Travelling through Europe is a dream for most travellers, but with so many diverse and exciting experiences to try it can be hard to nail down your itinerary. But don’t worry, we’re here to help! We’ve rounded up 19 of the coolest travel ideas and experiences to try at least once, to help you plan out your ultimate Europe 2021 bucket list.
1. See the Northern Lights in Iceland
Iceland is arguably the best place in the world to stargaze and see the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. The glowing green lights might look cool in photos, but nothing compares to seeing the real thing. Tick the Northern Lights off your bucket list by visiting towns like Vik, Thingvellir National Park or Threngsli. Find out more about the best time to visit here.
2. Eat pizza in Naples
Pizza? In Italy? Ground-breaking. But how could you visit the birthplace of pizza and not indulge in a slice (or seven)? The city of Naples along the Amalfi Coast is famous for Mount Vesuvius, a bunch of castles and – most importantly – creating delicious pizza. Neapolitan pizza is thin and airy, topped with just tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and basil. Now, that’s Europe bucket list-worthy. Check out our guide to the best pizza around the world here.
3. Hike in the Scottish Highlands
Immerse yourself in lush natural landscapes in the Scottish Highlands. From the Cairngorms mountain range, to the valley of Glencoe, to the hills of Aonach Mòr, the highlands are brimming with stunning scenery and hiking trails. Keep your eyes peeled for cute animals, with red squirrels, wild cats and highland cattle seen around the valleys.
4. Go white-water rafting in Voss
Voss, the capital of Norway, is an action-packed town worth a spot on your itinerary. You can hike, bike, skydive, take the polar plunge or try waterfall repelling. They’ve got it all! But if you’re in this neck of the woods you absolutely have to try white-water rafting – it’s the most popular sport for adrenaline junkies visiting the town.
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5. Stay in a French Château
It doesn’t get more luxe than this, right? Spend an evening or two in your very own château in France for the real fairy-tale treatment. With more and more of these historic venues being lovingly renovated and opened up to tourists there’s no shortage of options. Travel with Contiki on the European Escapade or French Cycle to Château trips and you’ll spend two nights in your very own 16th-century château in Beaujolais.
6. Celebrate Pride on a European trail
From Germany to the Netherlands, celebrate Pride with Contiki in 2021 for an epic adventure you’ll never forget. Enjoy the parades, shows and after-parties at Berlin Pride and Pride Amsterdam as you follow the floats through the continent, stopping in Frankfurt, Reims and Bruges along the way.
7. Go chasing waterfalls in Iceland
Another Europe bucket list item for Iceland! If you’re planning a visit to this magical country, you need to pencil in some serious waterfall-chasing time. Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss and Gljufrabui are among some of the best falls to see and are all down in the south of Iceland. And who could forget Gullfoss Waterfall on the Golden Circle drive from Reykjavik? It’s one of the most iconic natural sights to see in this country FULL of natural wonders.
8. Enjoy a picnic under the Eiffel Tower
You can’t plan a trip to Europe without visiting Paris. Well, you can, but you’d be a silly goose for skipping this incredible city. It may be cliché to some, but when you’re enjoying a picnic with fresh French baguettes, cheese and wine while admiring the Eiffel Tower, you’re going to feel pretty damn special. It’s a cliché for a reason, add it to your Europe bucket list now.
9. Shred the slopes in the Alps
Take on the snow-capped mountains of Hopfgarten, Soelden, Saint Anton am Arlberg or many, many more towns in Austria. There are so many mountain peaks in the Austrian Tyrol for you to add to your European bucket list, and we highly recommend that you do. After all, you definitely want to be able to say “remember that time I skied in the Alps?” Also check out Contiki’s very own Austrian Chalet!
10. Cycle down an active volcano in Sicily
Looking for an adrenaline rush? Why not take a bike ride down the highest active stratovolcano in Europe – Mount Etna! But it’s not all volcanic rock, the popular cycling trail in Taormina also takes you past vineyards and lush orchards.
11. Go on a pub-crawl in Dublin
So you’ve probably heard of Temple Bar, the iconic pub in Dublin that’s painted a vibrant shade of red. But there’s a lot more to this city than one cool venue. Head out on a pub-crawl through the cobblestone streets, stopping at bars like The Palace Bar, The Old Storehouse, The Long Hall and Mulligan’s for a taste of live music and famous Irish hospitality.
12. Cycle to Neuschwanstein Castle
You’ve probably seen photos of this fairytale-like castle in Germany, a short journey from the city of Munich. While a traditional tour of the stunning sight is always a good time, why not add a bike ride and hike through the surrounding landscape for an even better adventure. You’ll see the best of the Bavarian Alps first-hand and, of course, explore the 19th century Neuschwanstein Castle.
13. Learn to make pesto in Cinque Terre
Taking an Italian cooking class and learning to make perfect pesto and fresh pasta? Sign. Us. Up. The region is famous for serving up delicious pasta al pesto, and there are a bunch of great classes you can take to learn the secrets of this simple, yet tasty, Italian dish. After all, the greatest souvenir you can take from your travels is one you can eat!
14. Explore the Christmas Markets in Estonia
Heading to the Baltics around the holidays? You can’t miss the Christmas Markets in the city of Tallinn. Dating back to 1441, it’s one of the more traditional markets and is a must-visit from November to January. Glowing fairy lights, fresh gingerbread and real-life reindeers make this market one of the most famous Christmas markets in Europe.
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15. Take a unique walking tour of Berlin
Want to see the sights and learn about the complex history of Berlin, Germany, from a fresh perspective? The Refugee Voices Walking Tour (available on Contiki’s London to Berlin and Berlin to Budapest train trips) is a different kind of Europe bucket list item and is hosted by Syrian refugee Hesham Moadamani. The tour educates visitors on the history of Berlin, including WWII and the Cold War, and draws draw parallels between Europe in the 20th century and what has happened to Syria in the 21st, using Berlin’s turbulent past to help travellers gain a new perspective into the attitudes that Syrian refugees face in today’s world.
16. Sample local wines in Beaujolais
You’ve probably heard of Beaujolais, the red wine varietal from France, but have you ever drank the local drop in the region it was named after? The Beaujolais Province is a short drive away from Lyon, and is famous for rolling green hills and bountiful vineyards.
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17. Enjoy a boat ride in Burano
Hopping on a gondola in Venice is a must for any traveller, but once you’ve ticked that off your bucket list, what next? Why not hop in a boat and go on a journey from the city of Venice to the nearby island of Burano. Rows of colourful houses line the canals of this UNESCO World Heritage-listed fisherman’s town. Cruise through the canals before indulging yourself in one of their epic seafood restaurants.
18. Go kayaking in Dubrovnik
Adding Croatia to your Europe bucket list? Take it to the next level by taking a sea kayaking trip around the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Dubrovnik City Walls. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in Croatia, and you’ll get to see it from a fresh perspective on your journey.
19. See the sunset in Santorini
It’s one of the most iconic sunsets in the world, which is why watching the sunset in Santorini should be on the top of your Europe bucket list. Sit back for an afternoon drink in Oia and watch the golden rays light up the white and blue coloured buildings along the cliffside. It’ll be an experience you remember for the rest of your life.