This one goes out to all those travellers that prefer to have a base or are thinking of settling in one location in Europe but always have the optional of being able to just up and go for a weekend when an unbeatable last minute deal comes along. And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t wan that flexibility and connectedness?
I have thought a lot about where the best places attached to an airport would be since it had been a K.O. criterion for back when I tried to get a 9-5 job, flat and ordinary life. Well, that never happened and now I am touring the other end of the world. But in case you are curious about my findings, I will share with you the top 5 places that have an ideal location when it comes to big airports, central bus connections and vicinity to several neighbouring countries.
There is a reason that Swinging London is a major destination for stopovers and long-term flyers. Home to the Queen, the legendary globe and the now highest building in the EU, London sure knows how to elegantly combine tradition with modernity and invites for strolls in the rain, meeting friends at pub crawls and culturally enhancing your horizons with many events or everyone all year round. A lot can be said about London but boring is not a word that would apply.
But more importantly for travellers with an itch, the location is unbeatable. Not only can you get insanely cheap Ryanair flights to other big cities across the continent but also hop on bus or train for quick rides to Paris or Edinburgh. Moreover, England is home to Megabus with its incomparable fares starting from just £1 for early bookers! Can’t get any better than that. On top of that, London has a total of 5 airports! Now two unbeatable things in one location. To quote Lady Gaga, there’s nothing else I can say eh eh.
You don’t have to travel far from Europe’s second largest airport to the next country. A mere 20 minute train ride over the Öresund bridge and you’re in the third largest city of Sweden, Malmö. From there you can get around the beautiful state of Skåne, which most people overlook when coming to Sweden, and up the coast to Norway on a 5 hour drive.
If you have had enough of picturesque harbours, royal buildings and colourful vintage houses, the airport will take you away in no time. How about a two hour flight to Helsinki, in under 2 hours to Oslo or to Budapest in 2 and a half hours for, at times, even under 50€! When I worked in Malmö, the Copenhagen airport was the most visited place for the Erasmus students and that says a lot!
The fourth biggest airport in Europe certainly has a lot to offer to pass the time waiting for your flight when it comes to shopping opportunities. Also, it is clean and shiny and I value that highly. But apart from the steel and glass construction, I do not much recommend Frankfurt to fellow travellers. Why? Because Germany has so many much more amazing places to offer.
Skyscrapers you can see all over the world but truly old heritage buildings you can find in cities outside of the state of Hessen’s capital. To get there, the German train company Die Bahn offers great connections from the city all across the country. Head over to Heidelberg, Munich or Cologne or why not cross over to Paris or Bruges? You are pretty close to the border. Maybe you should also discover more of the tiny country Luxembourg that seems so hidden away between its huge neighbours in comparison.
Again a great airport and well connected to the fast train system ICE, for instance straight up to Berlin in 6 to 7 hours (not anywhere as fast as the Japanese Shinkansen, my spoiled me needs to add). You always wanted to visit the famous Oktoberfest, didn’t you? Visit the city, see the parks, lovely architecture and surrounding castles.
When you’re done, head over to Salzburg and Vienna in Austria for wonderful classical buildings, cobblestone streets and dreamy cafes. Mountains to hike around you will find here enough and if you want more, make it all the way to Switzerland or down to the North of Italy. You do have a great position to get to know the centre of Europe better from here.
A little bit further out, Helsinki should not be forgotten as it can open up your gates to the Eastern parts of Europe. An 8 hour bus up to Lapland might just end up being the best getaway you’ve ever had, as it turned out to be for me. If you don’t come in the worst times of summer with all the tenacious flies or the coldest in winter with thigh high snow, you can see the weird and wonderful cityscape that makes Helsinki quite unique. Usually playful Art Nouveau elements meet harsh Soviet constructions that are overlooked by mighty cathedrals.
Having had enough of the city and thousands of lakes inbetween meadows and forests, you can board the plane for the rest of Scandinavia or say hello to the three little countries that are unfortunately often overlooked, those being Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. If you want to go bigger, spread out to Ukraine, Romania and, of course, Russia. Don’t forget to check the visa requirements!
Final Note: Amsterdam airport is also a favourite destination but I haven’t been there yet.
How to Best Explore Europe?
Europe is backpacker friendly and with major cities like London or Paris, it really is best to get a backpack for exploring Europe. Just think cobblestone streets and rarely lifts in the underground. Lugging around a suitcase can be challenging. (Trust me, Ive tried).