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Europe

Europe Travel Guide

Europe and its 44 countries represent an incredibly diverse part of the world. It is the continent I am from, and, naturally, the one I started exploring first.

It has it all. History and culture buffs marvel at some of the most exceptional monuments and historical sites in the world. For nature and outdoor lovers, the choices are endless. From the arctic landscapes in the north to the dry and rocky regions of the Mediterranean in the south, with so much in between, there is little you can't experience in Europe.

Discover our travel tips, articles, and virtual tours for Europe !

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Your Guide to Europe

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Europe

Quick Facts About Europe

  • Countries:
    • 44 independent countries + 4 dependencies (the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Gibraltar – UK, and Faeroe Islands – Denmark).
    • Russia is traditionally considered part of Europe until the Ural Mountains.
    • Russia aside, the three largest countries in Europe are Ukraine, followed by France, and Sweden.
  • Key geography Facts:
    • As National Geographic puts it, Europe can be seen as a “peninsula of peninsulas”. It is a large peninsula itself, surrounded by the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea. 
    • There are various “sub-peninsulas”, such as Scandinavia and Jutland (Denmark) in the north, the Iberian peninsula, Italy, and the Balkans in the south. 
    • Scandinavia has a landscape marked by the history of its glaciers, with lots of lakes and fjords. 
    • The Alps is Europe’s major mountain range, spanning France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Monaco, and Slovenia. Its highest peak is the Mont Blanc (4808 meters / 15,774 feet). It is located between France and Italy.
    • Europe’s highest summit is Mount Elbrus (5,642 meters / 18,510 feet). It is located in Russia, and part of the Caucasus mountain range. 
    • The region going from the British Isles and France to Germany, Poland, the Baltic States, and all the way to Russia and the Black Sea is known as the Great European Plain. It consists of low-altitude flatlands. 
    • The Mediterranean region typically is quite mountainous and hilly, with a semi-arid climate, offering rocky shores and sandy beaches, and a large number of islands. 
  • Languages:
    • Europe is home to a large variety of languages, with most countries having their own official language.
    • The most spoken language in Europe is Russian, followed by French, Italian, German, and English.
    • The Indo-European languages can be divided into a few groups, such as the Germanic Languages (German, English, Dutch…), the Romance Languages (French, Spanish, Italian…), the Slavic Languages (Russian, Polish, Czech…), and others such as Greek or the Baltic Languages.
    • On top of these, there are a number of regional languages, such as the Basque language in France.
  • Religions:
    • The largest religion in Europe is Christianity.
    • Most of Western Europe and a large part of Central Europe are Catholic, while in western Europe (Greece to Russia), the majority of people are Orthodox. More than half of the people in Iceland, Denmark, and Finland are Protestant. 
    • 1% of the French are Jewish, it is the largest population of Jews in Europe.
    • Large Muslim communities exist in most major European cities, and in the Balkans. 

Europe, A Continent of Many Records

  • Vatican City (Holy See) is the smallest country in the world, with 0.44 square kilometers / 0.17 square miles.
  • Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, with 2 square kilometers / 0.78 square miles. It is also the most densely populated country in the world.
  • The third-smallest territory in the world is Gibraltar, with 6.8 square kilometers / 2.6 square miles.
  • Liechtenstein is one of the two only countries in the world that are doubly landlocked. It means that all the countries around are also landlocked. The other country is Uzbekistan, in Asia.
  • Luxemburg is the richest country in the world, by GDP per capita. 
  • Iceland is one of the only two places in the world (with Antarctica) that is completely free of mosquitoes. 
  • Still in Iceland, Reykyavik is the world’s northernmost capital city. 
  • The world’s oldest zoo is in Vienna, and it exists since 1752.
  • The Arabat Spit, in the Sea of Azov, Ukraine, is the world’s longest spit with 110 kilometers / 68 miles. The Curonian Spit, shared between Lithuania and Russia is also one of the world’s longest spits at 98 kilometers / 61 miles. It is also home to Europe’s highest drifting sand dunes.
  • The place where the most chocolate is sold in the world is Brussels Airport. Europeans (including me) LOVE chocolate and eat as much as 50% of the world’s chocolate! 

10 Handpicked Europe Highlights

10 fantastic places and experiences in Europe, in no particular order.

  1. Trek the GR20 trail across Corsica, France. This is one of the most beautiful – and hardest – trekking trails in Europe. But as a reward, you are immersed in some of the most beautiful Mediterranean and mountainous landscapes around. After all, Corsica is not nicknamed “the Island of Beauty” for nothing.

  2. Climb the Etna Volcano in Sicily, Italy. You will be amazed by the volcanic scenery around you and hiking above the clouds, sometimes among remains of snow and ice, until you reach the smoking crater. Highly recommended!

  3. Drive the Iceland Ring Road, in a succession of stunning and otherworldly landscapes made of black sand beaches, waterfalls, ice caves, mountains, lava fields, and geothermal areas. Iceland is a true land of explorers, and this road trip is the best way to experience the island at your own pace.

  4. Watch the northern lights in Lapland. When I saw an aurora borealis for the first time in my life, it was in the Swedish Lapland, in Abisko. Seeing the northern lights is a truly magical moment that you will remember all your life. It really is as beautiful as in the pictures you see online, but seeing it for real is a whole other level since it has the size of the whole sky.

  5. Visit the Bay of Kotor, in Montenegro. Opening to the Adriatic sea, the Bay of Kotor is one of Montenegro’s most sought-after attractions and is filled with a Mediterranean atmosphere. It has a mountainous backdrop and picturesque towns with an Italian feel. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

  6. Walk along the Cliffs of Etretat in Normandy, France. The white chalk cliffs are one of the most famous natural sites in France and for good reason: they are stunning! The vertical cliffs, completed with delicate rock arches and the Needle, a lone pointy rock, look particularly beautiful under full sun. 

  7. Venture into the Julian Alps, in Slovenia. I didn’t choose them because my name is Julien (these Alps are named after Julius Ceasar) but simply because they are breathtaking, still very wild, a far less visited than say, the French Alps or the Swiss Alps. The best way is to go to the Triglav National Park in a rented car or if you are feeling more adventurous, you can climb Mount Triglav (it takes 2 days). 

  8. Go whale watching in Azores, Portugal. The isolated Azores is a Portuguese archipelago located in the middle of the Northern Atlantic Ocean. On top of its fascinating volcanic scenery (and all the hiking opportunities that go with it), the islands are famous for whales and other cetaceans roaming around and giving us Humans one of the greatest shows of Nature.

  9. Drive the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland. The Wild Atlantic Way is one of Europe’s top-rated road trips and will take you through a lot of greenery, enchanting sea shores, beautiful lakes, and spectacular cliffs, among others. I believe driving at least a portion of the WAW should be part of any travel plan to Ireland. 

  10. Discover the bogland environment in Estonia. Bogs are pretty unique and fascinating places and Estonia is a really great place to see them up close and learn more about them. You can even walk on Estonia’s largest bog, in Soomaa National Park. It is a really fun and memorable experience I can only recommend to anyone. 

When to Go to Europe

For the largest part of Europe, the best season is probably spring – April to June. In this season, the winter cold is definitely behind us and it gets sunnier. The temperature is usually pleasant and not too hot. Green spaces are full of flowers.

Summer (July, August) is also a good season but it is busier (most Europeans are on holiday), and it can also be very hot. With climate change, heat waves are more and more common in Europe and temperatures can get really high. In the Mediterranean, it is inevitably very hot and dry every summer. So if you don’t take heat very well, it’s better to go in spring or go slightly later, in September.

I would not recommend autumn, as there is a good chance for the weather to be very rainy, temperatures getting really chilly, and the sky is often full of dark clouds. Not very nice.

Winter is a bit of a hit or miss. You can be lucky and have nice cold and sunny weather, or have a lot of rain, humid cold, and a low, grey sky. Of course, if you want to experience the snowy mountains and ski, you should go in winter. 

Traveling to Europe

Staying Safe

Europe is relatively safe for travel, provided you take a few precautions and exercise common sense. One of the most common issues encountered by travelers in Europe is petty theft and pickpockets. Here are a few pieces of advice:

  • Don’t go out with large amounts of cash in your pockets. Thieves know that some tourists tend to do that, and they are good targets for them. 
  • Keep your passport in the safe of your hotel and keep a photocopy with you. If unfortunately you get robbed, at least you don’t lose your precious documents.
  • If you are not traveling alone, don’t put your eggs in the same basket. Split the money and important documents, once again, in case one of you gets robbed, you don’t lose everything. 
  • It can be a good idea to use a money belt.
  • Better stay away from any kind of protests, demonstrations, or gatherings of people that can sometimes turn into a riot. 
  • Don’t leave your bags unattended, in Europe or anywhere else. This is a basic rule for any traveler wherever you are. 
  • Don’t get drunk and don’t do drugs. Be alert and aware of your surroundings.