Europe Travel Guide
No less than fifty independent countries comprise the continent of Europe. It was the stage for both World Wars, and the history of the region goes back thousands of years. Greece is known as the birthplace of Western Culture and the royal families of many European countries have roots that can be traced back for centuries. Castles, cathedrals, majestic mountain ranges like the Alps, quaint villages and vibrant big cities are all found in the diverse cultural regions that define the continent.
The United Kingdom’s capital city of London is one of the best known cities in all of Europe. The London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, Hyde Park, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the captivating River Thames and the world-famous underground system are but a few of the highlights to be found in the city. Take a black cab around town and visit with Big Ben, the landmark clock tower on the north end of the Palace of Westminster, or you can take in the sights via bus, boat and even on foot.
Less than one hundred miles from London is Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument that is dedicated to the worship of the sun and the moon, estimated to be from about 3100 BC. The giant monoliths in their circular shape have inspired visitors to the United Kingdom for centuries. Only another 25 miles north and you find Avebury, another collection of stones, these dating back to around 2400 BC that celebrate the cycles of birth, life and death.
The Peak District National Park is a large expanse of land found within central and northern England that offers trails, rock climbing, horseback riding, hang gliding, watersports and much more. An ideal destination for the outdoor enthusiast, it is also home to several towns and villages and a picturesque piece of the English countryside.
England is not the only country in the United Kingdom as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also collectively known under the name. Edinburgh Castle, in Scotland is a landmark built on an extinct volcano, and is home to the Scottish Crown Jewels, the Great Hall, Mons Meg (a medieval siege gun) and the National War Museum of Scotland as well as the Royal Palace and the Stone of Destiny. Over in Northern Ireland is Belfast Castle as well as the Mountains of Mourne, the inspiration for the CS Lewis Chronicles of Narnia series as well as being a great place for outdoor activities like rock climbing and rafting amid the beautiful scenery.
East of the United Kingdom is the region of Western Europe, an area consisting of countries like Austria, Belgium, France, Greece and Italy to name but a few.
Greece is considered the birthplace of the Western World and it is also where the first Olympics were held. The Parthenon, Meteora and the Acropolis are all found in Greece and it makes for a great vacation destination whether you stay on the mainland or visit one or two of the many islands that are sprinkled in the Mediterranean Sea.
France’s capital of Paris with the famous landmark in the Eiffel Tower and the many wine growing regions found within the country is yet another feature of Western Europe; much like the running of the bulls is in Spain. The towering spires of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and the Islamic architecture of the World Heritage Site Alhambra are also fascinating places to visit in Spain, also known for the beautiful resort island of Ibiza.
The Netherlands is a country of dykes, windmills and tulips, not to mention wooden shoes and city of Amsterdam is the home to the Anne Frank House where she hid from the Nazis and wrote her famous diary as well as the infamous Red Light District. Windmills are found all over the country, even today where 1150 still stand, while they were used primarily for water drainage, today they make for a fascinating tour amid the picturesque farmland where they can be found. Kinderdijk is a World Heritage Site and home to 19 mills built around 1740.
Italy is known for eternal city of Rome, medieval city of Florence, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the glorious Amalfi Coast with its many picturesque beaches and resorts. Mount Vesuvius, a volcano in the Gulf of Naples that erupted in 79 AD and buried several towns, most notably Pompeii is now a tourist attraction visited by thousands each year. The exquisite architecture, fountains, city of Venice built on canals and the culinary delights of the region all combine to make Italy a world renowned destination.
The birthplaces of Mozart and the father of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Freud both play a large part of the heritage of the Western European country of Austria. The Alps, many cathedrals, and the beautiful Danube River are also all features of this magnificent country that shares a border with Switzerland, known the world over for its Swiss Army knives, watches, chocolate and for being neutral in world conflicts.
Eastern Europe consists of countries with rich history and traditions, Russia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Poland and Croatia are only a few of the countries that comprise this region, but all have a significant history that can be explored in their museums, monuments and cathedrals.
The country of Croatia is full of the aforementioned historical places, as well as being a country with a magnificent coastline, and places like Dubrovnik or Split, with turquoise waters, warm sandy beaches and watersports aplenty.
Travel to Poland and you can learn the sad history of a country that has risen above repeated adversity, see Auschwitz and re-built cities or take to the southwest of the country and the mountainous region complete with rivers and lakes, beaches, wetlands and parks.
Ski vacations in Eastern Europe can take you to Bulgaria, where at their resort of Bansko the longest ski season in Europe can be enjoyed from December to May. Bulgaria is also home to summer fun in the sun if you take to the Golden Sands or any of the many other resorts that sit on the coast of the Northern Black Sea.
What do the ballpoint pen and the Rubik’s cube have in common? They were both invented in the Eastern European country of Hungary, which is also home to mineral baths and natural wonders like caves and caverns to explore. The Cave Baths of Miskolc Tapolca combines the two in an experience unlike any other, bathing in the hot springs water while in a complex of underground caverns and canals.
The World Heritage Site of Cesky Krumlov is a 13th century town nestled in a horseshoe shaped bend in the Vltava river, in the country of the Czech Republic and is known as the castle city because of its many attractions and landmarks. Prague’s Old Town is also a great tourist destination in the country as it is home to houses, churches, an astronomical clock (the oldest working such clock in the world) and the Municipal House.
This brings us to the largest country in Eastern Europe, the historic country of Russia. When you think of Moscow, the capital of the country, the first thing that comes to mind may be the famous Red Square. St. Basil’s Cathedral, with the colorful onion domes and spires is located there and has been added to and changed periodically since it was first ordered built by Ivan the Terrible back in 1552. Where once it was all white, today it sports reds, greens and golds that make it an undeniable landmark. The Kremlin is one of the largest museums in the world as well as being the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation and is also located in the Red Square, called the heart of Russia by many. The Lenin Mausoleum, Lobnoe Mesto, and Resurrection Gate are also part of the square and make for interesting attractions in their own right.
St. Petersburg is a city that lies northwest of the capital of Moscow and is known for its many canals and bridges as well as the amazing Kunstkamera, the first museum in Russia that is a museum of anthropology and ethnography and houses over 2 million items. It is also home to many cathedrals and palaces, like the State Hermitage Museum located in Winter Palace, the Church of our Savior on Spilled Blood, Peterhof Palace & Park Complex, Catherine Palace, St. Isaac’s Cathedral and Yusupov Palace, to name but a few. The legacy of Peter the Great is seen throughout the city, with the Peter and Paul Fortress and the monument to Peter the Great being just two such attractions.
The history and culture of Russia continues on Kizhi Island where visitors can see the most famous and intricate examples of wooden architecture like that on the famous wooden church of the Transfiguration with its 22 onion domes. Located in Lake Onega, northeast of St. Petersburg the island is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and yet another grand attraction in the country.
The eastern border of Russia is shared with Finland, one of the countries of Scandinavia. This region also includes Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland and can boast Lapland, the midnight sun and the stunning aurora borealis. Located in the northern region of Europe, the countries of Scandinavia are full of lakes, mountains and forests, with cosmopolitan cities thrown in for good measure.
Denmark is a modern country with a fairy-tale heritage as it is the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, the famous children’s author. The statue of the Little Mermaid, the Tivoli Gardens and the Rosenborg Castle with a history of Danish royalty to share are all attractions in Denmark, which has one of the longest coastlines in all of Europe.
Iceland is home to many glaciers, geysers, the northern lights and whales. There are 170 geothermal pools in the country and it is also the Scandinavian country that boasts the largest National Park in all of Europe, named Vatnajokull. Over 23 species of whales can be seen off the coast of Iceland, mainly between the months of October and April, but midnight whale watching June-August is also a popular attraction.
Finland is the home of the ‘people of nature’ those that enjoy the natural beauty of their country, but is also home to big cities like Helsinki along with the many woodland trails and ski resorts that the country is known for.
If fresh air and wide open spaces are what you are looking for, then Sweden is the Scandinavian country for you. The long coastline, large city centers and fine dining and shopping opportunities make it popular with many vacationers each year. The capital city of Sweden, Stockholm is a city made up of 14 different islands that are connected by 57 bridges, and like its neighbors, Sweden also has a strong Viking heritage that is seen in the many museums in the country.
Europe is a continent of many diverse countries, each offering something different to see or do, but all with a rich history and cultural significance to share. Whether it is pizza in Italy, steak and kidney pie in England or haggis in Scotland, each country also has culinary delights that are unique to them with some of the best areas for the growing of grapes and the making of wine in the world are also found in the area. The history of the world can be traced back to this region and it makes for a wonderful historic voyage of discovery to go back in time to explore the way the world was shaped so long ago.
The area is also home to magnificent beaches, colorful islands, resort towns, the Mediterranean Sea and the opportunity to take cruises that depart and arrive at various ports around the region, allowing you to take in many countries in one vacation. Europe is a destination for many the world over each and every year. With so many unique places it is no wonder why.