Top 25 Things to Do in Europe: 2014 Viator Travel Awards

January 6, 2014 by

Europe, Places to Go, Press & Publicity, Things to Do, Viator Travel Awards

2014 Viator Travel Awards

Here are the Top 25 Things to Do in Europe in 2014!

Editor’s Note: This post is part of the Viator Travel Awards, an annual awards competition where we – along with our readers, travelers, and fans – select the top things to do and see in each of the major regions we serve, the top things to do in our most popular tour categories, and more.

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Welcome to the 2014 Viator Travel Awards: Europe Edition! This year, we’re featuring a mix of destinations and experiences to compile a list of 25 ways you can explore the European continent. Some of the items on this list are specific to one place, while others are things you can do in several places throughout Europe.

The tours and activities highlighted are chosen based on traveler reviews, data from the millions of people who check out Viator.com during the year, and data on which tours in Europe travelers book most often. We think you’ll enjoy reading about the array of activities available in each of these places – it’s the little mental vacation we could all use right now – and we also think this list is a great place to start if you’re planning a trip to Europe in 2014.

You’ll find all kinds of activities and sights listed here, including tapas tours in Madrid, Northern Lights tours in Iceland, bike tours at Versailles, exclusive breakfast visits at the Vatican, shore excursions to ancient Ephesus, and Harry Potter-themed walking tours of London. Join us for this tour of the Top 25 Things to Do in Europe in 2014!

1. Skip the Lines at Rome’s Most Popular Attractions

Skip the Lines at the Colosseum

Skip the Lines at the Colosseum

No one likes waiting in line, least of all when you’re on vacation and every second seems precious. In Rome, where it’s essentially the tourism high-season all year long, there are almost always lines to get into all the top attractions. Luckily, there are tours that will whisk you right past the queue and into whatever museum or monument you’re there to see. You can skip the line with an exclusive tour of the Colosseum and its underground chambersskip the line at the Roman Catacombs, and even skip the line at the Vatican Museums - one of the most popular museums in Italy. If bypassing the line isn’t enough, then consider a Vatican VIP experience, with breakfast at the Vatican and early access to the Vatican Museums. Not only will you avoid waiting in line, you’ll have quite the tour to talk about when you get home.

2. Bypass the Crowds at the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre

Visit the Eiffel Tower!

Visit the Eiffel Tower!

Two of the biggest lures for tourists in Paris are the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum – and both should be at the top of your list, even if they’re at the top of everyone else’s list. Some things, after all, are touristy for good reasons. But just because you’re headed for the same attractions as the rest of the crowd doesn’t mean you need to wait to get in with the rest of the crowd. Simply by booking a “skip the line” tour ahead of time, you’ll saunter past the queue at the entrance, have your fun, and be on your way to check other items off your list. Choose a skip the line guided tour of the Eiffel Tower or just buy skip the line Eiffel Tower tickets (and conduct your own tour). Go on a skip the line guided tour of the Louvre Museum to make sure you don’t miss any of the most famous pieces, and avoid the long wait at the ticket window as an added bonus.

3. Explore the Tuscan Countryside

Explore the Tuscan Countryside

Explore the Tuscan Countryside

Even if you haven’t read that famous book about the Tuscan sun, no doubt you’ve got an image in your mind of the Tuscan countryside – and, as lovely as the city is, a few days in Florence won’t quite give you the countryside experience you might be craving. You don’t have to bother with renting your own car or navigating your way around twisting country roads to see the rolling hills of Tuscany. Instead, go on a guided tour of Tuscany that gets you out of the city. Check out two of the region’s best-known walled towns with a day trip to Siena and San Gimignano from Florence. Sample Tuscany’s signature grapes with a Chianti region wine tasting half-day trip. You can even see the highlights of Tuscany in a day trip from Rome. Even if it just gives you a taste of what the countryside can offer, any of these options will give you another perspective on Italian culture – and might make you plan more out-of-city experiences for your next Italy trip.

4. Escape With a Visit to the Worlds of Your Favorite Characters in Dubrovnik, Rome, Zurich, and England

The sight of King's Landing in Game of Thrones

The sight of King’s Landing in Game of Thrones

Vacation is, in many ways, about escape – just like our favorite books and movies. So what better way to really escape than to combine to two? There are tours all over the world where you can visit movie and TV show filming locations, the places that inspired certain stories, and even actual movie sets in studios. In Dubrovnik, go on an exclusive “Game of Thrones” walking tour. In Rome, explore the city of Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons.” In the countryside of Oxfordshire, visit “Downton Abbey” filming locations. From Zurich, see two countries in a day while touring Heidiland. And in London, you can take a Harry Potter walking tour, go on a Warner Bros Studio tour of the Making of Harry Potter, and even get a private extended session in the actual Great Hall from the Harry Potter films. If a holiday is escape and your favorite films are more escape, putting the two together may just be the best getaway ever.

5. Hop On, Hop Off for a No-Stress City Tour

Hop-on Hop-off tour in London

Hop-on Hop-off tour in London

Often, the best way to get to know a new city is to just start walking – but of course that can also be a good way to get really lost. Before you start exploring on foot, then, consider a bus tour to get your bearings – and with a hop on/hop off bus tour, you can take advantage of the route’s many stops at famous attractions. There are hop on/hop off bus tours in cities throughout Europe, including RomeParisDublinBerlinMadrid, and even the original London sightseeing tour. Jump off the bus at any stop, visit the attraction there, and then get back on the next bus to continue along the route. Meanwhile, you’re getting an overview of the city – including audio commentary – so you’re less apt to get lost later on.

6. See Venice… Before it’s Too Late

Venice gondola ride

Venice gondola ride

Venice isn’t the city it once was. Between some degree of sinking under its own weight and higher tides coming in from the Venetian Lagoon, water has been slowly damaging the city for hundreds of years. What used to be the first floor of many canalside palazzos is now underwater, and walls continue to crumble into the water below. There is still plenty of Venice above the water line, of course, and it’s the kind of place that leaves an impression. With limited time, you can take a Venice in one day tour. With a longer visit (highly recommended), you can explore the lagoon islands on a Murano, Burano, and Torcello half-day sightseeing tour. And for a romantic evening, you can go on a famous Venice gondola ride with a serenade. Venice is a city like no other – see it now, before it changes.

7. See the Ancient Wonder of Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

We may never know exactly what circumstances drove people to build Stonehenge, or precisely how it was used, but there’s no getting around how exceptionally interesting the ancient monument remains. This kind of window into the past – a structure erected thousands of years ago by people who walked on the same ground we now walk on – is rare enough to still inspire awe. Don’t miss a chance to see Stonehenge for yourself. Take a day trip to Stonehenge from London - you can even make it a day trip to Stonehenge that includes nearby Windsor Castle and Bath, plus a pub lunch. And if you really want to be wowed by the ancient stones, book a private viewing of Stonehenge to avoid the notorious crowds. No matter how you choose to get there, however, Stonehenge is one of those attractions that’s not to be missed in England.

8. See the Birthplace of Cabaret in Paris

Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge

“Moulin Rouge” isn’t just the name of a famous movie – it’s a real club, the first cabaret opened in Paris in the 1880s, and it still exists today. The idea of cabaret may not be as scandalous as it once was, but it remains a great way to kick up your heels (or at least watch the dancers do it) while you’re on vacation in France. You can go to a Moulin Rouge dinner show, or simply book tickets to a cabaret show at the Moulin Rouge and do dinner elsewhere. You can also visit other cabarets in the City of Lights, with a Paradis Latin dinner show or a Lido de Paris dinner show. And you can hit all the highlights of Paris with a tour that includes the Eiffel Tower, a Moulin Rouge show, and a Seine river cruise all in one night. An evening like that helps make for a memorable Paris vacation.

9. Follow the Romantic Road to Neuschwanstein in Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

To see the kind of scenery that’s been considered “quintessential Germany” since the 1950s, you’ll need to follow the Romantic Road in the southern part of the country. Conveniently, it can be a perfect day trip from Munich. The southern terminus of the Romantic Road is the town of Fussen, which sits at the base of the storybook Neuschwanstein Castle, so you can combine sightseeing along the picturesque route with a stop at the castle that inspired Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. Take a day tour from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle, a Romantic Road day trip from Munich to Rothenburg and Harburg to see some of the villages along the way, or visit two royal castles at Neuschwanstein and Linderhof in one day trip from Munich. This is scenery straight out of a fairy tale, which is bound to make your vacation seem even more magical.

10. See Some of the World’s Greatest Works of Art in Italy, France, and Spain

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

You don’t have to be an art aficionado to have great art museums on your European itinerary. Some of the most famous works of art in the world are on display in cities throughout the continent, and it can be truly special to see them in person. In Milan, take a half-day walking tour that includes a visit to Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” In Barcelona, book a skip the line tour of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia - or take a surreal side trip from Barcelona with a visit to the Salvador Dali Museum in a day trip. In a day trip from Paris to Giverny, see the gardens Monet painted repeatedly in different lights and seasons. In Florence, skip the line to see the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia, the city’s two most popular museums. With all these options (and more), you not only get to see art that you’ve previously only seen in books, you get a guided tour to explain why each piece is important to art history – which gives your vacation an educational element that’s hard to beat.

11. Get a Bird’s-Eye-View of London

View from the London Eye

View from the London Eye

In some cities, in order to get that postcard view – the one overlooking the whole skyline – you would need to hire a helicopter or be in a hot air balloon. In London, however, there are a few places that allow you to see the city from above without being in a flying machine of any kind. The most popular is the London Eye, the slow-moving ferris wheel beside the river with its glass enclosures affording spectacular views. You can get skip the line tickets to the London Eye to get the great view without the long queues. During a visit to the Tower of London, take a tour of the White Tower to get onto the roof and see the city from another vantage point. And for a seriously soaring view, head to the 72nd floor of The Shard (the EU’s tallest building) to the UK’s highest open-air observation deck. You can book a VIP exclusive tour that includes The Shard, The Tower of London, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. If you choose to tell friends back home that you flew over London to get those photos, who can blame you?

12. Stand in the Shadow of Europe’s Most Infamous Volcano in Italy

Visit Pompeii

Visit Pompeii

We’ve all heard the story of Pompeii, the ancient Roman city that was buried in seconds by volcanic ash from an eruption in 79 A.D. But what you might not know is that the volcano that erupted is still looming over Pompeii and the surrounding area – and it’s still active. Mt. Vesuvius sits near the bay just outside Naples, its sizeable crater visible from the archaeological site at Pompeii. You can stand in awe of the mountain – and the extensive ruins it left us – on a Pompeii day trip from Rome. Make it a day trip to both Naples and Pompeii from Rome and you can sample some of Naples’ famous pizza, too. And if the far-away view of the volcano isn’t enough for you, you can actually hike up to the crater. Take a day trip from Naples to Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius to see both sides of the story.

13. Tiptoe Through the Tulips in Amsterdam

Visit a Tulip field in Amsterdam

Visit a Tulip field in Amsterdam

Amsterdam may be famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) for its Red Light District and relaxed attitude toward recreational drugs, but there was a time when the Netherlands were best known for their tulips. At one point in the mid-1600s, single tulip bulbs were sold for 10 times the annual salary of most craftsmen. Today, the Netherlands is still an epicenter of the tulip industry, and you can see that for yourself during a visit to Amsterdam. Take a day trip from Amsterdam to the Keukenhof Gardens and tour the tulip fields - they’re spectacular when they’re in bloom. You can also include a tour of the Keukenhof Gardens with a day trip to the Zaanse Schans windmills, Volendam, and Marken. It’s a colorful and historic counterpoint to some of Amsterdam’s other colorful aspects.

14. Taste the Local Culinary Delights of Spain, Italy, France, Germany and Ireland

Try some of Paris' famous chocolate

Try some of Paris’ famous chocolate

Nevermind that the old “calories don’t count on vacation” saying isn’t even remotely true. We love exploring new cuisines when we travel, especially to countries that are famous for their culinary traditions. This year, don’t just limit your tasting experiences to three meals a day, however – take a food-oriented tour to really get to know the local specialties. Join a tapas walking tour in Madrid to learn about Spain’s dining culture over dinner. Enjoy a Bavarian beer and food evening tour in Munich and challenge yourself to remember what you learned the next day. Take a Roman food walking tour, get a skip the line ticket to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, or go for a decadent chocolate and pastry tour in Paris. No matter how you indulge, with a guided tour added to your dining experience, you can turn a meal into a memory.

15. Learning About World War II History in France, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Germany

WWII Memorial in Normandy

WWII Memorial in Normandy

Sometimes history inspires awe and admiration, and sometimes facing history is difficult. Europe presents many opportunities to learn more about (and pay our respects to) the people involved with World War II. In France, you can visit the Normandy D-Day beaches on a half-day trip from Bayeux, or tour the Normandy D-Day beaches and battlefields on a day trip from Paris. In Poland, you can take a day trip from Krakow to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum. In the Czech Republic, you can visit the Terezin Concentration Camp on a day trip from Prague. In Germany, you can take a Hitler and the Third Reich walking tour of Munich, take a day trip from Munich to see the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial, or go to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial on a day trip from Berlin. History may not always be easy, but it’s always important to remember it, lest we make the same mistakes again.

16. Experience Unique Transportation in Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Florence

Ride through the canals in Amsterdam

Ride through the canals in Amsterdam

Many European cities are ideal for exploring on foot, or have excellent public transportation networks that make getting around a breeze. But for an added fun twist to your sightseeing, why not incorporate an unusual mode of transportation into your itinerary? You can ride on two wheels for a bike tour of Rome or a bike tour of Berlin, or add a motor to those two wheels for a Vespa tour of Florence and the Tuscan hills. Hop on an even more interesting set of two wheels for a Segway tour of Paris or a Segway tour of Rome. If you want something more leisurely, take to the water for a Seine river cruise in Paris or an Amsterdam canals candlelight cruise. You can relive a romantic era with a horse and carriage ride through Paris. And you can even get behind the wheel of a vintage Fiat 500 on a self-drive tour of Tuscany. Make getting around half the fun, and you’ve made your day that much more memorable.

17. See the Islands and Highlands of Scotland

Scottish Highlands

Scottish Highlands

There is plenty to see and do in the cities of Scotland, and you could certainly have a fabulous trip seeing the likes of Glasgow and Edinburgh. But Scotland is known for its rugged countryside, with rolling hills of windblown heather, and there’s no way to see that in the cities. Luckily, you don’t have to go far outside the city limits to get a feel for the wild side of Scotland. Take a day trip from Edinburgh to Loch Ness, Glencoe, and the Highlands (you can take the same Loch Ness, Glencoe, and Highlands day trip from Glasgow, too). Explore the West Highland lochs and castles on a day trip from Edinburgh. And, if a simple day trip doesn’t satisfy your need for countryside, then you can join a 3-day tour from Edinburgh to the beautiful Isle of Skye in the Hebrides Islands.

18. Follow the Sound of Music in Austria

See where the Sound of Music filmed in Salzburg

See where the Sound of Music filmed in Salzburg

Does the refrain, “The hills are alive with the sound of music…” make you swoon with affection for the story of the Von Trapp family? Then don’t miss a chance to visit the Salzburg area of Austria, where “The Sound of Music” takes place. Learn about the real-life historic events behind the movie on a Salzburg day trip from Munich (you can also take a Salzburg day trip from Vienna, too, if that’s your home base). Explore more of the area around the city with a Salzburg and Lake District day trip from Munich. And if music – but not “The Sound of Music” – is your passion, then visit the river that inspired two famous waltzes, a symphony, and a national anthem on a Danube Valley day trip from Vienna.

19. Explore a Lavish Palace in France, Austria, Spain or Portugal

Versailles

Versailles

We all know the chances of finding unknown royal blood in our ancestry are slim to none, but that doesn’t mean we can’t fantasize about living in a European palace when we’re on vacation. There are many palaces and castles open to the public, so you can see – up close – how the other half lived. Take in the famous palace and gardens of Versailles on a bike tour from Paris, or combine Versailles with Monet’s Giverny on a day trip. You can even book a VIP exclusive tour of Versailles that includes a private viewing of the royal quarters. Take a skip the line tour of the Alhambra palace and gardens in Granada. Attend a Schonbrunn palace evening tour with dinner and a concert on the grounds in Vienna. Visit two palaces on a Sintra and Cascais day trip from Lisbon. Indulge in Loire Valley wine tasting in between stops at beautiful chateaux. Travel gives us a chance to pretend to have another life, so why not make it a luxurious one?

20. Climb to the top of Europe in the Alps and Dolomites

Reach the top of the Alps

Reach the top of the Alps

Not all of Europe’s attractions are ancient monuments or man-made creations – some of the best attractions are natural. The majestic mountain ranges of the Alps and Dolomites are natural wonders that will keep an outdoorsy vacationer happy, and give everyone a new perspective on the scenery. You can ride an historic train to Europe’s highest railway station, where you’ll survey the landscape from the Jungfraujoch – officially the top of Europe – on a day trip from Zurich. Also from Zurich, you can take a day trip to Lucerne and then up to Mount Titlis where you’ll ride on a revolving cable car to the summit, walk over Europe’s highest suspension bridge, and zip down a snow slide. Visit one of the most famous ski resort villages in Europe at Chamonix (where you get excellent views of the peak at Mont Blanc) on a day trip from Geneva. From Venice, you can take a day trip into the Dolomite Mountains, which are part of the Alps but also have their own distinct characteristics. Architecture buffs often remind us that to see the best part of a building, we need to look up – and, with mountains like this overhead, it’s easy to understand how the same can be said of Europe’s landscapes, too.

21. Explore the Wonders of Ancient Empires

See the Acropolis in Athens

See the Acropolis in Athens

A visit to Europe gives us a chance to turn the clocks back not just hundreds, but thousands of years. In many cases, evidence of ancient cultures isn’t something we need to imagine – we can walk on their streets and visit their temples. It can be both an educational and a humbling experience. You can explore Byzantine and Ottoman history in Istanbul in one day, visiting Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace, and the Grand Bazaar. Go even further into history in the Greek capital of Athens, where you can take an exclusive tour of the Acropolis, see the new Acropolis Museum, and cap off the evening with a traditional Greek dinner. You can also take a day trip from Athens to Delphi, site of the famous oracle in Greek mythology, where you’ll see one of the country’s most important archaeological sites. Seeing ancient history up close is one of the best ways to put that history into context, which can be challenging otherwise.

22. Cover More Ground with Day Trips to Nearby Cities (and Other Countries)

Take a day trip to Cinque Terre

Take a day trip to Cinque Terre

We love squeezing as much as we can into short vacations, but that doesn’t have to mean hopping from city to city every day, changing hotels every night. Instead, make a central city your home base and take advantage of the proximity of other towns to make day trips. It can be a more relaxed way to travel, without giving up any of the sightseeing opportunities. From Florence, you can take a day trip to the Cinque Terre for a hiking excursion. From Brussels, you can take a day trip to the historic towns of Ghent and Bruges. From Dublin, you can take a day trip into the “Wild Wicklow” Irish countryside. Europe’s close borders even make it possible to visit another country on a day trip. You can visit Bruges from ParisLuxembourg from Brussels, and Budapest from Vienna. You can even set foot on two continents in one day on a day trip from Malaga in Spain to Tangier in Morocco.

23. Let Europe’s Natural Beauty Inspire You

The Majestic Cliffs of Moher

The Majestic Cliffs of Moher

Europe’s cities are grand, and there’s plenty of space between cities worth exploring, as well. Even if you’re not an outdoors enthusiast, there are some not-to-be-missed natural wonders you can see in a day trip – and if you’re a nature lover, then you’ll appreciate these excursions even more. From Dublin, you can take a day trip to the majestic Cliffs of Moher, or walk through Irish mythology with a day trip to the Giant’s Causeway. Head out from Istanbul to wander the surreal landscape of Cappadocia, the Ozkonak Underground City, and Goreme’s open-air museum. Go for a glacier walk in Vatnajokull National Park in Iceland, see the stunning beauty of the Golden Circle on a day trip from Reykjavik, or be utterly blown away by the otherworldly Northern Lights on a night tour from Reykjavik. Europe’s natural wonders are enough to turn any city mouse into a country mouse, if only for a day.

24. Make the Most of Your Time in Port

The famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul

The famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul

If you hate packing and unpacking, then taking a European cruise is ideal – your hotel moves with you, as you explore a new city every day. And while it’s impossible to see everything there is to see in a city in a single day, you can certainly make the most of your time in every port with a well-organized shore excursion. From Naples, go on a shore excursion to the Amalfi Coast and Sorrento. From Kusadasi, you can take a shore excursion to Ephesus, the best-preserved ancient city in Turkey. From Livorno, visit Pisa and Florence on a private shore excursion. You can take a hop on, hop off bus tour in Athens to see the highlights of the city at your own pace. You can join an Istanbul in one day sightseeing tour on an Istanbul shore excursion, letting a knowledgeable tour guide whisk you from attraction to attraction. You can get a private tour of Rome from the port in Civitavecchia, avoiding the transportation hassles. Leave the logistics to someone who knows the area, which means you can enjoy each port of call to its fullest.

25. Explore the Local Nightlife

Catch a Flamenco show in Barcelona

Catch a Flamenco show in Barcelona

Most of us think of sightseeing as a daytime activity, when museums and monuments are open for public viewing. But some places take on a completely different personality when the sun goes down. Taking an evening or nighttime tour gives you a chance to see another side of your favorite cities. Watch an electric display of flamenco dancing at Barcelona’s famous Tablao Cordobes. Marvel at the Colosseum and ancient Rome after dark, or see Rome all lit up before tucking into an Italian aperitivo. Peek into Edinburgh’s historic underground vaults on a night walking tour. Glide through the city on a Seine river cruise when Paris is illuminated. Watch the sky sparkle on a Northern Lights night tour from Reykjavik. And what could be more romantic than an evening gondola ride tour of Venice? Don’t let the departing sun make you think your sightseeing is over – soaking up some European moonlight can be a truly memorable experience.

- Viator Travel Team

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8 Responses to “Top 25 Things to Do in Europe: 2014 Viator Travel Awards”

  1. world traveler Says:

    Lame

  2. Stephan Says:

    The Jungfrau-Aletsch region is the most glaciated part of Europe. Located in Switzerland, the sight is accessible from its rich capital, Zurich. – Bern is the capital, not Zurich ;-)

  3. Christian Says:

    Great list! Some of these are oddly specific, while some are too broad. However, in my travels next summer, I intend to accomplish most of, if not all of these items. Thanks for posting

  4. Enterjohn Says:

    I will send my friend to have a great trip to Europe. She is going to Holland, next month.

  5. sharan Says:

    Europe Great Place in the world.. :)

  6. Traveler Says:

    Where are mountainous regions of Georgia?

  7. MyZakopane Says:

    No far from Kraków is beautiful city Zakopanem. Surround by mountains (Tatry) is good place to a journey.

  8. Lorna Says:

    You haven’t mentioned walking amongst the most ancient standing strucures in the world – much more ancient than Stonehenge: prehistoric temples in Malta. Those are also wondrous to behold and the lore and legend which surrounds them is breathtaking.

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