Europe is everyone’s favourite destination. Interwoven with art, architecture, literature, legendary history, Mediterranean cuisine and breathtaking natural wonders, Europe is bound to leave you awe-struck, no matter which country you choose to visit. Whatever impact Hollywood has on our travel choices, likelihoods of it being inspired, by these top European destinations is high. From Switzerland in Walt Disney’s Third Man on the Mountain to Norwegian backdrop in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Europe left no stone unturned to allure us into exploring its enchanting multifariousness. We learned a great deal travelling the most-astonishing coastlines, Renaissance art, architectural marvels, beautiful canals and unending cultural canvas of Europe and thought why not put it up for a glance, for frequent travellers.
Home to majestic peaks, grand palaces and rich culture, Austria is home to splendid long-established attractions. Once a piece of the enormous European imperialism, Austria now mirrors the bounty of its anterior glories. Surpassing the pastries, classical music-dances and alpine crowns is a cultural canvas of modern cities coupling the memorable with the contemporary. From Vienna to Salzburg, a whole lot of charming towns and chateaus dot Austria’s extraordinary landscapes tucked-in sweeping lush hillsides.
Thanks to its Alpine location and clear mountain air, Austria also makes a great skiing and hiking hotspot. Even though what makes Austria truly great, is the slew of baroqueness, artists and Imperial history it has given to the world. When here, wander by its Bohemian Forest, Traunsee Lake, several monasteries and countryside vineyards.
The kingdom of Belgium is a small but mighty collection of UNESCO-acclaimed sites, 14th-century guildhalls and 20th-century Art Nouveau townhouses. With idyllic rivers, lakes, canals, chocolate-box villages from late Victorian times and imposing Renaissance monuments, Belgium oozes old-world charm like no other. In Bruges, we travelled along well-conserved medieval streets rimmed by gentle canals, into a world of dabbling art, celebrated battlefields and gastronomic delights.
Almost after 200 years from the time ‘The Battle of Waterloo’ was fought, we were here, where Napoleon met his match, assailing Belgium into the frontline. Today, the WWI and WWII battlefields of Ypres is a significant wayfaring site. There are hundreds of fantastic bar-cafes in Belgium.
Estonia was sequestered, from Finland through 50 years of Soviet dominion, however, even after 300 years, it much in common with Russia. Despite sharing similar aesthetic preferences as Russia, and topography and antiquity as Latvia and Lithuania, Estonia is culturally unprecedented. It is impossible to not fall head over heels for the enchantments of the Unesco-preserved Tallinn.
One of the continent’s most captivating cities, Tallinn stars vast lanes of forest rendering spiritual subsistence. Being the sub rosa startup of Europe, Tallinn is also where you will find a significant chunk of corporate headquarters. If digitisation has transformed the world, then Estonia has changed the way we work. Technology aside, about world’s 90% models hail from this beautiful country; encompassed by antiquated Squares, cobblestoned alleys, 13th-century walls and Gothic Town Halls.
Fondly referred, to as l’Hexagone for its estimated shape, France has a distinctive character, essentially sketched by picture-perfect Les Villes huddled-in trailing woody-stemmed hills, mountainous terrains, sun-drenched beaches of Provence, and charismatic Côte d’Azur coastlines. France left me amazed with its unwavering culture, spun around market squares, poetic cafe terraces and curtained-off bistros. For your first trip, follow a classic itinerary into Paris and Versailles, and get introduced to French fairy-tale castles, amusement parks, beach resorts and glorious Gothic cathedrals. With the countryside trail, you can get better insights into farm life, fishing villages and forests immersed in lushness.
In the French capital, Paris, the Louvre Museum, Lyon’s Roman Theatre, Lascaux’s ancient cave drawings, Versailles Palace and the monumental Eiffel Tower are some of the landmarks you can not resist. To live the most out of French lifestyle, embrace the indulgence in simple rituals. Savour brewed coffee and a buttery, flaky, croissant in a French cafe, take a stroll through the iris, lily and poppy gardens or lounge by the beachside. I experienced France like a free-flowing verse, espousing natural sounds.
The Federal Republic of Germany is a soul-stirring roller-coaster ride of festivities, taking you through splendid spectacles of nature, vibrating culture, fluted-mounded coasts, river valleys, vineyards, half-timbered towns and off-the-charts glaciers. Within the countryside, celebrated, Germanic towns and castles rise above skylines to peep down at brick and timber-framed hamlets rippling with multicolour lilies and carnations. Germany has impacted the world like no other! Whether it be the revolution, automobiles, the Hanseatic League, Holocaust, printing press, MP3 technology, Hitler, Martin Luther or Albert Einstein.
Wherever you go, you will find Germany’s protean culture spanning across baroque and Gothic architectural creations, operas, art museums, cabarets and hidden clubs. Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt and Hamburg is where all the action is! As for the local cuisine; German sausages, asparagus, roast pork, pretzels, chanterelle mushrooms, schnitzel and large mugs of lathery beer are some of the must-haves.
Italy’s talents exceed its museums, vestments and dining scene. It’s one of nature’s masterpieces with remarkable natural diversity matched by equally impressive architecture. From the icy Alps to glacial lakes to coral-studded waters to blazing craters, Italy is where you get to rediscover yourself, just like Julia Roberts did in ‘Eat, Pray, Love.’ During our Roman holiday, we ventured in cities of Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan, trailed by running coastlines and ancient ruins. Rome, the capital city is where you discern the best of Roman architecture and frescoes.
Florence presents the most salutary Renaissance masterpieces by Brunelleschi and Michelangelo. Wherein Venice leads the way by its fashion and canals. This epicentre of Roman imperialism and Renaissance inspires and influences like no other. Should you walk, in the footfalls of ancient Romans, indulge in Byzantine treasures, revolutionary frescoes and the country’s traditional cuisine. Some of the Italian cuisine that speaks straight to your heart comprises of, kinds of pasta, pizza and risotto with a glass of red wine.
Enroute Switzerland from Austria, we planned a short stay at Liechtenstein, a German-speaking principality thriving with alpine sceneries, enchanting hamlets, medieval castles and antiquated monasteries. Besides being the absolute gimcrack of world’s smallest and wealthiest countries, Liechtenstein is a fairytale crowned by turreted castles and overseen by a mighty monarch. In the capital city of Vaduz, I visited the main Castle, Schalun Castle, Kunstmuseum, National museum, St. Florin cathedral, postal museum, Fürstensteig and a few more sites, most covered by the city train.
Outdoor activities are a thing in Liechtenstein, given its striking nature trails and ski slopes. Venturing into the Alps beyond Vaduz suddenly makes the brevity disappear. To reach Liechtenstein, you must board a bus from the neighbouring countries as there is no international airport here.
We chanced upon visiting Monaco on our way to Italy from France. Laced alongside the coastlines of French Riviera, principality of Monaco is reachable from Nice in about thirty-five minutes. Eliciting magnetism for thrill-seekers and high-rollers, Monaco bestows its prodigious wealth by its yacht-lined harbour, belle-époque casinos and the acclaimed Grand Prix. Monte Carlo is a lyrical tribute detailing apartment blocks that ascent into the mountains. Here, we toured the Salle Garnier opera house, boutiques and restaurants. Monaco is also famous as one of the world’s most infamous tax-havens.
Consecrated to a good lifestyle, The kingdom of Spain displays a classic amalgam of customary and diversity. During our, Spain travels we ventured, into two of its most influential cities; sun-drenched Madrid and beach-laced Barcelona. Idling over an assortment of legends, museums, castles and royal residences, Madrid reveals the character of Spain like no other. In the Catalonia capital of Barcelona, treat yourself to Antoni Gaudí’s modernist creations, parks with sculptural buildings, desolate Roman ruins, art museums, exceptional sparklers of Islamic architecture and ancient cathedrals with fountains.
Spain is a country where many empires have risen, collapsed and left behind their unforgettable impression with these now-famous attractions. Some the high-ranked hiking destinations in Spain are the mountain ranges of Picos de Europa, the Pyrenees and the snow-covered Sierra Nevada offset by captivating Mediterranean coves. Wherever you go, settlements of timeless beauty, sweet aroma of Spanish cuisine and everchanging sceneries will chase you. Spain is also famous for birthing some of the most rebellious artists and actors, with likes-of Antoni Gaudí, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Jennifer Lopez and Penelope Cruz.
Switzerland in central Europe is an alpine terrain girdled by charming villages, lakes and snow-clad mountain peaks. Switzerland’s extraordinary panoramas command attention towards some magically beautiful spots wintering under a frozen snow blanket. Skiing and snowboarding are winter choices. In summer, when meadows turn leafy; hiking and biking in glacier-wrapped mountains become active. As you walk along the nature trails, you will spot hidden valleys, shimmering lakes and emerald-green vineyards.
The entire Swiss countryside is dotted with, timber granaries, ancient markets, chalet farms, world-class modern art, striking architecture, riverside bars and a hearty gastronomic celebration. While here, we rode the train to the crevassed ice of Jungfraujoch, cable car to Mount Titlis and walked alongside cuckoo clock museum, Zytglogge clock tower, ice museum and the chapel bridge of Lucerne. In the evening, embrace the art of indulgence by luxuriating in the warmth of gooey Swiss cheese and velvety chocolate fondues.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands (currently under King Willem Alexander’s reign) is one of the most vibrant countries I have visited in Europe. Often confused with Holland, including only the provinces of Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland, The Netherlands is a far more vast empire. While here, I toured, the dynamic Dutch cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Den Haag laced with a string of 13th-century windmills, canals, tulip fields, museums, concerts and municipalities bursting with charm. Just when you venture further in the countryside, you will come face to face with many postcard-comely villages.
Best explored on foot or by trams, The Netherlands, stars artistic masterpieces, cheese farms, visionary architecture, cutting-edge design, WWII memoirs, iconic masterpieces and a kaleidoscopic nightlife girdled by flat landscapes and exceptional Dutch outdoors. In a country that birthed Dutch Masters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh and Piet Mondrian, art legacy is tremendous. The Netherlands values socialising as much as its art, and so you will find ample candlelit cafe-bars embedded in the Dutch routes.
Vatican City, the HQ of the Roman Catholic Church is also the world’s smallest sovereign state at just 44 hectares. Surrounded by Rome and home to Pope, Vatican City will fill you with wonder with its majestic attractions and treasures of iconic art and architecture. In the Vatican Museums, I tapped ancient Roman sculptures, Renaissance frescoes, and Michelangelo’s ceiling. From under the domed grandeur of St Peter’s Basilica, you can observe and admire some of Italy’s most admired artworks.