Europe is a fascinating, diverse continent made up of 46 countries with 24 official languages. It is steeped in history, filled with natural waterfalls, rainforests and live volcanos. From my travels, here are my personal, top 5 reasons to love Europe.
1. European Architecture
Signs of pre-historic architecture still exist in Europe, the monuments of Stonehenge being a prime example. Through the ages, building styles have changed dramatically…
The Classical Period – style of ancient Rome and Greece
The Parthenon on the Acropolis Hill in Athens is a wonderful example of architecture from the classical period with its columns and pediments.
The Romanesque Period
Architecture with rounded arches dominated during the Romanesque period. A fine example of this is the Tower of London’s ‘White Tower’. This iconic London building was built by William the Conqueror in the late 11th Century.
The Gothic period saw the birth of gargoyles and stained glass as seen in many European cathedrals, such as Florence‘s Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.
The Renaissance Period saw buildings which were often square or rectangular in shape. They were also quite symmetrical like the Basilica di San Lorenzo in Florence.
The Baroque Style buildings are complex and lavish in style like the Royal Palace of Madrid.
Modern architecture in Europe displays innovative design. Classic examples of this include Amsterdam‘s Eye film museum.
2. Rivers in Europe
River IJ, Amsterdam
Rivers are relaxing places to spend time when travelling alone. Amsterdam’s Pllek is well placed for enjoying your favourite tipple while watching a stunning sunset over the River IJ.
The Seine, Paris
Cruise along the River Seine in Paris. This guided audio tour is part of the Hop on Hop off Bus tour. The leisurely sail allows you to learn a little of Paris’ history along the way, as well as seeing many points of interest.
River Douro, Porto
Porto, in Portugal has a number of port tasting houses on the Vila Nova de Gaia side of the River Douro. Port tasting is a great solo activity in a beautiful riverside setting.
River Leie, Ghent, Belgium
Ghent’s River Leie is an idyllic place to take an evening stroll. Sip from a cup of hot milk, while stirring in a cube of exquisite Belgian chocolate. At the same time admire the breathtakingly beautiful riverside reflections.
3. European Squares
European Squares are often home to historic landmarks or monuments. Some are entertainment hotspots, others ideal for relaxation.
Leicester Square, London
London’s vibrant Leicester Square is a main entertainment area. It is home to the Odeon Cinema, renowned for its star studded red carpet events. You will also find street entertainers, busy bars and restaurants serving excellent food.
Place de la Concorde, Paris
Place de la Concorde is Paris’ largest square with monuments in each corner. It is of historical interest owing to the many public executions that took place here during the French revolution. The Egyptian monument marks the place where the guillotine once stood.
Plaza Mayor, Madrid
Watch the world go by in Madrid’s popular Plaza Mayor. Located in the old part of town, it is an ideal spot to sit and relax with a coffee. If you’re hungry, why not order a typical Madrilian dish, a squid sandwich.
Leidseplein Square, Amsterdam
Amsterdam’s Leidseplein Square is a top nightlife spot with a casino, theatre, bars and street performers. You can also take a riverboat cruise along the pretty canals from here. I can recommend the Blue Boat Canal Company.
Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence
Florence has a number of picturesque squares but the rather special Piazzale Michelangelo, offers something a little different. Climb the steps to the top where you can admire far reaching city views. This is a popular place to visit to watch one of the stunning sunsets. A replica of Michelangelo’s Statue of David stands proud in the centre, overlooking the square.
Ghent’s Groentenmarkt is a great square for foodies. It is home to a number of places where you can enjoy sweet baked waffles, renowned nose shaped sweets and fine chocolate. The oldest bakery in Ghent is located here. 65 types of bread are baked in their cellar. Another popular place to visit is Tierenteyn Mustard Shop. It produces its own mustards in the cellar and dates back to 1867.
4. Traditional Food
I love to travel around Europe and taste traditional local food. It is a great way to connect to a country. European countries each have a number of dishes which just have to be tried…
Spain Gazpacho is a traditional chilled zesty tomato soup. It is often served as an appetiser in a glass.
Belgium After a recent visit to Ghent, a port town of Belgium, I had the pleasure of sampling a Gentse Waterzooi. This is a traditional steaming hot stew made with fish or meat, served with potatoes and vegetables.
Sardinia Those with a sweet tooth will love the traditional Sardinian dessert, Seadas. Fried pastry is filled with cheese and a hint of lemon, drizzled with honey.
France A croque monsieur is a typical French toasted sandwich. Crisp on the outside, with melted cheese and good quality ham.
5. Art in Europe
Some of the most famous works of art have been produced by European Artists. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam displays masterpieces by Rembrandt.
Pablo’s works are exhibited in London’s Tate Modern
The world famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci can be seen at the Louvre in Paris.
But as well as viewing fine art in museums, a number of city’s side roads display spectacular street art. An example of this is can be seen in Ghent’s Van Stopenberghestraat.
Suggested Further Reading: