Whether it’s your first or your fiftieth visit, Europe will show you something new. That’s the beauty of a continent that just can’t seem to sit still. If you’re not planning a trip there already, you’re about to be. Here are 10 incredible things to do in Europe this year.
1. Stay on a Houseboat in Amsterdam
Europe offers travellers many interesting accommodation options, from the pousadas of Portugal to Italy’s farm-to-table agriturismos. On your next visit to Amsterdam, forego more traditional lodgings for a stay in a classic boathouse on one of its iconic canals.
Impeccably located with rates that rival a moderate hotel and all the comforts of home, the boathouse experience is intrinsically Dutch. Just one caveat – be prepared to be gawked at and envied by the many passing tour boats snapping photos of you in your new digs. You are now a Dutch motif.
2. Visit Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen
Copenhagen’s autonomous hippie enclave of Freetown Christiania has been a point of interest since the 70s. For one, the whimsical car-free and self-sufficient neighbourhood looks nothing like the rest of the tidy capital city. Also, cannabis has been openly traded here for almost half a century (while illegal in Denmark) under a set of written and unwritten rules that make this district unique.
But there’s more to discover here than the famous Green Light District, especially for us Canadians. Quaint bars and restaurants (with great vegetarian/vegan options), shops and souvenir stalls, a lake and a super skate park all make Christiania a lovely place for a stroll, a meal and some shopping.
Stay late enough and you’re bound to stumble (or dance) upon some great live music at one of the many venues sprinkled throughout.
3. Hit the Highest Beer Garden in the World in Germany (Zugspitze Beer Garden)
What goes great with crisp mountain air? An even crispier Pilsner at the world’s highest beer garden in Zugspitze. Bask in panoramic mountaintop views of the German Alps and the seemingly neverending peaks and valleys of Bavaria below at Panorama 2962, hip to hip with fun-loving, beer-chugging patrons like yourself.
While wintertime vistas are the most dramatic (and the après-ski scene reason enough to go), this is an all-season destination offering great hiking spring through fall, and of course, a neverending supply of delicious eats and the nectar of the gods at almost 10,000 feet. Prost!
4. Bloom at Portugal’s Boom Festival
Looking to let your hair down while on holiday? We’ve got just the thing. After combing the beautiful beaches of the Algarve, head north to Idanha-a-Nova for the August full moon and the biennial Boom Festival, set to go off again in 2020.
Offering musical performances on five stages, workshops, film screenings, yoga and meditation, art and a variety of visual exhibits, Boom is the most famous psytrance music festival in Europe.
Guided by the festival’s principles of Oneness, Peace, Creativity, Sustainability, Transcendence, Alternative Culture, Active Participation, Evolution and Love, it’s where people from all over the world converge to experience an alternative reality. Think Burning Man, European style.
5. Join the Run to Monaco for the Grand Prix
Racing buff? We got you, too. This May, get your motor running and head out on the highway for the drive of a lifetime on the Run to Monaco, a thrilling lead-up to the annual Formula One race in the posh Mediterranean principality.
This luxury car adventure begins in Rome, taking participants through Tuscany and the charming seaside village of Portofino before finishing up in St. Jean Cap Ferrat for a weekend at the Monaco Grand Prix.
More than just a scenic drive, enjoy parties and unique events in spectacular locations, great food and wine, and a series of performers, artists and musicians to entertain you along the way. And when it’s all over, you get to stretch your legs out in the French Riviera!
6. Soak in Budapest’s Thermal Baths
You’ve never had a bath like this. Offering more than just a cleanse and well-being, Budapest’s spa scene is second to none, incorporating an ancient social dynamic in architectural gems throughout Hungary’s gorgeous capital.
The City of Spas was built on a network of thermal springs discovered by the Romans. It was the Ottomans in the 16th-century who built the opulent public bathhouses still in use today, including Gellert, Király and the Rudas Baths.
Surrounding the main bathing pools are steam rooms and saunas, and warm, mineral-rich pools of spring water flowing straight from the ground, perfect for a soak after a long day of sightseeing. Or a dance party!
Széchenyi is a sprawling 21-pool complex hosting a ‘Sparty’ Saturday nights year-round, complete with laser lights, fire shows and DJs pumping out high-octane electronic dance music.
7. Sail Around the Lesser-Known Islands of Greece
There’s a level of relaxation that you find on the water that’s unreachable on land. Be it the sway of the sea, the warm salty air or the idyllic scenery, sailing the heavenly Greek Islands is an experience of mythical proportions.
Rejuvenate your soul island hopping on the Aegean Sea but don’t limit your adventure to the heavily visited islands of Mykonos and Santorini, as pretty as they are. For a deep-dive into all things Greek and a more authentic feel, head for the gems of Paros, Antiparos and Koufonisia.
Here, you can swim in otherworldly tones of blue (often with a beach entirely to yourself), watch locals forage hillsides for wild produce or just pull up a blue chair at a whitewashed taverna in the harbour and wonder where Greece has been all your life.
8. Celebrate Carnevale Di Venezia in Italy
You may have tossed some beads in New Orleans and sweated your a** off to Rio’s sultry samba beats but you’ve never seen Carnival like this. While the theme is the same, Venice’s labyrinth of intimate alleyways, cobbled bridges and cozy piazzas add a dramatic effect you can’t find elsewhere.
Carnevale di Venezia is all about masks and folly with an aim to disrupt social norms. The poor play the rich, the rich play the poor, men are women – you get the picture. Indulgent celebrations include colourful parades (on land and water!), dazzling street parties and grand masquerade balls. It is a busy time of the year here so book your trip early. Then simply show up, pick up a mask and play along.
9. Tour Iceland on Horseback
Iceland is a rivetting and visually stunning destination year-round. Winters paint the sky in Aurora Borealis magic and when the snow finally melts, you can’t beat fly fishing its crystal clear streams, canyon rafting, and a multitude of other mindblowing outdoor activities. Luckily, tours of the countryside on horseback operate in every season.
Icelandic horses are a unique breed. Small enough to be mistaken for ponies, they are more sure-footed than other breeds, evolved to handle Iceland’s volcanic terrain. They also possess two extra gaits in addition to the walk, trot and gallop other horses come with, offering the smoothest of rides.
Riding tours visit volcanoes, spas and national parks and can last anywhere from an hour or two to full-on multi-day trips, accommodating all levels of riders, even first-timers.
10. Take a Baking Class in Paris*
*from the Captain’s Pick Collection
This is your chance to experience the daily life of a Parisian baker and to master two French classics in an intimate group setting. Learn all about the baguette and croissant and study the process to master both during an expert demonstration of mixing, shaping, baking and decorating.
The best part? Sinking your teeth into the still-warm creations barely out of the oven at the end. Now you’ve done Paris.
Tailor-Made Holidays combine perfect flights, sublime places to stay and in-destination activities all prebooked to save you valuable vacation time, and can easily include extraordinary local experiences like the ones above. Isn’t it time you vacation like you mean it?
To design the European vacation of your dreams, speak to one of our Expert Travellers in-store or by calling 1877 967 5302 today.