Europe, a continent that spans almost two-thirds of the planet, is an area of stunning beauty, rich culture, and fascinating history. From the snow-capped peaks of the Alps to the sun-drenched beaches of Greece, Europe is an alluring destination with something for every traveler. Whether you want to spend months immersed in the culture of one country or go on a grand tour of many nations, you will find that Europeans embrace hospitality with open arms and are eager to point you toward their most treasured attractions.
The word “Europe” is thought to have been coined by the early Greeks as a derogatory term for the barbarian world that lay beyond their Mediterranean borderlands. Indeed, traders and travelers at the time reported that the Europe they encountered had distinctive physical units—mountain systems and lowland river basins—that were markedly different from those of their Mediterranean home. In addition, they saw vast landscapes of cold-water marine life and spacious steppes that were sparsely inhabited.
Today, many peoples of the world associate the term Europe with prosperity, with ideas of national or personal security, and with ideals of tolerance and intellectual freedom. These values are the foundation of the European Union (EU), which was established in 1992 to promote the free movement of goods, services, people, and capital among its member nations. The EU now includes former Soviet Socialist States and a number of countries that did not qualify for membership initially but have since met the required standards.
In addition to its stunning natural beauty, the European Union is also home to an array of vibrant cultures that are rich in traditions and are renowned for their fine arts and cuisine. From the theaters of Italy to the masterpieces of the Louvre, these cultural treasures are a feast for the senses.
Europeans enjoy a one-of-a-kind festival calendar that offers a chance to celebrate music, film, art, food and wine, beer, and more with fellow enthusiasts. From the historically significant (like Semana Santa or Carnivale Venezia) to the cutting-edge, such as Sonar in Barcelona, these events are a wonderful way to get acquainted with the unique spirit of each region.
While a trip to a well-known European city is sure to please, it is just as important to visit regions that receive less visitor traffic. This is especially true for the Nordic countries of Finland, Iceland, and Denmark. Helsinki is a modern city with neoclassical style, and Iceland’s legendary landscapes lure visitors to its northernmost shores. These places and others like Sofia, Kyiv, and Bucharest are great examples of the diverse experiences that await you in Europe.