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The ultimate Europe bucket list: top destinations you need to explore in 2024

2023 marked a showstopping year for Europe as it received love from all over the globe. Euro Summer became the biggest travel trend of the year and many European countries and cities received tourists like never before. If your socials haven’t been flooded with Greek Island content or globe-trotters scarfing down pasta, pizza, and pastries, then you must have been living under a rock!

We reckon 2024 Europe is going to be the same – but this time, why not do it year round? The off-season is just as good as the summer season, and if you’re wanting to tick off, or even complete, your Europe bucket list, then you’re going to need all the seasons to do it! 

From cruising coasts to trekking up spring-clad mountains, from discovering aquamarine blue waterfalls and gorging yourself on the most delicious foods, we’ve got all the Europe trips to help make your dreams come true. These are the top destinations to visit in 2024!

1. Ireland

Starting off with the Emerald Isle, Ireland is an absolutely stunning destination and should be at the top of your list! Coasts and cliffs, like the Cliffs of Moher, that give way to the striking ocean, as well as cosy cities and towns dotted with authentic pubs and warm home-made food.

Speaking of the pubs, Ireland is home to one of the most vibrant and underrated nightlife scenes with these venues coming to life in the evenings filled with song and dance, and locals having a merry old time. Any time of year is great to visit Ireland, though we recommend summer for some gorgeous weather, or winter if you like your travel destinations to be extra dramatic.

Couple walking over dunes in Sligo, Ireland

Image source:Contiki

2. Italy

We can’t very well discuss the top Europe bucket list destinations without discussing the enduring and ever-lasting favourite that is Italy. Filled to the brim with rich culture and history, stunning and aged artworks, as well as, of course, mouth-watering food, a trip to Italy in 2024 is a must!

Not only is the country incredibly beautiful but each corner is so different, which makes a road trip through Italy a diverse experience. Visit the Amalfi Coast for sun-kissed days at the beach, Florence for your fill of ancient artwork, Milan for the fashion capital of the world, and of course storied Venice for a leisurely glide down the canals in a gondola. You can do it all on our Simply Italy trip, and so much more.

3. Portugal

Continuing on with the theme of southern heat, Portugal is a must. Nestled into the side of Spain, it boasts just as much fun and beauty, and you’ll find yourself absolutely mesmerised. Join us on our Portugal City and Surf trip for a leap-frog adventure along the coastline and bathe in dazzling blue waters, surf over cresting waves, and munch on ooey gooey pastel de natas in between!

With a start and end in Lisbon, you can extend your holiday by a few days to further enjoy the capital city. An underrated yet vibrant city in Europe, Lisbon is the gem that’ll help you unlock complete and total love for Europe.

Portugal

Image source:Contki

4. Spain

If you’re craving authentic tapas and paella, or want to spend your days, no matter the month, sipping frothy beers under the warm sun, then Spain is the Europe bucket list destination for you! With a perfect blend of beach vibes and city vibes, there’s a little bit of everything for everyone here.

Stroll past icons in Barcelona like the almost finished Sagrada Familia, witness a unique art festival in Valencia, and visit famous artworks like Picasso’s Guernica in Madrid. The sun will shine all year round in Spain, making it a perfect holiday spot. And, if you want to make the most of both Spain and Portugal on your travels, combine the two with our Best of Spain and Portugal trip and double your fun!

5. Greece

As far as trips to Europe go, there are few that are as highly sought after as trips to Greece. With pristine beaches, glass-like water, ruins that tell many stories, and brilliant blue-domed buildings, it’s no wonder why. There’s a few ways to travel Greece in 2024: a mainland excursion into Athens and the surrounding towns for history and mythology lovers, or a dreamy celebration hopping from Greek island to Greek island.

Soak in the sun and sea, slurp up tzatziki and fresh olives, swoon over the most sumptuous sunsets, and prepare to fall in love. Greece is a European it girl, so if you want to travel amongst smaller crowds, hit it in the shoulder season and visit in late Spring or early Autumn.

Group of travellers in Athens

Image source:Contiki

6. Croatia

Greece’s almost twin sister, Croatia is beautiful and breezy, and the sailing here is just as divine. Cannon-ball with your new friends into the freshest of waters or paddle around the walls of Dubrovnik to catch some of the iconic shots from Game of Thrones. Choose our Croatia Island Sail trip for some well-deserved time at sea in the peak of Summer!

Or, if you prefer to keep your feet on solid ground, opt for some Hiking and Biking in Croatia and discover some natural stunners like Plitvice and Krka National Parks – big hits for fans of emerald coloured waters and lush flora surrounding waterfalls! You could even combine both trips to really start making your way through that Europe bucket list…

7. France

Magical any time of year, France is the perfect travel destination. Why? Because the French completely and totally understand what life and holiday is about: relaxing. They just get it, and that chilled vibe extends throughout the whole country.

Whether you’re looking to daydream in Provence among lavender fields, dying to sample to wines in the Beaujolais region (at the Contiki Château), or wanting to stroll along the Seine at twilight, France is the romantic destination it promises to be and so much more. Hop on our European Magic which will take you through Paris and Bordeaux and show you the good life.

travellers in Paris on holiday

Image source:Contiki

8. The Netherlands

If your idea of an ideal vacation includes cycling along canals, or maybe even spending some time on a canal boat, then get yourself to Amsterdam and the Netherlands! This city is a popular one for good reason as it’s filled with charm and whimsy at every corner. The European Encounter stops off at Amsterdam and will treat you to an evening cruise with your new holiday fam!

We recommend giving it a visit in Spring when the flowers all start to wake up and burst into delicate blooms. You can even visit Keukenhof, Europe’s largest, and most impressive, flower garden, filled with thousands of flower species from all over the world. None are more impressive though, than the tulip fields which span endless rows upon colourful rows of the flower the Netherlands are most famous for. 

9. Germany

Now, the absolute best time to visit Germany, and the best time if you really want to tick some big ticket items off your Europe bucket list, is during the Autumn and Winter months. Why? Because that’s when Oktoberfest and the Christmas Markets happen!

No country is more known for its cosy festive atmosphere than Germany: with fairytale towns and castles, twinkling lights, and special intricate and embroidered outfits to go with! Contiki’s European Magic will whirl you around Munich, a classic German town, and you’ll even get to stop at the larger-than-life Neuschwanstein Castle. Feeling like a prince or princess is guaranteed!

Christmas markets in Germany

Image source:Contiki

10. Austria

If one of your 2024 resolutions is to become more active, Austria is where it’s at. Looking to get away in January or February? Why not hit the slopes and glide all the way down perfect snowy mountains to a well deserved Aperol or mulled wine? Want to feel warm and watch as the mountains wake up? The Austrian Alps are a gorgeous place to do some hiking and biking.

Whether you’re trying to go up or down the mountains, Austria is a blissful place to spend some time in any season, and you’ll be able to call our gorgeous chalet, Hopfgarten, home for a few days. Breathe in that fresh air, make new friends, and you’ll soon be rejuvenated enough to take on the rest of Europe and 2024!

11. Scotland

Highland cows. That’s it, that’s all you need to know about Scotland. If you thought Europe wasn’t home to safaris, you’d be wrong – there are safaris in Scotland just to see Highland Cows, and you can spot them on our idyllic England and Scotland trip.

Not only will you see Highland Cows, you’ll also get to stroll the breathtaking Scottish highlands, as well as spot some beloved Harry Potter filming locations, and sample local hearty whiskey. 

Image source:Contiki

12. Slovenia

Wrongfully underrated, Slovenia should be added to your Europe bucket list if it’s not already there. Closely resembling the Alpine small towns of Switzerland, Slovenia is made up of lush green hills and mountains and cute chalet-style houses. 

Its capital city, Ljubljana (don’t worry, you’ll pick up the pronunciation on the way), with a castle sitting at the top, is fairytale-like. We recommend coming to explore Slovenia on our Best of Balkans trip, and then you can become a trend-setter amongst your friends and family, urging them to visit as well.

13. England

The city break of all city breaks, England is a great destination for those that want to get a taste of everything in a short amount of time. The country is quite small and each corner is so easy to get to by train (or Contiki coach), so you can spend a week visiting bustling cities like London and Manchester, but also viewing some gorgeous landscapes in the Lake and Peak districts, as well as getting a taste of those academic and old-timey vibes in places like Oxford and York.

Deeply rich in history and culture, and surprisingly varied, England is perfect any time of year for the travellers who want to do more than just go on holiday: this is for the curious adventurer! Plus, most of Contiki’s European trips start in London, so it’s a great place to turn into your base for a few days before or after.

London in Autumn

Image source:Contiki

14. Iceland

Though it may be detached from the mainland, Iceland is part of Europe, and what a majestic component it makes. Blessed with landscapes awe-inspiring enough to make anyone believe in the Norse Gods, Iceland should be at the tip-top of your Europe bucket list if it isn’t already. 

Waterfalls galore, naturally geothermal springs, black sand beaches, and sleepy fisherman towns, Iceland is a playground for the adventurous and not many other countries are like it. Join Contiki’s Fire and Ice tour for some amazement and fun locals, like the farm-to-table meal at Efstidalur. If you’re lucky, this is one of the prime locations to even catch the northern lights. 

If any (or all) of these took your fancy, then book now! And, if on top of all that amazing adventure, history, and fun, you want to make friends all over the world too, then book with Contiki! 

We’ll provide all the annoying admin bits like figuring out the itinerary to transportation to accommodation, so all you have to do is mingle, make friends, and have the absolute time of your life – that’s what travel is all about. 

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