Europe is an interesting and diverse continent. Each of the countries that form Europe has its own unique and fascinating culture and history. Visiting any one of the countries is a wonderful experience as you will find so many things to see and do. If you ever have the opportunity to do so, it is worth visiting as many European destinations as you can as you will have a completely different experience in each. While traveling across Europe, you will come across many fascinating landmarks and attractions. Every attraction you visit will be a memorable occasion and will give you an insight into the history and culture of the country you are visiting. Here are 20 of the top attractions in Europe that you must try to visit during your travels.
20. Palace of Versailles – Versailles, France
This royal chateau is located in Versailles in the Ile-de-France region and the palace is sometimes referred to simply as ‘Versailles’. Versailles was just a small village community when the palace was built in the 11th-century, unlike the thriving, affluent town it has become. From 1682, it was the seat of political power for the Kingdom of France. Louis Le Vaue was the architect responsible for the expansion of the palace from 1661 under the orders of Louis XIV. This building has been part of many significant historical events throughout French history. The palace is now only used as a museum and has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in France.
19. Stonehenge – Wiltshire, England
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument and is one of the most unusual attractions in Europe. It is located between Salisbury and Amesbury in Wiltshire, England, and consists of a ring of large standing stone. These stones each weigh approximately 25 tons and are around 13 feet in height. This British cultural icon is believed to have been constructed between 3000 BC and 2000 BC. Its purpose is a topic of hot debate. The stones are the centerpiece of a complex set of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments that also includes several hundred burial grounds. In 1882, the site became legally protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Although Stonehenge is owned by the Crown, it is managed by English Heritage. The National Trust owns the surrounding land.
18. Notre-Dame de Paris – Paris, France
Also known as Notre-Dame Cathedral, this structure is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. It is also one of the largest churches in France. It is the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris and contains the cathedra of the Archbishop of Paris. Its treasury is home to many of the most important relics in Catholicism. These include one of the Holy Nails, a fragment of the True Cross, and the Crown of Thorns. Construction of the cathedral began in 1163 and was completed in 1345. It has two towers that are 226 feet high. Notre-Dame suffered significant damage during the 1790s as a result of the French revolution. Restoration did not begin until 1845. The cathedral is home to the Archaeological Crypt of the Paris Notre-Dame. This houses historical ruins.
17. Trevi Fountain – Rome, Italy
The Trevi Fountain is a significant feature of Rome and one which attracts a lot of attention from tourists. It is one of the most famous fountains in the world and is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome. The fountain was originally designed by Nicola Salvi but was completed by Pietro Bracci. It measures 86 feet high and 161.3 feet across. Tourists throw a coin in the fountain and make a wish. It is an interesting fact that it is against the law to remove a coin from the Trevi Fountain. This landmark has appeared in many movies, including ‘Three Coins in the Fountain’ and ‘La Dolce Vita’. At night, the fountain is lit to highlight the sculptures. (Image via Hammock Hombre)
16. Grand Bazaar – Istanbul, Turkey
For many people, shopping is an important part of a vacation. If you are visiting Turkey, then spending time at the Grand Bazaar is an experience like no other. It is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. As many as 400,000 people visit this market every single day and it was listed as the most visited tourist attraction of 2014 when it had over 91 million visitors. The market is often described as one of the earliest shopping malls in the world. It is located in the Faith district of the Walled city of Istanbul and the core of the market was constructed between 1455 and 1456. The market sells an eclectic mix of items, from fresh produce to handmade arts and crafts items.
15. Amalfi Coast – Amalfi, Italy
Although there are many picturesque locations in Europe, the Amalfi Coast must come somewhere near the top of the list. This part of Italy is characterized by pretty pastel colored cottages sitting on the hillside and spectacular sea views. The Amalfi Coast is located in the Province of Salerno and stretches along the southern coast of the Salerno Gulf on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. Some of the produce for which this area is famous include limoncello, colorful ceramics, and handmade paper. It attracts thousands of visitors each year.
14. Anne Frank House – Amsterdam, Netherlands
For tragic reasons, Anne Frank has become one of the most famous figures in European history and this museum is a dedication to her. This is a writer’s house and a biographical museum that is located next to a canal called the Prinsengracht in central Amsterdam. The museum is housed in the 17th-century building where Anne Frank and her family hid from Nazi persecution during World War II. Although Frank did not survive the war, the diary that she wrote throughout the war was published in 1957. The block where the museum is located was intended for demolition. However, the Anne Frank Foundation purchased the property in 1957 to prevent this from happening. The museum opened to the public in 1960. The hiding place of Frank’s family has been preserved and it has two main exhibitions; one that is devoted to the life and times of Anne Frank and another which is about all forms of discrimination and persecution. The museum averages 1.3 million visitors a year.
13. Grand Canal – Venice, Italy
When thinking of Venice, people tend to have a stereotypical image of an Italian man with a moustache standing on a gondola and sailing down the Grand Canal in Venice. Although there are many canals in the city of Venice, the Grand Canal is the main waterway through the city. The canal is 3.8 kilometers long and stretches between the San Marco basin at one end and th3e lagoon by the Santa Lucia railway station at the other. It is used as a waterway for public transport, including the famous gondolas, water buses, and private water taxis. The canal is lined by houses, shops, restaurants, and historical structures. It is an interesting and unique way to travel across Venice and see the city from a different perspective.
12. Sistine Chapel – Vatican City
Regardless of whether you are religious or not, the Sistine Chapel is a stunning place to visit if you are lucky enough to travel to Vatican City. It is a chapel that lies within the Apostolic Palace which is the official residence of the Pope. Its purpose is for both religious and papal activity. The chapel was constructed in the 15th century and was designed by Baccio Pontelli and Giovanni Dolci. Other than the religious and historical significance of this building, another reason why people visit the chapel is to admire the breath-taking frescoes on the ceiling of the chapel. The most famous of these is ‘The Last Judgement’ by Michelangelo.
11. The Leaning Tower of Pisa – Pisa, Italy
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the most iconic structures in the world and it is famous for the fact that mistakes by the architects and engineers who created the tower caused its infamous lean. Almost everyone who visits Pisa in Italy wants to have their photograph taken in front of the wonky building. The tower was constructed throughout the 12th century and is the bell tower of Pisa Cathedral. The reason for the lean is that the ground on which it is built is soft and there were inadequate foundations for the structure. Over the decades, the lean increased. In the late 2oth century, engineers took steps to stabilize the structure. The tower has seven bells and stands at over 183 feet tall.
10. Saint Mark’s Basilica – Venice, Italy
There are plenty of reasons why Venice is a location worth visiting but the architecture in this city comes high on the list of reasons. Saint Mark’s Basilica is not only one of the most beautiful focal points in the city, it is also of historical and architectural significance. This stunning cathedral is one of the most prominent and recognizable structures not only in Venice, but in Italy as a whole. The oldest parts of the building were constructed in 828 AD and it was originally the Chapel of the Doge and was connected to Doge’s Palace. Although many aspects of this structure have an Italian design, it is clearly influenced by the Byzantine architectural style. It has many gold decorative features on the façade. For this reason, it has been given the nickname Chiesa d’Ora, meaning Church of Gold, since the 11th century.
9. The Alps
The Alps are one of the most important and spectacular natural landmarks in Europe and they attract millions of visitors each year. This mountain range spans eight countries, including France, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Solvenia, Germany, Monaco, and Austria. The mountains were formed on the Eurasian and African tectonic plates over 10 million years ago. Some of the highest and most famous peaks are Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. The Alps are an attraction for those who are interested in winter sports, hiking, and nature. The Alpine regions have a different culture to other areas of the countries The Alps cover, and people stay in this mountain range to experience this unique culture.
8. Van Gogh Museum – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Vincent van Gogh is one of the most famous and most widely studied artists in the world. This museum is dedicated almost entirely to this artist but does contain other works by his contemporaries from Amsterdam. It is located in Amsterdam South in an area called Museum Square as the square is also home to the Concertbouw, the Rijksmuseum, and the Stedelijk Museum. This museum opened to the public in 1973 and it is one of the most visited art museums in the world.
7. British Museum – London, England
While in London, one of the most interesting and educational venues you can visit is the British Museum. In 2015, this museum attracted more than 6.82 million visitors making it the fourth most visited attraction in the world. It also has the largest and most comprehensive collection of human history, art, and culture exhibits in the world as it has over 8 million exhibits. The museum was established in 1753 by Sir Hans Sloane who exhibited pieces that were predominantly from his own collection. It was opened in Montague House which was on the site of the current building which is located in the Bloomsbury area of London. Although it is called the British Museum, it has exhibits from every continent. It once had a library department but this was detached in 1973 and the British Library is now a separate entity.
6. Acropolis of Athens – Athens, Greece
Greece is a country that is steeped in history and is a location where many important historical events have occurred. This ancient citadel is located just outside Athens on a rocky outcrop overlooking the city and it contains the ruins of several significant ancient structures that are of historical and architectural importance. There is evidence to suggest that this site was inhabited form as early as the fourth millennium BC. Significant remains on this site include the Parthenon, the Erechtheioun, the Propylaia, and the Temple of Athena Nike.
5. Buckingham Palace – London, England
When people visit London’s capital city, there is one attraction that everyone wants to see; Buckingham Palace. The core of the palace was originally called Buckingham House and it was built in 1703 as a townhouse for the Duke of Buckingham. King George III then bought the house in 1761 for Queen Charlotte. It was then significantly expanded throughout the 19th century, predominantly by architects Edward Blore and John Nash. Once they had finished their work, the palace had three wings that are around a central courtyard. The ascension of Queen Victoria in 1837 marks the time when the palace became the residence of a British monarch. It is now the main London residence and the administrative headquarters for the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom. During World War II, a German bomb destroyed the Palace’s Chapel. This was replaced by the Queen’s Gallery which houses works of art from the Royal Collection. This was opened to the public in 1962. Another reason tourists like to visit the palace is to watch is ‘Changing the Guard’. The soldiers who stand on guard outside the palace in their formal attire conduct a formal ceremony every time they one set of guards finishes their shift and the new guards start their duty. It is quite a spectacular display.
4. The Louvre – Paris, France
Lovers of art, history, and culture adore The Louvre and it is one of the top attractions in Paris, France. This is a historic monument in Paris and is the largest art museum in the world. In 2016, The Louvre had 7.3 million visitors and this made it the world’s most visited museum. It contains approximately 38,000 objects dating from prehistory to the 21st century. These form an exhibition that covers 782,920 square feet. The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace and located on the Right Bank of the River Seine. The building was originally created as a fortress during the 12th century under the instruction of Philip II. It first opened as a museum in 1793 and originally displayed 537 paintings. The museum now displays many fascinating pieces by some of the world’s most famous artists. One of the most famous paintings housed in the Louvre is the ‘Mona Lisa’ by Leonardo da Vinci.
3. Sagrada Familia – Barcelona, Spain
If you are lucky enough to be visiting Barcelona is Spain, then you should definitely make the effort to see Sagrada Familia. It large unfinished church that dominates the skyline of Barcelona. The structure was designed by Antoni Gaudi, a Cataln architect. Work on construction commenced in 1882 under the supervision of architect Paula de Villar. He resigned after a year and Gaudi took over the project. He completely changed the original design and crated something new that combined curvilinear Art Nouveau and Gothic architectural styles. When Gaudi died in 1923, only one quarter of the project was complete. Construction continued using donations but the Spanish Civil War interrupted progress. The aim is to complete the structure by 2026 as this is the centennial anniversary of Gaudi’s death. In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the church and named it as a minor basilica. This building is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
2. Colosseum – Rome, Italy
When people think of famous landmarks in Italy, it is the Colosseum that comes to mind for many people. This structure is also known as the Flavian Amphitheater. This oval amphitheater is located in the center of Rome and it was constructed under the reigns of the three emperors during the Flavian dynasty. Construction began in AD 72 and final modifications were completed in around AD 96. This huge structure could hold as many as 80,000 spectators. The original use was to host gladiator contests, but it was also used for many other purposes over the years. These included executions, battle re-enactments, and animal hunts. It is now used purely as a tourist attraction. Thousands of visitors flock to see the amphitheater’s ruins each year. The structure is also home to a museum that is dedicated to Eros.
1. Eiffel Tower- Paris, France
The Eiffel Tower is one of the most easily recognized landmarks in the world and is a cultural icon of France. It is named after the engineer Gustav Eiffel whose company designed and constructed the tower between 1887 and 1889 and was created as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair. There was initially criticism of the wrought iron lattice design of the tower from leading artists and design experts. The structure is located on the Champ de Mars in Paris and measures 1.063 feet. It has three levels, 81 storeys, and restaurants located in the first and second levels. It is the tallest structure in Paris and was once the tallest building in the world. In 1930, it lost the title to the Chrysler building in New York. The Eiffel Tower attracts 6.9 million visitors a year and this makes it the most visited paid monument in the world.