Narrowing down things to do during your travels can be tough, so with the help of other travel writers, we put together a European bucket list compilation. Since everyone has their own style of travel and interests, in this article you will find a range of things you should not miss when visiting Europe.
Some of the things you will find in this European bucket list are a given, like the Eiffel Tower. Others may be a bit more off the beaten path or a little lesser known. But that is the wonderful part about traveling. We all find something that inspires us and encourages us to share with the world as a must place visit.
European Bucket List: 35 Things NOT To Miss
Cinque Terre should be on your European bucket list because it is picture perfect Italy! Cinque Terre isn’t just one city, it is a collection of small and picturesque villages along the Ligurian Coast of Italy!
Access to Cinque Terre is easy to get to from Genoa and only a few hours away from Milan by train or car! Make sure to spend plenty of time walking around, experiencing local cuisine, and enjoying the sunset from one of the villages. Because the area is popular, it would be wise to consult a Cinque Terre travel guide before venturing over to learn all the ins and outs of the region.
Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany is one of the dreamiest castles in the world, it even inspired the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. It was built in the 1800’s, so it’s not really that old, even though it has a romantic style and architecture. It was built on order from King Ludwig II of Bavaria, and it’s situated near Fussen in the Bavaria region in Southern Germany.
I have been to quite a few castles and palaces in the world, but Neuschwanstein is certainly one of the best. The architecture is fantastic, but what’s even more satisfying is the interior. It’s a truly royal castle and King Ludwig II sure knew how to decorate. The amount of details and different themes are striking as you walk around inside the castle.
The only way to get inside is by joining of the guided tours. No photos are allowed, which is actually a good thing because then you don’t know what to expect. So many places these days can build up expectations from photos and lead to disappointment, but I can assure you that Neuschwanstein will not disappoint. It’s truly a fairy-tale castle that should be on every person’s European bucket list!
A huge, sparkling tower at night in the most romantic city in Europe and equally delicious city, what’s not to love? Perhaps the best reason for coming here is the sheer iconic value of the Eiffel Tower. In every movie you’ve ever seen that involved France, there was the gorgeous tower, standing in all its glory.
The ultimate European bucket list destination with popular day trips from Paris as well.
Perhaps the best thing you can do is go to the top of the tower in the evening or the daytime, if you prefer, for an unforgettable look at the City of Lights.
Once you get closer to it, you begin to realize just how huge it is. And after your visit, you will certainly appreciate the history behind the tower more than you ever have.
You will need tickets to get in, so be sure to book those in advance. Crowds of people hoping to experience this sight may slow you down in your visit, but it will be worth it. Be patient.
Also, be advised that an Uber or a cab home may take a while due to the popularity of the landmark. The best time of all to go is during New Years when the entire tower is lit up, it is one of the best things to do in Paris in the winter. Bring a camera so you can take photos of this amazing sight.
Acropolis of Athens
The Acropolis of Athens is one of the most iconic ancient sites of Europe, if not the world. It’s the birthplace of democracy, the cradle of Western Civilisation, and a top travel European bucket list item.
You can’t visit Athens and miss the Acropolis. Quite literally, in fact – it has a prominent position on top of a hill in the centre of the city. You can see it from most streets in the centre of town. Most people think first of the famous Parthenon temple but the term acropolis (which translates as citadel) refers to the wider hilltop archaeological site that encompasses several ancient Greek temples and civic structures.
Before you go it’s worth knowing that part of the Parthenon is currently clad in scaffolding – and will be for some time as part of an ongoing restoration project. If you see any photos minus scaffolding the have probably been photoshopped (or are really old!). But don’t let that put you off. You can also admire the the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and its famous Caryatids (although the originals are in the museum), and the Temple of Athena Nike, as well as the spectacular views across the city and out to sea.
If you want to dodge the masses of tour groups visiting the ancient site then try to get there early (before 10am) or later in the day (after 4pm). And bring a bottle of water because it can be a hot, steep walk. Entrance is usually €20 but it’s worth checking for the occasional free admission days (particularly on Sundays during the winter).
Only licensed (and expensive) guides are allowed in, so brush up on your history first – or take a trip to the Acropolis Museum. It requires a separate €5 ticket but is well worth it. Not only is the sleek modern design rather lovely, but it gives you the context you need to really appreciate the marvels of the Acropolis.
Hiking The Dolmites
The Dolomites should be included in any European Bucket list itinerary. This mountain chain, which is spread across the northern Italian regions of Trentino Alto Adige, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto, is part of the Alps.
The perfect place to go skiing in the winter, the Dolomites are an incredible place to visit throughout the year. However, it is in the summer months that they reach perfection, offering an incredible variety of activities such as mountain biking, horse riding and, first and foremost, hiking. The area is indeed packed with some fabulous trails. Though some travel to this part of the country for long distance hiking, there’s a great selection of short yet rewarding hikes in the Dolomites.
But there’s more: the Dolomites are a wonderful place to relax! With the many quaint villages packed with small yet interesting museums and delicious small restaurants. Not to mention, a state of the art spa (QC Terme, located in Pozza di Fassa) that has fabulous views of the mountains.
Last, but definitely not least, throughout the summer months the Dolomites host “I Suoni delle Dolomiti”, a music festival where world famous artists are invited to play in open air and free to attend concerts. There’s nothing better than listening to great music while completely immersed in the nature and in the gorgeous mountain setting.
Santorini is one of those places that you see on postcards and think “this cannot be real”, and then you go there and you discover that it is even better in reality, that is the reason it is on everyone’s European bucket list. The moment you lay your foot on the caldera, you will fall in love with the island.
The scenery is unique. The whitewashed houses and the tiny blue- domed churches perched on the cliff along with the view of the blue sea and sky make a breathtaking sight. Apart from the beautiful landscape, Santorini has great cuisine, many wineries that produce some unique varieties due to the volcanic soil of the island, and interesting archaeological sites.
It may not have the best beaches compared to other Greek islands (like the beaches in Mykonos) but its beaches are different because of the volcano and have crystal clear waters. Apart from the villages on the caldera, there are some other pretty villages on the island like Pyrgos and Emporio, with unique architecture, a maze of cobbled alleyways and blossomed bougainvilleas. Even the hotels on the island are beautiful, carved on the rock with infinity pools overlooking the sea and the volcano.
Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands:
79 acres of flowers, around 7 million bulbs, tulips of all colors you can imagine: welcome to my European bucket list item, the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands!
The world’s largest flower garden is a place to get lost (preferably with your camera) and forget about time. There are plenty of flower displays throughout the park to fall in love with as well as areas where you can picnic. So, bring your lunch, a few snacks, and something to drink to enjoy the gardens a little more. Remember to be a responsible tourist and throw the garbage in the trash bin.
Each year the garden administration chooses a theme and they decorate the park accordingly. One of the highlights of this decoration are the mosaics they make with flowers, such as Van Gogh’s face and a heart, just to name a few. A complete artwork!
The smell of flower lingers in the air and when you open your eyes, you see an explosion of dazzling colors! The first time my husband and I went there, we were both astonished by that vibrant scene.
Also, don’t think that the Keukenhof is just for women, this is an attraction for all sorts of tourists. From families to couples and solo travelers (also males).
Hot tips: The Keukenhof is a European bucket list item for many people and, since the park is only open for 2 months a year, it’s most likely to be crowded in the weekends and in the last week.
Road Trip Through The Faroe Islands
Taking a road trip through the Faroe Islands is something that should be on everyone’s European bucket list. I have done it twice and both times were travel experiences that are incomparable to anything else I’ve ever done.
The Faroes are a group of 18 islands in the North Atlantic that have some of the best scenery on the planet- rugged, dramatic, and remote. The history of the islands is a tough one and the people that live there come from a resilient bunch as the challenging landscapes offered harsh lifestyles for those that inhabited the islands.
Fortunately, life is a bit easier for the Faroese now and they are allowing tourism in to experience the beauty of the place. You can either rent a car or book a tour that will take you on a road trip through the islands that are connected by ferries, bridges, undersea tunnels, or helicopter. You can see waterfalls flowing into oceans on Vagar, sheep running amuck on Suduroy, sod-rooves in Saksun, colorful houses in Gjogv, abandoned villages on Bordoy, and much more.
The landscapes do vary, but all are mindblowing and worthy of visiting. I have never been somewhere as beautiful as the Faroes and I think that a road trip through the islands should be on everyone’s European bucket list.
Mont Saint-Michel, France
Like something out of a fairy-tale, Mont Saint-Michel on France’s Normandy coast, feels like a mythical Disney kingdom come to life. Mont Saint-Michel is a tidal island, connected to the mainland via a causeway. This UNESCO heritage site has been a site of religious significance since the 8thCentury and a must on visit on your European Bucket List.
The current monastery is of Romanesque design. You can climb up to it to view the beautiful chapel and to take in the views from the top of the hill. With only around 50 permanent residents, the tiny island receives millions of visitors each year. A photographer’s dream, visiting the area overnight so that you can see both a sunrise and a sunset over the monastery’s spire is an absolute must.
While at Mont Saint-Michel, be sure to take a low-tide tour of the mudflats around the island – remember don’t do this alone because the tides and quicksand can be dangerous. Take a walk around the fortified sea wall and stop for dinner at one of the many restaurants overlooking the water. Mont Saint-Michel has a fascinating history of siege, pilgrimage, and different kingdoms claiming it as their own, it has even been a prison!
Around 3 hours from Paris by bus or train, Mont Saint-Michel is a very achievable European bucket list item to tick off your list.
Glacier Lagoon in Iceland
Atop every European bucket list should grace Glacier Lagoon in Iceland. Not only is the Glacier Lagoon magnificent but a lot of people haven’t been there yet. The glistening blue color of the ice formations as they are scattered about will take your breath away.
Directly across the street from the Glacier Lagoon is Diamond Beach where you will find gorgeous black sand and large chunks of ice that have broken off from the glacier. In recent years both locations have grown increasingly popular on European Bucket List travels.
The Glacier Lagoon is a bit of a drive from Reykjavik. You could take a tour there or rent a car and explore on your own.
Wine Tasting in Catalonia
The DO Empordà is the oldest wine region in Spain, and is one of the least known of the Spanish wine regions. The wine itself takes on the characteristics of the Costa Brava — the sea, the mountains, and the winds. But the people behind this Costa Brava wine region offer some great opportunities for exploration by wine lovers and visitors to Catalonia, the northeast corner of Spain.
Lago di Braies, also known as Pragser Wildsee, is one of the largest, deepest, and most beautiful lakes in Italy. It’s located in the Braies Valley in the South Tyrolean Dolomites, 1500 meters above sea level.
The lake has clear green-blue water and is surrounded by lush nature and the mountain Croda del Becco, that you can see the reflection on a calm and clear day.
The best time to visit Lago di Braies is during summer when you can rent a boat, hike around the lake, and even go for a swim if you’re brave enough. It takes around 1,5-2 hours to hike around the lake and it’s suitable for both adults and children. After hiking or rowing around on the lake you can always head over to Hotel Pragser Wildsee for a lunch or just a cup of coffee.
In addition to that, the lake is also the backdrop to the famous Italian Tv-Show ”Un Passo dal Cielo” which has made thousands of Italians to visit the iconic lake!
Lago di Braies has also gained quite a popularity through social media, and many of the world’s biggest influencers and photographers have come here to take photos. It’s truly picturesque and should be on everyone’s European bucket list. I recommend going here on an early morning if you want to escape the crowds.
Charles Bridge and Prague Old Town
In consort with what some consider to be the most picturesque Old Town in Central Europe, Prague’s Charles Bridge is a legendary European bucket list item. Prague first timers will be captivated by the medieval atmosphere, the bridge’s amazing statuary, and the views over the Vltava River.
When we went to Lake Como I was a little apprehensive – my mum had had it on her European bucket list for many years and we had agreed to go together. I didn’t know how it was going to work out for our kids or as a multi-generational holiday.
I needn’t have worried – Lake Como is one of the most all-round fun, stunningly gorgeous places that we have ever visited! As we drove along the winding roads that lead to the lakeside villages I knew immediately it would be the perfect destination. Not just that but the higher altitudes also meant it was a great place for spectacular summer weather without suffering some of the heat that you get in the rest of Europe.
From stunningly gorgeous scenery to outdoor activities (think boat trips and exploring picture postcard villages – to swimming in the lake to touring historic manor houses)… There are great restaurants or you can grab things for a picnic and enjoy a meal on a boat or by the lake. There are places to enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass or wine and watch the world go by or just wonder at the incredibly beauty of the lake.
We visited as a family but I know people who have taken girly trips there and others who have gone on a couple’s holiday. Lake Como is a must see place for the beautiful panoramic views alone but it’s not just that: There really is something for everyone to do!
Venice is one of those magical cities that tugs at your heartstrings. And its home to one of the top European bucket list items – Venice’s Grand Canal. This nearly 4 kilometre long canal ranges from 30 to 90 metres wide and winds its way around the floating city in an s shape. It’s the first thing you see when you exit the Santa Lucia train station.
Jump on board the ferry and take it all the way along the Grand Canal. It’s the best way to see Venice. From the water you can see some of Venice’s top sights, from San Marco’s Square to the Bridge of Sighs, and even the most famous bridge crossing the Grand Canal – the Rialto Bridge.
Venice’s Grand Canal will sweep you off your feet with its brilliant sunsets, and the best way to soak these in is by gondola ride along the Grand Canal. From this perspective you can’t help but be enchanted by the incredible architecture and buildings rising right up out of the water. As the sun sets on Venice, the waters of the Grand Canal shimmer with fairy dust and the buildings are cast in a warm, rich glow and you feel like you’re in a dream.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes National Park is unquestionably one of the most naturally beautiful places in the whole of Europe. Surrounded by wild forest, the 16 interconnected lakes of the park have almost impossibly clear turquoise waters. The pristine lakes are connected by a series of waterfalls, which only add to the park’s beauty.
There are 2 sections at Plitvice Lakes National Park – the upper lakes and the lower lakes. Both sections feature the park’s famous crystal clear waters, as well as offering stunning scenery.
The 12 upper lakes make up the larger part of the park, with this section being home to arguably the park’s most beautiful waterfalls. In particular, Galovački Buk is a sight to behold, especially if you arrive at the right time for rays of sunlight to break through the surrounding forest.
Although the 4 lower lakes make up the smaller section of the park, this area is by no means less impressive. In fact, this section is home to the tallest waterfall in Croatia – Veliki Slap. Standing at 78 metres tall, Veliki Slap is one of the highlights of the park, with trails leading to brilliant viewpoints both from afar and up close enough to get soaked with the spray!
With so much incredible nature to discover, Plitvice is one of the top European bucket list items.
Nyhavn in Copenhagen, Denmark
If you are going to do a roundup Europe trip, you can’t miss this tiny but magical country in the Scandinavia region – Denmark. Denmark is the oldest monarchy in Europe. Visiting the Nyhavn in Copenhagen, you will have a great taste of its charming monarchy vibe and their Viking ancestor.
The colorful and very north European architecture will capture your heart. While taking a boat ride from here to the famous attractions in the city, it will convince you that Denmark is definitely representing traditional Europe. After your boat ride, have a seat on one of the cute cafes because you’re not leaving without having a bite of Danish cakes and cookies. To wrap up your visit, hop on a bicycle, ride along and be amazed at how many locals uses this type of transportation every single day and how easy it is to cycle around the cities of Denmark. Stroll around until you reach Christiania, the free town. Make sure to stay long enough and head back to Nyhavn in time to watch the sunset and enjoy a Danish beer.
Getting to Copenhagen is very easy, you can either hop on a flight, there are very affordable ones offered by Ryanair from the major cities in Europe while you can also take a train or bus to enjoy the scenery.
Even though Europe is many times described as a fairy-tale due to its architecture and magical landscapes, the reality is that for most of its time, Europe has been a very troubled continent, marked by centuries of war. Mostar is the perfect place to better understand Europe’s complex history, both modern and ancient.
Most of the town’s center, including its main attraction, the Stari Most (Old Bridge), was destroyed during the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990’s. The bullet holes that you still see as you stroll around the city are a harsh reminder that Europe is still very far from being a fairy-tale. However, the astonishing reconstruction that has occurred in the last few decades is a reminder of all the good humanity can do as well. The kindness of the people of Mostar is on itself reason alone to visit, but there’s much more to make it obligatory on your European Bucket list. For example, the mix between Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian architecture is something you can only truly find in this part of the world.
Many people visit Mostar as a day trip from famous Dubrovnik nearby, but after spending four days in the town, we can absolutely guarantee that it deserves much more than just a few hours. We could spend endless days just strolling the beautiful cobbled streets, spending all our money at the Old Bazaar, and trying out the different varieties of delicious Bosnian food. If you can, try to take your time to truly appreciate the town. There are also great day trips you can do from Mostar, the most famous being to Blagaj, Pocitelj and the refreshing Kravice waterfalls.
Lisbon Sardines Festival
Some of the most exciting festivals and celebrations in Europe happens in Portugal, and the biggest street celebration of all is the St. Anthony’s Festival in capital Lisbon, fondly known as the Lisbon Sardine Festival.
As you probably can guess, most of these Portuguese festivals revolve around Catholic holidays, and the Feast of Saint Anthony is no different.
On June 12th every year, Lisbon honors its patron saint of St. Anthony of Padua. He was said to preach the Gospels to a school of sardines, who came to the shore to listen to him. Ironically, consuming these sardines is now the iconic things to eat in Lisbon during this festival!
There are many local traditions associated with the Festival of St. Anthony. One of them is to rub the Manjerico – a potted plant of basil in the form of a ball that symbolizes newly-sprouted love. You might just find that “special someone” during the festival!
If you happen to have it on your European bucket list, you will have to come prepared for a crazily fun street celebration. Head out to the historical neighborhoods of Baixa and Alfama for the festivities. Here, you will join thousands of people for great music, dances and thick smoke from grilled sardines. Get yourself this local delicacy from hundreds of street vendors that are lining up the narrow streets of these neighborhoods. Wash it off with good and cheap sangria or local beers.
Road Trip To Tuscany
Golden light, rolling hills, quaint villages, and beautiful vineyards–there’s nothing quite like a road trip in Tuscany.
Whether you’re looking for beautiful cities, great hiking, unique experiences like natural hot springs, or even just to eat and drink your way through the region, you can’t go wrong with spending time in Tuscany–and as one of the most iconic landscapes in the world, you’re bound to find some views that are truly magnificent.
Consider checking out the ancient city of Siena, staying in a farmhouse in the countryside, driving through the stunningly beautiful Val d’Orcia, hitting up the hot springs, and taking an afternoon for gorgeous small cities like San Gimignano, Lucca, Volterra, and more.
While the wine is a big part of tourism in Tuscany (and rightfully so–it’s delicious), you’ll need to plan your drinking carefully on a road trip through Tuscany. Consider spending at least a night or two at a vineyard–not only do vineyards make amazing accommodation choices, you’ll be able to imbibe guilt-free!
I recommend either starting or ending your European bucket list Tuscany road trip in Florence–while it is a truly magnificent city that deserves time on any Tuscany itinerary, driving into the city is strictly regulated. By starting or ending there, you can ditch the car while in Florence and explore the city in the best way possible–on foot.
Tapas Bar hopping in San Sebastian
If you love food, history, and culture, tapas bar hopping in San Sebastian in northern Spain is one activity that you cannot miss on your European bucket list. This area of Spain is part of the Basque culture and it has its own separate language, and the tapas are called pintxos.
Some of the best streets to have pintxos in San Sebastian are Pescaderia street (calle), San Jeronimo and 31 Agosto. However, you can find great pintxos just about everywhere in San Sebastian. The Spanish Basque area of northern Spain has the highest concentration of Michelin stars anywhere in the world. Some of the delectable delicacies you can have here include the seafood specialties of octopus – Galician style with olive oil and paprika on potatoes.
Other highlights are grilled squid, mussels prepared in dozens of ways and shrimp skewers. As San Sebastian is a port, you can be sure of fresh seafood at all times. Besides seafood, the bars offer meat and vegetable pintxes like morcilla (blood sausage), tortilla espanola (Spanish omelet) and many others. This place is a foodie’s paradise.
European Bucket List: The Givens
These items need no description and are just a given when planning your European bucket list trip!
- Pub crawl in Dublin
- Montmartre neighborhood in Paris
- The Golden Circle in Iceland
- La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
- Big Ben in London
- Colosseum in Rome
- Red Light District in Amsterdam
- Blue Lagoon in Iceland
- Gondola ride in Venice
- Ski the Alps
- Visit the oldest Catholic Church in the world in Split
- Yacht Week
- Blue Mosque in Turkey
- Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna
- Blue Hole in Kotor
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