Europe is a continent surrounded by water and bordered on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean and on one side by the Arctic Ocean. The rocky coastline is punctuated by bays, fjords, and seas that have made it difficult for humans to settle in some places.

European history has shaped global ideas of citizenship and government and been tested by times of peace and war. Europe’s natural and cultural resources have made it a dominant economic and political force throughout recorded history.

There’s a lot to see in Europe, from sprawling urban centers to serene coastal villages. To make the most of your trip, choose a few cities and plan on spending a minimum of two days in each—three is better. This will give you plenty of time to explore and get a feel for the local culture.

Many of the most well-known museums and attractions in Europe are located in the larger cities. However, smaller towns and villages have their own unique charms to offer. For example, the village of Bruges in Belgium is famous for its canals, winding streets, and medieval architecture. And in Germany, the town of Freiburg is known for its scholastic traditions and university.

The European Union is the most extensive trade and political association in the world. Its members—Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom—share a common currency, laws, and many cultural institutions. The EU is also a leader in scientific research, technology, and innovation.

While there is much wiggle room in what’s considered part of Europe, its geographic core includes the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsulas as well as Jutland and Scandinavian Peninsula. A major current in the North Atlantic brings warm, mild maritime air to Europe from the west, keeping the continent temperate year-round.

Europeans love food, and you will find a wide variety of delicious dishes in every country you visit. Make sure to try the regional specialties when you can. To experience the local culture, avoid tourist trap restaurants and instead venture off the beaten path to discover authentic cuisine and culinary delights.

In addition to food, Europeans have a distinct way of expressing their idiosyncrasies and humor. Be aware of cultural differences and etiquette when visiting different countries, including what is and is not considered rude. It’s also a good idea to learn about the language and customs before arriving in Europe so you won’t offend anyone unintentionally. For instance, know that in some countries it is considered rude to tip, while in others it’s expected. In some countries, it’s considered impolite to eat or drink while walking, and in others it is perfectly acceptable. These details will help you navigate your European adventure with ease.

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