There’s no shortage of things to do in Europe: From riding an Alpine train in Switzerland and driving along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way to shop for vintage treasure in Berlin, there are so many experiences to soak up. In fact, one lifetime feels like it’s hardly enough. As we stay closer to home for the time being, dreaming of trips past and eagerly looking forward to European jaunts of the future, we couldn’t help but reminisce on the experiences that have made us fall in love with Europe time and time again. Below, we’ve narrowed down the continent’s many places, dishes, and sights, into a list of our 35 favorite things to do in Europe.
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- Take a walk on London’s Primrose Hill
The city is famous for its royal parks, but there’s something particularly special about a stroll on Primrose Hill. On the way up, look out for “Shakespeare’s Tree,” an oak that was first planted in 1864 to honor Shakespeare’s birth centuries before (it’s ceremoniously replaced by a new one every 100 years); and, if you can, save turning around to see the skyline until you get to the very top—it’ll be worth it. Time your walk for sunset and watch the sky grow orange over landmarks like Canary Wharf, the Millennium Wheel, and St. Paul’s Cathedral in the distance. It’s a view that moves even the most cynical of Londoners.
- Enjoy pintxos and surf in San Sebastián
San Sebastián has been dubbed the greatest food city on earth for its clever approach to pintxos, or local tapas, with a ‘grab and eat what you want’ style all its own. Belly up to a pintxos bar, get a beer, and load up on snacks the size of your head, made with fresh seafood, vegetables, and cheese, surrounded by surf beaches. Stay for five minutes, or an hour—anything goes. t’s Michelin-worthy food, with flip-flops and beach hair vibes.
- Splurge on a water taxi in Venice
Venice is a fairly expensive city. And the water taxi—the equivalent of taking a town car to get around—is notably pricier than, say, the public vaporetto (waterbus). But there’s simply no better way to get from the airport to your hotel than to jump into an open-air boat immediately after landing, with a half hour to sit back and gaze at Venice’s grand buildings. It sets the stage for a visit in a way no other city can offer. Bonus? Some of the city’s iconic hotels, like the Cipriani, have a private dock and will send their own transport for you.
- Bike along Amsterdam’s canals
Amsterdam is a city on two wheels—for the city’s residents, getting around by bike is a way of life. Rent a bicycle and ride along famous canals, like the Prinsengracht, where you’ll get a glimpse of the 17th century canal houses and waterways. Or take a more serene ride through the Vondelpark, which is especially beautiful in the spring and fall. Whatever you do, remember to use your hands as turn signals when you’re on the road, and don’t stop in the middle of the bike lanes. Should you forget, locals will quickly remind you of the rules of the road.
- Hit the slopes of the Italian Dolomites
Spend a few days skiing down Cortina’s groomed slopes—and make sure to break for a few Aperols on the Rifugio Averau terrace—followed by nights on the town with great food and drink. Unlike French ski resorts, where you’ll likely spot ski boots under the table, Cortina implores you to ski home, shower, and step into something smart each evening. Start at Cafe La Suite, then move onto P126, and make sure to take in the cavalcade of dolce vita glamour parading down Corso Italia, the winter scene warmed by soft amber lights and large glasses of red wine.
- Go island hopping in Greece
Go Greek island hopping—and even better if you have no idea where you are going (it offers a pre-internet sense of liberation). When you step off the ferry on different islands, some landlords still wait at the dock with signs showing their apartments’ availability. Try it in June or September, arrive early, and keep a smartphone with data handy should things not work out. Ios, with its ’60s hippy vibe, and Naxos, coated with twinkly lights come nightfall, are particularly wonderful.
- Drive the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland
Driving the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland, from Malin Head in the north to Mizenhead in the south, is an epic and beautiful drive along some of the most spectacular coastline in Europe. Make sure to check out the Giant’s Causeway and The Dark Hedges in County Antrim, and pull over to eat at Wild Honey Inn in County Clare, and Ballynahinch Castle in Galway. There are some great beaches along the way, too, like Lough Swilly beach near Rathmullen House in Donegal, and Gurteen Beach in Connemara.
- Walk your way to Florence’s best views
Start your morning at the Boboli Gardens behind Palazzo Pitti, the former residence of the Medici family, wandering through the cypress rows and Renaissance sculptures. At the top of the gardens, follow the route over to Fort Belvedere and the Bardini Gardens, a quiet haven above the historic city. It’s a bit of a climb, but the path ultimately leads through the city gates in San Niccolo, and to the San Miniato al Monte church, which has the absolute best views over Florence. Reward yourself with a plate of fresh pasta at Zeb in San Niccolo on the way down.
- Shop in Paris’s Canal Saint-Martin neighborhood
Spend a morning over in Paris’s edgy Canal Saint-Martin, starting with a shopping trip down Rue de Marseille. French artisans A.P.C and sleek concept store Centre Commercial are must-hits—then queue up at Du Pain et des Idées for a pistachio l’escargot and the flakiest croissants.
- Marvel at glaciers in Norway
Norway’s Svalbard is a beautiful archipelago deep inside the Arctic Circle. Book a stay on an expedition ship, such as Quark Expeditions’ Ocean Adventurer, to get up close to epic glaciers, see giant-tusked walruses, and spot mighty polar bears against the white-on-white expanse. Speaking to the onboard scientists and naturalists, you also hear about—and witness—the stark reality of climate change. The takeaway lesson is that if we all make one change for good, the ripple effect could help to save this extraordinary region.
- Take a scenic boat ride in the French Riviera
Rent a small motor boat with a guide in Cassis Harbor, and take a ride over to Calanque d’En-Vau National Park for a secret swim. (You can also get there by foot, but the hike will take two hours.) Then, head over to Hotel Les Roches Blanches for a rosé-filled lunch overlooking the Cote D’Azur.
- See the Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland
See the Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland—or at least get pulled around a frozen lake in a sleigh by reindeers as you try to look for them. Be sure you have a camera ready, too (no one warns you that you can only see their swirling colors in photographs, and, pro tip, most cell phones will turn off in the cold). No matter your luck, warm up by trying out the world’s only sauna-gondola at Yllästo ski resort afterward.
- Go to a 24-hour churro shop in Madrid
The appeal of a 24-hour churro shop is, of course, that you can eat them no matter what time your plane gets into Madrid. Chocolateria San Gines has been around since 1894, serving some of the city’s absolute best churros. They’re always fresh and hot, since they’re fried to order—and yes, you need the chocolate dipping sauce on the side. It’s a great break in the middle of a day of sightseeing (they also serve coffee if you need a pick-me-up) or an ideal after-dinner stop or midnight snack.
- Listen to fado music in Lisbon
Fado is Lisbon’s version of the blues, marked by vocals dripping with heartache, accompanied by a Portuguese 12-string guitar. Originating in the streets of the city’s Alfama neighborhood in the 19th century and influenced by Moorish songs, each eruptive ballad evokes the Portuguese emotion of saudade–a yearning or longing for something lost. There are two types of fado clubs: professional adega típicas and amateur tascas. The former requires a reservation and is often a full dinner-and-a-show experience showcasing some of Portugal’s most famous performers. […] Unlike at an adega, you never know who is going to show up at an open-mic tasca–and that often makes it more exciting.
- Snack—and sail—on the Bosphorus
Eat bread rolls crammed with fresh mackerel for a few lire in Istanbul’s Eminönü area. Local fisherman have allegedly been serving balık ekmek (‘fish bread’) direct from the water for two centuries. In 2019, when the boats were threatened with closure by city authorities, their popularity helped ensure they remained. Follow your fish feast with a boatride across the Bosphorus, from the European part of town to the Asian side.
- See art in Stockholm’s metro stations
The Stockholm metro system is said to be the world’s longest art gallery, spanning 60-plus miles with 90 of its 100 stations decked out with murals, tilework, mosaics, sculptures, and more. You can spend hours hopping from one station to the next—but it’s best to tour outside of peak commuting times. Some must-see stations include: T-Centralen and Kungsträdgården on the Blue Line; Stadion, Mörby Centrum, and Tekniska Högskolan on the red line. It’s the perfect rainy day activity.
- Cliff jump in Croatia
While this side of the Adriatic can’t lay claim to many sandy beaches, what it does have in abundance is an incredible array of craggy karst cliffs—perfect for leaping off of, into the warm sea below. There are many locally-loved spots to launch from: Sacred Rock and Kamenjak Cape near Pula, Sveta Nedilja on Hvar, Odysseus cave on Mljet Island, even the terrace of Buza Bar, along Dubrovnik’s city walls.
- Hike the Samaria Gorge in Crete
Hiking the Samaria Gorge in Crete, said to be the longest in Europe, is all downhill so pretty much anyone can do it. But it’s more than 10 miles from the fragrant pine and cypress forests at the island’s highest elevation, past long-abandoned villages and castles, and through sheer rock walls that narrow to less than a dozen feet, before you reach a wide black-sand beach on the Libyan Sea. This is your reward: a dip in the clean buoyant waters, followed by octopus, revithada, and cold Mythos beer at a nearby taverna.
- Hike the Caucasus in Georgia
Whether you’re a day-hiker or a seasoned alpinist, there’s no better way to take in Georgia’s topography—and get a glimpse of local life, unfiltered—than by trekking through it. In Svaneti, the remote northwesterly province where locals get around on horseback and prehistoric, UNESCO World Heritage guard towers dot the horizon, you can embark on a four-day walk from Mestia to Ushguli—the highest continually inhabited settlement in Europe—overnighting in family-run guest houses along the way.
- See how cheese and balsamic are made in Bologna
All of Italy is a culinary wonderland, but so many of the foods and dishes we associate with the country trace their roots to Emilian-Romagnan cuisine. This is the region of lasagne alla Bolognese and stuffed tortellini; Prosciutto di Parma, and balsamic vinegar. Make Parma or Bologna your home base, but don’t hesitate to get out of the cities to tour a proper cheese-maker, visit an acetaia to see the process of making balsamic vinegar in barrels (which, spoiler alert, bears little resemblance to what you see in grocery stores), or step into the cellars and caves where cured meats like prosciutto and culatello are aged.
- Swim in Slovenia’s Lake Bled
Tucked into the very north-west corner of Slovenia, Lake Bled is a fairytale come to life. Surrounded by the blue rolling mountains of the Julian wild atl
, the crystal clear water is punctuated only by the tiny central island, topped with its landmark medieval castle. Though many will hop on the traditional pletna boats, the best thing is to dive in: The water is Blue Flag level pristine, warm in the summer, and even in high season, it feels secluded. —Charlotte Davey
- To take a boat ride on the canals of the Danube Delta, in Romania
The amount of activities that exist in the Danube Delta is mindblowing. Among the things you must try in the Danube Delta we mention: bird watching, tour to Letea Forest, visit Enisala Fortress, go to Sacalin Island, fishing, indulge in local traditional food, boat ride on canals and lakes.
There is something really special about Delta that, after the first visit, will entice you to come back again and again. It will show you who you are and the slowly life will really relax you.
Read more about the Danube Delta here!
- Detox in Helsinki’s saunas
In Helsinki, a daily trip to the sauna is as expected as a daily espresso in Italy. You’ll find them all over the old city and harbor islands. Loyly, a designer assemblage of blond wood, saunas, and bars on the outskirts of town, is a good place to start. Or, if you have a day, head to Saunasaari, which literally means sauna island. It’s a short boat trip from the harbor, but feels like you’ve escaped to the wilds of Maine with pine trees, river inlets, and a series of Lincoln log-style cabins. But remember, to reach that proper Helsinki-style sauna-high, you must jump into the freezing Baltic right after your steam (and its birthday suits only here—many places won’t let even bathing suits into the steam rooms).
- Spend a night at the opera in Vienna
Music as we know it would be unrecognizable without the existence of Vienna, which nurtured the talents of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and Mahler, plus local boys Schubert and Strauss. Visitors today can hear the fruits of all that creativity in the city’s legendary opera houses such as the Staatsoper and Theater an der Wien.
- Take a ferry along the Amalfi Coast
A great alternative to the winding drive, the ferry takes you along the slower and more scenic route with a front row seat to the spectacular Amalfi coastline. Depending on where you’re staying, the best place to start is in Amalfi town itself, where you can then hop off the ferry for lunch in Positano, and then hop on again for a wander and swim on the island of Capri, before returning back to Amalfi.
- Tour Rome’s (even more ancient) underground city
When you’re walking the ruins of the Forum, or the Colosseum across the way, it’s hard to imagine that Rome has another city hiding below. But descend underground to see lesser-known Roman ruins, like the Stadium of Domitian and Hadrian’s Temple. Even if historical tours aren’t your thing, navigating the dark, ancient, and dimly lit corridors is worth the price of admission alone. Several operators, like Context Travel, offer guided tours.
- Do a food-inspired road trip through Portugal
There’s so much to see and eat in Portugal, from inhaling egg tarts in Belem and sipping on Port in Porto to dining on 10 euro piri piri chicken meals on the streets of Lisbon. But the good news? In the small European country, it’s easy to hop from one city to another in a matter of hours. Rent a car and guide yourself along the coast—the roadside seafood shops near Comporta are another must-stop—on a food- and drink-inspired road trip. (At the end of it all, make sure to stock up on tinned fish, like olive-oil soaked sardines, to take home with you.)
- Horseback ride in the New Forest
In England, head the New Forest, which is covered in a carpet of purple heather and filled with the smell of wild rosemary, for a sunset horseback ride. Afterward, soothe your muscles with a warm bath in one of The Pig in Brockenhurst’s snug rooms, followed by gin and tonics over a game of cards, the near-Dickensian scene animated by pub-grade chatter and a roaring open fire.
- Take a restorative dip in Lake Altaussee
This is wholesome Austrian countryside, and a wellness mecca for its restorative alpine air. While winter is made of off-piste skiing and skating along frozen lakes, Altaussee’s lesser known season is perhaps its most alluring: Come in summer for rambling Alpine hikes through meadows carpeted in wild flowers and dizzying valley views, rewarded with an invigorating plunge into Austria’s Lake Altaussee (and maybe a cool local brew overlooking that glassy lake).
- Visit a weekend market in the south of France
The Saturday market in Beaulieu in the south of France is very low-key, and very local. Set up position with strong espressos outside the cafes on the south side, wherever there’s a seat, and then buy cherries, cheese, lavender soap, and beautifully simple cheap linen dresses. Children also love the store selling crystals, which get put in sweet paper bags.
- Walk the Scottish Highlands
The Highlands are mystic—with their warm blend of colors, stoic spirit, wind that whips your face, and ancient Caledonian forests that soak up unpleasant thoughts—and there’s humility to be found in the unruly weather and off-the-grid mentality. Live vicariously through Scotland’s ancient clans and aristocracy at Forter Castle, a Perthshire hideaway with knockout views across Glenisla, from where you must take a blustery long walk with a serious coat, great friends, and a piping-hot peaty bath to return to.
- Shop for vintage treasure in Berlin
Set on the former no-man’s-land between East and West Berlin, this chaotic Sunday flea market now welcomes a melting pot of locals and visitors. The seemingly endless lanes of stalls sell everything from attic junk to collectible figures, vinyl and clubwear, while busking musicians provide the soundtrack. (It’s a bit like a scene from Mad Max, but with fewer flamethrowers for sale.) When it gets to be too much, head to the amphitheater for the regular 3p.m. Bearpit Karaoke session, when anyone can clamber up and showcase their favorite sing-a-longs, egged on by organizer Joe Hatchiban. It’s raw, impulsive, and so much better than “The Voice”.
- Get swept away by the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow
Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet was founded in 1776. Until the 20th century, it struggled to compete with its St. Petersburg rival, the Imperial Russian Ballet, but has since become one of the grand historic theaters of the world. The Bolshoi’s Moscow season runs between October and May, and you should arrange for tickets as far in advance as possible, since they sell out quickly (orchestra seats online sell for $150 to $300; for popular performances, they can go for up to $1,000 on the secondary market).
- Take a train high into the Swiss Alps
Take the train from Geneva up through the mountains, to the beautiful, very glamorous Gstaad. You’ll pass a shining luminescent lake before arriving at the station, high in the peaks and covered in snow. There is something incredibly transformative about the slow winding of the train up into the skies. Once there, walk into the center of town to the centuries-old wooden chalet that is the Olden—there, dine on raclette and red wine where David Niven, Eizabeth Taylor, and Roger Moore used to hang out.
- Have dinner at an all-you-can-eat cheese cave in Bordeaux
Baud et Millet in Bordeaux is a restaurant with an attached cheese cellar, featuring more than 100 cheeses to choose from. The all-you-can-eat cheese tasting gives you unlimited visits to the cheese cave, and comes with a simple salad and chunks of bread. All you need to do is pick a bottle of wine from the adjoining wine shop, and this meal is as good as it gets.