Things to Do in Europe
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.
For deserted lagoons, turquoise waves, and fabulous beaches, set sail for the Maddalena Archipelago (Arcipelago della Maddalena), just off the Costa Smeralda. The group of seven islands and dozens of islets between Sardinia and Corsica is a national park, with crystalline waters for diving and unspoiled coastlines.
Welcome to the Olympic Museum Lausanne (Musée Olympique): 1,500 objects, 32,292 square feet (3,000 square meters) and seven hours of audio-visual and interactive material make it the largest archive of Olympic Games in the world. Its state-of-the art, hands-on exhibition immerses visitors in the history and spirit of the Olympics on an approximately two-hour tour of the museum's three stories and surrounding grounds.
Your visit to the museum begins in the basement but ends up in the Olympic Village, where hundreds of athletes live and train over 15 days. Discover how they eat, how they relax and how technology influences their training by trying your hand at interactive devices that will allow you to experience the extent of their physical capabilities.
On the ground floor, you'll learn about the Games themselves with a 180-degree theater and a display room full of memorabilia and Olympic medals. The second-floor exhibit is dedicated to the Olympics' ancient origins and showcases torches from every edition of the Games since 1936, as well as the first Olympic flag, dating back to 1913.
Good for both sports fans and families, the Olympic Museum is a popular stop among visitors arriving to Lausanne on a day trip from nearby Geneva or Chamonix. Most trips include a guided tour of the iconic Château de Chillon and a stop in the lakeside town of Montreux, so you can make the most out of your visit to the Swiss countryside.
A place of stark, wild beauty, this black-sand beach on the south coast is one of Iceland’s most photogenic locations. Here, roaring Atlantic waves batter the Reynisdrangar sea stacks, the black pebble shoreline, and the pyramid-like cliff of basalt columns known as Garðar, where puffins and guillemots can be seen.
Taking prize place beside the Town Hall on Piazza Duomo, the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta (Duomo di San Gimignano) ranks among most impressive monuments of San Gimignano’s UNESCO-listed historic center.
Behind its comparatively reserved façade, the church’s main claim to fame is its exquisite frescos, which date back to the 14th and 15th centuries, and remain remarkably unrestored. The bold colors and painstaking detail bring to life iconic biblical scenes including Cain and Abel, Noah’s Ark, the Garden of Eden and dramatic depictions of Heaven and Hell, with highlights including works by Bartolo di Fredi, Lippo Memmi, Benozzo Gozzoli and Taddeo di Bartolo.
Adjoining the church, the small Museum of Sacred Art includes more works taken from the Duomo and other San Gimignano churches, including a Crucifix by Benedetto di Maiano and the ‘Madonna of the Rose’ by Bartolo di Fredi.
Dating back to 1898, Switzerland’s Gornergrat Railway (Gornergrat Bahn) continues today as Europe’s highest open-air railway. Its train whisks sightseers and skiers from the resort town of Zermatt to the mountain’s 10,135-foot (3,089-meter) station, while providing views of Alpine hamlets, colossal glaciers, and the iconic Matterhorn.
Newcastle’s oldest building, Newcastle Castle comprises a 12th-century keep and the 13th-century Black Gate gatehouse. Once part of a huge fortress, the two separate, restored fortifications offer the chance to roam ancient chambers, chart the castle’s and city’s history, and soak in sweeping views of Newcastle’s Quayside.
Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry and opened in 1997, is hailed as one of the most important architectural works of its time. Within its undulating and reflecting walls on the banks of the Nervión River, you’ll find a rotating artistic wonderland of both modern and contemporary art.
Portugal’s oldest university, the University of Coimbra (Universidade de Coimbra) was founded in 1290, and is located in the former capital city. Now a popular tourist destination, the university was granted UNESCO World Heritage Status in 2013, and boasts notable architecture, a botanical garden, a science museum, and more.
With its dramatic Gothic facade and Britain’s highest church spire at an impressive 404 feet (123 m), the Salisbury Cathedral is one of the country’s most visited religious monuments, drawing some 250,000 visitors each year. As well as admiring the cathedral’s remarkable 13th-century architecture and exquisite stained-glass windows, visitors can climb the 332 steps to the top of the tower for a magnificent view of Salisbury.
The cathedral’s star attraction is an original copy of the 1215 Magna Carta, one of the world’s most famous and significant documents that remains a cornerstone of British law. An interactive Magna Carta exhibition walks visitors through the historic events of its legacy of social justice. The cathedral also holds the world’s oldest working mechanical clock, which dates back to 1386, and afternoon tea in the Bell Tower Tearooms.
The best way to discover the cathedral is on a 90-minute guided tour of Salisbury, with entrance included. Many visitors opt to visit on a day trip from London, often combined with a visit to nearby Stonehenge or Avebury stone circle.
More Things to Do in Europe
Located close to the Austrian border and soaring to a height of 9,718 feet (2,962 meters), the snow-crowned Zugspitze is Germany's highest mountain and one of its most popular ski resorts. The views from the top are spectacular, spanning the German and Austrian Alps.
A European Capital of Culture, the UNESCO-listed Sassi di Matera are one of Basilicata’s most fascinating destinations. The cave dwellings and caverns carved into the hillside of Matera date from prehistoric times and were inhabited until the 1950s. Today, they host unique hotels, restaurants, churches, and museums.
Discover a national symbol and gain insight into England’s history at the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Canterbury Cathedral. Dating back to 597, the site has held religious significance for centuries, drawing pilgrims to the location of Thomas Becket’s murder and visitors interested in its medieval towers, chapels, and stained-glass windows.
Tunneling to depths of 433 feet (132 meters), the Jama-Grotta Baredine is one of Istria’s most impressive natural wonders. While most visitors come to admire the dramatic stalactites and stalagmites, the cave is also famous for a subterranean lake filled with cave olm, fish-like that are creatures endemic to the region.
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (Catedral de Santiago de Compostela) is one of the most important shrines in Christendom, believed to be the final resting place of St. James the Greater, one of the Twelve Apostles. The Romanesque, Gothic, and baroque structure is the terminus of the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) pilgrimage routes through Northern Spain.
With more than 2 million annual visitors, LEGOLAND® Windsor is the second most visited theme park in the United Kingdom. Just about everything in the park incorporates multi-colored LEGO® bricks, from adrenaline-fuelled rides and interactive entertainment zones to cars and building workshops.
Built on a hill overlooking Granada and set against a backdrop of the Sierra Nevada, the Alhambra (Alhambra de Granada) is a sprawling complex of intricately decorated palaces, pristine gardens, and a once-mighty fortress. This UNESCO World Heritage site was constructed during the Nasrid Dynasty and later partially destroyed and rebuilt by King Charles V. With its mix of Renaissance and Moorish architecture, the Alhambra Palace is the most sought-after attraction for visitors to Granada, sitting high on most must-see lists for Andalucia and Spain as a whole.
This first-century Roman bathhouse complex was a meeting point for patricians who came to bathe, drink the curative waters, and socialize. The baths fell out of use with the Roman exodus from Britain but were rediscovered and excavated in the late-19th century. Explore the Great Bath, which is filled with steaming, mineral-rich water from Bath’s hot springs.
With its towering limestone cliffs looming 300 meters over the river valley below and the gorge itself dotted with caves, gurgling streams and rocky trails, the Turda Gorge (Cheile Turzii) offers a dramatic backdrop for an outdoor adventure. The protected conservation area is also renowned for its abundant wildlife, with over 60 bird species and 1,000 plant varieties found in the gorge.
Just a short drive from Cluj-Napoca, the Turda Gorge makes a popular escape from the city, with ample opportunities for hiking, mountain biking and climbing, including a Via Ferrata route and a two- to 2.5-hour hiking trail running the length of the gorge. Another highlight of the gorge is the nearby Salina Turda, a former salt mine transformed into a unique tourist attraction, complete with underground boat rides and a Ferris wheel.
Ephesus (Efes) is one of the greatest ancient sites in the Mediterranean. During its heyday in the first century BC, it was the second-largest city in the world, with only Rome commanding more power. Many reconstructed structures and ruins, including the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, can be seen here.
A large natural harbor along the coast of Dorset, Poole Harbour is the centerpiece of its namesake town, flowing into Poole Quay and Upton Lake. With miles of rugged coastline and beaches, the harbor is a hotspot for water sports like windsurfing, kitesurfing and stand-up paddleboarding, while Poole Quay is home to an atmospheric promenade, lined with shops, cafés and restaurants.
Poole Harbour is also the starting point for ferries to nearby Brownsea Island, as well as boat cruises along England’s UNESCO-listed Jurassic Coast, affording spectacular views of natural wonders such as Old Harry Rocks, Studland Bay and Swanage bay along the way. For the full experience, you can even combine a cruise to Swanage Bay, with a ride on the Swanage Railway heritage steam train and explore the dramatic Dorset coastline from both land and sea.
A sandy, uninhabited island off Portugal’s Algarve coast, Barreta Island (Ilha Deserta) is a popular beach destination and wildlife refuge inside Ria Formosa National Park. With freshwater lagoons, salt flats, sand dunes, and more, the park has a diverse range of habitats—each with its own resident population of birds and other species, including chameleons.
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.
At the foot of Fourviére Hill, the historical streets of Old Lyon (Vieux Lyon) offer a welcome change of pace from the modern city across the river. With elegant medieval churches, Renaissance-era monuments, and pastel-painted facades, this is Lyon’s most atmospheric district.