Reaching 40: These are my 40 best travel experiences in Europe (Part 2)

Visiting Convento de Cristo in Tomar, Portugal / Photo:

A big birthday is a time for reflection, not at least when you’re turning 40! I can’t believe I’ve reached the big 4.0, but I do prefer this compared to the alternative.

On this occasion, I choose to reflect on the best travel experiences I’ve had around Europe – mainly throughout the past 8 years where I have been working as a freelance travel writer.

As I’m writing this, the world is not in a state for us all to travel much. But this just makes it an even more fitting time to cherish previous trips. And who knows, you might even find ideas for when we can finally hit the road, board a plane and get back on the tracks again.

To avoid making it too long, I’ve split this post into two parts, and this is the second part of my 40 best travel experiences in Europe (in random order).

JUMP TO PART 1 (1-20)

My roof top view of Madrid and the nearby mountains / Photo:

21) Living in Madrid

I used to dream about living in Paris but “destiny” offered me the perfect alternative: Madrid. My girlfriend is madrileña and Madrid has become my second home in Europe. I fell in love with the city and Spain a long time ago, and I have now spent long periods of my past 8 years in the Spanish capital. A city I can’t recommend enough, once it’s safe to travel again.

SEE ALSO: 7 reasons why you won’t miss the beach in Madrid

22) Couchsurfing in Scotland

During a rather spontaneous trip around the UK in 2015, my girlfriend and I ended up trying Couchsurfing for the first time. It was in Scotland, more specifically in Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth, Edinburgh and Glasgow, and we were blown away by the hospitality of complete strangers who let us stay at their places and showed us around. An experience I will never forget.

SEE ALSO: Couchsurfing in Scotland: Saved by a stranger

Navigator of the Seas in the Mediterranean Sea 2010 / Photo:

23) Cruising in the Mediterranean Sea

When my grandmother turned 80 back in 2010, she invited the entire family on a Mediterranean cruise, and who says no to that? The journey started in Rome and took us to both Sicily, Turkey and Greece. I’m generally not a big fan of cruise ships, but it sure was fun to try and it was an extraordinary way to celebrate my beloved grandmother.

SEE ALSO: Travel Tales: My dodgeball debut on a cruise ship

24) Hostelling in the UK

While I do enjoy a nice hotel, staying at hostels bring a completely different travel experience and introduces you to some really interesting people. As you get older, you naturally look for more comfort, but I really cherish my memories of staying (and working) at hostels throughout the past few years – especially around the UK in both Wales, England and Scotland.

SEE ALSO: Unique Accommodation: Luxury hostel-boat at Bristol harbour

A Welsh Mountain Sheep on Mount Snowdon in North Wales / Photo:

25) Travelling north in Wales

After years of living and travelling in the south of Wales, I finally got to explore the central and northern part of the country back in 2017. A train adventure introduced me to unique locations like Devil’s Bridge, Portmeirion, Caernarfon, Llandudno and not at least Mount Snowdon and the Snowdonia National Park. Unforgettable landscapes I can’t recommend enough.

SEE ALSO: 20 unique experiences I’ve had in Wales that you can have too

26) Spending the night at a pub in Bristol

Bristol in England has slowly developed into one of my many favourite cities in Europe. A cultural and exciting city that I have had the chance to visit many times. On one occasion, my visit turned into a unique experience as a night out got later than late and my friends and I ended up sleeping in the pub where my friend worked. His boss wasn’t too impressed, but it sure was a memorable night out.

The Bernina Express at Alp Grüm in Graubünden, Switzerland / Photo:

27) Admiring Switzerland by train

Switzerland is one of my favourite destinations in Europe, and I have been fortunate to experience this alpine wonder from behind a train window on several occasions, both on Interrail and work trips. Especially the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express stand out as some of the best train journeys I’ve ever had, and Switzerland is generally a wonderland for train enthusiasts like me.

SEE ALSO: Top 4 panorama trains in Switzerland: The Glacier Express

28) Representing the Welsh national team

Can you imagine representing a country that’s not your own? That is what I did when I played petanque (French boules game) for Wales in 2012-2013, while I was living in Cardiff. Due to holding a Welsh club license from my first Cardiff-stay in 2007, I was eligible and qualified with my team to represent the country at tournaments in Wales, Scotland and England. This gave me some truly authentic experiences and great moments with some amazing people.

SEE ALSO: Travel Tales: How I infiltrated the Welsh national team

The Ice Magic complex in Interlaken, Switzerland / Photo:

29) Ice skating in Interlaken

As a former ice hockey player and a passionate skater (ice and inline), it was magical to get to lace them up at the Ice Magic event in Interlaken in Switzerland a few years ago. Ice Magic is an annual ice skating complex built in the heart of the city, and skating outdoors while the sun sets on the Swiss Alps is a something I will never forget.

SEE ALSO: Swiss “wintertainment”: Ice Magic in Interlaken

30) Playing ice hockey in Sweden

Before I started living abroad in Wales, England and Spain, I played recreational ice hockey in Denmark for 14 seasons. As a fan, I have watched games in many different countries, and as a player, I got to play one game abroad too. This was when a former teammate invited my team to play against his new club in the small town of Rydaholm in Sweden. Despite just being a recreational friendship-game, we were introduced with national anthems and had to sign autographs to kids. Quite an experience.

SEE ALSO: 7 cool places I’ve watched ice hockey in Europe

Mountain biking in Crans Montana, Valais, Switzerland / Photo:

31) Mountain biking in the Swiss Alps

I was cheating a bit when I had my first mountain bike adventure in the Swiss Alps in 2018. It was on an e-bike, which took a lot less effort to ride up the hills, yet, it was incredible to roll past mirroring lakes and grazing cows surrounded by snow-peaked mountains. Safe to say, I can highly recommend mountain biking in Switzerland.

32) Skiing in Norway

I’ve just tried skiing once. It was on a family trip in Norway back in 2005. As I was used to ice skating, I found the adaptation to snow a bit tricky, but I avoided any bad crashes and managed to get the hang of it after a couple of days. And although I’ll never be a great skier, I can see why people get addicted to the downhill rushes through crisp white landscapes. I might even try again someday.

Dressed to impress at the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland / Photo:

33) Getting positively surprised by Northern Ireland

I don’t know many people who have been to Northern Ireland, which seems like one of Europe’s most overlooked countries. Therefore, I was positively surprised when I got the chance to go there on a work trip a few years back. Not only did I fall in love with the capital of Belfast, but a Game of Thrones-themed tour also gave me a great impression of the country’s northern coast. I can’t wait to return one day.

SEE ALSO: My blogs from Belfast and Northern Ireland

34) Feeling Berlin during the marathon

I’m a skater, not a runner. But my older brother did complete the Berlin Marathon in 2010 and 2011, and with Berlin being a relatively short drive from Denmark, I went with him for support both times. Despite having visited Berlin several times prior, it was quite an experience to feel the city’s buzz during such a huge event, and we “spiced up” the trips with a concert and an ice hockey game.

Taxi line in Christmas-decorated Vienna, Austria / Photo:

35) Experiencing Christmas in Vienna

The Austrian capital is a stunner all year round but even more so when it sparkles with twinkling lights during the Christmas season. It’s the perfect time to visit Vienna, as I did on a work trip a few years back. With Christmas markets on almost every corner, this is probably the top Christmas destination I’ve experienced in Europe (with Zürich in Switzerland as a close runner-up).

SEE ALSO: Vienna Christmas: Around the city’s markets

36) Work trippin’ in Luxembourg

I have a soft spot for small countries, maybe because I’m from one myself (Denmark) and the fact that I’ve lived in Wales. So I was excited for the chance to visit and write about Luxembourg in 2017 – which contrary to popular belief is not just a city but a whole country that offers charming towns and spectacular nature. I had a memorable work trip with some interesting writing colleagues, and I can’t wait to go back someday soon.

SEE ALSO: 10 excellent ways to spend your time in Luxembourg City

Posing in Porto near the Douro River / Photo:

37) Enjoying a surprise-trip to Porto

I got really excited when my girlfriend surprised me with a spontaneous trip to Portugal a few years ago. It was a trip to the port wine capital of Porto which took me by storm with its unpolished authenticity and its atmosphere along the Douro River. Besides its excellent wine, Porto is one of the most photogenic cities I’ve come across in Europe.

SEE ALSO: Get lost in the colours of unpolished Porto

38) Winning a trip to Stockholm

As it turns out, it does pay off to participate in competitions from time to time. It sure did for me, when I won a weekend getaway for my girlfriend and me through the Lonely Planet Magazine back in 2013. Flight tickets to Stockholm and two nights at a luxury hotel. Perfect! What we didn’t expect was to both be sick on the trip, ending up trying to enjoy the lovely Christmas atmosphere in the Swedish capital with bad colds. Unlucky timing, but it was still a memorable experience and Stockholm is a beautiful city.

SEE ALSO: Travel Tales: Stockholm Christmas with a cold

Iconic beach hut on the island of Ærø in Denmark / Photo:

39) Discovering the island of Ærø

Sometimes we don’t have to travel very far to enjoy an adventure. I learned that when I “discovered” the Danish island of Ærø in 2017, just a short ferry ride from my home island of Fyn. Ærø is an idyllic place with historic harbour towns, rolling fields and sandy beaches, and I have since returned a couple of times to what is now one of my favourite places in Denmark.

SEE ALSO: 15 things to do when you visit Ærø in Denmark

40) Road trippin’ through Portugal

Having done several road trips in France and Spain, I was curious to discover central Portugal by car at the beginning of 2020 – just before all Covid-19 hell broke loose. And I’m grateful my partner and I got to join me on this work trip, which took us from Lisbon to Sintra, Óbidos, Peniche, Batalha, Tomar, Coimbra and Aveiro before returning to Spain. Portugal has so much to offer and with short distances between highlights, it’s perfectly explored by car.


By Brian Schæfer Dreyer