Things to do in Europe

Things to do in  Europe

A cultural cornucopia

From the Arctic wilderness of Lapland to the sun-baked Cyclades, from the prehistoric cave paintings in France to Denmark’s contemporary design, from the cycling Dutch to the pasta-twirling Italians—Europe contains entire worlds within its continental confines. There is an endless buffet—or smörgåsbord, švedski stol, or shuplakë—of things to do in Europe for culture vultures, outdoor adventurers, and traveling gourmands. Tick off all-stars like France, Italy, and Spain, or experience the unexpected in sleeper surprises like Tallinn's castles or Slovenia's caves.

Top 15 attractions in Europe

Accademia Gallery (Galleria dell'Accademia)

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Once one of Europe’s oldest drawing schools, Florence’s Accademia Gallery (Galleria dell’Accademia) is now one of the city’s most visited museums, home to Michelangelo’s 17-foot-tall (5.2-meter-tall) David. Other treasures on display include Renaissance paintings by artists such as Botticelli and Lippi, unfinished Michelangelo sculptures, and a collection of rare musical instruments.More

Bosphorus

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The Bosphorus Strait defines Istanbul. It is the divide between Europe and Asia, and the main connection between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. Dotted with parks and elaborate Ottoman mansions, including Dolmabahce Palace, and spanned by three intercontinental bridges, the Bosphorus is the veritable heart of the city.More

Palatine Hill (Palatino)

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Of Rome’s seven legendary hills, Palatine Hill (Palatino) figures most importantly in the capital’s history and lore. It is said that Romulus founded Rome on this hilltop, and many of the city’s most important archaeological sites dating from ancient times are located here.More

Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale)

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The powerful Doges ruled the Venetian Empire from the Gothic fantasy palace that is Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale) until 1797. The site was one of the first things those arriving in Venice saw as their ships sailed through the lagoon and landed at St. Mark's Square, and the doges ruled with an iron fist—justice was often meted out here. Today, the site is one of the most well-known attractions in Italy.More

Porto Cathedral (Sé Catedral do Porto)

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Watching over the city from its hilltop spot, the imposing fort-like Porto Cathedral (Sé Catedral do Porto)is a reminder of Porto’s diverse history. Featuring Romanesque, Gothic, and baroque architecture, this is Porto’s oldest and largest church, a must-visit for architecture and history aficionados.More

Da Vinci's Last Supper (Il Cenacolo)

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Each day, Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper (Il Cenacolo) draws hundreds of art-loving visitors to the unassuming refectory of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie for just 15 minutes with the painting. Arguably Milan's most famous 15th-century wall mural, the artwork can only be seen by booking entrance tickets in advance or signing up for a guided city tour.More

Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid)

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Madrid's Royal Palace (also known as the Palacio Real or Palacio de Oriente) is a beautiful baroque structure with some 3,000 rooms, making it one of Europe's largest castles. Although the royal family no longer lives here, the Palacio Real still serves as the king and queen's official residence, a venue for state ceremonies, and a place for tourists to get a peek into the royal history of Spain.More

Oia

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Perched on the steep edge of the caldera, looking out over the glittering Mediterranean, Oia (pronounced “ee-yuh”) is famed for its dreamy sunsets. Oia is also one of the most picturesque villages in Santorini, with its striking white buildings, blue-domed churches, and atmospheric cave houses burrowing into the volcanic rock.More

Versailles Gardens (Jardins de Versailles)

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Louis XIV’s Palace of Versailles takes the award for the most visited château in France, and the magnificent Versailles Gardens (Jardins de Versailles) are world renowned. A series of beautifully landscaped gardens, show-stopping fountains, and tree-lined pathways covering 800 hectares (1,976 acres), the gardens center on the cross-shaped Grand Canal.More

Piazza della Signoria

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Home to the imposing Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria is the most important public square in Florence. The political heart of the city for centuries, today the square is also a vibrant social hub, where locals and tourists gather at the Loggia dei Lanzi and Neptune fountain to soak up the elegant atmosphere.More

Notre Dame Cathedral

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Second only to the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris) is one of Paris' most iconic attractions, a marvel of medieval architecture that was immortalized in Victor Hugo's classic novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Today, the Gothic grandeur and stained-glass windows of the UNESCO World Heritage Site continue to reign supreme from Île de la Cité, an island in the middle of the Seine River.(UPDATE: Notre Dame Cathedral is currently off-limits due to fire damage.)More

Vatican City (Citta del Vaticano)

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Vatican City (Città del Vaticano) may be the smallest sovereign nation-state in the world, but it's a religious and cultural superpower. Home to some of the world’s greatest artistic and architectural marvels—namely St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s Square, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museums—it's located wholly within the confines of Rome, covers 110 acres (44 hectares), and has an official population of about 800.More

Royal Alcázar of Seville (Real Alcázar de Sevilla)

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Sights across the entire Spanish south have been shaped by centuries of Moorish and Catholic influence, and in few places is this more evident and captivating than at the Royal Alcázar of Seville (Real Alcázar de Sevilla). This UNESCO World Heritage Site’s sprawling complex is made up of several features; the most picturesque is arguably the Patio de las Doncellas, with its tranquil ponds that reflect the intricate mudéjar plasterwork for which the palace is especially noted.More

Pigeon Valley (Güvercinlik Vadisi)

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Cappadocia’s wind-sculpted volcanic tufa has created an impressive series of valleys, dotted with towering “fairy chimneys” and dramatic rock formations. Taking its name from the pigeonholes carved into the tops of its fairy chimneys, Pigeon Valley (Güvercinlik Vadisi) is stunning, and visitors to Cappadocia shouldn’t miss it.More

Budapest Danube River

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Flowing through the heart of Budapest, the Danube River is the lifeline of the Hungarian capital, as well as its geographic center, separating the hilly Buda district on the west bank from the bustling Pest on the east bank. The striking waterfront is also part of Budapest’s UNESCO World Heritage–listed treasures, home to landmarks such as the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, the Liberty Bridge, Buda Castle Hill, Matthias Church, the Hungarian Parliament Building, and Margaret Island.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in Europe

Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel & St Peter’s Basilica Guided Tour
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Expert Guided Tour of Colosseum Underground, Arena and Forum
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Expert Guided Tour of Colosseum Underground, Arena and Forum

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Pompeii, Amalfi Coast and Positano Day Trip from Rome
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Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, and Bath from London
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Skip the Line: Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill Guided Tour
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Skip-the-Line Tour of the Vatican, Sistine Chapel & St. Peter's | Small Group
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Park Guell & Sagrada Familia Tour with Skip the Line Tickets
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Skip-the-Line: Louvre Museum Masterpieces Fully Guided Tour
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Harry Potter Tour of Warner Bros. Studio with Luxury Transport from London
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Colosseum VIP Access with Arena and Ancient Rome Tour
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Sagrada Familia: Fast Track Guided Tour with optional Tower
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Louvre Museum Paris Exclusive Guided Tour With Reserved Entry
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All about Europe

When to visit

Europe is a year-round destination, but the best time to visit is during spring and autumn. Spring (April to June) unveils blooming landscapes and milder weather, perfect for strolling through historic cities without the summer crowds. Alternatively, autumn (September to November) offers picturesque fall foliage and cultural festivities, including Oktoberfest in Germany and the grape harvest in wine regions. Of course, you can’t go wrong with a December visit to Europe to see why people love those Christmas markets so much.

Getting around

Transportation options vary among countries; but generally, Europe is a fairly easy continent to travel around. Train travel is much more widespread here than in the US—if you get a Eurail pass, you can travel to 33 different countries across the continent. Once you get to your desired destination, you can typically navigate large cities via public transportation or bike. There are also many great road trip routes throughout Europe, from the Ring Road in Iceland to the Transfagarasan Highway in Romania.

Traveler tips

While many European cities are renowned for their Michelin-starred restaurants, don’t underestimate the deliciousness of street food. We’re talking gelato in Rome, pretzels in Salzburg, sliced herring in Amsterdam, and pommes frites in Brussels—and that’s just for starters). Another recommendation is to try to experience as many local customs and activities as you can while visiting different countries, whether it’s surfing in Portugal, sweating in Finnish saunas, or cliff jumping in Croatia.

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People Also Ask

Do you have to walk a lot in Europe?

Not necessarily—but you won’t be driving as much as you do in other parts of the world. Most European cities are designed to be walkable, not drivable: Some city centers are pedestrianized and many restrict cars. But most cities have fast, efficient public transit and allow rideshare apps to operate.

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What happens in Europe in July?

July is high summer in Europe, but the cities are still lively—some cities empty out in August as locals head to the beach. Regular July events include tennis at Wimbledon, the Tour de France, and France’s Bastille Day celebrations, plus the Montreux Jazz Festival, Salzburg Festival, and Barcelona Beach Festival.

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What is the cheapest month to visit Europe?

November is an affordable travel month in most of Europe. The ski season has not started, there are no major school vacations to consider, and it’s not yet the holidays, so you can get deals on hotels and vacation rentals. Outside ski areas, February also can offer value for travelers.

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Which country in Europe is worth visiting?

Europe has more than 40 different countries, and they’re all worth visiting. Greece and Italy are tops for ruins; France is famed for food and wine; Switzerland and Austria draw winter sports fans; photographers love Croatia’s coast and the Netherlands’ windmills; beer buffs adore Germany, the Czech Republic, and Belgium.

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Is Europe cheap or expensive?

Generally, western Europe is expensive, with prices similar to the United States, and eastern Europe is cheap, with prices closer to Southeast Asia. But, travel style matters, too. You can backpack Bulgaria or Albania for under US$50 a day or spend thousands on luxury hotels in Venice or Paris.

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Which country in Europe is the prettiest?

Which country in Europe is prettiest depends on personal taste. Every country offers something different, from the epic architecture in Italy, Spain, and France, dramatic fjords in Norway, and spectacular alpine views in Switzerland. For tulips, go to the Netherlands. For heather, visit Scotland. For rugged, drama-fueled landscapes, explore Iceland.

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