European Tour Guide: Places To Visit, Things To Do In Europe
Europe has an enviable wealth of historic sights and cultural attractions. From the beautiful canals of Venice and fairy-tale palaces of Austria to imposing cathedrals in Rome, there’s much to explore in Europe. It has a great vibe and has some of the best examples of medieval art, architecture and music in the world. Planning a European tour? Here’s all you need to know:
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Best Time To Visit Europe
Best Time To Visit Europe
The best season to visit Europe is during spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November). The weather is beautifully pleasant. Colourful blooms hang gaily from pretty window baskets, giving European cities their trademark quaintness. Similarly, during autumn, as the weather cools down, leaves turn into flaming shades of yellow and orange. The weather makes walking along cobblestone streets, eating at open-air cafes and people-watching most enjoyable.
Summer season: Summer in Europe extends in the months of June to August. Longer day-light hours mean more time to explore the sights and sounds of Europe at leisure making it a best season to visit Europe. However, the warm weather draws hordes of visitors, which means long queues at tourist sights and crowded trains. If you do plan a European tour during summer, consider exploring more “off-beat” destinations in Central Europe.
Winter season: November to April is considered winter season in Europe – obviously the best time to travel to Europe if skiing is what you have in mind. While the cold can be a deterrent to many, winter in Europe can be magical with its cities and villages wrapped in a blanket of snow, the all-day darkness and the surreal Aurora Borealis. It is also the best time to get great deals on hotels, car rentals, airfare, train tickets and tours. Do remember though, that while most tourist attractions are open year-round, they might have shorter hours during off-peak times.
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Travel Documents For European Tour
Travel Documents For European Tour
Travellers to Europe need to carry a passport that remains valid for at least six months after the date of their return. This is important as some countries can deny entry if the passport is set to expire within 6 months. The maximum length of stay in Europe for non-European Union passport holders is currently limited to 90 days within any 180-day period.
- Chalk-out your route on a map to see what makes the most sense based on your itinerary and timeline – this will help you avoid zig-zagging your way across Europe and save you precious days of travel.
- Once an itinerary is fixed, work out approximate daily costs associated with travel including accommodation, food, sightseeing, public transportation and souvenirs. Be realistic when putting together a budget, allow some leeway for an occasional splurge and most importantly, build in flexibility so that you can be more relaxed when you do spend.
Where To Stay In Europe
Where To Stay In Europe
Travellers to Europe are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a place to stay. A quick internet search can throw up some great options from historic castles to luxurious hotels on one end to warm home-stays, community hostels, houseboats and farm-stays on the other. There’s something to fit most every budget for an ideal European tour.
Travelling Within Europe
Travelling Within Europe
Increasingly popular low-cost airlines offer travellers an easy and affordable way to travel between cities across Europe. Most of these have routes to exciting off-beat destinations, providing a great opportunity to really discover the lesser known side of Europe.
The European rail system is a great way to travel across the continent, especially if you are travelling short distances or across borders. While there are no passport checks if you are travelling within the Schengen region, there are checks at borders between Schengen and non-Schengen nations so it is important to always carry your passport with you to avoid any problems.
If you’re planning on renting a car and driving your way across Europe, do ensure that you have a valid driver’s license. Some car rental companies are fairly strict and require travellers to have an international driver’s license in addition to a driver’s license from their country of origin. If hiring a car or camper, remember to add the cost of road tolls, multi-country car insurance and the fee for picking up/dropping off cars across different countries.
Most countries in Europe have their own bus networks with great access to smaller villages and towns not services by trains. The Euroline has a fleet of coaches that link-up more than 500 destinations across the continent. Tickets and passes are easy to get. The only downside are the longer journeys and possible motion sickness as the bus travels over winding Alpine roads.
When travelling around coastal Europe, there are also plenty of ferry and boat routes, so don’t automatically look for the nearest airport!
- If you are flying from outside Europe into a Schengen country and continuing to another, you just need to clear passport control in the first country and can then continue to your destination with no further checks.
- Book tickets in advance and benefit from great deals and regular sales. Also, do not carry much luggage as airlines charge hefty baggage fees for extra luggage or to hold luggage at airports.
- Most major European cities are at least two hours apart by high-speed train, and from the time you check out of one hotel and check in into another in the next city, it’s going to be 5 hours or more. So, do plan for sufficient time to travel between cities instead of moving frequently.
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Things To Do In Europe
Things To Do In Europe
Take a walk
Many cities in Europe offer walking tours for those wanting to explore local sights at a leisurely pace; one of the famous activities in Europe. The cobblestone lanes, old stone houses and intricate architecture can be experienced with planned stops at old-world cafes and taverns. Remember to carry comfortable walking shoes, sun-screen, a hat and drinking water for your European tour.
Explore Europe with hop-on-hop-off tours
One of the best ways to discover Europe are the guided hop-on-hop-off bus tours that are available across most cities. Not only do you get to see all the main attractions but you also get time to explore them at your own pace.
Discover the countryside with a day trip
Keep a day aside between travel across cities to visit the countryside. The quiet picturesque villages have a charm of their own completely contrary to vibrant cosmopolitan cities.
Places To Visit In Europe
Places To Visit In Europe
Celebrated as much for its castles and cathedrals as for its beautiful verdant countryside, sightseeing in Europe is both unique and unequalled.
Set against the magnificent Alps, Austria is peppered with medieval castles and grand cathedrals. Of these, Schönbrunn Palace is the best-known. Built at the request of Emperor Leopold I, the palace grounds house the Privy Gardens, the oldest zoo in the world and an interesting labyrinth. Another well-preserved fortress is Salzburg Castle, located at the top of Festungsberg mountain. Then there’s the Vienna State Opera with its intricate façade. Spend a few hours marvelling at the architecture or attend a concert for an unforgettable experience. Take a walk down MuseumsQuartier – formerly the imperial stables. Today it has a great mix of museums, cafes, restaurants and bars. And of course, do visit Innsbruck for its futuristic architecture, imperial history, vibrant nightlife and great skiing. Don’t leave Vienna without spending some time sipping coffee in a traditional Viennese coffee house (or Kaffeehauskultur).
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Berlin has a fascinating history. The Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate, with its new dome is one of Berlin’s biggest attractions. Another popular stop is the Museumsinsel or Museum Island on the River Spree. Museum Island hosts five museums with works from Ancient Egypt and Byzantium and is home to the legendary bust of Nefertiti and the Pergamon Altar. The highest building in the city, the Television Tower is one of Berlin’s most iconic buildings. After a day of sight-seeing, spend an evening exploring sights dedicated to the infamous Berlin Wall and ease into supper at one of Berlin’s bustling bars. Lastly, do take in the atmosphere at the historic Postdamer Platz square which, with its mix of restaurants, shopping, theatre and cinemas is one of the busiest junctions in Europe. Badly damaged in the Second World War, the Square has been completely re-built and reflects the thrumming pulse of most European nations.
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The cradle of democracy, Greece fascinates travellers with its magnificent glimpses into ancient history. The capital city of Athens is still dominated by 5th-century BC landmarks like the Acropolis – a hilltop citadel that still proudly hosts ancient buildings like the many pillared Parthenon temple. Situated close to the Acropolis is Olympieion, one of largest temples in the ancient world, dedicated to the god of all gods – Zeus. For an interesting insight into the life and times of ancient Greeks, do visit the National Archaeological Museum which has an extensive collection of artifacts from the Cycladic Island civilisations, Minoans and Mycenaeans times up to more contemporary periods. For a bird’s eye view of this ancient city visit Lykavittos Hill. It’s easy to walk up to the top, along winding paths, or you can take the funicular train. At the top is a chapel, a restaurant and spectacular city views. Athens is more than just ancient history and museums, it also has a vibrant street life, and nowhere more so than in the Monastiraki area and the neighbouring Plaka district. With its shopping and cafes this is a great place to absorb the uniquely animated vibe of this ancient city.
With nearly half the country being reclaimed from the sea, the best way to get around and explore Amsterdam is walking. For those who find walking too tedious, the Amsterdam tram system is a convenient alternative. Tickets are available on the trams or at supermarkets and ticket offices throughout the city.
Guided tours in Amsterdam typically include a visit to the village of Edam for a tour of the Dutch countryside and a visit to a cheese farm & clog maker’s house. Interestingly, Amsterdam, has more canals than Venice so do take time to experience the charm of spending an evening cruising along the canals. Do take time to visit Anne Frank Huis – the house at which Anne Frank wrote her diary. Now converted into a museum, Anne Frank’s diary is among the original objects on display here. Don’t miss the beautiful 19th century Rijks Museum which houses some of the world’s greatest art works including the Rembrandt’s famous ‘The Night Watch’. The Van Gogh Museum with the world’s largest collection of paintings by Vincent van Gogh is also a ‘must visit’ for those with an interest in art. And finally, spend some time at the only floating flower market in the world, where colourful fragrant tulips, narcissus and other flowers are beautifully set up in stalls afloat on houseboats. Lastly, a visit to the Heineken brewery is an absolute must do for many visitors to Amsterdam.
A country with a colourful mix of history, culture and natural beauty Spain’s unique charm holds travellers enthralled. From grand palace complexes to the staccato beat of a flamenco dancer’s heels there’s much to experience in Spain. The Alhambra and Generalife Gardens at Granada is one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture. The incredibly intricate carvings, delicate filigree work, colourful tile-lined ceiling, graceful arches and quiet garden of this palace has an almost other-worldly feel. Another example of such fanciful architecture is the Sagrada Família church, one of Europe’s most unconventional churches. One more architectural marvel is the Mezquita at Cordoba – a mosque which is one of the largest in the world and the best example of Moorish architecture in Spain. At Madrid, The Prado is a must visit, with incomparable works by great European masters such as Velázquez, Goya and Raphael. Another interesting stop-over for art-lovers is The Reina Sofia – Madrid’s 18th century hospital which has been beautifully remodelled and converted into a museum of contemporary and modern art and houses Picasso’s famous ‘Woman in Blue’ and paintings by Miró and Dali among others. Lastly, do visit the Plaza Toros Las Ventas – home of the infamous bullfighters of Spain for an unforgettable experience.
Green alpine forests, deep blue lakes, pristine snow and dramatic mountain landscapes make Switzerland picture-perfect. Bern, the capital city is famously called the “City of Fountains” for the more than 100 fountains that grace its streets and squares. Bern has some of the best examples of medieval architecture found anywhere in Europe. One of the most popular landmarks at Bern is the quaint city clock tower, whose whimsical figurines dance on the hour. Take a trip on the Glacier Express for a seven-hour journey through some of the most treacherous and beautiful mountain passes Switzerland has to offer. In Lucerne, visitors can stroll through the car-free Old Town, set against the backdrop of Mount Pilatus and Mount Rigi, then spend an afternoon sailing on one of the many ships that depart regularly from the Vierwaldstättersee dock. Engelberg, originally a monastery village, it is now a world-class ski destination and home to numerous hotels and restaurants. Zermatt offers skiing year-round. The Matterhorn Trail is a favourite among hikers and part of a network of more than 300 miles of trails in and around the Zermatt area. Don’t leave Switzerland without sampling its variety of flavourful cheese and sinful chocolate.
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Communication & Connectivity In Europee
Communication & Connectivity In Europe
To make cell phone calls in Europe, you’ll need an unlocked GSM phone and a SIM card. Ask for a a tri-band 900/1800/1900 (or 850/1800/1900) unlocked phone. These allow the use of any SIM card as long as the frequency capabilities are correct. Purchase a prepaid card from the city you visit. These will, in most instances, allow you to receive incoming calls from anywhere in the world, some free calling time and fairly reasonable long-distance rates. The SIMs have a fixed usage time that can be extended by purchasing additional airtime vouchers easily available from convenience stores, gas stations, and news kiosks.
Money In Europe
The Euro is the currency across the Schengan region. While both Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted across Europe, here are a few things to keep in mind when handling money in your European tour:
Scout for banks that offer ‘inter-bank’ or ‘bank-to-bank’ exchange rates as these offer the best value. Airports usually have the worst exchange rates and fees.
There may be certain transaction fees that may apply when using credit and debit cards. Try not to use them to withdraw cash as the exchange rates are not good and there is usually a heft transaction fee to boot. Keep cash handy for use where cards may not be accepted.
Multi-Cash Currency Card
This is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to handle money when traveling in Europe. Simply pre-load it with local currency and use like a debit card with no exchange or transaction fees.
Tips For European Tour
Tips For European Tour
- Most cities provide inclusive passes for tourists allowing access to museums, sites, and events, along with public transport. Look these up at tourist centres upon arrival and pick up some great deals for your European tour.
- Look for skip-the-line European tour where the local guides take you to lesser known entrances to avoid crowds.
- Price comparison apps and websites like GoEuro help you to compare prices and score cash saving deals on flights, trains and buses for your European tour.
- Tipping practices vary from city to city, although, in general, it is not considered obligatory.
- Typically, don’t expect the water and bread served during a meal to be free. Many items that you might not expect to are usually charged to your bill, so do clarify before starting your meal.
- One of the most important things to bring on your European tour is comfortable footwear as you will be spending a lot of time walking down cobblestone streets, climbing stairs or trekking.
- Catch public transport or walk, find out where locals eat, seek out happy hour or aperitif hour in Italy and save huge money without compromising on your European tour.
- Europe’s electric current runs at 220 volts and the plug is bigger and shaped differently. While some electronic devices are dual or multi-voltage, those that aren’t will require a power converter to be able to run on a European current.
Dial 112 when faced with an emergency. This number is valid across EU member nations and most European countries. You can request to be connected with an English-speaking operator when calling the 112 emergency number.
Immerse yourself in art, music and medieval traditions, discover the diversity of Europe’s landscape and take a culinary adventure and indulge in Europe’s varied cuisine, we promise, your European tour would be nothing less than fabulous.
Originally published in March 2018
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