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As a black woman who travels, I’ve ticked off several bucket list countries over the years. Being Jamaica-born and currently based in London, my experience with the world is varied and exciting.
From the charming seaside city of Porto, Portugal, to the stunning Tuscan villas in Italy, I’ve had my fair share of European adventures.
However, there are plenty of black travellers who have come across instances of racism on the road. Whether these encounters are subtle or scathing, they are mostly unforgettable – and not in a good way.
With the black travel movement gaining momentum, more awareness is being raised on these racist undertones.
Here are the top European destinations, most of which I’ve experienced myself, that can be considered black-traveller friendly countries.
1. Graz, Austria
First on this list is the breathtaking city of Graz in Austria. As Austria’s second-largest city, there are many fascinating things to know about Graz.
Including their cool package-free supermarket named Das Gram and their honourable title of being a UNESCO “City of Design”.
As a black female, I thoroughly enjoyed an authentic Austrian experience in Graz. I found it to be a hub of activity that is full of forward-thinking businesses and a lively atmosphere.
After spending two-days in Graz, I’d happily go back and encourage other people of colour to begin planning their trip. It doesn’t hurt that the city has a very low crime rate and is considered to be friendly to foreigners.
Austria is also leading the way of encouraging black travellers by including diverse representation in tourism promotion.
Black travel and food bloggers, including myself, have become the face of promoting specific regions around Austria, highlighting different parts of the country.
For the locals, Austria has implemented the Federal Commission of Equal Treatment, which provides a lawyer for anyone discriminated against on the basis of ethnic affiliation.
There is also the Association of Plaintiffs (Klagsverband) which strives to enforce the rights of victims of discrimination. A final example of proactive movement is Helping Hands Graz which aims to strengthen anti-discrimination work.
Top Things To Do In Graz
You can spend hours exploring the buzzing city of Graz. But if you need a quick hit list, then these three activities and sights are a must.
● Visit Murinsel Graz, the artificial island in the Mur River that resembles a glass shell
● Soak in the incomparable views of Graz from Kastner and Ohler
● Explore the vibrant streets surrounding the main square, Sporgasse
Where To Stay In Graz
The Old Town area is the best place to stay if you’re interested in the culture of the city. If you’re travelling alone or on a budget, then the LEND district may appeal to you a little bit more.
● Grand Hôtel Wiesler – found right by the Mur River in the Old Town, this hotel encapsulates a fantastic nostalgic mood
● Lendhotel – offering everything that you need, this spot is both comfortable and stylish
2. Antwerp, Belgium
My experience in Antwerp, Belgium has highlighted it to be one of the best countries for black expats and travellers. The trendy city is home to one of the world’s major seaports, and the beautiful sights amaze countless travellers on a daily basis.
A weekend in Antwerp will have you indulging in decadent chocolate, and then burning off the calories exploring.
Antwerp embraces traditional African root culture. The progressive city hosts ‘Smile’ and ‘Reggae Geel’, two of the best reggae festivals in Europe.
It was also one of the first to host a performance by black reggae artist, Buju Banton, a fellow Jamaican, after he was released from prison. He attracted a crowd of 30,000 fans, all chanting his name.
There have been past instances of racial violence. For example, Hans van Themsche made headlines in “The shame of Antwerp” after killing two people of colour in 2006.
However, the city’s response was a powerful mass gathering in Antwerp to show the world what the city really stands for.
Top Things To Do In Antwerp
The city is quite compact which means that you can tick off a fair number of activities and sights in a small amount of time. But here are my top suggestions.
● Explore the highlights of the city in one go with a historic Antwerp walking tour
● Taste the best of Belgium’s globally renowned beverage with a beer tasting tour
● Visit Chocolate Nation, the largest museum dedicated to Belgian chocolate
Where To Stay In Antwerp
When choosing where to stay in Antwerp, try to pick a spot as central as possible. The areas surrounding the docks are known to be a bit shady at night, so I’d recommend the city centre.
● Hotel Rubens-Grote Markt – spacious and stylish, an indulgent spot to stay
● Theater Hotel – this hotel is simple, clean, classy, and in an ideal location
3. Porto, Portugal
Porto is hands-down one of the best places to travel in Europe – regardless of race or gender. However, my personal experience of being a solo, black female in Porto was remarkable.
In 2019, Portugal was rated as the third-safest country to visit in Europe. In addition, it was ranked the fourth-most peaceful country in the world.
From the lush Douro River and valleys to the peaks of the city’s cathedrals, charming cobblestone streets and iconic azulejos tiles – Porto won me over.
As a country, Portugal is one of the friendliest countries in Europe, hosting the annual Afro Nation festival which is dedicated to Afrobeats. And Porto is the cherry on the top.
The city is welcoming and friendly, and it’s easy to get lost in a nostalgic mood. Porto is also one of the stops that Buju Banton made on his European Tour, and the turnout was fantastic.
Top Things To Do In Porto
To be honest, you can simply wander around the city and along the Ribeira for hours. But if you want to make the most of your peaceful vacation, I’d recommend the following.
● A food and wine tasting tour will highlight the best of the region in one seating
● Tick off all of the major highlights with a hop-on hop-off bus experience
● For a truly magical encounter, visit Livraria Lello Bookstore, one of the oldest in Portugal
Where To Stay In Porto
Whether you’re visiting for a weekend or a couple of weeks, the historic centre is a win.
● The Gate – a minimalist spot nearby main attractions
● Oporto House – a stylish guesthouse located in the heart of Porto
4. Riga, Latvia
Riga is an enchanting city in the Baltic states and is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. A weekend in Riga will leave you with magical memories and beautiful photographs.
The city is rich in history, boasts stunning architecture and breathtaking natural beauty. But perhaps the best part about the city is the high level of friendliness from the locals.
Up to 30% of Latvia’s population are immigrants, and the attitude of the locals is very welcoming to foreigners.
With this being said, it’s not unusual for locals to hold eye contact without giving a smile or even a nod. But they do this with everyone, and in most cases, it’s a matter of showing interest.
Top Things To Do In Riga
Riga is one of the most fascinating cities to explore. You’ll have no shortage of experiences to enjoy, but try to tick off these first.
● Learn about the country’s history at the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia
● Explore the captivating art nouveau architecture on a walking tour
● Discover the beauty of the city from the water with a Riga canal boat sightseeing tour
Where To Stay In Riga
Riga’s Old Town is the best place to stay when visiting. It’s centrally located, beautiful in surrounds and convenient for exploring.
● Grand Poet by Semarah – if you have the budget to treat yourself then this luxury spot is worth every penny
● Rixwell Hotel Konventa Seta – located in the heart of Riga, this hotel is comfortable and spacious and offers a tasty buffet breakfast
5. London, United Kingdom
Also known as home sweet home, London is a thriving cosmopolitan city where you can find various cultures, races and ethnicities.
The United Kingdom is one of the best countries for black people to live and travel, especially if looking for a vibrant experience.
In addition to the melting pot of cultures and encounters, London is also one of the safest places to travel as a solo female.
This racially care-free travel experience is possible largely due to the social movement that is happening within the local society.
London locals relentlessly took to the streets in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, with large crowds of various races gathering in solidarity for systematic change.
There is also a long list of organisations dedicated to anti-racism such as StopWatch UK, Inquest and BLAM Charity.
Although Britain is one of the origins of colonialism, London has developed to pedestal icons of various races.
Individuals such as Stormzy, Lewis Hamilton and Raheem Sterling are all people of colour who are considered among the most influential in the UK.
Top Things To Do In London
I could add a never-ending list of amazing London landmarks and hidden gems. But if I had to cut down the list to a starting point, then here it is.
● Wander the many London markets such as Portobello Road Market, Camden Market and Borough Market
● Try a hop-on hop-off Sightseeing bus for an unforgettable sightseeing experience
● Visit Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament for a dose of history
Where To Stay In London
There are so many fantastic places to stay in London. If you’re a first-time visitor then I’d recommend staying in Kensington and Knightsbridge. Soho and Covent Garden are the happening spots, and Shoreditch is particularly trendy.
● Park Grand London Kensington – treat yourself to the lap of luxury and comfort after a day of exploring
● Sanderson Hotel – a sleek hotel that serves as a fantastic retreat from the city’s bustling streets
6. Trento, Italy
If you’re black in Europe, then you don’t need to give a second thought about spending a weekend in Trento, Italy.
The lesser-known Italian city is charming and compact. Perfectly suited for travellers who love adventure, culture, history and good food.
The locals in Trento are friendly and welcoming. They are proud of their lush natural surroundings and the adventures that they hold, as well as the deep-seated history that is held in the streets.
But Trento is not only welcoming; they are also proactive in standing against racism. One example of this is a Trento initiative for social inclusion called ‘Bicycles Against Racism’.
Top Things To Do In Trento
Soak up the charming city and explore the natural wonders while staying in Trento by ticking off these top things to do.
● Walk the streets of the Old Town and marvel at the historic buildings
● Hit one of Trento’s popular hiking trails such as Malga Ritorto route, Lake Nambino route or Busatte-Tempesta route
● Visit the Castello Del Buonconsiglio, a stunning castle in Trento
Where To Stay In Trento
Convenience and comfort are key when staying in Trento. Unless you specifically want to stay in a cabin in the mountains, these city hotels are a top choice.
● Hotel America – a comfy spot surrounded by nature, art and historical attractions
● Heart of Trento Luxury House – a quaint B&B that offers spectacular views
7. Krakow, Poland
My experience in the Polish city was for a friend’s 30th birthday celebrations. The weekend in Krakow was filled with unrivalled architecture, festive nightlife, and historical enlightenment.
The people living in Krakow are polite and accommodating. The city is quite large and has welcomed plenty of people of colour through the streets to discover its culture and history.
This is not only due to tourism but also that Krakow has been ranked 9th in the Tholons Top 100 Outsourcing Destinations in the world, and the top in Europe.
As a result of the city’s tendency to outsource talent from around the world, the city has attracted developers and workers of colour from all over.
There have been other bloggers, such as Brooke on a Break, who have shared their experiences in Krakow, highlighting their enjoyment and breaking any preemptive stereotypes of racism.
Top Things To Do In Krakow
Krakow is fun and exciting, but also culturally enriching. It offers the perfect city break for a 30th birthday. And here are a few reasons why…
● A guided tour of the Wawel Castle which is full of intricate tapestries, beautiful art and sweeping courtyards
● An eye-opening tour of Auschwitz and Wieliczka Salt Mine – this is a heavy one, but a powerful experience
● Krakow tour to Czestochowa Black Madonna – my personal favourite
Where To Stay In Krakow
There are a variety of accommodation options in Krakow, to suit every type of budget and preference.
● Hotel Polski Pod Bialym Orlem – a luxurious spot a short walk from the main square
● Hotel Unicus – a boutique hotel located in the Old Town and surrounded by beauty
8. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Knowing how progressive Amsterdam is with legalizing cannabis and the Red Light District, it shouldn’t be too surprising that it’s on this list of African-American friendly countries in Europe.
Other black bloggers, have spoken highly of Amsterdam and the alternative experiences that the city offers, serving as a welcoming destination for all black travellers.
Amsterdam is home to the Reggae Lake Festival, a celebration of peace and love. Having attended the festival myself, I was blown away by the support from people of all walks of life, coming together to enjoy the music.
From a safety point of view, there is minimal risk of crime in Amsterdam. Tourists and visitors may be the target of petty theft, but this targeting is not based on race or nationality.
Top Things To Do In Amsterdam
There are so many guilty pleasures, historical sights and entertaining experiences to enjoy in Amsterdam. But where to begin?
● A historical learning experience at the fascinating Rijksmuseum
● A relaxing evening canal cruise
● Visit the iconic Red Light District (keep in mind to be respectful of the working women)
Where To Stay In Amsterdam
If you want to stay central and in the thick of the action, then I’d recommend picking a spot in Westerpark. If you’re on a tighter budget, then Oud Zuid (South) is also a great option.
● WestCord Art Hotel Amsterdam – is on the edge of the historic centre and has its very own art collection
● Hotel Verdi – a very simple set up with everything that you need for a pleasant stay on a budget
9. Berlin, Germany
Once known as the country with extreme xenophobia and racism during World War II, Germany has come a long way in terms of social equality and anti-racist mindfulness. It’s on this list of countries that love black men and women travellers for a number of reasons.
When George Flloyd’s death led the magnifying lens to be aimed at the Black Lives Matter movement, Berlin erupted in protests against racial injustice. Germans of all races stood in solidarity.
But it’s not just the ordinary citizens that are having their voices heard. Germany’s first MEP of African origin, Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana, is leading the fight against racism outside of German borders in Brussels.
Authentic, luxury travel bloggers, LiveShareTravel, also speak highly of Berlin as they share their experience as travellers of colour.
Top Things To Do In Berlin
Berlin is vibrant and full of activity. You’ll have no shortage of options regarding things to do. But these suggestions should start you off in the right direction.
● A historical walking tour to learn about the Third Reich and Cold War
● An informative and relaxing boat tour along River Spree
● The hop-on hop-off bus tour to tick off the major sights
Where To Stay In Berlin
There are several areas that are great for travellers to stay in Berlin. Mitte is a top choice for first-time visitors, Friedrichshain is a go-to for those on a budget, and Kreuzberg is popular among those who love the nightlife.
● Hotel Riu Plaza Berlin – a winning combo of breathtaking views, luxury amenities and a convenient location
● Hotel Berlin Mitte by Campanile – bright and comfortable rooms in the heart of Berlin
10. Bern, Switzerland
Considering Switzerland’s reputation as being “neutral”, it makes sense that it would be one of the best places for African Americans to travel (as well as people of colour from around the world).
The Daily Mail put together a list of 100 nations ranking the least racist countries, and Switzerland is the first European destination to make the list. Statistics do indicate that cases of racial discrimination have risen by nearly 7% from 2014 to 2018, but this can largely be credited in the increased confidence to come forward about such cases.
As a large city, Bern is very multicultural and there is a welcoming mood extended to travellers of colour.
Top Things To Do In Bern
Bern is a gorgeous city with stunning buildings and a roaring river. There are plenty of things to do that will keep you entertained.
● Discover the Old City with a walking tour
● Enjoy a peaceful moment at the Bern Cathedral
● Soak in the stunning views of Rosengarten
Where To Stay In Bern
Choosing to stay in Altstadt (the Old City) is a great choice if you want to enjoy the city’s architecture and sites.
However, it is on the pricey end of the spectrum. Stadtbach is a little bit quieter but more affordable.
● The Bristol – located in the Old City, this stylish spot is both comfortable and convenient
● Hotel National Bern – this beautiful building is the cream of the crop and offers an unforgettable stay
Best Countries For Black Tourists
They say that the “world is your oyster”. But sadly, as a black traveller, I know that the saying doesn’t apply to everyone in the way that it should.
No one should ever be limited or made to feel uncomfortable because of the colour of their skin. And these European destinations are moving in the right direction.
I’m one of many black travel bloggers that are spreading the positive experience of being black and travelling. There are larger media companies, that celebrate the African diaspora with inspirational travel content.
Once the travelling bug has bitten, you can expect an insatiable itch to explore new places. Regardless of your race, sex or religion, I encourage you to discover the wonder of the world.