Planning your Itinerary – European Highlights

One of the first questions you ask when planning a trip is, “Where do I want to go?”  There are so many possibilities in Europe, that you may have a hard time deciding.

Where you decide to visit will depend on what your interests are.  If you enjoy nature, you will focus on different areas than if you are interested in architecture.  Some destinations will provide for a variety of interests.

Are you interested in culture?  Would you like to visit museums or see shows and concerts?  Here are some suggestions:

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

The Louvre in Paris is one of the most famous art museums in the world.  In addition, Paris offers the Orsay, the Orangerie, the Rodin Museum and more.  The Tate and Tate Modern are London’s most popular museums of art.  Amsterdam offers the Rijksmuseum, the VanGogh Museum, and more.  In Berlin, Germany, Museum Island is the home of five museums, including the Pergamon Museum and the Altes (Old) National Gallery.

Les Miserables Marquis, London, England
Les Miserables Marquis, London, England

London has so many stage shows and musicals, that it would take more than a year to see them all.  If shows are your interest, London should be at the top of your list.

A few years ago, we saw Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra perform a free lunchtime concert.  The performance was great!  The free concerts are usually held on Wednesdays, but this may vary, so click the link above to check the schedule.

Royal Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Royal Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Although we loved the free lunchtime concert, paying to hear an orchestra is also a possibility.  Several  European cities have award-winning orchestras – check out the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestra.

Cultural displays such as the “Changing of the Guard” in front of Buckingham Palace in London and festivals like Oktoberfest in Munich and Carnival in Venice are another way to experience the local culture.

Memorial on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France
Memorial on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France

Maybe you are a student of history.  Remnants of contemporary history are evident in several places around Europe.  In Normandy, in the north of France, the beaches display monuments to the allied forces that came ashore in WWII.

Scattered throughout Germany and Eastern Europe, there are what is left of the concentration camps Hitler built.  As a memorial, Berlin has left parts of the wall that stood between freedom and oppression.

Earlier history is displayed in castles and castle ruins along the Rhine River.  Even earlier history is seen in Roman ruins, not only in Rome, but scattered throughout Europe.

Do you enjoy architecture?  Do you want to explore local landmarks?

Arc de Tripmphe, Paris, France
Arc de Tripmphe, Paris, France

Paris’ most famous landmark and architectural wonder is the Eiffel Tower. Seen from anywhere in the city, the tower is great, but up close it is spectacular.  Also in Paris, the Louvre Pyramid,  Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Arch de Triomphe are interesting to explore.

Partial Front View, Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany
Partial Front View, Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

 

When you walk out of the train station in Cologne, Germany, you are greeted by the Cologne Cathedral.  The first time I visited Cologne, I started to walk out of the back of the train station to go to the hotel.  My daughter insisted that we walk out the front – luggage and all – to see the cathedral.  It was amazing!

Rathaus (City Hall), Munich, Germany
Rathaus (City Hall), Munich, Germany

In Rome, you can visit the Coliseum; in Munich, the Rathaus; in London, the Tower Bridge and Big Ben.  London is also the home of Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral.  In Bruges and Brussels, Belgium, the buildings lining the central squares have their own classic look.

Restaurants in Brugge, Belgium
Restaurants in Brugge, Belgium

Maybe you’d rather avoid the busy-ness of the city and focus on small towns.  Here are some of my favorites:

Vernazza and Riomaggiore, Italy, are part of a group of seaside villages known as Cinque Terre.  Here, you can enjoy hiking, eating or relaxing at the shore.

Main Street, Vernazza, Italy
Main Street, Vernazza, Italy

Bacharach and St. Goar, Germany, are two of the many small towns located along the Rhine River.  Biking is popular in this area, as well as wine tasting.

Giverny, France, is the location of Claude Monet’s home and gardens.  The artist is buried in a cemetery in the town.  Giverny is a nice day trip from Paris.

Arles, France – Vincent Van Gogh spent time in Arles.  The town has displayed replicas of his paintings near where he painted them.  The Saturday market in Arles is one of the best I’ve seen.

Eiger Mountain, Switzerland
Eiger Mountain, Switzerland

If you are interested in the wonders of nature, there are areas to visit that will please your senses.  The Alps extend from Austria to France, and are visible in several countries in between.  With more than one hundred peaks over 12,000 feet high, there are many amazing views.

Cruising down the Rhine River – even by public boat transportation – is another way to enjoy nature.  Man has enhanced the area with vineyards and castles, making the ride a scenic pleasure.  The Cinque Terre area along the coast of the Ligurian Sea is a group of colorful villages.

Relaxing in the English Garden, Munich, Germany
Relaxing in the English Garden, Munich, Germany

Many European cities have large parks, so nature can be enjoyed among the metropolitan areas.  The Luxembourg Garden in Paris and the English Garden in Munich are good examples.  My daughter and I spent an enjoyable morning, riding bikes in the English Garden.

Would you rather spend your time shopping?  There are plenty of places in Europe to shop.  Paris has Galeries Lafayette and Bon March – both upscale department stores.  Paris also has flea markets and local produce markets.  There are small shops of every kind and every price.

Berlin’s Kaufhaus des Westens, or KaDeWe (pronounced Ka Day Vay), is a huge department store that seems to have everything.  It has a restaurant that seats 1000 people, although when we were there we ate lunch at one of the snack bars.

Albert Cuyp Market, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Albert Cuyp Market, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam has some interesting markets – one of them actually floats on the water.  The Bloemenmarkt is the flower market floating on the Singel Canal.  The Waterlooplein Flea Market and Albert Cuyp Market are also interesting.

London has shopping areas all over the city.  There are a few large department stores like Harrods and Liberty (home of Liberty fabric).  Notting Hill, made famous in the movie, has several small unique stores and is near the Portobello Road Flea Market, which includes over a mile and a half of stalls.

Fun Food at the Portobello Road Market, London, England
Fun Food at the Portobello Road Market, London, England

Finally, the Christmas Markets, most of which are in Germany, sell a collection of handmade crafts and delicious food and drink.  These markets are a reason to travel in December.

This is only a sample of what is available to see in Europe, but hopefully it will help you think about where you want to go.

What kind of traveler are you?  What do you look for in your travels?  Leave a comment below!

 

 

 

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