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Feb 17, 2015

5 Cities That Deserve a Second Chance

I have a lot of shoulda, coulda, woulda's for our time in Europe. Seems pretty normal for any avid traveler or expat to have that ever-growing bucket list...as well as a list of places you wish you would have never visited in the first place. I like to refer to that list as my "never again" list. It's ok to have a list like that! Not everyone will love every single destination they visit. Flying home on our last transatlantic flight from Germany to Florida, D and I talked about all those places we wanted to visit but never made it to...about destinations we made it to, but didn't love...and those places we absolutely never ever wanted to see again. Happily, there were none on my "never again" list, or at least, I've changed my mind since having time to reflect on those places. Today, I've shared that list with you and I've affectionately labeled these 5 cities as those that deserve a do-over. Everyone deserves a second chance, right? If you've visited any of the places below and loved them, let me know what you loved about them so when I get the chance to have those do-overs, I'll look forward to better experiences!

(The list below is purely based off of my experiences in each city over 3 years living & traveling abroad. These are my opinions and literally have nothing to do with the general consensus of traveler reviews. So, basically, read ahead and go to these places anyway.)

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

I wanted to fall in love with Amsterdam so badly, but alas, it just didn't happen. Why? Well, there are a few reasons. We literally only had one day here. That seems to be a reason why many of these destinations made my do-over list, but nevertheless...with such a short amount of time to stuff in loads of iconic sights, we couldn't handle the pressure. Amsterdam also proved to be difficult to navigate. It's still the only city in Europe that D and I have ever gotten seriously lost in. The place is like a labyrinth of canals and row houses. It all looks the same after you've wandered around for hours. Couple that with bicycles zooming past you constantly and trying to get places quickly because of limited time, well...we had the perfect recipe for vacation disaster. I remember coming back to the hotel that night and telling D how disappointed I was with the whole darn day. Yet, everyone who visits seems to love Amsterdam. I want that same feeling! This city is my #1 do-over dream.

Rome, Italy

Rome, I truly liked Rome (what I remember of it, at least)! But again, we had a hurried visit there. One absolutely cannot do Rome in a day (it wasn't built in one, after all). Sure, Rome is a bit dirty and run down to the eye, but it's chock full of history and ruins...it's old, but for good reason. That being said, we spent our one and only day in Rome on a guided tour with 8 of our closest family members, the majority of whom had never ventured to Europe before. STRESS-FUL. Our guide was awesome and got us to every sight we wanted to see in 10 quick hours (except the Spanish Steps, wah wah), but she talked A LOT...I needed less talk, more aimless wandering. Hard to have the best of both worlds in one day, I know. Additionally, while the Vatican is a must-see, we spent way too much of our time there (for my taste, at least). I also felt compelled to keep checking on my family, making sure they were all having a swell time and not getting lost in the Roma tourist crowds (I'm a people pleaser, even on my own vacation). So, between rushing, death by history lesson, and people pleasing, I felt like Rome was a total blur. Re-do destination #2, and rightly so.

Florence, Italy

The Duomo in Florence is super cool. The views from the top after you climb the, oh, 450+ stairs, is worth the workout. The rest of Florence to me was...ehhhh...not memorable. This was one of those cities I had super high expectations for because of one reason...study abroad students. They RAVE about Florence being such a dreamy place. Good food, great history, gorgeousness nestled in the Tuscan countryside...YES. Florence has all that, but it still left a lot to be desired in my mind. True, I had my 8 feisty family members in tow on our visit here as well, but even so, I wasn't blown away. Still, though, I feel like I need to give it one more chance. Maybe a long weekend away there with D would have shined a more romantic light on Florence. Who knows? One thing I know for sure...the Uffizi Gallery is boring as crap, unless you like that sort of thing. I'll be sure to skip it on my next go-round for sure.

Helsinki, Finland

I've mentioned this a time or two before, but the Baltic cities I've visited in Europe didn't wow me as much as I'd hoped. Stockholm and Tallinn, Estonia being the two exceptions (out of the very small handful I was fortunate enough to see). Helsinki, well, I know I liked the beer there. And the Rock Church. And of course, this gorgeous white cathedral. But I remember getting back on the cruise ship early because we'd simply run out of things to do there. In this case, one day was enough? I hate thinking that, because Helsinki sounds cool. They eat reindeer after all (it's pretty tasty, mind you)! We had a nice time there and liked what we did see. Maybe our flippancy towards Helsinki was due to lack of research (although I had my trusty Google Map itinerary)...or maybe there really isn't a whole heck of a lot to see, I couldn't confidently say. Either way, I'd like to give Helsinki another try. Maybe next time with a local guide who knows a thing or two about the city and could show us all the things that seemed to hide from us during our visit. 

St. Petersburg, Russia

If you've been a reader of my blog for a while, then you know the story of our time in St. Petersburg. Again, I wanted to be wowed by Russia. RUSSIA! I couldn't believe we'd made it to Russia. But Russia looked like every other European city I'd seen...except for the Church on Spilled Blood. That screamed Russia to me. I'm still not sure what that even means, but I do know I was disappointed after our time there (minus the midnight sunset...that was a true highlight). I really, really need another St. Petersburg visit. One that's NOT on a tour with 30 old people who complained about bathroom stops and aching feet. Next time, private tour guide and a much longer stay. I'm positive there's more to love in St. Pete than we saw, we just experienced it the wrong way. Hey, when you have the opportunity placed in front of you, you take it...even if it isn't the ideal way to travel there. At least I can say I've seen it. Looking forward to the day when I can say I LOVED it. It could happen.

What cities are on your list to "re-do?" 


  1. Lisbon, Portugal was...not fun. I went for a conference, but had plenty of time to sightsee, and it was just not my thing. Really really run down, almost no one in some parts of town (and on the subway, which was scary) but hugely overwhelming crowds in others (including a drug dealer who tried to follow me), and my attempts at speaking Portuguese were met with unbelievable rudeness like I had never experienced in any of my travels anywhere else in Europe. The cool things I did see didn't make up for being followed, being panhandled CONSTANTLY, and the difficulty in getting around.

    I've traveled to Europe a few times, always alone and generally not speaking the language fluently, and that's the only time I've ever just been ready to leave. I think I need a do-over, maybe in the summer with some friends so I don't feel so isolated!

  2. I think "one day" cities all need to be redone! One day will never be enough to soak in a culture and city. I had three nights in Amsterdam and really started to love it on day 2:) Especially the people! But i am with you on Rome...I was ready to leave after 2 nights!!

  3. I agree with Florence, I've been there twice and it's just not my cup of tea. Maybe it's because I'm not into art or museums? I do LOVE Rome, though! You definitely need more than one day there for sure.

  4. Europe is beautiful, I'd love to travel to all of these places one day.

  5. I feel the same way about Amsterdam. I think time might have been an issue with us too. I did really enjoy the Anne Frank museum and thought the train station was neat, but that's about it. I know exactly what you mean about bicycles. We lived in Maastricht for some time, and I thought I would get knocked down by a bike about 1437945 times a day.

    This one is shocking (and I know you love it there), but my biggest do-over would be Venice. I don't know if it was just the time of the year, but the canals smelled really really bad when we were there...and I just didn't get the romantic feel of the place at all. I think I worked it up in my head, and it was never going to compare, maybe?

    So glad you want to give Russia another try! I think I mentioned it when you wrote about it the first time, but St. Petersburg is a really European city compared to the rest of Russia, so I totally get why you got that feeling (did y'all get to go inside the subway? I love how ornate it is there). I know how hard it would be for y'all to visit Moscow or somewhere else being military (I can't don't know if I could ever get a visa myself because I am a US citizen now, and Russia doesn't take kindly to Russians rejecting citizenship. Haha), but if y'all ever decide to do an Asia cruise, some of them visit the other side of Russia, which has a more "authentic" feel to it.

    Anyways, I am done with the longest comment ever now! Haha. :)

  6. I agree with Amsterdam, Florence and Rome! (Haven't been anywhere else yet)
    Great post!


  7. I want to do Prague over again. Since I had an okay trip there.

  8. I love this idea for a post. Although I feel like I've really spent adequate time in the places I've visited. I just haven't been to enough of them!

  9. I totally agree with you on Amsterdam! It took me several daytrips and a couple of long weekends there to finally start to appreciate it (I kept going back to visit friends or to party on Queen'sDay, not for the city itself). Eventually, as I ventured further from the very touristy city centre I found the charming side of A'dam. But I still haven't found my way around with so many streets with canals in the middle and houses all looking the same.

    I wasn't expecting to love Rome or Italy at all - don't know why but I've never been attracted to anything Italian - and much to my surprise fell head over heels with Rome and would really love to visit it again someday soon! I also visited Milan, Florence, Pisa and Siena surfing that trip and there was nothing I didn't like about Italy! Now Italy ranks high in my list of countries I'd like to get to know better :)

    I haven't been to Finland or Russia so I don't have much to say about those. I'll take your word ;)

  10. Florence! Mine isn't really a re-do; I just wish to explore the city more. I only spent about 5 hours there as a day trip from a family vacation in Rome. We had a really bad driver that drove quite poorly (constantly slowing and speeding up) that I ended up having him pull over a few times for me to collect myself. Otherwise, only having a few hours to explore wasn't enough to fully enjoy the beauty of that city among the mass of people out that sunny day.

  11. O lol...well I'm glad you think that Amsterdam deserves a second chance... Being Dutch I kind of love Amsterdam and come there often but I can see how it would be hard to love in one day. Rome is one of my favorite cities, but I'm with you on Florence. Totally disappointing. I thought Sienna was way way better. Helsinki I did like a lot really but I spend four days there. Working for most of the time but I o think it's a good city. Haven't seen Russia yet! But honestly I think no city can be done in one day... :)

  12. Love this post. Shame you couldn't fall in love with Amsterdam again because we love it! We would love to re-do our Europe trips because each time we went with a group of people who didn't like the same things as us and we ended up missing a lot of things we wanted to see.

    Safe travels xx Leesa & Kate


  13. I haven't been to any of those cities, but I like this perspective. I can't imagine only having a day to see some of the most historic cities in the world. I mean, I lived by Paris, and I still haven't seen everything in the city!

  14. I can imagine only have a day to see some of these cities would take away from the overall experience.

  15. Amsterdam isn't that much fun, if I am honest with you. I am Dutch and studied there for 4 years, but I prefer other Dutch cities like Utrecht, Groningen en Maastricht. All beautiful and cultural and there is a much better ambiance.

    1. I found Haarlem infinitely more charming than Amsterdam during my quick weekend. I would love to go back!

  16. Actually, your first comment about only having a day in a place completely hits it home, I think. I've always hated travelling to once-in-a-lifetime places, if you will, with a huge time-crunch. It's my dream to just get in a car or a rail pass and spend infinite amounts of time and money in every lovely corner of the earth. Unfortunately, I was told it isn't possible. But I'm still going to try. xx

  17. Rome is my favourite city in Europe, probably the world so I'm sad you didn't love it. BUT I would say that going on a guided tour is not the way to see Rome. The beauty of the city is you wander around and see something new around each corner. Then you sit in a cafe and enjoy people watching with a glass of vino. You chat to the italian waiter who is impressed with your stumblingly inadequate attempts at the italian language. There is no more a beautiful place and beautiful people. i hope you go back one day and take your time to enjoy it!
    But as for Amsterdam - I'm with you there I really didnt like the place that much! I much prefered Rotterdam so if you go back to the dam make sure you take the train down to there as well x

  18. I definitely need to give Amsterdam a second chance too- we spent a few days there and didn't like it at all. I also found it really difficult to navigate around and the whole red light district thing I found a little disturbing. Maybe one day i'll go back and see it for its beauty.

    Lizzy from Nomad Notebook

  19. I've heard several people talk about how they didn't feel Rome was all that it's fabled to be. Two cities that I want to revisit for a second chance are Bath and Seville. It was a cold, rainy day whenever I was in Bath. I'd love to go back and spend more time there. Also, Seville was a whirlwind Andalucia trip and there's so many things in the city that I just didn't get a chance to see.

    Silly Medley: Lifestyle and Travel

  20. I kind of love this post. I think circumstances can definitely sway your experience for sure. I personally loved Florence (although not the Uffizi--glad I did it but wouldn't do it again), and Amsterdam is so high on my travel bucket list. However, and this deserves a huge qualifier that is coming, I agree about Rome. I'm so happy that I got a chance to visit there and see some absolutely amazing things that are worth seeing. But I found it dirty and too crowded for my taste. Here's the HUGE qualifier--I was only 12 when I visited. Yikes. So the food and wine alone might sway me if I go back. However, when my husband and I planned our Italy trip two years ago, I was happy to leave it off. There were just so many other places I wanted to see more. I would of course go back if I had the chance and free money. However, it's the only place in Europe I've visited that I'm not dying to return to. That's typically my problem. My list of places I want to return to and list of places I'm dying to visit for the first time is ridiculous. :)

  21. I have the same feeling towards Amsterdam and Florence. Definitely need a re-do for those. I loved Rome! My other re-dos are Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

  22. I love this post! I definitely want to do Amsterdam, I've heard such wonderful things! My re-do is definitely London. I've only been there for work, and because of this I've never properly been able to explore the city and always dread going.

  23. I would love to be able to see these places at least once let alone twice

  24. I feel the same with Amsterdam. Like you, I only spent a day there - never long enough to really explore a place. Rome is definitely worth the trip back - I loved it there! Hope you make it back to these places one day. X

  25. Haha - that's so odd. I am awful at reading maps and always get lost, even in my own city. Yet Amsterdam was the one city I could quite easily navigate my way around, I guess because it's so small.
    You should definitely go back and this time for a few days to take it all in - its a wonderful place :)
    x tink x

  26. What a great idea for a post! I have a list of re-dos too, yet when I think about it, there are so many places that I still want to see that makes me think of them as an "oh well, moving on" kind of way - but who knows, maybe I will have the chance to give them a second try! I feel the same way about Amsterdam, and was there for a weekend. I really enjoyed the museums but the city itself just didn't charm me like so many others have been. Also on my list I would add Milan and Brussels (nice but feel no need to go back again). Though I would be open to giving Munich another go sooner rather than later - I was there briefly and in the winter, so I imagine it could be totally different in warmer weather!

  27. Ditto Florence, but we were also rushed and on our way to smaller villages in Tuscany.

  28. Rome and Florence were two of my favorite places. However, I'm into history, archaeology, art and architecture so they were heaven. I spent an entire day at the Vatican and an entire day exploring just Ancient Rome. The Sistine Chapel is one of the very few times I have been rendered speechless by the beauty of it. My three days in Rome were amazing.

  29. Rome is on my list! We did Rome in a day as well and I was sick, tired, and breaking out in an unknown rash . . . not the best of conditions, haha. I would love to go back and really take in the culture and the history instead of rushing from place to place snapping a few pictures along the way.

    I absolutely loved Florence! I had a day and a half there (because that's so much of a difference, haha) and want to go back and visit all that I had missed out on the first time.


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