I traveled more in 2016 than any other year of my life. 11 countries, 11 hostels, 15 cities, 23 flights (or more… I may have lost count), and an endless amount of adventures, laughs, and new friendships formed. Some friends who I still cherish long after arriving home, and already have plans to see again in the coming year. I learned a lot along the way. That the greatest part of travel is who you share it with. Whether it’s your best friend or a stranger you met that night. And I learned that certain places will unexpectedly tug on your heart more than others, and you’ll know it won’t be the last time you see that place.
Out of all of the cities I explored this year, there were 5 that truly captured my heart – and a few you might have never even heard of. But these places I feel hold a special magic about them that is worth writing about, so without further ado, here are my Top 5 Favorite Cities of 2016!
5. Positano, Italy
A colorful seaside town on a cliff, winding roads and cobblestone streets lined with tiny cafes, and the bluest ocean you’ve ever seen… there’s no doubt that Positano is nothing short of magical. It’s hard to call it a city, considering only about 4,000 people live here permanently.
We stayed at Hostel Brikette, a family-owned hostel that overlooks the ocean from the top of the village. We had home cooked meals every day and spend our nights drinking beer on the porch and talking with our hostel mates from around the world. Oh, and did I forget we cruised around the coast and swam through blue grottos, cliff-jumped, and laughed under the sun? Yeah, you should go.
4. Porto, Portugal
I hadn’t heard of Porto until about a month before I left for my trip. I was browsing Pinterest for photos of Portugal and saw a photo of the city, and spontaneously decided to add it to the list. To my surprise, Porto was not only my favorite part of Portugal but ended up making my Top 5 list.
Porto is a coastal city most famous for its Port wine, which alone is a good enough reason to visit! There are plenty of things to see in the city, one of my favorites being the view from the Clerigos Church Tower (pictured here). We visited a bookstore named by Lonely Planet the “3rd Most Beautiful Library in the World”, that J.K. Rowling herself used to frequent. At the end of the day, we crossed the bridge over the Duoro River to get the iconic view of the colorful city at sunset, which I highly suggest you do!
3. Washington, D.C.
You might be surprised to find a U.S. city on the list, but my trip to Washington, D.C. this year was one of my favorite parts of 2016. For my birthday last April, I decided to treat myself to a weekend trip to a city on my list to visit. I was excited to visit D.C., but I had no idea how quickly I would fall in love with the Capitol city. I found it to be extremely clean, easy to get around, and friendly. The best part? Almost all of the museums are free! You could spend an entire day by yourself wandering through them, learning the vast history the United States. We all need to play tourist once in awhile, right?
2. Athens, Greece
If I’m being honest, Athens was the last place I expected to like. With all of the negative talk of the situation in Greece, I expected the city to be a total hot mess. Boy, was I wrong! I immediately fell in love with the city, and it was the one place on my trips that I could picture myself living in one day. The history alone is enough to become totally enchanted with Athens, but there is so much more than just the Acropolis (which is absolutely amazing, I must admit!).
I loved getting lost in the streets filled with cafes and restaurants that seemingly had no doors, so you couldn’t tell which part was inside or outside. Every person I met was so friendly and had pride for their country. And don’t get me started on the food…
The Greek islands are what you often hear about, but you’d be mistaken to overlook Athens on your next trip to Greece!
1. Marrakech, Morocco
Marrakech sits at #1 because it was my favorite place I visited in 2016. Probably like you, I had decided long ago to visit this country after seeing countless photos on the internet of its incredible architecture and vibrant colors. And I figured Morocco would be a great way to take my first trip to Africa!
Marrekech is a place you either love or you hate. I will say that it is totally chaotic, loud, and in-your-face. But I loved every second of it. Wandering through the souks (the term for an Arab market) and smelling so many herbs and spices at once is the best way to wake yourself up in the morning. Walking through shops filled with rugs that took months to weave reminds you that good things take time and care. And there is nothing quite like taking in the architecture and seeing such intricacy and craft right in front of your eyes.
One of the best parts of all was my stay at Equity Point Marrakech. This was the most affordable hostel I’ve ever stayed at and the most beautiful. It was the perfect way to experience a traditional Moroccan Riad on a 23-year-old’s budget. Watching the sunset’s over the Old Town from their rooftop at night will be a memory I’ll never forget, and one I hope you get to experience for yourself one day.
Want to visit one of these cities on 2017? Share this post with a friend you’d want to take with you!