As I look back on all the amazing places I’ve been to this year, I can’t help but feel a sense of fulfillment. My wanderlust seemed to have rapidly intensified these past couple of years. 2015 has definitely been the most compelling and adventurous travel year for me. From walking barefoot inside the ancient Shinto shrine of Kyoto, to watching Spanish matadors train and exploring the Iberian Peninsula, it has been crazy, memorable and truly life-changing!
Even though it was tough to pick out just ten unforgettable cities for me, I was able to come up with my Top Ten list:
I went to Japan in late March this year just in time to see the cherry blossoms at their peak. Ueno Park is the popular destination in Tokyo for viewing these beautiful trees. I was with my family and was chaperoned by a private limo service around the city which made the experience all the more exclusively wonderful. The great thing about Tokyo is that even though it is big and modern, it was still clean and orderly. People were stylish and sophisticated. I loved walking downtown with the rush hour crowd. Normally, I would hate that but there’s just something about Tokyo.
Since I clearly fell in love with Japan, my favorite Japanese city would have to be Kyoto which I think is the exact opposite of Tokyo. It’s weird that I love them both but that’s why Japan is so magical! Once you get to Kyoto, you can see what ancient Japan looks like and admittedly, what we have seen in epic period Japanese movies. Kyoto is also famous for their lovely geishas and feel free to dress up in a traditional kimono while exploring it!
I can’t put out a list and not include my favorite city in it! My second time in London and I’m still in love. Thankfully, this time around – late September – the weather was perfect and I was able to enjoy the city more. What else is there to say other than yes, London is as amazing as you imagined it to be. Yes, I love English accents and yes, I want to move here. Read more about my London layover or check out my photoessay about the London Eye.
Have breakfast at the famous Plaza Mayor and get yourself some churros and cafe. That would be one of my recommendations. Of course after that, head out to La Latina neighborhood for some of that Madrileño tapas. Also one of my highlights was dining at Botin, the world’s oldest restaurant. Not to mention I had a lot of behind the scenes mishaps during my solo adventure (like that time I was kicked out of the train station!). I also met tons of people along the way. Madrid was able to tug at my heartstrings, a feat that most typical big cities have failed to do anymore. Find out my first impressions of Madrid and why I want to go back.
Another Spanish city that made my list is Picasso’s Málaga. My friends and I spent a lot of time in Plaza de la Merced, where we eventually felt at home. SO at home that it was hard to leave! I was able to check off a couple of things from my bucket list like going to Picasso’s hometown and his museum and going to a bullring (it was off-season so there was no event). However, the main highlight for me was beyond sightseeing. I had one of the best times in Málaga just hanging out with my friends, eating a lot of tapas and drinking pitchers of sangria. Read all about it here.
My first time in Nashville was one hell of an experience because I was at the Music City New Year’s Broadway Bash Party! If you’re a fan of country music and southern food, or just love to have a great time, Nashville is the place to be. I was still a little surprised though at how cold it was that night because I was expecting some good ‘ole warm Southern weather. Nonetheless, if you like to party it up this New Year’s Eve, go to Nashville!
Coimbra made my list because I had such a connection with the place. I also found Coimbra on my own and did some research on it. I didn’t know a lot about the city before I came so I didn’t know what to expect. I went to Coimbra by myself and loved exploring its historical old town and university grounds. It is one of the best underrated college towns I’ve been to. Read about my experience and what I did in Coimbra.
I was only in Seoul for a day but the city’s vibe was truly exciting that it was hard not to have a good time. I loved taking the train in Seoul. I thought it was extremely easy to figure out and yet I still can’t figure out New York’s subway system! My favorite highlights were discovering an old traditional hanok village, dressing up as a princess and exploring the Olympic Park at night. I also made a new friend, Jina, who took care of my royal garb. For more of my Seoul-searching experience, read it here.
You already know by now that I love old towns and Quebec City has one of the charming old towns I’ve seen. I celebrated my birthday this year in Montreal and drove up north to Old Quebec for the day. Canada is an easy drive from Connecticut and if you don’t mind driving an extra two hours to reach Quebec City, then you’re in for a treat. Old Quebec reminds me of a European town, not surprising knowing its history. Also, it is very French up there and I loved that our neighboring country is proudly bilingual! Read how I spent a perfect day in Old Quebec.
Last but not the least, Chicago, the city I will be calling home soon. I’ve been a frequent visitor for the last two years and I’m so excited to finally move there! I quickly fell in love with the Windy City and every time I visit, I just feel at home. My favorite thing about Chicago is its exciting atmosphere and its total package. I love eating my way around the city because of its diverse food culture. It is also an artistic city filled with outdoor sculptures and museums and events. Of course, I can’t deny its fabulous night life and social circles. I am so looking forward to new adventures, new friends and new city to call home! (Also read: Chicago’s Charm and Chicago’s Local Scene)
What were the travel highlights of your 2015?