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…
Ready to go?
These tours & activities make it easy:
- See the highlights of Italy in a week
- Cycle and sail in Croatia
- Discover the realm of the polar bear
- Explore Eastern Europe in 18 days
Need more inspiration? Check out our best photos and videos from around Europe and dive into Thorn Tree's Europe branches, where the world's most experienced travel community unearths the continent's hidden gems.
Top 10 European travel destinations for 2013
Size isn’t everything: Europe is just one quarter the size of Asia, one third the size of Africa, but its pull for travellers is unmatched around the world.
You. Europe. 24 days. Ready? You’d better be, because this epic London-to-London romp through the Old World’s greatest cities doesn’t slow down for stragglers.
Top 10 winter destinations in Europe
Winter comes in many guises in Europe, in the polar north there’s serious snow and sunless weeks, while you’ll find lingering sunshine in the mild Mediterranean, and cosy cafe culture and Christmas spirit in the centre.
Museums and galleries in Paris
Europe's best national parks
Granite peaks and beechwood forests, underground springs and swirling mists. Lonely Planet Magazine chooses its favourite national parks in Europe. Dartmoor National Park, Britain Dartmoor is the British landscape at its most primal – the heart of darkness beneath the surface of the ‘green and pleasant land’.
Secret Mediterranean islands where you can escape the crowds
There are more than 200 islands in the Med, yet 90 per cent of tourists stay on just 10 per cent of them. We’ve rounded up six lesser-known isles worth seeking out if you’re looking for a little peace and quiet. Pantelleria, Italy Boat at sunset by Luca Volpi. CC BY-SA 2.0.
7 great reasons to see Europe before the summer
Pining to explore Europe but intending to wait for the sun? Think again: the crowds might arrive in spring and reach full swell midsummer, but European travel in the cooler months is superb timing for off-season prices and local flavour. 1.
Europe by rail: a spotter's guide
How to travel in Europe
Fifty sovereign states. 10,180,000 sq km. 738,200,000 people. The word ‘Europe’ does little to convey the diversity found within, which can make it a bewildering place to travel. So here’s a handy guide to your transport options: Car Budget: medium-high (London-Prague petrol from EUR360 return, plus car hire cost).
Seven startling sights of Eastern Europe
Forget the evocative skylines and merry nightlife: beyond Eastern Europe's classic sights you can walk with witches, hear the ocean sing and step straight back in time. Prepare to smile - or shudder - at some of Eastern Europe's startling sights.
Feast on Europe's best food trucks
Food trucks may be trendy now but the concept is hardly new. Since the turn of the century, hungry workers have counted on mobile vans and stalls lining city streets to provide cheap, filling fixes.
Berlin's best nightlife
Europe’s hot springs: 20 of the best spots for a soak
Sliding into a bathtub after a long day is one of life’s little luxuries, but there’s nothing quite like the restorative buzz garnered by a dip in a proper thermal pool. From Iceland’s idyllic Blue Lagoon to Switzerland’s most chic spa, here’s a rundown of some of Europe’s best hot springs.
Despite incessant praise, Italy) continues to surprise and delight.
Jump the queue! Get straight to Europe's classic sights.
Summer can spell trouble for the traveller in Europe. The weather may be gorgeous, but queues for popular attractions start to stretch. That's where a bit of savvy reaps tremendous rewards. A few tricks will let you stroll past the sweating hordes on your way to your highlight of choice.
Welcome to France).
Mont Blanc Family Adventure
A special family adventure through the Alps to view famous peaks and glaciers
Passionate, sophisticated and devoted to living the good life, Spain is at once a stereotype come to life and a country more diverse than you ever imagined.
Europe's greatest seaside escapes
The greatest seaside escapes are usually the ones that nobody else knows about: the ones down the mile-long sandy trail, the ones at the bottom of the rickety steps, the ones you have to inflate a dinghy and paddle to. But even the most well-known places can feel intimate if you time it right.
Tower Bridge), Buckingham Palace), Manchester United, The Beatles.
Europe's 8 best night trains
The midnight thump and clunk of railway carriages being uncoupled and shunted in a station somewhere in central Europe is not in itself romantic. But add in that this is the night train between Paris and Venice, and that you’re tucked up in bed six feet off the floor, and everything’s somehow more exciting. .
Prepare for a roller coaster of feasts, treats and temptations as you take in Germany's) soul-stirring scenery, spirit-lifting culture, big-city beauties, romantic palaces and half-timbered towns.
Europe’s top 10 scenic rail journeys
Give thanks to the engineers who built railways across Europe's most difficult terrain, their hard work has translated into some of the world's most picturesque journeys – in Scandinavia along icy rivers to fjords, in Germany, Switzerland and Italy through carved valleys in the Alps, along the swirling Rhine River dotted with r.
Experience endless miles of aquamarine coastline, sun-bleached ancient ruins, strong feta and stronger ouzo.
Europe's six surprise islands
Europe’s most popular holiday islands draw major tourist crowds to its well-known charms - everyone knows Ibiza as Party Central - but with a bit of insider info, you can hit these islands and manage to have that castaway, lush-mountains-and-entire-beaches-to-yourself kind of holiday. A real island getaway.
A small country with a big reputation, helped along by a timeless, age-caressed landscape and a fascinating, friendly people, whose lyrical nature is expressed in the warmth of their welcome.
Tour Scandinavia and discover the many charms and delights on this two-week adventure through Norway, Sweden and Finland. Travel through some of Europe's most stylish capitals and be wowed by some of the world's biggest fjords. Visit Norway's uber-cool Oslo, travel to Sweden's vibrant Stockholm and explore Finland's hip Helsinki.
A richly historical land with some of the best cuisine you will ever taste, one of the world's greatest cities and scenery from white-sand beaches to soaring mountains.
Europe's most unusual hotels
Forget keycards, how about an iPhone to access your suite? From electronic art hotels to igloos and wine barrels, these places will guarantee you a memorable, and affordable, trip. We look at a selection of Europe's most unusual places to stay, chosen by Lonely Planet magazine.
Old-fashioned charm, meandering coastlines and cobbled cities with rattling trams.
Forget the Med: five stunning stretches of coast in northern Europe
Travellers flock to the Mediterranean shores of Italy, France and Spain, but for deliciously different places to dip your toes, look a little further north on your map of Europe. You’ll need a sweater if you visit outside the summer, but the views, dunes and magical history are worth a slightly paler suntan.
As an old Scots saying has it, ‘guid gear comes in sma’ bouk’ (good things come in small packages).
Old school: Europe’s historic college towns
Ah, those halcyon student days. Picture cafes buzzing far past midnight with wine-fueled debates on the nature of love and mortality. Ancient libraries rich with the scent of arcane knowledge.
Chic medieval hot spots like Kraków) and Gdańsk vie with energetic Warsaw for your urban attention.
Eastern Europe, Croatia & the Balkans
This epic cross-European adventure offers an intriguing combination of Central Europe's castles and romantic squares with the Balkan's own historic towns and wondrous landscapes.
Look past the silk-smooth chocolate, cuckoo clocks and yodelling – contemporary Switzerland), land of four languages, is all about epic journeys and sublime experiences.
Tour de dessert: Europe’s most delicious pastries, cakes and tarts
American cafe culture has come a long way in the last two decades: corporate coffee has spawned near two generations of independent cafes that offer more than the old standby of roadside diner joe and pie.
Croatia)’s rare blend of glamour and old-fashioned authenticity make this Europe’s) ‘it’ destination, where beaches and sunshine vie for attention with cultural treasures, ancient architecture and time-tested folk traditions.