It could take a lifetime to explore and experience everything Europe has to offer. From its amazing history, varied beauty, rich artistic talents, and world-famous cultural landmarks. Where to start when destinations such as Athens, Venice, Paris, and London are on the map. Let’s not forget the rugged beauty of Scotland, Ireland, and the stark peaks of the Alps. For a unique experience plan a trip to vast country that is Russia, or the mystical Black Forest in Germany, or exploring the picturesque streets of Czech Republic.Get Inspired
Wherever else may you roam?
Medieval castles, alpine peaks, ski resorts, lake villages, and baroque cities is the tip of the cultured iceberg on offer in Austria. Rich with history, nature, and traditions, it is the winter sports capital of the year alongside neighboring Switzerland – yet it boasts so much more.
Home to some of the most stunning and picturesque castles in Europe, be sure to add Hochosterwitz Castle to your destination list. It is said to have inspired the castle in Sleeping Beauty and is perched atop a mountain peak which can be reached by an incline railway. Soak up the culture of Vienna with a performance at the Vienna State Opera House, or a day spent wandering around the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace with its 1,441 rooms, Privy Garden, oldest zoo in the world, maze and labyrinth, and marble summerhouse. Seek out nature at the city of Krems where the blue Danube and Krems rivers converge; or explore sparkling ice caves at Eisriesenwelt which has been described as an underground palace of ice. No visit to Austria would be complete without a visit to the peaceful Benedictine Abbey as it looks over the Danube River from its mountain top.
Belgium is home to many of our favourite things, such as decadent chocolate and Tintin cartoons, but it is also home to some of the most important events in history. Battle plays a huge part in the history of the country and with iconic landmarks such as Waterloo, the place where Napoleon was defeated which now boasts a memorial lion sculpture atop an artificial hill in commemoration. Belgium was also notable in World War I at the Battlefields of Flanders. The site features preserved trenches, vast cemeteries, and nearby is Ghent’s Gravensteen and Old Town which is a moated fortress that was home to the counts of Flanders.
For more peaceful destinations, be sure to plan a visit to UNESCO World Heritage Site La Grand Place which is surrounded by beautiful buildings dating from the 14th to 17th centuries, as well as an ornate medieval town hall. The city of Bruges is set along the stunning canals and is adorned with gorgeous terrace houses and colourful architecture. For a taste of true Belgium countryside, visit The Meuse Valley in the south with dense forests and villages backed by limestone cliffs found all along the length of the river.
Nothing will prepare you for the Mediterranean beauty of Croatia. Imagine sapphire waters, dazzling pebble beaches, ancient architecture, and incredible local cuisine. Yet that only just touches the surface of this country which features a rich and complex history that has left its cities with an eclectic mix of Venetian palaces, Napoleonic forts, Roman columns, Slavic churches, and Viennese mansions. The coastline along the Dinaric Range is as calm as it is craggy, stretching all the way from Italy to Albania with limestone peaks, caverns, river canyons and picture perfect lakes.
Explore the Mediterranean waters snorkelling, diving, kayaking, windsurfing or sailing from island to island stopping at remote communities to share a meal of homestyle cooking at a family-run tavern. Be sure to plan some time in the walled city of Dubrovnik, which is also a Unesco World Heritage Site thanks to its enduing walls, towers, medieval monasteries, baroque churches, town squares and stunning homes. If nature is calling then travel to the Plitvice Lakes National Park where you can discover 16 lakes connected via a series of waterfalls with 18km of timber footbridges and pathways offering the best aspect.
Every adventure in the Czech Republic must start in its capital, Prague, as it offers a taste of every beauty to discover in this stunning country. Gothic architecture and perfectly preserved castles, monuments and landmarks are sure to make an impression – from the 14th-century Charles Bridge connecting the two sides of the Vltava River, to Prague Castle which has been home to Holy Roman Emperors, the Habsburgs, Bohemian kings and, the Czech Republic’s President in its 100-year history.
You can also visit St. Vitus Cathedral which houses the Bohemian Coronation Jewels, and the tomb of St. Wenceslas. The city also boasts two of the oldest and most beautiful libraries in the world, including Clementinum which is National Library of the Czech Republic. Outside of the capital are hundreds of castles and chateaux with perfectly manicured gardens, relics, and rich histories. Be sure to also plan a visit to the famous Moser Glassworks, which was established in 1857, and is based in the town of Karlovy Vary. The best thing to sample in this world class glassware, is world class beer… the Czechs have created three of the world’s best beers – Urquell, Staropramen and Budvar – with many micro breweries also releasing award-winning brews.
Denmark is a country where fairytales, happiness, and magic are woven into the everyday. As the birthplace of Hans Christian Anderson it is no wonder fairytales play such an important part in the culture and visitors must plan a day at the Hans Christian Andersen museum which showcases his life and work, as well as artifacts, mementos, and the writer’s preserved sketches and artwork. But the magic doesn’t end there – be sure to go on a troll hunt for The Six Forgotten Giants throughout Copenhagen (in Rødovre, Hvidovre, Vallensbæk, Ishøj, Albertslund and Høje Taastrup). Built by artist Thomas Dambo and a team of volunteers, these massive trolls were constructed using recycled and scrap timber. Indulge in fun at the Tivoli which boasts a roller coaster, puppet theaters, restaurants, cafés, and gardens, and was the inspiration for Disney World.
No matter your age you will love a visit to The LEGO House in Billund, (the birthplace of the iconic LEGO brick), with its nine themed playgrounds, three outdoor squares, and towering Tree of Life. For the more serious travellers Denmark is full of beauty and history with must see attractions including the National Museum, National Gallery, UNESCO World Heritage Site Kronborg Castle which was the setting to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and the Round Tower – a conservatory built in 1642 and used by the famous Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. Nature lovers must visit Mons Klint – a 70 million-year-old chalk cliffs along the Baltic Sea on the island of Møn; as well as Rold Skov Forest – one of the most beautiful forests in Denmark where locals are said to go hunting for tree trolls.
No matter the season you visit, Finland is abundant with nature, culture, and a touch of fantasy. Winters are long but full of wonder, especially in the arctic region of Lapland where the days are without sun but are brightened by The Northern Lights. Its snowy landscape is also home to Santa Claus and his reindeer and you can plan a visit to the Santa Claus Village where you can deliver your Christmas list to the man himself. While winters are the time of wood-fired saunas, ice fishing, skiing, and sleeping in glittering ice hotels, summer is the time for sunshine until midnight, swimming in the abundant lakes, evening festivals, markets, and a vibrant cafe and restaurant scene.
Nature is inherent the happiness of Finland and its people, and you will find it touching every part – even in its capital city Helsinki. Green urban areas, thriving harbors, islands, and lakes all hold space in this modern city. There is much to see including old churches, the world’s oldest sea fortress, and artists such as glass blowers, potters, craftsmen, and a doll and toy museum. Finland’s coast is the world’s largest archipelago, with wooden seaside villages, lighthouses, manors, stone churches, national parks, and cliffs that drop into the beautiful ocean.
France is a country rich with the finer things in life from food, fashion, champagne, art, music, literature, religion and architecture. Each region has its own flair on cuisine – Parisian bistros, produce markets, breads and pastries from the local boulangerie, or sweet and savory crêpes. Provence is a region famous for its olive groves spread across sun-drenched rolling hills, as well as purple lavender fields, with villages found in the valleys and on rocky outcrops. It’s a region that inspired some of history’s most famous artists including Cézanne, Matisse, Chagall, Monet and Picasso. In Paris you can soak in the artwork of these great at the Louvre which also houses the Mona Lisa by Leonardo DaVinci, the Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese, and the 1st-century-BC Venus de Milo sculpture in a structure that was once a royal residence.
Paris is also home to some of the top fashion houses, the iconic Eiffel Tower, and world-class boutiques. Outside of Paris are ample destinations to try your hand at living the French life. Sail a yacht along the celebrity hotspot of the French Riviera, or take in royal life at Versailles with its lavish Château de Versailles – once home to Marie-Antoinette. On the northeastern coast is Brittany with its rugged coastline, fishing villages, sea ports, local cuisine and costumed religious festivals. Religious destinations are found across the country with two of the most intriguing spots being the Rocamadour which is suspended on a sheer limestone cliff and is a pilgrimage destination considered as important as Jerusalem and Rome. The Abbaye de Saint-Michel is a stunning sight to behold on the Normandy coast. It is part of the UNESCO-listed Mont Saint-Michel, otherwise known as Pyramid of the Seas, and rises dramatically from a rocky islet 80 meters from the bay.
While Germany is home to some of our favourite cuisine – sausages and pretzels, schnitzel and roast pork, not to mention beer – it is also a country of stunning scenery, history, architecture, and culture. There are many places to visit from the coast to the river valleys, dark forests to snow-capped Alps, and modern cities to quaint and quiet wooden villages. Berlin, Munich and Hamburg are rich with modern culture, restaurants, shopping, music and iconic architecture from greats such as Daniel Libeskind, David Chipperfield and Frank Gehry.
Outside of the cities you can find the Black Forest which inspired many a tale by the Brothers Grimm, and offers ideal hiking treks, castles, and medieval villages. Travel via the Black Forest Railway or take the Black Forest Panoramic Route and take the journey at your own pace. Try your hand at winter sports in the town of Füssen at one of the most popular ski resorts, and also close by to one of Europe’s most famous and striking royal castles, Neuschwanstein. Travel along the Rhine which spans from Switzerland through Germany all the way to the Netherlands, and be sure to stop at the Cologne Cathedral which is a masterpiece of High Gothic architecture built in the Middle Ages, and is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. Another stunning destination to add to your list is the Sanssouci Park which was built between 1744 and 1756, and boasts a Baroque flower garden, more than 3000 fruit trees, numerous greenhouses, perfect lawns, and gorgeous gardens.
Hungary is still steeped in its history and culture with folk art, music, ancient thermal springs, caves, and eight World Heritage Sites to experience. Expect to find folk art on the walls and ceilings of tiny wooden churches, the intricate embroidery used to decorate smocks, skirts and slippers by the women of Hollókő, traditional music played on unusual instruments, and peasant ‘raves’ of traditional music and dance, all across Hungary. This deep connection to history is balanced by the country’s capital Budapest which is considered one of Europe’s most exciting cities.
The Danube River flows through Budapest and locals often watch the waters flow past from the Freedom Bridge. Hungary is famous for its waters, especially for its hot springs and baths which date back more than 2000 years to the Romans. Many of the original Turkish Baths are still in use today and are considered healing – especially after exploring some of the countries intense landscapes such as the Bükk Mountains which is famous for its caves, including Szeleta Cave with its relics from the Ice Age, including arrows and spears. For a more restorative experience, head to Tihany which is a resort on Lake Balaton, and is a tiny peninsula with some of the most breathtaking scenery.
The land of fire and ice is one for the bucket list. With a mix of glaciers and volcanoes, the landscape is as beautiful as it is extreme. Perched at the top of the planet and surrounded by water, every aspect of life is touched and affected by the sea. One of the main attractions is whale watching and puffin tours, with visitors able to get up close and personal with humpback and minke whales, as well as dolphins and seals. In winter the water is also a prime spot for taking in the Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights, which light up the sky in a stunning display of moving colour.
The capital city of Reykjavik is free from the usual tourist trappings and instead offers an authentic piece of Iceland with local cuisine, and shops selling handmade wares from artists and locals such as wool clothing and volcanic rock pottery. Thermal pools are an important part of life here and with 17 pools located around the city there will be plenty of opportunity to soothe your soul between adventures. Learn about the history of the first Vikings settlers with preserved artifacts at The Settlement Exhibition Museum, and visit Videy Island which is the site of the first settlement. Mountains are a huge part of the landscape in Iceland and beginner and experienced hikers can trek Mount Esja which is 914 meters to its peak.
The Emerald Isle is home to fairy folk, leprechauns, and a landscape that is both wild and ruggedly beautiful. From the magnificent Cliffs of Moher to the mysterious Aran Islands, there is drama and magic to behold. The cities and people are bright and lively offering welcoming smiles, hearty fare and colourful stories. The country itself is full of places to explore that transport you back centuries – such as the medieval buildings at the Rock of Cashel perched upon a limestone rock formation in the Golden Vale; or the famous Blarney Stone sitting high on a tower of Blarney Castle which is said to endow eloquence to those who kiss it; and not to forget Brú na Bóinne (the Boyne Palace), which is a Stone Age passage tomb predating Egypt’s pyramids by 600 and perfectly aligns with the sun at the winter solstice.
Nature is waiting and unlike anything you have seen with the Giant’s Causeway seemingly the work of giants creating closely packed, hexagonal stone columns stepping into the ocean; or the Ring of Kerry on the Iveragh Peninsula which is a popular tourist route taking you in a circle drive of stunning coastline and rural villages. Be sure to allow a few days to explore Ireland’s capital city Dublin, with its world-class museums, entertainment, dining, and local boutiques.
There are far too many treasures to uncover in Italy to include here, as the country is rich in history, art, culture, cuisine, and architecture. Inspiration and history is abundant in every city and Italy boasts more Unesco World Heritage cultural sites than any other country on Earth. Rome is home to the Colosseum which was built by the Roman Empire; it is also where you will find Vatican City which houses some of the world’s most priceless art including Michelangelo’s Pieta, and The Sistine Chapel with its wall and ceiling paintings by Michelangelo. Art lovers can also head to the Uffizi Museum to take in Italian Renaissance art, and to Venice for a gondola ride through the centuries old canals.
Roman ruins and artifacts can be found across the country and nowhere are they more awe-inspiring than at the ruins of Pompeii with the still smoking volcano of Mt. Vesuvius sitting above the city is both destroyed and preserved in AD 79. Here you can view frescoes, mosaics, and sculptures that were encased in the lava, as well as houses, markets, baths, temples, theaters, streets, and human remains. Live like the rich and famous with visit to stunning Lake Como, or a weekend at the Amalfi Coast, and the picturesque island of Capri. Other popular tourist spots include the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the vineyards and olive groves of Tuscany, the fashion houses of Milan, and the ancient history of The Pantheon and Roman Forum.
History, the deep blue ocean and historic ruins like nowhere else on earth are the main attractions to Malta, yet the untouched and simple way of life is what has visitors falling in love with this small island nation. Malta is rich in prehistoric and Bronze Age historic ruins and temples including Hagar Qim Temples, Mnajdra Temples, Tarxien Temples, and Hal Saflieni Hypogeum which is an underground series of Neolithic catacombs where religious burial rituals were performed and oracles were consulted. Stepping into the present, be sure to explore Malta’s rocky coastline which is peppered with pristine beaches such as the Blue Lagoon, the Blue Grotto, and Golden Bay Beach. The capital city of Malta was built by the Knights of Malta, who were granted the islands by the King of Spain in 1530, and shaped the stunning architecture across the country. Step off the main island and visit Gozo Island for its quiet towns and relaxed beaches, as well as the family-friendly Popeye Village which was originally the film set for the 1980s movie Popeye starring Robin Williams.
The Netherlands is the land of windmills, canals, and tulips – but it is also home to classic art and architecture, history, and a cafe culture that attracts millions. Iconic windmills built between 1722 and 1761 can be seen along the River Noord in the famous village of Kinderdijk; while flower lovers can stroll through the 70 acres of colourful tulips at Keukenhof, otherwise known as the Garden of Europe. Canals and the quaint communities built around them are found in Amsterdam along with boutiques, cafes an holiday houses. The nightlife in Amsterdam is unlike any other with many cafes, or bars, open throughout the night.
The Netherlands is the birthplace of Dutch Masters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh and Piet Mondrian, and many museums showcase the works of the greats and the more contemporary. A notable gallery is the Van Gogh Museum which showcase works of the artist generously donated from all over the world. Outside of Amsterdam there is much to see including the romantic castle of Valkenburg in the Geul Valley, as well as the De Haar Castle which is surrounded by 250 acres of manicured parkland. Amsterdam is also the location of the Anne Frank House which is the home where Anne’s family hid during WWII and where she wrote her famous diary. Finally, Efteling is an amusement park divided up into zones based on different ancient myths or legends.
Poland is a country with a troubled past, but it is forging its way forward embracing the past tragedies while also celebrating its rich cultural history, and modern future. Those interested in the country’s integral history with WWII have lots to explore including The Auschwitz Concentration Camps, Oskar Schindler’s enamel and metal factory, Hitler’s top secret military base hidden deep in the woods called Wolf’s Lair, as well as the Warsaw Rising Museum.
Away from its WWII past, the country is rich with natural beauty, villages stuck in a simpler past, and large cities embracing an exciting future. A perfect example of this is the 13th-century Wieliczka Salt Mine which stopped operations in 1996 and is now home to four chapels, corridors, and statues all carved into the rock salt walls. Gothic architecture is everywhere including the 13th-century Teutonic Castle, Malbork Castle, and Wawel Castle. In Warsaw the Old Town Market Place has been rebuilt to match its original beauty after being destroyed in WWII. The forest, mountains, lakes and rivers of Poland are worth exploring just for the delight of finding a tiny log vodka bar beside a giant frozen lake, or to visit the Crooked Forest where many trees have grown with a 90-degree angle at their base.
Russia is the world’s largest country and within it you will find pristine countryside, historic cities, thriving (vodka-fueled) nightlife, and stunning architecture. The cities are both colourful and vast with famous landmarks peppered throughout the streets – landmarks such as The Peter and Paul Fortress, Alexander Column (built to commemorate the victory against Napoleon), 18th-century Peterhof Palace, and Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood built on the assassination site of the father of Alexander III. Nature lovers can experience a landscape like no other with skiing or trekking through the mountains in the Caucasus, white water sports in the Altai Republic, nature walks at stunning Lake Baikal, or scale an active volcano at Kamchatka.
The landscape is a wild as the people are welcoming in the untamed beauty of Scotland. The Scottish Highlands are famous for mountains, rolling moors, rocky shores, and quaint villages. Take your time exploring by foot, bike and boat, while sighting wildlife such as golden eagles, otters, and minke whales. Scotland is a fisherman’s dream come true thanks to the Scottish lakes and lochs, the most famous being Great Glen where people still report sightings of the Loch Ness Monster. Golfers will also find themselves in heaven as Scotland is the birthplace of the sport and also home to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club located in historic St. Andrews.
Soak in the history with visits to Edinburgh Castle and its stone walls, or the Stirling Castle which was the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots. Art and culture also abounds on these lands as the birthplace of poet Robert Burns, the crime fiction author Ian Rankin, and musician Emeli Sandé – and you can stroll the streets and local haunts of Robbie Burns as part of the Burns Heritage Trail in Alloway. Off the mainland are many islands to explore including the Isle of Skye which is steeped in romance and wildlife on its quiet glens, sandy beaches, caves and green valleys.
A land of passion, pleasure and surprises, Spain offers fascinating historical sites, gorgeous abstract architecture and miles of unspoilt natural wonders. Speaking of the natural beauty, The Pyrenees and the Picos de Europa mountain ranges rise up from the plains of Andalucía and attract hikers all year round. The Costa del Sol is considered Europe’s sunniest place and boasts miles of white sands and gentle Mediterranean seas.
History buffs will love the Granada’s Alhambra palaces, which includes several buildings, towers, walls, gardens, courtyards, and a mosque. Unbelievable architecture takes centre stage at the Gehry Guggenheim Museum, as well as Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia and Gaudi Sites designed by Antoni Gaudi who took Art Nouveau a step further. The White Towns of Andalucía are nestled along the coastline and hilltops and blend into the mountains which rise from the ocean.
The cold, crisp, clean air of Sweden is complemented by the unspoiled forests, vast lakes, and expanse of archipelago of 30,000 islands. Rural fishing villages sit on flat coastlines with red and yellow summerhouses perched on peaks at the edge of lush forests. Stockholm is a city that has retained the aesthetic of its origins while also embracing a more modern way of operating. Popular tourist spots include The Vasa Museum, and Old Town is known as Gamla Stan which is made up of 13th century architecture. Off the coast of Sweden is Fairytale Drottningholm Palace on the island of Lovö which dates back to the 17th century and is currently the official residence of the Swedish Royal Family.
Stay in a room of ice at the Ice Hotel at Jukkasjärvi with each stunning and furnishings, designed and recreated each year by a new team of artists and designers. Another destination that is touched by the cold winds of the north is Lapland at Abisko National Park, with 24-hour daylight lasting several weeks in summer and stunning views of the Northern Lights in winter. It is in the north where you can find the Sami people – one of Europe’s few indigenous people – who still live by their ancient traditions.
England & Wales
While many come for the bright lights, culture, shopping and tourist hot spots of London, England is rich with quaint country, quiet coastal towns and stunning country landscapes. London is home to cultural spots such as Tate Modern, The National Gallery, and the Royal Museums Greenwich; as well as Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben. Theater, shopping, festivals and historical tours will days upon days and when you are ready for something more you can step outside of the city to one of the pretty country counties. The Roman Baths and Georgian City of Bath are a must see with its private parks, hot springs, honey-colored Georgian Townhouses, located on Royal Crescent. The Lakes District boasts 900 square miles of National Park with 12 of the England’s largest lakes ready to explore by foot, car and train. One of the more unique destinations in England is the Eden Project in Cornwall which is a series of artificial biomes containing an amazing collection of plants from around the world.
Wales is a small yet abundant country with more castles than you could visit in a year. Even more ancient are sites of stone circles, dolmens and standing stones predating the many castles peppered across the landscape. Getting lost in the beauty of this natural treasure is easy with range of mountains and hills called Snowdonia, as well as the Pembrokeshire Coast National Trail with picturesque villages and medieval walls.