Europe is a rite of passage for all young men and women of the world, be it a road trip, hitchhiking, public transportation or even a bit of city hopping by budget airline, there are a number of things that you must do in Europe, even if it means sacrificing a few of the other items on your bucket list. With such a vast range of climates, landscapes, societies, and cultures, Europe is a continent that will stun and intrigue you all the way from the rolling hills of the United Kingdom in the West to the mystic ruins of ancient civilizations to the East. Whether you’re planning a trip to Europe, or if you’re just wondering what all the fuss is about, then check out this list of things you must do in Europe.
1. Go Sailing in Greece
The ancient and historical civilization of Greece is home to some of the world’s most beautiful islands. These islands, also known as the Cyclades, are a group of islands in the Aegean Sea which form a circle the sacred island of Delos and are now one of the most popular tourist destinations for holiday makers searching for perfect weather, clear-blue waters, white-sand beaches, amazing food and historic architecture. One of the most enjoyable ways to travel the Aegean Sea is by traditional Greek wooden ship, like the eight days YOLO (you only live once) cruises from Sail in Greece, which take you to 5 or 6 islands, with tours, adventures, water sports and Greece’s world-famous parties throughout! These days the classic sailing vessels have been upgraded with air conditioning, en-suite bathrooms and even Wi-Fi for a bit of extra comfort as you cruise, explore and party with fellow friends and travelers, mostly around 18 to 35. A cruise through paradise, infused with the history and mystery of one of the greatest civilizations which ever existed is a must do in Europe and the perfect way to explore this stunning part of the world.
2. Travel Europe by train – Eurail, and Interrail
Europe is one of the quintessential travel experiences for explorers of all ages and almost a rite of passage for fresh-out-of-school youngsters hungry for adventure and discovery. There are many interesting and affordable ways to travel the European continent – buses; cheap flights; a road trip with friends; even hitchhiking is showing a resurgence in popularity – but one of the oldest and greatest methods of transportation is still high on the list among the great romantics – the train. Unfortunately, the cost of rail travel has increased substantially, making the cost of individual tickets an unfeasible option for the budget traveler. Luckily, however, there is still a way for rail travel to be viable for all – Eurail and Interrail.
The Eurail Group provides rail passes for travel all over Europe, for one, two, four or twenty-eight countries, at a much lower cost than buying individual tickets. It’s the classic, romantic image we hold in our minds of cruising smoothly through the constantly-evolving countryside, chatting with passengers from all over the world between one beautiful city and the next, that makes train travel a must do in Europe. Have breakfast in London, dinner in Paris and wake up the next day in Amsterdam, or even Switzerland!
3. Surf in the south of France
Many of us have watched surfers from the beach as the glide down the face of a wave before pulling into a steep turn to face the giant, chasing the sweet spot while being pursued by the breaking water behind them. We’ve all sat there and thought, ‘I wish I could do that!’
The south of France has always been one of the world’s greatest surf destinations, with beautiful locations like Biarritz, Capbreton and most notably, Hossegor all in easy reach. There’s a very good reason that many international surf competitions are held in this region; it offers some of the best surf in the world. On top of that, unlike many other surf breaks, you have all the benefits of first-world facilities, amazing food, fine wine, great nightlife and plenty of alternative activities for days when the waves forget to show up. There’s no shortage of other water sports options, but if you want a break from the salt, head for one of the local vineyards for a bit of education and culture. There’s no shortage of cheap hostels, and the party scene is full and flowing in the peak season.
4. Explore Rome
Rome is an enchanting place with countless nooks and crannies to check out, aside from the hundreds of churches, monuments, and historical artifacts.
This ancient Roman city was once the center of a great empire which has since fallen, like so many others before and since. Aside from being amazed by architectural marvels like The Colosseum, exploring the secrets of the Vatican and crawling through the Catacombs, don’t forget to sit back with a cappuccino and soak up the Italian life and culture. It’s certainly not cheap here, so plan your budget carefully and spend some time researching the more affordable areas of the city for hostels with kitchens to help you save a little. There are plenty of free things to do as well, like exploring the city’s old industrial center, Mattatoio, the skull of Saint Valentine, a cat sanctuary squatting amongst ancient ruins where Julius Caesar was assassinated, treasure hunting in Monti’s vintage market and numerous free art galleries and museums. A must do in Europe for culture junkies!
5. Truffle Hunting in Istria, Croatia
One of the most culturally diverse regions in Europe, the Istria peninsula of southern Croatia has been ruled and inhabited over the centuries by ancient Venetians, Italians, Austrians, and Germans, all of which contribute to the distinctly rich flavors, textures, and personalities found in this small corner of Mediterranean Europe.
Istria has so much to offer regarding history, culture, architecture and of course, cuisine, although it’s often overlooked in favor of its bigger European cousins, like Italy and Spain. Tourism here is extremely developed in all areas, with the varied landscapes, from lush, cool mountains and forests dotted with medieval stone villages, to fine wine vineyards and the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean where small fishing towns thrive as social and tourist hot spots. One of Istria’s greatest accolades is its gourmet cuisine and is the source of some of the best truffles in Europe. A truffle is an underground mushroom, which was revered by the Romans as a gift from the gods and is traditionally found using specially trained dogs to detect them underground. The world’s largest truffle was discovered here in the forests of Motovun, weighing in at over 1.3 Kg. With truffle hunting tours led by experienced guides, you can have a go at beating the record for yourself! This is a must do in Europe for the more refined traveler with a palette for fine food and wine.
6. See the best of England
England, the home of the Kings and Queens of Britain, rich in history and beautiful countryside and home to Fish and Chips, pubs and rainy weather!
London is the capital city and has enough to keep you busy for a whole week with iconic landmarks like Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus and Tower Bridge. But there’s more to England than London; the ancient mystery of Stonehenge, pints, and pies in traditional pubs and stunning countryside like the Lake District in the north – This old country has so much to offer, and there are so many great places to visit. One of the best ways to travel England and its neighboring UK countries is by train, watching the landscapes change and unfold around you. If you into hiking and walking, the country’s seemingly endless mountain and coastal paths are enough to keep your boots busy for several years! If you have extra time available, cross the open borders into Scotland and Wales, for a deeper look into the culture and history of the British Isles. Don’t underestimate how much time you’ll need to get into this ‘must do in Europe’ destination.
7. See Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain
With everything you could want from a Mediterranean city – healthy food, sunshine, a relaxing lifestyle and a blend of historical and modern culture and design that rivals almost any other city in the world, a few days in Barcelona can change how you feel about cities forever. In fact, we could have filled this whole must do in Europe list with things to do in Barcelona!
Barcelona, the capital city of the autonomous region of Catalonia in Spain, is the second- most populous city in Spain and one of the most important cultural centers in Europe, is home to 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites, seven of which fall under the ‘Works of Antoni Gaudi.’ The most famous of these is the Sagrada Familia, the final and unfinished work of Barcelona’s most renowned architect, Antoni Gaudi, who worked on the project for 43 years until his death at the age of 74. Since then some architects and engineers have continued design and construction, with a design committee now fully committed to finally completing the great Basilica in 2026. A visit to the Sagrada Familia is not just for the religious or for history and architecture fanatics – even if you think you don’t like churches, the spaces, shapes, light, and feelings inside will inspire and amaze you! Other inspiring works by Gaudi include the Casa Calvet, the Casa Batlló, and the Casa Milà, all of which redefined the meaning of architecture and design.
8. Ski in the French Alps
If you’re looking for a true example of a European winter activity, this is it. There is nothing more European than gliding through snowy slopes on a set of skis, stopping for a cappuccino and a cognac in the winter sun, before doing it all over again! The French Alps are the top destination in Europe, albeit, sometimes the most expensive as well. With more than 2000km of high-quality pistes for all levels and abilities, you can choose between the more party focused resorts, such as Val d’Isere and Tignes, or the more expensive and more upmarket resorts of Chamonix. There’s no need to buy your expensive gear as it can all be rented quite affordable and there are always ski schools to get you started if it’s your first time.
9. Drink real beer at Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany
Officially the world’s largest funfair, Oktoberfest is a 16-day folk festival held annually in Munich, Bavarian Germany, with more than 6 million international attendees annually. Nowadays, Oktoberfest is best known for the huge quantities of beer consumed throughout the event (and before…and after!), but there are loads of other attractions and things to keep you entertained in between beverages – amusement rides; traditional side stalls and games, plus loads of traditional food. So if you’re more into your food than your beer, then you can still have an awesome time eating your way through German delicacies like Hendl (roast chicken), Schweinebraten (roast pork), Schweinshaxe (grilled ham hock), Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), Würstl (sausages) along with Brezen (pretzel), Knödel (potato or bread dumplings), Käsespätzle (cheese noodles), Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes), Sauerkraut or Rotkohl/Blaukraut (red cabbage) along with such Bavarian delicacies as Obatzda (a spiced cheese-butter spread) and Weisswurst (a white sausage). German food is known for being quite heavy, so bring elasticated trousers!
10. See Norway’s biggest fjord
Everyone who has ever heard anything about Norway knows that the country is synonymous with great fjords, narrow inlets in the coast where salt water flows inland surrounded by great walls of rock and cliffs. The greatest fjord of them all, the Sognefjord, is 204 km long and 1038 km deep, giving it the title, ‘King of Fjords!’ Of course, there are many of other fjords too, like Geirangerfjord with its magnificent waterfalls and cliffs. When you’re all fjord’s out, check out the country’s other attractions like North Cape, Old Bryggen Wharf in Bergen and the Snow Hotel in Kirkenes. Norway is a very expensive country, but as always, there are plenty of free things to do if you know where to find them, like the changing of the royal guard, the parks of Oslo, great beaches and even free ice skating in winter!