Travelooney’s Random Travel Awards 2017 – Part 1

Travelooney Awards cover 1

2017 was a busy travel year for me as I collected many new memories around Europe. Therefore I’d like to “reward” some of the destinations and locations I’ve had the priviledge to visit in 2017, with my own Travelooney Travel Awards. I call them random as I naturally just choose between places I’ve been visiting throughout the year, but I think they could still inspire you to pack your bags and book that ticket here in 2018. So take a look…

Most stressfree airport

Ronaldsway, Isle of Man

Airports can be stressful places to navigate, but tiny airports can have a certain charm – and Ronaldsway Airport on the self-governing Isle of Man is tinier than most – with ocean views from the baggage delivery belts and an absolute minimum of stress levels. At least when I was there.

As I arrived before my return flight I was able to walk straight up to the check-in counter (surrounded by no one), I was greeted with a smile as I walked through security and I did my airport-shopping completely hassle-free. If only air travel was always this easy going.


The control tower of Ronaldsway Airport on the Isle of Man

Greatest natural phenomenon

Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim, Northern Ireland

I had seen the pictures and I had read the guidebook-section dedicated to this natural wonder. Still, I was blown away by the greatness of this place when I finally stood there – on a rainy day in Northern Ireland back in February 2017.

It’s said to have been built by the mythical giant Finn MacCool, and it sure is a gigantic experience to get to walk among – and on top of – these 40.000 impressive hexagonal stone columns. A result of volcanic activity millions of years ago, and a spectacular UNESCO-listed sight. I got to experience this magnificent place as a part of a Game of Thrones themed tour that set out from Belfast.

Giants Causeway

Just a few of the thousands of columns at Giant’s Causeway

Coolest attraction

Titanic Belfast, Northern Ireland

As tourist attractions around Europe (and the world) grow bigger and get more interactive, the competition for the tourists attention is fierce – but after spending 3-4 hours behind the spectacular facade of Titanic Belfast, I understood why it was awarded as the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction in 2016. A title that came with a lot of pressure, but still I was positively surprised.

This exhibition – from outside to in – is so well thought, planned and executed – as well as its location makes perfect sense, and it’s such a major boost for the reborn Northern Irish capital. Find my blog post about it here: The world’s top attraction is found in Northern Ireland.

Titanic Belfast

The architecture of Titanic Belfast is created to mirror the height of Titanic’s bow

Biggest positive surprise

Ærøskøbing on Ærø, Denmark

I didn’t had to travel far from my hometown to find the most positive surprise of my travel year 2017, as it was found just a short drive and a 1 hour 15 minute ferry trip away, on the Danish island of Ærø (That’s Aeroe, for you non-Danish speakers).

For some reason I had never ventured there despite having it just “around the corner” all my life, and the beauty of the picturesque “capital” of Ærøskøbing (good luck pronouncing that one!) took me by surprise. In fact my camera almost got overheated, and it wasn’t just because of the sunny day. I will definitely be back!


A look down the main street of Ærøskøbing as the ferry leaves the island

Most spectacular view

Lagos de Covadonga in Asturias, Spain

The travel year of 2017 blessed me with unforgettable views from mountain tops, across oceans and along skylines – but the winner has to be the Lakes of Covadonga, between the peaks of the Picos de Europa mountain chain in Northern Spain.

Up here, surrounded by snowclad peaks, green grass and blue lakes, it was a moment to just stand and take it all in – disturbed by nothing else than a few fellow visitors and the hypnotic bells of the lazy red cows, that added a nice touch to the whole scene. I almost forgot the challenging drive up the steep mountain roads to get there.

Lagos de Covadonga

A cow lounging at the beautiful mountain lakes of Covadonga

Best bookshop

Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, England

As mentioned in a previous blog post where this award-winner is included, I love to discover unique bookshops on my trips around Europe, and my list of favourites is growing longer for each year – not at least when I lived in Madrid, but the one topping my list in 2017 has to be Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath. And let’s face it, just the name alone deserves a prize!

This English bookstore is really atmospheric and an attraction in itself, as well as it offers a great selection of books and excellent service. It was one of the best hidden gems I discovered while spending a couple of months in Bath last summer.

Mr Bs

Mr. B’s is a an extremely atmospheric bookstore in the heart of Bath

Most addictive coffee

Boconó in Madrid, Spain

I have definitely visited my share of cafés in Madrid, as I have been living in the Spanish capital in different periods over the last few years – but in 2017 I found the most amazing cup of coffee at Boconó in the historic La Latina neighbourhood.

Most cafés in Madrid generally offer a good quality of coffee, but this one takes it to another level – and the surroundings and the service is on top of the game too. The coffee comes from different parts of the world and can be bought in bags to bring home too. So please do yourself a favour and stop by for a ‘cuppa’ here!


Beware: When first you have tried the coffee at Boconó you’ll be back!

Best street art experience

UPFEST 2017 in Bristol, England

I love to go street art hunting on my travels and in 2017 I saw a lot of excellent street art around cities like Madrid, London, Belfast and Brighton – but the top experience for me was attending Upfest 2017 in Bristol, England.

An urban arts festival where I got to see some top artists paint live in the streets of the Bedminster and Southville neighbourhoods, with the most memorable being the Brazilian star named Cobra. Just check out this magnificent mural featuring John Lennon.


The artist Cobra creating his colourful mural at Upfest 2017 in Bristol

Most mindblowing building

Royal Pavilion in Brighton, England

!!! – Sometimes places just leave you speechless and the Royal Pavilion in Brighton is one of those places. Not only for its eye-catching, Indian-inspired architecture – but if possible even more for its Chinese-inspired interior, with an explosion of colours and golden dragons.

I was lucky to visit a bunch of unique buildings throughout 2017, like the Titanic exhibition in Belfast, the Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna and the Cathedral in St. Gallen – but Brighton’s famous landmark has to take this prize.

Royal Pavilion

You could think you magically ended up in India – but this is Southern England

Best wildlife experience

Starling murmurations in Aberystwyth, Wales

I love the countryside and the raw nature as much as visiting metropolitan cities, and there’s nothing better than to experience wild animals in their own habitats – instead of in the zoo. This past year I had the pleasure of watching wild seals around the coasts of the Isle of Man and West Wales, and hundreds of nestling storks in Alcalá de Henares in Central Spain – but my most memorable experience connected to wild animals last year was seeing the hypnotic starling murmurations from the promenade in the Welsh seaside town of Aberystwyth. Simply unforgettable!


Thousands of starlings find a home for the night beneath the pier in Aberystwyth


See more awards in part 2 here


to follow Travelooney Blog on Facebook for the latest updates and even more travel inspiration to Europe!

By Brian Schæfer Dreyer