Europe


Overview

Europe travel advice, including top 10 European travel tips, map of Europe, guide to European city breaks, rail journeys in Europe and where to stay in Europe

From the classical rubble of Athens and Rome to the castles of southern Spain, the pomp of Victorian London to the vineyards of Champagne, the ideas and institutions of Europe have spread to every corner of the world.

Nowhere has such a density of iconic, art-and-architecture-packed cities. Barcelona, Granada, Venice, Palermo, Paris, Avignon… between them Spain, France and Italy could easily fill a year of weekend breaks. And for longer stays, there are numerous historic regions to explore at leisure: the Moorish towns of Andalucia in Spain; the Renaissance cities of northern Italy; the Loire Valley chateaux in France.

But Europe has its wild side too. The great mountain chain of the Alps is the birthplace of world climbing, and Switzerland and Austria lay claim to breathtaking scenery criss-crossed by hiking trails. Norway’s fjords are truly epic and (outside the peak summer cruising season) remarkably quiet. North of the Artic Circle, Lapland offers husky sledding, Sami culture and the much-imitated Ice Hotel. Scotland’s Highlands and Islands has vast sweeps of moor, forest and crag; Iceland and southern Italy are dominated by volcanoes; Almeria in southern Spain even has a desert.

Southern Europe is defined by the balmy Mediterranean Sea, and its coastal towns and islands are where package tourism made some of its biggest mistakes – and started to learn from them. Islands like Tenerife, Malta, Ibiza, Mallorca, Corfu and Cyprus all have interesting hinterlands away from the resort strips, and reward exploration.

The former Soviet countries of Eastern Europe are catching up fast with the neighbours – and, outside the Euro currency, benefiting from lower prices. With its plethora of Adriatic islands, Croatia is already well-established as an alternative to Greece. Romania, Poland, Belarus and Ukraine harbour bears, wolves and untrammelled rural landscapes; the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have historic cities (and great saunas). On the Soviet front line, Germany’s capital Berlin has now been reunited for 20 years, and repeatedly tops ‘favourite city’ lists.

Perhaps the best way to explore Europe is by rail. This is a continent of relatively small countries, and you can whisk from big city to mountain to coast – and on to a whole new country – in a few hours. Inter-rail (for European citizens only) and Eurail passes (for others) give access to 30 countries, and have kick-started many great travelling lives. For UK residents, Rail Europe has fares, routes and passes.

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your European adventure today…

Further Reading

Top 10 Europe travel experiences

From mountain ranges to turquoise seas, from really old ruins to throbbing modern cities, Europe has enough to keep every traveller entertained for a lifetime

  1. Explore volcanic landscapes, Iceland – Iceland is a hotbed of geothermal activity: geysers spew, volcanoes erupt, hot pools steam. You can see a lot from capital Reykjavik – take a dip in the Blue Lagoon, then a day trip to Geysir and Gulfoss. Longer treks will unearth innumerable volcanic treasures.
  2. Marvel at the Alhambra, Granada, Spain – the Moorish palace and fortress complex that dominates the Andalucian city is a delight of courtyards, pools and ornate chambers. It gets busy though – a good guide will steer you away from the crowds.
  3. Cruise Norway’s fjords – the Unesco-listed inlets of the Norwegian coast are as dramatic as they are far-reaching, stretching way up into the Arctic Circle. Board the Hurtigruten ferry, which runs from north to south and back again year round, to see the lot.
  4. Island hop, Greece – there are over 6,000 Greek islands, which is a lot of hopping. Try Santorini for romance, Crete for ruins and gorges, the Ionian Islands for learning to sail, and all of them for breezy taverna lounging.
  5. Roaming the Highlands, Scotland – head to the UK's far north for the country's wildest wilderness and profuse wildlife: take binoculars to look out for puffins (try the Stacks of Duncansby), golden eagles, otters in the rivers, dolphins offshore (head to Moray Firth) and red squirrels in the woods.
  6. Cycling in France – the perfect place for pedalers of all abilities: pros can tackle stretches of the Tour de France (the slog up Mont Ventoux, perhaps) while more casual cyclists can ride along the Loire or Brittany's coast, stopping off for plenty of vin rouge en route.
  7. Meet bears and wolves, Romania – the Carpathian Mountains are one of the best spots for big mammals on the continent. Trek across this little-populated region with a local guide to maximise your chances of a sighting.
  8. Hike round the Eiger, Switzerland – you don't need to summit this mighty mountain; for the best views of all its faces, walk around it instead, stopping in Heidi-cute hamlets and wildflower meadows. The excellent and efficient Swiss transport system makes access a doddle.
  9. See Old Europe, Sicily, Italy – combine an active volcano, craggy coves, sunny beaches, top nosh and a surplus of ancient ruins on this Italian island, which has a distinctly differently feel to the mainland. Just avoid August, when all of Italy goes on holiday.
  10. Walk the South West Coast Path, England – 1,000km of undulating, sea-hugging, seal-dotted, pasty-serving loveliness: England's longest walking trail is a beauty. In summer look out for basking sharks passing by.