Travel to Europe: 7 Reasons to Explore the Continent Now

Old world traditions, innovative new museums, and food and wine pairings are just a few of the reasons to go.

Whether you’ve crossed travel to Europe off your wish list or you’re still fantasizing about a trip, there have never been more reasons (and ways) to visit. Both ancient and innovative, alluring and accessible, today’s Europe beckons.

Discover seven reasons you’ll want to travel to Europe now:

Cologne, Germany Christmas Market

1. Because old world Christmas markets can be found there

When November rolls around in Europe, hundreds of Christmas markets are held in ancient town squares against old world backdrops. Carols are sung while shoppers browse wooden stalls overflowing with local handmade crafts. Make sure to bring an extra bag to hold your purchases of Nuremberg’s Rauschgoldengels, or shiny golden foil angels, and Prague’s hand-blown, hand-painted Bohemian glass ornaments. The intimate Christkindlmarkt in Salzburg and the Reiterlesmarkt in Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany both date back to the 15th century. 

People at Gornergrat railway station (3.089 m) with Matterhorn peak above Zermatt town in Mattertal, Valais canton, Switzerland, in winter. Taken by Sony a7R II, 42 Mpix.

2. Because no place does train travel better

There you are, sipping a cappuccino as the European countryside unfolds outside your window. Not much beats the pleasure of riding a train in Europe, thanks to its extensive rail network and array of choices, from high-speed cars that zoom between cities to cogwheel machines that carry you up the Alps’ precipitous slopes.

Italy and Spain are two standouts when you travel to Europe: The AVE train whisks you throughout Spain, getting you from Madrid to Barcelona in three hours or from Madrid to Seville in about two and half hours. Meanwhile, Italy’s high-speed train system links its timeless trio of cities—Rome, Florence and Venice—allowing you more time to explore these beautiful places. For a spectacle of mountain scenery, Switzerland’s Glacier Express climbs through the heart of the Alps—past summer’s wildflower-strewn fields and villages of rustic chalets toward snowcapped peaks (all seen through your panoramic window).

Terme di Caracalla (Baths of Caracalla) in Rome, Italy

3. Because old is getting a modern twist

When high-tech meets ancient treasures, the result can be magical. Consider Rome’s third-century Baths of Caracalla, archaeological ruins that appear to transform into their original state when you don virtual-reality goggles (included in the admission price). Wander the ancient bathhouse and see the lavish mosaic floors, mythological statues and even running water come to life.

View the royal jewels from the Portuguese monarchy that ruled for 771 years at the recently completed Royal Treasure Museum in Lisbon; get caught up in magical fairy tales written in the 19th century when visiting the H.C. Andersen House Museum in Odense; or check out English domestic interiors from the 1600s to today at the Museum of the Home in London. 

Tourists with a guide in front of the Coliseum, Rome

4. Because you can’t (fill in the blank) back home

Whether it’s going on a tour of British and Irish castles, soaking up the scenic views while exploring the Alpine countries or traveling along the Dalmatian coast, there are some things you just can’t do stateside. Guided tours and cruises can give you access to once-in-a-lifetime experiences like these.

High spires towers of Tyn church in Prague city (Church of Our Lady before Tyn cathedral) urban landscape panorama with red roofs of houses in old town and blue sky with clouds.

5. Because architectural history lives there

Go back in time and soak up Europe’s amazing architectural history with a journey through Italy and neighboring France to experience Roman, Romanesque, Gothic, and Neoclassical styles, among others. Or walk through Prague, often called the “City of a Hundred Spires,” and be awed by Gothic cathedrals, Renaissance palaces and Baroque churches. Whatever the destination, you’re sure to find architectural history.

Female friends making a wine toast. The gathering is in the vineyard at sunset. Everyone is looking cool, laughing and smiling.

6. Because, wine and food

Savor the wine and food possibilities when you travel through Europe. Experience the ports, vineyards, truffles and oysters throughout Bordeaux; take a wine-tasting tour from Luxembourg through Nuremberg; or sample the food and wine of Austria’s Wachau Valley. If you’re of the mind that travel and wine make the perfect pairing, Europe delivers.

In San Marino there are 3 towers on the mountain ridge in a row. This is Falesia the second tower. The image was taken at sunset. The sky is filled with colorful clouds and the lanterns in the foreground have already been lit. The Tower tits on a peak. The terrain left to the tower drops steep.

7. Because you want to get there first

There’s something thrilling about heading to a country when it still exudes that off-the-beaten-path mystique. If you like to turn left when others make a right, consider these up-and-comers: San Marino, thought to be the oldest republic in the world, with quirky museums and epic views; and Efurt, Germany—a 700 A.D. city that survived World War II relatively undamaged and effuses charm with its cobbled streets and beer gardens as well as its imposing cathedral, castle and the Merchants’ Bridge.

How to travel to Europe? The choice is yours …

Ocean or river cruise

Love to sleep in the same bed every night? Then these “floating hotels” may be for you.

How to decide: The places you want to see may help you choose between an ocean or river cruise. Also consider whether you want all the amenities of an ocean cruise ship or the more intimate experience of a river cruise.

What’s new: Themed river cruises, such as those for symphony or Christmas enthusiasts or for those wanting to see Holland’s tulips in all their glory.

Land tour

If you yearn to do a deep dive into a place, a land tour might be for you.

How to decide: Got your heart set on a sight that’s difficult, if not impossible, to get to on a cruise—such as the Swiss Alps or the Italian hilltop town of Assisi? Consider a land tour with an expert guide.

What’s new: Tailored journeys that let you travel on your own but handle logistics, like arranging rail transportation and providing a choice of guided tours in each city.

Or combine them!

You can get the best of both worlds in a few ways. Fly in early for a cruise to spend time exploring inland sights on your own or buy a pre- or post-cruise tour (such as three days in Prague after a Danube river cruise). Or combine tours and cruises: After a cruise that ends in Italy, for instance, you could do a land tour of Rome, Florence and Venice, reaching each city by high-speed train.

Additional considerations: The Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) and Prevention recommends checking the COVID-19 situation of the country you’re visiting.

Also consider signing up for the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive the latest security updates during your travels abroad.

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