Europe in a Nutshell

With The Colosseum, The Kremlin, The Eiffel Tower and all the musical charms of a traditional Irish pub, and stretching from the sunny coast of Portugal to the sparse Ural Mountains of central Russia, Europe takes in 50 countries, over 200 languages and a vast array of the world’s most famous sites, making this cultural behemoth many traveler’s dream destination.

The west hosts the cultural grandeur of former empires: the Houses of Parliament in London, the elegant yet surreal art of Barcelona and the ‘pillars of civilization’ in the crumbling buildings of Athens (not to mention the joys of old-world Rome). To the east you’ll find a world emerging fast from the remnants of communism, and blessed with the rustic beauty of the Romanian countryside and an imposing gothic look crossed with bohemian novelty in beautiful Prague.

There are experiences you’ll never forget, like sunrise over Stonehenge on the longest day of the year, eyed to the pacey beats of hippies, or the gentle splash of your gondola weaving down the watery streets of Venice. For nature fans, the soaring peaks of the Alps and the Pyrenees blow skiers’ and hikers’ minds. With a little luck, you can gasp at the eerie natural lights of northernmost Norway, or swim with turtles off the rustic coastlines of Greece.

For modern-day mayhem, Germany’s beer halls, the glitz and glamor of Monaco’s casinos and a host of summer music festivals offer nightlife you’ll never forget; central Europe’s snowy Christmas markets put you in seasonal spirit, while liberal Amsterdam lets you bend the rules without breaking them. Earlier in the day, Belgium’s mussels, Italy’s ice cream, Spain’s fried baby squid and the soft Cepelinai dumplings of Lithuania will all have you hassling the chef for recipes.

Getting around is easy, with long distance buses, budget airlines and Euro rail passes that’ll keep you hopping through countries galore, and an ever-increasing number of competent English speakers to help you on your way. Over each border a new greeting awaits you: a glass of wine in France, an extra strength coffee in Italy, a Guinness in Dublin, a bowl of olives in Greece and a slug of vodka in the Ukraine, each one unique, and each unforgettable. We've broken it up into distinct regions to make Europe feel a little more digestible. See what takes your fancy.

Western Europe

For many this will be the main event of the continent. It's home to some of the finest cities in the world, the most famous landmarks, rolling countryside, rollicking nightlife, sophisticated dining, *deep breath* diverse and friendly people, and thousands of years of history. Needless to say there's a lot to see, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming. Everything is linked by excellent transport, be it land or air or sea, so the best approach is to relax and make the most of it. Just make sure you arrive with a decent budget - Western Europe can be on the expensive side.

Depending where you're coming from, the United Kingdom is a great starting point for a trip around Western Europe. You can see the landmarks of London, catch a show in the West End, and make the most of the nightlife before heading out to see the countryside, visit the idyllic Georgian cities of Bath and York, quaint Cornwall, or even go further afield to Scotland or Ireland.

From there you might take a plane or ferry to Spain, to lounge on the beach or see Madrid and Barcelona, or over to France to fall in love with Paris, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. How you proceed from there is really up to you. There's the excitement of Amsterdam in The Netherlands, the culture and castles of Germany, or the sun-baked streets of Italy. You might choose to try something a little different and tour Andorra, San Marino, or Luxembourg.

A popular way to see as much of Europe as possible is Interrailing. This allows you to buy one ticket that gives you free reign on the trains of mainland Europe for a whole month. This gives you the freedom to go where you want, when you want, as it covers a huge range of countries, from Western Europe and beyond.

Written on 12/05/2015 - 17:15 by Shawn Blade

Last modified on 12/18/2015 - 02:49

Go Further!

Estonia

Probably one of the most pristine medieval cities in the whole of Europe is Tallinn, located within Estonia. The Old Town section is a World Heritage site, and the city has managed to perfectly blend modern life and technology under a medieval visage. Upon first glance you will wonder whether or not you're stepping back in history as you delve deeper into the streets that wind through the 14th century architecture, but you will soon discover that technology is right there at your fingertips, despite the medieval façade.

Finland

The long, dark Finnish winters will send all but the hardiest travelers scurrying for their log cabin to sup on a hip flask of vodka. In the summer, however, the land of the midnight sun comes alive. There are around 70 nights when the sun never sets, and you can spend your days exploring villages of quaint little cottages, wandering with reindeer or sitting naked in an overheated sauna and flogging yourself with a birch leaf.

France

From the iconic buildings and classy cuisines of Paris to the vineyards of Champagne, most travelers are more than aware of France’s impressive (and romantic) resume, and already have the country of culture high on their traveling hit list.

Latvia

One of the most recent additions to the European Union is Latvia. Much like Bulgaria, and several of the other newest EU members, the country is an undiscovered jewel that is just waiting to be polished. Long hidden behind the veil of Communism, and overshadowed by the presence of the Soviet Union, Latvia is a developing country that offers a unique look into a still-pristine world that has been untouched by Western modernization, but which is also quickly developing into one of Europe’s star countries.

Netherlands

The Netherlands (Dutch: Nederland, also commonly, but incorrectly, called Holland) is a European country, bordering Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and France in the Caribbean as the Dutch territory Sint Maarten borders French territory Saint-Martin. The people, language, and culture of the Netherlands are referred to as "Dutch".

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