10 U.S. cities that can mentally transport you to Europe

A hint of Verona in Arizona? A bit of Amsterdam in Portland? You might be surprised how many delightful, inspiring, and secretly European sites we have right here in America.

Public Bike, Portland, Oregon. Abi Porter | Flickr. Barista coffee shop, Portland, Oregon. Bex Walton | Flickr

As someone with a perpetually unsatisfied wanderlust, I’m constantly planning imaginary trips all across Europe. I yearn for an adventure in the Alps, a tulip-lined walk among giant windmills, or a steaming cup of really excellent coffee in a Parisian café. But traveling to Europe isn’t easy. Or that affordable. It takes organization, research, money, and lots of vacation days. So when I can’t get out of the country, I try to find little hints of foreign culture or beautiful old buildings to marvel at right here, in these great United States.

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Because in a country as diverse as ours, there are always new places to explore, whether world-renowned or little known. That’s one of the reasons we like to go abroad in the first place: to submerge ourselves in totally different culture, yes, but also to reflect, study history, open our hearts and refresh our weary minds. And there are plenty of American cities that have those little atmospheric elements of Europe our spirits crave tucked away—places where you can marvel at centuries old architecture, or connect with the vast beauty of nature—you just need to know where to look for it.

So if you’re a Euro-trip-dreamer like me, here’s a map to where little bits of European-like experiences are hiding in plain sight:

Portland : Amsterdam

What Portland may lack in pretty canals and windmills, it makes up for as an up and coming hipster hideaway, filled with flannel-wearing cyclists sipping their water from mason jars. Like Amsterdam, Portland is truly bike-able city populated with cute and quirky coffee shops. One café called the Courier Coffee actually combines the two; you can get bike repair advice as you sip some fresh coffee and listen to vinyl records playing in the background. (Bring a friend, and you can even “go Dutch” on the check!)

And if you’re still up late into the evening after all that caffeine, take a night bike on one of Portland’s gorgeous, glow-in-the-dark cycling paths, named after the Dutch artist Van Gogh. Pedaling down this pathway is like being inside his most famous painting, Starry Night.

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But best of all: Portland even has tulip fields nearby that you can go romp in. Head to the Wooden Shoe Vineyard, which has over 40 acres of multicolored tulips, and hosts an annual tulip fest each spring.

Full Steam Ahead! #willamettevalley #woodenshoes #woodenshoe #woodenshoetulipfestival #tulips #oregon #steamengine

A photo posted by Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm (@woodenshoetulipfarm) on

NYC : London

While the “Big Apple” is obviously very unique in its own way, New York City shares certain similarities with its British cousin: London. Both cities are known for the constant hustle and bustle of subway trains, taxicabs, and the occasional horse drawn carriage. (The great thing about this is that you don’t need to rent a car: you can explore these cities by public transportation alone.)

In either city, you can spend an entire day immersed in art from the theater to galleries. Wish you could see a play in the West End? Just hop over to the TKTS stand in Times Square for discount tickets to Broadway. And, sure, London has the British Museum and the Tate, but art and culture seekers know that New York City has a treasure trove of art museums, too: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the MOMA, the Guggenheim, and so much more. There are endless possibilities in New York—and you don’t have to worry about getting lost in that London fog.

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D.C. : Paris

I know, I know. You don’t typically think of D.C. as a place for l’amour. But hear me out because there really are some similarities here. Like Paris is to France, Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States, which means it’s filled with politics, history, and monuments as well as a certain je ne sais quoi that comes with being a nation’s capitol. You can ride an elevator to the top of the Washington Monument (555 feet), which is much taller, but remarkably similar in shape to the Egyptian Luxor Obelisk (Obélisque de Louxor) which stands 75 feet tall in Concord square. (Or, if you have a good imagination, you can pretend you’re ascending the Eiffel Tower (an intimidating 984 feet) after a walk along the Potomac River (not all that dissimilar from the banks of Seine.)

Egyptian Obelisk #paris #france #egyptianobelisk #egypt #placedelaconcord

A photo posted by JacqueO (@jacqueo_11) on

St. Augustine : Barcelona

If you know your U.S. history then you know that the Spanish originally colonized Florida, and as a result, St. Augustine bears a few similarities to Barcelona. Aside from the iconic palm trees grown in both cities, Barcelona and St. Augustine both have castles and castillos. Castillo de San Marcos and Castle Otttis both have beautiful architecture and history. And while it’s certainly hard to compete with the gorgeous basilicas found in Barcelona, The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Augustine, built in 1793 with a beautiful Spanish steeple, is worth a visit if you’re in the neighborhood.

#photography #nofilter #travel #barcelona #spain

A photo posted by Agata Ophelia Masala (@matta_randagia_ophelia) on

Aspen : Lucerne

Aspen and Lucerne are both well known as idyllic winter getaways. There are mountains (oh so many beautiful snow-covered mountains!), excellent skiing, and a pretty active nightlife if you’re looking for something to do when the sun goes down. And if you’re craving the chocolate of Switzerland (say, from the iconic shop Laederach in Lucerne), take a little trip down to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory to satisfy your craving and slow down after an active day on the mountain.

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Views from above✨ photo: @redmtnproductions

A photo posted by Aspen Colorado (@aspenco) on

Boston : Prague

Both cities of rich history, Boston and Prague have more in common than you might think. Filled with winding cobblestone streets, one of Boston’s greatest attractions is the Freedom Trail, which is a walking tour of the city that takes you to significant historical sights from the time of the revolution. Like Prague, Boston is filled with old churches, such as the Old North Church and Park Street Church. And, although there’s no medieval astronomical clock (one of Prague’s biggest draws), Boston’s first skyscraper, Custom House Tower, has a clock that’s been ticking for over one hundred years!

Prague is still one of my favorite cities that I've visited in Europe. It's rich with architecture, culture and is incredibly affordable. Prague is becoming a poplar tourist destination for these reasons! When there make sure you head down to Old Town Square and see the Church of Our Lady before Týn & Old Town Hall. Located on Old Town Hall is Prague Orloj, a medieval astronomical clock that was first installed in 1410. It is the 3rd oldest such clock in the world & the oldest one still in operation! Make sure you're there at the top of the hour to watch it in action 👀. * * * #seeingtheworld #travel #traveltheworld #worlderlust #wonderlust #wanderlust #explore #livetheadventure #travelphotography #mostinterestingman #welltraveledwill #basecampinspo #worldtravelparadise #vagabond #traveler #travelgram #photography #traveling #travelphotography #czechrepublic #prague #oldtownsquare #churchofourladytyn #pragueorloj #medievalastronomicalclock #bluesky #blueskies #easterneurope

A photo posted by William Rich (@beardedwanderlust) on

Anchorage : Oslo

Besides the chilling weather, Anchorage and Oslo are both great for history lessons and outdoor activity. The cities’ main attractions revolve around the native people who inhabited their lands—for Norway the Vikings and for Alaska the Eskimos. History buffs can head to the Anchorage Museum while the adventurers take a boat ride into the Fjords for a little whale watching. Or just walk the pleasant snowy streets in search of a quaint church or cute boutique to warm up in.

Kailua : Cyprus

To be fair, you’re probably going to need a plane ticket for this one, but Hawaii is a good option if you’re looking for the U.S. version of some Mediterranean sun (no passport required). With clear waters and abundant beaches, the small town of Kailua is a serene spot for someone who’s just looking to get away and meditate as you listen to the clear water lapping on the sand, or play with your kids on the beach. That’s one of the best things about how geographically diverse our country is: You really don’t have to travel across an ocean to enjoy island life—at least not the Atlantic Ocean!

Only four months until I'm back on the clear beaches of protaras.

A photo posted by john takes photos now (@john_takes_photos_now) on

Leavenworth : Munich

In the 1960s, the city of Leavenworth, WA was modeled to look like a town straight out of German Bavaria. And this isn’t just shown in the town buildings. On any given day it’s not uncommon to see groups of people in Leavenworth wandering around in lederhosen preparing to perform on their alpenhorns. Leavenworth is also home to several annual festivals, such as the Autumn Leaf Festival, Maifest, and the Christmas Light Festival. (So bookmark this one for next December now!) So if Germany’s not in the budget this year, Leavenworth is the perfect option for someone looking for a little Bavaria in the heart of the Pacific Northwest.

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Lake Havasu City, Arizona : Verona

You might be asking what does a city in Arizona have in common with the home of the love story of Romeo and Juliet? Well, firstly there’s plenty of water in the aptly named city making it reminiscent of the Adige River running through fair Verona. Although the temperaments of the two cities aren’t exactly the same, they both share whimsical festival traditions. You have a choice: you can travel to Verona for the magnificent floats of Carnevale or you can visit Lake Havasu for their annual hot air balloon festival. And yes, the hot air balloon festival is as fun as it sounds: colorful, good food, and a lovely day outside full of fun for the whole family.

Grace Cooper
Grace Cooper
A student at the University of Pittsburgh, Grace Cooper is studying Nonfiction Writing and Psychology. A writer for Verily and other publications, she dreams of moving to New York City to further pursue a career in journalism.