- Inspiration and ideas for the ultimate Europe bucket list – where to go, what to see and amazing experiences.
- Must-visit European destinations – from Seville and Rome to exploring Pompeii and hiking across the Tuscan hills.
- Brilliant bucket list ideas – from enjoying the Oberammergau Passion Play and Keukenhof Gardens to eating cake in the Black Forest.
Are you compiling a European bucket list – a checklist of quintessential adventures and experiences to enrich your life? From Rome’s Trevi Fountain to the castles of the Rhine, Europe is home to iconic landmarks that everyone must see in their lifetime.
Fancy jumping aboard the Glacier Express or listening to opera in Vienna? Europe has it all, with a wealth of cultural activities and events that should feature on everyone’s bucket list. If you haven’t already jotted down ideas, or want to add a few more, here’s our list of 20 once-in-a-lifetime things to do in Europe to get you started.
1. Watch the Oberammergau Passion Play
You get the chance to witness the world-famous Oberammergau Passion Play only once every 10 years. With the next performance in 2020, Oberammergau should definitely be on your ultimate Europe bucket list. It’s a momentous play depicting Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection performed by locals who were born in the German town of Oberammergau or have lived there for at least 20 years. The show is a five-hour spectacular held in an open-air theatre.
2. Be seduced by Seville
European tours escort you to a wealth of stunning Spanish cities, but Seville has to be one of the most seductive. With its magnificent Gothic cathedral, elaborate Plaza de España and warren-like maze of narrow streets, you’ll be captivated by Seville’s beguiling beauty and Andalucían charm. As the region is also the birthplace of flamenco, don’t miss the chance to be further enthralled by an alluring authentic show.
3. Throw a coin in Rome’s Trevi Fountain
Rome’s beautiful Trevi Fountain is a mesmerising sight and one that ought to feature on most people’s Europe bucket list. Even if you haven’t watched the films La Dolce Vita or Three Coins in a Fountain, the imposing Baroque-style sculpture and its gushing water epitomises all there is to love about Rome. Throw a coin into the water – backwards with your right hand over your left shoulder – to ensure good luck and a return visit to the eternal city.
4. Search for the Northern Lights
The natural phenomenon that is the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, is a spectacle like no other and can easily be the highlight of a European tour or cruise along the Norwegian fjords. Lighting up the night sky as you sail through spellbinding scenery, the ethereal display of colours in the night sky will never be forgotten. To increase your chances of catching this phenomenon, cruise to Norway between October and March and keep a watch out on deck.
5. Ride a gondola in Venice
It may be touristy, but no trip to Venice would be complete without a romantic ride on one of the city’s traditional gondolas. Meandering along Venice’s wonderful waterways and under some of its 400 bridges – including the arresting Bridge of Sighs – you’ll glide past Venetian palaces, merchant houses and the amazing St Mark’s Basilica. Embark on the journey at sunset for an even more enchanting experience.
6. Swim in the Blue Lagoon
When you’re thinking about a holiday in Iceland, it’s advisable to pack your thermals and woollens. However, don’t forget your swimsuit so you can tick off another experience that ought to be on your Europe bucket list – a swim in the country’s Blue Lagoon. The extraordinary geothermal spa uses hot mineral-rich water from nearby underground springs, allowing you to relax, soak up your scenic surroundings and let your body reap the benefits.
7. Step back in time in Pompeii
When composing your list of the top 20 things to do in Europe, don’t overlook historic Pompeii. The ancient Roman city, near Naples in Italy, was buried under volcanic ash and rock after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD. It’s hard to comprehend that Pompeii and its thousands of residents lay frozen in time until the mid-18th century when a surveying engineer made their miraculous discovery. Walking around the archaeological site today simply takes your breath away.
8. Eat chocolate in Bruges
Although Bruges is a picturesque UNESCO World Heritage Site and for that reason alone worthy of appearing on a Europe bucket list, you can’t visit the historic city without sampling some of its legendary chocolate. Dip into the Chocolaterie Sukerbuyc to learn more about how delicious treats are made, then head to Chocolatier Dumon or The Chocolate Line to buy your favourites. Be warned, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
9. Tiptoe through the tulips at Keukenhof Gardens
River cruises are an easy and relaxing way to explore much of Europe, and one of the highlights of a Dutch Waterways river cruise when visiting in the spring is the chance to see the dazzling floral displays at Keukenhof Gardens. Seven million tulips, daffodils and other pretty perennials stretch out over nearly 80 acres, creating a colourful carpet of breath-taking blooms as far as the eye can see. It’s not to be missed.
10. Festive shop at a Yuletide market
You won’t find a more magical or merrier place at Christmas than a joyous Yuletide market in Germany. No other country creates such a festive, fairy-tale setting, with row upon row of traditional wooden stalls enticing you to buy decorations, gifts and treats. Cologne, Rüdesheim and Koblenz – the atmosphere in these three Europe cruise destinations is delightful, and will be enjoyed all the more with a glühwein in hand.
11. Jump aboard the Glacier Express
When writing a bucket list, Europe ideas are not in short supply. And a ride on the Glacier Express, one of Europe’s most scenic railways, has to be included. Traversing Switzerland’s alpine landscapes from Zermatt to St Moritz, the iconic train passes through mountain tunnels and over towering viaducts. Look out for the Matterhorn, the Alps’ most recognisable peak, and perhaps a golden eagle, soaring high above.
12. Listen to opera in Vienna
There’s much to love about Vienna. Not only does the Austrian capital lie on the majestic river Danube, both Mozart and Beethoven are former residents of the city and have left much of their legacy behind. Classical recitals of both composers’ work can be enjoyed at various prestigious venues. However, attending the Vienna State Opera house to listen to The Magic Flute or The Marriage of Figaro is one for the bucket list – a not-to-be-missed experience.
13. Count castles along the Rhine
If considering river cruises, Europe has some of the best, and a trip along the river Rhine is a bucket-list adventure that you’re sure to love. Dramatic castles and fortresses, many sitting aloft steep cliffs, line both banks – and over 40 punctuate the landscape on one 65km stretch of the Middle Rhine Valley. Marksburg Castle, Schloss Stolzenfels and Pfazgrafenstein are all photogenic reminders of the Rhine’s historic past. Don’t forget your camera.
14. Hike across the Tuscan Hills
Walking in Tuscany is idyllic. The Italian countryside resembles an oil painting, with cypress trees dotting the striking landscape and olive groves and vineyards scattered around. Add a few golden fields of barley, oat and wheat and a sprinkling of sunlight, and there you have it – a spectacular setting for the ultimate tranquil trek. Various trails are suitable for walkers of all fitness levels. Take your pick.
15. Sip a glass of port in Porto
You can’t go to Porto and not partake in a little port tasting. Indeed, that alone is a good reason to book a holiday to Portugal’s second largest city. The nearby Douro valley is the native home of high-quality port, being produced in the region since the 18th century, and in Porto itself there’s a wealth of port cellars and wine houses. Tawny, white, ruby or vintage, you’re sure to find a tantalising tipple. Cheers!
16. Be charmed by the Baltics
Although increasing in popularity, the Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania are still relatively unexplored and as such make great destinations to visit. Rīga’s UNESCO-listed Old Town is awash with Art Nouveau architecture, while stylish Vilnius, a former Capital of Culture, retains an intriguing charm, despite its history of devastating wars and invasions. With storybook castles, splendid lakes and pine-fringed beaches to boot, the Baltics are one more addition for your bucket list.
17. Admire the Bayeux Tapestry
The Bayeux Tapestry is a masterpiece of embroidery that depicts the story of William, the Duke of Normandy, who became King of England in 1066 after the Battle of Hastings. Housed in a museum in the city of Bayeux, the 70 metres long and 50 centimetres wide tapestry is displayed in full so that you can admire each of its 75 phenomenally detailed scenes in turn. Seeing this unique piece of needlework, which dates from the 11th century, up close in Normandy, France, is an unforgettable experience.
18. Take the waters in Budapest
Often called the city of spas, Budapest in Hungry has more medicinal and thermal water springs than any other capital city in the world. And as they were enjoyed by the Romans, as early as the 2nd century, it seems fitting that any visitor today should follow in their footsteps and enjoy a therapeutic bathe. Seek out the Széchenyi Baths, which has an impressive 15 indoor pools and three outdoor pools. You can even play a game of chess while you soak away your cares.
19. Ask for cake in the Black Forest
Germany’s serene Black Forest is world-renowned for a variety of reasons. Some love its canopies of evergreens and cascading waterfalls; others are fascinated by its intricate cuckoo clocks and Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales. But there are some visitors who are wise to the real reason to visit – to delight in eating the region’s delicious cherry gateau. Café Schäfer in Triberg is where the original recipe of what is now known the world over as Black Forest cake was created.
20. Follow in the footsteps of Olympians
You may not be planning to do a pentathlon any time soon, or try your hand at discus or javelin, but that shouldn’t stop you visiting Olympia as part of a classic Greece tour to learn more about the ancient Olympic Games. It’s a bucket-list destination, and you can’t help but marvel at the athletic feats taking place in Greece as far back as 776 BC. Indeed, a tour of the site might spur you on to run your own 26.2-mile marathon.
Start your own Europe bucket list
Creating your own bucket list of places to go and events to experience is a fantastic excuse to travel, explore and delight in some of the most amazing countries, cities and places that Europe has to offer. From escorted tours to river cruises, Riviera Travel can help turn your bucket list into reality.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.