This article was originally posted June 29, 2018, and has been updated March 24, 2019.
Europe is near the top of most people’s lists of places to visit. But there’s a lot to see and do! We highlight the top choices in our European tour guide.
So, you have finally made it. You have worked tirelessly and saved painstakingly. You are now ready to go on your European tour.
Traveling to Europe for the first time is an exciting if somewhat daunting prospect. No matter how many countries in Europe you go to, you will never be fully prepared for what lies in store. Each country has such a specific character and, for want of a better word, “feel” about them. That’s what makes them so unique and thrilling, if a little intimidating for the inexperienced traveler.
Don’t get us wrong. A European tour is something that everyone should try at least once in their life. Even if you have only traveled abroad once or twice before, giving Europe a go will broaden your horizons and build your confidence.
But it never hurts to have a little help. This Europe travel blog article will serve as the definitive guide to the best places to visit in Europe. Some of the most famous landmarks, sights and points of cultural interest are based in European destinations. We will explore some of the cultural icons in Paris and London to the relative obscurities of Belfast and Vilnius.
Our guide doesn’t stop there – travelers of all experience levels can always benefit from advice and helpful hints, which we have included in the article below.
European Tour – Travel Tips
While some of these may seem like common sense, when you’re going traveling, it is so easy to get lost in the amount of stuff you have to remember. So, treat this as a checklist as much as a guide to being prepared for traveling.
#1 – Invest in Adapters
We rely so much on our electronic devices these days. So, make sure you can charge them up over the course of your travels. That is, remember to buy a plug adapter so that you can use your chargers for your phone, laptop, electric shaver. Any electrical necessity you are going to need at some point while you’re gallivanting around Europe.
#2 – Learn a Little of the Language(s)
Unless you’re some sort of linguistic genius, no one expects you to be fluent in every European language going. There are simply too many of them, much as some are remarkably similar. However, knowing the basics – “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “Please” and “Thank You” in a couple of the common languages like French, Spanish and German – is always a good start for a European tour. Especially since a number of the other European countries speak those as second or third languages.
I learned French and Spanish in school and basic German at university. Also, being English, I have found that a lot of people who work in tourism and tourist–facing industries will have some understanding of English anyway, since it’s such a widely–spoken language. Lots of locals in European countries do love seeing tourists try their best to speak the native language, though.
My advice would be to have a look on YouTube. See if there are any tutorial videos. They probably won’t educate you in the grammar, but you’ll learn the words to potentially ask for directions and order things in restaurants. Useful things when you’re traveling on a European tour.
#3 – Know Where You’re Staying
Naturally, accommodation should be one of the first things you arrange when you go traveling. It’s usually a case of hostel or hotel, to start with. Or maybe you have found a room in an apartment somewhere.
The best thing to do is know people before you go traveling. I have been fortunate enough to befriend a number of European nationals. So, when I have gone traveling in Europe in the past – particularly Germany and Lithuania – I have been able to stay with my friends. This saves a massive expense and it may even negate or delay the need to find work if your travels are long–term.
#4 – Take Advantage of Your Age
If you are a student, or beneath a certain age bracket, use that your advantage. Many of the sights and landmarks you visit on your European tour will be free or relatively cheap entry anyway. However, discounts may be offered to students and/or younger visitors. Bargain hunting even has its place when sightseeing.
#5 – Create an Itinerary and Stick to It
I get it. Some people aren’t planners. Spontaneity and leaving everything to the last minute can often make for more enjoyable experiences. But when you’re going traveling, make sure you know when all your flights, trains, coaches etc. are. Make a list of everything you want to see and/or do in each destination. Being organized pays off in the long run, so that you can make the most of your European tour.
#6 – Dress Appropriately
Many have fallen afoul of this one before, myself included. I am not just talking dress according to the weather – that much relates to common sense. You also have to consider what you’re wearing when visiting certain landmarks and sights.
For example, take a deeply religious city like Rome, where half of the points of interest are in holy buildings. They will not allow you inside if you are not covered up, despite how uncomfortable it will be for you if you visit in the middle of summer. Rules are rules in certain territories, not made to be broken.
I know the weather was just mentioned, but it doesn’t hurt to remind you to make yourselves familiar with what to expect in terms of climate for the time of year. The further east your European tour takes you, seasons and climate tend to alternate between two extremes. A Lithuanian winter, for example, can be as cold as -30°C (-22°F), while their summers are more in the 20s-30s C (70s-90s F). Be prepared and leave plenty of room in the suitcase.
If warmer temperatures are more in line with your travel plans, perhaps you would be interested in visiting Africa or Australia? We have comprehensive guides on those continental destinations as well, Top Tips and Advice for Planning An Affordable Africa Tour and Trip Advice and Review of Top Australia Tours and Sites, respectively.
#7 – See Every Sight & Try Every Dish
The only way to truly enjoy travel is to absorb yourself in the culture of the place you’re visiting. That means sees everything there is to see, experience every available festival and holiday, attend every bit of nightlife you can and try every native delicacy.
Some of the cultural capitals of the world are places to visit in Europe. Everywhere is steeped in history, covered in iconic landmarks and teeming with unique dishes you can’t find anywhere else. Below, we’ll exhaust the list of the where, the what and the why of all the must–see places to visit in Europe on your European tour.
European Tour Destinations – The UK
WHAT: Natural History Museum, Knightsbridge, Imperial War Museum, Oxford Street (including Selfridges), London Eye, Trafalgar Square, Lyceum Theatre (home of The Lion King), Buckingham Palace.
WHY: London is the one place every overseas visitor to the UK should see. There is something there for everyone. Knightsbridge is home to Harrods, while Oxford Street has Selfridges. People who love their high–price luxury shopping trips cannot leave without visiting one or both. There are galleries and museums galore for the history and culture lovers. Or just go “see” the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
WHAT: The Murals, The Big Fish.
WHY: The capital of Northern Ireland is a great deal more peaceful than its English counterpart. There’s a general tranquility about it you don’t tend to find in urbanized places. Also unlike London, prices are actually quite low, so hiring taxis, buying meals and even getting accommodation will be less of a setback than you might expect.
Belfast is very much a social city, so places to shop, eat and drink are incredibly easy to find. From tiny pubs to grand rooftop bars. What you should look out for are the murals – wall paintings that depict Belfast in a number of points across its sociopolitical history.
In addition, there is also The Big Fish. A great riverside monument that, legend has it, will grant you wisdom if you give it a little kiss!
European Tour Destinations – France
WHAT: Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, Bateaux Mouches across the River Seine, The Louvre Gallery (home of the Venus de Milo and Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa), Moulin Rouge, try escargot, peach melba and frogs’ legs.
WHY: The City of Lights. A European tour would not be complete without having a quick sojourn in the French capital. Like London, it is quite urbanized but also has a lot to offer to tourists.
Icons like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe (the death trap roundabout that surrounds it notwithstanding) offer irresistible views. Plus, it is home to legendary artworks like the Mona Lisa.
In terms of the night life, maybe put a few Euros aside for a look in at the Moulin Rouge and definitely find somewhere to try national delicacies like escargot (snails in garlic butter) and cuisses des Grenouilles (frogs’ legs).
WHAT: Napoleon’s birthplace, wine and nougat tastings
WHY: I admit, Corsica is a bit of an obscure one. Not many even realize this island near Sicily and Sardinia actually belongs to France, let alone the birthplace of one of its most notorious leaders – Napoleon Bonaparte.
Visit the places he lived, as well as local vineyards-come-confectioners, which offer tasting sessions of both wine and nougat.
European Tour Destinations – Germany
WHAT: Oktoberfest, Englisch Garten, Ammersee, Olympic Park
WHY: It may surprise you, but Munich is quiet and peaceful. Far from what you’d expect from one of the largest cities in Germany. It makes for a very relaxing destination for travel. If you want it to be, that is.
Walk about the many gardens, such as the Englisch Garten. Here, you can find the rapids of the River Eisbach, which are so powerful that you can surf on them! There is also the Olympic Park, with the views its tower provides.
Not only that, but Munich is home to Oktoberfest, Europe’s most popular and famous beer festival held every October. Why not plan your itinerary to pass through Munich around that time?
If October is a bit late in the year for your tour to go to Germany, then summers in Munich are quite hot, which makes visiting the nearby Ammersee well worth it. This lake is so large it has its own stony beach and could easily be mistaken for the sea when swimming in it.
WHAT: The Berlin Wall, Kit Kat Club (historical birthplace of Cabaret), Topography of Terrors, Computerspielemuseum, Berlin Zoologischer Garten, Brandenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial
WHY: The German capital is far busier than Munich, but absolutely drowning in culture and history – for better or for worse. Pieces of the Berlin Wall, which once upon a time divided this great country, still exist for your viewing pleasure. Wartime history is a point of interest in Berlin, so if this is up your street, visits to the free–to–enter Topography of Terrors (former HQ of the Gestapo) and the Holocaust Memorial should be on your schedule.
Cheerier destinations your European tour may want to include a range from seeing pandas at the Berlin Zoologischer Garten and stepping through video game history at the Computerspielemuseum.
European Tour Destinations – Italy
WHAT: Duomo Cathedral, the Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi Museum
WHY: Make sure you have your maps apps with you if Florence makes an appearance on your list. It is a maze of streets and corners that can make it quite easy to lose one’s bearings. But, if you’re a major art and culture fan, you can’t afford to miss it at all. In particular, the Uffizi Museum – a haven of some of the most priceless artworks in the world.
WHAT: Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica
WHY: There is far too much to list when it comes to Rome to fit in one small section like this. But be warned. Here’s where you have to give consideration to how you dress. Being covered up will be uncomfortable and unpleasant for you if the Roman part of your European tour is planned for the summer months. But it’s the only way you will get admitted to some of the more iconic buildings in Rome, like Saint Peter’s Basilica.
WHAT: Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius
WHY: A city established in the shadow of a volcano. And destroyed accordingly. Now, you can see the now extinct Mount Vesuvius and the uncovered remains of Pompeii. Take a guided tour through its streets and homes – much of which was discovered well–preserved – and learn about the lives and lifestyles of its citizens before the eruption that destroyed it all those centuries ago.
European Tour Destinations – Croatia
WHAT: Locations from Game of Thrones and Star Wars, music festivals
WHY: Croatia may not immediately strike a chord in many travelers, but visiting it is as affordable as it is enjoyable for any European tour itinerary. It is a coastal city, with gorgeous waters and views. Not only that, it is also remarkably cheap to stay there – even a night in a five-star hotel with a casino attached costs only a fraction of what you would expect to pay in France or the UK.
For fans of Star Wars and Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik is home to some very recognizable locations. Film and TV buffs will appreciate this when on their European tour.
European Tour Destinations – Austria
WHAT: Locations from The Sound of Music, birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
WHY: The scenery in this Austrian city will provide many unmissable photo ops for you, as will the locations recognizable from films like the classic The Sound of Music.
Salzburg is also dominated by its connection to the musical genius Mozart; definitely one for the music lovers. However, for other travelers, it can serve as a stopover point or a day trip – it is easy to access from more permanent digs in places like Munich.
European Tour Destinations – Lithuania
WHAT: Gediminas’ Tower, Trakai, Belmontas, Vilnius TV Tower, Žalieji Lake, trying cepelinas
WHY: Here’s another quite obscure one that should nonetheless not go ignored if you are doing a true European tour. Lithuania’s culture is quite unique compared to that of Western Europe. In Vilnius, the old town is steeped in history and looks quite frozen in time; the nearby towns of Trakai and Belmontas are no different.
September and October are recommended for those looking for a “comfortable” temperature; the icy winters in January are an acquired taste, but make for some interesting sights, like a frozen waterfall, for example.
Anyone looking to try local delicacies will have to enjoy things like cepelinas (meat-stuffed potato dumplings) and Šaltibarščiai (cold, pink beet soup). Or, if you’re feeling very adventurous, enjoy a meal at the TV Tower, where the restaurant rotates very slowly as you eat, giving the full 360° view of the Lithuanian capital at the same time.
You can also check out our entire article on Taking a Lithuanian Tour!
Don’t Leave Without Buying…
When traveling to faraway lands, it’s best practice to keep all your documents and paperwork in one place so nothing can get lost. Remember when traveling to so many places, organization is key!
The Winks Travel Neck Wallet & Passport Holder has the capacity to keep all things – passports and travel documentation, money and credit cards – safe, secure and conveniently stored. It also blocks RFID, so your information is not easy prey for electronic pickpockets.
Remember one of the first points of our checklist at the beginning of this article? With one purchase, you can eliminate all possible headaches and stress of not having the right plug adapters for charging your devices on your European tour.
All with the Worldwide All-in-One adapter from SOONPAM. You can use it in the UK and all across Europe, but also if you take any later travels to the States or Australia.
If our own little guide wasn’t enough for you, you should give this book a read through. Rick Steves’ guide to traveling across Europe is a 2018 best seller and for a very good reason!
Reading this book will enable you to make the absolute most of your time when on your European tour, as well as planning an itinerary, making it past the language barriers and getting the most for your money at restaurants.
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