This article was published on Travel Daily News.
Europe is such an attractive travel destination that it’s not rare for those planning a trip there to feel totally overwhelmed by choice. With no shortage of things to do in Europe, which are the worthiest travel experiences to have? Which are the must-dos and must-sees? What are the ingredients of a unique European trip?
However, when you think about experiences it’s much more than just a list of highlights and destinations you need to tick off; it’s also doing certain things, enjoying certain activities that will create lovely, long-lasting and cherishable memories in our minds and hearts.
That said, we’ve narrowed down Europe’s many sights, dishes and places into a list of what we consider are unique travel experiences that only this continent can offer.
Climb up the Eiffel Tower and watch Paris from above
Paris and its famous Eiffel Tower are probably the most iconic images of France and maybe even in all of Europe! There’s definitely something magical about this representative landmark and so much has been written and said about it that Paris and its tower are probably amongst the first things you want to see and enjoy in Europe.
The French capital is charming and romantic, with a cosmopolitan and laid-back atmosphere and a strong sense of style. There’s plenty to see and do in Paris, from its world-famous museums, historical places and religious sites to walking or riding on a cruise along the River Seine or tasting any of its delicious dishes. But no trip to Paris would be complete without climbing at least once to the top of the Eiffel Tower to enjoy the stunning panoramic views of the city from above.
The views are fantastic all day round, from early in the morning to late at night as each moment has its special charm but as the sun begins to set, the views of the bright lights and the lit water are totally unmatched. You can see many of the most popular landmarks of the city from there as well such as the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, la Defense, the Pantheon or Montmartre! It’s one of the most romantic things you can do in Paris! And since the Tower is open until 11pm at night, you can take the experience to the next level by dining at Le Jules Verne located on the second level of the Tower.
As you climb up the monument, keep an eye out for the tiny apartment that Gustave Eiffel designed for himself.
Splurge on a gondola ride in Venice
Riding a gondola in Venice is probably one of the most cliché experiences you can have in Europe, but it’s also one we all want to enjoy at least once!
There’s no better way to admire the bridges and grand buildings of this breathtaking city! You’ll glide past captivating palaces, bridges and squares in one of the world’s most serene experiences!
Venice is a maze of canals, waterways and cobbled lanes and, although pricey, getting onboard a gondola is a charming way to explore it!
Want to take the experience to the next level? Kiss your partner in crime under the Bridge of Sighs during sunset and you’ll be blessed with eternal love as a couple!
Indulge in the most delicious European culinary delights!
Eating the local cuisine is one of the most fulfilling, delightful and delicious experiences you can have in Europe. Home to world-famous dishes and top-rated chefs, no trip around the continent will be complete without having tasted some of the most traditional dishes in every country.
That said, don’t leave Italy without eating a slice of pizza or a bowl of pasta at any of the charming trattorias or stroll down the cobbled streets in Rome licking a creamy gelato. Planning a trip to Germany? Then all your misconceptions about sausages as a meal will change as soon as you try them in Berlin, Bonn or Koln!
While in Wein, enjoy a cup of coffee after a long walk around the city and its museums and don’t miss the traditional 5 o’clock tea in London (especially at the Ritz!). Try Belgian crepes or pralinés in Belgium, Swiss chocolate while admiring the majestic Alps or enjoy fine dining in Paris.
Go road tripping in Scotland or Iceland
Going on a road trip is a fantastic experience and a fantastic way of exploring the beauty of a region or country. And with so many different landscapes and attractive destinations, Europe is not the exception to the rule.
Whichever country you choose to visit by car, you’ll find the major international car rental companies everywhere. Fees may vary depending on how long your road trip is and the kind of vehicle your hire but what can really blow up your budget is the damage insurance policy you’ll be asked to purchase.
Either you’ll get too little coverage for the money or the guy at the desk will press you into buying one that can really cost you an arm and a leg.
Fortunately, American travelers can rely on car rental insurance companies that offer them thorough coverage against any potential damage or inconvenience their rental car may suffer and they can purchase their policy while in the States. Interested in evaluating your options? Here you’ll find good information!
Scotland, one of the countries that are part of the UK, is great for a road trip. Venture up the Highlands and explore Inverness Castle or the Isle of Skye, go on a road trip across the many and famous Scottish whiskey distilleries or simply scoot into the countryside on day trips from Glasgow or Edinburgh.
More adventurous travelers can catch a ferry between far-flung islands in the Hebrides. Love the beach? Then hit the Fife Coastal Route that follows the Firth of Forth coastline over 75 miles while passing through charming little fishing towns, endless beaches and historic castles such as Aberdour Castle.
North Coast 500 is the most epic Scottish road trip you can do. Considered one of the best coastal touring routes in the world, it’s a must-do if you are interested in exploring the Highlands.
As you drive over 500 miles through the North Highlands, you’ll have the chance to see sparkly beaches, jaw-dropping coastlines, ancient castles and Loch Ness (and the Loch Ness Monster if you’re lucky!).
Road tripping Iceland is equally magical. Famous for Björk’s music, its many volcanoes, breathtaking waterfalls and glaciers,it definitely deserves to be discovered by car. Probably the most iconic road trip you can take here is the Ring Road or Route 1.
As the name suggests, this 1300-kilometre-long route creates a large circle around the island. It’s super easy to follow and introduces visitors to the wide range of scenery, activities and landscapes in the country.
Those who have been in Iceland before and would like to explore less-visited regions of the island can do the Westfjords route. Located in the NW corner of Iceland, you’ll be able to admire rugged landscapes, stunning fjords and bumpy roads.
Visit some of the world’s greatest museums
Europe is a mecca for those who love history and art and it is the place where you can find some of the best and most important museums in the world. Who hasn’t heard at least about the Louvre, the Museum del Prado, the Hermitage Museum or the Rijks! In fact, even if you’re not that fond of antiquities, relics and artwork, your trip to Europe won’t be complete if you don’t see and explore them.
Interested in a tip? Don’t stick to the major museums only! Paris, London, Moscow, Madrid and any other European city are filled with lots of museums, some devoted to specific subjects that are absolutely a must-see! Do your research first and make sure you don’t miss one that shows exhibitions you may want to enjoy!
Paris is home to the Louvre, an impressive museum where you can admire antiquities and a vast collection of sculptures and artwork including the famous Mona Lisa. But it’s not the only world-class artistic experience in the city: the Musee Picasso showcases a vast collection of ceramics and paintings by Picasso in a lovely XVII-century historic building. The Musee Cluny, dedicated to the Middle Ages, also boasts some impressive tapestries as The Lady and the Unicorn.
While in London, make sure you spend some time travelling back in time at the British Museum. Its large collection of antiquities and relics from Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Polynesia, the Assyrians, Africa… is absolutely jaw-dropping.
You will find yourself staring in awe at the Rosetta Stone or Tutankamun’s mummy or the Parthenon or the Assyrian stone lions just to mention a few of the items in its collection. However, it’s not the only interesting museum in the city: Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum is fascinating as well as the Sherlock Holmes Museum or the Tate Gallery.
Amsterdam is home to the RijksMuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Rembrandt’s Museum for instance. Each of them are fascinating and a great opportunity to learn about some of the most important Dutch artists in history.
The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg holds over 3 million superb works of art. Its precious items represent Russia, Antiquity, Middle East and Western Europe amongst other areas and periods of time and they give you the chance to admire masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Matisse, Rubens, Picasso, Rafael or Tiziano.
Known as the Venice of the North, the compact and beautiful city of Amsterdam seduces visitors with a warm and lively atmosphere and a unique experience. Located by the river Amstel, Amsterdam is traversed by lots of canals that turn the city into an absolutely picturesque place.
One of the best ways to explore them is by bike or by riding any of the cruises. Each canal is unique and will seduce you with its beautiful houses and bridges. Some of the buildings are really beautiful and historical and hide interesting stories inside.
Another unique experience that you can have in Amsterdam is visiting the Anne Frank House Museum and getting to know her story. You’ve probably heard about the courageous story of this Jewish girl and her family that lived in Amsterdam during the times of the II World War that had to hide in a secret room for months on end so that the German soldiers didn’t take them to the concentration camps.
That house, her belongings and the place where she had to hide with her parents and relatives is carefully preserved. It’s a biographical museum that showcases a permanent exhibition on the life and times of Anne Frank.
If you are interested in that particular period of history and Poland is in your travel plans, you should visit the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Visiting it transforms the holocaust from a horrific historical event to a very real place where Jewish were mass murdered. It helps you understand how these people were worked to death or exterminated.
The tours are informative and very interesting and they are a great learning experience. Visitors can even walk through the gas chamber at the end. Looking at the mementoes of hair and shoes in the museum and the documentary video and stories is terribly moving. It’s definitely a must-see for history lovers.
Soak in a thermal bath in Budapest
If you had to think of a single reason why you should include Budapest in your bucket list, its spectacular thermal baths give you the best excuse ever. They are architectural gems that surround a labyrinthic network of steam rooms, saunas and naturally warm pools filled with mineral-infused water that springs straight from the ground.
There are many thermal baths throughout the city, but the most famous ones are Szechenyi, Lukacs, Gellert or Kiraly.
Hop from island to island in Greece!
Cruising around the Greek Islands is one of the most classical and beautiful experiences you can enjoy in Europe. An absolute dream-come-true, get ready to soak in the beauty and splendour of Santorini, Rhodes, Mykonos or Crete.
Get ready to enjoy some of the tastiest Mediterranean food, stunning beaches and white-washed villages. Can you ask for more?
Feel melancholic with fado music in Lisbon
Listening to fado music in Lisbon is a heart-warming experience. Apart from enjoying the beauty of the city’s monuments and spectacular sights, fado is a great way of appreciating its culture.
If you’re new to it, Fado is Lisbon’s version of the blues, marked by vocals accompanied by a Portuguese 12-string guitar. It was born in the XIX century, influenced by Moorish songs. Each song evokes a feeling they describe as saudade, a yearning for something lost.
Admire Gaudi’s genius in Barcelona
The cosmopolitan and modern Spanish city of Barcelona is home to the genius of Antoni Gaudi, a Catalan architect that expressed his creativity in beautifully designed buildings such as Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, La Pedrera or Park Guell.
But probably he’s world famous for the UNESCO-listed Sagrada Familia, the Catholic basilica which would have been in construction for more than 150 years by the time it’s finally completed (not before 2026 at least)! The Sagrada Familia will surprise you with its majestic interior and towering facade. You can’t miss taking a guided tour around the building where you can admire its opulent ceilings, stained glass windows and the way it emulates other medieval cathedrals.
Visit Europe’s most iconic buildings and sites
There are plenty of beautiful historical buildings and sites to admire in Europe. Some are artistically surprising while others leave us at awe because of their historical significance. Depending on the countries you’re visiting and your personal interests you’ll be drawn to spending time in one or the other.
The Tower of London is one of the most favorite sites to visit in Europe. It’s a pleasure to talk with the Beefeaters that guard the grounds and give the tours as they know so much about the fortress and the bloody events that occurred there.
Tower Bridge is another highlight of any visit to the English capital. With its recognizable towers, you can do a full tour that takes you through the inside of the building and admire the views from there.
You can’t leave London without seeing the Change of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, where the royal family lives and the administrative headquarters of the monarchy.
Of course, spend some time admiring Big Ben at the Palace of Westminster and listening to the toll of its bell! Big Ben is how the Great Bell of the clock located at the north end of the Palace is called.
If you’re spending some time in Rome, make sure you visit the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. Needless to say, it’s an overwhelming experience. The Vatican City is home to the famous St Peter’s Basilica, St Peter’s Square, the Apostolic Palace, the Vatican Museums and the overwhelming Sistine Chapel, whose beautifully painted ceiling is one of Michelangelo’s most important works.
Rome’s rich historic past is also something that can’t be missed. A visit to the Colosseum and Ancient Rome is definitely a must-do as it allows you to explore the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill, the Arch of Constantine, the Roman Senate or the House of the Vestal Virgins. Follow the steps of Roman Emperors and listen to stories about courageous gladiators!
If you’ll be spending more time in Italy, travel north to the beautiful city of Milano. There, don’t miss Milano’s Duomo or cathedral. It’s one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture in Europe.
If historic sites have a soft spot in your heart, visiting the Acropolis in Greece is like taking a trip back in time. It’s an ancient citadel where you can admire the remains of several buildings that played a prominent role in Ancient Greece such as the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike, the female figures of the Caryatids.