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Must-visit historic sites in Europe


From peeping into ancient tombs to treading the cobblestone streets of medieval villages and marveling at grandiose Roman structures, when it comes to historic sites in Europe, there is such a breadth of experiences to be had. To help you plan your European vacation (or bewilder you with the choices), we’ve put together our ultimate bucket list of the top historic sites right across Europe.   

Mont-Saint-Michel, France

The glorious tidal island of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy (Northern France) is the stuff of fairy tales. It rises out of the expansive, mirror-like sands of low tide like a mystical storybook castle. Winding around its base is a walled medieval village of cobbled streets, narrow alleyways and steep stone staircases. Crowning the rocky islet is an ancient, fortified abbey with slender spires reaching skyward.  

Be sure to take your time exploring, and we recommend you stop for a pistachio ice cream along the way before making your push for the pinnacle.  

The Acropolis, Greece

Greece has a wealth of ancient historical sites to marvel at, many of which feature on the UNESCO World Heritage List. But if we had to choose just one, then it must be the iconic pillars of the Parthenon gleaming white in the bright sunshine of Athens. Visible from all over the city, the Acropolis topped by the Parthenon was built in the 5th century BC. However, the site was culturally important as far back as the 13th century BC.  

For context, the site should be visited hand-in-hand with the excellent Acropolis Museum adjacent. Housing many important artefacts, the museum has been beautifully designed to showcase this incredible historical site. After a full day of exploring, find yourself an al fresco seat for sunset views of the Parthenon and appreciate the beauty and eloquence of the spectacle before you. 

Pompeii, Italy

The remarkable ancient city of Pompeii in Southern Italy has to be one of the most astounding historic sites in Europe. Established way back in the mists of time, as early as 7th century BC, the city was later inhabited by the Greeks and then the Romans. Then in AD 79, it was all over when the nearby Mount Vesuvius volcano erupted suddenly with enormous force. The whole site was quickly buried under a layer of burning pumice stone, preserving the busy streets, houses and even the city’s inhabitants in remarkable condition.  

Exploration of the site began in 1748 and it’s still in the process of being excavated today. Visitors can gain incredible insight into the lives of Pompeii’s residents all those millennia ago. Walking through the ruins is an awe-inspiring and often ghostly experience, peering into houses, baths, shops and amphitheaters, seeing the preserved remains from such a distant past. Close your eyes and you can almost hear the shouts of the local traders or even the ominous rumble of Mount Vesuvius. 

Barcelona, Spain

The sunny streets of Barcelona are a joy to explore, especially if you have an eye for architecture. The singular works of the Catalan modernist architect Antoni Gaudí decorate the city with their glittering mosaic work and organic curves – the most famous of his works being the Sagrada Família, still under construction today more than 140 years after work began.

Other creations that are slightly less epic in their proportions and complete are Casa Milà, Casa Battló and Casa Calvet. Set on a hill overlooking the city, the fantastical Park Güell is another must-see. With its curves and spirals, brightly-colored mosaics, lush gardens and expansive views, walking the paths of Park Güell feels like you’re stepping inside the artist’s imagination in full, dazzling technicolor.    

Titanic Belfast, Northern Ireland

This impressive visitor attraction in Belfast, Northern Ireland, was built on the site of the original Harland & Wolff shipyard where the ill-fated Titanic was constructed. Inspired by the form of a huge ship hull, this striking museum rises at an acute angle and is clad in shard-like sections of polished aluminum. At eight stories high, the Titanic Belfast houses a fascinating series of exhibitions dedicated to the city of Belfast and detailing the rise and fall of this world-famous ship.  

Edinburgh, Scotland

Scotland’s characterful second city of Edinburgh is a wonderful place to visit with a plethora of historic sites. Both the Medieval Old Town and the Georgian New Town are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and everywhere you look there is another architectural gem to enjoy. Presiding over it all is the brooding presence of Edinburgh Castle. Visit in August and you’ll also get to laugh along at the world-famous, month-long Edinburgh International Festival. 

Rila Monastery, Bulgaria

South of Sofia in the deep valley created by the Rila River, the Rila Monastery has been a place of pilgrimage and great religious importance since its founding in the 10th century. With misty mountains rising all around, the site invokes a hushed quiet and calm contemplation.  

The heart of the complex is the beautifully-decorated church with painted domes, striking black-and-white arches and elaborate frescoes. Although open to the public, there are monks in residence, and the Eastern Orthodox religion demands visitors be respectful, wearing modest attire, turning off phones, removing hats and keeping noise to an absolute minimum.  

Sighisoara, Romania

This gorgeous medieval town is perched between the mountains and forested valleys of Transylvania, Romania. Its winding lanes, pastel-colored merchant houses and medieval towers are extremely well-preserved. Fortified with substantial city walls, the town has held up against many raids over the centuries. Its main claim to fame, though, is as the home of the infamous Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Count Dracula.  

Gelati Monastery, Georgia

Harmoniously laid out along a wooded hillside with beautiful mountain views all around, the Gelati Monastery is Georgia’s most important religious complex. Founded in the 10th century, its honey-colored stone churches represent the Golden Age of medieval Georgian architecture.  

Richly-decorated murals and mosaics dating from the 12th to 17th centuries invite visitors to linger within the great halls and observe the hushed silence of this hallowed place. If you visit on a Sunday morning, you’ll be delighted by the dulcet tones of traditional Georgian chanting. 

Valetta, Malta

Malta‘s diminutive Mediterranean capital was established in the 16th century by the Knights of St John. Measuring just 0.24 sq mi, it has been named by UNESCO as the most concentrated historical site in Europe. Gorgeous Baroque architecture abounds with opulent palaces, stately gardens and many elaborate churches. This elegant little city is a delight to explore, especially when its caramel-hued stone is bathed in the golden light of early evening.   

The Old City of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik and its old town exude both beauty and history. Surrounded by sparkling blue seas, the terracotta roofs and high defensive walls of the historic center shelter a great wealth of architectural gems. Founded in the 13th century, here you’ll find many fine examples of Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance churches, palaces, plazas and fountains lining sun-drenched streets.   

Make it happen

Speak to our local experts today to start planning your next trip to see some of the most amazing historic sites in Europe! Take your pick from a range of tours, delving into the history and culture of this diverse continent.

  1. France
  2. Greece
  3. Italy
  4. Spain
  5. Northern Ireland
  6. Scotland
  7. Bulgaria
  8. Romania
  9. Georgia
  10. Malta
  11. Croatia

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