With 50 equally diverse yet stunning countries under its wing, Europe is any intrepid travellers’ dream. From the floating city of Venice to the crumbling remains in Athens, this vast continent encapsulates the best of art, food, culture and activities.
If you’re thinking of ticking Europe off your bucket list, here are some must-visit places to get you in the mood.
Highlights in Europe
Along with a myriad of canals and cobbled streets, an undeniable energy flows through every inch of Amsterdam.
Here, visitors can immerse themselves in world-class dining, art and history – as well as a number of quirky experiences. However, before we delve into the city’s more eclectic opportunities, let’s start with a classic Amsterdam must do – cycling.
Taking to two wheels is an essential Amsterdam experience and one that is both fun and practical. Pedal along the cobbled streets and explore the city at your own pace, while stopping off at one of Amsterdam’s famous ‘coffeehouses’. There are many bike rental shops around the city, as well as a number of tour companies who offer guided trips.
The beauty with Amsterdam is that age-old history blends seamlessly with modern day quirks. One day you can spend the morning wandering through Anne Frank’s house learning about this iconic figure’s past, and the afternoon marvelling at the sights and sounds of Amsterdam’s Electric Ladyland art exhibition.
Take some time out of your busy schedule to fuel up with some Dutch grub at one of the many canal-lined eateries. While queues are common, the wait is worth it when one of Broodjeszaak ”t Kuyltje’s pastrami sandwiches touches your lips. This sandwich shop has earned legendary status thanks to its meat-packed rolls and Dutch cheeses.
Whether you’re here for a week or a long weekend, the charm of Amsterdam is sure to steal your heart.
While small in size, Santorini is one of the most instantly recognisable Greek islands. Here, white-washed houses line towering red-tinged cliffs; black-speckled beaches contrast perfectly against clear teal waters; and romantic sunsets cast a golden glow over the island come dusk. It’s features like the above that entice travellers from all over the globe to experience the beauty of Santorini for themselves.
Upon visiting, you’ll learn that the people of Santorini operate on island time – and the more laid back, the better. Here, if you choose it, beach-hopping can be your most strenuous task, and thankfully, you’re in luck when it comes to choosing your next sun-drenched sandy stretch. From the likes of Amoudi Bay to Kamari Beach, there’s plenty of choice for soaking up the Santorini sun.
However, be sure to put time aside to wander the cobbled backstreets of the island. There’s no better place to witness the beauty of Santorini in all its glory than the hills of Fira: the capital. On the Caldera side of the city, you’ll be inundated with cafes, bars and restaurants that claim to offer the best views of the ocean, blue-tipped houses and beyond. Take your pick and take in the panoramic sights that are so synonymous with Santorini.
As well as being world-recognised for its unspoilt scenery, the island is also famous for its long wine-making tradition. Thanks to an abundance of volcanic soil and a unique climate, Santorini has managed to put its own distinctive stamp on the Mediterranean wine industry. Visitors looking to savour and sip can do so at various wineries dotted around the island – especially in Mesa and Exo Gonia.
Come to Santorini for the sights, food and relaxation: leave with sun-kissed skin and nothing but fond memories.
When thinking of Switzerland, what comes to mind? Maybe its the nation’s achingly beautiful mountain ranges that cradle perfectly rolled green pastures? Or how about the wooden chalets that sprawl the landscapes – reminiscent of a miniature Christmas town figurine set? Whatever it is that springs to mind when thinking about snow-tipped Switzerland, turn your travel fantasies into reality by seeing what this stunning part of the world has to offer yourself!
Surrounded by France, Germany, Italy and Austria, Switzerland has combined the best of both worlds – well, four in fact – to become a nation brimming with diversity and culture. Experience the charm of Switzerland in the traditional town of Interlaken. Whilst the town still boasts its natural beauty, over the years it’s welcomed an injection of adventure through its various adrenaline-fuelled offerings. Visitors can partake in white water rafting, hand-gliding and ice-climbing – just to name a few.
For those wanting to take soak in the Swiss beauty at a slower pace, hop on the funicular. This red train has been in operation for more than a hundred years, transporting guests through fairytale-like forests whilst meandering up the mountain. At the top, take in the sights below at the world-famous ‘Two Lakes Bridge’. This large deck extends over the mountain ledge, giving unbeatable views of the two lakes that encompass Interlaken.
As well as cute-as-a-button snow resorts, Switzerland also plays host to a number of vibrant cosmopolitan cities such as the capital, Zurich. Whilst roaming its canal-lined streets, immerse yourself in great food, captivating art and fascinating tours.
Ticking Switzerland and its sights off your bucket list is something every intrepid traveller should do – are you next?
Where east meets west is where you’ll find Istanbul. Sitting pretty as Turkey’s capital city, this vibrant area encapsulates the best of both its Asian and European influences. The sights and sounds of the city are something to behold in itself, but when immersing yourself in the cuisine, colour, culture and scents, you’re in for a complete sensory overload.
The history of Istanbul is a huge drawing card for visitors, and many of the landmarks that tell the city’s tales still stand to this day. Just take the Hagia Sophia for example. This monumental piece of architecture first started out as a church when it was constructed by the East Roman Empire in 360. Over the years, the Hagia Sophia has taken on various demolitions and reconstruction, as well as changing from a church to a mosque, before becoming a museum – which it remains as to this day. As well as the Hagia Sophia, visitors should also make time to explore the Dolmabahçe Palace and Topkap Palace – two other jaw-dropping establishments.
Another iconic Istanbul sight comes in the form of the Spice Bazaar. Located in the Eminönü quarter of the Fatih district, travellers can marvel at the elaborate and extensive displays of spices – all boasting unique scents and colours. Aside from spices, there’s plenty of gooey Turkish delight, fruit teas and baklava to spend your lira on!
A trip to Istanbul will reward each sense with new and exciting experiences, and create memories you won’t forget in a hurry!
If you’re ready to book your own European adventure, get in touch with the team at Active Travel to see how we can help you get there!