From fjords to Fendi and catwalks to cathedrals, Europe's been a destination for conqueror and traveler alike. Lounge on the beaches of Spain and Greece. Drink pints with the Dubliners. See Mona Lisa in the Louvre. Shop (and eat) your way through Rome, Paris and London.
Whether this is one of your first Europe vacations or an annual pilgrimage, let Orbitz help you arrive in style. We've hand-picked Europe's top 10 attractions, and our insider guide offers the lowdown on the best time to go as well as tips from local experts on Europe travel.
Since this is the land that practically invented vacation, it's always the best time for Europe travel. The climate is as far-reaching as it is diverse (beaches, mountains, wine country, forests) so the best time is your call. In Italy, it's temperate in the north, hot in the south -- while parts of Norway spend days without sunlight.
Summer -- Europe's high season (next to winter) -- draws visitors from around the planet. Off-season varies from country to city -- Paris is, well, Parisian in late autumn, while spring and summer bring in international crowds. London is high season year-round, but expect spikes during Christmas, royal weddings and the 2012 Olympics. August is a popular vacation month for Europeans, and many shops and restaurants close.
With a little careful planning and a dose of adventure, you can find cheap hotel rates and flights if you're willing to mix it up. For example, it might be cheaper to get from Chicago to Rome by way of Brussels, Belgium.
If you visit London during Christmas, spend St. Stephen's Day (December 26) like the locals with a walk in the park. Hampstead Heath is a stunner near St. John's Wood (where the celebs live) with its tall grasses, ponds and knobby trees. Regent's Park is another beauty filled with swans, deer and folks with spotted dogs.
London's South Bank is perfect for a Sunday stroll by the Thames. Take in the street performers and book stands, have an ice cream or enjoy dinner and drinks.
Dublin's blackboard bistro, tucked behind Trinity College, is a firm favorite with locals for its great food and value. And The Globe, on Georges Street, is well known for showcasing up-and-coming bands nightly.
Head to Rome's Piazza di Pietra for a chocolate cappuccino at Non Solo Bevi, where the baristas paint the inside of your glass with melted chocolate before adding the milk and espresso.
This freewheeling, tulip-lovers paradise is chock-a-bloc with cafes, Gothic architecture and medieval streets. Ogle the artwork in the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum, and watch the lively street performers in Leidseplien square. Stroll the lush Vondelpark, or explore the bohemian boutiques of De Pijp. Rent a bike, and pedal to the Noordermarkt square, where you'll find flea markets and farmer's markets galore. Want a beach and cocktails? Head to Beatrixpark, beside the River Ij, where you'll enjoy jenever (Dutch gin) and DJs with the Amsterdammers.
Fill your days admiring the work of famous Spanish artists (Dali, Picasso, Gaudi), Gothic architecture and the illustrious Sagrada Familia church. Get your shopping fix on Carrer de la Riera Baixa, known for its vintage finds and funky boutiques. After a siesta, sample the legendary tapas and party until dawn (at least). Head to the beach, or take a daytrip to the Montserrat mountain range.
A captivating mix of ancient and modern. Athens's Parthenon is a must-see, but Greece also promises savory eats, turquoise waters and dance-til-dawn nightclubs. Istanbul, a true cultural and religious crossroads, offers everything from traditional Turkish baths to bustling markets and beautiful mosques.
From posh to punk, black cabs to double-deckers -- London is iconic. While the usual suspects aren't to be missed (Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London) a little time 'round Covent Garden and Knightsbridge will reveal Old Blighty's cobbled side. South Kensington is another gem where visitors flock to the V&A and its high-end shops. Head to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich for a surreal display: Henry the VIII's old stomping grounds (Royal Palace) plus a giant laser (it marks the Prime Meridian) that shoots into outer space.
Pack your most refined tastes (or refine them here) -- let's saunter through the streets of Paris. Saint-Honore woos with its couture (Hermes, YSL), seduces with chocolate (La Maison du Chocolate, near the Louvre) and romances with Jardin des Tuileries. Take the Batobus down the Seine (buy a day pass for hop on/off privileges), where you can stop at Notre Dame, Musee d'Orsay, the Eiffel Tower. Watch the sun set in Montmartre, the bohemian land of artistes, Sacre-Coeur and Moulin Rouge.
The Eternal City marries fantasy with history at every turn. Buy a gelato near the Spanish Steps. Stroll down tiny streets where Vespas whiz through sculpture-laden piazzas and starry-eyed lovers throw coins into 15th century fountains. Visit the Villa Borghese and its lush gardens or the terraced hills above the Piazza del Popolo. Top it off with handmade pasta, or treat yourself to cannoli in Campo de'Fiori.
Nature is much of the inspiration behind a visit to Scandinavia. Its majestic fjords, Northern Lights and Viking history drive the allure. And don't forget the locals, who have a well-deserved reputation for warmth in this Nordic region. If your Europe vacation plans call for stops this way, be sure to visit Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki or Oslo.
Ciao, wine country! You've seen it in movies, travel brochures and postcards --it's even prettier in person. From the green rolling hills to the villas, these fertile grounds are an oenophile's dreamland. Spend the day(s) exploring this photogenic landmark's wineries, hilltop towns (San Gimignano, Siena, Pisa, Cortona) and medieval castles. Unwind in the luxurious spas of Montecatini Terme or the charming shops, cafes and restaurants in Viale Verdi.
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