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Europe

Photo © Utrecht

Travel Guide Europe

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Introduction

The London Eye

The London Eye

© All Rights Reserved amimarie

Europe may be the world's second smallest continent, but it's a place of extreme importance, both in today's world and throughout history. The grand empires of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome were the early signposts, but the centuries since that time have seen the rise and fall of more great powers. Perhaps the era of Europe's greatest dominance began several centuries ago, as European nations set out to explore, colonise, and "Westernise" the rest of the world. Even now, decades after the official end of colonisation, Europe enjoys the power birthed and fostered during previous centuries.

Europe may not be large, but it is unique and diverse with more than 50 countries and even more languages and cultures. Compare the wealth and power of Western Europe with the comparatively underdeveloped Eastern Europe, although even those countries are catching up in the 21st century. Enjoy the warmth of Southern Europe or take in breathtaking winter scenery in Northern Europe. Witness some of the world's most modern buildings in some of the world's oldest cities.

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Geography

Boundaries

Europe is situated on the Eurasian continent, bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Mediterranean Sea to the south and the Arctic Ocean to the north. The eastern boundary with Asia and the Middle East is more tenuous. While there are several competing definitions, a common one uses the Ural Mountains, Caspian River and Caucasus as the eastern border. Russia is widely considered to be part European, part Asian.

Countries like Turkey and Greenland do not technically belong in Europe when defined as a continent, although often the small part west of the Bosporus in Turkey is geographically called Europe. For travelling purposes however, these countries are generally considered part of this region.

Physical geography

3_Lugano_Aug11 (205)

3_Lugano_Aug11 (205)

© All Rights Reserved david.byne

Despite being one of the smallest continents, Europe's landscape boasts an incredibly varied terrain. From the Baltic Mountains and Dinaric Alps on the Balkan, the land rises as you go north, with the Carpathian Mountains stretching from Romania to Slovakia and the Alps jutting up in central Europe. The Apennines extend south from the Alps into the Italian peninsula, while the Pyrenees separate France and Spain. Further north, the landscape is less dramatic, from the lowlands in the northwest of Europe to the vast East European Plain. In Scandinavia, the terrain once again becomes mountainous, as the Scandinavian Mountains stretch from north to south and Norway's coast marked by impressive fjords. However the highest peaks of Europe can be found in the Caucasus, the mountains separating Russia and Georgia. Mount Elbrus, at 5,642 metres, is the highest mountain in Europe.

There are several major rivers in Europe, including the Volga in Russia and the Danube in central and eastern Europe. The Rhine, Elbe, Loire, Rhône and Seine are other famous rivers in Europe, all of which are found in western and central Europe. In northern Italy, the Po is the most important waterway, and on the Iberian Peninsula the Tagus and the Guadalquivir.

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Subregions

Eastern EuropeArmenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Georgia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine
Northern EuropeDenmark (includes Faroe Islands and Greenland), Estonia, Finland (includes Åland), Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway (includes Jan Mayen and Svalbard), Sweden
Southern EuropeAlbania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Gibraltar (UK), Greece, Italy, Kosovo, Macedonia, Malta, Montenegro, Portugal (includes Azores and Madeira), San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain (includes the Canary Islands), Turkey, Vatican City
Western EuropeAustria, Belgium, France, Germany, Guernsey, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)

Several other sub-groupings exist within Europe, including the Benelux (Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg) and Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, but not Finland!).

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Sights and Activities

Faro_sheephut1_08 24 09_2872_edited-2

Faro_sheephut1_08 24 09_2872_edited-2

© All Rights Reserved dikansu

Major cities

Some of the world's most important and fun cities to visit are found in Europe. The list can go on and on. Each city is a symbol of Europe, marrying modern industry with a long, proud heritage. Here is a short list of some of the most famous cities in Europe:

Landmarks

See also: Famous Landmarks

  • Norwegian Fjords are vast and beautiful. Formed over thousands of years, they are identified by their huge steep sides and cliffs.
  • The Alps are great for skiing, summer hikes and rock climbing
  • Eiffel Tower located in Paris is one of the main sights of Europe it is one of the most recognisable structures in the world.
  • Big Ben and Tower Bridge in London are historical marvels of old architecture and British craftsmanship.
  • The Icelandic geysirs are some of the most amazing geothermal spots in the world owing its distinctiveness to volcanic activity which is rarley seen elsewhere in Europe.
  • Alhambra in Granada in Andalusia, southern Spain is the example of Mudejar architecture
  • Italian cities like Venice, Florence, Pisa and Siena can truly impress anyone
  • Monaco is a great place for gambling and high end beaches. It is a getaway destination for multi millionaires to sit in the sunshine on luxurious yachts.
  • Auschwitz, a World War II concentration camp in Poland, offers a chilling reminder of recent European history. It has become a symbolic landmark to Nazi atrocities commited during the reign of Hitler and the second world war.
  • Hermitage, in St. Petersburg, the place for all sorts of art
  • Colosseum in Rome is the ancient gladitorial arena of the Roman empire. It is one of the largest and most impressive remnants of this ancient civilization.
  • Acropolis in Athens is one of the most famous Greek ruins and also stands as the eptiome and symbol of the ancient greeks.
  • Jungfrau Railway and the Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn World Heritage Site in Switzerland
  • Dubrovnik - Especially the Old Town is magnificent.
  • Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of the British monarch. It is wildly popular with tourists.
  • Charles Bridge in Prague and the castle are stunning examples of Mediveal architecture. Prague's thousand year history has seen it develop into a multicultural capital.
  • The Tower of Pisa, or as it is more commonly known, the leaning tower of Pisa, is the freestanding bell tower of the cathedral within the city of Pisa, Italy. Due to a design flaw this buildings oddity has now become a world famous landmark and popular attraction for tourists.
  • Stonehenge in southern England is a mysterious stone circle dating back many thousands of years. It's purpose and origins remain a mystery although archaeologists have many theories.
  • The Arc de Triomphe is another Parisian landmark which commerates those who dies during the French revolution and the subsequent wars of Napolean.
  • The Palace of Versailles is a grand and expansive symbol of pre-revolution France and monarchist rule. The huge historical building is complimented by the vast and well maintained grounds.

Beaches

Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast

© All Rights Reserved robjwood

The warm Mediterranean at the southern end of Europe affords some of the world's most popular beaches. Countries like Greece, Italy, Spain (including the Canary Islands) and France receive many visitors each year in search of a tan. Over the past decade, Croatia has also become popular as a beach destination, thanks to its ideal location on the Adriatic Sea. Beaches in Cornwall, England, offer some of the best surfing experiences available in Europe. They are a popular destination for surfers from around the world.

Churches

As the historical centre of Christianity, Europe is home to some of the world's most amazing churches:

  • La Sagrada Familia is a roman catholic cathedral in Barcelona that has been under construction since 1882. It is one of the most impressive buildings the in the world and has an estimated completion date of 2026.
  • St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow is unlike any other cathedral in Europe. Its unique appearance has become an integral part of the Moscow cityscape and the building was almost destroyed during Stalin's reign in power.
  • One of the largest cathedrals in the world is Cologne Cathedral in Germany. It is the second tallest church in the the world, surpassed only by Ulm Cathedral which is also in Germany.
  • Basillica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence was once the largest cathedral in Europe with a capacity of 30,000.
  • The Vatican City in Rome is the world capital of catholicism. It is classed as its own sovereign city state and has many churches and structures within its walls. The largest and most famous of which is St. Peter's Basilica which, although technically not a cathedral, has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world. It is thought of as a very holy sight as it houses the burial sight of Saint Peter.

Museums

Europe has a lot of famous museums. Art lovers could spend months in Europe and still have too little time to see everything. Amongst the most famous museums, are both the Tate Museums and the British Museum in London, the Prado and the Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Academia in Florence, with the statue of David and of course maybe the best known of them all: the Louvre in Paris, where you can find the Mona Lisa. But also some lesser known and smaller museums can be worth a visit. In most of the cities there is a small city- or town museum, that can tell you more about the history.

Skiing

In Alpine countries such as France, Switzerland and Austria, skiing is an immensely popular activity. Further north, the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden and Finland also offer skiing opportunities, while some smaller towns in Eastern Europe, in the Caucasus, and the Sierra Nevada in the south of Spain, are lesser-known skiing destinations.

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Getting There and Around

Located at the crossroads between all continents except Oceania, Europe has a wide range of flight connections. Numerous airlines serve hundreds of destinations on a daily basis, especially to North America and the southern and eastern parts of Asia. But there are direct flights to the Middle East, Caribbean, South America and Africa as well. Only Australia and New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, basically require a change of planes. By ferry, Europe can be reached from North Africa (both Morocco and Tunisia have regular ferries) and popular overland routes include those from Asia, either by Trans-Siberian Railway from China and Mongolia through Russia, or from India and Iran to Turkey. Other routes to get to Turkey run from Egypt via Jordan and Syria. For option to get around in Europe by ferry, check the European ferries article.

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Learning European Languages

These language phrasebooks were created by Travellerspoint members to help travellers pick up some basic phrases, grammar and pronunciation skills before their trip:

Find out about contributing to or starting a new phrasebook on our project page: Project:Language phrasebooks.

Contributors

as well as Hien (10%), Frodo42 (7%), Herr Bert (4%), dr.pepper (4%), Lavafalls (3%), Peter (1%), mjc410 (1%), PeteB (<1%), Sam I Am (<1%)

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Europe Travel Helpers

  • Utrecht

    Living in the Netherlands, I travelled extensively across many parts of Europe, from the off the beaten track Faroe Islands to glitzy Paris or ancient Rome. Also travelled a lot in Eastern Europe, including unusual ones like Moldova, Kosovo and the Caucasus countries. So if you have questions about Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, the Alps, British Isles or many cities, please ask.

    Ask Utrecht a question about Europe
  • sujatang

    Completed a 116 days backpack trip with train as main transportation in 2011.
    Know Eurail pass very well - a very cost effective pass to travel around Europe hassle-free (comfortable as well). :-)

    Ask sujatang a question about Europe
  • Freddi Woomba

    Simply.. I have been travelling around Europe for more than 2 years. I have worked under the table in 4 countries as an 'illegal immigrant' lol. And I have now managed to walk across nearly 3000 km . There is a small amount of knowledge on my blog :)
    http://stevenhunter-freddiwoomba.tumblr.com/

    Ask Freddi Woomba a question about Europe
  • Cessie

    I live in Denmark, and have also travelled to parts of the UK, Ireland (Dublin) Sweden (Scania and Stockholm), Belgium, the Netherlands, France (Paris), and Italy (Rome and the Parma area).

    Ask Cessie a question about Europe
  • cereza

    I have spent 20 years in Europe and have visited all European countries.

    Ask cereza a question about Europe

This is version 126. Last edited at 9:31 on Mar 3, 15 by Utrecht. 1527 articles link to this page.

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