Europe, the second-smallest continent in the world, is everything but small when it comes to culture, diversity and history. Composed of fifty countries and six dependent territories, this sought-after destination has something for every taste: different places, traditions, foods to try, and languages to hear.
Europe beckons novice and seasoned travelers alike with its accessibility, variety, and mystique. Can you imagine yourself floating in the salty waters of the Mediterranean at sunset? Staring awestruck at the castles of the Rhine River Valley? Lost in wonder at the northern lights in Scandinavia? How about all three? One thing you know for sure, is there is never enough time to see everything in Europe in one trip. And there is the inevitable desire to return and see more of it!
Whether you are backpacking in Europe, are a family on a budget, or are looking for a luxury vacation, you’ll equally enjoy Europe’s stunning vistas of villages, castles and cathedrals, indulge in fine foods and drinks, and experience rich history.
More than any other travel region, Europe is a bucket-list of must-see destinations: think of experiencing the revelry of Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany; savoring the authentic food and stunning city of Florence, Italy; touring the fairy-tale Baroque architecture of Prague, Czech Republic; or sipping Spanish sangria on the beaches of Barcelona.
Popular destinations include London’s Big Ben, Paris’ Eiffel Tower, Prague Castle, the Vatican, and Venice’s canals. Cheaper European cities include Dublin, Frankfurt, Moscow, and Zurich. Florence and Barcelona are a must for art and architecture lovers. Croatia and Turkey are sought-after beach destinations and don’t forget coastal cities along the Mediterranean sea. More expensive European destinations include Athens, Paris, Lisbon, and Rome.
Below, we’ve outlined more details about key European destinations.
Visit the United Kingdom and Ireland
From London to Dublin, to Edinburgh and North Wales, the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland offer so much to see. Aside from the Big Ben, must-see places in London include Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. A stop at the Salisbury Cathedral is worth the drive. Keep in mind that down the road from that is Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, which dates back to 2500 BC! Suitably named, the city of Bath, cloaked in Georgian architecture, is known for its Roman Baths. Marvel at Scotland's Ancient Capital, Edinburgh, with its medieval streets and unmatched culture!
Any trip to Ireland is a journey steeped in history - and beauty. The ideal way to get around is by car, but be careful - you never know when a flock of sheep will decide to overtake the roadway. Some like to begin in Dublin and head West through Yeats country, winding up in blustery Galway. There you'll find the Eyre Square, medieval St. Nicholas’ Church, beautiful art, modern and traditional pubs, and always, the warmth of the Irish people. Then turn south to the see the ancient Cliffs of Moher, as you watch the Atlantic crash below.
Watching a football (a.k.a. soccer) or rugby game in the UK is a must for sports fans. Tennis is also fun to watch in the UK, having been originated in Birmingham, England.
Foods to Try: A traditional English breakfast, Irish stew, Fish and Chips, Yorkshire pudding, steak and kidney pie, and a bacon sandwich. For dessert, try strawberries and cream, an Irish whiskey cake, or sticky toffee pudding. Of course, you can’t forget about the afternoon tea!
Paris is like no other city on earth - savor it like a fine wine. Of course, you must see the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and Notre Dame, but do not forget to venture into Parisian avenues and side streets, and poke your head into the city's charming boutiques and cheese shops. And no matter what, make some time to sit at a sidewalk cafe, sip some vino, and watch as the world walks by. If it's possible to venture out in France, get yourself out into the countryside. Visit the Loire Valley chateaux or head to Bordeaux, and see where all that wonderful wine comes from. Or travel south, to pick up a little glitter along the French Riviera.
People are passionate about this country - almost as passionate as the Spaniards themselves. And no wonder: life in Madrid and Barcelona and Seville and all the rest, is not something to slog through - it's something to celebrate. Spain is a land of festivals, food, and fun. Cosmopolitan Madrid evokes sultry nightlife and the world-class collections of the Prado, while Barcelona is inspired by its incredible heritage of Roman relics, medieval district, and its lovely, modern-day waterfront. Seville is another city of contrasts - founded by Romans, later ruled by Arabs - and in the 1500's, it once again transformed itself into a vital port that launched Spanish explorers.
Travel Tips for Europe
Before you buy your airfare, be sure to check out a few tips for your European trip below.
Getting around: Most major car rental agencies have offices throughout Europe - and don't forget to try the trains! Eurail has an excellent system, and you can save money by buying passes good for multiple countries. If you are visiting countries that are too far apart from one another to drive or take the train, fear not, Europe is one of the best places where you can enjoy cheap, quick and convenient flights from multiple low cost carriers. Compare multiple airlines, online travel agencies and other travel sites easily with FareCompare!
Travel info: Find out if any special alerts or warnings have been issued about the European country you’ll be visiting. They’ll be posted on the U.S. State Department website’s travel section – which also includes numerous handy travel tips.
Fly to a cheaper city first: You may find it cheaper to fly to a city that is not your ultimate destination, say Dublin, and then fly one of Europe’s many discount carriers to your real destination, but a word of warning: some discount airlines have high baggage fees and plenty of restrictions regarding carry-on luggage.
Try connecting flights: These can be cheaper than non-stops. However, connecting at London’s Heathrow can be expensive, typically adding another $50 per person to the cost of a trip.
Still trying to find the right destination for you? Read on to find the most popular European vacation destinations.