European getaways: Iconic cities

by Amanda Palumbo
Stripes Europe

If you ask me, the word ‘iconic’ is used way too much to describe things that are not truly iconic. Merriam-Webster defines the word as “widely known and acknowledged especially for distinctive excellence.” When you’re talking about iconic European cities the big three come to mind: Paris, Rome and London.

An aerial shot of the Catacombs in Paris.


Paris, the city of lights or, in French, "la ville lumière." There’s no doubt Paris is one of the most romantic cities in the world but what I love about Paris is its attitude, a raw grittiness, and brash, almost reckless way of telling the world, we are the best city. Even Paris’ pigeons have a certain swagger. There is something for everyone in Paris. It’s home to the famous (and I would argue overrated) Mona Lisa at its world-renowned Louvre museum. She is just one of about 35,000 works of art the museum has on display. Architecture nerds will rejoice in the birthplace of French Gothic architecture. While one of the most notable gothic structures, Notre Dame, is rebuilding after a fire, there are other fine examples of Gothic architecture, like Amiens Cathedral. If you love to be creeped out, head to The Catacombs and walk among millions of skeletons stacked in bizarre yet beautiful arrangements. Breathtaking 365-degree views of the city can be found at the top of the Eifel Tower or the Montparnasse Tower.

A few tips for Paris: public transportation is the cheapest mode of transportation, most attractions have a ‘skip-the-line’ option online and don’t buy tickets from random people on the street. They’re likely overpriced and/or counterfeit.

Make a wish at the Trevi Fountain!



The Eternal City also likes to refer to itself as “Caput Mundi” or the capital of the world. Like Paris, Rome has just about everything to offer travelers. Paris may have the Mona Lisa but Rome has some of the world’s most historic masterpieces. Rome offers art-lovers a bevy of eye-pleasing choices from the Creation of Man at the Sistine Chapel (technically Vatican City but let’s not split hairs) to Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses at Basilica di San Peitro in Vincoli. Foodies can indulge in Roman favorites like pasta, wood-fired pizza and carbonara in a traditional “trattoria.” If you want to save a few euros, Rome has some truly fantastic street food – everything from pizza by the slice to trendy fusion cuisine.

The best tips for Rome: Hop on a rented bike to get more out of your day or sign up for a guided bike tour.

The famous Big Ben.


While London has an unforgettable art scene with the Tate, Tate Modern and National Gallery, the city is still incredibly artistic in other ways. If you love the theater, head to London’s West End to Theatreland. It’s considered Europe’s Broadway, regarded as one of the best places in the world to catch a show. See London’s famous skyline from 443 feet high on the world’s tallest Ferris wheel, the London Eye. Some of the city’s attractions are free, including the National Gallery, the National History Museum, the British Museum and the Science Museum.

A tip for London: Stroll along the Thames and dine on some of the city’s best street food at Southbank Centre Market.

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