With its vast history, temperate climates, and cultured reputation, Europe has long held a fascination for me and countless other Americans. Compact yet diverse, Europe is home to an array of traditions, languages, and cuisines—much of which formed the foundation for our own American culture.
In the past few years, friends and I have jumped at chances to visit the “Old World” and take in all its sights and sounds. Of course, there’s far, far more to see and do than can be fit into just a couple trips!
The United Kingdom and Ireland
Perhaps the part of Europe most familiar to many Americans, the United Kingdom and Ireland are home to many favorite destinations. Much of the culture of these islands are steeped in colorful fairy myth and intense conflict with the mainland Europe, qualities which give the region its particular appeal to travelers with a mind for the fantastical and the historical.
My all-too-brief visit to Ireland was a truly amazing experience, a whirlwind of misty greenery, ancient castles, and unforgettable nights of singing. I would genuinely love to return some day.
Together, France and Germany make up the bulk of Western Europe. In fact, this may be closest to what many Americans generically think of as “Europe.” Paris. Berlin. Munich. The Louvre. Normandy Beach. Oktoberfest. The Hague. And on and on and on….
So much culture and history has emanated from this part of the world, that it’s impossible to name it all. More important, it’s impossible not to want to experience it!
Sunny, warm, and easygoing, Southern Europe and the Mediterranean makes a perfect destination for anyone wanting an invigorating vacation with interesting history, fun nightlife, and delicious food. The entire region has a vibrant, modern way of life, against a backdrop of rural villages and Roman, Greek, and Moorish ruins.
Some friends and I took a self-guided tour across the Iberian Peninsula a few years ago. On our trip, we were fortunate enough to experience the highly underrated charm of Portugal, and all the excitement and passion of Spain.
Stretching from the Baltic states in the north to the Balkans in the south, Eastern Europe may be considered by many Americans to be a bit off the beaten path. Once under the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union, much of the region still bears some memories from that time, with countless imposing monuments, larger-than-life engineering projects, and a rich artistic tradition. Because of its long history hidden “behind the Iron Curtain,” this part of the world would be a fascinating place to visit.
Scandinavia is much, much more than fjords and Vikings. Separating the rest of Europe from the frigid Arctic, this is an inviting land of long, temperate summers and equally long, dark winters. World-class cities like Helsinki, Oslo, and Stockholm are not only charming, but also very forward-thinking, while the countryside offers countless outdoor activities for all seasons.
Being of Swedish heritage, I am especially intrigued by this part of the world. One day, I hope to visit Sweden and experience the birthplace of my ancestors.