In the old days, Americans use to take a couple of years to make the Grand Tour of Europe. They had the right idea. You need lots of time to fully experience all that Europe has to offer. Since most of us today have only a few weeks holiday each year, we need to pick and choose what we’ll see. With so many top places to visit in Europe, we can narrow the list down by geographic region or special interest. Since it takes only hours to get to Europe these days, compared to the weeks it took our ancestors, to get to Europe, we can always return to visit new sights.
Founded by the Romans, Barcelona today is a bustling city on the Mediterranean Sea. As the capital of Catalonia, it is a powerhouse in the region. It is perhaps best known for the unusual buildings designed by the architect Antoni Gaudi. These landmark structures include La Sagrada Familia, a church that’s been under construction since 1892. You could build your entire visit around his buildings, but then you’d miss out on other Barcelona delights, such as La Rambla, a popular pedestrian street in the central part of the city.
As European cities go, Dubrovnik isn’t very big, but don’t let its size deter you. This little jewel, with less than 43,000 people, is one of the most visited cities on the Mediterranean. Dubrovnik transports visitors back to a time when the fortified city was a major maritime power commanding the third-largest navy in the Mediterranean. As you wander the streets, you’ll likely come across sculptures of St. Viaho, the city’s patron saint whose life is celebrated every February.
When it’s time to sit back and relax, take yourself to Santorini, an island in the Aegean. Top travel magazines consider this a prime destination; once there, you can’t help but agree. The island has picture-postcard villages, an active volcano, and stunning sunsets. Be sure to visit Fira, a village perched atop a cliff. You’ll also want to sample wines, such as the dessert wine Vincanto as well as the produce that is made sweeter and tastier because of the volcanic ash soil it grows in.
Songs laud Paris in the springtime, but any time of year is a good time to visit this riveting city on the River Seine. It’s a city loaded to the brim with history, culture, great food, and high fashion. The iconic Eiffel Tower is one landmark you won’t want to miss. The Louvre houses one of the greatest art collections in the world. Its great churches include Sacred Heart and Notre Dame. When it comes to opulence, there’s Versailles with its famed Hall of Mirrors.
The ancient Romans established outposts as far away as Great Britain. They didn’t ignore their home city, however, when it came to building great monuments. One must-see landmark is the Colosseum, an arena that could hold up to 80,000 people for gladiator contests. One of the biggest draws is a tiny country inside the city: The Vatican City, with its impressive St. Peter’s Basilica with art provided by Michelangelo is a must-see even if you’re not Catholic. Maybe you’ll get a glimpse of the pope at his Wednesday audiences.