Despite being one of the world’s smallest continents, Europe packs a lot into its borders. Its sophistication, wealth and history offer a compelling combination for many travelers. Whether you’re drawn to its fine art, culinary delights or pristine wilderness, the region’s appeal is hard to resist.
It’s also been a source of conflict and strife, from the Black Death to WWI and WWII, and the Cold War that followed. But despite the challenges, it has continued to thrive, and many of the European nations that make up today’s EU are considered among the most prosperous in the world.
While versions of “Europe” regularly cropped up on maps in pretty crude geographical terms, the ancestors of today’s EU citizens first encountered the concept through religion, with Christendom defined as the centre of their universe. They later associated it with economic and personal security, and ideals of intellectual freedom and tolerance.
These are cornerstones of a sense of identity that people in Europe share, and when they’re lost, it can leave them disidentify with the idea of being European (Vignoles and Visitin, 2018). Whether or not this sense of European culture is something worth preserving is an open question.
During the Middle Ages and Italian Renaissance, Europe was blessed with incredible cultural and artistic creations, such as San Marco Campanile and the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice. Its natural beauty is also worth exploring, as evidenced by the stunning fjord landscapes and charming villages that are dotted around Norway’s Lofoten Islands.
The most popular destinations in Europe attract millions of visitors each year. But it’s easy to overlook the smaller, lesser-known towns and cities that can offer a more authentic experience. One such place is Zagreb, which oozes history and culture through its streets, with sights like the historic Zagreb Cathedral, the Royal Palace and the Church of St Catherine.
As well as being rich in cultural and historical sights, the cities of Europe have great architecture, such as Paris’s iconic Eiffel Tower and London’s Tower Bridge. The capitals of Austria, Germany and Poland are all wonderful, with their stunning baroque buildings and cobbled squares.
For nature lovers, Europe’s wildest region is probably the Arctic Circle. From the snow-covered mountains of Iceland to the wildlife-rich islands of Norway, you can see some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world.
While it is possible to visit several European countries in one trip, it’s better to focus on a smaller number of regions, and spend more time in each destination. This allows you to really immerse yourself in the local culture and get a real feel for Europe’s diversity. To avoid high season prices and crowds, it’s a good idea to travel in offseason between November through March. And don’t forget a travel adapter, as the European plugs are different from those in North America!