem and Monastery de Jeronimos. Ride local tram 28 and explore endlessly because around every turn is something new to marvel at. Also, don’t miss out on the street sangria which is always fruity and refreshing.