What is it about Europe that everyone loves and that entices travelers to return again and again? For my husband and I, Europe is home and we love sharing its beauty, culture, history, amazing sites both well-known and those not on the main tourist trail, culinary delights with clients and friends.
Europe is never boring. Europe stands the test of time, in more ways than one. Not only is it rich in history, it is also a destination that practically demands repeat visits. Travelers can visit year after year and never see the same sights twice. There simply is no way to tour Europe and not be awestruck by its scenic beauty, epic history and dazzling artistic and culinary diversity.
Traveling to Europe allows travelers to retrace the steps of significant historic, political and religious figures as well as learn about some of the most significant moments in our history. Europe’s wealth of attractions is its biggest draw: the birthplace of democracy in Athens, the Renaissance art in Florence, the graceful canals of Venice, the Napoleonic splendor of Paris, the impressive attractions of Moorish palaces in Andalucia. A trip to Europe offers the opportunity to enjoy authentic Italian, French and other delicious cuisines and wines. Many Americans and Canadians can trace their roots to Europe, which means that a trip to Europe can be a means of researching a family tree.
Why travel to Europe is so rewarding
As the smallest of all the continents with 50 countries, 7 territories, 4 partially recognized republics, 27 of which are in the European Union, Europe offers a variety of travel experiences for both long and short visits. Whether a planned itinerary includes several stops or is focused on a single location or region, a trip to Europe can provide experiences and memories to last a lifetime. Given the variety of architecture, landscapes, climates and historical sights within Europe, it is no exaggeration to state that nearly anyone can find something to enjoy.
The most popular tourist destination countries of Europe include France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, Scotland and the United Kingdom. Although, some of the lesser traveled countries such as Sweden, Norway, Portugal, Netherlands and Belgium hold priceless historical and natural treasures that are not to be missed.
The most unique feature of Europe is the proximity of all of its countries. For example, France is bordered by Spain, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. You can easily hop on a plane, or even better, ride the rail to any of these countries in a short period of time. Going from one country to another provides an instant feeling of change. Nowhere else in the world can you see so many different cultures, ecosystems, natural and man-made beauty all in one relatively small area. Many European countries are home to the most cultured of all civilizations. Europeans live their lives full of tradition through their architecture, their arts, their history and the nature that surrounds them.
Each individual has their own personal reasons for the countries they choose to visit while in Europe. Some want to see Paris, France for the famous Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the street-side cafes. Others may want to visit Germany for the bratwurst, beer and beautiful countryside. Yet others will want to see Italy for Rome, Venice or Vatican City and the authentic Italian cooking. After doing your own research of Europe, you will find you are drawn to certain countries, regions and cities for your own reasons.
Here are our top 9 reasons why we love Europe
1. Culinary delights
Once you have ticked off the must see sights, what is next? Indulging in a culinary adventure, of course! Europe is jam-packed with tantalizing foodie experiences. Imagine: devouring warm, melt-in-your mouth croissants and ‘pain au chocolat’ purchased from a ‘boulangerie’ in a picture perfect French town. Enjoying an alfresco seafood feast beside a crystal-clear Mediterranean bay speckled with colorful fishing boats. Tapas bar crawling in Madrid or Sevilla. Licking a ‘gelato’ while strolling across a piazza in Rome. Who wouldn’t want to snack on pizza in Naples? But did you also know that in the Netherlands you can feast on an ‘Indonesian rijsttafel’? Europe’s diversity and global reach is its trump card and a European adventure is also about sampling the local culinary favorites.
Traveling through Europe, you’re bound to work up a thirst. While you’ll find numerous vineyards and wine cellars, do not miss out on stopping in at an old pub or checking out the beer houses of Munich, or trying 1001 different tipples in a Brussels back-street bar. Your idea of a beer drinker’s heaven may be the Czech Republic. Here, you’ll rarely pay more than a few Euros for a good pilsner. Prefer a caffeine hit? Europe is a land of cafes, perfect for simply taking it all in or breathing it in, as I like to say.
2. The history
Pondering the wisdom of Socrates and Plato while walking up to the Athens Acropolis or the beautifully preserved Greek temples in Sicily; indulging your inner gladiator at the Roman Colosseum; getting lost amid the labyrinthine, cobble stoned Old Town of Prague. Stretching from Lisbon to Istanbul, Europe is crammed with sites, towns, cities, and streets that have been shaped by more than 3000 years of human civilization. This is a continent that lets you overnight in fairy-tale castles, walk hand-in-hand along ancient city walls, attend a mass in a mighty medieval cathedral, stroll on the windswept beaches where world wars played out, wonder around myth-drenched villages that pre-date the pyramids of Giza. As more than one visitor has been overheard saying, “Wow, you can almost feel the history”.
3. Glorious landscapes
Europe’s cities fill the headlines, but it’s the countryside that many travelers fall in love with and the countless gems found on the off the beaten paths. Carpeted in snow and skiers in the winter, abundant with lush green, floral-rich scenery in summer, the Alps are a dream for lovers of the great outdoors. So, too, are the coastlines like the Amalfi Coast, or Cinque Terre (to name a few) where a trail traverses five fabulously photogenic towns, perched on cliff tops overlooking the Mediterranean; inland, the great Italian lakes never fail to enchant. You may wish to live out your dreams under the Tuscan sun, sipping a glass of Chianti and reading, your Frances Mayes or Elizabeth Gilbert book, on the terrace of a renovated stone farmhouse; you may wish to discover the the vine-covered hills and valleys of the Loire, Burgundy, Le Langhe and along the Moselle River; alternatively, you may wish to rent a cottage amid the lavender fields of Provence which made such an impression on Van Gogh.
4. Getting around is easy
As continents go, Europe’s broad variety and excellent transport infrastructure be it air, roads, waterways, rail, is hard to beat and allows you to travel inexpensively thanks to budget airlines like Ryanair, Vueling and many others for less than 100 Euros from one country to another. But most of the time, travelling around Europe is better by train. The continent is criss-crossed with rail tracks, spanning everything from chugging cog-wheel alpine lines to super-sleek ones that carry Frecciarossa and TGV trains at speeds approaching 360km/h. (223 mph). Window scenery is diverse and often spectacular – especially through mountainous nations like Switzerland or along coastlines like the French Riviera. Another thrill of European rail travel is crossing borders, and encountering a different language, culture and (sometimes) currency, within an hour’s journey. As well as the regular services, there’s a choice of special trains, such as heritage steam locomotives and the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, a paragon of opulence that runs from London to Venice. In many of the major cities within Europe, an extensive system of trams, trolleys, metro and buses make it possible to enjoy the sites without the additional expense of renting a car.
American and Canadian citizens do not require a visa to visit most of the countries within Europe for leisure visits of up to 90 days within a six-month period. Additionally, because of the open borders of the Schengen Area, which includes many countries within the European Union as well as cooperating countries like Switzerland, it is possible to travel throughout much of Europe with a single passport stamp on entry, and another upon returning home. Most European countries are considered safe travel destinations for Americans and Canadians, and travel advisories are uncommon except immediately following a significant terrorist attack. The adaptation of the Euro throughout much of Europe also makes shopping and other financial transactions convenient for travelers.
5. A mix of old and new
Along with the numerous remnants of the past, Europe is also on the cutting edge of all things modern. It’s this mix of old and new that really gives Europe its unique charm. See it best in cities like Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Berlin (to name a few).
6. World class cities
Europe is home to some of the world’s greatest cities, London, Paris, Berlin, Milan (to name a few). What is so special about them is that they never stand still. Visitors will naturally make a beeline to the iconic sights – after all, what’s Barcelona without Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia or Paris without the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre? Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (where you’ll find the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall) is an example of a hip and happening district brimming with creativity.
7. Rivers and canals
Long before the advent of trains, planes and automobiles, Europe’s waterways played a pivotal role in its development from Stone Age hinterland to the epicenter of the Industrial Revolution. While no longer the vibrant veins of trade of a few centuries ago, the continent’s rivers and canals have emerged as booming leisure cruise destinations. Popular routes include Vienna-Budapest on the Danube, Europe’s second longest river (after the Volga in Russia), and Basel-Cologne on the Rhine. Some cities – notably Bruges, Amsterdam and of course, Venice – are synonymous with canals, and romantic canal trips, while some countries – particularly France – has extensive inland canal networks. Fancy hiring, navigating and sleeping on a barge? You can do that here.
Europe has an extraordinary calendar of festivals. Many, such as the Semana Santa (holy week) in Seville, ooze centuries of tradition. Across the continent, you can mingle with like-minded individuals at music festivals, film festivals, comedy festivals, arts festivals, food and wine festivals, beer festivals and Christmas markets. One thing is for sure: come to Europe and you’ll find your favorite festival.
9. The people
Travelling is about so much more than just seeing the sites, trying the culinary delights or learning about other cultures: it’s also about the incredible friendships you’ll form and the people you meet!