If you haven’t already planned your summer holiday, it’s about time you start. Because, as the saying goes, well begun is half done! First things first, you need to decide on the destination. Which is not as difficult as it may seem, given the pleasant weather, vibrant culture, diverse cuisines, fascinating nightlife and more that’s on offer in European Summer.
Europe tour packages are the most searched holiday options, especially during the months preceding summer. So, what are you waiting for? Here’s our pick of the best tourist destinations in Europe.
Imagine a Europe trip without France! From stately museums and medieval churches to romantic chateaux and remarkable shopping choices, France is where all the action is. While everybody longs to catch a glimpse of the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris, not many travellers are quite prepared for the splendour of the French countryside, with its huge expanse of rivers, hills and fields.
Of course, Paris is gorgeous. And so are the Parisians. But there’s so much more to France – the Dordogne’s prehistoric cave paintings in the south, Gothic cathedrals of the north, the Calanques (series of small inlets with blue water and limestone cliffs) in Marseille, the picturesque vineyards of Loire Valley, the stunning plazas (especially, the Place de la Bourse) in Bordeaux, the glamour of the French Riviera (think the Cannes Film Festival)…It ticks all the right boxes for European Summer holiday!
For most Indians, Europe tourism is synonyms with the soaring Alps and the striking countryside of Switzerland. Blame it on Bollywood, but our experience of a European Summer vacation would be incomplete without the breath-taking views of Swiss snow-capped mountain peaks! Including the Matterhorn in Zermatt. At an elevation of 4,478 metres, Switzerland’s most famous Alpine peak is a huge draw for mountaineers across the globe.
Did you know that Switzerland has only one national park? Sprawling over 172 square kilometres of lush woodlands, glaciers, verdant pastures and waterfalls, the Schweizerischer National park is a treat for nature-lovers and trekkers. As the little-known capital of Switzerland, the medieval city of Bern will win you over with its rich history and effortless beauty. For a taste of Switzerland’s pulsating nightlife, there’s no place like Zurich. Rooted in its historic past, it’s a city of beautiful coexistence.
How about understanding the emotive genius of Vincent van Gogh? Fancy a sight of the old windmills? Netherlands, particularly its capital city Amsterdam, has something in store for everyone on a Europe holiday. There’s the attractive canal ring and romantic canal cruises, the moving architecture and countless museums…it is a unique city with an unmistakable charm.
If you are a history buff, a day trip to Delft is strongly recommended. Photography enthusiasts are naturally drawn to the famous Erasmusbrug Bridge in Rotterdam, while Leiden is where you’ll find one of the most beautiful botanical gardens of the world – Hortus Botanicus. For some impressive global political landscapes and serene beaches, Hague is the place to be. And for the most amazing cheese experience, head to Alkmaar, known as the cheese city, as well as Gouda, famous for its cheese market and cheese farms.
Does your European Summer tour cover the biggest beer festival in the world? Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany – with massive beer tents and scrumptious food – is a revelry like no other. Munich is also a cultural centre, housing several classy opera houses and theatres, showcasing an unusual assortment of classic and modern architecture.
It’s not possible to visit Germany and miss out on Berlin, the capital city. Known for its World War II history and the Berlin Wall created during the Cold War, it’s the best place to catch a glimpse of famous historic structures. From the vibrant arts and culture scene of Leipzig and the buzzing nightlife of Cologne, to the riverboat cruise through the Romantic Rhine and the Philosopher’s Walk at Heidelberg, a German holiday is certainly an affair to remember.
The best way to travel Europe is take time to discover the hidden gems of each region. In Belgium, for instance, there’s much more to explore than the many war memorials and European parliaments that dominate the tourist brochures. From the medieval town of Bruges with its Gothic masterpiece to region’s sole national park, surrounded by misty hills, lush forests and clear lakes, Belgium is ideal for the unhurried traveller. It’s the kind of place that makes you forget about your worldly woes as you indulge in some frothy Belgian brews and warm chocolaty waffles.
While you may be pleasantly surprised by the hep quotient of Antwerp, Ypres will move you with its ode to a turbulent time in European history. Leuven is a must-visit, as much for its grand architecture as for the sprawling InBev brewery, considered one of the largest in the world. And then, there’s the lure of modern Brussels as well as the historic elegance of Mons.
f you are a Salman Khan fan, you simply have to visit Tirol in Austria. It’s the exquisite place where the shooting for the Bollywood film Tiger Zinda Hai took place. For Hollywood movie buffs, Salzburg is the place to be. Famous as the city of Mozart (the great music composer was born here) and the film location for The Sound of Music, Salzburg is among those rare gems, where traditional and modern living blend in beautifully.
For those who wish to take a journey back in time to the days of the empire, there’s no better choice than Vienna. From the royal residences and ancient churches to the historic city centre and splendid Ringstrasse Boulevard, Vienna is like a balm to the weary urban soul. And then, there’s Innsbruck – Capital of the Alps, housing the Alpine Zoo (Europe’s highest altitude zoo) and Karwendel, Austria’s biggest nature park.
There’s marvellous architecture, glorious art and culture, flavoursome cuisine, beautiful people…Italy has everything that you’ll find in the rest of Europe, and more! Just like its famous gelato – so much more than an ice cream, right?
If you are enamoured by history, Rome, the capital city, is a good place to start your Italian adventure. From ancient structures like the Pantheon and the Roman Forum to the Vatican Museums and the much-written-about Colosseum, Rome is a golden treasure trove. For those on a romantic holiday, Venice (with its gondolas and beautiful bridges) is the undisputed first choice, although Florence (with its old-world charm) and Tuscany (with its sprawling vineyards) are worthy options too. If not for anything else, you ought to visit Milan for its chic quotient – there isn’t a more stylish place on earth!
Spain is as much about the traditional flamenco dancers as it is about the world’s top DJs. From the romantic narrow alleys of Barri Gòtic to the eclectic shopping scene at Las Ramblas, Barcelona is a good indication of the diverse personas of Spain. It’s the kind of place that demands a leisurely holiday, preferably without to-do lists!
You don’t have to be an architecture enthusiast to appreciate the capital city Madrid’s many medieval mansions and royal palaces. Just like the artistic mastery of geniuses like Picasso, Dali and Miro are there for the world to marvel at, at the city’s modish galleries. Seville is another destination that’s gaining popularity among the growing breed of travellers, who fancy sitting at street-side cafes, soaking in the lifestyle of ancient neighbourhoods.