10 Can’t-miss European experiences

Lake Hallstatt in the Austrian Alps
Lake Hallstatt in the Austrian Alps

10 Can’t-miss European experiences

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

Congratulations! You’ve survived your move to Europe! The vast ocean of cardboard and packing paper has finally ebbed and you’re ready to start exploring your new home. It’s an understatement to say there’s a lot to see and do. Maybe you’re itching to see the Eiffel Tower in Paris or listen to a gondolier croon as you glide along the canals in Venice. After living in Europe more than four years, I can definitely say there are plenty of things you don’t want to miss out on. From nature’s beauty to amusement parks to festivals, here’s my list of 10 things to see and do while you’re here.

  1. The Alps. I will never forget the first time I saw the hulking peak of Germany’s tallest mountain breaking through the clouds. The Alps (Austrian, French, German, Italian and Swiss) are absolutely breathtaking. Jagged crags pierce the horizon magnificently and provide stunning backdrops. During the summer, visitors can hike and backpack their way through idyllic meadows and lakes, up rugged hillsides and enjoy spectacular panoramas along their journey. Or take a lift up to the top of a hill and zoom your way back down via one of the many “rodelbahns” or alpine coasters found in the Alps.
  2. Explore the vast wilderness of the Scottish Highlands. If you’ve ever watched an episode of “Outlander,” or the infamous James Bond movie, “Skyfall,” you’ve likely seen the fantastic scenery of the Scottish Highlands. However, their majesty is absolutely worth visiting first-hand. Visitors can glamp and camp along the shores of the different lochs (lakes), and check out the tallest mountain in the U.K., Ben Lomond. If you’re not quite feeling the hiking vibe, take a train trip a la Hogwarts Express through the lush valleys and gorges on an old Jacobite steam train.
  3. The best of the “wurst” at Bad Durkheim Wurstmarkt. This charming village just west of Mannheim is home to one of the oldest and largest wine festivals in early September. For more than 600 years, this fabulous festival celebrates the wine harvest, authentic German food, live entertainment and plenty of rides and activities for everyone.
  4. Witness the impressive military might of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. No, this isn’t a royal ink tattoo convention. Rather, a spectacular display of military performances from the Royal armed forces throughout the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth. Set against the mighty Edinburgh Castle, the tattoo runs through most of August with performance usually twice a day. Evening shows are capped off with a volley of fireworks.                                                                                                                                                                                                 

    The Colosseum at sunset | Photo by Frederic Prochasson

  5. Discover the Colosseum in Rome. This amazing architectural wonder has stood the test of time and is well worth the visit. Although it’s likely to be on almost everyone’s bucket list, there’s a good reason for it. This Roman amphitheater was home to grisly gladiator battles during the Roman Empire. Visitors can tour the main building and also take a peek below the ground where animals and gladiators were held. For a unique experience, sign up for a nighttime tour. With fewer crowds, you get a completely different perspective.
  6. See a beautiful failed planned community in Barcelona. Perched on Carmel Hill above the bustling city of Barcelona, Spain is one of the most dazzling failed planned communities in Europe. Designed by master architect Antoni Gaudí, Parc Güell is reminiscent of something out of a whimsical fairy tale. With beautiful mosaics adorning the serpentine benches throughout the park, it’s easy to see the natural influences. Wave-inspired colonnades and quirky cottages built in the unmistakable Gaudí style dot the surrounding area.                                                                    

    Disneyland Paris | Photo by Roberto Evangelisti 


  7. Say “Bonjour!” to Mickey Mouse and company at Disneyland Paris. If you’re a fan of Disney or are looking to visit as many parks around the world, you won’t want to miss this one. Although not quite as large as its parks in the States, Disneyland Paris has all the Disney charm with a distinct European flair. While it’s a bit pricey on the pocketbook, active-duty military can get a 50% discount by showing their ID at the gate when purchasing tickets.                                                                                                                                                                                                           
  8. Or bypass Paris and meet up with Ed Euromouse at Europa-Park. Nestled in the heart of the Black Forest between Freiburg and Strasbourg, Europa-Park is the largest theme park in Germany, and the second-most visited in Europe. With five hotels, 18 themed areas, a plethora of thrilling rollercoasters and play areas for little ones, it’s a fantastic spot for a long weekend.
  9. Take in a show on London’s West End. Known as Europe’s Broadway, London is home to an amazing array of theater. Often, smash hits will make their debut here before being exported to the States, as was the case with “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” With some of the longest running musicals including, “Phantom of the Opera” and “Wicked,” and new ones popping up such as “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Mary Poppins,” there is always something for every theatrical taste. Tickets are often less expensive on the West End than they are on Broadway for the same caliber show.
  10. Catch a football match. Although your favorite American football might make an appearance at one of the London games while you’re in Europe, European football matches are just as fun. With lots of action and plenty of drama on the pitch, the 90-minutes play time goes by quickly. Whether it’s at Fritz Walter Stadium in Kaiserslautern, Wembley Stadium in London or Camp Nou in Barcelona, crowds get rowdy and loud. You’re guaranteed to learn new local slang while chanting for your team.


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