Top 25 Things to Do in Europe: 2015 Viator Travel Awards

December 12, 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 2015!

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.

* * * * * *

Welcome to the 2015 Viator Travel Awards: Europe Edition! Whether you’ve already got a European destination in mind for your vacation next year or you’re still trying to figure out where to go, we think we’ve got something on this list to suit everyone – both in terms of different activities and different parts of the continent.

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 2015.

You’ll find all kinds of activities and sights listed here, including gondola training, chocolate tasting, exclusive access to ancient sites, castle tours, and cabaret shows. Join us for this tour of the Top 25 Things to Do in Europe in 2015!

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 at the Colosseum with a walking tour of ancient Rome‘s most important sights. You can skip the line at the Borghese Gallery and Gardens with a walking tour. Even at the Vatican, with one of the most popular museums in the country, you can avoid a long wait – take a skip the line tour of the Vatican in one day (billed as the most comprehensive tour of Vatican City), a skip the line half-day tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica, or a skip the line Vatican Museums walking tour that includes the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Rooms, and St. Peter’s.

2. Bypass the Crowds at the Eiffel Tower

Visit the Eiffel Tower!

Visit the Eiffel Tower!

Easily the biggest lure for tourists in Paris is the Eiffel Tower – and even if it’s at the top of every Paris wish list, it should still be on your 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 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. You can go DIY and buy tickets in advance to skip the line at the Eiffel Tower, or you can combine that stop with a tour or another attraction. Book dinner at the Eiffel Tower plus a Seine River cruise, for a romantic day. Add some theater with a combination that includes the Eiffel Tower, a Seine River cruise, and a show at Moulin Rouge. You can also learn more about the famous tower itself with a behind-the-scenes Eiffel Tower theatrical tour, or combine a behind-the-scenes Eiffel Tower tour with a visit to the Champ de Mars underground bunker.

3. 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 book tickets to a cabaret show at the Moulin Rouge and experience some of that Parisian history. You can even hit all the romantic highlights of Paris with a tour that includes the Eiffel Tower, a Moulin Rouge show, and a Seine River cruise all in one night. And if you’d like to visit a different cabaret in the City of Lights, there are many more to choose from – go to a Paradis Latin dinner show, a Lido di Paris dinner show, or a Crazy Horse Cabaret in Paris.

4. 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. You can go DIY with an independent day trip to Stonehenge from London, or book a day tour to Stonehenge from London that includes Windsor Castle and Bath. You can extend that trip, too, with a visit to Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, Bath, and the medieval village of Lacock with a traditional pub lunch. For a whirlwind tour, book a spot on the “England in One Day” tour that includes Stonehenge, Bath, the Cotswolds, and Stratford-Upon-Avon. And for a really special visit, go for a private viewing of Stonehenge that includes the opportunity to step into the stone circle.

5. Imagine the Royal Life on a Castle Tour

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

It’s not a stretch to say that none of us will ever know what it’s like to live in a castle, but that doesn’t mean we can’t flirt with the idea while we’re on vacation. Europe makes it easy to do that, with so many castles (which were once private homes) open to the public for tours. Some of the castles you can visit are still occupied, while others are now museums. In either case, a castle tour is a way to see just how the other half lived. You can get a ticket to visit Edinburgh Castle and learn about Scotland’s royal past. You can tour the royal castles of Neuschwanstein and Linderhof on a day trip from Munich. You can visit a selection of some of the most picturesque Loire Valley castles at Chambord, Cheverny, and Chenonceau. You can see one of the royal residences of Great Britain on a custom day trip to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Oxford. And you can even sit down to Christmas Eve dinner in Weikersdorf Castle when you’re in Vienna.

6. Explore an Island

Fuerteventura

Fuerteventura

When your European itinerary includes a country with a coastline, it’s natural to head for the water at some point. There are so many gorgeous beaches and seaside towns to see, it would be a shame to miss them. But why limit yourself to the mainland? Hop on a boat to explore some nearby islands, and you’ll really feel like you’re getting away from it all. In Venice, you can head from one island to another on a half-day sightseeing tour of Murano, Burano, and Torcello in the Venetian Lagoon. You can escape the bustle of Rome with a day trip to Capri, the glittering island in the Gulf of Naples. Depart for a day trip from Mykonos to see Delos, a sacred island with ancient Greek excavations to see. Spend a day on Fuerteventura on a tour from Lanzarote, seeing ancient volcanoes and pretty villages. Visit some islands off the coast of Sicily that are actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site with an Aeolian Islands day trip from Taormina.

7. Dig Into the History of Ancient Rome

Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius

Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius

In Rome, it sometimes seems like history is all around you – and in some ways, that’s true. There’s a difference, however, between just looking at sights like the Colosseum or the Forum and truly understanding their historic significance. You’ll always get more out of visiting historic sights with a guided tour, and there are plenty of options to see how the ancient Romans lived. Take a tour of the best of Rome, including the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, and the Trevi Fountain. Enjoy the main attractions all lit up during a Colosseum and ancient Rome night tour. Avoid a wait with a skip the line tour of the Colosseum and ancient Rome‘s top sights. Get beyond the city center with a half-day walking tour of the Roman countryside including the catacombs. You can even walk in the footsteps of ancient Romans in what’s left of a once-huge city with a Pompeii day trip from Rome.

8. Raise a Toast to the Emerald Isle

Tasting at the Guinness Storehouse

Tasting at the Guinness Storehouse

It might be said that no visit to Ireland is complete without a stop at an Irish pub. Unlike some of the rowdier places calling themselves Irish pubs in other parts of the world, a traditional pub in Ireland is primarily about socializing with the community – over a drink or two, of course. You’ve got options when it comes to what fills your glass in Ireland, too, so it never hurts to sample widely before you decide on a favorite. Go on a traditional Irish music pub crawl in Dublin to sing along as you sip. Sit down to a traditional Irish house party including dinner and a show, learning about Irish music and dancing as you dine. You can even learn more about some popular Irish tipple at a museum – skip the line at the Guinness Storehouse (or upgrade to a skip the line connoisseur taste experience at the Guinness Storehouse) in Dublin, or get educated with a visit to the Irish Whiskey Museum.

9. Learn About World War II History in France and Poland

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 – and 2015 is an especially momentous year to do just that, as it’s the 70th anniversary of the end of the war. In France, there are several ways to visit the places associated with D-Day. You can take a Normandy battlefields tour of just the American sites; a more comprehensive Normandy D-Day battlefields tour that includes area beaches, too; or choose a private tour from Bayeux of the Normandy landing beaches, battlefields, museums, and cemeteries. In Poland, you can learn the sobering history at one of the Nazi regime’s most infamous concentration camps, with a half-day trip from Krakow to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum.

10. Spike Your Adrenaline on a Haunted Tour

Haunted London tour

Haunted London tour

Adding some thrills to your vacation doesn’t require skydiving or roller coasters (although both of those are perfectly wonderful adventures). Many European cities have ghost stories associated with them, or at least a spooky side just waiting to be explored. Take a haunted London tour to learn about Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes, and perhaps you’ll come up with your own theory of who Jack the Ripper really was. See a darker side of the Irish capital with a Dublin ghost bus tour, with some laughs along the way. Spend Halloween on a haunted tour of Edinburgh and see if the hairs on the back of your neck don’t stand up. Check out the Amsterdam Dungeon to learn about the origins of the Grim Reaper. Explore Turin’s connection with black magic on an underground evening tour.

11. Drift Down a Canal

Stockholm canals

Stockholm canals

Whenever you visit a city that’s on water, it’s a great idea to get on the water for a whole new viewpoint on that place. Oceans are great, of course, but don’t overlook the bliss of touring a city via its canals or rivers. Sometimes that’s the best way to see a city, as well as an excellent way to get around. Tour the UNESCO-listed Amsterdam canals on a pizza cruise – because why not? Take in the historic side of Stockholm on a canal tour. Kick back and relax on a Vltava River sightseeing cruise in Prague, giving your feet a break. Settle into a gondola ride in Venice after a walking tour – it’s one of those must-do things in Venice, after all. You can even head for another country entirely with a day trip to Bruges from Paris, which, in summer, includes a cruise through Bruges’ famous canals.

12. Explore the Wines of Italy

Explore the Tuscan Countryside

Explore the Wines of Italy

You’ve no doubt heart of the wines of the Chianti region, and perhaps some other Italian vintages as well, but wine is produced all over Italy – and there’s nothing like tasting a wine right where it’s made. Whether it actually tastes better there is something you’ll have to decide for yourself, but at the very least you’ll have lovely memories of the first time you tasted each wine. You can learn more about those famous Tuscan wines with a Chianti Region wine tasting trip from Florence, or a trip to San Gimignano and Chianti wine tasting from Siena. You can even focus on arguably the most sought-after wine in Tuscany with a Brunello di Montalcino wine tasting trip from Siena. Or you can branch out beyond Tuscany with a Frascati wine tasting tour from Rome. You can also combine wine with history during a wine and cicchetti tour of Venice’s Jewish Ghetto.

13. Take in a Bird’s Eye View

View from the London Eye

View from the London Eye

One of the best ways to get your bearings in a place is by going to one of the highest points you can find. You’ll be able to see how different attractions or neighborhoods relate to one another geographically, and you’ll also get to enjoy a spectacular view in the process. See London from the top of the Shard, the newly-crowned tallest building in Western Europe, or combine great views with a gigantic amusement park ride with skip-the-line tickets for the London Eye. Survey Paris from the 56th floor observation deck of the Montparnasse Tower. You can also get commanding views of the countryside, too, with a visit to Chamonix and Mont Blanc, one of the most famous mountains in the Alps, or a day trip from Interlaken to Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe.

14. Follow in the Footsteps of Harry Potter

Harry Potter tours in London

Harry Potter tours in London

Although we’re no longer awaiting the next installment of the Harry Potter saga, the story and characters remain fixtures in our hearts. Give your inner child – or your actual children – a little dose of magic on your next vacation with a visit to some of the famous locations used in the Harry Potter films. You can go on a Harry Potter walking tour of London (including a visit to the real Diagon Alley), or take a bus tour of the Harry Potter film locations in London. You can also see the “Making of Harry Potter” at Warner Bros. Studio near London, including actual costumes and props used in the movies. You can even hire an iconic London black taxi cab for a private Harry Potter tour. And if you’re in Edinburgh, don’t miss a two-day Jacobite Heritage Experience, including a ride on the Hogwarts Express train.

15. Ride a Romantic Train

Bernina Express

Bernina Express

Taking trains to get around in Europe is usually practical, and it has the added bonus of being one of the most romantic ways to travel, too. You don’t need to limit trains to simply transport, however – there are train tours in Europe that are as much about sightseeing from the train ride itself as they are about the destinations. Take a rail tour from Dublin to see Limerick, Burren, Galway Bay, and the Cliffs of Moher. Hop on the train for a day trip to Salzburg from Munich. Get outside the busy city center to explore ancient history with a small group day trip to Ostia Antica from Rome. Marvel at the technology that allows you to take a day trip to Paris from London by train – including zipping through the Channel Tunnel underwater. Let the natural wonders of the mountains mesmerize you on a Swiss Alps rail tour from Milan on the Bernina Express.

16. Skip the Line at a Top Museum

Louvre Museum in Paris

Louvre Museum in Paris

As we’ve noted, some tourist attractions are touristy for a reason. There is only one Louvre, and only one Sistine Chapel, after all. Europe is crammed with world-class museums that are must-see sights, even if you’re not usually an art lover, but who wants to wait in those infernal lines just to get in? Save yourself from the lines with a skip-the-line tour, and you’ll have more of your precious vacation time to spend on something you really want to be doing. Tuscany’s capital city is home to two top museums, both of which are famous for their long lines. Get skip-the-line tickets for the Florence Uffizi and skip-the-line tickets for the Florence Accademia and you’ve got both of them covered with no waiting. The Vatican’s lines can be hours long, so booking a skip-the-line tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica helps you avoid that. Get yourself skip-the-line tickets to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, plus a canal bus hop-on hop-off day pass, and you’ll have transportation, too. In Paris, a skip-the-line tour of the Louvre Museum includes a walking tour during which you’ll see the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo.

17. Savor the Tastes and Smells of a European Market

London food market

London food market

We’re often told that visiting a European market is a great way to see a more local side of a city, not to mention get some excellent picnic supplies or souvenirs. The problem is that markets can be intimidating if you don’t speak the language or know what you’re looking for. Get a little help in that department with a market tour when you arrive, and you’ll be well-equipped to visit other markets for the rest of your stay. Take a tour of two of London’s best-known food markets, Brixton and Borough. Explore the hidden side of a popular Greek destination on a markets tour of Thessaloniki. See what makes German holiday markets so special with a tour of Munich Christmas markets. And if you really love food, don’t stop with the market – get into the kitchen after. Learn about French cuisine with a food market tour and cooking class in Nice, or experience lesser-known Hungarian culinary traditions in a Budapest cooking class and food market tour.

18. See the Ancient Ruins of Greece

Theatre at Epidaurus

Theatre at Epidaurus

Modern Greece is a feast for the senses, but ancient Greece is inescapable. It’s nearly everywhere you look, from the mighty Acropolis overlooking Athens to hilltop ruins dotting the countryside. It’s under your feet almost no matter where you go, but it helps to have a little guidance understanding all of it – especially when you’re looking at a pile of rubble. Start with an Acropolis walking tour in Athens to learn about the significance of the temples on top and all of the historic buildings at its base. Dig deeper into the city’s incredible past with a tour of “hidden Athens” in the Plaka and the hills surrounding the city center. Take a half-day trip from Athens to Cape Sounion to see the Temple of Poseidon, or a whole day trip from Athens to Delphi – especially if you have a burning question for the oracle. For a deep dive into Greek history, go for a four-day tour of Classical Greece with visits to Epidaurus, Mycenae, Olympia, Delphi, and Meteora.

19. Cheer for Your Favorite Team

Inside Milan's San Siro Stadium

Inside Milan’s San Siro Stadium

Sports fans, you know what it’s like to be in the stadium when your favorite team is on the field – or you have a lifelong dream of knowing what that feels like. In Europe, the major sports may not be the same as the sports you watch back home, but locals get just as passionate (if not more so). Whether you’ve got a favorite European team or you’re simply a sports fanatic who embraces whatever game is nearby, you’ve got lots to choose from. Head for the largest stadium in Italy to get a tour of Milan’s San Siro stadium. Get a tour of FC Barcelona’s stadium and tickets to the museum dedicated to the club’s history. Enjoy the exclusivity of a private tour of Lisbon’s football stadium, Estadio da Luz, home to Benfica. Take your fandom to a new level by getting tickets to a Real Madrid match at the famous Santiago Bernabeu stadium. And if soccer isn’t your thing, go on a behind-the-scenes tour of Lord’s Cricket Grounds in London.

20. Learn to Cook a Quintessential Dish

Learning to make paella

Learning to make paella

You may have heard that one of the best souvenirs you can bring home from any trip is a new skill. It’s true, but it’s also not always easy to learn something new when you’re traveling. Perhaps the best way to do it is by taking a cooking class. You’ll enjoy a hands-on experience, get some cultural knowledge, and you’ll think of your trip every time you recreate that meal in your home kitchen. Spend a day in a Madrid cooking class learning to make paella, one of the most famous Spanish dishes. Get some expert instruction during a small-group cooking class in Rome. Learn about some of the staples of Greek cuisine with a cooking class in an Athens tavern. Test your skill on a four-course Spanish meal with a cooking class in Barcelona (you can upgrade the experience to include a trip to the market, too). Head into the countryside from Florence with a market tour, cooking class, and lunch at a Tuscan farmhouse.

21. 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. Savor a luxury wine and dinner experience in Rome in a private cellar near the Pantheon. Enjoy an exclusive VIP experience in Paris with dinner and unlimited champagne at the Paradis Latin Cabaret. Learn about Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District during a cruise and walking tour. Go back in time at a medieval banquet in London, including entertainment from jugglers, minstrels, and knights in armor.

22. 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. Put on your walking shoes for a Cinque Terre hiking day trip from Florence, to see the famous trail that connects the villages. Work up an appetite for more excellent Greek food on a Meteora hike with transportation from Kalambaka, seeing trails most visitors miss. Go on a leisurely hike up the the slopes of Marjan Hill from Split, offering excellent views down to the city and coast below. Hop on a bike for a tour of Giverny and Monet’s Garden, a leisurely ride through lovely scenery. Venture into a natural park near Barcelona for a horseback ride through the Catalan countryside.

23. Experience Unique Transportation

Wine tasting bike tour from Vienna

Wine tasting bike tour from Vienna

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? Make getting around half the fun, and you’ve made your day that much more memorable. Go on a running tour of Rome and you’ll combine exercise with sightseeing. Head out on the water for a sailing adventure around the Stockholm Archipelago. Climb into the back of one of the legendary London black taxi cabs for a private tour of the city. Pedal through the Austrian countryside on a wine tasting bike tour from Vienna. Blow out all the stops with a scenic flight over Budapest in a private plane.

24. Let History Come to Life Before Your Eyes

Gladiator School in Rome

Gladiator School in Rome

Even when you’re looking right at historic monuments, it can be hard to wrap your head around the people who actually lived all those years ago. With a good guide, you can start to get a better understanding, but to really put yourself in their shoes it helps to get even more interactive. Learn to be a gondolier at Venice Gondola School to get a deeper appreciation for the unique challenges of navigating the Venetian Lagoon. Take a literary pub crawl in Dublin to learn more about Irish storytelling and the famous writers who lived in the city. Explore medieval villages on a day trip from Barcelona to get an idea of what the big city might have been like. Imagine the theatrical world on a tour of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and Exhibition. Really get into the spirit of ancient Rome with a day at Roman Gladiator School, learning to be a gladiator.

25. Indulge Your Sweet Tooth

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 if it means eating dessert after every meal. Every culture has its own important sweets, and it’s only fair that you try them all, right? Otherwise, how will you ever choose a favorite? Lots of places are known for their high-quality chocolate, including Belgium – so it makes sense that you’d go on a chocolate walking tour in Brussels, including a workshop where you’ll learn to make some of these sweet treats. In Switzerland, you can go on a chocolate and sweets walking tour of Zurich’s Old Town. Paris offers plenty of chances to be decadent, including a Paris chocolate walking tour, or a tour that includes both chocolate and pastry in Paris (this is the city known for buttery croissants, after all). If all that sugar is too much, then feel free to mix it up in Italy with a gourmet food tour in Florence, including truffles, olive oil, wine, gelato, and chocolate.

- Viator Travel Team

, ,

8 Responses to “Top 25 Things to Do in Europe: 2015 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.

Leave a Reply

48?