Bucket lists. Hate them or love them, we all have some sort of travelling wishlist we want to tick off! There are just so many destinations to see and so many things to do, taste and experience in Europe, let alone the world. We often get asked, “what is that one thing I absolutely MUST DO when in destination x, y and z?” Of all the gorgeous and iconic things there are to see and experience in Europe, some do tend to stand out above the rest. We’ve listed some of the top affordable things you absolutely must do when setting foot on this magnificent continent.
Did you know? The term ‘bucket list’ was made famous by the 2007 movie of the same name, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, in which two unlikely companions draw up a list of things they want to do before they kick the bucket and then actually set out to do it before they succumbed to cancer. It inspired people around the world to do the same.
No. 1 Have high tea in London (London, United Kingdom)
Afternoon tea is about as British as the Union Jack and the Queen. You can opt for a plain spot of tea and a biccie, or push out the boat and have high tea at one of the many wonderful venues throughout the city. There’s even the option of having it on a vintage double-decker tour bus and seeing a few of London’s best-loved sights while you’re at it!
No. 2 Scale the Eiffel Tower. (Paris, France)
One of the highlights of France and a visit to this icon and most-visited paid monument in Europe is a quintessential Paris experience. Keep an eye out for the tiny apartment the architect, Gustave Eiffel, designed for himself at the top of this iconic landmark; and try to scale the tower after sunset if you can – the view over nighttime Paris is truly remarkable. The tower is open until 11pm at night, and you can drink a toast to the view at the champagne bar on the top floor until 10pm.
No. 3 Explore Helsinki’s Design district. (Helsinki, Finland)
Helsinki was the Design Capital in 2012 and for the Finns art and design is a way of life. The renowned design district is a condensed constellation of creativity at the core of the city centre itself, comprising 25+ city blocks and 200+ buildings that offer all sorts of wonderful activities and points of interest. This includes the 140-year old Design Museum; the Marimekko clothing lines and textiles made famous by Jackie Kennedy in the 1950s; stores selling hand-crafted ceramics, wooden furniture and art installations; exceptional eateries offering fresh, contemporary cuisine with Nordic twists; the Museum of Finnish Architecture; and Bukowskis Market – one of the oldest auction houses of fine art in all of Scandinavia.
No. 4 Eat a Belgian waffle. (Brugge, Belgium)
Belgium is waffle country and you can find this warming treat on nearly every street corner in cities like Brussels, Antwerp and Bruges. Eat it in the traditional way with whipped cream and strawberries or chocolate syrup.
No. 5 Take a train to Jungfraujoch. (Interlaken, Switzerland)
Home to Europe’s highest altitude train stations, and one of the few places where you can play in the snow all year round, Jungfraujoch in Switzerland is renowned for its scenic beauty and epic location. It takes almost a full day to get all the way to the top and back down, but the journey is worth every second once you step off the train into the pure, Swiss Alpine air and gaze over the valley below in wonderment.
No. 6 Visit Stockholm Palace, one of the largest in Europe (Stockholm, Sweden)
Official residency of his Majesty the King of Sweden, the Stockholm Palace comprises more than 600 rooms with interiors spanning the 18th and 19th century, including royal chapels, museums and even an armory that showcases royal costumes, ancient armor and coronation coaches from the Royal Stable.
No. 7 Taste real German beer in Germany (Munich, Germany)
The monks in Germany started brewing beer as far back as 800 BC and by the 15th century there were 600+ breweries in Germany exporting to countries like Holland, England and Scandinavia. In 1516 the Reinheitsgebot (Purity Law) was enacted to ensure that German beer will only ever be brewed with barley, hops and water, without the use of any other additives. To this day it remains the oldest food regulation in the world.
No. 8 See a real live flamenco dance (Barcelona, Spain)
It’s colourful. It’s upbeat. It’s quintessentially Spanish! Native to the Andalusia, Extremadura and Murcia, this rhythmic and vigorous form of dance involves cante (singing), toque (guitar), baile (dance) and palmas (clapping of hands), and evokes the fiery passion of the Romani gypsies who developed the first versions thereof. Do yourself a favour and go see a proper flamenco show in situ in Spain – it truly is poetry in motion.
No. 9 Walk the halls of the Vatican City and visit the Sistine Chapel. (Rome, Italy)
Vatican City is the smallest country in Europe nestled in the heart of Rome. It is the Roman Catholic headquarters of Europe and home to St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s Square, the Apostolic Palace, Vatican Museums and, of course, the majestic Sistine Chapel. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is one of Michelangelo’s most famous works and is still intact since he finished in 1512.
No. 10 Visit Northern Europe’s Art Nouveau capital (Riga, Latvia)
Inspired by natural forms and structures, particularly the curved lines of plants and flowers, Art Nouveau is an internationally recognised style of art and architecture that arose between 1890 and 1910 as a reaction against the stoic academic art that typified the 19th century. Rīga was one of the cities at the forefront of the style’s active use, and the remaining examples thereof are truly bold and vibrant. Visitors can follow in the footsteps of Rīga’s revolutionary 19th century artists by visiting the Art Nouveau Museum or exploring the eponymous architectural district that enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status.
No. 11 Visit a temple that dates back to 447 BC. (Acropolis, Greece)
Visiting the Acropolis in Greece is like taking a trip back in time! This ancient citadel comprises the remains of several historically and architecturally significant buildings, including the Parthenon, which dates back all the way to the 5th century BC. Built as a monument to the cultural and political achievements of the inhabitants of Athens by Pericles, the Parthenon and other main buildings on the Acropolis is renowned as the most perfect buildings created by the world’s most advanced civilization and even though humankind has been studying it for centuries we are still not sure how they did it. Acropolis is without a doubt one of the must-see sites in Greece.
No. 12 Drink an Einspänner coffee in a Viennese coffeehouse (Vienna, Austria)
Coffee forms such an important part of Europe’s coffee culture and one of the best places to experience this is in Austria. The elegant Viennese kaffeehäuser (coffee houses) have been deemed an Intangible Cultural Heritage element by UNESCO. Enjoy a ‘Einspänner’ (strong, black coffee with a dollop of whipped cream) or ‘Grroßer Brauner’ (rich black coffee) at one of these culture hotspots that have been described by local coffee connoisseurs as ‘places where time and space are consumed, but only coffee is found on the bill’.
No. 13 Follow in the footsteps of Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain)
Renowned as one of the most prolific practitioners of Catalan Modernism, Antoni Gaudí shook up the architectural status quo during the late-1800s with his unprecedented juxtapositions of geometric masses. His work was so pivotal that no less than seven properties in or near Barcelona has been declared UNESCO World Heritage sites, attesting to the exceptional creative contribution of this architect to the development of architecture and construction technology in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The most famous is of course the Sagrada Família, which is still under construction, and a must-see for art lovers. Any exhibit and celebration of Gaudi’s work and life is worth a visit, be sure to plan a visit on your travels. Here’s a great site for any Gaudi information and exhibits.
No. 14 Get your Hygge on in Copenhagen over Christmas (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Hygge is the hip new lifestyle philosophy that is on everyone’s lips and has been a Danish way of life since time immemorial. The Danish are known the world over as been one of the happiest nations on earth, despite the fact that they live in one of the most inhospitable regions on the planet, and this is largely ascribed to the fact that they indulge in cosy, loving self-care (called Hygge). This notion of nurturing innate happiness by taking pleasure in small, everyday comforts can be enjoyed wherever you are, but is especially tangible in Copenhagen over the festive season, when the entire city is lit with candles and smelling of aromatic gløgg.
No. 15 Learn more about Russian vodka culture (St. Petersburg, Russia)
The tradition of making vodka in Russia is more that 500 years old and St. Petersburg is the best place to learn more about the age-old art of vodka distillation and how it shaped the history of the country. Visit the Museum of Russian Vodka and then sample some of the local aquae vitae.
No. 16 Eat Trdelnik (and learn how to pronounce it!) (Prague, Czech Republic)
Sweet, cinnamon-y and quintessentially Czech, a freshly baked Trdelnik is just the ticket to make the frigid weather in Prague more bearable. Made from rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with sugar and walnut mix, this tasty treat is often filled with ice cream or other mouth-watering fillings and simply delicious with a warming shot of espresso.
No. 17 Walk along the Dragon Bridge in Ljubljana (Ljubljana, Slovenia)
One of the most recognisable images of Ljubljana, the Dragon Bridge was originally named The Jubilee Bridge of Emperor Franz Josef I, and known for the epic dragon statues that hold sway at either end. Walk the bridge and take the time to learn more about the sweeping legend of Ljubljana’s Dragon and how it became the city’s emblem.
No. 18 Get a little melancholic to Fado music (Lisbon, Portugal)
An exceptional branch of expressive Portuguese folk music, Fado has been synonymous with Portugal since the early 1800s and characterised by mournful tunes and lyrics imbued with ‘saudade’ – a feeling of permanent, irreparable loss. Sounds super depressing we know, but it is incredibly soulful and beautiful. Fado players are known as ‘Fadistas’ and they normally perform in restaurants. Here are a few spots where you can enjoy a fabulous earful of Fado music in Lisbon.
No. 19 Hike Dubrovnik’s famous city walls (Dubrovnik, Croatia)
Constructed mainly from the 12th to 17th Century, Dubrovnik’s famous city walls run an uninterrupted course of approximately 1900+ metres (6000+ ft) in length, encircling most of the old city. A two-hour hike takes you along the entire circumference and you’ll enjoy unparalleled views over this ancient city.
No. 20 Climb a hill with 100,000 crosses (Vilnius, Lithuania)
The Hill of Crosses is situated about 12 kilometres north of Šiauliai in Lithuania. What started as a place for the next-of-kin of fallen rebels to place effigies in honour of their family members after the 1831 rebellion, has since become a major visitors’ attraction with more than 100 000 crucifixes, religious statues and effigies of all shapes and sizes. The hill is not any under form of jurisdiction, which means anyone can come here to erect their own cross or statue, and that is just what they do – on any given day you’ll run into someone adding to the majestic attraction in their own way.
No. 21 Spot all the quirky statues in Old Town, Bratislava (Bratislava, Slovakia)
Old Town in Bratislava is well-known for its superb array of quirky statues, including Čumil (‘The Watcher’), a watchful bronze communist-era worker peering out from a manhole (and up women’s skirts according to certain saucy factions!). Rumour has it that if you make a wish while touching his head it will come true, provided you keep the wish a secret forever. Čumil is one of a variety of bronze monuments that were added in an attempt to inject some humour and life to the communist-era architecture; others include a photographer, Hans Christian Andersen and Napoleon!
No. 22 Play chess in a thermal bath in Budapest (Budapest, Hungary)
Budapest is known for having the largest thermal baths throughout Europe – in fact, the city is sometimes referred to as the ‘City of Spas’. As such, you can’t really say you’ve been to Budapest if you haven’t taken a soak in one of its many thermal baths. We recommend combining this revitalising experience with a spot of chess with the many locals that frequent the healing waters. Most baths that are open to the public offer a variety of pools at different temperatures so you can switch things up with a dip in an ice pool if you get a bit balmy in the warmer ones.
No. 23 Taste wine at the Princely Wine Cellars of the Prince of Liechtenstein (Vaduz, Liechtenstein)
With only 37,000 inhabitants, Liechtenstein is one of the smallest countries in the world. Prince Hans-Adam II’s family has owned the principality since 1712 when they combined two smaller statelets into one of the 350 principalities of the Holy Roman Empire. His winery, the Hofkellerei des Fürsten von Liechtenstein, is situated on the outskirts of Vaduz in a 400-year old building. Try the pinot noir – a smokey, chocolatey vintage prepared from grapes that were exclusively grown in the Vaduz area (some of the other varietals are made from grapes harvested from vineyards in bordering Austria).
No. 24 Visit Anne Frank House and get to know her story (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
The Diary of a Young Girl, a first-person diary account, tells the story of Anne Frank and her family as they hid from Nazi persecution in wartime Netherlands. This touching tale is brought to life at Anne Frank House – a writer’s house and biographical museum dedicated to the Jewish wartime diarist that preserves the canal house in which the family hid and showcases a permanent exhibition on the life and times of Anne Frank.
No. 25 Take a selfie on this world-famous (crooked) bridge. (Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina)
The ancient Kriva Cuprija (or Crooked Bridge) is Mostar crosses the Radobolja creek, a right-bank affluent of the Neretva River. This stone one-arch structure was reportedly built as a miniature test run for Stari Most, it’s much larger 16th-century Ottoman sister bridge that was destroyed by Croat forces in 1993 during the Croat–Bosniak War. Take a picture here in celebration of the extraordinary craftsmanship of the Balkan Islamic architects responsible for the city’s unique look and feel.
No. 26 Do some people watching in Kotor’s Old Town (while sipping some local beer called “Nikšićko”) (Kotor, Montenegro)
A fortified town on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast, Kotor’s Old Town is characterised by winding streets and squares, and medieval structures including several Romanesque churches and the stunning Kotor Cathedral. Find a small cafe, order a locally brewed Nikšićko beer and watch the world go by in this wondrous location.
No. 27 Visit St Olav’s church, which has been hit by lightning ten times! (Tallinn, Estonia)
Built in the 12th century as the centre for old Tallinn’s Scandinavian community before the country was conquered by Denmark, St. Olav’s Church has a long and illustrious history – including getting hit by lightning ten times, burning to the ground no less that three times and being used as a radio tower and surveillance point by the Soviet KGB throughout the 1900s.
No.28 Visit the National History Museum of Albania (Tirana, Albania)
Voyage through Albanian history at the National History Museum in Tirana, Albania. The largest museum throughout the country, it encompasses a whopping 27,000 square metres with pavilions dedicated to antiquity, the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Iconography, Communism, Mother Teresa and more. Top attractions include some priceless archaeological artefacts, a replica of Skanderbeg’s massive sword, as well as an awe-inspiring exhibition of icons by Onufri, a renowned 16th-century Albanian master.
No. 29 Take to the slopes in Vallnord (Vallnord, Andorra)
Vallnord is a ski resort in the Pyrenees mountains in the country of Andorra, close to the border with Spain at Tor, Pallars. If you’ve ever wanted to hit the slopes, this is the place to do it. Novices can get excellent instruction from mountain guides, while seasoned skiing enthusiasts can try everything from downhill free-riding, to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
No. 30 Sunbathe on the French Riviera (Nice, France)
The French Riviera, also known as Côte d’Azur, is renowned for its incredibly scenic coastline that stretches from Marseilles in the west, to the town of Menton in the east. Sunbathing on one of these iconic beaches can be as cheap or expensive as you want to make it – you can simply throw down a towel and watch the glamorous citizens do their thing or you can push out the boat and rent a swanky lounge chair, umbrella and the assistance of a beach waiter.
No. 31 Marvel at the impressive cars outside the Monte Carlo casino (Monaco, France)
Monaco is home to one of the most important and prestigious automobile races in Europe and the world – Monaco Grand Prix. Evidently Monaco is the best place for car enthusiasts! You see exclusive and expensive around Monaco year-round.
Top Tip! If you have time, go take a look Open daily from 10am – 6pm, H.S.H. Prince Rainier III’s private collection of antique cars is located on the Terraces de Fontvieille and includes 100+ classic vehicles of all makes and models – a true treat for automobile enthusiasts.
No. 32 Take the cable car to the Millennium Cross in Skopje (Skopje, North Macedonia)
At 66 meters tall, the Millennium Cross built on top Vodno Mountain near Skopje is as tall as a 20-storey building! The cross was built in 2002 to commemorate 2000 years of Christianity in North Macedonia, on the highest point of the Vodno mountain in a place known since the time of the Ottoman Empire as “Krstova”, which means “place of the cross”. Ride the elevator to the top of the structure to enjoy unparalleled views over Skopje or work up a sweat along the 4km-long Millennium Cross ropeway.
No. 33 Learn all about Norwegian history by visiting the Viking Ship museum (Oslo, Norway)
Norway was viking territory over 1000 years ago!The Nordic seafarers sailed Europe’s coasts from the 8th to the 11th centuries and built fjords in the heart of Norway.
Learn more about Viking history and see real life Viking ships and discoveries by visiting the Viking Ship museum in Oslo, Norway. It’s home to the best preserved Viking ship in the world!
Top Tip! The Oslo Pass is a great way to see the city’s best-loved sights and attractions without bankrupting yourself in the process – it offers free entry to 30+ museums, complimentary public transport, access to swimming pools and walking tours free of charge, as well as discounts at various sightseeing and amusement venues, and special rates at restaurants and shops.
No. 34 Visit the most famous castle in all of Wales. (Cardiff, Wales)
Cardiff is also famous for Cardiff Castle (Castell Caerdydd in Welsh) a medieval castle in the city centre whose original motte and bailey castle was built in the late 11th century by Norman invaders on top of a 3rd Century Roman fort. Aside from being amazingly beautiful and concealing over 2000 years of history, the castle grounds have also been used for concerts and other big events.
No 35 Hunt down the Loch Ness monster (Loch Ness, Scotland)
Loch Ness is the second largest freshwater loch in the Scottish Highlands – one of the most beautiful regions in all of the United Kingdom. Legend has it, Nessie, or the Loch Ness monster, is a lake monster that was first seen by a surgeon from London in 1993. There have been many Loch Ness monster sightings since and over 1000 recorded sightings of the monster!
No 36 Visit a true Irish pub (Dublin, Ireland)
There is no better place to enjoy Irish beer, Irish cuisine and Irish music than in a true Irish pub! The Irish are world-renowned for their friendliness, unique humour and, of course, Genius beer. Dublin has over 600 pubs and most of them, you will find, are named after the owners of the pub. It was a legal requirement to display the owner’s name on or over the front door of the premises in 1872.
No 37 Walk in the footsteps of giants and explore the myth and legend of Giant’s Causeway (Northern Ireland)
Giant’s Causeway is a geological site of stepping stone-like rocks along the northeast coast of Ireland. Scientifically it has been proven to be basalt columns ( towered rocks) that formed as a the result of volcanic activity. By Folklore, it was created by an Irish Giant, Finn MacCool a mythical Irish warrior, after being challenged to a test of strength by another giant, Benandonner. Either way, this World Heritage site is most definitely worth a visit!
From France to Italy, and even Croatia and Slovenia, if you have a bucket list item with your name on it – we can take you there. Take a look at our tours to Europe, here.