Europe’s full of exciting destinations, with a distinctive combination of culture and history that’s unlike anywhere else in the world. Ancient Europe was home to the world’s first Olympic Games, much of the continent saw the Roman Empire flourish then fall and it hosted William Shakespeare’s first performances.
Whether it’s your first trip, or you have visited many times before, Europe’s rich history incorporates 46 nations and over 150 languages, according to Babbel magazine. With so much culture and history throughout its countries you are ensured a varied and fantastic experience of a life time.
If you want an experience that isn’t straight out of the guidebook, here are a few of our unique European travel suggestions.
1) The Red Square in Moscow
The Red Square in Moscow is admittedly one of the most recognisable symbols of Russia, but it’s not always at the top of the list for tourists. Best known as the official home of the Kremlin, it was originally a market square favoured as a meeting point by members long before it was formalised. The Square has since been a place of official ceremonies, parades and even executions! Since his death in 1924, the body of the founder of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Ilych Lenin, has been entombed and on view in the square. Meanwhile succeeding Soviet leader, Josef Stalin, was originally laid to rest in the same mausoleum but was later moved and buried at the Kremlin Wall.
The Red Square is also famous for the colourful St Basil’s Cathedral, built in the 1500s by Ivan the Terrible. Its architecture includes a quirky, colourful collection of domes and spires which have become synonymous with the city of Moscow.
2) Tallinn city, Estonia
Tallinn is the capital city of Estonia that’s opened up within the last couple of years thanks to number of new flights from the UK, along with several other European airports. A medieval-era UNESCO protected walled-city, Tallinn Old Town is small enough to explore in just a couple of days and regarded as one of the most preserved Hanseatic towns in the world.
Underneath the historical façade, is a vibrant, modern vibe, evident in its excellent offering of hotels, restaurants, ancient churches, merchant houses, and underground chambers – all alongside a coastline of sandy beaches.
Previously under Soviet control, this city has a more recent history on offer – like a tour of the unofficial 23rd floor of Hotel Viru which was once the surveillance centre of the KGB – complete with the equipment they left behind.
3) King Ludwig II’s historic castles, Germany
‘Schloss’ is a word used in Germany to describe a castle built for beauty and for living in – not for defence. What makes this collection all the more interesting is that the castles were commissioned by the officially declared ‘mad’ King Ludwig, who ended up bankrupt and died under mysterious and yet to be explained circumstances.
If you’ve seen the Disney castle logo, you’ll be familiar with the shape and design of Schloss Neuschwanstein, which served as inspiration for Walt Disney himself. Just outside Munich, the castle is perched on a rock, and is home to many staircases that end straight into a wall due to the King’s involvement in the design – and his penchant for changing his mind! Sadly, it was not completed before his death and he was only ever able to spend a few nights there.
Schloss Neuschwanstein served as inspiration for Walt Disney himself.
On the way to Salzburg, call into Schloss Herrenchiemsee, on a small lake island. The king based this design on the Palace of Versailles, and took great care to make it just as grand and opulent. He copied the famous hall of mirrors, but made it a little longer than the Versailles version and went as far as destroying his chandelier casts so that no one could ever replicate them. Only a few of the rooms were complete prior to King Ludwig’s death, but the project still cost much more than Schloss Neuschwanstein.
Schloss Linderhof Palace is the smallest of the selection, originally built as a hunting lodge. The palace was near completion when the king died, and contains water features and gardens with views of the Alps which make for a very picturesque visit.
4) Saint Teresa’s relics in Ávila, Spain
Not far from the incredible scenery of the Sierra Gredos Mountains is the small World Heritage City of Ávila. Famous as the birthplace of Saint Teresa, the city offers a number of museums and cultural experiences in her name. The Convent of Incarnation is home to a museum honouring the Saint who joined the religious life here in 1535 at 21 years of age. She is known as a mystic, writer, author and reformer. Should you be so compelled, you have the opportunity to view one of her fingers and her collarbone!
Avila’s old city is a fantastically preserved medieval bastion, with surrounding walls featuring over 2,500 turrets and 88 watchtowers.
5) The Edinburgh Military Tattoo and Skara Brae Prehistoric Village, Scotland
When it comes to history, Scotland has so much on offer, and all set in jaw-dropping natural landscapes. For an insight into the military history of Edinburgh, time your visit to coincide with the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. For several weeks in August, witness cultural and military performances set around Scottish traditions and within the spectacular Edinburgh Castle.
While you’re in Scotland, to witness a perfectly preserved slice of ancient history, take a trip to Orkney and the incredible Skara Brae prehistoric village. Discovered in 1850, the village is thought to date back approximately 5,000 years, from a time before the Egyptian pyramids or Stonehenge were even in existence. It’s considered the best-preserved Neolithic village in northern Europe, with furniture and structures remarkably intact, providing a detailed insight into the lives of our ancestors.
6) The Archaelogical Ensemble of Tarraco, Tarragona, Spain
An hour south of Barcelona is the remains of the oldest Roman settlement in the Iberian region. A major architectural highlight still in remarkably good condition, elements of the city’s design were copied around the Empire. A tour of the city uncovers a number of relics both freestanding and fused within the modern city. One of the highlights is the well-preserved Amphitheatre built in 2AD to seat 15,000 people for gladiator fights and other public business like races or even executions.
The city of Tarragona is also famous today for it’s ‘Human Castles’. You will see a number of local teams throughout the summer months practising in the main square.
7) Royal Salt Mines, Poland
In Wieliczka and Bochnia, discover villages, galleries, chapels and statues carved into the salt. From the 13th century to the late 20th century, miners created for themselves a wonderful underground maze. Originally intending to create a number of chapels, at Wieliczka the miners also carved a humongous hall complete with chandeliers, that now plays host to concerts and weddings as well as tourist visits. A 2.5-kilometre route takes you through just some of the network.
Bochnia is 30 kilometres away and here you can take a remarkable railway ride, go down the world’s longest underground slide and sail in a ferry on the brine lake flooding the chamber. If you dare!
To design a trip to Europe that excites your desire to learn about the past or see something out of the ordinary, talk to our FBI travel advisers today.