Samantha Brown's Favorite Countries She's Ever Visited

If you love to travel, you're probably familiar with host and speaker Samantha Brown. As a young adult, she dreamed of becoming an actress and studied musical theater in college. During auditions after graduation, she landed her first gig at the Travel Channel with little interest (at least initially) in turning the field into a career.

Well, things quickly changed, and she is now best known for her decades-long presence on television, mainly on the Travel Channel and PBS. Over the years, she has been the voice and face of shows such as Great Vacation Homes, Passport to Europe and Latin America, Green Getaways, and most recently, Places to Love. A household name around the U.S., Brown is famous for digging below the surface of destinations and getting to the heart of what makes a place so special. She doesn't merely show you the top attractions and restaurants but shares the point of view of people who live there and always threads the history of a country into her stories. Millions of viewers turn to her shows and blog every year for advice on everything from the best solo travel destinations to staying comfy while flying. But if you're curious about her absolute favorite (and highly recommended) countries, keep reading! At the end, we reveal the top place she's ever visited.


Brown is a big fan of Asia, having explored it for her show Samantha Brown's Asia, and often features the region on her blog. In an interview with CBS Boston in 2019, she revealed her top choice on the continent, saying, "If you have the time, go the furthest you can," and stating Cambodia as her favorite Southeast Asian country. She cites two main reasons for her choice; the people and the fantastic cultural sites to visit.

She likens Cambodians to the Irish regarding friendliness and openness to talking to strangers. This isn't always the case abroad, especially if there's a language barrier. However, Brown says that's not a problem in Cambodia, where you'll more often than not be greeted with a smile. Additionally, if you want to enjoy amazing wonders, the country does not disappoint. Home to world-famous Angkor Wat (arrive early to beat crowds), it's a history-lovers dream. However, that's not the only site worth visiting. Don't miss Bayon Temple, Ta Prohm in the jungle, and the Royal Palace. The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is another must-visit, to acquaint yourself with the recent history and better understand the country. And while neighboring Thailand and Vietnam might receive all the attention when it comes to beaches, those in Cambodia are just as nice and often less crowded.


During "Passport to Europe's" run on the Travel Channel, Brown had the privilege of extensively exploring Italy. Thus, it's no surprise the country makes her list of favorites. The mouth-watering cuisine is famed across the globe, there are works of art and historical sites you've read about for years, and, of course, the locals are super friendly (a theme in the countries Brown labels as her preferred locations). She loves Rome, Venice, and Florence, but so does everyone else. This is part of the reason her top pick for an Italian destination is none of the above, but rather, Bologna.

In the Emilia-Romagna region, you'll eat well, but without the sky-high prices of the larger cities. Bologna is also slightly off the well-worn tourist trail in Italy and, per Brown, won't have hordes of crowds found in other towns or along the coast. Yet, that doesn't mean there isn't plenty to keep travelers busy. Check out the astounding Gothic Basilica of San Petronio, the Contemporary Art Museum, and the History Museum to better acquaint yourself with the city's past. Additionally, the Abbazia di Santo Stefano is a maze of buildings and different churches that will delight visitors of all ages. And if you notice a high number of Lamborghinis, that's because Bologna is a hub city for the car manufacturer. You can even visit the Lamborghini museum just outside of town!


Similar to the U.S., Canada is a massive country, which means diverse landscapes, activities, and cultures for travelers. That's why it's a top pick for Brown, a well-rounded traveler who appreciates a mix of remote nature reprise and bustling cities with plenty of cultural offers. On her blog, she chose Montreal as her top cultural city of 2023. The city is full of museums and offerings, such as the Biodôme in Jean Drapeau Parc or the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. However, if you prefer to be out in nature, you can just wander up to Mont Royal, a great outdoor playground in the heart of the city.

Another Canadian province that Brown loves is Newfoundland. A bit more isolated than others, it's a unique place to visit that she says is a combination of Iceland, Ireland, France, Denmark, and Norway, but without any of the crowds, better prices, and fantastic wildlife. Whether you want to relax with a coffee along the beaches of either coast, eat your way through major cities like Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto, or learn about native culture further north, Canada is a great place to do all of the above. As a bonus, a trip to Canada doesn't necessarily require a flight (depending on how far you live from the border or cross-border train line) and can thus be a more sustainable travel option.


Another destination Brown explored during "Samantha's Browns Asia" airtime, Malaysia is a beautiful country to visit. The Southeast Asian country may not be as flashy or frequented as South Korea or Japan, but that makes it such a great place for a trip. The Perhentian Islands are fabulous if you love to snorkel or laze on the beach, while the Taman Negara National Park houses the lush rainforest and is perfect for hiking and treetop walks. And don't miss Bako National Park, where you'll be able to spot a variety of monkeys.

But Malaysia isn't just for outdoors enthusiasts. In her post on fantastic cultural cities, Brown lists Kular Lumpur as a great multifaceted metropolis. You can shop till you drop at the numerous malls, which also serve as a break from heat and humidity (perhaps the only downside to a trip here, as that's the standard climate throughout the year). The city hosts a blend of many cultures due to its rich history. You'll hear and see various dialects of Malay, Chinese, Tamil, and English on a daily basis. This also means the food is deliciously diverse, from nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk with peanuts, shrimp paste, hard-boiled eggs, and anchovies) to satay (spice meat on a stick) and the rojak salad, as well as many other to-die-for dishes.


Another city that made Brown's list of great cultural urban centers is Budapest. Long a favorite among travelers around the world, the capital of Hungary is bursting with things to do. What she points out is something that many don't realize: Budapest is actually two different cities, "Buda" and "Pest," between which the Danube River runs. Over the years, the two areas grew and blended into the small city we love to visit today. Brown points out that Buda is where many of the most famous landmarks and sites are located, and she recommends at least a day exploring that side.

However, she says to get a true sense of everything Budapest has to offer, travelers need to check out Pest, which is full of great cafes and nightlife. This is also where Brown recommends booking your accommodation. Outside of the capital, other great destinations in Hungary include Lake Balaton (especially in the summer), the Aggtelek Cave, Szentendre (a cute northern town with amazing architecture), and the former Roman stronghold, Pécs.

South Korea

Samantha Brown is a massive advocate of South Korea. She mentions on her blog that "Of all the cultural cities on this list, Seoul has to be one of the most impressive." She explains that her reasoning for this comment is that just a little over half a century ago, the city was essentially in ruins post-Japanese and American occupations. Today, it's an impressive city that stands with the likes of New York, Singapore, and Tokyo. Massive skyscrapers tower above, the transit system and other technology are far more advanced than much of the U.S., and everything runs efficiently.

Hidden among the hustle and bustle are coffee shops that rival those in Melbourne, Seattle, and Bangkok, as well as great little bars and BBQ spots. But remember, Korea isn't just Seoul; in fact, the best place to go during fall (when most tourists flock to Japan) is Naejangsan National Park in the south of the country. If you're looking to relax, head to Busan for its beaches and then continue to Jeju Island.

United States

The U.S. makes Brown's list for its sheer size — many of her favorite destinations in other categories are in her home country. From some of the best beaches in the world to stunning nature and thrilling cities, there's something for everyone. In one episode of Places to Love, Brown explores Big Sky, Montana, during the winter and discovers what a tremendous cold-weather destination the ski town makes. Besides the slopes, you can toboggan, try snowshoeing, or hole up in one of the numerous cafes or eateries.

And she isn't just a fan of nature during the winter, as Brown also enjoys hiking and discovering nature during warmer months. North Carolina is one of her favorite outdoor destinations, as is the stunning North Cascades National Park in Washington State. It's less frequented and a bit wilder than many others; it's even closed during the colder months. Additionally, it is no shock that in a country that loves road trips as much as the U.S., her favorite driving destinations are here. Brown highly recommends the quintessential California road trip and a fall drive through the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. Finally, some Midwestern cities that she surprisingly fell in love with include Madison and Kansas City.


Japan is a place that is much-loved by travelers from all walks of life. So, of course, Samantha Brown is an enthusiast. In the same interview where she refers to Cambodia as her favorite Southeast Asian country, she also says Japan is a favorite international trip. There are the overwhelming (in the best way possible) cities of Tokyo and Kyoto, which could each be standalone trips. The more tropical islands around Okinawa and in the south feel more akin to Bali or Fiji than a modern metropolis, perfect for those who want a bit of relaxation and sun during their adventure.

Visitors are also often surprised by what a great winter destination Japan makes. For skiing, your best bet is Niseko in the north, which is cheaper than most ski towns in the U.S. and Europe. However, if you're not a fan of the slopes, don't fret. You can still enjoy steaming outdoor onsens during the frigid time of the year and catch the adorable snow monkeys in Jigokudani Monkey Park.


"This is a place where ancient landscapes still inspire a modern culture and way of life and where you'll find everything from historic castles to charming towns full of thatched cottages," — says Brown's blog post on Limerick, County Clare, Ireland. This beautiful part of western Ireland is a great place to visit for a well-rounded vacation. It's where rolling green hills give way to the crashing Atlantic Ocean, and the countryside is dotted with castles.

Textiles and local artisans are also a big thing here, as the knit products are all locally made and the perfect gift for yourself or a loved one. Pottery is also popular throughout the county, much of which is reminiscent of tools and creations from ancient times. Outside Limerick, Brown has a long list of recommended places to visit (and love, per her famous show and tagline). There's Lough Gur, a lake shaped like a horseshoe with megaliths dating back centuries, while the charming Adare Manor is well worth a stop. The castle has amazing afternoon tea and on-site falcons and owls with whom you can try your hand at falconry. The Roadside Tavern makes the perfect stop for a bite along the scenic Wild Atlantic Way, and you can check out the smokehouse, where many menu items for the restaurant are made.


In a Forbes article from 2024, Brown lists her favorite places to escape winter blues. One island not so far away from the U.S. that made the list? Jamaica! The temperatures remain in the 70s and 80s throughout the year, even between December and February. This is considered the "clear" season in a country that can, surprisingly, have some pretty cloudy days. Winter is also the dry season, which is fantastic if you plan to partake in outdoor activities or just enjoy a relaxing day at the beach.

As for what to do on the island, there's no shortage of options. The Blue Mountains in the eastern part of Jamaica, just 8 miles north of Kingston, are great for hiking. If you want to surf, you have numerous beaches to choose from, or you can zipline over the rainforest. If you're a fan of reggae music, you'll be right at home in Jamaica, where it can be heard all day. And don't miss the Bob Marley and Peter Tosh Museums, both located in Kingston.


Vienna is one of Brown's favorite selections for cultural cities for a plethora of reasons. There's so much to do and see, but you could also have a tremendous trip just wandering the city and taking in the eclectic mix of architecture. Since Vienna has served as a capital and outpost for various empires over the centuries, there's an interesting mix of Neo-Gothic, Baroque, and modern buildings, but it all works together to create one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Make sure to catch a Lipizzaner horse show at the Spanish Riding School, browse the Museum Quarter (don't miss the Sigmund Freud Museum), and relax at a typical Viennese cafe.

Outside of the capital, Austria has even more to offer visitors. You can hike or ski in the Alps near the picturesque city of Innsbruck, then take in views of the adorable Hallstatt and other lakes. And if you fell in love with Lipizzaners back in Vienna, make sure to stop by the Piber stud farm in the southeast of the country. If you visit during certain times of the year, you might just be lucky enough to see the foals. Finally, not far from Piber is Graz, a rainbow-colored UNESCO World Heritage city with a perfectly preserved old center.

New Zealand

We've covered so many amazing destinations thus far that it's hard to believe there would be a single favorite on the list. However, Brown recently revealed her all-time favorite country in an interview with Wonderlust. If you're familiar with Brown's work and her preferences for destinations, it often comes down to one thing; diversity. She loves to stroll through big cities with long histories, such as Budapest, Bologna, and Seoul, and take in all the sites. But she is also a nature enthusiast and loves places where she can do outdoor activities.

So, New Zealand makes a lot of sense. Big cities like Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch have everything you'd want in a metropolis: great cafes (the country is known for incredible coffee), museums, art performances, and plenty of friendly people to chat with. However, it's no secret outside of urban centers, New Zealand is a playground for those who love mountains, the ocean, and everything in between. Brown has a long list of recommendations, but highlights include Awaroa on the south island for a fantastic beach, Lake Taupo for water sports, and hiking in Waimangu Volcanic Valley. And don't miss the adorable kiwi birds; you can visit a reserve like the National Kiwi Hatchery in Rainbow Springs or stay the night on Rotoroa Island and go on a kiwi-spotting trek.