Whether it’s a Griswold family vacation, a grand tour after school is finished, or a regular old getaway, the European adventure is still one of the most popular travel itineraries. Even with recent news that the governments of the USA and UK are recommending their citizens “exercise caution” while in Europe, so far it doesn’t seem to be hurting tourists’ plans to see Big Ben, Eiffel Tower, etc.
Since we all have a fair appreciation for all there is to see on the Continent, here are our Top 5 European Sights to See (except for Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, and anything else that might be featured in a musical montage during a “travel romp” movie…you can pretty much decide for yourself on those ones):
1. The Cologne Cathedral – or Hohe Domkirche St. Peter und Maria, Cologne, Germany (Lexie)
On my last trip to Germany we spent a few days in Cologne before going off into the countryside to do a site visit for school. While in the city, our Professor Frankie Pants took us on an exciting tour. One main stop was the Cologne Cathedral. We had spent many hours investigating all the intricate details of the church. It is a great example of what Gothic Architecture should be and has been described by UNESCO as an “exceptional work of human creative genius”.
While looking through my pictures later, I noticed there was an unexplained large white orb in the middle of the picture. Could it have been some strange coincidence with the flash? Maybe. But I’m convinced it was a ghost!
This was one of my favorite churches to visit in Europe, so if you’re in the neighborhood I would suggest going. One piece of advice my professor gave us while on the trip; if you see a soccer fan and looks like he had too much to drink, “Don’t look them in the eyes!” He never explained why he was so adamant about this, but we figured you could start some serious trouble with a drunk German if you did.
2. Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy (Leslie)
Florence is just hands down one of my all-time favorite places in the world, and you can pretty much throw a rock in Italy and find phenomenal world-class art. But to pick one must-see sight, I have to go with the Uffizi. Built in the 16th century, it houses collections by all of the Ninja turtle artists (except maybe Donatello, not sure where he was), and is good for literally hours of entertainment. If you’re looking for famous pieces, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is here, along with some of her friends, and the building itself is magnificent (be sure to crane your neck and check out the ceiling frescos).
Of course, I have to include a plug for the city of Florence itself, which includes other great art (Michaelangelo’s David), famous landmarks (Il Duomo cathedral), and breathtaking scenery. Take a stroll around, because you can see almost everything in two days. The best view to capture the whole city is from the piazza above the city, Piazzale Michaelangelo (it’s beautiful, but don’t get too excited – the statue is a replica).
3. Sagrada Familia Church, Barcelona, Spain (Leslie)
Yes, it’s another church. But let’s be honest, if you’re going to Europe, chances are you were going to see a few churches (Notre Dame, Vatican, St. Paul’s anyone?) The Sagrada Familia is a fascinating architectural site as well as beautiful from a historical/religious aspect. The crowning masterpiece of Spanish artist/architect Gaudi, the church is dedicated to the Holy Family and boasts an intricate facade detailing scenes from the life of Jesus and the Holy Family. Gaudi began work on the church in 1882, construction took place for 44 years of Gaudi’s life and actually continues today, nearly 90 years after his death.
The Sagrada Familia is one of my favorites because you get so much out of the visit to one site. There is truly something to see everywhere your eye turns. On the exterior, there are three separate facades detailing the Nativity, the Passion, and the Glory (fun things like death, Hell, Purgatory, and ascension to Heaven). Even after admiring the exterior, you will still be impressed by the interior as well, with unique geometric designs and strong Gaudi influences.
Those who know me know that Barcelona is not one of my favorite cities in Europe, but the Sagrada Familia is definitely worth the trip.
4. The Canals of Amsterdam, Netherlands (Kelly)
I love to people watch. One thing I enjoyed was making a bag of popcorn and sitting on the stoop of Larissa’s uncle’s place, and watching the world go by. Other times, we would stroll along the endless isles of bikes that were set along the canals and observe the house boats that were parked along the canal. You can even tour a couple of house boats to see how people live. They also have tours you can take along the canals, although I have never taken one as I have preferred to walk. Strolling along the canals, there are plenty of places to see, from Anne Frank’s house, to the Heineken factory, or the flower markets. This vibrant city is worth a stroll to see everything odd and funky.
5. Buried City of Pompeii, Italy (Kelly)
There are some places I can describe, and I feel I can do it justice, and then there are places like Pompeii, where I don’t even know how to describe it. It was overwhelming, and yet so simple at the same time. The city is no more, but the remains of this city are amazing. From way they used to live, cook, pray, and communicate….little remnants of their lives tell a big story. There are still frescos and statues or fertility gods, which was very important in their culture. You can also see the old brothels, which were prevalent in the city. They still have stoves that the community shared. It was really cook to see how they focused on community. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know any of my neighbors….if I needed a cup of milk, I’d be running to the corner store…not asking my neighbor for it. So it was really interesting to see how they celebrated the idea of getting to know your neighbor. It was a history lesson that surpassed the general textbook lesson.