The ultimate Europe bucket list: 26 things you must see and do in your lifetime

It’s bursting with world-famous culture, history, beaches and food – but how much of Europe have you explored? These are the best things to do in Europe…

1. Gawp at Gaudí’s Barcelona

The whole of Barcelona is a work of art, thanks to the incredible architecture by Antoni Gaudí – the likes of Casa Vicens, Parc Güell, and La Pedrera. La Sagrada Familia might have never been finished, but it’s still the most spectacular cathedral you’ve ever set foot in (just take a look at its ceiling, pictured above…).

2. See Rome’s ancient treasures

Trevi Fountain (Alamy)

The Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum, the Forum, Trevi Fountain, Villa d’Este… of all of Europe’s amazing city break destinations, Italy’s fair capital surely has the longest ‘must-see’ list. Not to mention all that gelato! Prepare for an unforgettable city break…

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3. Explore the lost city of Pompeii

A trip to Pompeii is the closest you’ll get to time travel: this ancient city was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD, and has been remarkably preserved. As you wander the eerie streets (which still bear Ancient Roman grafitti) you’ll get a real idea of what life was like almost 2,000 years ago. See it for yourself on our fabulous new Pompeii holiday with professor Michael Scott – an expert historian and BBC presenter who will help bring this fascinating region to life.

Take a step back in time at Pompeii (Alamy)

4. Visit the opera in Vienna

When it comes to cultural clout, Austria’s capital is Europe’s finest: a colourful hub of world-class opera, concerts and ballet performances. It’s also the birthplace of the waltz, which is why we’ve based our fabulous Ballroom Dancing holiday – featuring a dance workshop and exclusive show with former Strictly stars Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace – in this beautiful city.

You can still pick up a bargain ticket at Vienna’s Opera House (Alamy)

The opera doesn’t have to be an expensive experience either: you can pick up a standing-only ticket to Vienna State Opera House performances for less than €5 per person.

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5. Explore Switzerland’s glorious lakes

Lake Bachalpsee and Mount Schreckhorn (Alamy)

There are hundreds of lakes in Switzerland – but which ones are the best? Seebergsee is surrounded by walking and cycling trails, Lake Lucerne is best explored on boat tours, and Lake Constance spans the border with Germany and Austria – making for a fascinating cultural blend. If you love hiking trails with a great view, Switzerland is one of the best places to visit in Europe.

6. And Britain’s Lake District, too

Out-of-this-world views, within a few hours of London (Alamy)

You don’t have to travel far to experience the serenity of a lake-side retreat: the Lake District is just a few hours on the train from London, and boasts arguably some of the best walking trails in England. For starters, take an amble from the little town of Keswick to the pristine banks of Derwentwater – an easy, pretty jaunt that’ll get you hooked on this beautiful region.

Great British Breaks: See our exclusive UK hotel offers, from £90pp

7. Sail the Amalfi Coast

Fall in love with the azure waters and pretty clifftop villages of Italy’s Amalfi Coast – one of Europe’s loveliest seaside regions. The best way to experience it is by boat, discovering crowd-free beach coves and picturesque harbours every day. On our new foodie holiday, you’ll cruise the Amalfi Coast on board the magnificent Royal Clipper sail boat, accompanied by world-famous Italian chef Aldo Zilli – who’ll give special cooking demos and host an exclusive talk about his life and career, alongside fabulous all-inclusive meals showcasing the very best of Amalfi’s cuisine.

See Amalfi’s amazing coast for yourself (Alamy)

8. Be amazed by Spain’s Alhambra Palace

The city of Granada, in Spain’s sun-drenched south, is renowned for its incredible Arabesque architecture: think soaring archways, beautiful mosaics, and gorgeous courtyard gardens.

Be inspired by the Alhambra’s incredible architecture (Alamy)

If you love art and design, this is one of the best places to visit in Europe. The Alhambra fortress and palace is the jewel of this beautiful city – its Arabian Nights-style splendour makes for an enchanting afternoon tour.

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9. Tour Holland’s tulip gardens

It’s utterly incredible to see acres of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths in full bloom – and the gardens of Holland and Belgium in spring are some of the most stunning in the world.

A yellow wagtail inspects a tulip field in Holland (Alamy)


10. Go island hopping in Greece

Be seduced by Santorini (Alamy)

The Mediterranean islands are a feast for all the senses. If you love Victoria Hislop’s best-selling book The Island, why not join her on our new cruise to Sicily, Malta, Crete and Santorini? Over 14 days you’ll sail around Italy and the Greek islands before meeting Victoria, who’ll explain why she set her epic family saga on the beautiful deserted island of Spinalonga, and guide you around it herself. See the details

11. Hop along Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway

Not your typical beach (Alamy)

Looking more like a bizarre obstacle course than a natural stretch of coastline, the 40,000 interlocking stone columns of Giant’s Causeway are a striking sight to behold. They were created millions of years ago by a volcanic eruption – not, sadly, by giants.

12. Splash out in Venice

You HAVE to visit Venice at least once in your lifetime (Alamy)

Everyone knows that Venice is one of the best places to visit in Europe – but don’t let the crowds or price tags put you off. Visit ‘off season’ (September to February, avoiding Christmas and school holidays) for you best chances of enjoying Saint Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace and the Grand Canal in (relative) solitude.

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13. Learn to cook in Sicily

Your dinner parties will never be the same again… (Alamy)

Sure, you can feast on the rich pasta dishes, parmigiana bakes and juicy grills that Sicily is famed for, but why not go one step further and learn how to cook them for yourself? Look out for holidays featuring hands-on lessons from expert local chefs and wine tastings at local vineyards. Bellissima!

14. Overlook Paris from the Eiffel Tower

Its iconic for a reason (Alamy)

Yes, it’s a HUGE cliché, but if you haven’t been to the top of the Eiffel Tower we suggest you book a Eurostar ticket pronto. When you’re looking out over the Seine, your gaze skimming across the rooftops of Paris and up to Montmartre, the romance of Paris is undeniable.

** Bargain Hunt presenter Tim Wonnacott to join exclusive Woman & Home antiques-buying cruise in the South of France! **

15. Road trip through Scotland

The Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye (Alamy)

Where will the open road take you? Scotland is one of the best UK spots for a road trip: you could venture up into the highlands, catch the ferry between far-flung islands in the Hebrides, or simply scoot into the countryside on day trips from Glasgow of Edinburgh. For views like this incredible one pictured above, head to the Isle of Skye.

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16. Watch flamenco in Seville

Olé! (Alamy)

The rhythms of flamenco run through the heart of southern Spain – particularly in the streets of Seville. The month-long Bienal de Flamenco Sevilla showcases the best of Seville’s dancing talents every other September, with informal performances, street music and dance workshops held throughout the city.

17. Explore the Acropolis in Athens

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, an amphitheatre on the slopes of the Acropolis (Alamy)

Towering over the city of Athens, the Acropolis dates back to 4BC – to the days of ancient Greece. The rocky citadel is topped with the ruins of several impressive monuments, including the iconic Parthenon temple – which boasts incredible views of the city.

18. Have a spa break in the Italian Lakes

Grand Hotel Tremezzo

The glassy waters and rolling hills of the Italian Lakes make it one of Europe’s most serene spots – perfectly complemented by the area’s crop of luxurious spa hotels. Grand Hotel Tremezzo and Il Sereno on Laka Como both boast lavish spa treatments and swimming pools, while Lake Garda’s Lefay Resort & Spa is also a grand spot for a getaway. See our exclusive short break offers!

19. Devour a genuine Cornish ice cream

What could be better than hanging out on a Cornwall beach, with a genuine Cornish icecream in hand? You’ll never look at a Cornetto the same way again.

Cornwall’s real deal (Alamy)

20. Eat your way around Tuscany

The deli of your dreams, Tuscany (Alamy)

Did you know that ‘tiramisu’ literally translates as ‘pick me up’? We all know that Italy’s food is top-notch, but if you want the best of the best you need to get yourself to Tuscany – home of castagnaccio chestnut cake, garlic and olive oil-infused bruschetta, and pappa al pomodoro (the tastiest tomato soup you’ll ever encounter).

21. Go to a German Christmas market

Frankfurt’s Christmas Market is one of the best (Alamy)

It simply isn’t Christmas until you’ve spent a dark December weekend eating hot pork rolls and gingerbread, washed down with more mulled wines than you care to remember.

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22. Climb a Welsh peak

Whether you choose the coastal peaks of Pembrokeshire, the rolling Brecon Beacons, or the challenging peaks of the Black Mountains, nothing puts a spring in your step quite like a ramble in Wales’s hills.

Hiking in the Brecon Beacons (Alamy)

We’re lucky to have such incredible scenery on our doorstep – and a glut of traditional buttery Welsh cakes as your reward. For adventurous souls, this is one of the best places to visit in Europe.

23. Take a horse and cart through Krakow, Poland

The classiest way to navigate the cobbles of Krakow? By horse and cart – that’s how locals have been getting around the city for centuries.

Take a horse and cart from Krakow’s main market square (Alamy)

The impeccably groomed horses are decorated with ostich feathers and tassels, and will trot you around the sights in the comfort of a traditional carriage.

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24. See Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate

When Germany was reunified, the Brandenburg Gate became a symbol of unity (Alamy)

Since the end of the Cold War, the Brandenburg Gate has symbolised unity in Germany: it commemorates the reunification of East and West Germany in 1989, when it was finally opened as a border crossing between the divided states. Today, this monument of peace and tolerance is just as important – and moving – as ever.

25. Explore beautiful Bruges

Beautiful Bruges (Alamy)

Bruges was made for lazy, indulgent city breaks: it’s the kind of place where you can cruise on pretty canals, get lost in picture-perfect cobbled lanes, then feast on moules frites and Belgian beer for lunch.

26. Sip Champagne in… Champagne

Always try before you buy… (Alamy)

Want a taste of the good stuff? The city of Reims is a quick Eurostar trip away from the UK – and you’ll be happy to hear that Champagne is often cheaper when purchased directly from its creators. Hooray!

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