Western Europe: The Ultimate Travel Guide by TourRadar 3/5


Picture this if you will. A day spent walking
the modern streets of ancient cities, retracing the steps
of prolific thinkers like Shakespeare and Austen. Or perhaps
it’s easier to envision a morning spent sailing the Balkans,
sun kissing your face as you plunge into crystal clear
waters. Still not picturing it? Standing atop the famous Swiss Alps should
grant you a clearer picture. No matter what your passions, there’s one region
that has it all, experiences that will excite everyone from
the foodies to the thrill seekers. Prepare to be spellbound. Welcome to…Western Europe. Let’s start with the basics. Western Europe is home to many of the classics
one thinks of when they’re dreaming of Europe. However,
the exact list of countries that make up this region is open
to interpretation depending on who you ask. To keep things simple, we’ll be covering
the countries most commonly referred to as being a part of the
Western European family and leaving out our smaller friends
like Vatican, Andorra and Monaco. Just who are these lucky nations? Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France,
Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands,
Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and
finally, the United Kingdom. Each of these proud nations boasts unique
and enticing qualities, specific to their rich heritages
and varying geographies. Western Europe has been responsible for significant historical events including little blips in
history known as The Renaissance, the Age of Discovery and
also the Age of Enlightenment. And populations throughout Europe have grown
faster than a knight on horseback. The top five most populous
countries in Western Europe are: Germany, France, the United
Kingdom, Italy and Spain. Now you’ll certainly want to brush up on
your foreign languages if you’re to enjoy the region
thoroughly. Consider memorising a few basic phrases in German,
French, Italian, Spanish and even Dutch. Just a heads-up that if you don’t have time
for some serious studying you may want to stay away from Greek
or Finnish – which the Foreign Service Institute considers
to be some of the most difficult European languages to learn. Once you’ve learned to parler en Francais
or hablar español you can get started on planning your
adventure. But where will you go first? Why not explore Iceland, the original land
of fire and ice? Not only is it the safest country in the world,
it’s also home to countless geothermal spas to relax
and rejuvenate in. Denmark, on the other hand, is considered
the happiest country in the world and is also a great choice
for travel what with their rich Viking heritage and cycling
culture. Austria is also worth your attention, especially
considering that the capital city Vienna, has once again
been ranked the city with the highest quality of life – for
the eighth year in a row. Not hard to understand why when your greatest
worry is whether you should enjoy an after work beer
at the “Donaukanal” or go for a run through Empress
Sisi’s summer residence. – You know, the tough choices. And now let’s take an even closer look to
see what exactly will be awaiting you on your journey through
Western Europe. For those of us who love the thrill of the
great wide open, Western Europe has an impressive selection
of adrenaline-pumping adventures to choose from. If you’re a fan of breathtaking vistas paired
with a healthy dose of exercise then hike the Alps in summer
or get out your skiing gear in winter. You’ll want
to check out the Salzkammergut in Austria, the Puez-Geisler
nature park in south Tyrol-Italy or visit the French alps. If you’re visiting the Netherlands, race
your bikes along the beautiful canals of Amsterdam or enjoy
them by boat. Of course, paying your respects at the Anne
Frank House also makes for an unforgettable experience. Not afraid of chilly temperatures? Then go
snowmobiling, Fjord trekking or dog sledding on Norway and
Finland’s snowy hilltops. Norway, in particular, offers expansive views
of rich, mesmerising greenery. Just take a stroll through Sognefjorden to instantly fall in love with
our Scandinavian friends. Should lady luck be on your side you may even
get to catch a glimpse of the bewildering northern lights. In both countries you have options to go wildlife
watching and spot majestic elks, oxes, polar bears
and reindeer. And if rainy weather also doesn’t deter
you, then swing by Ireland and drive the scenic loop, Ring of
Kerry or tread the Cliffs of Moher. You can learn to surf or perfect your mastery
of the waves while exploring Spain’s La Concha Beach,
a favourite among the surfing community. And for the regular
ole beach bums out there enjoy glitzy waterfront clubs like Marbella’s Costa del Sol, Mundaka, El Brusco
or pretty much anywhere in the Basque country. Y ou should also consider hopping over to Portugal
and unwind on Praia do Guincho beach, made famous by
its appearance in a 1960s James Bond film. Or you can head to
Algarve, and enjoy a more off the beaten track beach (with
less international men of mystery present) by visiting
Praia da Rocha. And once you need to let your hair down, you
should consider setting sail in Greece. Hop from one island
to the next and enjoy life on deck, on foot or on quadbike. For the cultural enthusiasts out there, Western
Europe also has something to offer you. Considering this region is the birthplace
of modern Western culture, it isn’t the least bit surprising
that there are countless cultural icons waiting to be discovered. Art lovers should pay a visit to Amsterdam
if only to stop by The Van Gogh Museum and celebrate one of
the most famous post-impressionist painters of our time. A visit to Italy will also be required as
you’ll want to explore the Roman Empire’s impressive heritage,
not to mention their jaw-dropping architectural feats
like the Roman Colosseum, the Pantheon, La scala opera
house, and of course, St Mark’s Cathedral. History buffs will also enjoy time spent in
the UK. Britain has the Tower of London, Palace of Westminster,
and of course the classic: Windsor Castle. In Germany top sights like Sanssouci Palace
or Brandenburg Gate await you. Smaller less crowded destinations
such as Wittenberg or the flawlessly preserved medieval
town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber are also great options.
– Try saying that one ten times fast! Wannabe composers should consider a visit
to The Vienna Opera House an essential bucket list item.
After all Austria’s capital city nurtured the talents
of composers like Mozart and Beethoven! Of course, Western Europe is also home to
unique and exciting festivals that happen throughout
the year. Spain has La Tomatina, San Fermin, and Las Fallas. Germany hosts the iconic Octoberfest and the
lesser known Stuttgart Festival. The Carnevale di Venezia
is held in — you guessed it, Venice, Italy! There’s King’s Day in the Netherlands,
St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland and for the equestrians there’s
The Royal Ascot in England. You may also wish to experience Malmofestivalen
in Malmo, Sweden, the Oslo Jazz Festival in Norway,
the Flow Festival in Finland, or even airwaves in Iceland — all
great music festivals. The good news is that there’s never a bad
time to visit Western Europe. Overall, the climate of Western Europe simply
depends on which country you find yourself in. On the southern coast of Spain you’ll enjoy
subtropical and even desertic climates while Mediterranean
countries like Greece can be dry and warm. The farther west
you go, the more mild and humid you can expect it to be–great
for those of us who avoid the cold. Iceland is a bit
of an anomaly, but that’s a story for another time. No matter what kind of weather you enjoy,
you will want to know when peak seasons for tourism start and
finish. The low season is considered November to March,
where the days are shorter and chillier. During this
time you’ll want to pack anything from a hoodie and warm coat
to full on winter wear, including boots and thermal socks. The benefit of visiting during colder months
like November and December are that you’ll be able to
partake in Europe’s famously charming Christmas markets! During April to May as well as September to
October, crowds will still be limited but in the southern
countries of Western Europe you should still plan for hot
temperatures and pack light clothing and a swimsuit — though
the Mediterranean and Atlantic may still be very
cold. And finally, we’ve reached the high season,
which happens from June to August. Temperatures are highest
and enjoyment is arguably at its highest as well. Pack shorts, t-shirts, layers for the evenings
and most definitely your best swimsuit! Expect exceptionally
warm temperatures in all countries with the exception
of our Scandinavian friends. Average temperatures will be comfortable at
around 20 degrees celsius but not quite bikini-appropriate
we should add. After you’ve explored Europe’s backyard,
you will certainly need to unwind. After all, you’ll have earned
it. Lucky for you, there are fewer places better
suited to indulge your taste buds than Western Europe. And what exactly can you expect to find at
the breakfast table? Throughout German-speaking Europe, so in countries
like Austria, Germany and Switzerland, but also
in countries like Denmark & Luxembourg you’ll be sitting down
to a platter of bread, cheese, thinly sliced meats – often
some smoked ham – jams, yogurts, and even soft boiled eggs.
Pair all of this with a hearty cup of coffee and there’s
no better way to start your day abroad. If you have a sweet tooth then France, Italy
or Spain would be an ideal place to wake up next to a variety
of croissants, cappuccinos, coffees, and fruits.
Spain, in particular, is famous for its thick, hot chocolate
paired with a fried churro for dipping! Need we say
more? Once the afternoon rolls around you’ll find
yourself with an entirely new selection of items on your European
menu. Adjust your belt accordingly. For the carnivores watching, you will not
be disappointed. In Austria you must try the Wiener Schnitzel,
a veal or pork cutlet expertly breaded and tenderly fried. If you’re in Belgium, be sure to sit down
for a serving of carbonnade beef and chicken or fish chowder
called waterzooi. Of course, you’ll need to save
room for the famous, fluffy Belgian waffles, topped with
strawberries and cream. Moving on to France, you’ll be sitting down
to famous dishes like boeuf bourguignon which simply put, is
beef in red wine sauce. In Southern France, you’ll enjoy a Mediterranean
inspired menu with dishes that heavily rely on garlic,
herbs, and vegetables. Sampling a serving of ratatouille,
essentially mouthwatering vegetable stew, is an absolute
must. And in Germany, you’ll be presented a selection
of food that makes carb lovers like us drool with excitement. Feast on bratwurst sausages, creamy potato
salads, crispy schnitzel, rich bread, and of course Weißwürste
with fresh pretzels. If you’re passing through Netherlands get
ready for generous servings of herring, light cheeses like gouda
and edam and large portions of soup, french fries, meat
and vegetables! If you’re a fan of fish then a visit to
Portugal is an absolute must. After all, it’s said that
the average Portuguese enjoys about 45 kilograms of seafood
every year. Cod is the most popular fish, with sardines,
salmon, and sea bass also up for grabs. If you’re feeling
adventurous give the eel, squid, octopus, and lamprey a try. During most meals, you will also be served
a side of soup, most commonly caldo verde (which directly
translate to green soup), made with cabbage, sausage, potatoes
and olive oil. Somewhat of a culinary dark horse, Ireland
boasts its own unique dishes for the bravest of foodies out
there. Start with simple but delicious soda bread,
often enjoyed with a spoonful of honey, sugar or dried fruits.
Then munch on boiled bacon and cabbage before sitting
down to a bowl of traditional Irish stew, served with a side
of potato dumplings or pancakes, it’s up to you. And just in case you still aren’t full,
the Hellenic Republic, or Greece for short, will gladly
top you off. Sit down to enjoy a generous helping of souvlaki
– carefully created by grilling deliciously tender meats
and vegetables on a skewer and then presenting it on a plate
with fresh pita, fried potatoes and a touch of tzatziki,
which for the unfortunately uninitiated, is a sauce made
from salted strained yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, and olive
oil. Kali Orexzi! Of course, the Greek islands have plenty more
to offer foodies from its gyros to its moussakas but
we’d be keeping you here all day! Now that we’ve covered what foods will hit
the spot we need to address a very serious topic: what will
you quench your thirst with and where? Before you leave the fabulous Greek islands,
be sure to sample a cold instant coffee (similar to a
frappé at your local coffee chain) and drink up the ouzo,
an anise-flavoured aperitif similar to sambuca. Across the rest of Europe, you can rest assured
knowing that copious amounts of delicious wines will follow
you wherever you go. Sample authentic champagne and delicious cabernets
while in France, before lapping up the sweet, red,
fortified Port wine Portugal is famous for. Other wine regions
that deserve a visit include of course Italy’s Tuscany,
Burgenland in Austria and Rioja in Spain. Not an amateur wine connoisseur? No problem
considering that many Western European countries are also superb
brewers. Do yourself a favour and begin in Ireland,
where 60 percent of all alcohol consumed is beer. Of course you’ll need to try perhaps the
most famous Irish beer, Guinness, a dry stout with a thick,
creamy head before also giving crisp summery lagers like Harp
a go. The United Kingdom, Germany and Belgium also
share equal credits when it comes to a long, impressive
history of brewing excellence. While in the UK give the local favourites
a try, grab a pint of Newcastle Brown or Hobgoblin, or a bottle
of London Pride to enjoy on a sunny day in the park. Next we have Germany, an unsurprising choice
when you consider that they’re responsible for Octoberfest,
an annual celebration of beer that’s so popular it’s
sparked copycat versions around the world. Be sure to put classic pilsners from Bavaria’s
countless breweries on your list, but don’t forget
to try a Weißbier or Schwarzbier too. And if you’re travelling through Belgium
— you’re in luck because, you guessed it, their beer is also
world class! Brewed by Trappist monks in Southern Belgium,
Chimay has it all – it’s fruity, strong, deep in body
and even a little spicy with a hint of nutmeg and thyme. Other
honourable mentions worth the hangover include the refreshing
wheat beer Hoegaarden and the smoky brown Corsendonk
Pater Noster. Once you regain control of your senses, you’ll
be ready to carry on your adventure through Western Europe,
a region that can never be finished exploring. From the Alps to the Atlantic and everywhere
in between, the great wide landscapes of Western Europe are
as diverse as they are unforgettable. We hope you’ve enjoyed scratching the surface
with us. If you still can’t get enough then check out
Days to Come for more inspiration and travel tips. If you’re
ready to go, visit tourradar.com today. Until next time and as they say… au revoir, antio sas, auf Wiedersehen, uf
Widerluege, arrivederci, adiós, tchau, heippa, vaarwel,
adjö, had det and bless.

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