Chances are you’re familiar with the staples of European travel: Big Ben, Stonehenge, The Eiffel Tower, The Coliseum and The Vatican, so on and so on. Everyone’s seen them, everyone knows them, and because they’re the focal points for just about every European vacation, admiring them when they’re swarming with other tourists is tricky.
Before these major cultural landmarks became bullet points on bucket lists, they stood for something else: actual testaments to local culture. The thrill of travel to Europe was once centered around the discovery of new lands, people, customs and history. The purpose of travel once was personal enrichment that came from experiencing something truly outside of the ordinary. It still can be, if you know where to look in Europe beyond the tourist traps.
The German countryside and cities are rich with history, lending to a trip full of discovery no matter where you decide to venture. An afternoon spent in Regensburg provides the opportunity to stroll through the Middle Ages in the well-preserved medieval core of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Or, you could head to Koblenz, with its influx of medieval riverside castles and terraced vineyards, to taste wine that has withstood the test of time. Those looking for a serious history lesson should plan to tour Nuremberg in northern Bavaria, a site prominent in German history all the way from the Holy Roman Empire to the Nuremberg Trials following World War II.
Sure, Paris carries a certain romance known worldwide. But, to let you in on a little secret: so does all the rest of France. A trip to the city of Lyon offers posh food, the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, and stunning views of the Alps. You can walk through Van Gogh’s inspiration in the streets of Arles—a regional capital of the ancient Roman empire. Or, escape to the southern countryside by visiting Tournon, a village equal parts quaint and ancient. Wherever you end up, it’s likely you’ll fall in love with your setting.
While Russia isn’t one of the first countries to spring to mind when thinking of European vacations, its place in history and on the map provides a scope of offerings vast enough to put it in a league of its own. Moscow is a fascinating and surreal city, home to major staples and conflicting ideologies of Russian history thanks to Saint Basil’s Cathedral and the Moscow Kremlin both existing within the Red Square. It’s also home to Lenin’s Mausoleum, where you can view the perfectly preserved body of the father of the Soviet Union. A trip to Saint Petersburg provides the best chance to discover pre-communist Russia, as this port city was the imperial capital for over two centuries. The influx of grand palaces and prominent art reinforces the claim and proves it to be Russia’s cultural center to this day. Whichever side of Russia you wish to discover, the land provides sights and lessons to resonate with you for years to come.
With all of these potential destinations just presented, a warranted question might be how to navigate them—they are off the beaten path of tourism, after all. The answer is simple: take a river cruise. River cruises allow for you to discover a myriad of destinations while sailing in blissful luxury thanks to the network of rivers threaded between cities. An excellent choice of cruise line would be Viking River Cruises. They offer immersive itineraries to every port listed above and have been consistently voted the best river cruise line by travelers. Their intimate vessels and destination-focused approach allow for you to truly experience extraordinary worlds of discovery.
Can’t wait to see an entirely new side of Europe beyond the tourist traps? To get started booking your Viking cruise, contact one of our cruise specialists today!