Europe, much like the U.S., comprises of many vast and scenic landscapes spanning across the whole continent. Packed full of history, culinary adventures and breath-taking sights, Europe is a travelers dream, and there are many factors about Europe that we will never see in the U.S. We embark on a European vacation for many reasons; to enjoy sun whilst relaxing on the many pristine beaches, to educate ourselves on the world-class food and wine or to visit the centuries of historical sights seen on every corner of a European city. Yes, there may be some common and straightforward things to do in Europe, however, it may come as a surprise to travelers that adding one simple twist to these activities can enhance your vacation, hence creating some unforgettable memories. Europe offers much more than meets the eye and it is only when you delve into the archives, that you will gain the most out of your trip, either with a better understanding of the history of the region, or cultural practices, whatever appeals to you, Europe has something to offer.
The following are 20 reasons to visit Europe that may surprise U.S. travelers, as well as many others across the globe. Sit back, relax and get ready to book your next trip to Europe.
20 Wine and bike tour in Austria
Cycling is perhaps one of the best ways to take in the scenery, regardless of the location. Mix a wine tour with biking around Austria’s lush, yet rugged terrain, and you have the perfect days’ work. When people think of European wine, France and Italy usually spring to mind, however, Austria is up there with the world’s best. Sounds like a perfect day, right? Well, there is more. Austria is famous for its quaint little towns and villages scattered around the countryside, all of which welcome tourists with open arms. So, whilst biking around the Austrian countryside, be sure to stop in for an authentic local culinary or cultural experience.
19 Tallinn TV Tower
What was once a sight to the free world, standing at 574 foot, the Tallinn TV Tower in Estonia’s capital is a must-see for any thrill seeker. If you like to live life on the edge, the ‘Walk on the Edge climb’ boasts some spectacular rewards, with panoramic views over the Baltic Sea and Tallinn’s historic old town. If you are lucky enough, you could even catch a glimpse of Helsinki, the capital of Finland. Not only can you climb this illustrious structure, but it provides some historical insights into what was, and what is.
18 Start your own designer label in France
A country famous for its contribution to the fashion and fragrance industry, what better fit for the birth of your designer label than France. This activity, available at the world famous ‘The House of Gallimard’ just has to be on the agenda for any fashionista. Situated on the stunning French Riviera, it is also the perfect place to take in the year-round sun whilst visiting the museums and gaining an insight into the perfume industry before taking it upon yourself for the birth of a new designer fragrance. This ladies and gentlemen, is perhaps one of the most unique things to do when in Europe.
17 Live life on the edge in Greece
Sailing around the exotic Greek Island is usually associated with the dream vacation to this wonderful part of the world, but we think there may be another way to experience the sights. Bungee jumping off the spectacular cliff faces or in between gorges with pristine water to welcome you after your free fall, this activity has it all but is not for the light-hearted. One jump that will get the adrenaline pumping is the bungee over the Corinth Canal. They say free-falling clears the mind and soul, and what better way to test this theory out than a jump overlooking arguably some of the best scenery in the world.
16 Supercars + Italy
Italy is the home of many things throughout the world, from culinary and wines to a mixed bag of historical events and awe-inspiring architecture. What some people forget is that Italy is also home to some of the world’s best supercars, including Ferrari and Lamborghini. Bungee jumping and climbing towers may be one type of thrill-seeking, but being behind the wheel of a Ferrari at full speed is a completely different experience. Adrenaline pumping, tick, once in a lifetime, perhaps, but regardless of the supercar, an activity to tick off the bucket list. If you are a car enthusiast, what better way to spend a day than surround yourself with the best food, wine, countryside and cars in the world.
15 Go-Karting on Ice?
There are many karting tracks in the U.S., but none as unique as what we find in Northern Europe. For a mix of kart racing and ice skating, the clever people of Finland have come up with go-karting on ice. If you travel to Europe during winter, chances are you are there to visit the Christmas markets or ski the powdery white alps. Not many people know about this fun activity for everyone to enjoy, children and adults alike. All equipment and safety instructions are provided so all you have to do is expose your inner F1 driver and enjoy the speed and spills ice go-karting has to offer.
14 Biplane ride
Coming from the U.S. to Europe requires a decent flight or two, so it would be wise to say that any further flying is off the cards. Not so fast. If you are planning on traveling to countries or regions which have inspired many household names, a scenic flight in a biplane might just do the trick. If, for example, Transylvania tickles your taste buds, a biplane ride over Dracula’s Tomb and historic, yet modernized Bucharest is a must-do. If you aren’t a fan of the cold, nor heat, and October is the perfect month for you, nothing is more authentic than Halloween in Transylvania.
13 Water sports in the Canaries
Water sports are available in almost every coastal town and region, but perhaps none more cultural diversified than in the Canary Islands. A mix of Spanish, French, Italian and Moroccan, the islands boast an array of activities, both in the water and out, as well as a mixed culinary experience. You can soak up the rays (a staggering 300+ days per year), sip on ice-cold cocktails and then discover what lurks beneath the crystal-clear waters, from scuba-diving to snorkeling and kayaking.
12 Freefalling in Berlin
If you are feeling ambitious, head to the Park Inn in Germany’s vibrant capital. Here, you can freefall 410 feet looking down on one of the busiest parts of Berlin. To put it into perspective, 410 feet sits atop of 39th and final floor of the Park Inn Hotel. This is the only activity of its kind on offer in Europe, and one of the few throughout the world, in a sense that you are jumping off a building in the middle of a city. In some ways, the feeling of freeness contrasts the busy, stressful sights that can be seen at ground level with people going about their day.
11 Zip line in Ireland
When people think of Ireland, the first thing that springs to mind is lush green fields, scattered with gorgeous villages, and this is not far from the truth. What people do not realize, is that Ireland's coast is full of cliff faces just waiting for you. Yes, you can zip line in the U.S. over many amazing locations, however, the Irish Western Coast is in its own league. You will see many landscapes jam-packed into one thrilling adventure, with the rugged cliff faces, dense green plains, and crashing waves all coming together to create a spectacle you will never forget.
10 Sleeping with fish?
Whether you love the ocean or simply love trying weird and wacky things, this one is for you. With only a few of its kind worldwide, the Utter Inn in Sweden is a little red cabin atop a pontoon which is located smack bang in the middle of Lake Malaren. This hotel allows guests to get up close and personal with the local sea-life 3 meters below sea level. The fact that this hotel only comprises of one room really adds to the serenity and experience as you spend a night in (not really) the sea.
9 Tobogganing minus snow?
This may seem like a highly odd concept, but it is one that has contributed to putting Madeira on the map. At over 1,800 feet, the little Portuguese town of Monte offers travelers a highly unique activity. Usually associated with snow, tobogganing has been introduced into a place where the sun is not overshadowed by clouds, and where snow has never been seen. The road down is the black run, and it is up to you to navigate through the obstacles to reach base. No matter which method of ascent you choose, there is only one option for getting back down, and we will let you figure out what that is.
8 Hammers and festivals
Festa de Sao Joao in Portugal’s second largest city, Porto, is an annual summer festival displaying perhaps some of the strangest scenes in the world. People gather and celebrate Porto’s Saint day with an all-night street party with food, drinking, dancing and…..hitting people on the head with a hammer? Yep! That’s right, while no one knows the direct roots of this ‘tradition’, it is seen as customary at the Festa de Sao Joao. Do not stress, a plastic hammer is used and is only a light tap on the head. Midnight sees fireworks but this signals the night is only half gone.
7 Olympic Games with a twist
Every year, the World Alternative Games are held in Wales and attract thousands of competitors and spectators. In the small town of Llanwrtyd Wells, this event is the highlight of the year and it is no surprise why. We will leave the, let’s say, positively daft, yet highly random activities for you to find out, all that can be said, though, is each and every event is pointless. Now you might think, well why bother? Fair question. The Games have only recently come to light, as a fun version of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Sixty events make up these Games and are worth a look if you are in the area.
6 Human Fish
Slovenia is famous for its highly tranquil landscapes, and… Human Fish? Located in south-west Slovenia, is the Postojna Cave network, spanning 2km through various terrains, and is Europe’s largest cave network. It is a spectacular sight, with mother nature producing her absolute best work. Along the way, many acts of history can be seen, for example, old inscriptions on the cave walls, possibly dated to the 13th century. However, none better than Proteus Anguinus, or the Human Fish. It has been around for almost one hundred years and is near blind, with a snake-like appearance, two little legs and fin to help it swim, it really is a Human Fish. Worth checking out, but keep your eyes peeled.
5 Take a break…from everything
While nudist beaches are scattered around the world, there is no better country do strip off than France, and there is even a resort dedicated to being nude! Cap d’Agde is most famous for its nudist mentality and comprises of an interesting mix of residents. Ranging from people who love the sight of themselves nude and do not really see the need for clothes, to those who see being nude as a fashion statement, Cap d’Agde is a highly vibrant resort where everyone feels accepted. As the sun sets over the French Riviera, the more carefree and ‘exploratory’ nudists can be seen in the resort's bars and restaurants, and we will let you take it from there.
4 Sleep in jail
Sleeping in a prison may not be high on the bucket list at all, however, this may change. Being held captive on holiday is everyone’s worst nightmare, but if you are passing by Latvia and want to delve into the history of your surroundings, spending a night in the Liepaja prison may be wise. This prison was formerly used by the Latvian Navy, and it has now been transformed into a tourist attraction detailing a quite decorated, yet brutal past. As a guest here, you will be treated similarly to that of a prisoner; you will be held as gunpoint by Soviet prison guards, and then performing chores such as mopping the floor, finally bedding and sleeping arrangements are a mirror image of when the prison was operational.
3 See the future
Austria is famous for its wines, scenery and quaint villages, but also for its innovation. A visit to the Museum of the Future gives you a detailed insight into our world that never stops changing. Devoted to displaying new technology and futuristic art, this Museum of the Future is one of only a few of its kind worldwide. Perhaps one of the best experiences within the museum is the CAVE room. Here, you circumnavigate through the solar system and an array of virtual landscapes in a room that only measures 9m total. A room so small allows you to get the most from this highly unique experience.
2 Plateliai, Lithuania
For those history buffs, if Lithuania itself is not enough for you, the wooden village of Plateliai offers travelers a tour of a nuclear missile base. The reason why this tour is perhaps more significant than any others is that it is located in the center of lush, untouched wilderness. The missile base, in Zemaitija National Park, is a very subtle spot to construct a base, as no one would ever find it. Shut for operation in 1978, it is clearly evident what the base was made for, bringing an almost uncanny and somewhat spooky atmosphere to the tour.
1 Playing with fire
As if Spanish culture is not fiery enough already, the festival of Las Fallas in Valencia turns the streets into mayhem, with a combination of flames and fireworks for the celebration of Saint Joseph. Las Fallas places everyone on the edge, not just for the thrill of the celebrations, but in case anything were to go wrong, for example, the local firemen are put on over-time. This alone outlines the ferocious cultural feelings of the Spanish people. If that is not enough, the people construct large cardboard cut-outs of problematic figures throughout the world and then proceed to light them on fire at midnight annually on March 19.
This list covers a wide variety of tourist adventures within Europe, and there are many to suit all travelers’ bucket lists. While some can be seen in the U.S., it may come as a surprise that perhaps these activities carry a much more meaningful and historical purpose in Europe, and we cannot forget the stunning scenery, from the crystal clear seas of France and Greece to the mixed bag of landscapes seen in Ireland.