People all too often overlook the little things in life, whether they are choosing places to see or walking down the street. I’ve met a lot of people planning their first Euro trip and they only make time to see capitals of each country. They overlook the small towns, the medium cities and immediately go to the big flashy lights of the city like wanderlust moths. If you are trying to understand the culture of a country sometimes you simply can’t get that in a city. While cities are glamorous, they are made for tourists. They are filled with traps and crawling with pickpockets.
I have some concrete examples of the differences between big cities and small towns.
While Lisbon has more street art, great markets and a vibrant nightlife. Evora has a series of unique sights including a bone church and a roman temple. As Lisbon was a beautiful city with slopes and art, Evora was a small town with ancient architecture and cheap quality food. My hostel in Lisbon was big with nice accommodation including a large lounge and free Wi-Fi, my hostel in Evora had a small group nestled together in two dorms. Both of these cities are very different but each is a different side to the small but brilliant country, Portugal.
Vienna is the capital of art nouveau with pieces of renaissance architecture, sprinkled through the twinkling city. While Vienna was lovely I have two critiques of the city: I had a hard time finding authentic Austrian food and it was really expensive. When I went to Salzburg, I found some great food for a good price. My accommodation in Salzburg was also half the price with so many more facilities.
Madrid versus small towns
Madrid was my home base in Europe. I fell in love with all of it’s little secret places and stories. I loved living in a big city with new events all the time, new people and always something new to discover. However, it is nice to escape the crowded and loud city. There are a lot of small towns dotting the perimeter of Madrid. Segovia has medieval architecture with amazing, affordable food. Cuenca has the hanging houses. Escorial has the controversial Valley of the Fallen. They all have unique things to see plus fresh air, cheap food, affordable accommodation and a calmer place to enjoy a culture. If you don’t have a lot of time I would suggest Toledo. It has the best food and it’s a charming city.
I think there is something to be said about seeing both sides of a country. The tranquillity of quaint towns with magnificent sights versus the busy world of the bright city. But the important thing to remember is keep exploring!