Few places pack the punch of Europe. From its Northern Lights to its Southern shores, this drama queen keeps on thrilling, surprising and confusing with her extraordinary wealth of sights, sounds, peoples and parties.
Overwhelming it can be, confusing for sure – just perusing a map of the crowded Old World will reveal cities, mountain ranges, seas and even countries you may never have even heard of. But the good news is that whatever you decide to do here, you’ll leave blown away by the sights, sounds, tastes and other sensations you’ll experience: there simply is no way to tour Europe and not be awestruck.
First timers might try a sprinkling of the classics (Britain, France, Germany, Spain) and spice it up with a dash of something classical (Italy, Greece, Turkey), while those who have covered the essentials can try lesser-explored destinations (the Balkans, Scandinavia, Portugal or Poland). For the truly original the sky is the limit – Iceland, Albania, Moldova and Belarus all see few travellers, while for the true eccentric, microstates Andorra, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg might beckon.
Momentous history What a heritage Europe has! As well as the birthplace of democracy in Athens, the Forum of Rome, the renaissance buildings and art of Florence, the graceful canals of Venice and the Napoleonic grandeur of Paris, there’s always the less expected sites such as the Moorish palaces of Andalucía, the remains of one of the Seven Wonders of the World in Turkey, the majesty of a second Venice in St Petersburg and the haunting buildings of Auschwitz in Poland.
Cutting-edge culture But Europe is far from preoccupied by its extraordinary past. The continent leads the world in fashion, art, music, architecture and design; just see the street styles and music scenes of London and Berlin, the ground-breaking design in Antwerp, Copenhagen and Stockholm or the amazing displays of contemporary art, well, just about everywhere.
Breathtaking landscapes Glorious scenery your thing? Try out the awesome fjords of Norway, the stunning scenery of the Scottish Highlands, the volcanic dramatics of Iceland, the breathtaking Alps of France, Switzerland and Italy, and the lesser-known mountains of Spain, Slovenia, Southern Poland and Slovakia. For beach life you can fight for some sand on France’s Côte d’Azur, Spain’s Costa Brava or Portugal’s Algarve, or – far more enjoyably – discover your own pristine beach in Albania, Bulgaria or on the gem-like islands of Greece and Croatia.
Smashing stereotypes A trip around Europe’s patchwork of nations will inevitably make you rethink what you thought you knew about the place. As with any form of travel, surprises await: nationalities about whom you know little beyond lazy clichés will become humanised, complex and contradictory; you will feel the chill on your spine when you see that iconic work of art in the flesh or find yourself standing right where that happened. You will at least once find yourself on a beach, up a mountain, at a café or in a club thinking ‘these people know how to live’.
Yes, Europe has and offers it all. So don’t delay – get planning your own European odyssey as soon as you can. With so many extraordinary destinations offering incredible things to see and do, your only problem will be where to begin…